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Flush twice... it's a long way to Sally Quinn's place!

Guest Pundit Pap
For July 24, 2005
What I Saw On the Way to the Frogmarch
by Scott Johnson

July 24, 2005 -- BOULDER -- JJ Balzer asked me to keep an eye out for any unusual activity during the Sunday Morning spin cycle.

Well, there was practically no talk about the situation in Iraq. Golly gee, you'd think things must've quieted down because we're makin' good progress -- until you pick up the paper and find this and this and this and this.

And there was hardly more than passing mention that Condi Rice is abroad talking to world leaders -- but then, it's been a diplomatic boondoggle between the manhandling of Andrea "On the Fitzgerald witness list" Mitchell Greenspan in Sudan, a less-than-effective swing by Palestine-to-be, and Condi having snubbed an Asian security conference that would've gone a long way to rebuilding trust and mending fences. There's practically no question that foreign leaders see Condi as a sort of diplomatic Paris Hilton -- they're awfully nice to her, but take her about as seriously as drama critics take Pauly Shore.

Finally, there was this itsy-bitsy little admission from Attorney General Al "Torture Boy" Gonzales that, well, he tipped off Andy Card the night before it was recommended by the Justice Department that Gonz inform them that DOJ was investigating the leak of Plame's identity and status as a NOC, so don't shred anything, nudge, wink.

Here's a very quick look at what the estimable Atrios has deemed the "atrocities."

This Reeks with George Stephanopoulos

What has gotten into ABC News? They've added cheesy "swoosh" sound effects to "punctuate" headlines -- the very type you'd expect from FAUX News -- to the This Week teaser intro.

Item one was bombings, in both London and Sharm-al-Sheikh; items two and two too were the Supremo nomination of John Roberts and the Plame "outing" scandal that has enveloped White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove. A security expert (we missed the name) played up the evidence of a coordinated bombing campaign masterminded by "Al Qaeda." Sen. John McCain said rail is vulnerable but "we've made progress" on air transportation and other fronts. McCain also plugged the notion that Roberts should not answer specific questions (translation: about Roe v Wade -- don't want to scare the ladies, y'know) and tried to slip the debunked spin point that Ginsburg and Breyer were not asked specific questions into his answer. Smartly, Steph said that Bork was asked the tough questions -- and we all remembered what happened to that guy! Should Roberts turn over papers as have other nominees? No, said McCain; the President was Roberts' client, and that violates attorney-client privilege.

Our first thought: it is the American people, not the dimwit squeak-by from Crawford, who is Roberts' real client. Democrats should be screaming this point!

When Steph mentioned Estrada's doomed nomination (over, wouldn't you know it, stonewalled papers), McCain said that matter was not about attorney-client documents. (Bottom line: the "papers" debate is going to be used to distract from evidence that Roberts is an unsuitable candidate, a millionaire Ivy League trial lawyer who has shilled for the oil industry and right-wing ideologues.)

On the Karl Rove scandal, McCain did the "innocent until proven guilty" jig and feigned ignorance about the details of the scandal. (That set the bullshit detector off, as Dick Cheney would surely say, big time.) The back-and-forth between Steph and McCain sounded like a reasonable person (Steph, for once) hammering a 101st Fighting Keyboardist chickenhawk left wielding the few talking points from Ken Mehlman's "Save Rove" memo that haven't been debunked. (Steph loses points for failing to smack down "JJ" over the talking point that claims Wilson's op-ed detailing his trip to Niger visit somehow factually flawed.) There was then some dull back-and-forth about knowingly vs. negligently blowing Plame's cover. (Translation: "It was an accident. Rove and Scooter Libby didn't mean it. Their bad. Slap them both on the wrist." John, baby, why do you hate the CIA and NOCs so much?)

Next up: Pat Leahy. Leahy has concerns about Roberts -- on an appellate court, he has to abide by the Supremos, but they are now an activist court that has written law. (He should have mentioned that the conservatives are the biggest activists when you examine the statistics about rulings.) The Supreme Court is "The final check and balance... for all Americans."

Then followed a clip heavily hyped by the right: Ginsburg refusing to tell her PERSONAL views about the death penalty and abortion. This allowed Leahy to clarify: she answered constitutional questions about abortion and the death penalty. Leahy said he will ask for documents from Roberts' years as a de facto White House trial lawyer, citing precedent for such papers being released and stating that the American people, not the Chimp, were Roberts' client.

(Yes! Score one for Leahy! It's about damn time someone said it! Now, let's start talking about whether or not they are serving the public interest or a vested political aand/or corporate agenda with their lawyerly advice and conduct.)

Steph tried to make Leahy a hypocrite by saying (out of context) that Leahy said Reagan had a right to appoint Scalia and Leahy voted for him. Leahy should have filled in the rest of the story, but instead talked about hearings past or to come.

On the matter of Rove's alleged crimes, Leahy said that if press reports are true, Rove and other should be stripped of their security clearances; George the Lesser should confront everyone in his administration -- and heads should roll!

(That'll be the day, Pat!)

The round table followed. The good news: there was no sign of George Will, who was probably off at some summer spot feeling relieved to be surrounded by the "right" sort of people. David Gergen played the role of George Will, with E.J. Dionne and ABC Beltway insider Linda Douglass filling out the panel. We went and grabbed a double espresso at the Columbus Café, but not before hearing these gems (paraphrased to emphasize what they were really trying to say):

Douglass: Those clumsy Democrats stumbled. Americans are sick of all the fighting over politics. I mean, how dare they point out Roberts was a trial lawyer! That's no fair! Dems don't want to be knee-jerk! Dems don't want this to be about abortion!

(Wow, Linda! We never knew you were a psychic, knowing exactly what's on all Democrats' minds! You're a regular Jeane Dixon!)

Dionne: Rove and Libby claim they heard about Plame from journalists -- "This is the strangest definition of journalistic shield I've ever heard!" (Cue rim shot! Score one for E.J.)

Douglass: Dems haven't "figured out" how this sticks, how to convey that it's a national security issue. (Oh, yes they have, Linda -- the problem is that you and all of your Sally Quinn yenta pals REFUSE to cover little things like the Democrats' hearing this last Friday into the Plame leak -- or that the strongest condemnation of the leak at said hearing came from Larry Johnson, a Republican and former CIA operative who counted Plame as a classmate. Johnson even delivered the Democrats weekly address yeaterday -- how many e3vening newscasts mentioned that? Huh?)

Gergen: The Rove story is big! Big, I tell you! Big!! (What a joke. We remember him downplaying it less than two weeks ago on one of the cable "news" [sic] channels. That flippety-flop can mean only one thing: someone's goin' down -- and Republican media shills know it already.)

FAUX News Sunday

Topics one and two were bombings (and the war [sic] on terror) and John Roberts. Golly, no mention of Rove. The guest: Alberto Gonzales, straight from Scotch Valley, California. Brit Hume was host (grab your airsickness bag).

Hume asked Gonzales a slew of questions about the bombings. (Um, Brit -- why are you asking Gonzales? Didn't you get the memo? Dear Simian Leader's top aide Karl Rove has said it clearly -- no therapy and especially no PROSECUTIONS for terrorists! You should've gotten Porter Goss or John "Death Squad" Negroponte as a guest!)

Gonz said that he opposes watering down the Patriot Act because it could hamper "prevention of attacks."

On the matter of John Roberts, Gonz was an on-message pitch man -- or at least tried to be, because Brit Hume actually asked questions about keeping Roberts' paper trail under wraps. Gonz: There's been no official request... history of requests by the Senate Judiciary Committee... a very important decision... informed decision. Hume asked him over and over again about Roberts' work in the solicitor general's office, advice of counsel to client (the executive branch and the American people) -- and Gonz just refused to give an up or down vote... er, um, a yes or no answer about releasing the papers, although he did invoke separation of powers and question the propriety of releasing these papers (as if they were, say, as confidential as, maybe, a State Department memo marked "top secret" you might find, possibly, being circulated on Air Force One).

Chuck Schumer and John Cornyn were next; Schumer talked about a "cordial" meeting with Roberts (translation: I like the guy, not so sure about his political agenda). Schumer said that in today's NY Times, Arlen Specter said it's appropriate to question nominees about their views on the big issues -- and even an editorial by a conservative in today's NY Post agrees! This isn't a gotcha game over documents but a means to determine his judicial views. Cornyn had to make a big thing about that "up or down vote," the propriety of asking an "independent judiciary" on their judicial views on issues, and interest groups; Schumer said that it's important not to be swayed by interest groups. (Read: to make it appear that you're acting in the interest of an outside group -- say, the Federalist Society? Schumer's hinting it cuts both ways.)

Deface the Nation

Bob Schieffer was pretty feisty this pundit Sunday; Jan Crawford Greenburg of the Chicago Tribune was his co-inquisitor, with Alberto Gonzales and Joe Biden on the receiving end.

That's right -- Gonz turned up again on Face the Nation (he'd turn up like that party guest who never leaves on CNN's Lame Edition too), talking terrorism abroad as "issue one" yet again! Yeesh... Jan asked Gonz about Democrats wanting someone in the mold of O'Connor; Gonz yammered the usual White House spin points. Jan followed up with a question stating that Bush figured out Roberts is a strict constructionist; Gonz again gave press-release answers. Jan said Dems say they need more info on his views and will request confidential memos from his days in the solicitor general's office; Gonz was noncommittal, making sure to throw in "we will not prejudge the issue" to feign fairness (how thoughtful, Al). Schieffer jumped on that comment: so you may just turn over papers. Gonz: this is very sensitive information. (Translation: it might just show that Roberts is indeed a judicial extremist!) What about the general question about abortion, asked Schieffer? Gonz went into a weird, defensive answer saying that questions about moral views are irrelevant. What about his wife's work in an "anti-abortion group"? (Bob -- it's anti-choice, anti-health group, not "anti-abortion".) Gonz smacked that down as an unsuitable topic. (Horrors! Forcing a Federalist hack to admit he wants to overturn Roe v Wade so that Talibangelicals will remain loyal to the party -- that would be a bad, bad thing!).

Then Schieffer surprised us, mentioning that Frank Rich recounted Gonz's 12-hour delay in officially notifying the White House that the DOJ was investigating the Valerie Plame leak and they'd better secure all documents after he'd been notified on the evening of Sept. 29, 2003.

First, Gonz claimed that the DOJ said that it was OK for Gonz to hold off overnight.

Then he dumped a truckload of gas on the fire by admitting that he told Andy Card that night!

There's your big headline for tomorrow morning's papers.

Why didn't Gonz investigate this matter? Gonz claimed he felt it prudent to "wait and see," and his own investigation might've interfered with the DOJ.

Neither Schieffer nor Greeneberg asked Gonz about new allegations of torture and rape at Abu Ghraib. Of course, Gons looked like he was turning green after Schieffer forced him to admit he'd given Card a heads-up; I would like to think that maybe, just maybe, Schieffer was cutting Gonz some slack after getting the big-money admission.

Joe Biden was next, and Schieffer asked him about the 12-hour wait. Biden said he does not doubt the "sincerity" of Gonz -- but now the question becomes who did Card talk to! (Joe, you forgot the follow-up: "... and what did they shred?")

Jan asked Joe what documents need to be turned over; Biden, smartly, was noncommittal, trying to make himself look reasonable by "agreeing" that the nominee should be treated with respect and the matter of which documents should be released should be carefully deliberated. When Jan tried to compare Roberts to Estrada, Biden said there's not a comparable controversy (for now). Schieffer asked if presidential politics will play a role in the Roberts vote (as in Biden's vote). Joe said Roberts does not appear to be an ideologue (note that Biden put emphasis on the word "appears"). Is it fair to ask Roberts about abortion? Biden said he does not ask about specific outcomes -- but said it is an important question before launching into other less hyped but important issues. (In other words, fine, so long as he's not doing the asking; he is, after all, a candidate for the presidency and won't sully himself with something GOPers can tar him with.) Will he be confirmed? Biden predicted Roberts will get a respectful hearing with a respectful White House cooperating.

Meat the Press

We'll give the full wrap-up later, but it's worth mentioning that Bill Safire told Tim Russert that Judy Miller is not in a "happy jail." As one wag at Eschaton said,

"We have HAPPY JAILS? Who knew?"

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