Mojo - June 2009

Sanford Nixed from Values Voter Summit

| Wed Jun. 24, 2009 4:31 PM EDT

People for the American Way points out Mark Sanford has already been scratched from the list of confirmed and invited speakers at the 2009 Values Voter Summit. That was fast.

Obviously Sanford's affair didn't sit well with the Family Research Council, the conservative think tank that "champions marriage and family" and sponsors the summit. But, hey, even with Sanford gone you'll still be able to get your fair share of values voter inspiration—in the form of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and Pat Buchanan.

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Obama's First Veto?

| Wed Jun. 24, 2009 3:18 PM EDT | Scheduled to publish Wed Jun. 24, 2009 5:56 PM EDT

In a rare move, the White House has threatened to veto the defense budget bill if it contains money for extra F-22s. From a letter released today (PDF):

The collective judgment of the Service Chiefs and Secretaries of the military departments suggests that a final program of record of 187 F-22s is sufficient to meet operational requirements.  If the final bill presented to the President contains this provision, the President's senior advisors would recommend a veto. 

(h/t: Travis Sharp)

Obama hasn't waved his veto pen around much yet. Before taking office, he vowed to veto any bill that would prevent him from releasing the second half of the bailout funds. But otherwise he's been circumspect about deploying the 'v' word, even on his top policy priorities. He hasn't, for instance, indicated that he'd refuse to sign a health care bill that lacks a public option. So this is definitely an interesting development.


Friends of Angelo are No Friends of Issa

| Wed Jun. 24, 2009 2:55 PM EDT

If things get a bit uncomfortable for members of Congress and Obama administration officials, they'll have Darrell Issa to blame for that. Since news broke last June that federal lawmakers and other VIPs had received sweetheart loans through what Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo dubbed his "Friends of Angelo" program, the California Republican and ranking member of the House oversight committee has been leading the charge to investigate the matter. He says his investigation has "uncovered evidence that only a fraction of those who participated in Countrywide’s VIP program have come to light," and Issa has every intention of flipping on the floodlights of accountability.

But there's a hitch. While Bank of America, which acquired Countrywide in 2008, has agreed to provide Issa with documents that he's requested, it will only do so under subpoena. Obtaining that subpoena will require a full committee vote and the cooperation of oversight committee chariman Edolphus Towns, who has been seemingly reluctant to open this can of worms. In fact, Towns declined to sign his name to the letter [PDF] Issa sent to BofA CEO Ken Lewis in early June requesting the "Friends of Angelo"-related documents. Why? According to the Wall Street Journal:

A spokeswoman for Mr. Towns said the Friends of Angelo program wasn't on the chairman's priority list, which includes oversight of the nation's financial crisis, the financial bailout of banks and the giant federal financial stimulus package.

The Sanford Affair

| Wed Jun. 24, 2009 2:45 PM EDT

Mark Sanford's latest adminssion in the saga renders moot all other theories about why he spent the last week in Argentina without telling anyone: He was having an affair.

"I've been unfaithful to my wife and I've developed a relationship with what stared as a dear, dear friend from Argentina," he finally said. The affair has been going on for a year, he later explained.

Sanford announced that he is resigning as head of the Republican Governors Association.

"I spent the past five days of my life crying in Argentina," he said, "so I could come back and cry here."

 

Hypocrite of the Day

| Wed Jun. 24, 2009 9:39 AM EDT

Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, addressing a group of lawmakers Wednesday:

[N]either the system nor the people will submit to bullying.

At first I thought it was incredibly brazen and ironic to say something like this, but then I realized something much more repugnant: Khamenei actually believes beating and murdering protesters is a just response to their (Western-orchestrated) dissent. This is the danger of madness ascending to power.

Top 10 Reasons Why Gov. Mark Sanford Went Missing

| Wed Jun. 24, 2009 9:37 AM EDT

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've already heard that Mark Sanford, the stimulus-money-refusing Republican governor of South Carolina, was missing for the past five days. Even his wife didn't know where he was. His office said--or rather, lied--that he was hiking on the Appalachian trail, but when the governor turned up this morning at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, he said he'd actually been in Beunos Aires. Here's a list of the top 10 theories on why the 2012 presidential hopeful went MIA:

10. He's "private." He wanted some alone time. (He says he was driving along the Argentinian coast.)

9. He "wanted to do something exotic."

8. He was trying to figure out how to lead the GOP out of the wilderness.

7. Isn't being the subject of over 2,000 articles in such a short time span a good way to increase your name recognition before running for President?

6. He was leaving to "spend some time away from his family."

5. He's "just a weird guy."

4. He wanted to refute Stephen Colbert's assertion that he is "incredibly boring... a manila envelope just glued to a beige wall... walking, talking Ambien."

3. He was worried that Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), another potential 2012 contender, was getting too much attention

2. He really was hiking in the woods...because it was Naked Hiking Day.

1. He's running for president...of Argentina.

 

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Best in Blog: 24 June 2009

| Wed Jun. 24, 2009 6:00 AM EDT

Today's three MoJo picks:

1) Can Michelle Obama Save Health Care Reform?

David Corn: On a day when the politerati focused on President Obama's press conference (Iran, health care, Iran, health care, the economy, smoking, Iran), Chris Matthews, Richard Wolffe, and I went off-topic to discuss whether Michelle Obama can help her husband sell the health care bill now under construction in Congress. Watch the video.

 

2) Barney Frank to F-22: Drop Dead

Rachel Morris: Rep. Barney Frank has authored an amendment that would remove funding for the extra F-22s that the House Armed Services committee slipped into the defense budget authorization bill last week. Here's the story so far.

 

3) Will Europe Out-Whale Japan?

Jen Phillips: The International Whaling Commmission is meeting in Portugal this week, and there's a small Japanese fishing town that gives dead whales Buddhist names. Really! Read more.

Military Industrial Complex 2-Robert Gates 0

| Tue Jun. 23, 2009 11:50 PM EDT | Scheduled to publish Wed Jun. 24, 2009 11:20 AM EDT

Barney Frank's amendment removing money for the F-22 got shot down by the Rules Committee last night and won't come up for a vote. That was the House's last chance to take the extra F-22 funds out of the defense budget authorization bill.

The next stop is the Senate, where Armed Services chair Carl Levin and ranking member John McCain both oppose buying more planes than Gates requested—although House Armed Services backed the F-22 over the objections of its chairman, Rep. Ike Skelton. Of course, the appropriators also get to weigh in, too. In the Senate, that means this guy.

So, lawmakers have now come out swinging for two big programs that Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants to cut. In addition to the House's backing for the F-22, the war supplemental passed by Congress earlier this month included $2 billion for C-17 cargo planes that Gates says the DoD doesn't need.

 

Corn on "Hardball": Michelle Obama Helping Health Care Reform?

| Tue Jun. 23, 2009 7:00 PM EDT

On a day when the politerati focused on President Barack Obama's press conference (Iran, health care, Iran, health care, the economy, smoking, Iran), Chris Matthews, Richard Wolffe, and I went off-topic to discuss whether Michelle Obama can help her husband sell the health care bill now under construction in Congress. We then moved on to the "disappearance" of GOP South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford.

 

You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances on Twitter.

 

40 Days Without a Leader

| Tue Jun. 23, 2009 3:00 PM EDT

On Friday, May 15, I attended the confirmation hearing for Robert M. Groves, Obama's designee to become the next director of the U.S. Census Bureau. Groves, formerly an academic from the University of Michigan, has dedicated his life to census-related matters. A total of three senators attended his hearing, including Susan Collins, the lone GOP representative. Without objections, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs unanimously approved Groves' nomination by voice vote five days later. However, Groves's confirmation by the full Senate has been stalled by at least one anonymous Republican senator. Under Senate rules, a Senator can hold up a nomination without going public or providing an explanation.

It has now been 40 days since Groves's nomination hearing. One reason for the anonymous hold may be Groves's support for statistical sampling. This practice is controversial because it involves using expert opinions to calculate the accuracy of figures rather than relying solely on a door-to-door headcount. As Time reported, when Groves was "an associate census director in the 1990s, [he] angered Republicans by supporting a statistical adjustment to compensate for the 1990 undercount."

However, sampling should be a nonissue because the method was banned for decennial headcounts by the United States Supreme Court, and Groves has sworn not to use it for the 2010 Census.

In addition to Groves, 61 other Obama nominees remain unconfirmed. (Also, Obama has yet to fill 210 open positions.) The longer these positions sit vacant, the greater the chance that bureaucratic errors will be made due to a lack of leadership.

And no place is more prone to bureaucratic error than the Census Bureau.