Republicans Merge Big Government With Republican Party

One of the major problems of Republican one-party rule has been the politicalization of parts of the government which have not been overtly political in the past. This trend actually started under Reagan when Federal judge appointments were done on a more ideological basis than had been traditional. The firings of the federal prosecutors showed a greater political influence in areas where the Justice Department has historically shown more independence. The K Street Project extended politics into the federal bureaucracy. On Sunday, The Washington Post showed how Karl Rove had further extended efforts to politicize the government:

Thirteen months before President Bush was reelected, chief strategist Karl Rove summoned political appointees from around the government to the Old Executive Office Building. The subject of the Oct. 1, 2003, meeting was “asset deployment,” and the message was clear:

The staging of official announcements, high-visibility trips and declarations of federal grants had to be carefully coordinated with the White House political affairs office to ensure the maximum promotion of Bush’s reelection agenda and the Republicans in Congress who supported him, according to documents and some of those involved in the effort.

“The White House determines which members need visits,” said an internal e-mail about the previously undisclosed Rove “deployment” team, “and where we need to be strategically placing our assets.”

Many administrations have sought to maximize their control of the machinery of government for political gain, dispatching Cabinet secretaries bearing government largess to battleground states in the days before elections. The Clinton White House routinely rewarded big donors with stays in the Lincoln Bedroom and private coffees with senior federal officials, and held some political briefings for top Cabinet officials during the 1996 election.

But Rove, who announced last week that he is resigning from the White House at the end of August, pursued the goal far more systematically than his predecessors, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The Washington Post, enlisting political appointees at every level of government in a permanent campaign that was an integral part of his strategy to establish Republican electoral dominance.

Under Rove’s direction, this highly coordinated effort to leverage the government for political marketing started as soon as Bush took office in 2001 and continued through last year’s congressional elections, when it played out in its most quintessential form in the coastal Connecticut district of Rep. Christopher Shays, an endangered Republican incumbent. Seven times, senior administration officials visited Shays’s district in the six months before the election — once for an announcement as minor as a single $23 government weather alert radio presented to an elementary school. On Election Day, Shays was the only Republican House member in New England to survive the Democratic victory.

“He didn’t do these things half-baked. It was total commitment,” said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (Va.), who in 2002 ran the House Republicans’ successful reelection campaign in close coordination with Rove. “We knew history was against us, and he helped coordinate all of the accoutrements of the executive branch to help with the campaign, within the legal limits.”

In the past few months, revelations about a few dozen political briefings that Rove’s team conducted at federal agencies and several election-related slides from those briefings have touched off investigations into whether the White House improperly politicized federal workers or misused government assets to win elections.

Investigators, however, said the scale of Rove’s effort is far broader than previously revealed; they say that Rove’s team gave more than 100 such briefings during the seven years of the Bush administration. The political sessions touched nearly all of the Cabinet departments and a handful of smaller agencies that often had major roles in providing grants, such as the White House office of drug policy and the State Department’s Agency for International Development.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel and the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee are investigating whether any of the meetings violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits government employees from using federal resources for election activities. They also want to know whether any Bush appointees pressured government for favorable actions such as grants to help GOP electoral chances.

“What we are seeing is the tip of a whole effort to make the federal government a subsidiary of the Republican Party. It was all politics, all the time,” Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the oversight committee, said last week.

Think Progress reports further on Henry Waxman’s efforts to investigate Rove’s actions, including portions of letters sent to eighteen federal agencies which were involved.

Democratic Family Values

As we saw in Sunday’s debate, the media is itching to get the candidates to fight each other. I wouldn’t mind seeing more in the way of arguments between them if it was over matters of substance. Artificial controversy as we’re seeing about a comment from Michelle Obama isn’t very helpful.

The Chicago Sun-Times quotes Michelle Obama as talking about family values and saying, “if you can’t run your own house, you can’t run the White House.” They offer a brief analysis that, “She didn’t elaborate, but it could be interpreted as a swipe at the Clintons.” This got picked up everywhere from CNN to the Drudge Report.

The context makes all the difference here, as is clear after the actual transcript of what Obama said was released:

That one of the most important things that we need to know about the next President of the United States is, is he somebody that shares our values? Is he somebody that respects family? Is a good and decent person? So our view was that, if you can’t run your own house, you certainly can’t run the White House. So, so we’ve adjusted our schedules to make sure that our girls are first, so while he’s traveling around, I do day trips. That means I get up in the morning, I get the girls ready, I get them off, I go and do trips, I’m home before bedtime. So the girls know that I was gone somewhere, but they don’t care. They just know that I was at home to tuck them in at night, and it keeps them grounded, and, and children, the children in our country have to know that they come first. And our girls do and that’s why we’re doing this. We’re in this race for not just our children, but all of our children.

Family values were also raised yesterday in a report on the Obama Girl videos:

Obama says his 6-year-old daughter Sasha has noticed news coverage of the video.

“Sasha asked Mommy about it,” Obama said Monday. “She said, ‘Daddy already has a wife’ or something like that.”

Sen. Obama, D-Ill., said he knows the video was meant to be lighthearted, but he wasn’t smiling when asked about it in an interview with The Associated Press.

“I guess it’s too much to ask, but you do wish people would think about what impact their actions have on kids and families,” Obama said.

“This is part of the process of politics that can be difficult, (that) is making sure that your kids and your wife and your family are insulated from both things like this and what I suspect will be at some point some negative campaigning,” Obama said.

Janeane Garofalo Joins Cast of 24

Janeane Garofalo is joining the cast of 24 next season.  She “will play a government agent who is part of the team investigating the crisis befalling Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) and company in the upcoming season.”

Garofalo has appeared on The West Wing and has had a radio show on Air America. Her liberal reputation has created an uproar among the conservative fans of the show. Co-creator and executive producer Joel Surnow describes himself as a “right-wing nut job” and the show has been controversial for its unrealistic portrayal of the use of torture.

Some conservatives are declaring this will destroy the show (although it is hard to believe it could get worse than last season). They apparently haven’t received the memo that the show is already dangerously leftist due to the political views of star Kiefer Sutherland.

Network television requires large audiences to survive and generally avoids ideological leanings in either direction which will reduce its audience. Issues of interest to liberals have been included in the show in the past, sometimes upsetting conservatives, such as consideration of the civil liberties ramifications. They also had an extended arc about Charles Logan, a rogue president whose actions risked serious damage to the country, reminiscent of Richard Nixon and George Bush.

Ultimately the success of 24 will depend upon whether they can develop better story lines this season as opposed to the political leanings of the cast. If they continue to simply repeat ideas from previous seasons they will have a hard time surviving regardless of cast. On the other hand, if Garofalo and other characters are placed in interesting situations and their parts are well written, only the most extreme ideologues will care about their personal beliefs.

Searching for Clues in Washington, D.C.

Something evil, or at least unethical and illegal, is occurring in Washington, D.C. There are documents which implicate the guilty but they cannot be found, and the Bush administration refuses to comply with subpoenas from Congressional investigators. If you were a detective, who would be your number one suspect, and what room would you look in first? The obvious answer is Dick Cheney, and you’ll find the evidence in his office.

The Washington Post reports that Cheney’s office has many papers on the warrantless wiretaps:

Vice President Cheney’s office acknowledged for the first time yesterday that it has dozens of documents related to the administration’s warrantless surveillance program, but it signaled that it will resist efforts by congressional Democrats to obtain them.

The disclosure by Cheney’s counsel, Shannen W. Coffin, came on the day that the Senate Judiciary Committee had set as a deadline for the Bush administration to turn over documents related to the wiretapping program, which allowed the National Security Agency to monitor communications between the United States and overseas without warrants.

Ok, we have the guilty party. But did Dick Cheney do it by violating the Constitution in the Executive Branch or in the Legislative Branch? Hopefully those in Congress who plan contempt charges have a clue.