Opinions, Context & Ideas from the TPM Editors TPM Editor's Blog

Writing on the wall

Writing on the wall and corks poppin' at Byrd HQ. Roll Call reports (sub.req.) that Rep. Capito (R-WV) won't challenge Sen. Byrd next year.

Several readers have called

Several readers have called my attention to the passage in the president's statement this morning in which he praises Miers' pro bono work for "Exodus Ministries". These readers have pointed out that Exodus is an organization dedicated to bringing "freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ." (Exodus is referred to either as 'Exodus' or 'Exodus ministries'.) But a quick look around the web also shows another group called Exodus Ministries which works with ex-prison inmates to prevent their falling back into lives of crime. The organization's website identifies it as "a non-denominational Christian organization established to assist ex-offenders and their families become productive members of society by meeting both their spiritual and physical needs." This latter group is Dallas-based (where Miers is from). So it seems there's a decent chance that it is the latter group she did work for. In any case, worth clearing up.

Late Update: I'm told Scott McClellan has now confirmed that it's the ex-prisoner ministry and not the ex-gay one.

As with Justice Roberts

As with Justice Roberts, I think I'll probably leave most of the talking about Harriet Miers to the folks over at Supreme Court Watch. But a few thoughts to kick things off.

First, not being a judge, in itself, doesn't seem like that big a deal to me. Many law profs who get nominated to the bench have never been judges. And more relevant to this case, there's been a reasonably broad bipartisan call in recent years to get 'a politician' on the Court. And the whole point, in that case, is that the person not come from the bench or even be too deeply entrenched in the legal profession. Finally, as we've seen, pretty often it turns out that these nominees have only been circuit court judges for maybe a year or two prior to their appointment. And in the grand scheme of things, that amounts to little more than a bit of batting practice before going up to the plate.

The key that this nomination should and, I suspect, will turn on is that the she fits the Bush administration mold -- she's a loyalist through and through. The lack of any other clear qualifications for the job becomes clear in that context.

The Post says this morning ...

Miers came with him to the White House in 2001 as staff secretary, the person who screens all the documents that cross the president's desk. She was promoted to deputy chief of staff before Bush named her counsel after his reelection in November. She replaced Alberto R. Gonzales, another longtime Bush confidant, who was elevated to attorney general.

Matt Yglesias finds this quote from David Frum ...

In the White House that hero worshipped the president, Miers was distinguished by the intensity of her zeal: She once told me that the president was the most brilliant man she had ever met.

Sounds like a keeper, don't she?

Presumably she's been involved in some fashion or another in everything the White House has been involved in over five years and intimately involved in every legal decision in 2005.

Game on.

Just to refresh everyones

Just to refresh everyone's memory about what happened last week, three reputed mob soldiers were arrested in Florida for the February 2001 gangland-style murder of Gus Boulis, founder and one-time owner of Sun Cruz, the Florida casino boat line. Jack Abramoff and Adam Kidan muscled Boulis into selling them Sun Cruz. And it is for fraud in that acquisition that both were indicted last month.

That's all known.

It's also been a matter of public record for more than four years that around the time of Boulis's murder, for no clear reason, Kidan paid roughly a quarter million dollars to one of those three men now under indictment for the crime. For that and other reasons, those of us who live in the world where gravity always pulls down and never up, can probably conclude that the cops believe Kidan's are somehow dirty in this matter.

In any case, here's the point I haven't seen discussed at any length. That money did not come out of Kidan's pocket. He may have authorized the payments. But those checks came from Sun Cruz itself, the company Kidan and Abramoff then co-owned.

Articles on this subject almost always throw in a line to the effect that no one suspects Abramoff himself of knowledge or involvement in Boulis's death. And I know of little tangible to contradict that. But he was the co-owner, with Kidan, of the company which made the tainted payments. And Abramoff and Kidan were in pretty close and regular contact in how they used Sun Cruz's money for the DC lobbying operations. At a minimum Abramoff might be able to shed some light on whether there is some innocent explanation for the money that went to the guy who's been indicted for Boulis's murder.

In any case, the a priori blanket exoneration does seem a bit more total than journalists would normally grant in such cases.

As far as I know, too, the local police investigating the crime have still failed in their efforts to get an interview with Abramoff to find out what he might know about Boulis's death.

Attention DeLay-downfall junkies Succession

Attention DeLay-downfall junkies: Succession battle silver-medalist David Dreier to appear on Charlie Rose tonight. (Also a guest: Philip Seymour Hoffman. Oh, for the dada comedy of those two interviewing each other.)

There are a lot

There are a lot of Roy Blunt crib sheets out there right now. But for my money, this Washington Post profile is the best one-stop reading on the man.

It's far from clear what Tom DeLay's departure means for House Republicans. One academic in today's papers offered the excellent metaphor of Marshall Tito's fall from power in Yugoslavia and the resulting civil war there. (Which raises the pressing question: who shall be the House GOP's Slobodan Milosevic?) Others expect Republicans to circle their wagons and for Blunt to continue the same ruthless discipline as his predecessor.

My first hunch is the latter. As this Post piece indicates, Blunt seems to have modelled himself after DeLay in every way -- with perhaps less of the Texan's mean-spirited partisan vitriol. But that was never what made DeLay effective anyway.

No, I think the fundamental basis for DeLay's unprecedented reign of terror has been his phenomenal K Street power base, cultivated over many years through unchecked access-peddling and sheer intimidation. This network serves as part fund-raising juggernaut, part patronage machine, and part political-advocacy operation. And so DeLay commanded the loyalty of House Republicans not just because he's a real Texas sh*tkicker, but because his K Street empire is one of the most fearsome tools in Washington history -- a kind of awe-inspiring political Death Star whose reactor shaft Democrats have never been able to locate.

And to read the Post article, it seems Blunt learned that lesson well. As Thomas Edsall puts it:

Blunt's organization in scope has begun to rival "DeLay Inc." -- the political fundraising committees, extensive favor-giving and alliances with Republican lobbyists that the majority leader has used to become one of the most influential leaders in memory.

In other words, Blunt, Inc. is the new DeLay, Inc. Or put another way: "The king is dead. Long live the king!"