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Do you want to know why the race card—or at least the 21st century manifestation of it—is the most powerful, most effective political weapon in America?

There is no response possible. There is no answer to an African-American’s charge that what you are saying, or hinting, or thinking, or wishing, or unconsciously dreaming is racist.

Any attempt to defend yourself gives credence to the charge. Ignoring the smear is tantamount to an acknowledgement of guilt.

One may ask why all of a sudden Obama himself, his campaign, his surrogates, and his sycophants in the press are throwing the race card around with such abandon? Why the speeches, statements, editorials, op-eds, columns, and blog posts taking McCain to task for “allowing” or “enabling” or “causing” or “encouraging” racism to rear its ugly head at political rallies?

The answer is simple; use it or lose it when it comes to the race card. Short on specific charges of mass hate being whipped up at McCain political events while long on scurrilous, baseless, smears, Black legislators, columnists, and luminaries have taken up the tactics of the Night Rider in order to terrorize people into keeping their mouths shut while casting nauseating aspersions on the GOP candidate for president and his supporters.

Yeah, I know exactly what I’m saying. And the people I’m saying it to royally deserve it. I am fully aware of the history involved. I am using the term “Night Rider” deliberately and for full, unmitigated effect. For if we cannot call out these besmirches of the democratic process and put them in their place (another loaded phrase that I am fully cognizant of its history and meaning and am using deliberately), then they will have been allowed to get away with a smear so calumnious in its form and implication that the very nature of American elections will be altered and free speech as we know it and understand it will be gone.

I am not going to let that happen without a fight. And if I have to throw political correctness to the winds and compare the tactics of African Americans who play the race card with those of their mortal enemies, then so be it.

Congressman John Lewis – perhaps at the behest of Obama himself – donned the white robes and hood in order to let loose this, the most vicious and unprincipled attack on an American politician I have seen in quite a while:

“George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights,” said Lewis, who is black. “Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama.”

At bottom, it is not credible to believe that John Lewis thinks for one second that John McCain’s tactics ape those of George Wallace and could lead to the deaths of innocents. If he does, then he makes himself out to be an idiot. And John Lewis is no fool. He is not only a man who fought for civil rights (and has the physical scars to prove it) but he was a savvy enough pol to advance the cause in the face of the most stringent and violent opposition.

Since Lewis can no more believe that McCain is using the tactics of Wallace than I believe in a flat earth, that makes his “critique” of the McCain campaign a lie – a deliberate, careful, decision by Lewis to bear false witness. And he has done it knowing full well the effect it will have on decent people everywhere.

Even Obama found Lewis’s lies too much and distanced himself – slightly- from the implication that McCain was the reincarnation of Wallace. In effect, Obama embraced Lewis’s lie while separating himself from the Wallace implication. He did it by agreeing with Lewis’s critique but piously giving McCain the benefit of the doubt that he was not possessed by the spirit of George Wallace.

“Sen. Obama does not believe that John McCain or his policy criticism is in any way comparable to George Wallace or his segregationist policies,” said the campaign statement.”

“John Lewis was right to condemn some of the hateful rhetoric that John McCain himself personally rebuked just last night.”

Right? Wrong? Which is it Obama? It certainly appears that Obama wants the benefits accrued by Lewis smearing McCain and his supporters without the baggage associated with its more problematic implications.

Lewis himself backtracked slightly from his original statement but still lied through his teeth:

“My statement was a reminder to all Americans that toxic language can lead to destructive behavior,” he said. “I am glad that Sen. McCain has taken some steps to correct divisive speech at his rallies. I believe we need to return to civil discourse in this election about the pressing economic issues that are affecting our nation.”

I guess there’s “toxic language” and then there’s the race card. No double standard there, Congressman.

If it were only Lewis advancing this meme of McCain and his supporters being racist pigs, one might conclude that the Congressman was some kind of loose cannon, firing off on his own accord and not part of any concerted effort to outrageously brand the Democrat’s political opponents as Kluxers.

Ah, but the sheets that terrorize need not only be hiding white faces. Here’s Adam Sewrer writing in The American Prospect, equating calling Obama a “socialist” with racism:

The hysterical accusations of socialism from conservatives echo similar accusations leveled at black leaders in the past, as though the quest for racial parity were simply a left-wing plot. Obama may not actually be a socialist or communist, but his election would strike another powerful blow to the informal racial hierarchy that has existed in America since the 1960s, when it ceased being enforced by law. This hierarchy, which holds that whiteness is synonymous with American-ness, is one conservatives are now instinctively trying to preserve. Like black civil-rights activists of the 1960s, Obama symbolizes the destruction of a social order they see as fundamentally American, which is why terms like “socialism” are used to describe the threat.

This phenomenon extends beyond Obama’s candidacy. The conservative explanation for the mortgage crisis falls neatly into this narrative, too; the country is at risk because Democrats allowed minorities to disrupt the natural social order by becoming homeowners. Never mind that this defies all data, logic, and history, the narrative resonates because it allows Obama, a living symbol of black folks rising above “their station,” to become a focus for conservative economic anxieties.

At least this guy comes by his blithering ignorance honestly. Unlike Lewis whose calculated smear was meant to damage the McCain campaign with moderates and more conservative Democrats, Sewrer’s twisted, tortured analysis starts from the bogus premise that “hysterical” accusations of socialism against Obama are rooted in a historical narrative that has white people denigrating “the otherness” of Blacks who dare to seek power and influence and that when the crowds shout “socialist” they really mean “n***er!”

I have made it clear that I do not believe Obama is a socialist. Others, either because they don’t understand the term or because they see Obama’s far left redistributive ideas and efforts at reform as “creeping socialism” disagree with me.

Whatever epithets hurled at Malcolm X or Dr. King in the past—however people viewed their problematic associations with individuals who were committed to overthrowing the government of the United States—have nothing to do with Republicans today trying to keep America “white.” It is a baseless, thoughtless, ignorant charge made by someone so intellectually besotted with identity politics that history itself gets turned on its head in service to this false and capricious theme. Did Mr. Sewrer ever dream for one moment that people might actually be sincere in their belief that Obama’s stated policies (not to mention his past and present associations with true radicals and communists) are a indicative of a form of “stealth socialism?”

People of good faith – an animal rare indeed in this race – can argue the merits of such a position. But Sewrer isn’t interested in good faith, he is interested in advancing his racialist worldview where nothing else matters save a reading of history and our present politics through the broken kaleidoscope of his own black bigotry. It is probably emotionally satisfying but as a talisman of truth, it hardly stands up to rigorous scrutiny.

The thought that there are some people who might actually believe Obama is a socialist never crossed his mind because in his narrow, intellectual construct there is race, and then there is race, and if you run out of those, you always have race to fall back on. There is no history, only race. There is no American narrative that doesn’t place race front and center. This is where our obsession with identity politics has led us: A skewing of history and politics so profound that playing the race card becomes an easy shortcut to silencing one’s opponents no matter what argument they advance.

If you can’t beat ‘em, gag ‘em.

So when Mr. Sewrer plays the race card – as he does in his article – he does it with a clear conscience. Put simply, the fool doesn’t know any better. But there are fools, and then there are coldly calculating bigots who take more pleasure than people like Lewis in throwing race in our faces (Lewis, after all, was only playing dirty politics) while gleefully setting crosses afire all across the political landscape.

There is no other way to describe this Les Payne column in Newsday except political terrorism:

Palin’s bland ferocity lends itself easily to vitriol of the type that inflames half-wits. A bald-pated Florida sheriff, one Mike Scott, got carried away under the swoon last week in Estero, Fla., in introducing Palin. Stressing Obama’s middle name, Sheriff Scott paced the stage, in violation of police rules, while inciting the crowd in his full uniform adorned with colorful patches, stars and medals befitting a grand wizard of some mystic order of white knights.

At Clearwater, Gov. Palin lathered up the crowd herself. “You’re going to have to hang on to your hats,” Palin told the rally, according to The Washington Post, “because from now until Election Day it may get kind of rough.” Linking Sen. Obama to a reformed radical of the ‘60s, Palin shrieked her signature smut line, “he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.”

“Kill him!” a man in the crowd reportedly responded to Palin’s rabble-rousing. Her related attacks on the media had already whipped a frenzy among the crowd of about 3,000. Tempers rose to a boil when she blamed Katie Couric’s questions for tripping her up as a seeming dimwit. The Post wrote, “Palin supporters turned on reporters … waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. ... One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African-American sound man for a network and told him, “Sit down, boy.”

I have written twice about the incredibly exaggerated reports of “rage” at McCain campaign events. Payne goes a step further by equating a sheriff uttering the sacrilege of Obama’s middle name with a Kluxer.

Who’s the ignoramus here? A sheriff (who was fully within his rights to be at a political rally dressed as he was despite what Payne infers) who dared mention The Messiah’s middle name while introducing Palin to the crowd? I’ve seen the video of this event and the use of “Hussein” got a roar from those assembled. But was it because he used the candidate’s middle name or was it because of the context he used it in?

After saying that “there were three kinds of people in the world; those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happen, Sheriff Scott threw the crowd a piece of raw meat when he said “On election day, let’s leave Barack Hussein Obama wondering what happened.”

Was the crowd roaring because of the use of “Hussein” or was it due to the punchline – a pretty damned effective one if you ask me.? Only your psychic knows for sure. If the crowd roared because of Scott’s allusion to victory on election day, it destroys Payne’s entire narrative of the event – including Scott as another Republican closet Kluxer. (What an extraordinary personal smear by Payne).

No matter. Never stop a bigot when they’re on a roll. Scott’s use of “Hussein” was out of line because John McCain believes that saying Obama’s real name is wrong. I agree.

But the implication is that he is Muslim not that he is black so how Payne and his racialist cohorts can twist what is clearly a tweak at Obama’s father and the idea that Obama is a closet Muslim is a mystery. Except that when you are playing the race card, even giving a weather report can be construed as racist.

I think it a smear to use Obama’s middle name and I wish Scott and other McCain supporters would realize it and stop it. It is questionable hardball politics not racial bigotry. And Payne mindlessly repeats the false notion that the crowd at the event and other McCain/Palin rallies was “angry” or hateful. Payne was obviously too lazy to watch the videos himself. They were happy. They were excited. And for people like Payne to take out of context the mouthings of one or two idiots at a rally attended by thousands is absolute lunacy.

I see absolutely no difference at Obama rallies when he or Biden tosses the rhetorical red meat out into the crowd. The roar becomes deafening. People are laughing and whooping it up. When Bush or McCain is mentioned, they are booed. This is politics. And anyone who would deliberately construe malice or unreasonable emotions by referring to Bush/Palin gatherings as “angry mobs” or intimate anything unusual at all is a liar – or a simple minded fool.

These hooded riders of the night might obscure their false, misleading, and vile calumnious rhetoric with pious words designed to horrify decent Americans and equate voting for John McCain with voting for a racist. But they are trying to terrorize voters into supporting Obama by smearing his opponent with the most nauseating, the stickiest label one can slap on to a candidate in American politics.

Take off your hoods and look in the mirror, those of you – all of you – who are shamelessly and so easily playing the race card. It is all of you who are playing with fire, not McCain. By your words, you are stifling free expression by trying to intimidate people you disagree with through a false and wholly misleading narrative.

And I submit that this is infinitely more dangerous than your fantasies and lies about McCain whipping up a racist mob.

By: Rick Moran at 8:47 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (34)


It is the very early morning of November 5, 2008. Despite all the predictions and polls, John McCain and Barack Obama are locked in an extremely close race for President of the United States. McCain made a furious comeback over the previous 3 weeks following the last debate where Obama fumbled several answers while looking tired.

McCain’s momentum propelled him back into the race and in a furious last minute charge that involved spending more than $25 million in combined campaign and Republican National Committee ad money that last weekend surged to within just a few points of Obama by election day.

Now, at 6:00 AM the following day, the race hangs on the results in just one state; Ohio. McCain leads by nearly 50,000 votes but suddenly, Ohio’s Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner announces that several thousand McCain absentee ballots have been disqualified while additional thousands of votes in Cuyahoga county were “discovered” to have not been counted. After several more hours of confusion – which included the discovery of more uncounted votes in heavily Democratic counties by the Secretary of State – McCain’s lead is gone and Obama is declared the winner of Ohio and the election.

Of course, this scenario is not credible, is it? No Secretary of State would act so brazenly, right?

Meet Jennifer Brunner, Ohio’s real life Secretary of State whose actions in the lead up to this election have been so shamefully partisan – violating both federal and state law in the process – that it is doubtful any result on election day from Ohio is going to be accepted as credible.

Coupled with the outrageously illegal registration activity of ACORN and the shockingly illegal actions of the Obama campaign itself and what you have is an effort to not only “count every vote” but also steal as many votes as will be necessary for Obama to win the state on election day.

Strong stuff. But here’s former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and Ken Klukowski writing in the New York Post:

A perfect example is Ohio. Last Monday the Ohio Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, interpreted Ohio law to allow for people to register to vote and cast an absentee ballot on the same day.

(As the three dissenters noted, this directly contradicts Ohio’s Constitution, which requires that a person register to vote 30 days in advance of actually casting that vote. But the Ohio Supreme Court is the last word on Ohio state law.)

So now the Obama campaign is using buses to take tens of thousands of people to go register and cast same-day votes. Some media reports say that the Obama camp hopes to get hundreds of thousands of votes this way.

Secretary Brunner, incredibly, got around the provision that one had to be registered 30 days before being able to vote with the following bit of Orwellian doublespeak.

Soren Dayton:

The first thing she did was issue an advisory opinion allowing people to register and vote on the same day, during the “overlap” between the beginning of early voting (35 days out) and the end of registration (30 days out). This was a reversal of the 2006 precedent. Republicans asked how someone could register and vote on the same day when Ohio statute says that you have to be registered 30 days before voting. She answered that when you vote by no-fault absentee you aren’t voting. Your vote occurs on election day when it is counted, not on the day you cast it.

Dayton links to a conservative student organization site – Palestra – that has been following this early voting in Ohio. Correspondent Shelby Holiday’s revelations are pretty shocking:
One of the biggest issues? These voters didn’t need to show ID or proof of residency in order to cast their ballot.

We witnessed dozens of homeless people being driven to the polls, and none of them had to prove that they were Ohio residents. In fact, one man I spoke with was about to hop on a Greyhound bus to go back to Chicago.

We have been trying for a week now to get a comment from the Secretary of State to see how she plans on verifying the residency and identification of all these early voters. Despite numerous phone calls and emails, we have yet to be granted even just a ten minute interview.

Who I did speak with was the Director of the Franklin County Board of Elections. When I asked him what would prevent the homeless man from voting in Illinois just weeks after he cast a ballot in Ohio, he told me that their voter checks are “just county-to-county, we do not do state by state.”

One “voter” reportedly said he was voting for Obama because of his “thug thizzle.” This was just before he boarded a Greyhound bus back to Chicago.

In addition to this invitation to fraud invented by Brunnner, she also – once again in violation of state law – prevented Republicans from monitoring this early voting.

Dayton again:

The second thing she did was to issue an advisory opinion advising county election officials that Ohio law does not require that partisan election observers be allowed to observe registration and voting. This is contrary to the practice on election day and a reversal of the 2006 precedent. Two of the largest counties, Montgomery (containing Dayton) and Franklin (containing Columbus), did not allow Republican election observers to enter the polling place. Media, however, were allowed.

Liberals especially cheered this ruling, believing that GOP election monitors “intimidate” minorities and young people in order to keep them from voting. Given the problems with out of state voters and other irregularities that occurred during this 6 day “Golden” period where people can register and vote on the same day, anyone halfway concerned with free and fair elections just might have welcomed election monitors in order to prevent obvious fraud. But Democrats do not appear to care very much about the “fair” part in elections and instead wish to be “free” to violate the law with impunity.

Another insult to the integrity of our election system was Brunner’s attempt to prevent thousands of McCain absentee ballots from counting.

Dayton again:

Brunner also tried to throw out absentee ballot applications sent out by the McCain campaign because the campaign added an extra check-box to the application. This time, the GOP won in court. Clearly Brunner was not protecting everyone’s right to vote. If that was her interest, she would have applied the same lax standards to the McCain campaign’s applications that she applies to absentee voting.

Thank the Lord for small favors. And it appeared very briefly that Republicans had won a stunning court victory on Thursday when a US District Judge ruled that Brunner must verify the registrations by checking them against the motor vehicle and social security databases. She was also ordered to share the information on how to verify registrations with Ohio’s 88 county registrars.

But a federal appeals court struck down the district judge’s ruling:

Brunner argued that it would take two to three days to create the necessary computer programs, and that nothing in the Help America Vote Act required her to do what the district court ordered. The appeals court agreed in a split decision.

“With less than a month until the election, and less than two weeks until the beginning of counting absentee ballots, the secretary cannot be required to undertake the extensive reprogramming and other changes to the election mechanics without complete disruption of the electoral process in Ohio,” the majority said in its opinion. “The irreparable harm to the voting public caused by the district court’s order is equally clear.”

No word on the “irreparable harm” done to the integrity of the election process by Brunner, Obama, and the rest of the Democrats in Ohio.

Then, of course, there are the vastly more entertaining antics of ACORN in Ohio. One must give credit where credit is due. ACORN should win some kind of award for its spectacular creativity in finding new ways to game the system and flood it with false, forged, and illegal voter registration applications.

First, it is important to recall that the Obama campaign funneled more than $800,000 to ACORN and then tried to hide it by designating it as payment to “Citizens Services, Inc.” for work such as $310,000 for “Stage, Sound, and Lighting.” Michelle Malkin looked deeper into this fraud and found some startling facts:

For your information: The New Orleans building that houses CSI also houses multiple chapters of ACORN and the SEIU– as well as the 527 group Communities Voting Together.

And for your information: A tipster points to shady business by CSI -detected by Maryland Democrat Al Wynn, of all people. His team, which filed an FEC complaint over the matter, linked several suspicious outfits used by his primary opponent to one address: 1024 Elysian Fields in New Orleans. That’s the address of CSI and ACORN.

As we’ve seen in Ohio, the Obama campaign apparently bussed in people to register and vote illegally during Ohio’s early voting period. The close connection between the Obama campaign and ACORN begs the question of whether activities like this coupled with ACORN’s registration shenanigans are a coordinated effort to set the stage on election day for the most massive fraud in the history of the United States – fraud that would make any 19th century election where votes were bought and sold look on the up and up.

Some of the outrageous actions of ACORN in Ohio were detailed in this Cleveland Plain Dealer article:

Yesterday two Ohio voters came forth and claimed that although they had made it clear they were already registered to vote, ACORN canvassers encouraged them to sign up several times. One of those was Christopher Barkley of Cleveland, who estimates that he registered to vote “10 to 15” times after ACORN relentlessly pursued him.

“I kept getting approached by folks who asked me to register,” Barkley said. “They’d ask me if I was registered. I’d say yes, and they’d ask me to do it [register] again. Some of them were getting paid to collect names. That was their sob story, and I bought it,” he said.

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections has thus far subpoenaed at least three people as part of a wider inquiry into potential voter fraud by ACORN. The community organization looks to register low-income voters, that tend to overwhelmingly vote Democratic.

Lateala Goins, who was subpoeaned along with Barkley and others, said, “You can tell them you’re registered as many times as you want – they do not care. They will follow you to the buses, they will follow you home, it does not matter.”

Also subpoenaed was Freddie Johnson, who filled out voter registration cards a total of 72 times over the course of 18 months..

The ACORN spokesman in Ohio insists “that his group has collected 100,000 voter registration cards, and only about 50 were questionable.” How this is possible when one poor guy was harassed to sign up 72 by times by ACORN makes one wonder what other lies and frauds the far left Democratic partisan group is capable of.

There is much more. And the sad fact is nobody – not ACORN (who wouldn’t care anyway), Ohio election officials at every level, Republicans, non-partisan observers – knows just how many false, forged, or illegal registrations were dumped into Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner’s lap. No one knows how many early voters voted illegally. No one knows how many Republicans were discouraged from voting by absentee ballot thanks to Brunner’s original ruling on the matter. No one knows the extent of cooperation between the Obama campaign and ACORN in Ohio. And no one knows if any of this will affect the outcome of Ohio’s presidential election.

There are other states where ACORN and the Democrats have been playing fast and loose with registration and early voting. Over the next weeks and until the election, American Thinker will look at many of these states and detail the attempts to hijack the democratic process in service to Barack Obama’s presidential ambitions.

No doubt we will hear much from authorities in the coming weeks who finally appear to be aroused to the threat ACORN poses to the integrity of the election and are carrying out numerous investigations in 11 states across the country.

This article originally appears in The American Thinker

By: Rick Moran at 4:36 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (12)


The news out of Chicago is not good for Governor Rod Blagojevich. Convicted Chicago political operator Antoin “Tony” Rezko is talking to prosecutors about what he knows as far as corruption in Illinois and Chicago politics.

Believe me, it’s plenty.

Jailed political fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko, the Chicago real estate developer who helped launch Barack Obama on his political career, is whispering secrets to federal prosecutors about corruption in Illinois and the political fallout could be explosive.

Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich, whose administration faces multiple federal investigations over how it handed out jobs and money with advice from Rezko, is considered the most vulnerable.

Rezko also was friendly with Obama — offering him a job when he finished law school, funding his earliest political campaigns and purchasing a lot next to his house. But based on the known facts, charges so far and testimony at Rezko’s trial, there’s no indication there’ll be an October surprise that could hurt the Democratic presidential nominee — even though Rezko says prosecutors are pressing him for dirt about Obama.

“I think this strikes fear into the Blagojevich administration and the Statehouse Democrats but not into the Obama campaign,” says state Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Westmont, a John McCain delegate to the GOP convention but an old friend of Obama.

Should Obama be worried? Not about Rezko. The real estate deal between the two that allowed Obama to purchase his mansion (Rezko bought an adjacent vacant lot saving Obama hundreds of thousands of dollars) and then have Obama do Rezko a favor by purchasing a small strip of that lot for an above market price was borderline legal, certainly unethical, but probably nothing Chicago prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald would want to drag the next president (or sitting president) into court about.

There are other Rezko-Obama dealings such as Obama’s steering state contracts to Rezko’s businesses in exchange for fundraising assistance and campaign contributions. But that kind of thing is done all the time and you’d probably have to arrest just about every member of the House of Representatives and the Senate if a prosecutor would go after lawmakers who greased the palms of cronies and fundraisers with contracts.

So in order to understand why Obama may be sweating, I will have to give you a quick primer on the nature of Chicago politics.

There is a triad in the city that rules in all matters political and most matters economic. The first leg of the triad is the “legitimate” businessman. In order to start a business or expand one, you obviously need a bunch of licenses, permissions, and approvals from several city departments. You also need a little “juice” (used to be called “clout”). Nothing gets done in Chicago without greasing the palms of the right people either by gifts, promises of future considerations, or outright bribes.

This is where the second triad of the Chicago power structure comes into play. Well connected operators like Tony Rezko will, for a piece of the action or a kickback (“pay for play”) grease the wheels of government and get the job done allowing the legitimate businessman to operate.

The third leg of the triad is the politician. Connected to both the legitimate business world and the shady, half underground world of the Tony Rezkos in the city, the politician steers business his way or to his ward thus enriching himself and bringing home the bacon for his constituents.The politicians also staff the numerous bureaucracies at City Hall through complicated patronage schemes. This ensures a rock solid loyalty to the man who rides herd on all of it from above; Mayor Richard Daley.

But then there is a sub-strata that supports the entire rotten edifice. “The outfit” we call it here. It is the remnant of the original Al Capone gang that never left the city – updated and vastly more organized, disciplined, and improved – and has its fingers in so many legitimate pies that it is impossible sometimes to separate the politician from the businessman from the mobster. The outfit has a lot of cash that both the politician and the businessman can tap into. The Rezko’s of the city move easily in and out of the legitimate and illegitimate world, acting as a bridge when necessary in order to keep both the businessman and the politician’s hands clean.

They all mingle, intertwine, do each other favors, muscle out those who don’t play the game, and steal as much taxpayer money as they believe they can get away with.

I am sorry if that was a little longer than a “short primer” but there really is no easy way to paint a picture of the spider’s web of connections that now may entrap Obama.

One strand of that web holds interest for prosecutor Fitzgerald. It is the Giannoulias family and their ownership of The Broadway Bank. Specifically, the bank’s vice president and chief loan officer Alexi Giannoulias who has, to put it mildly, a rather checkered history:

A man who has long been dogged by charges that the bank his family owns helped finance a Chicago crime figure will host a Windy City fund-raiser tonight for Sen. Barack Obama.

Alexi Giannoulias, who became Illinois state treasurer last year after Obama vouched for him, has pledged to raise $100,000 for the senator’s Oval Office bid.

Before he promised to raise funds for Obama, Giannoulias bankrolled Michael “Jaws” Giorango, a Chicagoan twice convicted of bookmaking and promoting prostitution.

Giannoulias is so tainted by reputed mob links that several top Illinois Dems, including the state’s speaker of the House and party chairman, refused to endorse him even after he won the Democratic nomination with Obama’s help.

Giannoulias was the bank’s vice president and chief loan officer for most of the more than $15 million in loans.

He was not charged with breaking any laws. The Obama campaign disputed any suggestion that Obama is tarnished by the association.

“Barack Obama has a long record of fighting for ethics reform from his days as a state senator,” a campaign rep said.

Alexi also approved millions in loans for Rezko’s various real estate projects. Obama used Broadway Bank for both his personal business and for his Senate campaign fund.

At this point, a reasonable observer would say that I am just touting another “guilt by association” meme. Au contraire, mon ami. Read on, McDuff:

(4) The Giannoulias family was involved with Obama as far back as his first state senate campaign in 1996. It has been long rumored here in Chicago that Obama obtained a sweetheart deal on his first town home here in Chicago — which he could not have afforded otherwise — and guess who the financing came from for that house? We’ve been told it was Broadway Bank, the Giannoulias bank. Now, this sets up a scenario where the Giannoulias family helps Obama with his campaign finances and gets him deeper in their pocket with his sweetheart mortgage deal (for the first home he owned that he could not afford) – all in exchange for quid pro quo to be determined later.

(5) One favor political Chicago claims Obama did for the Giannoulias family was in 2006 when, out of the blue, 29 year old Alexi Giannoulias, with no experience, and without ever having voted before, decides to run for State Treasurer of Illinois. Also out of the blue, Barack Obama endorses Alexi Giannoulias for State Treasurer. This was a SHOCK to everyone in Chicago — and Giannoulias would have never become State Treasurer without Obama’s help. In political circles here, it has always been believed that this endorsement was bought years ago with that sweetheart mortgage deal Broadway Bank arranged for Obama to buy his town house.

(6) So, the Tony Rezko sweetheart deal was not the first magic home loan Obama ever received to buy a house he could not afford.

There’s more to this that looks like it will break soon. We were STUNNED when we read Sneed’s column because we never in a million years believed Fitz would actually be able to take down Obama.

The Sneed column referenced contains this cryptic entry:
Sneed hears rumbles political fund-raiser/fixer Tony Rezko, who is now singing sweetly to the feds from his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, has been talking about his “dealings” with a Chicago bank, which has political connections.

Clearly, Obama’s legal Achilles heel is not directly related to Rezko but rather his dealings with the Giannoulis family and Broadway Bank. And if Fitzy can turn young Alexi – now Illinois State Treasurer – Lord knows what will spill out and complicate an Obama presidency.

For in truth, there is no chance this will come out before the election. Fitzgerald has proven himself to be a very careful prosecutor – especially when aiming high – and will no doubt seek to build his case slowly. He may end up not even indicting Obama, seeing the enormous problems in trying to bring Obama to trial. But you can bet that Obama will be interviewed several times by the prosecutor and will himself, be on tenterhooks as to his fate.

Obama was simply caught up in business as usual Chicago politics – where there are times you can’t tell the difference between the businessman, the politician, and the mobster. It is from this political culture our next president will have sprung.

Kind of makes you wish for the good old days of Al Capone. At least you knew who the crooks were.


Welcome Instapundit readers.

For the record, my inclusion of the Chicago political primer was so that the Obama-Rezko-Giannoulis connection could be seen in context. Why would Obama endorse a mob banker for State Treasurer, going against the expressed wishes of the leader of his party in the statehouse? The same reason Rezko approached the Broadway bank for a $13 million loan for his real estate projects. In Chicago, it’s not who you are but what you can do for me. The payoff for Obama was Giannoulis raising a ton of money for him in his presidential campaign. This was set up by Obama’s endorsement of Giannoulis for treasurer which in turn was set up by almost certainly a generous loan arrangement on Obama’s first townhome run through Broadway.

Interestingly, Rezko was also indicted in a check bouncing matter after having written almost a half million dollars in bad checks in Vegas. While there has been speculation in the Chicago press that Broadway Bank kept Rezko’s head above water with low cost loans for much of the last 3 years when his businesses were bankrupt, the fact that those checks were drawn on an account at Broadway Bank probably means that the Giannoulis family cut Rezko loose, seeing him as a liability.

How badly do you think Tony wants to get back at the Giannoulis family?


If John McCain’s “Lipstick on a Pig” attack was criticized for being petty and irrelevant to the “real issues” of the campaign, what should we make of this stellar piece of investigative reporting?

Sarah Palin brought one unusual accessory to the Alaska Governor’s mansion after moving in last year: A tanning bed.

Al Giordano’s NarcoNews first reported that Palin had the apparatus installed in the mansion in Juneau, and a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, Roger Wetherell, confirmed the account to Politico.

“She paid for it with her own money,” Wetherell said in an email.

It does get awful dark up there in Alaska, but health authorities like the American Cancer Society generally frown on tanning beds as cancer risks.

The McCain-Palin campaign didn’t have an immediate comment on the purchase.

Matthew Yglesias, true to form, puts the tanning bed caper in “proper context” by pointing out that only those weird, hillbilly Alaskans who eat stuff like “Moose Stew” would think it middle class to have a tanning bed:
But that’s all pretty weird. Normal Americans don’t live in Alaska, don’t experience 22 straight hours of darkness ever, and don’t own personal tanning beds. Long story short, tanning beds are about as all-American as moose stew, which is not to say not all-American at all but rather idiosyncratic elements of the culture of an odd state located northwest of Canada.

I thought that kind of venomous, class conscious, dripping condescension went out of style for the left when Gus Hall moved on to that great proletariat gig in the sky. Jesus Lord God and they wonder why those of us in flyover country believe people like Yglesias to be effete, elitist snobs? Substitute “moose” for “rabbit” or “squirrel” or even “possum” and you have a delicacy enjoyed by millions of hunters and just plain folk all over the south and mountain west – two regions where Democrats, not surprisingly, are as scarce as hen’s teeth.

But the point isn’t that Yglesias and other lefties are out of touch. It’s hysterically funny that they threw a tantrum over McCain’s “Lipstick” attack for being irrelevant to the campaign and now they are attacking Palin for having a tanning bed that she paid for herself?

What is Obama’s position on tanning beds? A vital issue like this and Obama hasn’t formulated a position? How many tanning bed advisors does he have? I would say that’s just one more piece of evidence showing that he is unfit to be president.

Then there’s the latest Obama ad that comes right out and says McCain is “lying” about Obama’s record. The press, rousing itself temporarily from its peripatetic slumber, has suddenly realized that John McCain is indeed making a mockery of the campaign by attacking Obama mercilessly, exaggerating his record beyond recognition. To their mind, it is unfair – especially since it seems to be working. The pushback on the editorial pages and even by friendly columnists has probably hurt McCain or at the very least, blunted his momentum.

But the question is: Are they going to referee this contest and call both candidates out when they exaggerate or lie about their opponents record?

They didn’t do very well when Obama was using McCain’s “100 years” quote to falsely claim his opponent wanted to fight a war in Iraq for 100 years. In fact, most of these same columnists who are tsk-tsking and wagging an accusing finger in McCain’s direction never lifted a pen to take Obama to task for that hugely unfair portrayal of what McCain was saying.

But now that the press is awake and have presumably had their morning coffee, perhaps they’d like to do something about the lying being done by both Biden and Obama regarding McCain’s common sense statement yesterday that the fundamentals of the economy are sound:

“You know that there’s been tremendous turmoil in our financial markets and Wall St. And it is—people are frightened by these events. Our economy, I think still—the fundamentals of our economy are strong. But these are very, very difficult times.”

What does McCain mean by “fundamentals?” Old Wall Street hand Mayor Bloomberg of New York, agreeing with McCain, helps the clueless Democrats and liberals out:
“I do agree that fundamentally America has an economy that is strong,” he said. “America’s great strength is its diversity, its hard work, its good financial statements, its broad capital markets,its enormous natural resources” and its work ethic, he said at an afternoon press conference devoted to reassuring New Yorkers that the city’s finances and its economy are intact.

“I’d rather play America’s hand than any other country,” he said. “Without problems? No.”

Obama and Biden both twisted McCain’s words and made it sound like he was saying all was well, that the economy was doing great. First Biden yesterday:
I believe that’s why Senator McCain could say with a straight face, as recently as this morning, and I quote “the fundamentals of our economy are strong.” That, “We’ve made great progress economically” during the Bush years. But friends, I could walk from here to Lansing, and I wouldn’t run into a single person who thought our economy was doing well, unless I ran into John McCain.

John McCain just doesn’t seem to understand what middle class people are going through today. I don’t doubt that he cares. He just doesn’t think that we have any responsibility to help people who are hurting.

That statement is a vicious, false lie. First, McCain did not say “as recently as this morning” that “We’ve made great progress economically…” That is an out and out lie since McCain said it months ago. Secondly, McCain did not say the “economy was doing well.” In fact, he took great pains to say the opposite. What he said was that the underpinnings of the economy – imports, exports (McCain was wrong in saying we’re the #1 exporting country – Germany is), capital markets, and the most productive work force in the history of human civilization – are still strong. There is nothing myopic about this statement. It is a fact despite Obama and Biden’s attempt to lie about what McCain actually said.

Obama’s lies were even worse:

Why else would he say that the economy isn’t something he understands as well as he should? Why else would he say, today, of all days – just a few hours ago – that the fundamentals of the economy are still strong?

Senator – what economy are you talking about?

What’s more fundamental than the ability to find a job that pays the bills and can raise a family? What’s more fundamental than knowing that your life savings is secure, and that you can retire with dignity? What’s more fundamental than knowing that you’ll have a roof over your head at the end of the day? What’s more fundamental than that?

The fundamentals we use to measure economic strength are whether we are living up to that fundamental promise that has made this country great – that promise that America is the place where you can make it if you try – a promise that is the only reason that we are standing here today.

Obama is not describing the “fundamentals” of the economy and he knows it. He is, in fact, talking about the micro of all micro parts of the economy – the individual citizen’s pocketbook. Obama knows damn well McCain’s statement was about the macro economy. It was not only common sense to say what McCain said. It was the sign of a responsible leader that on a day when hyperbole and lies were coming from Democrats about a serious but manageable crisis on Wall Street, John McCain stood up and sought to remind people that despite the turmoil, we were not going into a depression. He didn’t seek to minimize what was going on. He didn’t try and sugar coat what was happening. But his common sense words sought to keep people calm and try to reassure them that there was nothing to panic about, that the Federal Reserve and the government were on the job.

He never said the economy was doing well. He never said individual Americans weren’t suffering. He said that the economy was not going to collapse – something the statesman Obama did not do and instead, the messiah tried to use scare tactics by totally misrepresenting what McCain said.

So where’s the press? How about a little fairness here? Obama and Biden have shamelessly lied about what John McCain said and not a peep from our guardians of truth in the media. They have reported what Obama and Biden said yesterday without any mention of the fact that they lied through their teeth.

That’s the problem, of course. They never will – especially now that they’ve called McCain out for lying, they are going to allow Obama to get away with even more exaggeration and hyperbole. This is “fairness” as far as the press is concerned.

By: Rick Moran at 9:08 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (20) Political News and Blog Aggregator linked with Palin Excites Parents of Disabled Kids...

They call themselves “Values Voters” and they’re meeting in Washington this week at a gig sponsored by the Family Research Council – which in actuality does little “research” and spends most of its money and time lobbying for what they perceive to be “family issues.”

No – you won’t find too many scholarly papers or books published by the FRC. What you will find is a lot of shocking ignorance, bigotry, and a stupidity so profound that one wonders how these people can live in the 21st century without their heads exploding.

These guys would have been right at home in Salem about 400 years ago. This is their take on homosexuality:

Family Research Council believes that homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed. It is by definition unnatural, and as such is associated with negative physical and psychological health effects. While the origins of same-sex attractions may be complex, there is no convincing evidence that a homosexual identity is ever something genetic or inborn. We oppose the vigorous efforts of homosexual activists to demand that homosexuality be accepted as equivalent to heterosexuality in law, in the media, and in schools. Attempts to join two men or two women in “marriage” constitute a radical redefinition and falsification of the institution, and FRC supports state and federal constitutional amendments to prevent such redefinition by courts or legislatures. Sympathy must be extended to those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions, and every effort should be made to assist such persons to overcome those attractions, as many already have.

There’s never a stake and a pile of wood around when you need one, huh guys.

I am no great defender of homosexual activists – or any other activists who seek special rights or privileges based on some idiosyncratic attribute. They can’t help being gay nor can many obese people help being fat or others help the fact that they’ve got red hair (I discriminate ruthlessly against people with red hair). A line must be drawn somewhere or soon, the only people not able to claim special rights are gorgeous, hunky, heterosexual white men under the age of 40. And don’t worry, they’ll find something they’ve been discriminated for too.

But at the same time, does anyone else feel that they’ve jumped into a time machine and travelled back about 100 years when reading how the FRC feels about gays? Well, maybe not a hundred but at least 30. The American Psychiatric Association decided back in the 1970’s that homosexuality was not a mental disorder or disease so where they get this “negative physical and psychological” stuff is not, I assure you, from any recognized authority on the subject.

But the FRC talks like gays are sick while needing our sympathy and help to get rid of “unwanted” (!!) sexual desires. I pity anybody with unwanted sexual desires. It’s sort of like the feeling I get when I see Catherine Zeta-Jones in Zorro. But the FRC isn’t talking about those kind of unwanted desires; they’re talking about sexual feelings for someone from the same sex generally.

So where do they get these cockamamie, stupid, bigoted notions? It ain’t from any “research” done by the Family Research Council. Or at least any published research. What they have are brochures, “booklets,” a lecture, and a couple of friend of the court briefs filed in cases involving sodomy laws.

I have taken some pains to describe these “values” because they are apparently shared by the vast majority of “Values Voters” who showed up at this shindig in DC this week. In addition to a lot of hokum like this, they are also fed a steady diet of political red meat by the likes of Sean Hannity:

Hannity made an offer to Barack Obama. Given Obama’s predilection for scolding America for not being charitable, Hannity offered to send Obama’s destitute half-brother in Kenya $1,000, if Team Obama can send Hannity his address. If Obama will appear on his show, he’ll make it $10,000.

Afterwards, he returned to the media issue. Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton’s strategist, told him that the media has lost a tremendous amount of credibility in this electoral cycle. Rasmussen reports that 69% of the public believe that the media outlets have rigged their reporting to favor their candidate. In no manner is that more obvious in the way they have treated Sarah Palin. In six days, Hannity says, there were more questions about Bristol Palin than in 19 months about Obama’s association with William Ayers.

What any of that has to do with being a values voter I don’t know. But it sure revved up the troops, didn’t it?

Bill Bennett was also there. Now I happen to like Bill Bennett quite a bit and believe him to be a rational, intelligent man who speaks and writes with great clarity about the challenges of maintaining western civilization’s core values and protecting them from assault by some nihilists on the left.

But this is nonsense:

Bennett said that we have to tread carefully in our support of the Palins for the pregnancy of their teen daughter. We need to applaud the way that they handled this family crisis, Bennett says, but we have to remain focused on preventing teen sex and fight an epidemic that creates these pregnancies. We can do both, and we should.

Obama represents a different set of values, and Bennett warns that these could prove dangerous to the American way of life. We shouldn’t question his patriotism, but we can certainly question his judgment. Fred Thompson summed it up best, Bennett says. “There are two questions we will never have to ask about John McCain: Who is this man, and can we trust him with the Presidency?”

Values are “dangerous?” Are Obama’s values (he is a nominal Christian, a family man, seems fairly honest for a politician, and cares about his community) going to attack us? Maybe they’ll jump us when we’re sitting in church minding our own business. Perhaps they’ll ambush us on our way home from the store.

Values are not dangerous. They may be different. But different isn’t dangerous unless one seeks to impose those values on people who are unwilling to accept them. Obama and the Democrats may still achieve power in November. But really now, are our core values going to change that much unless we let them?

The problem is that many of the things these attendees believe to be “value oriented” either have nothing to do with “values” and everything to do with politics or, even more prosaically, are absolutely none of their fricking business as far as what others might believe, or think, or seek to live. In other words, I would tell most of the “values voters” there to get stuffed and keep their nose out of my life. My values are my own and seeking to make political issues out of personal morality is the antithesis of liberty.

For instance, saying that life begins at conception is a belief based on faith. I respect that. But science doesn’t see it that way and the government cannot, should not base laws that govern people on the way humans interpret the will and thoughts of a supernatural deity. That simply isn’t rational. Who knows the mind of God? Not Sean Hannity I assure you. And my experience has been that even great intellects and good souls like Pope Benedict harbor doubts about how well they understand what goes on in the mind of the guy upstairs.

These are not evil people at the FRC conference. I believe them to be in thrall to a belief system that they find enormous comfort in as opposed to dealing rationally with the world at large. They are led, for the most part, by good hearted people who really want to do the right thing but end up not recognizing that their own myopia about the modern world is handcuffing their parishioners and preventing them from opening their minds to all the possibilities – other ways of thinking. Other means of discovery besides finding the correct verse in the bible.

There isn’t a god but if there was, it would seem to me that he would want us earthlings to use all of our faculties, all of our experience and learning, all the cumulative knowledge built up over thousands of years of human civilization in order to get the most out of life. The discovery of carbon dating has given the lie to the notion that the earth is only 6 thousand years old. In the parlance of Christians, god opened our minds and allowed us to gain the ability to go beyond Genesis and discover for ourselves some of the mysteries of the universe. We have exceeded the knowledge of the ancients because we have built upon their work and opened our minds to the fundamental truth that we are perfectly capable creatures whose curiosity and ability to ask questions supersedes any “truth” we can get from any religion on earth.

I’m sure I share some of the “values” that these Christians accept as their own. But I don’t think I have a corner on truth nor do I think it a good idea to use the government to impose my own concept of morals or values on someone else. This I will oppose from both the religious right and secular left. My values are my own. I would be pleased if everyone – right and left – just stayed the hell out of my life and let me live it the way I see fit.

By: Rick Moran at 12:19 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (64)


I’m back safe and sound in Streator, my own bed a welcome place to rest my head after 4 tiring days of fighting crowds, deadlines, and my own cynicism.

That last has stood me in good stead over the years as well as being an impediment at times. On the one hand, it has allowed me to view politicians and politics with a jaundiced eye and the proper skepticism one must have when listening to people who lie for a living make promises they have no intention of keeping or present themselves as something they are not.

But the downside to cynicism is that it tends to narrow your view so that when seeing the people and the process through a very dark prism, you miss the occasional bloom in the rose bush – that tiny spark of genuineness that while rare, nevertheless makes American politics so unique and inspiring.

Such was my problem with watching and listening to Sarah Palin. My initial thought was that this was the greatest act since Houdini – a politician trying to convince people she was a real person. But viewing the speech a second and third time changed my mind. There really was little artifice in this woman. She was a breath of air as fresh as a mountain breeze in her home state. She was tough, strong, easy to look at, and when she spoke, the thunder rolled and lightening flashed. Sparks flew from the stage. I had never been in a venue where the atmosphere crackled with anticipation, the crowd hanging on every word, their voices causing the very air to shake when they showed their support and appreciation.

This presented a problem for me. Clearly McCain had struck gold by choosing this woman. But after a couple of days and some time to reflect on what both McCain and Palin had to say, there are a few observations I need to share with you about Palin and McCain’s idea of “reform” that may be my cynicism showing through but are also grounded in history and common sense.

Sarah Palin is like a virgin in the Sultan’s harem. She is so fresh, so new that it seems to me the corrupting influence of power has yet to perform its dastardly sorcery on her and turn the pure-as-the-driven-Alaskan-snow child into the coldly calculating political computer that will probably be her legacy once history is done with her.

To say that Sarah Palin will eventually become just another Washington pol if she is elected to high office may be taken by many readers as sacrilegious, akin to pronouncing the death of Santa Claus or exposing the tooth fairy as a fraud. Such criticism misses the point. Palin will become what she has to become in order to succeed. And to succeed in Washington, one must adopt the ways of our capitol city – the artful dodge, the 1,000 word answer to a question that reveals nothing and says even less; the thousand tiny compromises with principle in order to get things done; the deal making, the log rolling, the white lies that eventually turn into nose-growing whoppers – all of this and more will turn Palin from a Shield Maiden of Rohan into a female ork, a corrupted elf whose fall from immortality and goodness will become just another sad commentary on our political culture.

And lest we blame Washington for being the only outpost of cynicism and corruption, one might wonder what Palin would have become with just a few more years of experience even in Alaska. For proof, look at the current state of corruption in that state – corruption that Palin helped expose and was fighting even as she was chosen as McCain’s running mate. Would she have been so eager to take on the powers that be in 5 years? In ten? An honest answer would have to include the near certainty that over time, Sarah Palin would be absorbed by the very system she took on with such passion.

There have been a thousand Sarah Palin’s in our history and to each has come the decision whether to play ball or go home. Most have chosen the easy path of least resistance. Those that haven’t have been largely forgotten, casualties of their own conscience and history’s relentless judgment that in order to achieve some of your goals, you must compromise with the devil. Some, like John McCain, make the adjustment and learn to live with losing at least part of their soul. Others can’t abide the hypocrisy, the groveling for money, the back scratching, the trading of favor for favor and quit in disgust. They realize that real “reform” would include the reformation of something that not even Barack Obama and all his powers can effect; the reform of human nature.

Our Founders recognized human frailty and how the temptation of self aggrandizement can rob the people of their liberty. It is why they created a federal republic with mechanisms to spread the corrupting power inherent in all governments around and not allow a deadly concentration in a single political entity.

Past “reformers” took the exact opposite tack; that concentrating the power of government in one place made it easier to keep an eye on the shysters, the hustlers, the jobbers who beg, plead, and bribe their way to influence. That and the necessity of using the vast power of the central government to break the back of abominations like predatory capitalists, industrial and financial trusts, and finally the evils of segregation and Jim Crow made it imperative that we grow government to protect us from those who would abuse freedom to deny others their liberty.

Corruption was as much a part of early America as it is today with one significant difference; the ability of that corruption to dramatically effect the health of our democracy and the liberty of its citizens. Times change. And as America grew, corruption and the abuse of power grew with it. It took the idealism of early 20th century reformers to save democracy and keep America from turning into a plutocracy where the few oppressed the many and workers would have been little better than wage slaves, toiling away 12 hours a day, six days a week in mines and factories with no rights and fewer prospects to realize their dreams of a better life for their children.

But the way they accomplished this magnificent feat was to vastly expand the powers of the federal government. They sought to “scientifically” perfect society by applying new fangled theories advanced by a new kind of scientist; sociologists and the science of trying to predict and codify how and why people behave the way they do.

With the purest of intentions they and their descendants in the Wilson and FDR administrations destroyed the idea of federalism in favor of trying to “solve” the problems of poverty and inequality; as if there are laws that can be passed that can govern human nature and the natural state of man.

It is the reason I am a conservative. I do not believe in the “perfectibility” of society any more than I believe in the Easter Bunny. Nor do I believe – as the Communists still believe – that man himself can be changed and once put through the proper “re-education,” a “New Man” can emerge and create the perfect state that doesn’t even require a government. This is not to say that society can’t be improved or that we can, as humans, resist our basest impulses and act in the common good. It only means that you will never, ever be able to legislate such things into effect and anyone who tries is daft.

So just what is it that Obama and McCain want to “reform?” Do they wish to scrub original sin from men’s souls? Both wish to mitigate the effects of corruption by curtailing the activities of lobbyists. But we have tried such “reform” before with campaign financing.

And we know how well that has worked out, huh?

It seems to me that John McCain’s attempts to “reform” or, more accurately, improve the way that government delivers services and bring it into the 21st century is slightly more realistic than Obama’s crusade to remake America into some kind of social democracy. But neither has a clue really. They, and America, will continue to muddle through while the bureaucracy goes its merry way and lobbyists find their way around whatever legislation is passed to ostensibly hold them in check. Real reform would require a groundswell of grassroots support so stupendous that politicians could only ride the wave and not control it. It may come to that someday.

But not this day. Not this time. Not with these two candidates.

By: Rick Moran at 1:50 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)


I’m leaving shortly for the airport to fly out to Minneapolis and the Republican National Convention.

I will be covering it as part of the Pajamas Media team – the only online publication granted a booth above the Excel Center floor. Not sure what my responsibilities will be but I will almost certainly do a little writing, a little editing, and no doubt a little partying as well.

I might mention that PJTV will be making its debut at the convention. Read here what it’s all about – sounds new and exciting. It’s a subscription service but I think it has a chance if what they’re talking about as far as programming is concerned. I intend to pony up and I hope you at least give the idea some consideration.

This Palin smear on her baby that I write about below is incredible. It is based entirely – entirely – on supposition. Things like how a woman is supposed to look when she’s six months pregnant and the tiny bulge in her daughter’s teen age tummy being seen not as evidence that she eats too many Ho-Ho’s but that she is with child is “balmy” is the Brits would say.

It’s daft. It’s nuts. It’s cuckoo. It’s every adjective you could possibly come up with that denotes unhinged idiocy on the part of the left. I was joking yesterday when I wrote that the left would demand that Palin take a DNA test to prove the child is hers. Judging by how this story is spreading like wildfire across the leftysphere, my joking may become a reality sooner than I ever dreamed.

Coupled with the other major attack meme that is emerging – that Palin should be staying home and taking care of her Down Syndrome kid – and you have an interesting contretemps for the left; that for all their whining about how low and dirty the GOP and conservatives play the game, they have proved they can get in the gutter and root around with the worst the GOP has to offer.

I will try and post on this site during the convention but time factors may make that an impossibility. If not, catch my stuff at Pajamas Media as I’m sure I’ll have a few things to say about the RNC.

By: Rick Moran at 6:22 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)


Next month, I will mark 4 years blogging about politics, culture, government, and the human comedy/tragedy that one finds on the internet – specifically liberals and their never ending quest to redefine terms and twist language, making it a willing servant to their political agenda.

I am not one of those purists who started to blog in order to “have a conversation with myself” or “seek to know myself better.” I have never made any bones about the fact that I see this blog as a stepping stone to making money as a writer. In this, I have been somewhat successful thanks to those of you who have stuck with me through everything – all my apostasy, my curmudgeonly moods, my lame attempts at satire or humor, and my contrariness on many issues on which we have come to disagree.

Beyond anything I could have imagined, this blog has become an extraordinarily personal undertaking. I suppose that’s because writing is a very personal craft – a curse and blessing for which I had no clue 4 years ago when I started. I am blessed because many a fine folk have been supportive, encouraging, unstinting in their praise, and solicitous when I screw up – a happenstance that occurs far more often than I care to remember.

If my blog attracted only those who usually agreed with me and thought I was the bee’s knees when it came to commentary, blogging would be a marvelous daily exercise. But there is another side to blogging that most of us never talk about; the relentless, daily pounding of negativism, hurtful epithets, and outright spewing hatred that arrives in the form of comments and emails from the other side as well as other blogs linking and posting on something I’ve written.

We all like to think of ourselves as having thick skins and that such criticism rolls off our backs and never affects us. This is the macho element in blogging, one of its more unattractive and dishonest aspects. In this, some of us feel obligated to give back in kind, something I have done on too many occasions to count. Yes, I regret it. And believe me, I have often been the initiator of such ugliness.

Still, there are many bloggers on both the right and left who shame me with their equanimity in the face of the most virulent and nasty personal attacks. Ed Morrissey comes to mind on the right. The folks at Crooked Timber and Obsidian Wings on the left are generally cool in the face of such criticism as well.

But this is not a confessional post where I recognize my sins and ask forgiveness. I am what I am and doubt I will change. Rather, it is my intent to highlight the fact that despite my predilection for using violent language in my defense or to ridicule my political opponents, I have always granted them a certain rough integrity in their beliefs – that they are wrongheaded not evil; that they are arrogant and stupid, not unpatriotic or that they hate America.

If I have ever crossed that line (and I can’t think of an occasion where I have) then I do, in fact, regret it. Because in the give and take of political combat, things are often said that are not meant to respond to argument but rather to inflict pain. In this, I am as human as the next person and am not immune to being wounded by those who attack my integrity, honesty, character, and especially my writings even as I try and parry the thrusts in much the same way.

This is to be expected when dishing out as much sarcastic bile as I have poured on to this website the last 4 years. As a former leftist, I know exactly where the soft spots are, where to hit below the belt and make it hurt. Politics is a full contact sport and this kind of combat is not the “old politics” or the “new politics.” It is simply politics as it has been practiced and will continue to be practiced as long as free people are free to assemble in a free country.

I think a cracking good argument can be made that politics is much more civilized today than it was 50 or 100 years ago. Nevertheless, there is an element to political debate that is present today that was not present back then. And that is the deliberate misinterpretation of intent by the left in many conservative critiques of liberal dogma that has led us to this unhappy point in American history where any criticism levelled at a black Democratic candidate will eventually be deliberately misconceived (or stupidly misconstrued) as an attack on his race.

Allah at Hot Air has been all over the issue of the left deliberately twisting the intent and meaning of criticism of Obama to arrive at a pre-determined conclusion that the attack is racially motivated and, by extension, the attackers are racists.

Goldstein has written a book on his blog over the years in intentionalism and the deliberate rebranding and redefinition of terms and language in order to either cut off debate entirely or redefine the debate by surrendering logic and reason and buying into a false narrative created by the left that gives them the advantage. Goldstein shows how this is especially true in identity politics and how the rank dishonesty of deconstructionism has poisoned political debate.

There is little original thought I can add to either of those excellent critiques so I would like to explore this phenomena on a more personal level. Every anti-Obama post I’ve written on this site or anywhere else has elicited several comments alluding to me as a racist or implying that my criticism is racially motivated. All conservative bloggers have gotten this treatment to one degree or another so I am not alone in experiencing this. It doesn’t matter whether I am serious in my criticism or not. The de facto conclusion reached by these commenters is that the very act of criticizing Obama and that I don’t want him to be president can only mean one thing; it is the candidate’s race that is my primary motivation for opposing him.

As I mention above, I play pretty rough with my political opponents and make no apologies for doing so. And if calling me a racist was done as a regular part of the internet mud wrestling that goes on I wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.

But the intent of branding me with the scarlet “R” of racist is not simply to inflict pain but rather to stifle and cut off debate. There is no answer I can give to the charge, no proof I can offer, no words that would prove otherwise. The charge simply hangs there, tarring me and discrediting what I write in the minds of some who, although fair minded about most things, might buy into the liberal narrative and wonder if subconsciously I am some kind of closet klansman.

Denials only give credence to the charge. Having to disavow you are a racist gives the battle to your opponent because anything you might say to defend yourself can be twisted and deliberately misconstrued as more evidence of racism. On the other hand, silence denotes assent in many people’s minds so not saying anything is as good as being forced to walk around wearing that scarlet “R” on your bodice.

This is not a question of whining about the unfairness of it all. I am pointing out a fact relevant to the debating of issues in this campaign and the relative merits of the two candidates. It is something Allah has pointed out with some heat and scathing criticism as he did in the post I linked above where David Gergen was caught making the same patently ridiculous charge about McCain’s “celebrity” ad being filled with codes and hidden meanings about Obama’s race:

In which the single dumbest, most paranoid racial charge of the campaign is recycled on national television by a former presidential advisor and current Harvard professor. I said it before but it bears repeating: If you take this logic to its conclusion, there’s literally no non-racist way to accuse a member of a minority group of having an outsized ego. Any synonym you can conjure – elitist, arrogant, “megalomaniac narcissist” (to quote Hitchens) – can all happily be dismissed as “code,” regardless of whether the subject might in fact (a) display his very own presidential seal, (b) be known to describe rural voters in terms that call to mind Cletus the slackjawed yokel on “The Simpsons,” and© oh, by the way, lead his very own cult with himself as godhead.

George Will makes a point I made myself last week, that the irony of all these bad-faith charges of racism is that most of the GOP’s knocks on Obama’s ego are straight out of the playbook they used against “haughty, French-looking Democrat” John Kerry. Granted, there was no “Moses” ad for Waffles, but that’s because most people hated him; Obama is adored to an absurdly iconic extent, especially vis-a-vis his actual accomplishments (in Lindsey Graham’s words, “fame without portfolio”), which is why he gets goofed on as leading people to the Promised Land whereas Kerry got the windsurfer treatment. (Although there are plenty of goofs on Obama along the same dorky windsurfer lines to be found if you look around.) The real “tell” here, though, is what Gergen offers as further evidence to support his point – that McCain, when asked about affirmative action, said he opposes quotas. A perfectly mainstream conservative position, and certainly one McCain would also hold if he was facing Hillary, but because he’s facing Obama McCain’s no longer allowed to talk about it.

Getting back to the personal, beyond the political tactic there is a psychic cost born by the target of such attacks. The towering injustice of the situation is extraordinarily frustrating. But that is the commenter’s intent – to checkmate his opponent and either provoke a wild response or have the charge go unanswered and thus win the argument.

Those who accuse all liberals of being unpatriotic or un-American perhaps have no cause to grumble when an equally malicious lie like “racist” is directed at them. But having such an epithet tossed in my direction – especially as it has been done recently – I find to be reflective of a mindset that is terrified of open debate and thus resorts to twisting semantics in order to obscure a flawed critique. They can’t argue the issues so the magic word is applied and debate instantly ceases.

As I have written since the beginning of the campaign, this tactic will be hauled out at regular intervals and used to great effect. Allah might be able to define it. Goldstein might be able to analyze and critique its psychological underpinnings and origins.

But they can’t stop it nor can they mitigate its effects. It is the major reason we can’t have an intelligent discussion about race in this campaign or at any time. And the fault, dear lefties, lies not in the stars but with you.

By: Rick Moran at 8:35 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (75)

CATEGORY: Ethics, Government

Where does the truth lie with regard to the use of torture on detainees at Gitmo and other sites around the world?

Is it really as widespread as many people claim? Who is responsible for it? Are the techniques being used on prisoners really torture? Is it legal? If it isn’t, should we prosecute everyone – on up to the president – who could be held legally responsible?

For myself, most of those questions have already been answered. Yes, torture has been used on many hundreds and probably thousands of detainees in our custody. Yes, orders to inflict torture on the detainees came from the highest levels of our government. Yes, by any definition, both domestic law and international law was violated when torture was carried out. And yes, the techniques used by interrogators would be considered “torture” under both domestic and international law.

You can argue that it was “justified” from here until doomsday and it won’t change any of the facts given above. It’s not a question of operating in a “gray” area. The techniques went far beyond water boarding and “stress” techniques and included beatings, electric shock, and other barbaric practices. And the beating heart of this monstrous policy was not the president or Secretary of Defense but rather Dick Cheney and a small group of like minded government enthusiasts who can only be termed torture fanatics and who despite evidence that torture didn’t work, continued to order it meted out to detainees.

Later, these same torture cabalists sought to hide their activities – even going so far as refusing to release innocent detainees for fear that they would talk and perhaps lead to their own day in front of a judge.

Much of this information is available through the Freedom of Information Act, ferreted out by journalists and rights groups. Much more of it has been reported by many of the top national security reporters in the business. Another reporter, Jane Mayer who is a staff writer for The New Yorker, has written a book that details the who, the how, and the why in our government responsible for this black stain on our history.

Called THE DARK SIDE: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals, Mayer has culled reports from responsible journalists as well as FOIA documents to come up with what is nothing less than an indictment of officials at the highest levels of our government for crimes related to the torture of prisoners in our custody.

While I have not read the book yet, I have read several excerpts at Shaun Mullen’s blog as he has been serializing parts of the narrative. Rarely have I been so devastated. The book is meticulously researched and footnoted (as are several other anti-Administration books on the Iraq War that my fellow conservatives dismissed at the time as “hit pieces” or products of “liberal media bias” but are now generally accepted as accurate historical references to the bumbling stupidity of the Bushies) and takes a raw, unflinching look at the entire, rotten mess; Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, rendition, and the war between the Cheneyites and a few brave lawyers and aides who thought what was going on was wrong.

The New York Times book review, written by liberal historian Alan Brinkley, highlights the role of Dick Cheney and how his aides and sycophants rode roughshod over the law, the government, and those who opposed them. I have been a Dick Cheney defender in the past – especially since I believe his major critique that the executive branch was hurt badly by the Congressional power grab following Viet Nam and Watergate is basically correct. However, even before reading excerpts of this book I had come to the conclusion that Cheney went far beyond trying to redress the Constitutional balance and was engaged in a little kingdom building himself.

At the same time, I reject the view of Cheney (or any of the others involved in the torture regime) as being dark lords of the underworld. They were, in their minds, patriots out to protect the country from a very real threat (something with which both Brinkley in his review and Mayer in her book agree). But good intentions don’t excuse immoral and criminal actions. Nor do they obviate the need to air out the truth of what has gone on in the dark places where just because no one hears the screaming it doesn’t mean the law breaking didn’t take place.

Brinkley’s review – overly and unnecessarily dramatic at times – nevertheless traces the beginnings of torture from the aftermath of 9/11:

But as Jane Mayer, a staff writer for The New Yorker, makes clear in “The Dark Side,” a powerful, brilliantly researched and deeply unsettling book, what almost immediately came to be called the “war on terror” led quickly and inexorably to some of the most harrowing tactics ever contemplated by the United States government. The war in Iraq is the most obvious and familiar result of the heedless “toughness” of the new administration. But Mayer recounts a different, if at least equally chilling, story: the emergence of the widespread use of torture as a central tool in the battle against terrorism; and the fierce, stubborn defense of torture against powerful opposition from within the administration and beyond. It is the story of how a small group of determined men and women thwarted international and American law; fought off powerful challenges from colleagues within the Justice Department, the State Department, the National Security Council and the C.I.A.; ignored or circumvented Supreme Court rulings and Congressional resolutions; and blithely dismissed a growing clamor of outrage and contempt from much of the world — all in the service of preserving their ability to use extreme forms of torture in the search for usable intelligence.

At times, it seems almost as if by recklessly and mindlessly defending actions that clearly violated the law, Cheney and his acolytes seemed unable to face what they had brought into being; that by continuing to order the torture of detainees, they might have to face the monstrously upsetting fact that they were wrong all along.

What is perhaps most disturbing is that not only are some of the people we are currently holding almost assuredly innocent of any wrongdoing, it is that no one has any idea of the numbers of people who are in our custody:

No one knows how many people were rounded up and spirited away into these secret locations, although the number is very likely in the thousands. No one knows either how many detainees have died once in custody. Nor is there any solid information about the many detainees who have been the victims of what the United States government calls “extraordinary rendition,” the handing over of detainees to other governments, mostly in the Middle East, whose secret police have no qualms about torturing their prisoners and face no legal consequences for doing so.

Then there is the age old argument about torture. Is it really an effective means of getting information from suspects? Or is it self defeating and will prisoners give false information just to stop the torture?
This vast regime of pain and terror, inflicted in the name of a war on terror, rests in large part on the untested belief of a few high-ranking leaders in Washington that torture is an effective tool for eliciting valuable information. But there is, Mayer persuasively argues, little available evidence that this assumption is true, and a great deal of evidence from numerous sources (including the United States military and the F.B.I.) that torture is, in fact, one of the least effective methods of gathering information and a likely source of false confessions. Among the many cases Mayer and other journalists have chronicled — including the case of the most notable Al Qaeda operative yet captured, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed — the information gleaned from tortured detainees has produced unreliable and often entirely unusable information. That many of the interrogations were conducted by American servicemen and -women with scant training made the likelihood of success even lower. (Some of the interrogators had no qualms about what they were doing and welcomed being unconstrained by any laws or rules. “It was the Camelot of counterterrorism,” one officer later told a journalist. “We didn’t have to mess with others and it was fun.” Others were traumatized by what they had done and seen, and suffered psychologically as a result.)

If common sense were applied to the matter, one would think that there is at least some efficacy to torture else it would not have been a regular part of interrogating prisoners for thousands of years. But one can see with such mixed results why even the argument that torture was “necessary” in order to get vital information falls flat. And even more telling was that even after being told that torture wasn’t working any better – or worse – than legal interrogation methods, the torture crowd continued to order it performed on detainees while defending the practice against a determined group of Administration insiders – including many conservatives I am happy to say – who wanted it stopped:
From the very beginning, there was strong resistance to the regime of torture. Those who challenged it included journalists like The New York Times’s James Risen and Scott Shane, The Washington Post’s Dana Priest, Ron Suskind (the author of “The One Percent Doctrine”), The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh and Mayer herself (who scrupulously credits the work of her many colleagues). Other opponents were officials in the State Department, the F.B.I., the C.I.A., members of Congress of both parties and many career military officers, including former chiefs of staff. But as Mayer notes, few of them “had the temerity to confront Cheney, who clearly was the true source of these policies.” Among the most courageous opponents of the use of torture was a small group of lawyers working within the Bush administration — conservative men, loyal Republicans, who in the face of enormous pressure to go along attempted to use the law to stop what they considered a series of policies that were both illegal and immoral: Alberto Mora, the Navy general counsel, who tried to work within the system to stop what he believed were renegade actions; Jack Goldsmith, who became the head of the Office of Legal Counsel in 2003 and sought to revoke the Yoo memo of 2002, convinced that it had violated the law in authorizing what he believed was clearly torture; and Matthew Waxman, a Defense Department lawyer overseeing detainee issues, who sought ways to stop what he believed to be illegal and dangerous policies. Waxman summoned a meeting of high-ranking military officers and Defense Department officials (including the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force), all of whom supported the restoration of Geneva Convention protections. Waxman was quickly hauled up before Addington and told that his efforts constituted “an abomination.” All of these lawyers, and others, soon left the government after being deceived, bullied, thwarted and marginalized by the Cheney loyalists.

So what is to be done? The torture continues to this day even though there are indications that the Cheneyites are nervously looking over their shoulders in anticipation that some legal jeopardy will be attached to their actions. Dare we trust the Democrats to hold impartial hearings on the matter? The joke answers itself. How about a “bi-partisan” commission a la the 9/11 group? Better idea but the personnel would all have to be painfully apolitical – if there is such an animal. Even then, it would be impossible to keep politics out of the investigation.

There are no easy answers nor should their be. Some on the left would love to hand the entire crew over to the International Criminal Court which would be an abominable surrender of sovereignty. Rather, I think if ever a situation cried out for a special prosecutor, this would be it. Forget a Congressional select committee or any blue ribbon commission. Law breaking demands a prosecutor given broad leeway to look into the dark recesses of government to ferret out the truth, no matter where it leads.

I’m used to being on the opposite side of my conservative friends on this issue. Why this is so pains me a great deal. Reading the excerpts from Mayer’s book, I was heartened by the opposition to torture from some conservatives in the Administration, reassuring me that I was not completely nuts. But on the internet, it is at least 5 to 1 in favor of torture thus making me a persona non grata among most of the right on this issue.

What’s my main justification for opposing this horror? An FBI Agent told his CIA counterpart in withdrawing from the program, ““We don’t do that. It’s what our enemies do!”

And that sums it up. Anyone who believes in American exceptionalism must accept that torture makes us much less than that as I pointed out in this post l a few months ago:

It vexes me that conservatives believe such nonsense – believe it and use it as a justification for the violation of international and domestic law not to mention destroying our long standing and proud tradition of simply being better than that. Why this aspect of American exceptionalism escapes my friends on the right who don’t hesitate to use the argument that we are a different nation than all others when it comes to rightly boasting about our vast freedoms and brilliantly constructed Constitution is beyond me.

But for me and many others on the right, the issue of torture defines America in a way that does not weigh comfortably on our consciences or on our self image as citizens of this country. I am saddened beyond words to be associated with a country that willingly gives up its traditions and adherence to the rule of law for the easy way, the short cut around the law, while giving in to the basest instincts we posses because we are afraid.

All the excuses mustered over the years by conservatives fall flat in the face of cold hard reality itemized and catalogued by Mayer in Dark Side. Parsing what is or is not torture doesn’t cut it. Defending the unilateral abrogation of the Geneva Convention doesn’t hold water. Saying “They deserve it” or “They deserve worse” or “It really doesn’t hurt that much” are laughable sophistries that reveal a dead spot in the conscience of the person uttering them. Attacking the source won’t work either; the evidence is just too overwhelming to deny.

I am beyond hoping I can convince any of my fellow conservatives that these horrendous practices must be stopped and the perpetrators exposed, our dirty laundry aired for the world to see. But perhaps some of you might open your minds to the possibility that something very bad has been carried out in our name these last few years. And to have it done by supposed conservatives besmirches them and the rest of us who expect much more from people who identify themselves as men and women of the right.

By: Rick Moran at 3:50 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (28) Political News and Blog Aggregator linked with 2 Dutch climbers rescued from K-2...

It may be tempting to look at the latest indictment of a Republican lawmaker and conclude, as my sainted grandfather did many years ago, that “all Republicans are crooks.” A loyal Chicago Democrat through and through, none of us had the heart (or courage) to mention to grandpa a few of the more brazenly corrupt scandals that had tainted the Cook County political machine run by Richard J. Daley, the current mayor’s father.

The indicted lawmaker, Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), is charged with seven counts of lying on a financial disclosure form. Using the recent past as a guide, this is pretty tame stuff. But it is highly unlikely the prosecutors are through with the 85-year-old senator because just over the horizon are almost certain indictments for bribery relating to work done on the senator’s house to the tune of $250,000 in gifts from VECO, an oil services firm. It seems the CEO of VECO, seeking government contracts, wanted to get extra chummy with the senator and offered to pay for most of the expansion costs on Steven’s house. Actually, it worked out pretty well at first. Stevens doubled the size of his home and VECO received some nice, rich government contracts.

Alas, no good bribery scheme lasts forever. Two VECO executives have already pleaded guilty to bribery charges and the chances are very good that they will roll on Stevens and testify against him. It would be an ignoble end to a career that has defined all that is wrong with pork-barrel spending in Washington. Stevens was one of the biggest abusers of the “earmark” process and funneled tens of millions of dollars to his home state over the years in appropriations that were snuck into bills without debate or discussion.

The problem, of course, is not grandpa’s “all Republicans are crooks” meme. It’s that the rising expense of congressional campaigns and growing power of lobbyists have combined to offer temptations for corruption that have proven irresistible to a frighteningly large number of members of Congress—both Democratic and Republican—over the past 25 years.

The controlling factor regarding political corruption appears to be which party is in power at any given time, rather than any predilection toward crookedness by one party or the other. Take the Democrats of the 1980s and early 1990s. Ensconced in power for 50 years, Democrats were involved in scandal after scandal that rocked Capitol Hill. The parade of crooked pols included five House members and a senator caught up in the ABSCAM scandal where Arab businessmen/lobbyists (played with great effect and glee by FBI agents) openly offered huge dollops of cash in exchange for immigration and banking favors.

The videotapes of the encounters with the lawmakers bordered on hilarious. One greedy Democrat, after stuffing $25,000 in his coat and pants, actually asked the FBI/Arab businessman “Does it show?” All of the Congressman—including a young John Murtha who appeared to turn down the bribe but later seemed to be wavering—knew full well what was in that briefcase and they couldn’t take their eyes off of it. As a morality play, it was a huge hit.

There was Congressman Charles Diggs of Michigan who was convicted and sent to jail for receiving kickbacks from the salaries of his staff after giving them raises. The good people of his district were either unaware or didn’t care that Charlie was in the klink because, despite being jailed, he was re-elected. Diggs resigned rather than face certain expulsion.

Then there were the “Keating Five.” The Ethics Committee in the Senate determined that three Democratic senators had improperly interfered in a regulatory matter on behalf of Charles Keating, real estate mogul and owner of several Savings and Loans that had gone under. Two other senators—John McCain and John Glenn—were absolved of wrongdoing. McCain was the only Republican named in the ethics complaint.

There were others—House Speaker Jim Wright most prominent among them—who were either censured for unethical behavior or under investigation for malfeasance of one kind or another. The rash of special prosecutors during the 1990s also targeted many Democrats who served in the Clinton administration.

The adage “power corrupts” is too simple. There are many who hold power who manage to maintain their integrity. Senator Larry Pressler from South Dakota was seen on tape refusing ABSCAM money and immediately reporting the meeting to the FBI. And most congressmen and senators make an attempt to hold onto their values while serving the nation.

But in the last eight years, we have seen a serio-comic parade of Republican hooligans whose shocking greed has altered the meaning of corruption.

The rogues gallery includes:

— Feb. 22, 2008: Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Arizona) indicted on charges of extortion, wire fraud, money laundering and other crimes in an Arizona land swap that authorities say helped him collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in payoffs.

— June 11, 2007: Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) arrested in a bathroom sex sting at the Minneapolis airport. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. He is now asking a state appeals court to let him withdraw his guilty plea.

— Jan. 19, 2007: Former Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for trading political favors for gifts and campaign donations from lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

— March 3, 2006: Former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-California) sentenced to eight years and four months in prison. He collected $2.4 million in homes, yachts, antique furnishings and other bribes in a corruption scheme.

— Oct. 3, 2005: Former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) charged with felony money laundering and conspiracy in connection with Republican fundraising efforts in 2002. One charge has been dropped and two others are being argued before a state appeals court.

Other shoes that could be dropping:

—John Doolittle (R-California) who is caught up in the Jack Abramoff mess and also has ties to Duke Cunninghams’s partner in crime Brent Wilkes. Either or both investigations may hit pay dirt.

—Jerry Lewis (R-California) is enmeshed in a federal investigation into a lobbying firm headed up by former Republican Congressman Bill Lowery. It is alleged that Lewis, former chairman of the Appropriations Committee, steered hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks and other appropriations to clients of Lowery who then gave to his campaign. It is one the largest bribery investigations in California history involving local governments, universities, and private companies.

—Don Young (R-Alaska) is another Alaska congressman caught up in scandal. It appears that Young inserted an earmark in the budget after the House and Senate voted on a bill (but before Bush signed it) worth $10 million to construct an interstate interchange. Nothing really extraordinary in that except the interchange was not to be located in Alaska but someplace slightly further south—in Florida. Apparently, a developer raised a lot of money for Young’s campaign just prior to the earmark being surreptitiously placed in the bill. Feds are investigating.

—Gary Miller (R-California) is under investigation by the FBI for a real nice real estate scam that’s been ongoing for years. Three separate properties he has bought for a song, sold for a ton, and then claimed the local government declared “eminent domain” forcing him to sell. Miller would then not claim the profits as taxable capital gains due to the “imminent” seizure of the property. One problem: this time, the local government of Monrovia is denying it threatened to invoke eminent domain.

—Tim Murphy (R-Pennsylvania) is under federal investigation for getting caught using his staff for campaign purposes. Note I said “getting caught” because they all skirt the line between official business and campaigning—or go over it in an overt fashion.

—Mark Foley (R-Florida) may not have broken the law but his steamy emails to barely legal kids who were former House pages epitomized a culture of corruption on the Republican-controlled Hill when it was revealed that several GOP Congressional leaders knew of Foley’s interest in the pages and did nothing.

There are also a half dozen former Republican members of Congress who are under investigation for activities carried out while they were serving in the House.

And Democrats are in trouble too. William Jefferson (D-Louisiana), last seen ordering National Guardsmen in New Orleans to assist him in saving items from his house during hurricane Katrina, was caught with $90,000 in his freezer and has been indicted on 16 counts ranging from bribery to wire fraud relating to his business dealings in Africa.

Also, Allan Mollahan (D-West Virginia) is under investigation for steering earmarks to campaign contributors and business partners.

In 2001, Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio) was sentenced to eight years in prison after being convicted of racketeering and accepting bribes.

The common thread running through almost all of these corrupt practices is cash for campaigns. The non-profit group Public Citizen spells it out in black and white:

The cost of congressional campaigns has skyrocketed, from an average of about $87,000 spent for successful House elections in 1976 (about $308,000 in 2006 dollars) to an average of $1.3 million spent on winning campaigns in 2006. Successful Senate candidates in 1976 spent an average of $609,000 (about $2.2 million in 2006 dollars), and in 2006, the average Senate winner spent an astonishing $9.6 million.

Starting the day after they are elected, House members must begin raising more than $1,000 a day to amass large enough war chests to wage their next campaign, while senators must raise more than $3,000 per day.

It’s not just the money game that has changed. Lobbyists have gone far beyond simply advocating the passage of legislation to benefit their clients. They have become one-stop shops for corruption. Junketing with their favorite members, bestowing goodies both large and small on their targets, they can also raise copious amounts of campaign cash. And the competition among the lobbyists is so ferocious that things were guaranteed to get out of hand. In the case of Jack Abramoff, they did. The lobbyist spread millions around Capitol Hill and was hugely successful in getting his clients what they wanted and needed from government. In no time, he went from a minor player into the big leagues in terms of billings.

Unless something is done to reform both campaign finance and lobbying rules, the chances are excellent that in a few years the Democrats will have their own sorry bunch of lawbreakers and scofflaws with their mugshots plastered all over the Internet. That is the culture on Capitol Hill at the moment.

And despite promises from both John McCain and Barack Obama to reform this mess, the prospects for real change seem remote.

By: Rick Moran at 9:35 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)