Political MoJo

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

| Sun Jul. 15, 2007 4:49 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.

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

| Sat Jul. 14, 2007 12:34 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 9:54 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 5:01 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?

Answers for Morning Political Trivia for July 13

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 4:39 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 4:13 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.

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

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 2:19 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 12:22 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

Daily Republican Sex Scandal Roundup

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 12:01 PM EDT

The question of whether Florida Rep. Bob Allen, co-chairman of John McCain's Florida campaign, tried to pay an undercover male cop $20 to give or receive a blowjob has been answered. According to the police officer's report from the arrest (via Pandagon):

Allen engaged me in a conversation in which it was agreed that he would pay me $20.00 in order to perform a "blow job" on me. Allen stated that he wanted me to ride with him accross [sic] the river before he performed the act and gave me the money. Before entering Allen's vehicle I identified myself as a police officer and detained him.

I'm glad we cleared that up. I should also mention that between 2003 and 2006, Allen voted with the Christian Coalition over 90 percent of the time.

Speaking of hypocritical Christian conservatives... Jack Burkman, a GOP political operative, conservative pundit, and former lobbyist for James Dobson's Family Research Council, was just exposed as being on the DC Madam's list.

Iraq Status: Duck and Cover, Wait and See

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 12:00 PM EDT

Even as President Bush begs for more time to allow the so-called 'surge' to work in Iraq, the outlook from his own National Security Council is not all that encouraging. In yesterday's status report on 18 benchmarks to be achieved by the Iraqi Government, only eight showed "satisfactory" progress, while the status of the remaining ten was characterized as "mixed" or "unsatisfactory." Among those that failed to make any headway at all: easing de-Baathification laws to allow those who worked as lower-level civil service employees under Saddam's regime to return to work; disarming the country's various ethnic and religious militias; ensuring that Iraqi police enforce the law fairly, without consideration of sectarian ties; allowing Iraqi military commanders to operate without interference from politicians in Baghdad; and increasing the number of Iraqi military units capable of staging operations without American assistance.

These would seem huge (and sadly familiar) obstacles to Bush's vision of "victory" in Iraq, whatever that might mean... Still, the president remains sanguine about our prospects there. At a White House news conference yesterday, at which he unveiled the depressing results of the NSC report, the president, true to form, chose to look on the bright side:

I believe we can succeed in Iraq, and I know we must... Those who believe that the battle in Iraq is lost will likely point to the unsatisfactory performance on some of the political benchmarks. Those of us who believe that battle in Iraq can and must be won see the satisfactory performance on several of the security benchmarks as a cause for optimism...
The bottom line is that this is a preliminary report and it comes less than a month after the final reinforcements arrived in Iraq. This September, as Congress has required, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will return to Washington to provide a more comprehensive assessment. By that time, we hope to see further improvement...