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Sunday, July 31, 2005
More on Rove Continues to Ooze Out
So much for Karl Rove having learned Valerie Plame's identity from a member of the media. Time magazine's Massimo Calabresi has the big scoop.
As the investigation tightens into the leak of the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame, sources tell TIME some White House officials may have learned she was married to former ambassador Joseph Wilson weeks before his July 6, 2003, Op-Ed piece criticizing the Administration. That prospect increases the chances that White House official Karl Rove and others learned about Plame from within the Administration rather than from media contacts. Rove has told investigators he believes he learned of her directly or indirectly from reporters, according to his lawyer.Dun dun dun...
The previously undisclosed fact gathering began in the first week of June 2003 at the CIA, when its public-affairs office received an inquiry about Wilson's trip to Africa from veteran Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus. That office then contacted Plame's unit, which had sent Wilson to Niger, but stopped short of drafting an internal report. The same week, Under Secretary of State Marc Grossman asked for and received a memo on the Wilson trip from Carl Ford, head of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Sources familiar with the memo, which disclosed Plame's relationship to Wilson, say Secretary of State Colin Powell read it in mid-June. Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage may have received a copy then too.
Bush One Step Closer to a Veto of Stem Cells?
The House has already passed legislation that would provide significantly more money for stem cell research and as the Senate moves ever closer to passing the same legislation, Bush is getting closer to the veto he has for so long promised. The AP's Libby Quaid rounds up the latest developments in the ongoing legislative battle.
Despite a boost from the majority leader, there is not enough Senate support now to override a threatened veto if Congress tries to ease restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, a key proponent said Sunday.There are few issues upon which the GOP's stance is further from views of the majority of Americans than stem cell research. Should the President veto this legislation during a protracted battle over the nomination of John Roberts, the Supreme Court nominee could find himself in some actual jeopardy -- even if it has nothing to do with him specifically. Only time will tell, of course.
A favorable Senate vote is considered more likely now that Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., has reversed his position to support more federal dollars for research. However, the Senate vote will not matter if, as lawmakers predicted, a veto by President Bush stands in the House.
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who sponsors a bill easing restrictions that Bush put in place, said Frist gave his side "a big boost." A vote on the bill could come in September.
While a bill would pass the Senate with a simple majority, 67 senators would be needed to fend off a veto by Bush if all 100 senators voted.
"My analysis is that we have 62 votes at the present time, and we've got about 15 more people who are thinking it over," Specter said on "Face the Nation" on CBS. "I believe that by the time the vote comes up, we'll have 67."
On the same program, a leading opponent of embryonic stem cell research, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., countered: "You don't have the votes in the House of Representatives to overcome a presidential veto."
The bill passed the House in May by 44 votes, under the two-thirds of the 435-member House needed to override a veto. However, Specter said Frist's endorsement could provide "a little political cover" for House members to vote to override.
Back in the Chicken Shack
Great Jimmy Smith album. As for me, I'm back in Portland after my extended staw in Washington, DC. I'll let you know how it was in a bit. But for now...
Saturday, July 30, 2005
The Sunday Shows
I'll be flying home, but for those not facing the prospect of a three and a half hour layover in O'Hare...
ABC's "This Week" - Space shuttle Discovery commander Eileen Collins, pilot James Kelly and mission specialist Charles Camarda; former astronauts John Glenn and Buzz Aldrin; Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA); former Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca.
NBC's "Meet the Press" - Collins, Kelly and Camarda; NASA Administrator Michael Griffin.
"Fox News Sunday" - Collins, Kelly and Camarda; Sens. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
CNN's "Late Edition" - Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie; Sens. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ); Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif; Los Angeles Police Department counterterrorism chief John Miller.
CBS' "Face the Nation" - Sens. Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Sam Brownback (R-KS)
A Busy Friday
The Senate was busy on Friday, passing quite a bit of monumental legislation. To begin with, The New York Times' Carl Hulse reports that the Senate took time off from the military appropriations bill to restrict lawsuits against gun manufacturers.
The Senate agreed to shield gun manufacturers and dealers from liability lawsuits on Friday, as Congress broke for a monthlong recess after sending President Bush energy and transportation bills that had been years in the making.Later in the evening, the Senate unanimously made permanent some parts of the Patriot Act. Dan Eggen has the story for The Washington Post.
Long sought by the gun lobby, the Senate measure - approved 65 to 31 - would prohibit lawsuits against gun makers and distributors for misuse of their products during the commission of a crime. Senate supporters said the plan was needed to protect the domestic firearms industry from a rash of lawsuits that threatened its economic future.
"This bill is intended to do one thing and that is to end the abuse that is now going on in the court system of America against law-abiding American businesses when they violate no law," Senator Larry Craig, an Idaho Republican who is a chief advocate for gun-rights causes in Congress, said Friday.
Democratic opponents of the bill disputed the assertion that a lawsuit crisis threatened the industry and said that the measure was simply a reflection of the National Rifle Association's influence over Congress.
"This is about politics, the power of the N.R.A. to dictate legislation," said Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, who led the opposition.
But Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, and 13 other Democrats joined 50 Republicans and one independent to support the bill; it now goes to the House, where its prospects for approval are good when Congress returns. Twenty-nine Democrats and two Republicans opposed it.
The Senate approved legislation last night that would make permanent most provisions of the USA Patriot Act anti-terrorism law while placing new limitations on the government's use of secret search and surveillance powers.
The vote, by unanimous consent in the GOP-controlled Senate, marks a defeat for the Bush administration, which campaigned heavily for total renewal of the law and opposed efforts to enact any new restrictions on government powers. The vote sets up fall negotiations between the Senate and the House, where lawmakers have approved legislation with fewer restrictions.
The congressional debate was complicated by a decision released yesterday in California, where a federal judge ruled for the second time that several provisions of the Patriot Act and related laws are unconstitutional.
Friday, July 29, 2005
Gallup: Bush Approval at its Lowest Point
USA Today passes on the results of the most recent polling from Gallup, and the results are not particularly beneficial for the administration.
President Bush's job approval ratings have hit the lowest point of his tenure and the number of Americans with an unfavorable opinion of him has reached 50% for the first time, according to a Gallup poll released Friday.[Update 10:09 AM Pacific]: Looking at some more data...
Forty-four percent of Americans approve of the way Bush is handling his job, according to the poll, while 51% disapprove. That is a four-point drop from Bush's approval rating of July 22-24 and 1% below his previous low of 45% in a poll taken June 24-26. Bush's approval ratings have now been at 50% or lower since mid-March.
The poll also puts Bush's unfavorable rating among Americans at the highest level of his presidency — 50%. Forty-eight percent of Americans had a favorable opinion of the president, marking the first time in Bush's tenure that his unfavorable rating is higher than his favorable rating. In contrast, a Gallup poll in late November of 2001, less than three months after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, put Bush's favorable rating at 87% and his unfavorable rating at 11%.
Bush's previous low favorable rating came twice in October 2004, when 51% of Americans had a favorable opinion of the president and 46% had an unfavorable opinion.
Recent Gallup Polls have shown growing positive momentum for the Democratic Party, even while Bush's ratings were somewhat higher. For example, the July 22-24 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found 52% of Americans rating the Democratic Party favorably, while just 46% give a favorable rating to the Republican Party. When the question was last asked in April, each party was rated favorably by 50% of Americans.Could this be a function on the party registration in the poll? Possible, but unlikely.
Additionally, Gallup has observed a consistent edge for the Democrats in terms of national party identification in its recent polls. In the current poll, 33% say they are Democrats, 28% Republicans, and 37% independents. This is the fourth consecutive poll in which Democrats have outnumbered Republicans in Gallup Polls.
July 25-28 -- 33% Dem, 28% GOP, 37% Ind[Update 5:23 PM Pacific, July 30]: The above table has been changed due to a previous typo.
July 22-24 -- 36% Dem, 32% GOP, 31% Ind
July 7-10 -- 35% Dem, 30% GOP, 33% Ind
June 29-30 -- 38% Dem, 29% GOP, 31% Ind
Oregon Pulls in Some Pork
Ellyn Ferguson writes about Oregon's boon for the Salem Statesman Journal.
Oregon will get at least $2.2 billion through the end of the decade for highway projects under a massive transportation bill Congress was expected to send to President Bush before the weekend.
The state also will get $297.2 million in transit money, $160 million for work on crumbling bridges on Interstate 5 and $40 million for work on other bridges in the state.
Oregon won money for the I-5 work by arguing that it's a major route of commerce for the West Coast and that anything that affects the transport of goods affects the region's economy.
"DeFazio has done a good job of leading the delegation. The senators did everything in concert with each other and the House delegation," said Jason Tell, ODOT's federal issues staffer. "We're a small delegation, and we're competing against much larger states."
"I haven't seen this much of an investment in transportation since Sen. Hatfield," Tell said, referring to Mark Hatfield, the retired former chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Bolton to Get a Recess Appointment?
Despite the fact that John Bolton omitted some facts during his confirmation hearings, President Bush appears committed to giving him a recess appointment as UN Ambassador. The AP's Jennifer Lovett reports.
President Bush intends to announce next week that he is going around Congress to install embattled nominee John Bolton as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, senior administration officials said Friday.
Bush has the power to fill vacancies without Senate approval while Congress is in recess. Under the Constitution, a recess appointment during the lawmakers' August break would last until the next session of Congress, which begins in January 2007.
Two officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the president had not made the announcement and Congress wasn't in recess yet, said Bush planned to exercise that authority before he leaves Washington on Tuesday for his ranch. The House recessed on Thursday and the Senate's break was scheduled to begin later Friday.
We're heading into the last week of the special election to fill the seat of former Rep. Rob Portman (R), who resigned to become U.S. Trade Representative a few months ago. The National Republican Congressional Committee has already dumped over $500,000 into the overwhelmingly GOP district on behalf of their nominee, former state Rep. Jean Schmidt. Democratic candidate Paul Hackett, a former marine, has raised more than $350,000 online so far, and finally the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has stepped in to make an ad buy. Click here to check out the television ad.
Bolton Forgot -- or Omitted -- Certain Facts in Testimony
The New York Times' Elizabeth Bumiller reports:
John R. Bolton, President Bush's nominee to be ambassador to the United Nations, failed to tell the Senate during his confirmation hearings that he had been interviewed by the State Department's inspector general looking into how American intelligence agencies came to rely on fabricated reports that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Africa, the State Department said Thursday.
Reacting to a letter from Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, said Mr. Bolton had not disclosed the interview with the inspector general because Mr. Bolton had forgotten about it. Mr. McCormack said the interview, on July 18, 2003, had nothing to do with a federal investigation into who leaked the name of an undercover C.I.A. official to reporters, a potential crime.
"When Mr. Bolton completed his forms for the Senate he did not recall being interviewed by the inspector general," Mr. McCormack said in a telephone interview Thursday. Mr. McCormack reiterated that Mr. Bolton had not been questioned by the grand jury in the leak investigation.
The latest disclosure about Mr. Bolton came as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice strongly hinted that President Bush would bypass the Senate when Congress adjourns this weekend and temporarily appoint Mr. Bolton to the United Nations post. Another Republican official said Mr. Bush could name Mr. Bolton as early as next week, but the official would not let his name be used as the decision is Mr. Bush's.
Frist Returns to Original Position on Stem Cells
In early 2001, long before he became Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist indicated at least tacit support for stem cell research. Upon becoming party leader, however, Frist slightly changed his position to better reflect the views of the President -- and the conservative base. Now, as Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes for The New York Times, Frist is back on the stem cell bandwagon.
In a break with President Bush, the Senate Republican leader, Bill Frist, has decided to support a bill to expand federal financing for embryonic stem cell research, a move that could push it closer to passage and force a confrontation with the White House, which is threatening to veto the measure.The AP's H. Josef Hebert has more on the Frist announcement.
Mr. Frist, a heart-lung transplant surgeon who said last month that he did not back expanding financing "at this juncture," is expected to announce his decision Friday morning in a lengthy Senate speech. In it, he says that while he has reservations about altering Mr. Bush's four-year-old policy, which placed strict limits on taxpayer financing for the work, he supports the bill nonetheless.
"While human embryonic stem cell research is still at a very early stage, the limitations put in place in 2001 will, over time, slow our ability to bring potential new treatments for certain diseases," Mr. Frist says, according to a text of the speech provided by his office Thursday evening. "Therefore, I believe the president's policy should be modified."
Mr. Frist's move will undoubtedly change the political landscape in the debate over embryonic stem cell research, one of the thorniest moral issues to come before Congress. The chief House sponsor of the bill, Representative Michael N. Castle, Republican of Delaware, said, "His support is of huge significance."
The stem cell bill has passed the House but is stalled in the Senate, where competing measures are also under consideration. Because Mr. Frist's colleagues look to him for advice on medical matters, his support for the bill could break the Senate logjam. It could also give undecided Republicans political license to back the legislation, which is already close to having the votes it needs to pass the Senate.
The move could also have implications for Mr. Frist's political future. The senator is widely considered a potential candidate for the presidency in 2008, and supporting an expansion of the policy will put him at odds not only with the White House but also with Christian conservatives, whose support he will need in the race for the Republican nomination. But the decision could also help him win support among centrists.
"It's not just a matter of faith, it's a matter of science," Frist, R-Tenn., said on the floor of the Senate.
Frist's announcement immediately dented his support among Christian conservatives but won lavish praise from former first lady Nancy Reagan, who said it "has the potential to alleviate so much suffering." Her husband, the late former President Ronald Reagan, had Alzheimer's disease.
The Christian Defense Coalition lambasted Frist's change of position.
"Sen. Frist should not expect support and endorsement from the pro-life community if he votes for embryonic research funding," it said.
"Senator Frist cannot have it both ways. He cannot be pro-life and pro-embryonic stem cell funding," said Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, director of the group. "Nor can he turn around and expect widespread endorsement from the pro-life community if he should decide to run for president in 2008."
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Questions About the CAFTA Vote
Last night, the GOP leadership held the vote on the Central American Free Trade Agreement open for an hour -- four times as long as the 15 minutes generally allotted for House votes. Now, as CQ Today's Midday Update (free email service) reports, Democrats have begun to question some of the strong-arming by Republican leadershup and the White House.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., today raised the possibility that an ethics inquiry could result from the deals offered by Republicans to round up the votes to pass implementing language for the Central America trade agreement.
But she offered no examples and would not identify the Democrats who received what she considered improper overtures.
“Offers made to Democrats didn’t sound like it passed legal muster to me,” Pelosi said. “Offers were made, that were in my view, questionable. And I know they would be at cost to the taxpayers and I say that without any hesitation.”
Pelosi said she would not be the one to file any ethics complaint that might be warranted. Rather, she said, “those who have the information may.”
Ron Bonjean, spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said majority Republicans made no improper offers in securing their 217-215 victory.
Campaign 2006: Texas Edition
To begin with, the AP's Jim Vertuno reports that teh Democrats finally have a gubernatorial candidate in Texas, and a somewhat prominant one at that.
A former congressman and vocal critic of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said Thursday that he will challenge Gov. Rick Perry in 2006.Gallup has some new numbers on an issue that is sure to play a large role in the 2006 congressional mid-term elections.
"Rick Perry is an inspiring leader," Democrat Chris Bell told The Associated Press. "In fact, he's inspired me to run for governor."
Bell was elected to the U.S. House in 2002 but lost his seat to Democrat Al Green last year after his district was redrawn.
Bell is best known for accusing DeLay of ethical violations. DeLay, a Republican, was instrumental in the GOP-led Texas congressional redistricting effort that resulted in Bell's defeat.
Bell reported raising about $153,000 in campaign contributions during the first six months of the year. Maverick independent candidate Kinky Friedman, a musician and author, raised $300,000 in the same period.
Perry and state Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, a GOP challenger, have raised millions.
Based on what you have heard or read, in general, do you approve or disapprove of George W. Bush’s approach to addressing the Social Security system?
Approve -- 29 (40% in March)
Disapprove -- 62 (53% in March)
Quote of the Day
"She's the hottest person on the Senate Finance Committee. ... She's known to put on various sort of sexy librarian glasses and take out a big adding machine and sort of very coyly punch numbers, adding, subtracting ... you know, if you please her, she'll appropriate you."Link.
-- Mo Rocca, discussing on Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) on "Countdown"
Military Was Skeptical of Use of "Harsh Interrogation"
The New York Times' Neil Lewis offers up an interesting scoop in this morning's paper.
Senior military lawyers lodged vigorous and detailed dissents in early 2003 as an administration legal task force concluded that President Bush had authority as commander in chief to order harsh interrogations of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, newly disclosed documents show.
Despite the military lawyers' warnings, the task force concluded that military interrogators and their commanders would be immune from prosecution for torture under federal and international law because of the special character of the fight against terrorism.
In memorandums written by several senior uniformed lawyers in each of the military services as the legal review was under way, they had urged a sharply different view and also warned that the position eventually adopted by the task force could endanger American service members.
The memorandums were declassified and released last week in response to a request from Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. Mr. Graham made the request after hearings in which officers representing the military's judge advocates general acknowledged having expressed concerns over interrogation policies.
The documents include one written by the deputy judge advocate general of the Air Force, Maj. Gen. Jack L. Rives, advising the task force that several of the "more extreme interrogation techniques, on their face, amount to violations of domestic criminal law" as well as military law.
General Rives added that many other countries were likely to disagree with the reasoning used by Justice Department lawyers about immunity from prosecution. Instead, he said, the use of many of the interrogation techniques "puts the interrogators and the chain of command at risk of criminal accusations abroad."
Any such crimes, he said, could be prosecuted in other nations' courts, international courts or the International Criminal Court, a body the United States does not formally participate in or recognize.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
A New Era in American Trade
This evening, the House of Representatives ratified the Central American Free Trade Agreement. The AP's Jim Abrams reads the vote as a big win for President Bush.
Taylor could face a difficult race in 2006. Former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler, who grew up in the district and lives there today, is running against the eight-term incumbent. Should Shuler choose to make Taylor's decision not to vote against CAFTA a campaign issue, this race just might turn into one to watch.
Click here to see how your Member of Congress voted.
The House narrowly approved the Central American Free Trade Agreement early Thursday, a personal triumph for President Bush, who campaigned aggressively for the accord he said would foster prosperity and democracy in the hemisphere.Two Southern Republicans also chose not to vote -- Reps. Jo Ann Davis, who represents a suburban Virginia district, and Charles Taylor, who represets the rural western portion of North Carolina.
The 217-215 vote just after midnight adds six Latin American countries to the growing lists of nations with free trade agreements with the United States and averts what could have been a major political embarrassment for the Bush administration.
It was an uphill effort to win a majority, with Bush traveling to Capitol Hill earlier in the day to appeal to wavering Republicans to support a deal he said was critical to U.S. national security.
The vote, supposed to take 15 minutes, dragged on for an hour as negotiations swirled around the floor among GOP leaders and rank-and-file members reluctant to vote for the agreement. In the end, 27 Republicans voted against CAFTA, while 15 Democrats supported it.
Taylor could face a difficult race in 2006. Former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler, who grew up in the district and lives there today, is running against the eight-term incumbent. Should Shuler choose to make Taylor's decision not to vote against CAFTA a campaign issue, this race just might turn into one to watch.
Click here to see how your Member of Congress voted.
Bush Sagging in Latest Polling
To begin with, Quinnipiac releases some new polling that's very informative.
American voters disapprove of the job President George W. Bush is doing 53 - 41 percent, his lowest approval rating since becoming President. This compares to a 50 - 44 percent disapproval in a May 25 Quinnipiac University poll.In related news, more data has emerged from the most recent Gallup poll.
Voters disapprove 60 - 30 percent of the way Congress is doing its job and approve 50 - 39 percent of the way the Supreme Court is doing its job.
For the first time, a majority of Americans, 51%, say the Bush administration deliberately misled the public about whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction — the reason Bush emphasized in making the case for invading. The administration's credibility on the issue has been steadily eroding since 2003.
By 58%-37%, a majority say the United States won't be able to establish a stable, democratic government in Iraq.
About one-third, 32%, say the United States can't win the war in Iraq. Another 21% say the United States could win the war, but they don't think it will. Just 43% predict a victory.
George Pataki, New York's moderately unpopular Republican Governor, had an announcement to make today, reports the AP's Marc Humbert.
Republican George Pataki, who brought down Democratic icon Mario Cuomo in 1994 to become governor of New York, said Wednesday he will not seek a fourth term next year and "come 2007, I will follow a new path, find new challenges."Will Eliot Spitzer start engraving his nameplate now?
While Pataki is eyeing a possible run for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, he told The Associated Press "that's for down the road. I'm not ruling anything in or out."
Later, the nation's longest currently serving governor told several hundred cheering supporters and state employees at the Capitol that he will call it quits after three terms.
On TV Tonight
PoliticsNJ.com passes on this tidbit...
On the season premiere of the SciFi Network's Tripping the Rift (10PM), the crew visits a gay planet where "heterophobia" runs rampant, and where the closeted straight politician in charge is named Gov. McJersey.
The 50 Most Beautiful Staffers
As chosen by the folks at The Hill. For more, Mo Rocca will be discussing the list on tonight's Countdown with Keith Olbermann.
Scowcroft and Berger: Bush Unprepared for Post-War Iraq
As the AP's Barry Schweid notes, a bipartisan panel of experts has issued a report that found President Bush to have been unprepared for the situation that developed in post-war Iraq.
An independent panel headed by two former U.S. national security advisers said Wednesday that chaos in Iraq was due in part to inadequate postwar planning.
Planning for reconstruction should match the serious planning that goes into making war, said the panel headed by Samuel Berger and Brent Scowcroft. Berger was national security adviser to Democratic President Clinton. Scowcroft held the same post under Republican Presidents Ford and George H.W. Bush but has been critical of the current president's Iraq and Mideast policies.
"A dramatic military victory has been overshadowed by chaos and bloodshed in the streets of Baghdad, difficulty in establishing security or providing essential services, and a deadly insurgency," the report said.
"The costs, human, military and economic, are high and continue to mount," said the report, which was sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent foreign policy group.
More on the Plame Leak Story Trickles Out
It appears this story is not quite ready to die. To begin with, The New York Times' Anne E. Kornblut examines the role of former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer in the case.
For the two years since he left the White House - on the very day in July 2003 that Robert D. Novak printed the name of a Central Intelligence Agency operative in his syndicated newspaper column - Mr. Fleischer has been caught up in the investigation of who supplied that information to the columnist and whether it was a crime. The prosecutor in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, called Mr. Fleischer to appear before the grand jury that is investigating the leak.Walter Pincus and Jim VandeHei of The Washington Post also take a glance at the state of the investigation.
One person familiar with Mr. Fleischer's testimony said he told the grand jury that he was not Mr. Novak's source. And Mr. Fleischer, who was never shy about championing his Republican bosses, seems not to fit Mr. Novak's description, in a subsequent column, of his primary source as "no partisan gunslinger."
But Mr. Fleischer was in the middle of the developments that surrounded the White House's response to the criticism leveled by Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former diplomat, who on July 6, 2003, publicly said the administration had "twisted" intelligence about the nuclear ambitions of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.
The special prosecutor in the CIA leak probe has interviewed a wider range of administration officials than was previously known, part of an effort to determine whether anyone broke laws during a White House effort two years ago to discredit allegations that President Bush used faulty intelligence to justify the Iraq war, according to several officials familiar with the case.
Prosecutors have questioned former CIA director George J. Tenet and deputy director John E. McLaughlin, former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, State Department officials, and even a stranger who approached columnist Robert D. Novak on the street. In doing so, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has asked not only about how CIA operative Valerie Plame's name was leaked but also how the administration went about shifting responsibility from the White House to the CIA for having included 16 words in the 2003 State of the Union address about Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium from Africa.
Most of the questioning of CIA and State Department officials took place in 2004, the sources said.
It remains unclear whether Fitzgerald uncovered any wrongdoing in this or any other portion of his nearly 18-month investigation. All that is known at this point are the names of some people he has interviewed, what questions he has asked and whom he has focused on.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Just One Story...
And a short one at that. In Wednesday's paper, I have a brief article on the OH-2 special election. A paragraph appears to have been omitted due to space requirements, but you can still get the gist of the article.
Dem nominee endorsed by Cincinnati PostHope you enjoy...
Paul Hackett, the Democratic nominee to succeed former Rep. Rob Portman (R) in Ohio’s 2nd District, received a surprising endorsement yesterday from the editorial board of The Cincinnati Post, which has been generally supportive of GOP candidates.
Campaign 2006: An Opening for Dems in Ohio?
Democratic pollsters like The Feldman Group seem to think so...
DeWine’s vulnerabilities are not simply reflective of the mood, however, but also show personal vulnerabilities. He is less well-known and less-popular than the state’s junior Senator, Republican George Voinovich. DeWine’s personal favorability rating, at 48 percent, is respectable, and a modest 25 percent are unfavorable, but 27 percent are unable to rate DeWine. Only 37 percent believe DeWine is doing a good job and 31 percent believe he deserves reelection, compared to a 42 percent plurality who prefer someone else.Note: this is a Democratic poll.
DeWine’s ratings have fallen since February. At that time, 56 percent were favorable toward him, and his job performance rating was 45 percent positive with a 36 percent presumption in favor of his reelection. Slippage in DeWine’s reputation since February is concentrated among Republicans. Currently, only 20 percent of Democrats and 30 percent of independents believe DeWine deserves another term. Even among Republicans, the presumption in favor of DeWine’s reelection is below the 50 percent mark, at 46 percent. There is little question that he can be defeated in 2006.
Al Gonzales Clarifies His Views on Roe
In an extensive interview with the AP's Mark Sherman, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales elucidates just how he feels on Roe v. Wade.
The legal right to abortion is settled for lower courts, but the Supreme Court "is not obliged to follow" the Roe v. Wade precedent, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday as the Senate prepared to consider John Roberts' appointment that would put a new vote on the high court.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Gonzales said a justice does not have to follow a previous ruling "if you believe it's wrong," a comment suggesting Roberts would not be bound by his past statement that the 1973 decision settled the issue.
Gonzales said circumstances had changed since Roberts commented on Roe v. Wade during his 2003 confirmation hearing for the seat he now holds on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
"If you're asking a circuit court judge, like Judge Roberts was asked, yes, it is settled law because you're bound by the precedent," Gonzales said.
"If you're a Supreme Court justice, that's a different question because a Supreme Court justice is not obliged to follow precedent if you believe it's wrong," Gonzales said.
Oregon Has a Budget (?)
According to The Oregonian's James Mayer and Michelle Cole, the Oregon legislature has reached a deal on the next state budget -- maybe.
House and Senate leaders announced a tentative budget deal Monday, clearing the way for ending Oregon's fourth longest legislative session.Who says nothing gets done when both parties are forced to sit together at the bargaining table?
But leaders of the Republican-controlled House and Democratic Senate still have to get enough votes from rank-and-file legislators to pass the plan for how the state will spend $12.4 billion over the next two years.
The deal covers most -- but not all -- money issues. Policy questions such as civil unions, a rainy-day fund, tax cuts, expansion of the North Bend Airport and insurance coverage for mental illness remain unresolved.
Leaders said adjournment could come within two weeks.
In the most avidly awaited number in the budget, the agreement calls for $5.24 billion in state aid for K-12 schools, part way between the House's original $5.22 billion proposal and the Senate's $5.27 billion. The deal also includes a trigger that could result in $23 million more in the second year if state revenue continues to increase.
Other key elements legislative leaders agreed to include money for a pesticide-use reporting system, a nine-month delay in opening a new Madras prison and dental coverage for Oregon Health Plan members.
Per Sky News:
Former US president Bill Clinton has been offered 40 goats and 20 cows for his daughter by a love-struck African government official.
Mr Clinton was offered the deal on a recent trip to Kenya.
He was offered the animals as a traditional African way of getting a father to give away his daughter's hand in marriage.
The dowry is a very generous one by the country's own standards.
Should Karl Rove Lose His Spot in the WH?
According to the most recent CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll, a plurality of Americans say Karl Rove should no longer serve in the Bush White House.
Do you think George W. Bush should fire Karl Rove?
Yes, should -- 40
No, should not -- 39
Do you think Karl Rove should resign from the Bush administration?
Yes, should -- 49
No, should not -- 31
Welcome to the New Era of Energy Policy
It seems there was a breakthrough last night in Congress' battle to come up with a new energy policy. To begin, The Washington Post's Justin Blum reads the deal as follows:
Despite repeated calls by President Bush and members of Congress to decrease U.S. dependence on oil imports, a major energy bill that appears headed for passage this week would not significantly reduce the country's need for foreign oil, according to analysts and interest groups.Carl Hulse takes a slightly more ambivalent view of the bill for The New York Times.
The United States imports 58 percent of the oil it consumes. Federal officials project that by 2025, the country will have to import 68 percent of its oil to meet demand. At best, analysts say, the energy legislation would slightly slow that rate of growth of dependence.
Negotiators worked last night and into this morning to iron out differences between the House- and Senate-passed versions of an energy bill that has been high on the president's agenda since shortly after he took office in 2001 and created an energy task force headed by Vice President Cheney. The legislation would create billions of dollars' worth of tax breaks and other federal subsidies to encourage oil and gas production, to reduce pollution at coal-burning power plants, and to encourage energy conservation. The bill also would require the use of billions of gallons of ethanol and other fuels derived from agricultural products.
Lawmakers resolved one of the most contentious issues in the legislation by agreeing not to protect manufacturers of the gasoline additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) from defective product lawsuits. The Senate blocked final passage of an energy bill in 2003 after such legal protections were added.
But the emerging package does not do what some analysts said would have the greatest impact on reducing U.S. oil demand and cutting imports: a requirement to increase fuel-efficiency standards for trucks and cars. Under strong pressure from the automobile industry, the House and Senate rejected higher efficiency standards. Lawmakers argued that doing so would require redesigns that would make vehicles unsafe and result in a loss of manufacturing jobs -- arguments sharply disputed by advocates of fuel efficiency.
House and Senate negotiators came to agreement on broad energy legislation early today, hoping they have put together an overhaul of national energy policy that can clear Congress after years of stalemate.Boy am I glad I didn't have to cover the deal at three o'clock in the morning...
We hope to have the bill on the House floor on Wednesday and I think the Senate is going to put it up on Thursday,'' said Representative Joe Barton, Republican of Texas and chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, as he concluded negotiations shortly before 3 a.m. Eastern time.
The measure touches on virtually every aspect of American energy production and consumption, including the electrical grid, hybrid cars, traditional oil and gas drilling, and incentives to develop new energy sources. But it does little to immediately lower the price of gasoline at the pump.
As they wound up their talks, lawmakers agreed to a significant new requirement to add corn-based ethanol to the gasoline supply, which will build support for the measure from farm state lawmakers.
Working furiously to try to strike an energy deal, the negotiators killed two major provisions aimed at curbing consumption of traditional fossil fuels like oil, natural gas and coal. They also agreed to slow the potential takeover of Unocal by a Chinese oil company to allow for a study of the national security and economic implications of the acquisition.
In a decision that could cost support for the bill from some coastal state lawmakers, negotiators beat back efforts by Florida and California House members to strip from the measure a provision that would allow an inventory of offshore oil and gas resources. Some lawmakers view the inventory as a precursor to a push to allow drilling off states that have opposed it.
Monday, July 25, 2005
Just One Brief
Only slim pickings for me in tomorrow's paper, but I'll take what I can get...
State Sen. Craig Romero is making a comeback.
Last year, the Louisiana Republican came in third in an open primary, losing to Billy Tauzin (R), the son of the former congressman, and Charlie Melancon (D), who went on to beat Tauzin in a runoff.
[Continued at link...]
Campaign 2006: A Candidate Search
In Ohio, a state where GOP governor Bob Taft has a meager 17 percent approval rating, the Democrats are still searching for a Senatorial candidate to go up against Senator Mike DeWine (R), who has an approval rating of 44 percent. Lauren W. Whittington has the story for Roll Call (subcription required):
[...] Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) has joined a short list of would-be candidates weighing a challenge to Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) next year.This might just become a sleeper race to watch.
Ryan, a sophomore lawmaker from the Youngstown area, joins Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in contemplating a Senate run; he is at least the third Ohio Member to be courted by national party leaders, who increasingly believe that DeWine is vulnerable and are anxious to get a candidate into the race.
When contacted for this story, Ryan’s office referred all questions about his interest in the contest to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
DSCC spokesman Phil Singer declined to speculate about specific candidates or discuss the committee’s recruiting efforts, saying only they believe DeWine is beatable and that “these are all candidates that can win.”
“Mike DeWine has failed to put together a record of achievement for the state of Ohio and a lot of people have noticed that and are taking a very serious look at this race,” Singer said.
A Democratic consultant who has done work in Ohio confirmed Ryan’s interest in the Senate race.
“Are people talking to him? You betcha. Are people encouraging him? You betcha,” the consultant said, adding that Ryan is “absolutely entertaining” the idea of running against DeWine.
The AFL-CIO Goes to Splitsville
As the Associated Press reports, the fifty-year-old alliance of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations is, in effect, no more.
The Teamsters and a major service employees union on Monday bolted from the AFL-CIO, a stinging exodus for an embattled movement struggling to stop membership losses and adjust to a rapidly changing working environment.Says Kevin Drum:
In a decision that AFL-CIO President John Sweeney labeled a “grievous insult” to labor's rank-and-file, the Teamsters union and the Service Employees International Union, two major federation affiliates, said they decided to leave.
“In our view, we must have more union members in order to change the political climate that is undermining workers' rights in this country,” said Teamsters President James P. Hoffa. “The AFL-CIO has chosen the opposite approach.”
The Teamsters joined the Service Employees International Union, the largest AFL-CIO affiliate with 1.8 million members, in bolting. The SEIU is a union that AFL-CIO President John Sweeney once headed. They said they were forming a competing labor coalition designed to reverse labor's long decline in union membership.
Unless I'm misreading this, it looks like a breakup of the AFL-CIO is now a done deal. I suspect this is for the best, since the two halves have genuinely different goals and a breakup will allow them to pursue those goals as aggressively as they want. Still, I sure hope Andy Stern knows what he's doing....And says Chris Bowers:
While labor is definitely a potent political force on behalf of Democrats, I would argue that even their political activities actually work best for progressives and for workers when they are coordinated with other groups, including civil rights and environmental organizations. Further, GOTV efforts tend to work better when they are conducted by people in your neighborhood anyway, which is an issue entirely separate from this split.Any thoughts?
Overall, I can't agree with DhinMI's tone in his article today where he seems to be very down on the prospect of a split. Yes, union members are just about the only segment of the white and white male populations that vote Democrat, and yes unions are the progressive voice in the workplace, which is undeniably one of the most important ideological conversion mechanisms in the country. However, there are other segments of the white and white male populations that do in fact vote Democrat, including seculars, the GLBT community, and the Jewish community. Further, unlike the labor movement, which is shrinking in size, the secular population is exploding. In fact, while the rise of seculars is one of the demographic trends that gives progressives electoral hope for the future, the current decline in the labor movement should give us extreme cause for concern. Unless the labor movement rises, which it clearly has not under the guidance of the AFL-CIO over the past few decades, the future of progressivism, especially in the workplace, is bleak. So while these unions may be splitting, and while this may cause more competition between unions, the value of maintaining the current structure is not in clear to me. What the leaders of this separatist charge, Andy Stern and SEIU, is doing seems to be working, as they are actually rapidly increasing in size at a time when overall unions are in decline. I, for one, am more willing to support a plan that seems to be working rather than one that seems to be failing.
An African-American Governor by 2055
From The Huntsville Times' Taylor Bright:
Experts in 2005 predict that Alabama will have had a black governor by 2055, but say little else is likely to change dramatically, though all said it's impossible to predict what would happen in the next 50 years.
Was Roberts a Member of the Federalist Society?
Despite White House claims to the contrary, The Washington Post's Charles Lane indicates the answer is yes.
Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. has repeatedly said that he has no memory of belonging to the Federalist Society, but his name appears in the influential, conservative legal organization's 1997-1998 leadership directory.
Having served only two years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit after a long career as a government and private-sector lawyer, Roberts has not amassed much of a public paper record that would show his judicial philosophy. Working with the Federalist Society would provide some clue of his sympathies. The organization keeps its membership rolls secret, but many key policymakers in the Bush administration are acknowledged current or former members.
Roberts has burnished his legal image carefully. When news organizations have reported his membership in the society, he or others speaking on his behalf have sought corrections. Last week, the White House told news organizations that had reported his membership in the group that he had no memory of belonging. The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today and the Associated Press printed corrections.
Over the weekend, The Post obtained a copy of the Federalist Society Lawyers' Division Leadership Directory, 1997-1998. It lists Roberts, then a partner at the law firm Hogan & Hartson, as a member of the steering committee of the organization's Washington chapter and includes his firm's address and telephone number.
Yesterday, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Roberts "has no recollection of being a member of the Federalist Society, or its steering committee." Roberts has acknowledged taking part in some Federalist Society activities, Perino said.
The Federalist Society was founded in 1982 by conservatives who disagreed with what they saw as a leftist tilt in the nation's law schools. The group sponsors legal symposia and similar activities and serves as a network for rising conservative lawyers.
In conservative circles, membership in or association with the society has become a badge of ideological and political reliability. Roberts's membership was routinely reported by news organizations in the context of his work in two GOP administrations and legal assistance to the party during the contested 2000 presidential election in Florida.
But the society's alignment with conservative GOP politics and public policy makes Roberts's relationship with the organization a potentially sensitive point for his confirmation process because many Democrats regard the organization with suspicion.
Quote of the Day
"I must say from a common-sense standpoint, driving back and forth to work to the C.I.A. headquarters, I don't know if that really qualifies as being, you know, covert."Link.
-- Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, on the outing of CIA agents like Valerie Plame
Sunday, July 24, 2005
Gonzales Warned WH Plame Investigation Was Coming
The ever evolving Plame scandal is just that -- ever evolving. In the latest development, as reported this weekend by Frank Rich in this weekend's New York Times magazine, then Presidential counsel Alberto Gonzales warned the White House that the investigation was coming. Rich explains the significance of the story as follows:
As White House counsel, he was the one first notified that the Justice Department, at the request of the C.I.A., had opened an investigation into the outing of Joseph Wilson's wife. That notification came at 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 29, 2003, but it took Mr. Gonzales 12 more hours to inform the White House staff that it must "preserve all materials" relevant to the investigation. This 12-hour delay, he has said, was sanctioned by the Justice Department, but since the department was then run by John Ashcroft, a Bush loyalist who refused to recuse himself from the Plame case, inquiring Senate Democrats would examine this 12-hour delay as closely as an 18½-minute tape gap. "Every good prosecutor knows that any delay could give a culprit time to destroy the evidence," said Senator Charles Schumer, correctly, back when the missing 12 hours was first revealed almost two years ago. A new Gonzales confirmation process now would have quickly devolved into a neo-Watergate hearing. Mr. Gonzales was in the thick of the Plame investigation, all told, for 16 months.As the AP's Nedra Pickler informs, Gonzales shed more light on the story this morning on CBS' "Face the Nation."
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Sunday that he notified White House chief of staff Andy Card after the Justice Department opened an investigation into who revealed a covert CIA officer's identity, but waited 12 hours to tell anyone else in the executive mansion.To get a better idea of the interchange, check out the two and a half minute video of it hosted on the blog Crooks and Liars.
The White House did not respond to questions Sunday about whether Card passed that information to top Bush aide Karl Rove or anyone else, giving them advance notice to prepare for the investigation.
Gonzales said Justice Department lawyers notified him of the investigation around 8 p.m., and he got permission from them to wait until the following morning to direct the staff to preserve any materials related to the case.
"We were advised, `Go ahead and notify the staff early in the morning, that would be OK,'" Gonzales said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "And again, most of the staff had gone home. No one knew about the investigation."
Gonzales said he immediately notified Card, then told President Bush the next morning before notifying the White House staff.
Campaign 2005: A Brief Look
For those interested in Virginia's gubernatorial race...
This race, which will be decided in November, will have ramifications for 2008. Should Kaine eke out a victory, Governor Warner's presidential ambitions could get a real boost; if Kilgore and the Republicans retake the statehouse, it could be a boon to the GOP across the nation by providing a momentum boost.
The race for Virginia governor is a tossup, according to The Times-Dispatch Poll.Link.
Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has a statistically insignificant lead over former Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, according to the survey, which shows Kaine is helped by the broad popularity of the fellow Democrat he hopes to succeed, Gov. Mark R. Warner.
The poll also suggests Republican Kilgore is losing GOP and independent votes to state Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., a Republican state senator running for governor as an independent.
Kaine had 38 percent to 37 percent for Kilgore. Potts was favored by 9 percent. Sixteen percent were undecided.
Because Kaine's advantage is within the poll's margin of error -- plus or minus 4 percentage points -- the contest with Kilgore could be considered a dead heat.
Ten months ago, Mason-Dixon put Kilgore 5 percentage points ahead of Kaine.
This race, which will be decided in November, will have ramifications for 2008. Should Kaine eke out a victory, Governor Warner's presidential ambitions could get a real boost; if Kilgore and the Republicans retake the statehouse, it could be a boon to the GOP across the nation by providing a momentum boost.
Denny Will Stick Around for At Least 3 More Years
He might not be as well known as Tip O'Neill, Jim Wright or Newt Gingrich, but few would disagree that Denny Hastert has been one of the most effective House Speakers in many years. And according to The Washington Post's Mike Allen, Hastert plans on sticking in the position for at least three more years.
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), who has been publicly vague about whether he will give up the reins at the end of this Congress, told a group of supporters last week that he plans to run again and serve as speaker for the rest of President Bush's second term.
Republican officials said they are relieved by the development because it postpones what is likely to be a brutal succession fight that would be a distraction from next year's midterm elections, which are historically tough for the party in power, and from Bush's domestic agenda, which is already having a tough time on Capitol Hill.
White House officials said Bush is comfortable with Hastert, and that the president and Andrew H. Card Jr., his chief of staff, have long hoped that Hastert would remain throughout the second term.
House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) said Bush has often brought the speaker up in conversation, saying how much he enjoys and appreciates him. "We are a nation at war, and Denny Hastert is battle-tested and offers stability," he said.
Hastert has yet to tell other lawmakers of his decision. Some have expressed concern about his health after he was hospitalized in April because of kidney stones. But some of those members said last week that he looked tan from working in his garden and appeared to have lost some weight.
The most immediate beneficiary is House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), who holds the No. 2 slot in leadership, because it gives him a chance to be cleared by the House ethics committee before the leadership jockeying begins. "What he needs is time," a Republican leadership aide said.
In addition to DeLay, others who might be likely to seek the speakership are House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.); Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (N.Y.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee; Rep. John A. Boehner (Ohio), chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce; Rep. Eric I. Cantor (Va.), chief deputy majority whip; Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.), chairman of the House Republican Study Committee; and Rep. Jack Kingston (Ga.), vice chairman of the House Republican Conference.
Lance Armstrong for Congress?
At least one major Democratic Senator would like to see the leading cyclist run for public office, reports the AP's John Leicester.
Sen. John Kerry thinks Lance Armstrong would make a terrific politician — but fears he'd be running for the other party.In other news, Armstrong just won his 7th Tour de France.
Watching Armstrong during his warmup for Saturday's time trial, the Democrat from Massachusetts listed the Texan's winning qualities.
"What's made him so special at the Tour de France, and as an athlete, is the level of focus, discipline, intelligence, strategic ability, and obviously, his endurance — his ability to just take it on and go," Kerry said.
Those qualities would serve Armstrong well in politics, Kerry said. But Armstrong is also friendly with fellow Texan President Bush.
Saturday, July 23, 2005
Dems: Bush Flip-Flopping on Outing of CIA Agent
As Reuters reports, the Dems took to the airwaves today to hit President Bush on the leaking of the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame.
Democrats slammed President Bush's response to a top aide's role in outing a covert CIA operative on Saturday, turning their radio address over to an ex-agent critical of his actions.
Larry Johnson, a former CIA agent and registered Republican, accused Bush of flip-flopping on his promise to fire anyone at the White House implicated in the leak.
Democrats have called on Bush to fire top adviser Karl Rove or revoke his security clearance after he was identified by a reporter as being a source in the leak of Valerie Plame's name two years ago after her husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson, criticized the White House's justification for going to war in Iraq.
Bush initially said he would dismiss anyone involved in exposing a covert CIA agent. But as attention in the case focused on White House aides in recent weeks, the president said he would fire anyone who was found by a federal probe to have acted illegally in the case.
More Abu Ghraib Pictures Won't Be Released Soon
Despite a court ruling calling on the government to release more photos from the Abu Ghraib prison, The New York Times' Kate Zernike reports the American people won't see the pictures any time soon.
Lawyers for the Defense Department are refusing to cooperate with a federal judge's order to release secret photographs and videotapes related to the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal.In other news, The Washington Post's team of Josh White and R. Jeffrey Smith report on some new steps taken by the White House in this matter.
The lawyers said in a letter sent to the federal court in Manhattan late Thursday that they would file a sealed brief explaining their reasons for not turning over the material, which they were to have released by yesterday.
The photographs were some of thousands turned over by Specialist Joseph M. Darby, the whistle-blower who exposed the abuse at Abu Ghraib by giving investigators computer disks containing photographs and videos of prisoners being abused, sexually humiliated and threatened with growling dogs.
The small number of the photographs released in spring 2004 provoked international outrage at the American military.
In early June, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of Federal District Court in Manhattan ordered the release of the additional photographs, part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union to determine the extent of abuse at American military prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan and at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
The government has turned over more than 60,000 pages of documents on the treatment of detainees, some containing graphic descriptions of mistreatment. But the material that the judge ordered released - the A.C.L.U. says there are 87 photographs and 4 videos - would be the first images released in the suit. The judge said they would be the "best evidence" in the debate about the treatment of Abu Ghraib prisoners.
The Bush administration in recent days has been lobbying to block legislation supported by Republican senators that would bar the U.S. military from engaging in "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" of detainees, from hiding prisoners from the Red Cross, and from using interrogation methods not authorized by a new Army field manual.
Vice President Cheney met Thursday evening with three senior Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee to press the administration's case that legislation on these matters would usurp the president's authority and -- in the words of a White House official -- interfere with his ability "to protect Americans effectively from terrorist attack."
It was the second time that Cheney has met with Senate members to tamp down what the White House views as an incipient Republican rebellion. The lawmakers have publicly expressed frustration about what they consider to be the administration's failure to hold any senior military officials responsible for notorious detainee abuse in Iraq and the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
This week's session was attended by Armed Services Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.) and committee members John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.). Warner and Graham last week chaired hearings that explored detainee abuse and interrogation tactics at Guantanamo Bay and the concerns of senior military lawyers that vague administration policies have left the door open to abuse.
Friday, July 22, 2005
Craig Crawford Debunks Some Assumptions
CQ's Craig Crawford takes a crack at this misguided assuption:
There is disinformation out there claiming that Clinton nominees, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, refused to answer right-to-privacy questions in their Senate confirmation hearings. Both answered some questions, and refused others. But in Ginsburg's confirmation, she clearly told senators she favored a right to abortion (and the Equal Rights Amendment). The right, she stressed, should be grounded in a constitutional right to privacy and in the 14th Amendment's "equal protection" clause. (For more, see "Ginsburg Hearings Provide Some Insight Into Judge's Ideals," Christian Science Monitor, July 26, 1993). Also, Breyer testified openly about his thinking on privacy rights. For more on that, see "Breyer Charts Moderate Course to High Court," The National Law Journal, July 25, 1994.
Polls, Polls, Polls
Well, two of them at least. To begin, let's look nationally with the new survey from the American Research Group.
While there has been a dramatic shift in the way Americans view the economy, George W. Bush's overall job approval ratings remain unchanged from a month ago according to the latest survey from the American Research Group. Among all Americans, 42% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 52% disapprove. When it comes to Bush's handling of the economy, 38% approve and 54% disapprove.Focusing in on Pennsylvania, Rasmussen Reports finds the following:
Among Americans registered to vote, 42% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 53% disapprove, and 38% approve of the way Bush is handling the economy and 55% disapprove.
The latest Rasmussen Reports survey shows that Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is living up to his reputation as the most vulnerable incumbent at this point in the 2006 election cycle. Santorum trails Democrat Bob Casey, Jr by eleven percentage points, 52% to 41%.
Casey is viewed favorably by 49% of the state’s likely voters while 27% have an unfavorable opinion. For Santorum, 44% say favorable and 43% unfavorable.
Casey earns 85% of the vote from self-identified liberal voters and 62% from moderates. Santorum currently attracts 66% of the conservative vote.
Typically, Republicans do better among married voters. However, at the moment, Santorum attracts 41% of married voters and 40% from those who are not married.
Among voters who Approve of the job President Bush is doing, just 70% say they will vote for Santorum. Early in Election 2004, several Republican candidates had relatively low levels of support from Bush voters. However, as Election Day approached, their support from Bush voters increased dramatically. This phenomenon helped elect Republicans in Oklahoma and Alaska. The President is significantly more popular in those states than he is in Pennsylvania.
And the Plame Case Continues to Fester
The case surrounding Valerie Plame -- and the possible involvement of administration officials in the leaking of her name and identity -- does not appear to be going away. First, Bloomberg carries a story that could portend poorly for some involved in the investigation.
Two top White House aides have given accounts to a special prosecutor about how reporters first told them the identity of a CIA agent that are at odds with what the reporters have said, according to people familiar with the case.The New York Times' David Johnston adds another wrinkle to the story.
Lewis ``Scooter'' Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, told special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that he first learned from NBC News reporter Tim Russert of the identity of Central Intelligence Agency operative Valerie Plame, the wife of former ambassador and Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson, one person said. Russert has testified before a federal grand jury that he didn't tell Libby of Plame's identity, the person said.
White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove told Fitzgerald that he first learned the identity of the CIA agent from syndicated columnist Robert Novak, according a person familiar with the matter. Novak, who was first to report Plame's name and connection to Wilson, has given a somewhat different version to the special prosecutor, the person said.
These discrepancies may be important because Fitzgerald is investigating whether Libby, Rove or other administration officials made false statements during the course of the investigation. The Plame case has its genesis in whether any administration officials violated a 1982 law making it illegal to knowingly reveal the name of a covert intelligence agent.
At the same time in July 2003 that a C.I.A. operative's identity was exposed, two key White House officials who talked to journalists about the officer were also working closely together on a related underlying issue: whether President Bush was correct in suggesting earlier that year that Iraq had been trying to acquire nuclear materials from Africa.
The two issues had become inextricably linked because Joseph C. Wilson IV, the husband of the unmasked C.I.A. officer, had questioned Mr. Bush's assertion, prompting a damage-control effort by the White House that included challenging Mr. Wilson's standing and his credentials. A federal grand jury investigation is under way by a special counsel to determine whether someone illegally leaked the officer's identity and possibly into whether perjury or obstruction of justice occurred during the inquiry.
People who have been briefed on the case said that the White House officials, Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby Jr., were helping to prepare what became the administration's primary response to criticism that a flawed phrase about the nuclear materials in Africa had been included in Mr. Bush's State of the Union address six months earlier.
They had exchanged e-mail correspondence and drafts of a proposed statement by George Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, to explain how the disputed wording had gotten into the address. Mr. Rove, the president's political strategist, and Mr. Libby, the chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, coordinated their efforts with Stephen Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser, who was in turn consulting with Mr. Tenet.
At the same time, they were grappling with the fallout from an Op-Ed article on July 6, 2003, in The New York Times by Mr. Wilson, a former diplomat, in which he criticized the way the administration had used intelligence to support the claim in Mr. Bush's speech.
The work done by Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby on the Tenet statement, during this intense period, had not been previously disclosed. People who have been briefed on the case discussed the critical time period and the events surrounding it to demonstrate that Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby were not involved in an orchestrated scheme to discredit Mr. Wilson or disclose his the undercover status of his wife, Valerie Wilson, but were intent on clarifying the use of intelligence in the president's address. Those people who have been briefed requested anonymity because prosecutors have asked them not to discuss matters under investigation.
Hatch to Get a Challenge on the Right Next Year
For at least one person in Utah, Sen. Orrin Hatch, one of the most senior Republicans in the Senate, is not conservative enough. Jennifer Dobner reports for the AP.
A state representative announced he will challenge Sen. Orrin Hatch next year, saying his fellow Republican is not serving people back home.
"Utah deserves the full attention of our senators," Steve Urquhart said Thursday during an informal meeting with reporters on Utah's Capitol Hill. He tipped constituents to his plans a day earlier in postings on his Web site.
A primary contest between Hatch and Urquhart would be held only if neither gets 60 percent of the delegate vote at the state Republican convention in May.
Urquhart, a lawyer and the House majority whip, has been active in trying to keep radioactive waste out of Utah and did not want Utah to participate in President Bush's No Child Left Behind education plan.
He said his decision to run stems from complaints that Hatch is not responsive to constituents and has lost touch with his home state.
A Valley Research poll conducted for The Salt Lake Tribune in June found that 42 percent of 400 respondents would support Hatch's re-election bid. Nearly 17 percent would favor another Republican and 20 percent said they would vote for a Democrat. The survey had a margin of error of 5 percent.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
Arnold's Mid-Census Redistricting Measure off the Ballot
As the AP's Steve Lawrence reports this evening, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's attempt to redraw legislative districts has hit a snag.
A judge kicked Arnold Schwarzenegger's redistricting measure off the special election ballot Thursday, a crushing blow for a proposition that was held up as a centerpiece of the governor's campaign to reform state government.In other news, Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.) and others celebrated the birthday of Elbridge Gerry -- the namesake of gerrymanding. Among those in attendance was former Rep./1980 independent Presidential candidate John Anderson, with whom we spoke on related issues in 2004. Check out the interview if you get a chance.
The judge ruled that supporters violated California's constitution by using two versions of the initiative in the process of qualifying the measure for the ballot.
"The differences are not simply typographical errors," Judge Gail Ohanesian said. "They're not merely about the format of the measure. They are not simply technical. Instead they go to the substantive terms of the measure."
CBO: CAFTA Would Cost US $4.4 Bn.
Libby Quaid writes up the results for the AP.
The Bush administration's free-trade agreement with Central America would cost taxpayers $50 million a year in loan forfeitures by sugar farmers, the Congressional Budget Office says.
An administration official said Thursday that the analysis was unrealistic and that there would be virtually no cost under sugar provisions in the deal.
The CBO released its estimate as House leaders planned for a vote next week on the Central America Free Trade Agreement. It would remove or lower trade barriers with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and he Dominican Republic.
Overall, CAFTA would cost the U.S. about $4.4 billion over the next 10 years, primarily in lost tariffs, the CBO said.
DeLay's Defense Fund Pulling in Less Cash
Despite the fact that he has largely dropped out of the news, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) is pulling in less money into his legal defense fund. The Associated Press reports.
Majority Leader Tom DeLay raised $42,900 for his legal expense fund in the quarter ending June 30 — short of the fund's expenses during the period, a House report showed Thursday.
Expenses for the Tom DeLay Legal Expense Trust totaled $56,211 in the second quarter. Most of the disbursements, more than $45,600, went to the Washington firm of DeLay lawyer Bobby Burchfield.
DeLay faces a possible investigation this year by the House ethics committee, which admonished him on three separate issues in 2004. News articles have questioned whether a Washington lobbyist or his clients paid for some of DeLay's nongovernment travel, despite House rules prohibiting lobbyist travel payments.
The Texas Republican has denied wrongdoing and said he assumed the nonprofit groups that invited him to travel had paid for the trips. In an effort to clear his name, DeLay has asked the ethics committee to look into the matter.
The legal fund contributions are running far below 2004, when DeLay raised $439,300. In the quarter ending March 31 this year, DeLay raised $47,750 — enough to cover his first quarter expenses of more than $34,000.
The fund has raised $1,089,871 since its formation in July 2000, according to Public Citizen, a congressional watchdog group that keeps track of the donations.
Quote of the Day
"These people are kooky."Link.
-- Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer (D) on those speculating that he will run for President in 2008
Americans Want to Know Roberts' Stance on Roe
Despite claims that the American people do not want to know how judicial nominees would rule in specific cases, new polling indicates a majority of the country wants to know John Roberts' stance on Roe v. Wade. The AP's Will Lester reports.
Just over half of all Americans — and a solid majority of women — want to know John Roberts' position on abortion before the Senate votes on whether to elevate him to the Supreme Court.
Most people don't yet know enough about Roberts to form an opinion on him, but among those who do, most view him favorably, an AP-Ipsos poll also found.
Roberts, 50, an appeals court judge and former Justice Department official, was chosen by President Bush on Tuesday to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Abortion is sure to come up at his Senate confirmation hearings, and the survey found 52 percent believe he should give his position on the matter before lawmakers vote on him, while 42 percent said he should not. Women were more inclined to want to know his position — 60 percent — while only 43 percent of men felt similarly.
While deputy solicitor general in 1990, Roberts helped write a legal brief that said the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion was "wrongfully decided and should be overruled." However, as a government lawyer he was promoting established Bush administration policy; it's unclear what his personal beliefs are.
When Roberts was asked about abortion during the 2003 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination to the federal bench, he said, "Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land."
The Hill: Congressional Dems Up Fundraising
In a couple of stories in today's paper, reporters for The Hill report that fundraising among Congressional Dems is improving these days. To begin, Alexander Bolton takes a look at the upper chamber.
Democratic senators have contributed far more from their personal campaign accounts to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) than Republicans have given its GOP counterpart, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), fundraising reports due out today show.In the House, Josephine Hearn writes that though the Democrats are not beating their GOP rivals, they have improved from the first term.
The numbers reveal that the Senate Democratic campaign’s money effort, under Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), has leapt ahead of its GOP counterpart both in its fundraising rate and in terms of cash on hand. That is a sharp turnaround from the equivalent stage of the 2004 election cycle, when the Republicans had raised $14.5 milllion and had $5.3 million on hand while the Democrats had raised $10.8 million and had $2.6 million left in the bank.
The figures reflect the fact that Senate Democrats have outraised Republicans in the first six months of this year, despite GOP control of the Senate. Usually, the majority party has a marked fundraising advantage because it controls the legislative agenda.
Through June, the DSCC had raised $22.6 million while the NRSC had raised $20.9 million, say officials from both committees.
More significant than the Democrats’ $1.7 million advantage is that they now have $15.2 million on hand after the first six months of the year, while Republicans have $8 million.
The Frontline Democrat program, a fundraising operation for the House’s 10 most vulnerable Democrats, nearly matched its Republican counterpart in fundraising for the second quarter, overcoming a much poorer showing in the first quarter, according to recently filed Federal Election Commission reports.
Democrats raised an average of $339,000 for each of the Frontline members, just short of the Republican average of $361,000. Last quarter, the Frontline program raised just less than $200,000 per member, compared with a much more robust Republican average of $390,000.
Despite the Democratic gains, Republicans maintained an edge in overall cash in the bank, with each of the nine members of its Retain Our Majority Program (ROMP) reporting $630,000 in cash on hand as of June 30, as compared to $457,000 for each of the Democrats.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
WaPo: Plame's Identity Was Classified
The Washington Post's crack team of Walter Pincus and Jim VandeHei dig up some new facts from the investigation into the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity and come up with this:
A classified State Department memorandum central to a federal leak investigation contained information about CIA officer Valerie Plame in a paragraph marked "(S)" for secret, a clear indication that any Bush administration official who read it should have been aware the information was classified, according to current and former government officials.
Plame -- who is referred to by her married name, Valerie Wilson, in the memo -- is mentioned in the second paragraph of the three-page document, which was written on June 10, 2003, by an analyst in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), according to a source who described the memo to The Washington Post.
The paragraph identifying her as the wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV was clearly marked to show that it contained classified material at the "secret" level, two sources said. The CIA classifies as "secret" the names of officers whose identities are covert, according to former senior agency officials.
Anyone reading that paragraph should have been aware that it contained secret information, though that designation was not specifically attached to Plame's name and did not describe her status as covert, the sources said. It is a federal crime, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for a federal official to knowingly disclose the identity of a covert CIA official if the person knows the government is trying to keep it secret.
Prosecutors attempting to determine whether senior government officials knowingly leaked Plame's identity as a covert CIA operative to the media are investigating whether White House officials gained access to information about her from the memo, according to two sources familiar with the investigation.
The memo may be important to answering three central questions in the Plame case: Who in the Bush administration knew about Plame's CIA role? Did they know the agency was trying to protect her identity? And, who leaked it to the media?
Campaign 2006: Wednesday Senate Edition
Starting off in Virginia, Rasmussen Reports provides some data that shows the Democrats just might have a shot at picking up a Senate seat -- if the right candidate is brought in.
Senator George Allen will face a major re-election battle if Governor Mark Warner decides to challenge him in 2006. The latest Rasmussen Reports Election 2006 survey finds the Democratic Governor leading by four percentage points in that match-up.Out in the Grand Canyon state, Democrats are closer to fielding their favored candidate, report Chip Scutari and Robbie Sherwood for The Arizona Republic:
Warner currently attracts 48% of the vote to 44% for Allen. Many people consider it unlikely that Warner will challenge Allen. It would be difficult for other Democrats to match Warner's numbers at this time.
Three months ago, Allen was ahead by four points. Both Warner and Allen are considered prospects for their party's Presidential nomination in 2008.
Shopping mall developer Jim Pederson, who pumped nearly $7 million of his own money to reinvigorate Arizona Democrats, resigned as party chairman Tuesday, paving the way for a likely run against U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl in 2006.Lastly, new polling indicates that the former first lady will be very difficult to beat in New York state. The AP's Marc Humbert reports:
Pederson remained coy about his plans, saying he'll decide by mid-September.
"It's time for some fresh blood in the party," he said. "But I know there are a lot of Democrats who would like to see me run against Kyl, including the governor. If I do this, I'll get a lot of Republican votes."
This is the third move in recent months that suggests Pederson may take the plunge against Kyl, R-Ariz.
Just a few weeks ago Pederson was in Nantucket, Mass., schmoozing with incumbent Democratic senators and top-level party operatives on the upscale island. Pederson announced a few months ago he was stepping down as president of his development company and would serve only as his company's chairman.
While Pederson remains mum on his future, Democratic strategists close to him predict he will run against Kyl. Fred DuVal, a former aid to President Clinton, said it's a smart move for the party to run its best candidates, and that means Pederson must step out from behind the scenes.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton continues to sport a hefty lead over potential Republican challenger Jeanine Pirro in the 2006 Senate race, a statewide poll reported Wednesday.
The Siena College Research Institute Poll also found that Gov. George Pataki's favorable rating among New York voters has climbed to its highest level of the year — 52 percent.
The poll had the former first lady leading Pirro, the Westchester County district attorney, 57 percent to 31 percent. A June poll from the Albany-area institute had Clinton leading Pirro, 59 percent to 29 percent.
Pirro has said she will run for statewide office next year, but has not announced whether that will be for Senate or state attorney general, or less likely, governor if Pataki doesn't run again.
Sixty percent of voters surveyed by Siena for the new poll said Clinton should be re-elected and 60 percent said they have a favorable opinion of her. National polls have her as the front-runner for the party's 2008 presidential nomination.
The New Face of the Court
The Washington Post's Dan Balz and Mike Allen analyze the President's selection of Judge Roberts.
President Bush moved boldly to shift the Supreme Court to the right last night by selecting federal appellate judge John G. Roberts Jr. to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. But in choosing a jurist with establishment credentials and bipartisan allies, Bush also picked a nominee he believes can win confirmation with some Democratic votes.More on Judge Roberts to come, no doubt...
Bush appeared to have the court's future and the confirmation process in mind as he made his decision this week. All day, the name of appellate judge Edith Brown Clement floated through Washington as the president's apparent choice, but many on the right consider her conservative credentials far more suspect than Roberts's. By picking Roberts, Bush displayed his determination to put a more conservative stamp on the court.
At the same time, the president passed over a number of highly conservative judges whose nominations would have been seen as far more ideological and polarizing than that of Roberts. Given that this was the first but probably not the last Supreme Court vacancy he will be asked to fill, Bush signaled a less confrontational approach toward the Senate than he has adopted with his lower-court nominations -- and challenged the Senate to avoid a divisive debate over his choice.
For the White House, the 50-year-old appears to be the ultimate confirmable conservative. As a replacement for O'Connor, a centrist who voted to uphold abortion rights and affirmative action, he would probably move the court's overall balance to the right. But he would do so without some of the verbal pyrotechnics that have characterized the opinions of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.
China Bid for Unocal Rebuffed
Gary Gentile has the story for the Associated Press.
Unocal's board of directors has endorsed a sweetened, $17 billion takeover bid from Chevron, rejecting a higher offer from one of China's state-owned oil companies.Maybe legislation on this matter won't be necessary after all.
The decision by Unocal's board late Tuesday could signal an end to China's most ambitious attempt yet to acquire an American corporation. The takeover battle also had sparked debate about U.S. security concerns with the communist nation.
Chevron boosted its offer by $2 per share to $63 per share — or $17 billion overall — shortly before the Unocal board met Tuesday night. CNOOC Ltd., an affiliate of China National Offshore Oil Corp., has an $18.5 billion offer on the table for the El Segundo-based company. Unocal's board had previously also endorsed Chevron's lower offer over the higher CNOOC bid.
In a joint statement with Chevron, Unocal's board urged stockholders late Tuesday to accept the amended bid at a shareholders' meeting scheduled for Aug. 10.
But a spokesman for China's third-largest oil company vowed early Wednesday that CNOOC was not ready to drop out of the bidding war.
There's a new force in the world of podcasting (creating MP3 audio files that can be listened to on portable audio players): House Democrats. The Washington Post reports:
It's like C-SPAN. But for your iPod.
A growing number of lawmakers are offering their speeches, news conferences and radio addresses to the millions of Americans who own digital audio players such as Apple's iPod.
House Democrats have now joined the "podcast" bandwagon, releasing half a dozen audio files on both their Web site, HouseDemocrats.gov, and at Apple's popular iTunes online music store. There is a free, downloadable file of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) blasting the GOP's energy bill. In another, Rep. Bob Menendez (N.J.) complains that the Bush administration is shortchanging security programs for public transit.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Rove Story Might Not Leave So Soon
The American Prospect's Murray Waas does a bit of investigative journalism on the Valerie Plame case and comes up with an interesting scoop.
White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove did not disclose that he had ever discussed CIA officer Valerie Plame with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper during Rove’s first interview with the FBI, according to legal sources with firsthand knowledge of the matter.It's not clear whether this story will last through the possible struggle over John Roberts' nomination to the Supreme Court. Two facts are known, however: the case is far from closed and Patrick Fitzgerald is one heck of a prosecutor.
The omission by Rove created doubt for federal investigators, almost from the inception of their criminal probe into who leaked Plame's name to columnist Robert Novak, as to whether Rove was withholding crucial information from them, and perhaps even misleading or lying to them, the sources said.
Also leading to the early skepticism of Rove's accounts was the claim that although he first heard that Plame worked for the CIA from a journalist, he said could not recall the name of the journalist. Later, the sources said, Rove wavered even further, saying he was not sure at all where he first heard the information.
Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, has said that Rove never knew that Plame was a covert officer when he discussed her CIA employment with reporters, and that he only first learned of her clandestine status when he read about it in the newspaper. Luskin did not return a telephone call today seeking comment for this story.
Bush Nominates John Roberts
The AP's Deb Riechmann reports:
President Bush chose federal appeals court judge John G. Roberts Jr. on Tuesday as his first nominee for the Supreme Court, selecting a rock solid conservative whose nomination could trigger a tumultuous battle over the direction of the nation's highest court, a senior administration official said.
Bush offered the position to Roberts in a telephone call at 12:35 p.m. after a luncheon with the visiting prime minister of Australia, John Howard. He was to announce it later with a flourish in a nationally broadcast speech to the nation.
Roberts has been on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since June 2003 after being picked for that seat by Bush.
Advocacy groups on the right say that Roberts, a 50-year-old native of Buffalo, N.Y., who attended Harvard Law School, is a bright judge with strong conservative credentials he burnished in the administrations of former Presidents Bush and Reagan. While he has been a federal judge for just a little more than two years, legal experts say that whatever experience he lacks on the bench is offset by his many years arguing cases before the Supreme Court.
Liberal groups, however, say Roberts has taken positions in cases involving free speech and religious liberty that endanger those rights. Abortion rights groups allege that Roberts is hostile to women's reproductive freedom and cite a brief he co-wrote in 1990 that suggested the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 high court decision that legalized abortion.
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