The Administration

Random Thoughts Before the Holiday

For a recess week, there is a lot in the news that deserves commentary, but not a lot of time to write in my blog before I go on vacation. So here are some random thoughts:

•    Richard Cohen wrote a good piece in The Washington Post today about the Supreme Court decision on segregation and education. That follows a similar piece by Juan Williams in The New York Times last week. They both point out that big-city school systems have been resegregated for years, and it has nothing to do with Supreme Court and little to do with spending. It has to do with school quality. By and large, white parents don’t send their kids to big-city schools. They move to the suburbs or they send their kids to private schools. Why? Because the school systems are horrible, and have been horrible for a while. The Bush administration has tried hard to reverse this race to the bottom by insisting on higher quality and higher expectations, but the teacher’s unions and the corrupt bureaucracies have resisted. But it is not just the schools that fail the students. Cohen quotes Barack Obama, who has pointed out that parents deserve some of the blame. It is about time to have a real discussion on school reform and bring parents into the discussion. Perhaps this Supreme Court decision will spark such a debate. 

Pressure and Principle

OK, so I don't really know what President Bush is thinking. It was only 10 days ago that I said it would be a long time before he made a decision on I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby because I believed, no matter the pressure, he didn't want to make one at all. Ha!

Bush released a tortured statement about how perjuring is wrong after all, and how Libby will and must pay his price for lying, but he still went over the head of his own appointed judge and removed a 30-month sentence to prison that loomed for the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. I find it rich that the news broke on the night when Bill Clinton was making his debut on the '08 trail, not to raise money, but to raise the votes for his wife who stood by him when he was impeached for lying under oath. I find it poignant that it was the same day the Washington Post wrote at length about Bush's secret consultations with historians about his legacy, intimate sessions in which he has asked people why the world hates America and why everybody hates him.

The GOP Double-Standard on Executive Privilege — But Dems Need to Be Careful Too

It never ceases to amaze me how some Republicans partisans and conservative talk show hosts manage a straight face when they can apply such patently partisan double-standards when it comes to reacting to the Bush White House versus similar conduct by the Clinton White House.

But Democrats have to worry, too, about overly aggressive investigations of the Bush White House, despite their protestations during the Clinton years of such conduct by the Republican-led Congress. That may be one of the reasons for the current Democratic Congress's  low approval ratings — and will set another precedent for abuse if (and hopefully when) the Democrats next regain the White House and are faced with a Republican Congress. 

Cheney's Absolute Power-grab

Lord Acton said it best: "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely." We have been bombarded this week with Washington Post stories describing just that when it comes to Dick Cheney.

The "power ranger" insists on redefining the executive branch (or the legislative branch) and pursues policies from the vantage point of a modern dictator, with little regard for the law. What he has done has not only had severe negative consequences for all manner of foreign and domestic policy. It has redefined government, at least for the moment.

Some would suggest that he deserves impeachment for his acts. At the very least it is time for a full-scale congressional investigation of his attempt at absolute power. And the Democrats should call for it, now.

Distorting Light

Vice President Cheney is not the only one. In fact, rare is the official, particularly the elected one, who embraces unfettered media access to the way he or she conducts the public's business. Not so rare is the official who holds the media and its reporters in contempt.

It's not hard to understand. Having one's foot held to the fire by brilliant reporting like the current Washington Post series on Cheney or the Walter Reed exposés is an altogether unpleasant experience, and the knee-jerk reaction to such stories is to blame the messengers, meaning the media, for such exceptional journalism. 

The Untouchable

That is one creative legal argument Vice President Cheney advances, arguing he does not have to comply with the order requiring members of the executive branch, the Bush administration, to account for the way they handle classified material.

Why? Because the vice president of the United States, under the Constitution, is president of the Senate and casts tie-breaking votes.

Since the Constitution also specifies that only Congress can determine how it operates, Cheney is not bound by the executive order.

In effect, he is claiming that he is eligible for both executive and legislative privilege. Hybrid privilege, as it were. 

CIA Skeletons, The Mortal Sins of Dick Cheney, The Nobility Of Al Gore

Soon, CIA Director Michael Hayden will release documents that describe major misdeeds of the CIA in darker days, after General Antonio Taguba went public in The New Yorker with charges of an Abu Ghraib cover-up.

A great and noble debate will begin in America. Revelations about past and current misdeeds will bring into focus what went wrong in the Iraq war, and why opponents of these policies are voices of American patriotism.

In a recent show Tucker Carlson and a “pundit” ridiculed and demeaned Al Gore. Rather than discussing the profound points he was making in his new book The Assault on Reason, they engaged in cheap ad hominem attacks on Gore as “over the top” and “rage-filled.”


Devil’s Island

I have been to Guantanamo Bay a lot since they brought the first prisoners, uh, “detainees.”After an outcry from reporters the military decided it was better to let us in rather than face questioning over what they were hiding.

So they came up with a tightly controlled tour of the facility. Journalists call it “The Dog and Pony Show.”

I mean TIGHTLY controlled. We had to sign restrictive agreements about what we could say and show. And we weren’t really allowed to see much anyway that departed from the propaganda that these detainees were being “treated in humane fashion”

Well, all that did was fuel more relentless questions about what they were hiding.

L’Affaire Plame seemingly never to scoot away

Pardon me, but did Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) actually think that Chris Matthews’s question about a pardon for I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby at the AFSCME conference on Tuesday was the last one she would get? You get the feeling that L’Affaire Plame, four years old this July, is one of those sagas that simply cannot die.

President Bush has made clear to me that he doesn’t want to pardon Libby, or he would have done so right away. No, I am not channeling the president but I reach this conclusion for four reasons: Bush has shown during the immigration debate he is certainly not worried about keeping the conservative GOP base happy; a pardon is an acknowledgment of guilt and inserts Bush into a mess he had no part of; Libby is not a Bush aide but a Cheney aide and Bush has clearly distanced himself from Cheney and his associates at this point in his presidency; and Bush needs another political problem like he needs Cheney to shoot him in the face.

Alberto Gonzales Has Got To Go — So You Say

Not much doubt about where you side when it comes to the Attorney General's competence. Last Friday, we posted our Quick Poll! question asking: "Is it OK for Alberto Gonzales to stay as Attorney General?" And answers came there plenty — 78% of which said "no" with only 22% saying "yes."

Our new question is: "Who would a Bloomberg presidential run hurt more? Democrats or Republicans" Go to the Quick Poll here on our home page and vote.