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The LiberalOasis Blog
The daily view from the oasis

October 14, 2005 PERMALINK
Ominous Week For Bush
(posted Oct. 14 1:15 AM ET)

Last Friday, LiberalOasis noted that Bush appeared to be renewing his public profile on terrorism in an attempt to be perceived as doing “the people’s business,” which could help him ride out the fallout from any PlameGate indictments.

And LO also argued that such PR efforts would likely fall short, while “a harder push on hard-right strategic initiatives” – like tax reform – could juice the conservative base and give him a poll boost.

So what did we see this week?

We saw a couple additional attempts at “people’s business” PR – Dubya & Laura in Louisiana to help build houses on Tuesday, Dubya’s teleconference with soliders in Iraq on Thursday.

And both completely backfired.

The Louisiana trip started with a live interview on NBC’s “Today,” which the W. Post’s Dana Milbank described as “a blur of blinks, taps, jiggles, pivots and shifts ... the body language of a man wishing urgently to be elsewhere.”

The capper of the interview was the long pitiful pause after being asked if he was worried about Rove. On MSNBC’s Hardball that night, the Chicago Tribune’s Jim Warren “translated” his reaction as “yes, I am very worried.”

Yesterday’s teleconference was even worse.

Instead of getting an easy headline about how our troops say everything is going swell in Iraq, the only news that the event generated was how it was scripted and staged in plain sight.

Pure amateur hour.

On top of the PR blunders, Bush also suffered a political setback on the policy front.

His tax reform commission signaled that it wouldn’t propose any big ideas that conservatives are agitating for, like a flat tax, but it would propose scaling back tax deductions for mortgage interest and employer-provided health insurance.

That was quickly jeered across the political spectrum, including conservatives.

Which means it won’t give his conservative base a reason to shelve the bickering over Harriet Miers and rally behind him again.

(Keep in mind that Bush is not obligated to accept the commission’s recommendations, but if he rejects them, then he’s back to Square One on the thorny issue of tax reform, which is where he is on all of his big second term domestic policy goals -- save for the Supreme Court.)

So, this has not only been a bad week for Bush, it’s a bad omen for his ability to carry on once the expected indictments are handed down.

QUICK HIT

Cards For Maggie

Mark Spittle, who has written satirical pieces for LiberalOasis (including the famous Bush In 41.2 Seconds), has a good friend whose young daughter Maggie is fighting brain cancer.

The Tablet Minds blog is encouraging people to send Maggie free e-cards in advance of what may be her third brain surgery. More information here.

October 13, 2005 PERMALINK
Where's The Spin?
(posted Oct. 13 2:30 AM ET)

Hullabaloo notes that right-wing hack legal pundit Victoria Toensing tried to disparage PlameGate investigator Patrick Fitzgerald on MSNBC's Hardball last night.

Asked by Chris Matthews the simple question, “What is he working toward,” Toensing lashed out:

...at one point maybe about a month ago I would have said he’s a lawyer who is dotting every “I,” crossing every “T.”

He’s just being thorough and he’s telling the press, you wanted an investigation, I’ll show you an investigation so that no one can say that I skipped any little beat in this thing.

But I think recently, I have seen evidence that he has lost it. He has gone over the edge.

And she quickly moved to attacking Valerie Plame Wilson and Joe Wilson:

When Bob Novak wrote his column it could just have easily been framed as he, Bob Novak was exposing nepotism.

But it didn’t happen that way because the press didn’t like President Bush and framed it all for poor Joe Wilson.

If a wife gets a husband an assignment and he doesn’t have any experience in WMD and he doesn’t have any kind of senior experience in the country, Novak thought he was exposing nepotism.

But Toensing appears to be a mere holdout in a spin battle that’s already been lost by the Right.

From the beginning, the GOP spin was: there was no crime committed in the blowing of Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity, and besides, Joe Wilson is liar.

This spin was pushed hard this past July, after Karl Rove was fingered as the secret source of Time Magazine’s Matt Cooper, with RNC Chair Ken Mehlman trashing the Wilsons wherever he could find a camera.

In addition, William Safire (now in the Right-Wing Hack Pundit Hall Of Fame) planted the seeds for attacking Fitzgerald as a “runaway prosecutor” last year when Judith Miller was subpoenaed – a line that was picked up by some media types when Miller went to jail this summer.

But the GOP spin effort in July never took. Polls showed the public supportive of the investigation and partial to Rove resigning.

And the “runaway prosecutor” line crumbled when Miller put her alleged principles aside and sang to get out of jail.

Now, with rumors of indictments reaching a fever pitch, what’s the GOP spin?

Trick question: there isn’t any.

There are no current signs of a coordinated spin effort to discredit Fitzgerald or defame the Wilsons.

Ken Mehlman isn’t doing anything to counter the rumors and defend Rove and top Cheney aide Scooter Libby. Conservative pundits aren’t hammering Joe Wilson.

Toensing is out there by her lonesome. Which is a great way to sound like a raving lunatic.

Filling the spin vacuum, we get rumors of panic and sniping in the White House, resignation from conservative pundits, and positive profiles of Fitzgerald.

Why is this the case?

LiberalOasis would suggest that instead of attacking Fitzgerald, the White House is looking to have Rove fall on the sword to protect Bush and Cheney from being implicated in the crime.

(See this National Journal story, which implies that the Rove and Bush camps each say Rove never told Bush of his actions.)

Of course, such a kid gloves strategy would surely be inoperative if Fitzgerald goes after the entire White House Iraq Group, because then the entire Bush Presidency would be at stake.

So the spin war may not be over.

But the pre-indictment spin battle is.

In the final run-up to the end of the grand jury’s term, the GOP has been unable to undermine the investigation’s credibility and set favorable conditions for fighting any indictments in the court of public opinion.

October 12, 2005 PERMALINK
James Dobson Is A Liar
And Not A Very Good One
(posted Oct. 12 12:15 AM ET)

Yesterday, James Dobson taped a segment for his Focus on the Family radio show, where he claims to reveal what Karl Rove told him about Harriet Miers.

The stuff that Dobson previously was “not at liberty to talk about.”

But now he can talk because, according to Dobson, Rove released him from any confidentiality pledge.

The segment airs today, but Dobson released the transcript ahead of time in a press release, in an attempt to call attention to his comments and avoid getting hauled into the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he’d be grilled about his private chat.

In the transcript, Dobson said his earlier cryptic comments referred to two things.

The first was that the short list had some of the judges that the anti-Miers right-wingers wanted so badly, but “some of those individuals took themselves off that list ... because the process has become so vicious and so vitriolic and so bitter, that they didn’t want to subject themselves or the members of their families to it.”

Now, that sure sounds like a lie, because it’s so nonsensical.

Being told that some folks dropped out is not a reason to support someone else.

But just because it’s ridiculous on its face doesn’t mean it’s demonstrably false.

So LiberalOasis won’t call Dobson a liar based on that statement.

The second part of yesterday's statement is another story:

What did Karl Rove say to me that I knew on Monday that I couldn’t reveal?

Well, it’s what we all know now, that Harriet Miers is an Evangelical Christian, that she is from a very conservative church, which is almost universally pro-life, that she had taken on the American Bar Association on the issue of abortion and fought for a policy that would not be supportive of abortion, that she had been a member of the Texas Right to Life.

In other words, there is a characterization of her that was given to me before the President had actually made this decision.

I could not talk about that on Monday. I couldn’t talk about it on Tuesday.

In fact, Brit Hume said, “What church does she go to?” And I said, “I don’t think it’s up to me to reveal that.” ...

... But by Wednesday and Thursday and Friday, all this information began to come out and it was no longer sensitive.

I didn’t have the right to be the one that revealed it and that’s what I was referring to.

[emphasis added]

So Dobson says he could not reveal “on Monday” -- October 3, the day of the nomination -- that she was a conservative evangelical Christian and that she challenged the ABA’s stance on abortion.

Interesting, because this is what he said on Monday, October 3 during Fox News’ “Special Report with Brit Hume”:

DOBSON: ...I do believe the president on this issue ... I have been impressed by the quality of the judges that he has put on the court. And I do trust him.

Beyond that, I do know things that I am not prepared to talk about here.

...

HUME: Is there anything beyond the fact that you trust the president and you trust the judgment of these people, who you have mentioned that know her?

Anything specific that you can cite in her record that gives you confidence in her?

DOBSON: I think that you have covered some of it. She is a woman of incredible accomplishment.

In her long career, she has been willing to stand up against the American Bar Association with regard to the policy on abortion. That took a lot of courage.

She has — she is a conservative Christian. She is very sincere –

HUME: Let me stop you there on that.

DOBSON: Yes?

HUME: You say she is a conservative Christian. I have heard it said that she is indeed, evangelical Christian, like yourself and like the president. How do you know that?

DOBSON: I know the church that she goes to and I know the people who go to church with her.

HUME: Which church is that? Just for the benefit of the public.

DOBSON: I think that I should let her reveal that.

HUME: I wouldn’t know. I can’t imagine why it would be a secret.

DOBSON: You know, you already quoted Rush Limbaugh and he said that on his show, that she was an evangelical Christian and I know that to be a fact.

[emphasis added]

On Monday Oct. 3, he said that he knows things he’s “not prepared to talk about,” yet happily offered in the same interview that she was a “conservative Christian,” an “evangelical Christian,” and was “willing to stand up against the American Bar Association with regard to the policy on abortion”

And yesterday, he actually tried to claim those were the very things he could not reveal until now.

James Dobson is a liar. The Senate Judiciary Committee has even more reason to demand he testify during the Miers hearings.

October 10, 2005 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Oct. 10 2 AM ET)

The split in the conservative movement over Harriet Miers exploded across the Sunday talkshow desks yesterday.

While Senate Dems -- who have been relatively quiet all week – began to go on the offensive a bit.

After all the fireworks, what do we know about the state of the nomination?

1. The rift in the conservative movement is unlikely to be sealed before the nomination process is over.

There is a simply a fundamental disagreement.

The pro-Miers forces argue that Bush should be trusted.

As Southern Baptist leader Richard Land contended on NBC's Meet The Press: “given [Bush’s] track record over the last four and a half years, he deserves better from the conservative community than he's getting in terms of trust”.

The anti-Miers forces not only shrug off the "trust" arguement, they stress their desire to confirm a right-winger with a paper trail and get a public validation of right-wing judicial views.

As Pat Buchanan said on MTP: “This was a golden teaching opportunity, a golden political opportunity, and a golden opportunity in terms of the Supreme Court, and the president blew it.”

There’s no way to reconcile those two viewpoints. So friction will continue throughout the nomination process.

2. The anti-Miers forces have yet to persuade any GOP Senators to join the call for her withdrawal.

Sen. Sam Brownback has been the leader of the small group of Miers skeptics in the Senator GOP, but even he refused to call for her withdrawal when asked on CBS’ Face The Nation.

Brownback, a Judiciary Cmte member, could still make life uncomfortable for Miers.

If Dems all vote No (by no means a given), a Brownback defection would lead to a tie vote on committee, which would mean “No Endorsement”.

If one more GOPer joined Brownback (Sen. Tom Coburn is a strong possibility), Miers could lose the committee vote.

However, the nomination could still be sent to the Senate floor for a full vote, with no recommendation or a negative recommendation from the committee.

Whether or not a negative committee vote would lead other GOPers to work to defeat Miers on the floor (via filibuster or roll call vote) would probably depend on her performance at the hearings.

A spectacularly bad performance, followed by a public outcry, could sink her.

A performance that beats expectations would probably allow the White House to keep folks in line, regardless of the Judiciary Cmte vote.

Which is why some right-wing activists are calling for a withdrawal.

They realize that waiting for the hearings most likely helps Miers’ chances (or, at least puts her in control of her own destiny).

And it’s also why Bush will most likely ride out the criticism and proceed to the hearings.

It may be an ugly win for Bush, but it would still be a win.

3. Despite Harry Reid’s signal of support for Miers, and some positive words from other Dems, key Senate Dems are not embracing her.

Despite the lack of party consensus, we saw a consistent message from leading Dems on the Sunday shows.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (point man on judges), on Face The Nation, said “the president seems to say 'Trust me,' that he can just appoint somebody in the Oval Office and that's good enough. That is not good enough.”

Sen. Dick Durbin (Reid’s #2), on CNN’s Late Edition, said “if we're going to have any evidence, any information to make an informed judgment for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land, Ms. Miers has to come forward, even more than John Roberts, and explain who she is and what she believes.”

And Sen. Pat Leahy (top Judiciary Dem), on ABC’s This Week, sarcastically said while he suggested that Bush should “pick somebody outside the judicial monastery” he neglected to add “somebody outside the White House compound.”

Furthermore, Schumer and Leahy raised the prospect of calling Dr. James Dobson as a witness at Miers’ hearings, and force Dobson to reveal what the White House privately told him that got him to support Miers.

(GOP Sen. Arlen Specter, also on This Week, shared Leahy’s concern, heatedly saying if Leahy didn’t call Dobson as a witness, he may do it himself.)

The aggressive Dem move smartly advanced the Miers controversy, generating fresh headlines and further undermining White House credibility.

Just because it remains unlikely that GOP Senators will turn on Miers, does not means Dems shouldn’t be trying to beat the odds.

QUICK HIT

Conservative Hypocrisy Abounds

Whether you’re a conservative for Miers or against her, chances are you’re still willing contradict yourself to make your case.

Here’s Brownback yesterday on Face The Nation:

...there is a litmus test on the left. If you don't support Roe, if you don't support abortion rights, you get filibustered … I think that's an inappropriate litmus test that exists there on the left in the United States.

Here’s Brownback on ABC’s Good Morning America on Oct. 5:

DIANE SAWYER: ...there are many people who think Roe versus Wade is settled law ... If she implies she thinks it’s settled law, will you vote against her?

BROWNBACK: There's a good chance then that I would, in that case.

Apparently, that’s an appropriate litmus test.

On the pro-Miers side, here’s Richard Land yesterday on Meet The Press:

People who know her, that I knew in Dallas when I lived there, say she's one of the most impressive women they know. She overcame a great deal of sexual prejudice to get to where she's gotten to in life.

Yes, Land can’t stand those sexual prejudices. That’s why he has also said:

If a husband does not want his wife to work outside the home, then she should not work outside the home.

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

Oct. 7: It has been 819 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

Talking Points Memo: "Rove[ is attempting] to go in and make his own case directly to the grand jury, going over Fitzgerald's head, as it were. My sources tell me that such a strategy is the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass, the sort of choice that only makes sense as one source told me, in situations 'where the indictment is as bad as the conviction'"

Huffington Post's Lawrence O'Donnell: "A veteran prosecutor told me, 'If Fitzgerald is sending target letters at the end of his investigation, those are just invitations to come in and work out a deal.' ... If no one RSVPs to Fitzgerald's invitations, look for indictments as early as next week. If anyone does sit down with Fitzgerald, he will probably have to move to extend the grand jury ..."

No Quarter: "whether there is or is not an indictment [in PlameGate], the Republican spin machine will be out in force spreading lies and it is critical that the citizens of this country have clear facts to judge the truth of the matter. Here is the timeline with sources ..." (via DC Media Girl)

TalkLeft explains what is a "target letter"

Chuck Currie: I Trust George W. Bush (To Make Awful Appointments To Our Courts)

Oliver Willis: "how many times can a man give the same speech"

Oct. 6: It has been 818 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

Stone Court: "Who is Justice Hecht? Well, do you remember when we Priscilla Owen was criticized based on Alberto Gonzales' accusation that, in a parental notification case, she has engaged in "an unconscionable act of judicial activism"? The right's response was, No, Gonzales was referring to Judge Hecht ... Not to put too fine a point on it, but Harriet Miers' boyfriend froths at the mouth about abortion ... And Harriet Miers 'shares his views'"

Balkinization: "when the chips are down in his Administration, Bush has shown his true colors as a business conservative who above all wants a smooth ride for capital. That is what Miers offers."

Is That Legal?: "In November of 2003, Harriet Miers was Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy at the White House. On November 5, 2003, the President signed the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 at a public ceremony. Yet the President tells us he doesn't recall ever discussing abortion with Harriet Miers."

Oct. 5: It has been 817 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

First Draft: "Should the left accept an unqualified, D-level lawyer with a resume that includes an ethically challenged stint as Texas Lottery Commission, a woman who was hired to scrub Bush's National Guard records, helped Bush avoid jury duty that would have revealed is drunken driving conviction, was president of a lawfirm with strong ties to Tom DeLay's TRMPAC and on more than one occaision helped its clients defraud investers of millions of dollars?"

The Left Coaster has the ultimate Harriet Miers dossier

Off The Kuff: Reindicted And It Feels So Good

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