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We were warned. And

We were warned. And late last night the axe finally fell. Dozens of autonomous, but centrally-directed, al Qaida operatives covered every inch of exposed surface area in Washington, DC with one to two feet of crystallized H2O, mixed with trace amounts of industrial pollutants and toxic chemicals. As of 2 PM on Sunday, the attack continues.

The city is paralyzed.

Why do they hate us?

Little to report today

Little to report today besides TPM's 34th birthday -- frightfully old. I haven't had much time to catch up on the news today. But clearly these worldwide anti-war protests are a big deal. I'm not sure what they'll accomplish, however, beyond telling us what we already know: that the idea of an American invasion of Iraq is very unpopular around the world, and growing more so. We can debate whether this matters, whether 'they' are right, whose fault it might be in the US, how 'we' should react, and so forth. We can debate all that. But the underlying point seems undeniable. The protests aren't the evidence, just a symbol. Look at the polls in other countries.

Remember that place Afghanistan

Remember that place Afghanistan? You know, we had some guys over there. And they wear funny hats and, like, Osama bin Laden had a vacation home there or something ...

This would seem rather to sum up how much the folks at the Bush White House remember about the place. Apparently when the budgeteers on the Hill started working their way through the president's new budget they discovered there was no money, not even a line item, for humanitarian or reconstruction funds for Afghanistan. Remember, that was the place we weren't going to leave behind and so forth.

Now at first I thought maybe this was a case where the money is in there but just not labeled as being for Afghanistan or something like that. But that really doesn't seem to be the case. Congress has had to go back and stick in $300 million. According to this report from the BBC ...

The chairman of the committee that distributes foreign aid, Jim Kolbe, says that when he asked administration officials why they had not requested any funds, he was given no satisfactory explanation, but did get a pledge that it would not happen again.
Jim Kolbe is a Republican, or course. So it's really not clear to me what interest he would have in making the folks at the White House sound like such goofs. I think you have to figure that it's as big a screw-up as it looks like.

The BBC report also says that Afghan President Hamid Karzai is going to be in town this month looking for aid. We'll see how he manages. What's really telling isn't the lack of money so much as the fact that Karzai and his people didn't even get a mention. They didn't even merit the standard smoke and mirrors treatment! The ultimate indignity ...

Heres a good editorial

Here's a good editorial in the LA Times that gets the issue of NATO and alliance-wrecking just right.

The need for credible allies is no less urgent as the United States prepares for possible war with Iraq. The Bush administration should take care not to fray relations beyond repair in responding to the sometimes shrill objections of France and Germany. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is out of line when he dismissively says those nations are the "old Europe" and wisecracks that the only countries not willing to help attack Iraq are Germany, Libya and Cuba. The strongest man in the house needs to speak softest. [itals added]
Exactly right. A dose of maturity would be in order -- echoes of the lunch-money fracas. More disturbing of course, as a friend noted last evening, is the fact that a major, likely the dominant, faction in this administration would like to wreck NATO.

Drip drip drip. Earlier

Drip, drip, drip. Earlier this week we reported that Allen Raymond and his telemarketing firm GOP Marketplace were being investigated by state and federal authorities for sabotaging Democratic phone-banks last election morning in New Hampshire.

We further pointed out that Raymond is the Executive Director of the Republican Leadership Council (RLC) and that organization has, on its Board, eight United States senators: Senator Robert Bennett, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Senator Susan Collins, Senator Pete V. Domenici, Senator Jon L. Kyl, Senator Frank H. Murkowski, Senator Olympia Snowe, and Senator Arlen Specter.

Well, now it turns out that at exactly the same time GOP Marketplace was shutting down the Dems' phone operation, the RLC was paying GOP Marketplace to do work for them too.

According to politicalmoneyline.com, the RLC "indicated in its Section 527 IRS report (signed by Raymond) it paid GOP Marketplace (Raymond’s firm) $28,983.62 on 11/4/02 for 'Phone bank.'"

Is it time for even one of these senators to go on the record about this? Disassociate themselves from it in some way? Look, obviously these worthies probably don't have any idea what Raymond was up to. But when a United States senator has a direct political association with someone who is being investigated by the Justice Department for potential criminal interference in a federal election, shouldn't they say something?

Meanwhile, the New Hampshire Republican party is playing the 'huh? whah? ahhdunno' card in the call-jamming investigation. This from a follow-up in this morning's Manchester Union Leader:

Election Law Committee member Richard Kennedy, R-Hopkinton, said the party is attempting to get back the $15,000 it paid to GOP Marketplace for telephone calls to get out the vote. “If we don’t get it back, you might see a theft of services charge,” he said.
Please ...

P.S. Special thanks to Betsy Devine for the heads-up on the new Union Leader piece.

According to the script

According to the script of the day, we're supposed to be castigating the French, Germans, Belgians, Russians and the rest of Old Europe for betraying us, endangering NATO, hanging Turkey out to dry, appeasing Iraq, and generally being incomparable weenies. A lot of smart people in the US are saying just that. But they're being profoundly shortsighted. After 9/11, the Bush administration quite consciously marginalized NATO, resisting even the symbolic involvement of the alliance which could be paying substantial dividends today. I think it's quite possible that the damage we are doing to NATO right now will turn out to be the most profoundly damaging legacy of this administration. (And the competition is substantial.)

NATO is what you wish the United Nations could be, but isn't -- a credible institution of collective security which marries values to force. Its member-states are all democracies. They are all, by global standards, prosperous. They respect minority rights and the rule of law.

A lot of people are saying, well, yes that's all true and I like NATO as much as the next guy. But the French are such weenies! The Germans are their deputy-weenies! Why are they being so lame?

This is foolish. We didn't know the French had strong tendencies toward geo-political weenie-ism? Of course, we did. Dealing with that fact is one of the jobs we hire our presidents to fulfill. If NATO goes down the drain, the fact that the French or the Belgians or the Germans were petulant won't make it any less of a loss for us. Perhaps getting UN approval for invading Iraq was never in the cards. But taking action in Iraq without forcing a NATO train wreck should not have been that hard. Their lameness, if that's what it is, doesn't change the fact that we've come to this moment because of this administration's arrogance and swaggering incompetence.

Back in 1998, in a notoriously fatuous article, Sally Quinn quoted David Broder saying, "He came in here and he trashed the place."

He was talking, of course, about Bill Clinton and what he had allegedly done to Washington. Now, it's revealing about both these characters that how Bill Clinton affected the Washington social scene is at the center of their moral universe. But seeing what we're seeing right now made me think of that line and how it reminds me of the current occupant of the Oval Office.

Which of our alliances and security organizations are going to be left when these guys are through?

The president and his crew are acting like that not-as-smart-as-he-thinks-he-is high school kid who's always running into reverses and always blaming it on someone else. At first you think he's getting a bad shake until you see the same thing happening over and over again. It's always someone else's fault. The South Koreans are lame. The Europeans are lame. Our Arab allies are lame. Everybody is lame. We're given excuse after excuse. But at the end of the day the result seems to be our historic alliances, if not in shambles, then at least thoroughly beat-up. After all, what profiteth a man if he gain regime change in Iraq, and yet lose the whole world order in the process?

Speak softly and carry

"Speak softly and carry a big stick. Or, speak loudly and carry a big stick. Or maybe even speak softly and get by with a small stick. But, for God’s sake, don’t speak loudly and carry a small stick. And yet that’s precisely what President Bush has been doing on the Korean Peninsula issue for two years ...

That's the lead to my new column in The Hill. Click here to read the rest.

There will be an

There will be an announcement this afternoon (I believe, at 5 PM EST) that will -- temporarily at least -- shake up the Democratic presidential race. Because it's health-related, I'm not going to say more than that. But keep your eye out later this afternoon.

Alright now were cookin

Alright, now we're cookin' with gas. Steve Kornacki of PoliticsNJ.com has advanced the GOP Marketplace story several yards down the field.

Kornacki's story provides some good information on GOP Marketplace President Allen Raymond's background in New Jersey Republican politics. The really interesting nuggets, though, are these ... Kornacki got the New Jersey state Republican party to confirm that GOP Marketplace worked for them in 2001 and 2002. Even more interesting, Kornacki suggests that Raymond may have been the never-named GOP consultant at the heart of another phone-bank scandal from last year.

The details are important enough that I'm going to quote from Kornacki's piece at length ...

In his 20-count indictment of former Essex County Executive James Treffinger last year, U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie alleged that Treffinger's 2002 U.S. Senate campaign schemed to deceive South Jersey voters with misleading phone calls.

According to the indictment, Treffinger's campaign targeted two unnamed South Jersey candidates -- presumably state Senators Diane Allen (R-Edgewater Park) and John Matheussen (R-Washington Twp.) -- and placed "attack ad" and "false negative" telephone calls to South Jersey voters in an attempt to smear the two.

The indictment cryptically referred to a political consultant who, it alleged, aided Treffinger in hatching and executing the plan.

The Consultant's identity has been a matter of fierce debate and speculation. Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing), the Democratic State Chairwoman, issued a press release in the closing weeks of last falls' campaign stating that GOP operative David Murray was the GOP consultant named in the indictment.

But a letter from Christie subsequently cleared Murray, who has unsuccessfully sought an apology from Watson Coleman.

Raymond did work for Treffinger, according to a former campaign staffer, but declined to say whether he is the consultant named in the federal indictment.

"Do you want to talk to my attorney?" asked Raymond when contacted by PoliticsNJ.com today.. The consultant then promised a more thorough reply later in the day, but has not yet responded.

So now we know that GOP Marketplace worked for Republican parties and/or Republican candidates in two states in 2002: New Hampshire and New Jersey.

In one of those cases (New Hampshire), where we know GOP Marketplace was directly involved, there is an on-going law enforcement investigation. In another (New Jersey), where there is good reason to suspect the firm's involvement, there's already been an indictment.

Tell me again why this story doesn't have legs?

Who else did GOP Marketplace work for last year?

More on the GOP

More on the GOP Marketplace scandal-ette.

As we noted earlier, GOP Marketplace's founder and president, Allen Raymond, is also the Executive Director of the Republican Leadership Council, a GOP PAC known for libertarian social policies and tax-cutting.

The RLC's Advisory Board includes ...

Senator Robert Bennett
Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell
Senator Susan Collins
The Honorable Alfonse M. D`Amato
Senator Pete V. Domenici
Congressman David Dreier
Governor John Engler
Congressman Mark Foley
Congressman Bob Franks
Congressman Jim Greenwood
Congresswoman Nancy Johnson
The Honorable Thomas H. Kean
Senator Jon L. Kyl
The Honorable John McKernan
Senator Frank H. Murkowski
The Honorable Bill Paxon
Congresswoman Deborah Pryce
Congressman Jack Quinn
Governor John G. Rowland
Senator Olympia Snowe
Senator Arlen Specter
Congressman Fred Upton
The Honorable William F. Weld
Governor Christine Todd Whitman
The Honorable Pete Wilson

If the Manchester Union Leader story is accurate, Raymond appears to be running a dirty-tricks operation on the side. (What dirty-tricks operation? See yesterday's post.) Do these worthies know about this? Do they think it's okay? Do Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins approve? Arlen Specter? Even you, Jack Quinn? Say it ain't so ...

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