- Mark Fiore's got another good animation this week.
- The Onion details a brief foray into government "wiki" experimentation.
- The Garlic offers the "Top Ten Things Heard in the Senate Before the John Roberts Vote."
A centrist voice in a period of extremism.
- Mark Fiore's got another good animation this week.
Former education secretary and drug czar William "Moral Compass" Bennett long ago joined my list of "formerly relevant Republicans who should now be ignored as complete crackpots" (he's in good company there with Pat Robertson, Pat Buchanan and a few others). But some comments this week do prompt a brief mention.
As her newspaper, the New York Times, reports tonight, jailed reporter Judith Miller was released from jail this evening after agreeing to testify in the Valerie Plame Wilson leak case. Miller received "what she described as a waiver offered 'voluntarily and personally' by a source who said she was no longer bound by any pledge of confidentiality she had made to him." That source, says the Times, was Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Scooty Libby (who apparently thought he had released Miller from her confidentiality pledge months ago but she wanted something more specific).
This evening, the House failed to pass the important Miller-Boehlert substitute to Rep. Pombo's Endangered Species Act Evisceration bill, and the underlying bill later passed. I'll add more analyses of those votes once the full roll calls are available, but for now will just say that this is a very sad moment for all those of us who believe in strong protection of endangered species.
John G. Roberts has been confirmed as the Chief Justice of the United States by a Senate vote of 78-22. Twenty-two Democrats and Independent Jim Jeffords joined all 55 Republicans in supporting the nomination. This is a valuable lesson: a mainstream conservative can be approved with upwards of three-quarters of the Senate's votes and a minimum of histrionics.
The House is working right now on a rule for Rep. Pombo's bill that would effectively gut the Endangered Species Act. That's the bad news. The good news is, opponents of the Pombo bill have introduced an amendment to remove some of the pernicious provisions and improve the underlying law tremendously. The bipartisan amendment, sponsored by Democrats George Miller, John Dingell, Norm Dicks, and Ellen Tauscher, with Republicans Sherwood Boehlert (my congressman, making me proud!), Wayne Gilchrest, Jim Saxton, and Mark Kirk, would provide some incentives to developers while maintaining current enforcement provisions.
I said way back in April that it was time for the House GOP to find themselves a new majority leader. Tom DeLay is an albatross around the neck of every Republican candidate in the country, and people are coming to see him as just another example of GOP greed, corruption, and power-madness (those, that is, who didn't see him that way already). The Republicans in the House have done in just over a decade what it took the Democrats forty years to do - become infinitely more interested in keeping their grasp on power than on doing what they promise to do when they ask people to vote for them.
Law professor Holly Doremus has an op/ed piece in Thursday's Christian Science Monitor that is well worth a read. She argues (as I have) that the Pombo bill now hurtling its way through Congress is the wrong approach to reform of the Endangered Species Act, on several different (and each important) grounds. I highly recommend Doremus' column - and if you feel as she does, don't forget to call your rep and urge them to oppose the Pombo bill.
Tom DeLay, who had been serving as House Majority Leader, is now officially under indictment by a Texas grand jury on one count of criminal conspiracy, the AP reports. DeLay's office has lashed out at the prosecutor responsible for the charge, and the Congressman has said he will temporarily step down as Majority Leader as required by House GOP ethics rules. Speaker Dennis Hastert reportedly will ask Rep. David Dreier to assume DeLay's duties, as Fox reports "There is some talk that the Republican leadership in the House has been preparing for this eventuality."
As the Supreme Court begins its new term on Monday (and with a new chief justice too, barring any unforeseen events between now and Thursday afternoon), it will take up an important case in the realm of campaign finance, the NYTimes reports on Wednesday. Linda Greenhouse's discussion of the case is excellent - basically it revolves around the constitutionality of spending limits placed on political candidates by the states. Lower courts have divided on the issue, and a resolution from the Supreme Court is definitely necessary. It will certainly be very interesting to see the eventual result of this case (probably sometime around next June).
Patrick Ruffini's got another '08 GOP straw poll up and running here. Please click through and cast your vote - he's tracking by blog again, so let's have a good showing.
I'm sorry I can't do anything more substantive this morning, but here are a few things I noticed in reading the papers:
There must be a short-circuit somewhere in the political world. Just a week or so ago we heard President Bush utter three little words we never expected to hear (no, not "Bring 'em on," I mean "I take responsibility"). And then today there was another of those moments that makes me look up warily, watchful for falling pig-manure as a chorus of oinks echoes across the sky.
I didn't get a chance to watch "This Week" yesterday and catch Senator McCain's appearance there, but Richard Serrano has a write-up in today's LATimes detailing McCain's response to the ongoing question of how the US should deal with detainee abuses in Iraq, Afghanistan, and at Guantanamo Bay.
A presidential push for increased military control over responses to natural disasters probably shouldn't come as a surprise after the multi-level Katrina snafus. However, if Congress is to seriously consider such a step, they should seriously consider it. That means having hearings, drafting any such legislation with extreme narrowness, and allowing time for debate and deliberation ... not throwing together some shoddy bill so full of loopholes you can drive the 10th Mountain Division through and shoving it through the House and Senate with cursory debate and no time for consideration.
The next time you hear a politician answers a question about a potential conflict of interest between a vote and stock they own by saying "Oh my assets are in a blind trust, I don't even know what I own," you should point and laugh at the t.v. set. As the NYTimes reports today, "blind" in this sense means that while "communication between the trustee and the beneficiary" is limited, whenever an asset is sold or added the beneficiary gets notified and the information is disclosed publicly.
As the Virginia gubernatorial election draws nearer, with Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Jerry Kilgore still stuck in a virtual dead heat, independent Russ Potts is still chuggin' along at the back of the pack - he's talking sense, but it just doesn't seem to be catching much wind down in the Old Dominion. The campaign has, released its first television ad, a playful spot which will certainly at least get Potts' name out there for all who view it.
If you need a reminder of just how tough this next Supreme Court nominee-pick is for the White House, there's a great pair of articles in the papers this morning that will serve well. In the NYT, David Kirkpatrick discusses the possibility of Republican opposition to Bush's next pick (from either far-right abortion opponents on the one hand, or some of the Gang of 14 centrists on the other). They've got quotes from Senators Chafee and Snowe suggesting (albeit implicitly) they'd be very unlikely to vote for someone who would overturn Roe, and mirror-quotes from Senators Coburn and Brownback saying the nominee must be "solid" on conservative issues (i.e. will vote to overturn Roe, even if they don't come right out and say that).
It's Rita-affected-officials day on the talk shows tomorrow. Here are the lineups:
A few stories, a few comments.
Once again today the Washington Post editorial page shows its centrist stripes, with a strong piece supporting Senators Leahy, Feingold and Kohl, the three Democrats who voted in favor of Judge Roberts' confirmation in the Senate Judiciary Committee. This support shouldn't be necessary, the editorial begins, because "[s]upporting overwhelmingly qualified members of the opposite party for the Supreme Court used to be the norm, not an act of courage. Yet, set against the general opposition from Democrats to the nomination, and truly intense pressure from interest groups, the votes cast by [Leahy, Feingold and Kohl] took guts."
I thought I had linked to this Washington Post story earlier, but I guess I forgot ... and I just can't pass it up. It's Dana Milbank's take on the Roberts hearings in the Judiciary Committee yesterday - and it's pretty enjoyable. Who knew senators took pictures of themselves? Aren't there staff for that?
Michael Stickings over at TMV posted yesterday on an article in The Hill (here) outlining a few congressional responses to reporters' questions about "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" (which as regular readers know is pretty much the only show I never miss). I knew these guys were out of touch, but I have to say I was pretty surprised that some of them claimed not to know about the show at all.
Reports indicate that Hurricane Rita's rains have overflowed one of the patched levees in New Orleans this morning. Barry Guidry of the Georgia National Guard told the AP "Our worst fears came true. The levee will breach if we keep on the path we are on right now, which will fill the area that was flooded earlier."
Another hurricane is barrelling through the Gulf of Mexico and doing who knows how much additional damage to oil and natural gas infrastructure there that's already been battered terrifically this season. The potential exists for more sharp increases in gasoline prices, which had finally begun creeping back down in the aftermath of Katrina. What is to be done?
Senator Hillary Clinton announced that she'll oppose Roberts' confirmation to the Court.
The Christian Science Monitor has a must-read piece on the positioning of Democratic senators, liberal interest groups, and even conservative interest groups in the run-up to the next Supreme Court nomination. As we do move into that next phase of things, it's going to be very interesting to see what happens. I have to say, I'm even more worried this time than I was before the president nominated Judge Roberts. This has political firestorm written all over it, and all the bucket brigades in the world might not be enough to suppress it. President Bush could surprise us all again and opt for another decent jurist - here's hoping. Otherwise, batten down the hatches and secure the rigging.
Bloomberg's got a report out this morning that "leading Republicans" are starting to worry that they may get sucked into the federal probe into the sleazy dealings of indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
The Judiciary Committee is meeting now (you can get a live feed of the hearings on C-SPAN3) for final discussion and a vote on the Roberts confirmation. Senator Feinstein just announced that she will vote no. I'll update as events warrant.
The Washington Post reports this morning that President Bush could name his choice for the second Supreme Court vacancy as early as the middle of next week, rejecting a call from Senator Arlen Specter to hold off on a nomination until next summer in order to minimize what he sees as potential fireworks over the next nominee.
CNN reports tonight that Hurricane Rita has now become the third most intense hurricane on record. If you are in her path, please don't put yourself in danger. There is horrifying potential here for another disaster of great proportions, and if we've learned one thing from Katrina, it's that it's better to be safe than sorry. I just hope folks down there are better prepared for this one ...
The Coalition for Darfur has posted its weekly update on the situation in that region. Bottom line: it's still not pretty, and the world is still ignoring it.
Sorry I'm a little slow on the uptake today, I had to run some errands this morning - but some good news out of D.C., where Senator Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced that he will vote to confirm Judge Roberts to the Court. Senator Linc Chafee of Rhode Island, a centrist Republican also said Wednesday he'll support Roberts.
While I worry about the ultimate result of the intra-party sparring now occurring within the GOP over how to pay the Katrina bills (because I'm afraid they'll push for some silly nonsense plan that cuts valuable social programs while still pushing up the deficit with more tax cuts), I think it's well past time that the party actually engaged in this debate.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced this afternoon that he will vote to oppose the confirmation of John Roberts to be Chief Justice. Based on Reid's voting record, this is sort of surprising - but based on the flack he would get from liberal interest groups and activists if he had supported the nomination, it's really not too much of a shock.
I missed this earlier and shouldn't have, but now that I've read it I wanted to pass along David Sanger's NYT analysis piece on the preliminary agreement with North Korea regarding that nation's nuclear programs. Combined with another Sanger article (this one jointly with Joseph Kahn), which discusses exactly what is contained (and is not contained) in the agreement, you get a pretty decent idea of where things stand in the negotiations and some of the very sticky things that still have to be hammered out.
The sludge from the morass that is the investigation into uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff just keeps piling up - on Monday, a White House procurement official was arrested and charged with making false statements and obstructing the federal criminal probe into Abramoff's sleazy business dealings, the Washington Post reports.
As the NYT reports this morning, House Resources Committee chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA), who never met an environmental law he could stomach, has introduced amendments to the Endangered Species Act that will make federal protection of endangered species more difficult to achieve. The bill has been set on a "fast track" in the House, and may come before the full chamber as early as next week.
Requiring the government to pay land owners if they are blocked from using their land because of the presence of an endangered species.
Directing the secretary of the Interior to write new rules for determining the 'best science' in listing endangered or threatened species, which critics say could make it more difficult to list new species."
These two corporate sleazeballs deserve a whole lot longer than a max 25 years in jail, but hey, it's better than nothing. You can bet the shower curtains in the slammer didn't cost $6,000 (no, the cynic would answer, they save those for the Pentagon).
Some links from around the blogosphere this morning:
A bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform, headed by former president Jimmy Carter and former SecState James Baker III will present its report to President Bush this morning - the report recommends "a widespread overhaul of election practices to make it easier for Americans to vote and to guarantee that their votes are counted," according to the LA Times. The NY Times and WaPo also have coverage of this today. The full text of the report is available on the Commission's website, with a summary of their recommendations here (PDF).
There is something about turning on the computer and having the first headline you see be a positive news story. It's probably just because it happens so rarely, but when it does, boy is it exciting. Today's one of those days. I don't want go too far overboard since who knows if the agreement reached this morning will hold ... but North Korea's decision to give up its nuclear programs and rejoin the Non-Proliferation Treaty is tremendous news.
Both the Washington Post and the New York Times run editorials today on the question of whether John Roberts should be confirmed to be Chief Justice of the United States. You all know where I stand on this question already, so it won't be a surprise which of the two editorials I agree with generally.
Sorry to be so late this week. Here are tomorrow's show lineups:
Two hundred eighteen years ago today, on September 17, 1787, a small group of Americans emerged from almost four months of closeted deliberations to present to the world a document the likes of which had never been seen before: the United States Constitution. That document, with its amendments, is honored today in an official "day of reflection."
I suppose there could be an innocent explanation for this ... but honestly I can't think of one.
Adam Liptak's analysis of the Roberts hearings in today's Times is an excellent look at what kind of judicial philosophy Roberts will bring to the center chair at the Supreme Court. Said disappointed Federalist Society president Steven Calabresi, "He is not in the mold of Scalia and Thomas. They have more of a theory of how to decide cases, and they look to text and original meaning. Roberts will look at text and original meaning, but he will also look to precedent and the consequences of his decisions."
The New York Times' Carl Hulse reports Friday that "[t]he drive to pour tens of billions of federal dollars into rebuilding the hurricane-battered Gulf Coast is widening a fissure among Republicans over fiscal policy, with more of them expressing worry about unbridled spending."
Here's some of the political satire I noticed from around the web this week:
David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register, the Iowa caucus guru and prognosticator extraordinaire, writes today about New York governor George Pataki's current visit to the state ... and suggests that Pataki might have a better shot at caucus success (even if not victory) than I would have thought a few months ago. Yepsen quotes "party leaders" in Iowa as saying Pataki's "off to a good start" in the Hawkeye State, and while his views on social issues may spell trouble for him, his credentials as a Republican elected statewide in New York and perception as a strong leader in the post-9/11 period are working heavily in his favor.
I've noted before the polls showing Senator Rick Santorum slipping more and more behind his Democratic rival in his year's Senate race, Democrat Bob Casey Jr. A new Strategic Vision poll - and this is a Republican-backed firm - has the race at 38% Santorum, 52% Casey. That is a very significant deficit for a challenger this far out, and does not bode well for Santorum.
From press accounts this morning (USA Today, Washington Post, New York Times), it sounds to me like tonight's presidential speech from New Orleans is going to be one of those much-hyped events which then leads to him saying a whole lot of nothing. The Times says Bush will speak "generally ... on [his] vision for the reconstruction of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, with the federal government playing a supportive role to what White House officials are calling a 'home-grown' plan that must be created by city and state authorities."
Talk about an eagle-eyed photographer. Too funny.
The New York Times is apparently going to go through with its threat to charge for access to its op/ed columnists, as Joe Gandelman reports over at The Moderate Voice. Starting Monday, users will have to pay an annual $49.95 fee to read Tom Friedman, Frank Rich, David Brooks, Bob Herbert, Maureen Dowd and all the rest.
As others have noted, Tom DeLay told the Washington Times yesterday that "Republicans have done so well in cutting spending that he declared an 'ongoing victory,' and said there is simply no fat left to cut in the federal budget." Asked by the Times "if that meant the government was running at peak efficiency, Mr. DeLay said, 'Yes, after 11 years of Republican majority we've pared it down pretty good.'"
Yesterday the GOP and Dem candidates in this fall's Virginia gubernatorial election squared off in the race's first televised debate (independent Russ Potts was excluded at the insistence of the Republican, Jerry Kilgore). NBC's Tim Russert was the debate moderator, and he put Kilgore in a tough spot during a lengthy go-round over abortion rights. The Washington Post has a video clip up of the exchange, which is a must-see.
A few of the things I found interesting reading this morning:
While Katrina and John Roberts absorb the nation's (or at least the media's) attention, it's easy to miss the fact that other things are continuing to happen in the political realm. Today in the Senate, a call that would have forced the EPA to strengthen Bush Administration-backed rules governing mercury emissions from power plants failed in a close vote.
Even with all the Hurricane Katrina aftermath - which is a huge story, don't get me wrong - it seems to me the Roberts hearings are getting short shrift. The cable news stations covered them for some of the day today, and the papers are following along of course. But even in the blogosphere (let alone among the public at large), I've been somewhat surprised at the muted level of discussion about the confirmation process and the hearings. On the NBC news tonight, it was several minutes before the questions and answer session today was even mentioned, and even then it got much less time than I would have expected.
1. In case you missed it, we heard three words pass the lips of President Bush that I think it's fair to say many of us expected never to hear: "I take responsibility." In a press availability with Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, Bush said of the Katrina response, "Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government and to the extent the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility." Going further, Bush added "Are we capable of dealing with a severe attack? That’s a very important question and it’s in the national interest that we find out what went on so we can better respond."
I enjoy a good bit of snarkiness and/or irreverence now and then; if you do too, I'd recommend Dahlia Lithwick's "Confirmation Report," an ongoing series of notes from the Roberts confirmation hearings. After yesterday's hearing, she notes that the senators pretty much spent the whole day talking about themselves, and she offers up an "index of what worries the 18 senators of the Judiciary Committee most about Roberts, the judiciary, and the constitutional process." Here's a sampling from that:
With the timely resignation of disgraced FEMA head Mike "Brownie" Brown, R. David Paulison was announced as the interim head of the agency. I don't envy him the job. But unlike Brown, Paulison has significant disaster relief experience, including the management of hurricane recovery efforts. While he's now fallen into one of the toughest jobs in the bureaucracy, I think it's safe to say he's at least much better prepared to handle the job than his predecessor was.