Transpartisan Arguments the Government Won’t Want to Succeed

Justin Amash, Paul Broun, Tulsi Gabbard, Morgan Griffith, Rush Holt, Walter Jones, Barbara Lee, Zoe Lofgren, Thomas Massie, Tom McClintock, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Beto O’Rourke, Steve Pearce, Matt Salmon, Mark Sanford, Ted Yoho.

Well, that’s got to be a group of people the Powers That Be don’t want to see joining together?

Captain Tulsi Gabbard, Physics PhD Rush Holt, Appalachian Trail Hiker Mark Sanford, and Paleocon Walter Jones. With my libertarian Congressman, Justin Amash apparently leading the bunch.

All on a court motion together, calling for the court to release the FISC opinion explaining why the government’s Section 702 collection was unconstitutional because without it they can’t do their job. Which includes, in part, informing the American people.

As important, whatever information Members of Congress learn about secret FISC opinions and orders, they are unable publicly to discuss or debate them because any disclosure is still subject to secrecy requirements.


In light of recent disclosures regarding the existence of a “classified intelligence program,” related to the “business records” section of FISA, the Director of National Intelligence has acknowledged that “it is important for the American people to understand” the limits of the program and the principles behind it.


Notwithstanding the compelling public interest in an open debate about the scope and propriety of government surveillance programs authorized under FISA, even the amici — Members of the U.S. Congress — cannot meaningfully participate in that public debate so long as this Court’s relevant decisions and interpretations of law remain secret. They cannot engage in public discussion on the floor of the Senate and the House about the government’s surveillance programs. And they cannot engage in dialogue with their constituents on these pressing matters of public importance.


Informed, public debate is central to Congress’s role as a coequal branch of the federal government. The Constitution acknowledges the unique importance of open debate to Congress’s role in the Speech or Debate Clause. Debate in Congress serves no only the institution’s internal goal of creating sound public policy. Courts have recognized a second crucial purpose of informed, public debate in Congress: to inform the American people about the issues affecting their government.

Now, I think they may overestimate the degree to which this opinion pertains to the Section 215 collection (indeed, if it pertains to Internet metadata collection, it pertains to Section 214 of PATRIOT instead). [Update, 9/13/13: I’m mistaken here–it was exclusively Section 215.]

And I think their Speech or Debate argument has confused people about whether these members of Congress have seen what’s in the opinion. Holt used to be on the House Intelligence Committee, but no longer is, so I assume none of the Members on this brief know what the opinion is. In any case, the House has much more restrictive rules about who can access intelligence secrets than the Senate.

But I am rather fond of the argument that Congress can’t do its job with all the secrecy the Executive is operating under.

C Street to Jenny Sanford: Keep Fucking Mark, Even While He's Cheating on You

I really had no interest in reading Jenny Sanford’s book. But I might have to read it only to get clarity on this tidbit that Ruth Marcus writes about. (h/t Rayne)

After one of the all-too-rare pre-affair moments in which Jenny gets angry, Mark enlists leaders of a congressional Christian fellowship to talk her down. They told her she was right to be angry, Jenny recounts, but that “staying angry with Mark was not an option. If I wanted to heal the relationship, I had to open my heart and be kind, even if Mark was in the wrong. They would work on Mark. We even went so far as to talk about sex and [one of the leaders] told me not to withhold it as punishment as that would make everything worse.” [my emphasis]

So those beacons of Christianity told this woman that she should keep having sex with her husband even though he was cheating on her. It was awfully nice of them, wasn’t it, to eliminate one source of pressure Jenny Sanford had over her husband. Because we can’t have women have any source of power in a traditional Christian family, don’t you know? [ed.–see Frank Probst’s comment; on re-reading I agree the implication is this advice came pre-affair.]

The clarification I want, though, is whether OB/GYN Tom Coburn–who we know was actively counseling Mark Sanford on this affair–was involved in the advice to Jenny Sanford that she should just keep having sex with her husband, even as he was fucking another woman. I’d really like to know what the fine doctor would say in such a situation.

DC’s Newest Reality Show

Picture 138And speaking of C Street, it looks like the moralizing hypocrites at C Street are shopping for a new roomie.

Sen. John Ensign has moved out of the C Street house, the Christian home he shared with other elected officials on Capitol Hill that came under scrutiny for its residents’ beliefs and practices and their role in trying to end the Nevada Republican’s affair with a campaign staff member.The red brick town house emerged this summer as the subject of political intrigue — not only as a pivotal location in Ensign’s affair with Cynthia Hampton, but also that of South Carolina Republican Gov. Mark Sanford, who sought guidance there as he wrestled with his own affair.

As fallout from Ensign’s affair continues with a preliminary Senate Ethics Committee investigation and talk of a possible criminal inquiry by the Justice Department, Ensign decided to move out, not wanting to draw further attention to his longtime home.

There’s only one way to replace Ensign. To invite six avowed Christian Freshman Congressmen to participate in a reality show–a test, week by week, of who can be a bigger moral hypocrite. Each week, we’ll vote off one participant (who, thereafter, will have to pay market rates for a place in DC).

So I’m looking for two kinds of input. First, candidates to enter the reality show. You might start with this list.

And then we need a catchy name, so we can pitch the show to Bravo. My suggestion (which sucks–but then I’m busy watching football) is Praying for the Pay.

Enter your candidates–and name suggestions–in comments.

Mark Sanford Goes Galt

Clearly Jon Meacham and his deputy editors at Newsweek could use a refresher course in compelling journalism from their sister ship test proctors at the Stanley Kaplan Corporation. Newsweek, you see, has just seen fit to publish a lengthy interpretation of Ayn Rand by none other that Appalachian Trail aficionado Mark Sanford.

The Fountainhead is a stunning evocation of the individual and what he can achieve when unhindered by government or society. Howard Roark is an architect who cares nothing about the world’s approval; his only concerns are his integrity and the perfection of his designs. What strikes me as still relevant is its central insight—that it isn’t “collective action” that makes this nation prosperous and secure; it’s the initiative and creativity of the individual. The novel’s “second-handers,” as Rand called them—the opportunistic Peter Keating, who appropriates Roark’s architectural talent for his own purposes, and Ellsworth Toohey, the journalist who doesn’t know what to write until he knows what people want to hear—symbolize a mindset that’s sadly familiar today.

Yeah, because the guy using state money to fly himself around the globe to meet his Latin lover, while his wife and children are back in the government paid for Governor’s mansion, ought to be talking about second hand leeches.

When the economy took a nosedive a year ago—a series of events that arguably began when the government-sponsored corporations Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac went broke—many Americans, myself included, watched in disbelief as members of Congress placed blame on everyone and everything but government. This wasn’t new in 2008. It’s an act we’ve seen over and over since the beginning of the New Deal in 1933. For that reason, I think, those passages in Atlas Shrugged foreshadow what might happen to our country if there is no change in direction. As Rand shows in her book, when the government is deprived of the free market’s best minds, it staggers toward collapse.

Uh huh, how convenient. Sanford pegs Fannie and Freddie as the ultimate culprits without noting that, while government sponsored, they are privately run enterprises. Nor noting that the reason the GSEs failed is from the complete hash of the financial markets made by the anti-regulatory, free wheeling, Randian geniuses populating Wall Street and the “financial products” markets that Sanford so adores.

Then there is this: Read more

Is All This about C Street?

I’m curious. Is all the language Mark Sanford uses about God wanting him to remain Governor about C Street?

He’s using the language of the Chosen and–in a state that can match him for fundie cred (or, for those who haven’t admitted adultery, exceed him)–he’s saying his God knows better than others’ God.

Embattled South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford acknowledged Tuesday that he has been shaken by the failure of a single fellow Republican to back him in his fight to save his job, but vowed to fight on for conservative causes and for "what God wanted me to do with my life." 


He said he intends to complete his term, not to hold on to power but to fight for conservative principles of governance.

"I feel absolutely committed to the cause, to what God wanted me to do with my life," he said in an interview. "I have got this blessing of being engaged in a fight for liberty, which is constantly being threatened."

 Plus, the conflation of "liberty" with "God" seems like solid C Street propaganda.

I’m wondering whether Sanford is refusing to step down because the powers he must answer to–as distinct from SC’s Republican party–have told him to stand his ground.

Meet the Press STILL Lets Guests “Control the Message”

picture-117.pngCathie Martin’s testimony of how she strategized a response to Joe Wilson’s July 6, 2003 op-ed was one of the most visibly discomfiting moments of the Scooter Libby trial for those in the media room. After all, Martin was revealing how easily the DC press allowed itself to be manipulated by those in power. Along with describing which reporters they were dealing which kinds of stories to and how reporters tended to be more compliant when you told them they were getting an exclusive, Martin explained that the White House controlled the message when Cheney went on Meet the Press.

Fitzgerald: Focusing on the language in the black where it says options, can you run down the four options and describe what they refer to in these notes and what you discussed with Mr. Libby?

Martin: Sure.  First note M.T.P., which is Meet The Press, dash VP.  So this was my discussion about possibly putting the Vice President on Meet The Press that Sunday to give a fuller discussion of the whole picture.

Fitzgerald: On the right you have another reference to M.T.P.  Can you describe what that is?

Martin: I think I walked, this is me walking through the pros and cons of putting the Vice President on Meet The Press. And I wrote underneath pros, best.  This is our best format, and he’s our best person on Meet The Press.  Two, we control the message a little bit more.  It was good for our — for us to be able to tell our story. [my emphasis]

TPMM has been wading through the latest document dump of Mark Sanford’s office’s emails released by the Charleston Post and Courier.  And they’ve discovered that David Gregory has continued the Meet the Press approach to letting guests control the message. 

But Gregory’s emails, in particular, make clear just what a get Sanford was seen as, and how far the networks were willing to go in promising a safe landing place for the governor.

Gregory’s first email to Sawyer was sent at 12:24 p.m. on Wednesday June 24 — that is, after Sanford had admitted to The State that he had actually been in Argentina, but before the famed stream-of-consciousness press conference where he admitted to an affair. Gregory wrote:

Hey Joel …

Left you a message. Read more

Why Is Hampton Embarrassing “the Family”?

Last night, Rachel did a superb job on a story we were the first to cover: Doug Hampton’s efforts to get "the Family" to get John Ensign to stop sleeping with Hampton’s wife (see Hampton’s full interview here).

Now, in Hampton’s description of "the Family," he emphasizes they’re good men. And when Hampton first spoke, he did not mention "the Family" directly–we figured that out based on Ensign roomie’s Tom Coburn’s involvement. 

But I wonder. Are Hampton’s now-extensive discussion of "the Family" and Sanford’s off-hand reference to it mistakes, or intentional efforts to expose the group?

For Hampton’s part, I suspect he may have appealed to "the Family" because he knew–or hoped–it would be a quick way to a pay-off. And, given Coburn’s statement that Ensign should have done as "the Family" told him to do, Hampton may have had good reason to believe so. That is, the reference that initially got me and Citizen92 looking at the circumstances of this confrontation closely …

In fact one of the confrontations took place in February 2008 at his home in Washington DC (sic) with a group of his peers. One of the attendee’s (sic) was Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma as well as several other men who are close to the Senator.

… May have been an implicit threat to expose the group, a reference explicit enough to communicate to Ensign and "the Family" that he’d describe the group’s involvement if he did not get the pay-off they had recommended last year. Which is what we’re seeing now, Hampton’s revenge for the failure of "the Family" to resolve it amicably.

Then what of Sanford’s weepy reference, coming just a week or so after Hampton’s partial exposure of "the Family"?

Did your wife and your family know about the affair before the trip to Argentina?

Yeah. We’ve been working through this thing for about the last five months. I’ve been to a lot of different–I was part of a group called C Street when I was in Washington, it was a Christian Bible study of some folks that ask Members of Congress hard questions that I think were very very important. I’ve been working with them. 


It was discovered five months ago.

That’s a part of me that wonders whether Sanford–who appears to be discovering emotions usually first experienced during adolescence–just lost all filter in his confusion. But I’m not sure. Read more

WaPo Discovers C Street

Kudos to Citizen92 who first asked where Tom Coburn and John Ensign lived together, which led me to figure out that it was at "the Family’s" C Street residence. Because, now that TPMM and I keep posting on the connection between a shady Christian group and the latest Republican affairs, the WaPo has decided to cover it (or at least the house, without much discussion of "the Family," and certainly no link to the blog that first covered it).

Mostly, though, the WaPo catches people trying to disassociate from the hypocritical adulterers.

First, at least one resident learned of both the Sanford and Ensign affairs and tried to talk each politician into ending his philandering, a source close to the congressman said. Then the house drama escalated. It was then that Doug Hampton, the husband of Ensign’s mistress, endured an emotional meeting with  Sen. Tom Coburn, who lives there, according to the source. The topic was forgiveness.

"He was trying to be a peacemaker," the source said of Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma.

Although Sanford visited the house, there is no indication that he was ever a resident; when he was in Congress from 1995 to 2000, the parsimonious lawmaker was famous for forgoing his housing allowance and bunking in his Capitol Hill office. But it is not uncommon for residents to invite fellow congressmen to the home for spiritual bonding. There, Sanford enjoyed a kind of alumnus status. Richard Carver, president of the Fellowship Foundation, said, "I don’t think it’s intended to have someone from South Carolina get counseling there." But he posited that Sanford turned to C Street "because he built a relationship with people who live in the house."

People familiar with the house say the downstairs is generally used for meals and prayer meetings. Volunteers help facilitate prayer meetings, they said. Residents include  Reps. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.),  Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), Ensign and Coburn. None of the congressmen agreed to be interviewed for this article. But associates of some of Ensign’s housemates privately worried that the other residents would be tarred by the scandals.

"That two fell doesn’t prove that the house — which has seen many members of Congress pass through and engage in Bible studies — doesn’t mean that the house has failed," Read more

A Ten-Day Nookie Run Turned Break Up?

I gotta say this for Mark Sanford. For a guy who–at least until recently–has a pretty serious Sugar Momma, he travels frugally. According to Ben Smith, the ten day trip to Buenos Aires he booked on June 10 appears to have been done with frequent flier miles.

On or around the day his wife asked him to move out, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford booked a ten-day trip to Buenos Aires, a person familiar with the governor’s travel plans told POLITICO.

Sanford booked the trip on Delta Air Lines on June 10, using the company’s SkyMiles program, the source said. He bought a ticket for June 18, returning June 28.

Though maybe he was thinking the whole Sugar Momma thing might be coming to an end soon…

But here’s the thing. As much as you don’t book a five day trip to do a painful break up with your mistress, you definitely don’t book a ten day trip to break up with your mistress. 

Which sorta suggests that when he went down there, he wasn’t going to break up with her. And at least according to reports, while Sanford’s father-in-law and wife knew of his affair–as well as "the Family"–the State had not yet verified his emails with his former staffer or office. So the affair wasn’t, necessarily, going to get beyond his immediate family and the Christian Conservatives counseling him on this.

Here’s the updated "Family Affair" timeline:

June 10: Sanford books flight to Buenos Aires, gets kicked out by wife

June 11: Doug Hampton sends letter to Fox, via FedEx

June 12: Fox News receives Hampton’s letter 

June 15: Doug Hampton emails letter to Fox

June 16: Ensign admits affair

June 18: Sanford disappears to Buenos Aires (telling his staff he might be hiking in the Appalachian trail)

June 19: Publication of letter suggests ties to the Family

June 24: Actual return date

June 28: Planned return date for Sanford

Now, frankly, seeing the timeline today, I’m less convinced than I was yesterday there’s a link between the timing of the two. Most likely (as Smith suggests) either Sanford booking the flight led to getting kicked out by his wife, or vice versa. And the latter scenario–that she kicked him out and said, "don’t come back till you’ve broken it off," at which point he booked the flight. (But ten days!?!?!?)

In any case, Sanford’s back with his wife today. So I guess the Read more

“God’s Law” and Mark Sanford’s DIY Consequences

Eric Erickson tries to recover from Blue Texan’s sound thumping of him yesterday by excusing Mark Sanford’s adultery and lying because he has no Bible Study group:

We live in a fallen world and we ourselves are fallen. I am disappointed in Sanford, but not angry. The default for politicians seems to be unchaste. All we can do is work for ideas and try to find men of good character to fight for those ideas.

I think one thing I have noticed in the past five years is that Democrats and Republicans tend to elevate politicians to such a level that there is no accountability. It is insular. There is no support group, no small group of friends, and no authority that can guide, admonish, and correct politicians privately.

We have each other. I’m off in a bit to hang out with friends from my Bible Study. Sanford probably has none of that. I’m sure John Edwards did not. Nor Bill Clinton. Nor John Ensign. [my emphasis]

What he appears to have missed–even from Sanford’s own press conference–is that Sanford does have a Bible Study group.

Did your wife and your family know about the affair before the trip to Argentina?

Yeah. We’ve been working through this thing for about the last five months. I’ve been to a lot of different–I was part of a group called C Street when I was in Washington, it was a Christian Bible study of some folks that ask Members of Congress hard questions that I think were very very important. I’ve been working with them.

Problem is, it is populated with a bunch of other sanctimonious Conservatives who believe that their power matters more than the empty vows they mobilize to wield that power. I’m just waiting to see who’s the next member of "the Family" to tearfully confess to being a complete moral hypocrite while condemning others. Who will it be? Sam Brownback? Tom Coburn? Jim DeMint?

Which brings me to–far and away–the most annoying part of Sanford’s press conference: his attempt to validate his moral absolutism even while confessing he fell afoul of it.

But I am — I am here because if you were to look at God’s laws, there are in every instance designed to protect people from themselves. Read more