2007 - %3, May

Romney Takes Lead in GOP Field and the Knives Come Out

| Wed May. 23, 2007 10:13 AM PDT

With frontrunner status comes increased scrutiny. Is that bad news for Mitt Romney?

According to new polls, the former one-term governor of Massachusetts is leading the Republican field in Iowa and New Hampshire. And leading in a big way: the Des Moines Register puts Romney at 30 percent in Iowa, compared to 18 for McCain and 17 for Giuliani. A Zogby poll in New Hampshire shows Romney at 35 percent, with both McCain and Giuliani stuck at 19. Those are leads big enough to withstand the vagaries of public opinion.

A quick aside: Giuliani lost his lofty lead as Republican voters began to hear more and more about his positions on social issues, the conventional wisdom goes. Then how to explain Romney's rise? He previously held all of the same positions as Giuliani -- he's just trying to lie about them while Giuliani is standing for what he believes in. Says a political scientist at Northeastern University in Boston, "After studying presidential nominations for 30 years, I've never seen somebody who has so completely renounced his past record when he decided to run for president." That's what the GOP wants? That's the best they can get?

Anyway. McCain, for one, isn't taking the Romney Rise quite so well. Quotes from the McCain camp include:

"The question for voters is, does a one-term governor from Massachusetts have the foreign policy experience necessary to deal with the challenges of today's world?"

And:

"Mitt Romney has been consistent in one regard: that nearly every position he holds now is opposite of what it was when he was governor of Massachusetts."

So now all the pot shots are directed at Romney, and they will continue to be until someone else takes the lead. I'm sure Romney, Giuliani, and McCain are all loading up attacks on Fred Thompson, should he step into the ring jump out to a strong start. The media scrutiny gets tougher too. AlterNet is slamming Romney for having a poor record on diversity and minorities, and Time recently published "Tongue Tied - Mitt Romney's Top Ten Gaffes." The question for presidential contenders is not who can earn the spotlight, but who can survive it.

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OSC Nails a Low-Level Bushie -- Does That Prove Rove Guilty, Too?

| Wed May. 23, 2007 9:49 AM PDT

There's little reason to have faith in the Office of Special Counsel (OSC): it's run by a partisan political appointee named Scott Bloch who intentionally ignores part of the office's mission -- protecting whistleblowers -- and instead devotes his time to rooting out any sign of the "homosexual agenda." His investigation of Karl Rove's potential violations of the Hatch Act, which prohibits government employees from using official time/resources for political purposes, is likely just an attempt to save his own job and a dodge intended to ward off much tougher congressional investigation.

But at least Bloch got Lurita Doan. Yup, the chief of the hilariously vague General Services Administration (GSA) is the target of a OSC report that says when Doan sat down 40 or so political appointees under her command at GSA headquarters for a presentation from Scott Jennings, the White House deputy director of political affairs, she was in violation of the Hatch Act.

Jennings' presentation was exactly what the Hatch Act forbids. He delivered a PowerPoint that contained slides listing Democratic and Republican seats the White House viewed as vulnerable in 2008 and a map of contested Senate seats. It held other information about the lay of the political land heading into the 2008 elections. After the meeting, Doan asked how the GSA could help "our candidates."

Doan has until June 1 to respond (i.e. defend herself or resign), after which point President Bush can take action. The woman is demonstratively in violation of federal law: hard to argue she shouldn't lose her job. The real question is, if Doan is in violation of the Hatch Act, isn't Jennings as well? And isn't his boss, Karl Rove, since Rove presumably sent Jennings to the GSA?

Bush's Chief Domestic Policy Adviser: "I Am Never Going To Hire Another Woman Because They Just Get Pregnant and Leave."

| Tue May. 22, 2007 6:21 PM PDT

Whew! That's just one of the great tidbits in this TNR piece on Karl Zinsmeister, the man who replaced Claude Allen.

(Allen, if you recall, had to step down after he was nailed for shoplifting. At Hetch's. I guess you'd have to hail from DC to know how depressing that is.)

Before replacing Allen, Zinsmeister was editor of American Enterprise—the mag of the conservative think-thank the American Enterprise Institute—where he was so hated by employees that they basically demanded he be fired or they all quit.

The pregnancy discrimination remark is just one of a laundry list allegations his former employees make against him. Well worth the read.

Finally, New York City Greens Its Taxicabs

| Tue May. 22, 2007 4:57 PM PDT

Guess how many miles per gallon those yellow Crown Victorias get? About 10 to 15 mpg. That's on par if not worse than an SUV. But things are changing. Bloomberg proposed this morning to require all new vehicles entering the fleet to get at least 25 mpg, then 30 mpg the year after. One complaint: it won't take effect for another year and a half, not until October 2008. Still, it's a great, long-awaited move.

Finally, New York City Greens Its Taxicabs

| Tue May. 22, 2007 4:29 PM PDT

Guess how many miles per gallon those yellow Crown Victorias get? About 10 to 15 mpg. That's on par if not worse than an SUV. But things are changing. Bloomberg proposed this morning to require all new vehicles entering the fleet to get at least 25 mpg, then 30 mpg the year after. One complaint: it won't take effect for another year and a half, not until October 2008. Still, it's a great, long-awaited move.

CO2 Emissions Exceed "Worst-Case Scenario"

| Tue May. 22, 2007 3:40 PM PDT

Recent carbon dioxide emissions exceed the "worst-case scenario" scientists predicted in the IPCC report in 2001. Meanwhile, the Antarctic Ocean is absorbing less carbon dioxide. And the Antarctic is thawing.

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Good Heavens, There's Going to be a Second Surge

| Tue May. 22, 2007 3:23 PM PDT

Because this one is going so well, you know.

New reports say that we're to have a second surge. If current Pentagon plans are followed, there will be over 200,000 American soldiers in Iraq by the end of 2007, the largest troop presence we've had there to date.

This is completely stunning news. There will likely be tons of analysis of this across the web, but some initial thoughts:

(1) The White House and the Pentagon are officially completely unresponsive to the wills of the people and Congress. If you weren't already convinced.

(2) Michael Hirsh was 100 percent correct.

(3) This is a full renunciation of the Rumsfeldian way of making war. A lean fighting force can beat an opposing army but it can't secure the peace -- we should have had 200,000 troops or more at the beginning of the war. If we had, there's a small chance we'd be in a position to withdraw victoriously today.

(4) Will this make the Democrats reconsider dropping timelines for withdrawal from their latest Iraq funding bill?

The Strange Case of Bill Richardson's Birth

| Tue May. 22, 2007 1:02 PM PDT

Many of you know that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson formally announced his presidential candidacy yesterday. He's been effectively running for months now, so this isn't really news. The only two things of note about the announcement were that Richardson spoke in Spanish and in English, highlighting his roots, and that he made the announcement in California, highlighting that state's new role as a power base in national politics.

Okay, fine. You already knew Richardson is Hispanic and you already knew California is important. Bet you didn't know this:

The candidate Mr. Richardson is more formally known as William Blaine Richardson 3d, the grandson on a Boston-born naturalist who had moved his family to Nicaragua in the late 1890s to do research for the Smithsonian Institution. His own father, William B. Richardson Jr., was actually born on a boat heading to Nicaragua and, according to an interview with Mr. Richardson in the Washington Post, always had a complex about not being born in America.
When Mr. Richardson's father became a banker in Mexico City and married his Mexican secretary, he did not want his son to suffer the same fate.
So, in November 1947, when his mother, Maria Luisa Lopez-Collada Marquez, was pregnant with him, Mr. Richardson's father sent her on a train to Pasadena where she gave birth before turning around and heading back to Mexico City, where Mr. Richardson was raised before being sent to boarding school in Massachusetts at age 13.

I love it! Richardson is basically an immigrant! I think that is completely awesome -- no wonder he has the best line on immigration reform: "No fence ever built has stopped history."

Armed Man Wounded Trying to Defend Idaho Town from Shooter

| Tue May. 22, 2007 12:25 PM PDT

Gun rights groups responded to the Virginia Tech shooting by saying that if more students had been packing heat, they could have stopped Cho. A writer in the National Review even blamed the victims for not defending themselves, as Jon blogged. It's not just rhetoric. Texas Gov. Rick Perry and state legislators are actually considering repealing the ban on guns on campus. Rep. Frank Corte Jr., a Republican from San Antonio, said gun-free zones are known "by the bad guys that this is where people don't have firearms."

Well, an armed student was wounded trying to defend an Idaho college town against a man on a shooting rampage last weekend. In Moscow, Idaho, Jason Hamilton "shot and killed one law enforcement officer and wounded Pete Husmann, 20, a University of Idaho mechanical engineering student from Coeur d'Alene. Husmann had armed himself and run to the sound of the shots."

Major Changes to Supreme Court Under Next Presidential Administration

| Tue May. 22, 2007 11:03 AM PDT

Over at SCOTUSblog, they posted on Friday about the Supreme Court ramifications of the 2008 presidential election. It looks like the next president will definitely have the opportunity to replace Justice Stevens (who is 87 years old) and Justice Souter (who is 67 but reportedly interested in leaving the bench). He or she might also have the chance to replace Justice Ginsburg (who is 74). A strong liberal, Ginsburg would allow a Democratic president to replace her, but would try and hold out until 2012 if a Republican won the White House. SCOTUSblog raises and then dismisses rumors of Ginsburg's poor health.

The court has already shifted right during Bush's tenure -- replacing Rehnquist with Roberts meant little because both men were/are devoted conservatives, but replacing O'Connor with Alito was a major ideological shift. Abortion, for example, went from being reasonably well protected to being on a path to a death by a thousand cuts. If two or possibly three moderate-to-liberal members of the court were replaced by a Republican in the next presidential term, the result would be disatrous. Even a Democratic Senate wouldn't be able to stop the country from a multi-decade tilt to the right. Major ramifications would be in store for gay rights, environment regulations, controls on executive power, and many other things. Roe wouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell.

As if we needed any more reason to throw the GOP out of the White House...