Archive for the ‘Republicans’ Category

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A long look at John “greasy palm” McCain

February 24, 2008

Left and right, commentators appear to be in agreement that the NYT made a lousy call placing the emphasis in its McCain story on the rather slippery rumors of “romantic” overtones between the Senator and the Siren.

I am not so sure of that, myself. Yes, the bimbo eruption was, and is likely to remain, more of a bimbo squib. And even if true, it pretty much has zero relevance to McCain’s qualifications for the Oval Office. The real story lay in which bankbooks, not which babes, may have been cozying up to him.

But a page A-1 New York Times story indicating what everyone in the media and everyone in Washington knows, but virtually none have been willing to say – that McCain is up to the tips of his last wisps of hair in lobbyists; that he is awash in contributions from the very industries controlled by the committee he chaired for so long – would have raised a splash as resounding as a mayfly dropping into the Atlantic Ocean. Not so when someone yells “Sex!” in a crowded political theater. Decry it as you will, ears then prick up for miles around.

Now the pairing of “John McCain” and “lobbyist” has begun to light up a few synapses in that ever-sluggish neural network we tend to call, in a triumph of hope over experience, our “news” media. If the lights don’t fizzle out, Ms. Iseman’s gift to the nation may be a more balanced picture of the (monetary) kinks in the Straight Talk Express.

I have Harpers’ Ken Silverstein to thank for calling my attention to the fact that one of our more established Republican-friendly print organs, U.S. News & World Report, blew the whistle in May of ’07 on the Commerce Committee chairman’s financial dependence on the special interests he was regulating. There’s no blazing quid and smoking quo, of course. Up until the apotheosis of Tom Delay, our legislators have been adept at keeping their moneyed clients happy without getting too egregious about it. But Honest John was always happy to take the money.

I have to admit, the specific examples the article mentions (McCain’s support for gentler regulation of satellite broadcasting, easing of export restrictions on encryption, and a la carte options for cable subscriptions) all sound to me like good public policy. But the article is worth it for its documentation of the volume of the money river, and for the many googleable names of which contributors lined up to blow ki$$es to McCain while his campaign last year was trying (and failing) to get the wind in its sails.

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Will the real Mitt Romney please sit down?

November 28, 2006


Around March of 2005, the media decided that John McCain will be elected President in 2008. Since they have the power to destroy whoever they like (see “Gore invented the Internet” and “Dean Scream” for details), and the power to suppress whatever information they find unpalatable (see – if you can find them – Bush’s lost years in the Texas ANG, his suppression of federal investigations into electricity manipulation in California, and the invisible Texas Funeralgate story), chances are they’ll be right about that.

But just in case the bobs and weaves of the supposedly straight talking McCain lead to his implosion somewhere along the line, it will be worthwhile tucking away a note on the guy who seems to be next in line, the telegenic Mitt Romney. Joan Vennochi recalls, in a Globe op-ed, Romney’s dance to the right, how today’s brimstone-breathing friend of the fetus and foe of gay marriage started out five years ago as defender of Roe and a champion of gay rights.

When he ran against Ted Kennedy for the Senate in 1994, Romney wrote a letter to the Massachusetts Log Cabin Club, pledging that as “we seek to establish full equality for American gay and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent.” During that same campaign, Romney was accused of once describing gay people as “perverse.” In response, Romney’s campaign vehemently denied that he used the word “perverse” and said that he respected “all people regardless of their race, creed, or sexual orientation.”While running for governor in 2002, Romney and his running mate, Kerry Healey, distributed pink fliers at a Gay Pride parade, declaring “Mitt and Kerry wish you a great Pride weekend.” He backed domestic partner benefits for public employees, winning the endorsement of the national Log Cabin Republicans. In his inaugural speech, he promised to defend civil rights “regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or race.”

Romney’s brand of politics is best served in stacks, with your choice of maple syrup or blueberry topping.

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Rovester’s Last Stand

November 10, 2006

Rumsfeld’s defenestration came as no surprise. But the fact that he was shown to the window mere days after Bush had sworn to the skies that he would stick to Don like glue to the end of his days did raise some eyebrows. That Bush openly admitted he was lying when he so swore, raised a few more. Talking through one’s ten gallon hat has always been integral to the Cowboy Code, Crawford style; but fessing up to it is a new codicil.

You may ask which was the lie: the old assertion that he planned to keep Rummy on forever, or the newer assertion that Rummy would have gone packing even if Republican supremacy had stayed put. And the only answer will be a Rumsfeldian one: It’s one of those unknown unknowns.

But what raised eyebrows in punditstan raised hackles among the Republican faithful. Why on earth did Bush make a categorical commitment to his SecDef, just when congresscritters on the stump were trying to emphasize their flexibility on the war? Didn’t he realize he was handing over the Congress to the enemy?

I have a contrarian take on that. The facts are these: the middle had turned decisively against Bush, by nearly two to one. Not only did independents not like his war, they no longer thought him truthful. They would not have believed a sudden burst of “flexibility” from him.

Rove’s whole electoral theory over seven years had been to play very hard right for the base, count on winning nearly half of the inattentive middle by default, and so to squeak out a 51% majority. The theory fell apart when the middle began to pay attention, and decidedly dislike what they saw. Once Bush lost credibility with the middle, a sudden feint to the left would have payed no dividends. Worse, it would have confused and depressed the True Believers. Rove had painted himself into a corner. He had deprived himself of all options but the same old playbook. He had to appeal even harder to the base, hope that the Dems were overestimating their new GOTV prowess, and hope that the middle just stayed home in droves.

Dubya’s eternal commitment to Rumsfeld the Brilliant was the final application, the dying spasm, the last throes, if you will, of the Rove Theory of Conservative Domination. He and Bush weren’t ignoring the plight of their congressional hopefuls. They were sending in the only cavalry they had left in the fort.

And they were trying not to see the arrows streaming through the air, or the ghostly aura of yellow moustaches streaming behind Karl in the wind, as he led the charge.

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The RAPT file

July 16, 2006

RAPT stands for “Republicans Are Patriots Too”.

John Dean came out with a new book this week, “Conservatives Without Conscience”. In it, he examines the willingness of most elected Republicans and established conservative pundits to embrace a set of policies on the part of the Bush administration which are not at all conservative, but profoundly radical: both in the way they massively increase governmental power, concentrated in the executive branch, and in the way they base foreign policy on a grandiose vision of preventive war and unilateral interventions.

Dean is a lifelong Goldwater conservative. His positions, he says, have not changed, but now he finds himself classified as a “liberal”, because of his criticism of the Bush administration’s departure from conservative principles.

Here I’m interested in the complementary phenomenon: conservatives with a conscience.

From the moment when 9/11 handed Bush and Cheney the tools with which to frighten the American public into agreeing with pretty much anything they proposed, there have been principled conservatives who have pointed out the folly of the Iraq adventure, and the danger to the Constitution of the new dedication to secrecy and to the supremacy of the executive branch. But the Republican establishment laid down a narrative claiming that all criticism of these policies was coming from “the far left”, “the Bush haters”, and from partisan motives.

The mass media supinely accepted that narrative. In the runup to the war, on the rare occasions when they invited opponents of invasion to speak, they selected people like Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, leftists far out of even the liberal mainstream, who could be counted on to go off on tangents about all the horrible things “American imperialism” had done in times past. They did not invite conservatives who were cautioning against the war: Brent Scowcroft, the Cato Institute, Pat Buchanan. That would only have confused the public, which had to understand and accept that no one but America haters could possibly object to the onset of Shock and Awe. And now the same “only partisans and America haters object” narrative is being used in an attempt to silence critics of mass warrantless eavesdropping, torture, rendition, denial of habeas corpus, presidential nullification of laws by “signing statement”, and so on.

I believe it is critical to counter that narrative. So I have begun to collect a little list of pieces by writers with solid Republican, solid conservative credentials, who understand the danger of Bush’s New World Order, and his campaign to eliminate all constitutional checks and balances on executive power. I disagree strongly with much of the political philosophy of these individuals. But our disagreements fall within the long and honorable tug of war between liberal and conservative, whose balance has kept our ship of state on a pretty even course over two hundred odd years. What George Bush, under the tutelage of Vice President Cheney, has undertaken in the past five years is to bore holes in the hull of the ship of state: the seaworthy hull known as the Constitution, which until now had framed and bounded the country’s central political disageements.

This honor roll of conservatives – and there are many more I will never get to – has put patriotism above party. That takes a special order of moral courage, and I am grateful for each one who has stepped forward.

The first batch aren’t in chronological order:

  • William Sessions, named by Reagan as head of the FBI, in a Seattle Post intelligencer op-ed: Bush Stretches Executive Power
  • Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s chief of staff, in the Baltimore Sun: “Is US Being Transformed Into a Radical Republic?”. Mirrored by Truthout
  • .

  • Bob Barr was one of the House managers who argued the case for impeachment against Bill Clinton before the Senate: “Patriot Act Games: It Can Happen Here.
  • Bruce Fein, Associate Deputy Attorney General under Reagan. Testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the NSA warrantless wiretapping program.
  • The Cato Institute, a conservative think tank:”Power Surge: The Constitutional Record of George W. Bush”.
  • The Financial Times, a stolidly pro-business paper in the UK. Behind subscription wall, cached here and here.: “Bush administration’s telephone snooping”.
  • On Iran, even Henry Kissinger advises against pre-emption, and acknowledges that democracy is not the natural result of eliminating a dictatorial regime.
  • Andrew Bacevich, formerly a writer for Weekly Standard and National Review, author of The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War. A two part interview in Tomdispatch,Part one, “The Delusion of Global Hegemony”, and Part two, “Drifting Down the Path to Perdition.”
  • Ronald Bailey of the libertarian Reason magazine, explains why he’s voting Dem for the first time since 1972.

I will update this post periodically over here, to add links to accounts about or by Republicans who are standing up against the Cheney Administration’s seizure of extraconstitutional powers.