Bush: A Halloween Treat

31 October 2005 |permalink | email article

Much to the joy of social conservatives and the Christian right, President Bush today nominated Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals, to the Supreme Court, four days after Harriet E. Miers withdrew her nomination under pressure.

On Sunday TV interview shows, conservatives responded warmly when Alitoís name was mentioned among a gaggle of possible candidates. Presumably, Bush cleared his choice with Dr. James Dobson, the nationís most influential evangelical leader and a staunch defender of Miers.

But many Democrats, left out of the consultative process, will now come off the sidelines in an effort to block the nomination, or filibuster it.

Liberals view the choice as extreme, a ìtrick or treatî response by Bush to appease the right ñ and change the political music from the most disastrous week of his presidency ñ the Miers debacle and the indictment of neocon Scooter Libby, Vice President Dick Cheneyís alter ego.

Alito, 55, nicknamed ìScalitoî by some conservatives who compare him with their hero, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, has built a record as an incisive critic of liberal constitutional theory.

The nominee reminisced today about his first time arguing a case before the Supreme Court in 1982, when Justice Sandra Day OíConnor, whom he would replace, sensed he was a ìrookieî and made sure that the first question he was asked was a kind one.

If confirmed, Alito is not likely to be a swing vote on the court like O’Connor, a position that drove conservatives into a frenzy.

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Arnold: Zero Political Muscle

30 October 2005 |permalink | email article

Ten days before an unpopular special election called by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former world champion body builder and Hollywood action hero is discovering that winning in politics is more complicated than just schmoozing with Jay Leno on the Tonight Show.

None of his four ìyear of reformî initiatives on the Nov. 8 ballot enjoy a majority among voters. Two measures ñ a state spending cap (Proposition 76), and redistricting (Proposition 77) - are furthest behind, a Public Policy Institute of California poll found.

The survey also found the governorís once staggering popularity has also tanked. His favorability rating, 69% in August 2004, is now 35%. Conversely, his negatives, 28% in 2004, have risen to 56%. Such data makes it difficult to explain how he can surge from behind before election day with a two-minute drill.

Part of the plunge is attributable to Schwarzeneggerís self-proclaimed warrior image combined with an abrasive talent for alienating not only swing voters but also opponents including nurses, teachers, firefighter and police unions with his rhetoric. I mean, rough and tumble is one thing, but you donít tell nurses youíll ìkick their butts,î call Democrats ìgirlie menî and expect to escape without serious political consequences, as he has painfuly discovered.

The governorís most recent comments are a study in contradictions: 1) stating ìreformîgoals are more important than offending corporate interests and Republican loyalists; 2) flaying Democrats and unions for blocking his reform package; and 3) appearing humble, almost apologetic, in a new commercial saying ìIíve got a lot to learn.î

Arnold Steinberg, a respected Los Angeles conservative political strategist and analyst, wrote a prescient piece, ìTerminated Propositions,î for the National Review Online (Oct. 28), about the lack of a coherent strategy by the governor and misplaced bravado.  Key excerpts:

ìHis (poll) numbers were awful, well before the campaign started. The problem is that his advisers have encouraged the governor to believe heís starring in a movie about the recall. Thatís a movie that has been out for a long time, and we donít need to see it again.

ìThe main reason for Schwarzeneggerís inevitable defeat is there never was any reason to have this special election. The governor began that threat, as a negotiating tool with legislators, long ago, when his popularity was higher. But he gave in to Democrats last year, so the ëstickí was gone.

ìProposition 77, a reapportionment measure that, even if it passed, likely could not affect 2006 and could probably not apply to 2008, due to old population data.

ìProposition 75, which promises paycheck protection, was supposed to be a sure winner, Now itís in doubt and could lose, because the governor and his team, desperate for a single victory, slated their ballot measures with it. Predictably, doing so has not brought 75, 76 and 77 up, but rather is bringing 75 down. All this was foreseeable.î

 

 

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Scooter Takes a Great Fall

28 October 2005 |permalink | email article

It’s a Humpty Dumpty kind of sordid political tale, a violation of the public trust unmatched by a sitting White House official in 130 years. 

The indictment of Vice President Cheneyís chief of staff, I. Lewis ìScooterî Libby on obstruction of justice, false statement and perjury charges for allegedly lying about how and when he learned and subsequently disclosed to reporters then-classified information about the role of CIA agent Valerie Wilson raises many questions with very few answers. A leak has morphed into a cover-up.

Libby, a smart lawyer and one-time anti-war activist, has long been associated with Cheney. A neoconservative convert and his national security adviser, Libby was part of the elite White House Iraq Group (WHIG), including the vice president, Paul Wolfowitz, and Donald Rumsfeld that made the case for war fiercely resisted by the State Department and CIA which was far from certain about WMD.

As The New York Times reported, Libby first learned about the CIA wife of ex-ambassador Joseph Wilson (who ran afoul of the neocon crowd with his NYT op-ed piece criticizing administration policy), from Cheney, not reporters, as he’d originally suggested. It was a leak designed to undermine anyone who got in the administrationís way.

Why did Libby do it? Was he operating on his own, or was he covering up to protect the shadowy Cheney and Bush to justify a war now opposed by a majority of Americans?

Will Libby now try to make a deal and implicate Cheney or, like a loyal neocon, fight on? A trial, which could put Cheney and other major government figures on the witness stand, is not what a shattered administration wants with nervous Republican incumbents on the 2006 ballot. 

The grand jury did not return an indictment against a relieved Karl Rove, Bushís indispensable mastermind, but he will be twisting in the wind for a period of time. His lawyer, more adroit than Libby’s counsel by having Rove provide last minute new information to clarify his conflicting testimony, said Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald has made no decision about whether to bring charges and that Roveís status had not changed.

The Jesuit-educated Fitzgeraldís hour-long statement was terse, eloquent and minus prosecutorial legal jargon - a subtle suggestion that the nonpartisan prosecutor’s investigation, ironically using journalists to make his case that Libby lied, is not yet a wrap. Who will soon forget his aside that Libbyís actions did ìdamage to all of us?î

The scandal will now escalate in the media. CBSís ì60 Minutesî may weigh in with a must-view on Sunday.

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The Miers Meltdown

26 October 2005 |permalink | email article

Harriet Miersís withdrawal of her nomination today for the Supreme Court is yet another blow to President Bush as an already edgy White House awaits a decision by the special counsel in the CIA leak inquiry about whether possible indictments of high ranking officials may already have been obtained from a federal grand jury.

The presidentís stubborn refusal to grasp that his White House counsel failed to satisfy liberal or conservative concerns crumbled in the face of her failure to successfully complete a questionnaire exposing her lack of judicial experience - essentially dooming her confirmation before the hearings even started.

Bushís obsession with promoting from within his tight inner circle of sycophants met its match when such conservative zealots on the right, including the Wall Street editorial board, columnist George Will and Christian evangelists, took a stand against Miers and threatened to topple his own political base.

Whether the president finally realized that he was about to put his acolyte through a period of political cruelty or for once listened to more reasoned advice ñ from embattled Karl Rove or others - was not immediately clear.

I have two observations as a chastened president prepares to go back to the drawing board to find an acceptable conservative nominee, and perhaps a woman, with better qualifications:

George Bush, more than ever, is a political tower of jelly; Harriet Miers has been spared the humiliation of being perceived as a dead-woman walking.

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CIA Leak Decision Nears

25 October 2005 |permalink | email article

Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel in the leak of a CIA agentís identity, is expected to decide by Friday, when the term of the federal grand jury expires ñ but possibly as early as today according to The Washington Post - on whether to file criminal charges.

Usually well informed sources believe there will be at least one indictment, and perhaps more.

Both the White House and Washington establishment are in a state of high suspense over the decision, which has major potential consequences for President Bushís second term.

For The New York Times, whose journalistic reputation has been sullied most recently by the scandal involving reporter Judy Millerís W.M.D. reporting and her jail time for refusing to testify before the grand jury about her White House source, yesterdayís lede was a stunning triumph over the competition:

ìI. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheneyís chief of staff, first learned about the CIA officer at the heart of the leak investigation in a conversation with Mr. Cheney weeks before her identity became public in 2003, lawyers involved in the case said Monday.î

Focusing on perhaps the biggest scandal story since Watergate, early online editions today of the Times and The Los Angeles Times were reporting late breaking developments concerning Fitzgeraldís meetings with his team, including his chief FBI investigator, involving the presidentís consigliere.

NYT: ìWith the clock running out on his investigation, the special counsel in the leak case continued to seek information Tuesday about Karl Roveís discussions with reporters in the days before the CIA officerís identity was made public, lawyers and others involved in the investigation said.î

LAT:  “Prosecutors investigating the leak of the CIA agentís identity returned their attention to the powerful White House adviser Karl Rove, questioning a former West Wing colleague about contacts Rove had with reporters in the days leading up to the outing of a covert CIA officer.î

Fitzgerald, who is the U.S. Attorney in Chicago, has the distinction of being perceived as fair and impartial ñ leak proof ñ in contrast to former Special Counsel Kenneth Starrís investigation of former President Bill Clinton.

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Alternative Newspapers Merger

24 October 2005 |permalink | email article

In an agreement to be announced today, The New York Times reports that the company that publishes The Village Voice and five other alternative newspapers in the country will be acquired by New Times Media, the largest publisher in the market.

The merger, rumored for some time, coincides with The Voiceís 50th anniversary this week, and raises a central question: can The Voice and its siblings, including the politically influential LA Weekly, retain their anti-establishment roots and outspoken liberal content? New Times has been deliberately apolitical and what some observers, including myself, consider too libertarian in viewpoint.

Central to the merger is the issue of editorial content. The LA Weekly, for example, has many serious political writers, notably Marc Cooper and Robert Greene. Will they and the staff retain the same freedom of independent reporting?

NYT reports that the most pressing issue raised by the deal is how it will play with anti-trust regulators, with whom the merger partners have already had one run-in. Regulatory scrutiny is crucial.

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Rescuing Harriet Miers

23 October 2005 |permalink | email article

Harriet Miers is in the cram zone before the Nov. 7 start of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on her nomination to the Supreme Court. Courtesy calls aside, what matters is that shocked committee leaders have asked her to redo a questionnaire about her legal career ñ unheard of in the modern annals of the high court.

President Bush is steadfast that his White House counsel and adoring groupie ìis a competent, strong, capable woman who shares the same judicial philosophy that I share.î Despite W.ís self-styled infallibility, a serious split exists within the conservative movement if not among all mainstream Republicans.

The Wall Street Journalís editorial board wrote that well before the Senate hearings, Miers ìselection has become a political blunder of the first order.î

The Washington Postís Charles Babbington wrote her nomination has been so riddled with ìerrors, stumbles and embarrassing revelations that some lawmakers and other observers find hard to believe it emanates from the same White Houseî ñ an apparent inference about new Chief Justice John Robertsí smooth sailing through the confirmation process.

Sundayís WashPo column by starchy conservative George Will is very juicy rhetoric. ìSuch is the perfect perversity of the nomination of Harriet Miers that it discredits, and even degrades, all who toil to justify it.î

With perhaps Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a Judiciary Committee member and a former judge in mind, Will added, ìAs for Republicans, any who vote for Miers will thereafter be ineligible to argue that it is important to elect Republicans because they are conscious conservers of the judicial branchís invaluable dignity.î

A Friday post by John Dickerson, Slateís chief political correspondent (slate.com/id/2128303/) summarizes the problem faced by Miers. ìAt some point, Bushís refusal to scuttle Miersí nomination may turn into an act of cruelty.î

Forcing Miers to go forward ìincreases the chances that her admirable career as a private lawyer, trusted friend, and able public servant will be eclipsed by repeated calamities associated with trying to ram through her nomination.î Is she, as Dickerson seems to imply, a dead-woman walking?

 

 

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Unmasking Judy Miller

22 October 2005 |permalink | email article

Bill Keller, the New York Timesí executive editor, sent an extraordinary memo to the staff late Friday afternoon about the Judy Miller scandal. It went beyond a mea culpa, acknowledging several mistakes on his part, explaining why reporting errors occurred and distancing himself from the paperís controversial reporter. (The memo, on Jim Romeneskoís site, is here.)

Miller spent two months in jail for refusing to reveal the identity of a confidential source to a federal grand jury investigating whether Karl Rove, Bushís brain, vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby and others may have broken the law by revealing the identity of Valerie Plame, a covert C.I. A. agent. The issue is whether her cover was blown to punish her husband, ex-diplomat Joseph Wilson IV, an outspoken Bush critic on invading Iraq.

Until the special prosecutor came after her, Keller wrote, ìI didnít know that Judy had been one of the reporters on the receiving end of the Öwhisper campaignî against Joe Wilson, ìadding ìJudy seems to have misled Phil Taubman (the Washington bureau chief) about the extent of her involvement.î Further, Keller said, ìif I had known the details of Judyís entanglement with Libby, Iíd have been more careful in how the paper articulated its defenseÖ.î

Kellerís action came less than a week after Miller, under intense pressure to give a published personal account of her actions, did a superficial job and raising more questions about her discredited W.M.D. stories which followed the White House line. Connections with Libby and buying bogus stories planted by the infamous Ahmad Chalabi and others were not addressed. Like the Times, sheís been bitterly attacked by journalists, media critics and bloggers.

Last Thursday, Slateís Jack Shafer hit hard, writing that the scandal has ìsent the old gray palooka down to the mat once again, where we find it wheezing, bleeding, and struggling to find its feet.î  He concluded, ìUnless the paper wants to hear Judith Millerís name yodeled with that of Walter Duranty on every occasion Times haters assemble, one last public exorcism must be conducted to drive out the demons forever.î

(The Timesí Duranty won the 1932 Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the Soviet Union under Stalin. His fawning stories underreported the famine and, while the paper has acknowledged his failures since the 1980s, the Pulitzer Board has twice declined to withdraw the award.)

Tim Rutten, The Los Angeles Timesí observant media columnist, wrote that Keller took the focus off the Times as a media institution and ìput it squarely where it belongs: on Miller, the individual journalist.î He added, ìMiller, the reporter, represents something far more persistent and pernicious in American journalism. Sheís virtually an exemplar of an all-too-common variety of Washington reporter: ambitious, self-interested, unscrupulous and intoxicated by the proximity of power.”

In her Saturday column, the deliciously irreverent Maureen Dowd conducted her own exorcism, writing ìIíve always liked Judy Miller,î before damning her with faint praise.

Miller has said she plans to write a book and intends to return to the newsroom, ìhoping to cover the same thing Iíve always covered ñ threats to our country.î Dowd tartly opined if that were to happen, ìthe institution most in danger would be the newspaper you hold in your hand.î

Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the inscrutable Special Prosecutor, is expected to decide this week whether anyone will be charged with a crime in the C.I.A. leak investigation.

 

 

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Madame Secretary

19 October 2005 |permalink | email article

Which was more devastating for the Bush White House yesterday: Harriet Miers being asked to resubmit parts of her judicial questionnaire by Republican and Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, or Secretary of State Condoleezza Riceís testy performance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?

While veteran senators could not recall another occasion when a judicial nomineeís answers were sent back as incomplete, I found Riceís testimony before the panel far more troubling for its lack of candor, muddled strategy and refusal to even hint at a timetable for the withdrawal of American forces.

She avoided answering questions about whether U.S. troops might be in Iraq for five or ten years and, despite repeated questions, offered no specifics about what how Washington might deal with Iranian and Syrian involvement in Iraq.

Itís not surprising that of the 14 senators in attendance, only two (Allen (R-Va.) and Martinez (R-Fla.) offered strong support for the war. Democrats on the panel have long opposed U.S.-Iraq policy but very pointed questions by Committee Chairman Lugar (R-Indiana); Chafee (R-R.I.); and Voinovich (R-Ohio) were compelling.

Simplistic sound bites offered by Madame Secretary in describing U.S. strategy as being to ìclear, hold and build ìin contrast to insurgentsí goals to ìinfect, terrorize and pull downî donít cut it. This administration has no sense of history, no exit policy from Iraq and believes that muscular U.S. aggression alone can eliminate global terrorism. A policy of containment, not war, brought down communism. Reagan understood the concept and the need for patience; the Bush crowd has no clue.

The Washington Post noted that as Rice testified, a former senior U.S. diplomat, Mary Ann Wright, stood up and shouted from the audience, ìStop the killing in Iraq. You and Congress have to be responsible.î When will the rest of us have such courage?


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Year of Reform?

18 October 2005 |permalink | email article

Thereís much talk about the Year of Reform in Nov. 8ís special election. Lost in the rhetoric by the self-styled reformer, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a problem now faced by Californiaís Fair Political Practices Commission.

Because of a nagging backlog and budget crunch, the stateís watchdog agency has closed 225 cases of campaign misdeeds since last May without finishing investigations because of a lack of resources, The Los Angeles Times reported today.

ìWe canít handle the caseload,î FPPC chairwoman Liane Randolph told the panel at its monthly meeting in Sacramento.

Randolph told the Times that the commission will ask the governor and the Legislature for more resources to its job. ìItís a job the voters asked to be done, but our funding level just canít keep pace with our responsibilities.î

Of the current backlog, 676 cases from the previous years remained unresolved; fines from another 61 remained uncollected.

The commission wants the governor to restore $600,000 in funding cut from the agency in recent years, and a additional $1.2 million to get back to 1980s budget levels. Before good government groups raised a big stink, Governor Reform proposed a $1-million cut for this fiscal year that began July 1.

This is a moment of political truth for Schwarzenegger, suddenly paddling far more to the center in an attempt to shake the perception heís a tool of business special interests and right-wing evangelicals. Will he commit to restoring the funding before Nov. 8? 

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Bush Spin Machine

16 October 2005 |permalink | email article

Karl Rove, whose potential legal troubles may be resolved this week or next, is off his vaunted control game. The communications spin machine devised by W.ís architect in chief, that reached its apex in falsely marketing the invasion war in Iraq, appears to have gone missing.

Proof of a growing meltdown was first apparent in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when the president strode across a floodlit lawn in a televised national address against an eerie backdrop of Saint Louis Cathedral flanked by a statue of Andrew Jackson.

Designed to show compassion for victims after a slow response, the prop lacked the passion and slick ìMission Accomplishedî choreography which Rove successfully affixed to W. long before the 2004 election ñ another deceptive stunt in retrospect.

Last Thursday, the White House PR operation sank to a new level of ineptness in trying to ape itís choir-like strategy of holding scripted events featuring the president talking to loyal supporters at carefully staged town halls events, while aides worked the audience on what to say.

Cable viewers saw a staged teleconference in which a halting president, groping for the right words and fumbling with his earpiece, spoke with 10 handpicked American soldiers and one Iraqi in trying to rally support behind security preparations for the draft Iraq constitution vote over the weekend.

Not surprisingly, the eager soldiers were coached by event planners about topics the president would ask them, and watched them briefly rehearse their glowing presentations before going live ñ something inadvertently also seen on TV.

A day later, the Pentagon put out a statement apologizing for any misperception that the soldiers were told what to say at the event. As Maureen Dowd wrote, that troops might be politicized and used as ìmilitary wallpaper,” is deeply troubling.

ìCommand presence,î a phrase made famous by the late slash-and-burn GOP operative Lee Atwater, for whom Rove once worked, no longer seems operative as an unscripted W.43 blinks when asked questions about his deputy White House chief of staff.

Second-term American presidents often begin to self-destruct in their fifth year. Bushís unwavering reliance on a tiny inner circle of loyalists has put him in harmís way. Harriet Miers is one potential front-page example; Karl Rove may be another.

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Campaign Hollywood

14 October 2005 |permalink | email article

NYT, in todayís edition, does a front pager on the celebrity-tinged aspect of the unpopular special election that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has called for Nov. 8.

ìArnold Says Yes, Warren Says Noî adds Rob Reiner to the nay side and is a good update on several recent posts by me over the past two months on the injection of Hollywood into the roiled California electoral scene.

Steven J. Ross, a USC professor of history who is writing a book about Hollywood and politics, says while such celebrity clashes have been a part of the landscape since the 1930ís, ìthe box office has often been seen as more powerful than the ballot box.î

Dean Murphyís piece contains the trivia that while the Terminator and Meathead have stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Bulworth (I call him the Goad because of his tenacious assault) does not. How come?

Terminator and Goad
Goliath Becomes David
Paging Warren Beatty
Ask Arnold
Arnold in Harmís Way
Incredible Shrinking Man

 

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Terminator and Goad

12 October 2005 |permalink | email article

This is not a new Las Vegas lounge act, but more a rhetorical sparring match between two Hollywood legends over the merits of a controversial Nov. 8 special election with huge state and national implications. Republican Gov. Arnold (the Terminator) Schwarzenegger, who called it, is under increasing attack by Warren (the Goad) Beatty.

Beatty, drenched in Democratic politics since he worked for Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, flayed the governor in an interview this week with The San Francisco Chronicle. He compared him unfavorably with former Gov. Ronald Reagan, ìsomebody I disagreed with on most ideological thingsÖa friend of mineÖ and a very likeable man. Arnold, if he really had an ounce of bipartisanship in him, or even what I would call savvy, would have come in and said, ëI didnít create these (deficit) problems.íî

Beatty said Schwarzenegger should have said he would ìonly temporallyî raise taxes like Reagan, and former Republican governors Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian did.î

The Terminator, referring to the Goad, recently told the Associated Press that ìthere are some people who are close to him that say that he is just starving for attention.î

Yet, the jousting is really a media side show and diversion from the so-called ìYear of Reformî special ballot which most Californians regard as too expensive, too partisan and an unnecessary prequel which should have gone on the June general election.

Pollster Mark Baldassare wrote recently that the ìreplacement governorî who won a 2003 recall remains in sync with voters of all stripes when it comes to diagnosing the stateís problems. Why the election and specific Schwarzenegger initiatives are failing to resonate with voters ìis a sense that partisan warfare is center stage and that political one-upmanship is at the heart of the special election.î

A partisan rift, in which Democrats and their allies (labor, teachers, nurses, law enforcement) are waging a fierce counterattack against the governor, has caused his approval ratings to plunge from January to where just four in 10 voters now approve of his job performance. Translation: -29% Democrats; -36% independents; -22% Republicans. To succeed Nov. 8, the once popular governor needs to win back crucial support heís lost among women and moderate voters ñ a steep uphill climb.

Turnout will be key. Republican strategists think they can rebound with a massive late TV blitz, which is being answered by equal millions for each of the governorís claims. But Baldassare believes the public sees politicians asking them to take sides in a partisan battle ìthat is yet another painful reminder of policy gridlock in Sacramento.î

Schwarzeneggerís classic error has been controlled, Bush-like, ìtown hallî public meetings before only invited guests. His one scheduled open campaign event Oct. 24 is a media-sponsored forum in Walnut Creek. Seeking re-election next year, he appears today a less likeable Terminator and a more feeble Humpty Dumpty about to fall. 

 

 

 

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The Pandemic Problem

08 October 2005 |permalink | email article

A subject of more urgent national moment than a revolt by unhappy Republicans about the perceived lack of a distinctly conservative legal pedigree by White House counsel Harriet Miers, President Bushís Supreme Court nominee, is the new new political thing. 

Bush ominously hinted at the subject in his televised speech from New Orleans on Sept. 15 that in the aftermath of Hurricane Karina ìa challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed services.î

In his October 5 news conference the president was far more specific. He tied his concern about the threat of a global pandemic rapidly spread by a virulent new strain of avian influenza to asking Congress to let the U.S. military play a broader role in enforcing quarantines and other emergency measures.

The mere hint that W. is considering revision or repeal of the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, a Civil War-era law which bars federal troops from carrying out law enforcement duties inside the United States during peacetime, short of insurrection, has both ends of the political spectrum on fire. 

I mean, Paul Weyrich, the conservative activist who heads the Free Congress Foundation, and Tim Edgar, a lawyer who handles national security policy issues for the American Civil Liberties agree ñ and Defense Secretary has specific concerns.

But Scott McClellan, Bushís spokesman, made clear soon after the New Orleans speech that revision or repeal of Posse Comitatus ìwas an issueî that administration officials were in the early stages of discussing. Will the Senate Judiciary Committee ask Miers about her legal advice?

The New York Times over the weekend obtained a draft of the final plan, dated Sept. 30, and stamped ìfor internal H.H.S. use only.î It deals with the possible outbreak of pandemic flu, which suggests the U.S. is ill prepared for what could become the worst disaster in the nationís history.

The plan, years in the making and expected to be released later this month, says a large outbreak that began in Asia was likely, because of modern travel patterns, to reach the United States within ìa few months or ever weeks.î One supplement suggests ways in which state and local officials should prepare now for an eventual pandemic by, for instance, drafting legal documents that would justify quarantines.

That the Times story said the plan skirts many essential decisions, like how the military may be deployed, begs the Posse Comitatus question. The administrationís poor response to Katrina has exposed a much deeper fissure - lack of readiness for pandemic flu. Bushís urgent huddle with six top U.S. vaccine makers at the White House to cajole them into increasing their domestic vaccine capacity is chilling its urgency. 


 

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Cronyism and Competence

04 October 2005 |permalink | email article

The late New York Times Arthur Krock columnist wrote in 1946 that “Government by crony in not new in Washington. President Roosevelt appointed many persons of doubtful competence or eligibility because of personal relationships.”

On President Bush’s watch, cronyism… read full story

Goliath Becomes David

03 October 2005 |permalink | email article

Stand by for a big ego makeover.

The Terminator, his unpopular special election initiatives failing and his popular rating near rock bottom, has a new strategy - casting himself as Underdog Man on Nov. 8, and probably in the… read full story

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