May 28, 2006
SENSENBRENNER OPPOSES the “path to citizenship.”
SENSENBRENNER OPPOSES the “path to citizenship.”
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi rails against the GOP “culture of corruption.”
And in the most boneheaded political move of 2006, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., just handed her extra rope.
This has been a sorry year for congressional ethics. Cunningham pleaded guilty. Under indictment and with news reports linking him to Abramoff, Rep. Tom DeLay has announced his resignation. When he pleaded guilty, Abramoff implicated Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio. Last month, Alan Mollohan, D-W.V., stepped down from the House ethics committee after The Wall Street Journal reported that he was under investigation for directing federal spending to nonprofits with which he has financial ties. So when the FBI raided the office of Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., Hastert should have kept his head down and, for a change, let Pelosi do the squirming.
Instead, Hastert and Pelosi issued a joint statement demanding that the federal government return “the papers it unconstitutionally seized.” Bush responded by sealing the seized records for 45 days.
Be it noted that the FBI had a subpoena and the House raid followed a search of Jefferson’s home last August that netted $90,000 stashed in Jefferson’s freezer — money that allegedly came from a $100,000 bribe captured on videotape. The feds had tried to get Jefferson to honor the subpoena for months — but to no avail.
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., told The Washington Times, “Make no mistake, the American people will come to one conclusion — that congressional leaders are trying to protect their own from valid investigation.” That’s certainly how I see it.
MORE ON WARD CHURCHILL, from a CU department head.
CAR CRASH AT INDY: Donald Sensing has more, including video.
And refresh my memory: Did Kerry ever release his military records in full, as he promised? It seems rather silly of him to restart this debacle otherwise.
UPDATE: More here.
TOM ELIA offers historical perspective for the ignorant.
IT’S A SPECIAL MEMORIAL DAY Carnival of the Recipes! I cooked barbecued chicken on the grill last night; the InstaDaughter made strawberry and blueberry trifle for dessert.
I KNEW IT WAS COMING: Amazon TV.
UPDATE: The reviews so far aren’t that positive.
THE PIECE BY PROF. ROBERT TURNER OF VIRGINIA that I linked yesterday, on separation of powers and Congressional immunity, is now up as a free link at OpinionJournal.com.
UPDATE: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has split with Hastert and Pelosi:
FRIST: … if there are accusations of bribery, of having lost the trust, abused the trust of the American people, criminal activity, no House member, no senator, nobody in government should be above the law of the land, period.
And a search warrant was obtained to go in. So to answer your question, no, I don’t think it abused separation of powers. I think there’s allegations of criminal activity, and the American people need to have the law enforced.
I don’t think it was a separation of powers question. I’ve looked at it very carefully.
He’s right, of course.
IF YOU WANT TO HELP the victims of the Java earthquake, most of the charities in this list will probably be helping.
PROBLEMS IN EAST TIMOR, but the United Nations doesn’t seem to have done much good:
After several soldiers opened fire on unarmed police in Dili on Thursday, killing 10 as they were being escorted from their headquarters by U.N. officers, the traumatized force melted away. Frightened officers fled for the surrounding hills. On Saturday, no one patrolled the largely abandoned streets but the vigilantes. . . .
Hours after the United Nations announced it was also evacuating nonessential personnel from the country, dozens of employees trickled into the U.N. compound carrying suitcases and backpacks. Some were distraught over leaving their Timorese colleagues behind and abruptly suspending services to the country’s impoverished population.
I can imagine. It certainly seems to have upset the Timorese:
Arriving at Dili’s airport, Tim Costello, the head of aid agency World Vision said the departure of international aid staff and UN officials was sending a bad signal.
“The symbols are all wrong,” Costello told AAP.
“The people who are camped here (at the airport), who can never get on a plane, see the UN leaving.
“I would hate to think of the message they get from that.
“I think it’s important for aid workers and the UN to actually be here and say, ‘You’re not so strife-torn and hopeless that it’s only a one-way ticket out.’”
The U.N. flies out, World Vision flies in. I know who I’d rather see getting my money. And Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has a sensible perspective:
“But it’s a very, very new country. After all, the referendum was only in August 1999.
“Full independence has come relatively recently. It’s going to be tough for them.”
These things take a while. It hasn’t fully settled down in the former Yugoslavia yet, after all.
A MAJOR QUAKE IN INDONESIA now said to have killed over 3,500 people. If past experience is any guide, those numbers will turn out to be low.
U.S. forces are standing by to help. That’s both the right thing to do, and good politics.
Of course, if you believe some sources, it’s all about the politics.
REPORTING FOR DUTY: A Memorial Day tribute.
TOM MAGUIRE: “John Kerry wants to re-fight the Swift Boats wars. My goodness, that is the only thing that could get the Times to cover this – during his campaign they stayed about as far from this story as Kerry was from Cambodia at Christmas time. . . . And just to be clear – I have no interest in beating on Kerry like a rented mule (again). I am much more curious to see whether we can demonstrate that the MSM was horribly deficient in their coverage of their story.”
A READER SAYS “It looks like this anti-aging stuff is working already:”
Doctors said sexually transmitted diseases among senior citizens are running rampant at a popular Central Florida retirement community, according to a Local 6 News report. . . .
A doctor blamed Viagra, a lack of sex education and no risk for pregnancy for the spike in sexually transmitted diseases at The Villages.
“All I can repeat are the things I have heard which are things like, ‘Should I bring the little blue pills over tonight?’” community singles group president Richard Matwyshen said.
Senior sex should still be safe sex.
MORE ON CONGRESS AND THE SEPARATION OF POWERS: What’s frustrating in these discussions is the failure to distinguish between what the law should be in somebody’s opinion, and what it actually is, based on the Constitution and the caselaw. This entry on Congressional immunity from Jerry Pournelle — a smart guy, but no lawyer — is a good example:
Just as each House is the judge of the qualification of its members, each House is responsible for enforcement of ethics and criminal actions of members. The Houses have sufficient authority to do as they will in those cases.
When you bring the executive power into direct enforcement against sitting Members of either house of Congress, you end the separation of powers. It is easy for the executive to fake ‘evidence’ if it chooses. Once the executive power can intimidate sitting Members of Congress, you have an entirely different kind of government.
Now it is required that the Houses inquire into the criminal actions of Members. But that is done by their own agents, or at the request of the Speaker or President pro tem; not by the executive authority.
Now you may think that this is a good idea — I don’t, but Pournelle apparently does — but it is not now, nor has it ever been, the law. In fact, with the sole exception of impeachment (which doesn’t run against members of Congress), the Congress cannot investigate or try offenses, and impeachment is carefully distinguished from criminal prosecution in the Constitution. The Constitution’s prohibition of Bills of Attainder, in fact, explicitly forbids Congress dealing with criminal matters.
A house of Congress can also refuse to seat members it judges not properly elected, and expel members for misbehavior — but even then it’s not immune from outside review, as Powell v. McCormack makes clear. (And note that when a member is expelled, it’s generally after criminal conviction not the result of independent Congressional investigation). The autonomy of Congress extends only to legislative business: Congress could, if it chose, let a convicted Senator or Representative continue to vote and participate in Congressional business from a jail cell, but the Speech and Debate Clause provides no generalized immunity from law enforcement, which is an executive function. It’s just not true that, as Pournelle claims, “Members of Congress and Senators enjoy many of the immunities of the old Roman Tribunes of the People.” At least, not unless “many” means “a slight tinge.”
I don’t know why this, which is and always has been the law, seems so hard for some people to grasp. It’s true, of course, that things are done differently elsewhere: The Russian Duma has immunity from prosecution, for example. But that’s not how it’s done here. And I thought that we weren’t supposed to get our constitutional law from foreign jurisdictions?
There’s a good oped on how unhappy many members of Congress are with the notion of accountability and how anxious they are for special status, by Prof. Bob Turner, in today’s Wall Street Journal. It’s subscription-only, but here’s an excerpt:
Put simply, only Congress can inquire into the motives or content of votes, speeches or other official legislative acts.
But as the Supreme Court observed in the 1972 case of United States v. Brewster, the clause was never intended to immunize corrupt legislators who violate felony bribery statutes — laws that have expressly applied to members of Congress for more than 150 years. In Brewster, the court noted the clause was not written “to make Members of Congress super-citizens, immune from criminal responsibility,” adding: “Taking a bribe is, obviously, no part of the legislative process or function; it is not a legislative act. It is not, by any conceivable interpretation, an act performed as a part of or even incidental to the role of a legislator.”
Such behavior is therefore not protected by the Constitution. The purpose of the Speech or Debate Clause was to protect the integrity of the legislative process, and the Court noted that bribery, “perhaps even more than Executive power,” would “gravely undermine legislative integrity and defeat the right of the public to honest representation.”
A dozen years ago, I testified before the House Committee on Administration on this same basic issue. Newt Gingrich and other reformers were trying to bring Congress under the same ethics laws it had imposed upon the rest of the country, and some indignant legislators seemed confident that the laws were not supposed to apply to them. The hearing was held in a small room in a part of the Capitol Building off-limits to the public, with exactly enough chairs for members, staff and the three witnesses.
Two members of the public who managed to make their way to the room were turned away on the grounds that there was “no room” for public observers.
Critics of the Gingrich proposal did not hear what they wanted. Some seemed genuinely shocked when I informed them that, in Federalist No. 57, James Madison noted one of the constraints in the Constitution to prevent legislators from enacting “oppressive measures” was that “they can make no law which will not have its full operation on themselves and their friends, as well as on the great mass of the society.”
It is increasingly rare to find a spirit of bipartisanship in Congress these days. So a display of the spirit would have been a good thing to see — especially in a time of war — but for the fact that the issue now uniting Republican and Democratic leaders is an outrageous assertion that members of Congress are above the law, and that the Constitution immunizes legislators who betray their public trust in return for bribes from investigation by the executive branch.
In light of the attitudes held by so many of our legislators, it is no wonder three times as many Americans disapprove of Congress’s job-performance as approve, according to last week’s Gallup Poll. Those are Congress’s lowest numbers since the Democrats were last in power a dozen years ago.
Congress probably has the power, constitutionally, to immunize its members from prosecution while in office. Such legislation would be immensely unpopular, of course, and would cause a lot of people to lose reelection: “Vote for me — I’m in favor of immunity for corrupt members of Congress!” isn’t much of a slogan.
That’s why members of Congress are making a bogus Constitutional argument instead of using their undisputed legislative powers: To avoid the very kind of legislative responsibility to the voters that the Constitution, and separation of powers, places squarely in their laps. Such behavior is reminiscent of what Bill Clinton did in Clinton v. Jones, and I don’t recall many of the Republicans who are taking a pro-immunity position now endorsing Clinton’s approach then.
IRAN, IRAQ, AND NUKES: Iraq the Model asks:
Does the CNN have problems with translation from Arabic to English or is it a case of deliberate twisting of facts?
Read the whole thing.
I am listening to President Bush’s speech at West Point and thinking “Why didn’t he give this speech three years ago?”
He’s liveblogged it.
Does the just-passed Senate immigration bill really only require illegal immigrants to pay back taxes for 3 of the past 5 years? It looks that way. I’ll take that deal! … My sophisticated political antennae tell me that this provision will not go over well! At some point, the voters may conclude the Senate has simply lost its mind.
Ya think? And yes, I’d like a couple of tax-free years, please. And without even having to donate a kidney!
BECAUSE YOUR BOOK CAN’T BE ANY GOOD IF YOU DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT POLITICAL ATTITUDES:
Yesterday, we blogged the Yale press release (dated 5/23/06) stating that Michael J. Graetz (Yale) & Ian Shapiro (Yale) had won the Sidney Hillman Foundation Award for their book Death by a Thousand Cuts: The Fight over Taxing Inherited Wealth (Princeton University Press, 2005). According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the foundation at the last minute rescinded the award because of Shapiro’s opposition to the unionization of Yale graduate students.
PROBLEMS with the Space Elevator concept? They don’t sound insuperable to me.
FRANCE DEFEATED AGAIN: By New World wines:
At the tasting of 10 red and 10 white wines, evenly split between French and American in both classes, the panel awarded the top place in both categories to Californian wine. A Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 1973 topped the white wines, beating famous French names such as Puligny-Montrachet.
In the red category, a Stag’s Leap Cabernet-Sauvignon 1973, now unobtainable, beat names such as Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1973 (now roughly £100 a bottle).
There was only one journalist there. The French media stayed away, assuming the result would be a bore.
UPDATE: More on the new result here:
French and California winemakers marked the 30th anniversary of the storied Judgment of Paris tasting with another sip-and-spit showdown.
California won — and by more than a nose.
The domestic wines took the top five of 10 spots, with a 1971 Ridge Monte Bello cabernet sauvignon from the Santa Cruz mountains coming out on top Wednesday.
“Today was a snapshot in time and all the stars were aligned properly. We had a lot of fun,” said Peter Marks, director of wine at Copia, the Napa Valley wine and arts centre where the New World end of the tasting was held. A European panel of tasters met at a London wine merchant to give their rating.
BRIAN NOGGLE is unhappy with ballot technicalities in Missouri.
JEFFERSON SCANDAL UPDATE:
A former aide to U.S. Rep. William Jefferson was sentenced Friday to eight years in prison for his role in a bribery scandal involving the congressman.
Brett Pfeffer, 37, of Herndon, Va., pleaded guilty in January to two bribery-related charges: conspiracy to commit bribery and aiding and abetting bribery of a public official.
Pfeffer’s eight-year term was in the mid-range of the federal sentencing guidelines. Pfeffer, who is cooperating in the ongoing investigation of Jefferson, may be eligible for a reduction of his sentence once his cooperation is complete, said prosecutor Mark Lytle.
I wonder what that cooperation will involve.
UPDATE: Meanwhile, an interesting backstory at the Justice Department:
The Justice Department signaled to the White House this week that the nation’s top three law enforcement officials would resign or face firing rather than return documents seized from a Democratic congressman’s office in a bribery investigation, according to administration sources familiar with the discussions.
The possibility of resignations by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales; his deputy, Paul J. McNulty; and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III was communicated to the White House by several Justice officials in tense negotiations over the fate of the materials taken from Rep. William J. Jefferson’s office.
Assuming this report (based on anonymous sources) is true, it seems likely that this means the Jefferson investigation goes well beyond the not-entirely-newsworthy phenomenon of a corrupt Louisiana Congressman. Even if the claims of Congressional immunity are bogus — which they are — I can’t imagine these guys threatening resignation over a run-of-the-mill corruption case. That makes me think that there are a lot of other members of Congress implicated, which perhaps also explains the rather, um, vigorous reaction from Congress.
UPDATE: Some speculation on what might be going on.
ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader who claims insider knowledge says not to get ahead of the news cycle on the Gonzales-resignation story. Well, stay tuned!
MORE: Some thoughts from Ed Morrissey:
Hastert and his colleagues have busied themselves with goalpost-moving and backtracking. Before, they claimed a Constitutional privilege of freedom from search warrants and subpoenas from the executive branch, even though Congress regularly issues subpoenas without judicial approval against members of the executive branch. Now Hastert has acknowledged that Congressmen are subject to the same laws as everyone else, but have modified their complaint; now they say the issue is that Jefferson and his attorney were not allowed to be present at the search. That’s a far cry from the phony Constitutional crisis they declared earlier this week, perhaps a more reasonable issue and certainly one that didn’t require Hastert’s intercession. He could have kept his mouth shut and let Jefferson’s attorney raise that question when the evidence got submitted for trial — just like any other defendant in a criminal case.
The denouement of this kerfuffle demonstrates two very important points. George Bush still holds the power in Washington and in the GOP, and this controversy shows that he and the people at Justice remain the adults in charge of the day care center. Hastert has severely damaged himself politically in two ways. No one in the GOP will ever give Hastert the same level of trust again after this attempt to pervert the Constitution, and Republicans will remain furious with him for taking the focus off of William Jefferson and his cash-cow business in selling his vote.
That sounds about right to me.
MEMORIAL DAY THOUGHTS, FROM VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: Worth reading, as always.
TUCKER MAX wins a lawsuit.
JEFFERSON ON JEFFERSON: Writing in Slate, Akhil Amar writes on the Framers’ views on Congressional immunity:
None of what T.J. said helps W.J. W.J. is a target of a criminal corruption investigation, and if criminally charged, he would have no more Arrest Clause protection than any of the countless other sitting Congress members who have been criminally prosecuted over the years—Dan Rostenkowski, Duke Cunningham, and Tom DeLay, to name just three.
Since W.J. has no immunity from an ordinary criminal arrest, it is hard to see why he has some kind of blanket immunity from an ordinary criminal search to uncover evidence of his suspected crime. If other white-collar suspects are vulnerable to office searches, why is William Jefferson any different?
What about the remainder of Article I, Section 6, which specifically protects congressional “Speech or Debate”? Here, too, the language provides little shelter for W.J.
This is no surprise. The scope of Congressional immunity is, and always has been, narrow. What’s disappointing is that the Speaker of the House, and so many of his colleagues, are either abysmally ignorant of an aspect of constitutional law that’s directly related to their jobs, or that they’re just flat-out dishonest. Either way, they deserve every bit of political damage they suffer.
UPDATE: More from Prof. Rachel Barkow of NYU, interviewed in the WSJ:
What do you make of the arguments from members of Congress?
“They’re reading [the speech and debate clause] very broadly, more broadly than I think is even remotely justifiable,” she says. There have been other cases where members of Congress have been subjected to criminal process for things that take place outside of their legislative duties; Ms. Barkow says she doesn’t see any reason why a search warrant couldn’t be executed on a congressional office.
What about the argument that this FBI raid represents an extension of the power of the executive branch?
The FBI is an arm of the executive branch. But the warrant was approved through the courts, part of the judiciary branch. “It’s not unilateral executive action. It was done with approval of the judiciary in so far as they had to get a warrant,” Ms. Barkow says.
This is not an especially difficult question.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Heh.
MICHAEL YON HAS A POST on the stolen photo issue:
I first became aware of the infringement when stunned and angry readers contacted me under the mistaken belief that I allowed SHOCK magazine to use it on their cover. I did not, and never would have agreed to their usage. I regularly turn down usage requests for this photo — uses that could earn money — because this photo is sacred to me and is representative of the U.S. soldiers I have come to know. It is also representative of the horrors of the enemy we all face.
My attorneys are in discussions with those at fault, and we have demanded that all copies of the magazine be removed from circulation and from the internet.
RAMESH PONNURU ASKS: “Is this really what the Republican Senate wants to take up in the aftermath of the immigration bill? A bill to pave the way for secessionism in Hawaii?”
REUTERS HAS SUSPENDED AN EMPLOYEE over threats aimed at Charles Johnson.
THE CARNIVAL OF CARS IS UP!
THIS IS COOL: “Contests energize the battle against aging.”
THE LATEST BLOG WEEK IN REVIEW PODCAST is now up, with special guest Jeff Goldstein.
GOOD NEWS: “The International Ski Federation approved women’s ski jumping for the 2009 World Championships Friday, an important step before gaining Olympic approval.”
TIM LYNCH ON FANNIE MAE and trimming government for dummies.
JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH has been confirmed by the Senate.
A LETTER TO CINDY SHEEHAN from Cathy Seipp. It begins, “Dear Useful Idiot.”
FOR SOME REASON, I haven’t been getting email this morning. It seems to be some sort of gmail problem, and it’ll probably fix itself, but if you’ve emailed me through the site and I’ve missed it, I’m sorry.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: More on pork and corruption in the House:
Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona, another conservative stalwart, tried unsuccessfully to strip millions of dollars worth of farm subsidies out of the bill. “I offered eight amendments and every single one got voted down,” he says.
After the defeat, Flake told the New York Times, “”We have one of our former members in jail right now for basically selling earmarks”—referring to disgraced former member Randy “Duke” Cunningham. “He was able to get his earmarks through the legislative process without being challenged. Jack Abramoff reportedly referred to the Appropriations Committee as an ‘earmark favor factory.’”
In response to these comments, the earmarks’ defenders told the Times that Flake’s comments were out of line.
1994. Again. Right? I mean, these guys were never rocket scientists, but when I see this many people acting this stupidly — and in the face of lousy approval ratings that should be getting their attention — I have to wonder what I’m missing.
UPDATE: More here from Jacob Sullum:
Like most of their colleagues, Bonilla and Obey think buying votes with other people’s money is perfectly honorable—indeed, something (unlike respecting the Constitution) they are obligated to do as the people’s representatives. Hence it is light years away from the blatant corruption represented by such malefactors as Cunningham and Abramoff. Flake’s point, which Bonilla and Obey pretended to miss, was that the earmark system, by allowing legislators to quietly slip in funding for pet projects, invites such corruption.
But pork is also a form of corruption in itself, involving the use of taxpayer money not to perform the legitimate functions of the federal government but to serve the legislator’s own interest–in this case, staying in power, which brings with it all sorts of perks. Cunningham did pretty much the same thing, bringing federal money to his district at the behest of his constituents, except that he got some additional goodies in the process. If the actions are the same, does the antique armoire make all the difference?
To some people.
JOHN TABIN on the Jefferson search.
A BEGINNING FOR THE EUSTON MANIFESTO: Norm Geras has thoughts.
HUH. JUST SAW THIS. Call it sincere flattery.
NANCY PELOSI speaks. But not clearly.
Some related thoughts over at GlennReynolds.com.
UPDATE: Reader Edward Tabakin writes:
I do believe we’ve just seen the Republicans make their own “Post Office.” Yep, 1994, all over again.
Why do you think the President caved so quickly? Did Hastert threaten to stop all legislation? Given the Senate’s Immigration Bill is headed for conference, that might be a good thing.
Indeed. I’m increasingly convinced that there’s something going on behind the scenes that we’re not hearing, but I’m not sure what it is.
DEATH THREATS from Reuters?
So does this mean that one man’s terrorist is another man’s . . . Reuters journalist?
A FRESH WARNING ABOUT REGULATING BLOGS: “Former Federal Election Commissioner Brad Smith said the threat of campaign regulations for blogs is still very much alive, despite the FEC largely exempting blogs earlier this year.”
Eternal vigilance, and all that. Plus, given the job that Congress is doing, it’s easy to see why there might be pressure to shut down criticism.
JIM GERAGHTY: “So, no sooner than I spend the better part of a week making the case as to why conservatives ought to not sit out the 2006, elections, Dennis Hastert and many senior Republicans behave in a manner that suggests they’re riding to the aid of Democratic Congressman William Jefferson and declaring that the FBI has no right to search a member’s office. . . . At this moment, I completely understand the anger of the Tapscottians, those who are content to see a GOP majority fall. Although honestly, at this moment, I don’t want to wait until November to see this kind of behavior punished.”
JOHN HINDERAKER: “The Bush administration and Republican Senators have badly misjudged both the attitudes of most Republicans (and, of course, most Americans) toward illegal immigration, and the intensity of those views.”
A NEW CONGRESSIONAL BUMPER STICKER: Heh.
THE L.A. TIMES and Holocaust denial.
BAD IDEA: Stealing a picture from Michael Yon.
Especially when you’re a deep pocket. . . .
MORE REVISIONIST HISTORY? At least this time it’s not about the war. . . .
BREAKS OUT SPREADS: “Bush orders FBI-Congress documents sealed.”
President Bush stepped into the Justice Department’s constitutional confrontation with Congress on Thursday and ordered that documents seized in an FBI raid on a congressman’s office be sealed for 45 days.
Could Al Qaeda have slipped mind-altering drugs into the DC water supply? What’s gotten into these people? Or has some sort of deal been cut? Whatever it is, I don’t think I like it.
UPDATE: A reader emails:
The article quotes Bush as saying:
“‘This period will provide both parties more time to resolve the issues in a way that ensures that materials relevant to the ongoing criminal investigation are made available to prosecutors in a manner
that respects the interests of a coequal branch of government,’ Bush said.”
Why does this sound so much like “This period will provide both parties more time to cover their asses?”
I’ve been struggling the past year to support the president and have faith in congress; it’s been difficult and I’ve taken a lot of flak for it among my academic colleagues. The behavior of our “leaders” in congress, and now Bush, has finally sealed the deal. Next election, all my votes are going to non-incumbents; regardless of party affiliation. The past few days have made it abundantly clear that they’ve forgotten (1) why they were elected and (2) what the limitations of their power (and trust) are.
I keep wondering what I’m missing here. It’s too late for a big third-party push in ’06, I think, but I’m pretty sure we’ll see one in ’08. At this rate, it may be the only party left . . . .
UPDATE: Ed Morrissey thinks that this is just a case of Bush allowing for a face-saving climbdown on Hastert’s part. Hastert may climb down, but I think it’s too late for him to save face.
And there’s this observation: “Instapundit wonders, ‘Could Al Qaeda have slipped mind-altering drugs into the DC water supply? What’s gotten into these people? Or has some sort of deal been cut?’ Since I haven’t seen any UFOs split the sky like a sheet today I would have to go with his latter hunch.” Yeah, though to be honest I think I’d feel better if it were the drugs.
DENNIS HASTERT: Unfit for Command?
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Mark Tapscott says that Senate Appropriators went hog-wild on earmarks:
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-PA, is the most frequent requester of earmarks on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, with 77 requests for such special interest spending measures between 2001 and 2006.
Specter lead the earmark fest that saw GOP members of the panel request an average of 27 earmarks during the five years. By contrast, the dozen Democrat members of the committee requested an average of 17 earmarks.
Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-CA, was the leading earmark requester among Democrat members of the appropriations committee, with 75. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, was shown with only one earmark request.
The data for this analysis was compiled for a report by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, chaired by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK. The report was based on information provided by the Congressional Research Service.
Trailing Specter – who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee – among the top five GOP requesters was Sen. Mike DeWine, R-OH, with 53, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-AK, with 33, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-AL, with 21, and Sen. Thad Cochran, R-MS, with 19. Cochran is chairman of the committee.
Read the whole thing. And weep. Especially if you’re a Republican.
UPDATE: Follow the link for Mark Tapscott’s correction.
LAY AND SKILLING CONVICTED: Professor Bainbridge is blogging it.
I’ll just note that I think Paul Krugman’s claim that Enron would be bigger than 9/11 seems not to have come true.
The Treasury Department announced this morning that after losing in five circuit courts of appeals, the Government is throwing in the towel and will no longer seek to enforce the 3% excise tax on long-distance telephone calls enacted during the Spanish-American War of 1898 as a “luxury” tax on wealthy Americans who owned telephones. The IRS will will issue $15 billion in refunds to consumers for long-distance telephone service taxes paid over the past three years.
It’s a nice reminder of how long “temporary” taxes can last, and of how taxes targeted at “the rich” often turn out to reach others.
THEY’RE IDIOTS IN CONGRESS, but the economy continues to boom.
TAKING A CLUEBAT TO CONGRESS over at Hot Air.
NATIONAL REVIEW: “By nothing more than dumb luck, the Republican-controlled Congress—lambasted for the junkets, earmarks, and ‘culture of corruption’ that have aligned to produce the lowest approval ratings in memory—was handed a shot at some desperately needed redemption. All its leaders had to do was make the right choice between condemning the rankest corruption and displaying an outsized arrogance. Guess which one they chose?”
The Washington Post offers a scolding, too.
VIOLENT PROTESTS IN IRAN: Gateway Pundit has a roundup.
CONGRESS’S NEW SLOGAN:
WARRANTS: Not good enough for us, too good for you.
I’d say “heh,” but it’s too accurate to be really funny.
IN THE MAIL: Steven Lubet’s Lawyers’ Poker : 52 Lessons that Lawyers Can Learn from Card Players. They sent me a cool deck of cards, too, but I don’t think it actually comes with the book.
ANDREW MCCARTHY: “You may have thought the Republican congressional leadership had run out of feet to shoot themselves in in their mind-boggling quest to place themselves, in the public mind, squarely on the side of coddling corruption rather than ridding themselves of a disgraced member. Nope. . . . Short of allowing congress to be in charge of investigations of congressmen, it’s hard to see how the Justice Department could have been more solicitous of the privileges and immunities of the legislature. It is just stunning that the Speaker is taking this tack, in favor of a guy on videotape taking a $100K, most of which he stashed in his freezer.”
QUESTIONS FOR ABC on the Hastert story.
The army and navy forces in the Delta Region are facing better armed and equipped local gangs, and are not able to shut the gangs down. Tapping into oil pipelines and stealing oil continues, and this provides the gangs with a steady cash flow. The better armed gangs are branching out into more ambitious attacks on oil company operations in the Delta. Payrolls are a favorite target. The region is becoming more dangerous, and unruly.
Keep an eye on this.
IT’S A CLINTON-FEST AT KAUSFILES: Bill rages, Hillary scolds, and Kaus has a terrific time.
DAN RIEHL: “I submit that, not only does Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank unfairly play the race card against Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions; in his myopic view, he totally fails to see where and how it actually should be played on the issue of illegal immigration.”
UPDATE: He’s got more on ABC’s Hastert “scoop,” too.
BYRON YORK: “If House Speaker Dennis Hastert has his way, why should any member of Congress ever comply with a subpoena? And are the members who have complied with subpoenas in the past kicking themselves for being such saps?”
ORIN KERR IS TAKING SUGGESTIONS FOR CONGRESSIONAL HEARING TOPICS: He’s got some pretty funny ones to start with.
I ASKED IF THEY HAD SOMETHING TO HIDE. THE ANSWER JUST MAY BE YES:
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, is under investigation by the FBI, which is seeking to determine his role in an ongoing public corruption probe into members of Congress, ABC News has learned from high level government sources.
Federal officials say the information implicating Hastert was developed from convicted lobbyists who are now cooperating with the government.
Perhaps the bizarre bipartisan reaction to the Jefferson search — and the lack of cooperation preceding it — stems from the fact that a lot of people in both parties have exposure here. And certainly if the Speaker is under investigation it’s easy to see why the FBI might be reluctant to rely further on the Sergeant at Arms and the Capitol Police.
UPDATE: I’ve got an email from Krista Cole in the House saying that the DOJ denies that Hastert is under investigation. The release, in its entirety: “Speaker Hastert is not under investigation by the Justice Department.”
Nothing on the DOJ webpage yet, though. But here’s a Reuters story.
MORE: Reader Chris Quincy emails: “One wonders if ABC would’ve sourced this more carefully if it were Nancy Pelosi.” It’s a rather surprising error. I wonder who ABC’s sources were?
But hey, they weren’t so much wrong as just too far ahead of the news cycle.
STILL MORE: Krista Cole emails the following statement from Dennis Hastert’s office: “The ABC News report is absolutely untrue. As confirmed by the Justice Department, ‘Speaker Hastert is not under investigation by the Justice Department.’ We are demanding a full retraction of the ABC News story. The Speaker’s earlier statement issued today accurately reflects the facts regarding this matter.”
Of course, if Hastert isn’t under investigation, we’re back to the question of why he’s waging an asinine crusade against the enforcement of laws against Congressional corruption.
MORE STILL: On that topic, Eugene Volokh writes: “I confess I’m pretty puzzled by Speaker Hastert’s theory here.”
EVEN MORE: More anti-Congress backlash. These guys really don’t understand how they come across.
AND FINALLY: ABC News is standing by the story.
MARY KATHARINE HAM contrasts the prosecution of North Carolina’s Jeep Jihadi versus that of the Duke lacrosse players: “Taheri-azar and the Duke lacrosse players were all technically innocent until proven guilty. In one case, public officials, the press, and the local community did their best to deny the accused that particular courtesy of American justice. Tellingly, it was not the case of the murderous thug who confessed to attempting to kill his classmates, in a fashion reminiscent of Mohammad Atta, just for being non-Muslims—and then detailed his plans and motivations in letters to a local paper.”
CONGRESS MEMBERS AGREE: Congress is above the law!
House leaders of both parties stood in rare election-year unanimity Wednesday demanding the FBI surrender documents it took and remove agents involved in the weekend raid of a congressman’s office.
“The Justice Department must immediately return the papers it unconstitutionally seized,” House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
I say, search ‘em all. Now. They must have something to hide, right? They certainly don’t mind much more intrusive paramilitary raids on the rest of us, even though the Fourth Amendment provides a lot more reason to doubt the validity of those than the Speech and Debate Clause provides where Congressional searches are concerned.
Read this post from Orin Kerr, too, on the weakness of the constitutional argument they’re making. There may be a prudential argument that searches like this are a bad idea — though, frankly, I don’t think a very convincing one — but to claim that the Constitution forbids the execution of a search warrant by law enforcement simply because the target is a Congressional office is weak and self-serving.
The leadership — of both parties — should be ashamed of this stunt. They should remember that the Constitution forbids titles of nobility, too, despite their effort to transform their positions into something very much like that.
MORE: Reader Peter Neva thinks my “search ‘em all” reference was a serious call to ransack all Congressional offices. Uh, no. It’s a reference to this post. You’ve got to follow the discussion here, you know.
STILL MORE: Unlike me, Jonathan Andrew is all for searching them all, and thinks there’s no legitimate expectation of privacy in a taxpayer-funded Congressional office: “I hereby call for just that: What could they possibly have, in their official capacity as our representatives, to hide from us?”
We don’t disagree all that much: It’s in that spirit that I’ve supported applying the Freedom of Information Act to Congress.
AT BEST OF THE WEB, more criticism of Dennis Hastert’s claim of special privileges for Congress:
Hastert and Boehner’s objections are bound to rub many Republican constitutents the wrong way. After all, the first plank of the Contract With America was a promise to “require all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply equally to the Congress.” Something like this makes it harder to argue that the GOP deserves to maintain its majority.
GOOGLE FUNDING MOVEON? Eli Pariser denies it.
EXPLOSION AND FIRE at the Istanbul airport.
InstaPundit’s Istanbul correspondent Claire Berlinski emails:
I’m back in Istanbul (I flew in yesterday and as usual missed the excitement). I’m looking out the window, but not seeing this big black cloud of smoke everyone’s talking about — then again, I’m a ways from the airport and don’t have an unobstructed view in that direction anyway. Thing is, everyone is saying that it doesn’t seem to be terrorism, but first, how on earth would they know — after all, the place is on fire so they can’t exactly be sifting through the evidence — and second, isn’t that exactly the place you’d target if you’re trying to injure the Turkish tourism industry right before high season? That is, after all, the PKK’s explicit and stated strategy. The building on fire, by the way, is reportedly near a hangar housing military aircraft. I don’t have any kind of inside information, I just think it’s a little odd that everyone is so quick to say this doesn’t seem to be a work of terrorism, since if I were a terrorist, that would look like one mighty tempting target to me. Then again, what I do see out my window is four Turkish workmen horsing around on rickety scaffolding that is, to put it mildly, not up to EU safety standards, so it also seems quite culturally plausible that someone at the airport just stubbed out a cigarette around a pile of inflammable chemicals or something.
UPDATE: Berlinski sends a photo (by her fiance David Gross) of the scaffold. Click “read more” to see it.
InstaPundit’s Istanbul correspondent Claire Berlinski e…’ »
THE CLUB FOR GROWTH BLOG is praising Barney Frank. They’re right to.
DETENTION FOR A BLOG ENTRY? I don’t think that high schools have any business punishing students for things they do when they’re out of school, whether or not they blog about them.
Plus, the weasel-phrase “illegal or inappropriate behavior” sets my teeth on edge. Do I trust a high-school principal to judge what off-campus behavior is “inappropriate?” I don’t really even trust them with regard to what’s happening on campus.
SOME THOUGHTS ON CONGRESS, MUBARAK, AND CHUTZPAH, over at GlennReynolds.com.
IN THE MAIL: Peter Beinart’s new book, The Good Fight : Why Liberals—and Only Liberals—Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again. I don’t think that there are enough liberal hawks left in the Democratic Party — which is currently trying to purge Joe Lieberman — to matter, but I’d love to be wrong.
There’s an interesting debate going on in the book’s discussion forum, anyway.
UPDATE: An interesting Q&A with Jeffrey Goldberg, who’s got a new piece in the New Yorker on the Democrats’ prospects. It’s hard to argue with this: “The Democrats can probably win on the negatives for the 2006 elections, but those who think they can go negative and win the White House in 2008 are kidding themselves.”
Meanwhile, I’m not sure what this means: “‘Hillary for president’ rally draws 20 instead of hoped-for 200.” But it’s got to be making Al Gore and Mark Warner happy.
MORE ON THE MEDIA’S KATRINA DEBACLE:
Where to begin? As I’ve written before, virtually all of the gripping stories from Katrina were untrue. All of those stories about, in Paula Zahn’s words, “bands of rapists, going block to block”? Not true. The tales of snipers firing on medevac helicopters? Bogus. The yarns, peddled on Oprah by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and the New Orleans police chief, that “little babies” were getting raped in the Superdome and that the bodies of the murdered were piling up? Completely false. The stories about poor blacks dying in comparatively huge numbers because American society “left them behind”? Nah-ah. While most outlets limited themselves to taking Nagin’s estimate of 10,000 dead at face value, Editor and Publisher—the watchdog of the media—ran the headline, “Mortuary Director Tells Local Paper 40,000 Could Be Lost in Hurricane.”
In all of Louisiana, not just New Orleans, the total dead from Katrina was roughly 1,500. Blacks did not die disproportionately, nor did the poor. The only group truly singled out in terms of mortality was the elderly. According to a Knight-Ridder study, while only 15 percent of the population of New Orleans was over the age of 60, some 74 percent of the dead were 60 or older, and almost half were older than 75. Blacks were, if anything, slightly underrepresented among the dead given their share of the population.
This barely captures how badly the press bungled Katrina coverage. . . . And yet, an ubiquitous media chorus claims simultaneously that Katrina was Bush’s worst hour and the press’s best.
Read the whole thing. But what they learned was that if they all shouted lies in unison they could drive Bush down in the polls.
ED MORRISSEY ON THE JEFFERSON INVESTIGATION and the lame response from the Congressional leadership:
This can’t be the same Congress that issues subpoenas for all sorts of probes into the executive branch and the agencies it runs. Does Congress really want to establish a precedent that neither branch has to answer subpoenas if issued by the other, even if approved by a judge — which this particular subpoena was? . . .
Congress already has enough problems with corruption and scandal without adding even more arrogance to top it. If the leadership wants to argue that their status as elected officials somehow gives them the ability to disregard subpoenas and court orders, then the American people may want to trade that leadership to ensure that Congress understands that it operates under the same laws as the rest of us. Hastert and Boehner do not argue against an imperial presidency, but rather they are arguing for an untouchable political elite, where our elected officials risk nothing by taking bribes and selling their votes to the highest bidder. After all, the evidence of those transactions will almost always reside in their offices — and if they can ignore duly executed subpoenas and search warrants, then they can sell themselves at will.
This whole “cut their pay and send them home” thing is sounding better and better . . . .
Of course, if Hastert thinks the Democrats may take the House in November, this may be exactly the kind of precedent he wants to establish!
UPDATE: Jim Hoft doesn’t think that Hastert is that smart. Neither do I.
ANOTHER UPDATE: John Podhoretz:
There is every reason to believe that a member of the House of Representatives was using his physical office on Capitol Hill to hide evidence of massive bribe-taking — bribe-taking that has been caught on tape, by the way. That Congressman is a figure in the Democratic party. The Republican party has been reeling from bribery and corruption scandals of its own. So the Speaker of the House, the leader of Republicans in the House, actually complains to the president that the raid on the Democratic congressman’s office is an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers. In so doing, he reinforces the image that Congress, which almost never polices itself, cares less abou corruption than it does about its prerogatives. It also steps on the very important political story that might help diffuse the image of specifically Republican corruption. I don’t know how to put this any other way, and I’m sorry if it sounds insulting, but: Whether you consider him the leader of an institution whose standing among the public is at historically low levels and in need of drastic moral renovation or a leading partisan official whose team is in pretty bad shape and could use a bit of a boost, Denny Hastert is a blithering idiot.
It sure looks that way.
MORE: More unhappiness here. Really, are the Congressional Republicans trying to throw the 2006 race?
The last two weeks have seen an ambitious Taliban offensive shot to pieces. As many as a thousand Taliban gunmen, in half a dozen different groups, have passed over the Pakistani border, or been gathered within Afghanistan, and sent off to try and take control of remote villages and districts. The offensive was a major failure, with nearly half the Taliban getting killed, wounded or captured. Afghan and Coalition casualties were much less, although you wouldn’t know that from the mass media reports (which made it all look like a Taliban victory). The Taliban faced more mobile opponents, who had better intelligence. UAVs, aircraft and helicopters were used to track down the Taliban, and catch them. Thousands of Afghan troops and police were in action, exposing some of them to ambush, as they drove to new positions through remote areas.
Yes, as Bill Roggio noted, and Michael Yon confirmed, the news reports, rather exaggerated to begin with, are of the form “Dozens killed in renewed fighting,” without mentioning that most of those killed are people who should be killed.
DAN RIEHL thinks that Google is heading for a fall.
THIS SEEMS RATHER IRONIC:
The American Civil Liberties Union is weighing new standards that would discourage its board members from publicly criticizing the organization’s policies and internal administration.
“Where an individual director disagrees with a board position on matters of civil liberties policy, the director should refrain from publicly highlighting the fact of such disagreement,” the committee that compiled the standards wrote in its proposals.
“Directors should remember that there is always a material prospect that public airing of the disagreement will affect the A.C.L.U. adversely in terms of public support and fund-raising,” the proposals state.
Given the organization’s longtime commitment to defending free speech, some former board members were shocked by the proposals.
I don’t agree with those who demonize the ACLU, but I’m disappointed in how it has declined over the past decade or two. The ACLU has been corrupted by its dependence on a comparatively small fundraising base, something that’s common with nonprofits. The organization also seems to have been captured by the paid staff, which feels entitled to run things without the Board’s actual input That’s another common problem in the nonprofit world. But this is making clear just how far things have gone at the ACLU, at the expense of its ostensible mission.