Fluff and Puff

Glenn Greenwald posts “The most revealing three-minute You Tube clip ever,” in which Chris Matthews and some other beltway blatherers spend nearly four minutes discussing the U.S. Attorney scandal without saying shit about it. Instead of discussing the substance of the scandal, Matthews et al. giggle about Democrats who want to smack Karl Rove.

On a related note, Bob Herbert discusses media coverage of Elizabeth Edwards’s illness:

Since presidential campaigns are covered like sporting events, the speculation immediately centered on whether Mrs. Edwards’s illness would harm her husband’s fund-raising ability, or cause him to go up or down in the polls, or in some other way hamper or enhance his ability to compete.

The pack is obsessed with the horse race, which is regrettable. It would be far more constructive and interesting if this heightened attention to Mr. Edwards’s campaign resulted in the media and the public taking a closer look at the issues he has been pushing, not just in the campaign but ever since his unsuccessful run for vice president in 2004.

If that were to happen it could be part of the silver lining that Elizabeth Edwards hopes will emerge from her family’s latest devastating crisis.

The 2008 presidential campaign has gotten an absurdly early start and has drawn staggering amounts of media coverage. The result has largely been the triumph of the trivial: Who said what nasty thing about whom? Who flipped? Who flopped?

Substance is considered boring, and thus less newsworthy.

If these same clowns had covered the election of 1860, voters would have been subjected to endless chatter about Lincoln’s a shop-a-holic wife, Mary Lincoln, whose family were slaveowners and secessionists. Her every cough would be tagged a proof she was a liability to the campaign. Lincoln himself would be portrayed as a peacenik who lost a House seat in 1848 because he spoke out against the Mexican War. Surely the pundits would decide he was just another James Buchanan, well meaning but soft. I can see Tucker Carlson asking viewers if Lincoln wasn’t a flip-flopper on slavery, because he’d spoken against it in some speeches but had promised to make no attempt to abolish slavery in slave states in other speeches. Etc., etc.

As Herbert says in his column, Edwards is running on a number of issues, such as universal health care. I’ve got issues with Edwards’s proposal on health care, but I think it’s more important for voters to understand Edwards’s views on health care than to watch Katie Couric grill John Edwards on why he is still campaigning when his wife has cancer.

As it was, voters in 1860 probably knew next to nothing about Mary Lincoln. I remember reading somewhere that many Americans had no idea what Lincoln looked like until after he was in the White House — in Mr. Lincoln’s case, that was just as well. Sure there was some imagery hype — “Abe the Rail Splitter” stuff — but mostly what voters knew about Lincoln in 1860 was where he stood on issues. That’s because most of what they knew about Lincoln they learned from reading his speeches, published in thousands of independently owned newspapers all over the country. He was able to speak to voters more directly than today’s candidates, who can only reach voters through the mediation of the likes of Chris Matthews, Tucker Carlson, Katie Couric, and worse — Faux Noise.

Doing Business

Lurita Alexis Doan, Chief Administrator of the General Services Administration, says on the GSA web site that she hopes to meet “President Bush’s challenge for all federal agencies to find new and smarter ways to do business.”

That business is, apparently, electing Republicans.

Scott Higham and Robert O’Harrow Jr. write in today’s Washington Post:

Witnesses have told congressional investigators that the chief of the General Services Administration and a deputy in Karl Rove’s political affairs office at the White House joined in a videoconference earlier this year with top GSA political appointees, who discussed ways to help Republican candidates.

With GSA Administrator Lurita Alexis Doan and up to 40 regional administrators on hand, J. Scott Jennings, the White House’s deputy director of political affairs, gave a PowerPoint presentation on Jan. 26 of polling data about the 2006 elections.

When Jennings concluded his presentation to the GSA political appointees, Doan allegedly asked them how they could “help ‘our candidates’ in the next elections,” according to a March 6 letter to Doan from Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Waxman said in the letter that one method suggested was using “targeted public events, such as the opening of federal facilities around the country.”

Doan is scheduled to testify to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday. Doan and others may have violated the Hatch Act, which forbids executive-branch employees from using their positions for partisan political purposes.

(That’s Henry Waxman’s committee, the same one that heard the testimony of Valerie Plame. I just wanted to point that out to underscore why it was so important to elect a Democratic majority to Congress in the midterms. It wasn’t because Democrats are perfect, because they aren’t, but turning control of committees over to Democrats makes investigation of the Bush Regime possible.)

The planned hearing is part of an expanding examination by Waxman’s committee of Doan’s tumultuous 10-month tenure as administrator of the GSA. The government’s leading procurement agency annually handles about $56 billion worth of federal contracts.

The committee is also expected to question Doan about her attempt to give a no-bid job to a friend and professional associate last summer. In addition, the committee plans to look at Waxman’s charge that Doan “intervened” in a troubled technology contract with Sun Microsystems that could cost taxpayers millions more than necessary.

Ah, yes. Bushies and cronyism. Together forever.

In the Senate, Doan is facing a similar line of questioning in letters from Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). Also examining Doan are the GSA’s Office of Inspector General and the independent federal Office of Special Counsel, which investigates allegations of Hatch Act violations.

In several recent statements, Doan has said she did nothing wrong. She said her troubles are the result of retaliation by the inspector general over her efforts to rein in spending and balance the GSA budget. Doan, a wealthy former government contractor who sold her company before taking over the GSA last May, has hired three law firms and two media relations companies at her own expense to handle inquiries from the federal investigators and the news media.

“Ever since I made the decision to restore fiscal discipline to all divisions within GSA, I have had to face a series of personal attacks and charges,” Doan said in a March 7 statement.

Readers of the rightie e-rag Townhall are being told that Doan has been targeted by Waxman’s Witch Hunt because she dared to cut spending — you know that liberals are pro-spending — and because Doan canceled a $20,000 contract intended to “promote diversity.” The WaPo story mentions the contract and provides some information Townhall leaves out —

On July 25, two months after Doan took office, she took the unusual step of personally signing the no-bid arrangement with Diversity Best Practices and Business Women’s Network, firms then run by Fraser, to produce a report about GSA’s use of businesses owned by minorities or women. The GSA’s general counsel at the time, Alan R. Swendiman, told Waxman’s investigators he was “alarmed” that the project was not competitively bid.

“Fraser” is Edie Fraser, a Washington public relations executive with whom Doan has had a long business relationship and who helped Doan get the plum GSA position. It appears the contract was a quid pro quo.

The GSA general counsel “immediately and repeatedly” advised Doan to terminate the contract. When Doan refused, the general counsel directed another GSA official to do the terminating. Somehow these little details escaped the attention of Townhall.

The J. Scott Jennings, the “deputy in Karl Rove’s political affairs office” mentioned above, was also instrumental in getting one of Rove’s aides, Tim Griffin, a U.S. Attorney job. Among the items discussed during the videoconference were how they could keep Nancy Pelosi from attending the opening of a new courthouse in her district.

Karl Rove and various Republican politicians apparently pushed U.S. attorneys to manufacture charges against Democrats to help Republicans win elections. And now this. What do you want to bet that similar shenanigans are going on in several other federal agencies?

Pass the popcorn.