Mojo - July 2007

"Breaking" News: Gilmore Out of GOP Presidential Race

| Sun Jul. 15, 2007 6:31 PM EDT

Former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore has dropped out of the Republican race. "Because of the front-loading of the primaries, I would have basically had to stop campaigning and spend full time organizing hundreds of people to raise money for me," he said. Gilmore had raised $381,000, compared to Mitt Romney's $35 million.

I hope this doesn't lead to a tumble of second- and third-tier Republican candidates leaving the race. The more candidates they have, the more spread out the demand for money and the less clarity the GOP can get in debates and on the campaign trail. Don't go anywhere yet, Sam Brownback!

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Pyongyang to Close Nuclear Weapons Facility

| Sun Jul. 15, 2007 6:09 PM EDT

Kim Jong Il has finally agreed to shut down the plutonium production facility at Yongbyon, rare good news in the longstanding dispute over North Korea's nuclear weapons program. For those of you who, like me, have grown disoriented by the constant twists and turns in this story, a piece in today's Washington Post offers a good recap of the last few years of diplomatic wrangling. An extended excerpt after the break.

Longer than World War II...And About As Expensive

| Sun Jul. 15, 2007 5:49 PM EDT

Sunday's Washington Post includes a piece about the profits of war—the rising fortunes of companies supplying the war effort. It cites a report, released June 7 by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, showing that current military expenditures, expressed in real dollars, are at their highest level since 1946.

See Mother Jones' breakdown of the Iraq War's costs here.

Three More Iraqi Media Workers Killed Risking Their Lives For Our Headlines

| Sat Jul. 14, 2007 1:34 AM EDT

Three Iraqis working for foreign news outlets were just killed, raising the total number of Iraqi media workers killed this year to at least 27, according to the nonprofit Committee to Protect Journalists.

A few days ago two Reuters employees, a photographer and driver, were killed in eastern Baghdad during what witnesses say was a U.S. helicopter attack, and then earlier today a 23-year-old reporter and interpreter for the New York Times was shot and killed on his way to work in south central Baghdad.

In the current issue of Mother Jones, Greg Veis profiles an Iraqi Reuters journalist whose peril in war is multiplied because of his association with Western media outlets.

"My wife has begged me to quit my job and even to leave Iraq. But I told her that every day tens of Iraqis are being killed for no reason, and they will be forgotten otherwise. To die as a journalist, I would know that I was killed while I was reporting the truth. I would die proud."

Veis points out the growing trend of American media outlets closing their bureaus in Iraq, or radically downsizing their presence, estimating that the current tally of American print correspondents in Iraq caps out at around 20. Which leaves the on-the-ground, dangerous reporting to Iraqis who string for most news outlets.

And the Army's take on Iraqis sending stories stateside? Veis talked to a lieutenant who feels they feed "the symbiotic relationship between violence and the media," in that they have access to stories because they have a "tacit agreement" with the enemy.

Read Veis' story soon on motherjones.com, or pick up the July/August issue from your local bookstore today.

Vitter Watch: If You Guessed Rehab Was Next, You're Probably Right

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 10:54 PM EDT

According to Citizens for Legitimate Government, Louisiana Sen. David Vitter has checked into Ochsner Foundation Hospital. Ochsner is not a pscyhiatric facility, but since Katrina, most such facilities have closed. Ochsner does have a department of psychiatry, though. Or perhaps he is just there for a stress check.

Vitter's spokespeople say that he is planning to return to work next week. He is described as being "in seclusion."

"We Have Made Remarkable Progress" - GWB Video Smackdown

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 6:01 PM EDT

Viral videos have a power that partisan media lacks. If a video succinctly makes a point about Bush's record in Iraq, thousands or even millions of people, regardless of party affiliation, may decide to spend a minute and a half to check it out. All it takes is a click of the mouse.

An excellent article in a magazine, however, requires finding a copy and reading for half an hour. Too often, the people willing to make that investment already agree with the article's point.

You tell me. What catches your attention — the video below (spotted on TAPPED) or this article?

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Answers for Morning Political Trivia for July 13

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 5:39 PM EDT

We didn't get many bites on today's morning political trivia, but here's the answer anyway: The two current Senators who served as congressional pages are Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). No one guessed this — we'll try something a little easier for tomorrow. CQ Politics has more on the subject of former pages in congress. Unsurprisingly, both Dodd and Pryor served as pages during their fathers' tenures in congress. Check back tomorrow for more trivia.

— Nick Baumann

Peggy Noonan: Bush is "Extremely Irritating," "Unnatural," and "Weird"

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 5:13 PM EDT

Conservative mouthpiece Peggy Noonan has a delightful op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today.

I received an email before the news conference from as rock-ribbed a Republican as you can find, a Georgia woman (middle-aged, entrepreneurial) who'd previously supported him. She said she'd had it. "I don't believe a word that comes out of his mouth." I was startled by her vehemence only because she is, as I said, rock-ribbed. Her email reminded me of another, one a friend received some months ago: "I took the W off my car today," it said on the subject line. It sounded like a country western song, like a great lament.
As I watched the news conference, it occurred to me that one of the things that might leave people feeling somewhat disoriented is the president's seemingly effortless high spirits. He's in a good mood. There was the usual teasing, the partly aggressive, partly joshing humor, the certitude. He doesn't seem to be suffering, which is jarring. Presidents in great enterprises that are going badly suffer: Lincoln, LBJ with his head in his hands. Why doesn't Mr. Bush? Every major domestic initiative of his second term has been ill thought through and ended in failure. His Iraq leadership has failed. His standing is lower than any previous president's since polling began. He's in a good mood. Discuss.
...
Americans have always been somewhat romantic about the meaning of our country, and the beacon it can be for the world, and what the Founders did. But they like the president to be the cool-eyed realist, the tough customer who understands harsh realities.
With Mr. Bush it is the people who are forced to be cool-eyed and realistic. He's the one who goes off on the toots. This is extremely irritating, and also unnatural. Actually it's weird.

To me, watching a Bush press conference has been a maddening experience for a number of years. I suspect it's the same for many of our readers. Looks like Peggy, and her conservative friends, are just catching up. Read the whole op-ed here.

Vitter's New Orleans Prostitute Same One He Was Linked To In 2004

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 3:19 PM EDT

The woman who calls herself, among many other names, Wendy Cortez, is a former employee of the famous "Canal Street Madam" who has acknowledged that Louisiana Sen. David Vitter was a client at her establishment more than once in the 90s. Cortez outed Vitter yesterday, saying that she was "perturbed that he portrayed himself as a politician who would bring moral authority to his office when he was using her services on the side."

It turns out that Cortez is the same woman allegedly linked with Vitter when he ran for the Senate in 2004. At the time, Vitter said that the accusation was "absolutely and completely untrue," and part of "crass Louisiana politics." He continues to deny any association with Cortez, and his attorney continues to point out that Vitter was not part of the federal investigation that closed the New Orleans establishment in 2001, and that his name was never found in any records by either the lead defense attorney or the U.S. attorney during the investigation.

A former romantic partner of Cortez's has told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that he believes Vitter was not only a client of Cortez's, but that they also had a romantic involvement of some kind. He describes some photographs of the two of them together, one of which shows a woman with her hand on Vitter's crotch. However, Canal Street Madam Jeanette Maier says the woman in the photos is not the woman whom she knew as Wendy Cortez.

Cortez has no known arrests for prostitution, but she does have an arrest record for forgery, parole violation, fleeing from justice, and fraudulent use of credit cards.

Morning Political Trivia for July 13

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 1:22 PM EDT

We promised we'd keep going with the trivia, so here's today's question (with thanks to CQ Politics):

Which two current U.S. Senators once served as congressional pages?

Remember, no Googling! We'll be competing every morning here at Mother Jones' DC Bureau, and I'll let you know the results (and how we fared) each afternoon. If you have a good question, submit it to mojotrivia@gmail.com. I'll credit you if we use your question (please let us know if you got it from another source).

Submit your answers in the comments section, and good luck!

— Nick Baumann