Monday, October 31, 2005

Defeating Alito

Look for an ally in Arlen Specter...


Why should Libby cooperate when he knows he's in line for a presidential pardon?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Just nailed.

An emailer to Andrew Sullivan brings a pleasing Law & Order vibe to his interpretation of Fitzgerald's legal strategy, but I catch a distinct whiff of plausibility as well. The letter really elucidates the indictment's case against Libby and the ways it implicates Rove and Cheney, and closes with these thoughts:
Fitz has a pretty strong case for the Espionage Act, and if Plame met the objective standards in the Intelligence Act, for that one too. And it seems like the fact that Libby lied repeatedly is very strong evidence of a culpable state of mind, belying any claim that he didn't "know" the info was classified or that divulging it was wrong. Add that to the very specific allegation in the indictment that he knew exactly where she worked, and there it is.

So why not charge it? Because Fitz has Libby nailed on the 5 counts from today's indictment. Just nailed. So he's bringing Libby in on those charges, they're going to talk some turkey, and Fitz is going to see if Libby will talk, maybe about VP, maybe about Official A (who's clearly Rove), or maybe about the VP's moles at State and in the CIA. Offer some carrots - maybe no jail - but if Libby refuses, then Fitz brings down the espionage or intelligence act charges. Libby has nowhere to go, and Fitz knows it. In my view, he's going to try to exploit that opening before wrapping this thing up.
Not crazy, right?

Sharks are apex predators

And now, some words on sharks from accomplished Australian spear-fisherman Rick Wolf.

Party of discipline

This is from a Republican emailer to The Corner:
Party discipline matters. That's one area where Democrats have always outshone us.

When a Democratic president or other high party leader comes under fire, the Democrats have a tendency to circle the wagons.

Republicans, meanwhile, when their leaders come under fire, tend to form a circular firing squad.
Democrats: not a circular firing squad!
Scooter out, Rove still under investigation? Sounds okay to me. I have really been enjoying the handiwork of the under-investigation Rove lately.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Bush's breakup with the right

Conservatives think they're the real winners here; meanwhile Harry Reid is pretending to be sad. See, the right wing now assumes that it will get the hard-right nominee it's always wanted. But I'm not so sure. This post from TNR's The Plank enumerates unanswered questions:
Why does George W. Bush understand her nomination to be a failure? Will he blame it on the media? Will he blame it on conservatives? Will he blame it on himself? I'm guessing it won't be the latter. ...These questions won't just determine whom he nominates to the bench next. They will determine his political strategy for the rest of his term. If he feels betrayed by conservatives, then he might find ways to screw them in the coming years.
While it is true that Miers could not have been sunk without the protests from the right, it does not follow that Bush's course forward is to nominate a hard-right candidate.

And even if he does go hard-right with his nominee, the Democrats' ability to knock a nominee back has just gotten better. Remember: approval ratings, midterm elections, filibuster.

If Karl Rove (politically) dies, his base strategy could die with him.

Now that Miers is out...

Bush's new shortlist for SCOTUS:

5.) Judge Ito
4.) Judge Judy
3.) Noelle Bush
2.) Laura Bush
1.) Oprah

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

No speaka the English, I only do the math

Here is the Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee has ten Republicans and eight Democrats. Here is a list of concerned souls from a helpful site called

From WithdrawMiers, we can count three Republican senators on the committee (Brownback, Graham and Sessions) who have "expressed reservations" about Miers. Brownback, I have noted, has a particular political interest in opposing her. There are at least two other Republicans on the committee--Specter and DeWine--who are self-styled moderates with no good reason for supporting the White House on this nominee.

Take Specter. He emerged from his meeting with Miers with the announcement that she acknowledged a constitutional right to privacy, an announcement he was forced to retract when a panicky White House informed him that she acknowledged no such thing. This was a face-losing political spanking for Specter, and he told reporters that he will bring up the subject in the hearings. ("My recollection of our meeting differs from what Ms. Miers's recollection is," Specter said, "...I am going to go over it with her.") Think he's an assured vote? Me neither.

And Dewine! He's staring at lousy poll numbers and a possible challenge from Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett for his seat next year. Opposing Miers would be a cost-free opportunity for DeWine to separate himself (at least symbolically) from Bush's sinking ship.

That makes five uncertain Republican votes, and from what I can see, not one easily swayed Democrat. Those who voted for Roberts (Leahy, Feingold) did so on the strength of his qualifications and intelligence; it's hard to see them being wowed by Miers' similar qualities. And it's extremely hard to see anyone who opposed Roberts (Kennedy, Schumer) deciding that Miers is more fit.

That's the math. Five wavering Republicans where two 'no' votes would potentially sink the nomination. So we're into the territory of when she is withdrawn and how the White House decides to handle it.

Monday, October 24, 2005

My triumphant return to the SCOTUS-speculation game

You've been wondering, you've been waiting, you've been asking yourself: When oh when will Rob blog again about Harriet Miers and SCOTUS? Well, dear reader, the wait is over.

Not-that-controversial-of-a-prediction: Harriet Miers will never sit on the Supreme Court. I bet she doesn't even make it to the hearings.

Opposition from social conservatives' darling Sam Brownback (R-KA) is no longer an if and is totally a when. Consider the man's cost-benefit analysis! A vote for Miers doesn't help Brownback's political career in any way that I can discern, but a vote against her catapults him into the position of Official Right Wing Stop-McCain Republican '08 Candidate--a position recently vacated by Bill Frist, incidentally. Meanwhile, it's no great insight on my part to point out that the Bush White House these days isn't powerful enough to scare Brownback into line.

Brownback can't defeat her by himself, of course, but his dissent could make a lot of other Republicans (ironically, both on the right and in the center) suddenly become more comfortable voting against her. And the 2005 Democrats have become the party not only of fiscal discipline but also, incredibly, of message discipline, and against Miers it will be no challenge to keep the voting bloc together.

Just a guess, but one to consider: the White House will try to bury Miers' withdrawal underneath the fireworks of the coming indictments. I know they're not thinking straight lately, but the prospect of Miers' being defeated in committee must have crossed their minds...

And if she is withdrawn, who would replace her? Again: weak White House, administration in shambles...I still don't think it's possible for Bush to appoint a fire-breathing conservative. (You may disagree, but I have been right before!) Here I repeat myself from a few months ago: Democrats still have the filibuster. In this environment, Democrats can win the argument that goes along with using it.

Defeating Harriet Miers makes sense on the merits--she's a crony and an intellectual lightweight who doesn't belong on the Supreme Court. Defeating her nomination also makes sense politically: Bush would be choosing her replacement with his approval at an all-time low (and dropping!) and with midterm elections looming large. He would have to screw the base (again) in hopes of saving his own skin. Result: Bushism dies, hardcore social conservatives cleave to Brownback, McCain keeps trying to figure how to do without the 30% of Republicans who are evangelicals...Democrats reap benefits from fed-up social conservatives who decide to quit voting (or, better, to vote for Roy Moore), and they directly pick up the votes of some (okay, small) percentage of moderate evangelicals. And we all live happily ever after...

Anybody get indicted while I was typing this post?


Link (via BoingBoing).

Thursday, October 20, 2005

DeLay's Mug Shot

Kind of disappointing. Where's the profile shot? Where's the ruler? And why isn't he holding one of those little signs with booking number and such?

Ah well, who's complaining? It is a mug shot, after all, and that can't be good for one's political fortunes, even in Texas.

PS -- And why isn't he wearing stripes or an orange jumpsuit? And why doesn't he have a ball and chain attached to his ankle? And why aren't his testicles attached to electrodes? And why is he still a member of the House of Representatives?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

And we eat a big lunch then we all take naps

MF Doom is a rapper who knows his target demographic. Danger Doom, his new collaboration with producer Danger Mouse, is an album-length riff on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim that includes funny guest turns from Brak and Master Shake and most other notable Adult Swim characters. Now this is synergy! (Or do they call that product placement?)

The album is hilarious. Shake's answering machine messages are great; Brak's rap is immortal. MF Doom is one of my favorite rappers because of his slurry, free-associative style, his ear for quirky language and multisyllabic slant rhymes, and most of all for lines like this:
"We'll be right back after these messages/ Fellas grab your nutsacks, ladies squeeze your breastsesses"
Danger Mouse's production style is sort of neo-old school; he makes beats out of looped samples and orchestra instrumentation like back in the days before ProTools. His tracks are solid and there's an appeal to hearing Doom in a more upright setting, but the beats here are too tidy for Doom's woozy style, and the pair's chemistry doesn't approach that of Doom/Madlib on Madvillainy.

But so what? The first great rap/comedy record of 2005 was Quasimoto's The Further Adventures of Lord Quas; the second is Danger Doom's The Mouse and the Mask. Too bad, though, that there's such an air of professionalism to a project that could have used a little more anarchy.

Monday, October 17, 2005

My new Stop Smiling piece is available here, posted while I was off honeymooning. It's a review of Salman Rushdie's new novel, Shalimar the Clown, which I liked a lot. This was originally supposed to go into the print magazine, but got demoted to the web at the last minute when they changed around the issue's theme. Oh well, at least I still get paid...
Unexpected cool thing about getting married: the ring! My ring is now the nicest thing I'm wearing at any given time.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Dept. of Hilarious Celebrity Sightings

Ryan Seacrest @ Bellagio.

Now I'm not saying Ryan Seacrest is gay...but both he and the guy he was sitting with had excellent hair.
Back from Vegas. What fun!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Congratulations to me on my incredible luck. Back in a week and a half or so.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Monday, October 03, 2005

Works because it's true

The strategy for Democrats is as clear as can be. The first part was laid out by Marshall Wittman:
Democrats should, at least, indicate that it initially does not appear that Miers is a Scalia/Thomas extremist. They should applaud the President for apparently not bowing to pressures from the right - this will drive the conservatives nuts.
Part II, following this faint praise, is "But we have serious concerns about Miers' qualifications for a seat on the Supreme Court. In an administration that has consistently appointed unqualified cronies to positions of national importance, it is clear that President Bush saw Miers' primary qualification to be her proximity to him..."

Writes itself.

John Podhoretz does our job for us

Here's the conservative commentator on the Miers nomination:
One of the dumbest things being said today about Harriet Miers is that she has no paper trail. She has a colossal paper trail, and a potentially dangerous one too -- as one of the two honchoes of a law firm in Texas called Locke Liddell and Sapp. This means that every case taken by Locke Liddell and Sapp during her time as chief partner is part of her "paper trail." It's true she has said nothing about abortion. But what about making money defending, say, polluters? Or tobacco companies? One really controversial case might give Democrats sufficient cover to oppose her en masse and, depending on the circumstance, might be enough for a few Northeastern Republicans to go off the reservation.
Miers is a crony, Michael Brown in a black robe and powdered wig (do they still wear powdered wigs on the Supreme Court?). And precisely because she has "said nothing about abortion," her right-wing support could evaporate with signs of serious opposition.

PS -- Worth reading The Corner this morning, if only to gauge the extent to which the right feels let down by this nomination.

PPS -- Miers looks to be a candidate everybody can hate. Quick, let's survey right-wing reactions...Instapundit doesn't like him...hack extraordinaire Hugh Hewitt is reduced to pleading that the right should trust Bush, not exactly a ringing endorsement...Bill Kristol is "disappointed, depressed and demoralized" and says Miers has "no constitutionalist credentials that I know of"; he thinks it bodes ill for '06 and for the next three years of the Bush presidency...and some dude on the site Right Wing News calls it "undoubtedly the worst decision of Bush's presidency so far" (!)

And yet Miers is no kind of moderate and surely won't receive any significant support from Dems...Ramesh Ponnoru on The Corner notes that she's not even a shoo-in to receive a qualified rating from the ABA!

The right got screwed by Bush, all right. So did the left and the center!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

I have a couple of blurbs in the new issue of local mag Chicago Innerview: one on Atmosphere and one on Kathleen Edwards (scroll down).