Political MoJo

Fred Thompson: Not Conservative Enough? Or Just Lazy?

| Mon Jun. 18, 2007 11:53 AM EDT

Newsweek has gone hunting through Fred Thompson's eight years worth of Senate records that are stashed in a public archive at the University of Tennessee, and they've come to the conclusion that Thompson is not quite as conservative as his admirers on the right believe. Abortion is a big problem:

On a 1994 Eagle Forum survey, Thompson said he opposed criminalizing abortion. Two years later, on a Christian Coalition questionnaire, he checked "opposed" to a proposed constitutional amendment protecting the sanctity of human life. He struggled with the question of when life begins. "I do believe that the decision to have an early term abortion is a moral issue and should not be a legal one subject to the dictates of the government," he wrote...
[Thompson told the Conservative Spectator], "I'm not willing to support laws that prohibit early term abortions ... It comes down to whether life begins at conception. I don't know in my own mind if that is the case so I don't feel the law ought to impose that standard on other people."

Thompson told a different paper, "The ultimate decision on abortion should be left with the woman and not the government." But Big Fred likely won't have to make like Romney and disavow his previous stance. For all his ambivalence, Thompson maintained a straight pro-life voting record in the Senate. No matter what his personal beliefs, it seems he always knew what was good for him politically.

But what about campaign finance? The McCain-Feingold bill that irritated a number of conservatives and has badly hurt John McCain's fundraising was supported strongly by Thompson. In fact, he helped write the bill.

My response: eh. Thompson will have to flip-flop on that one. It's not like flip-flops are hurting anyone this campaign season -- king of the flip-flops, Mitt Romney, is in the lead. The more damaging claim against Thompson might be that he's too lazy to campaign for president, or serve as one. That's been getting a lot of traction. I mean a lot. Really, like, a ton.

Update: The Thompson-is-lazy links keep on coming. Here's one more. And another. This guy must really not like to work hard.

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John McCain Trying to Dance the Big Money Dance, and Failing

| Mon Jun. 18, 2007 11:29 AM EDT

The New York Times has an article today that focuses on how John McCain's uncompromising style of politics (until late, anyway) has created the presidential candidate's current fundraising woes.

For example, McCain has repeatedly hit defense contractors for being corrupt and wasteful, instead of using his position on the Armed Services Committee to become chummy with the industry. And he pays the price: his contributions from the military industry are less than half of what Chris Dodd has been able to pull in.

The problem is one McCain should have seen coming. One of his signature pieces of legislation is McCain-Feingold, which sought to limit the power of big money in politics. Now he has to do the big money dance, and no one with deep pockets wants to be his partner. Obama doesn't take money from lobbyists or special interests, so he would seem to be in the same position as McCain. So how does Obama raise so much while McCain is able to raise so little? One might argue that Obama has more momentum and a more magnetic personality. Or one might argue that Obama isn't America's single strongest supporter of a disastrous and badly unpopular war, and isn't alienating his own party over a surprisingly electric issue.

At Swampland, Joe Klein is getting sentimental over McCain's failings, and I can't quibble. I was victim to the same sort of thing when it was revealed in The Hill that McCain almost abandoned the GOP a few years back. I assumed that the news effectively meant the end of the McCain campaign, and I was sad to see McCain go. Klein disagrees with McCain's stance on the war but calls him an "essentially honorable man." I disagreed with McCain's stance on the war and lot of other stuff, but called him "decent." Surprisingly, Klein is taking worse jabs in his comments section than I did in ours.

A Justified but Tiring Hit Job on The New Republic

| Mon Jun. 18, 2007 10:40 AM EDT

There seems to be nothing liberals inside the beltway and on the internet enjoy carping about more than The New Republic, which has certainly earned its share of criticism. It has provided Republicans with liberal cover for some of their most outrageous wrongdoings, the Iraq War being the most obvious. It's been a haven for an incredibly long list of conservative writers, and it has often taken more joy at being contrary and at slamming liberals than in defending the causes one would expect a liberal magazine to defend. Oh, and its long time owner and top editor who just sold the mag is an Arab-hating neocon who allowed a pro-Israel fever to overtake all else. We're all familiar with the problem.

Eric Alterman has a solid piece in the American Prospect arguing all of this and more. It's worth reading, but let me just say that while I get that deconstructing liberalism's past, and TNR's place within it, is important because it helps illustrate the present, pieces like Alterman's often feel like they are done for gossipy reasons, to draw stark lines and remind everyone that one or two influential people stood on the wrong side of divisive issues. We all know Marty Peretz is only ironically called a "liberal" and we all know that TNR has a nasty past. We all know they screwed up on health care in the '90s and screwed up the Iraq War in a horrible, horrible way. But if we focus on getting our pound of flesh instead of hitting the mutual foe we now share with a much-improved TNR, aren't we in a way committing the same sin as TNR did for many years?

I never thought I'd defend The New Republic. I guess my point is this. We all know the magazine has gotten better under Frank Foer and we all know the criticisms -- so what's the point in drudging up the old hits and slamming the magazine all over again?

OSC's Investigation of Rove May be Legit. Very Legit

| Sat Jun. 16, 2007 10:10 PM EDT

Now that the Office of Special Counsel is done with Lurita Doan, it's intensifying its investigation of Karl Rove that we're worried is a sham. The scope of the investigation is staggering -- check out the details here.

The Military Is Going Nuts

| Fri Jun. 15, 2007 4:41 PM EDT

A report released by a congressionally ordered mental health task force suggests that the military's handling of mental health problems in its ranks is even worse than Mother Jones previously reported (with little to no cooperation from the DoD, by the way). According to NPR, 40 percent of troops returning from Iraq or Afghanistan have some sort of psychological problem. Nearly a quarter show signs of serious mental health disorders.

It gets worse: Soldiers reporting psychological problems are not only not helped, but actually get punished for their illnesses. Some are sent to clean the latrines; others, in an image disturbingly resonant of Abu Ghraib, must sit in a corner wearing a dunce camp for long periods of time. At one army base, many soldiers were kicked out of the services following psychological complaints.

The Pentagon doesn't spend enough on mental health services, nor does it train troops, officers or even mental health care providers adequately. Believe it or not, even military doctors aren't well trained about the links between war and PTSD. For reasons NPR's correspondent doesn't address, since the War on Terror began, the few mental health specialists the DoD has "have been leaving the Army, the Marines, and the Air Force in droves." Problem is, neither the soldiers nor their demons miraculously disappear after they are released with inadequate or no treatment. The Pentagon is outsourcing their care—to you and me and the rest of us who oppose the war in Iraq.

Mike Gravel Will Hypnotize You

| Fri Jun. 15, 2007 11:47 AM EDT

I've blogged before about how much I love fringe presidential candidates. They definitely make the best videos, from ones where they claim they are the only ones in their party qualified to run for president to ones where they make post-modernist statements about the future of political campaigning.

Now stone-faced Mike Gravel has an entry in the world of crazy videos -- one where he makes it clear he will stare deep into your soul and convince you to vote for him by throwing a rock in a lake. Got that?

Okay, so I don't get it either. But this feels a lot like my college English classes where inevitably the poem I didn't understand was the one most revered by scholars. So Mike Gravel is either crazy or the smartest man to run for president, ever.

Or maybe he just has too much time on his hands.

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More Info on Financial Disclosures: Clinton, McCain, Romney All Rolling in Cash

| Fri Jun. 15, 2007 9:14 AM EDT

We blogged a while back about the financial disclosures of many of the candidates, noting that some folks -- including Romney, McCain, and Clinton -- were granted extensions in filing their paperwork. We now have more information.

Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton have assets valued from $10 million to $50 million (the massive window is a product of FEC rules) with the former president raking in speaking fees of more than $10 million in just the last year. The bulging bank account comes after the pair left the White House with millions in debt from legal fees. Two days ago I hit Senator Clinton pretty hard for being the "Big Money" candidate in the Democratic primary, so it's worth noting that she's made a bid for some financial transparency -- along with Bill, she has liquidated a family trust worth between $5 million and $25 million that had investments in oil and pharmaceutical companies, military contractors, Wal-Mart, and FOX News parent company News Corp. The cost of avoiding future conflicts of interest (and being hit for investing in decidedly non-progressive entities) is substantial, because of capital gains taxes the Clintons will have to pay.

Elsewhere, filings showed that the McCain family has $24.3 million in assets, almost all held by Cindy McCain and the McCain children. Cindy McCain controls an Anheuser-Busch distributorship in Arizona that is said to be among the largest in the nation.

And former Bain executive Mitt Romney is worth the most out of the bunch, with assets totaling $190 million to $250 million. Yahtzee!

Do Not Pass Go, Scooter Libby. Do Not Collect $200

| Fri Jun. 15, 2007 9:04 AM EDT

Perhaps you've heard about this?

Scooter Libby will not be allowed to remain free while his lawyers appeal the 30-month sentence he received after being convicted of lying to investigators during the CIA leak investigation, according to media reports.
The former White House adviser could be sent to federal prison within weeks, according to the Associated Press.

Now the pressure is really on President Bush regarding a pardon -- delaying it until the end of his term, entirely possible if Libby was allowed to stay free during appeal after appeal, is out of the question. Reports say that Team Cheney is pushing for a pardon hard, but the president is ambivalent. Though I think it would make a mockery of the justice system, I'm not sure why he doesn't pardon Libby today -- it's not like his approval ratings can get any lower.

Gonzales Under Investigation for Trying to Influence Aide's Testimony

| Fri Jun. 15, 2007 8:48 AM EDT

The problem with investigations is they create new, smaller investigations. That's what Alberto Gonzales is learning, anyway. He's under investigation for possibly trying to influence the testimony of former aide Monica Goodling in the U.S. Attorneys scandal.

Gonzo said in testimony that he never discussed the scandal with other "fact witnesses," and that in fact this lack of discussion was exactly why he had to respond with so many "do not recalls" in response to lawmakers' questions. But in testimony that came after Gonzo's, Goodling said that her boss had a conversation with her around this time about whether or not she should stay at the DOJ. According to Goodling, this conversation made her "a little uncomfortable." Many speculate it was intended to influence her testimony.

What's remarkable about this is that the investigation isn't being taken up by Congress -- it's being instigated by the Department of Justice itself. That means that it's no Democrat-led fishing expedition, but also that Gonzales is being investigated by his subordinates, putting everyone in an awkward position and raising the question of whether the investigation will be effective.

Effective or not, add this to the ever-growing list of scandals at DOJ.

Bush DOJ Protects the Strong from the Weak

| Thu Jun. 14, 2007 6:55 PM EDT

Jonathan blogged earlier today about how the Department of Justice's shifted its focus away from traditional issues like race and sex discrimination and vote suppression to discrimination against religious conservatives—one of the most kowtowed-to and overrepresented groups in the country. I think he gave short shift to how utterly disturbing the move is. Here are specific examples cited in the Times article, which I will let speak for themselves:

• Intervening in federal court cases on behalf of religion-based groups like the Salvation Army that assert they have the right to discriminate in hiring in favor of people who share their beliefs even though they are running charitable programs with federal money.

• Supporting groups that want to send home religious literature with schoolchildren; in one case, the government helped win the right of a group in Massachusetts to distribute candy canes as part of a religious message that the red stripes represented the blood of Christ.

• Vigorously enforcing a law enacted by Congress in 2000 that allows churches and other places of worship to be free of some local zoning restrictions. The division has brought more than two dozen lawsuits on behalf of churches, synagogues and mosques.

• Taking on far fewer hate crimes and cases in which local law enforcement officers may have violated someone's civil rights. The resources for these traditional cases have instead been used to investigate trafficking cases, typically involving foreign women used in the sex trade, a favored issue of the religious right.

• Sharply reducing the complex lawsuits that challenge voting plans that might dilute the strength of black voters. The department initiated only one such case through the early part of this year, compared with eight in a comparable period in the Clinton administration.