Editors’ Blog

The Washington Post says

The Washington Post says George W. Bush is hawking an alternative statistical analysis of his tax plan which says that only 22% of his tax cut will go to the top 1% of earners as opposed to the 43% number which Democrats have been citing. As the Post notes, much of the difference is due to the fact that Bush’s new analysis doesn’t figure in the repeal of the estate tax (also known as the ‘death tax’ to many Republican whackos) or a number of other cuts which only kick in after 2006. And of course pretty much all of the estate tax repeal benefits go to the very wealthy.

Dishonest numbers aside though, this is a very positive development for opponents of Bush’s plan. Very positive. Why? Simple. Because this is playing ball entirely on the Democrats’ turf. As any Republican strategist will tell you, Republicans don’t win tax debates with arguments over distributional equity. A sign of how they’re getting dragged off message is that Bush’s crew is getting into almost daily dust-ups with Talking Points’ friends at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities and Citizens for Tax Justice.

Second of all, to be frank, Bush’s numbers are completely bogus. And I don’t just mean the standard sense in which everyone’s numbers are a bit different. I mean he’s not including the estate tax! What’s that about? This isn’t fuzzy math. It’s bull$&%@ math. And very easily exposed as such.

Therefore, not only is Bush starting to fight this out on unfriendly territory, he’s also starting the fight with a batch of numbers that are transparently bogus. So before we even get to the argument over equity we’re going to have a sub-argument about why Bush is trying to pass off these phony numbers.

P.S. If you’re not bored to tears by this tax stuff, check out this new fact sheet from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities which notes how the numbers Bush himself is relying on are now showing that the true cost of the plan is roughly $2 trillion.

Hey look at this

Hey, look at this groovy new feature just developed by the folks over at the Talking Points IT department.

In the long history of TPM we’ve often gotten complaints – well, that puts too hard an edge on it, let’s say longing queries – about readers’ inability to point friends to a particular post on the site. You’ve actually always been able to do so. But it’s been complicated for a number of reasons.

Well, no more. See that little ‘link’ link up there by the date? Just click on that and it will take you to the precise URL for that particular post. Simple as that. And that link will stay current in the TPM archives permanently.

(There’s no super-flashy graphical gizmo connected with this new feature since the calling card of TPM is elegant design minimalism.)

I’ve also gotten a number of questions from readers about whether TPM is going to start taking donations for the upkeep of the site like AndrewSullivan.com and Kausfiles are doing. Answer? I’m not sure. That’s really not what I started this site for. But, hey, man does not live by buzz alone! So I’m thinking about it.

Havent the Republicans in

Haven’t the Republicans in the House potentially opened up a big tactical opportunity for Democrats? The Bush tax bill is heavily tilted toward tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. But it does include meaningful cuts for many middle-income families.
But the great proportion of those cuts aren’t related to drops in marginal rates. They’re tied to the expansion of the child tax credit from $500 to $1000.

The version of the tax bill currently racing through the House doesn’t include that; and that makes the tax cut for middle-income families almost laughably paltry.

Looking for the Scalia

Looking for the Scalia item? Click here.

First some rather devastating

First, some rather devastating news which will hopefully help you, the Talking Points reader, avoid future heartbreak.

It turns out that if you fully submerge your Palm V handheld computer in water it will no longer work. (Was Talking Points foolish enough to intentionally conduct such an experiment? Well, no. Not exactly. But let’s just say: now I know.)

Now to other news of the day.

A few days back, you may remember, we were talking about the case of Lewis Libby, Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff, and his level of involvement in the Marc Rich case. I even got in an argument about it with Mickey Kaus.

At the time I didn’t take a definite stand on whether Clinton was correct when he said that “the case for the pardons was reviewed and advocated” by Libby. I only argued that Libby’s involvement in Rich’s pardon efforts seemed to have been common knowledge — even if possibly incorrect common knowledge — and thus one could hardly say that Clinton was guilty of an “astonishing lie” (Mickey’s phrase) when he was was repeating what I took to be common knowledge. Follow all that?

Well, today’s New York Times adds some new information that makes it look like Clinton was pretty close to the mark. It turns out that a couple days after Clinton pardoned Marc Rich, Libby called him up to congratulate him on his good fortune. More importantly …

A lawyer familiar with Mr. Libby’s efforts said he had tried to persuade federal prosecutors in New York to drop the 1983 indictment against Mr. Rich. This lawyer and others familiar with Mr. Libby’s involvement said that shortly after Mr. Quinn was hired by Mr. Rich, he met with Mr. Libby to be briefed on the merits of Mr. Rich’s case.

So let’s unpack this. Libby left Rich’s employ “last spring,” according to the Times. After Quinn came on board he met with Libby and Libby brought him up to speed on the case. Now, if I’m not mistaken, we all assume that there was only one reason Marc Rich hired Jack Quinn — to help him get a pardon from Quinn’s bud Bill Clinton, right?

So when Quinn met with Libby “to be briefed on the merits of Mr. Rich’s case,” what did they talk about? About Quinn’s efforts to get Rich pardoned, of course.

Now I’ll admit I’ve made a number of inferences here. But I don’t think you’ve got to go too far out on a limb to make them.

And let’s go back to what our friend Ari Fleischer said about Lewis’ involvement in the Rich case. “While Mr. Libby was involved in the original case concerning Mr. Rich,” Fleischer told the Times on February 18th, “he was in no way, shape, manner or form involved in the pardon.”

Now the above-mentioned “lawyer familiar with Mr. Libby’s efforts” is pretty clearly someone in Libby’s camp. So there may well be more we don’t know. But even from what we have here from the Times I think we can pretty clearly say that Ari Fleischer LIED (or at a minimum unintentionally repeated someone else’s lie).

In fact, you might even call it an astonishing lie.

P.S. Why would someone in Libby’s camp spill the beans on him? Easy. Libby has to testify tomorrow before the Burton committee so he’s trying to get the bad info out ahead of time.

P.P.S. Special thanks to special Talking Points correspondent Mr. Z for pointing out the new Libby info.

P.P.P.S. Wouldn’t it be kinda devastating for a slick, young political reporter like Talking Points to lose all the notes and phone numbers and extra-double-secret contact information he has on his palm-top? You could say that.

First some rather devastating

First, some rather devastating news which will hopefully help you, the Talking Points reader, avoid future heartbreak.

It turns out that if you fully submerge your Palm V handheld computer in water it will no longer work. (Was Talking Points foolish enough to intentionally conduct such an experiment? Well, no. Not exactly. But let’s just say: now I know.)

Now to other news of the day.

A few days back, you may remember, we were talking about the case of Lewis Libby, Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff, and his level of involvement in the Marc Rich case. I even got in an argument about it with Mickey Kaus.

At the time I didn’t take a definite stand on whether Clinton was correct when he said that “the case for the pardons was reviewed and advocated” by Libby. I only argued that Libby’s involvement in Rich’s pardon efforts seemed to have been common knowledge — even if possibly incorrect common knowledge — and thus one could hardly say that Clinton was guilty of an “astonishing lie” (Mickey’s phrase) when he was was repeating what I took to be common knowledge. Follow all that?

Well, today’s New York Times adds some new information that makes it look like Clinton was pretty close to the mark. It turns out that a couple days after Clinton pardoned Marc Rich, Libby called him up to congratulate him on his good fortune. More importantly …

A lawyer familiar with Mr. Libby’s efforts said he had tried to persuade federal prosecutors in New York to drop the 1983 indictment against Mr. Rich. This lawyer and others familiar with Mr. Libby’s involvement said that shortly after Mr. Quinn was hired by Mr. Rich, he met with Mr. Libby to be briefed on the merits of Mr. Rich’s case.

So let’s unpack this. Libby left Rich’s employ “last spring,” according to the Times. After Quinn came on board he met with Libby and Libby brought him up to speed on the case. Now, if I’m not mistaken, we all assume that there was only one reason Marc Rich hired Jack Quinn — to help him get a pardon from Quinn’s bud Bill Clinton, right?

So when Quinn met with Libby “to be briefed on the merits of Mr. Rich’s case,” what did they talk about? About Quinn’s efforts to get Rich pardoned, of course.

Now I’ll admit I’ve made a number of inferences here. But I don’t think you’ve got to go too far out on a limb to make them.

And let’s go back to what our friend Ari Fleischer said about Lewis’ involvement in the Rich case. “While Mr. Libby was involved in the original case concerning Mr. Rich,” Fleischer told the Times on February 18th, “he was in no way, shape, manner or form involved in the pardon.”

Now the above-mentioned “lawyer familiar with Mr. Libby’s efforts” is pretty clearly someone in Libby’s camp. So there may well be more we don’t know. But even from what we have here from the Times I think we can pretty clearly say that Ari Fleischer LIED (or at a minimum unintentionally repeated someone else’s lie).

In fact, you might even call it an astonishing lie.

P.S. Why would someone in Libby’s camp spill the beans on him? Easy. Libby has to testify tomorrow before the Burton committee so he’s trying to get the bad info out ahead of time.

P.P.S. Special thanks to special Talking Points correspondent Mr. Z for passing on the new Libby info.

P.P.P.S. Wouldn’t it be kinda devastating for a slick, young political reporter like Talking Points to lose all the notes and phone numbers and extra-double-secret contact information he has on his palm-top? You could say that.

Well say more momentarily

We’ll say more momentarily about the rest of the president’s speech.

But what was the deal with Justice Stephen Breyer being the only member of the Supreme Court to show up for the speech? They had conflicting engagements? They didn’t hear about it in time? They didn’t know they were invited?

Please. Something weird was going on there. I can’t do any more than speculate. And I’m not saying there was anything sinister. But could it somehow be related to the on-going in-house rancor over Bush v. Gore?

And as long as we’re discussing the Supreme Court and Bush v. Gore, here’s something else worth noting.

You may have heard that Justice Scalia recently gave a speech at Princeton University in which he set forth his constitutional jurisprudence and charged that those who embrace the idea of a living constitution were “impoverishing democracy.”

What got less attention were Scalia’s near-comic attempts to bar almost any form of public scrutiny of his presentation. Scalia gave his speech at a conference about James Madison; and the conference was televised by C-SPAN. But when Scalia was presented with the standard release form given to all speakers who speak at the University, he refused to give permission for his remarks to be broadcast. So when it came time for Scalia to speak, the C-Span folks had to pack up and head out.

In fact, Scalia refused even to give permission for his speech to be broadcast on the University’s internal video feed, apparently because there was some chance the speech could then be picked up by local cable companies for public access viewing.

And even this wasn’t enough. Scalia also stipulated that during the question and answer session after his talk he would only entertain questions about his speech — nothing else (i.e., nothing about that whole recent unpleasantness down in Florida.)

Now when I called the Supreme Court Public Affairs Office, spokeswoman Kathleen Arberg told me that these sorts of restrictions amounted to Scalia’s standard policy. “It’s not unusual for a justice to do,” Arberg told me, “and it’s something he’s done in the past.”

Perhaps so. But ‘democracy’ and civil liberties should start at home, no?

And anyway, Clarence Thomas may be a self-pitying blowhard when he hits the speaking circuit. But at least he’s not afraid of the cameras.

As weve discussed earlier

As we’ve discussed earlier, McCain may end up playing a very important role in the tax cut debate — something that has as yet not gotten much attention. Tonight he’s beginning to tip his hand.

On CNN this evening, using roundabout language, he signaled his problems with the Bush plan and added an important detail. He said that the issue for him was less the size of the Bush tax cut than whom it went to. That’s striking, because if anything questioning the progressivity of the cut is the more leftish ground from which to oppose the cut.

And that has lotsa implications for the coming months.

Some sentences perfectly capture

Some sentences perfectly capture why their creators are masters of their craft. Here’s an example …

Bill Clinton has had exactly one good day since he became a full-time New Yorker, and even that one good day required a fiasco to set it up.

Peerless.

That’s the first line of Rick Hertzberg’s quick take on the pardon story in the new issue of the New Yorker – a few parts of which are now actually on line. This isn’t an exculpating run-down of the affair. But it’s human and realistic and mordant and punishing – more or less in the right amounts.

I nominate it as one of the best three pieces written yet on the topic – along with this piece by Jacob Weisberg and this one by Jonathan Rauch (which I want to discuss more in a future post).

Weisberg’s piece is the best on motive and foible. Rauch’s touches on the boundless overstatement of the critics and, more importantly, explains what the pardon power actually is – something most people in this debate seem unable to grasp.

Hertzberg’s piece covers a different question – the Clinton question – the question every real admirer of this guy (a group in which I very much count myself) has many times pondered. That is, why and how Clinton turns the Superman comic book metaphor on its head. How this empathetic, brilliant, supremely- politically-gifted, well-meaning man now and again ducks off into a telephone booth, wrestles off his tie, rips off his workaday suit, and pops back out again … a moron.

There’s simply no other way to put it. This isn’t a matter of trashing the former president. I’m as happy today as I ever have been to defend him against his critics who would puff up his screw-ups into criminality or treason.

But what makes this imperfection so interesting and trying and intractable is that Clinton’s lapses are cut from the same cloth as his greatness — looked at closely one is, unfortunately, hard to imagine without the other.

In the end, however, he often ends up looking better than his graceless accusers whose venality and malice and witlessness is planned, protracted and considered, whereas his offenses are more often merely impulsive, abrupt and foolish.

Not the way the cheap, one-trick-pony moralizers would put it. But, hey, this ain’t their site.

That’s my story — and I’m stickin’ with it.

Heres a very disappointing

Here’s a very disappointing column by Bob Herbert on the Times OpEd page. Count on it being embraced by Clinton-haters and the more feeble-minded run of Democrats.

Bill Clinton may have damaged himself on the way out of office – I’ll leave that question aside for the moment. But it’s simply pitiful to see Herbert saying things like this:

He was president for eight years and the bottom line politically is this: For the first time in nearly half a century, the Republican Party controls the presidency and both houses of Congress. Bill Clinton has been a disaster for the Democratic Party. Send him packing.

Fulmination, purism and hypocrisy. The familiar talk of souls sold. All sound and fury.

If Democrats can’t grasp the truly pitiful state they were in in the eighties and early nineties they really are up the creek without a paddle. Say what you will about Clinton’s sometimes poor judgement. But he did no end of good for the Democratic party. If the people who don’t grasp this get back at the helm, well … then Democrats really are in trouble.

More on this topic later.

Okay lets be honest.

Okay, let’s be honest. If your bit is defending Bill Clinton this ain’t been the best week. Or two. Or three. Well maybe three weeks ago was good because then we were still talking about the prank story which turned out to be completely bogus. But let’s not lose our train of thought. If your bit is defending Bill Clinton it’s been rough going.

But this is also supposed to have been rotten for Democrats because it’s kept them from making their case against the Bush agenda and given Bush a free reign on the tax cut front. They’re on their heels. On their backs. Etc. Pick your metaphor.

But is this true? Hardly.

While Bill Clinton has been on the ropes, the outlook for the Bush tax plan has grown steadily worse. Recent opinion polls have shown not so much strong opposition to Bush’s proposal as a persistent lack of enthusiasm for the touchstone of Bush’s agenda. More Republicans are coming out against Bush’s current plan. And – as yet – no Democrats have followed Zell Miller’s impetuous and now obviously embarrassing move in supporting the Bush plan.

So the pardon stuff may be a big embarrassment for Bill Clinton but it’s not clear to me that it’s been so bad for the Dems.

And there’s more. So far the tax cut has been on the table with only the goodies. Now Bush has to lay out his whole budget – with it’s budget cuts, it’s lack of funds for Medicare and Social Security or debt pay down. In other words, the road doesn’t get easier from here, it gets harder.

P.S. Next up … What’s the Dems’ endgame for the tax cut debate? Don’t know? Don’t worry. Neither do they.

Damn Oh the frustration

Damn! Oh the frustration! Sometimes I just feel like our new president cares about tax cuts a hundred times more than he cares about the important priorities which matter to most Americans.

Hyperbole? Well, not exactly. On Wednesday the Washington Post reported that Bush is calling for an increase of “$1.6 billion, in spending on elementary and secondary education.”

$1.6 billion per year more in education for the kids and $1.6 trillion over ten years in tax cuts. Hmmmm … Guess Karl Rove must have taken the day off the day they came up with that line item.

P.S. Why do I have to spoon feed this stuff to the Dems? Come on, guys!

Alright. Lets be honest

Alright. Let’s be honest with ourselves about the real question in the evolving Hugh Rodham pardon flap, the real journalistic contest afoot.

Don’t play dumb with me! You know what it is: the contest to see which news organization can come up with the most unsightly picture of Hugh Rodham. I was going with this beaut from MSNBC with Hugh on the golf course with a cigar. But they took it down so now we’re on to this one. But it’s not over yet. Entries are still pouring in!

Brouhahas like the Marc

Brouhahas like the Marc Rich pardon often become so lavish and baroque that they generate sub-brouhahas that innocent and well-meaning opinion journalists like Talking Points get sucked into.

I’m now in a tete-a-tete with Mickey Kaus over just such a sub-brouhaha about Bill Clinton’s NYT Op-Ed piece in which the former President wrote “the case for the pardons was reviewed and advocated not only by my former White House counsel Jack Quinn but also by three distinguished Republican attorneys.”

The lawyers in question jumped up to deny Clinton’s statement and my friend Mickey, with an assist from the New York Times, accused Clinton of an “astonishing lie.” Then I jumped into the fray and whacked Mickey and now Mickey has made his second jump into the fray and whacked me back, charging among other things, that what I said just doesn’t hold up and that, in any case, I never got around to talking about two of the lawyers in question – something I’d promised to do.

I don’t want to rehearse the whole episode again. So if you’re interested you can see what I wrote here and what he wrote here.

So what’s my defense? Honestly, I think Mickey is talking around what I said. If you read my original post I think it’s rather clear that I left the door open to the possibility that the president’s statement may have been in error. (“We’ll talk later about the accuracy of the former president’s statement. But can repeating an undisputed statement in the public record be an ‘astonishing lie’?”)

My point from the start was that Mickey and others had committed what the clinicians refer to as a CACOS (Classic Anti-Clinton Over-Statement).

Since the beginning of the Marc Rich pardon saga it’s been widely believed and discussed that Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff Lewis Libby was an attorney for Rich in the pardon matter until he started working in the White House. With a simple Nexis search I found two clear references to this and another in a copy of the New Yorker which I found in a slightly mangled state under my nightstand.

In his post, Mickey picks apart the New Yorker reference and says it’s not as clear as I said it was. But Mickey ignores the other reference I found which is far more clear and direct. That would be when Tom Brokaw said “Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis Libby, also once represented Rich and also tried to arrange a pardon for him during that time.”

Now perhaps Brokaw got it wrong (though I think he got it exactly right.) But let’s go back to what I said. The question here is what’s an error and what’s an “astonishing lie.” Repeating what everyone else also thinks to be true may involve you in a misstatement; and it may be sloppy or unwise. But to call it an “astonishing lie” seems ridiculous to me.

Now Mickey also points out that Clinton said this was one of the reasons for giving the pardon. And he did that before Tom Brokaw said anything. So maybe this is another lie. He’s saying that it was a reason for the pardon as opposed to an after-the-fact justification?

But let’s look at the facts. Lewis Libby was an attorney of record for Marc Rich in his efforts to get a pardon and remained so until just recently when he entered government service. If Libby is a remotely competent lawyer I assume he reviewed the pardon application and if he’s an ethical one I assume he advocated his client’s position. Libby’s defense seems to be that he did not personally put in a call to Bill Clinton to push for the pardon. But this sounds a bit like what the anti-Clinton folks call ‘parsing’, doesn’t it?

(In short, with regards to Libby, I think there’s far more truth in Clinton’s statment than Libby’s response. And I’m quite comfortable diagnosing Kaus’s original post as a CACOS.)

Now, let’s go to the stronger part of Mickey’s argument: that I never got around to discussing the other two lawyers, Brad Reynolds and Len Garment – which I had promised to do way back when in what now apparently counts as the Pleistocene Age back on February 18th.

This isn’t a bad point. I have let four days go by without following up. And from what I know Reynolds and Garment are in a different category from Libby. Though both were intimately involved in constructing the arguments contained in Rich’s application for a pardon, neither, it seems, has recently been in Rich’s employee. So the accurate statement would have been “these two prominent Republican attorneys devised the argument that convinced me to pardon this scofflaw Marc Rich.” Did Jack Quinn tell Clinton they’d been involved more recently? I don’t know. (And if I did, I couldn’t say anyway.)

Again, some statements are wrong, some are misstatements, some are “astonishing lies.” I feel pretty comfortable in how I originally categorized this one, though I’ll let you be the judge.

But let’s not move off this matter quite so quickly. Len Garment has at least been a pretty stand-up guy about this. He says he didn’t have anything to do with the current lobbying for a pardon. But he thinks it was the right thing to do. But what about these other Republican lawyers running for the hills, saying they never heard of this guy Marc Rich? I think Lewis Libby obviously used Ari Fleischer to lie for him. And Brad Reynolds? Well, he’s just getting an easy pass from his buds in the press. Big surprise.

P.S. Oh, sorry. I forget to recite the pro-Clinton anti-Marc Rich oath …. I, Josh Marshall, disagree with the Marc Rich pardon but …

P.P.S. So what’s deal with Kaus? A good guy? A friend? Totally.

P.P.P.S. Is this just a case when you’re being diplomatic on the web because you don’t want to make an enemy? No, No way. He rocks and he’s been very good to me. A veritable Yoda to my Skywalker.

Hey look Mickey Kaus

Hey, look! Mickey Kaus is taking me on for my earlier whack at him over the Bill Clinton New York Times Op-Ed sub-brouhaha to the Marc Rich pardon brouhaha.

P.S. So are you going to respond? Definitely. But it’s late so it’ll have to wait till tomorrow.

P.P.S. Hey, this is important! Why can’t you give us your response now? Dude! It’s 2:30 in the morning! Gimme a break!

Hey Wait a second

Hey! Wait a second! Does Talking Points have to connect all the dots here? Remember that laptop that went missing from the State Department last year?

Maybe Hanssen snagged it!!!

According to this article just posted on MSNBC: “From February 1995 until January, Hanssen was the FBI’s senior representative to the State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions, where he oversaw an interagency counterintelligence group.”

So maybe the problem wasn’t Madeleine Albright running a loosey-goosey, slipshod operation. Maybe it was Louis Freeh sending a spy over to help ‘oversee’ State Department intelligence. Louis, good goin’, dude!!!

P.S. Could Hanssen have been connected to that Russian diplomat who got caught working on an eavesdropping device outside State Department headquarters back in ’99? Sure. Why not. Put that on the list too.

P.P.S. Do you have any reason to believe, or does it even make sense, that Hanssen could have been involved in either one of these incidents? No idea. But, hey, we’re talkin’ about Louis Freeh here so we can use his rulebook, no? Let’s wait and see what Walter Pincus and Vernon Loeb come up with.

Robert Philip Hanssen seems

Robert Philip Hanssen seems so obviously guilty that the only mystery remaining now in this espionage case is who Louis Freeh will find to pin the blame on and how he’ll do it.

Washington is filled with people who have mastered the art of ‘failing up.’ But no one has mastered this art quite as well as Louis Freeh.

As the master profilographer David Plotz explained last Fall, what’s most fascinating about Freeh is not that his agency has managed to blow many of the high profile cases it’s been involved in over recent years (Waco, Richard Jewel, Wen Ho Lee, etc.). The real intrigue is that he’s managed to pass almost all of it off as someone else’s fault. Who takes the fall for this screw up? Janet Reno? Bill Clinton? Denise Rich? Bernie Sanders? Who? Think fast! Who?

Top Ten Reasons why

Top Ten Reasons why Hugh Rodham (Hillary’s brother) getting $200,000 (now returned) to lobby in favor of pardons and commutations for convicted drug trafficker Carlos Vignali and herbal supplement king Almon Glenn Braswell ain’t as bad as it looks.

5. Hugh Rodham won’t need those secret payments from Marc Rich anymore.

4. Gives Jack Quinn someone to look down on.

3. Even drug traffickers need a break sometimes.

2. Makes clear Bill ain’t the only one with a loser brother.

1. Gets that whole Marc Rich thing outta the headlines.

P.S. Hey, you said Top Ten! What happened to 10 through 6? Hey, it’s *&#$%&@ free site. Gimme a break!


P.P.S. So Talking Points, are you still a big fan of Bill Clinton’s. Yeah, no doubt. But this one’s at least good for a laugh, isn’t it? And sometimes, hell, if you can’t beat ’em join ’em.

P.P.P.S. Is your face a deeper shade of red right now then it normally is? Absolutely.

Hey Wait a second

Hey! Wait a second! Does Talking Points have to connect all the dots here? Remember that laptop that went missing from the State Department last year?

Maybe Hanssen snagged it!!!

According to this article just posted on MSNBC: “From February 1995 until January, Hanssen was the FBI’s senior representative to the State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions, where he oversaw an interagency counterintelligence group.”

So maybe the problem wasn’t Madeleine Albright running a loosey-goosey, slipshod operation. Maybe it was Louis Freeh sending a spy over to help ‘oversee’ State Department intelligence. Louis, good goin’, dude!!!

P.S. Could Hanssen have been connected to that Russian diplomat who got caught working on an eavesdropping device outside State Department headquarters back in ’99? Sure. Why not. Put that on the list too.

P.P.S. Do you have any reason to believe, or does it even make sense, that Hanssen could have been involved in either one of these incidents? No idea. But, hey, we’re talkin’ about Louis Freeh here so we can use his rulebook, no? Let’s wait and see what Walter Pincus and Vernon Loeb come up with.

Robert Philip Hanssen seems

Robert Philip Hanssen seems so obviously guilty that the only mystery remaining now in this espionage case is who Louis Freeh will find to pin the blame on and how he’ll do it.

Washington is filled with people who have mastered the art of ‘failing up.’ But no one has mastered this art quite as well as Louis Freeh.

As the master profilographer David Plotz explained last Fall, what’s most fascinating about Freeh is not that his agency has managed to blow many of the high profile cases it’s been involved in over recent years (Waco, Richard Jewel, Wen Ho Lee, etc.). The real intrigue is that he’s managed to pass almost all of it off as someone else’s fault. Who takes the fall for this screw up? Janet Reno? Bill Clinton? Denise Rich? Bernie Sanders? Who? Think fast! Who?

Hmmmmm … Looks like

Hmmmmm … Looks like still more confirmation of the Talking Points doctrine on the quickly diminishing prospects of the Bush tax cut bill. And now it’s coming from the New York Times editorial page. It must be true.

The question now is whether anything has really changed at all or whether people just got spun by a good bluff from the Bush communications office. This isn’t the first time this has happened. Think back to last November when Karl Rove had his man spend precious time in sure-lose states like California and New Jersey on the eve of what promised to be a squeaker on November 7th.

As I wrote at the time:

Coming into the campaign’s final week, Karl Rove, George W.’s oily Svengali sold the governor’s campaign on a pet theory of his that went like this: Not having much of a mind of their own, late-deciding voters look to see who’s out front in the waning days of a campaign and cast their lots with the winner. Call it a bandwagon effect. The implication is clear: Act like the winner and you’ll become the winner, and maybe even a big winner. And that’s just what the Bush campaign did for the first week of November. Rove told the traveling press that the governor would win the popular vote by six or seven percentage points, and the electoral college even more comfortably. Bush coasted in and out of states like California and New Jersey, which he hadn’t a prayer of winning, and kept a planeload of canny political reporters squinting their eyes and wondering whether Bush’s chief strategists were magicians or morons.

They turned out not to be magicians, of course. Bush didn’t win big. In fact, he didn’t win at all, at least not if you’re figuring the popular vote. Rove’s bandwagon theory turned out to be just what it looked like: a souped up version of an old-fashioned confidence game. Only the Bush folks had conned themselves.

Something very similar happened after the election when Bush hung out in Austin for the first few days of the Florida stand-off assuming people would just agree he was president-elect if he pretended like he was.

This is the emerging MO.

Dana Milbank is such

Dana Milbank is such a good political reporter. Since when does he write pieces as sycophantic as this one about White House CoS Andy Card?

If Dick Cheneys Chief

If Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff, Lewis Libby, is so outraged about President Clinton’s reference to him as a supporter of the Marc Rich pardon, then why won’t he express that outrage or deny the assertion on the record?

Much as I dont

Much as I don’t want to run out into the middle of the highway with a blindfold on, I think I must on the matter of the Marc Rich pardon.

Like so many other episodes in the Clinton saga, the profound folly of the ex-president’s original action is quickly buried in a heap of sanctimonious outrage and over-statement about it.

The driving story today is Bill Clinton’s New York Times Op-Ed defending the Rich pardon. The column has already unleashed yet another mini-blow-up – this over the former president’s statement that

the case for the pardons was reviewed and advocated not only by my former White House counsel Jack Quinn but also by three distinguished Republican attorneys: Leonard Garment, a former Nixon White House official; William Bradford Reynolds, a former high-ranking official in the Reagan Justice Department; and Lewis Libby, now Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff.

Referencing Jill Abramson’s article in today’s New York Times, my friend Mickey Kaus, calls this an “apparent astonishing lie.” And Kaus is hardly the only one saying this — just the easiest to link to.

Well, let’s start with Libby. We’ll get to Len Garment (“I don’t know why he did it, but I think Clinton did the right thing.“) and Brad Reynolds later.

Tom Brokaw, NBC Nightly News, on January 29th : “Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff,

Lewis Libby, also once represented Rich and also tried to

arrange a pardon for him during that time…”

On February 5th The New Yorker wrote that Libby had been one of the “most aggressive lawyers” seeking clemency for Rich and continued to work on his behalf until taking his new job at the White House.

As the New York Daily News blurbed the New Yorker story:

Mary Matalin, Cheney’s communications director, said when asked about Libby’s role in seeking a Rich pardon: “He was part of the team that represented Rich, but I don’t think he wants to talk about the particulars of the case. We’re moving forward, not looking back.”

We’ll talk later about the accuracy of the former president’s statement. But can repeating an undisputed statement in the public record be an “astonishing lie”?

Last Friday John Fund

Last Friday John Fund of the Wall Street Journal Editorial page went on the Geraldo Rivera show to chat about the brouhaha surrounding the Marc Rich pardon.

At one point, in exasperation, Rivera asked Fund, “Have you apologized yet for the [false] stories about White House vandalism? Have you apologized?”

Here’s the interchange that followed…

FUND: I never ran–I never ran any stories about it.

RIVERA: Have you apologized–has your newspaper apologized for the stories about…

FUND: We never–we never referenced it.

Now my understanding of this back-and-forth is that Fund first denied that he had ever written about the prank story. Then when he says “we” he’s talking about his publication, the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page and it’s public online incarnation Opinionjournal.com. So in the second run-through he’s denying that the editorial page had ever played up prankgate.

So is this true? They’d didn’t even mention it? Please! Not even close. How about the predictable Peggy Noonan on January 26th (Back to Normal) or Tunku Varadarajan on January 29th (No Joke)? Or do only unsigned pieces count? Well then how about this piece also from January 26th (Gary Aldrich Was Right)?

An editorial zinger to drive the point home?

Nope. I think this one speaks for itself.

Okay Talking Points has

Okay, Talking Points has gotten a touch earnest lately. So let’s lighten it up a bit. Let’s run down the official Talking Points Top Ten list of reasons why the Senate should reject Bush’s nomination of Ted Olson to be Solicitor General.

So, Anton, a drum roll please ….

The Top Ten reasons the Senate should neg Solicitor General nominee Ted Olson are …

10. Made his legal career attacking and dismantling federal environmental and anti-discrimination laws.

9. Successfully argued one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in American history.

8. Just squints too damn much.

7. Too big a buds with Kenneth Starr.

6. What would be big polluters and tobacco companies do without him?

5. Helped prep the Paula Jones legal team for their appearance before the Supreme Court.

4. One degree of separation from former federal prosecutor/Clinton-hating freak/Dan Burton crony/Hillary-bashing author Barbara Olson is just too close!

3. Spent mid-1990s organizing and overseeing multi-million dollar anti-Clinton dirty tricks campaign called the Arkansas Project.

2. Because it’s the right thing to do.

1. ‘Cuzz it would just feel so damn good.

P.S. This Top Ten list is so damn good won’t you please give me the exact link so I can forward it to my peeps? Sure, my pleasure … click here.

P.P.S. Hey, did I miss any? If you think so, send your reasons here. We’ll post the best. (Say whether I can use your name, or no).

John McCain is getting

John McCain is getting a lot of attention these days for his aggressive efforts in support of campaign finance reform, and to a lesser extent in favor of Patients’ Bill of Rights legislation. My hunch, though, is that he’s going to play a key role in the upcoming debate over the mammoth Bush tax cut – though this possibility has not yet garnered much attention.

During the Republican primaries McCain campaigned against the Bush tax cut on grounds quite similar to those Democrats are now using to oppose it – objections to its size, the effect on the country’s ability to pay off the national debt, and it’s skew toward the wealthiest Americans.

Sources close to McCain say he’s now revisiting the whole issue of the tax cut in the light of the rapidly decelerating economy. But from all the available evidence it seems to me that McCain will likely again oppose Bush’s bill (possibly in a slightly updated fashion), and perhaps make the case against it even more effectively than Democrats.

McCain has good reason to oppose the Bush bill on substantive policy grounds. He’s a debt hawk; he’s troubled that the Bush plan might prevent increases in military spending; and his positions on health care issues are not that different from those of many Senate Democrats. But don’t discount the intensity of animosity between McCain and his supporters and Bush and his. It’s a mix of ideological and personal enmities that runs very deep.

And now for something totally different (or at least kinda different).

Senator McCain is often associated with a Conservative splinter-movement called National Greatness Conservatism.

Even National Greatness types admit that the movement (if you can call it that) is quite amorphous. But broadly speaking, National Greatness types see themselves in the tradition of strong-state Progressive Nationalism often associated with Teddy Roosevelt. (They’re way into Teddy Roosevent.) Like McCain, one of their signature issues is campaign finance reform and they don’t think the world revolves around cuts in marginal tax rates for the extremely wealthy. They are genuinely reformist and unlike almost every other kind of Conservative there are a number of things that I agree with them about.

Or, to put it in more familiar Talking Points-style language, they’re unlike most other Conservatives in that they’re not completely full of crap.

In any case, Marshall Wittman, one of the made-men of the National Greatness crew, has just opened up a political commentary site.

(Between you and me, it looks suspiciously like Talking Points. But, hey, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? Or maybe he just copied it from Kausfiles, where I got the idea?)

In any case, if you’re the typical Talking Points reader you’ll probably find a lot of stuff on Wittman’s site you’ll disagree with. (The hokey picture of Ronald Reagan was almost enough to do it for me. But I held my hand over my left eye and tried to focus on the picture of Teddy Roosevelt — you’ll understand when you see the site.) But this sort of McCainite conservatism is the most interesting and dynamic stuff going on in the Republican party today. So I’d say it’s worth taking a look. Hell, I’ll even give it the official Talking Points Seal of Approval.

P.S. If you go to Wittman’s site and then feel guilty about it afterwards, just tell people, “Hey, look … I was young. I was experimenting.”   Works every time.

P.P.S. I think on a number of issues McCain is actually moving further left, or further toward the Dems, than his National Greatness admirers. But we’ll leave that for another post.

Dont miss the best

Don’t miss the best piece written so far on the Marc Rich pardon. It’s by Jacob Weisberg in Slate.

Are you suspicious about

Are you suspicious about whether the Bush tax cut would really give the average family a $1600 tax cut a year?

Well, you’ve got good reason.

According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities “85 percent of families would either receive a nominal tax cut of less than $1,600 or receive no tax cut at all” and “the median, or typical, family without children would receive a tax reduction of $266.”

Want more details? Check out the CBPP’s new fact sheet on how much the average family would really get under the Bush plan.

Damn Aint it just

Damn! Ain’t it just like Reuters to pinch a story from Talking Points like two days after we broke it?

Damn!

Reuters!?!?! Who’s Reuters!?!?

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