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And Now They're Disclaiming Responsibility for their Briefings

Surprise, surprise. Just days after Crazy Pete Hoekstra did what Crazy Pete Hoekstra attacked Nancy Pelosi for last year–accused the CIA of lying–he’s now caught in another position he has criticized Pelosi for–not objecting in a briefing to an Administration policy he subsequently claimed to be vehemently opposed to. On Meet the Press this morning, John Brennan revealed that he briefed the Republican members of the Gang of Eight about the treatment of underwear bomber Umar Farouk Adbulmutallab (this is already an improvement on Bush policy, since they usually only briefed the Gang of Four). And they didn’t raise any objections to the planned treatment of him.

The Obama administration briefed four senior Republican congressional leaders on Christmas about the attempted terrorist attack on a Detroit-bound flight.

White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan said that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) and Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) did not raise any objections to bombing suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab being held in FBI custody.

“They knew that in FBI custody there is a process that you follow. None of those individuals raised any concerns with me at this point,” Brennan said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “They were very appreciative of the information.”

The Republicans are, predictably, claiming they didn’t know that normal FBI procedure includes mirandizing suspects, claiming that it wasn’t a real briefing–anything to sustain their efforts to politicize national security.

Meanwhile, I’m not holding my breath waiting for the press to call these Republicans on their excuses about the briefing or, more importantly, on their raging hypocrisy. After all, last year the press was able to sustain itself for several months over Crazy Pete’s attack on Nancy Pelosi for this (even while Crazy Pete’s attack was factually wrong). But somehow they seem to lose interest when someone like Crazy Pete gets exposed, for the second time in a week, as a raging hypocrite.

Justice Ginsburg to Senator Bunning: “Screw You”

Mind you, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is much too polite to say it in those terms. But this story makes quite clear: one of the things that motivated Ginsburg to return to the Court so quickly and attend Obama’s address to Congress was Jim Bunning’s prediction of her imminent demise.

One month after her surgery for pancreatic cancer, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Thursday that she expects to be on the Supreme Court for several more years. In an interview, she also vividly recalled why, on her second day back on the bench, she attended President Obama’s televised speech to a joint session of Congress.

"First, I wanted people to see that the Supreme Court isn’t all male," the lone female justice said of the evening event Feb. 24. "I also wanted them to see I was alive and well, contrary to that senator who said I’d be dead within nine months."

You know, I had already sort of been rooting for Bunning (in that crafty sabotage kind of way), given that his continued presence in the Senate–and especially his determination to run again in 2010–is driving Mitch McConnell crazy.  And of course, having Bunning as a Republican opponent in 2010 might make that seat a pick-up opportunity.

But if Bunning’s continued idiocy is going to keep a solid liberal like Justice Ginsburg going strong on the Court, more power to the asshole. 

Republican Bad Faith Negotiation, Again

If you need any more proof that the Republican attempt to break the UAW a week ago Thursday was really just a political stunt, read this article. In it, Republican after Republican attacks Bush for providing relief to the auto industry. That includes four of the Republican Senators who–Bob Corker has assured us–would have supported his "compromise" deal from last Thursday:

John McCain:

John McCain is leading the way, saying it is “unacceptable that we would leave the American taxpayer with a tab of tens of billions of dollars while failing to receive any serious concessions from the industry.” 

John Kyl:

“I’m very disappointed,” said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). “The president justified his action with a false choice: it’s either this plan or abrupt liquidation of the companies. The White House seems to think that the industry didn’t have time to deal with the problem or prepare for an orderly bankruptcy, which is false.”

Judd Gregg:

“These funds were not authorized by Congress for non-financial companies in distress,” Gregg said, “but were to be used to restore liquidity and stability in the overall financial system of the country and to help prevent fundamental systemic risks in the global marketplace.”

Mitch McConnell:

“I have strong objections to the use of Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) funds for industry specific bailouts. And I do not support this action,” McConnell said. “But since the administration has chosen to use these funds to aid the automakers, it is important that the date-specific requirements on all the stakeholders be enforced.” 

Yet this is virtually the same bill, with one caveat: that the manufacturers, "can deviate from the quantitative targets above, providing that the firm reports the reasons for these deviations and makes the business case to achieve long-term viability in spite of the deviations."

In other words, the Republicans are pissed because the President’s plan allows the auto manufacturers to "deviate" from Bob Corker’s demand that the UAW lower wages below that of Japanese manufacturers’ workers by the end of the year if the manufacturers can make a business case to do so.  

These Republicans are pissed that GM and Chrysler don’t have to cut costs even if there’s a good business reason not to do so!!!

Not surprisingly, these Republicans are not alone in disavowing Bob Corker’s plan. Read more

Mitch McConnell’s Undisclosed Location

I’m utterly fascinated by two aspects of the debate over the bailout. First, why it is that reporters repeatedly cite Richard Shelby–the biggest opponent of the bailout–without noting that if GM goes under, the foreign manufacturers making big inefficient SUVs and trucks in his state will get a huge competitive advantage? Carl Levin is presented as representing Detroit, why isn’t Shelby described as representing Detroit’s foreign-owned competition?

I’m also fascinated by the role of Mitch McConnell–with McCain’s electoral embarrassment and John Boehner’s imminent ouster, the leader of the Republican party. McConnell, of course, represents an auto state–a pretty fascinating auto state, in fact, one that has a bunch of union manufacture of American products, as well as non-union manufacture of efficient Japanese cars. So does Mitch lead the opposition to the bailout–and oppose the interests of thousands of his constituents? Or does he support it, presenting an awkward defection for the Republican campaign to break the unions?

Apparently, if you’re Mitch McConnell, you chose option "C," none of the above. Instead, if this article from McConnell’s state is any indication, you hide.

The article cites,

  • William Parsons Jr., who organizes the annual Global Automotive Conference in Kentucky
  • Ken Troske, director of the University of Kentucky’s Center for Business and Economic Research
  • Toyota spokesman Mike Goss
  • Laurie Harbour-Felax, an industry observer and president of the Harbour-Felax Group
  • Kristin Dziczek, a researcher at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich

And of course,

  • Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala

But no mention of the hometown Senator and the most powerful Republican in the country, Mitch McConnell.

I’ve got unconfirmed sightings of Mitch in a spider-hole in Iraq, but I’m still working to confirm that report.

Reid to McConnell: Don’t Be a Scrooge! Pass Auto Stimulus

There has been a lot of reporting that an auto bailout is unlikely. While I think that’s probably true, I also wonder whether Chris Dodd’s claim that the votes aren’t there is based exclusively on discussions with Richard Shelby.

Dodd was listening, and in televised remarks later he appeared to dash any hopes of action until the new Obama administration is in place and Democrats have more Senate votes next years.

“Right now, I don’t think there are the votes…Dodd said. “You’ve heard Senator Shelby publicly speak out about his opposition to doing anything in the automotive area. So I want to be careful about bringing up a proposition that might fail in light of the fact the authority exists and under an Obama Administration there seems to be a greater willingness to deal with the issue.”

As I’ve pointed out, Shelby would love for the Big Three to fail so Japanese and Korean and German manufacturers can continue to make big gas guzzlers in his state, only without any competition from domestic manufacturers.

That said, Harry Reid has noticed something I did too: like Shelby, Mitch McConnell’s got some Japanese manufacturers in his state (though those factories produce more of the efficient cars in Kentucky–like the Camry–that every one thinks of Japanese manufacturers making). In addition, McConnell’s state is also home to some Ford and GM plants, including some key Ford truck plants. Those Ford plants, incidentally, are going to be idling through the entire Christmas season.

The United Auto Workers union says Ford’s Louisville Assembly Plant will be idled for five weeks beginning the first of next month.

Also, The Courier-Journal reports that UAW Local 862 says the Kentucky Truck Plant will apparently shut down in mid-December until early February.

I would imagine, with thousands of his constituents out of work, Mitch McConnell is going to be hesitant to take a strong stand against bailing out those constituents.

Which is probably what Harry Reid is thinking, as he plans to push for unemployment and an auto bailout in the lame duck session.

Unless I hear from you to the contrary, I plan to press forward with two provisions of that package – an extension of unemployment benefits, which passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 368-28 and legislation to protect the millions of workers at risk from the possible collapse of our domestic auto industry. Read more

Did I Mention Bush Is Preparing His Pardon Pen?

John McCain has called on Uncle Toobz to resign (ignoring, of course, that he may be guilty of the same crime himself), Mitch McConnell has piled on, and even Sarah Palin has decided it is safe to take on her mentor.

But the Bush Administration? Dana Perino’s no comment sounds remarkably like the "no comment"s we got just before Bush commuted Scooter Libby’s sentence. 

Happy Friday Night News Dump

Dear George Bush:

Thank you for giving this son of immigrants the opportunity to deprive brown people of their right to vote. I’m just sorry I won’t have the opportunity to do so during the 2008 election.

Love,

Hans

I’m sorry. That’s not exactly what Han von Spakovsky said in his letter withdrawing from consideration for FEC. He did mention being the son of immigrants:

The day that I was sworn in as a Commissioner in January of 2006 was almost exactly 55 years to the day from the date that my parents arrived in the United States as penniless war refugees. It says a great deal about what a wonderful country we live in that a first-generation son of immigrants could be appointed by the President to such a post of public service.

And he did boast about his service in the Civil Rights Division of DOJ.

I am very proud of the work that I did as a career lawyer at the Department of Justice, which has been validated by numerous federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

Spakovsky must have forgotten the "sometimes" in that last sentence, as he was also reversed by those same courts.

Mostly, though, this letter is all about victimization–his victimization, not those whose votes or civil rights he ignored. He explains as his reason for withdrawing that his family does "not have the financial resources to continue to wait until this matter is resolved" (which I’m frankly fairly sympathetic to). No mention of Mitch McConnell’s refusal to let Spakovsky get an upperdown vote of his very own, without yoking him to other, more palatable nominees. To hear Spakovsky tell it, he was due this nomination, and unfair mean opposition ruined it for him.

That’s a stance that Harry Reid does not agree with, to say the least.

I welcome the President’s decision to withdraw the controversial nomination of Mr. von Spakovsky. It is an action I have repeatedly urged the President to take for more than six months. Democrats stood united in their opposition to von Spakovsky because of his long and well-documented history of working to suppress the rights of minorities and the elderly to vote. He was not qualified to hold any position of trust in our government.

As I understand it, the Senate has a Rules Committee hearing scheduled for Wednesday, at which they will be prepared to discuss the three other nominees. Read more

George Will Sums Up McCain’s “Unattractive Righteousness”

George Will, voicing the position of those (like Mitch McConnell) who don’t like getting attacked for doing things their attacker has done, captures the state of McCain’s hypocrisy regarding lobbyists and campaign finance.

First, the Times muddied, with unsubstantiated sexual innuendo about a female lobbyist, a story about McCain’s flights on jets owned by corporations with business before the Senate Commerce Committee, and his meeting with a broadcaster (McCain at first denied it happened; the broadcaster insists it did, and McCain now agrees) who sought and received McCain’s help in pressuring the Federal Communications Commission. Perhaps McCain did nothing corrupt, but he promiscuously accuses others of corruption, or the "appearance" thereof. And he insists that the appearance of corruption justifies laws criminalizing political behavior — e.g., broadcasting an electioneering communication that "refers to" a federal candidate during the McCain-Feingold blackout period close to an election.

[snip]

Although his campaign is run by lobbyists; and although his dealings with lobbyists have generated what he, when judging the behavior of others, calls corrupt appearances; and although he has profited from his manipulation of the taxpayer-funding system that is celebrated by reformers — still, he probably is innocent of insincerity. Such is his towering moral vanity, he seems sincerely to consider it theoretically impossible for him to commit the offenses of appearances that he incessantly ascribes to others.

Such certitude is, however, not merely an unattractive trait. It is disturbing righteousness in someone grasping for presidential powers.

Will adds a little detail to the dynamics of the Von Spakovsky nomination I laid out the other day. The guy who originally mobilized opposition to Von Spakovsky, Trevor Potter, is the same guy McCain will rely on to argue that–in spite of receiving benefits from his decision to accept matching funds–McCain should not be held to the requirements imposed by that decision.

Read more

Mitch McConnell, Hans Von Spakovsky, Mitt’s Re-Emergence, and McCain’s FEC Money Woes

The LAT reports that Mitt’s thinking of un-suspending his campaign.

Josh Romney, one of former Gov. Mitt Romney’s five sons, says it’s "possible" his father may rejoin the race for the White House, either as a vice presidential candidate or seek to become the Republican Party’s standard bearer if the campaign of Sen. John McCain falters.

The 60-year-old Romney, who "suspended" his campaign for the GOP nomination after a disappointing showing on Super Tuesday and a week later endorsed McCain, was taking a break from politics this weekend on a skiing vacation in Utah with his wife Ann, according to his 32-year-old son.

The elder Romney, who was unable to assemble sufficient conservative support to thwart McCain, has made no public comment since the McCain camp was rocked…

by a controversial article in the New York Times last week first revealed in December in a posting on the Drudge Report.

[snip]

Because he suspended rather than terminated his campaign, Romney still retains control of the nearly 300 delegates he’s already won. Another former governor, Mike Huckabee, remains in the race and is nearing Romney’s delegate totals, though few give him a realistic chance of catching McCain with more than 900 delegates.

Now, I doubt Mitt would be considering un-suspending his campaign without talking to the GOP bigwigs first. So this trial balloon suggests that GOP bigwigs may well be worried about McCain’s two pressing problems: the Straight Talk for Lobbyists Express seems to be getting traction in the news, and the FEC says McCain is officially taking matching funds, which means he has reached the limit he can spend between now and the GOP Convention in September.

Personally, I think they’re probably more worried about the FEC problem. They probably just can’t understand that having a presidency run by lobbyists might be a problem for the average voter. And if McCain can’t spend between now and September, he will lose.

But here’s the curious bit. At least according to the FEC, they will consider McCain to be receiving matching funds (and therefore to be forced to stop spending) until such a time as they have a quorum so they can consider his request to withdraw from matching funds.

Read more