November 13, 2006

Lott running for whip post (Elana Schor, 11/13/06, The Hill)

After keeping his plans close to the vest since Election Day, Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) formally declared his bid for minority whip on Monday evening.

Lott had refrained from openly discussing his intentions for the whip race even after GOP Conference Chairman Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who was next in line based on seniority, lost his reelection bid last week. Few on Capitol Hill would second-guess Lott’s prowess at backroom maneuvering, and his silence had given way to questions about whether a new feint was in the works. […]

Frist’s fellow Tennessean, Lamar Alexander (R), has already declared his whip bid and continues to make calls lining up support before Wednesday’s leadership elections.

In retrospect, the GOP could ill afford to have Bill Frist learn on the job.


November 13, 2006

Pelosi ‘will ensure’ Murtha win, Murtha ally says (Josephine Hearn, 11/13/06, The Hill)

House Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will ensure that Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) wins his race for majority leader, a key Murtha ally said Monday night.

“She will ensure that they [the Murtha camp] win. This is hard-ball politics,” said Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), a longtime Murtha supporter. “We are entering an era where when the Speaker instructs you what to do, you do it.”

Time to put away childish things, like the notion they’ll run the institution cleanly.


November 13, 2006

The Honeymoon Is Over: After five days of giddiness, Democrats express dismay that their new House leader has thrown herself into the fight to become her Number 2, creating a potentially lose-lose situation where she could either be defeated in her first public contest since the election, or brand herself as a dove. (Mike Allen, 11/13/06, TIME)

As she awaited her new grandchild after her election-night triumph, Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi was lauded as one of the most consequential Democrats in history and treated as a foreign head of state at the White House, where she got the big chair in front of the Oval Office fireplace. But the dour Republicans and worried Democrats have switched places, however momentarily, now that she has unexpectedly injected herself into the bitter race to be her underling, the House Majority Leader. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen a leader insert themselves like this,” said a veteran of many Democratic leadership races. Pelosi’s camp says it’s like a high-school election and won’t be a defining moment for her leadership. […]

“We had a great deal of unity last week and encouraging Murtha to run against Hoyer really threatens to fray that unity at a time when we want to project an image of being strong and together,” said one Democratic aide. “It doesn’t bode well for our first 100 hours. To be a majority party, you have to bring disparate groups together, and she’s been given credit for being very good at that. If she departs from that record or that approach, it’s harder to stay a majority.” […]

Hoyer poses a competing power base to Pelosi, and they have not had warm relations. “She wants to purge the leadership of people who disagree with her,” said a Democratic official with a front-row seat. “It’s about people she can personally control. Hoyer is an excellent public face for the party. She’s more a behind-the-scenes player.”

Nice shot.


November 13, 2006


November 13, 2006

Sen. Mel Martinez to Chair RNC (NewsMax, 11/13/06)

Sen. Mel Martinez, the first-term lawmaker who previously served in President Bush’s Cabinet, will assume the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, GOP officials said Monday.

Martinez, 60, will replace current chairman Ken Mehlman, who will leave the post in January at the end of his two-year term, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting a formal announcement.


November 13, 2006

Rumsfeld’s Replacement: The Robert Gates File: Iran-Contra figure, regime-change enthusiast, alleged intelligence manipulator — meet Robert Gates, the man who’s poised to be the next Secretary of Defense. (James Ridgeway, November 09 , 2006, Mother Jones)

Gates, a 26-year CIA veteran and the agency’s director between 1991 and 1993, has long been accused of undermining competent, unbiased intelligence analysis at the agency during his tenure, opening the way for its role in partisan politics, a reality brought to the fore again as the Bush administration made its flawed and phony case for war with Iraq. Gates was a high official at the CIA at a time when the U.S. intelligence community experienced one of its most humiliating debacles: the failure to predict the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Instead, under CIA director William Casey the U.S. concocted evidence showing the expansion of Reagan’s “evil empire.”

Casey and his protégé Gates were fervent Cold Warriors. On December 14, 1984, in a five page memorandum for then Director of Intelligence Casey, Gates, then serving as deputy director of intelligence, set forth his views: “It is time to talk absolutely straight about Nicaragua,” the memo begins. “The Nicaraguan regime is steadily moving toward consolidation of a Marxist-Leninist government, and the establishment of a permanent and well-armed ally of the Soviet Union and Cuba on the mainland of the western hemisphere. Its avowed aim is to spread further revolution in the Americas.”

Gates goes on to say this is an “unacceptable” course, arguing that the U.S. should do everything “in its power short of invasion to put that regime out.” Hopes of causing that regime to reform itself for a more pluralistic government are “essentially silly and hopeless,” he wrote. (The ironic upshot of this sort of thinking can be found in the recent election of the former Sandanista leader Daniel Ortega as president of Nicaragua.)

Nicaragua wasn’t the only place Gates wanted to take action. In 1985, sounding very much like one of today’s neoconservative hawks, the then head of intelligence analysis at the CIA drafted a plan for a joint U.S.-Egyptian military operation to invade Libya, overthrow Col. Muamar Ghaddafi, and “redraw the map of North Africa.” […]

Critics have long thought Gates was heavily involved from the very beginning in putting together and implementing the secret Iran-Contra war.

Funny how his supporters and critics make the same case, eh?


November 13, 2006

The Blue Man Who Threw the Montana Race to Tester: In Big Sky country, a libertarian with a very puzzling medical history did just enough to give the Senate race to the Democrats. (Josh Harkinson, November 10, 2006, Mother Jones)

Rove’s woe has been triggered by a Smurf-like (more on this shortly) libertarian, Stan Jones, who helped bring down the mighty Conrad Burns in Montana by snatching three percent of the don’t-tread-on-me vote, quite likely tipping the race to Democratic challenger Jon Tester. The Republicans have thus far accepted this likelihood with noble restraint. Jones told me no angry red staters have called to harass him, and I couldn’t find a single complaint about his race on conservative blogs. It could be Republicans are too shell shocked to notice. Or, to their credit, too preoccupied with soul searching.

That Jones could be the man who indirectly turned Montana, and thus the whole Senate, blue, is oddly poetic given that Jones is himself blue. By this I don’t mean he’s sad, louche, or a libertarian with Democratic sympathies (though the lattermost is also true), but that Stan Jones is blue. A few bloggers know the story: In the days leading up to the dawn of the new millennium, Jones believed the Y2K virus could cause the collapse of Western Civilization. To steel his immune system against a post-apocalypse wracked by pandemics, he began drinking a solution of ionic silver, which he believed was a more powerful armor than vitamin C. “The pioneers that crossed the plains of America used to put a silver dollar in the bottom of a bucket of milk to keep it fresh longer,” he explained when I reached him at his house in Bozeman. “So anyway, I studied it, and I thought it would be a good preventative, so I just started taking it all the time. But I wasn’t smart enough to figure out the whole story.” He didn’t realize the silver ions would bind with minerals in the Montana tap water and lodge in his cells. “The silver is nontoxic; it doesn’t affect my health in any way,” he said, “but I am a little blue-grey.”

A Republican who needs that extra three percent to carry Montana has already biffed too badly top get much sympathy.


November 13, 2006

The Democrats’ plans: Old-timers will run the House, but their agenda is not clear (The Economist, Nov 9th 2006)

IF YOU think the Democrats’ triumph will bring fresh young faces pushing a well-honed agenda, think again. Unlike the Republican upstarts who stormed to power in 1994 with their “Contract with America”, the new House of Representatives will be run by veterans with few coherent plans.

Nancy Pelosi, the putative speaker, has agreed to respect the ancient custom of appointing committee chairmen by seniority (a tradition the Republicans ignore these days). As a result, seven of the 19 likely committee chairmen are over 70. John Dingell, who is set to head the Energy and Commerce Committee, has been in Congress for 51 years. […]

Less clear is whether Ms Pelosi and her generals can push a coherent agenda of their own. The Democrats’ equivalent of the “Contract with America” is a 31-page pamphlet called “A new direction for America”, boiled down for campaign purposes to “Six for ’06”, a six-pronged action plan that Ms Pelosi promises to enact within 100 hours of becoming speaker.

Unfortunately, this “agenda” is little more than a series of soundbites designed to show that Democrats care about the plight of ordinary workers. There are pledges to raise the minimum wage, expand tax-break subsidies for college, “free America from dependence on foreign oil” by boosting alternative fuels and ending tax giveaways to big oil, allow the government to negotiate lower prices with drug firms, promote stem-cell research, and stop any plans to privatise Social Security.

The plan says nothing about some of the tougher issues facing America’s legislature. Not a word about how Democrats might fix Social Security’s finances. No mention of how they will deal with the Alternative Minimum Tax which will, without new legislation, hit 22m Americans in 2007, up from 3.4m in 2006. Worse, the proposals are internally inconsistent. There is a promise to end the Republicans’ fiscal profligacy by reinstating budget rules that require tax cuts and spending increases to be matched by savings elsewhere. But there is no explanation of how the Democrats’ own pet tax cuts or spending increases would be paid for.

Within the next few months the Democrats will have to decide whether they care more about fiscal discipline or shovelling money at ordinary Americans.

The problem for Democrats is that seniority means their committee chairmen are mainly from safe inner-city districts and haven’t ever had to reconsider their support for the Great Society. The House will be run by folks who think the ’70s were the Golden Age.


November 13, 2006

Hamas backs call for peace conference with Israel (The Associated Press, 11/13/06)

The Palestinian foreign minister on Sunday agreed to an international peace conference with Israel, the first time the Hamas-led government has indicated that it would consider making amends with the Jewish state.


November 13, 2006

Ex-presidents keep them laughing in New Orleans (AP, 11/12/06)

They’re separated by more than 20 years, they come from opposing political parties, and one evicted the other from the White House. But Bill Clinton and George Bush act like a team, a pair of touring comedians with a well-honed act. […]

One problem with retirement, Bush said, is that memories do not fail on certain topics.

“After 14 years no one forgets if you throw up on the Japanese premier,” he said.

However, he said, years of being badgered by the news media have left him with him a simple philosophy: “Now if I don’t like your questions, the heck with it, then I’m not going to answer them.”

Clinton played second banana after Bush’s round of jokes.

“You’ve just witnessed George Bush’s revenge for the 1992 campaign,” Clinton said of the year he defeated Bush for the presidency. “I’m condemned for the rest of my life to be his straight man.”

Bush can get away with some things more easily, said Clinton, whose presidency was marked by the Monica Lewinsky scandal, noting that if he were to repeat one off-color joke that Bush told, “the New York papers would kill me.”

What’s more, the 60-year-old Clinton told the crowd, Bush, at 82, is in better shape.

“Make no mistake about it,” said Clinton, who has undergone quadruple bypass surgery. “George Bush will speak at my funeral.”

As Brother Francoeur says: “The great thing about this stuff is that it drives the far left and right bonkers. They can’t understand why these two gentlemen don’t hate each other’s guts.”