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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

I wonder if in his comments today about Harriet Miers the president hasn't finally brought his presidency to a sort of implosive harmonic convergence.

We are, needless to say, engaged in a vast, shambling and tragic occupation of Iraq, the nominal aim of which is to create a secular, rule-of-law-based democracy which would end the cycle of repression, fanaticism and violence which spilled onto America's shores four years ago.

At the same time, President Bush argues for Miers' confirmation neither on the basis of her 'judicial temperament' nor her judicial philosophy or ideology but because she is a staunch evangelical Christian.

The fact that many of the president's more theocratic supporters don't seem to believe him just adds a level of irony or entertainment for those of us still holding out for the Enlightenment tradition.

But doesn't the juxtaposition really show the game is up at some level?

A year ago, in light of one of White House's many wag-the-dog stunts, I noted "how truly important it is that we democratize the Middle East. Because once we have, some of them will be able to come back here and redemocratize us."

Perhaps the same goes for ending theocracy over there. Sooner the better, so they can bring modernity to us too.

Over at the blog of Reason Magazine, Editor Nick Gillespie has posted a list of how much each two-term president increased spending going back forty years. Specifically, the list measures increases in discretionary spending over five successive budgets, adjusted for inflation.

Here are the numbers ...

LBJ: 25.2% Nixon: -16.5% Reagan: 11.9% Clinton: -8.2% Bush: 35.2%

Now, clearly, this exercise means different things to Libertarians like the folks at Reason than it might to readers of this website.

But I think this only represents half the picture. And probably not the more important half.

There are enduring disagreements between the moderate right and moderate left in this country over the ideal size and scope of the federal government. But the truth is that the country can do fine with relatively small government or relatively large government so long as things don't get too out of hand in either direction. What it can't withstand for very long is a radical and growing disjuncture between spending and revenue, money out and money in.

That is the problem we face today. And that's why we're probably in for a long ten years as all of this hits the fan.

Wingerdammerung.

Pat Robertson on Republican senators who may not salute and stand at attention for Harriet Miers: "These so-called movement conservatives don’t have much of a following, the ones that I’m aware of. And you just marvel, these are the senators, some of them who voted to confirm the general counsel of the ACLU to the Supreme Court, and she was voted in almost unanimously. And you say, ‘now they’re going to turn against a Christian who is a conservative picked by a conservative President and they’re going to vote against her for confirmation.’ Not on your sweet life, if they want to stay in office."

Interesting snippet in Fineman's latest column: "I expect that any GOP 2008 hopeful who wants evangelical support — people like Sam Brownback, Rick Santorum and maybe even George Allen — will vote against Miers's confirmation in the Senate."

Annals of interesting coincidences.

I mentioned earlier that the assignment of new DOJ attorneys to the New Hampshire phone-jamming case -- particular a Public Integrity section lawyer -- may be tied the ever-expanding Abramoff investigation in DC.

Along those lines, we wanted to note two entries in the New Hampshire GOP's receipts ledger in the days just before the phone-jamming plan came off. $5000 a pop from two of Jack Abramoff's main piggy banks -- the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

Okay, maybe I'm willing to be a bit bolder now (though probably late for the party) and say that no, I'm not at all clear that Harriet Miers is ever going to sit on the Supreme Court. The Times today quotes a staff lawyer to one Republican member of the Judiciary Committee saying: "Everybody is hoping that something will happen on Miers, either that the president would withdraw her or she would realize she is not up to it and pull out while she has some dignity intact."

Down further into the article we find out that Judiciary Republicans actually have their staffs working on anti-Miers research. If the Times report at all accurately reflects what's going on up there, that is a very big deal.

Clearly, at this point Miers has significant, if still silent, Republican opposition in the Senate. They want her gone. But they're not yet willing to have it be at the expense of dealing the president a major political reverse.

So how many Republicans will prove willing to come out against her? And which ones?

One interesting dimension of this Kabuki theater exercise is that it's not even completely clear which part of the Republican caucus open defections could come from. The White House now seems to be banking everything on the claim that Miers is a down-the-line evangelical Christian (I guess we might call this 'extreme originalism'). But Sen. Brownback, one of the most staunch pro-lifers in the Senate, seems to be most out in front questioning whether she should be on the Court.

As I wrote a few days ago, I think the real issue is not that there's yet that much focused and public opposition to Miers. The issue is just who the White House can find to champion this nomination or defend it. So far, I don't think I've heard one senator come out strongly for her. Pretty much the same thing with the standard GOP pressure groups on the outside.

With so little force propelling this pick forward, it won't take much to knock it back for good.

There are certainly a lot of hints, allegations and murmurs out there tonight, particularly on the bloggier part of the web, about what might be coming down the pike from Patrick Fitzgerald. My favorite is this snippet from Hardball -- caught and excerpted on John Aravosis' Americablog -- which has Howard Fineman describing an alleged pre-indictment (political) death struggle pitting Karl Rove against Andy Card.

Gotta love that. Whether it's true or not, who knows?

In any case, an article (sub.req.) in tomorrow's Wall Street Journal contains this pleasant sounding sentence: "Mr. Fitzgerald's pursuit now suggests he might be investigating not a narrow case on the leaking of the agent's name, but perhaps a broader conspiracy."

And then further down there's this: "Lawyers familiar with the investigation believe that at least part of the outcome likely hangs on the inner workings of what has been dubbed the White House Iraq Group. Formed in August 2002, the group, which included Messrs. Rove and Libby, worked on setting strategy for selling the war in Iraq to the public in the months leading up to the March 2003 invasion. The group likely would have played a significant role in responding to Mr. Wilson's claims."

First of all, it did play a big role. That's where the push back came from.

If this description is accurate, it must have many folks at the White House in cold sweats.

If Karl Rove goes down in this investigation it'll be a disaster for the president, both in terms of the damage occasioned by such a high-level White House indictment and, frankly, because he needs the guy like most of us need legs.

But this WHIG thing is a whole 'nother level of hurt.

This group was the organizational team, the core group behind all the shameless crap that went down in the lead up to the Iraq war -- the lies about the cooked up Niger story, everything. If Fitzgerald has lassoed this operation into a criminal conspiracy, the veil of protective secrecy in which the whole operation is still shrouded will be pulled back. Depositions and sworn statements in on-going investigations have a way of doing that. Ask Bill Clinton. Every key person in the White House will be touched by it. And all sorts of ugly tales could spill out.

Back in the old days a congressman arrested for a DWI was a pretty big deal. But with half of the political establishment in DC about to be indicted, I guess this sort of thing just doesn't show up on the radar.

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