You are currently viewing archive for March 2007
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
This statement from the WH speaks for itself (slightly abridged) :

"On March 8th, we said that the President would veto any bill that tied a timetable or restrictions to the supplemental. So the Democrats have known for 20 days, nearly three weeks, that their current bill would never become law. Yet they continued down their current path.

"A week ago, they heard from the Secretary of Defense that if the emergency funding isn't provided by April 15th, our men and women in uniform will face significant disruptions, and so will their families. Yet they continued down their current path, and they cobbled together votes by adding extraneous spending and domestic spending for such things as the spinach, peanut, and shrimp lobbies."

"[T]he National Intelligence Estimate, released on February 2nd, predicted that withdrawing coalition forces from Iraq within the next 12 to 18 months would not solve Iraq's problems, but would, in fact, lead to catastrophe.

"Democrats in Congress must take responsibility for their votes and their statements, and stop trying to have it both ways. It is completely disingenuous to stand up and highlight the intelligence community's judgment about conditions on the ground in Iraq one month, as Senator Reid did, but then vote for the precise action that the same experts say would make the situation catastrophic the next. It is also disingenuous to praise the Iraq Study Group's report in December, but now support an artificial timetable for withdrawal.

"Secretary Baker, himself, says General Petraeus and our new strategy "ought to be given a chance." And the Iraq Study Group said of withdrawal, "the point is not for the United States to set timetables or deadlines for withdrawal, an approach that we oppose."

"Have Democrats decided to reject the judgment of our intelligence community, the Baker-Hamilton report, and our military experts? If not, then they need to stop undermining the early progress we are seeing in Iraq, so that they can sound tough without having to take responsibility for their actions."

Today's (3-28) Full White House Press Briefing by Dana Perino here.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From Charles Krauthammer today (via RCP):

Alberto Gonzales has to go. I say this with no pleasure -- he's a decent and honorable man -- and without the slightest expectation that his departure will blunt the Democratic assault on the Bush administration over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. In fact, it will probably inflame their bloodlust, which is why the president might want to hang on to Gonzales at least through this crisis. That might be tactically wise. But in time, and the sooner the better, Gonzales must resign.

It's not a question of probity, but of competence. Gonzales has allowed a scandal to be created where there was none. That is quite an achievement. He had a two-foot putt and he muffed it.

Read entire piece here.

Not so fast.

I try not to disagree with Charles Krauthammer--but this strikes me as a bit harsh. If Gonzales is a "decent and honorable" man and this is not an issue of integrity, then this embarrassing misstep will seem less devastating over time. I like that the President is standing behind Gonzales. Let him ride it out. Let the administration stand up to Congress. Let the President and his men make their case before the nation. I don't see any long term advantage to cashiering Gonzales at this moment.

On the other hand, as many have noted, Gonzales is the latest ex-next Supreme Court Justice. In actuality, Gonzales fell from the list of viable candidates months ago. However, this imbroglio has probably ensured that the first Latino governor of Texas will not be Alberto Gonzales.

For more coverage on the would-be scandal:

Here for a summary of the facts.

Here for more on the separation of powers aspect within the context of the Constitution and a recipe for a political comeback on the part of the administration.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From the Washington Post :

"The House of Representatives today passed a $124 billion emergency spending bill that sets binding benchmarks for progress in Iraq, establishes tough readiness standards for deploying U.S. troops abroad and requires the withdrawal of American combat forces from Iraq by the end of August 2008" (read the entire article here).

The President promises to veto (condensed):

"The purpose of the emergency war spending bill I requested was to provide our troops with vital funding. Instead, Democrats in the House, in an act of political theater, voted to substitute their judgment for that of our military commanders on the ground in Iraq.

"As I have made clear for weeks, I will veto it if it comes to my desk. And because the vote in the House was so close, it is clear that my veto would be sustained. Today's action in the House does only one thing: it delays the delivering of vital resources for our troops.

"Democrats want to make clear that they oppose the war in Iraq. They have made their point. For some, that is not enough. These Democrats believe that the longer they can delay funding for our troops, the more likely they are to force me to accept restrictions on our commanders, an artificial timetable for withdrawal, and their pet spending projects. This is not going to happen.

"The Democrats have sent their message, now it's time to send their money. This is an important moment -- a decision for the new leaders in Congress. I expect Congress to do its duty and to fund our troops, and so do the American people -- and so do the good men and women [in uniform] standing with me here today."

The President's full statement here.

What does it mean? Speaker Nancy Pelosi won this vote with absolutely no room to spare.

Of course, my guess is that she had a few votes up here sleeve. Surely, they would not have taken the vote to the floor with such a razor-thin margin.

Analysis from Paul Kane of the Washinton Post here on who voted for what and why.

My analysis in brief: The Speaker won the vote--but she is still losing the war to lose the war. She and John Murtha ought not to laugh too loudly, my guess is that the laughing is not done.

Some brief notes: My favorite Democrat, Gene Taylor, voted against the timetable. A Democrat I admire, and one for whom I have consistently voted, Texas 17 Representative, Chet Edwards, disappointingly, voted for the timetable. The next congressional election in Central Texas should be interesting.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Please consider this excellent Andrew McCarthy follow-up piece from NRO, which, once again, comes highly recommended by Tocqueville. By the way, it is easy to see why Tocqueville is such an admirer of McCarthy.

Excerpts (mostly in McCarthy's own words) :

"From the very start, the Bush administrationís self-induced debacle over fired United States attorneys has blurred law and politics. Now, the blur has officially grown into the fog of inter-branch war.

"The House and Senate Judiciary Committees have threatened to subpoena two of President Bushís top aides, senior adviser Karl Rove and former White House counsel Harriet Miers."

What does all this mean?

McCarthy's main points in summary:

1. Such threats from Congress are politically tactical but legally dubious. They flout our bedrock separation-of-powers doctrine....

2. The President...offered a compromise. Members of the Presidentís executive staff would be made available for private interviews.... [Under this proposal] Congress would not be permitted to place the Presidentís advisers under oath and there would be no stenographic transcript. This offer is in keeping with recent precedent (e.g., 9/11 Commission hearings).

[Congress] would, of course, [maintain the power] to compel sworn testimony and other information from top executive officials at the Justice Department, over which Congress has funding and oversight authority. The administration, however, would not surrender internal communications between members of the Presidentís own staff.

3. From a legal and policy perspective, the White House position is unassailable. [Constitutionally] Congress is entitled to nothing from the Presidentís staff.

4. This is common sense. Our political branches, [unlike a citizen testifying under oath in a court of law], are equals. The issuance of a subpoena and/or placing someone under oath connotes subservience, rendering the President subservient to Congress.

5. Similarly, transcript among equals is not a quest for the truth. Itís a set-up. If equals truly want a mutual understanding, they can get that by talking informally.

6. But, alas, none of that matters. As sound as the presidentís legal position is, the politics strongly favor congressional Democrats.

7. Dissembling is how the administration bungled into its current straits. Now, its political opponents argue, it wants to compound that by insulating top advisers from sworn testimony and an accurate record of what they say.

8. [As a result of the administration's own self-inflicted wounds], this rhetoric is bound to resonate with the public, [which will naturally] wonder whether the administration has something to hide.

What to do?

1. [The President should] come clean about the politics...and the law will make more sense.

2. [The] investigation is about politics, not legal impropriety. It is about exploiting to the maximum degree the administrationís [political] missteps. Congress is within its rights to do that, but the president could undercut its force by (a) acknowledging that his administration was engaged in an inherently political exercise; (b) either putting out chapter-and-verse to justify the claim that some of those dismissed were subpar performers or, in the alternative, apologizing to those who were maligned and firing anyone who knowingly maligned them; and (c) committing that he has no strategy to use his interim-appointment authority to circumvent the Senateís constitutional prerogative to confirm executive branch officers.

In truth, this process is intensely political. Congress is egregiously hypocritical in this pursuit of political advantage.

[However] This controversy wonít go away until the administration concedes that politics is political. Until then, the legal underbrush will obscure the political hypocrisy, and the administration will dig itself ever deeper.

Read the entire article here.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The Washington Times notes today that the six bills passed by the Democratic-controlled House during the celebrated "first 100 hours" of the 110th Congress are still awaiting Senate action or reconciliation and are not close to coming before the President:

"Democrats 0 for 6 in Congress; agenda sidetracked by Iraq war."

Christina Bellantoni's article is something of a taunt. The paper quotes House Minority Leader John A. Boehner: "How many bills have they sent to the president? None? Somewhere around there."

Bellatoni highlights the friction between the House and the Senate, quoting Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada (responding to reports of frustration from Steny Hoyer, House Majority Leader): "Steny is my friend, and he hasn't spent much time in the Senate. They have expedited procedures on everything."

Bellatoni also notes that the internal struggle over an Iraq policy has slowed down the process: "Senators spent weeks negotiating resolutions on Mr. Bush's troop surge to Iraq, and House actions slowed to a crawl as Democrats offer smaller bills while huddling to come up with an Iraq plan."

Analysis: Every cloud has a silver lining. We should resist the temptation to assail the Democrats loudly and publicly for running a "do-nothing" Congress. In truth, an inactive Congress is a good thing. We would be better off to stay mum and count our blessings.

For true conservatives, Congressional gridlock is the last saving grace of modern government. Thomas Jefferson probably did not say this--but we often attribute it to him: "Government governs best that governs least." Let's keep our fingers crossed that these guys stay focused on grandstanding and investigating. When they are not legislating, the Republic is a safer place.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Please consider this excellent Andrew McCarthy analysis piece from NRO, which comes highly recommended by Tocqueville.

Excerpts (mostly in McCarthy's own words) :

"Of all the Bush-administration controversies, the tempest over the termination of eight United States attorneys, the top federal prosecutors in their jurisdictions, may ultimately rank as the most damaging. And not because it was the most serious, but because it was the most revealing: about the administrationís ineptitude and Washingtonís hypocrisy."

McCarthy's main points in summary:

1. [This] system is political. It is intended to be. Establishing [prosecutorial priorities] is a quintessentially political determination.

2. These are political judgments. They reflect what an administration thinks is important and will resonate with the voters who put it in power.

3. They are precisely the type of judgments for which an administration ought to be accountable.

4. Having said that, the President is at the top of this command pyramid. The Justice Department, including the attorney general and all 93 U.S. attorneys, are high-ranking officers in one of our two political branches. The head of that branch, the executive branch, is the president. Under our Constitution, he is vested with all of the executive power, including the police power. That power is not divided among several players; it is singularly reposed in him. The president chooses all the U.S. attorneys, and, after Senate confirmation, they, like all executive-branch officers, serve at his pleasure. He doesnít need a reason to fire any of them....

5. Often, the administrationís judgments are bad.

6. There are countless points of tension in the dynamic between the president and the U.S. attorneys he chooses.

7. Being an act of political discretion, the removal of eight U.S. attorneys can and should be critiqued as wise or unwise; [notwithstanding], to be legitimate..., the removal requires no explanation.

8. [T]he Gonzales Justice Department has committed Washingtonís worst sin: It has acted like its reasons were noble when in fact they were political, it has misled Congress about that fact, and, when called on it, it has caved Ö as if the act itself ó rather than the dissembling about the act ó was illegitimate.

9. The administration's pretense that this political act was, in fact, high-minded or a performance-based decision created this media firestorm.

10. So we have classic Washington farce. The politicians on Capitol Hill theatrically castigate the politicians in the administration for making political decisions about political appointees based on political considerations. The politicians in the administration reply, ďThat would never happen,Ē before conceding that it precisely happened Ö without their knowledge, of course. And the political press is aghast."

Read the entire article here.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Was the conviction of I. Lewis Libby on charges of perjury, making false statements and obstruction of justice grounded in strong evidence and what appeared to be careful deliberation by a jury ?

Or, was the fall of a skilled and long-respected public servant...propelled not by actual wrongdoing but by inflated and frequently false claims, and by the aggressive and occasionally reckless response of senior Bush administration officials -- culminating in Mr. Libby's perjury ?

Last Wednesday, the Washington Post answered that "either/or" question with a resounding "YES."

Portions of the Post editorial were everywhere on the conservative blogosphere this week (read the full opinion here).

Perhaps the most quoted line: [The Libby tragedy] is particularly sobering because it arose from a Washington scandal remarkable for its lack of substance.

The least quoted portion:

The former chief of staff...told the FBI and a grand jury that he had not leaked the identity of CIA employee Valerie Plame to journalists but rather had learned it from them. But abundant testimony at his trial showed that he had found out about Ms. Plame from official sources and was dedicated to discrediting her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. Particularly for a senior government official, lying under oath is a serious offense.

An assertion I made three weeks ago: I have no sympathy for public officials who lie to grand juries. If Libby lied, regardless of the rationales or extenuating circumstances, justice will be served with his conviction for that offense (read my entire post here).

I stand by my statement. Moreover, from everything I can discern, Libby was brilliant and tough-minded. I am forty-two years old, and I have an appreciation for the limits of memory that increases every day. Notwithstanding, to accept the Libby memory defense, one must imagine the vice president's office as a madcap 1950s sitcom: "Don't Leave it to Scooter."

On the other hand, does Mr. Libby deserve to rot in jail for his crimes against the state?

Robert Novak, not an impartial observer but whose proximity to this scandal makes him a columnist of interest, reinforced an emerging consensus that the tragedy of this conviction is that it arises from a misguided prosecution (read entire column here).

What Now? The President has three choices:

1. Abide by the eventual verdict of the American justice system.

2. Pardon Libby at the least vulnerable political moment.

3. Pardon Libby now.

Today, Bill Kristol argues forcefully for an immediate pardon (here), which is not a huge surprise as he is extremely personally connected to Libby and the Cheney gang. In addition, he argued for a presidential pardon before the court proceeding began.

Not withstanding, Kristol is on the right track. Here's why:

The President must weigh the possibility of vindication for Libby and the White House through appeal. However, even victory on appeal has its downside. As Kristol argues, the process will keep the story on the front page of the American political consciousness for months to come. And, without a shadow of a doubt, a reversal will not attract the wall-to-wall media coverage that this conviction garnered.

I recommend a Presidential Pardon plus.

The plus? The plus is a full-court media press. For months, the White House has been mute, refusing to comment publicly on an ongoing legal proceeding.

A pardon would end that self-imposed silence. The President should come clean with everything he knows. Now is the time for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If the White House has a story to tell, let them tell it. If this is a travesty, then let the President and his administration make that case. Let the facts be submitted to a candid world.

Conceivably, the President would lay out the real story of what happened. He would admit wrong doing in the White House on some levels, but he would expose the malfeasance of the prosecution, partisan opposition, unfriendly media and other persecutors. A Presidential Pardon in that vein would be honest and straightforward. And it just might work. The American people are often shocked into sympathy by that brand of openness.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
As the 2008 presidential campaign is now underway, we begin a series on the religion of the candidates.

Some clarifications: (1) we do not rank or recommend candidates based on religious membership; (2) we are not presuming to label candidates saved or unsaved; (3) the full task of relating a politician's religious beliefs and his/her political positions and actions is the work of biographers a generation hence. These things said, we offer some provisional thoughts on each candidate.

In a previous post I briefly raised the question whether Obama's church membership would be an issue. In summary: he belongs to a very Afro-centric congregation belonging to the liberal United Church of Christ denomination. I concluded that it would not be an issue in seeking the nomination, but probably would be in the general election.

Today, Rudy. Official biographical sketch here. TIME magazine profile.

Rudy is Roman Catholic, and earlier in his life considered the priesthood. His public comments refer to a belief in God. His private and public life, however, have estranged him from his church--he is on his third marriage; his public support of abortion rights and gay rights also stands at odds with church teaching and has led to controversy. Perhaps Giuliani is best described as a nominal Catholic.

Will this matter in the nomination process, or in a general election? Probably not. Rudy is like a lot of American Catholics, shaped by their church in significant ways, but picking and choosing which parts to abide by in private and public life.

American conservatives already can see his Law-and-Order record as mayor of New York City, his strong support of the war against militant Islam, and his transformation of the welfare culture of NYC. If conservatives believe that he will nominate and fight for the kind of judges they want, the fact that he is a nominal Catholic will not bother them. They overlooked Reagan's divorce and spotty church attendance.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Two questions concerning public relations 101 come to my mind right now:

1. Why do organizations concerned with promoting global warming awareness (and alarm) keep scheduling their conferences in places like Upstate New York and Minneapolis in the dead of winter?

2. Why do presumably intelligent Democratic Party leaders keep sending John Murtha out on Sunday talk shows to argue their point?

From Meet the Press:

MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe it [our mission in Iraq] is totally hopeless?

REP. MURTHA: Tim, I, I believe that we canít win this militarily. I believe it has to be done diplomatically. Thatís why I think redeployment is the first move...So itís a matter of, you canít win it militarily. It has to be done internationally; it has to be diplomatically.

MR. RUSSERT: But to the point, why not take the chance, the glimmer of hope? Or do you just think itís totally hopeless?

REP. MURTHA: I, I donít see any chance of us winning this militarily. I think theyíre going about it the wrong way. Theyíre finally starting to change. Theyíre talking to Iran. Thatís whatís going toógoing to prevail there. Thatís where youíre going to have stability. Youíre going to have international communication....

And on it went (full Meet the Press transcript here).

If the Democrats really have overplayed their hand and lost their momentum, Murtha is a big part of that development. Although she is a deft leader in so many ways, Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave the President and his stalwarts a rich and unexpected political gift with her decision to feature Representative Murtha as the unofficial Secretary of State for the House.

In contrast, Lindsey Graham came on air afterwards and gave his customary flawless performance as a pragmatic voice of reason. Never a sure thing when it comes to support for the President, Graham expertly leverages his reputation as a McCain-like maverick to give credibility to supporting the mission.

SEN. GRAHAM: The truth is that Jack Murthaís a wonderful fellow. [But] He is using the readiness issue to stop the surge. And I want to work with Jack on readiness, but this is not about the readiness issue. He said publicly this is about stopping something heís against. The Democrat Party is the dog that caught the car. What do you do now? The left is saying get out yesterday. The reason we donít have a vote on cut off funding is because the American public understand thatís [ir]responsible.

So all of these efforts to micromanage the waróIíve been a military lawyer for 20-something years. Some of these resolutions are just nightmares for a commander. You can fight al-Qaeda, but you canít fight people involved in sectarian violence. You can go here, and you canít go there. The Congress cannotóthereís a reason thereís only one commander in chief.

So, if youíre not willing to cut off funding, which is the Congressí responsibility, then everything else really hampers General Petraeus. Itís really a signal to him that, ďWe have no faith in you.Ē Either stop him from going or give him the resources to do their job. Everything is else is just political theater. Thatís dangerous.