In a profile in Politico, Justin Amash* makes the case that the Freedom Caucus’ rebellion against John Boehner isn’t so much about ideology, it is about process.
Republican leaders see Freedom Caucus members as a bunch of bomb-throwing ideologues with little interest in finding solutions that can pass a divided government.
But that’s a false reading of the group, Amash told his constituents. Their mission isn’t to drag Republican leadership to the right, though many of them would certainly favor more conservative outcomes. It’s simply to force them to follow the institution’s procedures, Amash argued.
That means allowing legislation and amendments to flow through committees in a deliberative way, and giving individual members a chance to offer amendments and to have their ideas voted on on the House floor. Instead of waiting until right before the latest legislative crisis erupts, then twisting members’ arms for votes, they argue, leadership must empower the rank and file on the front end and let the process work its will.
“In some cases, conservative outcomes will succeed. In other cases, liberal outcomes will succeed. And that’s OK,” said Amash, who was reelected overwhelmingly last year after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce backed his Republican primary rival. “We can have a House where different coalitions get together on different bills and pass legislation. And then we present that to the Senate and we present it to the White House.
The truth lies somewhere in-between. After all, 8 of the 21 questions the FC posed to potential Speaker candidates are ideological in nature, hitting on the following issues:
Admittedly, even some of those — the financial ones — are procedural, but there are some key ideological litmus tests there.
Of the remaining 21 questions, 3 pertain to use of NRCC resources, 4 pertain to conference make-up, and 6 have to do with process. In other words, this block of members wants to end the systematic exclusion of their members from leadership and other positions and the systematic suppression of legislation that might win a majority vote without leadership sanction.
And while I certainly recognize that some of these process reforms — again, especially the financial ones — would likely lead to more hostage taking, I also think such reforms would also make (as one example) stupid wars and surveillance less likely, because a transpartisan majority of the House opposes many such things while GOP leadership does not (Nancy Pelosi generally opposes stupid surveillance and wars but also usually, though not always, does the bidding of the President).
The Yoder-Polis Act, an ECPA reform bill supported by 300 co-sponsors, is an example of worthy legislation that has long been held up because of leadership opposition.
While making the case for reform, though, I’d like to make the suggestion for another: to boot Devin Nunes, the current Chair of the House Intelligence Committee. According to the House Republican rules, the only positions picked by the Speaker are Select Committee Chairs, which would include Nunes and Benghazi Committee Chair Trey Gowdy (the latter of whom seems to be taken care of with Republican after Republican now admitting the committee is just a hack job, though if the FC wants to call for Richard Hanna to take over as Chair to shut down this government waste, I’d be cool with that too).
But with Boehner on his way out, it seems fair to suggest that Nunes should go too. While Nunes was actually better on Benghazi than his predecessor (raising questions about the CIA’s involvement in gun-running), he has otherwise been a typical rubber stamp for the intelligence community, rushing to pass info-sharing with Department of Energy even while commenting on their shitty security practices, and pitching partisan briefings to give the IC one more opportunity to explain why the phone dragnet was more useful than all the independent reviews say it was.
The Intelligence Community has lost credibility since 9/11, and having a series of rubber stamp oversight Chairs (excepting Silvestre Reyes, who was actually reasonably good) has only exacerbated that credibility problem. So why not call for the appointment of someone like former state judge Ted Poe, who has experience with intelligence related issues on both the Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees, but who has also been a staunch defender of the Constitution.
Hostage taking aside, I’m sympathetic to the argument that the House should adopt more inclusive rules, in part because it would undercut the problems of a two party duopoly serving DC conventional wisdom.
But no place in Congress needs to be reformed more than our intelligence oversight. And while picking a more independent Chair won’t revamp the legal structure of intelligence oversight, it might initiate a process of bringing more rigorous oversight to our nation’s intelligence agencies.
Of course, who am I kidding?!?! It’s not even clear that the GOP will succeed in finding a palatable Speaker candidate before Boehner retires. Throwing HPSCI Chair into the mix would likely be too much to ask. Nevertheless, as we discuss change and process, HPSCI is definitely one area where we could improve process to benefit the country.
*Amash is my congressperson, but I have not spoken to him or anyone else associated with him for this post and don’t even know if he’d support this suggestion.
Here is a bloody secret about blogging: The best ideas you express often come from others, even if you value add on to them. Welp, there will be no value adding on here, this post is 100% the work of our longtime friend at both Emptywheel and FDL, the one and only Peterr:
I had this vision of Donald Trump taking down the Statue of Liberty, replacing it with an even larger figure of himself, with a new poem inscribed on the base befitting his views on immigrants.
The New New Colossus
Not like the New Colossus, French-built bile
With calling torch and open arms so grand;
Now on this isle a Grander One shall stand:
A mighty huckster with a scam, whose smile
is a racist, hateful sneer, with his pile
of ego-sculpted hair. From his grasping hand
comes a devil’s contract; his beady eyes demand
payment ‘ere any travel one more mile.
“Keep, foreign lands, your homeless poor,” cries he
with flapping lips. “Give me your greedy, your rich,
Your coddled wealthy yearning to pay me,
the grasping powers drawn here by my pitch.
Send these, the makers, ready with my fee;
I snuff the lamp of Liberty, that bitch.”
I leave it to your imagination to envision the figure of The Donald standing astride New York harbor for yourself.
Okay, Peter is a long time friend, and his take totally merited publication. But Lady Liberty takes some attending to. You have to want the freedom of this country, you have to want it bad, and you have to be willing to fight for it, even when that freedom makes your blood curl (props to Sorkin’s American President). But wanting the American ethos is easy for an apparently gerbil topped pretender like Donald Trump. Trump wants the limelight, wants all the glory, and never wants to answer for the hell of stupidity, bankruptcy, loss of jobs and ignorance that he really stands for. Troll on Donald.
So many have given their lives for the right of a hollow shill to troll the American electorate. So many have died for that. So many just to give a blowhard clownshow jackhole the right to parade around like he is diddly shit other than the court jester and a sideshow amusement huckster.
The American people can propagate and tolerate an enormous amount of stupid, but not enough to let a pompous, bankruptcy generated, pompous jackass like Donald Trump through the door. Just an opinion, and a sincere hope.
Nope. George Bush was one thing, Trump is a bridge too far.
Vote Jeb! 2016: Because every American man deserves a seat for each of his balls.
Perhaps I’m being petty, getting so bugged by Jeb’s utter lack of awareness not just by his body language, but the message that that most annoying male body language sends to those who’ve had to spend their life squishing into a half seat to make room for some man who believes his balls take precedence over the other human beings in his space.
(Also note, at around 49:00, precisely when Jeb! starts talking about his brother’s WMD lies but then claims the surge the most courageous political act ever, he crosses his legs.)
I mean, much of the speech was word salad. The last few minutes of his speech could have been delivered as convincingly by Sarah Palin — just a string of words about American leadership without any substance to what that really means.
Then there was the contradiction within his message. He’s branding his whole spiel “Liberty Diplomacy!” Yet the guy who claimed a “liberty” agenda objects to Obama’s effort to end what he called the “NSA metadata program,” either displaying ignorance that the Section 215 program that Obama wants to alter is just a small fraction of the metadata NSA collects, or even greater ignorance that Obama has done and will do nothing to end all the other means of collecting metadata, including on Americans. Not to mention real ignorance about the NSA’s own evidence about how useless the 215 phone dragnet has been.
Similarly, Jeb!’s Liberty Diplomacy! bemoans the disrespect he sees Obama extending to Egypt’s brutal dictator Fattah al-Sisi. “Now we’re pulling back from providing support to al Sisi.”
That’s was consistent with his theory that if we significantly increase funding for our national security budget, we’ll never have need to go to war. “Others should want America as a friend,” Jeb! said, presumably at the tip of vastly increased defense spending.
Jeb! clearly believes he projects strength in Latin American foreign policy. The brother of the man whose DOJ chose not to charge any of the big white GOP donors at Chiquita who knowingly funded right wing terrorists in Colombia hailed Uribe’s great success there. Which, presumably, reflects his larger conflation of capitalism and democracy, which permits him to ignore the way Bolivarist countries have improved their countries’ well-being. He positively drooled over Venezuela becoming a failed state with low gas prices (though many Democrats are too). Then again, the Bush family has a well-established fondness for terrorists in Venezuela, so he’ll probably be thrilled if more arise in such a failed state.
Well, about one thing Bush was right on the mark. He noted that neither ISIL nor Twitter existed when his brother invaded Iraq. That is, ISIL didn’t exist until his brother fucked up the joint.
All in all, though, I can only conclude that by Liberty Diplomacy he means he will open new space for American mens’ balls to colonize, around the world.
It has taken three days for the bleating press corps in DC to wade through the roll-out of Benghazi talking point emails and realize that the tension behind the emails — as has been clear from just days after the attack — is that Benghazi was really a CIA, not a State, Mission, and therefore CIA bears responsibility for many of the security lapses. So State, in making changes to the emails, was making sure it didn’t get all the blame for CIA’s failures.
David Corn describes it this way.
The revisions—which deleted several lines noting that the CIA months before the attack had produced intelligence reports on the threat of Al Qaeda-linked extremists in Benghazi—appear to have been driven by State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, who, it should be noted, is a career Foggy Bottomer who has served Republican and Democratic administrations [ed: including Dick Cheney], not a political appointee. Her motive seems obvious: fend off a CIA CYA move that could make the State Department look lousy.
Yet it’s only now, several days into this frenzy, that some reporters are coming to report this.
And they’re still not noting ways in which the CIA’s initial emails were self-serving. For example, when the CIA said,
Since April, there have been at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi by unidentified assailants, including the June attack against the British Ambassador’s convoy. We cannot rule out the individuals has [sic] previously surveilled the U.S. facilities, also contributing to the efficacy of the attacks.
They might have also said, “since February, people tied to CIA’s mission have twice been harassed by militia members, suggesting our OpSec was so bad they knew we were in Benghazi.”
And when CIA’s talking points said,
The crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals from across many sectors of Libyan society. That being said, we do know that extremists with ties to al-Qa’ida participated in the attack.
They might also have said that the “trusted” militia, February 17 Brigade, trained by David Petraeus’ CIA, whose career legacy is based on false claims of successfully training locals, appears to have allowed the attack to happen (and, critically, delayed CIA guards from heading to the State mission to help).
Note that Congressman Frank Wolf is just now showing some interest in why CIA’s vetting of the militia central to the mission’s defense was so bad. Maybe if CIA had included that detail in their self-serving initial talking points, Congress would have turned to this issue more quickly, particularly since we’re currently training more potentially suspect militias in Syria.
In other words, the story CIA — which had fucked up in big ways — wanted to tell was that it had warned State and State had done nothing in response (which, perhaps unsurprisingly, is precisely the story Darrell Issa and Jason Chaffetz are trying to tell). The truthful story would have been (in part) that CIA had botched the militia scene in Benghazi, and that had gotten the Ambassador killed.
Yet that appears to be just the half of the self-serving function this email release has had for CIA.
Consider how this rolled out. Continue reading
Although he has been under house arrest since shortly after his return to Pakistan while facing trial on charges of arranging the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, former Pakistani Army Chief and President Pervez Musharraf was given a lifetime ban from holding political office by the Peshawar High Court:
The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Monday banned former military ruler Pervez Musharraf from politics for life.
The ruling came in response to an appeal filed by the former army strongman over the rejection of his nomination papers for the National Assembly seat in Chitral.
A four-member larger bench, headed by PHC Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and comprising of Justice Malik Manzoor, Justice Syed Afsar Shah and Justice Ikramullah ruled that since Musharraf had abrogated the Constitution twice, he could not be allowed to contest elections for either the National Assembly or the Senate.
Isn’t that interesting? In Pakistan, violating the country’s constitution as President gets a lifetime ban from politics, while in the US the same offense allows the perpetrator to open a Presidential Lie Bury.
Meanwhile, as the May 11 elections draw nearer, violence is escalating. Today’s New York Times reports on a suicide bomber who killed nine in Peshawar in an attack that seemed aimed at creating an overall climate of fear rather than attacking a particular target:
An attacker riding a motorcycle detonated his explosives near the suspected target, a police patrol car, on busy University Road during the morning rush hour, killing a police constable and several bystanders, said Faisal Kamran, a senior police official.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, although the Taliban have carried out a relentless series of attacks against secular political parties around the country in recent weeks as part of a drive to influence the elections.
Officials in Peshawar said the attack on Monday was different in that it did not appear to target a specific party but aimed instead to foster a broader climate of fear during the campaign season.
Sadly, two of the people who died were Afghan trade officials who most likely were not targeted but merely were victims of the senseless attack.
As stated above, most violence ahead of the election has been aimed at political parties and candidates. It has become so widespread that Human Rights Watch issued a statement yesterday, calling for more protection of candidates and political parties:
Pakistan’s interim government should take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of candidates and political party activists at risk of attack from the Taliban and other militant groups, Human Rights Watch said today. Nationwide parliamentary elections in Pakistan are scheduled for May 11, 2013.
Since April 21, when election campaigning formally began, the Taliban and other armed groups have carried out more than 20 attacks on political parties, killing 46 people and wounding over 190. Earlier in April, another 24 people were killed and over 100 injured in election-related attacks.
That violence is continuing:
An independent election candidate and two of his relatives from Balochistan’s Jhal Magsi area were killed by unknown assailants on Tuesday night prompting the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to postpone the elections in PB-32.
According to the police and relatives of the deceased, Abdul Fateh Magsi was kidnapped on Tuesday (sic) night and his bullet-riddled body was found on Tuesday morning.
Presumably, Magsi was kidnapped on Monday evening and his body found this morning.
There is a long article in today’s Washington Post handicapping the elections. I’m pretty sure that this passage is delivered without a clue to the level of hypocrisy it drips:
On May 11, Pakistanis will choose the next prime minister in an election hailed as a landmark of democratic progress for a country ruled by the military for nearly half its 65-year history. Yet decades of tradition dictate why democracy has remained more of a concept than a reality.
Even as Pakistan prepares to witness its first democratic transition of power, elite political families, powerful landholders and pervasive patronage and corruption undermine the prospects of a truly representational democracy, political analysts say.
Coming on the heels of Sandra Day O’Connor finally admitting the US Supreme Court should not have decided the 2000 Presidential Election and as the Post and other pundits continue to hype the Hillary Clinton vs. JEB! Bush 2016 contest, what more proof do we need that the US is completely free of corruption and elite political families?
No. In the name of God, Thor, Zeuss, Cthulhu and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, no. There are few people who personify the vapid, amoral fetid swamp of Washington politics and defense policy more than David Petraeus. Taking a huge part of the blame for propelling Petraeus from a solely military into an entirely political career is the Washington Post, which gave Petraeus a prime op-ed slot in September 2004, where he spewed wildly optimistic numbers on his accomplishments while training Iraqi troops. Petraeus further told us how victory was just around the corner, implying that if only Americans would re-elect George W. Bush, his plan would achieve full fruition. Active military personnel are not supposed to engage in politics, but Petraeus became political with that op-ed and Washington overlooked it, because that’s what Washington does and that’s what the Washington Post does.
Bush rewarded Petraeus for his role in the election by putting him in charge of US troops in Iraq. Petraeus didn’t impress his immediate superior, Admiral Fallon, who termed Petraeus an “ass-kissing little chickenshit” after their first meeting. Once in charge, Petraeus quickly established death squads. Things didn’t go all that well in Iraq, in part because everything Petraeus does fails miserably while he is busy explaining to us what a good job he is doing. By 2007, the Kagan brain-trust came up with the idea of the surge to “save” Iraq. Washington politics and defense policy prostitute Michael O’Hanlon was brought onto the job of helping to sell the surge. In the fall of 2007, an orchestrated Washington event, complete with a sideshow purchased in the New York Times for the “General Betrayus” ad, gave us Congressional hearings that resulted in approval for the surge. Completely overlooked at that time was the inconvenient fact that a major part of the Iraq plan moving forward from that point involved a total restart of training Iraqi troops because Petraeus failed spectacularly in his previous attempt at training. But Washington and the Washington Post did not call out Petraeus for that failure, because that’s what Washington and the Washington Post do.
Petraeus was next promoted by Bush in late 2008 to Fallon’s previous position in charge of CentCom. It was quite clear to Barack Obama once he took office that Petraeus had his sights set on becoming president, so Obama made a very interesting move when he sent Petraeus down in rank to take command in Afghanistan after Petraeus’ protege Stanley McChrystal was fired for insubordination in July of 2010. Because lying about training had worked in advancing his career in Iraq, it appears that fudging the numbers on ANSF capabilities was one of the first things Petraeus did once in charge in Afghanistan. He was caught in this by the GAO, who pointed out that criteria for ANSF readiness were being changed to increase the number of troops qualifying for the most advanced classification, but it appears that only SIGAR and I care about those lies. Washington and the Washington Post ignored those dishonest moves by Petraeus, because that’s what Washington and the Washington Post do.
After Petreaus had been in charge in Afghanistan for six months or so, political handlers stepped into the picture to try to burnish his image for a future run for president. Continue reading
Presumably as part of David Petraeus’ effort to rehabilitate his image, Bob Woodward obtained a tape of a discussion in which Fox News’ “Analyst” Kathleen McFarland passes on Roger Ailes’ April 2011 advice to Petraeus: if Obama doesn’t name him Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Ailes instructed, he should quit and run for President.
When you listen to the tape, it seems clear Petraeus is getting the promises Ailes and Rupert Murdoch previously made to him on a tape he presumably knew was running. Note the way he leads the discussion in this passage.
Petraeus: He is. Tell him if I ever ran [laughs] but I won’t . . .
Q: Okay, I know. I know.
Petraeus: But if I ever ran, I’d take him up on his offer.
Q: Okay. All right.
Petraeus: He said he would quit Fox.
Q: I know. Look, he’s not the only one.
Petraeus: And bankroll it.
Q: Bankroll it? [Laughs]
Petraeus: Or maybe I’m confusing that with Rupert. No. [Laughter]
Q: I know Roger, he’s done okay, but . . . no, I think the one who’s bankrolling it is the big boss.
Petraeus: That might be it.
Q: Okay. The big boss is bankrolling it. Roger’s going to run it. And the rest of us are going to be your in-house.
Mind you, I’m not sure what Petraeus thought he was accomplishing by getting this on tape. It is not news, after all, that Republican hacks like Ailes wanted Petraeus to run. Nor is it news that Fox is a partian organization that would drop everything to back the right candidate. And a tape record that Murdoch promised to bankroll the unsullied Petraeus for President does not legally bind Murdoch to do the same for a now-shamed former General.
So while the tape and transcript are fun on a lot of levels, all they really does is confirm what we’ve long known about Ailes, Murdoch, and the publicity hound Petraeus.
Moreover, I’m far more troubled by the way McFarland discussed what she called gossip she has picked up from some former chiefs, purportedly repeating the White House’s fears, about Petraeus.
Q: Okay. But they think if you’re chairman, they can’t overrule you. They can’t go against whatever your advice is going to be, militarily. Plus, they have a Colin Powell problem. Where Colin Powell, very successful chairman, is everybody’s sort of rallying point to run for an office where there’s nobody that they think is — that the group can . . .
Petraeus: But of course he didn’t run.
Q: But he could have.
Petraeus: And he wouldn’t have. No.
Q: He could have. Politically, he could have. So they look at you and they think, how can we keep him quiet? We don’t want him out on the loose to potentially run in ’12, and we sure don’t want him in ’16. We’ll put him at the CIA, where he can speak publicly twice a year before an open session of Congress. No backgrounders to the press, no Sunday talk shows, no speeches, no nothing. Now, I’m throwing that out as gossip.
Mind you, McFarland attributes these beliefs to the White House via presumably retired officers, not Ailes. But it comes just after she has delivered Ailes’ instructions: take JCS or run for President.
Q: That’s not the question at this point. He says that if you’re offered chairman, take it. If you’re offered anything else, don’t take it, resign in six months and run for president. Okay?
So in addition to a purported media outlet (albeit one that solicited advice on its coverage) recruiting Petraeus to run for President, said media outlet first said that if Petraeus could get into a position where the White House “can’t overrule” him, he should stay in government.
Just minutes after relaying advice that he should stay if he were JCS Chair, McFarland stated that the value of having him at Chair is that the Commander-in-Chief could not overrule him.
For Fox, it seems, having their guy in charge is more important than maintaining civilian rule over the military.
When Woodward contacted Ailes about the conversation, Ailes downplayed McFarland’s actions, her position at Fox, and his own role.
In a telephone interview Monday, the wily and sharp-tongued Ailes said he did indeed ask McFarland to make the pitch to Petraeus. “It was more of a joke, a wiseass way I have,” he said. “I thought the Republican field [in the primaries] needed to be shaken up and Petraeus might be a good candidate.”
Ailes added, “It sounds like she thought she was on a secret mission in the Reagan administration. . . . She was way out of line. . . . It’s someone’s fantasy to make me a kingmaker. It’s not my job.” He said that McFarland was not an employee of Fox but a contributor paid less than $75,000 a year.
He wasn’t a kingmaker, Ailes said. Though it seems he was happy to play Chairman-Maker.
Back when the 2016 GOP nomination kicked off (a good 5 days before Mitt got around to losing officially), here’s one way Paul Ryan’s anonymous advisors envisioned insulating his Presidential ambitions from any damaging votes: quitting.
They say that if he fails, Ryan’s instincts will be to return to the House — he is running for re-election to his House seat at the same time he’s Romney’s running mate — and resume his role as Budget Committee chairman.
Some senior Republicans caution it might not be that easy.
If Romney loses, Ryan will be seen as a leading White House contender in 2016. He will be a national party figure even without being a top member of the House leadership. That could breed resentment among current Republican leaders and perhaps splinter coalitions within the already fractured GOP alliances at the top of the House.
A return also would make Ryan a leading target for Democrats. For the next few years, Democrats would lay traps in legislation, forcing him to take sides on measures that could come back to haunt him during a presidential bid.
That is why some of Ryan’s biggest boosters are considering whether it wouldn’t be better for Ryan to resign from the House.
Never mind the delusion that suggests Ryan would be that enticing a target for Democrats. It gave Ryan’s advisors an excuse to advocate he quit before he has to cast anymore unpopular votes.
Speaker John A. Boehner has tapped Mr. Ryan, who has returned to his post as the House Budget Committee chairman after an unsuccessful run for vice president, to help strike a deal to avoid big tax increases and spending cuts by the end of the year, and to bring along fellow Republicans.
“He helps us toward creating a product,” said Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, “and he helps sell the product.”
The test will be whether Mr. Ryan — who declined last year to sit on another Congressional committee charged with taming the deficit, in large part because doing so might have hurt his prospects for national office — can make the transition from House budget philosopher to governing heavyweight who can help negotiate a bipartisan deal and sell it to his colleagues.
With his new muscle and increased respect from his colleagues, Mr. Ryan could conceivably scuttle any deal if he loudly opposes a solution that the speaker and the top Republican leaders embrace. But his conservative base might rebel against him if he were to endorse any deal seen as awarding too much to Mr. Obama and the Democrats, particularly on tax rates. Some Republicans think the pitfalls are dangerous enough that Mr. Ryan might consider leaving Congress altogether to work on his policy agenda without the inherent headaches of the Hill.
“He has to think about what he wants his role to be,” said Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma. “Is he going to run in 2016, or run for something else in Wisconsin, or play a bigger role in the House? He’s going to play an outsize role here because of the national profile he now has, but on the other hand, this conference is quite happy to act independently.” [my emphasis]
The implication being that if he plans to run in 2016, Ryan can’t stick around and–with a vote in favor of a “Grand Bargain”–compromise his governing ideology by admitting does not support a functioning government. Elsewhere, the article notes how much fun he and his wife had visting her grandmother’s home in Iowa.
In other words, he clearly plans to run.
Which leaves the question whether he truly agrees with these anonymous and on-the-record sources advising him to quit if he plans to run for President.
I guess he plans to follow the successful path of President Palin, then, even if he can’t run a marathon as fast as she can.
I just wonder what his Hollywood reality show will be called.