Mojo - May 2007

Gingrich Continues To Ride the Christian Right Bandwagon

| Mon May 21, 2007 12:00 PM EDT

On Saturday, ethically challenged former House Speaker Newt Gingrich gave the commencement address at Liberty University, the school founded by Jerry Falwell. This was the second time the former speaker has delivered the Liberty commencement address. In his speech, Gingrich quoted Bible verses and warned graduates against "the growing culture of radical secularism."

"A growing culture of radical secularism declares that the nation cannot profess the truths on which it was founded," Gingrich said. "We are told that our public schools can no longer invoke the creator, nor proclaim the natural law nor profess the God-given quality of human rights."

Gingrich, who is considering a run for the presidency in 2008, faced 84 ethics charges when he was House Speaker, including tax violations, perjury and reckless disregard of House rules. He was sanctioned, and resigned from Congress. He also gained notoriety for visiting his cancer-recovering first wife in her hospital bed to get her to sign divorce papers. After the divorce, a church organization helped the family financially because Gingrich did not pay any child support. He divorced his second wife because he was having an affair with a young Congressional aide.

According to the late Falwell, Gingrich "genuinely sought forgiveness" for his sins.

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Gonzo Goes: Not "If" But "When" (and How)

| Fri May 18, 2007 4:48 PM EDT

As the Senate debates whether to conduct a purely symbolic no-confidence vote in Alberto Gonzales, Frank Bowman, a law professor at the University of Missouri, is on a journalistic campaign to have the Attorney General impeached. In Slate today, Bowman argues that Gonzales has essentially admitted David Iglesias was fired for not pursuing bogus voter fraud cases. Basically, Gonzales admitted that Iglesias was fired because the DOJ had received complaints about him, and those complaints all had to do with Iglesias' unwillingness to abuse his prosecutorial powers to serve narrow, immediate political interests.

The Attorney General can, in fact, be impeached—and impeachment seems like a valid option.

It's becoming more and more clear that the Department of Justice's political agenda was out of control. If a full third of all U.S. Attorneys weren't prosecuting "voter fraud" vigorously enough, it's because the DOJ wanted them to go beyond the bounds of good legal judgment. And let's remember what the endgame was: keeping minorities from voting so Republicans could establish their "permanent majority." Rove's list of states in which voter fraud was a problem consisted exclusively of battleground states. Marie Cocco at Truthdig puts it this way: "It's Watergate without the break-in or the bagmen," and she has a legitimate point.

In addition, there's been ample evidence of incompetence in Gonzo's DOJ, with Time charging today that Gonzo's poor-taste visit to an out-of-it Ashcroft probably involved serious mismanagement of classified information. (Ashcroft's wife was present, and classified information cannot be discussed in public places.)

Here's a question: If the Bush administration is so incompetent in so many ways, how are they still getting away with crap like this, without Congress even threatening to impeach? Look to another Time article for a somewhat sinister explanation: a "Washington truism that was proven once again this week by World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz: the longer a scandal-besmirched political appointee holds out against his critics, his party, his patrons and the press…the greater his odds of walking away with a measure of vindication…[T]here comes a time when simply leaving becomes the greatest chit he has to play in a final deal. And you can get a lot when you trade in that last chit."

Update: Furthering the point that the DOJ's agenda is corrupt, one USA's prosecution on corruption charges of a Democratic aide was reversed in circuit court. Judges called the evidence "beyond thin." The prosecutor continued to lean on the aide to give her boss up even after she was sentenced. Setting? The battleground state of Wisconsin. Timing? Just before the 2006 election.

House Probes ExxonMobil's Ongoing Funding of Global Warming Denial

| Fri May 18, 2007 3:18 PM EDT

As Antarctica thaws, ExxonMobil continues to fund global warming denial. Earlier this year ExxonMobil claimed to have stopped funneling grants to media groups that spread the myth (as Tom Tancredo did in Tuesday night's presidential debate) that scientists are evenly divided on whether humans are causing global warming or not. That lie was exposed in the company's "World Giving Report." Greenpeace found that ExxonMobil recently gave $2.1 million for global warming denial. That's more than half of what it gave in 2005.

There's a term for this genre of lies: pseudoskepticism. It's the same strategy that the tobacco industry used for decades to cast doubt over the dangers of smoking. And now the government is intervening, just as it finally did with tobacco in the mid-1990s.

Yesterday Brad Miller, the chairman of the House Science oversight committee, asked ExxonMobil to hand over a list of "global warming skeptics" it has funded. Predictably, the corporation's public response employs the same tactic these "thinktanks" use to undermine science: stirring up doubt over whether grant recipients like Steve Milloy and the Competitive Enterprise Institute deny global warming or not. ExxonMobil spokesman Dave Gardner said, "The groups Greenpeace cites are a widely varied group and to classify them as 'climate deniers' is wrong."

By the way, Mother Jones was the first to expose this scandal two years ago. Here's a chart of the grant recipients.

John McCain Hasn't Voted in Five Weeks. Seriously

| Fri May 18, 2007 2:22 PM EDT

Back in April we noted that John McCain had been too busy straight-talking on the campaign trail to vote on important legislation on Iraq. Turns out -- and this is kind of insane -- McCain hasn't voted since.

Yeah, that's right. McCain has gone five straight weeks without casting a vote in the Senate -- he's missed 43 straight votes. If he misses the next three votes, he'll have been absent for 50 percent of the votes in the 110th Congress.

And this isn't an inevitable product of running for president. Hillary Clinton has missed just 1.8 percent of the votes this year and Barack Obama has missed 6.4 percent.

What makes this all the more remarkable is that McCain is the only candidate in Congress who has done this before. He ran for president in 2000! He should know how to do it without looking like an idiot with an absentee problem. What on earth must the people of Arizona think?

Lord knows we aren't huge McCain fans around here, but good heavens John, you're better than this.

Gonzales Can't Make Up His Mind on How Much to Blame His Deputy

| Fri May 18, 2007 12:53 PM EDT

Hey, remember when Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty resigned a couple days ago and Alberto Gonzales tried to blame him for the entire U.S. Attorneys scandal? Specifically, Gonzo said:

"You have to remember, at the end of the day, the recommendations reflected the views of the deputy attorney general. He signed off on the names... And he would know better than anyone else, anyone in this room, anyone — again, the deputy attorney general would know best about the qualifications and the experiences of the United States attorneys community, and he signed off on the names."

That was basically all made up. Well, either that was made up or Gonzales was lying to Congress when he testified in April:

"Looking back, things that I would have done differently? I think I would have had the Deputy Attorney General more involved, directly involved."

Sometimes, these guys make this job way too easy. Spotted on ThinkProgress, who spotted this on the Daily Show.

Cheney Distorts Views of Arab Leaders, Version 2.0

| Fri May 18, 2007 12:32 PM EDT

When Dick Cheney was trying to drum up support for the Iraq War in 2002, he visited capitals in the Arab world and spoke with various heads of state. The message he got from them, he said upon his return, was that they all "shared our concern" about Iraq.

That was a lie. Arab leaders both publicly and privately opposed the war, and even warned about the disastrous after-effects that we are seeing now.

Well, Cheney just got back from another trip around the Arab world, and he's saying that leaders there agree that Iran is a "major source of concern." While that's closer to the truth than his statements about Iraq, it's still overselling their position. In private interviews, Arab leaders urge the United States to find a diplomatic solution to Iran's belligerence and nuclear ambitions. They do not advocate the hard line Cheney and his pals are taking.

One gets the sense that the real danger in the White House is Cheney, not Bush, because Cheney refuses to be humbled by the administration's spectacular failures. Read more about this situation from Time's bureau chief in Cairo.

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War Czar as Figurehead? Errand Boy? Bush's Messenger?

| Fri May 18, 2007 11:56 AM EDT

Michael Hirsh writes in Newsweek that new war czar Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute faces almost insurmountable problems in his new job, problems that will essentially reduce him to being a high profile mouthpiece for the White House. He'll be the public face of the war effort, and he'll ferry the president's orders to various departments around Washington, but he won't be coordinating any fighting. Or giving orders to anyone, really.

Says Hirsh:

[Lute is] just a three-star general, and he's still on active duty. What this means is that while nominally he's the president's man—his title puts him on par with national-security adviser Steven Hadley—militarily he's still inferior in rank to four-star Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the multinational forces in Iraq. Neither will he be in a position to tell Defense Secretary Robert Gates or Rice what to do. "The term 'war czar' is terribly misguided," says [retired Gen. Barry] McCaffrey. "I do think he'll be an extremely able White House operative."

Hirsh also notes that Bush is setting the poor guy up to fail. After all, if you're a messenger for an inattentive president who has no substantive messages to deliver, how can you possibly hope to improve things?

The only way for Lute to be even marginally effective is if a president who has been consistently uninterested in the details of the Iraq conflict for the past four years—and in the nitty-gritty of Afghanistan for most of the last five years—starts obsessing over those details with just 18 months to go in his term. And that's unlikely to happen.

We wrote at the onset of the surge that assigning the smart-as-a-whip General Petraeus to lead the fighting in Iraq was like throwing good money after bad -- we were wasting a huge portion of the Army's talent on a lost cause. And when that talent inevitably goes down swinging in September 2007 or February 2008 or whenever, the Bushies can say they did all they could. The situation with Lute feels very much the same. Perhaps that's why the White House had so much trouble finding someone to fill the post.

Should have hired this guy.

The Numbers Add Up on U.S. Attorneys Firing Scandal

| Fri May 18, 2007 10:56 AM EDT

Let's review the numbers on the U.S. Attorneys scandal.

26 - The number of U.S. Attorneys that the DOJ targeted for dismissal, according to yesterday's reports. (That's roughly one in every four USA nationwide.)

9 - The number of U.S. Attorneys we previously knew had been targeted, and were either fired or resigned under pressure.

8 - The number of USAs Alberto Gonzales claimed in testimony to Congress composed the whole of the scandal.

6 - The number of Senate Republicans who have called for Gonzo's resignation.

And today you can add a new number to the list:

4 - The number of additional USAs the Washington Post reports this morning were also on the DOJ's hit list, bringing the total number of USAs targeted for firing to 30, roughly one-third of the entire U.S. Attorney team across the country.

Oh, and might as well add these, too:

1 - The number of no-confidence votes Senate Democrats will offer against Gonzales as early as next week.

0 - The amount of shame/credibility/integrity/respectability Alberto Gonzales has left.

Bay Buchanan: The Doctor Is In

| Thu May 17, 2007 9:58 PM EDT

A few years ago, when Bush on the Couch was published by psychiatrist Justin A. Frank, his publicist invited me to review it. I declined on ethical grounds. Frank, having never met George W. Bush, is not qualified to diagnose him, despite his using the technique of "applied psychoanalysis" which permits the psychological analysis of a public figure, but which--in my opinion--shoud be limited to analysis of the dead. (I am a psychotherapist, and I know that if I did such a thing, my board would come down hard on me.)

Enter Bay Buchanan, who is most definitely not a mental health practitioner of any kind, but who has provided us with a casual diagnosis of Sen. Clinton. In her book, The Extreme Makeover of Hillary (Rodham) Clinton, Buchanan hints that Clinton may have narcissistic personality disorder. (Buchanan calls it "narcissistic personality style," a term which does not exist in the mental health repretoire.)

In describing how she reached that conclusion, Buchanan refers to an endnote in the book that does not exist. All the same, Buchanan says that "[W]e are talking about a clinical condition that could make her [Clinton] dangerously ill-suited to become President and Commander-in-Chief." She then covers herself by saying "I pass no judgment as to whether this shoe fits the Lady Hillary."

Diagnosing someone from afar, especially if you are not a mental health expert, is wildly irresponsible, even if you say "I don't really mean it, I'm just saying...." There are plenty of former presidents who weren't quite right, like Kennedy (drug addiction and sexual compulsion) and Nixon (alcoholism and violence), and Buchanan's colleagues are ga-ga about at least one of them, and sometimes both of them. It wouldn't be too difficult apply phony mental health language to other candidates, but I could have guessed that an armchair psychotherapist would go after Clinton. She is an "ambitious" woman, and she is married to Bill. Who needs more information than that?

Breaking: Wolfowitz Is Out

| Thu May 17, 2007 7:35 PM EDT

The World Bank and its president, Paul Wolfowitz, announced today that Mr. Wolfowitz will step down in June. The statement reveals that Bush won the terms he wanted for the neocon's departure. The bank's board suggested that its ethics policies "did not prove robust to the strain under which they were placed." Which is really just fancy language for "Wolfie almost got away with it," but manages to convey that the fault was somehow institutional, as Bush wanted. The board's statement also included this hard-to-swallow gem: Wolfowitz "assured us that he acted ethically and in good faith in what he believed were the best interests of the institution and we accept that." Obviously, he also acted in the best interests of his girlfriend, whose salary skyrocketed under the arrangement Wolfie brokered, even as he presented himself as a veritable crusader (there's that word again) against government corruption. But there you have it: Bush and Wolfie took a parting shot at the institution that fights world hunger. You gotta love these guys.