Tag Archives: Dana Milbank

Oh, Beltway, Beltway, Beltway

Jake Sherman and Marin Cogan at Politico:

Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the powerful Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has launched an inquiry into whether spokesman Kurt Bardella improperly shared e-mails from other reporters with a New York Times reporter writing a book on Washington’s political culture, POLITICO has learned.

Bardella has been cooperating extensively with the Times’s Mark Leibovich on the book, and Issa told POLITICO Monday that he would “get to the bottom” of exactly what Bardella shared with Leibovich.

On Tuesday morning, Issa fired Bardella as a result of his investigation.

Issa, Bardella and Leibovich all were given several opportunities by POLITICO to deny that the e-mails were improperly shared. Bardella and Leibovich declined comment. Issa says he simply does not know.

Issa said Monday that Bardella assured him that “he does not share information between one reporter and another.” But he added there are questions about whether he might have treated Leibovich and his book project differently.

“His collaboration with the book author is what I want to get to the bottom of,” Issa said.

Issa said he was seeking to speak to Leibovich personally on Wednesday to ascertain “what kind of cooperation he was expecting. … I want to know in minute terms what the terms are.” As of late Monday afternoon, Leibovich said he had not heard from Issa or his staff.

In an earlier interview with POLITICO, Issa said he was aware his staff has been cooperating with Leibovich and that he had had a hallway interview with Leibovich himself. He said he agrees that if Bardella forwarded or blind-copied reporter e-mails to Leibovich, it would be improper. “It troubles me too,” Issa said, adding that if it is going on, “I’m going to get it stopped.”

Confronted about whether he was sharing the e-mails with Leibovich, Bardella initially said, “Am I bcc’ing him on every e-mail I send out? Of course not.”

Paul Farhi and Paul Kane at WaPo:

Leibovich, a former Washington Post staffer, is on leave from the Times while he researches the book, which is scheduled to be published next year. Reached Monday night, Leibovich had no comment.

Politico.com first reported the alleged leak Monday. The Web site’s editor, John Harris, first raised concerns about the e-mails Sunday in a letter to Issa.

“The practice of sharing reporter e-mails with another journalist on a clandestine basis would be egregiously unprofessional under any circumstances,” Harris wrote, according to Politico. “As the editor-in-chief of Politico, my concern is heightened by information suggesting that Politico journalists may have had their reporting compromised by this activity.”

Harris – a former Post writer and editor – said in an interview Monday that his Capitol Hill reporters heard about the possible leak Friday. “It’s just intolerable if [information about] our reporting was shared with other journalists from other news organizations,” he said. “Our reporting is proprietary and our stories are competitive. Journalists have an expectation that their communication [with sources] is confidential.”

But sources familiar with the matter said that the leak involves hundreds of e-mails to Issa’s office, many of them mundane and routine inquiries from news organizations seeking information and interviews with the chairman.

Bardella lists Leibovich among his friends on Facebook.

Jack Shafer at Slate:

Although I would be first to offer condolences to any reporter whose e-mails or inquiries to a press officer had been blithely shared with another reporter, I wouldn’t spend more than five seconds on cheering him up. A certain variety of Washington reporter lives and dies by leaks from government officials, so I don’t see why a government official leaking to a reporter about a national security matter is kosher, but a government official leaking about what reporters are asking him about is “egregiously unprofessional,” “compromising,” or “intolerable,” as Harris puts it.

As for Harris’ expectation that communications from reporters will be “held confidential,” well, I feel another lung coming up. Although I hope flacks will keep confidential my inquiries to them and their bosses, never in my journalistic career have I believed that a flack would keep his mouth zipped. Flacks and reporters are in the business of distributing information, not sequestering it. They move information like currency traders! They’re blabbermouths! This is one reason why reporting on the press is so easy, why the freshest journalistic recruit can start reporting on the press with almost no experience: Reporters love to give up their secrets and the secrets of others. Why? Because that’s what they’re trained to do! Flacks are almost as loose-mouthed.

Anybody composing e-mails these days should proceed on the assumption that what they write will be posted on the Web milliseconds after they send it. E-mail is not a secure form of communication. You might as well skywrite your questions to a press spokesman as put them in an e-mail. If Harris is so upset about his reporters’ e-mails getting leaked to Leibovich, he should have them use the phone. It’s not a leak-proof device, but it’s harder to forward a phone conversation unless you’re running a tape recorder.

Of course it is wrong for somebody to share correspondence without asking for permission first, but if that ethical constraint were universally observed, there would be no journalism. We’d all be rewriting GAO reports for a living.

Ryan Lizza at The New Yorker:

I’m somewhat mystified that Issa required an “investigation” to get to the bottom of this, because inside Issa’s office there was no secret about Bardella’s cooperation. When I was writing my profile of Issa, Bardella openly discussed his cooperation with Leibovich—and not just with me, but with his direct boss as well. For example, during a meeting with Bardella and Issa’s chief of staff, Dale Neugebauer, the three of us had a light-hearted discussion about how extensively Bardella was working with Leibovich.

“So you know about this, right?” I asked Neugebauer.

“Oh yeah. Yeah, he knows,” Bardella said.

“He [Bardella] just got to Washington and he’s got a book about him coming out,” I noted.

“I know, no kidding,” Neugebauer said.

In a later conversation, Bardella told me, “I’ve shared a lot with [Leibovich].” He added, “I have provided him with a lot of content. I BCC him on certain projects that I’m working on.” Bardella said he shared information that shows “this is how it happens” and “this is the conversation I’m having right now.”

“Do the other folks in the office know?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Bardella said, and he gave me an example of the type of stuff he shares: “Here’s this inquiry I got from a reporter. Here’s what I said to my staff about it, here’s the story, here’s the e-mail I just got from so-and-so, another reporter who’s upset that I gave his story to [someone else].”

At another point in one of our conversations, Bardella explained that getting news in partisan outlets— he cited the Daily Caller, the Washington Examiner, and the Washington Times—was easy, but it didn’t have the same impact as getting something in the mainstream press. He explained that he had recently leaked a report on ACORN to the New York Times, which had run what was, in his view, a good story for Issa. He then received an e-mail from an aide to Senator Susan Collins, he said, who complained about not being part of the decision to leak the report. Bardella said that he sent the e-mails documenting the whole drama to Leibovich.

“I blind-copied Mark in my response,” he said, “which was, given that my options were the Examiner or the New York Times, I’m not exactly going to apologize for the result that I just produced that you would not have. You had the report for four days and you didn’t do shit with it.”


This long back and forth was the lead-in to a Bardella quote I used in the piece:

[R]eporters e-mail me saying, “Hey, I’m writing this story on this thing. Do you think you guys might want to investigate it? If so, if you get some documents, can you give them to me?” I’m, like, “You guys are going to write that we’re the ones wanting to do all the investigating, but you guys are literally the ones trying to egg us on to do that!”

To me that last quote was one of the most important things Bardella told me. The rest of it—that offices clash over how to leak info and that bookers and reporters are competitive—is interesting but relatively well known, and not very relevant to a piece about Darrell Issa. But that Bardella accused reporters of offering to collaborate with Issa as he launches what will inevitably be partisan investigations of the Obama Administration seemed jaw-dropping. This is exactly the dysfunctional investigator/reporter dynamic that in the nineteen-nineties fed frenzies over every minor Clinton scandal. In his short-lived career, Bardella was witness to the fact that it was all starting over in 2011, now that there was again a Republican House and a Democratic President. From what I know of what Bardella shared, the beat reporters who cover Issa and engaged in this kind of game with Bardella will be the ones most embarrassed by the e-mails that Leibovich possesses.

Andrew Sullivan on Lizza:

Will Ryan now publish every email he has sent requesting an interview with someone on the Hill? If not, why not? And if another journalist somehow got access to his emails and published them, would he be fine with that? Or is it just because he’s buddies with Leibovich? Just asking. I’m not saying that there is nothing wrong with the journalist-source relationship right now. I’m saying there are ethical and unethical ways to point this out.

Michael D. Shear at NYT:

Politico, the news Web site that on Monday revealed that a Congressional aide had been secretly sharing e-mails with a New York Times reporter,  itself sought correspondence between government officials in numerous federal agencies and other news organizations.

In a 2009 Freedom of Information Act request distributed to at least half a dozen cabinet departments, Ken Vogel, a Politico reporter, made a broad request for all government communications with reporters or editors of 16 news organizations.

The request — which was eventually fulfilled in part after being narrowed, a Politico editor said — asked for “copies of all correspondence,” including “but not limited to e-mails, notes, letters and phone messages — received from or sent to employees or officials” of a number of media organizations: the five major television networks; National Public Radio; the Web sites Huffington Post, ProPublica and TPM Muckraker; and The Chicago Sun-Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Washington Times. The request also included Politico.

Among the agencies that received the request were the Justice Department, the Energy Department, the Commerce Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Treasury Department and the Transportation Department.

Politico was the first to report this week that Kurt Bardella, the chief spokesman for Representative Darrell Issa of California, had been giving copies of Mr. Bardella’s e-mail correspondence to Mark Leibovich, a reporter for The New York Times who is on leave to write a book about the political culture in Washington.

Politico reported that its editor in chief, John F. Harris, wrote to Mr. Issa that the practice would be “egregiously unprofessional under any circumstances” and called for an investigation into whether “journalists may have had their reporting compromised by this activity.”

(Mr. Harris said in an e-mail Wednesday morning that he was not interested in a legal probe of the situation, but asked Issa directly for answers about the arrangement between Mr. Bardella and Mr. Leibovich.)

Mr. Harris said in an interview Tuesday that there was a difference between a routine request for correspondence under the Freedom of Information Act and an arrangement in which e-mails were passed on immediately to another reporter.

He called it “bad faith between journalists who had an expectation of privacy and the person representing Chairman Issa, who violated that.”

“I thought there was a professional expectation, widely held and legitimately held, and that was compromised.”

In the Politico request, Mr. Vogel hinted at one target of his search, noting that included in the response should be “invitations (including to social events).” In fact, several government officials said Tuesday that the broad request was eventually narrowed to a search for invitations from reporters to social events.

Ben Smith at Politico:

Over at The New York Times’s Caucus blog, Michael Shear (with assistance from three other reporters) responded this evening to POLITICO’s scoop about Kurt Bardella, a since-fired aide to Rep. Darrell Issa who shared reporters’ emails with Times reporter Mark Leibovich.

Shear reported that POLITICO’s Ken Vogel in 2009 filed a Freedom of Information Act seeking correspondence between “at least half a dozen cabinet departments” and representatives of various media outlets (including POLITICO).

Comparing Vogel’s request to the Bardella/Leibovich arrangement, under which Bardella apparently blind copied Leibovich on emails to unknowing reporters, Shear writes that Vogel’s “initial F.O.I. request was, if anything, broader in its reach than the dissemination of information from Mr. Bardella to Mr. Leibovich.”

I find the blog item a bit perplexing and out of character. The comparison, in any event, misses the point of Vogel’s request, whose results never wound up in a story.

The correspondence Vogel requested is considered public information under federal law, the Freedom of Information Act, while the emails Leibovich received from Bardella are not, because Congress — unlike executive branch agencies outside the White House (and some in it) — is not subject to the FOIA. There’s nothing terribly novel about seeking reporters’ emails with executive branch officials. The Columbia Journalism Review and Gawker forced the state of New York to release emails between reporters and David Paterson’s staff last year.

Leibovich’s email collection is for a book due out in 2012, which Leibovich’s publisher describes as an examination of “Washington’s culture of self-love.”

Vogel tells me his request wasn’t actually aimed at reporters. He was reporting for a follow-up story on the controversy over The Washington Post’s aborted plans to host “salons,” in which the Post offered lobbyists who paid as much as $250,000 off-the-record access to “those powerful few” — Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and even the paper’s own reporters and editors.

Shear writes “Mr. Vogel hinted at one target of his search, noting that included in the response should be ‘invitations (including to social events).’ In fact, several government officials said Tuesday that the broad request was eventually narrowed to a search for invitations from reporters to social events.”

Vogel says he never asked for “invitations from reporters.” He asked for emails with “employees or officials at the media outlets,” because he wasn’t looking for embarrassing emails from reporters, but rather for invitations to salons or other events.

This isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with reporting on reporters and their emails, whether obtained from leaky staffers or public records. But the equivalence the Times went for in its headline isn’t there, either in the form or subject of Vogel’s reporting.

Dana Milbank at WaPo:

In the middle of all this is the book author, the New York Times’ Mark Leibovich, a friend of mine, who set out to write about this town’s culture and finds himself being sucked into the dysfunctional drama, which resembles nothing so much as a bad reality-TV show in which people put their honesty and judgment second to their quest to be players.

This particular episode begins with the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, another friend of mine (see what I mean by incestuous?) who wrote the definitive profile of Issa in January, describing his history as a car thief, among other things. Lizza also got Bardella to make some some surprisingly candid statements.

“I’m going to make Darrell Issa an actual political figure,” Bardella said. “I’m going to focus like a laser beam on the five hundred people here who care about this crap, and that’s it . . . so Darrell can expand his sphere of influence here among people who track who’s up, who’s down, who wins, who loses.”

Bardella also disclosed contempt for reporters he described as “lazy as hell. There are times when I pitch a story and they do it word for word. That’s just embarrassing. They’re adjusting to a time that demands less quality and more quantity.”

Lizza learned that Bardella had been sharing reporters’ obsequious e-mails with Leibovich. Lizza didn’t include the anecdote because Bardella wasn’t his focus, but word spread via journalistic pillow-talk after Lizza mentioned it in conversations, eventually making its way to Politico. That publication had done more than any other to increase Issa’s profile, with items such as “Issa aims to unmask health care deals” and “Sheriff Issa’s top six targets.”

Put on your PJs: It’s about to get even cozier. Politico reporters were making inquiries on Friday about their e-mails being forwarded to Leibovich, but on Saturday night they partied with Leibovich at the American Legion Hall on Capitol Hill for the 40th birthday party of Politico’s executive editor, Jim VandeHei.

A few hours before the party, Leibovich got a call from Politico’s editor-in-chief, John Harris – who, along with VandeHei and reporter Mike Allen, used to work at The Post with Leibovich (and me! So very cozy!). “Couldn’t this wait until VandeHei’s party?” Leibovich joked to Harris.

The bash itself was a celebration of the politically powerful. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and White House official Austan Goolsbee joined the likes of Bob Woodward and Tom Brokaw in a video tribute to VandeHei. The party received a 600-word write-up, which included Leibovich’s attendance, in Allen’s Politico Playbook the next day.

Also Sunday, Politico’s Harris wrote to Issa calling for an investigation into the “egregiously unprofessional” release of e-mails. On Monday, Politico published a story on the controversy co-written by Marin Cogan, a friend of Lizza’s.

From what I understand, the e-mails won’t look good for Politico if and when Leibovich releases them. There are expected to be many from Allen and reporter Jake Sherman. There could be embarrassments for other outlets, including The Post, that played footsie with the 27-year-old Bardella as part of a culture in which journalists implicitly provide positive coverage in exchange for tidbits of news.

But this isn’t real news. The items Bardella fed journalists were “exclusive” previews of announcements designed to make Issa look good. Now that Bardella has been fired, Issa has been embarrassed and a few reporters are set to be humiliated, it might be a good time for those who cover the news to regain a sense of detachment from those who make the news.

Jennifer Rubin:

Self-absorption to the point of parody? Check. Thinly-disguised “news” stories that serve journalists’ own personal or business interests? Check. Evidence that “journalistic ethics” is taking on the status of an oxymoron? Check. In the world of celebrity journalists, it’s perhaps to be expected that some news reporters and editors have come to regard themselves as the story, or, at the very least, to become convinced that their concerns and woes as the most fascinating part of the story. (Hence, hours of Cooper Anderson’s knock on the head in Cairo.) For people in the business of providing “context” and “perspective” that’s a pretty big character flaw.

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Live, From CPAC, It’s Friday Afternoon!

David Weigel:

First, a word about hecklers: It’s awful that they get so much attention. A few bad apples in a room of thousands can create the impression of massive dissent, when it really isn’t there.

That said, boy, was there a lot of heckling when Donald Rumsfeld arrived at CPAC to accept the Defender of the Constitution Award. The ballroom for big events fills up many minutes in advance. In this instance, the people who wanted to hear Rand Paul speak at 3:45 had to arrive around 2:30, and stay there. If they did, they sat through a speech from Donald Trump (a surprise to attendees who weren’t checking the news frequently), and used every possible moment to yell “RON PAUL” at the Donald. When Trump responded to one of the heckles, and said that Paul “can’t win” the presidency, there were loud and righteous boos.

It takes a while to exit the ballroom. This means that hundreds of Paul fans — recognizably younger and sometimes beardier than the median CPAC attendee — are in the room or in lines as Donald Rumsfeld is introduced.

“I am pleased to recognize our chairman, David Keene, to recognize Donald Rumsfeld,” says emcee Ted Cruz.

There are loud boos.

Robert Stacy McCain:

Total CPAC attendance is more than 10,000, among whom are hundreds of Paulistas – more than 10 percent of the total attendance, due not only to the fanaticism of Paul’s following but also because Campaign for Liberty has paid the way for his student supporters to attend the conference.

As might be expected, the Paulistas are at odds with most conservatives on foreign policy and this coincidence of scheduling that had many of the anti-war libertarians in their ballroom seats during the Rumsfeld recognition is just typical of the unexpected happenings at CPAC. And this unfortunate incident of inexcusable rudeness should help put the whole GOProud “controversy” in perspective. Are conflicts between anti-war libertarians and pro-war neocons really any different than the clash between gay Republicans and pro-family social conservatives?

Grant that these would seem to be what might be called irreconcilable differences, and yet if the broad coalition of the Right is to cohere — as it was powerfully coherent in 2010 — the disagreements must be tamped down. Courtesy and forebearance would seem to be requisite to the endeavor.

Dana Milbank at WaPo:

Republicans may not yet have the ideal candidate to take on President Obama in 2012. But at least they have an apprentice program.

“This is the largest crowd we have ever had in eager anticipation of our next speaker!” Lisa De Pasquale, director of the Conservative Political Action Conference, told the annual gathering this week. “We have overflow rooms filled! This ballroom filled!”

The reason for this eager anticipation, and for the whoops and hollers from the crowd: “someone who is thinking about tossing his hat in the ring for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.”

The sound system played the theme from NBC’s “The Apprentice.” A puff of orange hair appeared on the stage, and somewhere underneath it was the billionaire Donald Trump, giving a flirtatious, finger-wiggling wave to the crowd.

“You’re hired!” a woman in the front called out to him.

Basking in the adulation, Trump announced: “These are my people!”

Oh? The last time Trump tested the presidential waters, as a prospective Reform Party candidate a decade ago, he favored abortion rights, campaign finance reform and universal health care. He’s thrice married and has had many girlfriends in and out of wedlock. He’s behaved erratically in his handling of the Miss USA competition. He’s contributed to Democrats as recently as four months ago. And – unbeknownst to most in the audience – he was invited to CPAC by a gay Republican group, GOProud, whose participation in the conference sparked a boycott by social conservatives.

“Over the years I’ve participated in many battles and have really almost come out very, very victorious every single time,” the Donald said. (Except for the bankruptcy, that is.) “I’ve beaten many people and companies and I’ve won many wars,” he added. (Though he didn’t serve in the military.) “I have fairly but intelligently earned many billions of dollars, which in a sense was both a scorecard and acknowledgment of my abilities.”

Joshua Green at The Atlantic

Jennifer Rubin:

Mitt Romney’s wife Ann introduced Romney, trying to humanize a candidate that in 2008 seemed remote if not plastic. However, this line didn’t exactly make him seem warm and cuddly: “When the children were young and Mitt would call home from a business trip on the road, he would often hear a very tired and exasperated young mother, overwhelmed by our rambunctious five boys.” She’s an attractive lady and her battles against MS and cancer make her especially sympathetic; she however needs better material.

Romney’s delivery was more relaxed and quick-paced than in the past. His use of humor was perhaps the most noticeable change. (This got a hearty laugh: “The world – and our valiant troops – watched in confusion as the President announced that he intended to win the war in Afghanistan….as long as it didn’t go much beyond August of 2011. And while the Taliban may not have an air force or sophisticated drones, it’s safe to say… they do have calendars.”) Romney is a polished and professional pol.

As for the substance, he made clear he’s not a pull-up-the-drawbridge Republican. In fact he began his speech with a foreign policy riff:

An uncertain world has been made more dangerous by the lack of clear direction from a weak President. The President who touted his personal experience as giving him special insight into foreign affairs was caught unprepared when Iranian citizens rose up against oppression. His proposed policy of engagement with Iran and North Korea won him the Nobel Peace Prize. How’s that worked out? Iran armed Hezbollah and Hamas and is rushing toward nuclear weapons. North Korea fired missiles, tested nukes, sunk a South Korean ship and shelled a South Korean island. And his “reset program” with Russia? That consisted of our President abandoning our missile defense in Poland and signing a one-sided nuclear treaty. The cause of liberty cannot endure much more of his “they get, we give” diplomacy!

But the heart of his speech was the economy. But, for obvious reasons, he limited his focus to job creation, entirely ignoring ObamaCare. His attention to jobs was effective insofar as it went:

Fifteen million Americans are out of work. And millions and millions more can’t find the good paying jobs they long for and deserve. You’ve seen the heartbreaking photos and videos of the jobs fairs around the country, where thousands show up to stand in line all day just to have a chance to compete for a few job openings that probably aren’t as good as the job they held two years ago. These job fairs and unemployment lines are President Obama’s Hoovervilles.

Make no mistake. This is a moral tragedy–a moral tragedy of epic proportion. Unemployment is not just a statistic. Fifteen million unemployed is not just a number. Unemployment means kids can’t go to college; that marriages break up under the financial strain; that young people can’t find work and start their lives; and men and women in their 50s, in the prime of their lives, fear they will never find a job again. Liberals should be ashamed that they and their policies have failed these good and decent Americans!

Curiously his only mention of debt was this: “Like the Europeans, they grew the government, they racked up bigger deficits, they took over healthcare, they pushed cap and trade, they stalled production of our oil and gas and coal, they fought to impose unions on America’s workers, and they created over a hundred new agencies and commissions and hundreds of thousands of pages of new regulations.”


Michael Scherer at Time:

The heirs to Ronald Reagan’s conservative legacy gathered Thursday in a hotel ballroom to exchange variations on the dominant theme in today’s Republican politics: It is evening in America.

“The Germans are buying the New York Stock Exchange,” announced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. “The U.S. is becoming the laughing stock of the world,” exhorted reality television star Donald Trump. It’s “a national reckoning unlike any I have seen in my lifetime,” explained former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Rick Santorum, a one-time Pennsylvania senator preparing a run for president, rounded out the collective cry of Cassandra by announcing that the nation was being run by a heretic. “This is someone who doesn’t believe in truth and evil in America,” he said of President Obama. (Read about what to expect from CPAC 2011.)

For decades, the Conservative Political Action Conference has been a bellwether of conservative thought. And the first day of this year’s event, with record attendance boosted by ever multiplying scores of college students, did not disappoint. For journalists looking to crack the code on the right’s narrative for the 2012 election cycle, it was evident in nearly every speech delivered in the main ballroom.

The next election, different speakers argued in different ways, would not just determine the occupant of the Oval Office, but the very survival of the country as a global superpower. “This is a crossroads of American history. This is a moment,” said Santorum. “Were you there? Did you see it? Did you understand what was at stake?”

As can be expected, much of the blame for America’s precipitous state was laid at the feet of Obama and the Democratic agenda, which Rumsfeld poetically described as “the gentle despotism of big government.” Several speakers accused Obama of not believing in the exceptionalism of America, or understanding American power, and therefore precipitating the country’s declining influence. Downstairs, in the exhibit hall, supporters of Mitt Romney distributed stickers that read only, “Believe In America,” as if his Democratic opponents did not.

Erik Hayden at The Atlantic with a round-up

Tim Mak at FrumForum:

The new chair of the American Conservative Union, Al Cardenas, today distanced his organization from GOProud, telling FrumForum in an exclusive interview that “it’s going to be difficult to continue the relationship” with the gay conservative organization.

The ACU, which annually organizes the Conservative Political Action Conference, has faced some criticism for including GOProud as a co-sponsor for the second year in a row. Socially conservative organizations have denounced the move, and the Heritage Foundation claimed that GOProud’s inclusion was part of their decision to opt-out.

Cardenas, who was selected yesterday to replace outgoing chairman David Keene, told FrumForum that he disapproved of GOProud’s response to the furor.

“I have been disappointed with their website and their quotes in the media, taunting organizations that are respected in our movement and part of our movement, and that’s not acceptable. And that puts them in a difficult light in terms of how I view things,” said Cardenas.

GOProud had asserted that Cleta Mitchell, the chairman of the ACU Foundation, was pushing conservative groups and individuals to boycott CPAC because of GOProud’s inclusion. Chris Barron, the chairman of GOProud, recently said in an interview that Mitchell was “a nasty bigot.”

“It’s going to be difficult to continue the relationship [with GOProud] because of their behavior and attitude,” Cardenas told FrumForum.

Asked for GOProud’s response, the group’s chairman apologized for his comments about Cleta Mitchell.

“For the past six months, we have watched as unfair and untrue attacks have been leveled against our organization, our allies, our friends and sometimes even their families. Everyone has their breaking point and clearly in my interview with Metro Weekly I had reached mine. I shouldn’t have used the language that I did to describe Cleta Mitchell and for that I apologize,” said Chris Barron.

Asked about whether he values a big tent approach to conservatism, Cardenas said that he did – but that his vision applied principally to reaching out to different minorities and ethnic groups.

“There are not enough African-Americans, Hispanics and other minorities here. That diversity is critical – you don’t need to change your value system to attract more diversity into the movement… [but] I’m not going to – for the sake of being inclusive – change the principles that have made the movement what it is,” said Cardenas.

“David [Keene] invited these folks [GOProud] in an effort to be inclusive… Having friends of ours leaving… presents difficulties to me,” he said. “There’s always going to be some tension, [but] there should never be any tension between time-tested values.”

Asked if someone who supported gay marriage could be a conservative, Cardenas replied, “Not a Ronald Reagan conservative… I will say this: we adopted a resolution unanimously at ACU advocating traditional marriage between a man and a woman, so that answers how we feel on the issue.”

Cardenas says that his priorities as the new ACU chairman will be focused on “making sure that our true friends never leave the table.”

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There Is No Dana, Only Repeal

Dana Milbank in WaPo:

Republicans gained control of the House last month on a promise to “restore the Constitution.” So it is no small irony that one of their first orders of business is an attempt to rewrite the Constitution.

On Tuesday, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), a member of the House GOP’s majority transition committee, introduced a constitutional amendment that would allow a group of states to nullify federal laws with which they disagree.

“This repeal amendment gives states a weapon, a tool, an arrow in their quiver,” he told a group of state legislators assembled at the Hyatt in downtown Washington. Of course, states have fired similar arrows before, and it led to a Civil War and Jim Crow – but Bishop wasn’t going to get into that.

“I actually hope to have a series of statutes and amendments — several amendments and several statutes — that we can introduce this year,” Bishop continued, “with the sole goal of not just cutting down the power of Washington to do things to people, but more importantly, is to empower states.”

Several amendments? Would it be easier if they just got some red pens and walked over to the National Archives to do the job?


DANA MILBANK THINKS AMENDING THE CONSTITUTION IS A STRANGE WAY TO HONOR THE FOUNDING FATHERS. In doing so, he displays his ignorance. The amendment process, after all, is part of the Constitution. The Framers had no illusions that they were creating perfection, and believed in the sovereignty of the people and in the power of the people to revise the Constitution as needed, through the process they created. The idea that the text of the Constitution should be revised only through judicial reinterpretation is a modern conceit, and one that does no honor to the Framers at all.

Damon W. Root at Reason:

Milbank is nervous because Barnett’s plan has found support among Republican politicians including Virginia House Speaker William Howell and incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). So in response he claims that amending the Constitution is a “strange” way to show “reverence for the Founding Fathers,” though of course those same Founders drafted and ratified Article 5 of the Constitution, which says, “The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution,” and then goes on to spell out precisely how those amendments may become the law of the land. Nothing strange there.

Ann Althouse:

Since the Repeal Amendment, proposed by Randy Barnett, can easily be portrayed as an effort to return to something closer to the balance of power provided for in the original Constitution, it is pretty silly to portray yourself as brimming with respect for the Founders when what you really support is the shift of power to the national government that occurred over the long stretch of time, a shift that the courts have allowed to take place.

Tom Maguire:

Mr. Milbank makes this point:

The mechanics of the amendment are also a bit odd. It would allow the repeal of any federal law – from civil rights to health care – if two-thirds of the states say so. But that could mean that the 33 smallest states, which have 33 percent of the population, have the power to overrule the 17 largest states, which have 67 percent of the population.

Which is why we have both a House and a Senate, and it does seem odd to tinker with that very fundamental compromise.

But let me add another concern, generated on one of those rare days when I fear our corporate oligrach overlords.  Smll states are probably more easily bought.  Citibank is a big employer in South Dakota, for example, and the insurance industry is very powerful in Hartford, CT.

Giving these small states this new collective power would give our national and multinational corporations just another lever to boost their power.  And anything that makes Nevada more powerful worries me.

Doug Mataconis:

Professor Reynolds makes a valid point, and Professor Althouse is right that the relationship between the Federal Government and the states has changed drastically from the way it was envisioned by the Founders.

Part of that change, of course, occurred because of the passage of the 14th and 15th Amendments, which gave the Federal Government significant authority over the the states when it came to due process, equal protection of the laws, and voting rights, and the 17th Amendment, which altered the manner in which Senators were selected. All of these significantly altered the relationship between the Federal Government and the states, and those alterations were done in what is, as Instapundit himself points out, a perfectly Constitutional manner.

It’s also true, of course, that a whole series of Supreme Court decisions has also contributed to the changed relationship between the Washington and the states. Some of those are based on wildly incorrect interpretations of the Commerce Clause, others, however, are simply a natural outgrowth of the Incorporation Doctrine, which applied the provisions of the Bill of Rights to the states. Because of that doctrine, the Supreme Court has ruled that states are bound by the provisions of the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Amendments in criminal matters, that they cannot engage in unreasonable searches or searches without a warrant, that they must comply with the provisions of the First Amendment, and that they cannot impose a blanket ban on the ownership of handguns. All of these restrict the power of the states, but they do so in a manner which actually increases and helps to protect individual liberty.

Finally, the Civil War itself was the beginning in a change in the way Americans thought of their country. Where it used to be the case that people thought of themselves primarily as residents of their state, Americans today tend to think of themselves as Americans first. On top of all that, a long history of movement from place to place that people don’t necessarily think of the state where they live as “home” any more. For better or worse, going back to the Founders “original intent” on this issue is  impossible simply because so much has changed over the past 223 years.

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Day 2: So Far, So Thurgood

Dana Milbank at WaPo:

Oppo researchers digging into Elena Kagan‘s past didn’t get the goods on the Supreme Court nominee — but they did get the Thurgood.

As confirmation hearings opened Monday afternoon, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee took the unusual approach of attacking Kagan because she admired the late justice Thurgood Marshall, for whom she clerked more than two decades ago.

“Justice Marshall’s judicial philosophy,” said Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, “is not what I would consider to be mainstream.” Kyl — the lone member of the panel in shirtsleeves for the big event — was ready for a scrap. Marshall “might be the epitome of a results-oriented judge,” he said.

It was, to say the least, a curious strategy to go after Marshall, the iconic civil rights lawyer who successfully argued Brown vs. Board of Education. Did Republicans think it would help their cause to criticize the first African American on the Supreme Court, a revered figure who has been celebrated with an airport, a postage stamp and a Broadway show? The guy is a saint — literally. Marshall this spring was added to the Episcopal Church’s list of “Holy Women and Holy Men,” which the Episcopal Diocese of New York says “is akin to being granted sainthood.”

With Kagan’s confirmation hearings expected to last most of the week, Republicans may still have time to make cases against Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Gandhi.

Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs:

The GOP in Texas pushed hard to get Thurgood Marshall removed from social studies textbooks, and today I watched in absolute disgust as the GOP in Washington actually smeared Thurgood Marshall during Kagan’s nomination hearing.

Steve Benen:

I often find Republican ideology to be rather twisted, but it simply never occurred to me that GOP senators would spend the first day of the confirmation hearings condemning one of the most venerated Supreme Court justices in American history.

But condemn they did. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) declared Marshall “a judicial activist.” So did Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Marshall’s approach to the law “does not comport with the proper role of a judge or judicial method.”

Better yet, this was a coordinated attack — Republican aides circulated materials to reporters during the hearing detailing all of the things the GOP doesn’t like about Thurgood Marshall.

Christina Bellantoni put together an interesting count — while President Obama’s name came up 14 times yesterday, Thurgood Marshall’s name came up 35 times.

It’s quite a strategy Republicans have put together here, isn’t it? Unable to come up with a coherent line of attack to undermine this nominee, the GOP has decided to turn its guns on an iconic civil rights attorney and one of the more celebrated American heroes of the 20th century.

And the Republican Party’s outreach to minority communities suffers yet another setback.

Jules Crittenden:

Various mystified parties are denouncing GOP attacks on Thurgood Marshall’s expansive judicial activism … on the bizarre grounds that his status as the nation’s first black Supreme Court justice has literally made him a saint and makes his positions unassailable* … and are wondering what any of that has to do with his former law clerk in the current Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings. Though when you consider her own position — a sort of looking-glass support for discrimination vs. discrimination at Harvard — it gets to the heart of the matter. Does she in fact think some forms of discrimination are constitutional, and some political positions are not only above the law, but above the interests of national security in wartime, and as Harvard apparently thinks given its willingness to accept federal money and ROTC tuitions despite its active opposition to the military over the federal government’s congressionally passed, Clinton-signed DADT policy, that principles are principles and money is money, and one shouldn’t get in the way of the other?

* Milbank has a point, though. Hagiophobia will get the GOP nowhere in this case.

John McCormack at The Weekly Standard:

During questioning by Judiciary chairman Patrick Leahy this morning, Elena Kagan defended the policy she upheld at Harvard of keeping military recruiters out of the office of career services.

“I’m confident that the military had access to our students and our students had access to the military throughout my entire deanship,” Kagan said. She defended the anti-military policy:

“This was a balance for the law school because on the one hand we wanted to make abo sure that our students did have access to the military at all times, but we did have a very longstanding, going back to the 1970s, anti-discrimination policy, which said that no employer could use the office of career services if that employer would not sign a non-discrimination pledge, that applied to many categories–race, and gender and sexual orientation, and actually veteran status as well. And the military could not sign that pledge … because of the Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell policy.”

As many people have pointed out, the military’s policy on gays in the military is based on a law passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, for whom Kagan worked. Why were other federal government officials not similarly discriminated against by Harvard?

Jonathan Adler:

I’ve contributed some initial reactions to the Washington Post’s online “Topic A” feature on the Kagan nomination hearings.  The general thrust of my remarks is that the Kagan hearings, thus far, are much like what we’ve come to expect in that she’s dutifully avoided revealing much about her personal legal views, despite her 1995 essay urging greater candor by nominees and more searching interrogation by Senators.  I also note that Kagan, much like Sotomayor, has refused to defend a “progressive” constitutional vision, whether that articulated by the President or her onetime-mentor Justice Thurgood Marshall.

One of the other contributors to the feature, Walter Dellinger, has a contrary view. I suspect part of our difference comes from the fact that Kagan has not offered the stilted, almost scripted, responses to questions about judicial philosophy that made her sound like a John Roberts wannabe (and demoralized some liberal legal thinkers).  Kagan has spoken more broadly about the judicial role, but without saying much that could be used to pin her down on her views of constitutional interpretation, let alone specific issues or cases.  She’s also proclaimed that “we are all originalists” and that empathy should not play much of a role in judicial decision-making because “it’s law all the way down.”

The most interesting parts of the hearings to me thus far — and it’s still early — have been the exchanges discussing Citizens United and other cases she’s handled as Solicitor General.  Here Kagan sought to discuss her decisions in these cases without revealing too much about how she might view similar cases that might come before the Court.  I’ve found these exchanges more interesting than those on, say, her handling of the military at Harvard or her various White House memos.

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Filed under Political Figures, Supreme Court

She Was There For The Original J’Accuse

Sam Stein at The Huffington Post:

Longtime White House scribe Helen Thomas caused more than a few eyebrows to perk up when video surfaced on Friday of her declaring that Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and go back to Germany and Poland.

Captured by Rabbi David Nesenoff of RabbiLive.com, the footage made the rounds on mostly conservative and neoconservative sites, with some private complaints that her comments weren’t getting wider play.

Thomas on Friday apologized in a written statement, saying she deeply regretted the comments — which were offered, ironically, during the White House’s Jewish Heritage Celebration.

But even as she was trying to walk back the remarks, calls for her firing mounted. Among the more vocal was former Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who claimed to have a close relationship with Thomas when he was manning the daily briefings.

“She should lose her job over this,” Fleischer said in an email. “As someone who is Jewish, and as someone who worked with her and used to like her, I find this appalling.”

“She is advocating religious cleansing. How can Hearst stand by her? If a journalist, or a columnist, said the same thing about blacks or Hispanics, they would already have lost their jobs.”

Tim Graham at Newsbusters

Allah Pundit:

It must be sincere. She’s never betrayed any anti-Israel sentiment before, has she?

Helen Thomas issued the following statement today: “I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon.”

I’m satisfied. Who among us hasn’t innocently stumbled into a statement of support for ethnic cleansing when we didn’t really mean it? In fact, that might explain Jake Knotts’s slur on Nikki Haley. He meant to say, “I welcome followers of the Sikh faith to South Carolina,” and it came out “f***ing raghead.” Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, my friends. (Just make sure to cast it at a Jew!)

Rep. Michele Bachmann at Big Government:

Once again the liberal media has shown its true colors! The White House media dinosaur, also known as Helen Thomas has called on Jews to leave Israel and move back to Poland and Germany. This anti-Semitic sentiment has no place in our public discourse. I call upon her employer, Heart Corporation to dismiss her at once! The White House needs to revoke her press credentials immediately.

Her apology is not sufficient, considering her many previous negative sentiments against Israel. Her language is offensive, vulgar and intolerant.

John Hinderaker at Powerline:

Helen Thomas has been a White House correspondent for decades; how many decades, I can’t even guess. She is a hard-core left-winger who thinks Barack Obama is nowhere near radical enough. She is also, frankly, an idiot, and has been humored by White House press secretaries for about as long as I have been alive.

Thomas revealed her lunacy once again last week, when she confided that Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and go “home” to Germany and Poland. Here is the clip; as usual, Thomas gives hags a bad name[…]

The apology is insincere, of course. Like so many left-wingers, Thomas has a long history of Israel-bashing. Her astonishing historical ignorance is also par for the course on the Left.

I read a news story a year or two ago to the effect that someone was going to make a movie about Helen Thomas’s life. I don’t think it’s ever happened, thank goodness, but here is the funny part: who do you suppose was signed to play the hideous Ms. Thomas? Michelle Pfeiffer. Being a liberal means, I guess, getting your fantasies indulged forever.

UPDATE: A reader writes, “I’m a bit disappointed that you didn’t manage to use the word ‘hagiography’ anywhere.” Touche.

Gateway Pundit

Jason Arvak at Moderate Voice:

When Trent Lott was caught saying things that implied admiration for the racist past of Strom Thurmond, he quickly apologized and began the normal ritual of damage control. Nonetheless, critics hounded him out of office, his apologies ignored.

But now when Helen Thomas is caught saying things that imply the crudest kind of anti-Semitism, her apologies are quickly accepted by some of the same people who refused to even consider apologies from Lott. And the same people who kept pointing out that Lott had apologized now mock it from Thomas.

Why the different treatment? The obvious answer is that Helen Thomas is a heroine of the same side of the ideological divide that loathed Lott. The same pattern can be found over and over in political debates — the same statements or actions that get Republicans harshly condemned get a pass when done by Democrats. If the partisan dominance of the media and blogosphere were reversed to favor Republicans, there is no doubt that the same double standards would run in that direction as well. And what that does is bring into sharp relief the continuing role that double standards have in corrupting and debasing political and social debates.

I suggest a thought experiment. Imagine that Sarah Palin had said exactly the same thing that Helen Thomas did. Would you accept Palin’s apology? Do you think those that are accepting Thomas’ apology would accept Palin’s? Do you think those that are demanding Thomas’ head would demand Palin’s?

The answer to the first question differentiates the principled from the unprincipled. And the answers to the last two show the total lack of accountability from many of those who set themselves up as today’s opinion leaders.

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

Helen Thomas’s front-row presence in the White House press room is an honor bestowed by her colleagues, in recognition of her long-time service. She retired as a reporter about a decade ago–and now, at the age of 89, she writes a column for Hearst Newspapers. She is the daughter of Lebanese immigrants and her general views on the Middle East have long been known. Her specific views about Jews became a bit better known last week, when she told them to leave Israel and go back to Europe. This is odious, obviously.

Thomas is a vestigial member of the White House Correspondents Association, an organization that mostly consists of those who cover the White House on a daily basis; most columnists–people like me, for example–are not members, although a smattering of opinion-mongers, even from obscure publications, have somehow managed to get themselves credentialed over the years. So it’s not unprecedented for journalists with odious views to have access to the press room. What is unprecedented is for such a journalist to have a front-row center seat. Thomas should no longer have that privilege. The front row should be occupied by working reporters, not columnists. The WHCA should sanction Thomas by sending her back to the cheap seats. This would accurately reflect her current status as a journalist while preserving her First Amendment right to be as obnoxious as she wants.

UPDATE: Craig Crawford at CQ Politics

Patrick Gavin at Politico

More Stein

UPDATE #2: Helen Thomas retires. Sam Youngman and Emily Goodin at The Hill

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner

John McCormack at The Weekly Standard

Matt Welch at Reason

UPDATE #3: Mark Kleiman

Dana Milbank in WaPo

Roger Cohen in WaPo

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Filed under Israel/Palestine, Mainstream, Religion

“If It Swims In The Water, It Is A FISH” And Other Delicacies Of The Internet

The new GOP website America Speaking Out

Mike Pence at Big Government:

The Democrat majority isn’t listening, but House Republicans will. That’s why we’re launching America Speaking Out; an unprecedented initiative of engagement with the American people that will lead to a governing policy agenda for America. Through the use of cutting-edge technology, town hall meetings, and old-fashioned conversation, America Speaking Out will surely become one of the largest online conversations ever about how to get back to a smaller, smarter, more accountable government. This initiative will lead to vital communication with the American people about the serious challenges that they’re waiting for Congress to address.

Jay Newton-Small at Swampland at Time:

Of course this has been done before. As has the website. But this time it’s a super cool website. No really: “I personally traveled to Washington State to see a Microsoft program that helped NASA map the moon,” said Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, Vice Chairman of the Republican Conference and the guy who headed up this effort.

They chose the Newseum, McCarthy said, because of the First Amendment scrawled on the front of the building. “Last summer in small groups and in large groups people spoke out. They spoke independently and the spoke individually but their message was the same: listen,” McCarthy said. “America Speaks Out will return to them their voice and we will listen.” Because speaking to the people means speaking to the national elite press in a building erected in their honor.

Some caveats: don’t bother writing in curse words, or insulting people personally or asking to raise taxes – those comments will be scrubbed. Also discouraged, suggestions on amnesty or a path to legalization for illegal immigrants and anything pro-choice. “We know what our principles are,” McCarthy said. Apparently not banned? Hitler.

The ideas will be gathered into legislation that Republicans could start introducing as early as next week, Boehner said. Or, they might bundle it all together in September as say a Contract With America, er, bundle of legislation that reflects the will of the people Republican base and introduce it as a blueprint for what they could do if reelected by some miracle they regained the majority in the last month before Congress leaves for the year at the end of October. Boehner and every other House GOP leader swore that elections are NOT, NOT, NOT why they’re doing this. “This effort has nothing to do with elections,” Boehner said. “People are angry and the Democrats are clearly not listening. Well, we are.” Also, this was paid for by taxpayers’ money so, legally, they can’t say it has anything to do with elections.

Dana Milbank at WaPo:

Republicans were very pleased with their technological sophistication as they introduced the Web site, America Speaking Out a ceremony at the Newseum. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who created the program, said that to get software for the site, “I personally traveled to Washington state and discovered a Microsoft program that helped NASA map the moon.”

Using lunar software is appropriate, because the early responses to the Republicans’ request for ideas are pretty far out:

“End Child Labor Laws,” suggests one helpful participant. “We coddle children too much. They need to spend their youth in the factories.”

“How about if Congress actually do thier job and VET or Usurper in Chief, Obama is NOT a Natural Born Citizen in any way,” recommends another. “That fake so called birth certificate is useless.”

“A ‘teacher’ told my child in class that dolphins were mammals and not fish!” a third complains. “And the same thing about whales! We need TRADITIONAL VALUES in all areas of education. If it swims in the water, it is a FISH. Period! End of Story.”

House Republicans, meet the World Wide Web.

GOP leaders seemed to have something else in mind as they rolled out their new site. “I would expect the ideas that come out of this Web site and the involvement of our members will lead to ideas that we can attempt to implement today,” House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) proclaimed. “We want to continue to offer better solutions to address the problems that America is facing, and we see this as a giant step forward, directly engaging the American people in the development of those solutions.”

Such as?

“Build a castle-style wall along the border, there is plenty of stone laying around about there.” That was in the “national security” section of the new site.

“Legalize Marijuana, cause, like, alcohol is legal. Man. Also.” That was in the “traditional values” section.

Richard Lawson at Gawker:

Important lesson to Republicans: Nothing ever ended well that began with “Let’s ask the anonymous internet people.” Nothing. Well, maybe Team Coco and Betty White. But other than that, nothing.


The Republicans were so proud of their shitty new website, “America Speaking Out.” They got the finest 1970s NASA computer technology to power the immediately broken & buggy webform — instead of letting the Free Market work by using Formspring or whatever — and then they were sad when a bunch of Wonkette readers filled it with dumb jokes.

But how could this happen, when some imbecile California wingnut congressman personally traveled to Microsoft, in the state of Washington, to physically retrieve some kind of old software because he has never heard of file transfers or the Internet or even FedEx?

Republicans were very pleased with their technological sophistication as they introduced the Web site, America Speaking Out a ceremony at the Newseum. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who created the program, said that to get software for the site, “I personally traveled to Washington state and discovered a Microsoft program that helped NASA map the moon.”

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Filed under New Media, Politics

The Mess That Is Massa

John Bresnahan at Politico:

He’s spent only 431 days in Congress, has never seen any of his bills pass out of subcommittee and was best known for voting against major pieces of legislation because they weren’t liberal enough for him — at least until he was accused of sexually harassing a male staffer.

Meet Eric Massa, conservative media hero.

The New York Democrat’s weekend radio rant against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel has his star rising on the right even as he resigns from Congress under an ethical cloud.

Rush Limbaugh vowed to make a “national story” out of Massa’s claims that Democrats orchestrated his downfall because he voted no on health care reform — adding that Massa is “going to have so much support from people.”

Matt Drudge led his site for much of the day Monday with all-caps links to POLITICO’s coverage of Massa’s statements: “RAHM ‘WOULD SELL HIS OWN MOTHER,’ ‘SON OF THE DEVIL’S SPAWN.’”

And Glenn Beck took to Twitter to announce that he’d have Massa on his show for “the full hour” Tuesday because “all Americans need to hear him.”

Michelle Malkin:

Don’t trust Democrat Rep. Eric Massa any further than you can throw him.

He’s been a progressive zealot and political opportunist his entire career. He’s claimed conspiracy before, is intimately bonded with the nutroots, and climbed the political ladder with backing from the odious, anti-war-hoaxer-embracing Gen. Wesley Clark. What Massa dismissively calls his “salty old sailor” talk should raise bright red flags about possible longstanding predatory behavior.

Creep factor: 10.

Look, I’m as happy as anyone to see Rahmbo and the Chicago Way slammed so openly by another Democrat. Naked shower fights? Blue-on-blue catfights?

Yep, it confirms everything I’ve been writing about the Obama Culture of Corruption the last two years.


He’s a sick, desperate pol looking to save his hide and distract from his smelly ethics problems and personal problems. This is not a hero, not a bona fide champion of reform and integrity in government. He’s the jerk who gave the figurative middle finger to his own constituents as he proclaimed last year that he would ram single-payer down their throats no matter what they thought

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner:

Maybe the facts will come to his rescue, but I just figured I’d get on the record about Eric Massa. I think he’s full of it. I don’t believe his story and I don’t believe that the ethics committee was going to railroad him for one “salty” comment at a wedding. I am sure that Rahm leaned on Massa, even in the shower. I’m sure that the White House has leaned on lots of people. But I don’t think Massa’s entirely self-serving story passes the smell test. So until I see some corroboration of his version, I’m not buying it.

Rich Lowry at The Corner

John McCormack at The Weekly Standard:

Reliable sources on Capitol Hill say the House ethics report on Eric Massa will be damning. Obamacare opponents, like Glenn Beck, might want to think twice before indulging Massa and letting this Democratic creep become the posterboy of Obamacare opposition.


So Massa’s staffer brought the issue to the attention of Steny Hoyer weeks ago, and the story leaked at a time when it didn’t help the Democrats’ health care vote one way or the other to have him in office. And Massa has changed his story–at first he said he was retiring because of health reasons, and then he resigned because he said Rahm Emanuel was out to get him. If the ethics charges are trumped up, why didn’t Massa stay in the House another month to vote against health care?

Perhaps the answer is that Massa thought he might scuttle the House ethics investigation if he resigned. Traditionally, when a member resigns, the House Ethics Committee loses jurisdiction over that member. But Massa’s case involves another congressional staffer, so the ethics committee will likely produce a report anyway, just as it did in Mark Foley’s scandal with congressional pages.

The full story should come out eventually. And when it does, some conservatives may regret embracing Eric Massa.

Moe Lane at Redstate:

Somebody is lying, here.  Either Massa, or Hoyer: and if it’s Hoyer, it doesn’t matter whether Massa was or was not sexually harassing his staff.  The House Majority Leader does not get to abuse the public trust by lying about what he did in a particular investigation.  It’s not so much this specific case as it is what happens in less public ones.  There’s a word for having two standards of behavior, based on how much media coverage one is expecting: it’s called ‘hypocrisy.’

Fortunately, this is easy to check: all Steny Hoyer has to do is release the documentation showing that he followed House procedures with regard to ethics investigations.  Presumably, that includes the kind of notification that he claims and Massa denies, and will stop this potentially disquieting development cold.  In fact, I’m kind of surprised that it’s not available yet; which is something that can be fixed, later…

By the way: did you know that Hoyer has a GOP challenger this year?  Charles LollarWe’ve talked: good guy, solid fiscal conservative, and if I lived just a little bit east of where I live now I’d be voting for him in both the primary and the general election.

UPDATE: Dana Milbank in WaPo

Joshua Green at The Atlantic

Tom Schaller

Chris Good at The Atlantic

Bill Scher and Matt Lewis in Bloggingheads

UPDATE #2: David Kurtz at TPM

Ed Morrissey



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Rhama Lama Ding Dong

Dana Milbank in WaPo:

Obama’s first year fell apart in large part because he didn’t follow his chief of staff’s advice on crucial matters. Arguably, Emanuel is the only person keeping Obama from becoming Jimmy Carter.

Obama chose the profane former Clinton adviser for a reason. Where the president is airy and idealistic, Rahm is earthy and calculating. One thinks big; the other, a former House Democratic Caucus chair, understands the congressional mind, in which small stuff counts for more than broad strokes.

Obama’s problem is that his other confidants — particularly Valerie Jarrett and Robert Gibbs, and, to a lesser extent, David Axelrod — are part of the Cult of Obama. In love with the president, they believe he is a transformational figure who needn’t dirty his hands in politics.

The president would have been better off heeding Emanuel’s counsel. For example, Emanuel bitterly opposed former White House counsel Greg Craig’s effort to close the Guantanamo Bay prison within a year, arguing that it wasn’t politically feasible. Obama overruled Emanuel, the deadline wasn’t met, and Republicans pounced on the president and the Democrats for trying to bring terrorists to U.S. prisons. Likewise, Emanuel fought fiercely against Attorney General Eric Holder’s plan to send Khalid Sheik Mohammed to New York for a trial. Emanuel lost, and the result was another political fiasco.

Jason Horowitz at WaPo:

But a contrarian narrative is emerging: Emanuel is a force of political reason within the White House and could have helped the administration avoid its current bind if the president had heeded his advice on some of the most sensitive subjects of the year: health-care reform, jobs and trying alleged terrorists in civilian courts.

It is a view propounded by lawmakers and early supporters of President Obama who are frustrated because they think the administration has gone for the perfect at the expense of the plausible. They believe Emanuel, the town’s leading purveyor of four-letter words, a former Israeli army volunteer and a product of a famously argumentative family, was not aggressive enough in trying to persuade a singularly self-assured president and a coterie of true-believer advisers that “change you can believe in” is best pursued through accomplishments you can pass.

By all accounts, Obama selected Emanuel for his experience in the Clinton White House, his long relationships with the media and Democratic donors, and his well-established — and well-earned — reputation as a political enforcer, all of which neatly counterbalanced Obama’s detached, professorial manner. A president who would need the deft navigation of Congress to pass his ambitious legislation turned to the Illinois congressman and former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee because he possessed a unique understanding of the legislative mind.

David Broder at WaPo:

In the space of 10 days, thanks in no small part to my own newspaper, the president of the United States has been portrayed as a weakling and a chronic screw-up who is wrecking his administration despite everything that his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, can do to make things right.

This remarkable fiction began unfolding on Feb. 21 in the Sunday column of my friend Dana Milbank, who wrote that “Obama’s first year fell apart in large part because he didn’t follow his chief of staff’s advice on crucial matters. Arguably, Emanuel is the only person keeping Obama from becoming Jimmy Carter,” i.e., a one-term failure.

A week later, presumably the same anonymous sources persuaded Milbank to pronounce that Obama “too often plays the 98-pound weakling; he gets sand kicked in his face and responds with moot-court zingers.”

And on Tuesday, The Post led the paper with a purported news story by Jason Horowitz saying that a president with Obama’s “detached, professorial manner” needed “a political enforcer” like Emanuel to have a chance of succeeding, “because he [Emanuel] possessed a unique understanding of the legislative mind.” Unfortunately, the story said, “influential Democrats are — in unusually frank terms — blaming Obama and his closest campaign aides for not listening to Emanuel.”

It sounded, for all the world, like the kind of orchestrated leaks that often precede a forced resignation in Washington.

Except that the chief of staff doesn’t usually force the president out. When George H.W. Bush had had enough of John H. Sununu, of course it was Sununu who walked. Maybe the sources on these stories think Obama is the one who should leave.

Here in a few paragraphs is what others high in the White House think is going on:

The underlying problem, in their eyes, is a badly damaged economy that has sunk Obama’s poll numbers and emboldened Republicans to blockade his legislative program.

Emanuel, who left a leadership post in the House to serve his fellow Chicagoan, Obama, has worked loyally for the president and is not suspected personally by his colleagues of inspiring these Post pieces.

But, as one White House staffer said to me, “Rahm likes to win,” and when the losses began to pile up, he probably vented his frustrations to some of his old pals in Congress. It’s clear that some of them are talking to the press.

Andrew Alexander, ombudsman, in WaPo:

But if there was a newsroom conspiracy, legendary Post political journalist David Broder didn’t get the memo. In a Thursday op-ed, he ridiculed Milbank’s column as “remarkable fiction” and said Horowitz had written “a purported news story.” Together, he wrote, they “sounded, for all the world, like the kind of orchestrated leaks that often precede a forced resignation in Washington.”

Horowitz told me that his story “had already started taking shape” before Milbank’s column appeared and dismissed the notion of coordination. “We did not confer,” he said. Milbank said the same, adding that he knew Horowitz was working on an Emanuel profile but didn’t know its content.

As a columnist, it’s Milbank’s job to offer a point of view. And it’s fine for Broder to use his column to assert that Milbank is off base. Differing views, well argued, are what make opinion pages stimulating.

But a news story is different. It needs to inform in a way that is balanced, authoritative and transparent to readers.

Horowitz told me the thesis for his story emerged from neutral, broad reportorial inquiry. As he talked to a wide range of informed people before Milbank’s column appeared, he said, many debunked the Emanuel-is-the-problem view. “It wasn’t just a few isolated people,” he said, adding that many offered “a new view.” That, and his anecdotal account of Emanuel’s activities, formed “the news value of it.”

Broder disagreed. “There was no news in it,” he insisted to me. “You should expect to find news on the front page of the newspaper.”

I think Broder is partially right. The Horowitz story deserved to be in The Post. While offering no major revelations, it did flesh out the thesis. But Milbank’s column already had sparked days of discussion in political circles and among the public. Displaying Horowitz’s story at the top of the front page elevated its significance despite a late-to-the-game feel.

Howie Kurtz in WaPo:

The so-called dean of the Washington press corps — not everyone considers that a compliment — is usually gentle with his jabs. So when he took a couple of whacks at journalists who happen to be on The Washington Post payroll, some folks acted like there was blood on the floor.

A pundit taking on his fellow pundits — horrors!

Forgive me for not hyperventilating over this. What are we, some kind of Victorian debating society? Columnists should feel free to challenge each other, regardless of where they work. Newspapers need to be more provocative, not less. As long as there’s no eye-gouging, let it rip.


A purported news story? That’s unfair. Horowitz’s piece was an extensively reported effort at analyzing what is going on inside the White House that quoted 11 people on the record, most of them members of Congress as well as Obama aide Valerie Jarrett. Broder may disagree with the story’s thrust, but that doesn’t make it faux news.

Chris Good at The Atlantic:

This is a point Marc argued, originally, in reaction to Milbank’s column that started the recent Emanuel buzz: that these stories were the result of pro-Emanuel leaks, probably from his allies and not the chief of staff himself, and that the Post’s writers have taken those leaks a step too far–verging into full-on pro-Rahm analysis.

A question Marc raised–and one that Broder deals with–is whether all this talk is an entree to Emanuel stepping down as chief of staff.

If it is a product, as Broder suggests, of Emanuel venting frustrations to some of his pals, rather than an orchestrated leak, one has to think it’s not. An Emanuel resignation would certainly satisfy liberals, but now that there’s an impression that Obama hasn’t listened to his chief of staff on big tactical maneuvers, parting ways with Rahm wouldn’t allow the White House to disown any of its politics up to this point.

Attaturk at Firedoglake:

Oh, I’m sure no one would ever “suspect” Rahm of leaking stuff to the press, to make Rahm Emanuel look better, that would be f***ing retarded. It’s nice to see passive aggressiveness remains entrenched within the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — for 8 years I missed the passivity.

I will not take sides in a Broder vs. Milbank battle, other than to cheer on the war. But there is a point in Broder’s column when you cannot help but utter the statement, “WELL THAT’S RICH”

Erick Erickson at Redstate:

Reading between the lines, Rahm Emanuel is dead. He may not know it, but the man has no pulse left. His ghost is now trying to defend his legacy in the White House. Chief of Staff — the real one — Valerie Jarrett killed Rahm.

How do I know? I’ve heard from multiple people who, interestingly enough, are close to the White House who tell me that David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett are calling the shots and Obama increasingly relies on Jarrett for advice because she knows the Obamas, not necessarily Washington.

Then there are all the pro-Rahm stories in the last few weeks. Those stories do not happen randomly. There is a purpose. And the prevailing message is simple — if the President would listen to Rahm Emanuel, he’d not be in the mess he presently is in. And if Rahm is not being listened to and is now leaking that he is not being listened to, the wheels on the bus will go round and round over his body.

But the stories are right. The wheels are falling off the bus. Without a good knowledge of Washington, the Chicago Way fails in the inertia. Let’s start the Official Rahm Emanuel Dead Pool. We know Valerie Jarrett already killed him. But his body has yet to emerge from the White House.

It’s only a matter of time. And it’ll happen before summer.

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

This is the most unBroderian column I have ever–ever–read, in which the dean slags his own newspaper, and several of his colleagues by name, for staging the Rahmadan festival of recent days.

“This is the most unBroderian column I have ever — ever — read,”marvels Joe Klein. I agree. And props to David Broder and the op-ed page for publishing it. This type of internal disagreement and willingness to pull back the curtain on how news stories get seeded, sourced and written is good for readers and makes for an interesting newspaper.

Glenn Greenwald:

One related point about the spate of “Obama-should-have-followed-Rahm’s-centrist-advice” articles that have appeared of late:  if you really think about it, it’s quite extraordinary to watch a Chief of Staff openly undermine the President by spawning numerous stories claiming that the President is failing because he’s been repeatedly rejecting his Chief of Staff’s advice.  It seems to me there’s one of two possible explanations for this episode:  (1) Rahm wants to protect his reputation at Obama’s expense by making clear he’s been opposed all along to Obama’s decisions, a treacherous act that ought to infuriate Obama to the point of firing him; or (2) these stories are being disseminated with Obama’s consent as a means of apologizing to official Washington for not having been centrist enough and vowing to be even more centrist in the future by listening more to Rahm (we know that what we did wrong was not listen enough to Rahm).  One can only speculate about which it is, but if I had to bet, my money would be on (2) (because of things like this and because these “Rahm-Was-Right” stories went on for weeks and Rahm is still very much around).Of course, the reason we have to speculate about such matters is precisely because journalists suppress the identity of those who are doing this, leaving us with a bunch of unaccountable royal court gossip and intrigue, the authors of which are completely shielded by these “journalists.”  That’s why anonymity more often than not obfuscates rather than enlightens.

John Cole:

I think you’d have to be nuts to think Rahm is behind the recent “Rahm was right” stories. It may be “friends” of Rahm who think they are doing Rahm a favor, or it may be folks in Washington playing their own political games, but no Chief of Staff in their right mind would be behind stories like this. Rahm may be a lot of things, but he is not a blithering idiot, and I’d bet anything he hates these stories as much as Obama

The second point, that Obama is not only ok with these stories but furthermore is “apologizing” to Washington is as crazy and conspiratorial as I’ve ever seen. It makes, quite honestly, no sense. Obama is ok with spreading stories that appear to have his Chief of Staff undercutting him?

Glenn consistently mocks the 11-dimensional chess when Obama’s defenders use it deflect blame when the Obama team has made mistakes. It’s absurd to then suggest that the Obama team is now deploying 11 dimensional chess with the media in order to apologize to centrist Washington. It particularly makes no sense when you consider Obama has become far more aggressive in the past few weeks (up or down vote, the line drawn at the HCR summit).

More than likely, I’d bet these stories are coming from Rahm’s buddies who think they are doing him a favor.

Noam Scheiber at TNR, with another Rahm profile:

At 50, Emanuel has the lean, taut look of a lifelong swimmer, with broad shoulders and distractingly prominent quadriceps. But at the heart of the Emanuel mystique is the family patois, which lurches between pronounced curtness and vivid, sometimes scatological, imagery. Emanuel will casually toss off quips like, “You’re in the bowels of nothin,’ man.” One former colleague recalls making two or three requests during a sensitive negotiation, only to have Emanuel respond: “Well, I guess if I can take care of Bill Clinton’s blow jobs, I can take care of that.”

And then there are the f-bombs, which Emanuel reels off like a verbal tic, sometimes embedding them in other words with Germanic aplomb. There is, for example, “Fucknutsville” (his pet name for Washington) and “knucklefuck” (an honorific bestowed on Republican opponents). In administration meetings, Emanuel will occasionally announce, “I think it’s fucking idiotic, but it’s your call.” (That would be Rahm-speak for: “You have more expertise than I do on this subject.”) He’s even been known to use the imprecation as a term of endearment, as when he signs off friendly phone calls: “Fuck you. See you later. I love you.” As Phil Kellam, one of Emanuel’s star recruits from the 2006 election cycle, recently joked to me, “If you could sum up Rahm Emanuel, it would be: big ideas, big mouth, big heart, little finger.” (Emanuel lost half his middle finger in a teenage accident.)

Among those most fluent in the Emanuel vernacular are members of the Obama economic team, with whom the chief of staff interacts constantly. For example, on February 10, 2009, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner delivered a speech laying out the various steps he would take to revive the financial system. The pundits promptly panned it, and the markets began to swoon. Both had expected Geithner to deliver a detailed set of remedies; instead, the secretary offered only the broad contours of a strategy.

Emanuel went ballistic. “He was like, ‘How could they have let expectations get so out of whack?’” recalls one official. Soon after, he began to take a special interest in Geithner’s work– in the way that a Jewish mother can be said to take a special interest in her son’s romantic life.

A quick review of Geithner’s schedule from one week last February will illustrate the point. On four of the five days, Geithner attended a White House senior staff meeting from 8:15 a.m. to 8:45 a.m., which Emanuel runs. In addition to this, Geithner joined a conference call with Emanuel and Larry Summers on the afternoon of Monday, February 16. On Tuesday, Geithner had a call with Emanuel scheduled from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon brought Geithner to an Oval Office meeting with Emanuel, Summers, and the president. This was followed by an hour-long meeting in Emanuel’s office. Geithner was back at the White House Thursday morning for a one-on-one meeting with Emanuel; Emanuel then called that afternoon and spoke to Geithner for 15 minutes. The next morning, it was Geithner who called Emanuel. A few hours later, Geithner turned up for a 90-minute meeting in Emanuel’s office.

When the Treasury Department released Geithner’s schedule last fall, the media made much of his conversations with Wall Street CEOs. But, as one official told me, “the interesting story wasn’t that Tim speaks to bankers–every treasury secretary does. It’s the extent of time he’s on the phone with Rahm.”

And yet, even here, the Cheney-Rove-Rasputin analogy breaks down. Emanuel wasn’t dictating policy to Geithner. Rather, the mantra of the meetings was “no more surprises.” (The president had inadvertently added to Geithner’s February 10 fiasco by talking up the speech beforehand; Emanuel partly blamed himself for the mix-up.) As another official describes it, “Rahm did not spend a lot of time on the ‘What, we have to bail friggin’ AIG out? It’s going to kill us politically.’ He just started making sure everyone was communicating.” Emanuel also wanted to ensure that, as the administration rolled out specific proposals–toxic-asset purchases, relief for troubled homeowners–Treasury sold them preemptively to journalists and Wall Street muckety-mucks.

Ezra Klein:

The Obama administration doesn’t reflect Rahmism or Axelrodism or Gibbsism. It’s Obamaism. Presidents need good advice, of course, but on the mega issues we’re talking about, the tradeoffs are fairly clear. You could replace Emanuel with another chief of staff and if Obama still choose to go for large legislative initiatives but doesn’t crack the heads necessary to keep the process moving fast or decides that Republicans might really cooperate this time, the outcome will be no different. People are, of course, a lot more comfortable blaming staffers, because staffers can be changed and no one wants to countenance the fact that the president himself doesn’t agree with them.

Jason Linkins at Huffington Post:

Once you get past the litany of Things That Make Rahm Emanuel’s Life So Hard, Scheiber takes a deep dive into Emanuel’s role in the health care reform debate. To boil it down, Emanuel preferred a strategy that placed a premium on speed and momentum. Unfortunately, President Obama apparently took all that stuff he said about operating in an open fashion with all parties seriously, and so, at a critical moment, he let Max Baucus be Max Baucus, and that prolonged the reform debate to where it is today — facing a post-Scott Brown Senate, and the obstacles that creates.

As it turns out, I’m pretty sympathetic to Emanuel on this score. The deliberations of Baucus’s “Gang Of Six” and the intense attempt to court Chuck Grassley proved to be largely useless (much in the same way as an intense courtship of Lindsey Graham, frankly!).

It’s still curious! For a guy who was supposedly at odds with White House staffers rooted in campaigning, Emanuel’s approach was to manage health care reform as a horse-race campaign rather than a policy that needed to be well-crafted. And for a guy who was worried about how it was “just too easy for opponents to cull a few smelly details” on the health care reform policy, his approach — selling out to the pharmaceutical industry and hospitals (deals that Rahm “trumpeted loudly,” so that people noticed) — put some foul-smelling stuff pretty front and center.


Look. Whether or not Emanuel works in the White House or doesn’t, whether he’s praised or blamed for his efforts, whether he gets his way or he doesn’t and whether or not Americans get expanded health care coverage or crucial financial reform, the important thing to remember is that Rahm Emanuel is going to be just fine, forever and ever. It really is vastly, almost inconceivably easy, to be Rahm Emanuel. Let’s stop pretending the man is suffering.

Peter Baker in NYT, with yet another Rahm profile:

In this season of discontent for Obama, Emanuel has emerged as the leading foil, the easy and most popular target for missiles flung at the White House from all sides. He is the bête noire of conservatives who see him as the chief architect of Obama’s big-government program and of liberals who consider him an accommodationist who undermines the very same agenda. The criticism has been searing and conflicting. He didn’t work enough across party lines. He tried too hard to work across party lines. He pushed for too much. He didn’t push for enough. The crossfire underscores his contradictions — how can Emanuel be so intensely partisan without being all that liberal and so relentlessly pragmatic without being bipartisan? And just as salient these days, how can he be so independent-minded and still remain loyal to a team operation?

After a series of attacks last month came articles in The Washington Post and elsewhere defending Emanuel, which in a way was worse for him, because it fed suspicions that he was secretly disparaging the president and colleagues. None of his closest friends believe he would deliberately do that, but all the attention on him lately has stirred widespread grumbling inside the White House about the violation of the “no-drama Obama” ethos cultivated during the campaign. Even some of Emanuel’s friends are aggravated at the perception that White House officials are taking shots at one another. As for Obama, “he’s irritated by the stories,” a top aide told me, and Emanuel has “expressed regret” to the president.

Emanuel, who declined to talk to me on the record for this article, generally shrugs off most of the commentary, scorning armchair critics who haven’t spent time in the White House or Congress actually trying to accomplish something. But at least some of this is bravado. “He is obviously going through a tough patch,” William Daley, a former commerce secretary and a close friend, says. “Everybody wants to dump on him because they don’t want to dump on the president.” Daley told me it is eating away at Emanuel: “Contrary to what he says, this stuff does bother him. He cannot fail. And if he thinks people think he failed, it depresses him. He can’t stand the thought that he’s failed, and he’s hearing that from too many people now.”

Eric Zimmermann at The Hill:

Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) is taking some harsh parting shots at the White House on his way out of office.

Massa, who is stepping down amid allegations of sexual harrassment, said that Emanuel is a ruthless tactician who would “sell his mother” for a vote.

“Rahm Emanuel is son of the devil’s spawn,” Massa said in a radio interview. “He is an individual who would sell his mother to get a vote. He would strap his children to the front end of a steam locomotive.”

UPDATE: More Linkins

UPDATE #2: John Dickerson at Slate

UPDATE #3: Mark Schmitt and Noam Scheiber at Bloggingheads

1 Comment

Filed under Mainstream, New Media, Political Figures

1 a.m. Eternal

Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic:

Let it be said, at 1:15 a.m. ET, that Democratic Party discipline held, that Republicans failed to kill health care reform, that the president now has a strong chance to sign into law historic, expensive and far-reaching health care reform legislation before his first official State of the Union address in a month from now. The bruising year-long battle has left the Democratic Party divided, has expended virtually all of the president’s political capital, and the legislation’s fidelity to the goals sketched by candidate Obama are questionable.

Here is what we’ve learned from #HCR, as Twitterers call it, in 2009:
(1) Harry Reid’s strategy worked. It worked to his satisfaction, not to the satisfaction of activists within his own party, and he could very well be drummed out of office because Democrats aren’t enthusiastic about his leadership. He will have sacrificed his power for the sake of a bill — for the sake of Obama’s presidency. For those who think that the White House is somehow angry at Harry Reid for failing to herd his cats with fewer scratches to show for it, they’re in for a surprise: Reid promised the White House he’d get them 60 votes for a good bill, and he got them 60 votes.

(2) Democrats decided that interests, rather than values, were the governing principles in the later stages of the health care debate. That means they’re looking at the stuff that people will be getting: millions of people will now be able to afford insurance; small businesses will find it easier to deal with employees who have chronic illnesses; poor communities will receive an infusion of cash for community health centers; there are roughly $100 billion per year in subsidies for people to purchase insurance. Values? Most of the means through which these interests are advanced are through the profit-incentive vehicles of the private insurers who’ve fought most of the changes, who have every incentive to fight the cost containment mechanisms that the government insists upon (remember: they tried, through HMOs, in the 1990s, to reduce health care costs and were excoriated for it). The values preserved in this health care bill are corrupt, from the standpoint of activists, because liberal ends were arrived at using fundamentally suspect means. Containing costs is going to be a huge challenge, and the fight here has just begun.

Byron York at The Washington Examiner:

Why did the Senate gather at 1 a.m. Monday for a vote to move ahead on the Reid Amendment to the Democrats’ national health care bill? Democrats blame Republicans. “Everyone knows we’re here at one in the morning because of my friends on the other side of the aisle,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said moments before the vote. On CBS Sunday, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu said, “We don’t have to vote in the middle of the night, but [Republican Sen. Tom Coburn] is the one making us do it — not Harry Reid, not the Democrats. It is a Republican obstructionist that is making us vote in the middle of the night.”

Coburn has no doubt slowed debate on the bill. But the fact is, there is no reason the Reid Amendment vote could not have been held at a more reasonable hour. One a.m. Monday was the earliest moment that Senate rules allowed a vote, but there is no rule keeping the Senate from voting at some time after 1 a.m. If Reid had scheduled the vote for, say, 11 a.m. Monday, that would have been fine. If he scheduled it for 4 p.m. Monday, or 10 a.m. Tuesday, that would have been fine, too.

But Reid is determined to pass the national health care bill by Christmas, and to do so he has to get the cloture vote on his amendment done at the earliest moment. The timeline is Reid’s and Reid’s alone. “The bottom line is, Sen. Reid schedules the floor,” says one well-connected GOP aide. “He is the only one who can schedule the floor.” If Reid had scheduled the vote during business hours on, say, Tuesday, a final vote would not have taken place until the day after Christmas — an outcome Reid apparently found unacceptable.

Dana Milbank at Washington Post:

Going into Monday morning’s crucial Senate vote on health-care legislation, Republican chances for defeating the bill had come down to a last, macabre hope. They needed one Democratic senator to die — or at least become incapacitated.

At 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon — nine hours before the 1 a.m. vote that would effectively clinch the legislation’s passage — Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) went to the Senate floor to propose a prayer. “What the American people ought to pray is that somebody can’t make the vote tonight,” he said. “That’s what they ought to pray.”

It was difficult to escape the conclusion that Coburn was referring to the 92-year-old, wheelchair-bound Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) who has been in and out of hospitals and lay at home ailing. It would not be easy for Byrd to get out of bed in the wee hours with deep snow on the ground and ice on the roads — but without his vote, Democrats wouldn’t have the 60 they needed.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the number-two Democratic leader, went to the floor to complain about Coburn’s unholy prayer, which followed an unsuccessful request from Democrats for an earlier vote because of Byrd’s “significant health problems.” Said Durbin: “When it reaches a point where we’re praying, asking people to pray, that senators wouldn’t be able to answer the roll call, I think it has crossed the line.”

Actually, the line was crossed long ago, during the summer of death panels and socialists. But Democrats weren’t in the best position to take the high road Sunday evening. One of their own members, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) had just delivered an overwrought jeremiad comparing the Republicans to Nazis on Kristallnacht, lynch mobs of the South, and bloodthirsty crowds of the French Revolution.

Ed Morrissey

Michelle Malkin:

A month ago, I compiled Part I of the Demcare bribe list as Harry Reid rushed before Thanksgiving to secure his first cloture vote on the government health care takeover. (Quick re-cap: $300 million Louisiana Purchase for Landrieu; $300 million California doctor payments; AARP goodies; abortion and union lobby concessions.)

Here’s Part II of the Cash for Cloture bribe list all in one handy place (hat tip again to my friend ChristinaKB for the apt phrase she first coined on November 21 for the Demcare wheeling and dealing).

GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell alluded to all this backroom dealing on the floor early this morning before the cloture vote, but lamely refused to name names on the Senate floor.

Screw Senate collegiality. Let the sun shine in.

James Joyner on “Cash For Cloture”:

It’s a funny play on “Cash for Clunkers and a good way to call attention to what is in fact a rather egregious abuse.

Responding to Republican Eric Cantor’s observation that “They’re allocating taxpayer dollars as if those dollars belonged to the senators. It borders on immoral,” Steyn snorts, “You can’t even dignify this squalid racket as bribery: If I try to buy a cop, I have to use my own money. But, when Harry Reid buys a senator, he uses my money, too. It doesn’t ‘border on immoral’: It drives straight through the frontier post and heads for the dark heartland of immoral.”


But here’s the thing:  This is how our system works and has worked since time immemorial.  Discussions of logrolling and pork barrel politics have been part of introductory American politics courses since, oh, the advent of introductory American politics courses.    The terms were coined in 1835 (by Davy Crockett, no less) and 1863 (by Edward Everett Hale).  Let’s just say Harry Reid didn’t invent them.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t shine a light on these abuses.  By all means, we should.  But let’s not pretend that they’re a recent invention.

Jonathan Chait at TNR:

The United States is on the doorstep of comprehensive health care reform. It’s a staggering achievement, about which I’ll have more to say later. but the under-appreciated thing that strikes me at the moment is that it never would have happened if the Republican Party had played its cards right.

At the outset of this debate, moderate Democrats were desperate for a bipartisan bill. They were willing to do almost anything to get it, including negotiate fruitlessly for months on end. We can’t know for sure, but Democrats appeared willing to make enormous substantive concessions to win the assent of even a few Republicans. A few GOP defectors could have lured a chunk of Democrats to sign something far more limited than what President Obama is going to sign. And remember, it would have taken only one Democrat to agree to partial reform in order to kill comprehensive reform. I can easily imagine a scenario where Ben Nelson refused to vote for anything larger than, say, a $400 billion bill that Chuck Grassley and a couple other Republicans were offering.

But Republicans wouldn’t make that deal. The GOP leadership put immense pressure on all its members to withhold consent from any health care bill. The strategy had some logic to it: If all 40 Republicans voted no, then Democrats would need 60 votes to succeed, a monumentally difficult task. And if they did succeed, the bill would be seen as partisan and therefore too liberal, too big government. The spasm of anti-government activism over the summer helped lock the GOP into this strategy — no Republican could afford to risk the wrath of Tea Partiers convinced that any reform signed by Obama equaled socialism and death panels.

David Frum at FrumForum:

Republicans and conservatives want two things in the healthcare debate:

1) They want to hold the line on costs, because those costs fall heavily on core Republican constituencies: small business, the elderly.

2) They want to preserve the freedom of healthcare providers to do business in their own way, free of government interference.

But of course you can’t have both!

In past debates, the GOP tilted more in favor of principle 1. But this year it was principle 2 that usually received precedence. (Perhaps because so much of the money and energy behind the tea party movement was quietly provided by people with a strong financial stake in principle 2.)

Complying with principle 2, we argued that any reduction of health spending in any way or form amounted to state-sponsored mass murder; any impinging on the freedom of doctors and insurers to carry on their business as they pleased amounted to fascist tyranny.

But the more we urged principle 2, the more we cut ourselves off from the institutional supporters of the Republican party, the taxpayers, small business owners and corporate leaders most concerned with principle 1.

Not that the Democrats did so much better with the groups that cared about principle 1. They threw away that opportunity by their own misplaying. But they didn’t need those groups as intensely as the Republicans did.

Without them, it proved impossible to constrain the votes of moderate senators. In the end, even Joe Lieberman – sensitive as he was to industry concerns – knuckled under to the Democratic party whip.

It would be premature to say conservatives have lost this fight. There’s still hope. But it grows faint … and our own miscalculations explain much of why.

Ross Douthat on Chait and Frum:

I’m not sure either critique is right. I would like to live in a world where Republicans had come to the negotiating table bearing a cost-controlling, insurance-expanding health care proposal, instead of just offering weak-tea alternatives or nothing at all. But given the ambitions of liberals (visible this week in the revolt over the public option) and the design of the legislation, I’m skeptical that they could have actually negotiated their way to something “vastly more limited,” in Chait’s words. As many liberal pundits have argued, the current health care bill is a package deal: If you regulate insurers then you need to have a mandate to buy insurance, if you need a mandate you need subsidies, and if the subsidies aren’t high enough either insurers or voters are going to revolt … and so the next thing you know, you’re at $800 billion and counting. To get something much more affordable, you wouldn’t just need to persuade the Democrats to shave a few hundred billion off the price tag; you’d have to persuade them to take a radically different approach. And I doubt that was ever going to happen.

True, if Republicans had played ball, they would have been in a position to eliminate the public option, demand deficit neutrality, and so forth … but they had Democratic centrists to do that work for them, and they won all those battles, to some extent at least, without having to vote for the final bill. Whereas winning the larger war, over the design of the legislation, was probably beyond their capabilities whatever negotiating strategy they took.

As far as the Republicans’ rhetorical emphases go, meanwhile, I’d really prefer to live in a world where the G.O.P. hadn’t decided to remake itself as the party of Medicare now, Medicare forever. But judged purely as a short-term political strategy designed to derail the legislation, it’s hard to argue with the results. Public opinion has turned dramatically against the bill, and every swing-state Democrat who votes for it is courting political suicide. If you’re an opposition party trying stop a legislative juggernaut, that’s exactly the kind of landscape you want to create: One where your opponents know, as they ponder how to vote, that they might well be choosing between the bill they want to pass and the majority they want to keep.

Could a Republican emphasis on cost control have placed the Democrats in a similar bind? I’m skeptical. Remember that the Obama administration started out making Orszagist promises about the cost curve, and then largely gave up when Orszagism didn’t find any political traction. Would Republicans really have profited from taking up arguments that their opponents had already tried out, and then abandoned? That seems like a difficult case to make.

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Filed under Health Care, Legislation Pending

You Made Me Promises Promises

Mike Lillis at Washington Independent:

In a big win for the pharmaceutical industry, the Senate on Tuesday killed legislation that would have made it easier for Americans to buy their prescription drugs from abroad, where prices are generally much cheaper.

The count was 51 to 48, nine shy of the supporters needed to overcome a filibuster. Thirty Democrats and Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.) voted to kill the provision.

The amendment, sponsored by Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), has been a week-long thorn in the side to Democratic leaders — not because they opposed the provision, but because it threatened to undermine a deal cut earlier in the year between the White House and the nation’s pharmaceutical companies. Under that agreement, the drug makers pledged up to $80 billion toward health-care reform over the next decade if Democratic leaders would withhold their support for several proposals that would cut further into the companies’ profits, including the drug re-importation provision. As a result, White House officials in recent days had urged Democrats to oppose the Dorgan-Snowe amendment, with the FDA writing a letter to senators warning that the agency “does not have clear authority over foreign supply chains.”

Under the provision, Americans would be allowed to buy FDA-approved drugs from certain countries with well-established drug-safety regimes, such as Canada, Australia Japan and those in Europe. Supporters say it will save U.S. consumers roughly $80 billion over the next decade. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the federal government would save an additional $20 billion over the same span, the result of savings to federally funded programs like Medicare.

The reason is clear: Americans pay more for pharmaceuticals than any other country in the world. Dorgan pointed out that the same Nexium prescription that costs $424 in the U.S. would cost just $67 in France, $40 in the United Kingdom, $37 in Germany and $36 in Spain.

“We shouldn’t be paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs,” Dorgan said. “I think it’s flat-out unfair.”

Aside from Snowe, the provision attracted the support of such influential Republicans as Sens. John McCain (Ariz) and Charles Grassley (Iowa), the ranking member of the Finance Committee.

Dana Milbank in WaPo:

On the campaign trail, Barack Obama vowed to take on the drug industry by allowing Americans to import cheaper prescription medicine. “We’ll tell the pharmaceutical companies ‘thanks, but no, thanks’ for the overpriced drugs — drugs that cost twice as much here as they do in Europe and Canada,” he said back then.

On Tuesday, the matter came to the Senate floor — and President Obama forgot the “no, thanks” part. Siding with the pharmaceutical lobby, the administration successfully fought against the very idea Obama had championed.

“It’s got to be a little awkward,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.).

It’s even more awkward for millions of Americans who are forced to pay up to 10 times the prices Canadians and Europeans pay for identical medication, often produced in the same facilities by the same manufacturers, simply because the U.S. government refuses to rein in drug prices.

Bill Kristol at TWS:

Republicans could highlight their opposition to Big Pharma and Big Insurance by trying to force votes–in 2010–on drug re-importation and more insurance competition, measures that could go into effect right away so as to be of immediate benefit to the American people. And of course they should promise to relieve the American people of the prospect of living under the Democrats’ health bureaucracy regime by promising repeal of the whole thing in 2011.

Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:

The Obami really aren’t capable of being shamed by evidence that they have reneged on campaign promises or that positions are taken willy-nilly without regard to any coherent ideology or legislative scheme. They have a higher objective: getting anything passed. Understandably, liberals who don’t like drug companies on principle, and reformists who think the fix is in from moneyed lobbyists, are shocked, shocked, to find that the Obami are without principles.

The result may be a truly awful bill, a lot of disappointed voters, and many, many effective campaign ads for Republicans. At some point a smart Democrat or two looking at this might want to consider whether “never mind” is the best response to a health-care bill that reforms nothing and demonstrates only that Obama snookered a whole bunch of voters.

Jim Geraghty at NRO:

All statements from Barack Obama come with an expiration date. All of them.

And this has been part of Obama’s modus operandi for years. I noted in 2008 that Obama had spent more time as a declared candidate for higher office in the previous ten years than any other American, including John Edwards. He’s never spent much time in one place building a record; he’s always been looking to the next step and offering the next round of eloquent and grandiose promises.

The campaign rhetoric that stirred the hearts of so many Democrats and independents (and a few Republicans), that offered something fantastic for every constituency and group, that tantalized so many skeptics with a smorgasbord of long-desired reforms — all of it was just a tool to get elected. Say what you have to say, promise what you have to promise, and we’ll worry about the details later.

Well, it’s now later.

Mike Lillis again:

The Democratic opponents argued that the drug re-importation amendment — sponsored by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) — would threaten the safety of Americans. Yet, as The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank points out today, it’s difficult to argue that position with a straight face considering that a large bulk of the ingredients for the drugs manufactured domestically originate from the same countries thought to be the most unsafe.

These [safety] arguments don’t hold up well, considering that 40 percent of the active ingredients in American prescription drugs come from India and China, and that the latter slipped tainted heparin past the FDA. But fright was about the best argument opponents could use to defeat a popular proposal that would save the federal government $19 billion over 10 years.

The hypocrisy wasn’t lost on Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who said so on the chamber floor just before yesterday’s vote.

This is not about importing drugs from China or India or Mexico, where drug safety standards are not up to par, although American drug companies have outsourced a lot of their manufacturing to those countries and [we’ve] found all kinds of problems with the ingredients that they import into American drugs.

But that’s not the issue here. That only underscores the hypocrisy of U.S. drug companies in opposing the Dorgan amendment.

No matter. Pressured by the drug lobby, Senate lawmakers shot down the provision 51 to 48 — well shy of the 60 needed to pass the measure.

Ed Morrissey:

There are good reasons for this reversal.  First, the administration already got $80 billion in concessions from the pharmaceutical industry and their support for ObamaCare, although Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid may put both in jeopardy by reneging on the White House’s deal.  Second, the Canadian prices are artificially low, the result of Canadian intervention.  The pharmaceuticals make up the difference in the US, which allows them to pursue a lot of R&D that only has about a 10% success rate.  Forcing them to sell at artificially low prices will mean a lot less R&D, much less capital to pursue new cures, and the stagnation of health care rather than progress.

Of course, it would have been better for Obama to inform himself better before issuing foolish campaign promises that he would later have to reverse.  But that would have meant less populist pap, and probably would have put Hillary Clinton in the White House.

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Filed under Health Care, Legislation Pending, Political Figures