SocraticGadfly: 11/13/05 - 11/20/05

November 17, 2005

Reid, other Democrats also feed at Abramoff hog trough

The AP reports that Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and two other Democratic Senators are in the same company as House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Interim Majority Leader Roy Blunt. The three Democrats are among Senators and Representatives to have received major campaign or PAC fund donations from Jack Abramoff.
Nearly three dozen members of Congress, including leaders from both parties, pressed the government to block a Louisiana Indian tribe from opening a casino while the lawmakers collected large donations from rival tribes and their lobbyist, Jack Abramoff.

Many intervened with letters to Interior Secretary Gale Norton within days of receiving money from tribes represented by Abramoff or using the lobbyist's restaurant for fundraising, an Associated Press review of campaign records, IRS records and congressional correspondence found.

And this wasn’t chump change that Democrats, as well as Republicans, got in exchange for their pen-pal campaigns with Norton.

Reid got $66,000 from Abramoff, for example.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid sent a letter to Norton on March 5, 2002, also signed by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev. The next day, the Coushattas issued a $5,000 check to Reid's tax-exempt political group, the Searchlight Leadership Fund. A second Abramoff tribe sent another $5,000 to Reid's group. Reid ultimately received more than $66,000 in Abramoff-related donations between 2001 and 2004.

Now, more Republicans than Democrats, especially higher up the leadership ranks, participated in this. But, with Reid himself signing off, it’s a lot harder for Democrats to raise this as a partisan issue. That means it’s much less likely that, outside any trials, Congress will take any official further looks at it.

Oh, let’s not have anybody try to defend Reid (and Ensign) on grounds that they were defending Nevada gaming. A number of California Indian tribes, much closer to Las Vegas and Reno than Louisiana is, already have casino gambling.

The one plus? It may put Norton under more pressure to straighten out the 100-year-old plus Bureau of Indian Affairs financial mismanagement problem before she gets criminal contempt charges, with trial, on top of the civil contempt citations she’s already gotten. It may not do that, but there’s always hope.

And, of course, the hidden story is related to that — the continued jerking that many tribes get at the hand of government agencies and elected officials.

Update: I also posted this at Daily Kos, where (as I halfway expected) it drew some degree of flak from the “run the Democrats up the flagpole and salute them” crowd. That's me the contrarian progressive as well as the skeptical one. Not all of the 70-plus comments (including my own) as of 5 p.m. are knee-jerk, but certainly some are.

Update 2, Nov. 21: Now that Abramoff lobbying partner Michael Scanlon has pled guilty to one conspiracy count and has revealed he has been cooperating with the government for five months, I don’t get why Reid doesn’t have a sense of urgency and seriousness about this. (And I would like to see knee-jerk Democrat Kos posters respond to this now.)

Update 3, Dec. 4: In response to a post by Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, I did yet more thinking about this, and what follows is taken from what I e-mailed him.

Reid has plenty of Indian casino gambling over his shoulder in California, as I noted above in the original post. Beyond that, he's got more of it in front of him in Arizona. Further away, but still closer than any of the Abramoff-connected tribes, there's a fair amount in New Mexico.

When Angelinos and San Diegans can gamble in the area around Palm Springs rather than Vegas, some rural Louisiana casino isn't going to be any serious ding on Nevada gaming. Besides, many Nevada houses have non-Indian casinos elsewhere -- such as Shreveport/Bossier City, speaking of Louisiana.

Free polls from
How serious is this from Reid's point of view

Semi-major lapse in judgment  
Moderate lapse  
Minor lapse  
Totally GOP spin  

Returning you back to our regular Tom DeLay programming

Looks like the Hammer is getting nailed again. How nice that Roy Blunt’s being invited to join the Ronnie Earle cocktail party, too.

How many lies can Woodward tell in one story?

Spot the lies and win a prize

Bob Woodward wants us to believe that he’s been out-Judying Judy Miller on the depth of his research into the leaking of Valerie Plame’s identity.

I don’t believe that, but I will believe he’s been out-Judying Judy on the amount of lies he can tell in one story.

Here’s one:
Woodward said yesterday that he was “quite aggressively reporting” a story related to the Plame case when he told Downie about his involvement as the term of Fitzgerald's grand jury was set to expire on Oct. 28.

Sure you were. Just as soon as Judy found her Washington bureau notes to give to Fitzgerald.

Here’s another:
In Woodward's case, he says he passed along a tip about Plame to Post reporter Walter Pincus in June 2003, but Pincus says he has no recollection of such a conversation.

There are several reasons Big Bobby W. would claim this that I can think of. One is to enhance the administration line that Plame’s name was floating all around the mediasphere. Another is that he was an active player in what I discussed earlier, the White House’s test-marketing of the strategy to out Plame. The third is that this was necessary bootlicking, either as a final payment for the books he’s already written or the down payment for one in the pipeline.

And a third:
Woodward said that the unnamed official told him about Plame “in an offhand, casual manner . . . almost gossip” and that “I didn’t attach any great significance to it.”

Sure, sure. Picture Stephen Hadley, if that’s who his source is, just walking up to Big Bobby W at some D.C. cocktail party and saying, “How about those Redskins? And, say, have you heard about this woman at the Agency named Valerie — husband of Joe Wilson?”

And a fourth:
“The net to readers is a voluminous amount of quality, balanced information that explains the hardest target in Washington,” Woodward said

Are you playing judge, jury and executioner, Big Bobby W, by deciding that what you write is “balanced” without letting anybody know what you’ve heard?

What next? “Energy,” the “balanced” inside look at the Cheney Energy Task Force?

No. 5, sort of, per Digby:
Dick Stauber, Matt Cooper’s lawyer, just made a very good point on Hardball.

Woodward’s souce apparently came forward and told the prosecutor about their conversation. Yet Woodward still says that he is under a confidentiality agreement and needs special permission to reveal what he knows. Stauber asks, “If coming forward and admitting something to a US Attorney isn't waiving confidentiality, then what is?”

It sounds like Woody’s telling another lie, but on the other hand, his source knows that grand jury confidentiality protects his name. Even lawyerly leakers don’t leak names from grand jury proceedings, just the information. So, it’s arguable Woody’s on solid ground here. Nonetheless, he could at least lean further on his source at this point, or have invited Howie Kurtz to start asking him questions to which he could give denials or non-denials.

And a sixth, unstated lie:
Rem Rieder, editor of American Journalism Review … said it was “kind of disingenuous” for Woodward to have made such comments without disclosing his involvement.

This is the lie of not disclosing the conflict of interest and possible bias on your Plame talk-show mau-mauing of BushCo critics. We can’t talk about your conflict of interest in Plame reporting because, per Lie No. 1, you haven’t done any yet.

November 16, 2005

Johnny the reporter can’t write

Here’s the latest evidence . Read the three grafs below, the first three grafs of the story, then I’ll comment.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is nearly 150 years old and under fresh attack, but thanks to him scientists today understand the danger bird flu poses to humans, curators of a new Darwin exhibit say.

"Without his insights, we would fail to appreciate the dangerous potentials of rapid evolution in the avian flu virus," Michael Novacek, curator of paleontology at the museum, told a news conference on Tuesday.

The show chronicling the life of Darwin and his work opens on November 19 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York with original manuscripts, live Galapagos tortoises, orchids, personal effects and fossil specimens Darwin collected during his five-year voyage aboard the HMS Beagle.

OK, now. Note the phrase “the museum” in the second graf. You can’t simply call someplace “the museum” (or “the school” or “the” whatever) unless you’ve explicitly identified it as The Museum of X, The New School for Social Research, etc.

Ahh, we have it identified as the “American Museum of Natural History” — one graf after the initial reference to it.

Perhaps this is nitpicky, compared to the idea of the Judith Millers of the world being reporters, not stenographers.

But, the fact is, syndicated news reporters get worse all the time, and the pace has accelerated in the past few years, including on biggies such as “its” vs. “it’s” confusion.

Why can’t we insist that reporters become BOTH better journalists AND better writers?

Bob Woodward: political hack, White House fluffer

The halo continues to tarnish from Watergate breaker Bob Woodward, most notably with the fact that Plamegate special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald got his sworn testimony about further White House leaks of Plame’s name.

Here’s my two cents on it.

Leaks like this were part of a pattern of “softening the ground,” so to speak, as well as “testing the waters.” If the press would bite with only a minimum of due diligence as to whether the leaking of Valerie Plame’s name would actually damage CIA assets, then they would engage in more soft-shoe “softening the ground” leaks to set up the big play.

And Big Bobby was ready to play along
Woodward never mentioned this contact -- which was at the center of a criminal investigation and a high-stakes First Amendment legal battle between the prosecutor and two news organizations -- to his supervisors until last month.

Where have we heard Bob Woodward's “sudden memory recall” before? Could it be.....

"Oh, sorry, Patrick, I do remember that I have notes from that first interview after all, after you so graciously reminded me that my White House visit had been recorded on the log."

Maybe Miller was giving Woodward "private lessons" on the side, since she has a reputation of cozying up to the well-placed.

Third, note the shilling of Big Bobby W:
Woodward told Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald that the official casually told him in mid-June 2003 that Plame worked as a CIA analyst on weapons of mass destruction, and that he did not believe the information to be classified or sensitive, according to a statement Woodward released yesterday.

And shilling on top of shilling:
William Jeffress Jr., one of Libby's lawyers, said yesterday that Woodward's testimony undermines Fitzgerald's public claims about his client and raises questions about what else the prosecutor may not know.

Read the story for more fun tidbits, such as Big Bobby W’s claim he told Walter Pincus that he knew about Plame and what she did, which Pincus says is a laughable claim.

Further questions:

Did Big Bobby W. play an active role in the “soften the ground” phase of the White House’s pregame plan on outing Plame? In other words, did he tell other reporters and editoris, at the Post and elsewhere, that, “Here’s why Wilson went to Niger”? Beyond that, did he tell anybody, “As to the why, of the why Wilson went to Niger, did you know his wife might have been ‘in a position to know,’” letting his listeners read between the lines that she was with the Agency? What other role might he have played? Do we need to reread his books again?

Sounds plenty suspicious to me.

November 15, 2005

Why are we paying for Chalibi’s security while he’s here?

That’s what Huffington says we’re doing.
I arrived at Megu at 11:30 and was led past a phalanx of American security guards (provided, I was told, by the U.S. State Department), to a small, private room where Chalabi, his daughter Tamara (a Harvard PhD who lives in Baghdad and works closely with her father), and a half-dozen members of his entourage were seated.

Granted, the rest of the post is pretty interesting, and an astute analysis of where Chalabi is at right now. But the top point stuck out in my mind.

Let him pay his own damned security.

November 14, 2005

Are Democrats also guilty of waging aggressive war?

That charge, is of course, one of the counts of war crimes that many left-liberals would like to lay at the feet of President Bush. (I personally can see that the charge has legal merit, and I'm definitely no fan of American exceptionalism. Yet, I must admit, that I would be quite hesitant before wanting to cross that precipice.)

Anyway, if Bush is guilty, what about Congressional Democrats? Many have voted against at least the most recent supplemental Defense Department appropriation, but many others have not.

Beyond the “support the troops” blather which many pro-war financing Democrats use to cover their tracks and backsides, it’s arguable that their continued support does aid and abet this war. The minor premise of this syllogism is that with the Libby indictment, Democrats have no excuses left.

Ergo, if President George W. Bush is allegedly to be guilty of waging aggressive war, in its technical international law sense, then about 200 Democratic Senators and Representatives are legally guilty of aiding and abetting that aggressive war.

Now, they can bargain their support in exchange for a timetable or other concrete indications from Bush that he moving to wind down our involvement in Iraq; that would certainly be a reasonable transition away from the war. But nothing short of that will do.

November 13, 2005

DSCC bigwigs in Dallas, plus my take and a little trolling

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee held a big rally here in Dallas Nov. 13. The big cheese himself, Majority Leader Harry Reid, was here, along with "I'm not quite running" Sen. MBNA, Joe Biden, and rising young non-DLC but still centrist (maybe neoliberal of some sort) Senate star Barack Obama.

It was what you would typically expect, so here’s my snarky take, plus the trolling I did.

Obama: Sounded sincere when he talked about hope and quoted Martin Luther King at the end of his speech. (Obama and Biden each took about seven-eight minutes and Reid got 10. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, who represents me, took about six minutes before that.)

Biden: Sen. MBNA can talk about hope and justice after personally escorting the new bankruptcy bill through Congress. Puhleeze. I’ll vote Green for president again for sure if he gets the 2008 nomination, which I highly doubt.

Reid: Very sincere. Low-key compared to Obama, let alone to Biden. Workmanlike.

Johnson: I’ll give Obama a pass on Iraq for the rest of this year as a newcomer, but not Biden, nor Reid, and especially not you, after all the e-mails I’ve sent you, even the call to your Washington office, the last time a Defense Depeartment supplemental appropriation was coming to the floor, begging you to vote against it.

If I had enough money to take a leave of absence from my job next year (an ethical requirement, being a newspaper editor), and I could get on the Green ballot via convention signatures, I’d run against you.

The trolling? As I left Lee Park, I got on the other side of Turtle Creek, behind bushes, and chanted a few times, “Vote against the war. Vote Green.”

Royce West: NOT running for Dallas County DA

West made that clear and emphatic during his three minutes of mike time as one of the locals at the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee confab in Lee Park Nov. 13.

The announcement didn't surprise me. Other than the full-time job and pay, he would have to consider that a lateral move politically, if even that. He's got bigger fish to fry and I wouldn't be surprised if he isn't frying some in 2006. Definitely in 2008.