Meyerson: Republicans Have Become Party of Slime Rather than Ideas

Harold Meyerson accurately describes the tactics being used by the Republicans. They have run out of ideas and must resort to slime:

With fewer than 60 days remaining before the November election, the only two Republican strategies left standing are to scare the public about the Democrats collectively or to slime the Democrats individually. There’s nothing new about these strategies, of course, but this year they exist in a vacuum. Having run both the executive and legislative branches for the past two years with nothing but failure to show for it, the Republicans can no longer campaign as the party that will balance the budget, reform entitlements, lower energy costs, fix the immigration problem, create a more secure world or find a suitable way out of their endless war of choice in Iraq. What’s left is a campaign of scaring and sliming, with the emphasis on the latter.

This strategy worked before, but Meyerson doesn’t think it will work this year:

But the public isn’t falling for the third iteration of the scare campaign — not yet, anyway — so the Republicans have fallen back on slime. According to a report in Sunday’s Post by Jim VandeHei and Chris Cillizza, the National Republican Congressional Committee “plans to spend more than 90 percent of its $50 million-plus advertising budget on what officials described as negative ads” that attack Democratic candidates on their business dealings, legal battles and legislative votes that can be taken out of context.

What’s a party to do when its high road leads nowhere but down? The Republicans tried privatizing Social Security, but their numbers never added up. They tried spreading democracy with unilateral, preventive war but instead unleashed a sectarian bloodbath. So the party of big ideas, of Milton Friedman and the neoconservatives, is now just one big Swift Boat flotilla, its ideas sunk of their own dead weight, kept afloat solely by its opposition research. For their part, the Democrats still champion common security; they call for a government that can build dikes and reduce the costs of college and medication and that knows that remaking the world becomes more plausible when some of the world is actually willing to go along with us. Those are, in the campaign of 2006, just about the only ideas in play.

RIP Ann Richards

Ann Richards has died of cancer at age 73. In her honor I would like to repeat the line she became famous for at the 1988 Democratic National Convention, speaking of then Vice President George H. W. Bush. “Poor George, he can’t help it…He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”

It is also worth remembering some of what she said after this famous line:

Well, no wonder. No wonder we can’t figure it out. Because the leadership of this nation is telling us one thing on TV and doing something entirely different. They tell us — They tell us that they’re fighting a war against terrorists. And then we find out that the White House is selling arms to the Ayatollah. They — They tell us that they’re fighting a war on drugs and then people come on TV and testify that the CIA and the DEA and the FBI knew they were flying drugs into America all along. And they’re negotiating with a dictator who is shoveling cocaine into this country like crazy. I guess that’s their Central American strategy.

Now they tell us that employment rates are great, and that they’re for equal opportunity. But we know it takes two paychecks to make ends meet today, when it used to take one. And the opportunity they’re so proud of is low-wage, dead-end jobs. And there is no major city in America where you cannot see homeless men sitting in parking lots holding signs that say, “I will work for food.”

Now my friends, we really are at a crucial point in American history. Under this Administration we have devoted our resources into making this country a military colossus. But we’ve let our economic lines of defense fall into disrepair. The debt of this nation is greater than it has ever been in our history. We fought a world war on less debt than the Republicans have built up in the last eight years. You know, it’s kind of like that brother-in-law who drives a flashy new car, but he’s always borrowing money from you to make the payments.

Well, but let’s take what they are most proudest of — that is their stand of defense. We Democrats are committed to a strong America, and, quite frankly, when our leaders say to us, “We need a new weapons system,” our inclination is to say, “Well, they must be right.” But when we pay billions for planes that won’t fly, billions for tanks that won’t fire, and billions for systems that won’t work, “that old dog won’t hunt.” And you don’t have to be from Waco to know that when the Pentagon makes crooks rich and doesn’t make America strong, that it’s a bum deal.

Bush’s War Between Good and Evil

The Washington Post reports that Bush “senses a ‘Third Awakening’ of religious devotion in the United States that has coincided with the nation’s struggle with international terrorists, a war that he depicted as ‘a confrontation between good and evil.'” More at National Review.

There is a war going on, but the real war is between the forces of reason and the forces of religious extremism. A President who believes God told him to go to war or that God chose him to be President is on the wrong side.

This is not just idle talk of religious belief. Bush’s talk of crusades and framing the war in Iraq in religious terms alienates the Muslim world and increases our risk of future attacks. At home he supports religious fanatics who restrict medical research, attempt to prevent the teaching of basic scientific principles in the school class rooms, and single out classes of people for hatred in order to get more Republicans out to the polls.

American Airlines and Bill Clinton Issue Further Protests over “The Path to 9/11”

AdWeek reports that American Airlines is considering pulling advertising from ABC due to the inaccuracies in The Path to 9/11. The article quotes statements from both American Airlines and attorneys representing Bill Clinton:

Late Monday, American Airlines released the following statement: “The Disney/ABC television program, ‘The Path to 9/11,’ which began airing last night, is inaccurate and irresponsible in its portrayal of the airport check-in events that occurred on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

“A factual description of those events can be found in the official government edition of the 9/11 Commission Report and supporting documents.

“This misrepresentation of facts dishonors the memory of innocent American Airlines employees and all those who lost their lives as a result of the tragic events of 9/11.”

American said it would have no further comment beyond the statement at this time. But earlier in the day, it had sent a letter to those who had contacted the company with the same complaint, inspired by liberal blogger John Aravosis of Americablog. He received a letter that read:

“I think it is important for you to know that ABC had factual errors in its dramatization, and we are looking at possible legal actions as a result. . . . Please know this was a tragic incident in our company’s history and we hope you will be sympathetic to our employees and our airline on this day especially. Again, we are outraged by this situation, and we alerted ABC about its gross error. It is very unfortunate.”

Meanwhile, former President Clinton and his advisers remain unhappy with the film. Bruce Lindsey, CEO of the Clinton Foundation, and Douglas J. Band, counselor, wrote yet another letter to Robert Iger, chief at Disney (which owns ABC) today. It concludes:

“Having now seen the first night of this fiction, it is clear that the edits made to the film did not address the factual errors that we brought to your attention. ‘The Path to 9/11’ flagrantly ignored the facts as reported by the 9/11 Commission and invented its own version of history. The result, in our judgment, is irreparable damage to the Commission’s work. More importantly, it is a disservice to the American people.

“That the film directly contradicts the findings of the 9/11 Commission is troubling. That it defames dedicated public officials is tragic. But the fact that it misleads millions of people about the most tragic and consequential event in recent history is disgraceful.”

Related stories on “The Path to 9/11″

Robert Novak on His Discussions with Armitage About Valerie Plame

Robert Novak discusses his discussions with Richard Armitage in today’s Evans-Novak Political Report. I suspect we won’t get the full story until all the litigation (both legal and civil) is completed, but as Novak was directly involved his version of events is worth reading:

Now that former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has finally acknowledged he was my source three years ago in revealing Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA employee, his interviews have obscured what he really did and said. I want to set the record straight based on firsthand knowledge of what transpired.

  1. Armitage did not, as he now indicates, merely pass on something he had heard and that he “thinks” might be so. Rather, he identified to me the CIA division where Mrs. Wilson worked and said flatly that she recommended the mission to Niger by her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. He told the Washington Post last week that his answer was: “I don’t know, but I think his wife worked out there.” Neither of us took notes, and nobody else was present, but I recalled our conversation that week in writing a column, while Armitage reconstructed the conversation months later for federal prosecutors. In fact, he had told me unequivocally that Mrs. Wilson worked in the CIA’s Counter-Proliferation Division and had suggested her husband’s mission.
  2. Armitage did not slip me this information as idle chitchat. He made clear he considered it especially suited for my column. It is highly doubtful that he never expected this to be published, as he specifically noted to me that Mrs. Wilson’s role was the sort of news item very much in the tradition of the old Evans & Novak column.
  3. An accurate depiction of what Armitage actually said deepens the irony of his being my source. He was a foremost internal skeptic of the administration’s war policy, and I, likewise, had long opposed military intervention in Iraq. Zealous foes of George W. Bush have depicted me, implausibly, as the President’s lapdog. But even they cannot fit Armitage into the left-wing fantasy of a well-crafted White House conspiracy to destroy Joe and Valerie Wilson. The news that Armitage, and not Karl Rove, was the leaker was devastating for the left.
  4. During his quarter of a century in Washington, Armiage and I had no contact before our fateful interview. I tried to see him in the first two and a half years of the Bush Administration, but he rebuffed me — summarily and with disdain, I thought. Then, without explanation, in June 2003, Armitage’s office said the deputy secretary would see me. This was two weeks before Joe Wilson outed himself as author of a 2002 report for the CIA debunking Iraq’s interest in buying uranium in Africa.
  5. I sat down with Armitage in his State Department office the afternoon of July 8 with tacit rather than explicit ground rules: deep background with nothing said attributed to Armitage or even an anonymous State Department official. Late in the hour-long interview, I asked why the CIA had sent Wilson, who lacked intelligence and nuclear policy experience as well as recent contact with Niger. This began the three-year saga during which Armitage’s silence caused intense pain for his colleagues in government and enabled partisan Democrats in Congress to falsely accuse Rove of being my primary source.

I can’t comment on the validity of Novak’s recollections, but must note he goes overboard with his comments on this “was devastating for the left.” It may be embarassing for certain segments (which I am often as critical of as I am of the right), but for most this changes little. The arguments that the Bush Administration misled the country stand up regardless of whether the Plame leak was used intentionally or accidentally. The stories about Rove’s impending indictment were always in doubt, as I noted at the time.

Update: This is also covered in Novak’s column today. The Next Hurrah figures this is the fourth time Novak has changed his story. Firedoglake also argues that Novak has flipped again. Armitage has beened added to Valerie Plame’s civil suit.

Update II: The Washington Post reviews Novak’s accusations that Armitage misrepresnted their conversation.

Air America Radio To Declare Bankruptcy

Think Progress reports that Air America will be restructuring, including declaring bankruptcy. They note that, regardless of the fate of Air America, progressive radio remains strong:

That format is now established and strong and will continue with or without Air America. Indeed, many of the country’s most successful and widely-syndicated progressive talk hosts — Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller, for instance — aren’t even associated with Air America.

Radio giant Clear Channel is so committed to progressive talk radio that, this week, it will announce a partnership with the Center for American Progress and MSS Inc. to conduct a nationwide search for the next Progressive Talk Radio Star.

I’m not terribly surprised that Air America is having financial problems. Liberals don’t have the people with deep pockets willing to subsidize them as conservatives do. Liberals are also much less likely to listen to one-sided talk radio, while conservatives appear to thrive on having their thoughts fed to them.

While I wish Air America well, I rarely listen to them. I’m far more likely to spend the time reading a variety of news sources, including both liberal and conservative. When I am listening to the radio I more typically listen to NPR which provides a balance of liberal and conservative views, while definitely more liberal-friendly than the corporate-run media. Of course if I could pick up Air America in my car, as opposed to being limited to streaming over the internet, I’d probably spend more time listening to it.

Update: Air America is denying reports that it will declare bankruptcy, while the reports of financial problems do appear to be correct.

ACLU Rebukes Judiciary Committee on NSA Wiretaps

WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today strongly rebuked the Senate Judiciary Committee for adopting legislation that approves warrantless spying on Americans by the National Security Agency. The move follows a recent court decision finding the surveillance both illegal and unconstitutional. The Bush administration has thus far stonewalled efforts by the committee to conduct meaningful oversight over the program.

“Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee acted as a rubber stamp for the administration’s abuse of power,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Congress has a right and obligation to conduct meaningful oversight on the unlawful actions of the president. But instead of investigating lawbreaking, the Senate Judiciary Committee wants to make it legal. We urge the full Senate to reject any attempts to ratify this illegal program.”

By a vote of 10 to 8, the committee approved S.2453, the “National Security Surveillance Act.” That bill, crafted by Vice-President Dick Cheney and Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) gives the president the option of complying – or not – with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the protections of the Fourth Amendment.The bill would also: vastly increase the government’s statutory power to examine all international phone conversations and emails, making warrantless surveillance of Americans’ conversations the rule rather then the exception and expand the ability to conduct warrantless physical searches of Americans’ homes.


Republicans and Big Government

In order to achieve a majority Republicans have had to unite groups with vastly different goals, ranging from libertarians to the religious right. This has led to many being disappointed with the results of the GOP controlled government. Yesterday I noted a set of articles in The Washington Monthly in which seven prominent conservatives realized that their goal of limiting government might be better served by split government in light of the failure of the Republicans to control spending. I’ve been planning to purchase a book along these lines which came out yesterday entitled The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians, and the Battle to Control the Republican Party. TCS Daily has posted the entire first chapter. Here’s a brief selection:

After the government-shutdown debacle, the Republicans began searching for a new approach. The American people might hate big government in theory, the new thinking went, but at the same time they don’t have much appetite for seeing government programs that they’ve become attached to get slashed.

Thus, Texas Governor George W. Bush came onto the scene in 1999, groomed by a woman named Karen Hughes and backed by a shadowy figure named Rove, with something called, “compassionate conservatism.” The phrase made conservative stalwarts bristle (was conservatism in and of itself somehow less than compassionate, they asked), and it made liberal partisans titter (did Republicans really think they could disguise their cold-hearted agenda behind a linguistic trick, they asked) — but there was far more substance behind the phrase than any of the skeptics realized at the time.

This wasn’t the old Republican agenda of cutting taxes and the government programs they fund gussied up with a little rouge and lipstick. This was a different animal entirely. “Too often, my party has confused the need for limited government with a disdain for government itself,” Bush said during the 2000 campaign. He derided the idea that “if government would only get out of our way, all our problems would be solved.” He called this a “destructive mindset” with “no higher goal, no nobler purpose, than ‘Leave us alone.'” Instead, Bush said, America needed less “sprawling, arrogant, aimless government” and more “focused and effective and energetic government.”

To skeptics, that sounded an awful lot like saying America needed less bad big government and more good big government — with “bad” meaning Democrat-controlled and “good” meaning Republican-controlled.

The skeptics are still waiting to be proved wrong.


Republican Convicted For Illegal Contributions to Bush

Another conviction of a Republican for election fraud:

Tom Noe, the GOP fund-raiser at the heart of Ohio’s biggest political scandal in a generation, was sentenced today to 27 months in a federal prison for illegally funneling money into President Bush’s re-election campaign.

U.S. District Court Judge David Katz also ordered Noe to pay $136,200 in fines for sending more than $45,000 into a 2003 Bush fund-raiser by using two dozen friends and associates — including several current and former local Republican elected officials — in violation of federal election laws.

Noe even implicated the White House:

Noe said he arranged the scheme because “in 2003 I was pressured by Bush-Cheney officials to become a Pioneer,” a name the campaign gives to people who raise $100,000.

The scandal may have an impact on this fall’s elections:

The fallout from the Noe scandal has been far reaching. It contributed to the historic plunge of Governor Taft’s approval rating and emboldened Democrats to mount — for the first time in years — substantial campaigns for numerous statewide offices.

The scandal also contributed to the political downfall of Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, who lost to Ken Blackwell in the Republican primary for governor. Ohio Auditor Betty Montgomery, a frequent target of Democrats as the scandal unfolded, dropped out of the governor’s race and ran instead for her old job of attorney general. All had received Noe campaign cash.

Democrats Object to NSA Playing Politics

The Washington Post reports on the fight in Congress over the NSA’s use of warrantless wiretaps:

Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee are complaining that the National Security Agency has played politics in support of the secret program to intercept phone calls between alleged terrorists in the United States and abroad.

On July 27, shortly after most members of the committee were briefed on the controversial surveillance program, the NSA supplied the panel’s chairman, Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), with “a set of administration approved, unclassified talking points for the members to use,” as described in the document.

It is understandable that the Republicans misunderstood. They are accustomed to having all those right wing politicians, pundits, and even bloggers recite whatever talking points they distribute. They are also accustomed to governing as if they were the only party in Congress. It is no surprise that they just forgot that there are Democrats in Congress who would be unwilling to stick to their talking points. What might be even more of a shock is that those Democrats also expect to exercise some oversight:

One element particularly troubling to the Democrats was the statement that there was “strict” congressional oversight of the program, because, as one senior Democrat said yesterday, committee members are still awaiting requested documents such as the original authorization by President Bush that initiated the program.

In a recent letter to Rockefeller, Alexander said he regretted that the NSA talking points were “misperceived as political.” Rockefeller is planning to expand on the Democrats’ concerns about their attempts to conduct oversight on the program in a speech today on the Senate floor.

Related Stories:

Republicans Attempt Retroactive Legalization of Warrantless Wiretapping
ACLU Rebukes Judiciary Committee on NSA Wiretaps