Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Blagojevich, soon to be impeached, goes ahead and appoints Roland Burris as Obama’s Senate replacement anyway
[Eric Kleefeld] Rod Blagojevich and Roland Burris just held their press conference to announce the attempted appointment of Burris to the Senate -- and it was a train wreck if there ever was one. . . .
[Steve Benen] I hope I wasn't the only one who watched the Blagojevich/Burris press conference rather gobsmacked. The controversy surrounding Blagojevich was surreal enough before today, but this afternoon's leak, followed by a bizarre press conference, has moved this story from bizarre to farcical. . . . Blagojevich seemed to be having a great time. I got the sense that he thinks, for the first time in weeks, that he's finally on the offense, sticking it to, well, pretty much everyone. He even took a shot at the legislature, saying today's decision is their fault, because they didn't call for the special election he wanted.

It was quite the political circus.

Don't miss it!

What’s he trying to pull?
[Dan Conley] The selection of former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to replace President-Elect Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate has very little to do with the actual seat. Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has already made it clear that he will not certify any Blagojevich pick. That will give the Senate Democratic caucus sufficient cause to reject the appointment, which they have already pledged to do. At this point, it would be impossible for the Democrats to backtrack on their earlier pledge, it would implicate them in the Blagojevich sleaze, which is something they will avoid at all costs. So while Burris seems like a winner today, he's a long-term loser.

Why did he agree to be used? Because he's desperate to return to the limelight. It's a sad end to a career that included numerous runs for governor, the U.S. Senate and Mayor of Chicago, plus a term as the state's Attorney General. The truth is, he wasn't much of an Attorney General -- the legal opinions that came out of his office in the early 90s were legally suspect and linguistically challenged -- but he has been a fixture in Illinois politics for years and he's escaped any hint of corruption.

The appointment of Burris is a pure impeachment-defense tactic from Blagojevich. First, he's making a public case that no crime was actually committed. If Burris was appointed without any quid pro quo (highly likely, since Burris has no great wealth or influence), then Blagojevich can argue that all the talk about other possible appointments were just that -- talk. And talk is not a crime. Is anyone going to buy that? Well, even if only ten percent of Illinois voters buy it, Blagojevich will have doubled his support, so why not? There's a certain freedom in nearly complete unpopularity.

But second, and more important for Blagojevich's survival plans, he's chosen to play the race card. To anyone who thought that the election of Barack Obama would diminish the power of racial politics, today's press conference was depressing -- especially the appalling spectacle of Rep. Bobby Rush using the word "lynch" in reference to criticism of Burris, then Blagojevich repeating the phrase while wagging a finger at the press corp on the way out of the room. For a Governor looking to rally support in the House and Senate to avoid impeachment or convinction, it's a smart move. A combination of African American and Latino Senators could be sufficient to save Blagojevich from a conviction in the Illinois Senate. It probably won't work, but Blagojevich has few options left.
[Digby] He's trying to divide the Democrats both in Illinois and Washington and he did it using a powerful tool. . . . Blago pointed to the press on his way out of the room and said "don't lynch this appointee." What a piece of work.
[Kevin Drum] I don't really have the words for it. I mean, what can you say about something like this? Blagojevich is obviously living in his own personal looking-glass land these days.

Still, the silver lining here is that maybe this will give the Illinois legislature the kick in the butt it needs to get cracking on impeachment. Maybe.

The racial angle
[Joan Walsh] All hell broke loose during the press conference, as reporters asked how much Burris' law firm had contributed to the governor, and Burris and Blagojevich took turns at the podium. Then a frail-looking Rep. Bobby Rush, the former Black Panther who represents Obama's district in Congress, made his surprise appearance. "My prayers have been answered ... that the governor would appoint an African-American to complete the term of President Obama." Rush reminded the crowd there is no African-American in the U.S. Senate, and that Illinois has elected two black senators, Obama and Carol Moseley-Braun (although Burris endorsed Alan Dixon over Moseley-Braun in the 1992 Democratic primary). "It has tremendous national importance," said Rush, who defeated Obama to keep his House seat in 2000. Rush promised to lobby his "friend," Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, to change his mind and back Burris and urged observers not to "hang or lynch" the black Democrat. . . .
[Eric Kleefeld] You really do have to wonder what planet Roland Burris is living on right now.

In an appearance just now on MSNBC, Burris was asked about the possibility of the Senate refusing to seat him. "Well, I think you will see a major outcry form the people of Illinois," Burris said, "based on the fact that the governor has appointed me."

Illinois Sect’y of State says he won’t certify the appointment

Senate Dems say they won’t vote to seat Burris
[Jonathan Singer] It's still not clear to me that the Senate can refuse to seat Burris if he is certified . . . (and, by the way, it's not clear that the SoS has the power to withhold certification) . . . [read on]

Obama: “I agree” with Senate Dems

Who is Roland Burris?
[Mark Kleiman] Roland Burris seems to have a reputation as reasonably clean but not too bright. . . . Burris has been a losing candidate for just about every major office in Chicago and Illinois. . . . [read on]


Minnesota Senate race: the final stretch
It's Official: Franken Ahead By 50 Votes For Now . . .

Next steps?
[Dday] The working rule from the state Supreme Court is that both the Franken and Coleman campaigns have to agree on allowing a ballot to be counted, and that is predictably going unwell. Of the 1,360 ballots that local election officials have cited as eligible for counting, Coleman is asking for just a portion to be counted, and most of them come from areas that voted for him in big numbers. They also want to look at ballots that officials did not put on the list. So Coleman is re-litigating the election, while Franken is perfectly content to have those 1,360 ballots counted and to leave it at that, which considering that he's only 50 votes ahead is something of a risk, although the absentees in general are thought to favor him.

Meanwhile, Coleman's strategy is to bash election officials and claim that the election is tainted as he moves into what will certainly be a contested election and a series of lawsuits. . . .

The GOP plays hardball:
Cornyn Indicates Senate GOP Will Resist Seating Al Franken

[Boston Globe] The confirmation hearing for Eric Holder, Obama's pick for attorney general, promises to be bruising, with Republicans determined to explore Holder's role in controversial pardons under President Clinton, his views on gun rights, and his involvement in the case of Elian Gonzalez, the 6-year-old Cuban boy returned to his homeland by Clinton's Justice Department . . .

FEC Republicans refuse to enforce the law
[Zachary Roth] Bloomberg reports that the Federal Election Commission's three GOP members all voted against fining the Chamber of Commerce for illegally spending money in 2004 on attacks against John Edwards, that year's Democratic vice-presidential nominee. The 3-3 final vote tally meant the commission took the rare step of rejecting an FEC counsel recommendation to impose the fine. . . .

Let’s remember the source of the “Magic Negro” ditty to begin with. How much longer is the GOP going to want to be the party of Rush Limbaugh?

These guys are geniuses:
Republicans Popping Up To Defend Saltsman For "Magic Negro" CD . . .
Alabama Republican Committeeman Paul Reynolds said the fact the Saltsman sent him a CD with the song on it “didn’t bother me one bit.” . . .

“Bush’s search for a legacy”

Bonus item: Bush’s reading habits
[Steve Benen] Karl Rove devoted his latest Wall Street Journal column to bragging about George W. Bush's impressive ability to read an enormous number of books very quickly. Rove explained that he and the president have engaged in an annual contest since 2005, in which they see how many books they can finish in a given year. . . .

I wrote a piece about the president's alleged reading habits a few years ago, and have been keeping an eye on these reports ever since. I think it's fair to say this notion that Bush is a curious thinker with his nose constantly buried in complex texts is, by all appearances, kind of silly. . . .
[Richard Cohen] In his column, Rove says that Bush read 95 books in 2006 alone. In 2007, he read 51 books and as of last week, he had read 40 in 2008. . . .

As might be expected, most of Bush's books have been biographies and histories. Biographies are usually about great men who often did the unpopular thing and were later vindicated. . . . . But the books themselves reveal -- actually, confirm -- something about Bush that maybe Rove did not intend. They are not the reading of a widely read man, but instead the books of a man who seeks -- and sees -- vindication in every page. Bush has always been the captive of fixed ideas. His books just support that.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Big Three networks pull correspondents from Iraq. Troops are still fighting and dying there, but, well, you know, ratings are down and . . .

The latest line of the Bush apologists: He may be unpopular now, but boy, when people look back on this period they’ll realize that he was right and everyone else was wrong


Here is today’s must-read, a heavily sourced Vanity Fair article that represents the Anti-Legacy perspective: former Bushies admit where the administration screwed up – badly
[Lawrence Wilkerson, top aide and later chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell] We had this confluence of characters—and I use that term very carefully—that included people like Powell, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, and so forth, which allowed one perception to be “the dream team.” It allowed everybody to believe that this Sarah Palin–like president—because, let’s face it, that’s what he was—was going to be protected by this national-security elite, tested in the cauldrons of fire. What in effect happened was that a very astute, probably the most astute, bureaucratic entrepreneur I’ve ever run into in my life became the vice president of the United States. . . . [read on!]

Dick Cheney explains his rock-bottom poll numbers: it’s because he’s been willing to make the TOUGH decisions, see?

Gutting OSHA


Like pigs at a friggin’ trough
[Zachary Roth] The New York Times reports that several former government officials who helped organize the savings and loan bailout of the early 1990s are now putting that expertise to use by working as lawyers or lobbyists helping banks get a piece of the financial bailout -- or even by investing in some of the bad assets to be offered for sale. . . .

[T]he paper reports that at least one former top government official is advising both the Bush and Obama teams on how to respond to the crisis, while at the same time being involved in efforts to profit from it.

Looks like it’ll be Senator Franken
[Eric Kleefeld] So will any of the wrongly-rejected absentee ballots in Minnesota, which have been the subject of copious litigation between the Franken and Coleman campaigns, actually get counted? The latest report from the Star Tribune suggests it's going to be a rough time over the next few days, with the Franken camp calling for 1,346 ballots to be counted, while the Coleman team thus far wants to include...136.

The thing to remember here is that the state Supreme Court released a bizarre opinion a week and a half ago, calling for these ballots to opened up and and counted -- but only if both campaigns agreed that an individual envelope was wrongly rejected. . . .
[Eric Kleefeld] Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office is not yet committing to provisionally seating Al Franken, pending the outcome of the expected post-recount election contest litigation in Minnesota, as the date for new Senators to be sworn in gets closer and closer. . . .

"At this stage, it appears that Franken will be certified the winner by the State Canvassing Board," said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Harry Reid, in a statement to Election Central. "We're keeping abreast of the situation and will make a decision with regard to Senate action at the appropriate point in the process." . . .


Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Shrinking Minority Leader and part of the braintrust that has driven the GOP into the hinterlands, now thinks it’s a good idea to block Obama’s stimulus package. Please try, Senator McConnell
Congressional Republicans objected yesterday to hurried consideration of President-elect Barack Obama's emerging stimulus proposal, questioning the economic value of many of the projects being floated for inclusion and voicing support for a more methodical process that might delay the legislation's passage well into February.

Concerned by Democrats' push to enact the massive bill into law within days of Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R.-Ohio) issued calls for a lengthy vetting of the stimulus proposal, whose price tag could top $850 billion when it is completed next month. . . .
[Digby] But the simplest and therefore most likely explanation is that they oppose it because Democrats favor it. This is, in general terms, how modern Republicans practice politics - by being the biggest pains in the ass possible. "Because they can" is probably the most obvious answer. This is especially true when you have a rump conservative faction committed to fighting the pointy-headed elites to preserve Southern honor . . .

As we hear a lot about bipartisanship and Republicans and Democrats having to come together to solve the nation's problems, as we hear from a President whose focus is "what works" instead of ideology, someone's going to have to stand up and mention that the modern Republican Party defines ideology through negation. Someone might want to mention that there's no compromise with those who reflexively oppose for no reason other than denying your opponent a victory is seen as a higher good than helping someone get a job or health care or a higher wage to support their family. Someone might want to suggest that accommodation is impossible.


[NB: Here's how you play it. Don't say you're opposing it, just say you're doing due diligence in scrutinizing the details before voting on it. Let it hang out there for a while. Make yourselves still look relevant. Sap away the new administration's momentum. Expect to find a few projects that look silly and make good headlines. Before it's all over, demand a much smaller package that includes more of your priorities and fewer of Obama's. Declare it a victory for bipartisanship, and let the press describe it as a defeat for Obama. I do not think the Obama team will let them get away with this.]

A party without a head
[The Hill] For the first time in party history, members of the Republican National Committee have called their own unscheduled meeting without the aid of the Washington-based party apparatus. . . . [read on]

More fall-out from the “Magic Negro” CD
[Josh Marshall] I think I have this right. The Republican party has decided on the racial joke issue as the vehicle to reintroduce themselves to the American people after the 2008 blow out.

Am I missing something?

Bonus item: Priceless. This is how the GOP thinks it will plot its way back into power – a conference on how to use the Internet, headlining Glenn Reynolds (“Instapundit”), Michelle Malkin, and Joe the Plumber! (thanks to Atrios for the link)

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I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Monday, December 29, 2008

In a third straight day of deadly air strikes against the emblems and institutions of Hamas on Monday, Israeli warplanes pounded targets in Gaza including the Interior Ministry while the Israeli army declared areas around the beleaguered enclave a “closed military zone.” . . .

Professor Rice, easy grader

Sad, really
"As bad as the incident is, in my view, it is a sign that Iraqis feel a lot freer to express themselves."

-- Laura Bush, in an interview on Fox News, on an Iraqi journalist throwing his shoes at President Bush.

Will Isaac Toussie fight to get his pardon back?

Obama is determined to break with the Bush/Cheney torture policy. That doesn’t make them happy over at the CIA (who have a lot to worry about once their tissue-paper legal justifications get exposed)

Credit where it’s due: Howard Dean set in motion many changes to the Democratic Party that helped make the kind of victory Obama had possible
“Technology democratizes politics . . .”


Blagojevich: intentionally trying to hold Obama hostage to save himself
[Emptywheel] When Blagojevich's lawyer threatened to subpoena Rahm Emanuel and Valerie Jarrett last week, it made a lot of sense. By causing the Obama team ongoing distraction, it would have allowed Blago to exact a price from Illinois Democrats aiming to oust him. . . . [read on]
Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn (D) on Sunday predicted that the state legislature would remove Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) from office before Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday on February 12.

The Illinois state House can impeach Blagojevich with a simple majority, and it takes two-thirds of the Senate to convict.

“There’s far more [senators] than that ready to” remove Blagojevich, the lieutenant governor claimed on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” . . .

Quinn said he hopes to be able to appoint an interim senator who would serve on a temporary basis until the state can organize a new election.

“I hope we can have a special election,” he said, estimating that it would not take place before June.

[Jed L] When your best political strategy is yet another Bush, your party is in serious trouble. . . . [read on]

The death of free market fundamentalism

The Grand Old Regional Party

Loss of control
Ed Yong posts this weekend on some research about what happens when people feel they have less control over their lives. The nickel version is that they tend to see patterns that don't exist, they get more superstitious, and they become ever more captivated by conspiracy theories. . . . “Republicans (and Republican bloggers) will spend at least the next two years with about as much political control as a bug in a jar. You can make your own conclusions.” [read on]

The Magic Negro
[Steve Benen] After some initial hesitation, Republicans have begun to take sides of Chip Saltsman's decision to distribute a CD containing "Barack the Magic Negro" as a Christmas greeting to members of the RNC . . .

Black Republican leader says it's not offensive to disparage a black man as "a negro" . . .

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Troubled news from around the world
The Israeli Air Force on Saturday launched a massive attack on Hamas targets throughout Gaza in retaliation for the recent heavy rocket fire from the area, hitting mostly security headquarters, training compounds and weapons storage facilities, the Israeli military and witnesses said. . .

Most of the fatalities were among members of the security forces of Hamas, the Islamic group that controls Gaza, but a few civilians were also among the dead, including children. . . .
[Matt Yglesias] The Israeli government, seemingly dissatisfied with the results of their earlier effort to just make life as miserable as possible for residents of the Gaza strip went and killed a couple of hundred people in retaliatory airstrikes. The strikes were in response to Hamas’ habit of launching indiscriminant rocket fire from Gaza land, though how exactly these strikes are supposed to stop the rockets is mysterious to me. Less mysterious is the idea that the Kadima-Labour coalition wants to “look tough” and beat off the political challenge from Bibi Netanyahu and the Likud. . . .
[Jonathan Zasloff] Once more into the breach, the IDF has launched massive air strikes into Gaza, in an attempt to stop Hamas from shooting rockets into Israel. A short blog post cannot do justice to the complexity of the situation, except to say that 1) no other country would be asked to tolerate what the Israelis have been asked to tolerate on their southern border; 2) the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza was bad enough before now having to deal with this violence; 3) domestic politics is shot through all of this (with Kadima, Labour and Hamas all trying to show how tough they are in advance of a domestic political contest); and 4) something happens to Matt Yglesias whenever this issue comes up, and he loses 40 points of IQ. . . .
[NYT] With provincial elections scheduled for the end of January, Iraq appears to be plagued by political troubles that seem closer to Shakespearean drama than to nascent democracy. . . [read on]
Rising tensions with India are prompting Pakistan to shift forces away from fighting the Taliban near the Afghan border and toward preparations for a subcontinental standoff. . . .
Protectionist dominoes are beginning to tumble across the world . . .
[Charles Lemos] This weekend elections in Ghana (a second round run-off) and in Bangladesh will mark the end of the 2008 world election cycle. In sum, national elections were held in 33 countries plus regional and referenda in about a dozen more. On balance, the world is a more democratic place at the end of 2008 than it was at the start . . . [read on]
Cholera and starvation continue in Zimbabwe . . .

It’s sickening when conventional thinking tells us what it knows to be true, without actually thinking at all. For example: we “know” that the military adored George Bush, and we “know” that they are cool to Obama. Don’t let the facts get in the way (thanks to SusanG) for the link

There is a real question whether Bush CAN pull back the Toussie pardon
[Steve Benen] Even by the standards of the Bush White House, this entire mess is bizarre. On Tuesday, Bush pardoned Isaac Toussie, who falsified the finances of prospective homebuyers seeking HUD mortgages, and pleaded guilty in 2003 to mail fraud and lying to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The pardon itself was inexplicable -- Toussie scammed hundreds of families, selling overpriced, poorly built homes to minority first-time buyers who couldn't afford them, and was only sentenced to five months in prison. He's been out of jail for several years, working as a real estate and marketing consultant.

Complicating matters, Toussie's father, Robert, who had never made political contributions before, suddenly decided to donate more than $40,000 to Republicans earlier this year. A few months later, Toussie's pardon petition was filed, and five months after that, Toussie's record was made clean by presidential fiat.

That is, until Wednesday night, when the president changed his mind and decided to take back Toussie's pardon.

There are all kinds of questions about what, exactly, transpired here. For example, the president and his spokesperson had pledged publicly, before this week, that all pardons would go through the pardon attorney at the Justice Department. Toussie's application bypassed the DoJ and was taken directly to the White House counsel's office.

Also, Toussie's attorney is none other than Bradford Berenson, who was a top attorney in ... wait for it ... Bush's White House counsel's office from 2001 to 2003. Might he have used his connections to pull a few strings? . . .
[Josh Marshall] Needless to say, I'm not an attorney or a constitutional expert. But I've seen few if any press write-ups with quotes from people with relevant expertise who say the president is actually able to do this. And my discussions with people with relevant expertise give me the strong impression that the president's action is highly dubious in constitutional terms, even if no Court case has specifically addressed this combination of facts.

In any case, I feel sure we won't have to wonder forever. If nothing else Toussie has a solid case to bring. So I feel confident the Court will eventually decide if this passes muster. . . . [read on]


The Bible on sex
In fact, the Bible accepts sexual practices that we condemn and condemns sexual practices that we accept. Lots of them! . . . [read on]

The Republicans have a real dilemma. They’ve long relied on racially coded appeals, but they also want to reach out electorally to minorities who have tilted traditionally toward Democrats. Karl Rove thought he had the formula: use anti-gay, abortion, and theocratic appeals to pry off culturally conservative minorities who can be induced to vote against their own social and economic interests.

The attempted remaking of the GOP is caught in-between its nativist wing, represented by Limbaugh et al., and its “big tent” supporters. The latest flare-up over the “Barack the Magic Negro” CD shows this dilemma in all its glory
[Mark Schone] On November 4, the Republican party endured its second consecutive electoral drubbing, and much of the pain was administered by non-white voters. Surging Latino support helped Barack Obama win three states in the Interior West, and flipped five House and two Senate seats. Black voters supported Obama by an incredible margin of almost 19 to one, and were a crucial component of victory in at least five states.

In light of the GOP's problems with nonwhite voters, then, its approach to choosing the next Republican National Committee chairperson seems a little odd. The contest now includes a couple of black guys who lost statewide races by large margins and a couple of white guys who have problems with black guys. . . . [read on]


A preview of 2010 Senate races – more GOP losses ahead?

The sorry state of political journalism

Sunday talk show line-ups
NBC Meet the Press: David Axelrod. Richard Wolffe of Newsweek, Todd Purdum of Vanity Fair and Michelle Singletary of the Washington Post.

ABC This Week: Former White House Chief's of Staff Leon Panetta and Ken Duberstein, Obama Senior Advisor and incoming White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and a roundtable with Studio 360's Kurt Anderson,'s John Dickerson, NPR's Alison Stewart, and the Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan. Jake Tapper guest hosts.

CBS Face the Nation: Bob Schieffer, Paul Krugman, David Axelrod, Illinois Lt. Governor Pat Quinn.

CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Sen. John McCain, President-elect Barack Obama, Gov. Sarah Palin and CNN founder Ted Turner.

Bonus item: Digby defends eristics
Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I think Americans are probably not destined to all come together in comity and good will to work toward the common good any time soon. And you also know that I don't think there's anything especially wrong with that. If politics is war by other means then that's the way things are supposed to work. . . .

Of course I respect everyone's right to their beliefs and I will fight the proverbial fight for them to be allowed to express them. But I don't have to respect every view that comes down the pike and I certainly don't have to willingly make room in my political coalition for people to enact their agenda if it goes against what I believe in. Why would anyone think I should?

The truth is that it's disrespectful to sincere people on all sides to suggest their disagreements are so shallow that they can be dealt with by pretending that all we need to do is proclaim that we respect one another. Even if you respect someone, sometimes there's no avoiding a fight. . . . [read on]

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Get outta here, already
Seventy-five percent of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Friday said they're glad Bush is going. . .

The poll indicates that Bush compares poorly with his presidential predecessors, with 28 percent saying that he's the worst ever. Forty percent rate Bush's presidency as poor . . . [read on]
[More from CNN] Brought the kind of change the country needed: Yes 13%, No 86%

Is honest and trustworthy: Yes 37%, No 62%

Is a person you admire: Yes 27%, No 72%

Inspires confidence: Yes 20%, No 80%

Has united the country and not divide it: Yes 17%, No 82%

We’re all whack-jobs now, apparently
A few years ago, Chris Matthews said, on the air, that "everybody sort of likes the president, except for the real whack-jobs, maybe on the left." . . . [read on]

Meanwhile . . .
A month before his inauguration, Americans choose Barack Obama as the man they admire most in the world, according to a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. It's the first time a president-elect has topped the annual survey in more than a half-century . . .

Sarah Palin: what’s she been up to?
[Zachary Roth] First, earlier this month, Palin, who marketed herself during the campaign as a maverick-y exemplar of reform-minded openness and transparency, filed disclosure reports for free trips she had taken as governor. Nothing wrong with that -- except that the trips took place in 2007, and according to Alaska law, reports must be filed within 30 days of the trip. A spokesman attributed it to staff oversight.

That's just the beginning. Remember that second Trooper-Gate investigation, conducted by the state personnel board -- whose members, of course, are appointed by the governor? The one that found, in contrast to the independent probe conducted by the legislature, that Palin broke no laws in connection with the affair? Well, back in October, while Palin was still a candidate for vice president, her lawyer said publicly that she wanted a transcript of her testimony released.

But it appears that position is "no longer operative." Palin has now changed her mind, and is refusing to release the transcript. . . . [read on]

Karl Rove, Mr. Irrelevant

For conspiracy theorists
[Steve Benen] Just a week ago, Michael Connell, a top Internet consultant for the RNC and both the Bush and McCain presidential campaigns, died in a plane crash. He was alone, flying a small, single-engine plane, and the details of what caused the crash have not yet been determined. The FAA is investigating -- as it does whenever any plane crashes -- and has not yet filed a report. . . . [read on]

NOW the Senate decides to get serious about oversight with the bailout plan. When will they learn?
Under legislation proposed by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, firms receiving federal rescue money would be required to report their spending to the Treasury Department every three months. And it would prohibit them from spending the taxpayer dollars on lobbying or political contributions. . . .

In a letter sent Tuesday to Paulson, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she joined those Americans who were "astonished and outraged" that banks were not explaining how the money was being spent.

"This lack of transparency and accountability is deeply troubling," Collins wrote. "The current lack of reporting requirements is unacceptable and cannot be allowed to continue."

Winning hearts and minds and, uh, other things in Afghanistan
CIA give Afghan warlords Viagra in exchange for information on Taliban . . .


It looks as if we’re going to keep hearing about Obama and Blagojevich, facts be damned. The latest twist is that we know there wasn’t any quid pro quo about Obama’s Senate seat – but what about Rahm’s House seat? No quid pro quo there either, but we are learning more . . .,CST-NWS-rahm24.article
Just after accepting the top post with Obama, Rahm Emanuel discussed with Blagojevich the possibility of keeping his congressional seat "warm" for him for a couple of years, the Sun-Times has learned.

Emanuel expressed interest in returning one day to his elected position because he was on track to become U.S. House speaker . . .

Theocracy watch: some reflections on atheism, serious and not-so-serious, from loyal PBD readers Ddjango and Michael W

The great GOP comeback (don’t hold your breath)

Bonus item: Stay classy, boys
RNC chair wannabee Chip Saltsman's Christmas gift to RNC members was a CD that includes the Rush Limbaugh "satirical" tune, "Barack, the Magic Negro."

Minority outreach?

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Friday, December 26, 2008


We’re learning more about the Isaac Toussie pardon, which Bush withdrew once the story broke that his father had given the GOP $40,000. Are we supposed to believe that they didn’t know about his father’s donations when they gave him the pardon – or did they withdraw it only once the story became public knowledge?

My question: Did somebody point out that the Repubs couldn’t go after Eric Holder for the Marc Rich pardon if Bush was caught doing basically the same thing?
[Scout Finch] Again, anyone with an Internet connection can look up contributions.

So, the question is --- how did Isaac Toussie end up on the pardon list? Who at the Justice Department made the recommendation? And why was it granted if President Bush was so utterly clueless about the facts of the case? . . . [read on]
Among the questions now being asked are:

• Why didn't the White House conduct a more thorough investigation of Toussie's background?

• Why did White House Counsel Fred Fielding circumvent the typical pardon application process by directly considering Toussie's clemency request instead of leaving it to the Justice Department?

• Did Toussie get special treatment because of his political connections? . . . [read on]


Okay, everyone else is catching on to the Holder angle too

It’s probably not a huge scandal, but Bush appoints 24 more last-minute positions

There are a lot of Bush decisions that are going to leave a lasting legacy for generations to come. But perhaps the most unforgiveable is his neglect of environmental problems whose consequences may only become apparent long after the memory of the Bush/Cheney years has faded
On April 2, 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal Clean Air Act plainly empowered the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases from cars and trucks — and, by inference, other sources like power plants.

There was great hope at the time that the decision would force President Bush to confront the issue of climate change, which he had largely ignored for six years. Instead, it became the catalyst for a campaign of scientific obfuscation, political flimflam and simple dereliction of duty — which United States Senator Barbara Boxer aptly described as a “master plan” — to ensure that the administration did as little as possible.

The guiding intelligence behind the master plan has been Vice President Dick Cheney; Mr. Cheney’s point man, in turn, has been Stephen Johnson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

It was Mr. Johnson who refused to grant California a normally routine waiver that would have allowed it to impose its own greenhouse gas standards on cars and trucks. It was Mr. Johnson who was trotted out to explain why the administration could not possibly fulfill the Supreme Court’s mandate before leaving office.

And it was Mr. Johnson, in one final burst of negativity, who declared last week that his agency was under no obligation to even consider greenhouse gas emissions when deciding whether to allow a new coal-fired power plant to go forward. . . . [read on]

The coming war over the Employee Free Choice Act. And I do mean “war”

Norm Coleman, when he was ahead in the Minnesota recount, decried retrying the election in court. Guess what he’s saying now?

I generally stay away from trashy personal interest stories like the drug arrest of Levi Johnston’s mother (Levi is soon to be married to Bristol Palin, Sarah’s daughter, whom he got pregnant). Sherry Johnston was busted for dealing OxyContin (aka, “redneck heroin” – what a surprise).

Okay, it’s all trailer trash drama, not part of our usual interest. But I do think it is interesting and relevant that the Alaska police knew about all this in September, but held up the charges until after the election

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Thursday, December 25, 2008


No, the last-minute PR blitz by Bush and Cheney won’t change the judgments of history (thanks to John Aravosis for the links)

[Brad Woodhouse] The jig has been up for some time now for the once revered Bush administration PR machine with the President's job approval rating failing to crack the fortieth percentile in more than two years. In fact, the President's numbers never really rebounded since 2005 following his hugely unpopular attempt to privatize Social Security; the tragic milestone of 2000 fallen U.S. soldiers hit and surpassed in Iraq; and of course, his administration's woefully inept response to Hurricane Katrina. . . . [read on]

[Robert Scheer] In the end, the shame of Vice President Dick Cheney was total: unmitigated by any notion of a graceful departure, let alone the slightest obligation of honest accounting. . . [read on]

The rude version
One Leg Raised on the Bush-Cheney Legacy: Deconstructing the Spin and Propaganda
In an incisive 2,500 word analysis, award-winning journalist and university professor Walter Brasch reviews eight years of Republican spin and propaganda, all wrapped up in a letter sent by the Republican National Committee. . . .

Chris Cox: we’re still learning about his failures as SEC chair – and the price we’re all paying for them now

Is Afghanistan already lost?

Pardon me!
[Mark Kleiman] Remember the pardon the Beloved Leader was going to give to a home-loan scammer whose father made his first political contribution ($28,500 to the RNC) earlier this year? Well, you can forget it, and so can the scammer. Once the papers started to pick up on it, the WH folded. . . .

Maybe not?

[According to the LA Times editorial board] The Bush Administration engaged in a a "systemic failure to take seriously the spirit as well as the letter of this country's commitment" to the law and human rights, and therefore we should not do anything about it. . . . [read on!]


Guerilla tactics
[Josh Marshall] Earlier I flagged the AP article about the environmental activist who snuck into a Bureau of Land Management auction and managed to marginally jack up the give-away prices a bunch of oil and gas companies were going to pay to lease the land. Now it turns out, according to one of our readers, that the 'scam' was only possible because the Bush administration did the whole thing on a rush basis in order to get as much of the public domain given away to energy industry cronies before January 20th . . . [read on]

The return of stem-cell research

Obama’s going to keep Defense Sect’y Bob Gates and most of the current DoD senior staff in place, at least for a while. This upsets a lot of people – should it?

Obama: 82% approval!

“Obama’s five rules of scandal response”

“Unanswered questions” and “rumblings” about Emanuel/Blagojevich contacts. There’s no there there, but that won’t stop the press

There’s a real chance that Obama could take office with two key Democratic Senate votes undecided

The bell tolls for Coleman:

Conservatives: the party of ideas?

The path to victory for the GOP in 2010?

Sleaziest ads from the 2008 campaign

Fox News: Fact-Free Zone
Fox News: "Historians Pretty Much Agree" That FDR Prolonged the Great Depression . . .

Bonus item: Shocking expose about S. Claus (sorry if it ruins your holiday)

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Blagojevich report released, and . . .
The Obama team's report on the Blagojevich affair says just what they said it would. . . .
[Michael Tomasky] We have lived, in Washington and in America, in a world of conspiracy and suspicion for many years. At least for 15 years, if you go back to the thrusts and parries of the Whitewater era, and arguably for 35 years, if you carry it back to Nixon.

The milieu is nurtured and given oxygen by the doubt and distrust that has held sway on both sides, which itself is driven by the very lawyerly need to say as little as possible. For the person who stands accused of an illegal act or an ethical violation, there is no percentage, really, in our present legal and media culture, in coming clean and telling everything.

Telling everything can, perhaps paradoxically, invite more questions. And that can only add to your legal bills at the end of the day. The point is always to say as little as possible and hope it goes away.

The problem that arises from this situation is that it ensnares the guilty and the innocent indiscriminately. Because after all, more questions can always, always be asked. . . .
[Digby] This story is over when the press corps says it's over and not a minute sooner. . . .

Full report:


Just about the dumbest effort yet in the “Bush Legacy Project”
Myths & Facts About the Real Bush Record . . . [don’t miss it!]

Myths, yes:

The Cheney Legacy Project
[Dahlia Lithwick] In an ever-escalating game of chicken between the executive branch and the rest of the world, Vice President Dick Cheney wants you to understand that he has done nothing wrong over the past eight years. . . . [read on]


Murray Waas breaks a new story
Vice President Dick Cheney, according to a still-highly confidential FBI report, admitted to federal investigators that he rewrote talking points for the press in July 2003 that made it much more likely that the role of then-covert CIA-officer Valerie Plame in sending her husband on a CIA-sponsored mission to Africa would come to light.

Cheney conceded during his interview with federal investigators that in drawing attention to Plame’s role in arranging her husband’s Africa trip reporters might also unmask her role as CIA officer.

Cheney denied to the investigators, however, that he had done anything on purpose that would lead to the outing of Plame as a covert CIA operative. But the investigators came away from their interview with Cheney believing that he had not given them a plausible explanation as to how he could focus attention on Plame’s role in arranging her husband’s trip without her CIA status also possibly publicly exposed. At the time, Plame was a covert CIA officer involved in preventing Iran from obtaining weapons of mass destruction, and Cheney’s office played a central role in exposing her and nullifying much of her work. . . . [read on]


I suppose it isn’t such a surprise that the companies receiving bailout money can’t/won’t document in the press how their money is being used. But you might think the government would care
[Ben Potress] Two months and counting, the Treasury Department still refuses to release key details of contracts it awarded as part of its $700 billion taxpayer-funded bailout plan. . . .

Chris Cox, Bush’s SEC chair: on the hot seat

Looks like we may soon learn about the politically motivated Don Siegelman prosecution

Has Norm Coleman moved to the Acceptance Stage?

Not yet:

The GOP’s hard times
[Steve Benen] By now, the list of problems -- structural, practical, ideological, historical -- facing the Republican Party is pretty familiar. . . . [read on]

Now, THIS is just weird
[Steve Benen] For a while, before the presidential campaign, conservatives on Fox News and talk radio had an idea: the economy wasn't that bad, but Americans had been led to believe it was, thanks to an elaborate conspiracy involving the media and Democrats.

After the election, high-profile conservatives, including Bill O'Reilly and Karl Rove, publicly described a new theory: an elaborate conspiracy involving the media and Democrats is still working to convince Americans the economy is in bad shape, so as to help Barack Obama appear even more impressive when conditions turn around.

This week, we have yet another conspiracy theory, this time from Rush Limbaugh, who's just delusional enough to believe Democrats, most notably Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), deliberately created the global economic crisis for partisan gain. . . . [read on]

Bonus item: TPM’s 2008 Golden Duke Award nominees

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

[Josh Marshall] Everybody, it seems, wants a bailout. And observers are left demanding bailouts for some industries (cars) and bewailing them for others (commercial construction, hedge funds). But as I watch this unfold I feel increasingly concerned that the people controlling the money are using the complexity of the situation and the public's difficulty in understanding it to use public money to shield very wealthy institutions and individuals from the inherent risks of their chosen line of work. . . . [read on]
Banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts awarded their top executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and other benefits . . .
[HIlzoy] I've been wondering why such different standards are applied to financial executives and Detroit's auto workers . . . [read on]

Healthy companies BUY UP banks to grab some of the bailout money

And now, this:
It's something any bank would demand to know before handing out a loan: Where's the money going?

But after receiving billions in aid from U.S. taxpayers, the nation's largest banks say they can't track exactly how they're spending the money or they simply refuse to discuss it.

"We've lent some of it. We've not lent some of it. We've not given any accounting of, 'Here's how we're doing it,'" said Thomas Kelly, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, which received $25 billion in emergency bailout money. "We have not disclosed that to the public. We're declining to."

The Associated Press contacted 21 banks that received at least $1 billion in government money and asked four questions: How much has been spent? What was it spent on? How much is being held in savings, and what's the plan for the rest?

None of the banks provided specific answers. . . .


Afghanistan doesn’t want a U.S. “surge”

Cheney claims that the entire Democratic leadership SUPPORTED illegal wiretapping and ASKED the Bush gang to keep it secret (of course, he might be lying)
[Glenn Greenwald] Dick Cheney's interview yesterday with Fox's Chris Wallace was filled with significant claims, but certainly among the most significant was his detailed narration of how the administration, and Cheney personally, told numerous Democratic Congressional leaders -- repeatedly and in detail -- about the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program. And, according to Cheney, every one of those Democrats -- every last one -- not only urged its continuation, but insisted that it be kept secret . . . [read on]


The Villagers tell us that we need to stop with all this investigating of Bush and Cheney. It’s just political payback, you see, whatever crimes were committed

Meanwhile, of course, the nonexistent Obama/Blagojevich link MUST be pursued aggressively
The WSJ telegraphs how it's not going to let the Blago/Obama story die

No matter what the released report says about the contacts between Obama's team and Blago.

Monday's Journal news report acknowledges that Obama sources insists the report won't contain any damning information. And Stephanopoulos over the weekend reported that Rahm Emanuel was caught on tape telling Blago all he'd receive from Obama was "appreciation" if an Obama favorite was selected to fill his U.S. senate seat.

But the Journal, on behalf of the Beltway press corps, announces that it already has a back-up plan in order to hype the non-scandal . . . .

Government prosecutors screw up the slam-dunk Ted Stevens (R-AK) conviction. Nice work, boys

Franken pulls ahead in the Minnesota vote recount: Coleman’s only remaining chance is through the courts

The end of an era: Fox News sues Bush admin

GOP: regional party
[Jonathan Singer] [T]he problem with a regional minority coming to dominate a party's caucus is that the party can become less responsive to the desires and needs of the rest of the country, and as a result less enticing to voters across the country. With regards to the Republicans' current conundrum, the extreme focus on Southern conservatism makes is significantly more difficult to win over moderate voters around the country -- a trend already visible in Barack Obama's 60 percent to 39 percent victory among moderate voters, a trend that will very possibly continue into the future as the GOP turns even more Southward in its focus.

Bonus item: Sarah Palin, Conservative of the Year
[Todd Beeton] What's even sadder though is that there's very little in the editorial that references Palin's conservatism. The message Coulter is sending is that what defines conservatism is not ideology or policy but rather the effectiveness of its opposition to liberalism, which pretty much sums up the problem with movement conservatism. It's always been an opposition movement even when they were nominally in power. This is what they do, they rail against their fictional demonized version of liberalism and now that failing is laid bare for all to see in Coulter's rant. It also points to why movement conservatism is so unsustainable -- it's based on nothing but tearing down straw men. . . .

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Monday, December 22, 2008


Dick Cheney channels Dick Nixon
[Steve Benen] It's been a common refrain over the last eight years, but it's even more common now in light of the new Frost/Nixon movie: "When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal."

In context, Frost had asked about the notion that a president can "do something illegal," if he/she decides the crime is "in the best interests of the nation." . . . After uttering the now famous phrase, Nixon added, "If the president, for example, approves something because of the national security, or in this case because of a threat to internal peace and order of significant magnitude, then the president's decision in that instance is one that enables those who carry it out, to carry it out without violating a law."

Fox News' Chris Wallace asked Dick Cheney something similar for an interview aired this morning: "If the president during war decides to do something to protect the country, is it legal?" Cheney's answer wasn't exactly Nixonian, but it was close. . . . [read on]


Cheney thinks anyone who questions his massive, unconstitutional power grab is “diminishing the office of the Vice Presidency.” After him, it needs some diminishing

[Josh Marshall] But let's be really frank on this one. The vice president has no substantial powers at all. None. He or she can break ties in the senate. They have the key role of succession. And as a practical matter they can play an important role as the president's partner -- the chief executive's inability to fire the VP serving as a benign form of independence within the White House, in terms of giving advice . But the very fact that we can even be having a conversation about the prerogative powers of the vice presidency is a testament to the world of Alice in Wonderland constitutionalism that has been a hallmark of Cheney's time in office.

Mr. Vice President, what was your highest point in office?

Torture prosecutions?
[Carl Levin, D-MI] You can’t just suddenly change some thing that’s illegal into something that is legal by having a lawyer writing an opinion saying that it’s legal . . . [read on]

Biden’s future
Vice President-elect Joe Biden told ABC News that he is going to chair a "middle-class task force" that will determine how the Obama administration's policies are affecting America's economic midsection. . . .


Why isn’t there a place for Wesley Clark in Obama’s administration?

Is this evidence of a recalcitrant military, or a little Kabuki that allows both Obama and the generals to save face?
Even though the agreement with the Iraqi government calls for all American combat troops to be out of the cities by the end of June, military planners are now quietly acknowledging that many will stay behind as renamed “trainers” and “advisers” in what are effectively combat roles. In other words, they will still be engaged in combat, just called something else. . . . [read on]


The “war on terror”
[LithiumCola] In a sense, this hardly needed to be said. That the so called "War on Terrorism" walks like a duck and talks like a duck is pretty good evidence that it is in fact a strategically pivoting geo-political duck whose target is not "Islamo-fascism" but "influence in Central Asia" . . . unless those are simply two phrases for the same thing. . . . [read on]

Rahm Emanuel had ONE contact with Blagojevich, during which he refused even the hint of a quid pro quo over the Senate seat appointment, sending Blago into a rage. This is all uncontested fact. So WHY is Emanuel supposedly “threatened” by the scandal?

Chris Cox’s SEC is panicked over the Madoff scandal: what are we going to find out?

The NRA, still making robocalls against Obama even after the election is over


Bonus item: “Why conservative ideas can’t work”
[Paul Rosenberg] (1) Conservative ideas cannot work, because they are faith-based, rather than reason and evidence/experience-based.

(2) Conservative ideas cannot work, because they are accepted-and liberal/progressive ideas are rejected-based on authoritarian obedience.

(3) Conservative ideas cannot work, because they are based on an objectively false model of the world, reflected in a false moral model for human action.

(4) Conservative ideas cannot work, because they are based on a limited level of causal connectedness, which is functionally inadequate to understand the world. . . . [read on]

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***