Pile It On

Stuff is, as they say, happenin’. Matthew Mosk writes in today’s Washington Post:

The three Democrats on the Federal Election Commission revealed yesterday that they strongly believe President Bush exceeded legal spending limits during the 2004 presidential contest and that his campaign owes the government $40 million.

Their concerns spilled out during a vote to approve an audit of the Bush campaign’s finances, which is conducted to make sure the campaign adhered to spending rules after accepting $74.6 million in public money for the 2004 general election.

Republican commissioners defended the way the Bush campaign billed the cost of more than $80 million in television ads, which were the source of the dispute.

Of course they did. Let’s take a peek back into the Maha archives — from December 31, 2005 — “Federal Election Commission Stacked With Bush Cronies.” The stacking occurred after the 2004 election, but the stackees are the guys who are claiming Bush didn’t do anything wrong.

This story caused me to search The Maha Archives for this post from December 31, 2005: Federal Election Commission Stacked With Bush Cronies.

The FEC normally has six members, three Republicans and three Democrats. One of the Republican, Michael Toner, just resigned, but not before voting on this issue. Toner is a former attorney for Bush ‘s election campaign staff and the Republican National Committee. The two other Republicans who voted are David Mason, a former Heritage Foundation fellow and a Clinton appointee; and Hans von Spakovsk, who became a commissioner by recess appointment in December 2005. A New York Times editorial of December 31, 2005 said of von Spakovsky,

The most objectionable nominee is Hans von Spakovsky, a former Republican county chairman in Georgia and a political appointee at the Justice Department. He is reported to have been involved in the maneuvering to overrule the career specialists at Justice who warned that the Texas gerrymandering orchestrated by Representative Tom DeLay violated minority voting rights. Senators need the opportunity to delve into that, as well as reports of Mr. von Spakovsky’s involvement in such voting rights abuses as the purging of voter rolls in Florida in the 2000 elections.

Let’s go back to the Washington Post:

The dispute centered on the use of what the commissioners called “hybrid” ads, which were intended to promote both the president and Republican members of Congress. The Bush campaign argued that it should not bear the full cost of these ads, so it split the tab with the Republican Party.

As a result, only half of the cost would count toward spending limits imposed on the campaign when it agreed to take public funds. Weintraub said the spending limit is an essential part of the agreement candidates make to accept public financing. “Bush-Cheney 2004 took the $74 million, and then they broke the bargain,” she said.

Commissioner Hans A. von Spakovsky, a Republican, strongly disagreed. “There was no broken bargain,” he said. “There was no violation of the law.”

Of course not, Hans.

The Hissy Fit

President Bush’s fit (staged in front of some props people in military uniforms and VFW hats) went roughly as follows:

The Dems abdicated the responsibility to support the troops, he said. Instead, the Dems, in an act of political theater, voted to substitute their judgment for that of the military commanders on the ground. The bill contains “rigid restriction” that would require “an army of lawyers” to understand.

(That would be an army of Bush-appointed lawyers. One normal lawyer could skim through it and explain it to you without much trouble.)

There’s too much pork, too many conditions, and an artificial timetable for withdrawal, he said, and I will veto this bill if it comes to my desk.

(He’d get away with it, because there’s far from a veto-proof majority in the House, and it’s a long shot passing the bill in the Senate at all.)

What the Dems did today, the President said, delays delivery of vital resources for our troops.

(To which I say, again, if he’d put more Iraq War funds in the regular budget and stop hitting Congress up for “emergency” supplemental bills — money he knew months earlier he’d have to ask for — then he wouldn’t have to worry about vital resources for our troops.)

You’ll like this: “We’re beginning to see some signs of progress.” Please.

He wants a “clean bill that I can sign without delay.” Congress is supposed to just rubber stamp his little requisitions. Well, dammit, is this a republic, or ain’t it?

Don’t answer that.

Bush didn’t take questions.


[Update: The bill just passed — by 218 votes.]

[Update 2: More updating below]

This is a follow up to the last post, on the Iraq War supplemental bill being voted on today (noonish, CSPAN says).

Today people whose opinions I respect are arguing both for and against passage of this bill. The arguments boil down to this:

No — It allows the war to continue for nearly 18 more months. We can do better.

Yes — It’s not an ideal bill, but this bill has a chance of passage. Actually passing an antiwar bill (as opposed to voting for something better that fails to pass) will weaken Bush politically and perhaps make it politically tenable to pass something tighter and stricter in the future. But if this bill fails, passing something tighter and stricter in the future will be even more difficult than it is now.

The hurdle is 218 votes. There are 233 Democrats in the House. Although it’s not impossible that a stray Republican might cross party lines and vote for an antiwar measure, realistically Nancy Pelosi has to get 218 Democrats to agree to vote for the bill to ensure passage. If more than 15 Dems vote against the bill, it will fail. And, like it or not, 44 of those 233 Democrats are Blue Dogs — moderate to conservative Dems who mostly represent “red” districts. Roughly 50 or so more House Dems are DLC Dems. A few — not all — Blue Dogs are also in the DLC, and right now I’m not inclined to spend the morning sorting out exactly how many are or aren’t. Let’s say about half. That puts us in the neighborhood of 60 House Dems who are on record as not wanting to get caught moving too far left, possibly because they’re afraid they’ll lose their seats if they do.

Let’s look at the liberal side of the spectrum: The House Progressive Caucus has 69 members. At Democrats.com, David Swanson asks the Progressive Caucus members to vote no on the supplement bill. His arguments against the bill are valid arguments. His arguments in favor of Barbara Lee’s “fully funded withdrawal” bill are valid arguments. I’d much rather the House passed Lee’s bill than the one they’re voting on today.

I’ve never set foot inside the House of Representatives, and I don’t presume to understand what’s possible and what isn’t. But The People Who Understand These Things say there is no way enough Blue Dogs and other moderate Dems would vote for Barbara Lee’s bill to pass it. Maybe they won’t vote for it because they think it’s political suicide; maybe they won’t vote for it because they genuinely don’t like it. In the real world, in order to get those 218 votes, Nancy Pelosi has to give the House something that most of the Blue Dogs and most of the Progressive Caucus will vote for, as well as most of the other Dems.

Yesterday Rep. Jerrold Nadler — long a solidly liberal Dem — was quoted in the New York Times

To vote “no,” in effect would be to say, “Let the war go on.” There will be other votes, but this at least starts in the right direction. It’s not as far as I wanted to go, but it’s a substantial step.

As I’ve said, there are people of good will with reasonable opinions who disagree on this issue. Unfortunately, there are some who don’t get that. All week I’ve been hearing accusations that various people or organizations — Moveon.org is one — have “sold out” because they favor passage of the supplement bill. I’ve heard people say that Nancy Pelosi doesn’t want to end the Iraq War. Late last night a commenter to my last post said,

The actual strategic hope of the people favoring this bill seems to be that the president will veto it. You can then show him to be against even an obligation to meet his own benchmarks, and this will demonstrate him to be an unreasonable man. Does that seem like the right way to understand what you are doing?

In other words, nobody actually wants this bill to pass into law. It’s just a messaging device. That seems to be Kos’s position.

‘Scuse me while I bang my head against a wall and scream.

First, Pelosi is putting forward a compromise bill that has some chance of passage, as opposed to an un-compromise bill that has no chance of passage. How does that translate into “nobody actually wants this bill to pass into law”?

Second, if Bush vetoes today’s bill, as he promises to do, what makes you think he wouldn’t also veto Barbara Lee’s bill?

Third, the Senate can’t even pull together enough of a majority to have a vote on a bleeping nonbinding resolution.

Sure I want the war to end tomorrow. I wanted it not to start. Our choices in Congress are to do something to end it, or to do nothing to end it. I’m for doing something.

If the supplement bill passes, as it’s expected to do, what should we as antiwar citizens do?

(a) Express support for congressional Dems, and do what we can to make pro-war politicians and the Bush administration feel more isolated against the tide of public opinion, thereby paving the way for more congressional action against the war, or

(b) Whine because it wasn’t the bill we wanted, and throw verbal brickbats at Nancy Pelosi and Moveon.org and everybody else who “sold out”?

You know where I stand on this.

Chris Bowers writes,

Right now, with few remaining progressives willing to vote against the supplemental bill, and with the House leadership probably having enough votes to pass it (for more on this, see here), the remaining progressive opposition is being cast as “principled,” in contrast to the “pragmatic” progressives who have decided to vote in support. This is certainly the dichotomy proposed by McJoan in her latest piece on the supplemental over at Dailykos. This is a binary opposition with which I disagree, primarily because I have always looked at ethics from an applied perspective, where the ethical value of a given action can only be judged in the context of the consequences of that action. In this circumstance, I am, not arguing that voting against the supplemental from the a progressive stance is unethical, just that it is not any more ethical than voting in favor.

In the same post, Chris pasted a statement from the Progressive Caucus that they would not block the bill. Josephine Hearn reports for The Politico (yeah, I know, it’s The Politico), “California Democrats Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters, Lynn Woolsey and Diane E. Watson said they did not want to stand in the way of the bill and have urged other liberal lawmakers to vote for it.”

I hope nobody accuses Barbara Lee of selling out.

Update: Here are the Dems who voted no, and it appears Lee, Waters, Woolsey and Watson were among the no’s.

Davis, Lincoln
Lewis (GA)

I’m not saying these Democrats are wrong. On the other hand, one more no vote would have, IMO, set back the antiwar cause enormously.

President Bush is expected to throw a public hissy fit about 1:45 EST.