The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Greenwald Says What Feingold Has Urged Us All to Say

Greenwald Says What Feingold Has Urged Us All to Say

by Meteor Blades (dailykos)
Wed May 23, 2007 at 02:11:57 PM CDT

As so often is the case, Glenn Greenwald says it best:

What does seem clear is that one of the principal factors accounting for the reluctance of Democrats to advocate de-funding is that the standard corruption that infects our political discourse has rendered the de-funding option truly radioactive. Republicans and the media have propagated -- and Democrats have frequently affirmed -- the proposition that to de-fund a war is to endanger the "troops in the field."

This unbelievably irrational, even stupid, concept has arisen and has now taken root -- that to cut off funds for the war means that, one day, our troops are going to be in the middle of a vicious fire-fight and suddenly they will run out of bullets -- or run out of gas or armor -- because Nancy Pelosi refused to pay for the things they need to protect themselves, and so they are going to find themselves in the middle of the Iraq war with no supplies and no money to pay for what they need. That is just one of those grossly distorting, idiotic myths the media allows to become immovably lodged in our political discourse and which infects our political analysis and prevents any sort of rational examination of our options.

That is why virtually all political figures run away as fast and desperately as possible from the idea of de-funding a war -- it's as though they have to strongly repudiate de-funding options because de-funding has become tantamount to "endangering our troops" (notwithstanding the fact that Congress has de-funded wars in the past and it is obviously done in coordination with the military and over a scheduled time frame so as to avoid "endangering the troops").

Glenn Greenwald - Large number of Americans favor violent attacks against civilians

Large number of Americans favor violent attacks against civilians

The hysteria over the Pew poll about American Muslims continues unabated, with the focus now on the finding that while 80% of American Muslims oppose attacks on civilians in all cases, 13% said they could be justified in some circumstances. The "discussion" illustrates some standard failings of our political discourse.

Michelle Malkin went to National Review to proclaim that the poll "should be a wake-up call, not another excuse for the mainstream media to downplay the threat of homegrown jihad." Mark Steyn said it demonstrates the existence in America of "a huge comfort zone for the jihad to operate in," and Jonah Goldberg warned how "significant" this is. On CNN last night, Anderson Cooper was horrified -- just horrified -- that "so many" American Muslims would support such violence.

The reality, though, is that it is almost impossible to conduct a poll and not have a sizable portion of the respondents agree to almost everything. And in particular, with regard to the specific question of whether it is justifiable to launch violent attacks aimed deliberately at civilians, the percentage of American Muslims who believe in such attacks pales in comparison to the percentage of Americans generally who believe that such attacks are justifiable.

The University of Maryland's highly respected Program on International Public Attitudes, in December 2006, conducted a concurrent public opinion poll of the United States and Iran to determine the comparative views of each country's citizens on a variety of questions. The full findings are published here (.pdf).

One of the questions they asked was whether "bombings and other types of attacks intentionally aimed at civilians are sometimes justified"? Americans approved of such attacks by a much larger margin than Iranians -- 48-22% (and a much, much larger margin than American Muslims -- 48-13%):

A rather substantial 24% of Americans thought that such attacks are justified "often" or "sometimes," while another 24% thought they were justified in rare cases. By stark contrast, only 11% of Iranians think such attacks are justified "often" or sometimes." Similar results were found with the series of other questions regarding violence deliberately aimed at civilians -- including women, children and the elderly. Americans believed such attacks could be justifiable to a substantially higher degree than Iranians.

As Kenneth Ballen noted in The Christian Science Monitor in February of this year, American express greater support for "attacks against civilians than any major Muslim country except for Nigeria." Make of that what you will -- and its meaning is debatable -- but those are just facts.

In general, polling data can be used to document all sorts of pernicious views held by a sizable number of respondents. One recent poll found that 15% of Americans would either outright refuse or would have reservations about voting for a black presidential candidate even if he were qualified (12% would outright refuse to vote for a Hispanic, 11% for a woman, and 14% for a Jew). A 1999 poll of Americans found that 34% answered "yes" -- 34% -- when asked: "If you honestly assessed yourself, would you say that you have at least some racist feelings?" And 18% of Americans believe that "the U.S. should use nuclear weapons even if it has not suffered a nuclear attack."

The reality of that Pew poll is that, generally and comparatively speaking, it demonstrates just how unremarkable, assimilated, peaceful and consummately American is the American Muslim population. If anything, support for violence -- including against civilians -- is notably less than it is among Americans generally. Again, those are just facts. Yet by manipulating the polling data and failing to discuss it comparatively, an impression is quickly solidifying, as intended, that there are throngs of scary and threatening jihadist Muslims -- both in our midst and around the world -- waiting to launch suicide attacks on us, and that necessitates the euphemistic Malkian "wake-up call."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Why Bush hasn't been impeached

Why Bush hasn't been impeached
Congress, the media and most of the American people have yet to turn decisively against Bush because to do so would be to turn against some part of themselves.

By Gary Kamiya

May. 22, 2007 | The Bush presidency is a lot of things. It's a secretive cabal, a cavalcade of incompetence, a blood-stained Church Militant, a bad rerun of "The Godfather" in which scary men in suits pay ominous visits to hospital rooms. But seen from the point of view of the American people, what it increasingly resembles is a bad marriage. America finds itself married to a guy who has turned out to be a complete dud. Divorce -- which in our nonparliamentary system means impeachment -- is the logical solution. But even though Bush cheated on us, lied, besmirched our family's name and spent all our money, we the people, not to mention our elected representatives and the media, seem content to stick it out to the bitter end.

There is a strange disconnect in the way Americans think about George W. Bush. He is extraordinarily unpopular. His approval ratings, which have been abysmal for about 18 months, have now sunk to their lowest ever, making him the most unpopular president in a generation. His 28 percent approval rating in a May 5 Newsweek poll ties that of Jimmy Carter in 1979 after the failed Iran rescue mission. Bush's unpopularity has emboldened congressional Democrats, who now have no qualms about attacking him directly and flatly asserting that his Iraq war is lost.

Some of them have also been willing to invoke the I-word -- joining a large number of Americans. Several polls taken in the last two years have shown that large numbers of Americans support impeachment. An Angus Reid poll taken in May 2007 found that a remarkable 39 percent of Americans favored the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. An earlier poll, framed in a more hypothetical way, found that 50 percent of Americans supported impeaching Bush if he lied about the war -- which most of that 50 percent presumably now believe he did. Vermont has gone on record in calling for his impeachment, and a number of cities, including Detroit and San Francisco, have passed impeachment resolutions. Reps. John Murtha and John Conyers and a few other politicians have floated the idea. And there is a significant grassroots movement to impeach Bush, spearheaded by organizations like After Downing Street. Even some Republicans, outraged by Bush's failure to uphold right-wing positions (his immigration policy, in particular), have begun muttering about impeachment.

Bush's unpopularity is mostly a result of Iraq, which most Americans now believe was a colossal mistake and a war we cannot win. But his problems go far beyond Iraq. His administration has been dogged by one massive scandal after the other, from the Katrina debacle, to Bush's approval of illegal wiretapping and torture, to his unparalleled use of "signing statements" to disobey laws he disagrees with, to the outrageous Gonzales and U.S. attorneys affair.

In response to these outrages, a growing literature of pro-impeachment books, from "The Case for Impeachment" by Dave Lindorff and Barbara Olshansky to "U.S. v. Bush" by Elizabeth Holtzman to "The Impeachment of George W. Bush" by Elizabeth de la Vega, argue not only that Bush's misdeeds are clearly impeachable, but also that a failure to impeach a rogue president bent on amassing unprecedented power will threaten our most cherished traditions. As Lindorff and Olshansky conclude, "If we fail to stand up for the Constitution now, it may be only a piece of paper by the end of President Bush's second term. Then it will be time to be afraid."

Yet the public's dislike of Bush has not translated into any real move to get rid of him. The impeach-Bush movement has not really taken off yet, and barring some unforeseen dramatic development, it seems unlikely that it will. Even if there were a mass popular movement to impeach Bush, it's far from clear that Congress, which alone has the power to initiate impeachment proceedings, would do anything. The Democratic congressional majority has been at best lukewarm to the idea. In any case, their constituents have not demanded it forcefully or in such numbers that politicians feel they must respond. Democrats, and for that matter Americans of all political persuasions, seem content to watch Bush slowly bleed to death.

Why? Why was Clinton, who was never as unpopular as Bush, impeached for lying about sex, while Bush faces no sanction for the far more serious offense of lying about war?

The main reason is obvious: The Democrats think it's bad politics. Bush is dying politically and taking the GOP down with him, and impeachment is risky. It could, so the cautious Beltway wisdom has it, provoke a backlash, especially while the war is still going on. Why should the Democrats gamble on hitting the political jackpot when they're likely to walk away from the table big winners anyway?

These realpolitik considerations might be sufficient by themselves to prevent Congress from impeaching Bush. Impeachment is a strange phenomenon -- a murky combination of the legal, the political and the emotional. The Constitution offers no explicit guidance on what constitutes an impeachable offense, stating only that a president can be impeached and, if convicted, removed from office for treason, bribery "or other high crimes and misdemeanors." As a result, politicians contemplating impeachment take their cues from a number of disparate factors -- not just a president's misdeeds, but a cost-benefit analysis. And Congress tends to follow the cost-benefit analysis. If you're going to kill the king, you have to make sure you succeed -- and there's just enough doubt in Democrats' minds to keep their swords sheathed.

But there's a deeper reason why the popular impeachment movement has never taken off -- and it has to do not with Bush but with the American people. Bush's warmongering spoke to something deep in our national psyche. The emotional force behind America's support for the Iraq war, the molten core of an angry, resentful patriotism, is still too hot for Congress, the media and even many Americans who oppose the war, to confront directly. It's a national myth. It's John Wayne. To impeach Bush would force us to directly confront our national core of violent self-righteousness -- come to terms with it, understand it and reject it. And we're not ready to do that.

The truth is that Bush's high crimes and misdemeanors, far from being too small, are too great. What has saved Bush is the fact that his lies were, literally, a matter of life and death. They were about war. And they were sanctified by 9/11. Bush tapped into a deep American strain of fearful, reflexive bellicosity, which Congress and the media went along with for a long time and which has remained largely unexamined to this day. Congress, the media and most of the American people have yet to turn decisively against Bush because to do so would be to turn against some part of themselves. This doesn't mean we support Bush, simply that at some dim, half-conscious level we're too confused -- not least by our own complicity -- to work up the cold, final anger we'd need to go through impeachment. We haven't done the necessary work to separate ourselves from our abusive spouse. We need therapy -- not to save this disastrous marriage, but to end it.

At first glance it seems odd that Bush's fraudulent case for war has saved him. War is the most serious action a nation can undertake, and lying to Congress and the American people about the need for war is arguably the most serious offense a public official can commit, short of treason. But the unique gravity of war surrounds it with a kind of patriotic force field. There is an ancient human deference to The Strong Man Who Will Defend Us, an atavistic surrender to authority that goes back through Milosevic, to Henry V, to Beowulf and the ring givers, and ultimately to Cro-Magnon tribesmen huddled around the campfire at the feet of the biggest, strongest warrior. Even when it is unequivocally shown that a leader lied about war, as is the case with Bush, he or she is still protected by this aura. Going to war is the best thing a rogue president can do. It's like taking refuge in a church: No one can come and get you there. There's a reason Bush kept repeating, "I'm a war president. I'm a war president." It worked, literally, like a charm.

And many of the American people shared Bush's views. A large percentage of the American people, and their elected representatives, accepted Bush's unlimited authority to do whatever he wanted in the name of "national security." And they reaffirmed this acceptance when, long after his fraudulent case for war had been exposed as such, they reelected him. Lindorff and Olshansky quote former Republican Sen. Lowell Weicker, who justifies his opposition to impeachment by saying, "Bush obviously lied to the country and the Congress about the war, but we have a system of elections in this country. Everyone knew about the lying before the 2004 elections, and they didn't do anything about it ... Bush got elected. The horse is out of the barn now."

To be sure, the war card works better under some circumstances than others. It is arguable that if there had been no 9/11, Bush's fraudulent case for war really would have resulted in his impeachment -- though this is far from certain. But 9/11 did happen, and as a result, large numbers of Americans did not just give Bush carte blanche but actively wanted him to attack someone. They were driven not by policy concerns but by primordial retribution, reflexive and self-righteous rage. And it wasn't just the masses who were calling for the United States to reach out and smash someone. Pundits like Henry Kissinger and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman also called for America to attack the Arab world. Kissinger, according to Bob Woodward's "State of Denial," said that "we need to humiliate them"; Friedman said we needed to "go right into the heart of the Arab world and smash something." As Friedman's statement indicates, who we smashed was basically unimportant. Friedman and Kissinger argued that attacking the Arab would serve as a deterrent, but that was a detail. For many Americans, who Bush attacked or the reasons he gave, didn't matter -- what mattered was that we were fighting back.

To this day, the primitive feeling that in response to 9/11 we had to hit hard at "the enemy," whoever that might be, is a sacred cow. America's deference to the shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later approach is profound: It's the gut belief that still drives Bush supporters and leads them to regard war critics as contemptible appeasers. This is why Bush endlessly repeats his mantra "We're staying on the attack."

The unpleasant truth is that Bush did what a lot of Americans wanted him to. And when it became clear after the fact that Bush had lied about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, it made no sense for those Americans to turn on him. Truth was never their major concern anyway -- revenge was. And if we took revenge on the wrong person, well, better a misplaced revenge than none at all.

For those who did not completely succumb to the desire for primitive vengeance but were convinced by Bush's fraudulent arguments about the threat posed by Saddam, the situation is more ambiguous. Now that his arguments have been exposed and the war has become a disaster, they feel let down, even betrayed -- but not enough to motivate them to call for Bush's impeachment. This is because they cannot exorcise the still-mainstream view that Bush's lies were justifiable and even noble, Straussian untruths told in support of what Bush believed to be a good cause. According to this line of thinking, since Bush and his neocon brain trust really believed that Saddam Hussein was a dangerous tyrant, the lies they told in whipping up support for war were, while reprehensible, somewhat forgivable.

In Elizabeth de la Vega's book on impeachment, framed as a fictitious indictment of Bush for conspiring to defraud the United States, she argues that from a legal standpoint it doesn't matter that Bush may have believed his lies were in the service of a higher good -- he's still guilty of fraud. In a brilliant stroke, de la Vega compares the Bush administration's lies to those told by Enron executives -- who were, of course, rightfully convicted.

The problem is that the American people are not judging Bush by the standards of law. The Bush years have further weakened America's once-proud status as a nation of laws, not of men. The law, for Bush, is like language for Humpty Dumpty: it means just what he chooses it to mean, neither more nor less. This attitude has become disturbingly widespread -- which may explain why Bush's illegal wiretapping, his approval of torture, and his administration's partisan purge of U.S. district attorneys have not resulted in wider outrage.

This society-wide diminution of respect for law has helped Bush immeasurably. It is not just the law that America has turned away from, but what the law stands for -- accountability, memory, history and logic itself. That anonymous senior Bush advisor who spoke with surreal condescension of "the reality-based community" may have summed up our cultural moment more acutely than anyone else in years. A society without memory, driven by ephemeral emotions, which demands no consistency from its leaders but only gusty patriotism, is a society that is not about to engage in the painful self-examination that impeachment would mean.

A corollary to the decline of logic is our acceptance of the universality of spin. It no longer seems odd to us that a president should lie to get what he wants. In this regard, Bush, the most sanctimonious of presidents, must be seen as having degraded traditional American values more than the most relativist, Nietzsche-spouting postmodernist.

All of these factors -- the sacrosanct status of war, the public's complicity in an irrational demonstration of raw power, the loss of respect for law, logic and memory, the bland acceptance of spin and lies, the public unconcern about the fraudulence of Bush's actions -- have created a situation in which it is widely accepted that Bush's lies about Iraq were not impeachable or even that scandalous, but merely a matter of policy. Just as conservatives lamely charged that the Scooter Libby case represented the "criminalization of politics," so the conventional wisdom holds that distorting evidence to justify a war may be slightly reprehensible, but is not worth making much of a fuss about, and is certainly not impeachable.

The establishment media, which has tended to treat impeachment talk as if it were the unseemly rantings of half-crazed hordes, has clearly bought this paradigm. In this view, those who want to impeach Bush, or who are simply vehemently critical of him, are partisan extremists outside the mainstream of American discourse. This decorous approach has begun to weaken. A recent U.S. News and World Report cover read, "Bush's last stand: He's plagued by a hostile Congress, sinking polls, and an unending war. Is he resolute or delusional?" When centrist newsweeklies begin using words drawn from psychiatric manuals, it may be time for Karl Rove to get worried. But it takes time to turn the Titanic. The years of deference to the War Leader cannot be overcome that quickly.

For all these reasons, impeachment, however justified or salutary it would be -- and I believe it would be both justified and salutary -- remains a long shot. Bush will probably escape the fate of Andrew Johnson and the disgrace of Richard Nixon. But he's not home free yet. The culture of spin is also the culture of spectacle, and a sudden, theatrical event -- a lurid accusation made by a former official, a colorful revelation of a very specific and memorable Bush lie -- could start the scandal machine going full speed. Even the war card cannot be played indefinitely. If Bush were to withdraw the troops from Iraq, and the full dimensions of America's defeat were to become apparent, all of his war-president potency would backfire and he would be in much greater danger of being impeached. Congress and the media both gain courage as the polls sink, and if Bush's numbers continue to hit historic lows, they will turn on him with increasing savagery. If everything happens just so, the downfall of the House of Bush could be shocking in its swiftness.

New Documents Confirm Gonzales Lied To Senator About Plan To Install Rove Protege As U.S. Attorney

New Documents Confirm Gonzales Lied To Senator About Plan To Install Rove Protege As U.S. Attorney

On Dec. 15, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) had their second phone conversation regarding the appointment of Karl Rove-protege Tim Griffin as the new U.S. attorney in Arkansas. In April 19 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales said that when Pryor objected to Griffin’s appointment, Gonzales promised to find a different candidate:

But I had told Senator Pryor: I wanted Mr. Griffin in for a period of time. Let’s see how he does.

And then in subsequent conversation with Mr. Pryor, I asked him: Can you support Mr. Griffin as the nominee?

And you know, he made it clear to me that he would not support him, by not giving me a yes answer, and so I said: Well, then I cannot recommend him to the White House, because if you don’t support him, I know he will not be confirmed. We’ll look for someone else, and give me names that we ought to consider.

Yet a newly released Feb. 8 e-mail by Assistant Attorney General William Moschella shows that Gonzales made the decision to appoint Griffin “on or about December 15, 2006, after the second of the Attorney General’s telephone conversations with Sen. Pryor”:

Therefore, despite assuring Pryor that he would “look for someone else,” Gonzales went ahead and appointed Griffin anyway. Additionally, four days after the meeting between Gonzales and Pryor, Sampson sent out an e-mail recommending that they “gum this [Griffin’s nomination] to death.” Sampson told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Gonzales did not object to this plan at the time.

Griffin continues to serve indefinitely as an “interim” U.S. attorney, even though the traditional 120-day term limit for interim prosecutors expired on April 20.

Bush could double force by Christmas

Bush could double force by Christmas

Stewart M. Powell, Hearst Newspapers

Tuesday, May 22, 2007
U.S. Troops in Iraq. Associated Press and Chronicle Graphic

(05-22) 04:00 PDT Washington -- The Bush administration is quietly on track to nearly double the number of combat troops in Iraq this year, an analysis of Pentagon deployment orders showed Monday.

The little-noticed second surge, designed to reinforce U.S. troops in Iraq, is being executed by sending more combat brigades and extending tours of duty for troops already there.

The actions could boost the number of combat soldiers from 52,500 in early January to as many as 98,000 by the end of this year if the Pentagon overlaps arriving and departing combat brigades.

Separately, when additional support troops are included in this second troop increase, the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq could increase from 162,000 now to more than 200,000 -- a record-high number -- by the end of the year.

The numbers were arrived at by an analysis of deployment orders by Hearst Newspapers.

"It doesn't surprise me that they're not talking about it," said retired Army Maj. Gen. William Nash, a former U.S. commander of NATO troops in Bosnia, referring to the Bush administration. "I think they would be very happy not to have any more attention paid to this."

The first surge was prominently announced by President Bush in a nationally televised address on Jan. 10, when he ordered five more combat brigades to join 15 brigades already in Iraq.

The buildup was designed to give commanders the 20 combat brigades Pentagon planners said were needed to provide security in Baghdad and western Anbar province.

Since then, the Pentagon has extended combat tours for units in Iraq from 12 months to 15 months and announced the deployment of additional brigades.

Taken together, the steps could put elements of as many as 28 combat brigades in Iraq by Christmas, according the deployment orders examined by Hearst Newspapers.

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Carl S. Ey said there was no effort by the Army to carry out "a secret surge" beyond the 20 combat brigades ordered by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

"There isn't a second surge going on; we've got what we've got," Ey said. "The idea that there are ever going to be more combat brigades in theater in the future than the secretary of defense has authorized is pure speculation."

Ey attributed the increase in troops to "temporary increases that typically occur during the crossover period" as arriving combat brigades move into position to replace departing combat brigades.

He said that only elements of the eight additional combat brigades beyond the 20 already authorized would actually be in Iraq in December.

The U.S. Joint Forces Command, based in Norfolk, Va., that tracks combat forces heading to and returning from Iraq, declined to discuss unit-by-unit deployments.

"Due to operational security, we cannot confirm or discuss military unit movements or schedules," Navy Lt. Jereal Dorsey said in an e-mail.

The Pentagon has repeatedly extended unit tours in Iraq during the past four years to achieve temporary increases in combat power. For example, three combat brigades were extended up to three months in November 2004 to boost the number of U.S. troops from 138,000 to 150,000 before, during and after the Jan. 30, 2005, Iraqi national elections.

Lawrence Korb, an assistant defense secretary for manpower during the Reagan administration, said the Pentagon deployment schedule enables the Bush administration to achieve quick increases in combat forces in the future by delaying units' scheduled departures from Iraq and overlapping them with arriving replacement forces.

"The administration is giving itself the capability to increase the number of troops in Iraq," Korb said. "It remains to be seen whether they actually choose to do that."

Nash said the capability could reflect an effort by the Bush administration to "get the number of troops into Iraq that we've needed there all along."

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Peace Weenies Were Right

The Peace Weenies Were Right
By Dean Baker
t r u t h o u t | Columnist

Monday 21 May 2007

Last week I was struck to see a well-respected centrist foreign policy analyst discuss President Bush's "surge" as a serious policy for bringing stability to Iraq. This sight was striking, because at this point it is very difficult to imagine the surge as a serious policy. It seems evident that the surge is a desperate gambit by a president who does not want to acknowledge the failure of his invasion, and instead is willing to see the deaths of thousands more US soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

The analyst's comments were disturbing because they seemed to be yet another example of an expert bending an analysis to accommodate political power. If the surge is a ridiculous military strategy, then it should not cease to become ridiculous just because the president of the United States has implemented it.

Of course, this is exactly the story of the Iraq war. Before the war, it was possible to know that there was no serious evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or involvement with the September 11 attacks. It was also possible to know that an invasion and occupation of Iraq would be a disaster for the United States and Iraq. But our foreign policy experts generally treated President Bush's allegations and war plans as completely reasonable.

If you wanted to hear serious discussion of these issues, you would have had to turn to the "peace weenies" (the term that serious Washington types apply to people who protest wars). The peace weenies may not have been foreign policy experts, but they were smart enough to recognize a politician who was not telling the truth. Perhaps the most disturbing part of this story is that even after we all know that the invasion was a disaster and the tales of WMDs were lies, the "experts" are still bending their analysis to accommodate those in power, and the media are still largely ignoring the dissenting voices.

Unfortunately, the Iraq war is not the only example of experts bending their analysis to suit those in power. This is the standard methodology of modern economics.

For example, when President Bush wanted to privatize Social Security, his economists used projections that assumed that stock prices would continue to soar for decades, even as they projected that the economy - and corporate profits - would stagnate. While the inconsistency of these assumptions could be shown with simple arithmetic, even most critics of Social Security privatization were too polite to point out that President Bush's numbers didn't add up.

Until the mid-nineties, mainstream economists held it as an absolute article of faith that the unemployment rate could not fall below six percent without triggering explosive inflation. Because of his quirky background, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan chose to ignore the consensus view, and pursued an interest rate policy that allowed the unemployment rate to fall to four percent. As a result, millions of additional workers were able to get jobs, and there was the first period of broadly based wage growth in a quarter century. And there was no inflationary spike. Yet, there was no serious effort to re-examine the consensus view in economics that had said such prosperity was impossible.

As yet another example, economists tell the public that the upward redistribution of wage income of the last quarter-century was simply the result of changes in technology that favor more educated workers. This argument means that the upward redistribution is a sort of natural phenomenon. According to the mainstream of the economics profession, it has nothing to do with trade and immigration policies that are designed to put less- educated workers in competition with people in the developing world, or [with] anti-union policies that undermine the ability of workers to bargain collectively.

More recent wage data show that even college-educated workers are not benefiting in the new economy. Only workers with advanced degrees are still experiencing wage gains. This hasn't caused the economists to re-examine their claim that technology explains income inequality - they now just claim a further technological shift, so that only workers with advanced degrees are favored by technology.

Based on these examples, some people might reasonably believe that the mainstream of the economics profession bends its analysis to benefit the powerful. It would be great if there were some mechanism for holding experts accountable in the same way that most workers are held accountable for their performance. Unfortunately, being consistently wrong doesn't seem to damage a person's stature as an expert.

This is a serious problem. If those who are supposed to give impartial analysis routinely bend their views to favor those in power, then their expertise is not very valuable.

There is no simple solution to this problem. We will have to find mechanisms that hold experts more accountable. To paraphrase an old left-wing slogan, "better right than expert."

Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer ( He also has a blog, "Beat the Press," where he discusses the media's coverage of economic issues. You can find it at the American Prospect's web site.

Scientists report rise in levels of carbon dioxide

Scientists report rise in levels of carbon dioxide

By Robert S. Boyd
McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON - Instead of slowing down, worldwide carbon-dioxide levels have taken a sudden and alarming jump since the year 2000, an international team of scientists reported Monday.

CO2 emissions from fossil fuels - mostly coal, oil and gas - are increasing at three times the rate experienced in the 1990s, they said.

The rapid acceleration could make the battle against global warming even more difficult than it already appears.

Instead of rising by 1.1 percent a year, as in the previous decade, emissions grew by an average of 3.1 percent a year from 2000 to 2004, the latest year for which global figures are available, the scientists reported in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Despite the scientific consensus that carbon emissions are affecting the world's climate, we are not seeing evidence of progress in managing those emissions," said Chris Field, director of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology in Stanford, Calif., a co-author of the report.

"In many parts of the world, we are going backward," Field said. "The trends relating energy to economy growth are definitely headed in the wrong direction."

The spurt in the CO2 emission rate is especially worrisome because it marks a reversal of a long-term trend toward greater energy efficiency and away from carbon-based fuels, the report's authors said.

Molecules of heat-trapping carbon dioxide - the leading "greenhouse" gas - make up about 380 parts per million of the particles in the atmosphere. If emissions continue to increase at the rate of 3.1 percent a year, CO2 concentration would rise to 560 parts per million in 2050 and soar to 1,390 parts per million in 2100, according to Michael Raupach, an atmospheric scientist at the Center for Marine and Atmospheric Research in Canberra, Australia.

"A CO2 future like this would spell major climate-change disaster in the latter part of the 21st century," Raupach said in an e-mail message.

"This study is a signal that global action is urgently needed to reverse the adverse trends, or the challenges of responding to climate change will be more difficult," Carnegie Institution President Richard Meserve said.

The CO2 acceleration is happening fastest in China and other developing areas. It's increasing more slowly in the advanced economies of the United States, Europe and Japan, the report said.

"The emissions growth rate in the U.S. has remained nearly steady for the last 20 years, at a little under 1 percent a year," Raupach said. "The growth rate in Europe has averaged less than half that in the U.S. over those 20 years, but it has increased a little in the last five years."

Last week the National Academy of Sciences joined 12 similar bodies from around the world - including Europe, China and Russia - in urging cooperation in reducing carbon usage.

To meet the threat, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences report recommends greater efficiency in transportation and power production and more use of low-carbon or no-carbon energy sources, such as solar, wind and nuclear power.

Getting in Deeper...

Getting in Deeper...
Another week reveals more lapses in judgment by the Bush team
By Chitra Ragavan
Posted 5/20/07

For months, congressional Democrats have tried to force embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales out of his job by using what one congressional source called "conventional weapons"-incriminating E-mails, damaging memorandums, and other documents related to the controversial firings of nine U.S. attorneys. And for months, against the unwavering support of President George W. Bush, they have failed. But last week, the committee investigating the firings detonated what the same source called a "thermonuclear device." And in doing so, they have put Gonzales's future in serious doubt.

James Comey testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee

Bedside drama. The bomb in question is James Comey, a highly regarded former deputy attorney general who dramatically described Gonzales's dark role in reauthorizing the National Security Agency's secret wiretap program. In riveting congressional testimony last week, Comey disclosed that in March 2004, when then Attorney General John Ashcroft lay deathly ill in a hospital bed, Gonzales-then White House counsel-and former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card went to the hospital to persuade the ailing Ashcroft to sign off on the program. Comey, serving as acting AG, had refused to sign a presidential order reauthorizing the wiretapping program because he questioned its legality. Alerted to the others' visit, Comey raced to the hospital himself, getting there with just minutes to spare. "I remember waiting; it wasn't long, but it felt like forever," Comey told U.S. News in an exclusive interview. "And I was thinking, 'What am I going to do? What if they get him to sign something? Do I intervene physically? What do I do?'"

Ashcroft, although barely conscious, found the strength to support him, Comey testified. But Bush continued the program without any certification. So Comey said he, Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and senior Justice staffers all prepared to resign, prompting Bush to back Comey's demand for changes to the program. "If the thinking in the administration was that Gonzales can ride it out," says Steven Dettelbach, a former federal prosecutor and former Democratic staffer on the Senate Judiciary Committee, "this is Exhibit A that it could get worse."

Indeed, congressional sources tell U.S. News that Democrats will ask the Texas Bar Association to determine whether Gonzales violated his code of professional responsibility or broke laws by bringing up the NSA program in the hospital in front of Ashcroft's wife, who lacks security clearances. "I am not going to speculate on discussions that may or may not have taken place," Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd responded, "much less attempt to render a legal judgment on any such discussions."

What makes the latest testimony so compelling is that it comes from Comey, a former mob and white-collar-crime prosecutor with impeccable credentials and unimpeachable credibility. Not insignificantly, he is also a Republican and a Bush appointee. "He's got very significant conservative stripes," says Caroline Fredrickson of the American Civil Liberties Union. "The fact that he was so concerned about the legality of the NSA program should send a message to Congress."

Bulldog. This is hardly the first time that Comey, now senior vice president and general counsel of Lockheed Martin, has taken on the White House. He has repeatedly disputed Gonzales's assertions that the fired U.S. attorneys had performance problems. In 2003, he named a close friend, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, as a special counsel to investigate the CIA-Valerie Plame leak affair-a case that resulted in the conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby. And in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Comey challenged Cheney on what he and his advisers believed was the shaky legality of memorandums that authorized aggressive interrogations and other "war on terror" policies.

Such actions have made Comey something of a bete noire in the Bush administration-even though Comey believes that Bush respected him and wanted him to do the right thing. Indeed, now some Democrats, including Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, say they will even back Comey for attorney general if Gonzales resigns. "The only thing worse than being vilified by the left," says Comey with a laugh, "is being idolized by the left."

Likable and 6 foot 8, the 46-year-old Comey invariably invites comparisons to James Stewart in his portrayal of an idealistic congressman in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. A graduate of William and Mary and the University of Chicago law school, Comey was beloved by prosecutors for his legal acumen and his easy management style, which he describes as obtaining results by eliciting equal parts affection and guilt. He continually urged prosecutors to protect their integrity, the credibility that the court instantly conferred on them, he says, simply by virtue of their office. Comey has likened that goodwill to a vast reservoir: It takes enormous time and effort to fill, but it can be irreparably damaged with just "one hole in the dam."

Comey told U.S. News he was prepared to testify about the Ashcroft incident for more than three years but never did. Why? "Nobody ever asked," he said. "I've never been in a forum where I was obligated to answer the question. Short of that, it was not something I was going to volunteer."

His actions at the hospital, he testified, earned him Card's wrath. Soon after Gonzales became attorney general, his then chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, told Comey that Gonzales's "vision" was to merge the deputy's office with Gonzales's own office. That meant that Comey would have lost some of his autonomy, becoming less of a leader and more of a senior staff member. A source close to Sampson says he merely wanted Gonzales and Comey to operate as a "seamless leadership team," with "harmony rather than conflict," and never meant to "degrade the status or authority" of the deputy. Comey didn't buy it. "You may want to try that with the next deputy attorney general," Comey is said to have responded to Sampson. "But it's not going to work with me."

This story appears in the May 28, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.

Smithsonian accused of altering exhibit

Smithsonian accused of altering exhibit

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Smithsonian Institution toned down an exhibit on climate change in the Arctic for fear of angering Congress and the Bush administration, says a former administrator at the museum.

Among other things, the script, or official text, of last year's exhibit was rewritten to minimize and inject more uncertainty into the relationship between global warming and humans, said Robert Sullivan, who was associate director in charge of exhibitions at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

Also, officials omitted scientists' interpretation of some research and let visitors draw their own conclusions from the data, he said. In addition, graphs were altered "to show that global warming could go either way," Sullivan said.

"It just became tooth-pulling to get solid science out without toning it down," said Sullivan, who resigned last fall after 16 years at the museum. He said he left after higher-ups tried to reassign him.

Smithsonian officials denied that political concerns influenced the exhibit, saying the changes were made for reasons of objectivity. And some scientists who consulted on the project said nothing major was omitted.

Sullivan said that to his knowledge, no one in the Bush administration pressured the Smithsonian, whose $1.1 billion budget is mostly taxpayer-funded.

Rather, he said, Smithsonian leaders acted on their own. "The obsession with getting the next allocation and appropriation was so intense that anything that might upset the Congress or the White House was being looked at very carefully," he said.

White House spokeswoman Kristen Hellmer said Monday: "The White House had no role in this exhibit."

In recent months, the White House has been accused of trying to muzzle scientists researching global warming at NASA and other agencies.

The exhibit, "Arctic: A Friend Acting Strangely," based partly on a report by federal scientists, opened in April 2006 - six months late, because of the Smithsonian's review - and closed in November, but its content remains available online. Among other things, it highlighted the Arctic's shrinking ice and snow and concerns about the effect on people and wildlife.

This is not the first time the Smithsonian has been accused of taking politics into consideration.

The congressionally chartered institution scaled down a 1995 exhibit of the restored Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, after veterans complained it focused too much on the damage and deaths. Amid the oil-drilling debate in 2003, a photo exhibit of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was moved to a less prominent space.

Sullivan said the changes in the climate-change exhibit were requested by executives who included then-museum Director Cristian Samper and his boss, former Undersecretary for Science David Evans. He said several scientists whose work was used in the exhibit objected to the changes.

Samper, now acting Smithsonian secretary, said he was not aware of scientists' objections, and he emphasized there was no political pressure to change the script. "Our role as a museum is to present the facts but not advocate a particular point of view," Samper said in an e-mail.

Evans refused to comment.

Randall Kremer, a spokesman for the natural history museum, said atmospheric science was outside the Smithsonian's expertise, so the museum avoided the issue of what is causing the Arctic changes.

Many leading scientists have come to believe that human activity is contributing to warming of the planet.

"I see it in some ways as similar to the sort-of debate that has taken place with regard to the science of evolution," said Professor Michael Mann, director of Pennsylvania State University's Earth System Science Center. "Just as I would hope that the Smithsonian would stand firmly behind the science of evolution, it would also be my hope that they would stand firmly behind the science that supports influence on climate. Politically, they may be controversial, but scientifically they are not."

Some curators and scientists involved in the project said they believed nothing important was omitted. But they also said it was apparent that science was not the only concern.

"I remember them telling me there was an attempt to make sure there was nothing in there that would be upsetting to any politicians," said John Calder, a lead climate scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who consulted on the project. "They're not stupid. They don't want to upset the people who pay them."

One consultant, University of Maryland scientist Louis Codispoti, said he would have been less cautious. "I've been going to the Arctic since 1963, and I find some of the changes alarming," he said.

Why This Scandal Matters

Why This Scandal Matters
The New York Times | Editorial

Monday 21 May 2007

As Monica Goodling, a key player in the United States attorney scandal, prepares to testify before Congress on Wednesday, the administration's strategy is clear. It has offered up implausible excuses, hidden the most damaging evidence and feigned memory lapses, while hoping that the public's attention moves on. But this scandal is too important for the public or Congress to move on. This story should not end until Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is gone, and the serious damage that has been done to the Justice Department is repaired.

The Justice Department is no ordinary agency. Its 93 United States attorney offices, scattered across the country, prosecute federal crimes ranging from public corruption to terrorism. These prosecutors have enormous power: they can wiretap people's homes, seize property and put people in jail for life. They can destroy businesses, and affect the outcomes of elections. It has always been understood that although they are appointed by a president, usually from his own party, once in office they must operate in a nonpartisan way, and be insulated from outside pressures.

This understanding has badly broken down. It is now clear that United States attorneys were pressured to act in the interests of the Republican Party, and lost their job if they failed to do so. The firing offenses of the nine prosecutors who were purged last year were that they would not indict Democrats, they investigated important Republicans, or they would not try to suppress the votes of Democratic-leaning groups with baseless election fraud cases.

The degree of partisanship in the department is shocking. A study by two professors, Donald Shields of the University of Missouri at St. Louis and John Cragan of Illinois State University, found that the Bush Justice Department has investigated Democratic officeholders and office seekers about four times as often as Republican ones.

It is hard not to see the fingerprints of Karl Rove. A disproportionate number of the prosecutors pushed out, or considered for dismissal, were in swing states. The main reason for the purge - apart from hobbling a California investigation that has already put one Republican congressman in jail - appears to have been an attempt to tip states like Missouri and Washington to Republican candidates for House, Senate, governor and president.

Justice Department headquarters has become deeply partisan. Young operatives like Ms. Goodling were apparently allowed to hire and promote based on party membership. Political appointees cleared the way for laws designed to disenfranchise minority voters, and brought litigation to remove Democratic-leaning voters from the rolls.

The department's integrity lies in tatters. As a result of the purge, Tim Griffin, a Republican operative and Karl Rove protégé, was installed as the top federal prosecutor in eastern Arkansas. Rachel Paulose, a 33-year-old Republican activist with thin prosecutorial experience, was assigned to Minnesota. If either indicted a prominent Democrat tomorrow, everyone would believe it was a political hit.

Congress has to save the Justice Department, something President Bush shows no interest in doing. It should pass a resolution of "no confidence" in Mr. Gonzales, and push for his removal. But it also needs to insist on new leadership that will restore the department's traditions of professionalism and impartiality, and re-establish that in the United States, the legal system does not work to advance the interests of a political party.

The Fraudulent Fraud Squad

The Fraudulent Fraud Squad
The incredible, disappearing American Center for Voting Rights.
By Richard L. Hasen
Posted Friday, May 18, 2007, at 1:41 PM ET

Imagine the National Rifle Association's Web site suddenly disappeared, along with all the data and reports the group had ever posted on gun issues. Imagine Planned Parenthood inexplicably closed its doors one day, without comment from its former leaders. The scenarios are unthinkable, given how established these organizations have become. But even if something did happen to the NRA or Planned Parenthood, no doubt other gun or abortion groups would quickly fill the vacuum and push the ideas they'd pushed for years.

Not so for the American Center for Voting Rights, a group that has literally just disappeared as an organization, and for which it seems no replacement group will rise up. With no notice and little comment, ACVR—the only prominent nongovernmental organization claiming that voter fraud is a major problem, a problem warranting strict rules such as voter-ID laws—simply stopped appearing at government panels and conferences. Its Web domain name has suddenly expired, its reports are all gone (except where they have been preserved by its opponents), and its general counsel, Mark "Thor" Hearne, has cleansed his résumé of affiliation with the group. Hearne won't speak to the press about ACVR's demise. No other group has taken up the "voter fraud" mantra.

The death of ACVR says a lot about the Republican strategy of raising voter fraud as a crisis in American elections. Presidential adviser Karl Rove and his allies, who have been ghostbusting illusory dead and fictional voters since the contested 2000 election, apparently mounted a two-pronged attack. One part of that attack, at the heart of the current Justice Department scandals, involved getting the DoJ and various U.S. attorneys in battleground states to vigorously prosecute cases of voter fraud. That prong has failed. After exhaustive effort, the Department of Justice discovered virtually no polling-place voter fraud, and its efforts to fire the U.S. attorneys in battleground states who did not push the voter-fraud line enough has backfired. Even if Attorney General Gonzales declines to resign his position, his reputation has been irreparably damaged.

But the second prong of this attack may have proven more successful. This involved using ACVR to give "think tank" academic cachet to the unproven idea that voter fraud is a major problem in elections. That cachet would be used to support the passage of onerous voter-identification laws that depress turnout among the poor, minorities, and the elderly—groups more likely to vote Democratic. Where the Bush administration may have failed to nail illegal voters, the effort to suppress minority voting has borne more fruit, as more states pass these laws, and courts begin to uphold them in the name of beating back waves of largely imaginary voter fraud.

Perhaps even with the demise of ACVR, the hard work—of giving credibility to a nonproblem—is done. The short organizational history of ACVR, chronicled indefatigably by Brad Friedman of the Brad Blog, shows that the group was founded just days before its representatives testified before a congressional committee hearing on election-administration issues chaired by then-Rep. (and now federal inmate) Bob Ney. The group was headed by Hearne, national election counsel to Bush-Cheney '04, and staffed with other Republican operatives, including Jim Dyke, a former RNC communications director.

Consisting of little more than a post-office box and some staffers who wrote reports and gave helpful quotes about the pervasive problems of voter fraud to the press, the group identified Democratic cities as hot spots for voter fraud, then pushed the line that "election integrity" required making it harder for people to vote. The group issued reports (PDF) on areas in the country of special concern, areas that coincidentally tended to be presidential battleground states. In many of these places, it now appears the White House was pressuring U.S. attorneys to bring more voter-fraud prosecutions.

ACVR's method of argument followed a familiar line, first set out by Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund in his book, Stealing Elections. First, ACVR argued extensively by anecdote, pointing to instances of illegal conduct, such as someone, somewhere registering Mary Poppins to vote. Anecdote would then be coupled with statistics showing problems with voter rolls not being purged to remove voters who had died or moved, leaving open the potential for fraudulent voting at the polls. Finally, the group would claim that the amount of such voter fraud is hard to quantify, because it is after all illegal conduct, hidden from the public. Given this great potential for mischief, and without evidence of actual mischief, allegedly reasonable initiatives such as purging voter rolls and requiring ID seemed the natural solution.

At least in hindsight, the ACVR line of argument is easily deconstructed. First, arguing by anecdote is dangerous business. A new report (PDF) by Lorraine Minnite of Columbia University looks at these anecdotes and shows them to be, for the most part, wholly spurious. Almost always the allegations were followed by charges being dropped or allegations being unproven (and sometimes raised for apparently political purposes). Sure, one can find a rare case of someone voting in two jurisdictions, but nothing extensive or systematic has been unearthed or documented.

Second, there's no question that there's a fair amount of registration fraud in this country, an artifact of the ability in many states to pay bounty hunters by the head for each new registrant. Some unscrupulous people being paid $3 to $5 for each card turned in will falsify registration information, registering pets or dead people or comic-book characters—none of whom will show up to vote on Election Day (with or without an ID). (I, for one, would turn the whole business of voter registration over to the government and couple a universal voter-registration program with a national voter-ID card paid for by the government—but that's another story.)

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the idea of massive polling-place fraud (through the use of inflated voter rolls) is inherently incredible. Suppose I want to swing the Missouri election for my preferred presidential candidate. I would have to figure out who the fake, dead, or missing people on the registration rolls are, and then pay a lot of other individuals to go to the polling place and claim to be Mary Poppins or Old Dead Bob, without any return guarantee—thanks to the secret ballot—that any of them will cast a vote for my preferred candidate. Those who do show up at the polls run the risk of being detected ("You're not my neighbor Bob who passed away last year!") and charged with a felony. And for what—$10? As someone who's thought about this a lot, if I really wanted to buy votes in an enforceable and safe way, I'd find eligible voters who would allow me to watch as they cast their absentee ballots for the candidate of my choice. Then, I would pay them. (Notably, ACVR and supporters of voter-ID laws have generally supported exemptions from ID requirements for voters who use absentee ballots.) Or, I might find an election official to change the votes. Polling-place fraud, in short, makes no sense.

Finally, on the issue of lack of detection: State and local officials have uncovered a fair amount of the absentee-ballot vote-buying I've just described, even though that behavior, too, is illegal and likely hidden from public view. The DoJ devoted unprecedented resources to ferreting out polling-place fraud over five years and appears to have found not a single prosecutable case across the country. The major bipartisan draft fraud report (PDF) (recently posted by Slate and suppressed by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission [TimesSelect subscription required]) concluded that there is very little polling-place fraud in the United States. Of the many experts the commission consulted, the only dissenter from that position was a representative of the now-evaporated ACVR.

Perhaps it is not surprising that ACVR has collapsed as an organization. In what appears to be one of Hearne's last public appearances (where he identifies himself [PDF] as having served—note past tense—as counsel to ACVR) before the EAC in December of 2006, Hearne offered the usual arguments. In support of his position that voter-ID laws did not unconstitutionally suppress the votes of poor and minority voters, Hearne cited the decision of the DoJ to approve the pre-clearance of Georgia's voter-ID law, and a law review article supporting such laws, written under the pseudonym Publius. Hearne didn't reveal that the decision on Georgia was made by political appointees of the DoJ over the strong objections of career attorneys there who believed the law was indeed discriminatory. Nor did he explain that (as I discovered and blogged about a few years earlier) Publius was none other than Hans von Spakovsky, then serving as one of the political DoJ officials who approved the Georgia voter-ID law. (President Bush later gave von Spakovsky a recess appointment to the Federal Election Commission.)

The arguments against vote fraud were built on a house of cards, a house that is collapsing as quickly as the U.S. attorney investigation moves forward.

So Hearne let the organization collapse, and in a bit of irony, a Washington lawyer who bought the ACVR domain name has set it to redirect to the Brennan Center's Truth About Fraud Web site, which debunks ACVR's claims of polling-place voter fraud. But despite the collapse of ACVR, the idea that there is massive polling-place voter fraud has, perhaps irrevocably, entered the public consciousness. It has infected even the Supreme Court's thinking about voter-ID laws. And it has provided intellectual cover for the continued partisan pursuit of voter-ID laws that may suppress minority votes. Just this week, Republican members of the Texas state Senate are trying to push through a voter-ID law over a threatened Democratic filibuster. Their political machinations have already required a Democratic state senator recovering from a liver transplant to show up to vote—and they almost passed the bill when another Democratic senator came down with the stomach flu.

Texas legislators should be ashamed. All of this effort to enact a law that would stop a nonexistent problem. If only there were a way to ensure that spurious claims of polling-place voter fraud could have disappeared with ACVR.
Richard L. Hasen, the William H. Hannon distinguished professor at Loyola Law School, writes the Election Law Blog.

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McKay suggests cover-up in prosecutor case

McKay suggests cover-up in prosecutor case
Published May 20, 2007
Sean Cockerham

WENATCHEE — Fired U.S. Attorney John McKay said Sunday he believes the Justice Department is covering up the real reason for his ouster.

“I can see why they would want to come up with an explanation other than the governor’s election for why I would be on such a list,” said McKay, the U.S. attorney for Western Washington until his firing in December.

McKay pointed to the revelation that he first appeared on the Bush administration firing list in 2005 during the heat of the furor over Washington state’s election for governor. Some Republicans were appalled that McKay didn’t bring charges of election fraud in the race won by Democrat Chris Gregoire.

“I still don’t know if the 2004 governor’s election was the principal reason I was asked to step down,” McKay said in a speech at the Mainstream Republicans of Washington’s Cascade Conference in Wenatchee.

“If it was, I think it is an entirely improper and perhaps illegal reason for my termination,” said McKay.

McKay said he led a federal investigation that found no evidence of a crime in the election. He made clear he still has huge concerns over the controversial election that resulted in a Gregoire victory on the second recount by just 133 votes out of almost 3 million cast.

“There is no doubt in my mind there were a lot of stinky, nasty things about that election,” McKay said in an interview.

But prosecuting a federal crime requires proof of more than just mistakes and incompetence in the handling of ballots, he said.

One of nine

McKay, a Republican appointed by President Bush, oversaw justice department offices in Tacoma and Seattle for five years. That’s before he was one of nine U.S. attorneys nationwide to lose their jobs in what has become a huge controversy for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

McKay’s Sunday speech at the Mainstream Republicans of Washington conference was his first appearance before a political group since he was fired. He sounded like a candidate at times, talking about the values of being a Republican and saying he wants to be involved somehow in politics.

But he denied speculation he’s planning a run for office.

He said he hopes Dino Rossi, the Republican who lost to Gregoire, will run again in 2008.

McKay said he would support Rossi.

The Justice Department has offered a shifting set of explanations for McKay’s firing. Gonzales first said it was because of comments McKay made to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer about budget cuts and because of how McKay pursued an information-sharing project. But both of those happened after he was put on the firing list in March 2005.

Kyle Sampson, Gonzales’ chief of staff, has raised the possibility that McKay made the list for pushing too hard for additional resources to investigate the Seattle murder of Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Wales.

Sampson kept the list of prosecutors to be fired.

McKay said Sunday that would be a “despicable” reason if that’s actually why he was fired.

“I frankly don’t believe it,” he told the state mainstream Republican group. “I think they are trying to cover something up.”

Gonzales has acknowledged he was aware of a “great deal of concern” from Washington state Republicans over how McKay handled fraud allegations in the 2004 governor’s race. The attorney general told Congress earlier this month that he doesn’t know if that’s a reason McKay made the list.

“I never expected to have to look over my shoulder politically to see if many people back there wanted more voter fraud cases and I was missing the opportunity,” McKay said.

There are at least seven states where it appears that U.S. attorneys were fired or considered for firing as Republicans in those states urged investigations or prosecutions of possible Democratic voter fraud, McClatchy Newspapers has reported.

Paul Krugman - Fear of Eating

Fear of Eating


Yesterday I did something risky: I ate a salad.

These are anxious days at the lunch table. For all you know, there may be E. coli on your spinach, salmonella in your peanut butter and melamine in your pet’s food and, because it was in the feed, in your chicken sandwich.

Who’s responsible for the new fear of eating? Some blame globalization; some blame food-producing corporations; some blame the Bush administration. But I blame Milton Friedman.

Now, those who blame globalization do have a point. U.S. officials can’t inspect overseas food-processing plants without the permission of foreign governments — and since the Food and Drug Administration has limited funds and manpower, it can inspect only a small percentage of imports. This leaves American consumers effectively dependent on the quality of foreign food-safety enforcement. And that’s not a healthy place to be, especially when it comes to imports from China, where the state of food safety is roughly what it was in this country before the Progressive movement.

The Washington Post, reviewing F.D.A. documents, found that last month the agency detained shipments from China that included dried apples treated with carcinogenic chemicals and seafood “coated with putrefying bacteria.” You can be sure that a lot of similarly unsafe and disgusting food ends up in American stomachs.

Those who blame corporations also have a point. In 2005, the F.D.A. suspected that peanut butter produced by ConAgra, which sells the product under multiple brand names, might be contaminated with salmonella. According to The New York Times, “when agency inspectors went to the plant that made the peanut butter, the company acknowledged it had destroyed some product but declined to say why,” and refused to let the inspectors examine its records without a written authorization.

According to the company, the agency never followed through. This brings us to our third villain, the Bush administration.

Without question, America’s food safety system has degenerated over the past six years. We don’t know how many times concerns raised by F.D.A. employees were ignored or soft-pedaled by their superiors. What we do know is that since 2001 the F.D.A. has introduced no significant new food safety regulations except those mandated by Congress.

This isn’t simply a matter of caving in to industry pressure. The Bush administration won’t issue food safety regulations even when the private sector wants them. The president of the United Fresh Produce Association says that the industry’s problems “can’t be solved without strong mandatory federal regulations”: without such regulations, scrupulous growers and processors risk being undercut by competitors more willing to cut corners on food safety. Yet the administration refuses to do more than issue nonbinding guidelines.

Why would the administration refuse to regulate an industry that actually wants to be regulated? Officials may fear that they would create a precedent for public-interest regulation of other industries. But they are also influenced by an ideology that says business should never be regulated, no matter what.

The economic case for having the government enforce rules on food safety seems overwhelming. Consumers have no way of knowing whether the food they eat is contaminated, and in this case what you don’t know can hurt or even kill you. But there are some people who refuse to accept that case, because it’s ideologically inconvenient.

That’s why I blame the food safety crisis on Milton Friedman, who called for the abolition of both the food and the drug sides of the F.D.A. What would protect the public from dangerous or ineffective drugs? “It’s in the self-interest of pharmaceutical companies not to have these bad things,” he insisted in a 1999 interview. He would presumably have applied the same logic to food safety (as he did to airline safety): regardless of circumstances, you can always trust the private sector to police itself.

O.K., I’m not saying that Mr. Friedman directly caused tainted spinach and poisonous peanut butter. But he did help to make our food less safe, by legitimizing what the historian Rick Perlstein calls “E. coli conservatives”: ideologues who won’t accept even the most compelling case for government regulation.

Earlier this month the administration named, you guessed it, a “food safety czar.” But the food safety crisis isn’t caused by the arrangement of the boxes on the organization chart. It’s caused by the dominance within our government of a literally sickening ideology.

Online, GOP Is Playing Catch-Up

Online, GOP Is Playing Catch-Up
Democrats Have Big Edge on Web

By Jose Antonio Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 21, 2007; A01

When David All, a former Republican congressional aide, launched a blog recently that he hopes will spur his fellow Republicans to bridge the digital divide, he did his best to sound upbeat. "Today our Revolution begins," he wrote. "Tomorrow we fight."

But implicit in his cheerleading was the acknowledgment that there is a widening gap between Democrats and Republicans on the Internet, and that his party will have to scramble to catch up. "For the most part Republicans are stuck in Internet circa 2000," he said in an interview.

Another Republican -- Michael Turk, who was in charge of Internet strategy for President Bush's 2004 campaign -- puts the problem his party faces more bluntly: "We're losing the Web right now."

The most recent figures from Nielsen/NetRatings provide one measure of the gap. Looking at the Web sites of presidential candidates from the two parties, it found that former senator John Edwards's site had about 690,000 unique visitors in March, when the Democrat's wife, Elizabeth, announced that she had a recurrence of cancer. That was more than the combined number of visitors to the sites of the three leading GOP contenders, Rudolph W. Giuliani (297,000), Sen. John McCain (258,000) and Mitt Romney (76,000).

There are other measures as well. No Republican comes close to matching the popularity of another Democratic candidate, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, on YouTube, MySpace and Facebook, the social-networking triumvirate. The Democrats are ahead in the online money race. The top three Democrats, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama and Edwards, amassed more than $14 million over the Internet in the first three months of 2007; in contrast, the top three Republicans, Giuliani, McCain and Romney, collected less than half of that, $6 million. Furthermore, ABC PAC, the conservative fundraising site, has raised $385 so far for Republican presidential hopefuls; Act Blue, its liberal counterpart, has collected about $3 million for Edwards alone.

One reason for the disparity between the parties, political insiders say, is that the top Republican candidates are not exciting voters the way the Democratic front-runners are. Another is that it takes a certain level of technical skill and understanding to be an online strategist, and Republicans admit that "the pool of talent in the Democrats' side is much bigger than ours."

But an underlying cause may be the nature of the Republican Party and its traditional discipline -- the antithesis of the often chaotic, bottom-up, user-generated atmosphere of the Internet.

"We've always been a party of staying on message," All said. "It's the Rush Limbaugh model. What Tony Snow says in the White House filters down to talk radio, which makes its way to the blogs."

Peter Leyden, director of the New Politics Institute, a San Francisco-based think tank that in recent months has been advising Democratic members of Congress and their staffs on how to take full advantage of the Web, argues that the culture of Democrats is a much better fit in the Internet world.

"What was once seen as a liability for Democrats and progressives in the past -- they couldn't get 20 people to agree to the same thing, they could never finish anything, they couldn't stay on message -- is now an asset," Leyden said. "All this talking and discussing and fighting energizes everyone, involves everyone, and gets people totally into it."

If conservatives have mastered talk radio -- with Limbaugh as the undisputed king of the AM dial -- those on the left hope to achieve the same dominance on the Internet. Daily Kos, a sounding board for opposition to Bush and the Iraq war, among other topics, leads most political blogs in Web traffic and notoriety. Last year, the site spawned Yearly Kos, the first political blogger convention. Its founder, Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, refers to himself as the site's "mayor," with everyone else "doing their own thing, managing their own projects, while I keep the plumbing running."

Moulitsas will concede the influence of conservative blogs and Web sites in the successful attack on Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) during his 2004 presidential campaign, when he was accused of exaggerating his service record during the Vietnam War, and on CBS News for its reporting on Bush's war record. He also concedes that Republicans have their own popular blogs, such as InstaPundit, RedState and Michelle Malkin's -- sites, he asserts, that are parts "of the Republican noise machine, affiliated to talk radio and Fox News." Malkin, the doyenne of the conservative blogosphere, is a frequent contributor to Fox News.

"Sure, conservatives can point to the Dan Rather controversy and the Swift boat episode as a measure of their success online. But that's it," Moulitsas said. "Progressives can claim to an actual movement that raises a lot of money, that helps put politicians in office. . . . Progressives can claim to actually having communities online, where an average Joe can have a voice, and not just a radio personality who happens to write a blog, too."

Moulitsas was referring to Hugh Hewitt, a blogger and host of "The Hugh Hewitt Show." His blog is on TownHall, one of the most popular conservative sites. The site is owned by Salem Communications.

While Democrat Howard Dean is credited with being the first presidential candidate to have an effective Internet strategy, it was McCain who in his losing campaign for the 2000 Republican nomination showed how effective the Internet could be in fundraising.

And Republicans are hardly conceding the fight in the 2008 campaign.

Besides TechRepublican, the group blog started two weeks ago by All, who worked as communications director for Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), there is QubeTV, founded in March as an alternative to what one of its founders, Charlie Gerow, a former Reagan campaign aide, calls "the liberal bias" of YouTube.

A virtual conservative Main Street, QubeTV asks its users to "stay on guard" and to submit video clips of the "next botched joke," referring to Kerry's comment about U.S. troops.

K. Daniel Glover, who edits National Journal's Technology Daily, cited several other bright spots for Republicans in recent weeks -- Fred D. Thompson, the former senator and "Law & Order" star who's considering a White House run, immediately started connecting with the conservative "right roots," the equivalent of the progressive "Net roots," and Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), the House minority leader, has joined Twitter, a social networking site.

"But look at the short history of online politics," Glover said. "For Republicans, the Internet is where bad things happen. Take [former U.S. senator] George Allen and his 'macaca' moment. . . . You can kind of understand why Republicans have this almost instinctive fear of the Internet, where the mob rules."

Turk, who led the RNC's e-campaign shop after serving as Bush's online chief, is revamping the lackluster ABC PAC. Turk, who was deputy director of the New Mexico GOP in the 1990s, helped build the fundraising site last spring, months after leaving the RNC, which he found "too bureaucratic" and "not at all conducive to a lot of cutting-edge, creative, outside-the-box thinking."

He's equally critical of the Internet strategy of his party's presidential candidates. "Yes," he said, "they've all got Web sites. Yes, they're doing videos. Yes, some are blogging. But that's not enough to really connect with voters," said Turk, who now works as vice president of industry grass roots at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

Hours after Giuliani's revamped Web site went up, Turk ripped it to shreds on the bipartisan group blog TechPresident, writing that "This isn't a Web site for a guy running for Mayor of New York, let alone President."

Nothing he has seen makes him particularly optimistic about the future.

"Sometimes I wonder if it will take losing the White House for the Republicans to take the Internet more seriously," Turk said.

How the Right Went Wrong

How the Right Went Wrong

By Karen Tumulty
Time Magazine

A generation ago, fresh off the second biggest electoral landslide in American history, Ronald Reagan surveyed the wreckage that had been the opposition and declared victory. Standing before 1,700 true believers at the 1985 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), he proclaimed, "The tide of history is moving irresistibly in our direction. Why? Because the other side is virtually bankrupt of ideas. It has nothing more to say, nothing to add to the debate. It has spent its intellectual capital." At this year's conference two weeks ago, Reagan's name was invoked more than anyone else's. But the mood at the most storied annual gathering of conservatives was anything but triumphal. John McCain, the Establishment favorite to win the 2008 Republican nomination, skipped CPAC entirely but did show up on David Letterman the night before, choosing the most aggressively glib venue to semiofficially announce his candidacy. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was there to make his pitch for 2008 but had to compete with a man who was working the crowd in a dolphin costume and a T-shirt identifying him as "Flip Romney: Just another flip flopper from Massachusetts." Ex-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani barely mentioned the social issues on which he parts ways with conservatives, except to joke, "I don't agree with myself on everything." And the only memorable sound bite of the whole affair came from right-wing telepundit Ann Coulter, whose idea of an ideological rallying cry was to declare Democratic hopeful John Edwards a "faggot." The condemnation that followed, in which at least seven newspapers banished her column from their opinion pages, became a ragged coda for the state of a movement that had once been justly proud of its ability to win an argument.

These are gloomy and uncertain days for conservatives, who — except for the eight-year Clinton interregnum — have dominated political power and thought in this country since Reagan rode in from the West. Their tradition goes back even further, to Founding Fathers who believed that people should do things for themselves and who shook off a monarchy in their conviction that Big Government is more to be feared than encouraged. The Boston Tea Party, as Reagan used to point out, was an antitax initiative.

But everything that Reagan said in 1985 about "the other side" could easily apply to the conservatives of 2007. They are handcuffed to a political party that looks unsettlingly like the Democrats did in the 1980s, one that is more a collection of interest groups than ideas, recognizable more by its campaign tactics than its philosophy. The principles that propelled the movement have either run their course, or run aground, or been abandoned by Reagan's legatees. Government is not only bigger and more expensive than it was when George W. Bush took office, but its reach is also longer, thanks to the broad new powers it has claimed as necessary to protect the homeland. It's true that Reagan didn't live up to everything he promised: he campaigned on smaller government, fiscal discipline and religious values, while his presidency brought us a larger government and a soaring deficit. But Bush's apostasies are more extravagant by just about any measure you pick.

Set adrift as it is, the right understandably feels anxious as it contemplates who will carry Reagan's mantle into November 2008. "We're in the political equivalent of a world without the law of gravity," says Republican strategist Ralph Reed. "Nothing we have known in the past seems relevant." At the top of the Republican field in the latest TIME poll is the pro-choice, pro-gay-rights former mayor of liberal New York City. Giuliani's lead is as much as 19 points over onetime front runner McCain. But neither Republican manages better than a statistical tie in a hypothetical matchup against the two leading Democrats, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Giuliani's lead in the early polls doesn't necessarily mean the Republican race is getting any closer to the kind of early coronation the party usually manages to engineer. A New York Times/CBS News poll out this week found that nearly 6 out of 10 Republican primary voters who responded said they were unsatisfied with the choice of candidates running for the party's nomination; by comparison, nearly 6 in 10 Democrats pronounced themselves happy with their field. The Democrats were also far more confident in the future. Whereas 40% of Republicans predicted the other party would win the White House next year, whomever it nominates, only 12% of Democrats felt that pessimistic about their chances. Then there is the real worry that the whole exercise might already be a lost cause. "In this environment, nobody looks good if you have an R by your name. It doesn't matter who you are," says a Republican campaign consultant in the Midwest. "I don't see how that changes between now and Election Day. It's the war; it's huge. It's just huge."

The Iraq war has challenged the conservative movement's custodianship of America's place in the world, as well as its claim to competence. Reagan restored a sense of America's mission as the "city on a hill" that would be a light to the world and helped bring about the defeat of what he very undiplomatically christened "the evil empire." After 9/11 Bush found his own evil empire, in fact a whole axis of evil. But he hasn't produced Reagan's results: North Korea is nuclear, Iran swaggers across the world stage, Iraq is a morass. "Conservatives are divided on the Iraq war, but there is a growing feeling it was a mistake," says longtime conservative activist and fund-raiser Richard Viguerie. "It's not a Ronald Reagan�type of idea to ride on our white horse around the world trying to save it militarily. Ronald Reagan won the cold war by bankrupting the Soviet Union. No planes flew. No tanks rolled. No armies marched."

Then there are the scandals and the corruption. The dismay that voters expressed in last fall's midterm election was aimed not so much at conservatism as at the G.O.P's failure to honor it with a respect for law and order. And now that subpoena power gives the Democrats their first chance to shine a light into the crevices of an Administration and its very unconservative approach to Executive power, the final years of Bush's presidency are likely to be punctuated by one controversy after another. The past weeks alone have produced a parade of revelations: leftover questions about Vice President Dick Cheney's role in the I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby case; the betrayal by neglect of the war wounded at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and veterans hospitals across the country; the connected dots showing that the White House and the Justice Department exploited the post-9/11 USA Patriot Act, of all things, to engineer a purge of U.S. attorneys across the country.

Conservatives are in many ways victims of their successes, and there have indeed been big ones. At 35%, the top tax rate is about half what it was when Reagan took office; the Soviet Union broke up; inflation is barely a nuisance; crime is down; and welfare is reformed. But if all that's true, what is conservatism's rationale for the next generation? What set of goals is there to hold together a coalition that has always been more fractious than it seemed to be from the outside, with its realists and its neoconservatives, its religious ground troops and its libertarian intelligentsia, its Pat Buchanan populists and its Milton Friedman free traders? That is why the challenge for Republican conservatives goes far deeper than merely trying to figure out how to win the next election. 2008 is a question with a very clear premise: Does the conservative movement still have what it takes to redeem its grand old traditions — or, better, to chart new territory?

There was a time when John McCain would have seemed the most natural heir to Reagan. It was Reagan who first introduced McCain to a conservative audience — ironically enough, given McCain's conspicuous no-show this year, at CPAC's 1974 conference. McCain was one of three former Vietnam POWs in attendance. With their release, Reagan said, "this country had its spirits lifted as they have never been lifted in many years." Twenty-five years later, McCain was a fiscal conservative and security hawk serving his third term in Barry Goldwater's old Senate seat when Nancy Reagan picked him to accept the American Conservative Union's Conservative of the Century Award on behalf of her husband, who was too incapacitated by Alzheimer's to do it himself.

But the right's view of McCain changed when he ran for President in 2000. What bothered conservatives wasn't just the fact that he challenged the Anointed One in a party that treats its primaries like a royal accession. It was also the glee with which he went after all its institutions, from the special interests to the theocrats to Big Business. "Remember that the Establishment is against us," he exulted after winning the New Hampshire primary. "This is an insurgency campaign, and I'm Luke Skywalker." Then again, as both Reagan and Goldwater showed, there is nothing more fundamentally conservative than an insurgency.

On his second try, McCain seems to have become much of what he used to fight against. The deficit hawk who had opposed Bush's tax cuts voted to extend them. The apostate who counted the Rev. Jerry Falwell among the "agents of intolerance" seven years ago delivered the commencement speech at Falwell's Liberty University last May. Ask the candidate what his message is this time around, and he tells TIME, "Experience, background, record and vision. Who is best capable to address the challenge of the 21st century, which is the threat of radical Islamic fundamentalism?" But what about reform? These days McCain has to be prompted on that one, which he lumps into "all of those things."

McCain veterans insist their candidate hasn't changed, just his prospects. "The key difference is, hopefully, this is a winning campaign," says his chief strategist John Weaver. Trying to rekindle the old magic, they rearranged his schedule to put him back on the Straight Talk Express bus this month. But that could distract him from another goal in this critical period: building up his campaign coffers so that he has the financial muscle of a front-runner when the tallies are released for the first reporting period, which ends March 31.

Certainly, McCain's operation has an institutional feel, for better or worse. Whereas he ran his 2000 campaign from shabby offices with a single toilet, McCain 2.0 is housed on the 13th floor (superstitiously identified by the building as the "M" floor) of a soulless office high-rise in northern Virginia. McCain's 2000 campaign was a free-for-all, but his 2008 operation is more conventional, with far more hands on the wheel.

Being embraced by the Establishment isn't such a good thing when the Establishment is in disrepute. And on the biggest issue on which McCain has shown backbone and hasn't wavered — his support for the war and Bush's troop buildup — he happens to find himself on the opposite side of the fence from 72% of Americans in the latest TIME poll.

If McCain is playing up to the right, it's not working all that well. He is still at odds with the conservative base: flexible on immigration, opposed to a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and dedicated to preserving the Senate's right to filibuster judicial nominees. "The problem with McCain, and I don't know how he fixes it," says evangelical leader Richard Lands, "is that he's so unpredictable. What makes him appealing to independents makes him worrisome to social conservatives. They say, 'Yeah, he's pro-life, but will that have anything to do with who he nominates to the Supreme Court?' People don't like unpredictability in candidates."

But then the only person who beats McCain in the polls is even further out of line with conservatives. Just out on YouTube is a 1989 video, which quickly made its way to the Drudge Report, in which Giuliani declares, "There must be public funding for abortions for poor women. We cannot deny any woman the right to make her own decision about abortion because she lacks resources." Also getting fresh play are the unsavory details of his second divorce (familiar to anyone who picked up a New York City tabloid at the time): Giuliani's wife got the news that they were splitting when he announced it at a press conference, and then the couple squabbled over whether she or his mistress would get to stay in Gracie Mansion, the mayor's official residence. Now there is an additional, painfully raw story line about how his third marriage has left him estranged from his children.

What draws conservatives to Giuliani, though, are his other qualities: the leadership and strength he showed as New York City's mayor on 9/11; his record transformation of a crumbling, crime-ridden city into a safe and clean one; and the need for that kind of toughness in a dangerous world. Giuliani is talking to conservatives now in a language they want to hear. He promises that whatever his personal views, the judges he appoints as President would be "strict constructionists" in the mold of Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and John Roberts, which is generally understood to mean against abortion and gay marriage.

Romney, meanwhile, has taken a whisk broom to his record in liberal Massachusetts, where he twice ran for statewide office as a pro-choice candidate dedicated to "full equality for America's gay and lesbian citizens." He now says he opposes Roe v. Wade and describes himself as "a champion of traditional marriage." In Massachusetts, he bucked the National Rifle Association by supporting the Brady Bill and an assault-weapons ban, boasting, "I don't line up with the NRA." Lately he brags that he has joined the gun-rights organization as a life member. He did that in August.

Romney registers a meager 9% in TIME's poll of Republicans, but there are plenty of signs that conservatives are trying to overlook his past and fall in love. He won the straw poll at CPAC, and the endorsements are piling up. Romney has also picked up much of the political operation of Jeb Bush, who is the could-have-been candidate most longed for on the right. Money doesn't seem to be a problem either; Romney raised $6.5 million on a single National Call Day in early January. The campaign is flush enough to be on the air at this early date with ads to introduce Romney to voters as a "business legend" who "rescued the Olympics" and "turned around a Democratic state." The Mormon in the race also points out — jokingly, but with an edge — that he is the only leading contender who is still with his first wife.

Some on the right have been keeping a light in the window for the last conservative to have led a revolution. Newt Gingrich recently confessed his past marital infidelity on the Christian radio show of James Dobson, admitting he was carrying on with the House aide who became his third wife even as he was lambasting Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky scandal. In the upside-down leap of reasoning that this campaign season has wrought in the movement, hanging his dirty sheets from the window was enough to convince everyone that Gingrich is running — and landed him an invitation from Falwell to be this year's Liberty University commencement speaker. "He has admitted his moral shortcomings to me, as well, in private conversations," Falwell wrote in his weekly newsletter. "And he has also told me that he has, in recent years, come to grips with his personal failures and sought God's forgiveness."

It's no wonder that other potential Republican candidates, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and former Senator turned television star Fred Thompson, are deciding that they can afford to wait a while before making up their minds. There is a full lineup of conservatives who are already in the race and looking for lightning to strike: Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and California Congressman Duncan Hunter, to name just a few. Many conservatives say a long election season offers the advantage of letting conservatives work through their doubts about their options for 2008, especially when they turn their attention to November. "When it's Hillary vs. Giuliani," asks antitax activist Grover Norquist, "who's going to vote for Hillary?" But others on the right say they are looking at this election as a write-off. "I'm not focusing on 2008," Viguerie says. "Realistically, it will probably take until the year 2016" before the movement regains anything resembling its former glory.

And where will those new ideas and leaders come from? In this magazine, conservative columnist William Kristol has cited two possible sources, both of which focus on the very middle-class voters that Reagan so successfully peeled away from their Democratic moorings. In a forthcoming book, conservative authors Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam identify these voters as "Sam's Club Republicans," who could benefit from market-friendly health-care and tax policies that are aimed at families and especially at at-home parents. Another conservative thinker, Yuval Levin of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, argues along a similar vein with a set of policy proposals that he calls "Putting Parents First." Bush's signature approach to domestic policy fell short in that regard, Levin wrote in the Weekly Standard. "Compassionate conservatism, for all its virtues, does not even try to address itself to parents. A conservative agenda that did so would not only cement a relationship with these voters, it would also appeal to many with similar worries who do not share the strong cultural predilections that have drawn middle- and lower-middle-class parents to vote for Republicans."

The Gipper would probably have had little patience for all the fretting his party is doing over its brand. But he also understood, because he embodied the idea, that progress comes from going up against the status quo. To become "creators of the future," as he called his compatriots, he might have suggested that they look back to their past.

—with reporting by Jay Carney and Michael Duffy/Washington and Nancy Gibbs/New York