Blowing The Federalist Society Question

Today’s Washington Post reviews the issue of the possible membership of John Roberts in the Federalist Society and what it could mean for his Supreme Court Nomination. Mostly, however, Michael Fletcher attempts to explain what the Federalist Society is to a nation whose only knowledge of the group paints it as a murky, subversive, and secretive cabal — an image the White House inadvertently underscored in the days after announcing Roberts’ nomination:

Launched 23 years ago by a group of conservative students who felt embattled by liberals on the campuses of some of the nation’s most elite law schools, the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies has grown into one of the nation’s most influential legal organizations. The group claims more than 35,000 members, an increasing number of whom work in the highest councils of the federal government. Many Justice Department lawyers, White House attorneys, Supreme Court clerks and judges are affiliated with the group. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was a close adviser to the organization while he was a University of Chicago law professor.
Not only has the Federalist Society become a source of legal talent for Republican administrations, but through its frequent on-campus seminars and forums for practicing lawyers, the group is also credited with popularizing methods of legal analysis now widely advocated by many conservatives and employed by an increasing number of judges. Theories such as originalism, which holds that the Constitution has a fixed and knowable meaning rather than an evolving meaning that should adapt to contemporary times, is an idea put forward by many Federalist members. Using that standard, some judges have challenged previous court rulings allowing broad federal control over states on regulatory and civil rights issues, and maintaining the legal wall separating church and state.

In one of the more prosaic examples of truth in advertising, the Federalist Society advocates a return to the Federalist model of government. That model empahsizes local and state control over public policy and funds, giving more freedom to Americans to shape the way government affects their lives. It also espouses a literal reading of the Constitution, which puts the responsibility for creating laws and policy on the Legislature — the branch representing the people — where it belongs. As one member says in the article, Federalists want courts to rule on the basis of what the law says, and not what they want the law to be.
So what’s so subversive about this? Not much, even if Fletcher goes out of his way to include the Left’s favorite bogeyman, Richard Mellon Scaife, in his article. That begs the question as to why the White House distanced Roberts from the Federalists at Warp Eight early after the announcement:

The eagerness of the White House to distance Roberts from the Federalist Society baffled many conservatives. They believe the reaction fed a false perception that membership in the organization — an important pillar of the conservative legal movement — was something nefarious that would damage Roberts’s chances of confirmation.
“Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Federalist Society?” asked Roger Pilon, a vice president at the libertarian Cato Institute, mocking the suspicion that swirls around the group.

Put simply, the White House reaction was a mistake. It added to the notion that membership in the Federalist Society should concern American voters. Even if Roberts didn’t belong, the next nominees to the bench might, and then the White House will have left the Democrats a handy, catchy-sounding club with which to rhetorically beat them. It would have reflected so much better on the Bush administration had they insisted that Federalist Society membership represented a long and honorable school of thought in American legal circles, one that had far too little representation until like-minded legal scholars formed the group in the 1980s.
Instead, as Pilon notes, their reaction gives the Federalists the same kind of emotional reaction that one gives the Masons or the Communists. That is a big mistake, and one which the Bush administration will regret not just with Roberts but with all of their succeeding judicial nominations.

Energy Bill Caps Powerful Legislative Session For GOP

What a difference a few weeks make! Less than two months after the Washington Post wrote off the second Bush term as moribund and Bush himself as a lame duck, the Post now joins the New York Times and AP in recognizing that rumors of Bush’s political death are just a wee bit premature:

After years of partisan impasses and legislative failures, Congress in a matter of hours yesterday passed or advanced three far-reaching bills that will allocate billions of dollars and set new policies for guns, roads and energy.
The measures sent to President Bush for his signature will grant $14.5 billion in tax breaks for energy-related matters and devote $286 billion to transportation programs, including 6,000 local projects, often called “pork barrel” spending. The Senate also passed a bill to protect firearms manufacturers and dealers from various lawsuits. The House is poised to pass it this fall.
Combined with the Central American Free Trade Agreement that Congress approved Thursday, the measures constitute significant victories for Bush and GOP congressional leaders, who have been frustrated by Democrats in some areas such as Social Security. As senators cast vote after vote in order to start their August recess, Bush applauded Congress, saying the energy bill “will help secure our energy future and reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy.”

To be sure, the GOP did not get everything they wanted. Trent Lott complained that the stripped-down energy bill had lost a lot of its meat. John McCain, predictably (and in this case correctly), complained that the highway bill had picked up far too much meat — pork, to be precise. ANWR drilling disappeared from the energy policy, to be addressed separately after the break.
However, for the first time since Bush’s election, Congress finally passed an energy bill. It passed a highway bill that took months of wrangling. The Senate extended key provisions of the Patriot Act. It also approved protections from class-action lawsuits against gun manufacturers, who looked to be the next target for trial attorneys after having picked the tobacco industry clean. Congress sent CAFTA, a key part of our Latin American strategy to boost economies and relieve economic pressure forcing migration, to the White House over one of the toughest coordinated efforts yet seen on legislation during the Bush term.
And Bush won all of these legislative victories while having the lowest approval ratings of his presidency.
The Post notes that the GOP controls both houses of Congress as well as the White House, and that these victories should be seen in that light. True enough. However, that has not stopped the Democrats from blocking most of this legislation in the past, especially the energy bill and the Patriot Act extensions. The Democrats assumed that with his poll numbers falling and their legislative stall tactics working, Bush would fold his tent and retreat.
That’s what the Post expected, too, at the end of May. Now they realize that they too “misunderestimated” George Bush, to their embarrassment.

Passing A Test In Uzbekistan

One of the most important military bases operated by the US sits in Uzbekistan, which borders on Afghanistan. It provides strategic access to the northern part of Afghanistan, with good roads to Mazar-i-Sharif, plus long runways for heavy-load military flights. It opened shortly after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington and has been considered essential to our operations.
Unfortunately, that base will no longer remain in our control, as the Uzbeks have delivered an eviction notice to the US:

Uzbekistan formally evicted the United States yesterday from a military base that has served as a hub for combat and humanitarian missions to Afghanistan since shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Pentagon and State Department officials said yesterday.
In a highly unusual move, the notice of eviction from Karshi-Khanabad air base, known as K2, was delivered by a courier from the Uzbek Foreign Ministry to the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, said a senior U.S. administration official involved in Central Asia policy. The message did not give a reason. Uzbekistan will give the United States 180 days to move aircraft, personnel and equipment, U.S. officials said.
If Uzbekistan follows through, as Washington expects, the United States will face several logistical problems for its operations in Afghanistan. Scores of flights have used K2 monthly. It has been a landing base to transfer humanitarian goods that then are taken by road into northern Afghanistan, particularly to Mazar-e Sharif — with no alternative for a region difficult to reach in the winter. K2 is also a refueling base with a runway long enough for large military aircraft. The alternative is much costlier midair refueling.

We have other bases in the Central Asia region supporting our Afghanistan operations, notably Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, but neither country has the same strategic access as Uzbekistan. Kyrgyzstan doesn’t even border Afghanistan, making land access a moot point, and we only use the Tajik base in emergencies. The loss of this base will create a harsh impact on our efforts in the northern regions of Afghanistan.
So what went wrong?
Uzbekistan remains under the control of Islam Karimov, one of the Central Asian strongmen running former Soviet republics. For a while, his interests coincided with ours. Karimov didn’t want Islamists to foment a bloody revolution and chase him from power, and he didn’t mind the millions of dollars the US paid for use of the base, either. However, with the American push for democratization, the Uzbeks began to start demanding more and more freedoms, which made the Karimov regime start to question his American ties.
All of this came to a head earlier this year, when a massive pro-democracy protest turned bloody. Karimov’s security forces opened fire on unarmed Uzbek demonstrators, killing 500 people in the Andijan province. The US demanded an independent investigation into the massacre, and planned on pressing Karimov for political reforms. So far, Karimov has not agreed to either, and the final straw apparently came when the US asked Kyrgyzstan to block extradition of 439 Uzbek political refugees.
The loss of such a strategic base is undeniably a blow for the US and its effort in Afghanistan. Yet this should be viewed as a triumph for the US. It demonstrates the Bush administration’s commitment to democratization, even among our allies, and shows that we will not tolerate oppression and mass murder as a prop for power, not even among our friends. It shows that his overall strategy for this war is to create democracies as a bulwark against the radicalism that creates terror — and that will, in the end, prove many times more beneficial than the Uzbek base we just lost.
The senior official quoted by the Washington Post noted that Bush could have saved the base simply by remaining silent about the refugees and democracy. Bush and his administration just passed an important test by choosing decency and democracy over the convenience of the moment. We will find other ways to support our efforts in Afghanistan, means that don’t undermine our overall strategic goals of freeing as many people as possible throughout Southwest Asia and the world.

An Odd Lesson In Ethics

Lawyers have a saying that warns, “Hard cases make bad law.” The Miami Herald may need to adjust that for journalism after a bizarre set of circumstances led to the firing of star columnist Jim DeFede for supposedly violating the law and the ethical standards of the Herald. How did DeFede get axed? It all started with a call from his friend, who happened to commit suicide in the Herald’s lobby shortly afterwards:

It seemed like a throwback to “Miami Vice”: an eccentric politician, recently accused of money laundering and soliciting male prostitutes, fatally shoots himself in the lobby of The Miami Herald after an anguished phone conversation with a star columnist.
But the storyline grew even stranger on Thursday as employees of the newspaper reacted with outrage after learning that the columnist, Jim DeFede, had been fired for secretly taping his conversation with the distraught man – a possible violation of state law.

Note that the taping has not been determined to be illegal, at least not yet. Florida case law allows for a business exemption for taping conversations. Why didn’t DeFede simply tell Arthur Teele, a former city councilman whose career and life had collapsed in a series of revelations about corruption, drugs, and illicit sex, that he had started taping the conversation? DeFede worried about Teele’s state of mind, he says:

“The idea that he might be thinking suicide was in my mind,” Mr. DeFede, 42, said Thursday. “I wanted to get what he was saying down – to preserve what he was saying – so I pushed the record button.” …
“I realized Art was headed in a direction that scared me,” Mr. DeFede said, and so in the heat of the moment he turned on his tape recorder. Mr. Teele seemed more stable when they hung up after 25 minutes, Mr. DeFede said, and even calmer when he called a second time from The Herald’s lobby. Mr. DeFede was working at home, and Mr. Teele said he was leaving a packet for him at the security desk.
The Herald called minutes later to inform him of the shooting.

After hearing of the suicide by a man DeFede considered a friend, he informed the paper that he had taped the conversation. DeFede claims that the editor and the corporate counsel both assured him that the Herald would stand by him. DeFede, with that assurance, started transcribing the conversation so that he could write about the tragedy and the despair that had driven Teele to kill himself. When he brought the tape to the paper, however, they fired him.
Why? The Herald claims that taping Teele without his knowledge violated the paper’s sense of ethics. They also dispute the story DeFede tells, saying that editor Jesus Diaz and counsel Robert Beatty had problems with DeFede’s actions from the first moment they heard about the taping. Tom Fiedler, the paper’s executive editor, backs this version of events and the firing of DeFede:

“We expect our people to act in a highly ethical way, and Jim admitted that he had crossed that line, and I really didn’t see an alternative,” Mr. Fiedler said. “If we have that expectation and someone fails to abide by it, knowingly fails to abide by it, regardless of that person’s talent it means they can no longer be a part of The Herald.”

That seems like a pretty tough position to take with a longtime employee dealing with the suicide of a friend. The Herald certainly must have written this policy out for a violation to be considered grounds for termination, and perhaps we will see some evidence of that. Under these circumstances, though, termination couldn’t have been the only option available to the Herald.
In fact, in a stunning and hypocritical twist, the Herald then went on to undermine their own ethical stance — by using DeFede’s notes for a story on the suicide!

Even after knowing Mr. DeFede had taped Mr. Teele without his consent, the newspaper published portions of the conversation as described by Mr. DeFede.

It seems that the Herald has a flexible concern for ethics. They fire DeFede for getting the conversation on tape, and then use the work product of the tapes to publish their paper. Either DeFede shouldn’t have taped the conversation and it shouldn’t get published, or he should have taped it and it should get published. The Herald wants us to believe that they enforce a high ethical standard, when in fact they’re publishing information that they themselves assert was collected unethically and they never should have possessed.
Jesus Diaz, Tom Fiedler, and Robert Beatty have a very strange sense of ethics indeed. Or maybe not; it sounds like the ethics of “whatever we can get away with”, one that on further reflection doesn’t seem all that unique in the Exempt Media.
See Mark in Mexico for further thoughts.

Shots And Explosions Heard In London Raid (Updates: Captures!)

Londoners have heard shots and explosions — as many as six — coming from a raid which British authorities say is connected to the July 21 bombing investigation:

Officers carrying machine guns and wearing gas masks moved in and a loud explosion was reported in the Ladbroke Grove area. …
Witnesses said the police swooped at 11.30am and sealed off Tavistock Road and the adjoining crescent.
Tavistock Road runs close to Westbourne Park Tube station where the man who attempted to blow himself up on a train near Shepherd’s Bush on July 21 got on to the network.

Agence France-Presse reports that the six explosions came from the Notting Hill region, apparently part of the same raid. Further details to follow …
UPDATE: Police arrested two women in a queue at a transport station in London, in “dramatic fashion,” as the Telegraph puts it in its update. Fox News reported on air that the police had asked the media to turn off its cameras at the scene of the standoff, perhaps to keep the people inside from seeing the police deployments on TV. More …
UPDATE II: The BBC now reports that police arrested two more of the July 21 bombers in this raid:

Two more of the failed London bombing suspects are believed to have been arrested as police carried out a number of armed operations in west London.
They were thought to be the men wanted for the Oval Tube and No 26 bus attacks of 21 July, said a BBC correspondent. …
In Dalgarno Gardens officers were continually shouting at someone in a flat to come out. They were addressing him as “Muhammad”.
The police asked him: “What is the problem? Why can’t you come out?
“Take your clothes off. Exit the building. Do you understand?”

The police now say that no firearms were discharged during this raid, which means that the noises heard by the neighbors likely came from flash-bang grenades. Police use these to stun and disorient suspects while rushing them to get them in custody. Using them near explosives such as those used for the Tube bombings seems like a high-risk strategy, but it beats giving a terrorist time to set them off deliberately.
UPDATE III: Now police are saying that they arrested three men in this raid:

Heavily armed police wearing gas masks and reportedly using stun grenades raided two west London apartment blocks Friday, and officials said they arrested three people connected to the failed July 21 transit bombings. …
Police said they raided two residences Friday in west London and arrested two men at one address and one at another, a Metropolitan Police spokesman said on customary condition of anonymity. Police were “securing the area and treating it as a crime scene.”

An eyewitness at the scene told the media that he recognized one of the men as a bus driver for London’s transport system:

In addition, a witness told The Associated Press that a man wearing what appeared to be a bus driver’s uniform was led away by police in handcuffs.
The witness, Osama Ahmed Ali, saw a Somali man whom he recognized as a bus driver.
“He was in a purple-and-yellow bus driver uniform,” said Ali, 16. “I’ve been on a bus with him a couple of times.”

That seems significant. If Islamists have infiltrated the London bus and subway systems as employees, then they could have had much bigger plans for its destruction. London police may have to investigate all transport-system employees for possible connections to radical Islamist mosques and activities. That will prove unpleasant for all concerned.
UPDATE IV: The updated BBC report now says that all four July 21 bombing suspects have been arrested. The fourth one was apprehended by Italian police in Rome:

The fourth suspect, wanted for the attempted Shepherd’s Bush Tube attack, has been arrested in Rome and named as Somali-born UK citizen Osman Hussein.

Those British passports came in handy to the terrorists, didn’t they? It makes the lightning-quick captures of the AQ operatives and a good portion of their network all the more amazing.

Senate Democrats Demand Abortion Litmus Test

Six women from the Senate Democratic caucus demanded an answer from John Roberts as to whether he would overturn Roe v. Wade if such a case presented itself, and committed to opposing his nomination if he answered yes or refused to answer. Barbara Boxer led the press conference and said she would find it “impossible” to vote for Roberts:

A group of female Democratic senators said yesterday that they will vote against Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. unless he vows to uphold abortion rights. …
“Thousands of women a year died in back alleys,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, said of the days before Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established abortion rights. “For more than 20 years, Sandra Day O’Connor has been an important vote in upholding Roe v. Wade,” she said. “Will Judge Roberts be that same important voice?”

Senators Patty Murray, Barbara Mikulski, Debbie Stabenow, Maria Cantwell, and interestingly Hillary Clinton all joined Boxer for this statement. None would answer when asked if they could support Roberts even if he even said that Roe was wrongly decided. Mikulski said that the women cared about more than just abortion rights, but clearly this statement meant to deliver the message that without a clear statement of support for Roe, Roberts would not get their votes.
Cantwell did not even bother to dispute the notion that they wanted a litmus test that demanded a prior agreement to prejudge cases towards particular outcomes. She told reporters that it might well be considered a litmus test, but that “over 60 percent of the American public believe that it is the job and role of the Senate to advise and consent on nominees, and it is very appropriate to ask nominees about their judicial philosophy.”
Asking about judicial philosophy is certainly appropriate, but demanding a loyalty oath to a particular court decision is not only inappropriate but entirely odious. First, it violates the rules of ethics for judges to preconceive how they will rule on cases before they are heard. Second, it creates an undue political pressure from the legislature onto the judiciary, which supposedly is independent and co-equal. Third, as Cantwell obviously doesn’t know, the only oath that a Supreme Court justice takes is to the Constitution itself, not the majority decisions that prior courts have delivered.
Besides, only sixty percent of the American people feel it is appropriate for the Senate to provide advice and consent on executive nominations? That should be 100%, as that is clearly a delineated responsibility in the Constitution. The lack of unanimous mandate on this point should serve as a warning signal to the Senate that they have undermined their credibility, largely through overt political demands of judicial nominees such as attempted by the women at this press conference.
Elections have consequences. The American people elected a Republican president and a Republican Senate that campaigned openly and strenuously on judicial nominations. Clearly they want to see more conservative jurists on the federal bench. The Senate minority needs to quit obstructing the will of the people and allow the President to appoint and confirm qualified jurists to the bench. Roberts’ politics are not an appropriate subject for debate.

Poland’s Pressure Gets To Belarus

Poland has started to put pressure on the dictatorship running Belarus, attempting to use its deep cultural ties to lend moral support to a burgeoning democratization movement. In response, the Lukashenko regime has seized a building near their shared border that provided community services to the Polish minority in Belarus:

A bitter row between Poland and Belarus over human rights, alleged espionage and democracy escalated yesterday when Belarussian police special forces stormed and seized a Polish community building near the country’s border with Poland. The Polish government responded by withdrawing its ambassador from Minsk.
The dispute between the two countries pits the authoritarian regime of Belarus’s president, Alexander Lukashenko – dubbed Europe’s last dictator – against Nato and EU member Poland, which is crusading for greater democracy in the countries of the former Soviet Union.
Mr Lukashenko – fearful of the pro-democracy tumult that unseated regimes in Ukraine and Georgia – claims Warsaw is spearheading a western plot to destabilise Belarus and foment a revolution to forestall his re-election next year.

Lukashenko wants to get his ersatz elections completed without disturbances, like people demanding an actual election as happened in Ukraine. His re-election will give him some breathing space to complete a planned reunification with Russia, allowing Lukashenko to hold onto power by using the Russians to tamp down opposition and dissent. The increasingly autocratic wants Belarus as a further buffer against the wave of democratization and liberalization coming from Eastern Europe — the very people that Russia once oppressed, and George Bush’s biggest proponents of the tranformative power of democracy.
To demonstrate that he means business, Lukashenko had security forces surround the community center and arrest everyone inside. Those detained were interrogated and, according to the Guardian, convicted on the spot. That may demonstrate remarkable efficiency, but it reveals the police state which Lukashenko has maintained since Belarus won its independence in the early 1990s.
Known as Europe’s last dictator, the last of a long and notorious line of despots in the region, Lukashenko should look to history to see how each met their fate. Those who allowed for the will of the people to exercise an orderly transition of power lived their lives in relative unmolested peace. Those who fought against the historical inevitability of liberty wound up on the end of a gibbet, or worse.

Disengagement From Reality

Today’s Washington Post publishes a column from an Al-Jazeera reporter who got miffed that Israel denied her entry from Gaza so that she could attend a reception in the West Bank. After that experience, Laila el-Haddad tells us that Israel’s pullout from Gaza amounts to nothing more than a plan to keep the West Bank under its thumb, and that Israel’s protection of its borders is the biggest obstacle to peace in the region:

I spent eight hours at Gaza’s Erez border crossing with Israel last month, waiting for Israeli approval to attend a reception in the West Bank, only to be denied entry based on dubious “security reasons.”
I’m a Palestinian mother of a stir-crazy 16-month-old boy, a journalist and a Harvard graduate. I’m not sure exactly what’s threatening about me, though my son might disagree, if he could sit still long enough to do so.
Being Palestinian is enough, an Israeli army spokesperson told me.
“As a Palestinian from Gaza, you are considered a security threat first, a journalist second.”
And that equation is not set to change anytime soon, not even after disengagement.

Haddad notes that the Israelis plan on controlling Gaza’s borders after pulling out and have declared that they will still respond to attacks coming from the region — and asserts that this policy makes Gaza little more than an open-air prison. She goes on to note that nothing has changed since Oslo, and that the Israeli security wall disrupts Palestinian lives and causes aggravation and inconvenience.
Where does one start with this nonsense?
Haddad must know about the recent case of a Palestinian woman to whom Israel granted access. The Israelis allowed Wafa Samir al-Biss to cross over into Israel for medical treatment to correct burns and scars so she could lead a more normal life — and she repaid them by attempting to set off a bomb belt. In fact, she later told the Telegraph that she wanted to kill Israeli babies at the hospital.
But she wasn’t a mother, Haddad could argue. True enough, but she could talk to Kahira, another inmate interviewed in the same article. Kahira had a husband and children and still managed to help set up a suicide bomber who killed a pregnant Jewish woman, among others. Manuela Dviri talked with a number of Palestinian women who crossed into Israel, probably many of which told guards that they wanted to go to the West Bank from Gaza or the other way around, only to attempt to kill Israeli civilians instead.
Haddad needs to spare us the outrage act. The Israelis have damned good reasons to look suspiciously on people crossing the border, and the Palestinians have no one to blame for that but themselves. The same holds true for the security fence. It has turned out to be the one non-lethal defense strategy that actually saves Israeli lives; suicide bombings have become almost non-existent in areas protected by the fence. Whether the ICJ like it or not is moot, as the Israelis do not participate in the court of “justice”, which never attempted to address the terrorism that created the need for the fence as part of its deliberations.
If the Palestinians feel like Oslo gave them nothing, they can look to Yasser Arafat and the terrorists of the PLO, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad for the cause. For the past eleven years, Israel has waited for the Palestinians to demand peace and an end to terrorism. Instead, they launched two intifadas since Oslo and the Palestinian Authority has refused to act against terrorists, breaching their responsibilities under Oslo and a host of succeeding agreements. By electing the terrorist lunatics of Hamas to important posts in the last elections, the Palestinians have made clear their choice for war. They shouldn’t weep at the same time that the people they target for that war won’t grant them immediate, unfettered access to the interior of their country.
Haddad and her people need to grow up, and the Washington Post needs to rethink its editorial page access to this kind of disingenuous tripe.

Sloppy Work At State

John Bolton’s nomination ran into another stumbling block yesterday when Senator Joe Biden asked Condoleezza Rice, seemingly out of the blue, to reaffirm Bolton’s denial that he had been interviewed as part of any investigation for the past five years. At first this resulting in an unequivocal denial, but by the end of the day, the denial had transformed into a grudging admission:

John R. Bolton, President Bush’s nominee to be ambassador to the United Nations, failed to tell the Senate during his confirmation hearings that he had been interviewed by the State Department’s inspector general looking into how American intelligence agencies came to rely on fabricated reports that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Africa, the State Department said Thursday.
Reacting to a letter from Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, said Mr. Bolton had not disclosed the interview with the inspector general because Mr. Bolton had forgotten about it. Mr. McCormack said the interview, on July 18, 2003, had nothing to do with a federal investigation into who leaked the name of an undercover C.I.A. official to reporters, a potential crime.
“When Mr. Bolton completed his forms for the Senate he did not recall being interviewed by the inspector general,” Mr. McCormack said in a telephone interview Thursday. Mr. McCormack reiterated that Mr. Bolton had not been questioned by the grand jury in the leak investigation. …
In a form submitted for his confirmation hearings before the Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Bolton said he had not been interviewed or asked for information in connection with any administrative investigation, including that of an inspector general, during the last five years.

I’m not naive. I know that the Democrats have had the long knives out for Bolton ever since Rice got confirmed as Secretary of State. In my opinion, the central point of contention amounts to a tempest in a teapot; no one really thinks that an interview with the inspector general amounts to anything significant. If Bolton had any involvement in the Iraq intelligence probe, he would have testified to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Biden wouldn’t have had to ask Rice about it.
Nevertheless, this shows a foolishness that borders on recklessness, on either Bolton’s part or that of State. If Bolton truly had not been interviewed by anyone other than the singular incident with the inspector general over the past five years, it’s hard to imagine that he simply forgot about the experience. The Iraq intelligence probe at State wasn’t just an administrative dispute, either; the political importance of that issue should have made that fairly memorable. The most charitable analysis would have us believe that John Bolton had such little regard for an issue that controversial that it completely escaped his memory … not exactly a ringing endorsement for his confirmation or recess appointment.
I have enthusiastically backed Bolton for this appointment, but the last thing this administration needs heading into a Supreme Court confirmation fight is a track record of this kind of sloppiness. It only gives ammunition for the Democrats to use in publicly questioning the veracity of other executive nominees, including John Roberts and anyone else nominated for subsequent SCOTUS openings. If Bolton has any more land mines awaiting us, clear them up now or withdraw him.

Durbin Inspires Hatred Of America

When Dick Durbin got up on the floor of the Senate and compared the detention center at Guantanamo Bay with the Nazi deathcamps, the killing fields of Cambodia, and the Stalinist gulags, we warned that he had handed our enemies a huge propaganda victory. When Ted Kennedy blew up over the Abu Ghraib abuses and turned them into a prime-time spectacle, we warned that publicizing them so widely would enrage our enemies. We suspected that Al-Jazeera had already looped the speech and the pictures and might play them continuously whenever the news got too slow.
Perhaps we should also have pointed out that other people might want to use it for their own propaganda purposes. The Moscow Times has taken Durbin’s correlation of Gitmo to the gulag to heart and used it to deliver the strangest and most venomous media attack on the American government outside of the Arab press:

Last week, we wrote of the Bush Faction’s increasingly successful drive to establish the principle of unlimited presidential authority — beyond the reach of any law or constitutional restriction — as the new foundation of a militarist American state. This relentless push toward autocracy gained even more strength in recent days, in two cases centering on what has emerged as the very core of President George W. Bush’s authoritarian philosophy: torture. …
Cheney brought hard words from on high for the tepid trio: Bush will veto any attempt by Congress to place any fetters on his arbitrary power over the captives in his worldwide gulag. The grim-visaged veep put it plainly: Such legislation would “restrict the President’s authority” to conduct the terror war as he sees fit, and thus cannot be tolerated. The whole defense budget will be tossed into the toilet if the amendments are attached, Cheney thundered.
This would be the first veto of Bush’s presidency: a mark of the supreme importance he places on his ability to seize people without charges, hold them indefinitely, break their bodies and their minds, then dispose of them as he pleases. This power is obviously more important to him than the defense of the nation itself. But what’s most striking about this case is the fact that the amendments — sponsored by ersatz “maverick” John McCain, among others — are actually part of the process of establishing an open, “legal” structure for Bush’s unrestricted “commander-in-chief state.”

And the upshot of Chris Floyd’s screed? What does the Moscow Times thinks is our ultimate goal for Guantanamo Bay?

This is the power that Bush declares cannot be restricted by courts or Congress or any law on earth: the power to torture, to murder, to terrorize — and to rape children. This is the dark, filthy heart of his militarist state.
With each new atrocity on every side in the hydra-headed “war on terror,” you think that now, perhaps, we’ve reached the bottom. But never believe that comforting notion. The evil that has opened up beneath our feet is bottomless, and we are falling deeper, fathom by fathom, into the pit. The worst, far worse, is yet to come.

Child rape? That’s what Floyd insists the unreleased photos from Abu Ghraib shows, even as he lies about the outcome of the investigation. Floyd maintains that “in all the show trials of low-ranking “bad apples” the Bushists have staged — not a single person has been charged or even reprimanded for these abominations.” Floyd has not paid much attention, as all of the guards involved in the abuse have been convicted or pled guilty. No matter; Moscow Times doesn’t let the truth stand in the way of good propaganda.
This is what happens when our bloviating leaders try to score political cheap shots by blowing a few isolated incidents out of all proportion. It hands idiots and malicious twits like Chris Floyd to paint America as the land of child-rapists and torturers, ironically in the land that gave us the gulags in the first place.
When our politicians learn that wartime puts great responsibilites on public debate, perhaps the Dick Durbins and Ted Kennedys will take those responsibilites to heart. Until then, expect to see more of this drivel shoveled out to Muscovites, Parisians, Berliners, and many, many more. (h/t: Pat A. in Phoenix)