Flush twice... it's a long way to Sally Quinn's place!
Dec. 12, 2004 (apj.us) -- Dec. 12, 2004 -- FORT LEE (apj.us) -- We are laughing long and loud at the latest example of ineptitude on the part of former Texas governor George W. Bush and his advisors.
His nominee for Homeland Security Secretary, Bernie Kerik, withdrew his nomination in the late hours of Friday -- no doubt in the hope of burying it in the weekend news -- but, alas, Kerik, Bush and the whole White House wrecking crew had no such luck.
The New York newspapers have had a field day with the story all weekend, following John Byrne's revelation of a very messy little lawsuit involving Kerik that surfaced Thursday. Yesterday and today, the New York Daily News and New York Newsday published story after story involving Kerik's flubs and flim-flams:
-- an illegal immigrant nanny
Both Ellis Henican and Sidney Blumenthal had plenty to say about what had already been known about Kerik -- but the fact that the Bush Misadministration now appears not to have even lifted a finger to vet Kerik is beyond embarrassing. And the man who cashed in some political capital to lobby for Kerik, former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani, has also been tarnished by the scandal.
And yes, the chattering class dished the story...
Steph began This Weak with a quick rehash of the Kerik mess -- going so far as to mention some of the myriad scandals surrounding Kerik. (The White House isn't going to like that, Steph!) Terry Moran dutifully pitched the White House line that it the snafu centered on an improperly documented immigrant nanny -- but did say there's very much the impression that the nomination was payback to Rudy Giuliani for campaigning for the Bush Boy. (Well, no kidding, Terry. And how about some mention of the scrupulous vetting process over there at Bush Jr.'s House of Hooey?)
Steph's first guests, Rep. Harmon and Sen. Collins, fretted over the Kerik mess. The top names mentioned to replace him by the guests: Joe Lieberman (oy), Asa Hutchinson (barf).
(That latter choice should bother anyone who lives in a major metropolitan area. Homeland security cash is being diverted disproportionately to rural states that host neither a major city nor a port. Port security is a joke. At least Lieberman represents a state where a lot of his constituents live near a port or commute to a big city -- but hell, Jane, can't you do better in your recommendations?)
Steph brought up Sen. Rockefeller's objection to a secret intelligence project, supposedly something involving spy satellites, that he feels damages national security. Rockefeller wants to put the brakes on appropriations for what is reportedly the most expensive espionage program. Steph acknowledged Harman cannot talk about details of the program, but asked if Harman supports it. Instead, Harman said that Rockefeller brought up a great point, and next year each and every tech program will be scrutinized. Steph tried to make it look as if Harman was dithering in her answer -- but Harman said she refused to answer because classified details and decisions by the House Intelligence Committee are in fact involved, and many in the House would vote no to the program.
Collins said that there was very strong support for giving the new National Security Director budget authority for the agencies in his purview.
Steph then welcomed his second guest, Sen. Richard Durbin, turned to the issue of HumVee armor and played video of the Bush Boy's pathetic admission that there was not enough in Iraq. Sen. Richard Durbin said the armor is needed now and Rummy's comments were essentially dishonest -- they are needed now. Steph said Gen. Whitcomb claims the armor kits are on schedule, but Durbin blasted the fact that vehicles -- including 80% of trucks -- are not armored, and Congress was lied to about vehicle and body armor. Chinook helicopters were sent into Iraq without protections, he added. Congress should suspend reluctance to procure armor -- manufacturers are ready to produce it; we need to have our trucks protected from insurgent attacks; and above all, we have to listen to the troops in Iraq.
(Got that, Uncle Donald?)
Steph brought up Rockefeller's "extraordinary" protest of a classified program. Durbin said that the project in question is "a colossal waste of money" and the program has "wasted billions" that are needed for homeland security. "There will be leaks, and I hope they don't come from the committee... eventually some information will come out... it takes a leak to understand that billions of taxpayer dollars are being wasted."
(Now THAT, my friends, is THE headline to come out of the weekend's punditry -- not Howard Dean's appearance on Meet the Press with ol' Punkinhead. There's going to be a leak -- a big, fat, ugly leak that is going to clean the clock of the Bush Boy and some of his corporate sponsors -- and there may even be something bigger afoot.)
Instead of naming his preference for a new DHS Secretary, Durbin urged the Bush team to name someone apolitical, perhaps a security expert out of the military.
Steph played a clip of Howard Dean announcing that he is entering the race for DNC chair yesterday -- does he support Dean for top DNC dog? Durbin said he will not give any public endorsement, but agrees with Dean's overall plan to reinvigorate the party and party members at the grassroots level -- "Don't overlook what he accomplished... he [adopted] what John McCain has started ... I want him as part of the leadership [of the DNC]." (That sounds to us like a de facto endorsement.) Durbin also had nice things to say about Byron Dorgan, who Reid is backing.
We zoned out briefly during the following segment, a group hand-wringing session over sports scandals, until George Will, in response to guest panelist Tavis Smiley tying the slew of sports doping scandals to a "culture of cheating," particularly in politics (got that, ex-governor Bush? Ohio, Florida?) and business (got that, ex-governor Bush? Enron, WorldCom?). George Will bristled, saying that society is less tolerant of cheating because of (some nebulous and unnamed) higher standards (no doubt an attempt to pitch "personal responsibility"), Smiley smiled and said:
"Do you reeeally believe that, George?"
It was a defining moment in Sunday punditry: Tavis Smiley, who gave the more-and-more-right-leaning PBS the boot just last week, dared suggest that all of George F. Will's huffing, all of his historical anecdotes, all of his posturing is fake. Will, in effect, isn't really a believer in the Karl Röve Kööl-Aid -- he just plays one on TV!
We loved it. Look for Smiley to be permanently banned from ABC News for that brilliant moment of candor.
We'd love to watch FAUX News Sunday in its entirety here in New York, but it starts at 10AM, with CBS's Face the Nation and NBC's Meet Punkinhead both starting at 10:30. But it's worthwhile to get a gander at the first half hour of the Official Karl Röve Party Line ® early on Sunday.
Chris Wallace, the guy who plays the moderator on FNS, avoided talk about the details of Bernie Kerik's meltdown, casting the debacle with an upbeat, "President Bush is moving quickly to find a replacement." Naturally, Chris made a big deal about the attempt by the US to oust Mohammed el-Baradei as head of the IAEA (without, of course, mentioning the more important flip side of the story -- namely, that yet another US espionage operation, this one targeting a guy who is trying to stop the proliferation of WMDs, has been compromised).
Chris quickly got the Kerik matter out of the way with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Jon Corzine (D-NJ) -- with Corzine, admitting self-interest, blasting the lack of DHS funding for New York and New Jersey, something he feels Bernie Kerik would have addressed -- and saying he likes Lieberman (likely for his proximity to the metro-NYC area).
Chris then turned to the Iraq armor mess. Graham was not generous to the administration on either the head count or the body armor situation following the ouster of Saddam Hussein. Chris, for his part, acted as if the DoD was doing the best job it could, but Graham remained unrelenting, also slamming poor planning.
Chris finally said it: "The lack of armor has made them vulnerable." Does the Pentagon "finally, now get it?" Corzine said he agrees with Graham -- bad planning, tragic loss of life, huge casualties -- and Donald Rumsfeld having said, "It's not a matter of money, it's a matter of physics" is nonsense when armor producers are operating at half capacity. Chris claimed it is a "leap of logic" to demand Rummy step down over the armor mess (a sure sign, when coming from a FAUX News mouthpiece, that they know the heat is on Rummy from politicians in both parties) -- but Corzine talked about a lack of exit plan and a failure to secure weapons depots (wham! boom! ouch!), saying that someone at some point needs to be held accountable (translation: Bush should sack Rummy). Chris said McCain could not give Rummy a vote of confidence. Graham said it was right to take Saddam out of power -- but it's not a time to play politics but to learn from mistakes and move on.
Then -- Social Security. Chris played Bush's lie that nothing will change for those about to retire. Chris said Graham wants to raise the payroll cap from $88,000 to about $200,000 -- and Graham reminded people that Ronald Reagan raised payroll taxes and opened up Social Security to more people. Graham also admitted that "transition costs" are an issue (translation: if there is piratization, they're negotiable) and borrowing the money might be irresponsible. Graham called for putting aside "party ideology" to partially privatize Social Security. "Do what Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill did." Corzine said that a broad range of solutions have to be reviewed, not just raising payroll taxes. Graham makes some sense, he said, but that the issue is one of basic savings -- Social Security should not be spent on other things but set aside. Corzine opposes privatization, and borrowing $2 trillion endangers the long-term economic strength of the country. Graham pitched his plan for "personal accounts" (translation: billions in management fees for Wall Street brokerages and investment banks).
It was half-time -- just enough time to grab a coffee and channel surf between Schieffer and Russert.
-- JJ Balzer
As we sat drinking some very strong coffee and watching Meet the Press this morning, we noticed something in Tim Russert's demeanor we rarely see when he "confronts" a Democrat -- almost no confrontation.
This is in part because Dean, who simply will not suffer media fools gladly, has been more than willing to rip into Russert when NBC's corpulent Washington bureau chief has tried to kick him around.
And Russert seemed both more cordial and energized than usual. Why? Read on:
Russert started the interview by asking Dean about the Kerik mess. Dean's reply speaks for itself:
"I think he should have known better. I mean, EVERYBODY was put on notice with Zoë Baird 10 years ago that if you have domestic help -- it can't be an illegal immigrant and you can't pay her under the table -- and I think for this still to be going on for people who think they're going to be in public service is not so great."
You could hear the gleeful sarcasm in Dean's voice -- you could tell he savored the FUBAR scenario.
But he also swept aside Russert's question about whether he could've beaten the Chimp, chiding Russert for asking a "woulda, coulda, shoulda" question and reminding him that Kerry beat him.
On Iraq, Dean called it "a terrible mess, and the best we can do is try to get out of there with some reasonable semblance of stability in Iraq. And we can't do that immediately." Then, a zinger: "I actually support the president on the idea of having these elections on January 30th -- I don't think there's any good time to have an election."
But the question we were all waiting for -- about whether or not he'll run for the DNC -- was couched in a possible '08 run, which Dean immediately dismissed: "the reason I'm interested in running for the DNC chairmanship is because I think we need some fundamental things done differently." He complimented Terry McAuliffe on his financial acumen and leaving the party with a surplus, then laid out his plan: "We elected candidates in places like Alabama and Utah and Idaho and Georgia. Democrats can win in those places. First, I think we have to have a 50-state strategy, and secondly, I really believe we have to stand up for being Democrats. We HAVE a message to sell. I frankly think it's a BETTER message than the Republicans; we've just got to figure out how to get it out there: grassroots, empowering people elsewhere in the country, instead of trying to run things from the top down, I think, is the way to do it. It was successful for us. I think it can be successful for the Democratic National Committee."
He also explained what will be a major factor in his decision: "I am going to run if I think that I can win, if I think that they really want me. This is an institution and the people in the institution know that they have to change, but the pain of change is always greater. Until the pain of changing is less than the pain of staying the same, they aren't going to change." (Translation: the grassroots aren't the ones feeling pain, it's the Beltway Democrats, and they need to go.)
After mentioning the deficit, Tim brought up Social Security. Dean let fly an answer we saw on a few cable news programs: "I personally don't think privatization of Social Security is a good idea because you're going to end up taking away benefits from people. Social Security will be there for a 21-year-old today but they will not be there if you allow the president to destroy the system. The biggest problem I have with what the president wants to do is to add $2 trillion to the deficit. This is unbelievable. Four years ago, Bill Clinton was president of the United States. We had a big surplus. This is the borrow and spend, borrow and spent administration. They are fiscally irresponsible. You can't trust Republicans with your money anymore. They just take it and spend it. We cannot afford a $2 trillion borrowing fix to whatever the president wants to do to Social Security."
(That message is already being picked up by Democrats across the land following a week of Bush and the GOP lying about Social Security going broke -- but they all have to call Junior and Republicans on their dishonesty.)
Tim brought up an anti-Dean diatribe in the New Republic(an), which opposes his run. Dean debunked the premise of the screed: "I don't think we're talking about a liberal base. I think we're talking about a populist base, a base that wants economic justice, a base that wants fairness, a base that knows it's been left behind by a president who is much more interested in corporate welfare than he is of the welfare of the American public at large." He also debunked the "run to the middle" meme mentioned in the idiotorial: "You didn't see the president becoming a centrist all of a sudden. The president is the most conservative really far-right president we've seen in my lifetime and he uses that very effectively to get his base to the polls. As I said earlier, we ran the best grassroots campaign that I've seen in my lifetime. They ran a better one. Why? Because we sent 14,000 people into Ohio from elsewhere. They had 14,000 from Ohio talking to their neighbors and that's how you win in rural states and in rural America."
Tim tried to flog differences between Dean and the business-friendly Democratic Leadership Council. Dean gamely replied, "Well, first of all, I'm not running for president, I'm running for DNC chair. So it's the candidates that make the difference in terms of the political message, not the DNC chair." He then went into his Vermont platform, which appealed to rural voters.
Tim quoted the MoveOn.org memo: "Now it's our Party: we bought it, we own it, and we're going to take it back." The memo also slammed Terry Mac for being to cozy with business. But Dean again praised McAuliffe for leaving the party in some of the best financial shape it's ever been in, and also MoveOn for its amazing grassroots efforts. He did say no "faction" owns or controls the party. (Translation: he intends to use each and every faction within the party to its greatest strengths.)
Dean refused to be drawn into the so-called "controversy" about what John Kerry should do with his $15 million nest egg. And he had some fun as Tim tried to "divide" Dean from Harry Reid over Reid's compliment to Scalia (which was totally backhanded, because Reid savaged Scalia's ethics -- even though Tim failed to characterize it that way.) Dean smiled that killer red-meat as he said, "I think Antonin Scalia ought not to be on the Supreme Court let alone chief justice because I think he lacks judicial temperament.... The second thing after a work ethic that you look for when you're appointing a judge or a justice is judicial temperament. That means, in our judicial system, it's very important for the loser and/or the winner in any case to be, to feel like they've been treated fairly and respectfully by the court system. That's what is the glue that binds us together as a society: when you are sarcastic and mean-spirited, as the justice often is from the bench, it leaves the loser in that case feeling as if they were not respected by the judicial system -- and that's why you don't put people with bad temperament on the, on ANY court. And I certainly don't think they should be on the Supreme Court of the United States." Tim asked for specifics -- and Dean referred Tim to Scalia's rulings.
(Translation: Scalia's an arrogant, snide, self-aggrandizing prig -- which is probably why he's the Bush Boy's favorite Supremo.)
Tim went all Catholic and brought up abortion -- but Dean sliced that one up: "The way I think about this is--and it gets into the gay marriage stuff, too: we're not the party of 'gay marriage.' We're the party of equal rights for ALL Americans." A grin crossed Dean's face: "You know, I signed the first civil unions bill in America -- and four years later the most conservative president the United States has seen in my lifetime is now embracing what I signed." (Yes! Dean has come as a divider -- to remind paleo-evangelicals that Bush isn't tough on those awful, awful homosexuals!) "We've come a long way: we're NOT the party of abortion. We're the party of allowing people to make up their own minds about medical treatment."
Then Dean turned the tables completely on Tim, saying he wants a place in the party for pro-lifers -- but pro-lifers with a broader agenda: "They also, if they're in the Democratic Party, are real pro-life. That is, they're pro-life not just for unborn children. They're pro-life for investing in children's programs. They're pro-life for helping small children and young families. They're pro-life in making sure adequate medical care happens to children. That's what you so often lack on the Republican side. They beat the drums about being pro-life but they forget about life after birth. And so I do embrace pro-life Democrats."
Those last two sentences are key. Every Democrat should wield them against so-called "pro-life" Republicans -- and don't forget mention of the barbaric death penalty.
Dean also admitted it was going to be tough to become chairman, in an oblique swipe at Beltway insiders who dominate the party. He said he might keep his options open on another run in '08 -- whether or not he's chairman.
Tim then played a bit of Dean's great Yahoo! radio commercial, and actually set him up to debunk and defuse the "Dean scream" nonsense! Dean: "Everybody teases me about the scream speech, and it was a little over the top. So was the cable coverage of it. ABC News actually did a great story 10 days later, saying it really wasn't what it was. But I think if you can't have fun with yourself and laugh at yourself, then you probably shouldn't be in the business."
We almost think Tim wants Dean to get the job -- yes, he's a little more cautious in attacking Dean, and as the interview went on, Tim actually seemed to be enjoying himself -- but not in the self-aggrandizing way we see too often. Tim knew this interview was great pundit TV, and made the most of it, leaving viewers -- and Tim himself, God bless his black little heart -- wanting more. And that in part is why Tim seemed tough but in fact let Dean riff: he'd love a lot more of Dean on MTP.
Dean, for his part, was more impressive that in any of his pre-Election-Day appearances. He was not the front-runner right now for the DNC Chair, and we think he's still a dark horse -- but he definitely advanced his chances of clinching the seat.
Over on CNN, GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel gave Wolf Blitzer an earful about Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld. Here's the highlight, via Atrios:
That's all you need to say about it, Chuck! Talk about applying the red-ass to Rummy -- in fact, we wouldn't be surprised if Grampa Don's out on his bony ass sooner than most people suspect -- including his alleged boss, the Kennedrunkport Kowboy.
-- Jane Grice