Top conservatives have fanned out on television to defend House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s role in the Foley scandal.
A key talking point: when ABC made Foley’s sexually explicit communications public, Hastert “dealt with it immediately” by going to Foley and telling him, “Resign or be expelled.” Both Ken Mehlman and Ed Gillespie said Hastert’s bold ultimatum to Foley was something not seen “in thirty years in this town.”
In fact, their entire story is a fabrication. Hastert could not have issued an ultimatum to Foley after the sexually explicit instant messages were made public, because by that time, Foley had already resigned. ABC did not make Foley’s sexually explicit communications public until Friday, September 29, at 6pm ET. Foley had already resigned three hours earlier, at around 3pm ET.
As ABC producer Maddy Sauer has described, Foley decided to resign not after an ultimatum from Speaker Hastert, but after ABC called his office on Friday morning and read Foley staffers the instant messages they had obtained. According to Sauer, Foley’s office called ABC an hour later and said the congressman would be resigning.
Speaker Hastert himself acknowledged that he had no role in Foley’s resignation in his first statement on the issue on Monday:
When [the instant messages] were released, Congressman Foley resigned. And I’m glad he did. If he had not, I would have demanded his expusion from the House of Representatives.
Full transcript video: Read more
Susan Ralston, Karl Rove’s key aide in the White House, submitted her resignation today “in the wake of congressional report that listed hundreds of contacts between disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the White House.” (Read the letter.)A recent House Government Reform Committee report highlighted her role in the Abramoff corruption network:
[The report] singled out Ralston — Rove’s assistant and Abramoff’s former employee — who was lobbied 69 times, the most contacts with any individual named in the report. She also received numerous tickets to concerts and sporting events.
“Her role in brokering requests to Rove from her former boss raises questions … about some of her activities,” the release said.
Some background on Ralston:
– She worked at two lobbying firms with Abramoff prior to joining the West Wing
– Jack Abramoff recommended her hiring to Karl Rove
– She had testified in the Valerie Plame leak investigation
– She once said she was “involved in much of what goes on at the White House”
White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said, “We support her decision and consider the matter closed.” The White House may consider the case closed, but Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and others believe serious questions remain, including “whether officials accepted items like concert tickets and whether they reported them on financial disclosure forms.”
UPDATE: Waxman issued a statement, stating:
It looks like the White House is trying to make Susan Ralston the scapegoat. … It is ludicrous for the White House to say it considers the review of Committee report “complete” when it has not provided answers to any of the most important questions involving Mr. Mehlman and other senior White House officials.
On Wednesday, the President signed “The Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2007.” In response to FEMA’s disastrous response to Katrina — led by the former Commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association, Michael Brown (a.k.a. Brownie) — Congress included some minimum professional requirements for FEMA’s director. From the bill:
President Bush, however, released a “signing statement” at the time he signed the bill. In it, he asserted his constitutional right to continue to install incompetent FEMA administrators. From the statement released by the President:
Section 503(c)(2) vests in the President authority to appoint the Administrator, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, but purports to limit the qualifications of the pool of persons from whom the President may select the appointee in a manner that rules out a large portion of those persons best qualified by experience and knowledge to fill the office. The executive branch shall construe section 503(c)(2) in a manner consistent with the Appointments Clause of the Constitution.
It’s unclear how requiring someone to have five years of management experience and some knowledge of emergency management “rules out a large portion of those persons best qualified.” Georgetown Law School professor Marty Lederman noted, “It’s hard to imagine a more modest and reasonable congressional response to the Michael Brown fiasco,” he said.
Nevertheless, President Bush has “asserted that he has the executive authority to disobey” the law.
The LA Times had an article yesterday about the limited influence of payroll size on baseball outcomes. Money differentials do matter, accounting for about 20 percent of the variance in MLB win-totals, but they don’t really matter all that much. And, well, good for A’s fans. Nevertheless, it’s hard to avoid noticing that this implies that baseball teams are, as a rule, managed extremely poorly. Absent a salary cap, the teams with the most money to spend ought to be able to perform much better than the teams that spend much less. Moneyball is all about Billy Beane’s ability to use statistics to identify some player-attributes that were undervalued in the baseball labor market and assemble quality teams at bargain-basement prices.
That strategy depends, however, on significant inefficiencies existing in the first place. And the inefficiencies need to be quite large, since the payroll differentials are enormous — the Yankees’ salary total is 2.7 times the median. On top of that, you’re looking at a kind of meta-inefficiency. The owners prepared to shell out the highest amount for players ought to be able to also outbid stingier owners for the services of the best GMs, scouts, managers, etc. In a perfect environment, in other words, differential management-ability to entrench, rather than mitigate, payroll-differentials. That all these inefficiencies exist winds up being good for the fans, but it’s still rather odd.
“Guards at Guantanamo Bay bragged about beating detainees and described it as common practice, a Marine sergeant said in a sworn statement,” AP reports. The Marine described practices such as “hitting the detainee’s head into the cell door” and “punching [them] in the face.”
Kevin Drum nicely breaks down the options facing a potential Democratic congress (or even one house of congress) into two ideal types:
(a) acting as the party of moderation and focusing on bipartisan “good government” proposals, or
(b) using the subpoena power of Congress to investigate the hell out of what’s been going on in the executive branch for the past six years.
I think Kevin goes wrong in saying that which should be preferred “depends on whether you think there are lots of moderate, centrist voters in America who will respond positively to Ignatius’s wholesome message.” At the end of the day, I think Democrats should pursue an agenda of aggressive, albeit focused, efforts to root out malfeasance even if such an agenda has less appeal than the alternative. The crux of the matter is that public opinion, while obviously important, has only a limited and attenuated relationship to policy outcomes. Structural factors matter and, in particular, the presence of a real and palpable rot within important quarters of the conservative movement matters. Rooting that rot out is crucial to the long-term health of the country and the long-term prospects for progressive change — more important than pre-positioning for the next election cycle.
To get a look at what I mean, one of the noteworthy factors about the current situation is the extent to which the malefactors are people who really should have been permanently driven out of public life for sins committed long ago in the 1970s and 80s. But instead of being so driven, they were merely pushed out of office only to return, like zombies, eventually accruing more power and influence than ever before. This needs to stop. No set of tactics is going to prevent “the Republicans” from winning future elections and regaining control over the levers of power at some point. That’s how two-party politics work. But it is possible to imagine a future in which specific individuals can never take office again, and the networks that bind them to each other are utterly disrupted.
Washington Post political editor John F. Harris and ABC News political director Mark Halperin have written a new and much-touted book entitled The Way To Win, which includes the chapter “How Matt Drudge Rules Our World.” Today Harris wrote a front page analysis of the influence of the “new media” in politics. One of the story’s headlines in the print edition:
Some examples of the “new” media Harris cites:
1. Conservative talk radio, such as Rush Limbaugh (on air since 1988).
2. Internet sites, such as The Drudge Report (started in 1994).
3. Cable news networks, such as Fox News (which is celebrating its 10th birthday today).
Some examples of the real new media Harris completely ignores:
In the introduction, Harris cites the Foley scandal, Sen. George Allen’s (R-VA) “macaca” debacle, and President Bill Clinton’s recent interview on Fox News as examples of the new media’s success in breaking and shaping stories before “charging into the traditional world of newspapers and television networks.”
All three “uproars” named by Harris were mainly driven — and sometimes broken — by liberal blogs. Harris, however, uses the word “blog” just once — when referring to conservative Hugh Hewitt’s dual role as a blogger and radio host.
Conservatives don’t have the edge in the real new media. According to Technorati.com, there are four liberal blogs in the top 25 blogs, but just one right-wing blog. (Fortunately, others reporters have noticed the increasing role of the real new media: see here, here, and here)
John Harris, welcome to the 21st century.
(Eric Boehlert has more.)
Meanwhile, her trip “began inauspiciously when the military transport plane that brought her to Baghdad was forced to circle the city for about 40 minutes” because the airport was under attack. “On Thursday evening, during her meeting with President Jalal Talabani, the lights went out, forcing Ms. Rice to continue the discussion in the dark. It was a reminder of the city’s erratic — and sometimes nonexistent — electrical service.”
Former Attorney General John Ashcroft this week became the first Cabinet-level Bush official to attack the 9/11 Commission, writing in his newly-released memoirs that it “seemed obsessed with trying to lay the blame for the terrorist attacks at the feet of the Bush administration, while virtually absolving the previous administration of responsibility.” Given his record on 9/11, Ashcroft is the last one who should be lobbing attacks on others.
In State of Denial, Bob Woodward writes that Condoleezza Rice received a briefing on July 10, 2001 “showing the increasing likelihood that al Qaeda would soon attack the U.S.” According to the State Department, on July 17, 2001, Ashcroft “received the same CIA briefing about an imminent al-Qaida strike on an American target.”
Despite the accumulating evidence that he failed to act on these pre-9/11 warnings, Ashcroft told NBC’s Today Show earlier this week that he had never received any evidence of a domestic threat:
ASHCROFT: If there had been such a meeting that had taken place, with Ms. Rice, and she had been told there was a domestic threat — that that was the feature of the meeting — I’m surprised they wouldn’t have such a briefing for the Attorney General as well.
NBC: You never heard of any domestic threat impending at all?
ASHCROFT: There was a lot of talk about threats. The kind we had endured before. But when asked about is there any evidence that the threat would be domestic, the answer simply was no.
Ashcroft’s credibility surrounding the events of 9/11 has been repeatedly called into question. Previously, the former Acting Director of the FBI, Thomas Pickard, testified to the 9/11 Commission that Ashcroft explicitly told him prior to 9/11 that he “didn’t want to hear about” domestic terrorism threats anymore. Ashcroft denied ever having said that.
Now, criticism is being leveled against Ashcroft from a former Republican member of the 9/11 Commission, Slade Gorton. Gorton said that Ashcroft “may very well have been the worst witness we interviewed” because he was “very unresponsive and unhelpful.”