Tag Archives: Dan Amira

Boss Hogg Says Something Interesting

Ben Smith at Politico:

Here’s a major moment in the nascent Republican presidential primary: Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour tonight became the first among the leading Republican candidates to suggest that the United States reduce its presence in Afghanistan and its spending on defense.

Barbour echoed the concerns of critics of the Afghan war effort when asked by reporters in Iowa about American involvement in the conflict:

He also said that the U.S. should consider reducing the number of troops in Afghanistan. “I think we need to look at that,” he said when asked if the U.S. should scale back its presence.

But he said his reasoning isn’t financial.

“What is our mission?” Barbour said. “How many Al Qaeda are in Afghanistan. … Is that a 100,000-man Army mission?”

“I don’t think our mission should be to think we’re going to make Afghanistan an Ireland or an Italy” or a Western-style democracy, he said.

Barbour’s leading Republican rivals have positioned themselves to President Obama’s hawkish right on a range of foreign policy issues. They’ve also resisted calls from some associated with the Tea Party movement for deep cuts to federal spending that would include defense cuts. In fact, two of the candidates — Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich — have in the past backed the Heritage Foundation’s “4 percent for Freedom” initiative, which would actually raise baseline defense spending.

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

Ben Smith correctly identifies the first sort of interesting event in the Republican presidential primary race: Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour has had enough of Afghanistan and wants to start drawing down troops. No details about how many and when, of course–and, in the end, Barbour’s timetable may not be all that different from Obama’s, which, I expect will have lots of troops coming home next year. But this is Haley Barbour, folks–and we know two things about him: he’s not the world’s boldest policy thinker and he’s probably the smartest political strategist in the field. When Barbour decides that Afghanistan is a loser, you can bet that more than a few Republicans are heading that way–and that means interesting times for the trigger-happy neoconservatives who have dominated Republican foreign policy thinking in recent years. It also means that the foreign policy debate in the Republican primaries may be a real eye-opener.

J.F. at DiA at the Economist:

The interesting thing about Mr Barbour’s comments is not that he said them, but that he’s right: of course reining in defence spending has to at least be part of the conversation if people are going to take Republican promises of fiscal responsibility seriously. The depressing thing about his being right is that it doesn’t matter. There are plenty of other ways for Republicans to show their fiscal bonafides. Means-testing Social Security, for instance. Trimming Medicare. Backing the cost-saving measures in Obamacare. Letting the Bush tax cuts expire (sigh). Any takers, Republicans? No?

My two cents: Mr Barbour will get a pass on those comments for now—and may even get some lip service from the Romney-Gingrich camp—because his candidacy is such a long shot. If things start to improve for him, though, look for him to be pilloried as soft on national security.

Dan Amira at New York Magazine:

Of course, if Ron Paul runs, he would easily outdo Barbour on this front. But for now, Barbour is the only one, and Time‘s Joe Klein uses the opportunity to tout him as “probably the smartest political strategist in the field.”

Whether or not that’s true, you really don’t need to be a genius to know that Americans across the political spectrum are tiring of the war in Afghanistan. You just need the ability to read. According to a January Gallup poll, 72 percent of independents and 61 percent of Republicans want to “speed up withdrawal from Afghanistan.” And the sentiment is even stronger among tea partiers. According to a poll commissioned by the Afghan Study Group — in the words of founder Steve Clemons, “a bipartisan group of leading academics, business executives, former government officials, policy practitioners and journalists” — 64 percent of self-identified tea partiers want to reduce troop levels in Afghanistan or leave the country entirely. Considering the poll numbers, more surprising than Barbour taking a dovish position on Afghanistan is that the rest of his fellow candidates-to-be haven’t already done the same.

Alex Massie:

Barbour, the Boss Hogg governor of Mississippi, remains a long-shot for the GOP Presidential nomination but he’s not someone noted for policy boldness or imagination. True, his ideal timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan may not differ from the platonic ideal of withdrawal imagined by the Obama administration; that’s not the important thing here. What matters – though this is but a tea leaf into which too much should not be read – is the hint that Republican enthusiasm for the Afghan mission may be waning. That in turn may make the foreign policy debates during the GOP primary more interesting than seemed likely six months ago.

Barbour, of course, is an impeccably-connected member of the “elite” disguised as a southern good old boy. Doubtless that’s why he’s also able to argue that conservative claims to fiscal responsibility (an interesting concept in itself) are meaningless if the Pentagon’s budget is ring-fenced and protected from future budget cuts. Again, this is the sort of “Beltway” thinking disdained by talk radio and the populist right.

Yesterday James observed that it is “worrying” that ” the United State appears to have lost interest in its role as global policeman” but it’s also worth pointing out that this is a role it has performed fitfully and inconsistently in the past. Again, parts of the Obama administration’s foreign and security apparatus – notably but not only Bob Gates – owe something to the George HW Bush/Colin Powell approach to international affairs. Leadership is certainly important but the problems of foreign policy are something to be managed, not solved. Because often there are no solutions and even rarer still is the solution that doesn’t involve hefty, perhaps expensive, trade-offs.

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Memoirs Happen, Writing Is Messy

Caitlin Dickson at The Atlantic with the round-up:

Donald Rumsfeld’s memoir, “Known and Unknown,” isn’t set to be released until next week, but several news sites have obtained early copies. Previews of the book give insight into Rumsfeld’s negative opinion of several of his colleagues, his regrets or lack there of from his years as defense secretary, as well has personal struggles within his own family.

Thom Shanker and Charlie Savage at NYT:

Just 15 days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush invited his defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld, to meet with him alone in the Oval Office. According to Mr. Rumsfeld’s new memoir, the president leaned back in his leather chair and ordered a review and revision of war plans — but not for Afghanistan, where the Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington had been planned and where American retaliation was imminent.

“He asked that I take a look at the shape of our military plans on Iraq,” Mr. Rumsfeld writes.

“Two weeks after the worst terrorist attack in our nation’s history, those of us in the Department of Defense were fully occupied,” Mr. Rumsfeld recalls. But the president insisted on new military plans for Iraq, Mr. Rumsfeld writes. “He wanted the options to be ‘creative.’ ”

When the option of attacking Iraq in post-9/11 military action was raised first during a Camp David meeting on Sept. 15, 2001, Mr. Bush said Afghanistan would be the target. But Mr. Rumsfeld’s recollection in the memoir, “Known and Unknown,” to be published Tuesday, shows that even then Mr. Bush was focused as well on Iraq. A copy was obtained Wednesday by The New York Times.

Bradley Graham at WaPo:

But Rumsfeld still can’t resist – in a memoir due out next week – taking a few pops at former secretaries of state Colin L. Powell and Condoleezza Rice as well as at some lawmakers and journalists. He goes so far as to depict former president George W. Bush as presiding over a national security process that was marked by incoherent decision-making and policy drift, most damagingly on the war in Iraq.

Much of Rumsfeld’s retrospective reinforces earlier accounts of a dysfunctional National Security Council riven by tensions between the Pentagon and State Department, which many critics outside and within the Bush administration have blamed on him. Speaking out for the first time since his departure from office four years ago, the former Pentagon leader offers a vigorous explanation of his own thoughts and actions and is making available on his Web site (www.rumsfeld.com) many previously classified or private documents.

Sounding characteristically tough and defiant in the 800-page autobiography “Known and Unknown,” Rumsfeld remains largely unapologetic about his overall handling of the Iraq conflict and concludes that the war has been worth the costs. Had the government of Saddam Hussein remained in power, he says, the Middle East would be “far more perilous than it is today.”

Addressing charges that he failed to provide enough troops for the war, he allows that, “In retrospect, there may have been times when more troops could have helped.” But he insists that if senior military officers had reservations about the size of the invading force, they never informed him. And as the conflict wore on, he says, U.S. commanders, even when pressed repeatedly for their views, did not ask him for more troops or disagree with the strategy.

Much of his explanation of what went wrong in the crucial first year of the occupation of Iraq stems from a prewar failure to decide how to manage the postwar political transition. Two differing approaches were debated in the run-up to the war: a Pentagon view that power should be handed over quickly to an interim Iraqi authority containing a number of Iraqi exiles, and a State Department view favoring a slower transition that would allow new leaders to emerge from within the country.

Dan Amira at New York Magazine:

Shortly after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke in 2004, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld offered President George W. Bush his resignation. Bush refused. Five days later, just so there was no confusion, Rumsfeld offered again, and once again, Bush refused. It was another two and a half years until Rumsfeld was finally canned. But in his upcoming 800-page memoir, Known and Unknown, Rumsfeld writes that he really wishes Bush had just let him go earlier.

Howard Kurtz at Daily Beast:

One of the few personal anecdotes in the 815-page volume takes place more than 12 hours after hijacked planes struck not only the World Trade Center but the Pentagon, filling his office with heavy smoke and forcing him to evacuate with other employees, some of them wounded. His spokeswoman, Torie Clarke, asked if he had called his wife of 47 years, Joyce. Rumsfeld replied that he had not.

“You son of a bitch,” Clarke said with a hard stare.

“She had a point,” Rumsfeld writes.

Matt Lewis:

But so far, the most interesting response has come from Senator John McCain.

As George Stephanopolous reported,

“I respect Secretary Rumsfeld. He and I had a very, very strong difference of opinion about the strategy that he was employing in Iraq which I predicted was doomed to failure,” the Arizona Republican said on “GMA.”

McCain and Rumsfeld had clashed over troop levels.

“And thank God he was relieved of his duties and we put the surge in otherwise we would have had a disastrous defeat in Iraq,” McCain told me.

Jen Dimascio and Jennifer Epstein at Politico

Alex Pareene at Salon:

Rumsfeld is also going to release a website full of “primary documents” that he thinks will prove his point. It will be like the WikiLeaks, only instead of pulling back the curtain and exposing American diplomatic and military secrets, they will probably just be a bunch of memos about how much Rumsfeld was “concerned” about the security situation in post-invasion Baghdad. Also I bet there will be a document that says “I promise Donald Rumsfeld had no idea that we were torturing and killing prisoners, signed, everyone at Abu Ghraib.”

Speaking of! Rumsfeld says Bill Clinton called him once and said: “No one with an ounce of sense thinks you had any way in the world to know about the abuse taking place that night in Iraq.” Yes, well, the people with ounces of sense are completely wrong.

Rumsfeld also apparently devotes a lot of space to rewaging various long-forgotten bureaucratic disputes. There is something about George H. W. Bush, whom he clearly hates. Rumsfeld also wants everyone to know that former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller was “bullying” and an “imperial vice president,” which is hilarious for many reasons, including Rumsfeld’s closeness to Dick Cheney and the fact that as Gerald Ford’s chief of staff, Rumsfeld basically blocked Rockefeller from doing anything.

Now let’s enjoy the attempted rehabilitation of Rumsfeld in the press, where his awfulness has probably been entirely forgotten.

Wonkette:

Rummy says Defense was preparing for offense on Afghanistan at the time, but Bush asked him to be “creative.” Creative! Perhaps the military could stage a production of Grease for the people of Iraq before taking a bow and dropping a bomb on them?

The book mixes the policy and the personal; at the end of the same Oval Office session in which Mr. Bush asked for an Iraq war plan, Mr. Rumsfeld recounts, the president asked about Mr. Rumsfeld’s son, Nick, who struggled with drug addiction, had relapsed and just days before had entered a rehabilitation center. The president, who has written of his own battles to overcome a drinking problem, said that he was praying for Mr. Rumsfeld, his wife, Joyce, and all their children.

“What had happened to Nick — coupled with the wounds to our country and the Pentagon — all started to hit me,” Mr. Rumsfeld writes. “At that moment, I couldn’t speak. And I was unable to hold back the emotions that until then I had shared only with Joyce.”

Ah, there you have it. Rumsfeld could have said, “What the fuck are you talking about going to war with Iraq for? Our country was just attacked by a foreign terrorist organization we need to go try to destroy. Iraq has nothing to do with this. Aren’t you more concerned with winning this war we haven’t even begun yet?” But instead, his son had done some drugs. Sure thing, Rumsfeld. Perfectly good excuse. You should drop some leaflets on the families of people, American and Iraqi, whose children have died in that war. “Sorry, my son was doing drugs. I was emotional at the time. Not my fault.”

So here you have it: There’s finally someone to blame the entire Iraq War on: Nick Rumsfeld. HOPE YOU LIKED THOSE DRUGS, ASSHOLE!

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Gallus Gallus Domesticus Excrement

Dan Amira at New York Magazine:

“I’m trying to catch my breath so I don’t refer to this maneuver going on today as chicken crap, all right? But this is nonsense, all right?” —House Minority Leader John Boehner, on the Democrats’ holding a vote today to permanently extend the Bush tax cuts only for families making less than $250,000 or individuals making less than $200,000.

Patricia Murphy at Politics Daily:

The source of Boehner’s ire was a House vote earlier Thursday that will prevent Republicans from offering their own bill to make all of the Bush tax cuts permanent for all Americans, including the highest earners, when the full chamber considers the middle-class cuts later in the day. The House voted 213 to 203 to vote only on the middle-class tax proposal, with 32 Democrats voting with the Republicans to keep the process open.

Earlier, Rep. David Drier (R-Calif.), who offered the Republican alternative, called the Democrats’ plans to vote only on their bill “a joke.”

“I think it’s very evident that this House could, with a majority vote, ensure that we don’t increase taxes on any Americans during these very troubling, difficult economic times,” Drier said. “The fact of the matter is that any member of this House that votes in favor of the measure before us is voting for a tax increase. They are voting in favor of increasing taxes on American businesses and investors.”

Ezra Klein:

There are 238,781 households in John Boehner’s district. There are 2,824 of them with an income above $200,000. That’s 1.1 percent. And that 1.1 percent is too large, as many of those people make between $200,000 and $250,000, and so every dollar of their income will be eligible for the tax cuts the Democrats are pushing.

So in all likelihood, what separates a tax cut bill that’s “chicken crap” from a tax cut bill that’s great is its treatment of the richest 1 percent of households in Boehner’s district. And $700 billion slapped right onto the deficit. If Republicans win this debate despite the unpopularity of their position and its violent contradiction to their stated concern for the deficit, it’ll be one of the most impressive coups in recent political memory.

Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo:

Brace yourself for some procedural jargon: Dems once believed they were faced with two mixed options for holding this vote. The first was to hold an up-or-down vote under the normal rules. But that would give Republicans the opportunity to introduce what’s known as a motion to recommit — a procedural right of the minority that would have allowed them to tack an extension of tax cuts for high-income earners on to the legislation.

The second option — suspending the rules — would have foreclosed on that right, but would have required a two-thirds majority of the House for passage: 290 votes, an impossible hurdle.

But Democrats figured out a way to avoid this. They’re attaching their tax cut plan as an amendment to a separate bill [the Airport and Airway Extension Act, to wit]. That legislation already passed the House, and has just been returned from the Senate. The rules say it can’t be recommitted. So the GOP’s hands are tied.

“The election was month ago,” Boehner said. “We’re 23 months from the next election and the political games have already started trying to set up the next election.”

“To roll this vote out really is just — it’s what you think I was going to say anyway.” In other words, “chickencrap.”

Now, Dems did make an end run around the normal rules — because there was no other way they could get their preferred tax cut plan passed. But this really is the purest way to address the question of who in Congress would say no to tax cuts for everybody unless rich people get an extra cherry on top.

David Dayen at Firedoglake:

Apparently, John Boehner described the procedural maneuvering as chicken crap today. Keep that in mind when the Republican House under him engages in exactly the same technique. I think the Dems showed the way to neutralize the motion to recommit permanently.

Oh, and the motion to recommit itself is chicken crap. It allows the minority party to spring a vote on the opposition, with no warning, without needing to show the legislative language in advance, and attach it to a bill under regular order. I don’t really like the iron-fisted rules of the House and think they could loosen them up a bit, but the motion to recommit is really obstructionist garbage, and it should be neutralized.

David Weigel:

Let’s just state the obvious: He means “chickenshit,” or wimpy. Because Democrats probably have the votes to pass this, the way they definitely had the votes to “deem and pass” the health care bill in March, before Republicans called out that strategy as a wimpy end-run around an up-or-down vote on the bill. Boehner is also right. This is chickenshit. It gives House Democrats a “victory” that wouldn’t mean anything in the Senate, even if it benefited House Democrats running in 2012.

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The Thin Red Line And The Thin Blue Line Move Extremely Close Together

Nate Silver:

In April, 2009, when we last took a survey of gay marriage polls, we found that support for it had converged somewhere into the area of 41 or 42 percent of the country. Now, it appears to have risen by several points, and as I reported yesterday, it has become increasingly unclear whether opposition to gay marriage still outweighs support for it.

Here is a version of the graph we produced in 2009, but updated to include the dozen or so polls that have been conducted on it since that time, as listed by pollingreport.com. I have also included opinions on gay marriage from the General Social Survey, which asked about gay marriage as long ago as 1988.

Dan Amira at New York Magazine:

For the first time ever, a poll shows that more Americans support the right of gay people to marry than those who oppose it, 52-46, according to CNN. That’s a major milestone in itself, but what’s more, gay-marriage supporters could not ask for a better symbolic representation of America’s changing attitudes than the one in this graph

Joe My God:

I know you freaks are dying to comment on the shape of the graph.

Towleroad

Kevin Drum:

It’s only one poll, but it’s clearly part of a multi-decade trend that’s been moving in the right direction at the rate of a little over 1% a year. Until recently that is: in the past three years, polling on this question has improved at the rate of 3-4% a year. And this might end up being the greatest legacy of Vaughn Walker’s decision in the Proposition 8 case. His opinion might not have much influence on the Supreme Court when they end up ruling on the issue, but it probably does have an impact on public opinion. People respond to the opinions of thought leaders and authority figures, and when judges and politicians start speaking out more openly about this, it makes it safer for ordinary citizens to follow suit. Some of that is probably what’s happening here.

What’s also remarkable — though not new — is the huge gender divide on this question: men are obviously far more threatened by the idea of same-sex marriage than women are. Being thought a sissy during childhood is a common and scarring experience for boys, but being thought a butch or a tomboy probably isn’t such a wide or traumatizing experience for girls. In this particular case, men remain far more trapped in their traditional gender roles than women.

Allah Pundit:

Note the distinction. Ask people whether gays should have the right and you get a 52/46 split. Ask them whether gays do have the right — which of course was the point of Walker’s due process and equal protection rulings in the Prop 8 case — and it shrinks to 49/51, which is still a thinner margin than when Gallup polled a similar question just two months ago. It’s hard to draw strong lessons from a three-point swing, which is within the margin of error, but it does point towards the possibility that you’re more likely to build public consensus by taking the incrementalist approach and letting legislatures create rights than having courts divine them from the Constitution.

Andrew Sullivan:

What backlash? CNN’s latest poll, in the wake of the Walker decision, is easily the most promising to date for those of us in support of marriage rights for all. For the first time, a slim majority of all Americans backs not just marriage, but a constitutional right to marriage for gay couples. A majority, in other words, believes this to be a civil rights issue, which, of course, it is, because civil marriage has long been regarded as a fundamental civil right in American constitutional history. And a majority is in favor! I’m not sure what to make of a small discrepancy in wording – between whether gays already “have” such a right or whether they “should have” – but wouldn’t go so far as Allahpundit in arguing it shows that this process should be driven solely by state legislatures.

I know it’s messy, but surely the fact is that the classic American process is not, and should not be, either judicial tyranny or majority rule over a minority’s rights. It’s an ongoing interaction of the two. Would I prefer a total legislative and democratic victory for marriage equality? You bet I would. At the same time, can anyone gainsay our amazing progress in making the case?

In 1989, the idea was preposterous. But by relentless arguing, debate, litigation and legislative and ballot-box initiatives, we have moved the needle faster than anyone once dreamed of. When a proposition has 50 percent support, you can argue either that there is no need for the courts to act. But you could equally argue that with public support already this high, such a ruling could not meaningfully represent anything approximating “tyranny”. Certainly far less so than when the courts struck down bans on inter-racial marriage which enjoyed very strong popular support at the time, especially in the states where they prevailed.

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“N” Is For Newtie, That’s Good Enough For Me

John Richardson in Esquire:

She was married to Newt Gingrich for eighteen years, all through his spectacular rise and fall, and here she is in a pair of blue jeans and a paisley shirt, with warm eyes and a big laugh and the kind of chain-smoking habit where the cigarettes burn right down to the filter — but she’s quitting, she swears, any day now.

We’re having breakfast in a seaside restaurant in a Florida beach town, a place where people line up in sandals and shorts. This is the first time she’s talked about what happened, and she has a case of the nerves but also an air of liberation about her. Since he was a teenager, Newt Gingrich has never been without a wife, and his bond with Marianne Gingrich during the most pivotal part of his career made her the most important advisor to one of the most important figures of the late twentieth century. Of their relationship, she says, “We started talking and we never quit until he asked me for a divorce.”

She sounds proud, defiant, maybe a little wistful. You might be inclined to think of what she says as the lament of an abandoned wife, but that would be a mistake. There is shockingly little bitterness in her, and she often speaks with great kindness of her former husband. She still believes in his politics. She supports the Tea Parties. She still uses the name Marianne Gingrich instead of going back to Ginther, her maiden name.

But there was something strange and needy about him. “He was impressed easily by position, status, money,” she says. “He grew up poor and always wanted to be somebody, to make a difference, to prove himself, you know. He has to be historic to justify his life.”

She says she should have seen the red flags. “He asked me to marry him way too early. And he wasn’t divorced yet. I should have known there was a problem.”

Within weeks or months?

“Within weeks.”

That’s flattering.

She looks skeptical. “It’s not so much a compliment to me. It tells you a little bit about him.”

And he did the same thing to her eighteen years later, with Callista Bisek, the young congressional aide who became his third wife. “I know. I asked him. He’d already asked her to marry him before he asked me for a divorce. Before he even asked.”

He told you that?

“Yeah, he wanted to — ”

But she stops. “Hey, turn off the tape recorder for a second. This is going to go places …”

Back in the 1990s, she told a reporter she could end her husband’s career with a single interview. She held her tongue all through the affair and the divorce and even through the annulment Gingrich requested from the Catholic Church two years later, trying to erase their shared past. Now she sits quietly for a moment, ignoring her eggs, trying to decide how far she wants to go.

[…]
ctually, he grew up on a series of Army bases in Kansas, Georgia, France, and Germany. His father was raised by a grandmother who passed off his real mother (Gingrich’s grandmother) as his sister. His mother married his father when she was sixteen, left him a few days later, and struggled with manic depression most of her life. His stepfather was an infantry officer who viewed his plump, nearsighted, flat-footed son as unfit for the Army. By the time he was fifteen, Gingrich dedicated his life, he says, “to understanding what it takes for a free people to survive.” By the time he was eighteen, he was dating his high school geometry teacher. He married her a year later, when he was nineteen and she was twenty-six.It sounds like a complicated childhood, I say.

“It was fabulous.”

Fabulous?

“Lots of relatives, lots of complexity, lots of sugar pies, when I could talk my aunt and grandmother into making them. They had an old-fashioned cast-iron stove where you cut wood…”

Just as Ronald Reagan created an idealized version of an America that never quite existed, so has Newt. And just as Reagan curated a fantasy version of his own life, so, too, has Newt.

Aren’t you sugarcoating it a little bit?

“What do you mean?”

It sounds like a troubled domestic situation.

“It’s troubled if you decide that’s what it is.”

True, you can choose to look at the bright things. But there are also less bright things.

“There are for everybody.”

Yeah, but I’m asking you.

He doesn’t respond.

Both your fathers, the stepfather and the biological one, were angry men.

His expression is flat, and he answers in his scholarly voice, like a professor telling a legend from distant history. “I think by the time I knew Newt, my biological father, he was no longer particularly angry. I think Bob was very tough. But I look back now and I realize that Bob imprinted me in a thousand ways. He taught me discipline, he taught me endurance, he taught me to take the long view, he taught me the notion of teams, he taught me a depth of patriotism, he taught me to be prepared for things not to work — you sleep as often as you can because you don’t know when you’ll be able to sleep again, you drink water when you can because you don’t know when you’ll be able to drink again, you rest as much as you can because you don’t know when you’re going to rest again. If you come out of an infantry, World War II, Korea background, that is how the infantry functions. Well, it turns out that’s pretty good if you’re going to be a politician.”

Sitting in the Florida sun while she annihilates a long series of Benson & Hedges, Marianne Gingrich paints a very different picture. “He didn’t talk to his mother much. He just didn’t have patience with her. And she was pretty drugged up for a long time.”

But he said his childhood was like Norman Rockwell.

She laughs. “You’re kidding. That’s funny. Well, I liked his dad. He was outspoken. He was a down-home, practical kind of guy. But you know, he was a drinker.”

Marianne loves long stories, straight talk, and rueful laughter at the infinity of human foibles. Her eyes go wide when she hears his line about being four to Callista’s five. “You know where that line came from? Me. That’s my line. That’s what I told him.”

She pauses for a moment, turning it over in her mind. Then she shakes her head in wonder. “I’m sorry, that’s so freaky.”

[…]

But other days, Gingrich was bleak and hopeless. He was like a “dead weight” at times like that, Marianne says. You just couldn’t get him to move. The contrast reminded her of his mother and her manic depression, and she told him he needed help.

But Marianne was having problems of her own. After going to the doctor for a mysterious tingling in her hand, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Early in May, she went out to Ohio for her mother’s birthday. A day and a half went by and Newt didn’t return her calls, which was strange. They always talked every day, often ten times a day, so she was frantic by the time he called to say he needed to talk to her.

“About what?”

He wanted to talk in person, he said.

“I said, ‘No, we need to talk now.’ ”

He went quiet.

“There’s somebody else, isn’t there?”

She kind of guessed it, of course. Women usually do. But did she know the woman was in her apartment, eating off her plates, sleeping in her bed?

She called a minister they both trusted. He came over to the house the next day and worked with them the whole weekend, but Gingrich just kept saying she was a Jaguar and all he wanted was a Chevrolet. ” ‘I can’t handle a Jaguar right now.’ He said that many times. ‘All I want is a Chevrolet.’ ”

He asked her to just tolerate the affair, an offer she refused.

He’d just returned from Erie, Pennsylvania, where he’d given a speech full of high sentiments about compassion and family values.

The next night, they sat talking out on their back patio in Georgia. She said, “How do you give that speech and do what you’re doing?”

“It doesn’t matter what I do,” he answered. “People need to hear what I have to say. There’s no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn’t matter what I live.”

When they got to court, Gingrich refused to cooperate with basic discovery. Marianne and her lawyer knew from a Washington Post gossip column that Gingrich had bought Bisek a $450 bottle of wine, for example, but he refused to provide receipts or answer any other questions about their relationship.

Then Gingrich made a baffling move. Because Bisek had refused to be deposed by Marianne’s attorney, Newt had his own attorney depose her, after which the attorney held a press conference and announced that she had confessed to a six-year affair with Gingrich. He had also told the press that he and Marianne had an understanding.

“Right,” Marianne says now.

That was not true?

“Of course not. It’s silly.”

During that period, people would come up to Marianne and tell her to settle, that she was hurting the cause.

John Hudson at The Atlantic with the round-up

Dan Amira at New York Magazine:

Herewith, the ten most unflattering things in the profile.10. He lives his life based on weird metaphors about cookies:

“There’s a large part of me that’s four years old,” he tells you. “I wake up in the morning and I know that somewhere there’s a cookie. I don’t know where it is but I know it’s mine and I have to go find it. That’s how I live my life. My life is amazingly filled with fun.”

9. Nobody buys the movies he releases through the group Citizens United.

According to Bruce Nash of Nash Information Services, a company that tracks movie sales, these films — some directed by a man best known for a TV show called Bikes from Hell — are spectacular failures. “The most popular appears to be Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous with Destiny, which is most likely selling a couple thousand copies a year through major retailers. Rediscovering God in America sells perhaps two thousand units.”

8. His health-care group doesn’t do what it claims it does:

Then there’s the Center for Health Transformation, another group Gingrich runs. On its Web site, it describes its work in Georgia as a model for all its efforts and says the “cornerstone” of its work is a group called Bridges to Excellence. But CHT “had zero role in creating Bridges to Excellence,” says François de Brantes, the group’s CEO. CHT helped with organization for one year and hasn’t been associated with them since 2008. The CHT Web site also singles out the “Healthy Georgia Diabetes and Obesity Project” as its major diabetes effort, but that was news to the American Diabetes Association. “We were not able to find any information about this,” says the ADA’s communications director, Colleen Fogarty. “The person that was in contact with them is no longer here.” It turns out that the CHT is a for-profit outfit that charges big health insurers like Blue Cross and Blue Shield up to $200,000 a year for access to the mind of Newt Gingrich.

7. He started to act crazy after being fined $300,000 by the House Ethics Committee — “yelling at people,” “slurping his food” during meetings, and just not “functioning.”

6. He steals lines from his ex-wife and passes them off as his own:

“[Current wife] Callista and I kid that I’m four and she’s five and therefore she gets to be in charge, because the difference between four and five is a lot.”….

[Ex-wife Marriane’s] eyes go wide when she hears his line about being four to Callista’s five. “You know where that line came from? Me. That’s my line. That’s what I told him.”

She pauses for a moment, turning it over in her mind. Then she shakes her head in wonder. “I’m sorry, that’s so freaky.”

5. He has no “real principles” except the “pursuit of power,” according to former Republican congressman Mickey Edwards, who’s known Newt for 30 years.

4. He doesn’t care about being a hypocrite: After Marianne questioned how he could give a speech on family values while carrying on an affair with his decades-younger aide (who became his third wife), Newt replied, “It doesn’t matter what I do. People need to hear what I have to say. There’s no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn’t matter what I live.”

3. He wanted Marianne to just “tolerate” his affair, “an offer she refused.”

2. Regardless, he then announced that, though he’d been having an affair for six years, “he and Marianne had an understanding,” a claim Marianne denies. “Of course not,” she says. “It’s silly.”

1. He delivered divorce papers to his first wife — his former high-school teacher — while she was in the hospital recovering from uterine cancer. He broke things off with his second wife seven months after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Ben Adler at Newsweek:

Gingrich is certainly a savvy political strategist, but he has some serious political liabilities. This is a man, after all, who was carrying on an affair with a young aide while pursuing an impeachment of the president for the same thing. Today Esquire is up with a fabulous profile of Gingrich in all of his contradictions: his dark musings with nasty culture-war overtones, his confounding embrace of some big-government interventions, his family-values rhetoric, and his unusual marital history.

And it exposes how some of Gingrich’s demands for fantastical goals cannot realistically be achieved by the means he proposes. Case in point: Gingrich says President Obama should effectuate a regime change in Iran through tightened sanctions and funding for dissidents. Most Iran experts think the U.S. actually deligitimizes the domestic opposition by supporting them. And if sanctions could topple dangerous Middle Eastern regimes, then why did Gingrich say they were insufficient to deal with Saddam Hussein?

Nicole Allan at The Atlantic:

John H. Richardson’s profile of Newt Gingrich in Esquire paints a fragmented, confusing picture of a fragmented, confusing guy. Richardson’s central source is Gingrich’s second wife, Marianne, whom he divorced in 1999 to marry a congressional aide 23 years his junior. This is apparently the first interview she’s given about her ex-husband since their divorce, a fact Richardson milks for all its worth.

“Back in the 1990s, she told a reporter she could end her husband’s career with a single interview,” Richardson writes at the beginning of his story, implying that the next seven pages contain ten years’ worth of bottled-up, career-ending revelations.

Gingrich certainly does not emerge from the profile looking good, but then again, he didn’t emerge from his 1990s money laundering scandal and resignation from Congress looking good, either. Richardson’s profile is already generating buzz, but ending careers — probably not.

Justin Elliott at Salon:

Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife told Esquire that the former speaker cares more about getting rich than running for president. So we decided to take a closer look at who is funding Gingrich’s primary political committee, a 527 group called American Solutions for Winning the Future. A significant chunk of its funding comes from oil and gas and coal companies and wealthy real estate evelopers, with the rest raised in $100 and $200 increments from conservatives around the country, according to the group’s IRS filings.

American Solutions doesn’t appear to pay Gingrich a direct salary, but it has spent millions on private jets to ferry him and his staff around the country and generally allow him to promote his books and movies. (There are other groups, like Gingrich’s for-profit Center for Health Transformation, that may be paying Gingrich directly, but such information is private.) So far this election cycle, American Solutions has taken in over $20 million, and poured much of it back into fundraising expenses.

We’ve taken a look at the IRS forms that American Solutions files periodically showing what’s coming in and what’s going out. Here are some of the group’s biggest funders:

  • American Electric Power: Michael Morris, the CEO of this Ohio-based power giant, gave $100,000 last year. Along with generating lots of electricity, the company operates the nation’s largest power transmission network, operating over much of the East Coast and Midwest.
  • Plains Exploration and Production Co.: This Houston-based oil and gas company that operates in the Gulf gave $100,000.
  • Workforce Fairness Institute: A Washington, D.C.-based anti-union pressure group, the institute’s own source of funding is not known. It gave $150,000 to Gingrich’s organization this cycle. Its website says it is “funded by and advocates on behalf of business owners who enjoy good working relationships with their employees, and would like to maintain those good relationships without the unfair interference of government bureaucrats, union organizers and special interests.” Mark McKinnon, the longtime GOP operative and Bush aide, has been a spokesman for the institute.
  • Hubbard Broadcasting: Stanley Hubbard, a billionaire GOP donor from Minnesota, gave Gingrich’s group $100,000. He owns radio and TV stations in several states as well as ReelzChannel, a movie news channels on cable.
  • Devon Energy: A huge Oklahoma-based oil and gas production company, it has given American Solutions $250,000.
  • Arch Coal: Based in St. Louis, Arch boasts it provides 16 percent of America’s coal supply from 11 mining complexes around the country. That makes it the second largest coal producer in the country. It gave Gingrich $100,000.
  • Crow Holdings: A privately held Dallas real estate investment firm, it gave Gingrich’s group a whopping $350,000. Harlan Crow, son of the late real estate investor Trammell Crow, is active in a range of conservative causes including the Club for Growth and the American Enterprise Institute. He is a patron of Clarence Thomas and once gave the justice a Bible owned by Frederick Douglass worth $19,000.

Unsurprisingly, given the contributor list, American Solutions has run national TV ads opposing the cap-and-trade bill. But more than anything, the group is a vehicle for self-promotion for Gingrich, one that he benefits from financially.

Anne Laurie:

Please read the whole article. I’ve been extremely scornful of the idea of Gingrich actually running for President, as opposed to fan-dancing (or stripper-poling) a perennial round of first-class speaking junkets and high-visibility media appearances calculated to preserve the Gingrich™ brand’s valuable shelf-space in the Wingnut Welfare Walmart. But Richardson’s reporting suggests that the person most bedazzled and mislead by the non-stop hustling might just be Newton Leroy Gingrich, and that’s a dangerous thing indeed, because there is much further confirmation here that Gingrich is a bullet point on the Powerpoint timeline of Weirdly Charismatic Rightwing Sociopaths, probably the most significant version between Richard Nixon and Sarah Palin. Richardson includes stories of Gingrich’s unsettling behavior just before he resigned the Speakership that read like an opera bouffe version of Nixon during Watergate, and aggregates details of his personal and professional life that make Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes look like a rough draft

Wonkette:

Interesting! Also interesting: Newt Gingrich divorces his wives when they’re in the hospital with life-threatening diseases. And his organizations and money-making schemes since leaving office are pretty shady. Fun!

Time to give this man our presidency cookie.

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Aqua Buddha A Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop

Ray Gustini at The Atlantic with the round-up

Jason Zengerle at GQ:

What’s truly interesting about Rand Paul and Baylor is not the issue of whether or not he graduated; it’s what he did at Baylor during the two-and-a-half years he spent there. As I discovered in the course of reporting a story about Paul for GQ, he wasn’t your typical Baylor student.

Baylor seemed like a natural fit for someone like Paul. Located in Waco, it’s the world’s largest Baptist University and has a long history of educating the children of prominent Texas conservative politicos. As the son of Houston-area Congressman Ron Paul, young Rand—or Randy, as he was known back then—appeared to be following in that tradition. But when Paul showed up in Waco, he didn’t conform to type. According to several of his former Baylor classmates, he became a member of a secret society called the NoZe Brotherhood, which was a refuge for atypical Baylor students. “You could have taken 90 percent of the liberal thinkers at Baylor and found them in this small group,” recalls Marc Burckhardt, one of Paul’s former NoZe Brothers. Sort of a cross between Yale’s Skull & Bones and Harvard’s Lampoon, the NoZe existed to torment the Baylor administration, which it accomplished through pranks and its satirical newspaper The Rope. The group especially enjoyed tweaking the school’s religiosity. “We aspired to blasphemy,” says John Green, another of Paul’s former NoZe Brothers.

And so the NoZe Brothers would perform “Christian” songs like “Rock Around the Cross”; they’d parade around campus carrying a giant picture of Anita Bryant with a large hole cut out of her mouth after the former beauty queen proclaimed oral sex sinful; and they’d run ads for a Waco strip club on the back page of The Rope. In 1978, the Baylor administration became so fed up with the NoZe that it suspended the group from campus for being, in the words of Baylor’s president at the time, “lewd, crude, and grossly sacrilegious.” During Paul’s three years at Baylor, according to former NoZe Brothers, if the administration discovered a student was a member of the NoZe, the punishment was automatic expulsion.

[…]

The strangest episode of Paul’s time at Baylor occurred one afternoon in 1983 (although memories about all of these events are understandably a bit hazy, so the date might be slightly off), when he and a NoZe brother paid a visit to a female student who was one of Paul’s teammates on the Baylor swim team. According to this woman, who requested anonymity because of her current job as a clinical psychologist, “He and Randy came to my house, they knocked on my door, and then they blindfolded me, tied me up, and put me in their car. They took me to their apartment and tried to force me to take bong hits. They’d been smoking pot.” After the woman refused to smoke with them, Paul and his friend put her back in their car and drove to the countryside outside of Waco, where they stopped near a creek. “They told me their god was ‘Aqua Buddha’ and that I needed to bow down and worship him,” the woman recalls. “They blindfolded me and made me bow down to ‘Aqua Buddha’ in the creek. I had to say, ‘I worship you Aqua Buddha, I worship you.’ At Baylor, there were people actively going around trying to save you and we had to go to chapel, so worshiping idols was a big no-no.”

Nearly 30 years later, the woman is still trying to make sense of that afternoon. “They never hurt me, they never did anything wrong, but the whole thing was kind of sadistic. They were messing with my mind. It was some kind of joke.” She hadn’t actually realized that Paul wound up leaving Baylor early. “I just know I never saw Randy after that—for understandable reasons, I think.”

Ben Smith at Politico:

Paul spokesman Jesse Benton didn’t respond directly to Zengerle’s question about the incident; I’ve e-mailed him to ask whether that story is true, and am also trying to reach the accuser.

UPDATE: Benton repeated his non-denial to me in an e-mail, adding: “We’ll leave National Enquirer-type stories about his teenage years to the tabloids where they belong.”

Josh Green at The Atlantic:

I’ll bet they were listening to Rush.

David Kurtz at TPM

Dan Amira at New York Magazine:

Just … wow. Kidnapping, drug use, sacrilege — how could the Paul campaign possibly explain all of this to its many conservative supporters?

Steve Benen:

A lot of folks had some rowdy experiences in college, but I suspect the number of Senate candidates who kidnapped a fellow student, forced her into some bizarre ritual, and worshiped the “Aqua Buddha” is fairly low.

This is, by the way, the same Baylor University that Paul didn’t graduate from, despite some suggestions to the contrary.

In the grand scheme of things, Paul’s radical ideology — he’s the one who opposes the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act — is far more relevant than his ridiculous behavior in college. But given the right-wing ophthalmologist’s razor thin public record — he’s never sought or held public office at any level — incidents like these help flesh out a better understanding of Rand Paul’s background.

And as we’re learning, Paul is a weird dude.

Wonkette:

Anti-statist Senate candidatista Rand Paul didn’t actually finish college because he did well on his MCAT and got into Duke Medical School, which is actually sort of “bad-ass.” Now, according to Gentlemen’s Quarterly, it turns out “Randy” Paul was part of a SECRET SOCIETY at Baylor made mostly of LIBRULS who smoked POT and did PRANKS and put out a SATIRICAL NEWSPAPER criticizing the university administration. Nowadays, that sort of thing would segue you into a high-paying management-professional job at your Wonkette, but back then it turned you into an ophthalmologist.

UPDATE: Greg Sargent

Alex Pareene at Gawker

Allah Pundit

Steve Benen

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Faster, Static! Kill! Kill!

Heather Horn at The Atlantic with the round-up

Bryan Walsh at Time:

BP stopped pumping heavy mud into the blown well around eight hours after beginning on Tuesday afternoon, saying that the procedure had achieved its “desired outcome.” Here’s part of the press release from BP:

The well is now being monitored, per the agreed procedure, to ensure it remains static. Further pumping of mud may or may not be required depending on results observed during monitoring.

The start of the static kill was based on the results of an injectivity test, which immediately preceded the static kill and lasted about two hours.

That doesn’t mean things are over—BP vice president Kent Wells told reporters yesterday that he wasn’t sure if mud alone would be enough to fully plug the well. But the fact that BP was able pump drilling mud into the well—at the weight of about 13.2 lbs. per gallon—means that its physical structure is likely still in good condition. And that should clear the way for the relief well, still set to be completed by mid-August. Most importantly, though, more than 100 days after the Deepwater Horizon exploded, it’s hard to imagine oil flowing from BP’s well again.

And it may turn out that the 4.9 million barrels of oil that did spill from BP’s well may leave less of a mark on the Gulf than first expected. According to the New York Times, the government is expected to announce today that nearly three-quarters of the oil has already evaporated, dispersed, been skimmed or burned—and that what’s left isn’t likely to do further damage, as White House energy czar Carol Browner told NBC’s Today show this morning:

The oil was captured. It was skimmed. It was burned. It was contained. Mother Nature did her part. And that’s good news.

According to the government’s report, a full quarter of the oil dispersed on the surface of the Gulf or dissolved in seawater, and another 16% dispersed naturally as the oil gushed out of the well. The actual cleanup played a smaller role—5% of the oil was removed in controlled burns, and 8% was broken up using chemical dispersants. The warm Gulf ecosystem—accustomed to breaking down oil—was the more significant factor.

Joel Achenbach at WaPo:

The static kill is underway. Whether it will kill, slightly impede, or merely pester BP’s Macondo well remained unknown late Tuesday, as engineers and scientists at BP’s headquarters in suburban Houston scrutinized pressure readings from the hole in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

Federal officials huddled in BP’s operations center are trying to manage expectations, saying that even if the static kill goes as hoped, Macondo won’t be kaput until it is intercepted and cemented by a relief well that’s been three months in the drilling.

“You want to make sure it’s really dead dead dead. Don’t want anything to rise out of the grave,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu told The Washington Post late Tuesday afternoon.

BP initiated the process of pumping mud into the blown-out Macondo well at about 4 p.m. Tuesday. The static kill is not a quick operation by design, pumping mud at a leisurely rate of 2 barrels per minute. About 2,000 barrels will be needed to fill the well, engineers have calculated.

Ben Popkin at The Consumerist:

Doesn’t BP know the power of language? I don’t think the use of intense code names for the various operations has really helped assuage the public consciousness throughout this whole fracas. “Static Kill,” “Top Kill,” “Junk Shot,” really, much too exciting. How about “Containment Orocedure # 74 or “Earthen Inflowment Filling Process”? They should catch up on the collected works of your native son, Orwell.

And a new report says that 3/4 of the escaped oil has been burnt off, skimmed off, chemically dispersed, evaporated, or dissolved in the ocean, “like sugar.” That leaves only, ohh, about 53.5 million gallons floating around in the Gulf. Ballpark, that’s about 5 times the Exxon Valdez disaster. In the words of Borat, great success!

Dan Amira at New York Magazine:

There’s a strange amount of good news coming out of the Gulf today. Not only has the vast majority of the leaked oil now been wiped from the face of the Earth, but BP’s latest violently named leak-stopping effort is being declared successful. First there was the top kill, and now, the static kill, in which more of that heavy drilling mud we always hear about was pumped into the well to stabilize the pressure within.

BP called it a “significant milestone,” while CNN said it was “the biggest development in the long-running saga involving BP’s ruptured well since a tightly fitting cap was placed on it in mid-July, stopping oil from flowing into the Gulf for the first time in almost three months.”

The leak won’t be truly dead for good, though, until BP’s ultimate kill maneuver — the “bottom kill,” otherwise known as the relief well — is complete. Carol Browner, director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, explains, “The static kill is going well, but ultimately, it’s the relief wells we ordered drilled that will be the ‘final kill-kill.'” You can tell by the nomenclature that they really are not very fond of this leak.

Dan Froomkin at The Huffington Post:

The Obama administration on Wednesday delivered an upbeat verdict on the fate of the estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil that spewed out of BP’s blown out well in the Gulf of Mexico, saying that most of it has either been dispersed, burned off, skimmed up, directly recaptured through containment efforts, evaporated or dissolved.

Relatively little, they announced, remains on the surface of the Gulf.

That last part is certainly cause to celebrate. But much of the dissolved or dispersed oil may still be causing massive environmental damage beneath the surface, even if it can’t easily be seen.

So along with the 26 percent of the oil that federal scientists still can’t fully account for, that means more than half could still be posing a serious and present danger to sea life and Gulf ecosystems.

A new report, which was authored by senior officials from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey, was based on findings from government and non-government scientists. The underlying measurements and methodology were not made public, however, leaving much of it looking like so much guesswork. It did, however, include this neat graphic

[…]

President Obama himself weighed in earlier in the day. “A report out today by our scientists shows that the vast majority of the spilled oil has been dispersed or removed from the water,” he said.

But that’s a big “or”.

Under questioning by the White House press corps, Lubchenco was somewhat less upbeat. “No one is saying it’s not a threat anymore,” she said. “Diluted and out of sight doesn’t necessarily mean benign.”

She said the subsurface oil is biodegrading rapidly, but nevertheless may already have had a devastating effect on the young of many species — for instance, it may have wiped out a whole year’s worth of bluefin tuna eggs.

“I think the common view of most of the scientists inside and outside government is that the effects of this spill will likely linger for decades,” she said. “The fact that so much of the oil has been removed and in the process of being degraded is very significant and means that the impact will not be even worse than it might have been. But the oil that was released and has already impacted wildlife at the surface, young juvenile stages and eggs beneath the surface, will likely have very considerable impacts for years and possibly decades to come.”

Lubchenco also said that dissolved oil (like “sugar into your coffee or your teacup”) is not necessarily less dangerous than dispersed oil (“broken up from large chunks into smaller chunks”).

But there was a definite sense of triumphalism in the briefing room. “I think it is fairly safe to say that because of the environmental effects of Mother Nature, the warm waters of the Gulf and the federal response, that many of the doomsday scenarios that were talked about and repeated a lot have not and will not come to fruition because of that,” Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.

“I think the original scenario was off the coast of Delaware and halfway to England by September, if I’m not mistaken.”

Lubchenco announced that there is “virtually no threat to the Keys of the East Coast remaining.” And she and White House environmental advisor Carol Browner refused to entertain the notion that their estimates might end up being off.

“We have a high degree of confidence in them,” Lubchenco said of the findings.

“The likelihood of large-scale change is very, very small, because we have so much certainty in some of the numbers,” Browner said.

One particularly unresolved issue, however, remains how much risk there is that dispersed oil will get into the Gulf’s food chain — and eventually to the dinner table.

Lubchenco notably ducked two food-chain questions on Thursday.

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