Mojo - July 2007

Waxman: White House Politicization "More Widespread Than Previously Known"

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 4:01 PM EDT

"I took an oath to the president, and I take that oath very seriously." So said former White House political director Sara Taylor during an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, a statement she later retracted after Senator Patrick Leahy pointed out that she had actually sworn on oath to the Constitution, not to the commander-in-chief. Yet Taylor's gaffe was actually quite revealing—another sign that the Bush administration's political appointees often place loyalty to president and party above all else, which goes a long way toward explaining why partisan politics has permeated even the most remote corners of the federal bureaucracy.

While there's already a sizable body of evidence to suggest that the White House has presided over an unprecedented wave of politicization, Henry Waxman's Committee on Oversight and Government Reform reported today that the adminstration's "efforts to politicize the activities of federal agencies may be more widespread than previously known."

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An Important Omission from the NIE

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 3:43 PM EDT

Spencer Ackerman makes a point I should have made in my earlier post about the NIE. The document goes to absurd lengths to avoid the subject of the Iraq War. Probably because George Bush's grand blunder has made the war on terrorism so, so much more difficult.

New NIE Summary: Much We Already Knew, Some We Didn't

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 1:02 PM EDT

The publicly released version of the National Intelligence Estimate that Laura mentions below is only a page and a half, so it should come as no surprise that there is nothing terribly insightful in it. ("Breaking news! Al Qaeda is dangerous!") But let's take a look, shall we?

Al-Qa'ida is and will remain the most serious terrorist threat to the Homeland... We assess the group has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability, including: a safehaven in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), operational lieutenants, and its top leadership.

The FATA referenced here include places like Waziristan, which Mother Jones profiled in an essay and stunning photo shoot in 2004, where the Pakistan government (usually) respects local tribes' claims to sovereignty and keeps only a loose leash on things. Because of the lack of control, the areas are often perfect for terrorist hideouts, a fact the U.S. has known for years — in fact, the emphasis on the FATA in this NIE matches policies from the beginning of the war on terror. Back then, we paid locals for turning in alleged al Qaeda operatives, which merely gave the locals a more powerful weapon in tribal conflicts and filled places like Gitmo with harmless and bewildered individuals who happened to have a well-connected enemy.

Other thoughts from the NIE (which is available here):

Romney and Edwards: Blood Pomade Brothers

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 11:59 AM EDT

Oh, Mitt Romney, you hypocritical jerk. When John Edwards spent $400 on a haircut, how could you not know that every politician — including you — has embarrassing financial expenditures on his or her public record? Why couldn't you just let the man take the heat from others, instead of saying:

You know I think John Edwards was right. There are two Americas. There is the America where people pay $400 for a haircut and then there is everybody else.

You had to sit in your (multi-million dollar) glass house and throw stones. Today, Politico digs up the fact that you spent $300 on a service that calls itself "a mobile beauty team for hair, makeup and men's grooming and spa services."

Let's be real, Mitt. John Edwards is a perfectly tanned, perfectly coiffed, picture-book politician. You are a perfectly tanned, perfectly coiffed, picture-book politician. Did you honestly think the press wouldn't figure out that you both paid good money to get that way?

Swimmer Shivers to Call Attention to Global Warming

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 11:53 AM EDT

British swimmer Lewis Gordon Pugh, a.k.a. the "Ice Bear", has become the first human to set a long-distance swimming record at the North Pole. He undertook the excruciatingly painful stunt to highlight the threat of climate change. For more, go to Blue Marble...

Morning Political Trivia for July 17

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 10:40 AM EDT

Today's question comes courtesy of CQ Politics. Knock it dead:

How many women represented New Hampshire in congress before Carol Shea-Porter, who was elected last year?

I'll update this post later today with the answer and the results of our contest here (morning trivia keeps our DC reporting skills sharp). If you have a question, submit it to mojotrivia@gmail.com. If it's good, we'll use it and credit you on the blog. Please let us know if you got it from another source.

Guesses in the comments section as always. Thanks!

Update

Commenter Nicholas Beaudrot writes: "The obvious guess is zero." It's also the obvious answer, which no one in the DC bureau guessed. They were all thrown off by reporter Laura Rozen's contention that Jeanne Shaheen once represented New Hampshire in congress. (Ms. Shaheen was actually the governor of the Granite State.) Congratulations to Mr. Beaudrot — we'll try again tomorrow.

— Nick Baumann

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New NIE on Terrorist Threats to the US Homeland

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 9:17 AM EDT

Coming at 10am from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on terrorist threats against the US homeland. I previewed some of what will be released here last week:

--Concern that Al Qaeda is getting more comfortable in "ungoverned spaces" of Pakistan, due to various factors, including a recent agreement by the Pakistani authorities with tribal leaders to leave Islamic militants in Waziristan alone. Intelligence community seeing more signs Al Qaeda is regrouping, able to train, and communicate in Pakistan ...
--Expect a new National Intelligence Estimate on terrorist threats to the homeland (this is not yet officially out ...), which [ODNI intel chief Thomas] Fingar rated the greatest threat to US national security. Al Qaida remains the greatest threat to the country. US intel community is increasingly concerned about Al Qaeda-linked militants in Pakistan using Europe, and in particular the UK, as a gateway to target the US homeland. Thwarted airplane plot last summer "very sophisticated" and of the type that concerns them, with its mix of UK and Pakistani-based terrorists working together on a plot to target the US. ...

We'll post and analyze the report when it's out. But for starters, go read Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank on how the Iraq war has increased the terrorism threat sevenfold worldwide.

Update: Here's the report (.pdf).

Vitter Watch: Senator Denies Ever Visiting New Orleans Establishment

| Mon Jul. 16, 2007 11:25 PM EDT

In his first public appearance since going into seclusion, Louisiana Sen. David Vitter faced the news media today and denied he had ever visited the establishment of the "Canal Street Madam," Jeanette Maier, who says Vitter paid $300 an hour for services. Vitter, with his wife Wendy by his side, said again--as he said in 2004--that he had no relationship with a prostitute named Wendy or with any New Orleans prostitute. His only explanation for why Maier said he was a client and why there are alleged photos of him and Wendy Cortez was that his admission of guilt in the DC Madam scandal "has encouraged some long-time political enemies...to spread falsehoods."

Karl Rove's Reefer Madness-Induced Memory Loss

| Mon Jul. 16, 2007 6:24 PM EDT
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Karl Rove's game sure has improved since he was a young Republican on the make in the early 1970s. The New York Times recently found a letter written by Rove in the Nixon archives in which the 22-year-old Capitol Hill aide outlines his ideas to recruit kids for a sexy-sounding group called "New Federalism Advocates." His big idea: midnight showings of John Wayne movies and Reefer Madness. Like many a former fan of the cult antidrug flick, Rove now pleads memory loss. "God, this is 1973!" he told the Times. "You work the math. I don't remember it all."

Rove also said he's not surprised his old letter was found, explaining, "When you send something to a White House person, it tends to be collected and remain." Yeah, unless that White House person happens to be "Dude, Where's My Email?" Rove.

KA Paul Says Bush Has Brought Death Upon "Thousands of Orphans and Widows"

| Mon Jul. 16, 2007 3:27 PM EDT

The reverend KA Paul is at it again. The self-proclaimed advocate for the Third World poor, conscience of Third World dictators, and peddler of poorly inspected brands of snake oil, has stepped up his rebellion against his erstwhile patrons in the Republican Right, this time, through the court system in his native India. According to a press release, Paul has filed suit in Bangalore on behalf of thousands of widows and orphans who supposedly died after President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice exerted their influence to cancel a peace mission with former Indian Prime Minister Deva Gowda to Iran, Libya, Sudan, Venezuela and Syria. I'm not sure how Bush was allegedly involved, how orphans allegedly died, and why anyone in India is still talking to Paul, who has been widely exposed as fraud, because the release didn't explain it. Still, I can't help but marvel at how Paul manages to keep getting attention. In October, I reported on his meeting with Rep. Dennis Hastert, in which he claimed to have convinced the embattled Speaker to resign over the Foley sex scandal. Ironically, Paul is now wrapped up in his own sex scandal: he was arrested in Los Angeles in May on suspicion of "lewd and lascivious acts with a minor." What's safe to say is that Paul (whom The New Republic once called "The world's most popular evangelist") will crusade on in his pirate ship as reliably as the political winds will blow him to some modicum of fame. Perhaps that explains his uncanny popularity with some evangelists here in America.