Friday, October 24, 2014

Sure I kid about this infernal election, but of course there's a lot at stake



The Democratic alternative: And yet people say the Dems don't stand for anything. Can you imagine?

by Ken

I feel bad, and I felt bad at the time, seemingly writing off the 2014 election last week ("Throwing in the towel on the 2014 campaign, and while we're at it the 2016 campaign as well"), as if I was saying it doesn't matter. Of course it matters, and by even suggesting that it doesn't I have fallen into a trap beloved of right-wing manipulators: We throw up our hands in despair and they send their coalition of crooks and crackpots to the polls, and they get to rub our noses in their doody.

If you're reading DWT, you know only too well how easy it is to be deeply uninspired by the Democratic alternatives, who by and large seem to feel no need to differentiate themselves from the Republican wackos and scumbags except to suggest that they're a tad less wacky and scumbaggy. So it's hard not to wonder whether this election might look different if Democrats in any quantity listened to, say, the counsel of George Lakoff and actually tried to pretend they stand for something -- and I mean something different from what the Republicans do.

But I'm not so sure it would make that much of a difference. The Right has been manipulating the U.S. electorate into moronitude for so long now, and has become so adept at pressing the buttons that will bypass rational response and convert a goodly chunk of the electorate into frothing, torch-bearing mutant jihadists, capitalizing on the insanely bogus image of Barack Obama they've created out of their diseased imaginations, that we were bound in any case to see the fruit of the six-year right-wing Crusade Against America.

Despite which, I still don't understand how anyone who isn't either (a) directly wired into the plutocratic elite or (b) committed to (metaphorically at least) sucking the cocks of the (a) group or (c) in the grip of far-right-wing ideological perversion could even consider voting for a Republican, any Republican. We're still in the situation that goes back at least to the 2008 election, marking the end of the end of the eight years of unmitigated terror and lawlessness that was the Bush regime, where nationwide the clear operating principle of Republicans campaigning at every level all the way up to the top, with the toxic-sludgified Young Johnny McCranky trying to slither his way into the White House, that every word spoken in public by every Republican is a lie.

The principle has been rigidly adhered to in another presidential election and now two midterms, and instead of the country rising up screaming bloody murder, those people are prepared to reward the very sons of bitches who have been shitting all over them. Well, the morons deserve what they've gotten and, worse, are going to get, but what about the rest of us?


ThinkProgress is talking up a list, put together by the Center for American Progress's Tony Carrk, of "10 Things to Expect Next Year If Republicans Win the Senate." These are all pretty straightforward and unsurprising, so while you should probably still take a look at Tony's discussions of these points onsite, I think everyone will get the idea(s):
1. Additional attempts to use the budget process to advance a conservative ideological agenda
2. More tax cuts for the wealthy and further spending cuts for middle- and working-class families
3. Obstruction of well-qualified judicial nominees, leaving vacancies on federal courts
4. A vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act
5. Attempts to roll back women’s health gains
6. Use of the Congressional Review Act to weaken environmental rules, jeopardizing public health
7. Action to dramatically expand people’s ability to carry concealed, loaded guns
8. Legislation that adversely affects the LGBT community
9. Legislation to deport DREAMers
10. New cuts to programs and rules that increase college access, affordability, and readiness
The thing we have to remember, which naturally the Republicans have managed to forget in their endless propagandizing, is that they have spent every hour, every minute, every second of the Obama presidency doing everything in their power to prevent this president from accomplishing anything. Often, if not always, this has meant taking an explicit attitude of "Fuck America -- we want ours, and we're going to get it over Obama's broken body."

You hear it stated as an article of fact that Obama would actually be happy to have the Republicans take control of the Senate, I guess because that would mean he can't be blamed for nothing getting done, and you have to wonder if the people who say these things have been out in the sun too long. (Many of these same people also speculate about how happy -- or is it how sad? -- Hillary Clinton will be. Spare me.)

I suppose you have to give the Rs credit for pulling off an electoral con of this magnitude.

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Right-wingers get away with scumbaggery because they can usually count on other right-wing scumbags to cover up for them


From the title page of the actual original report -- note the date.

"Why the report remained out of sight for nearly 14 years is something of a mystery. Gormley said the central players -- including [Monica] Lewinsky -- believed that it had been sealed by the court. Lewinsky told [Duquesne University School of Law Dean Ken] Gormley [author of the 2010 book The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr, 'an exhaustive study of the Lewinsky investigation'] that she had long wished to read the report but believed that it was hidden from public view.

"An archivist at the National Archives said three copies of the report are contained in the files of the independent counsel, none marked as sealed.

"The Post sought the report after being contacted by Jim Licht­man, a writer and lecturer on ethics who obtained a copy this year through a public-records request.

" 'This is one piece of the whole Clinton-Starr battle that had remained a mystery,' Gormley said."
-- from the report on the report by the Washington Post's Rosalind S. Helderman, "Lewinsky mistreated by authorities in investigation of Clinton, report says"

by Ken

This is just swell. Some 16 years after the fact, for the last 14 of which a government report has been sitting completed . . . well, somewhere, we have an answer to the question, Did Kenny Boy Starr, the special persecutor pursuing his mission to destroy Bill Clinton, and his henchscum overreach in their handling of Monica Lewinsky?

The majestic time frame has all sorts of resonances. For one, I figure that if Kenny Boy and his criminal co-conspirators had been prosecute way back when for the full panoply of their crimes, as they should have been, maybe along about now they would be coming up for parole. To which I would have recommended saying, "Uh-uh, considering the crimes they committed against Americans, let all their stinking carcasses rot in prison till they turn to dust."

I almost referred to the Starr inquisition's "handling of key witness Monica Lewinsky," but of course she wasn't witness to anything that Kenny Boy should have been pursuing. By then, despite the torrent of lies spewing forth from the Great Right-Wing Noise Machine, he knew it was all bullshit, legally speaking. He had come up empty on "high crimes and misdemeanors," the requirement for impeachment. In fact, he hadn't managed to come up with even the teeny-tiniest of crimes. So psycho Kenny, in his desperate compulsion to Get Big Bill, determined to stop at nothing to bring him down to something smaller even than his own microscopic size (could there really be anything smaller than his microscopic size?), had devised a strategy for manufacturing a crime -- or at least something really, really bad, which would be almost as good as a crime. And of course he was being coddled by treasonous right-wing judges and cheered on by slathering right-wing pols.

The strategy was genius. If all he had was blowjobs, well, make an omelet with them, or lemonade, or something. First, get Big Bill to fib about the blowjobs; then, pretend that his about-to-burst self-righteous wrath wasn't about the blowjobs but about the fibs. And then bluster your way to high crimes and misdemeanors. Hey, Kenny Boy may be a legal ignoramus, but he pumped himself up into a pretty nasty thug. One thing he could surely do was smear that goddamn son of a bitch Big Bill. And if he could conjure up a wee bit of perjury, well, that could be a high crime and misdemeanor, no?

As a matter of fact, yes. As a lying scumbag, Kenny Boy was aces. Remember that, with no legal case of any kind, he still managed to get Big Bill impeached. Not convicted, but impeached. Not bad for a legal ignoramus and self-righteous lying scumbag, eh?


You remember, the suddenly-with-us report ordered up by special counsel Robert Ray. In her report on the report, "Lewinsky mistreated by authorities in investigation of Clinton, report says," the Washington Post's Rosalind S. Helderman seems more than anything concerned with the ongoing anguish of Monica Lewinsky. She begins by noting that in her "major speech this week," "Lewinsky’s voice cracked as she recalled the moment in January 1998 when she was first confronted by FBI agents and lawyers working for Kenneth W. Starr’s Office of Independent Counsel, who threatened her and her mother with criminal prosecution if she did not agree to wear a wire against President Bill Clinton." She goes on:
Lewinsky, now 41, has long felt that she was mistreated by authorities in the 12-hour marathon session, which began as an ambush at the food court at the Pentagon City mall and then moved to a hotel room at the mall’s adjoining Ritz-Carlton hotel.

As it turns out, so did government lawyers who conducted a comprehensive review of the incident in 2000, two years after the encounter.
"Their findings, Helderman tells us, "are contained in a report -- recently obtained by The Washington Post -- that key players had long believed was under court-ordered seal." (She also tells us that we can "click here to read the full report.")
According to the report, a prosecutor who confronted Lewinsky “exercised poor judgment and made mistakes in his analysis, planning and execution of the approach.” The report, written by two lawyers appointed to investigate the matter by Robert W. Ray, Starr’s successor as independent counsel, concluded that the “matter could have been handled better.”
Well, there ya go! Kenny Boy and his team of torturers could have handled the matter better!

Oh my.

I suppose you have to give Robert Ray, the man appointed to succeed Kenny Boy as special persecutor, for commissioning such a report. You don't suppose it was his intention to bury the report if it found as much as a hint of wrongdoing? No, certainly not. The general assumption seems to have been that that job was handled by the team of Jesse Helms-blessed judges who oversaw the special persecution.

Maybe they didn't like the idea that if the report was released, people -- people like me, to pick an especially puny example -- would pounce on that business about how the "matter could have been handled better," and make merciless fun of everyone involved in the persecution. Which, after all, is what people like me are gonna do, count on it.

Now here it is, 14 years later, or really 16, and during that time we went through eight years of a regime that made it a basic principle to trash any law or ethical standard that stood in the way of its far-right-wing agenda. And not a peep was heard from the "Impeach Bill" crowd. And not a peep was heard from the Right-Wing Noise Machine. It's only when Barack Obama became president, and spent most of his time in office cowering at the bullying of the Republican minority in the Senate and, after 2010, majority in the House, that the RWNM regained its voice, screeching about an imagined "imperial presidency."

A campaign of screeching, psychotic lies that Kenny Boy Starr himself would probably be proud of.

Meanwhile, there's hardly a Republican candidate for office any where in the land who isn't under the shadow of some sort of scandal, many of which Howie has reported on -- but it really isn't easy to keep track. And in any case, they don't seem to matter. Now we have the perfect solution. Cover your eyes, count to 16 years, and then fuhgeddaboutit.

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We Reiterate: Sheila Kuehl For Los Angeles Supervisor


Dorothy Reik is the president of the Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains and you may recall the guest post she did for us last week on the state Senate race pitting Sandra Fluke against Ben Allen on the Westside of L.A. Although there was some backbiting from a few EMILY's List deadeners, overall there was such a positive response that I asked Dorothy if she'd be willing to cover another crucial Los Angeles race for us, the supervisorial race where Blue America candidate Sheila Kuehl is facing off against the less progressive, Big Money candidate, Bobby Shriver. (The L.A. Times and Henry Waxman have also endorsed Sheila.)

Dorothy asked that we run the following letter from Frank Angel. "The environmental community knows Frank Angel well," she wrote. He is our attorney. He sends this important message about the future of our open space should Shriver prevail and become Supervisor. This is a must read and if your friends are thinking about trying 'something new' please send this to them. Shriver is dangerous to us and to our environment. I heard him last Friday-- he was very clear-- CEQA hinders development and he wants to change it to make it easier for developers! And please also send it to those holding a grudge over the 2012 election-- don't cut off your nose to spite your face, as the old saying goes. Sheila is our champion. Our advocate. Sheila is US!! Bobby is THEM in the worst possible sense.
Did you know that last Friday, Bobby Shriver proudly announced his endorsement by pro-development L.A. County Supervisors Mike Antonovich and Don Knabe (Deane Dana’s successor)?  When Antonovich and Dana had a majority on the Board of Supervisors, L.A. County land use plans were being loopholed to death. Growth and destruction of pristine canyons and ridgelines ran amok. If Shriver gets elected, a pro-development majority will be restored on the Board.  Which means old business-as-usual will resume. At the worst possible time. The newly adopted Santa Monica Mountains LCP means little without a Supervisor we can trust. To pay lip service to the new coastal land use plan isn’t the same as going to bat to enforce it.

Shriver also shares Antonovich’s and Knabe’s disdain for the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). As the L.A. Times reported earlier this month, at a debate between Sheila Kuehl and Shriver, Sheila noted that CEQA works well. Shriver disagreed, saying the law needs to be reformed because too often it is used as a cudgel to slow or even stop development. He stated: “With rents soaring across the region, more building is necessary to increase the stock of affordable housing. This law, because of the way it's written, can be used in a very aggressive way to stop a project."

You bet! Had we not used this law aggressively, the beautiful parklands of King Gillette Ranch would now be developed with the institutional buildings and dorms of the infamous “Soka University” project and a sprawling new city would have popped up at the former Ahmanson Ranch site, just north of Calabasas. I proudly represented the Sierra Club in the first case, and the City of Calabasas in the latter. Just imagine the traffic gridlock on Las Virgenes Canyon Rd. or the 101 Freeway had these projects not been stopped. There are times when our welfare demands that our local elected representatives stand up to development interests, and stop or cut down on growth plans.

Shriver’s quoted statements use the same code language that CEQA’s foes are using-- foes like the state’s Chambers of Commerce. Shriver is endorsed by the downtown L.A. and the Hollywood Chambers of Commerce, and he benefits from their and developer PAC funding (e.g., an investor behind the Edge project in Malibu). When development interests and their allies in the legislature talk about “reforming” CEQA, they mean to gut it. Many public interest attorney colleagues of mine closely follow the “reform” proposals that Chamber of Commerce-led interests write for friendly legislators. We fight them.

As one who has been and keeps fighting before the Board of Supervisors and in the courts for your environmental rights, I am greatly worried for the future of the Santa Monica Mountains if Shriver gets elected. Shriver is not who you may think he is. With the upcoming Supervisorial election, the future of our mountains and our quality of life hangs in the balance. I will vote for Sheila. She will stand up for our rights and protect our interests on the Board of Supervisors. Guaranteed by Sheila’s impeccable environmental record and her honesty in the Legislature!”

Frank P. Angel

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Will Iowa Voters Care That Joni Ernst Snubbed The Des Moines Register Endorsement Interview?


The NRA spent $2,365,568 on behalf of Ernst and their NRA Institute for Legislative Action spent nearly $600,000 more. She's their kind of gal.

In 2012 the Des Moines Register endorsed Mitt Romney for president. Obama still took the state's 6 electoral votes 822,544 (52%) to 730,617 (46%). In fact, almost 6,000 more Iowans voted for Obama against Romney than voted for him against McCain. Maybe Romney would have only scored 40% without the Register endorsement, which claimed to be enthralled by his "fresh economic vision." The Register also endorsed Herbert Hoover, Alf Landon, Wendell Wilkie and Thomas Dewey when each of them ran against FDR-- and Nixon twice, including right after Watergate.

The Senate race in Iowa this year, for the seat liberal lion Tom Harkin is giving up, should have been wrapped up long ago. Joni Ernst is one of the worst-- if not the worst-- Republicans this cycle. She's a crackpot extremist and has had trouble coming off as anything other than a crackpot extremist. The problem is her Democratic opponent, Bruce Braley, has managed to step all over a fine record-- one that should be propelling him into the Senate-- with a bunch of foolish rookie mistakes that are making Iowans uncomfortable. The race is down to the wire with the polling average showing Ernst up by a couple of points. Yesterday he may have had a little lucky though. Ernst ducked out of her editorial board endorsement interview with The Register.

She's still whining because a Register columnist, Rekha Basu, has refused to print Ernst press releases and instead does her own independent analysis of Ernst's extremist agenda, like in this column a few days ago.
As a state senator last year, Joni Ernst voted against expanding Medicaid eligibility to include a family of four with an income below $32,000 a year. She lost. That same session, the Red Oak Republican now seeking election to the U.S. Senate, voted not to raise the state's earned income tax credit for the working poor. That would apply to an unmarried person without children making below $14,600 a year.

To complete the trifecta, she rejects increasing the state's $7.25-an-hour minimum wage. But Ernst, a supporter of low taxes, went farther. She voted against giving tax credits to farmers who donate to food banks for the hungry.
Ernst went ape-shit when the column came out and yesterday she said she wouldn't meet with the paper's editorial board because of it, although she didn't deny that there was anything false or misleading in it. Basu had a good laugh on her Facebook page: "Is Ernst that sensitive to the kinds of criticisms that invariably will come in such a high profile U.S. Senate race? Is she afraid of the scrutiny? Sure, it's stressful, but all the other candidates for Congress are doing it to get their messages out, including Steven King, the target of frequent editorial criticism. Would Ernst similarly thumb her nose at the press while serving in the Senate?"

The publisher of The Register kicked her ass as well:
We were disappointed by the Ernst camp’s decision to not spend an hour with the editorial board and share her vision for our state and the rest of the country. This has been an incredibly nasty, competitive race where both sides have spent millions and aired tens of thousands of TV spots. Undecided voters I talk to want Sen. Ernst to break through the rhetoric and cacophony of campaign ads about hogs, Obamacare and balanced budgets. It’s a time for sharing specifics. It’s a chance to have a serious conversation about vision, priorities, the economy, national security, foreign relations and Social Security. I’m not angry she snubbed the Des Moines Register editorial board, which is in final deliberations about our Senate endorsement. It truly isn’t about us. We wanted to discuss the future of the state and allow Joni Ernst to share insights and specific responses to the concerns and questions of Iowans and voters. It’s unfortunate that cannot happen.
The race in Iowa is pivotal for control of the Senate. According to Harry Enten at the FiveThirtyEight blog, "If Republicans win it, then they can afford to lose Georgia and Kansas and win the majority without pulling off an unexpected victory in New Hampshire or North Carolina." And they find Ernst, who admits her support for the highly unpopular Personhood Amendment was not a mistake and, that given the chance, she would ban all abortions and block access to birth control, has a better than even chance-- 66% in fact-- to win a week from Tuesday.

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Conservatives Have Never Wanted Poor People To Have The Right To Vote-- And They Still Don't


Yesterday we looked at the pitiless attitude of Republicans towards the non-rich. Conservatives have always been quite militant in trying to make sure the non-rich were excluded from voting. Conservatives tried from the founding of the Republic right up to the current day, with Tea Party Nation President Judson Phillips telling right-wing radio listeners that the founders of the country originally put "certain restrictions on who gets the right to vote... One of those was you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense, because if you’re a property owner you actually have a vested stake in the community. If you’re not a property owner, you know, I’m sorry but property owners have a little bit more of a vested interest in the community than non-property owner." And it's not just a lunatic fringe hate-monger like Phillips. It's also lunatic fringe hate-mongers inside Congress, like Paul Broun (R-GA) and Mike Lee (R-UT).

And like we said, this tendency didn't just start with the Tea Party and the GOP. Many Americans were horrified Monday when the Beijing-appointed leader of Hong Kong, Leung Chun-ying it was unacceptable to allow his successors to be chosen in open elections, in part because doing so would risk giving poorer residents a dominant voice in politics. His blunt remarks reflect a widely held view among the Hong Kong elite that the general public cannot be trusted to govern the city well. Do you think its any different from the view American conservatives hold?

When the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, only white male Protestant property owners over the age of 21 were allowed to vote. Only 6% of the population were allowed to vote when George Washington ran for president. When progressives tried expanding the right to vote, conservatives insisted it was an issue for the states not the federal government. The last state to remove property ownership as a voting requirement for white males was North Carolina (in 1856). All through the 1800s, conservatives cracked down on attempts to allow freed slaves, indigenous people, women, native born Americans of Chinese ancestry to vote. American Indians weren't granted citizenship and voting rights until 1919-- and even then it was only to Indians who had served in the military. The next year (1920) the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote passed.

And the current Supreme Court isn't the first to be harboring a pack of far-right racists misfits in fancy robes. In the 1920s the Supreme Court specifically excluded Americans whose ancestors had come from Japan and India from voting! It wasn't until 1952 that the McCarran-Walter Act gave all Americans of Asian ancestry the right to vote. Conservative-controlled states continue to put up road blocks to allowing anyone who is not white and well off the chance to vote. They use methods from unconstitutional poll taxes and difficult to get ID requirements to just restricting voting hours to times when working people can't get off work and putting fewer voting machines in poor urban neighborhoods.

Wednesday, writing for The Atlantic, Peter Beinart asked the question that has divided progressives and conservatives forever: Should the poor be allowed to vote?. He went right to Romney's 47% dichotomy, vilifying almost half the citizens of our country as victims who "believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing."
In distinguishing between Americans whose economic independence permits them to make reasoned political choices and those who because of their poverty cannot, Romney was channeling a hoary American tradition. In 1776, John Adams argued that men (let alone women) “who are wholly destitute of Property” were “too dependent upon other Men to have a Will of their own.” In 1800, only three states allowed property-less white men to vote. For most of the 20th century, southern states imposed “poll taxes” that effectively barred not only African Americans from voting but some poor whites as well.
Beinart wrote that "In 2012, Florida House candidate Ted Yoho remarked, 'I’ve had some radical ideas about voting and it’s probably not a good time to tell them, but you used to have to be a property owner to vote.' Anti-democracy fanatic Steve King (R-IA) said pretty much the same thing in 2011. Beinart says they're outside the mainstream of Republican thought. But they're not; they may be outside the mainstream of what most Republican politicians are willing to talk about... at least in public. "But," he wrote, "they support policies that do just that. When GOP legislatures make it harder to vote-- either by restricting early voting, limiting the hours that polls remain open, requiring voter identification or disenfranchising ex-felons-- the press usually focuses on the disproportionate impact on racial minorities and Democrats. But the most profound impact may be on the poor... Obviously, the United States is not Hong Kong."

Glad to hear it.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why Don't We Have A Doctor Leading The Charge Against Ebola?


The ugly faces of the Texas Ebola problem

Republicans are still trying to make Ebola a campaign issue.

Yesterday we saw how Republicans have used fear mongering to imply Democratic women candidates are not up to the job of fighting Ebola (or ISIS)-- despite the courageous work women, from nurses to CIA agents, are actually doing on the front lines in both battles. Now Republican lawmakers have been caterwauling that Obama appointed a bureaucrat as Ebola Czar instead of a doctor, seemingly unaware-- or worse, deceitful-- that every single Republican-- including fake moderates like Susan Collins (R-ME), Dean Heller (R-NV) and Mark Kirk (R-IL)-- blocked the president's nomination for Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, a physician from Florida. He was nominated in November, 2013 and, at the insistence of the NRA, Rand Paul put a block on his nomination. (He called assault weapons a health care issue and the gun nuts flipped out.)

Brad Bannon, writing for US News and World Report pointed out the Republican hypocrisy. "Republicans, shamefully criticizing President Barack Obama’s response to the problem, are like someone who drills a hole in the bottom of a ship and then blames the captain for sinking it."
Sadly we don’t have one because the GOP has blocked a vote on the president’s nomination of Dr. Vivek Murthy to the post. Murthy has the ideal background for the job: Currently he is a doctor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, one of the best hospitals in the nation. He is also an instructor at Harvard Medical School. Murphy has a medical degree and an MBA from Yale University and an undergraduate degree in biochemical sciences from Harvard.

Why would GOP senators have blocked a vote on the nomination of a doctor with medical credentials such as Murthy’s? The answer, of course, is the iron grip the National Rifle Association has on the Republican Party. The NRA objects to Murthy’s nomination because he believes that guns are a public health hazard. And it’s pretty obvious to everybody except the NRA die-hards that guns are a clear and present danger since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports there were 335,609 gun deaths in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010. If that’s not an epidemic, nothing is... [T]he GOP would rather take on the president than Ebola and would rather use the health crisis as a partisan battering ram than work with Obama to deal with this grave health crisis. Republicans are using Ebola as a political football, and it’s time for a bye week.
Texas crackpot senator Ted Cruz-- whose state is the epicenter of the American Ebola crisis-- claims, quite falsely, that Murthy "we don’t have [a surgeon general] because President Obama, instead of nominating a health professional, he nominated someone who is an anti-gun activist. We expect this from someone like Ted Cruz, but why are professed "centrists" like Susan Collins following him (over the cliff)? Republicans in the House don't even seem aware that Republicans are blocking the confirmation of the president's surgeon general nominee. Take Tea Party spokesmodel, Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) who went whining to Fox that the surgeon general should be heading Ebola response. He seems to be missing one vital piece of information-- and Fox isn't about to enlighten him.

Utah GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz on Wednesday questioned President Obama's decision to appoint what he considers a political operative to lead the country's Ebola response, instead of the acting-United States surgeon general.

"I want a doctor telling me how to deal with this," Chaffetz said on Fox News'America's Newsroom."

Obama on Friday named Ron Klain, a former chief of staff to Vice President Biden, to the Ebola post.

"You have somebody who's got a medical history, background, expertise, who understands the bureaucracy," Chaffetz said. "Why aren't we empowering that person? I don't understand why the Obama administration is doing it this way, but they chose somebody who's political and not somebody who is actually a doctor."

Chaffetz said Klain is already "off to a bad start," considering that on Monday he told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he could not testify at an upcoming hearing.

"It seemed like a simple request, but he refused," Chaffetz said.

"What does that say about this position that he's filling? If he doesn't feel comfortable answering very basic questions from Congress, is he really ready to be up on the job when it's happening in real time, right now?"

Chaffetz also put blame on the president for eliminating a bio-defense special assistant position that was present in the previous two administrations.

"It's bigger and broader than just Ebola," he said. "There are other types of things that can be infectious diseases or bio-attacks on the homeland. And yet, President Obama got rid of that position."
Yep, Republicans want to fight Obama-- and women-- not Ebola... and not any other legitimate threats to the well-being of America or Americans. It's in their obstructionist, selfish DNA. That's why they're Republicans.

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You're now strolling along George Carlin Way


by Ken

The great George Carlin (1931-2008), was not just a Manhattan kid, but specifically a Morningside Heights kid, having grown up in the neighborhood -- perched on the first of the series of elevations rising along the Hudson River in the northern part of the island's western flank -- known for Columbia University and a host of other educational as well as cultural and religious institutions. And now a stretch of the very street he grew up on has taken on a new name.

With Morningside Park, behind us, to the east and Riverside Church rising majestically to the west, this stretch of West 121st Street is now officially George Carlin Way. DNAinfo New York's Emily frost reports (links onsite):
MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS — Comedians, celebrities, relatives and fans of legendary comedian George Carlin gathered Wednesday to commemorate him with a new street sign at the corner of Morningside Drive and West 121st Street.

Gilbert Gottfried, Judah Friedlander, Robert Klein, Rain Pryor, Rick Overton, and Lizz Winstead were among the celebrity comedians who showed up to honor Carlin. His daughter and only child, Kelly Carlin, officiated the ceremony for "George Carlin Way," with speakers alternating between joke and tears.

It was a moment three years in the making, said comedian Kevin Bartini, who made it his mission to get a secondary street sign with Carlin's name placed on 121st Street, where the outspoken comedian grew up.
At the dedication City Councilman Mark Levine, who represents the area, observed: "You really can't understand the life of George Carlin without understanding Morningside Heights. It was a grittier, hardscrabble neighborhood back then," meaning the 1940s and '50s.

Tricky logistical issues had to be solved, Kevin Bartini explained.
The street is also the home of Corpus Christi School, which Carlin attended and which was often his target, Bartini said. The school opposed putting a sign right outside its doors, on Carlin's block between Broadway and Amsterdam, he said. The school did not respond to a request for comment.

Eventually, a compromise was reached where the sign was moved east between Morningside Drive and Amsterdam Avenue, away from the school, he said.

Kelly Carlin thought the move was fitting and described Bartini's efforts as a "great moment of civic action."
"As we know," Kelly recalled, "my father and the church had a couple of philosophical differences." But, she pointed out as the crowd looked out over Morningside Park, "Dad loved trees." Reflecting on life with her father, she recalled --
eating pancakes for dinner with her father and lauding him for passing on to her a "genuine adoration of fart jokes."

"He was committed to our family, but he was driven by his craft," she said.
And there were lots of reminiscences from assembled colleague-friends-relations:
Carlin's widow, comedian Sally Wade, said her late husband loved being a New Yorker and that this sign was "the best tribute he could have short of a drink named after him."

Nothing was sacred to Carlin, added comedian Colin Quinn.

"It was not just society; George Carlin harangued all of us," he said, adding that Carlin ironically was "a priest to all the damaged Catholic people."

Patrick Carlin, the comedian's older brother, told stories of growing up in the neighborhood and of his family.

George shared his mother's irreverence, Patrick said, describing her as "a girl who gave a box of horse s--t to a girl who didn't invite her to a birthday party."

He too felt the spot overlooking the park was perfect for George's sign, in spite of the struggle to get it placed right in front of their childhood apartment.

"George used to smoke dope right over there," Patrick said, gesturing to the park, noting George would be happy with the spot.

George Carlin's comedy community provided a salute carefully calibrated to their much-loved pal's sensibilities.

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Trick Or Treat From The Republican Party-- A Tale Of Two Cities


This is a real Dear Abby-like exchange from a wealthy lady (not Susan Collins, who you can watch debating Shenna Bellows the other night in the video above) and Slate columnist Emily Yoffe (Prudence)
Dear Prudence,

I live in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country, but on one of the more “modest” streets-- mostly doctors and lawyers and family business owners. (A few blocks away are billionaires, families with famous last names, media moguls, etc.) I have noticed that on Halloween, what seems like 75 percent of the trick-or-treaters are clearly not from this neighborhood. Kids arrive in overflowing cars from less fortunate areas. I feel this is inappropriate. Halloween isn’t a social service or a charity in which I have to buy candy for less fortunate children. Obviously this makes me feel like a terrible person, because what’s the big deal about making less fortunate kids happy on a holiday? But it just bugs me, because we already pay more than enough taxes toward actual social services. Should Halloween be a neighborhood activity, or is it legitimately a free-for-all in which people hunt down the best candy grounds for their kids?

—Halloween for the 99 Percent

Dear 99,

In the urban neighborhood where I used to live, families who were not from the immediate area would come in fairly large groups to trick-or-treat on our streets, which were safe, well-lit, and full of people overstocked with candy. It was delightful to see the little mermaids, spider-men, ghosts, and the occasional axe murderer excitedly run up and down our front steps, having the time of their lives. So we’d spend an extra $20 to make sure we had enough candy for kids who weren’t as fortunate as ours. There you are, 99, on the impoverished side of Greenwich or Beverly Hills, with the other struggling lawyers, doctors, and business owners. Your whine makes me kind of wish that people from the actual poor side of town come this year not with scary costumes but with real pitchforks. Stop being callous and miserly and go to Costco, you cheapskate, and get enough candy to fill the bags of the kids who come one day a year to marvel at how the 1 percent live.

It sort of reminded me of New Jersey's well-fed, crooked Governor Chris Christie's whining this week about how oppressed he is with all this talk about raising the minimum wage. Same exact mentality. Christie's a slob with not an ounce of empathy for people less well-off than himself. Susan Collins, Chris Christie, Sheldon Adelson, the Koch brothers... Essentially when it comes to what kind of a country we want, there is no difference at all. Theirs is a vision imbued with the conservative values of selfishness and greed. Perhaps instead of worrying about the people sending their kids to trick or treat in rich peoples' neighborhoods or people who are trying to raise families on a minimum wage with decreasing purchasing power, they would feel more comfortable-- more in their element-- reading about the new Gulfstream G650. Unless you want it before 2017, it only costs $64.5 million. If you need it pronto, just give them $70 million and they'll move you to the front of the line-- sort of the way South Dakota ex-Governor Mike Rounds sold visas to wealthy foreigners before he realized it might prevent him from winning a Senate election. After all, the plane will take you and 10 of your pals or cronies direct to Tokyo from NYC or to London from L.A. or from Dubai from Dallas without having to stop for fuel.
As the new flagship business jet from Gulfstream, the G650 is, to say the least, truly top flight. The designers intent was to create a hallmark aircraft, one for the history books, by leveraging aeronautic science, next-generation materials, cutting-edge engine developments and impeccable interior design to take elite passengers farther with more comfort than ever before.

...This business jet seems purpose-built for long-haul flights, and the spacious, elegant cabin is as much a testament to passenger comfort as it is to the concept of a flying presidential suite. At 8 feet 6 inches wide, with 6 feet 5 inches of headroom and running almost 47 feet long (enough space for 16 large panoramic windows), the aircraft’s cabin is palatial, with its only competition commercial-size aircraft refitted as private jets.

Uncanny attention to cabin detail takes a luxurious flight experience that is already dialed up to 10 to an 11-plus. Standard recliners enter an almost overstuffed level of comfort; pop-up tables and media screens glide out of armrests and side compartments with no effort; baggage and at-seat stowage solutions are smart and convenient. An ingenious downloadable cabin-control app puts everything from window shades and mood lighting to temperature control and entertainment options at your fingertips. Working on board takes on a whole new meaning on the G650. Multilink high-speed data systems, multichannel satellite communications and wireless LANs help you stay productive and connected in flight.
The guy who directed Lord of the Rings bought himself one. Any of your neighbors? I wonder how many rides their overlords give Republican suck-ups like Christie and Collins-- who make sure that these can be bought and then charged to the taxpayers as business expenses. Of course! Contact Scott Neal, Gulfstream senior vice president, worldwide sales and marketing, 912-965-6023. Tell him hi from DownWithTyranny.

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No, Conservative Democrat Patrick Murphy Has No Significant Opposition-- But He Wants Your Contributions Anyway


Crooked father and crooked son,  Patrick and Tom Murphy

Many Democrats found the presence of torturer and in unindicted war criminal Allen West (R-FL) so outrageous that they were willing to contribute to the $4,480,428 campaign lifelong Republican Patrick Murphy ran against him. Murphy, decided to run against West as a Democrat instead of taking him on in the GOP primary. His wealthy Republican father started a PAC, American Sunrise, to funnel money into his son's campaign. In one of the closest races in the country, Murphy won 166,257 to 164,353, even as Romney was beating Obama on the same day 52-48%. Democrats were happy to be rid of West, of course, but many soon discovered they had simply replaced a loud-mouthed reactionary Republican with a sneaky and corrupt conservative Republican (who still calls himself a Democrat-- or at least a "New Democrat"). Murphy has been-- with Blue Dogs Kyrsten Sinema, Cheri Bustos and Pete Gallego and fellow New Dems Sean Patrick Maloney and Joe Garcia-- the worst freshmen Democrats in terms of betraying progressive values by voting with the GOP most frequently.

This cycle, the public polling shows Murphy-- who has eyes on a Senate seat-- beating his underfunded Republican opponent, Carl Domino quite handily. Murphy, a Wall Street whore, has raised $4,607,882 to Domino's $1,020,504. As of the September 30 FEC filing deadline, Murphy had $881,896 cash-on-hand to Domino's measly $84,590. On top of that, a right-wing PAC, the National Association of Realtors has spent $809,606 bolstering Murphy with ads. Their biggest expenditure, though, was $1,887,550 for Mitch McConnell and nearly all the money they are spending this cycle is for extremely right-wing Republicans. Suddenly, though, the DCCC, is signaling they or their "independent" House Majority PAC may come to Murphy's "rescue." They must have some private polling that shows Domino gaining.

In any case, a very shady Steve Israel-connected Blue Dog 501(c)(4) "social welfare organization," which does nothing but politics and funnel money to favored crooked operatives, spent $149,882 attacking Domino this week. Previously their Independent Expenditure Committee had spent money attacking opponents of Blue Dogs John Barrow ($167,600) and Ron Barber ($147,864). They ran positive ads bolstering conservative Cheri Bustos (Blue Dog-IL), John Carney (New Dem-DE), Charlie Dent (R-PA), who has no opponent, Pete Gallego (Blue Dog-TX), Richard Hanna (R-NY), who also has no opponent, Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ) and Ron Barber (Blue Dog-AZ). They announced they will also be running ads in support of Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Nick Rahall (Blue Dog-WV) and Brad Schneider (New Dem-IL).

This is how Center Forward, which dances to the tune of corporate America and Wall Street banksters, describes itself:
America is neither right nor left. Republican nor Democrat. Red nor blue. The mainstream values and principles that will move us forward come from where they always have-- the center. The center is where we leave our political labels and baggage at the door, to find commonsense solutions to America’s great challenges.

Center Forward brings together members of Congress, not-for profits, academic experts, trade associations, corporations and unions to find common ground. Our mission: to give centrist allies the information they need to craft common sense solutions, and provide those allies the support they need to turn those ideas into results.

...Center Forward has its roots with the Blue Dog Democrats, which have always played a critical role in maintaining fiscal responsibility, supporting pro-growth business policies and leading meaningful reform. After the extreme polarization in the 2010 elections the Blue Dog Research Forum was founded to give centrist Democrats and Republicans an opportunity to come together to tackle our country’s biggest problems. Founded by former members and staff of moderate Members of Congress who experienced firsthand how the legislative process became marred by the excessive polarization existing in politics, the organization serves a venue in which good ideas may be elevated, studied, discussed and developed.
One Democratic insider told me this morning that Murphy is in no problem and will win reelection handily and that the reason conservative Democrats are spending money in the district is to run up his numbers so that he will be more viable as an opponent to Marco Rubio in 2016 or-- if Rubio runs for vice president and not for his Senate seat-- the likely Republican candidate, Allen West.

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Grassroots Democrats Doing The Job The DCCC Refuses To-- In Michigan


This week Blue America has been concentrating on our ads in Maine exposing Susan Collins (as of yesterday over 180,000 impressions in Maine with more than 20,000 Mainers watching the ad) and our advertising in southwest Michigan exposing Fred Upton, which counted over 90,000 voting age viewers in the district and close to 10,000 MI-10 eligible voters watching it. And that was just yesterday!

Thanks to Steve Israel's bungling, all the Michigan House seats the DCCC had targeted have been abandoned and left to the Republicans-- even while Gary Peters is cleaning up statewide against unqualified GOP lunatic Terri Lynn Land by wide margins. Luckily for Paul Clements, as it turns out, the most winnable seat in Michigan, Upton's, was studiously ignored by Israel, even after polling showed how vulnerable Upton was. Pelosi, who many say has been asleep at the wheel for some time now, should have fired Israel back then; but she didn't-- and Clements has run a far more vigorous and successful campaign than any of Israel's now-abandoned recruits. As a result, even Beltway pundits are now trying to find out where MI-06 is on a map.

No one is writing about Israel's Michigan CIA agent, Bobby McKenzie, Israel's Guantánamo gulag ex-commandante, Jerry Cannon, former state Rep. and EMILY's List priority Pam Byrnes or ex-congressional staffer Eric Schertzing, the bungled opportunity the Democrats had to win MI-08 when Mike Rogers decided to retire. Instead, all the attention is on the race Paul Clements is running against Upton with ZERO help from the DCCC. (In fact, Israel is still calling outside groups and trying to bully them into not supporting Clements against his pal Upton, as he did several days ago with the League of Conservation Voters.)

This week, Alex Brown at the National Journal assessed how deep the shit is that Upton-- who, thanks to DCCC protection, has never faced a real race before-- has now found himself in.
Upton, the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is facing the most credible Democratic opponent of his career, and a late infusion of outside money has energized Democrats on the ground. Still, there's been little polling or non-anecdotal indicators to prove the race is winnable. But even if Upton prevails this year, his opponents hope to at least put him in the conversation of future Democratic targets-- and lay the groundwork for a better-financed 2016 campaign in a presidential year that offers a strong climate for Democrats.

And if, as some have speculated, Upton calls it quits in 2016 when term limits end his Energy and Commerce tenure, Democratic efforts this cycle could leave them well-positioned to contest what stands to be be a wide-open race.

Western Michigan University professor Paul Clements is the 13th Democrat to test Upton's electoral mettle, and, his backers say, the best. A newcomer to federal politics, he has more than doubled the fundraising of any previous Upton challenger. Veterans of previous Democratic campaigns in the district call Clements's operation the first "professional" challenge they've seen.

Clements's prowess has garnered interest both inside the district and out, but anyone who wasn't paying attention before certainly raised their eyebrows this month when an outside super PAC announced plans to pump nearly $2 million into efforts to oust Upton. The group, Mayday PAC, aims to target politicians beholden to moneyed interests. On Oct. 9, it named Upton among its handful of targets for the 2014 cycle.

The late swarm of money has excited local Democrats-- who say the race was competitive even before the cash infusion-- and left consultants wondering whether a district long excluded from any toss-up rankings could really oust its powerful incumbent without much warning.

...[L]ocal Democrats say his days as a little-contested, taken-for-granted incumbent are over. "Paul has a built a historic campaign here," said Clements spokesman Connor Farrell. "Any outside observer that looks purely based on data should see that this is a competitive race." But the campaign would not release any polling to back up its claims of a close contest, and no public polling has been conducted on the contest either, an indication of the district's longtime noncompetitive status.

Mayday PAC also sees a tight race. "We are only investing in races where we believe there's a path to victory," said spokeswoman Allison Bryan. "We've done internal polling that shows Fred Upton is vulnerable." Mayday PAC also declined to make those numbers public.

Still, Bryan said even making the race close could be considered a success. Mayday PAC is investing in only a handful of races this cycle, with the aim of making a statement and preparing a full-fledged operation two years from now. "The best way to describe it is setting us up for what we want to do in 2016," she said, asserting that efforts to damage Upton now-- even if he keeps his seat-- could pay dividends later.

The group says its sole purpose is to oust politicians too close to special interest money, and it calls Upton the "worst of the worst." Its backers say they recognize the irony of spending big money to get money out of politics, but they hope groups like theirs won't be necessary if they can elect enough politicians who support campaign finance reform.

Mayday PAC founder Mark McKinnon said earlier this month his group plans to "give Fred Upton the fight of his political life" and "perhaps we can be a giant killer."

That enthusiasm hasn't been shared by national Democrats. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted four other Michigan GOP-held seats this cycle (they've since pulled out of all four races), but has not put its weight behind Clements's campaign.

The 6th is "the most Democratic seat in Michigan that's held by a Republican," said Mark Miller, the Michigan Democratic Party's district chair. "Why the DCCC has been unwilling to invest in this district is perplexing."

The Cook Partisan Voting Index rates the district as a +1 Republican seat.

"[Clements has] raised money without a lot of institutional support from the Democratic Party," said John Curran, who managed Democrat Don Cooney's 2010 campaign against Upton. "It's always been considered this Republican bastion.… Our activists, donors, and candidates feel left out in the statewide and national picture."

The financial picture isn't too great for Democrats in the district, either. One national-level Democratic operative noted that while Upton still has $1.6 million in the bank, Clements has already spent almost all of the $700,000 he's raised this cycle, leaving a heavy burden on any outside group looking to make a late money surge. The operative also said the district's split-ticket voting tendencies didn't necessarily spell vulnerability for a political institution like Upton.

A source familiar with Democratic polling of the district said Upton held a substantial 54 percent-to-35 percent lead in June, before the Mayday PAC investment. Most analysts consider incumbents polling above 50 percent to be in relatively safe position.

"On both sides of the political spectrum, they put the money where they hope to have the most impact," said Victor Fitz, who chairs the Michigan GOP's efforts in the district. "If the [DCCC is] not putting it in the 6th District, you can read something from that."

Upton's campaign says they've never taken the race for granted, and the Mayday PAC money infusion doesn't change their calculus. "From Fred's perspective, there's two ways you can run—unopposed or full speed ahead," said campaign manager Tom Wilbur.

"Most of of us on the ground look at this with a smile on our face," Fitz said. "I don't see any traction in this at all. [Mayday PAC] can spend their money, but I don't think it's going to have much of an impact."

While Upton maintains the super PAC attacks haven't changed his strategy-- or made him any more vulnerable-- his opponents see a candidate on the defensive. Mayday's first ad targeted the incumbent on Medicare drug prices and failing to protect patients with preexisting conditions. Days later, an Upton ad lamented the "lies" opponents were spreading and touting his efforts to help seniors on Medicare and patients with preexisting conditions. It's an unusual tack for a Republican who has been one of the most outspoken opponents of Obamacare.

Wilbur acknowledged the ad was a response to the Mayday PAC attacks. "When the Mayday folks start spreading lies, it's important that we start spreading the truth," he said. That's a far cry from the campaign's apolitical, feel-good first ad from two weeks before.

Clements' allies see it as something more. "We think that he's responding," Mayday PAC's Bryan said. "He's obviously threatened by what we're doing." Added Curran, who ran the 2010 campaign against Upton: "His latest ad is a pretty strong deviation from what we've seen from him so far."

Another Democratic operative in the district agreed. "He's absolutely defensive on it," the operative said.

And while Upton finds himself unexpectedly defending certain tenets of Obama's signature law, Democratic message discipline on the other side has been strong. To a person, Clements' supporters characterize Upton as a good moderate who lost his way in Washington as big-money oil and insurance groups financed his rise through the House GOP ranks and pushed him to the right each step of the way.

Upton's camp argues that as chair, he's given precedence to bills that have bipartisan sponsors. They also point to his role in the bipartisan "Gang of 12"--a group of legislators who tried and failed to break Capitol Hill's impasse over the federal debt in 2011.

Whether or not Clements can upset the near three-decade incumbent, his backers says he's opened some eyes. Curran contrasted this cycle with previous Democratic campaigns, including his own work on Cooney's 2010 campaign as a 20-year-old who "didn't really know what I was doing." Typically, he said, "we've been scrambling in April or May of the election year to get someone on the ballot."

When Clements launched his bid in early 2013, "a lot of people laughed at him," Curran said. But the early start gave him time to fundraise, and while he hasn't matched the cash numbers of his well-connected opponent, he's come far closer than any previous challenger. Even if the Mayday PAC money isn't enough to put him over the top, Democrats in the district say the race has ensured the the 6th won't be left behind in the next cycle.
If you'd like to help us keep our ad up until election day, please consider contributing what you can on this special page for Independent Expenditures.

UPDATE: More Trouble For The Corrupt Upton

The American Democracy Legal Fund has requested the Office of Congressional Ethics investigate whether Upton violated federal law and House rules by improperly threatening with retribution those who contributed to a super PAC that supports his challenger in the upcoming election.

Upton thug Gary Andres, who is being paid with taxpayer money, threatened the CEOs who contributed to the MayDay PAC with harsher regulatory treatment from the House Energy and Commerce Committee if they don't back Upton. Steve Israel and his DCCC are still working overtime to protect Upton, who the L.A. Times called the most dangerous man in the United States when it comes to destroying the country's environment. Who's side is Steve Israel on? Good question!

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Presidents Come And Go-- But The CIA Bureaucracy And Its Priorites Are Timeless


Earlier this evening Ken did a proper Ben Bradlee remembrance. Chris Hayes did one for MSNBC viewers (above) last night right after we heard about Bradlee's passing. I was living overseas for the entire Nixon era-- sometimes in places where American news was scarce (like Afghanistan, India and Ceylon) and sometimes where it was less scarce (like in Holland and Finland) but Bradlee during the Watergate scandal was such a towering figure of journalism that even I heard of him. He was part of the reason Americans held the media in such high esteem relative to other institutions. Ken referred to the Pew Research Journalism study this week that measured trust in news sources. Actually, it measured distrust. Obviously the most distrusted sources are fake news propaganda operations for the Republican Party-- Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and Glenn Beck. Almost 40% of Americans know Limbaugh's drug-induced ravings aren't worth listening to. (More than 1 in 4 conservatives agree that news from Limbaugh isn't worth trusting.) Conservatives don't trust the Washington Post either, but normal people generally do. Overall (so including crackpot wing nuts), the Post is distrusted by 14% of Americans, but only 6% of liberals say they don't trust the Post as a news source, similar to the NY Times and PBS.

But are conservatives savvier than liberals when it come sot the Post's truth worthiness? I'm spending a lot of time catching up on the contemporary American history I missed while I was living abroad-- basically, while Nixon was president-- by pouring over Rick Perlstein's new book, The Invisible Bridge, which tells the story of America and how it went from Nixon's downfall to Reagan's rise. And Bradlee, he reminds us, wasn't only about standing up for Woodward and Bernstein while they brought down Nixon. The roots of public skepticism about the Post as a dependable news source goes back a ways-- right to the heroic figures of Bradlee and publisher Katherline Graham.

Perlstein wrote about the apparent change of heart at the Post immediately after Nixon was forced for resign. "The longing for conservative innocence Ronald Reagan was selling ," he wrote, "was strong, for thiose with eyes to see in all sorts of quarters. Three panels, in the House and the Senate and under the auspices of Vice President Rockefeller, were hard at work behind closed doors investigating epic abuses of public trust by the nation's intelligence agencies. Lillian Hellman, the left-wing playwright, lectured Columbia University graduates in a commencement speech reprinted in the New York Times: 'You who are graduating today, far more than those who graduated in the sixties, have very possibly lived through the most shocking period in American history... you know that government agencies-- the CIA, the FBI, the Department of Justice, and God knows what yet hasn't come to light-- have spied on innocent people who did nothing more than express their democratic right to say what they thought. You have read that the CIA has not only had a hand in upsetting foreign governments it did not like, it has very possibly been involved in murder, or plots to murder. Murder. We didn't think of ourselves that way once upon a time.'" Today, four decades later, the CIA is trying to infiltrate its own agents into Congress and to destroy the career of the senator, Mark Udall, who has tried the most aggressively to hold them accountable for their criminal behavior. Bradlee was one of the major American editors who chose to not cover, at least not seriously or vigorously, the deprecations of the CIA.
[T]he Columbia University Board of Trustees, which oversaw the selection of Pulitzer Prizes, snubbed its advisory board's selection of Seymour Hersh's blockbuster CIA exposé. Its other selections were anodyne, they "seemed to go out of their way," Time observed, "to find relatively noncontroversial subjects." The press, newly emboldened, after talking down a president, was supposed to be the headquarters of the new suspicious circles-- The New Muckrakers, according to the title of a book by the Washington Post's Leonard Downie Jr. Its back cover boomed: "There is a new kind of American reporter. He does more than record news. He makes history." The book quoted Downie's colleague Bob Woodward: "It's almost a perverse pleasure. I like going out and finding something that is going wrong." But it felt to some like there had been enough of all that.

As a historian later reflected, Hersh's "early determination to carry the Watergate mentality into the post-Watergate era made his colleagues uncomfortable and even angry"-- even, or especially, at the Washington Post, which seemed to be shrinking back from its reputation for making history, as if in guilt. The Post's publisher, Katherine Graham, told the Magazine Publishers Association that reporters were becoming "too much a party to events... To see a conspiracy and cover-up in everything is as myopic as to believe that no conspiracies or coverups exist." Their editor Ben Bradlee worried that "these tendencies to develop a social, messianic role for the media, when added to the already feverish drive for the sensationalist story and the scoop, [will] lead to further dispositions that should concern us." And the post's intelligence beat reporter immediately hit his Times counterpart's CIA scoops for a "dearth of hard facts"-- even though, in subsequent months, every one of its claims had been vindicated and more. Late in March, Leslie Gelb of the Times reflected in the New Republic on the reasons for the rest of the media's reluctance to pick up on the CIA story: a history of coziness between the press and the clandestine service "going back to the days of the OSS"; a culture of "long established social relationships"; and even more significantly, a discomfort that the "Stain of Watergate" was "spreading out to the past, to the pre-Nixon years, and to the future. The dream of being able to make Nixon vanish and keep everything else was coming into jeopardy."

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Ben Bradlee (1921-2014)


Jason Robards Jr. as Ben Bradlee in All the President's Men (1976)

"He took The Post, then affluent and filled with underutilized potential, and made it a formidable national newspaper worthy of a head-to-head competition with the [New York] Times. He did it in a way that made the paper itself a joyous place to work. The paper reflected his personality. He was exuberant, competitive and combative if challenged. He made The Post a magnet for young reporters looking for a chance to play in a very high-stakes game."
-- David Halberstam, about Ben Bradlee, from "an
interview" quoted in Robert G. Kaiser's WaPo obit

by Ken

I don't know that I would have thought to write about Ben Bradlee, the longtime top editor of the Washington Post, who died yesterday at his home ("of natural causes") at age 93, if Howie hadn't sent me a link in case I planned to. Once I started thinking about it, it occurred to me that there must be something to say about an editor who presided over a major newspaper for a long period of time (26 years, for the record) and is remembered for, you know, his practice of journalism.

Okay, there's also the fact that he got played by Jason Robards Jr., in one of his classiest performances, in the film version of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's All the President's Men. (Of course nobody made out better in the movie than Woodward, who turned into Robert Redford. Bernstein had to settle for Dustin Hoffman -- a great actor, but you know . . . .)


That Bradlee's tenure at the Post is remembered almost entirely for his journalistic record is partly a tribute to Ben B, but much more a reminder of what's happened to both journalism generally and newspapers in particular in the decades since he handed over the reins of the paper's editorial operation in 1991 to Leonard Downie Jr., his managing editor since 1984. By then, his longtime boss, Katharine Graham, had turned the publisher's chair over to her son Donald. Here's what Robert G. Kaiser has to say in his WaPo obit about Bradlee's relationship with Katharine Graham, which he describes as having been "critical."
She allowed him to spend money, ultimately many millions of dollars, to build a great newspaper. At key moments — particularly the 1971 decision to publish excerpts from the Pentagon Papers and later during Watergate — she stood squarely behind him, defying the advice of her attorneys and business advisers and her powerful Washington friends.

Mr. Bradlee “was just what Kay needed — somebody who built her confidence and worked hard at it,” said the late Philip L. Geyelin, who was editor of The Post’s editorial page from 1968 to 1979. “He made her comfortable. He called her up and told her dirty jokes and told her the latest skinny. It was a wonderful relationship. I can’t remember any time they had any quarrel. She was nuts about him.”

Mrs. Graham had said as much herself. In one of the end-of-year letters she and Mr. Bradlee came to exchange annually — warm, intimate notes of mutual appreciation — she wrote: “Over the years, I have been spoiled by you and I hope most of the time, it’s been reciprocated, in sharing the best, most productive, rewarding working combo that I’ve had or even know of. And best of all, it’s been fun.”

She also teased him sometimes and criticized his erratic management of the newsroom, including impetuous hiring decisions that sometimes turned out badly. One year, she sent him a list of 15 names, his hiring “mistakes,” as she called them, and asked how he could avoid such errors in the future. But mostly she sang his praises, as in her end-of-1974 letter to Mr. Bradlee: “The things [about you] that people don’t know — that I know — are style, generosity, class and decency, as well as understanding of other people’s weaknesses.”

When Mrs. Graham died in July 2001, Mr. Bradlee spoke at her funeral. “She was a spectacular dame, and I loved her very much,” he said, looking down on the vast crowd from the lectern at the east end of Washington National Cathedral. Walking back to his pew, Mr. Bradlee took a slight detour to pass her coffin and give it an affectionate pat.
Leonard Downie remained executive editor till 2008, and a lot of his tenure too is remembered for journalism, but by the end the economic realities of running a paper like the Post were already taking a heavy toll on the operations of the newsroom. Though a lot of questions can be asked about his successors, it's almost unfair to compare their performance, which has been so much concerned with survival -- both their own and the paper's.

The Post has had to contend not just with the catastrophic decline of readership and advertising common to latter-day newspapers generally, but with its relationship to the federal government in a hometown that is so heavily a company town, which also means -- for the hometown paper of the Village -- its positioning in the rightward-lurching political cosmos. Uncharitable observers might utter the word "pandering." (The aforementioned link that Howie passed along was to a Pew Research survey, "Distrust of News Sources," which found the Post registering distrust levels of 26 precent among respondents of "mostly conservative" views and 39 percent among those of "consistently conservative" views -- as against, for example, significantly higher New York Times distrust figures of 33 and 50 percent.)

Now, granted that Ben Bradlee's stewardship of the paper's news operations was a major factor in its prosperity during most of his tenure, it's also true that he didn't have to figure out how to run his operation when that prosperity became past-tense.


Ben Bradlee as Ben Bradlee, in 1995

Obviously within the Post the assignment of the Bradlee obit was a a big deal, even given the revolution that has been taking place since its sale to Amazon honcho Jeff Bezos. Of course one also presumes that the choice of Robert Kaiser wasn't spur-of-the-moment; given the subject's age, one assumes that a basic obit text has been in place for, well, quite a while. Certainly Kaiser qualifies as a company guy -- there's hardly anyone around with truer-blue WaPo credentials. Prior to his retirement early this year, he worked at the Post for more than 50 years, the last 16 as associate editor and senior correspondent, following his tenure (1991-98) as Leonard Downie Jr.'s managing editor following his accession to the top job.

Kaiser is also a respected writer in his own right, and There are observations I'm still mulling writing about in his somewhat crotchety but often interesting review, in the current (November 5) issue of the New York Review of Books, of Rick Perlstein's The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan and John Dean's The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It, titled "Our Conservative, Criminal Politicians" (available free to subscribers only).

As Kaiser's comments on Bradlee's relationship with Kay Graham show, he's hardly uncritical. Noting that Bradlee's "strengths sometimes became weaknesses," he recalls the Janet Cooke debacle:
The editor who could inspire his troops to do some of the best journalism ever published in America also fell for an artful hoax by a young reporter, Janet Cooke. Cooke invented an 8-year-old heroin addict named Jimmy and wrote a moving story about him. After the story won the Pulitzer Prize in 1981, Cooke was exposed as an impostor who invented not only Jimmy but also her own life story.

When they realized that Cooke had concocted an imaginary résumé, Mr. Bradlee and his editors interrogated her and extracted a confession. Mr. Bradlee quickly returned the Pulitzer, then encouraged The Post’s ombudsman, Bill Green, to investigate and report how the incident could have happened. This was the biggest assignment ever given to the in-house reader’s representative. Mr. Bradlee had created the position in 1970, making The Post the first major paper to employ an independent, in-house critic.

Green produced a detailed, embarrassing report about a newsroom where the urge for journalistic impact overrode several experienced reporters’ doubts about Jimmy’s existence. “Bradlee was really hurt” by the Cooke affair, recalled Peter Silberman, who served under Mr. Bradlee as a senior editor.
Kaiser notes too that "Mr. Bradlee had a notoriously short attention span."
He rarely dug into the details of an issue himself, leaving that to the people he had hired. He managed The Post newsroom with a combination of viscera and intellect, often judging people by his personal reaction to them. He or she “makes me laugh” was perhaps Mr. Bradlee’s greatest compliment. He never enjoyed the minutiae of management and spent as little time on administrative work as he could get away with.


But Kaiser goes on to credit Bradlee with "cop[ing] successfully with many crises." And the obit begins with him crediting him with having "guided The Post's transformation into one of the world's leading newspapers."
From the moment he took over The Post newsroom in 1965, Mr. Bradlee sought to create an important newspaper that would go far beyond the traditional model of a metropolitan daily. He achieved that goal by combining compelling news stories based on aggressive reporting with engaging feature pieces of a kind previously associated with the best magazines. His charm and gift for leadership helped him hire and inspire a talented staff and eventually made him the most celebrated newspaper editor of his era.

The most compelling story of Bradlee’s tenure, almost certainly the one of greatest consequence, was Watergate, a political scandal touched off by The Post’s reporting that ended in the only resignation of a president in U.S. history.

But Mr. Bradlee’s most important decision, made with Katharine Graham, The Post’s publisher, may have been to print stories based on the Pentagon Papers, a secret Pentagon history of the Vietnam War. The Nixon administration went to court to try to quash those stories, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision of the New York Times and The Post to publish them.

The Post’s circulation nearly doubled while Mr. Bradlee was in charge of the newsroom — first as managing editor and then as executive editor — as did the size of its newsroom staff. And he gave the paper ambition.

Mr. Bradlee stationed correspondents around the globe, opened bureaus across the Washington region and from coast to coast in the United States, and he created sections and features — most notably Style, one of his proudest inventions — that were widely copied by others.

During his tenure, a paper that had previously won just four Pulitzer Prizes, only one of which was for reporting, won 17 more, including the Public Service award for the Watergate coverage. . . .
Kaiser concludes with the quote I've put at the top of this post from David Halberstam, whose journalistic career of course is mostly associated with the New York Times but who "devoted much of his book The Powers That Be to Mr. Bradlee's Washington Post. (The quote, which Kaiser describes as a "valedictory" is credited to "an interview" -- presumably one conducted by the author, presumably for this obit. Bear in mind that Halberstam died in 2007.)

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