Political MoJo

Premature "Mission Accomplished" Party Planning

| Wed Oct. 4, 2006 2:53 PM EDT

Thom Shanker's story on the front page of today's New York Times reveals that "tucked away in fine print in the military spending bill for this past year was a lump sum of $20 million to pay for a celebration in the nation's capital "for commemoration of success" in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Now Congressional Republicans are saying, in effect, maybe next year. A paragraph written into spending legislation and approved by the Senate and House allows the $20 million to be rolled over into 2007.
The original legislation empowered the president to designate "a day of celebration" to commemorate the success of the armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to "issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe that day with appropriate ceremonies and activities."

Following the gaffe that was President Bush's flight-suit clad appearance on an aircraft carrier to celebrate "Mission Accomplished," one would think that lawmakers would have been more circumspect than to let such a provision stand. It's not as if I'm against celebrating the successes (or honoring the sacrifices) of the military, but we are so far away from anything resembling success that authorizing the celebration funds is like booking the DJ for your embryo's Sweet Sixteen party.


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After Five Years Al Jazeera Journo Still at Gitmo

| Wed Oct. 4, 2006 1:48 PM EDT

Al Jazeera cameraman Sami Muhyideen al-Haj was detained by Pakistani intelligence in December 2001, shortly after the fall of Kabul, as he and his crew attempted to cross the border into Pakistan. Turned over to U.S. authorities, who have accused him both of acting as a bagman for Chechen rebels and of aiding al Qaeda, he has spent close to five years in Gitmo where he, like his fellow detainees, has been held on the basis of secret evidence and with no legal recourse. As the Committee to Protect Journalists' Joel Campagna writes:

The military labels the allegations as "evidence." But a review of the public documents shows that they are assertions of wrongdoing without the documentation or testimony normally considered by a court to be evidence. Supporting evidence, if any, is part of the U.S. military's classified file — off-limits to the public, al-Haj, and his lawyer.

Among the more troubling aspects of al-Haj's detainment is the subject his captors have routinely sought to interrogate him on. His lawyer, Clive Stafford-Smith, told CPJ that "virtually all of the roughly 130 interrogations al-Haj has been subjected to have focused on Al Jazeera.... He said military officials have appeared intent on establishing a relationship between Al Jazeera and al Qaeda, questioning al-Haj about prominent network journalists, the station's finances, and how it pays for airline tickets."

Beyond pumping the journalist for information on Al Jazeera, American and British interrogators may have also tried to recruit him to spy on his employer. According to declassified notes of visits between al-Haj and his lawyer, which were obtained by the Guardian last year, he has been offered U.S. citizenship in return for informing on Al Jazeera. "They have said, 'If you work with us, we will teach you journalism, we will get you a visa to live anywhere you want, we will even give you US nationality, we will protect you, we will give you money,'" al-Haj has said. "'We will help you write a book and then we will publish it. This will help make the al Qaeda people contact you, and work with you.'"

If true, the fact that the government wants a mole inside Al Jazeera shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, since many military and administration officials regard the network as al Qaeda's de facto propaganda arm. But the government may also have other motivations for seeking to infiltrate and potentially undermine Al Jazeera. As a recent Congressional Research Service report on military information operations points out, the network "is considered by many to be a 'market competitor'" for U.S. propaganda efforts.

Hastert Will Go -- It's the Disloyalty, Stupid

| Wed Oct. 4, 2006 1:24 PM EDT

Marc Sandalow at the San Francisco Chronicle doesn't see any way Hastert can survive (nor does our own James Ridgeway), and I tend to agree.

Even if he manages to deflect blame for the humiliating page scandal, he will be left with a Republican leadership team whose disloyalty and instinct for self preservation have been fully exposed....

The conduct of the House has been so troubling that several Republicans are proposing to abolish the page system (which prompted Democratic columnist Harold Meyerson to suggest in this morning's Washington Post that, rather than punishing the victims, if House members cannot handle the temptation of young pages: "How about building a 700-foot fence around all Republican members of Congress?''

The only live question, so he argues, is when Hastert goes -- that is, how the Republicans' will time his departure so as to minimize the pre-election damage.

...Hastert is becoming the personification of the very entrenched Washington power that voters turned against when Democrats controlled Congress in 1994. ...

Hastert was scheduled to make as many as 30 appearances in the coming weeks for Republican candidates. Don't be surprised if [he] announces that he can not continue in his current capacity long before that.

Hastert: Dead Man Walking

| Wed Oct. 4, 2006 12:00 PM EDT

As a practical matter Dennis Hastert is to be the fall guy in the Foley scandal and is pretty much finished politically. The longer he twists in the wind, the more House seats Republicans will lose. Polls this morning are showing Dems either within reach of retaking the House, or winning outright. Zogby/Reuters says Dems are ahead in 11 of 15 key House races held by Republicans. The question now is what happens to at least three other Republicans, including House Majority Leader John Boehner who's also been tainted in the scandal. Who knows how many others will be exposed.

Most vulnerable is New York's Tom Reynolds, who runs the National Republican Congressional Committee. Democrats have been pounding Reynolds since Saturday, when it became known that he had been informed of some of Foley's less-explicit e-mails in late spring. Reynolds says he told Hastert about them, which Hastert denies. Congressional Quarterly Monday downgraded Reynolds' reelection chances from "safe Republican" to "leans Republican," and it's possible he might get beaten by Jack Davis, a Democratic businessman. "I don't think I went wrong at all," Reynolds said Monday at a press conference where he was surrounded by children (perhaps to shield himself from pointed questioning). "I don't know what else I could have done. What's a good citizen to do?" When a reporter asked the children to go outside to permit a more frank discussion of the matters at hand, Reynolds refused. "It's astounding to me as a parent or a grandparent that anyone would insinuate that I would seek to cover up inappropriate conduct between an adult and a child," he said.

Then there is John Shimkus of Illinois. He heads the House Page Committee and claims to have learned of the Foley emails in late 2005. Then he, together with House clerk Jeff Trandahl, met with Foley in 2005 and claims to have told the Florida congressman to cease all contact the former page. Foley supposedly promised to do so. Shimkus did not tell the other members of the Page committee, Democrat Dale E. Kildee and Republican Shelley Moore Capito, about the Foley incident.

Boehner says he first learned of Foley's "inappropriate" contact in late spring. He says he told Hastert and the Speaker assured him the matter would be taken care of. But when Hastert denied any knowledge of the Foley situation, Boehner changed his story. Now he says he can't remember his exchange with Hastert.

-- James Ridgeway

Maybe the Question Is: Who Didn't Know About Foley?

| Wed Oct. 4, 2006 2:29 AM EDT

Reports the LA Times:

"Almost the first day I got there I was warned," said Mark Beck-Heyman, a San Diego native who served as a page in the House of Representatives in the summer of 1995. "It was no secret that Foley had a special interest in male pages," said Beck-Heyman, adding that Foley, who is now 52, on several occasions asked him out for ice cream.

Another former congressional staff member said he too had been the object of Foley's advances. "It was so well known around the House. Pages passed it along from class to class," said the former aide, adding that when he was 18 a few years ago and working as an intern, Foley approached him at a bar near the Capitol and asked for his e-mail address.

Is it starting to feel like "if everyone thought it was no big deal, how much more of this is going on"?

Foley Interrupts Vote Sending Money to Troops in Iraq to Have Internet Sex with Former Page

| Tue Oct. 3, 2006 10:25 PM EDT

ABC reports:

Former Congressman Mark Foley (R-FL) interrupted a vote on the floor of the House in 2003 to engage in Internet sex with a high school student who had served as a congressional page, according to new Internet instant messages provided to ABC News by former pages.

ABC News now has obtained 52 separate instant message exchanges, which former pages say were sent by Foley, using the screen name Maf54, to two different boys under the age of 18.

This message was dated April 2003, at approximately 7 p.m., according to the message time stamp.

Maf54: I miss you
Teen: ya me too
Maf54: we are still voting
Maf54: you miss me too

The exchange continues in which Foley and the teen both appear to describe having sexual orgasms.

Maf54: ok..i better go vote..did you know you would have this effect on me
Teen: lol I guessed
Teen: ya go vote…I don't want to keep you from doing our job
Maf54: can I have a good kiss goodnight
Teen: :-*
Teen: [kiss]

The House voted that evening on HR 1559, Emergency War Time supplemental appropriations.

IN RELATED NEWS: Over at Political Wire, Taegan Goddard notes that: "House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), "under fire for his handling of the Foley page scandal, may have just one or two days to turn the affair around -- or quiet it -- or face being forced to step aside," Republican officials tell U.S. News and World Report.

"Hastert aides and the speaker himself have shrugged off the calls to quit, noting that now is the worst time possible for the House Republican Caucus to face a leadership race. But if that were to happen, it is likely that Majority Leader John Boehner would move up a notch. He has gone out of his way to distance himself from the Foley page affair."

In fact, Roll Call notes Boehner "reversed course" and today dumped blame for the scandal in Hastert's lap. Boehner says he told Hastert about Foley's problem "and he told me it had been taken care of."

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State of Geographical Denial (Note to Cheney: Get a GPS Unit...)

| Tue Oct. 3, 2006 3:38 PM EDT

A tidbit from Woodward's book, via George Will:


While leading the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in the summer of 2003, David Kay received a phone call from "Scooter" Libby, Dick Cheney's chief of staff, who wanted a particular place searched: "The vice president wants to know if you've looked at this area. We have indications -- and here are the geocoordinates -- that something's buried there." Kay and his experts located the area on the map. It was in the middle of Lebanon.

Of course then George goes on to say this is not the fault of the Bush administration, per se, but a fault of big government, and "those who regard government as a glistening scalpel for administering social transformation."

Ah yes. Well, when it comes to Iraq, at this point I'd be happy if the Bush administration could just pull off some meatball surgery.

Cheney Channeled Ghorbanifar (After All)

| Tue Oct. 3, 2006 4:38 AM EDT

Over at Tapped, Laura Rozen points out this choice bit from "State of Denial:"

[Chief U.S. weapons inspector David] Kay got a cable from the CIA that the vice president wanted him to send someone to Switzerland to meet with an Iranian named Manucher Ghorbanifar.

"I recognize this one," Kay said when he saw the cable. "This one I'm not going to do."

Ghorbanifar had been the Iranian middleman in the Reagan administration's disastrous secret arms-for-hostages deals in the Iran contra scandal. Though he had been a CIA source in the 1970s, the agency had terminated him in 1983 and the next year issued a formal "burn notice" warning that Ghorbanifar was a "talented fabricator."

This time, Kay read, Ghorbanifar claimed to have an Iranian source who knew all about Iraqi nuclear weapons, but who wanted $2 million in advance, and who would not talk directly to the U.S., only through Ghorbanifar.

Kay discovered the latest Ghorbanifar stunt involved Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute, a former NSC colleague of Oliver North who had been involved with Ghorbanifar in the Iran-contra days.

All of which sounds hideously familiar if you know a little about Ghorbanifar's m.o. (and you will after reading Rozen's piece on the "talented fabricator's" intel peddling in Mother Jones). And it also sounds awfully suspicious given how strenuously the Pentagon and the White House have denied that anyone seriously tried to open a back channel to Ghorbanifar. Congressional investigators take note.

The Washington Times Calls for Speaker Dennis Hastret to Resign Over Foley Scandal

| Tue Oct. 3, 2006 3:22 AM EDT

Good flipping god! The editors of The Washington Times, the most conservative paper in the country, are calling for the resignation of the Republican Speaker of the House.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert must do the only right thing, and resign his speakership at once. Either he was grossly negligent for not taking the red flags fully into account and ordering a swift investigation, for not even remembering the order of events leading up to last week's revelations -- or he deliberately looked the other way in hopes that a brewing scandal would simply blow away. He gave phony answers Friday to the old and ever-relevant questions of what did he know and when did he know it? Mr. Hastert has forfeited the confidence of the public and his party, and he cannot preside over the necessary coming investigation, an investigation that must examine his own inept performance.
Uh, all election bets are now officially off. (BTW: The Congressman the WT is putting forth as the interim Speaker? Mr. Abortion Foe/ OG "Youthful Indisicretion" Guy: Henry Hyde. But of course.)

Whole editorial after the jump.

What Can Women Write? The Byline Divide

| Tue Oct. 3, 2006 3:01 AM EDT

Over at WomenTK.com, Ruth Davis Konigsberg, who's also an editor at Glamour, has analyzed a year's worth of bylines at general interest magazines—namely Harper's, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, and Vanity Fair—and found that overall the ratio of male writers to female is 3 to 1. (TK, by the way, is reporter/editor shorthand for "to come," as in haven't yet nailed this fact/gotten this quote.)

The breakdown is as follows:

The Atlantic: 3.6 to 1
Harper's: 7 to 1
The New Yorker: 4 to 1
New York Times Magazine: 2 to 1
Vanity Fair: 2.7 to 1

As Ruth notes (and I've noted before here and here):

The numbers speak volumes, but they're not the whole story. As a former editor at The New Yorker wrote me in an e-mail, "in addition to counting bylines, you should look at what women are allowed to write about. I've been struck by a pattern, at The Atlantic in particular, where women only seem to write about marriage, motherhood and nannies, obsessively so. If you count the number of women's bylines there that weren't about hearth and home, the number would approach zero." And a current student at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism also noted, "At The New Yorker, it seems as though many of the female bylines aren't for hard-news-type stories. Women write about dance, or they write the short story, or a poem, or a profile of a fashion designer, or something. But the 'heavy' stories are left to the guys."
At a panel I was recently at with editors of all these magazines, the EIC of the NYT Mag, Gerry Marzorati, rightly noted that part of the issue is that the punditocracy is dominated by men, in part because (warning: gross generalizations apply) they are more likely to believe that the world is just waiting to hear what they have to say.

But another part of it is, as Ruth quotes, Ursula K. Le Guin's observation that "there is solid evidence for the fact that when women speak more than 30 percent of the time, men perceive them as dominating the conversation."