Inspector General

Good to see that Ashcroft has recused himself and put a professional prosecutor at the head of the Valerie Plame leak investigation. I don’t personally know Patrick Fitzgerald, the US Attorney for Chicago, but I know him by reputation and know people who know him; he’s a career prosecutor who made his name with the first World Trade Center bombing cases (among other things, I believe he was the lead prosecutor on the trial of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman); I’m sure he’ll be thorough and dogged, but unlike outside prosecutors (i.e., Independent Counsels), he has other things to do and won’t spin this into an endless investigation if more pressing matters need the resources. A good call.
I still maintain that the best way to handle politically charged investigations would be to create a separate department of an Inspector General. Such a department could be built around the current Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice, which has a perenially full caseload with corruption in state and local governments, contracting, police corruption, etc., and thus would not be like an Independent Counsel, tempted to blow one investigation out of proportion. But the head of the department could be someone less political than the Attorney General (whose role in law enforcement, Supreme Court litigation and sometimes judicial selection makes him or her an inevitably controversial figure) and selected specifically for the trait of bipartisan respect. Once selected and nominated, an IG would be nearly impossible to fire over a single investigation in the absence of obvious abuse. And you could also consolidate the civil IG offices of various executive departments, which can be prone to the same problems as IC offices, thus avoiding the usual trap of new departments that duplicate existing ones.
And pay for the savings by abolishing the Commerce Department. Everyone wins!

From The Department of Not Moving On

Another one you might have missed, that I noticed I never got around to blogging: in August, the D.C. Circuit rejected most of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s request for reimbursement for their attorneys’ fees incurred in the course of the Whitewater and related investigations (although President Clinton did not seek reimbursement for the Lewinsky investigation, as per his agreement with Robert Ray resolving the charges arising from that case). The Clintons argued that they were statutorily entitled to reimbursement on the theory that the fees “would not have been incurred but for the requirements of” the Independent Counsel statute (the Ethics in Goverment Act) — i.e., that “1) if not for the Act, the case could have been disposed of at an early stage of the investigation; and 2) they were investigated under the Act where private citizens would not have been investigated.”
These arguments, of course, echoed the defense of the Clintons from the beginning: nothing to see here, old news, we were cleared by Arkansas regulators, nobody but Ken Starr would have investigated this stuff, yada yada yada.
The key passage:

Two years before the appointment of Independent Counsel Starr, a criminal referral was submitted by the Resolution Trust Corporation to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas alleging illegal activities involving Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan Association, and naming the McDougals as suspects and the Clintons as witnesses. When in early 1994 the Attorney General appointed Robert Fiske as regulatory independent counsel, she gave him broad authority to investigate the Clintons’ relationship with, inter alia, Madison Guaranty and the Whitewater Development Corporation. And when we appointed Kenneth Starr as statutory independent counsel in the summer of 1994, at the request of the Attorney General we granted him investigatory authority almost identical to Fiske’s. The IC’s final report on the Whitewater matter states that “[t]he breadth of the criminality already uncovered by the Fiske investigation in part contributed to the length of time necessary for the statutory Independent Counsel to complete his work.” See Robert W. Ray, Final Report of the Independent Counsel, In Re: Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan Association, Vol. I, 21 (2001). Taking all of the above into consideration, we harbor no doubt that in the absence of the independent counsel statute the allegations surrounding the Clintons, Madison Guaranty, and Whitewater would have been similarly investigated and prosecuted by the Department of Justice.
The Clintons nevertheless argue that the DOJ would have conducted a substantially lesser investigation than that of the IC. The facts would not appear to substantiate this argument. Another independent counsel, albeit regulatory, had been appointed to investigate the matter, and in the short period he was in office he conducted an extensive investigation spending several hundred thousand dollars.


RELIGION: Random Thought

From a friend, who asks: why is there so much overlap between (a) those Americans who criticize our foreign policy for being too “unilateral” and (b) those Americans who feel that American branches of world religions need to ignore, if necessary, criticisms from their overseas branches when pressing for changes in doctrine (e.g., relating to abortion, ordination of women, homosexuality, etc.)?
But then, “unilateral” means “in opposition to Continental Europe,” whereas criticism from Third World Christians generally gets discounted; they apparently are supposed to be seen, not heard.

Changing the Subject

The Weekly Standard had an interesting and sympathetic profile of Dick Gephardt some weeks ago, including some good Dean-bashing. I tend to like Gephardt when I’m just reading about him – on paper, you can make him sound like Harry Truman – but every time I see the guy he’s just so full to the brim with idiotic cliched soundbites that lack even a semblance of logic or coherent thought that I have to turn off the TV. He probably is a decent guy, but listening to him drives me up the wall. The problem is one that’s endemic to many Democratic politicians (Howard Dean is actually a rare exception): he talks down to his audience like he’s speaking to a bunch of grade school students.
Barring a catastrophe in the war on terror or a major economic reversal, I still can’t see Gephardt going anywhere, or the Democrats winning in November, unless something happens that forces the candidates to change the subject from war and taxes. Dean is Bush’s ideal matchup — and the one the true believers on the Left want — because they both want to run on war & taxes, and the two are diametrically opposed on both questions. Other than Gephard’t’s trade-war talk, none of the other Dems have been able to change that definition of the agenda. And as we know, he who sets the agenda usually wins.
One thing I’ve been kicking around is whether the cultural issues will matter. A friend suggested that culture issues are bigger now than they were in 1992, but I don’t really buy it; if anything, the cultural fissures were more pronounced that election year. 1992 saw Buchanan’s “culture war” speech – the battles of that era seem tame only because we’ve gone so much further down the slippery slope. 1992 was “the year of the woman.” Dan Quayle v. Murphy Brown. It was 1992 that the Supreme Court upheld Roe v Wade (or, as Scalia pointed out, completely rewrote Roe under the guise of being bound by precedent). The LA riots were in April 1992. And, of course, Bill Clinton was one big walking cultural issue.
Culture is a big subtext, particularly if Dean wins. But the main topics will still be taxes and war.


This NY Times article on programs to keep African-American men enrolled in college has an interesting sidebar on the Times’ site: the “Times News Tracker” says you would receive an email about the article if you had chosen one of the following four topics as one of your alerts:
Teachers and School Employees
Equal Educational Opportunities
Education and Schools

Now, I’m really no expert on political correctness, so maybe this is just me, but isn’t it considered bad form these days to use the term “Blacks” as opposed to “African-Americans” or, failing that, “black people”? Just has a ring of Strom Thurmond about it, as in, “I’d like to get the news about the Blacks.”

It Gets Late Early Around Here

For a little perspective on the Democratic primaries — or, perhaps, perspective on how they’ve changed in 12 short years — check out at least one national poll for the Democrats in December 1991 (source: Daily Kos), which in theory should be the same point in the process as we’re at today:

Mario Cuomo – 33%
Jerry Brown – 15
Douglas Wilder – 9
Bob Kerrey – 8
Tom Harkin – 7
Bill Clinton – 6
Paul Tsongas – 4
Undecided/Others – 18

Of course, #1 never entered the race, which is much like the current polls would look if they were still listing Hillary! in every poll. It may be harder for anyone today to roar from the back of the pack this late in the game, especially where Howard Dean has already pulled the same trick.

Quotes of the Week

Saddam Hussein, on the American GI: “Why didn’t you fight?” one Governing Council member asked Hussein as their meeting ended. Hussein gestured toward the U.S. soldiers guarding him and asked his own question: “Would you fight them?”
A US official, on Saddam’s capture: “We can now determine,” he said, “if he is the mastermind of everything or not.” The official elaborated: “Have we actually cut the head of the snake or is he just an idiot hiding in a hole?”
And two from last week:
Tom Maguire, on Howard Dean: “[W]ill centrists peer in confusion at their television screens and wonder, who is this little man yelling at me, and why is his face so red?”
Tom Burka, with a little humor: “Gore To Claim He Invented Dean, Says GOP”
(Read the whole thing; link via Plum Crazy)

Dean Doctrine

Howard Dean’s major foreign policy address on Monday was probably a mixed bag politically; while Dean’s anti-war crusade was yet again upstaged by reality, he once again succeeded in framing the public debate as Dean vs. Bush, and in the primaries, that’s what you need.
On the substance? Well, Dean argued that he wouldn’t abandon the idea of pre-emption, but (1) would stage a preemptive attack only where an “imminent” threat existed and (2) doesn’t think Iraq met that test. It’s a politically clever tactic, since it wouldn’t necessarily tie down his own freedom of action as President in another case as dramatically as if he rejected preemption entirely, although it does call into question his judgment and does indicate a return to pre-September 11 policy (i.e., Operation Desert Fox vs. Gulf War II as the logical response to Saddam). Of course, I disagree completely with Dean on this.

Continue reading Dean Doctrine

BASEBALL/ Ruben the Cat

Kevin Drum linked last Friday to a page on the White House site about India, the Bushes’ cat. I, too, had been unaware that the Bush family had a cat, but more amusing is this tidbit:
Named for former Texas Ranger baseball player, Ruben Sierra, who was called “El Indio”
Just cracked me up that the President of the United States has a cat named after Ruben Sierra.

Now 81% Pro-Bush!

So I took this online quiz to see who I support for president (duh!), and here’s what I got:
Your Results:
1. Your ideal theoretical candidate. (100%)
2. Bush, President George W. – Republican (81%)
3. Kerry, Senator John, MA – Democrat (51%)
4. Edwards, Senator John, NC – Democrat (48%)
5. Lieberman, Senator Joe, CT – Democrat (46%)
6. Gephardt, Rep. Dick, MO – Democrat (45%)
7. Libertarian Candidate (42%)
8. Kucinich, Rep. Dennis, OH – Democrat (35%)
9. Dean, Gov. Howard, VT – Democrat (29%)
10. Clark, Retired General Wesley K., AR – Democrat (24%)
11. Phillips, Howard – Constitution (24%)
12. LaRouche, Lyndon H. Jr. – Democrat (17%)
13. Socialist Candidate (16%)
14. Green Party Candidate (14%)
15. Sharpton, Reverend Al – Democrat (14%)
16. Moseley-Braun, Former Senator Carol, IL – Democrat (9%)

(Link via Tung Yin)
No surprise at the top, although I’d have thought it was closer to 90%. Can it really be that I agree with John Kerry more often than not? I mean, I know Kerry’s been all over the map on a number of issues, but I’ve been listening to Kerry for years (particularly when I was in school in Massachusetts for seven years), and I can’t ever remember him saying anything I agreed with, whereas I can think of several issues on which I’ve agreed with Lieberman, from war to capital gains tax cuts. It’s also interesting to note that for all his “electability” talk, Clark is even further away from my side of the political spectrum than Dean is, which I take as a sign that unlike Dean, Clark hasn’t been thinking seriously about politics long enough to dissent from his party’s line on anything.

Not Even An Issue?

Atrios and a bunch of other far-out Lefty bloggers accuse John Kerry of “the Willie Horton campaign tactic of linking Howard Dean to Osama Bin Laden” for an ad (follow the link) that does nothing but show bin Laden’s picture while (1) stating that America has evil enemies who plot against it (incontestibly true, no?) and (2) questioning Dean’s inexperience in foreign affairs (a legitimate issue in any campaign, if a sometimes overstated one).
This is batty. Nothing in the ad accuses Dean of being soft on Al Qaeda, or even mentions any of Dean’s policies. This is awfully tame stuff, in fact. By arguing that you shouldn’t be able to raise the issue of whether a presidential candidate is equipped to deal with international terrorists like bin Laden, isn’t Atrios effectively arguing for taking the issue of terrorism off the table entirely? Leaving aside the tactical insanity here — the prison furlough issue worked precisely because the Democrats had spent years arguing that crime was a subject beneath discussion — how can anyone believe that a candidate’s ability to deal with the leading national security issue of the day shouldn’t be an issue?
Or are Atrios and friends just saying that you can say that argument, but you can’t dramatize it by referring directly to bin Laden?

Thought for the Day #1

Watching the Kerry, Lieberman, Edwards, Graham and Mosely-Braun campaigns dissolve in various levels of disarray and ignominy, I’m reminded yet again: Senators are the presidential primary equivalents of the guys in red shirts on Star Trek. You know how, when they’d beam Kirk, Spock, McCoy and two unnamed guys in red shirts down to a planet — you could always tell which ones were there just to get frozen in mid-air or fed to brain-eating plants or whatever. Somebody has to bite the dust to show what peril the named characters were in.
Consider the campaigns by US Senators since the early 70s or so (many of whom flirted with running more than once): besides the five named above, we’ve got McCain (2000), Hart (1984, 1988), Glenn (1984), Bradley (2000), Dole (1980, 1988, 1996), Muskie (1972), McGovern (1972, 1976, 1984), Gore (1988), Tsongas (1992), Harkin (1992), Kerrey (1992), Hollings (1984), Hatch (2000), Bob Smith (2000), Cranston (1984), Simon (1988), Kennedy (1980), Gramm (1996), Lugar (1996), Biden (1988), Howard Baker (1980), Birch Bayh (1976), Byrd (yes, Robert Byrd ran in 1976), Bentsen (1976), Scoop Jackson (1976), Church (1976), . . . and I’m probably missing a few. Add in sitting or former Senators who’d also been Vice President and you can toss in Quayle (2000) and Humphrey (1972 and 1976).
Lotta red shirts. We’d better be more careful here, Bones.

Another Milestone

Way back some years ago — all right, in August of 2002 — Lileks predicted that
Once vulgar words are commonplace in the papers and the television, there�s no going back – and public life just gets cruder and cruder. I know it�s a losing battle. Fifty years down the road a presidential candidate will say �My opponent says I�m soft on the military, and to him and all his advisors, I can honestly say: f**k you.� He�ll be celebrated in some corners for connecting with the genuine people, with those not bound by musty conventions. The authentic people! The ones who really f**kin� live!
(Expletives deleted). As with most dire predictions about society going to Hell in a handbasket, this one was inaccurate only because he overestimated how long it would take us to land at the bottom of that slippery slope; we’re there now.

Probing Dean

You can tell that Michael Isikoff is going hard on Howard Dean when he leads with this photo:
The underlying story – Dean’s decision to keep his records as Vermont governor sealed – isn’t something I get hugely exercised over, but Dean won’t be able to hold the line on this if he gets the nomination (just ask any candidate who’s ever tried to avoid releasing his tax returns; Bill Simon comes prominently to mind). It’s also another example of how Dean’s own record and biography contains so many of the things liberals love to attack Bush over (in this case, secrecy).
I had the same general reaction to stories about Dean’s draft record; it may be fun for his critics to call Dean a “Draft Dodger” or get quotes where even his own mother admits of his medical deferment for a bad back — that didn’t keep him from skiing or working at odd jobs like pouring concrete — “Yeah, that looks bad.” Again, if Dean is the nominee, his vulnerabilities on this point may help immunize Bush against (idiotic) attacks on Bush’s military service record, but the fact is that the military has some physical specifications for soldiers that are different from other demands of everyday life. Don’t forget that in the 1950s, when Mickey Mantle was the best athlete on earth, he failed his draft physical due to bad knees. Just because Mickey could hit a ball a mile, run 90 feet like the wind and show up ready to play everyday no matter what he’d been out doing the night before didn’t mean he had the stamina to march 5 miles with a heavy pack on his back, and so he didn’t have to serve.

Trading Places

Peter Beinart (in a column that’s now web-accessible only to subscribers of The New Republic) suggested some weeks back that, given the GOP’s skepticism about nation-building during the Clinton years and the hesitance of some Republicans to support the Clinton Administration’s policy on the war in Kosovo, one might assume that if the Democrats still held the White House, the Republicans would be playing the same role of petulant anti-warriors currently filled by the Democrats. Beinart’s a reasonable enough guy, and he understands national security issues well, but he clearly doesn’t understand much about Republicans if he thinks we would have been calling for a President Gore to restrain his response after September 11. Did Republicans castigate Harry Truman for being too much of a hard-line anti-Communist? I think it far more likely that if Gore were in the White House on September 11, Republicans would have been calling for a much more belligerent response, full of Old Testament-style smiting and wrath.

No Hobgoblins Here

Kevin Drum, October 19, 2003:
[I]t has become obvious since he took office that, far from being a “uniter not a divider,” George Bush is in fact (a) radically conservative and (b) does everything he can to hide the fact.
Kevin Drum, November 25, 2003:
I think that both liberals and conservatives have made the mistake of convincing themselves that Bush is a hard right ideologue . . . But if you look a bit more closely you’ll see that he’s not.

‘Strong Leader Form of Government’

Speaking of strange news articles, this item from last Wednesday on Albany’s reaction to the Massachusetts decision contains this head-scratcher:
In New York, which has a strong leader form of government, it is almost unheard of for legislation to be approved in the Senate without the majority leader�s backing or in the Assembly without the support of the speaker.
(Emphasis added). Now, I suppose the meaning is clear enough — the state legislature is run by the leaders — but this conjured up images of downtrodden New Yorkers walking to work under the shadow of massive graven images of George Pataki.

Whose Turf?

Instapundit linked on Thursday to an article about a handful of AARP members burning their membership cards to protest the group’s support for the Republican-backed Medicare prescription drug bill, which contains some tepid reform provisions but is objectionable to the Left mostly because it’s supported by President Bush and might help him get re-elected.
Now, if you read his blog, you know that Josh Marshall is perennially outraged — shocked, shocked — about what he calls “Astroturf” — events designed by professional political activists and calculated to look like genuine grass-roots uprisings. Now, my first instinct was that the AARP protest by ‘ordinary senior citizens’ — coming on the very day that Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton were tearing into the AARP in a coordinated attack — smelled to me an awful lot like the same thing. Turns out, in fact, that MSNBC reported that “[t]he protest was organized by two liberal advocacy groups.” Hmmmm.
Anyway, I checked Marshall’s blog just to see if he was suitably shocked, but assuming (given the increasingly partisan tone of his writings lately) that he would just be silent on the issue, and be shocked and outraged only when he sees such tactics used by Republicans. Ah, how naive I was. On Thursday — the very day of the Democrats’ publicity offensive — Talking Points Memo had this item:
Money talks, and AARP walks.
To find out more about the ugly truth and what you can do to make your voice heard, go to this page at the Campaign for America’s Future website.

The page being one that carries a picture of an AARP member burning his membership card, under a blaring headline Attention AARP members, and directs AARP members to take the following actions:
:: Organize your own protests in your community.
:: Email Bill Novelli and tell him what you think.
:: Go to AARP website and give them a piece of your mind:
:: Go to for more infomation and action ideas.
:: Go to for a retiree organization that stands up for seniors.

It’s Josh Marshall’s turf. Don’t you try to play on it.

Pelosi vs. The Old Folks

I’ve tried to follow the whole prescription drug bill story, honest, but it can be hard to keep score of which way the bill is going. This has to be good news, though: Nancy Pelosi, Tom Daschle and Ted Kennedy are vowing to defeat the bill. Assuming they’re doing this out of something other than mere partisan pique, this means that (1) the private choice provisions are not just window dressing, but are substantial enough to worry Ted Kennedy, and (2) if they succeed in stopping the bill, Democrats will get the blame for scuttling a popular but expensive and imprudent new entitlement. Win-win!
Seriously, the more interesting tidbit here is this:
In her remarks at the rally, Pelosi also took a swipe at the AARP and its leader, William D. Novelli. The seniors organization endorsed the bill this week and is advertising on television to help secure its passage.
The Californian noted that Novelli wrote the preface to Gingrich’s recent book on health care, and she said, “AARP’s leadership has been in the pocket not only of the Republican leadership in the House, but they helped write Newt Gingrich’s book on how to destroy Medicare.”

Now, the AARP is one of Washington’s most powerful lobbies, and like the NRA, its power comes not from money or organization but from the simple fact that millions of its members take the organization’s guidance seriously in deciding how to vote. And the AARP has led the charge in some past Democratic campaigns to scare the old folks (think back to 1982 or to the catastrophic health insurance debacle). The idea that the organization may be on the GOP’s side has to warm the heart of any Republican partisan.

Senate Stuff

I’m overdue to update my seat-by-seat rundowns of the Senate races from last November. One thing that’s changed is that rumors of John McCain’s retirement haven’t panned out, and McCain seems likely to cruise to re-election now that Congressman Jeff Flake has dropped a potential primary challenge. Moreover, as to desultory rumors of McCain challenging Bush in 2004, “McCain . . . answered the question of what he’s going to be doing in 2004 pretty decisively when he signed on as co-chair of President Bush’s re-election campaign in Arizona. “
Then there’s Louisiana, a Democratic lock if moderate John Breaux runs for re-election but another major potential GOP pickup in the South if he doesn’t (notwithstanding the Louisiana Democrats’ last-minute survival in the 2002 and 2003 elections). Breaux is still mulling whether he wants to spend at least the next four years in the minority, but he’s promised to serve out his term rather than let new Democratic governor Kathleen Blanco appoint a successor. The GOP would presumably like to run Bobby Jindal, who ran a respectable race for governor and whose biggest liability may be his youth, but another thought occurs to me: isn’t Tommy Thompson leaving office at HHS next year? Maybe Bush will appoint Jindal to succeed him. He’s almost certainly the most qualified guy for the job.

Unfit to be Commander-In-Chief?

Tom Maguire pointed me to this devastating New Yorker profile of Wesley Clark and his Kosovo record. There were a few interesting tidbits in the first half of the piece, which generally paints Clark as an admirable guy: I didn’t know that was ethnically Jewish (his stepfather changed his name from Kanne) and had converted to Catholicism (combined with being raised a Southern Baptist, this gives him a real smorgasbord of religious background), or that Clark had first met Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld when he was detailed to the Ford White House. The account of the Kosovo campaign also includes some amusing tidbits:
When [Madeliene] Albright flew to Rambouillet [the site in France where negotiations were held between Milosevic and Albanian Kosovar leaders] in the hope that her presence might help to move things along, the Albanian delegation, working late at night, mistook her for a cleaning woman and told her to go away.
To which I ask: wasn’t she traveling with security? The article also strongly suggests that Clark basically ran US policy in the Balkans without supervision while Clinton was distracted by impeachment, which of course reflects badly on Clinton moreso than on Clark.
Anyway, the real importance here is the damning picture painted of Clark’s failings as a general:
*Clark in Kosovo did exactly what the Democrats accused Bush and Rumsfeld of: he projected a best-case scenario and went to war without a plan B:
[Prior to negotiations,] Clark had assured the White House that Milosevic would acquiesce, but the Serbian leader did not, and the talks ended in March.
�If you look back at the basics of it,� one Clinton Defense Department official recalls, �Wes�s strongly held view was �If we just threaten to bomb, he�ll fold, I know this guy. This won�t last forty-eight hours.�� . . .
President Clinton had publicly ruled out sending ground troops into the Balkans . . . More than once, [Air Force General Michael Short] came close to quitting his command in frustration. Short had complained to Clark about the lack of targets, but Clark assured him, �This will be over in three nights.�
NATO was unprepared for even this restricted version of war. There were no American aircraft carriers nearby when the war began, and only a third of the aircraft that would eventually be required. Milosevic had positioned his forces on the Kosovo border, and when the bombing commenced they swept into the province and dispersed, thus avoiding the long-distance strikes of the nato bombers. As the Serbs moved in, the Albanian Kosovars moved out, nearly emptying the country in an exodus to the hills, and subsequently posing a humanitarian crisis in the neighboring states of Albania and Macedonia.
When Milosevic refused to fold after just a few days of bombing, the NATO bombers quickly ran out of approved targets, and were failing to destroy, or even to seriously erode, the Serb force inside Kosovo. . .

Thus, not only did Clark rely too heavily on an over-optimistic assessment of the chances of a swift victory; he was also wrong.
*Clark was massively insubordinate, constantly looking to work around direct orders by appealing up the chain of command. I know they do this constantly in the movies, but this can’t be a good thing in the real Army, and I suspect it’s what Gen. Hugh Shelton meant about Clark’s “integrity” issues. Consider the vignette where Clark has dinner with Tony Blair to sell him on a ground invasion that the Clinton Administration has already publicly and privately vetoed: a uniformed officer lobbying a foreign head of state to change his own country’s policy?
*The Pentagon had to leak Clark’s firing to the papers to stop him from appealing outside the chain of command yet again.
*Or consider this horrifying assessment of Clark’s plans for a ground invasion:
Clark continued to focus on preparations for a ground war, and the plan he ultimately proposed was greeted in Washington with astonishment. “Gallipoli springs to mind,” one defense expert, who made a study of Clark’s plan, says. Clark advocated an invasion of Kosovo with a force of two hundred thousand troops, mostly American. The force would move into Kosovo through Albania, because Macedonia had declared that it would not allow its territory to be used for launching an attack. Aside from the most obvious difficulty with Clark’s plan-that a major American-led ground invasion in the Balkans could not win the support of Congress, the Pentagon, the White House, or nato-there was a real problem regarding Albania. The country was already in chaos, and had almost no infrastructure. There was only one major road, and it was only partly paved, and there were few bridges that could support the mammoth tanks and fighting vehicles of the American Army. . . Clark outlined the plan to the Joint Chiefs in a video-teleconference, and they were starkly unsupportive. Dennis Reimer, the Army Chief of Staff, made it clear that he considered Clark’s plan ludicrous. General Shelton refused to go forward with any real planning for the invasion. A Clinton Defense official recalls, ‘Any of those elements of his most expansive plan would have, in our view and in the view of a number of thinking people, derailed what was a fairly fragile situation. And, in the judgment of many, many military professionals, it wouldn’t have worked anyway. It called into question the real military judgment being put behind it.’
Fred Kaplan, the resident military analyst in Slate’s stable of left-leaning pundits, tries gamely to defend Clark. Kaplan argues that the piece gives only the views of Clark’s (numerous) critics in the military, but of course the sheer number of senior officials with an axe to grind against Clark has to be taken seriously when you consider that his long military career is virtually his only credential for public office. Kaplan thinks the New Yorker unfairly attacks Clark for being pig-headedly “certain[] about the rightness of his views,” but then that’s also a common complaint by the Clarkniks about Bush&Co.; if Clark’s the same way, why should we expect the promised new and improved diplomacy and tact we’ve been promised?
Kaplan does convince me that the New Yorker piece misrepresents Clark’s influence on Clinton Administration policy — but as I noted above, that implication isn’t as damaging to Clark as to his bosses anyway. Kaplan argues that the war on Kosovo was a good idea anyway — but for a campaign that has argued relentlessly that the problem was how Bush got us into the Iraq war, the “how” of Kosovo is certainly a relevant question.
The bottom line here, and one Kaplan admits to, is that the New Yorker piece shows Clark as a guy who showed poor judgment in assessing an adversary he loudly proclaimed to know and understand:
Clearly, Clark made mistakes. Like many, he thought that merely threatening Milosevic with airstrikes would make him back down; after that didn’t work, he thought three nights of bombing would crack his resistance. (The bombing campaign lasted 11 weeks.) But Clark was far from alone in this miscalculation; Clinton and Albright shared it.
Bad, but no worse than Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright. Some defense.

Jindal Goes Down

Very disappointing to see that Bobby Jindal has lost his bid for governor of Louisiana after recent polls seemed to show him pulling ahead; Jindal, a 32-year-old health care policy wunderkind and an Indian-American, seems like a rising star in the GOP, and would have been a wonderful asset. As with last year’s narrow victory for Mary Landrieu, high turnout by the Democratic base for a Saturday election following a series of big national Republican wins seems to have been a factor.

Democrats in Chaos

So, let’s review the past week or so of news for the Democrats:
*Howard Dean couldn’t stick to his guns (so to speak) and issued a groveling apology for having said that he wanted guys with Confederate flags in the backs of their pickup trucks to vote for him (but not before issuing a James G. Blaine-style declaration that “We�ve got to stop having our elections in the South based on race, guns, God and gays”).
*Terry “Florida Forever” McAuliffe is under fire yet again as the 2003 gubernatorial fiascos in California, Mississippi and Kentucky (with Louisiana possibly to follow) lead to the usual ritual denunciations:
Giving up on the South and taking African-Americans for granted: �Terry McAuliffe is out there on his own agenda, which does not involve the South,� said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the only black member of his state�s congressional delegation. �It does not involve African Americans to the extent that they need to be.”
Putting Beltway-based consultants first and ignoring local issues: A [Democratic Governors Association] spokeswoman said it had been hard raising money to channel into state races. �This is a federally focused town,� the DGA�s Nicole Harburger said.
Fighting to the death for appalling incumbents rather than knowing when to police their own ranks: Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) said Democrats in Washington had complicated congressional Democrats� efforts to hold on to the governorship. National party figures had impeded efforts to rally around Davis and, at the same time, come up with a viable alternative, she said. . . . �We were fought publicly, privately, by Democrats, by Davis�s people, of course, donors, party people, people who believe they are the major structure of the Democratic Party,� Sanchez said. She added that national party leaders had been �dismissive� of California�s 33-member Democratic delegation.
*Kevin Drum noted that the Democrats, mirroring their obessessive preference for all things European and their lingering grudge against the Electoral College, have established a primary system where nearly all the primaries distribute delegates proportionally, rather than winner-take-all, a system that seems likely to make it difficult to winnow the field and settle conclusively on a front-runner.
*Al Sharpton, of all people, breaks ranks to demand a floor vote on the likely-to-be filibustered nomimation of Janice Rogers Brown to the DC Circuit;
*Wesley Clark, who’s reminding me more and more of of Jerry Brown every day, even down to the black turtlenecks (“touch my monkey!”), calls for Paul Bremer to be replaced by – well, really anybody, as long as it’s not another one of those horrid Americans, and adds the following (note that, in fairness, this is a paraphrase):
“To crimp the flow of terrorists into [Iraq], he said the United States should find ways to work with Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia and make safeguarding the borders the highest priority.”
So much for the idea that Coalition Man was going to follow Bob Graham’s calls to get tough with the Saudis.
A tough week for the Dems. Is there anybody left to offend?

No On Question 3

Expect light blogging the rest of the week, as I’m swamped at work. But before the polls open, I wanted to get my two cents in: I intend to vote “no” on Question 3 on the New York City ballot tomorrow morning. Question 3 proposes to change the city’s mayoral and city council primary system to eliminate party primaries and have runoff elections among the top two candidates from an open field — sort of like having the California recall every two years, with a touch of the Chirac/Le Pen race thrown in for good measure.
Seriously, I’m completely opposed to this, and not just because a partisan primary may have saved my life two years ago. As I explained at much greater length in this post, I’m a big believer in the value of political parties in promoting accountability, and specifically in the two-party system’s ability to sharpen the two sides of major issues and present them within a mainstream framework.
I’m in, well, odd company here; a quick Google search turns up such diverse opponents of the plan as The New York Post, The New York Times, The Nation, and the United Federation of Teachers.
No on 3.
UPDATE: Jane Galt explains why she’s voting Yes.

Sharpton vs. Dean

This whole business of Al Sharpton accusing Howard Dean of having an “anti-black agenda” is just endlessly amusing on many levels, but also revealing. The charge itself is bogus, of course; Sharpton picks two facially race-neutral issues that have killed the national Democrats in the past (guns and the death penalty), and lumps them in with Dean’s 1995 statement (apostasy!) that “I think we ought to look at affirmative action programs based not on race but on class,” which of course Dean instantaneously disavowed and promised to have no other gods but race-based affirmative action, thus forestalling the inevitable plagues of frogs, locusts and boils.
First of all, this is a big moment for Dean: you haven’t really arrived in American politics until you’ve been called a racist by Al Sharpton.
Second, it is almost certainly not a coincidence that this comes immediately on the heels of Dean gaining the endorsement of Rev. Jesse Jackson, and I suspect it has a lot more to do with Jackson than it does with Dean. [UPDATE: My bad. It was an endorsement by Jackson’s son, who’s a Congressman. The larger point remains valid, since Sharpton timed his attack to coincide with the first significant African-American support for Dean]
Third, it’s pathetic that Dean won’t respond in kind. I know the front-runner needs to look above it all; and I know that most Democrats figure they will look like racist bullies if they go out of their way to make an issue of Sharpton and his long record of hate-filled ranting and dishonesty. But Sharpton took a swing at the king in the bluntest terms possible, and was disingenuous in doing so; surely if he’s ever going to be fair game, it’s now. This should be every Democrat’s dream: a chance to denounce Sharpton and everything he stands for in a context where you won’t get blowback for being “divisive” as you would if you went out of your way to go after him. Instead, Dean runs scared. If Dean doesn’t have the cojones to criticize Al Frickin’ Sharpton, the man’s got no business running for president.
Fourth, notice how all of Dean’s statements giving a little ground to the Right — on affirmative action, Medicare, etc. — are from about 1995, right after the Gingrich sweep of Congress. That says something too: Dean smelled which way the wind was blowing in 1995, and floated some trial balloons to see if he could position himself as a moderate. One wonders if he was thinking nationally already at that point, or just worried about keeping his job in changing times. Either way, he’s clearly decided to set a different course since then.

Free Drugs For The Rich!

It still amazes me that Tom Daschle and other Democrats have seriously considered holding up the (unfortunately) popular prescription drug entitlement in protest over a “means testing” proposal that would deny federal handouts to the Hated Rich. (Link via Kaus). Is there a worse combination of bad policy and dumb politics? I mean, the only justification here is the Dems’ “if we let somebody out eventually everyone will leave” theory (see also school choice, Social Security, etc.), but that’s a hard argument to get people to swallow.
UPDATE: Lileks has a slogan for those who want to link this type of thing to cost savings from not spending $87 billion to rebuild Iraq: Insurance for those who can already afford it, and screw the needs of our conquered nations!


I noticed last week that The New Republic’s website was running banner ads in its righthand column for “Shattered Glass,” the new movie about Stephen Glass, the reporter who used TNR’s pages to perpetrate a journalistic fraud as notorious, in its day, as Jayson Blair’s. Presumably — unless I’m missing something — those ads were paid for by the studio. I know it’s been years now — Glass is gone and his editor, Michael Kelly, is dead — but shouldn’t TNR be ashamed to get advertising revenue from a fraud on its readers?
(Blair’s fraud, by the way, has now inspired episodes this season of at least two of the “Law & Order” serieses – dramatic overkill, anyone? Doesn’t Dick Wolf have the power to let one L&O know from which headlines the other is ripping?)
UPDATE: Howard Kurtz noticed the same thing but doesn’t seem to think it’s an issue if TNR isn’t embarrassed by references to the scandal.

Partisanship and Accountability

Kevin Drum and Matthew Yglesias mull the helplessness of the Right in Britain and Canada, the feelbleness of the Left in Israel, and the pitiful condition of Britain’s Left in the 1980s, but don’t seem to understand why this happens to opposition parties in parliamentary states. In fact, American liberal commentators generally don’t seem too interested in exploring why it is that politics in parliamentary systems is different from politics here in the U.S.; but in fact, the differences are fundamental and go a long way to showing the superiority of the American system, as well as the ways in which our own system could be improved upon:

Continue reading Partisanship and Accountability

CIA Cover Stories

Former CIA operative Reuel Marc Gerecht writes in The Weekly Standard about Valerie Plame and what CIA cover stories are really about, and characterizes the charges of Bush Administration critics who have jumped on the story as “wildly overstated”:
Cover is the Achilles’ heel of the Operations Directorate. If you have a basic understanding of CIA cover, you can figure out why the over-the-top charges against the Bush administration in the Wilson matter make no sense. . . .
The key fact about CIA cover is that the vast majority of all case officers overseas “operate”–try to spot, develop, recruit, and run foreign agents–with little or none of it. . . .
The Bush administration’s critics in the Wilson affair should be commended for worrying about the possible “blowback” on foreign contacts when operatives like Valerie Plame are exposed. The odds that any of her contacts are suffering, however, are small: Casual, even constant, open association with CIA officers isn’t necessarily damning even in countries that look dimly upon unauthorized CIA operational activity within their borders. . . .
And if Plame, as has been suggested, was overseas as a non-official cover officer, known in the trade as a NOC, her associations are even less at risk, since foreigners have vastly more plausible deniability with NOCs, who are not as easy to identify as officially covered officers. It is important to note that if Plame was ever a NOC, her associations overseas were jeopardized long ago by the Agency’s decision to allow her to come “inside”–that is, become a headquarters-based officer . . .
This officially sanctioned “outing” of NOCs is a longstanding problem in the CIA, where non-official cover officers regularly tire of their “outsider” existence (“inside” officers dominate the Directorate of Operations). It is not uncommon to find former NOCs serving inside CIA stations and bases in geographic regions where they once served non-officially, which of course immediately destroys the cover legend they used as a NOC. Foreign counterintelligence services naturally assume once a spook always a spook. Since foreign counterespionage organizations often share information about the CIA, this outside-inside transformation of NOCs can readily become known beyond one country’s borders.
Whether or not Valerie Plame was engaged in serious work inside the Agency’s Non-Proliferation Center, one has to ask what in the world her bosses were doing in allowing her husband, a public figure, to accept a non-secret assignment which potentially had a public profile? Journalists regularly learn the names of clandestine-service officers. Senior agency officials may well have thought very little of Ambassador Wilson’s “yellowcake” mission to Niger, which explains CIA director George Tenet’s statement about his ignorance of it. They may have thought Wilson an ideal candidate for this low-priority, fact-finding mission. But neither is an excuse for employing a spouse of an undercover employee if senior CIA officials thought Plame’s clandestine work was valuable. The head of the Non-Proliferation Center ought to be fired for such sloppiness.

Read the whole thing.

BASEBALL/ Auto-Response

Eugene Volokh complains that he got the following non-response from to his email about Gregg Easterbrook’s firing:
From: ESPN Support
Subject: Re: Other
Hi Eugene,
Thank you for contacting us.
We appreciate your interest, but that is currently not a feature on

He then notes that other readers got the response I got:
Date: Tue, 21 Oct 2003 08:54:13 -0700
Subject: Re: NFL
From: ESPN Support
Thank you for contacting us.
We appreciate your comments and are considering your opinion. We will
forward your comments along to the appropriate department for review.

It appears that Volokh’s problem was that he selected”Other” rather than “NFL” in the drop-down subject menu on ESPN’s contact page.
Meanwhile, Ralph Wiley throws out the ceremonial first race card in’s post-Limbaugh/post-Easterbrook era:
Dub’s theory on baseball curses is that everybody sort of avoids what he calls the truth about them; teams that were — or are — historically dismissive and smugly cruel about its black folks — those are the teams that stay cursed. . . . Maybe one day the Cubs and the Red Sox will get out of historical denial, ante up and kick in, pay off whatever their psychic debt is, and move on.
Um, a little history? Since the breaking of the color barrier, six all-white teams have won the World Series:
1947 Yankees
1949 Yankees
1950 Yankees
1951 Yankees
1952 Yankees
1953 Yankees
The Yanks waited nine years to integrate — longer than the Cubs but not as long as the Cardinals (three World Championships since 1947), and when they finally brought in Elston Howard, Casey Stengel reportedly watched him in spring training and remarked, “they had to go and get me the only n_____r in the world who can’t run.” But that history’s lost on Wiley and his race-is-everything meme. (Wiley also throws in a shot about the Marlins playing “non-sabermatrician style,” but I’ll leave that for another day).

A Lie, But Not Clark’s

Spinsanity does a good job of unraveling the controversy surrounding Wesley Clark’s much-touted supposed claim that people close to the White House had called him on September 11 to urge him to falsely claim a connection between Saddam Hussein and the September 11 attacks. The conclusion: what Clark actually said amounts to a lot less than what people on the Left claimed he’d said; commentators like Paul Krugman and Michael Moore exaggerated Clark’s statement, and commentators on the Right – in their zeal to disprove the claims of Krugman, Moore and others – unfairly claimed that Clark had made more sweeping and unfounded accusations than what he’d actually said. Here’s The Krug’s version of this particular Big Lie:
Literally before the dust had settled, Bush administration officials began trying to use 9/11 to justify an attack on Iraq. Gen. Wesley Clark says that he received calls on Sept. 11 from “people around the White House” urging him to link the attack to Saddam Hussein.
It appears that the truth is just that in the days after September 11, Clark talked to a guy at a pro-Israeli think tank in Canada who thought Saddam might be behind the attacks and urged Clark to raise the possibility. But the real fault here has to lie with the paranoids on the Left who used and abused Clark’s statement to attack the Bush Administration. And people wonder why conservatives think Krugman can’t be trusted?

BASEBALL/ Baseball and Politics

Dan Drezner has a post on the connections between sports and political affiliations. I don’t really buy it, but it’s interesting reading. Maureen Dowd uses a Cubs lede to a typically incoherent column. And Jonah Goldberg rips on something I’d meant to get to: the ridiculous New York Times editorial (No longer web-accessible) effectively rooting for the Red Sox, which is practically a parody of the old line about a liberal being a man too fair-minded to take his own side in an argument. Leaving aside the Times’ bias (i.e., the fact that the paper part owns the Red Sox), the sentiment is wholly one of, shall we say, guilt at siding with the winners.
It’s not that I object to New Yorkers rooting for the Sox; like most Mets fans I know, I’m pulling for them mostly out of hatred for the Yankees. And I wouldn’t object to the same sentiment from an out-of-town paper; I was pulling for the Cubs, after all. It’s that the Times is supposed to be one of the Yankees’ home town papers, and has certainly never been exclusively a paper of Mets partisans. But the Times won’t take the side of its own readers.

The Other Arnold

Gary Coleman turns out to be one of the California gubernatorial candidates who comes out of the recall looking better than he did before; Coleman has landed a gig as a political commentator for the All Comedy Radio Network. (Presumably, this is a different venture from Al Gore’s rumored youth-targeted news network, although both sound like pale imitations of The Daily Show).
Personally, I thought Coleman’s campaign was good-natured and appropriately tongue-in-cheek; he didn’t take himself too seriously, but he gave due respect to the overall seriousness of the election. And it turns out that it got him a job. Not bad.

Plame Links 10/11/03

Follow these to the latest news: Tom Maguire and Kevin Drum on an unsourced column by Nicholas Kristof of the NYT about the CIA angle and Valerie Plame’s career, and TalkLeft with some speculation about White House emails mentioning the Wilsons.
One noteworthy point: if the disclosure of Plame’s name made it easy to blow the cover of her CIA front company employer (Brewster-Jennings) by checking FEC records, and if the CIA knew her identity had possibly been compromised years before by Aldrich Ames, why was she making a $1,000 political contribution and listing Brewster-Jennings as her employer, knowing that this put a connection between her and the company on the internet for all to see?
Stay tuned.

The Latest on Valerie Plame

Newsweek and Instapundit pick up on an idea I first saw floated by a commenter at Calpundit about a week ago, and which seemed at the time to be immediately more credible than the alternative: that the “leak” story is much narrower than critics of the Bush Administration had been hoping, and in a way that is almost certain to disappoint Joseph Wilson and others who had hoped to see Karl Rove “frog-marched” out of the White House in irons. (Calpundit himself notes the new theory but is agnostic, and Mark Kleiman also backtracks a bit).
To summarize, if you haven’t followed this saga, the critics suggested that the leak of Valerie Plame’s identity as a covert CIA operative must have been part of a coordinated campaign by the White House, based on three things: (1) the anonymous Washington Post source who leaked the existence of the leak investigation said that six other reporters were contacted, but only Bob Novak ran the story; (2) Wilson claims that a reporter told him “I just got off the phone with Karl Rove, who said your wife was fair game.” and (3) Bush and everyone who works for him is evil.
Well, (3) is an article of faith for some folks, but it looks like there’s just nothing but hope to support (1) and (2). On (1), the Newsweek story suggests that what really happened is that some senior administration official on the national security side — perhaps someone like Lewis Libby who’d had meetings with Plame’s colleagues and may have just assumed (stupidly) that she was a known Langley-based analyst (it appears this is consistent with her job duties over the last 5 or 6 years) without thinking about the fact that she could have previously been a covert operative — blabbed her CIA status to Bob Novak as part of a broader theory of what was wrong with Wilson’s Niger mission, and calls to any other reporters happened only after Rove’s people read Novak’s Monday morning column. This makes sense — Rove seems more likely to have found out this type of detail from the newspapers, and I’m sure Novak is a must-read for Beltway insiders. As to (2), Newsweek suggests that the blunt formulation of “I just got off the phone with Karl Rove, who said your wife was fair game” was Chris Matthews talking (after Novak’s column ran), and anyone who’s watched Matthews’ show can see him summarizing a conversation that way, where Rove says the real angle is that Wilson’s wife picked him for the Niger assignment, and Matthews boils it down to “Karl Rove is after your wife.”
Looks like this story could be a lot smaller than its proponents hoped. Which is not to say there’s no scandal here, but rather one that doesn’t reach very far. Stay tuned.
(Daniel Drezner has more, and don’t forget to keep checking Tom Maguire’s blog on this issue).
UPDATE: Several of the sources I linked to above note that Atrios is pushing this item from the original Washington Post story as conclusive proof that Newsweek’s story is a fraud:
Another journalist yesterday confirmed receiving a call from an administration official providing the same information about Wilson’s wife before the Novak column appeared on July 14 in The Post and other newspapers.
The journalist, who asked not to be identified because of possible legal ramifications, said that the information was provided as part of an effort to discredit Wilson, but that the CIA information was not treated as especially sensitive. “The official I spoke with thought this was a part of Wilson’s story that wasn’t known and cast doubt on his whole mission,” the person said, declining to identify the official he spoke with. “They thought Wilson was having a good ride and this was part of Wilson’s story.”

Assuming that the WaPo’s unidentified source is credible, this supports the idea that Novak’s source told essentially the same story to one other journalist. That doesn’t undercut Novak’s account of how the conversation unfolded, it doesn’t necessarily implicate anybody but the people implicated by Novak, and it’s consistent with the idea that Novak’s leaker (who we’ll call Source A) simply didn’t realize that Plame was a former undercover operative whose indentity was apparently still classified.
Who’s at fault here? Besides Source A, there’s Source B (the guy who confirmed this to Novak by saying, ”Oh, you know about it”) and the idiots at CIA who not only didn’t expend too much energy waving Novak off the story but then compounded the problem by confirming Plame’s identity to other news outlets who called after seeing the Novak column. Clearly, Source A needs to be fired no matter who he is, and the CIA people should as well. (Source B might have an excuse here, for example if Source A is his boss or someone whose judgment on security issues he’d trusted, but it doesn’t look so great for Source B at the moment either).

POLIITICS: Coalition Man

Let’s review the Wesley Clark file for a second: Clark has no domestic policy experience, has only recently worked in the private sector, and has never held elective office. So, his credentials are strictly national security/foreign policy. Is he a more decisive leader than Bush? Hardly; his waffles on Gulf War II are already the stuff of legend. Would he have run the war itself better? Clark himself, in an April 10 London Times column, praised the Bush Administration’s war-fighting strategy.
What does that leave? Well, the very core of Clark’s message is his idea that we have neglected our alliances and need to work with a broader coalition. He’s Coalition Man.
Which is why this latest story is so damning: Clark’s campaign manager has quit, upset that Clark’s DC-based political consultants have given insufficient respect to the grass-roots internet-based “Draft Clark” movement. Now, this story has a few angles, like the idea (noted here and here) that the Democrats generally are too beholden to inside-the-Beltway consultants, and the observation that Clark has forgotten that you can’t conquer America by occupying Washington. But here’s the key one: if Clark is selling himself to us as Coalition Man, what does it say about his qualifications that he can’t even hold together a coalition of his own supporters for an entire month?


Mark Kleiman charges the White House with “an unspeakably sleazy trick that makes sense only as part of a cover-up” in the fact that documents that have been requested from White House employees by the Justice Department will be reviewed by the White House Counsel’s office first and will be turned over to DOJ in two weeks. (Link via Calpundit; the same post is now up at Kleiman’s new Movable Type blog).
My reaction: Kleiman and others complaining about the “two weeks” really have no clue about the work of laywers. For the White House Counsel’s office to just turn over the file without reviewing everything would be irresponsible and tantamount to legal malpractice. I know we’d all love to see total, non-adversarial cooperation, but once you turn over the whole file to the Justice Department, you’ve got a heck of a time then arguing that the stuff is privileged when Larry Klayman and his ilk come knocking with FOIA requests (he could argue that you’ve waived any privileges by handing things over, and he’d have some legal support for that position). Two weeks to do a document production of this nature is not even close to a foot-dragging time frame.
I’m not suggesting the White House should take an aggressive position on privileges (or start inventing new ones, a la Bill Clinton). But any time you pull a big file of stuff, there may be things you shouldn’t produce – attorney-client privileged communications, embarrassing and irrelevant personal stuff, and in this context, classified national security information that doesn’t need to be spread around anymore than necessary. You do have to be careful if you don’t want this one leak to open the door to more sensitive disclosures. Ask any lawyer who’s represented a government agency, corporation, church, or other organizational client whether they would turn all this stuff over without anyone reviewing it.
Kleiman further claims that
This would be completely routine in a civil case. . . But in a criminal case it’s unheard-of: investigators don’t usually let the lawyer for one of the defendants take a look at all the documents submitted by the other potential defendants and key witnesses, even if that defendant happens to be the boss of all the others.
This is just not true, and Kleiman, a non-lawyer academic, obviously doesn’t know what he’s talking about. If a corporation gets a grand jury subpoena, and the company orders its employees to gather evidence, even if the investigation focuses on individuals rather than the company, you bet the company’s lawyer will look at the documents. They are, after all, the company’s own records. As Kleiman conveniently forgets — and as Bill Clinton was wont to forget — the White House counsel represents the institution of the presidency, not the president personally, and the people at issue here are employed by the executive branch. (I assume that the evidence being gathered here is people’s work-related records, pursuant to requests made to the White House).
I haven’t really gone into the whole Plame thing very far yet, in part because of the baseball playoffs and in part because there’s only so much new I would have to add. But this particular gripe is just way overblown and a sign that guys like Kleiman are losing their grip on reality.
UPDATE: Josh Marshall cuts and pastes Kleiman’s argument makes the same mistake.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Conrad from The Gweilo Diaries agrees with me. And Kleiman backtracks and tries to pretend that he didn’t call this . . . well, “an unspeakably sleazy trick that makes sense only as part of a cover-up.”

The Barbarian

Andrew Sullivan, I think, gets it precisely right in measuring the distinctions between the allegations against Arnold Schwarzenegger and those against Bill Clinton, particularly the fact that Clinton’s conduct involved the abuse of public office to perpetuate and cover up his misbehavior.
Now, to say that a man is not as unfit for public office as Bill Clinton is to damn him with faint praise indeed, and this really doesn’t help Arnold’s case on the merits. But it does point out that anyone who defended Clinton has no standing to get upset when similar and lesser charges are made against a Republican. As James Taranto pointed out, this is especially the case for, a group whose sole founding principle is the idea that a politician’s sexual advances, welcome or otherwise — or anything else he may do to conceal them — are no grounds to deny him public office.
What does this all say about Republicans? Well, most of us were, at a minimum, unwilling to accept the Democrats’ idea — which was made the basis of several 1992 Senate campaigns (notably in Pennsylvania, California, Illinois and Washington) — that it is scandalous for anyone to disbelieve any allegation of sexual harrassment against a public official, or even to question such allegations. Suffice it to say, that idea didn’t get much of a hearing from its former proponents in the 1990s. Frankly, I was never really convinced by Paula Jones’ story, although I thought that the people who brought us “they just don’t get it” deserved to reap what they had sown by the creation of that and other autopilot, judgment-free scandal machines (the late and unlamented independent counsel statute was another). And once the courts got involved, the merits of the original case got to be rather secondary . . . but that’s another post.
Are we hypocrites? The real truth is, most of Clinton’s harshest critics are either supporting McClintock or were already unhappy with Arnold but backing him in the absence of better alternatives. (I’ll come right out and say here what I’m sure a lot of social conservatives are thinking about Arnold, as they thought about Bob Packwood as well: the man’s social liberalism may in part be driven by a sense that he couldn’t take the heat for being, say, pro-life, because his behavior towards women would make him vulnerable to attacks, and he needed a credential that would look “pro-women” to his critics. The wages of sin are paid by the innocent.)
Is Arnold unfit to be president? Quite likely yes. The presidency is a position of special trust, and things that wouldn’t disqualify a man from a lesser office are bigger question marks when the White House is involved. We tolerate things in our governors and legislators, however, that we wouldn’t accept from the president.
Is Arnold unfit to be governor? He’s hardly the guy I’d choose first, but I’d have to say, no, not compared to the alternatives. Remember, the whole point of the recall is that the ordinary political process in California has broken down so badly in dealing with the state budget, the energy crisis and the banes of runaway litigation and regulation that it’s become necessary to hold open auditions for the job. And we have seen allegations (admittedly, less well-sourced than those aimed at Arnold) of even worse behavior by Gray Davis even on top of the man’s comprehensive catalog of other flaws. Bustamante? Let’s face the bottom line: Bustamante’s basically just more of the same thing that got California into this mess. If you’re a California voter who’s happy with the status quo, by all means, go vote for him.
In a better world, I wouldn’t want Arnold as my governor. But if I lived in California, I’d probably pull the lever for him on the outside, desperate hope that maybe he could do something, anything to change the morass that the state’s government has sunk into. Barbarian, or no barbarian.

Losing the Plame Game

Now, the current controversy is not something you can gloss over by changing the subject. But it’s symptomatic of a larger political problem: the Administration and the GOP haven’t done one single thing since Bush’s aircraft carrier speech in May to seize the newsmaking agenda or advance conservative policies. Every single thing that’s happened since the beginning of May has been either (1) managing ongoing initiatives, (2) doing stuff behind the scenes, or (3) damage control. When that happens, you get to be a big, slow target for potshots; any idiot can say “the implementation of the policy isn’t working,” usually on the basis of an isolated anecdote, and the burden shifts to you to explain things in context, which is boring and difficult and not a story the media wants to tell. And when you lose the initiative and go to full-time siege-mentality mode, that’s when people make mistakes and start worrying more about shooting messengers than about how to steal a march, grab a headline and move the chains.
It’s all about managing the initiative. It’s key in politics, it’s key in sports (think of shortening your stroke with an 0-2 count), it’s key in litigation. Right now, we’ve got the White House, narrow majorities in both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court, but we don’t have the initiative (the one exception to this is what is usually the GOP’s weakest link, California electoral politics). The Plame controversy may well blow over if a culprit is swiftly identified, in stark contrast to Clinton-era controversies where administration stonewalling dragged everything out far beyond its natural lifespan. But even if that happens, unless the Bush Administration does something to start rolling out new ideas of its own, the Right will be forced back on the defensive again very quickly.

The Ashcroft Solution

Can Bob Novak and other journalists be subpoenaed to reveal who leaked Valerie Plame’s name to them? (The question assumes that there were leaks to other journalists besides Novak, but it still seems at least equally likely that the much-touted leaks to “six other journalists” were people who got calls from folks in the White House political operation after Novak’s column appeared in the papers, and those would hardly count as “leaks” at all). Eugene Volokh notes some of the obstacles presented by the Justice Department’s internal guidelines on subpoenas to reporters.
What Volokh misses, though, is the political dimension. Let’s say that such subpoenas get issued. Presumably, some or all of the reporters involved will refuse to divulge their sources. DOJ goes to court, and the First Amendment’s self-appointed champions come out of the woodwork to make this a cause celebre. Suddenly, the story is all about how John Ashcroft’s Justice Department is being too aggressive in hunting for leaks. Isn’t that the ideal result for the White House?

More McNabb

While I tend to agree with my co-blogger The Mad Hibernian that some of the outrage at Rush Limbaugh over his comments on Donovan McNabb is rather artificial (Howard Cosell got away with worse), the fact is that this was a really idiotic thing for Rush to say, and one that will probably doom his second career as a sportscaster. Let’s put this in perspective: Rush has a new job. He comes with a reputation. Ex-ballplayers have to prove to the audience that they’re not just dumb, inarticulate jocks. Dennis Miller had to prove that there was a place for a comedian in the Monday Night Football booth. The one thing Rush has to prove is that he can keep his politics out of his football commentary. Responding to questions about the NFL’s silly minority-hiring mandates is one thing; the network asked him to give his take on that controversial subject.
If Terry Bradshaw or John Madden said Donovan McNabb was overrated in part because of his race, it wouldn’t be news. Bill Simmons, last Friday:
I can’t imagine any QB in the league playing worse than McNabb did two weeks ago. Is he even that good? It’s like the Ben Affleck thing — everyone keeps telling me that Ben Affleck is a major movie star, enough times that you even start believing it … but check out his filmography on some time. Not exactly a bevy of hits. Same goes for McNabb. For a few years, he was a winning QB on a very good football team. Doesn’t make him a superstar.
But a lot of people will now just say, “Limbaugh. We knew he was a bigot.” And that doesn’t help Rush’s ability to get people to hear his political message, either.
UPDATE: I seem to be behind the news cycle a bit on Limbaugh – more on the broader story later.