Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Politico’s David Rogers Catches Republicans Lying About High-Speed Rail, Won’t Call Them Liars

Posted in Barack Obama, Economy, politics by allisonkilkenny on February 17, 2009

Matthew Yglesias

highspeedrail1_1David Rogers has a piece in Politico that offers a nice summary of the recovery plan’s actual high-speed rail provisions and the direct role of the White House in securing them:

The $787.2 billion economic recovery bill — to be signed by President Barack Obama on Tuesday — dedicates $8 billion to high-speed rail, most of which was added in the final closed-door bargaining at the instigation of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. […] The same Maine and Pennsylvania Republican moderates who had criticized Obama’s school construction initiative were more accepting of the rail funds, since the Northeast corridor has a major stake in more improvements. To help pay for the added cost, a business tax break — providing a five-year carry back for net operating losses — was narrowed to keep the focus more on smaller firms with receipts of less than $15 million.

Needless to say, this reality is at odds with the made-up story conservatives have been telling all weekend about $8 billion being earmarked for a train to Las Vegas. And Rogers, as we’ll see, knows what the truth is, knows what conservatives have been saying, and knows that the two are different things, but he can’t quite seem to describe what’s happening with regular English words:

At the same time, conservative Republicans seemed almost blind to Obama’s role. Instead, in their campaign to find pork barrel projects in the stimulus bill, they painted the whole funding as a scheme by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on behalf of Las Vegas interests seeking a rail link to Los Angeles. “Sin City to Tomorrow Land” was one description.

Here is Rep. Candice S. Miller (R-Mich.) explaining her vote against the bill Friday despite the benefits to her home state: “Michigan is a state of about 10 million people, and we are the hardest hit, as I said, by this economy. And yet we are expected to get approximately $7 billion from this bill. And apparently the Senate majority leader has earmarked $8 billion for a rail system from Las Vegas to Los Angeles? You have got to be kidding. You have got to be kidding.”

Rep Miller wasn’t “explaining” anything, she was lying to her constituents. Nor were conservatives running a “campaign to find pork barrel projects int he stimulus bill” they were inventing fictional projects. Nor were obscure House backbenchers like Miller running a rogue operation here. House Minority Leader John Boehner led the charge on peddling this lie, and Senator Jim Demint was on the case as well.

“I won” — Barack Obama

Posted in Barack Obama, Democrats, Economy, politics, Republicans by allisonkilkenny on January 23, 2009

Good for him.

Talking Points Memo posted a story about Chuck Todd (the poor man’s Tim Russert) wringing his hands over the lack of bipartisan results in the stimulus bill currently sitting in committee.

We’re sitting here watching Robert Gibbs’ White House briefing. And there is a long string of questions about whether Obama can really working in a bipartisan manner if no Republicans are saying nice things about the stimulus bill or voting for the mark-ups out of committee. And Chuck Todd just asked whether Obama would veto a stimulus bill that came to his desk that hadn’t gotten Republican support.

That would be quite a moment.

And Obama’s response to more spineless, moderate Democrat whining?  


President Obama listened to Republican gripes about his stimulus package during a meeting with congressional leaders Friday morning – but he also left no doubt about who’s in charge of these negotiations. “I won,” Obama noted matter-of-factly, according to sources familiar with the conversation.  

Well, knock me over with a fucking feather. Was that tough talk from a Democrat? More, please.

Kennedy Out. Gillibrand In.

Posted in Democrats, politics by allisonkilkenny on January 22, 2009

"I'm not a Democrat. I'm a Blue Dog."

Politico and other media sources are reporting that governor David Paterson has chosen Kristen Gillibrand to fill Hillary Clinton’s vacant Senate seat.

Gillibrand is a Blue Dog Democrat, which is the name moderate Democrats gave themselves so people stopped confusing them with Republicans. Gillibrand is a pro-gun, fiscally conservative “Democrat.” Blue Dog Democrats are the people who cower at the word “liberal,” and fail to acknowledge that the only gains we — as a country — have made regarding civil rights were because of those dreaded, damn liberals

I have previously criticized the nomination of Caroline Kennedy because she was clearly a legacy selection. Let’s pretend her name was Caroline Smith, or Caroline Martinez, and she boasted of zero legislative experience, and could only incoherently mutter something about her daddy when asked why she wanted to fill one of two coveted Senate seats. No one would have considered such an applicant. Hence, why I hated the idea of Caroline Kennedy in the Senate. I’ve heard just enough about Camelot, thanks very much.

But Gillibrand is part of the same politically incestual community. During the Clinton years, she serves as Special Counsel to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Andrew Cuomo, another nominee for Clinton’s seat. She too hosts lavish fundraising parties (out of state, an accusation she ironically used against one of her former political opponents, John Sweeney). Kennedy, no doubt, was seriously considered for the Senate role specifically for her fundraising abilities (the name Kennedy brings in a hefty chunk of change,) so it’s to be expected that cash cows are always at the forefront of these kinds of nominations.

I was really hoping Paterson would go for a fresh political name like Nydia Velasquez, who has served in the House for 15 years, and was the first Puerto Rican woman to serve in Congress. She has dealt primarily with small businesses, and is largely unknown in the political community, but I think that’s a good thing. Kennedy is very well known, has less experience than Velasquez, and I was supposed to take her seriously as a candidate, so why not Nydia? Oh, right, she’s not a legacy, or a Blue Dog.

At least Caroline was unapologetically liberal, a privilege only afforded to Kennedys, it seems. If you have a yacht, you get to look your fellow Democrats square in the eyes and say, “I believe in equal rights and not torturing foreigners. Fuck you.” But if you’re a middle-rank Democrat, you have to pathetically triangulate and apologize until you don’t even look like a Democrat anymore, and -BAM!- you wake up and your name is Kristen Gillibrand and you’re in the Senate.


10 Bush Pardons to Watch For

Posted in politics by allisonkilkenny on January 19, 2009



Photo: AP

As the clock ticks down on his presidency, George W. Bush has shown few signs he plans to indulge in the frenzy of last-minute pardons that marked Bill Clinton’s final hours in the Oval Office.

But Bush could quickly leap back into the spotlight in the next two days if he issues a blanket pardon immunizing CIA and military interrogators, as well as their bosses, from criminal prosecution over harsh treatment of prisoners from the war on terror.

“I’m sure he’s under pressure from some people to issue blanket pardons,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) told Politico. “I don’t think it’s fevered imagination. I think it’s reasonable speculation.”

Bush is also facing pressure from conservative allies, who see pardons of former Bush administration officials and some others as a more realistic possibility. At the top of their lists: Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, still under investigation for his role in a series of U.S. attorney firings.

Here is a list of 10 cases that could come under review by Bush, and Politico’s look at the odds Bush will wield his pardon pen:

1. Pardon Prospects: Military and CIA interrogators of war-on-terror prisoners

Status: Could face investigation and prosecution for use of harsh tactics in post-9/11 interrogations. Bush has signaled sympathy with those called upon to “connect the dots” after the terror attack, and the incoming Barack Obama administration has given mixed signals, with Obama himself downplaying prosecutions but his choice for attorney general Eric Holder seeming open to the idea – which could lead Bush to act. 

Pros: Some lawyers doubt charges could ever be brought or convictions obtained because of Justice Department opinions permitting aggressive tactics; might be seen as buck-stops-here gesture by Bush.

Cons: Likely to require a “blanket” pardon which describes conduct, but does not name individuals; might be hard to craft language or justify pardon which immunizes some harsh tactics without overturning convictions for prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib; certain to trigger outrage among liberals and inflame anti-American feeling abroad. Pardons expert P.S. Ruckman Jr. of Rock Valley College in Illinois downplays “the idea of this big, last-minute, surprise, blanket, turbo-amnesty for war crimes.”

Politico Odds: 4 to 1

2. Pardon Prospect: Former Chief of Staff to Vice President Cheney, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr.

Status: Convicted in 2007 of obstruction of justice, false statements, and perjury in investigation into leak of identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame. Sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison, two years probation and $250,000 fine; prison sentence commuted by Bush before service. A Libby pardon has strong support among conservatives. “Scooter Libby was not guilty of the original crime trumpeted by the media and the Democrats for campaign purposes. He was not responsible for the leak…..It’s a travesty, it seems to me,” said Dick Carlson, a former Voice of America chief and ambassador.

Pros: Vice President Dick Cheney views Libby as loyal; disbarment and lack of employment could be seen as punishment; on leaving office, presidents Clinton and Bush (41) also pardoned senior officials 

Cons: Could remind public of Bush’s failure to dismiss those accused of leaking Plame’s identity; risk of public outcry for leaving full pardon for final days of presidency when it could have been done sooner.
Politico Odds: 1 to 2

3. Pardon Prospect: Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales

Status: A special prosecutor based in Connecticut, Nora Dannehy, has been assigned to review whether Gonzales misled Congress or otherwise interfered with inquiries into the firings of U.S. attorneys. He’s also being investigated for allegedly preparing false after the fact notes of 2004 congressional briefing about warrantless surveillance. Gonzales has denied wrongdoing, but lacks a solid job and could still run up big legal bills trying to ward off a prosecution.


Pros: Gonzales a longtime loyal Bush aide; arguably punished by lack of significant employment since resigning under pressure in 2007 

Cons: Pardon could be seen as self-serving since it was Bush who reportedly asked Gonzales to memorialize 2004 Congressional meeting; will prompt charges of cronyism.

Politico Odds: 1 to 1.

4. Pardon Prospects: Former American Israel Public Affairs Committee Lobbyists Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, Former Pentagon Analyst Lawrence Franklin

Status: Franklin pled guilty in 2005 to passing national secrets to Rosen and Weissman; also admitted to passing secrets to Israeli officials; Rosen and Weissman pled not guilty to conspiring to obtain and distribute classified information; trial set for April 2009

Pros: Could please Jewish activists and pro-Israel conservatives; would end unusual prosecution for activities supporters argue are commonplace in Washington

Cons: Undercuts Bush administration’s anti-leak campaign; not clear that Rosen or Weissman desire pardon; Franklin’s admission of direct disclosures to Israel undermines chance for him

Politico Odds: Rosen/Weissman, 10 to 1; Franklin: 20 to 1


5. Pardon Prospect: Former Justice Department official Bradley Schlozman

Status: Investigated for alleged use of political considerations in hiring at DOJ Civil Rights Division and for alleged false statements to Congress; defense lawyer says U.S. Attorney declined to prosecute and “exonerated” Schlozman; Holder told senators he plans to “review” that decision as attorney general

Pros: Eliminates further legal exposure for aide already reportedly cleared once by Justice Department

Cons: Could be viewed as endorsement of politicization at DOJ

Politico Odds: 4 to 1

6. Pardon prospect: Former junk bond king Michael Milken

Status: Pled guilty in 1990 to six tax and securities-related felonies; sentenced to 10 years; ultimately served 22 months

Pros: Out of prison for 16 years; extensive philanthropy since leaving prison

Cons: Tough time to pardon anyone with Wall Street ties

Politico Odds: 2 to 1

7. Commutation Prospects: Former Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean

Status: Convicted in 2006 of shooting fleeing drug smuggling suspect who was illegal alien; Compean sentenced to 12 years in prison; Ramos to 11 years

Pros: Crusade for clemency led by CNN anchor Lou Dobbs; commutation supported by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.), as well as conservative lawmakers

Cons: Dobbs was no friend of Bush’s immigration policy; could be seen as endorsing police abuse

Politico Odds: 3 to 1

8. Commutation Prospect: Former Governor George Ryan (R-Ill.)

Status: Convicted in 2006 of corruption charges; serving six-and-a-half year prison sentence; set for release in 2013

Pros: Ryan is 74; wife in ill health; clemency has support of Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.)

Cons: Timing less than ideal since Ryan’s successor, Rod Blagojevich (D), now faces corruption charges; Ryan has served little of his sentence, only about a year

Politico Odds: 4 to 1

9. Commutation Prospect: Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard

Status: Pled guilty to espionage in 1986; sentenced to life in prison without parole

Pros: Backers say Pollard’s punishment more severe than spies from countries hostile to America; commutation would please Israel and Jewish groups

Cons: Strongly opposed by defense and intelligence communities; Bush has rejected numerous pleas from Israeli officials

Politico Odds: 20 to 1

10. Commutation Prospect: Randall “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.)

Status: Pled guilty in 2005 to conspiracy and tax evasion as part of $2.4 million bribery scheme; sentenced to eight years four months

Pros: Stricken with prostate cancer; age 67

Cons: Bush publicly called Cunningham’s scheme “outrageous”; some Republicans blame Cunningham in part for party’s poor showing in 2006 and 2008; clemency could complicate pending trial for alleged co-conspirator, CIA official Kyle “Dusty” Foggo

Politico Odds: 50 to 1

Jewish Groups Convene For Obama Transition Meeting

Posted in Barack Obama, politics by allisonkilkenny on December 19, 2008

Politico via Huffington Post

barack-obama-capitolHigh-ranking officials with Barack Obama’s transition team met for roughly two-and-a-half hours with a wide range of Jewish groups that encompassed nearly the entire ideological spectrum.

The meeting, which involved 29 organizations ranging from hawkish (Zionist Organization of America and, to a lesser extent, AIPAC) and conservative (the Orthodox Union) to Democratic (the National Jewish Democratic Council) and progressive (J Street, Peace Now), took place in the transition’s Washington D.C. office on Thursday afternoon.

Reflecting the variety of viewpoints at the table, a host of foreign policy and domestic topics were raised for discussion. Disagreements between the groups were aired before the Obama officials, which included deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, public liaison Michael Strautmanis, Jewish outreach coordinator Dan Shapiro, and aides Tonya Robinson and Eric Lynn.

On several occasions, the Obama team was pressed to define the president-elect’s position on a paramount issue to Jewish groups: U.S. policy towards Iran.

“They assured us, as the vice president-elect has said, that the Iran/nuclear issue is one of the things at the very top of the agenda,” said an attendee. “They repeated the idea that we should be focusing on it diplomatically and not just militarily. Some of the more right-wing groups were saying that it can’t be carrots and no sticks, that we are running out of time…. The Obama team said [in response] that preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons is an issue that the president-elect, as he’s made clear during and after the election, considers a primary concern. It is not something that will fall off the radar.”

Participants in the meeting, which was first reported by Politico’s Ben Smith, also addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Pretty much everybody in there but a handful of people were for a two-state solution,” said an attendee. Obama’s positions on energy and health care received attention as well.

“On domestic issues, except for some of the orthodox groups, it sounded like a cheerleading session for the transition team’s format,” said the source.

What stood out, above all else, was not any particular policy statements, but rather the gathering of such ideologically disparate groups under one roof. The meeting, the attendee noted, was very much in line with the Obama campaign’s stated mission to listen to a whole host of opinions when it comes to formulating foreign policy.

“The fact that they took time to do this,” said the source, “and that they did this with senior transition people, was deeply appreciated.”