Spanking Spak and Spec

Arlen "Scottish Haggis" Specter–whose political obituary was written yesterday in the form of a dismal poll result and a renewed threat from Pat Toomeysays we don’t need a truth commission because all the details on Bush era crimes are contained in some file cabinets that we need only waltz up to and empty out.

And in case you were wondering, Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

Presumably because he believes we need only waltz up to those file cabinets and take out the Cheney indictment, the sole contribution Scottish Haggis made in today’s Truth Commission Hearing was to enter this Hans von Spakovsky column into the record. Given that Hans von Spak accused Leahy of pitching a House Un-American Activities Commission, I can only interpret Haggis’ action as a profoundly cowardly attempt to get back in the good graces of the Club for Growth. 

The column itself shows the depths to which the Heritage Foundation has stooped in these, the declining years of the Conservative Movement. Even setting aside the horrible optics of having someone under investigation for abridging minority civil rights for political gain squawking about "political prosecutions," the column is just of pathetically bad quality.

Hans von Spak begins by exactly repeating (the Heritage Foundation, defender of private property, apparently doesn’t even require original work anymore) an error the WSJ made in January, claiming that nothing resulted from Carl Levin’s 18 month investigation into torture in DOD.

Moreover, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) held hearings, under oath, over a 2½- year period looking into many of the same issues. His report, though predictably partisan, found no criminal violations.

Aside from this apparent inability to even count (18? 30? no difference to today’s conservative), Hans von Spak apparently believes that the Committee’s findings–that Bush’s dismissal of Article Three and Rummy’s approval of aggressive technique were the "direct cause of detainee abuse" in Gitmo–doesn’t amount to a criminal violation.

And of course, Hans von Spak, like the WSJ, basically endorsed Levin’s approach while ignoring his call for "an outside commission appointed to take this out of politics, that … would have the clear subpoena authority to get to the parts of this which are not yet clear, and that is the role of the CIA." Hans von Spak and WSJ try to fight the idea of a Truth Commission by pointing to the good work of someone effectively supporting a Truth Commission.

Then, after repeating–in more incendiary fashion–the same straw men that David Rivkin used before the hearing today (again, what happened to the individualist concept of original work??), Hans von Spak, from the same party that criminalized a consensual blow job, the guy under investigation for illegal hiring practices for political reasons, whines some more about the criminalization of politics. 

Of course.

The thing that really gets me about Hans von Spak’s screed, though, are his exaggerations about Democratic complacency in torture. Oh sure, I’d have liked them to use speech and debate to expose the legal wrong-doing. But when Hans von Spak claims that, 

In December 2007, The Washington Post reported that in 2002 four members of Congress were given a virtual tour of the CIA’s overseas detention sites and were briefed on interrogation techniques. The bipartisan group, which included Pelosi, was specifically briefed on waterboarding. None of the four complained, and one of them asked if the methods being used were tough enough.

He somehow neglects to mention the very important detail that in this, the only torture briefing Pelosi attended, they were told the torture wasn’t being used yet.

Then, with some dishonest rhetoric, Hans von Spak suggests that no one ever objected to the torture regime.

The CIA gave key legislative overseers about 30 private briefings, including waterboarding and other interrogation techniques in 2002 and 2003. It is curious that lawmakers who were repeatedly briefed and raised no objections should subsequently criticize those very same policies.

Hans von Spak would prefer you didn’t know, I guess, about Jane Harman’s written objection to the torture (and, two years ahead of time, the destruction of the torture tapes). Remarkably, in 2003, Harman was asking the same questions we’re still looking to examine in this Truth Commission:

I would like to know whether the most senior levels of the White House have determined that these practices are consistent with the principles and policies of the United States.  Have enhanced techniques been authorized and approved by the President?

Pelosi, for her part, has committed to real oversight, whatever her shortcomings in the past. Hans von Spak, on the other hand, keeps crying about "criminalizing politics," presumably in an attempt in inoculate his own alleged criminal attempts to politicize justice.

My biggest questions about this, though, are these. Really, is this the best the Heritage Foundation can do? All that corporate money and they can’t even find someone who can do original work that can stand up to the scrutiny of a DFH blogger?  This is what the Conservative Movement has come to?

And speaking of pathetic, why is Politico publishing a column that–in significant part–the WSJ published as its own editorial two months ago? Recycling WSJ’s crap in the voice of a totally discredited, legally-implicated hack is their idea of cutting edge journalism? Two month old inaccurate opinion is "news"?

And then, finally, I know Scottish Haggis can be pathetic. But is he really going to go there, where in a desperate attempt to cling to his Senate seat he becomes the front man for a guy like Hans von Spak?

I know these guys are desperate to stop any real scrutiny of Bush’s actions, but their pathetic state is just making me sad.

42 replies
  1. Petrocelli says:

    Specter Spreads Some Spakkle !

    sorry, am anxiously awaiting Walker’s next move, that’s the best I’ve got right now …

  2. Taechan says:

    OT – to what extent are Obama’s position in the Al-Haramain case consistent with forcing Bush’s legal reasoning before a judge so that it can be thoroughly repudiated by that branch?

    I’ve been having trouble with the submit comment function so I apologize that my comments aren’t timely nor are they on the right thread.

    Regarding the memos that deal with detainee treatment, did OLC at any point even mention the specifically enumerated “make rules for captures on land and sea” power of the legislature? (Not even a pithy footnote on that one that I can find. But I had to put down the opinion for medical reasons, I’d’ve had a stroke if I maintained by BP there for much longer.) I realize they completely ignore the point of just WHAT the executive is meant to execute.

    • WilliamOckham says:

      Here’s a helpful hint for folks who have problems with the submit button and reply link. Occasionally, the ad server on this site has issues serving up the ads. When that happens, it can temporarily disable the reply link or the submit button. I’ll spare you the gory details and just suggest that if you are patient, eventually they work.

      As to your other questions, it is extremely unlikely to the point of impossibility that Obama’s strategy is to push Bush’s arguments so that they get repudiated. And yes, they mention the captures clause and claim that it only applies to property.

  3. JimWhite says:

    Two points:

    1) Leahy said he would keep the record open 24 hours to add to Specter’s contribution of this column. Why not send these refutations of the points to Leahy so he can include them in the record?

    2) Virtual tour? It’s looking more and more likely that somewhere in Washington (Cheney’s undisclosed location?) there was a facility from which torture was not only watched, but directed, in real time. Is that why the tapes were destroyed? Real time orders from the White House?

    • emptywheel says:

      That’s actually a direct quote from the WaPo article in question.

      No doubt it was based on a leak from–say–Pat Roberts or Crazy Pete Hoekstra.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      2) Virtual tour? It’s looking more and more likely that somewhere in Washington (Cheney’s undisclosed location?) there was a facility from which torture was not only watched, but directed, in real time. Is that why the tapes were destroyed? Real time orders from the White House?

      My skin crawled when I read your comment, JimWhite.

      This very thing had also crossed my mind.

      Which really underscores the need to get to the bottom of this absolute disaster.

      But upon a moment’s pondering, it may also help shed some light on why Mukasey was so phenomenally steadfast in protecting GWBush and Cheney legally — so diligently that at one point, he literally passed out in public.

  4. WilliamOckham says:

    I found two sentences in von Spakovsky’s editorial that I can’t prove are lies:

    My Russian immigrant father, who fled Communist persecution, told me more than once that avoiding political persecutions and show trials was crucial to preserving our republican form of government.


    Leahy has scheduled a hearing Wednesday on his proposal to convene a “truth commission” to conduct inquiries into Bush administration decisions on terrorist detainees, interrogation procedures and other practices.

    The rest of it is just hogwash.

    • klynn says:

      How many ties to Russian immigrants were represented in the Senate Truth Commission Judicial Committee hearing today? I count at least two (and they are on the Republican side).

      Was the US fully represented in that hearing? How many foreign powers were represented?

      Talk about the “within the gate” threat.

      Boy, Whitehouse’s comments make more and more sense.

  5. Mary says:

    So I guess the question for Specter is –

    So you are saying that as long as Nancy Pelosi gets is ok with something after private briefing, you’re good with it too?

    She’ll call you up and let you know how to vote on the budget bill tomorrow ‘kaythnxbai

  6. Cheryl says:


    Did you see the nice pdf file that ACLU put up as an “Index of Bush-Era OLC Memoranda Relating to Interrogation, Detention, Rendition and/or Surveillance?” Your timelines are excellent and you probably already have this but if not here is a link.…..9_0305.pdf

    • emptywheel says:

      Just saw it–it’s the basis of my wiretapping opinion timeline, which I was planning on updating.

      But I’d advise you all to read it–this is hte basis for the Propublica report on memos, though this actually has more info.

  7. LabDancer says:

    So Specter’s responsible for the Magic Loogie theory?

    Ms E Wheel, you are a veritable font of intriguing trivia today.

    Now what I want to know is: who’s playing Scottish Haggis in this re-enactment?

    • emptywheel says:

      Oh yeah. This is not the first time he’s run cover to prevent a real investigation into crimes.

      It’s how he got started–and apparently how he plans to finish his career.

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        And damn, it’s times like this that I read the thread looking for FormerFed, alabama, JohnJ and a few others to bring their institutional perspectives and background to topics like this one.

  8. Hmmm says:

    This is what the Conservative Movement has come to?

    That was a rhetorical question, wasn’t it?

  9. LabDancer says:

    I keep thinking that sometime before he has to face up to that Pennsylvania discord, the Hagg is going to try to use his support for the Stim to prevail on President Obama to nominate him to a seat on a pretty high up federal court bench … & succeed.

  10. LabDancer says:

    So the next question: Besides Sen Arlen Specter & of course a decidedly mixed metaphor, what does one get from mixing Scottish Haggis with a Magic Loogie?

  11. plunger says:

    bmaz March 4th, 2009 at 8:48 am

    Comment 21
    In response to bluebutterfly @ 18 (show text)

    Hey there. Does this look like a conspiracy theorist/truther thread? Cause I don’t think it does. And just in case you might be inclined to look for such a thread here in the future, we don’t do that here.

  12. skdadl says:

    I had just tuned in to the hearing as Specter was doing this, and I could not believe my ears, could not believe that von Spakovsky’s name would ever be mentioned in the SJC with anything but opprobrium. And then the segue to Dawn Johnsen appalled me completely.

    I watched the Kris/Johnsen hearing last week (an emotionally constipating experience it was, too), and Specter logic-chopped Johnsen so pointlessly that I couldn’t help suspecting a little sexist and age prejudice. No proof, but that was an uncomfortable experience. (Also, as far as I heard, not a word was spoken of international law, which, given the recent history of those two positions, I thought was most bothersome.)

  13. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Hans von Spak, on the other hand, keeps crying about “criminalizing politics,” presumably in an attempt in inoculate his own alleged criminal attempts to politicize justice…. I know these guys are desperate to stop any real scrutiny of Bush’s actions, but their pathetic state is just making me sad.

    ‘Sad’ was mostly my reaction as well. I found it just embarrassing and it made me cringe to watch Haggis invoke a man who seems so blinded by GOP ideology that he damaged DoJ. I just don’t know how much lower Specter could have gone unless he literally got down on his knees and shined up Rivkin’s shoes and then carried his briefcase out of the room for him.

    But reading this post, I had a flash of inspiration — it’s as if people like Von Spas have some kind of ‘judicial dyslexia’.

    It’s always hard to see things clearly, and God only knows I’ve misread things more times than I could count. But when I look at a ‘b’, I see a ‘b’.

    Some people look at a ‘b’ and their perceptions shift it into a ‘p’ or a ‘d’.

    I think Von Spas’s view of legal issues is just kind of… dyslexic.
    He probably doesn’t get up in the morning intending to be evil; he just has a very odd view of the world.

    Good thing that Goering and Attila the Hun never got published in Politico…. just sayin’.

  14. perris says:

    you know, spector has at times sounded like he wanted to do the right thing but then it looked like bush twisted his arm and he folded…or maybe it was just a physc job on us

    if the democrats were smart they would ask spector to do the right thing and then caucus with the democrats, we could get hem re-elected if he caucused with us the rest of the way

    that would kill their filibuster and he would keep his seat in power

    power is an addiction, he is faced with losing his drug, I think we can turn his power hungry hide to our side

    *waits for smackdown*

  15. robspierre says:

    I don’t pay alot of attention to what Beelzebublicans say, so I don’t know what Specter said in detail. But I’m not sure that I agree that a commission is a good idea. To me, the commission idea looks like the latest in a sad series of attempts to evade unpleasqantnesses like following the Constitution and enforcing the laws. We couldn’t impeach for various ersatz reasons. Now we can’t indict, prosecute, and try (or court martial in the case of military criminals). Why?

    I have no issue with the Truth part of the proposed commissions, as long as there is no Reconciliation (i.e. amnesty) involved, as in the South African case. But if we are going to immunize criminals for any purpose other than getting them to testify against others, then I think regular prosecutions are the way to go. No more Ollie Norths.

    We have to punish the guilty this time. The laws have been flouted for too long, with no consequences. Nixon got away with conspiring against liberty and the Constitution. Reagan and Bush got away with it. This encouraged Shrub and Cheyney (who was part of each of the earlier conspiracies) to try for out and out dictatorship, if the memos from Yoo and company are anything to go by. This time, the crimes have to cost the criminals. The punishments need to hurt. Bad. And, in a nation of laws, we get punishments by prosecutions and trials, not by commissions.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      FWIW, the person who comments here as ‘Mary’ made an absolutely brilliant analysis of this some weeks back, but I’m sorry that I honestly do not recall which thread it was on 8((

      Her analysis of the number of challenges that would have to be addressed and solved in terms of funding, staffing, scoping, reporting criteria, etc, etc, etc were — to my mind at least — brilliant.

      Perhaps someone else can find the link, and if they can perhaps you can do a search for ‘Mary’ and locate that comment.

      She and I were exchanging what Leahy might describe as ’something other than compliments’ — me favoring the TC, and she laying out all the reasons that such a proposal was almost a guarantee of butt-covering complicity, while assuring that no one was ever actually held accountable.

      She comes from law; my background is eclectic but my focus on this topic is the impact on public understanding and public trust (so I draw from ed psych research when I favor a TC).

      Her comment would be well worth your time, although I have no idea how to locate it.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      The key players behind the redirection are Vice-President Dick Cheney, the deputy national-security adviser Elliott Abrams, the departing Ambassador to Iraq (and nominee for United Nations Ambassador), Zalmay Khalilzad, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national-security adviser. While Rice has been deeply involved in shaping the public policy, former and current officials said that the clandestine side has been guided by Cheney.

      Saudi money was involved in what became known as the Iran-Contra scandal, and a few of the players back then—notably Prince Bandar and Elliott Abrams—are involved in today’s dealings.
      Iran-Contra was the subject of an informal “lessons learned” discussion two years ago among veterans of the scandal. Abrams led the discussion. One conclusion was that even though the program was eventually exposed, it had been possible to execute it without telling Congress. As to what the experience taught them, in terms of future covert operations, the participants found: “One, you can’t trust our friends. Two, the C.I.A. has got to be totally out of it. Three, you can’t trust the uniformed military, and four, it’s got to be run out of the Vice-President’s office”—a reference to Cheney’s role, the former senior intelligence official said.…..fact_hersh

      I try not to quote other sources too often here, but you may want to go read this old New Yorker article. The genie’s been out of the bottle a very long time and morphed into a global surveillance mess, complete with money laundering (at least, that’s my take).

      Had Iran-Contra been dealt with to the roots, it’s hard to imagine that it could have come back to haunt us as BushCheney.

      Hence, the need now to get to the bottom of this disaster, no matter how gory, horrendous, or vile. And it must be pretty ugly, given the amount of wingnut frenzy over it, although I fully agree with EW that it’s really a bit baffling to see how pathetic their claims are at this point.

      • robspierre says:

        I’ve read most of the Hersh New Yorker pieces, plus the book “House of Bush, House of Saud” (can’t recall author’s name). For that matter, I’ve read and watched (PBS) about what Bush’s grand daddies tried to pull against FDR. But I’m not sure I follow your point.

        My feeling is that knowing isn’t getting us anywhere. We probably DO know much of what has gone on–enough anyway. One torture victim is enough for me. The problem is that we never do anything about any of it. The rightwing conspirators take two steps forward and zero or one step back. Then they start again, always a little more ahead. Until we make them take 5 or 10 steps back–with prison terms, fines, and disgrace–they won’t stop.

        • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

          First, look what happens when problems aren’t properly investigated, rooted out, and eradicated. When that does not occur — as in the Iran-Contra investigation — it provides [criminals] with a chance to study what they didn’t achieve, then dig in, refine, and do it over. And boy, howdy….

          Had Iran-Contra brought the money-laundering, the role of what we now call the neocons, or the Shadow Government, into daylight their reputations would have been permanently damaged.

          But there are institutional reasons — how did a small group of people subvert Congress, the military, and the Dept of State? You have to examine how that occurred, so it doesn’t happen again.

          Then there’s what I call, ‘the Lynndie England reason’ to get to the bottom of it all. There’s a sad young life, who with better supervision, clear instructions, and decent training could have done something productive and useful. Instead, she’s a fall-gal for Rumsfeld, Cheney, Addington, Yoo, Bush, Cambone, Feith, Wolfowitz and the rest of that cabal.

          She was a young person of limited experience, and (one supposes) not a great deal of intellectual curiosity nor judgment. But she was placed in a situation with no clear rules, with a lot of ambiguity, in a place where the worst fears and aggressions played out and she fell right into it. IMHO, with better supervision and more clear guidelines, the military could have been a great experience for that young woman.

          So from an institutional perspective, you have to get to the bottom of a system that allowed those serving in the military to be pressured or tempted into perversion. You cannot — simply cannot — have a functioning military with that ‘breakdown of command and control’.

          The role of Congress is to make sure things operate properly.
          They didn’t.

          So I see layers to a TC:
          Layer #1: figuring out who was criminally culpable, and for what, and then send that group off to DoJ’s attention.
          Layer #2: the national security piece: how to you rebuild the reputation by putting clear, enforceable procedures in place — and making sure that noone in the future can set up a shadowDod, a la Doug Feith’s ‘Office of Special Plans’.
          Layer #3: How does the system need to be fixed so that when someone like young Lynndie England enters, she has the training, supervision, and feedback to be an asset, rather than a liability?

          Only one of those layers feeds to DoJ.
          The other two feed back into the institutions for quality control in the form of new laws, procedures, etc, etc.

    • WilliamOckham says:

      I believe the issue is that it uses Javascript to display the ads. If the adserver is very slow, it will hang up the rest of the javascript on the page. I haven’t spent a lot of time on this because there are some many variables, but, at least on my machine, there is a clear correlation between the time it takes the ads to render and the time that the reply links work.

  16. Hugh says:

    But is he really going to go there, where in a desperate attempt to cling to his Senate seat he becomes the front man for a guy like Hans von Spak?

    Yes, he already has. This has been another case of simple answers . . .

    • Hmmm says:

      He would be much wiser not to rely on the ol’ Nurnberg defense, methinks.

      Hmmm. Since he’s obviously not stoopid enuf to not know that’s what he’s doing there… er, why is he doing it?

  17. cinnamonape says:

    My Russian immigrant father, who fled Communist persecution, told me more than once that avoiding political persecutions and show trials was crucial to preserving our republican form of government.

    I guess his Russian immigrant Dad forgot to tell him about how the evil Commies doctored election results and removed appointed appartacheks who didn’t toe the party line just like occurred with the US Attorneys. Oh, wait….maybe he did…

    Maybe Spaz’s Dad, while pointing out what was cruciual to the American form of government, was really pointing out it’s Achilles heel…”Here’s how you destroy it, Little Spaz!”

  18. randiego says:

    My biggest questions about this, though, are these. Really, is this the best the Heritage Foundation can do? All that corporate money and they can’t even find someone who can do original work that can stand up to the scrutiny of a tenacious and gifted DFH blogger?

    There. Fixt

Comments are closed.