There's less than a month until the March 8 special election to fill the seat of retired Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, and according to a poll released by Democratic candidate Bill Foster, the race is statistically tied:
Our survey of likely special election voters in Illinois’ 14th Congressional District shows a dead even race to replace Dennis Hastert, with Bill Foster at 43% and Jim Oberweis at 45% – a statistical tie. Among the critical segment of voters who identify themselves as Independents, Foster leads 49% to 27%.
Another underlying dynamic is the effect the primaries have had on both candidates popularity. Because of the vitriolic Republican battle, 41% of voters have an unfavorable opinion of Oberweis, while 49% have a favorable opinion. For Foster, though, the primary has had a positive effect. In our first survey last April, just 6% of voters had a favorable opinion of Foster. Today, 40% have a favorable opinion – and just 14% have an unfavorable one.
Such a wide lead among independents certainly bodes well for Foster's chances in the special election.
Bill Foster is a very interesting guy; at 19, he and his younger brother founded a theater lighting equipment company which is now the largest in the United States and developed the best theater lighting instrument in the business, the Source Four.
Foster then received a Ph.D in physics from Harvard, and went to work at Fermilab, an Illinois research institution specializing in high-energy physics. This is his first run for public office.
Oberweis, by contrast, has finally managed to make it out of a Republican primary in his fourth attempt at public office (preceded by two failed U.S. Senate bids and one failed gubernatorial run). He's best known for his Aurora-based dairy (which does make pretty decent ice cream, I must admit). With regards to electoral viability, we're lucky to have drawn him and not his primary opponent, State Sen. Chris Lauzen.
He's a reliable right-winger, with dreams of keeping troops in Iraq for 10 years (a mere piker next to John McCain, but still...), and is a high-profile opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage.
The district is not especially friendly territory for Democrats, but if the poll is correct, it's going to be a fascinating month in Illinois' 14th District.
And it would be a terrific blow to Republicans to take the old seat of their departed leader, as we took DeLay's seat in 2006.
WSJ's Washington Wire has some remarkable turnout statistics from last night that continue to highlight the extreme enthusiasm gap that exists between the two parties. Still, a glance at the numbers provides a stark contrast. Vote counts haven't been[...]
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Barnes and Nobles just published my review of Dana Milbank's new book, Homo Politicus. Here's a bit of it:it's a shame that Milbank didn't take his conceit more seriously. The American Association of Anthropologists says of their varied and broad[...]
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In recent weeks, the administration has gone on a PR offensive claiming they do not seek permanent bases in Iraq, even removing a “security guarantee” from its “Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship.”
Yesterday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote in the Washington Post, “nothing will authorize permanent bases in Iraq (something neither we nor Iraqis want).”
But this rhetoric has not been implemented into action. In January, President Bush issued a signing statement allowing him to disregard a provision in the Defense Authorization Act banning permanent bases in Iraq. This week, the administration agreed to a “pause” in the rate of withdrawal.
Today, White House Press Secretary revealed how misleading the administration’s rhetoric on permanent bases is, arguing the White House does not view any U.S. military installations overseas as being “permanent”:
“The United States, where we are, where we have bases, we are there at the invitation of those countries. I’m not aware of any place in the world — where we have a base — that they are asking us to leave. And if they did, we would probably leave,” said spokeswoman Dana Perino. […]
Top aides to US President George W. Bush have countered that the strife-torn country’s government could ask US forces to leave at any time, meaning that bases are not technically “permanent.”
Perino’s comments suggest that the White House’s public statements that it opposes “permanent bases” in Iraq is just a game of semantics.
Actually, it's more like they are paying the banks to take the billions. When they auction off $30 billion at 3.010% and inflation is running closer to 4%, they are acting the way the banks were acting towards home buyers leading up to the housing crash. It didn't seem possible that anyone could be worse than Mr Bubble, but Bernanke is indeed worse. Creating the bubbles of tomorrow, with your tax dollars.
Download | Play Download | Play (h/t Heather)Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman speaks to the winner of a hotly contested and closely watched primary challenge for Maryland’s 4th District, Blue America candidate Donna Edwards. And just as important as having a solid, progressive Democrat running, Edwards’ win is a shot across the bow to other [...]
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The NYTimes has a bit more on the kerfluffle involving no bid contracts given out by NJ US Attorney Chris Christie.[...]
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I?m not sure if we?ll be adding a category for Best Legal Eagle Blowup to the Golden Duke Awards, but if we did, this might take the prize.
Roger Clemens' hearing today was mostly a cordial one, all things considered. But at one point, things broke down to the point where Clemens' two top-flight lawyers Lanny Breuer (formerly President Clinton's special counsel in the Lewinsky affair) and Rusty Hardin were standing behind him, their hands on his shoulders in an attempt to silence him, shouting at Waxman. Here's the video:
The issue itself was over a rather minute detail. As I understand it (not being a Mitchell Report-ologist), Brian McNamee, Clemens former trainer and main accuser, has said that Clemens first approached him about using steroids and human growth hormone after a party at slugger Jose Canseco's Miami home in 1998. Clemens' lawyers have gone after McNamee's credibility on this, offering proof that Clemens was in fact not at that party. McNamee says he saw him there.
Again, the party in and of itself is not a very consequential detail. But since it goes to McNamee's credibility, Clemens' lawyers have been hammering on it. And during Rep. Henry Waxman's (D-CA) questions, Waxman revealed that when Waxman's committee inquired after the name of Clemens' nanny at the time who was supposedly at this party, Clemens' lawyers immediately tracked her down and interviewed her. The nanny would supposedly be a key witness on this essentially inconsequential detail.
Waxman didn't allege anything exactly, but it was clear from his questions that he was hinting that Clemens' lawyers had wanted to get to the nanny first in order to make sure she remembered things "correctly." Clemens' lawyers were enraged, Hardin at one point shouting in response to one of Waxman's questions about whose idea that was, "It was my idea! It was my idea to investigate what witnesses know, just like any other lawyer in the free world does!"
Transcript of the exchange is below.
WAXMAN: You have a tough job today; you said you find it very hard to have to prove a negative.But your attorneys have provided documentation to rebut the passage in the Mitchell report about a party at Jose Canseco's house.I don't view this passage as anything central to the issue before us, but it's important that we know if it's true. And your attorneys and you have been very forceful in telling us that the report is wrong. You were not at Jose Canseco's house between June 8th and June 10th, 1998, when the Toronto Blue Jays were playing in Miami.In your deposition, you were asked, "Could you have been at this house during this time period, June 8th to June 10, 1998?" And you answered, "No."Is that a correct statement?CLEMENS: On the date, sir?WAXMAN: Did you answer no to the question whether you were at Jose Canseco's party?CLEMENS: If you'll repeat your question, then I can -- please.WAXMAN: Well, during your deposition, you were asked, could you have been at his house during this time period, which was June 8th to 10th, 1998.And you answered no.You've given us supporting materials. You provided an affidavit from Jose Canseco that said you were not at his house during the team party on June 9th. You provided a golf receipt from 8:58 a.m. on June 9th, which showed that at least that morning you were purchasing merchandise at the golf course next to Canseco's house. And you provided excerpts from a baseball broadcast that reported that you were not at the team party.And these came up when several other members asked you about it.It's all very helpful.When the committee took Mr. McNamee's deposition, he had a completely different recollection, as he has today.WAXMAN: He had a clear recollection that Mr. Clemens was at Mr. Canseco's home.So our committee staff investigated this issue, and we received conflicting evidence. I'm not surprised by conflicting recollections of a party of around 10 years ago that was really of no special importance. But Jose Canseco thinks Roger Clemens and Mr. Canseco's ex-wife weren't at the party. Mr. Canseco's ex-wife, Jessica Fisher, believes that she was there and so was Debbie Clemens.Mr. McNamee told us that one key witness who would know whether you were at Canseco's house for that party was your former nanny. And the committee staff asked your attorneys for her name last Friday so we could contact here. We made additional requests for her name and contact information over the weekend.Around 5 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, committee staff made another request and asked your attorneys to refrain from contacting the nanny before the committee staff could speak with her.It wasn't until Monday afternoon that your attorneys provided the nanny's name and phone number to the committee. And it wasn't until yesterday that the committee staff actually spoke with the nanny.Are you aware of all this time frame, time line about the nanny?CLEMENS: I'm not sure of all the time frame. I know that...WAXMAN: OK. Well, what the nanny said to us when we finally contacted her yesterday was important in several respects.First, she said that she was at Mr. Canseco's home during the relevant time period. In fact, she said that she and Mrs. Clemens and the children stayed overnight at the Canseco's.Secondly, she told us she did not remember any team party as described in the Mitchell report.And third, she said that she did not -- she did remember that you were at that home during the relevant time period, although she didn't know how long you stayed or whether you spent the night with your family.WAXMAN: The third point directly contradicted your deposition testimony, where you said you were not at Mr. Canseco's home at any point June 8 to June 10, 1998. But it's entirely understandable to me. It was 10 years ago.Here's what puzzles me about your actions. We have a transcript of the interview with the nanny whose name I'm not going to release to protect her privacy. But in this transcript, she says that on Sunday, this last Sunday, you called her and asked her to come to your Houston home. She had not seen you in person since 2001. But after you called, she went to your home on Sunday afternoon.And I'd like to read a portion of the transcript of the committee interview."Question: When you said you didn't remember a party, what did he say?""Answer: He says, 'You know, the reason you don't remember that party is because I wasn't there.' He said, 'Because I know that he was playing with Jose.'""Question: So did he ask you, 'Do you remember a party?' and then you said you did not remember a party?""Answer: That's right."She also told the committee staff that you told her that she should tell the committee the truth, and after your meeting, an investigator working for you called her and asked her a series of additional questions.Your meeting took place two days after the committee staff made a simple request for your former nanny's name, and then it took 24 hours after your meeting for your attorneys to provide her name to the Republican and Democratic staffs.And that's why I'm puzzled about this. Why was it your idea -- was it your idea to meet with her before forwarding her name to us or did someone suggest that to you?CLEMENS: Mr. Chairman, I believe that, just like through this whole hearings, I was doing y'all a favor by finding a nanny that was supposedly came in question.WAXMAN: You might have been trying to do us a favor, but who told you, you should invite her to your house -- that you haven't seen her in all those years?(UNKNOWN): Mr. Chairman, this is unfair. What his lawyers tell him is unfair for you to ask. And I well tell you...WAXMAN: OK, well I accept that. I accept that. I accept that. Gentleman, please be seated.Was it your idea -- that's the appropriate -- was it your idea...(UNKNOWN): It was my idea. It was my idea to investigate what witnesses know.WAXMAN: OK.(UNKNOWN): Just like any other lawyer in the free world does.WAXMAN: Did you think, Mr. Clemens, it was a good idea to invite her to your home on Sunday after not seeing her for seven years?CLEMENS: I'm sorry?WAXMAN: Did you think it was a good idea to invite her to your home after you hadn't seen her for seven years?CLEMENS: I was told on Friday night to see if you -- you know, we could locate the nanny. Obviously, that's very nice of you. I don't think that she needs any publicity.But I was told on Friday night that you guys may want to talk to her, and so...WAXMAN: And you felt you should talk to her first? Well, I don't know if there's anything improper in this.CLEMENS: Mr. Chairman, I hadn't talked to her in years. And I did everything I could to locate her to -- if you guys had any questions for her, and I did tell her to answer truthfully. I don't -- again, I'm not sure...WAXMAN: OK. Well, I don't know if there's anything improper in this, but I do know it sure raises an appearance of impropriety. The impression it leaves is terrible. The right way to handle this would have been to give the committee information immediately, to not have your people interview the nanny before we did, and certainly for you not to personally talk to her about the interview, as you did.One option for you was to have given the committee the nanny's contact information and had no contact with her. Another option could have been to give her a head's up that the committee would be calling her.WAXMAN: But you chose I think the worst approach. That's my opinion. You invited her to your home; had a specific conversation about whether you were at Mr. Canseco's house. And you did this before you gave the committee her contact information.Is there anything else you want to add?(UNKNOWN): Mr. Chairman, with all due respect, this is nothing but innuendo.Your committee asked on Friday evening for this information. We have done everything to give you that information in a fast and in a thorough manner.The innuendo is terrible.And I spoke to your own staff member who's speaking with you now. And your statement is -- and I have the highest respect for the chairman, is calculated to do nothing but to have innuendoes against this man. We have cooperated with you fully...WAXMAN: Well, I understand your...(UNKNOWN): ... as your own...WAXMAN: The gentleman -- as I indicated, the rules do not allow the lawyers to speak, but I did not cut you off.This action means there's always going to be a question of whether you tried to influence her testimony. And I gather your lawyer thinks...CLEMENS: Mr. Chairman? Mr. Chairman, I was doing you all a favor, as far as I was concerned. I haven't seen this lady in a long time. She's a sweet lady. And I wanted her -- to get her to you as quick as possible if you had any questions for her.And, again, I'm hurt by those questions that I would get in the way of finding anything that you guys were looking for. That's -- I'm hurt by that statement.(UNKNOWN): We asked her to come...WAXMAN: The gentleman is not going to be recognized.My time is up.
We're all so happy that we helped grassroots progressive Donna Edwards displace a corrupt reactionary Insider in this week's Maryland primary. But it's a two-way street. The corrupt reactionary Insiders are also working surreptitiously to defeat progressives. And I haven't noticed Steny Hoyer or Nancy Pelosi or Emanuel rushing to the defense of Blue America-endorsed Congressman Steve Cohen in Memphis. Steve is under the most vicious imaginable attack by the very worst elements in American politics. But you don't need to imagine; just look at the flier up top.
"Rev." George Brooks of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, far from Cohen's congressional district, has admitted that he is responsible for the vicious and divisive anti-Cohen propaganda hit piece. There is an August 5 primary coming up that pits Cohen, one of Congress' most outstanding progressive freshmen, against Nikki Tinker, a reactionary supported by the odious Harold Ford Machine and the DLC. Brooks produced and distributed the flier on Tinker's behalf and says "he sent the flier because the 9th Congressional District is 'about 90-something percent black.' According to the latest U.S. Census, in 2000, the district was 59.7 percent black... The Anti-Defamation League, which fights anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry, released a statement in Atlanta Monday condemning the flier, saying, it 'makes an outrageously false claim about Jews' attitudes toward Jesus, and it attempts to drive a potentially dangerous wedge and incite tensions between African-Americans and Jews in Memphis.'" Other Tinker fans disguised as men of God have attacked Cohen because he voted-- like all but 14 Democrats-- to include gay men and women in the Hate Crimes bill. The Tinker supporters have tried using this as a wedge issue against Cohen, failing to mention that every single African American member of Congress voted for it and the only Democrats who voted against it are the same ones who always oppose the kind of progressive legislation meant to right the wrongs that have been perpetrated against minority communities.
Yesterday's Memphis Commercial Appeal has condemned Tinker and her backers in the attack on Steve.
What does Nikki Tinker think about anti-Semitic literature being circulated that might help her unseat 9th District Congressman Steve Cohen in the Democratic primary next August?
A fair question, which Tinker declined to answer this week after a flier stating that "Steve Cohen and the Jews Hate Jesus" began circulating in Memphis.
The question goes to the character of the woman who wants to represent the 9th District, and 9th District voters deserve an answer. But Tinker declined to return a phone call about the flier.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told her Democratic colleagues on Tuesday night that the House has to consider criminal contempt citations against White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and Harriett Miers, former White House counsel.
But Pelosi did not set a day for a floor vote on the contempt citations, and Democratic leaders are set to meet on Wednesday to review the issue. Pelosi and the Democratic leadership had postponed consideration of the matter until the Congress completed work on the economic stimulus package. With that legislation now out of the way, Pelosi has raised the possibility again that the House might seek a constitutional showdown with President Bush over the limits of executive privilege.
[O]ther Democratic leaders, including Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) are concerned that a loss in court on the issue could have a negative impact on the ability of future Congresses to investigate the executive branch.
Emanuel has a point here, and it's not a minor one. But, it's also not an answer to the problem. A loss in court could indeed have a negative impact on the ability of future Congresses to investigate the executive branch.
But you know what? So could ignoring the problem and hoping it'll go away on its own. In fact, it's not a matter of whether it "could" happen that way. It is happening that way. Ignoring the problem and holding on in the hopes that we'll elect a Democratic president in November just means that the ability of future Congresses to investigate the executive branch depends not on the Congress independently possessing this prerogative, but rather on the election of presidents who would opt not to make obstruction of Congressional oversight White House policy.
If the federal courts are also of the opinion that the Congress has no constitutional authority to conduct oversight and so provide checks and balances against the executive branch, better to get that on the table sooner rather than later. Without knowing the state of the law, a Democratic administration is hamstrung in exercising its discretion in the appointment of judges. If the federal judiciary is so rife with conservative partisans that they'd effectively be able to nullify the power of (Democratic) Congressional oversight at will, isn't that something we'd want the next Democratic president to know and consider in his or her approach to judiciary nominations?
Not according to Rahm Emanuel, I guess. Though in fairness, nobody has ever asked him this question quite this way, as far as I know.
The comment section is right down there, Rahm. Get an account if you have an answer for us.
Meanwhile, Emanuel's position puts him at odds not only with Pelosi, but also with Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, who has been pushing hard for this vote for months now, and with an extraordinary collection of his fellow Democrats from all quarters who've been whipping Members on this critical issue, including Brad Miller, Linda Sanchez, Adam Schiff and Steve Cohen. That's no band of Dirty F-ing Hippies, folks.
And here's another consideration: the contempt vote was last postponed in order to avoid poisoning the atmosphere of "bipartisan cooperation" (cough, cough!) supposedly necessary for the passage of the economic stimulus package. With that out of the way, the stage is apparently set for this more confrontational issue.
But the House is also now wrapped up in the FISA issue, where the pressure is increasing for them to stand firm behind their already-passed RESTORE Act rather than agree to go along with the horrible, Rockefeller-backed betrayal passed by the Senate.
Will the House panic and back off of the contempt vote again, for fear that confrontations on both FISA and contempt at the same time is simply too much to bear? Quite possibly.
Here, it might be time to borrow a page from the White House playbook, and pursue a "flood the zone" strategy. When the White House has multiple outrages to perpetrate (as is so often the case), it does so in overwhelming waves, with no mind paid to pacing or any insistence on decent intervals in between. Indeed, the strategy seems to be to flood the public, the media, and the Democratic opposition with everything it can throw at them, all at once. And each time they've done it, the national media have been for the most part unable (or uninterested) in keeping up. Light five fires at once, and four go relatively unnoticed.
So perhaps it's time to bring out all the grievances against the executive now roiling beneath the surface inside the Congress. Why not deal with contempt at the same time as we (hopefully) fight on FISA? And why not encourage the Senate to add its pending contempt votes to the pile as well? And why not get down to issuing subpoenas aimed at the "administration's" stonewalling on questions surrounding the missing e-mails? The destruction of the torture tapes? The withholding of key documents and testimony by the Department of Education? By NASA? In fact, by virtually every department of the executive branch that's been asked to comply with Congressional oversight over the past several years?
If George W. Bush's judiciary is ready to validate all of this, perhaps that's something the public would like to know, heading into the next election. Let's get at least some of this -- the most egregious parts, anyway -- out on the table.
Let's face it, something's got to be on that table.
UPDATE: And guess what? Chairman Conyers has just dropped two resolutions in the hopper. One authorizing the Speaker to referring criminal statutory contempt charges to the US Attorney for prosecution (which we know the "administration" will prohibit), and one authorizing the House to file civil suit seeking a declaratory judgment on the validity of the executive privilege claims Bolten and Miers are using to dodge their subpoenas. Should be interesting.
The House Rules Committee is meeting at this hour to consider how to bring them to the floor.