Political MoJo

As Goes One Republican Editor in PA, So Goes the Country?

| Mon Oct. 9, 2006 7:29 PM EDT

In an editorial titled "Time To Switch Teams," a Times Herald-Record business editor announces he why won't vote (as he always has) Republican in the fall:

The reason Republicans are bent out of shape is that this Foley scandal is the proverbial last straw. We've had it. The out-of-control spending. The earmarks. The graft with the lobbyists. The arrogance. The abrogation of principles that Goldwater, Reagan and others worked decades to spread.
The Republicans will lose the House in November. Absent big changes, I have to say they deserve to. I will help them lose it, because in my own congressional district, Pennsylvania's 10th, I'm voting for Democrat Chris Carney. As the campaign literature for Carney slyly notes, he's been married for 18 years to his college sweetheart.
Why might he note that? Because his opponent, and the incumbent, Republican Don Sherwood, engaged in a five-year affair in Washington with a mistress some three decades his junior.
My father had choices. The Republicans offer me candidates who can't even keep their pants on. I've had it.

(Great. But why "slyly"?)

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With $90,000 In His Freezer, What's Not To Love?

| Mon Oct. 9, 2006 5:19 PM EDT

New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin has endorsed the candidacy of Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson, the man who gave a new meaning to the term, "cold hard cash." Jefferson is the target of a federal bribery investigation. Those he has not been charged, one of his aides and a Kentucky businessman have already pleaded guilty. During the course of the investigation, agents found $90,000 in cash hidden in Jefferson's freezer.

The surprise isn't so much that Nagin would lend his support to someone under investigation who looks pretty guilty, but that he would so enthusiastically support a Democrat. Nagin, a lifelong Republican who suddenly "became a Democrat" a day before his first mayoral campaign began, has governed like a Republican, and even endorsed Bobby Jindal (now a Congressman) for governor. Jindal is not merely Republican, but is on the extreme right wing end of things.

Nagin's endorsement of Jefferson adds one more item to the list of things he has done that cast doubts on his ability to lead. From waffling about whether a landfill should be in the middle of a residential area to bungling the towing of trashed cars after Katrina to recently making a questionable deal with a trash pickup company, the mayor has caused New Orleanians to question his re-election. However, they have only themselves to blame.

North Korean Nuclear Test Rattles Asia -- and Planet

| Mon Oct. 9, 2006 3:05 PM EDT

Ah yes, remember this Economist cover? Not so funny today...

Anyway good analysis and useful resources for further reading from the Council on Foreign Relations here (running under the arresting headline, "North Korean Nuclear Test Rattles Planet.") A snippet:

Over the longer term, experts worry about pressure on North Korea’s neighbors to match its new nuclear capabilities. Japan, in particular, has the ability to move in this direction quickly, notes CFR’s Walter Russell Mead. This CATO brief looks at the “inevitable” march of nuclear arms across Asia. And here are issue briefs from the Nuclear Threat Initiative on Japan and South Korea. Writing in Asia Policy, Marcus Noland, a fellow at the Institute for International Economics, examines the possible economic impact of a Pyongyang nuclear test (PDF) on East Asia. North Korea could likely “build a crude nuclear warhead” and has enough plutonium for between four and thirteen nuclear weapons (PDF) say analysts David Albright and Paul Brannan of the Institute for Science and International Security. The Nuclear Threat Initiative provides a chronology of North Korea’s missile development program and maps of suspected nuclear enrichment sites.

Kerry's Swift Response to Two-Year Old Smear Campaign

| Mon Oct. 9, 2006 2:52 PM EDT

John Kerry continues to put the finishing touches on his 2004 campaign strategy:

Kerry said he is concerned that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is again resorting to "the politics of fear and smear." [...]

"We're not going to give them an ounce of daylight," said Kerry, who is considering another run at the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.

The senator said his response to the commercials in 2004 was not strong enough.

"We thought the fact that the truth was out there was enough," he said. "Clearly it wasn't."

OK, so Kerry finally gets that his non-response to these attacks was pathetic. But does he think that if he runs again he'll get Swift Boated in the same way he did in 2004? And what exactly is his big plan for fighting back, besides actually paying attention next time? No doubt there will be a brilliant strategy unveiled by 2010.

This just in: Kerry thinks of snappy comeback to 5th-grade school-yard taunt.

Gays Like Kolbe

| Mon Oct. 9, 2006 2:51 PM EDT

Despite the temptation to blame Mark Foley's self-proclaimed gayness for his repugnant behavior with young male pages, it was Congress's only out gay Republican, Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona, who schooled Foley on how to treat and not to treat pages. Kolbe had a friendly relationship with many pages, and on one occasion offered to let several formal pages stay in his Washington home while the congressman was away. Kolbe's warmth led one page to approach him in 2000 with concerns about some emails Rep. Foley had sent him. Kolbe certainly should have done more, but he did at least confront Foley about his behavior. He later suggested that another page show Foley's emails to the clerk of the House. At least Kolbe did more than House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

Foley Investigations and Fresh Revelations

| Mon Oct. 9, 2006 2:24 PM EDT

Never let it be said that the gathering threat of nuclear armageddon distracted us from Mark Foley's salacious exchanges with underage male pages. The weekend brought the revelation that Republican lawmaker Jim Kolbe knew of the exchanges as far back as 2000 (pushing back by at least five years the date when a member of Congress has copped to knowing about Foley's behavior); and the claim, made by a former page to the Los Angeles Times, that he had a sexual encounter with Foley in 2000 at the latter's Washington home, after he left the page program. Now begin the investigations, with the FBI and the ethics committee pursuing a range of important questions, the sordid answers to which could yet put Dennis Hastert -- and who knows who else? -- out of a job.

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'Tis the Season for Attack Ads

| Mon Oct. 9, 2006 2:13 PM EDT

California talk radio host Melanie Morgan and her conservative nonprofit Move America Forward were hard at work this weekend raising money for the organization's latest smear campaign, which, of all likely targets, will take aim at Bill Clinton. The ad blitz, according to one of several mass emails that went out to MAF supporters over the weekend, will "rebuke" Clinton for his "recent efforts to undermine support for the war on terrorism -- on national television." (Emphasis theirs.)

MAF, it seems, was moved to action after Clinton's recent appearance on Fox News Sunday (ostensibly to discuss the Clinton Global Initiative), during which he was asked by Chris Wallace whether his administration did enough to rid the world of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. "At least I tried," a visibly heated Clinton responded. "That's the difference in me and some, including all the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try. They did not try." Clinton went on to criticize the current administration for disregarding the counterterrorism strategy he left for his successor and for marginalizing counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke.

Move America Forward, which has previously branded Nancy Pelosi a "domestic enemy" and has launched a "U.N. Out of U.S." ad campaign, is expected to debut its latest attack ad tomorrow on CNN and CNN Headline News. The ad (view it here) opens in typical fashion – a tight shot of Osama bin Laden that leads to a 9/11 montage, rendered in black-and-white for dramatic effect. Meanwhile, a narrator intones: "Terrorists want to kill us. They've attacked over and over again. Our president didn't have his eye on the ball. He didn't make the war on terrorism his top priority. But enough about Bill Clinton."

While attack ads are clearly not the province of one political party or the other, questions have been raised about whether Move America Forward, which describes itself as a "non-partisan, not-for-profit," is pushing the envelope on its nonprofit status with its clearly partisan agenda. The Contra Costa Times explored this question in early September:

The IRS prohibits groups eligible for tax-deductible donations from engaging in partisan activity. While such groups can speak out on policy matters and perform a small amount of lobbying, they cannot urge support for a particular candidate or party, said Bill Steiner, a Sacramento-based IRS spokesman….

A nonprofit group does not have to explicitly express support for a particular candidate or party to be in violation, Steiner said. For instance, the IRS launched a probe of the liberal All Saints Church in Pasadena after an anti-war homily delivered by rector George Regas just before the 2004 election.

Trekkies with Disposable Income Pay Millions for Memories

| Mon Oct. 9, 2006 2:02 PM EDT

For the Trekkies among us:

The BBC reports that fans spent $7.1 million for Star Trek memorabilia in an auction at Christie's this weekend. The auction house apparently underestimated Trekkies in estimating that a 78-inch-long miniature of the Starship Enterprise (used in the title sequences of Star Trek: The Next Generation) would go for around $30,000. Someone scooped up the plastic prop for a cool $576,000.

Other top sellers included $62,400 for a replica of Captain James T Kirk's command chair from the bridge of the spaceship on the original series, and $144,000 for a costume belonging to the original series' Dr McCoy.

For those who may not have nabbed any of the thousand items there is still a way to tap into the nostalgia. Some fans, distraught over the series coming to an end took matters into their own hands and started Star Trek: Hidden Frontier, an online series which has so far produced 46 episodes over seven seasons.

South Dakota Abortion Referendum (Remember That One?) Almost Too Close to Call

| Mon Oct. 9, 2006 3:46 AM EDT

When South Dakotans overwhelmingly put a vote on their state's "no exceptions for rape and incest" abortion ban (aka Supreme Court bait) on the November ballot, prochoicers allowed themselves a twinge of schadenfreude: For once, it seemed, prolifers had gone too far, committing themselves to a law that even the reddest of red-state voters couldn't abide. Then, in June, came the first big letdown, with almost no national media attention: Four Republican state legislators who had voted against the law lost to more conservative primary challengers. Now--after a couple of months of campaigning, which, as the LA Times reports, features prolife ads with a "feminist" flair--the ban is down only 44 to 47 percent in a poll (commissioned by a prolife group, so grain of salt advised), which amounts to a statistical dead heat. Hard to believe the law will survive, especially if the GOP's hard-core base stays home, but stranger things have happened. For a great primer on what's really at stake here, check out Cynthia Gorney's piece in the New Yorker, which alas is not online, though you get a flavor in this interview.

Patty Wetterling: A Voice of Conscience on Foley Scandal and Child Abuse (And Why You Should Call Power Line's Scott Johnson)

| Sun Oct. 8, 2006 2:18 AM EDT

Seventeen years ago, when I had just graduated from Carleton College and was living in Minneapolis, 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling was abducted by gunpoint, in front of his younger brother and a friend, while biking in his St. Joseph, MN, neighborhood. He was never heard from again.

Seventeen years ago, his mother, Patty Wetterling, mounted an enormous effort—one that did not have the advantage of email, blogs, the Internet, or Amber Alerts—to alert the public about her son's case; her son's face is still burned into my brain. And when the months and years that followed, as it became clear that, excepting a miracle, Jacob would not be found alive, she became a force for other missing and abused children. I left Minnesota a few years later, but I was always impressed at her ability to be an advocate on this issue without resorting to needlessly scaring other parents about their chances of loosing a child to stranger abduction (which, despite what shows like CSI and Without A Trace and lesser imitators might lead one to believe, is both low, and no greater now than a few generations ago). She pioneered the first sexual offenders registration law — the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act—and while subsequent refinements on this act (like Meghan's Law) may have tipped beyond what civil libertarians can embrace, still it was an important step in the prevention of habitual sex offenders.

Jacob was a really good looking kid, one not, it seems, picked at random, and I think one of the hardest things for the public, and certainly for his family, was the almost immediate, instinctive knowledge of why this particular kid was likely grabbed.

I had no idea Patty Wetterling was running for Congress until a few days ago, when her name came up as someone commenting on the Foley situation. Now her opponent, Michele Bachmann, has claimed that Wetterling is playing politics with the issue of child abuse. This is appalling, and most especially from an extremely religious, values voting woman, who has nobly raised 23 foster children herself.

I don't want to bash Bachmann here. What I know of her comes from clip searches, and these leave me somewhat confused (used to work for Carter, now darling of far-right mega-churches). But I will say, emphatically, that anyone who says Patty Wetterling is being opportunistic about the issue of child sexual abuse either didn't live in Minnesota in the early 1990s. Or is full of shit.

And for Scott Johnson of the conservative blog Power Line to say, and this is a direct quote of his headline—"Patty Wetterling Molests the Truth"—is seriously in the worst taste I have ever seen in any blog of any political stripe. Johson's bio on Power Line notes:

Scott W. Johnson is a Minneapolis attorney. For more than ten years Johnson has written with his former law partner John H. Hinderaker on public policy issues including income inequality, income taxes, campaign finance reform, affirmative action, welfare reform, and race in the criminal justice system. Both Johnson and Hinderaker are fellows of the Claremont Institute. Their articles have appeared in National Review, The American Enterprise, American Experiment Quarterly, and newspapers from Florida to California. The Claremont Institute has archived many of their articles....He can be reached by phone at (612) 414-6464.

Polls have Wetterling and Bachmann neck and neck.