Commentary Magazine


Topic: lobbyist

The Fraudulence of Obama

To understand the fundamental fraudulence of Barack Obama, consider just one issue: his relationship with lobbyists.

In arguably the most important speech of the campaign, the Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Iowa in 2007, Obama said, “[Lobbyists] have not funded my campaign, they will not work in my White House.…” Upon taking office, Obama made quite a show of announcing new ethics rules barring lobbyists from working in the administration on issues that fell under their lobbying bailiwick. Yet Obama immediately allowed waivers for lobbyists working on issues that fell under their lobbying bailiwick.

But that’s not all. During the 2008 campaign, Obama said this:

I intend to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over, that they had not funded my campaigns, and from my first day as president, I will launch the most sweeping ethics reform in U.S. history. We will make government more open, more accountable and more responsive to the problems of the American people.

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To understand the fundamental fraudulence of Barack Obama, consider just one issue: his relationship with lobbyists.

In arguably the most important speech of the campaign, the Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Iowa in 2007, Obama said, “[Lobbyists] have not funded my campaign, they will not work in my White House.…” Upon taking office, Obama made quite a show of announcing new ethics rules barring lobbyists from working in the administration on issues that fell under their lobbying bailiwick. Yet Obama immediately allowed waivers for lobbyists working on issues that fell under their lobbying bailiwick.

But that’s not all. During the 2008 campaign, Obama said this:

I intend to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over, that they had not funded my campaigns, and from my first day as president, I will launch the most sweeping ethics reform in U.S. history. We will make government more open, more accountable and more responsive to the problems of the American people.

When speaking about the destructive power of lobbyists in a town hall meeting in Bristol, Virginia, Obama was emphatic: ““We are going to change how Washington works. They will not run our party. They will not run our White House. They will not drown out the views of the American people.” And in August, 2008, Obama said this: ““I suffer from the same original sin of all politicians, which is we’’ve got to raise money. But my argument has been and will continue to be that the disproportionate influence of lobbyists and special interest is a problem in Washington and in state capitals.”

Now let’s judge Obama’s words against his actions, with the help of a Washington Post story.

Here’s how the story begins:

Before 9 a.m., a group of lobbyists began showing up at the White House security gates with the chief executives of their companies, all of whom serve on President Obama’s jobs council, to be checked in for a roundtable with the president. At 1 p.m., a dozen representatives from the meat industry arrived for a briefing in the New Executive Office Building. At 3 p.m., a handful of lobbyists were lining up for a ceremony honoring the 2011 World Series champions, the St. Louis Cardinals. And at 4 p.m., a lobbyist for Goldman Sachs arrived in the Old Executive Office Building for a meeting with Alan B. Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

It was an unremarkable January day, with a steady stream of lobbyists among the thousands of daily visitors to the White House and the surrounding executive office buildings, according to a Washington Post analysis of visitor logs released by the administration… The visitor logs for Jan. 17 – one of the most recent days available – show that the lobbying industry Obama has vowed to constrain is a regular presence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The records also suggest that lobbyists with personal connections to the White House enjoy the easiest access.

Now hypocrisy is not an unknown quality in a politician. But what sets Obama apart from almost everyone else is the lengths Obama goes to in order to portray himself as morally superior to the rest of the political class even as he acts in ways that completely shatter his claims. He reminds me of the minister who cannot help from condemning the very sin to which he is beholden. And so as recently as last month Obama was saying, “A lot of folks see the amounts of money that are being spent and the special interests that dominate and the lobbyists that always have access, and they say to themselves, maybe I don’t count.”

What’s impossible to know is the degree to which Obama is alarmingly cynical or the degree to which he is alarmingly self-deluded. Whatever the case, he is a man whose words mean nothing. Nothing at all.

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The FBI Thought AIPAC’s Rosen Was a Spy for Israel

The Washington Times reported today that the FBI believed that former AIPAC lobbyist Steven Rosen was a spy for Israel when it got a warrant to search his office in 2004. The evidence? Rosen was allegedly taking notes during meetings with U.S. officials and then passing the information along to other officials. So basically, he was being a lobbyist. Which makes sense, since that was his job.

But that logic didn’t seem to faze the FBI, which used the information to portray Rosen as an Israeli agent in order to embark on what sounds like a fishing expedition. “Based upon my training and experience as an counterintelligence investigator, I believe Rosen is collecting U.S. government sensitive and classified information, not only as part of his employment at AIPAC, but as an agent of [Israel],” FBI agent Eric Lurie wrote in the affidavit for the warrant.

Of course, FBI officials never actually found any evidence of spying during their searches, and Rosen was never charged with espionage.

“The FBI followed me around for five years, they searched my office and searched my home, and they never found any classified documents, because there were none to find,” Rosen told the Times.

Which raises a troubling question — why was the FBI so eager to go after an AIPAC official for activities that seem typical for the job description of a lobbyist?

The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman told the Times that some segments of the intelligence community are still highly suspicious of Israeli intelligence-gathering, even decades after the convicted of Jonathan Pollard.

“I believe this goes back to this notion that there was a second Pollard and it was bigger than Pollard,” Foxman said. “I would rather they pursue this, come up with nothing, rather than not be given the opportunity to pursue it and saying, ‘if only they let us, we would find something.'”

I agree with Foxman that the officials should have the opportunity to carry on these searches, because it may help debunk this illogical suspicion. But I also find it concerning that the FBI can harass someone for years based on flimsy evidence simply because of a connection to Israel.

The Washington Times reported today that the FBI believed that former AIPAC lobbyist Steven Rosen was a spy for Israel when it got a warrant to search his office in 2004. The evidence? Rosen was allegedly taking notes during meetings with U.S. officials and then passing the information along to other officials. So basically, he was being a lobbyist. Which makes sense, since that was his job.

But that logic didn’t seem to faze the FBI, which used the information to portray Rosen as an Israeli agent in order to embark on what sounds like a fishing expedition. “Based upon my training and experience as an counterintelligence investigator, I believe Rosen is collecting U.S. government sensitive and classified information, not only as part of his employment at AIPAC, but as an agent of [Israel],” FBI agent Eric Lurie wrote in the affidavit for the warrant.

Of course, FBI officials never actually found any evidence of spying during their searches, and Rosen was never charged with espionage.

“The FBI followed me around for five years, they searched my office and searched my home, and they never found any classified documents, because there were none to find,” Rosen told the Times.

Which raises a troubling question — why was the FBI so eager to go after an AIPAC official for activities that seem typical for the job description of a lobbyist?

The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman told the Times that some segments of the intelligence community are still highly suspicious of Israeli intelligence-gathering, even decades after the convicted of Jonathan Pollard.

“I believe this goes back to this notion that there was a second Pollard and it was bigger than Pollard,” Foxman said. “I would rather they pursue this, come up with nothing, rather than not be given the opportunity to pursue it and saying, ‘if only they let us, we would find something.'”

I agree with Foxman that the officials should have the opportunity to carry on these searches, because it may help debunk this illogical suspicion. But I also find it concerning that the FBI can harass someone for years based on flimsy evidence simply because of a connection to Israel.

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Memo to Congress: Do Nothing!

Gilbert and Sullivan made fun of the British House of Lords in Iolanthe thus:

When Wellington thrashed Bonaparte,

As every child can tell,

The House of Peers, throughout the war,

Did nothing in particular,

And did it very well.

The American Congress — not itself unknown for doing nothing in particular on occasion — has an opportunity in the next couple of weeks to do nothing at all and render the country a considerable service thereby.

What it needs to do nothing about is ethanol, one of the truly epic boondoggles in American history. As the ball falls in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, both the 45-cent-a-gallon tax credit on ethanol (which goes to companies that blend ethanol and gasoline, i.e., Shell, Exxon, et al.) and the 54-cent-a-gallon tariff on foreign ethanol will expire, unless Congress acts.

The 45-cent tax credit costs the government $5-6 billion a year and is opposed by such strange bedfellows as the Sierra Club and the National Taxpayers Union. Those in favor are, no surprise, ethanol producers and the farmers who grow the corn it is made from. The 54-cent tariff, which, of course, is paid by American consumers, keeps cheaper foreign (mostly Brazilian) ethanol out of the American market.

Ethanol was supposed to be the road to American energy independence (sticking it to big oil into the bargain), while cutting down on the risk to the environment from traditional oil drilling. But even Al Gore is now against it. “One of the reasons I made that mistake [of supporting subsidies for corn ethanol],” he recently said, “is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president.”

Since federal law now mandates that motor fuel contain 10 percent ethanol, both the tax credit and the tariff favor only the few (corn farmers and ethanol producers) at the expense of the many (taxpayers and drivers).

Once a tax or a credit is in place, it is often very hard to get it repealed, because the special interests benefited fight fiercely to see that it remains on the books, while the general interest does not fight nearly as hard to get senators and congressmen to vote to repeal. Political inertia is the lobbyist’s best friend. But in this case, Congress merely has to do nothing: let the tariff and the credit get lost in the hectic final days of the lame duck session and call it a job well done.

Even members of Congress should be able to that.

Gilbert and Sullivan made fun of the British House of Lords in Iolanthe thus:

When Wellington thrashed Bonaparte,

As every child can tell,

The House of Peers, throughout the war,

Did nothing in particular,

And did it very well.

The American Congress — not itself unknown for doing nothing in particular on occasion — has an opportunity in the next couple of weeks to do nothing at all and render the country a considerable service thereby.

What it needs to do nothing about is ethanol, one of the truly epic boondoggles in American history. As the ball falls in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, both the 45-cent-a-gallon tax credit on ethanol (which goes to companies that blend ethanol and gasoline, i.e., Shell, Exxon, et al.) and the 54-cent-a-gallon tariff on foreign ethanol will expire, unless Congress acts.

The 45-cent tax credit costs the government $5-6 billion a year and is opposed by such strange bedfellows as the Sierra Club and the National Taxpayers Union. Those in favor are, no surprise, ethanol producers and the farmers who grow the corn it is made from. The 54-cent tariff, which, of course, is paid by American consumers, keeps cheaper foreign (mostly Brazilian) ethanol out of the American market.

Ethanol was supposed to be the road to American energy independence (sticking it to big oil into the bargain), while cutting down on the risk to the environment from traditional oil drilling. But even Al Gore is now against it. “One of the reasons I made that mistake [of supporting subsidies for corn ethanol],” he recently said, “is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president.”

Since federal law now mandates that motor fuel contain 10 percent ethanol, both the tax credit and the tariff favor only the few (corn farmers and ethanol producers) at the expense of the many (taxpayers and drivers).

Once a tax or a credit is in place, it is often very hard to get it repealed, because the special interests benefited fight fiercely to see that it remains on the books, while the general interest does not fight nearly as hard to get senators and congressmen to vote to repeal. Political inertia is the lobbyist’s best friend. But in this case, Congress merely has to do nothing: let the tariff and the credit get lost in the hectic final days of the lame duck session and call it a job well done.

Even members of Congress should be able to that.

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Earmark Vote

The Senate defeated the earmark ban. The Dems who scrambled to get on the good side of voters (i.e., voting for the ban): Evan Bayh (retiring but with political ambitions), Michael Benet (just re-elected narrowly but evidently has learned something), Russ Feingold (political aspirations?), Claire McCaskill (up in 2012), Bill Nelson (the same), Mark Udall (the invisible senator), and Mark Warner (struggling to get in line with the Virginia move to the right).

On the other side, the Republicans who voted against the ban include such giants as Robert Bennett (did Utah get it right or what?), George Voinovich (also leaving the Senate, maybe angling for a lobbyist spot?), Susan Collins (her Maine “sister” got it right, however, perhaps because Olympia Snowe faces the voters in 2012), James Inhofe (not up in 2012), Lisa Murkowski (she ran on “bring the bacon home,” so no surprise), Richard Lugar (can you say “Tea Party” challenge? Sorry, it’s not the end of civilization, Mr. Danforth), Thad Cochran (not up in 2012), and Richard Shelby (not up either).

The earmark ban, like the freeze on pay for federal workers, is largely symbolic, but let’s be honest: symbols matter, and the voters are looking for signs that their lawmakers “get it.” With the few exceptions noted above, it seems that Democratic senators by and large don’t understand what’s afoot in the country. They remain oblivious at their own peril.

The Senate defeated the earmark ban. The Dems who scrambled to get on the good side of voters (i.e., voting for the ban): Evan Bayh (retiring but with political ambitions), Michael Benet (just re-elected narrowly but evidently has learned something), Russ Feingold (political aspirations?), Claire McCaskill (up in 2012), Bill Nelson (the same), Mark Udall (the invisible senator), and Mark Warner (struggling to get in line with the Virginia move to the right).

On the other side, the Republicans who voted against the ban include such giants as Robert Bennett (did Utah get it right or what?), George Voinovich (also leaving the Senate, maybe angling for a lobbyist spot?), Susan Collins (her Maine “sister” got it right, however, perhaps because Olympia Snowe faces the voters in 2012), James Inhofe (not up in 2012), Lisa Murkowski (she ran on “bring the bacon home,” so no surprise), Richard Lugar (can you say “Tea Party” challenge? Sorry, it’s not the end of civilization, Mr. Danforth), Thad Cochran (not up in 2012), and Richard Shelby (not up either).

The earmark ban, like the freeze on pay for federal workers, is largely symbolic, but let’s be honest: symbols matter, and the voters are looking for signs that their lawmakers “get it.” With the few exceptions noted above, it seems that Democratic senators by and large don’t understand what’s afoot in the country. They remain oblivious at their own peril.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

This is what desperation looks like: “Forget the myth of an Obama recovery. The past week has been disastrous for the White House and America’s increasingly disillusioned Left. No wonder the angry and desperate Vice President Joe Biden is talking about ‘playing hell’ if his party suffers defeat in November.”

This is what old-style politics sounds like: “White House senior adviser David Axelrod said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has the burden of proving false the charge by Democrats that the business group is funneling foreign money to Republican campaigns. Axelrod was pressed by CBS’ Bob Schieffer on Sunday for evidence that the foreign campaign contributions benefiting the GOP is more than ‘peanuts.’  ‘Do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?’ Axelrod said on ‘Face the Nation.’  Ed Gillespie responded that it “was ‘an unbelievable mentality’ for Axelrod to assert charges about foreign contributions without backing them up.” It’s all too believable, unfortunately.

This is what a wave election looks like: “Democrats are buying advertising in places they hadn’t previously reserved it, a strong indication the battlefield is expanding. That includes New England, which hasn’t a single Republican House member. A new ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began airing this week in the Massachusetts district covering Cape Cod, where Democratic Rep. Bill Delahunt is retiring and ex-police sergeant Jeff Perry is posting a strong GOP challenge.”

This is what a lousy TV appearance looks like: “Alexi Giannoulias, the Illinois Democrat running for President Obama’s old Senate seat, said Sunday that he wants to “reform” the president’s health care overhaul, and that the $814 billion stimulus was imperfect but that it prevented Americans from standing in soup lines. Giannoulias, who appeared on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ to debate Republican Mark Kirk, was on the defensive throughout the debate regarding Obama’s policies, as well as his past work for his family’s community bank and its ties to mob figures.”

This is what an eloquent first lady’s writing looks like: “Though some Afghan leaders have condemned the violence and defended the rights of women, others maintain a complicit silence in hopes of achieving peace. But peace attained by compromising the rights of half of the population will not last. Offenses against women erode security for all Afghans — men and women. And a culture that tolerates injustice against one group of its people ultimately fails to respect and value all its citizens.” Yeah, I miss her too.

This is what the GOP sounded like in 2006. “The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee brushed off various members’ ads touting opposition to President Obama and Speakers Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), saying that it simply shows the party is a big tent unlike the right.”

This is what “hope and change” looks like? “President Obama’s new National Security Advisor spent the decade prior to joining the White House as a legal advisor to powerful interests including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, and as a lobbyist for Fannie Mae, where he oversaw the mortgage giant’s aggressive campaign to undermine the credibility of a probe into its accounting irregularities, according to government reports and public disclosure forms. … While housing sales were still booming, internally these were troubled years for the company. In a report first noted by ABC News in 2008, Donilon is described as someone who lobbied for and helped paint a rosy picture of Fannie Mae’s financial health to the company’s board. He did so at a time when Fannie Mae faced accusations that it was misstating its earnings from 1998 to 2004.”

This is what a flaky candidate sounds like: “Jerry Brown: Mammograms not effective.”

This is what desperation looks like: “Forget the myth of an Obama recovery. The past week has been disastrous for the White House and America’s increasingly disillusioned Left. No wonder the angry and desperate Vice President Joe Biden is talking about ‘playing hell’ if his party suffers defeat in November.”

This is what old-style politics sounds like: “White House senior adviser David Axelrod said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has the burden of proving false the charge by Democrats that the business group is funneling foreign money to Republican campaigns. Axelrod was pressed by CBS’ Bob Schieffer on Sunday for evidence that the foreign campaign contributions benefiting the GOP is more than ‘peanuts.’  ‘Do you have any evidence that it’s not, Bob?’ Axelrod said on ‘Face the Nation.’  Ed Gillespie responded that it “was ‘an unbelievable mentality’ for Axelrod to assert charges about foreign contributions without backing them up.” It’s all too believable, unfortunately.

This is what a wave election looks like: “Democrats are buying advertising in places they hadn’t previously reserved it, a strong indication the battlefield is expanding. That includes New England, which hasn’t a single Republican House member. A new ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began airing this week in the Massachusetts district covering Cape Cod, where Democratic Rep. Bill Delahunt is retiring and ex-police sergeant Jeff Perry is posting a strong GOP challenge.”

This is what a lousy TV appearance looks like: “Alexi Giannoulias, the Illinois Democrat running for President Obama’s old Senate seat, said Sunday that he wants to “reform” the president’s health care overhaul, and that the $814 billion stimulus was imperfect but that it prevented Americans from standing in soup lines. Giannoulias, who appeared on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ to debate Republican Mark Kirk, was on the defensive throughout the debate regarding Obama’s policies, as well as his past work for his family’s community bank and its ties to mob figures.”

This is what an eloquent first lady’s writing looks like: “Though some Afghan leaders have condemned the violence and defended the rights of women, others maintain a complicit silence in hopes of achieving peace. But peace attained by compromising the rights of half of the population will not last. Offenses against women erode security for all Afghans — men and women. And a culture that tolerates injustice against one group of its people ultimately fails to respect and value all its citizens.” Yeah, I miss her too.

This is what the GOP sounded like in 2006. “The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee brushed off various members’ ads touting opposition to President Obama and Speakers Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), saying that it simply shows the party is a big tent unlike the right.”

This is what “hope and change” looks like? “President Obama’s new National Security Advisor spent the decade prior to joining the White House as a legal advisor to powerful interests including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, and as a lobbyist for Fannie Mae, where he oversaw the mortgage giant’s aggressive campaign to undermine the credibility of a probe into its accounting irregularities, according to government reports and public disclosure forms. … While housing sales were still booming, internally these were troubled years for the company. In a report first noted by ABC News in 2008, Donilon is described as someone who lobbied for and helped paint a rosy picture of Fannie Mae’s financial health to the company’s board. He did so at a time when Fannie Mae faced accusations that it was misstating its earnings from 1998 to 2004.”

This is what a flaky candidate sounds like: “Jerry Brown: Mammograms not effective.”

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A Whole Lot Harder

I share Karl Rove’s pessimism that the prospects for a GOP takeover of the Delaware Senate seat are now remote. He reels off a long list of Christine O’Donnell’s personal failings and credibility issues that are certain to come up in the general election She is, to put it mildly, a terribly flawed candidate. Rove correctly points out, “It does conservatives little good to support candidates who at the end of the day, while they may be conservative in their public statements, do not evince the characteristics of rectitude and truthfulness and sincerity and character that the voters are looking for.” He adds, “There is a lot of nutty things she has been saying. … This is not a race we’ll be able to win.”

If a couple of Senate seats are lost — and especially if the GOP falls just a seat or two short of the majority in the Senate — there will and should be some soul-searching in the Tea Party movement. There will also, I suspect, be valid concerns about those who encouraged and endorsed unelectable candidates. If you want to be a party leader, and not simply a prominent conservative, the expectation is that you will use your influence judiciously.

The Tea Party has injected enthusiasm and provided a unifying conservative economic message, but a movement and a political party are not the same. The latter must concern itself with elections and building a governing majority. And the former, if unchecked by judgment and maturity, can unintentionally do great damage to its own cause.

One final note: outsiderness in and of itself is not a decisive factor in electability. What matters is whether the candidate is plausible and can articulate an anti-Beltway message that taps into both conservatives and independents’ disgust with the governing class. It is highly questionable whether O’Donnell can do that. On the other hand, as Ben Smith points out, conservatives dumped a dreadful establishment candidate in the New York gubernatorial primary and pushed back on a state party that has shown zero adeptness of late:

The results in New York tonight cut at Cuomo in two ways, though he wasn’t on the ballot. The first and most obvious is an energized conservative base, which chose a real outsider — Buffalo developer Carl Paladino — as a more plausible, if extremely longshot, vessel for a “mad as hell” anti-Establishment campaign against the “status Cuomo” than would have been the Establishment Republican, a former bank lobbyist.

“This is the candidate that the base of the party wanted,” conceded State Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox, putting a good face on a terrible night that also included a third-place finish for his son in a congressional race on Long Island.

In sum: the lesson is to choose wisely. This is the big leagues.

I share Karl Rove’s pessimism that the prospects for a GOP takeover of the Delaware Senate seat are now remote. He reels off a long list of Christine O’Donnell’s personal failings and credibility issues that are certain to come up in the general election She is, to put it mildly, a terribly flawed candidate. Rove correctly points out, “It does conservatives little good to support candidates who at the end of the day, while they may be conservative in their public statements, do not evince the characteristics of rectitude and truthfulness and sincerity and character that the voters are looking for.” He adds, “There is a lot of nutty things she has been saying. … This is not a race we’ll be able to win.”

If a couple of Senate seats are lost — and especially if the GOP falls just a seat or two short of the majority in the Senate — there will and should be some soul-searching in the Tea Party movement. There will also, I suspect, be valid concerns about those who encouraged and endorsed unelectable candidates. If you want to be a party leader, and not simply a prominent conservative, the expectation is that you will use your influence judiciously.

The Tea Party has injected enthusiasm and provided a unifying conservative economic message, but a movement and a political party are not the same. The latter must concern itself with elections and building a governing majority. And the former, if unchecked by judgment and maturity, can unintentionally do great damage to its own cause.

One final note: outsiderness in and of itself is not a decisive factor in electability. What matters is whether the candidate is plausible and can articulate an anti-Beltway message that taps into both conservatives and independents’ disgust with the governing class. It is highly questionable whether O’Donnell can do that. On the other hand, as Ben Smith points out, conservatives dumped a dreadful establishment candidate in the New York gubernatorial primary and pushed back on a state party that has shown zero adeptness of late:

The results in New York tonight cut at Cuomo in two ways, though he wasn’t on the ballot. The first and most obvious is an energized conservative base, which chose a real outsider — Buffalo developer Carl Paladino — as a more plausible, if extremely longshot, vessel for a “mad as hell” anti-Establishment campaign against the “status Cuomo” than would have been the Establishment Republican, a former bank lobbyist.

“This is the candidate that the base of the party wanted,” conceded State Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox, putting a good face on a terrible night that also included a third-place finish for his son in a congressional race on Long Island.

In sum: the lesson is to choose wisely. This is the big leagues.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Wondering where the American Jewish community is on Obama’s Israel-bash-a-thon? Well, being a “wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party, whose fidelity, financial and electoral, all Dem administrations can and do take fully for granted” has its drawbacks.” But perhaps, just perhaps, some in the community are starting to notice “the ill wind blowing toward Israel from Mr. Obama’s office.”

Wondering why the House hasn’t voted on ObamaCare yet? “House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Sunday that Democrats don’t have the House votes to pass the healthcare bill. ‘If she had 216 votes this bill would be long gone,’ Boehner said of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on CNN’s ‘State of the Union.'” (Rep. James Clyburn admitted that they don’t yet have the votes.)

Wondering if the Obama terror policy is losing steam? David Axelrod seemed less than vigorous about closing Guantanamo. (“We have made good progress. You know, when we got there, the legal status of many of the people there was unclear. We had to go through a process of really sorting all of these cases out. We are beginning to work those cases.”) Boehner was blunt: “I don’t think the Congress will appropriate one dime to move those prisoners from Guantanamo to the United States.”

Wondering if Virginia Democrats are nervous about going down with the Obama ship? “U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., said Friday he could not support health care reform legislation that includes heavy cuts to Medicare, a position he has held since his first vote against the package and his party’s move to push legislation through Congress.” Boucher, an at-risk Democrat, seems unwilling to sacrifice himself for the greater glory of Obama.

Wondering why the media and Democrats are so anxious to discredit the Tea Partiers? Michael Barone says there’s their “energy, political creativity and enthusiasm into a moribund and dejected political party, like the Democrats of 1968 and the Republicans of 2008.” And also this: “The Republicans for the last two decades have been a party whose litmus tests have been cultural issues, especially abortion. The tea partiers have helped to change their focus to issues of government overreach and spending. That may be a helpful pivot, given the emergence of a millennial generation uncomfortable with crusading cultural conservatism.”

Wondering just how inane the Obami’s argument is against political free speech? Axelrod: “Under the ruling of the Supreme Court, any lobbyist could go in to any legislator and say, `If you don’t vote our way on this bill, we’re going to run a million-dollar campaign against you in your district.’ And that is a threat to our democracy.” Threatening legislators with ads! What’s next — citizen protests?

Wondering how that “Republican civil war” is going? It isn’t. At the GOP state convention, Carly Fiorina: “Conservatives, independents, moderates, Republicans, Democrats, Tea Partiers, Libertarians – all of us now belong to one party: The ‘Had Enough Party.’ We have had enough, and we are at a critical point in history – in Ronald Reagan’s words: ‘a time for choosing.’ You and I will choose to make a difference this year. Not separately but together.” That was how Bob McDonnell did it. But Fiorina has a primary first.

Wondering where the American Jewish community is on Obama’s Israel-bash-a-thon? Well, being a “wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party, whose fidelity, financial and electoral, all Dem administrations can and do take fully for granted” has its drawbacks.” But perhaps, just perhaps, some in the community are starting to notice “the ill wind blowing toward Israel from Mr. Obama’s office.”

Wondering why the House hasn’t voted on ObamaCare yet? “House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Sunday that Democrats don’t have the House votes to pass the healthcare bill. ‘If she had 216 votes this bill would be long gone,’ Boehner said of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on CNN’s ‘State of the Union.'” (Rep. James Clyburn admitted that they don’t yet have the votes.)

Wondering if the Obama terror policy is losing steam? David Axelrod seemed less than vigorous about closing Guantanamo. (“We have made good progress. You know, when we got there, the legal status of many of the people there was unclear. We had to go through a process of really sorting all of these cases out. We are beginning to work those cases.”) Boehner was blunt: “I don’t think the Congress will appropriate one dime to move those prisoners from Guantanamo to the United States.”

Wondering if Virginia Democrats are nervous about going down with the Obama ship? “U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., said Friday he could not support health care reform legislation that includes heavy cuts to Medicare, a position he has held since his first vote against the package and his party’s move to push legislation through Congress.” Boucher, an at-risk Democrat, seems unwilling to sacrifice himself for the greater glory of Obama.

Wondering why the media and Democrats are so anxious to discredit the Tea Partiers? Michael Barone says there’s their “energy, political creativity and enthusiasm into a moribund and dejected political party, like the Democrats of 1968 and the Republicans of 2008.” And also this: “The Republicans for the last two decades have been a party whose litmus tests have been cultural issues, especially abortion. The tea partiers have helped to change their focus to issues of government overreach and spending. That may be a helpful pivot, given the emergence of a millennial generation uncomfortable with crusading cultural conservatism.”

Wondering just how inane the Obami’s argument is against political free speech? Axelrod: “Under the ruling of the Supreme Court, any lobbyist could go in to any legislator and say, `If you don’t vote our way on this bill, we’re going to run a million-dollar campaign against you in your district.’ And that is a threat to our democracy.” Threatening legislators with ads! What’s next — citizen protests?

Wondering how that “Republican civil war” is going? It isn’t. At the GOP state convention, Carly Fiorina: “Conservatives, independents, moderates, Republicans, Democrats, Tea Partiers, Libertarians – all of us now belong to one party: The ‘Had Enough Party.’ We have had enough, and we are at a critical point in history – in Ronald Reagan’s words: ‘a time for choosing.’ You and I will choose to make a difference this year. Not separately but together.” That was how Bob McDonnell did it. But Fiorina has a primary first.

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SEIU Lands Its Boss on the Deficit Commission

For those who suspect the president’s bipartisan deficit commission isn’t very bipartisan and isn’t going to do much about the deficit, this report should come as no surprise:

President Obama’s decision to appoint his close political ally, union leader Andrew Stern, to the newly created National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform has set off a firestorm of criticism from business and conservative groups who charge he is a political radical who should be investigated for failure to register as a lobbyist.

Really, what is the much criticized guy with the thuggish reputation belonging to a special-interest group that gave millions to elect Obama and has a vested interest in preserving costly budget items (such as the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires union “prevailing wages” on government contracts) doing on a panel supposedly dedicated to fiscal sobriety? Well, one supposes he’s there to protect the interests of his union members. That’s what he’s been doing for the last year, of course. (“Stern, whose union funneled $60 million to the Obama election campaign, has been a regular visitor to the White House since Obama’s inauguration.”)

Stern is already the subject of complaints over failure to register as a lobbyist. And his union has had its share of legal controversies. His appointment seems to confirm that the commission is about political showmanship and patronage rather than serious fiscal discipline. And it only amplifies the growing sense that Obama is not about change at all, but rather about the worst of old-style, backroom politics.

Granted, Big Labor hasn’t gotten much from Obama. But the consolation prize for the president’s failure to deliver what his patrons want shouldn’t be placement of one of its bosses on a commission designed to bypass the gridlock, self-interest, and seedy politics-as-usual. If Republicans were smart, they’d refuse to participate in a commission to which Stern is appointed. Let the president decide which is more important: a good faith try at deficit reduction or rewarding a disappointed ally.

For those who suspect the president’s bipartisan deficit commission isn’t very bipartisan and isn’t going to do much about the deficit, this report should come as no surprise:

President Obama’s decision to appoint his close political ally, union leader Andrew Stern, to the newly created National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform has set off a firestorm of criticism from business and conservative groups who charge he is a political radical who should be investigated for failure to register as a lobbyist.

Really, what is the much criticized guy with the thuggish reputation belonging to a special-interest group that gave millions to elect Obama and has a vested interest in preserving costly budget items (such as the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires union “prevailing wages” on government contracts) doing on a panel supposedly dedicated to fiscal sobriety? Well, one supposes he’s there to protect the interests of his union members. That’s what he’s been doing for the last year, of course. (“Stern, whose union funneled $60 million to the Obama election campaign, has been a regular visitor to the White House since Obama’s inauguration.”)

Stern is already the subject of complaints over failure to register as a lobbyist. And his union has had its share of legal controversies. His appointment seems to confirm that the commission is about political showmanship and patronage rather than serious fiscal discipline. And it only amplifies the growing sense that Obama is not about change at all, but rather about the worst of old-style, backroom politics.

Granted, Big Labor hasn’t gotten much from Obama. But the consolation prize for the president’s failure to deliver what his patrons want shouldn’t be placement of one of its bosses on a commission designed to bypass the gridlock, self-interest, and seedy politics-as-usual. If Republicans were smart, they’d refuse to participate in a commission to which Stern is appointed. Let the president decide which is more important: a good faith try at deficit reduction or rewarding a disappointed ally.

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Fox Uncovers Anti-Tea-Party Slush-Fund Scam

Fox News persists on covering news others don’t. It seems the “not really a news outlet” has uncovered  a major scam by the Vast Leftwing Conspiracy:

A seemingly grassroots organization that’s mounted an online campaign to counter the tea party movement is actually the front end of an elaborate scheme that funnels funds — including sizable labor union contributions — through the offices of a prominent Democratic party lawyer. A Web site popped up in January dedicated to preventing the tea party’s “radical” and “dangerous” ideas from “gaining legislative traction,” targeting GOP candidates in Illinois for the firing squad.

But how does this happen? It apparently is legal, albeit deceitful:

Here’s how it works: What appears like a local groundswell is in fact the creation of two men — Craig Varoga and George Rakis, Democratic Party strategists who have set up a number of so-called 527 groups, the non-profit election organizations that hammer on contentious issues (think Swift Boats, for example).

Varoga and Rakis keep a central mailing address in Washington, pulling in soft money contributions from unions and other well-padded sources to engage in what amounts to a legal laundering system. The money — tens of millions of dollars — gets circulated around to different states by the 527s, which pay for TV ads, Internet campaigns and lobbyist salaries, all while keeping the hands of the unions clean — for the most part.

Fox has the list of donors, which comprises a set of interlocking slush-type funds that pay for the anti–Tea Party campaign. The largest of these is the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME,) which has kicked in a total of $9.9M in a single year to two funds that provide the cash for the non-grassroots movement. Yes — government workers’ money is being used to fend off Tea Party protesters.–

It seems that the Tea Party movement, once defamed and derided, now poses a threat to the liberal establishment, so much so that they are collecting millions to undermine it. Conservatives shouldn’t object to political speech — which this is. But there is certainly grounds to object to the chicanery, the lack of transparency, and the pretense that the opponents of the Tea Parties are themselves grassroots activists. They aren’t — this is Big Labor and assorted liberal-interest groups once again doing the bidding of the Democratic party. And if not for Fox, no one would be any the wiser.

Fox News persists on covering news others don’t. It seems the “not really a news outlet” has uncovered  a major scam by the Vast Leftwing Conspiracy:

A seemingly grassroots organization that’s mounted an online campaign to counter the tea party movement is actually the front end of an elaborate scheme that funnels funds — including sizable labor union contributions — through the offices of a prominent Democratic party lawyer. A Web site popped up in January dedicated to preventing the tea party’s “radical” and “dangerous” ideas from “gaining legislative traction,” targeting GOP candidates in Illinois for the firing squad.

But how does this happen? It apparently is legal, albeit deceitful:

Here’s how it works: What appears like a local groundswell is in fact the creation of two men — Craig Varoga and George Rakis, Democratic Party strategists who have set up a number of so-called 527 groups, the non-profit election organizations that hammer on contentious issues (think Swift Boats, for example).

Varoga and Rakis keep a central mailing address in Washington, pulling in soft money contributions from unions and other well-padded sources to engage in what amounts to a legal laundering system. The money — tens of millions of dollars — gets circulated around to different states by the 527s, which pay for TV ads, Internet campaigns and lobbyist salaries, all while keeping the hands of the unions clean — for the most part.

Fox has the list of donors, which comprises a set of interlocking slush-type funds that pay for the anti–Tea Party campaign. The largest of these is the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME,) which has kicked in a total of $9.9M in a single year to two funds that provide the cash for the non-grassroots movement. Yes — government workers’ money is being used to fend off Tea Party protesters.–

It seems that the Tea Party movement, once defamed and derided, now poses a threat to the liberal establishment, so much so that they are collecting millions to undermine it. Conservatives shouldn’t object to political speech — which this is. But there is certainly grounds to object to the chicanery, the lack of transparency, and the pretense that the opponents of the Tea Parties are themselves grassroots activists. They aren’t — this is Big Labor and assorted liberal-interest groups once again doing the bidding of the Democratic party. And if not for Fox, no one would be any the wiser.

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LIVE BLOG: The Warm Up

Excerpts are circulating of the president’s speech. The lawmakers are assembling. (Which incumbents want to rush to the aisle to shake the president’s hand, knowing that image wind up in some challenger’s campaign ad?) But this report sort of sums up where we are:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s guest list includes the expected array of family, political friends and a few union chiefs, including Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO and Anna Burger of SEIU. But interestingly, Pelosi’s guest list includes the last sitting speaker to lose election: former Rep. Tom Foley.

Nothing like having those special, special-interest folks with you when the president decries corruption and lobbyists. As for Foley, I’m sure he’s telling Pelosi she  has nothing to fear so long as the president doesn’t double down on healthcare, insist her members vote on repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and attack the Supreme Court for defending the First Amendment. Oh, wait.

UPDATE: A reader sends this along: “Foley worked as a lobbyist for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld after serving as U.S. ambassador to Japan, representing clients such as AT&T, Walt Disney Co., CSX Corp. and the State University of New York. Jim Wright, a Texas Democrat who was speaker from 1987 to 1989, was a consultant for Arch Petroleum Co., although it is unclear if he was ever a registered lobbyist, said the Office of the Historian of the House.” Great image, Nancy.

Excerpts are circulating of the president’s speech. The lawmakers are assembling. (Which incumbents want to rush to the aisle to shake the president’s hand, knowing that image wind up in some challenger’s campaign ad?) But this report sort of sums up where we are:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s guest list includes the expected array of family, political friends and a few union chiefs, including Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO and Anna Burger of SEIU. But interestingly, Pelosi’s guest list includes the last sitting speaker to lose election: former Rep. Tom Foley.

Nothing like having those special, special-interest folks with you when the president decries corruption and lobbyists. As for Foley, I’m sure he’s telling Pelosi she  has nothing to fear so long as the president doesn’t double down on healthcare, insist her members vote on repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and attack the Supreme Court for defending the First Amendment. Oh, wait.

UPDATE: A reader sends this along: “Foley worked as a lobbyist for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld after serving as U.S. ambassador to Japan, representing clients such as AT&T, Walt Disney Co., CSX Corp. and the State University of New York. Jim Wright, a Texas Democrat who was speaker from 1987 to 1989, was a consultant for Arch Petroleum Co., although it is unclear if he was ever a registered lobbyist, said the Office of the Historian of the House.” Great image, Nancy.

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How NIAC Lobbied Against Dennis Ross

As revealed in Eli Lake’s bombshell story, the National Iranian-American Council has often acted as an advocate for the interests of the Iranian regime, especially in the early days of the Obama administration and before the Iranian election in June. As Lake documents, the leader of this “Iranian-American” organization, Trita Parsi, is not an American citizen. And the council, which claims to speak on behalf of the 1-million-strong Iranian-American community, has only a few thousand members.

It is also a 501(c)(3), which means that its mission and operation must be nonpartisan — no lobbying allowed. But as information obtained in the discovery phase of a lawsuit filed by NIAC against a critic shows, the organization has been deeply involved in political advocacy. What follows is but one example.

When it became clear in early January that President-elect Obama intended to pick Dennis Ross to oversee Iran policy at the State Department, NIAC sprung into action to scuttle the nomination.

In a Google group called the “New Iran Policy Coordinating Committee,” where several political allies of NIAC, including lobbying groups, participated, Patrick Disney, NIAC’s acting policy director, wrote that “I should be clear — I think we can still influence the [Ross] selection by submitting our recommendation as soon as possible.” He continued: “NIAC is obviously still formulating a plan, but we’re exploring the idea of coming out publicly, and relatively strongly, against Ross. … I’d like for all of us to coordinate our message as much as possible. So let’s discuss things now and get prepared before things move ahead.”

This was followed by e-mail from Mike Amitay, who is a senior policy analyst at the Open Society Policy Center, a George Soros–funded 501(c)(4) — a lobby. Amitay agreed on the need for action against Ross and added that “a most troubling aspects [sic] of [Ross’s] limited Iran-related resume is his role in crafting Bi-Partisan Policy Council report and prominence on Advisory Board of United Against a Nuclear Iran.”

So, involvement in United Against a Nuclear Iran was a disqualification for the New Iran Policy Coordinating Committee. UANI’s goal is to “promote efforts that focus on vigorous national and international, social, economic, political and diplomatic measures” in opposition to the Iranian nuclear program. Its leadership consists of a bipartisan cast of foreign-policy leaders — it is an utterly, even conspicuously, centrist organization. But for NIAC, even an organization that so much as expresses concern about the nuclear program is unacceptable.

This e-mail exchange shows not just the political radicalism of NIAC and its advocacy of Iranian-regime interests but also the way the organization skates blithely across some very thin ice. Here we have an employee of NIAC acting in his official capacity and using his NIAC e-mail address to help organize a campaign to undermine an Obama-administration nominee. NIAC claims, and its tax status requires, that it is not a lobby and spends zero percent of its time lobbying. Yet Disney is joined by Amitay, a lobbyist, in organizing what is clearly a lobbying campaign. Nowhere is there an attempt to distinguish between the activities of the two groups or to assume roles consistent with their legal statuses. In fact, just the opposite — it is Disney who seeks to spearhead the campaign.

And this comes in the context of a litany of other incriminating revelations — that Parsi set up meetings between U.S. congressmen and the Iranian ambassador to the UN, that members of NIAC attended meetings explicitly devoted to establishing lobbying agendas and tactics, and so on. And all this, it must be added, in order to help the Iranian regime get sanctions lifted and end American opposition to its nuclear ambitions.

Below the jump is a copy of the e-mail exchange in question.
Read More

As revealed in Eli Lake’s bombshell story, the National Iranian-American Council has often acted as an advocate for the interests of the Iranian regime, especially in the early days of the Obama administration and before the Iranian election in June. As Lake documents, the leader of this “Iranian-American” organization, Trita Parsi, is not an American citizen. And the council, which claims to speak on behalf of the 1-million-strong Iranian-American community, has only a few thousand members.

It is also a 501(c)(3), which means that its mission and operation must be nonpartisan — no lobbying allowed. But as information obtained in the discovery phase of a lawsuit filed by NIAC against a critic shows, the organization has been deeply involved in political advocacy. What follows is but one example.

When it became clear in early January that President-elect Obama intended to pick Dennis Ross to oversee Iran policy at the State Department, NIAC sprung into action to scuttle the nomination.

In a Google group called the “New Iran Policy Coordinating Committee,” where several political allies of NIAC, including lobbying groups, participated, Patrick Disney, NIAC’s acting policy director, wrote that “I should be clear — I think we can still influence the [Ross] selection by submitting our recommendation as soon as possible.” He continued: “NIAC is obviously still formulating a plan, but we’re exploring the idea of coming out publicly, and relatively strongly, against Ross. … I’d like for all of us to coordinate our message as much as possible. So let’s discuss things now and get prepared before things move ahead.”

This was followed by e-mail from Mike Amitay, who is a senior policy analyst at the Open Society Policy Center, a George Soros–funded 501(c)(4) — a lobby. Amitay agreed on the need for action against Ross and added that “a most troubling aspects [sic] of [Ross’s] limited Iran-related resume is his role in crafting Bi-Partisan Policy Council report and prominence on Advisory Board of United Against a Nuclear Iran.”

So, involvement in United Against a Nuclear Iran was a disqualification for the New Iran Policy Coordinating Committee. UANI’s goal is to “promote efforts that focus on vigorous national and international, social, economic, political and diplomatic measures” in opposition to the Iranian nuclear program. Its leadership consists of a bipartisan cast of foreign-policy leaders — it is an utterly, even conspicuously, centrist organization. But for NIAC, even an organization that so much as expresses concern about the nuclear program is unacceptable.

This e-mail exchange shows not just the political radicalism of NIAC and its advocacy of Iranian-regime interests but also the way the organization skates blithely across some very thin ice. Here we have an employee of NIAC acting in his official capacity and using his NIAC e-mail address to help organize a campaign to undermine an Obama-administration nominee. NIAC claims, and its tax status requires, that it is not a lobby and spends zero percent of its time lobbying. Yet Disney is joined by Amitay, a lobbyist, in organizing what is clearly a lobbying campaign. Nowhere is there an attempt to distinguish between the activities of the two groups or to assume roles consistent with their legal statuses. In fact, just the opposite — it is Disney who seeks to spearhead the campaign.

And this comes in the context of a litany of other incriminating revelations — that Parsi set up meetings between U.S. congressmen and the Iranian ambassador to the UN, that members of NIAC attended meetings explicitly devoted to establishing lobbying agendas and tactics, and so on. And all this, it must be added, in order to help the Iranian regime get sanctions lifted and end American opposition to its nuclear ambitions.

Below the jump is a copy of the e-mail exchange in question.

—–Original Message—–
From: Mike Amitay [mailto:mamitay@osi-dc.org]
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2009 2:35 PM
To: jparillo@psr.org; PDisney@niacouncil.org; new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com
Subject: RE: Response to Ross as Iran envoy

Ross has not worked extensively on Iran, though his most recent employer WINEP, is a “think-tank” created by AIPAC leadership in the 1980s. As Jill points out, a most troubling aspects of his limited Iran-related resume is his role in crafting Bi-Partisan Policy Council report and prominence on Advisory Board of United Against a Nuclear Iran. (Holbrooke also serves on this body). UANI is a right-wing “pro-Israel” PR effort established to push a more militant US policy towards Iran. If in fact Ross appointment confirmed, I find this deeply troubling. One question to consider, however, is whether publicly objecting to Ross would damage our ability to work with him and others in USG in the future.

###########################################

Mike Amitay – Senior Policy Analyst
Middle East, North Africa and Central Eurasia
Open Society Institute / Open Society Policy Center
1120 19th Street, NW – 8th Floor, Washington, DC 20036
202-721-5625 (direct) 202-530-0138 (fax)
www.soros.org / www.opensocietypolicycenter.org

—–Original Message—–
From: new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com [mailto:new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com] On Behalf Of Jill Parillo
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2009 2:03 PM
To: PDisney@niacouncil.org; new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com; IranPWG@yahoogroups.com
Subject: RE: Response to Ross as Iran envoy

On Ross, I sent an email earlier, but I would like to add:
Engagement with Iran is aimed at reducing tension in US-Iranian relations, to avoid war and build confidence, so to get to a point where together we can develop common policies that will US and Iranian concerns.

If someone is sent to the talks (like when Burns was) who could increase tension, the policy of engagement as a solution to the Iran challenge will not be a success.
We should talk to those that know Ross well and his policies, and ability to negotiate in a peaceful fair manner.

In spending time as part of the Department of Disarmament Affairs and at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, I sat through several high level negotiations where country Ambassadors walked out of the room because of Bush Administration officials being very rude. The right person and the right policy are important.

We need to also pay attention to who the envoy will report to, in this case it is Clinton, not Obama.
I have never met Ross in person, so I will not judge if he is a good or bad pick. However, I can say I have concerns, since he signed onto the attached paper which says, “WE BELIEVE A MILITARY STRIKE IS A FEASIBLE OPTION…..the United States will need to augment its military presence in the region. This should commence the first day the new President enters office.” I am taking this out of context, so please look at this section for yourself, but in any case, it is concerning.

Best,

Jill

PS. I am off to speak in Italy until Jan 19-Pugwash Conference, so I may not be available for much of the next 10 days. Thanks

—–Original Message—–
From: new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com [mailto:new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com] On Behalf Of pdisney@niacouncil.org
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2009 1:33 PM
To: new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com; IranPWG@yahoogroups.com
Subject: Response to Ross as Iran envoy

All,

As the rumors appear to be more substantiated by the hour, I think we should start a conversation about what our response will be if Dennis Ross is named Iran envoy.

I should be clear–I think we can still influence the selection by submitting our recommendation as soon as possible. However, if it does prove to be Ross, we have to make a choice as to how to respond.

NIAC is obviously still formulating a plan, but we’re exploring the idea of coming out publicly, and relatively strongly, against Ross. We would make it clear that we prefer to work with Obama, and that Ross does not align with Obama’s plan to change America’s approach. Obviously, there are pro’s and con’s to any strategy, but if it’s simply impossible for us to work with Ross, we should be in a position to say I told you so after he messes everything up. But I’d like to hear others’ thoughts.

Again, this is a brainstorm rather than a concrete plan. I’d like for all of us to coordinate our message as much as possible. So let’s discuss things now and get prepared before things move ahead.
Thanks very much.
-p

January 7, 2009, 10:21 AM
Obama
Picks Foreign Envoys

Posted by Michelle

Levi

Transition officials confirm to CBS News’ Marc Ambinder that President-elect Obama has asked Dennis Ross, Richard Haas, and Richard Holbrooke, to serve as his chief emissaries to world hot spots. Ross and Holbrooke both served in senior Clinton administration roles. Haas had senior posts in the Bush administration from 2001 to 2003 and in the administration of President George H.W. Bush.

It’s expected that Ross will be assigned the Iran portfolio, that Holbrooke, the hard-headed architect of the Dayton Peace Accords, will take the difficult Southwest Asia portfolio, including India, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and that Haas will deal with the Middle East.

Each men’s turf is still in flux, so these early assignments are not firm.
Read More Posts In Transition

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Eli Lake on NIAC

Eli Lake has a blockbuster story in the Washington Times concerning the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which made its name as a reliable apologist for the mullahs and has consistently advocated lifting sanctions against the Iranian regime. (Some background is here and here.) NIAC, according to Lake’s report, worked hard to create a media storm over Obama Middle East adviser Dennis Ross, fearing he would advocate a tougher line against the mullahs. Moreover, it turns out NIAC hasn’t played by the rules:

Law enforcement experts who reviewed some of the documents, which were made available to The Times by the defendant in the suit, say e-mails between Mr. Parsi and Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations at the time, Javad Zarif — and an internal review of the Lobbying Disclosure Act — offer evidence that the group has operated as an undeclared lobby and may be guilty of violating tax laws, the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lobbying disclosure laws.

Neither Mr. Parsi nor anyone else at NIAC has registered as a lobbyist or filed papers with the Justice Department as a local agent of the Iranian government or Iranian companies. … Mr. Parsi defended his decision to organize NIAC as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and declare on tax forms that his group does not engage in lobbying — a status that enables donors to deduct contributions on their taxes.

Lake also exposes the NIAC claim to represent “the Iranian community” in America — or least many in it — to be, well, laughable. He explains: “The organization has between 2,500 and 3,000 members, according to Mr. Parsi, but had fewer than 500 responses to a membership survey conducted last summer, internal documents show. Yet NIAC asserts that it is the largest such group and represents the majority of the nearly 1 million Iranian Americans.” Five hundred, 1 million, whatever.

Parsi and NIAC have done their best to insulate the Iranian regime from criticism and to oppose any military or economic action against it. Parsi, you may recall, did his anti-anti-Iran routine recently at J Street’s conference. (J Street and NIAC share a common goal: prevention of sanctions against the regime. In addition, Genevieve Lynch, a NIAC board member, is on J Street’s finance committee and gave a cool $10,000 to the J Street gang.) As Jeffrey Goldberg observed, he does “a lot of leg-work” for the mullahs in the U.S. Lake quotes famed Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf as saying, “I think Trita Parsi does not belong to the Green Movement. I feel his lobbying has secretly been more for the Islamic Republic.”

One other note, John Limbert was a board member of NIAC before recently being named deputy assistant secretary of state for Iran. Lake notes, “Mr. Limbert declined to comment, citing his new position, but has appeared at NIAC conferences in the past and expressed admiration for the organization and for its charismatic leader, Trita Parsi.”

Lake’s bombshell piece will no doubt cause a huge stir among those both within and outside the Obama administration who’ve chosen to cozy up to NIAC, and in turn give the mullahs a helping hand.

Eli Lake has a blockbuster story in the Washington Times concerning the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which made its name as a reliable apologist for the mullahs and has consistently advocated lifting sanctions against the Iranian regime. (Some background is here and here.) NIAC, according to Lake’s report, worked hard to create a media storm over Obama Middle East adviser Dennis Ross, fearing he would advocate a tougher line against the mullahs. Moreover, it turns out NIAC hasn’t played by the rules:

Law enforcement experts who reviewed some of the documents, which were made available to The Times by the defendant in the suit, say e-mails between Mr. Parsi and Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations at the time, Javad Zarif — and an internal review of the Lobbying Disclosure Act — offer evidence that the group has operated as an undeclared lobby and may be guilty of violating tax laws, the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lobbying disclosure laws.

Neither Mr. Parsi nor anyone else at NIAC has registered as a lobbyist or filed papers with the Justice Department as a local agent of the Iranian government or Iranian companies. … Mr. Parsi defended his decision to organize NIAC as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and declare on tax forms that his group does not engage in lobbying — a status that enables donors to deduct contributions on their taxes.

Lake also exposes the NIAC claim to represent “the Iranian community” in America — or least many in it — to be, well, laughable. He explains: “The organization has between 2,500 and 3,000 members, according to Mr. Parsi, but had fewer than 500 responses to a membership survey conducted last summer, internal documents show. Yet NIAC asserts that it is the largest such group and represents the majority of the nearly 1 million Iranian Americans.” Five hundred, 1 million, whatever.

Parsi and NIAC have done their best to insulate the Iranian regime from criticism and to oppose any military or economic action against it. Parsi, you may recall, did his anti-anti-Iran routine recently at J Street’s conference. (J Street and NIAC share a common goal: prevention of sanctions against the regime. In addition, Genevieve Lynch, a NIAC board member, is on J Street’s finance committee and gave a cool $10,000 to the J Street gang.) As Jeffrey Goldberg observed, he does “a lot of leg-work” for the mullahs in the U.S. Lake quotes famed Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf as saying, “I think Trita Parsi does not belong to the Green Movement. I feel his lobbying has secretly been more for the Islamic Republic.”

One other note, John Limbert was a board member of NIAC before recently being named deputy assistant secretary of state for Iran. Lake notes, “Mr. Limbert declined to comment, citing his new position, but has appeared at NIAC conferences in the past and expressed admiration for the organization and for its charismatic leader, Trita Parsi.”

Lake’s bombshell piece will no doubt cause a huge stir among those both within and outside the Obama administration who’ve chosen to cozy up to NIAC, and in turn give the mullahs a helping hand.

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The Most Transparent Politician Ever?

Hillary Clinton has some grounds to be peeved. She, after all, was scolded by the Obama camp for months for failure to reveal all her tax records, the Clinton library records, and the White House logs. Barack Obama painted her as the captive of corporate lobbyists. It was shooting fish in a barrel–the public had had enough of the Clintons’ shenanigans and the press was mercilous in debate grillings and coverage.

But really is Obama any better? The Obama camp has played “count the lobbyists” for weeks, trying to convert John McCain into a stooge for special interests (which will surprise the business community which is none too thrilled to have someone as the Republican nominee who is so enamored of regulation). But in just one week we learn that Obama’s Puerto Rico campaign director is a lobbyist and David Axelrod apparently has his own roster of clients, although he desperately spins to avoid the title of “lobbyist.” (Didn’t Hillary take some flak for Mark Penn’s lobbying business?) And Obama hasn’t exactly given up closed-door fundraisers.

So is Obama any better on the lobbyist and openness front than Clinton? Well, he is less experienced and never made his way to a position where–for example–he took a healthcare task force deep undercover. In other words, his trail is not as long. But as the facts dribble out, it is not clear he is any more committed or able to rid himself of the “sins” (imagined or real, depending on your perspective) which he used to bring down Clinton.

Whether this apparent hypocrisy will hobble him to any degree in the general election remains to be seen. We will have to see if Jonathan Last was right when he penned that “Hypocrisy is the last great sin.”

Hillary Clinton has some grounds to be peeved. She, after all, was scolded by the Obama camp for months for failure to reveal all her tax records, the Clinton library records, and the White House logs. Barack Obama painted her as the captive of corporate lobbyists. It was shooting fish in a barrel–the public had had enough of the Clintons’ shenanigans and the press was mercilous in debate grillings and coverage.

But really is Obama any better? The Obama camp has played “count the lobbyists” for weeks, trying to convert John McCain into a stooge for special interests (which will surprise the business community which is none too thrilled to have someone as the Republican nominee who is so enamored of regulation). But in just one week we learn that Obama’s Puerto Rico campaign director is a lobbyist and David Axelrod apparently has his own roster of clients, although he desperately spins to avoid the title of “lobbyist.” (Didn’t Hillary take some flak for Mark Penn’s lobbying business?) And Obama hasn’t exactly given up closed-door fundraisers.

So is Obama any better on the lobbyist and openness front than Clinton? Well, he is less experienced and never made his way to a position where–for example–he took a healthcare task force deep undercover. In other words, his trail is not as long. But as the facts dribble out, it is not clear he is any more committed or able to rid himself of the “sins” (imagined or real, depending on your perspective) which he used to bring down Clinton.

Whether this apparent hypocrisy will hobble him to any degree in the general election remains to be seen. We will have to see if Jonathan Last was right when he penned that “Hypocrisy is the last great sin.”

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The Scandal Lobby

It’s nice to have friends in high places. It’s not so nice to see those friends unfairly pilloried by journalists intent on collecting another scalp.

First it was Obama adviser Samantha Power, who was accused by some on the right of being anti-Israel on the basis of evidence that was, to put it charitably, ambiguous. Now it’s John McCain’s chief foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, who is being labeled as-gasp-a lobbyist. This heinous charge has been hauled out in the New York Times, USA Today, and now the Wall Street Journal.

There is a difference, of course: While Power is not really anti-Israel, Scheunemann really has been a lobbyist. The question is: What’s wrong with that?

All of the reporters who have written about the issue try to insinuate that something nefarious is going on without actually coming out and saying what it is. Today’s Wall Street Journal article by Mary Jacoby is a classic in the genre known in Washington as “appearance of a conflict of interest”-i.e., not an actual conflict but something that can be made to look that way through selective juxtaposition of acts.

Thus Jacoby notes that Randy has lobbied on behalf of Romania, Latvia, Georgia, and Macedonia while those countries were seeking admission to NATO. She then notes that McCain has been in favor of admitting all those countries to NATO. The inference readers are supposed to draw is that there is something untoward going on here. Only in the final line of the article do we get the evidence that dispels these insinuations:

“Sen. McCain’s been for NATO enlargement since the mid-1990s,” said Mr. Rogers, the McCain spokesman. “His record speaks for itself.”

In other words, McCain (whose campaign I advise on foreign policy issues) was in favor of NATO expansion long before Randy was lobbying on those issues. Anyone who knows either McCain or Scheunemann would laugh at the notion that their support for the embattled democracies of Eastern and Southern Europe is the result of payoffs from those countries.

Randy represents those emerging democracies because he believes in expanding freedom-something that he has pushed for in other contexts without earning any money for it. He was, for instance, one of the founders of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. Randy has been pushing for NATO expansion since the mid-1990s when he was not a lobbyist at all but Senator Bob Dole’s chief foreign policy adviser.

Unlike some other lobbyists, he doesn’t represent dictatorial or anti-American regimes. And he is so dedicated to McCain that he spent the period between June of 2007 and March of 2008 working as his chief foreign policy adviser for free. Now he has given up his lobbying income to work on the campaign for a fraction of what he was earning.

Again: What is it exactly that he has done wrong? USA Today writes:

While not illegal or a breach of Senate ethics rules, Scheunemann’s lobbying of McCain’s staff as he was advising the campaign comes to light a week after McCain announced a new policy to avoid such conflicts. The new conflict-of-interest policy prohibits campaign workers from being registered lobbyists or foreign agents and bans part-time volunteers from policy discussions on issues involving their clients. Campaign spokesman Jill Hazelbaker said the ethics policy is not retroactive.

So what Randy has done is not illegal. It’s also not unethical under Senate ethics rules or the more stringent ethics rules of the McCain campaign. Now that the candidate has banned lobbyists from the campaign, Scheunemann has stopped lobbying. Which suggests that there is no story here.

Or perhaps that the real story is that reporters are so desperate to bring McCain down a notch that they will try to concoct nonexistent scandals about his aides. The fact that, outside of Mickey Kaus’s blog, there is a notable lack of outrage over Senator Obama picking a major lobbyist to lead his vice presidential search effort only makes the artificiality of this non-scandal all the more apparent.

It’s nice to have friends in high places. It’s not so nice to see those friends unfairly pilloried by journalists intent on collecting another scalp.

First it was Obama adviser Samantha Power, who was accused by some on the right of being anti-Israel on the basis of evidence that was, to put it charitably, ambiguous. Now it’s John McCain’s chief foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, who is being labeled as-gasp-a lobbyist. This heinous charge has been hauled out in the New York Times, USA Today, and now the Wall Street Journal.

There is a difference, of course: While Power is not really anti-Israel, Scheunemann really has been a lobbyist. The question is: What’s wrong with that?

All of the reporters who have written about the issue try to insinuate that something nefarious is going on without actually coming out and saying what it is. Today’s Wall Street Journal article by Mary Jacoby is a classic in the genre known in Washington as “appearance of a conflict of interest”-i.e., not an actual conflict but something that can be made to look that way through selective juxtaposition of acts.

Thus Jacoby notes that Randy has lobbied on behalf of Romania, Latvia, Georgia, and Macedonia while those countries were seeking admission to NATO. She then notes that McCain has been in favor of admitting all those countries to NATO. The inference readers are supposed to draw is that there is something untoward going on here. Only in the final line of the article do we get the evidence that dispels these insinuations:

“Sen. McCain’s been for NATO enlargement since the mid-1990s,” said Mr. Rogers, the McCain spokesman. “His record speaks for itself.”

In other words, McCain (whose campaign I advise on foreign policy issues) was in favor of NATO expansion long before Randy was lobbying on those issues. Anyone who knows either McCain or Scheunemann would laugh at the notion that their support for the embattled democracies of Eastern and Southern Europe is the result of payoffs from those countries.

Randy represents those emerging democracies because he believes in expanding freedom-something that he has pushed for in other contexts without earning any money for it. He was, for instance, one of the founders of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. Randy has been pushing for NATO expansion since the mid-1990s when he was not a lobbyist at all but Senator Bob Dole’s chief foreign policy adviser.

Unlike some other lobbyists, he doesn’t represent dictatorial or anti-American regimes. And he is so dedicated to McCain that he spent the period between June of 2007 and March of 2008 working as his chief foreign policy adviser for free. Now he has given up his lobbying income to work on the campaign for a fraction of what he was earning.

Again: What is it exactly that he has done wrong? USA Today writes:

While not illegal or a breach of Senate ethics rules, Scheunemann’s lobbying of McCain’s staff as he was advising the campaign comes to light a week after McCain announced a new policy to avoid such conflicts. The new conflict-of-interest policy prohibits campaign workers from being registered lobbyists or foreign agents and bans part-time volunteers from policy discussions on issues involving their clients. Campaign spokesman Jill Hazelbaker said the ethics policy is not retroactive.

So what Randy has done is not illegal. It’s also not unethical under Senate ethics rules or the more stringent ethics rules of the McCain campaign. Now that the candidate has banned lobbyists from the campaign, Scheunemann has stopped lobbying. Which suggests that there is no story here.

Or perhaps that the real story is that reporters are so desperate to bring McCain down a notch that they will try to concoct nonexistent scandals about his aides. The fact that, outside of Mickey Kaus’s blog, there is a notable lack of outrage over Senator Obama picking a major lobbyist to lead his vice presidential search effort only makes the artificiality of this non-scandal all the more apparent.

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The Problem Isn’t The Lobbyists

A few reporters are onto some lobbyist connections in the Obama camp. We saw some of this earlier in the race when his “I don’t take oil company money” was shown to be less than accurate. But this whole argument, I’d say, is off base. (As is the effort by the McCain camp to purge its own lobbyists for the reasons discussed here.) It’s not as if lobbying is illegal. Last time I checked, it was protected by the First Amendment. The problem is politicians who cave into the special interests promoted by lobbyists.  David Brooks notes, speaking of the atrocious $307 billion farm bill,

Barack Obama talks about taking on the special interests. This farm bill would have been a perfect opportunity to do so. But Obama supported the bill, just as he supported the 2005 energy bill that was a Christmas tree for the oil and gas industries. Obama’s vote may help him win Iowa, but it will lead to higher global food prices and more hunger in Africa. Moreover, it raises questions about how exactly he expects to bring about the change that he promises.

So rather than count lobbyists, perhaps we should start counting dollars spent on boondoggles. This is a more meaningful measure of a candidates’ willingness to resist lobbyists’ invitations to spend the taxpayers dollars and override the public interest. And  it–rather than a neverending game of “spot the lobbyist”–might be a more fruitful exercise as we look for the next president.

A few reporters are onto some lobbyist connections in the Obama camp. We saw some of this earlier in the race when his “I don’t take oil company money” was shown to be less than accurate. But this whole argument, I’d say, is off base. (As is the effort by the McCain camp to purge its own lobbyists for the reasons discussed here.) It’s not as if lobbying is illegal. Last time I checked, it was protected by the First Amendment. The problem is politicians who cave into the special interests promoted by lobbyists.  David Brooks notes, speaking of the atrocious $307 billion farm bill,

Barack Obama talks about taking on the special interests. This farm bill would have been a perfect opportunity to do so. But Obama supported the bill, just as he supported the 2005 energy bill that was a Christmas tree for the oil and gas industries. Obama’s vote may help him win Iowa, but it will lead to higher global food prices and more hunger in Africa. Moreover, it raises questions about how exactly he expects to bring about the change that he promises.

So rather than count lobbyists, perhaps we should start counting dollars spent on boondoggles. This is a more meaningful measure of a candidates’ willingness to resist lobbyists’ invitations to spend the taxpayers dollars and override the public interest. And  it–rather than a neverending game of “spot the lobbyist”–might be a more fruitful exercise as we look for the next president.

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Fighting Back

The White House and the McCain campaign are both turning up the heat on mainstream media outlets, challenging their inaccuracies and going public with their complaints. In theory this sounds like a fine idea, a much needed correction to the obvious biases and just flat-out inaccuracies that any serious observer of news coverage can spot. And there is no easier way to “bond” with the conservative base than to rail against the liberal media, as John McCain did effectively with the New York Times’ lobbyist story.

But, at least with regard to the McCain campaign, dangers lurk. Their opponent, of course, is Barack Obama–not the media. The “story of the day” is ideally not “McCain attacks CNN for bias,” but “Obama gets trapped in foreign policy misstatement.” For better or worse, the public doesn’t care much about media bias. Nor does the “everyone is out to get Republicans” meme appeal to most voters (many of whom would like to “get” those same Republicans).

It was, it seems, many conservatives and the McCain camp itself which ripped Obama for objecting to press scrutiny on Rezko and Wright. The contrast between McCain–who plunges into media scrums–and Obama–who shrinks from pressers–is an effective one, if the McCain message is transparency, openness and determination under fire. But it doesn’t help to turn around and bellyache that the coverage is insufficiently supportive.

This is a tightrope for the McCain camp: to walk the line between exposing media unfairness and keeping their eye on the ball. Frankly, there is a great deal in mainstream media coverage– whether of Obama’s latest conflict-of-interest problem or of his fumble on Iran–which has been exceedingly fair to the McCain camp. And in our current media universe, the McCain people may have an easier time than any other Republican presidential candidate in political history in getting their message out. After all, Ronald Reagan managed to get elected twice in a media environment utterly dominated by three networks and a handful of openly oppositional newspapers.

The White House and the McCain campaign are both turning up the heat on mainstream media outlets, challenging their inaccuracies and going public with their complaints. In theory this sounds like a fine idea, a much needed correction to the obvious biases and just flat-out inaccuracies that any serious observer of news coverage can spot. And there is no easier way to “bond” with the conservative base than to rail against the liberal media, as John McCain did effectively with the New York Times’ lobbyist story.

But, at least with regard to the McCain campaign, dangers lurk. Their opponent, of course, is Barack Obama–not the media. The “story of the day” is ideally not “McCain attacks CNN for bias,” but “Obama gets trapped in foreign policy misstatement.” For better or worse, the public doesn’t care much about media bias. Nor does the “everyone is out to get Republicans” meme appeal to most voters (many of whom would like to “get” those same Republicans).

It was, it seems, many conservatives and the McCain camp itself which ripped Obama for objecting to press scrutiny on Rezko and Wright. The contrast between McCain–who plunges into media scrums–and Obama–who shrinks from pressers–is an effective one, if the McCain message is transparency, openness and determination under fire. But it doesn’t help to turn around and bellyache that the coverage is insufficiently supportive.

This is a tightrope for the McCain camp: to walk the line between exposing media unfairness and keeping their eye on the ball. Frankly, there is a great deal in mainstream media coverage– whether of Obama’s latest conflict-of-interest problem or of his fumble on Iran–which has been exceedingly fair to the McCain camp. And in our current media universe, the McCain people may have an easier time than any other Republican presidential candidate in political history in getting their message out. After all, Ronald Reagan managed to get elected twice in a media environment utterly dominated by three networks and a handful of openly oppositional newspapers.

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Hoyt Tries To Clean Up – Again

New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt is cleaning up after another embarrassing display of journalistic bias by the Times. (Remember him? He was tasked with the job of excoriating Bill Keller and the rest of the Times editors and reporters responsible for the smear story on John McCain and the female lobbyist.) This time the subject is Reverend Wright. Hoyt writes:

While The Times was aggressive with its coverage on the Web, it was slow to fully engage the Wright story in print and angered some readers by putting opinion about it on the front page — a review by the television critic of his appearances on PBS, at an N.A.A.C.P. convention and at the National Press Club — before ever reporting in any depth what he actually said, how it squared with reality and what it might mean as Democrats ponder Obama as their potential nominee.

Hoyt traces the Times‘s repeated failures to report and analyze developments in the Wright story, despite robust coverage by other outlets. He then includes this howler:

[Bill] Keller, [Jill] Abramson and [Richard] Stevenson said they wished that more of Wright’s words had gotten into the paper. But Keller and Abramson defended the front-page review. “This was a story that was playing out on TV, and we have a reviewer who is a smart viewer,” Keller said. Abramson said, “She had a lot of interesting things to say that didn’t go over the news-opinion divide.”

It’s nice to know that the management of our paper of record sees no reason to pipe up so long as TV reporters are covering a story. One wonders, with 24/7 cable news coverage, why the Times doesn’t close up shop altogether. Prior to Hoyt’s column, this utter failure by the Times to report on the Wright story had long been discussed on numerous blogs. But better late than never, I suppose, that the Times should acknowledge its own negligence.

Isn’t it odd, though, how the mistakes made by the Times invariably tilt toward its political favorites and against those favorites’ opponents? Apparently no journalistic malpractice is grave enough to cause personnel changes at a newspaper constantly screaming about lack of accountability in government and corporations.

New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt is cleaning up after another embarrassing display of journalistic bias by the Times. (Remember him? He was tasked with the job of excoriating Bill Keller and the rest of the Times editors and reporters responsible for the smear story on John McCain and the female lobbyist.) This time the subject is Reverend Wright. Hoyt writes:

While The Times was aggressive with its coverage on the Web, it was slow to fully engage the Wright story in print and angered some readers by putting opinion about it on the front page — a review by the television critic of his appearances on PBS, at an N.A.A.C.P. convention and at the National Press Club — before ever reporting in any depth what he actually said, how it squared with reality and what it might mean as Democrats ponder Obama as their potential nominee.

Hoyt traces the Times‘s repeated failures to report and analyze developments in the Wright story, despite robust coverage by other outlets. He then includes this howler:

[Bill] Keller, [Jill] Abramson and [Richard] Stevenson said they wished that more of Wright’s words had gotten into the paper. But Keller and Abramson defended the front-page review. “This was a story that was playing out on TV, and we have a reviewer who is a smart viewer,” Keller said. Abramson said, “She had a lot of interesting things to say that didn’t go over the news-opinion divide.”

It’s nice to know that the management of our paper of record sees no reason to pipe up so long as TV reporters are covering a story. One wonders, with 24/7 cable news coverage, why the Times doesn’t close up shop altogether. Prior to Hoyt’s column, this utter failure by the Times to report on the Wright story had long been discussed on numerous blogs. But better late than never, I suppose, that the Times should acknowledge its own negligence.

Isn’t it odd, though, how the mistakes made by the Times invariably tilt toward its political favorites and against those favorites’ opponents? Apparently no journalistic malpractice is grave enough to cause personnel changes at a newspaper constantly screaming about lack of accountability in government and corporations.

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Meanwhile McCain Meets With His Base

There’s a strong temptation to simply sit back and watch the Democrats fight over who is a less genuine representative of smalltown America. Yet, John McCain (remember him?) is trying to stay in the news. His address to the AP Annual Meeting seemed to focus on reminding the media–one of his favorite constinuencies–why he is different from all the other politicians they cover: he gives the press unlimited access and talks to them incessantly. Truth be told, his tactic generally helps (as seen by the ease with which he batted down the New York Times’ ill-sourced lobbyist story).

This time round, McCain makes a bit of news by coming out in favor of the federal shield law. (Ted Olson has made the best conservative case for this position.) He also ventures into Barack Obama’s flub, but in a rather tame, “I love these people” sort of way. He says in part:

They were not born with the advantages others in our country enjoyed. They suffered the worst during the Depression. But it had not shaken their faith in and fidelity to America and its founding political ideals. Nor had it destroyed their confidence that America and their own lives could be made better. Nor did they turn to their religious faith and cultural traditions out of resentment and a feeling of powerlessness to affect the course of government or pursue prosperity. On the contrary, their faith had given generations of their families purpose and meaning, as it does today. And their appreciation of traditions like hunting was based in nothing other than their contribution to the enjoyment of life.

That is rather mild stuff, indicating perhaps that Team McCain has concluded that Hillary Clinton and the media are much better positioned to undermine Obama’s appeal among independents and Reagan Democrats.

There’s a strong temptation to simply sit back and watch the Democrats fight over who is a less genuine representative of smalltown America. Yet, John McCain (remember him?) is trying to stay in the news. His address to the AP Annual Meeting seemed to focus on reminding the media–one of his favorite constinuencies–why he is different from all the other politicians they cover: he gives the press unlimited access and talks to them incessantly. Truth be told, his tactic generally helps (as seen by the ease with which he batted down the New York Times’ ill-sourced lobbyist story).

This time round, McCain makes a bit of news by coming out in favor of the federal shield law. (Ted Olson has made the best conservative case for this position.) He also ventures into Barack Obama’s flub, but in a rather tame, “I love these people” sort of way. He says in part:

They were not born with the advantages others in our country enjoyed. They suffered the worst during the Depression. But it had not shaken their faith in and fidelity to America and its founding political ideals. Nor had it destroyed their confidence that America and their own lives could be made better. Nor did they turn to their religious faith and cultural traditions out of resentment and a feeling of powerlessness to affect the course of government or pursue prosperity. On the contrary, their faith had given generations of their families purpose and meaning, as it does today. And their appreciation of traditions like hunting was based in nothing other than their contribution to the enjoyment of life.

That is rather mild stuff, indicating perhaps that Team McCain has concluded that Hillary Clinton and the media are much better positioned to undermine Obama’s appeal among independents and Reagan Democrats.

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The New York Times Is Outraged

The Times is fit to be tied — about the Times. Its public editor takes Executive Editor Bill Keller to the journalistic woodshed with this blast:

The article was notable for what it did not say: It did not say what convinced the advisers that there was a romance. It did not make clear what McCain was admitting when he acknowledged behaving inappropriately — an affair or just an association with a lobbyist that could look bad. And it did not say whether Weaver, the only on-the-record source, believed there was a romance. The Times did not offer independent proof, like the text messages between Detroit’s mayor and a female aide that The Detroit Free Press disclosed recently, or the photograph of Donna Rice sitting on Gary Hart’s lap.

It was not for want of trying. Four highly respected reporters in the Washington bureau worked for months on the story and were pressed repeatedly to get sources on the record and to find documentary evidence like e-mail. If McCain had been having an affair with a lobbyist seeking his help on public policy issues, and The Times had proved it, it would have been a story of unquestionable importance.

But in the absence of a smoking gun, I asked Keller why he decided to run what he had.

“If the point of the story was to allege that McCain had an affair with a lobbyist, we’d have owed readers more compelling evidence than the conviction of senior staff members,” he replied. “But that was not the point of the story. The point of the story was that he behaved in such a way that his close aides felt the relationship constituted reckless behavior and feared it would ruin his career.”

I think that ignores the scarlet elephant in the room. A newspaper cannot begin a story about the all-but-certain Republican presidential nominee with the suggestion of an extramarital affair with an attractive lobbyist 31 years his junior and expect readers to focus on anything other than what most of them did. And if a newspaper is going to suggest an improper sexual affair, whether editors think that is the central point or not, it owes readers more proof than The Times was able to provide.

Well, who can argue with that? Two thousand outraged Times readers can’t be wrong. John McCain, whose professional reputation is in better shape than Bill Keller’s, has, by the way, raised more than $2M from his “The Times is after me” fundraising letter.

The Times is fit to be tied — about the Times. Its public editor takes Executive Editor Bill Keller to the journalistic woodshed with this blast:

The article was notable for what it did not say: It did not say what convinced the advisers that there was a romance. It did not make clear what McCain was admitting when he acknowledged behaving inappropriately — an affair or just an association with a lobbyist that could look bad. And it did not say whether Weaver, the only on-the-record source, believed there was a romance. The Times did not offer independent proof, like the text messages between Detroit’s mayor and a female aide that The Detroit Free Press disclosed recently, or the photograph of Donna Rice sitting on Gary Hart’s lap.

It was not for want of trying. Four highly respected reporters in the Washington bureau worked for months on the story and were pressed repeatedly to get sources on the record and to find documentary evidence like e-mail. If McCain had been having an affair with a lobbyist seeking his help on public policy issues, and The Times had proved it, it would have been a story of unquestionable importance.

But in the absence of a smoking gun, I asked Keller why he decided to run what he had.

“If the point of the story was to allege that McCain had an affair with a lobbyist, we’d have owed readers more compelling evidence than the conviction of senior staff members,” he replied. “But that was not the point of the story. The point of the story was that he behaved in such a way that his close aides felt the relationship constituted reckless behavior and feared it would ruin his career.”

I think that ignores the scarlet elephant in the room. A newspaper cannot begin a story about the all-but-certain Republican presidential nominee with the suggestion of an extramarital affair with an attractive lobbyist 31 years his junior and expect readers to focus on anything other than what most of them did. And if a newspaper is going to suggest an improper sexual affair, whether editors think that is the central point or not, it owes readers more proof than The Times was able to provide.

Well, who can argue with that? Two thousand outraged Times readers can’t be wrong. John McCain, whose professional reputation is in better shape than Bill Keller’s, has, by the way, raised more than $2M from his “The Times is after me” fundraising letter.

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McCain Blogger Call

John McCain just completed another blogger call. He began by talking about Kosovo, saying he believed it would be an independent country and that Vladimir Putin’s comments were “very unhelpful” and his discussion of Georgia’s breakaway provinces was “outrageous.” He also again took Barack Obama to task for offering to meet with Raul Castro without preconditions. He stated that Raul was “the bad guy of the duo” and responsible for sentencing people to death and maintaining a dictatorship and that McCain would only meet with him after “the prisons were emptied,” fair elections were held and other conditions had been met. (In response to a question later in the call he noted that the danger in meeting with Raul would be to legitimize him when a transition to a freer system might otherwise be possible. He argued that the embargo policy had successfully contained Castro.)

I asked him about the potential Democratic nominees’ unwillingness to recognize progress in Iraq. He said he was “disappointed but not surprised they continue to deny obvious facts” that political and military progress was being made. He termed it “almost Orwellian” that people would assert that the threat of withdrawal actually contributed to improved conditions. He suggested that his opponents need not “apologize” but they should admit they were wrong in opposing the surge. (He offered that MoveOn.org has a “significant influence in the Democrat party.”)

Abe Greenwald asked about Jay Lefkowitz’s criticisms (which were given the back of the hand by Secretary of State Condi Rice) that the Six Party talks involving North Korea should address human rights abuses. McCain said succinctly that he does believe the talks should address human rights and that North Korea remains the world’s largest functioning “gulag.” (He mentioned his disappointment that the South Korean government was not as “mindful” of the human rights abuses as it should be.) He said undue focus on the make-up of the talks rather than the content was misguided and drew analogies to Vietnam, mentioning that talks went on unsuccessfully for years until “B-52’s appeared in the skies.” He said that he was concerned about the North Korea’s failure to live up to its committments and its potential involvement with Syria’s nuclear program. (He ended his response by quoting Ronald Reagan’s “Trust but verify” addage.)

On other matters: 1) He expressed “distress” that Congressman Rick Renzi was indicted and agreed he would likely step down as an Arizona co-chair; 2) He said he was on “solid ground” in withdrawing from the public financing constraints imposed by the FEC as Congressman Dick Gephardt previously had done in similar circumstances; 3) He said he would be competitive in California and states in the northeast like New Jersey and even New York and intended to go to places Republicans usually don’t and compete in all states.; 4) Explained his “100 years in Iraq” comment as an indication that our security arrangements would be ongoing but that we would be successful militarily in the short term and defended himself against the Democratic charges that he was not expert on the economy by saying he was most expert on foreign policy given his decades of involvement in that area, but that his low tax, free market philosophy would stack up well against the Democrats. He declined to comment further on the New York Times lobbyist story.

In general, he seemed engaged and forward looking. There was no trace of animus or bitterness about yesterday’s events, and he seemed energized when talking about differences with his Democratic opponents.

John McCain just completed another blogger call. He began by talking about Kosovo, saying he believed it would be an independent country and that Vladimir Putin’s comments were “very unhelpful” and his discussion of Georgia’s breakaway provinces was “outrageous.” He also again took Barack Obama to task for offering to meet with Raul Castro without preconditions. He stated that Raul was “the bad guy of the duo” and responsible for sentencing people to death and maintaining a dictatorship and that McCain would only meet with him after “the prisons were emptied,” fair elections were held and other conditions had been met. (In response to a question later in the call he noted that the danger in meeting with Raul would be to legitimize him when a transition to a freer system might otherwise be possible. He argued that the embargo policy had successfully contained Castro.)

I asked him about the potential Democratic nominees’ unwillingness to recognize progress in Iraq. He said he was “disappointed but not surprised they continue to deny obvious facts” that political and military progress was being made. He termed it “almost Orwellian” that people would assert that the threat of withdrawal actually contributed to improved conditions. He suggested that his opponents need not “apologize” but they should admit they were wrong in opposing the surge. (He offered that MoveOn.org has a “significant influence in the Democrat party.”)

Abe Greenwald asked about Jay Lefkowitz’s criticisms (which were given the back of the hand by Secretary of State Condi Rice) that the Six Party talks involving North Korea should address human rights abuses. McCain said succinctly that he does believe the talks should address human rights and that North Korea remains the world’s largest functioning “gulag.” (He mentioned his disappointment that the South Korean government was not as “mindful” of the human rights abuses as it should be.) He said undue focus on the make-up of the talks rather than the content was misguided and drew analogies to Vietnam, mentioning that talks went on unsuccessfully for years until “B-52’s appeared in the skies.” He said that he was concerned about the North Korea’s failure to live up to its committments and its potential involvement with Syria’s nuclear program. (He ended his response by quoting Ronald Reagan’s “Trust but verify” addage.)

On other matters: 1) He expressed “distress” that Congressman Rick Renzi was indicted and agreed he would likely step down as an Arizona co-chair; 2) He said he was on “solid ground” in withdrawing from the public financing constraints imposed by the FEC as Congressman Dick Gephardt previously had done in similar circumstances; 3) He said he would be competitive in California and states in the northeast like New Jersey and even New York and intended to go to places Republicans usually don’t and compete in all states.; 4) Explained his “100 years in Iraq” comment as an indication that our security arrangements would be ongoing but that we would be successful militarily in the short term and defended himself against the Democratic charges that he was not expert on the economy by saying he was most expert on foreign policy given his decades of involvement in that area, but that his low tax, free market philosophy would stack up well against the Democrats. He declined to comment further on the New York Times lobbyist story.

In general, he seemed engaged and forward looking. There was no trace of animus or bitterness about yesterday’s events, and he seemed energized when talking about differences with his Democratic opponents.

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