Saturday, December 10, 2005

My Evening with Eugene McCarthy

Senator Eugene McCarthy died today at age 89. He will be remembered most famously for challenging President Lyndon Johnson’s handling of the Vietnam War, which influenced public support for the war and Johnson’s decision not to run for re-election in 1968. McCarthy ran for president as a Democrat in 1968, losing at the violence-marred Chicago convention to fellow Minnesotan Hubert Humphrey. He also ran in 1972, 1976, 1988 and 1992 as a Democrat, political independent, member of the Consumer party, and Democrat again.

It was during his obscure presidential campaign in 1976 that I met Senator McCarthy. I was a shy, naïve college sophomore befriended by a generous patroness – a professor who had joined McCarthy’s “clean Gene” liberal legions in 1968 and remained in contact with her revered mentor even after her own politics became more conservative/libertarian. She hosted a dinner in his honor and invited an intriguing assortment of successful overachievers from her political, literary and financial circles – and me. I believe that I was the only guest who was 1) under the age of 20, 2) under the age of 40, and 3) unable to talk or eat for fear of vomiting from nerves.

Dominated by the opinionated former senator, the conversation was so intellectual and lively that no one noticed my awestruck silence – I hoped. I was busy making mental notes about authors and poets recommended by and to McCarthy as he seemed much more interested in literature than politics, his campaign notwithstanding. He was also wickedly funny, which I did not expect.

I have read over the years that McCarthy’s 1980 endorsement of Ronald Reagan owed more to his loathing of Jimmy Carter than to ideological principle. That evening in 1976 he talked most memorably of Reagan, Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Barry Goldwater, Pat Moynihan, and William F. Buckley. McCarthy mentioned that he might drop out of the 1976 race and throw his support to Reagan if he won the GOP nomination away from Ford, whom he seemed to dismiss as a lightweight. I recall that he praised Reagan’s independence and conservative convictions.

McCarthy expressed blatant contempt for Carter. I don’t remember if the analogy was his, but he enthusiastically agreed that Carter was an overestimated simpleton reminiscent of Jerzy Kosinski’s character Chance the gardener from Being There. I remember this clearly because I read the novel – three years before the film version was released – at the earliest opportunity afterward.

Before I left, our hostess walked me over to Senator McCarthy for an introduction. She told him that I would be interviewing a renowned presidential historian whom they both knew – she helped me get the assignment for our college newspaper – and solicited his advice on my behalf. He suggested several questions, including some related specifically to the Kennedy brothers, J. Edgar Hoover and the Cuban Missile Crisis, which I was grateful to use.

What happened next McCarthy may or may not have foreseen, but I was certainly unprepared. I was just as passive and awkward addressing the historian, so early in our interview I resorted to my secondhand list of questions. The historian – as it turns out, a Kennedy apologist – objected, fumed, and had me forcibly removed from the campus bookstore. Thus ended my ambitions to be a journalist. I can and do laugh now, but it was horribly traumatic at the time and I suffered ridiculous political retribution from the university staff.

This episode aside, the lingering impression from my precious few hours with Eugene McCarthy is that he was somewhat libertarian, quite the contrarian – which my professor friend confirmed – and more conservative on social policy and communism than his liberal roots would suggest. His proud, imposing demeanor was that of a great man with weighty thoughts – and he was.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Day the Music Died

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October 9, 1940 - December 8, 1980

Please don't wake me, no, don't shake me.
Leave me where I am, I'm only sleeping.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

T Is for Tookie – And for Terminator?

Stanley “Tookie” Williams, the founder of the violent Crips gang, is scheduled for execution next Tuesday, December 13 – T-minus six days and counting down. Tookie, Tookie, Tookie starts with T. But how does it end?

Williams’ fate has rested with Arnold Schwarzenegger since the California Supreme Court denied a motion to reopen his case one week ago on a 4-2 vote. The Governator is an avowed supporter of the death penalty, a state law declared constitutional by the SCOTUS which it is his duty to uphold barring special circumstances. T is also for Terri Schiavo, whose life was lost because governors hold the authority to save convicted murderers but not innocent wives.

As Schwarzenegger deliberated clemency for Kevin Cooper, Talk Left recorded this December 2003 prediction:

“At least one convicted murderer sentenced to death will have his sentence commuted to life without parole by Gov. Arnie during his term as Governor. We don't think it will be Cooper--but we do expect he will weigh each case individually and find one such prisoner who deserves mercy.”

Schwarzenegger decided not to grant clemency to Cooper, who remains on death row after winning a last minute stay of execution from the infamous 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Does Williams merit more gubernatorial leniency than Cooper? The clemency hearing is scheduled for tomorrow.

I am personally ambivalent about the death penalty but not about the facts supporting the guilty verdict against Williams. The only clear rationale for the Governor to grant clemency is politics, not the law, and I fail to see how that benefits him politically. Laying aside how ugly and crass it would be for any politician to exploit life and death for political gain, Arnold must understand that Williams’ supporters will never vote for him. Michelle Malkin posted a roundup of commentary by blacks who oppose clemency for Tookie, including actor-writer Joseph C. Phillips whom many of us fondly remember from his portrayals on The Cosby Show and General Hospital.

After appointing Susan Kennedy, former Cabinet Secretary for Gray Davis, as his new chief of staff, Republicans who voted for Schwarzenegger are not happy. John Fund has uncovered the thorny trail from Kennedy to Phil Angelides to Bob Mulholland, the dirty trickster who slimed Bruce Herschensohn in the final days of his 1992 campaign against Barbara Boxer. Angelides, now the State Treasurer, is one of the leading Democrats running against Schwarzenegger in next year’s election.

T is also for Tom McClintock, the State Senator who is the only visible conservative advising the Governator and the candidate in retrospect many of us now wish we had supported in the 2003 recall election. Carol Platt Liebau speculates that Arnold might run for re-election as an Independent, unburdening himself of partisan baggage, which Carol thinks might free him to govern more conservatively.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Please Donate Today!

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For the first time ever, the Salvation Army is featuring virtual Red Kettles online for their Christmas 2005 campaign. Their corporate partners include Target, which has banned the kettles from their storefronts, and Walmart, which still allows the wonderful bell ringers to collect donations the old-fashioned way.

From today until December 31, 2005, I am sponsoring my very own Red Kettle. Please click on this
link to donate as much as you can afford, early and often.

The Salvation Army has helped millions of Americans this year. Now you can help, too.

Thank you very much!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Strong Enough for a Man But Made for a Woman

A Woman Willing to Waste Money on Art Deco Kitsch

Black Friday is more than just a cool 70s song by Steely Dan that has been replaying on my internal jukebox all day. It is more than the busiest boxing day of the shopping season, although with pinpoint strikes I successfully acquired the two items on my most wanted list in less than an hour's time at deeply discounted prices - without waiting in line and with nary a tussle. I would like to brag about my brilliant strategery, but it was mostly luck.

Black Friday is the day when the colors of autumn turn from warm earthtones such as pumpkin, tan and sienna to red and green. Who says California has no seasons? Inflatable turkeys that adorned the yard are replaced by an inflatable Santa Homer Simpson - or is that only at our house?

The fiber optic Christmas tree is reassembled, the purplish-orange outdoor lights give way to flashing strands in primary colors, and we break out our finest linens. In our home, that includes paper towels designed by Mary Engelbreit.

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I have a substantial Mary Engelbreit collection, including the product pictured above. But, really, is this necessary? Must the Brawny man be a metrosexual, too?

Saucy Leftovers

If you are bored with yesterday’s leftovers, you might consider recycling them as shepherd’s pie. The traditional version would feature turkey, gravy and vegetables on the bottom of a casserole covered by a layer of mashed potatoes.

For a tasty departure from the traditional flavors of Thanksgiving, mix shredded turkey with the barbecue sauce of your choice - adding vegetables is optional - for your bottom layer. Spread with mashed potatoes and generously sprinkle grated cheddar cheese on top.

One of my favorites, Napa Valley barbecue sauce, is especially delicious with poultry or pork. The recipe below makes about 2 cups.

1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 c. ketchup
1/2 c. dry sherry (good drinking sherry, not cooking sherry)
1/3 c. water
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. butter
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
½ tsp. salt

Saute the chopped onion in melted butter in a medium saucepan over low heat until translucent (for 10 minutes or so). Add the remaining ingredients, mix well and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat. Add more salt to taste.

To make Napa Valley chicken, dredge chicken pieces in flour seasoned with salt and pepper, and sauté them in melted butter until golden brown. Place the chicken in a baking dish, smother in Napa Valley barbecue sauce and bake covered at 350 degrees for 1¼ hours. Naturally, I recommend serving Napa Valley chicken over mashed potatoes.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Birthday Blessings

Today is my brother Richard’s 65th birthday. As we are spending Thanksgiving with my husband’s parents and assembled siblings, nieces and nephews, we will celebrate with my side of the family on Saturday. Richard, who is deaf and has learning disabilities, has lived with us since his former caregiver, our sister, died unexpectedly two years ago. Although sometimes challenging, he is a blessing for which I thank God every day.

Another blessing is William F. Buckley, who turns 80 today. He is one of the towering figures of the 20th century, as influential in his own world-changing movement as Churchill, FDR, Reagan and Pope John Paul II. George Will’s column yesterday put his mentor’s achievements into historical perspective.

A Thanksgiving Warm As Snow

The most gifted writers of commentary possess intellectual clarity. The most persuasive among them transfer their clarity seamlessly to the reader.

Tony Snow has this rare gift and a disarming humility, a virtue he celebrates in his new column, Thanksgiving.

Tony was diagnosed with colon cancer nearly one year ago and I imagine that it must feel like the longest year to him and his family. If he thought ahead to Thanksgiving at all, it may have been to wonder if he would survive to see another. When you live with cancer, holidays become triumphant milestones. Today I am so thankful for Tony Snow's recovery.

Please read his loving tribute to the most American holiday and let his simple truths warm your heart. He is a national treasure.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Tigerlily, Our Fluffy Angel

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Today our beautiful baby Tigerlily went to her final rest at 7:30pm.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Wack Arnold's: Home of the Nothingburger

Over 33 Million Underserved

The good news is that Tuesday’s California Special Election is finally over. All the automated get-out-the-vote phone calls have mercifully stopped, although we did save our message from Ben Stein. “May I speak to the head of the household? May I speak to a Republican? A registered voter? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller. Bueller. Bueller!” [Seriously, Ben Stein did call us about Proposition 73, which would have mandated a waiting period and parental notification before termination of a minor’s pregnancy but lost.]

My husband Luis, a Toltec Indian from Mexico, became a naturalized citizen in January and this was his first election as a voter. As a conservative Republican in California, now he really understands how it feels to belong to a disaffected minority. His very first ballot looked more like a lottery ticket with a few lucky numbers but not enough to win the jackpot. With his usual élan, Luis accepted the results like a veteran Election Day loser, said “all righty then” and continued playing World of Warcraft.

State Republicans looked at all the repetitive TV ads, listened to the last minute blitz of GOTV calls, and sighed a collective yawn of stay-at-home apathy. “You call yourself a special election?” they harrumphed. “I’ve had way more special than you.” As was obvious Tuesday night, Arnold Schwarzenegger's politically diverse team failed him and his underwhelmed Republican base deserted him. The propositions he sponsored were conservative, but his campaign targeted moderates and took conservative votes for granted. Showing off Senator Tom McClintock as the token visible conservative is no substitute for conservative leadership at the top.

State Democrats are gleefully predicting the Governor's certain demise and who can blame them for taking their victory lap. They certainly paid for this outcome – or, rather, fronted the $100+ million to defeat Ahnuld’s slate of propositions. Public employee union members will be picking up the tab soon enough, though.

Proposition 75 would have required public employee unions to ask members’ permission to collect dues for political expenditures and watching its early lead evaporate was the first disappointment of the evening. Okay, that would have been very cool, but the existing federal law allows public employees to request in writing a refund of the political portion of their union fees. I voted and rooted for Prop. 75, but its failure and the failure of others endorsed by the Governator mean that nothing has changed for better or worse.

The second disappointment was Arnold’s concession speech in which, standing beside the wife who let it be known publicly that she never supported the Special Election, he thanked all those who opposed his ballot initiatives and promised to find common ground with those whom he was elected to vanquish. Sadly, he is small bark and no bite.

And thereby hangs Schwarzenegger’s tail. He promised to be the lion who would grab the entrenched establishment by the jugular, but he has governed like a lamb – and a part-time lamb at that. Normally, I would welcome less than full-time governance as a deterrent to overspending and overregulating. Unfortunately, the Sacramento machine runs practically 24/7 and an occasional watchdog is no protection at all. Plus, Arnold’s propositions were hardly compelling, hopelessly confusing and only half-heartedly defended by he who forced them upon the electorate. If he has lost ground and credibility, he can blame his own absence of leadership that doomed the unnecessary special election and cost him the conservative base.

Arnold has succumbed to the dreaded epidemic sweeping the GOP: elephantitis. That’s the disease that gives you mammoth ambitions until a hamster scurries nearby and scares you away [see Bush, George W.; Frist, Bill; Hastert, Dennis; et al]. The elephant is far larger and stronger than the little pest, but irrational fear renders him powerless. Those hamsters might be tiny, but have you noticed their disproportionately large accoutrements? They've got great big ‘uns, bigger than their brains. No steroid abuse for those Democrat hamsters. In politics as in bodybuilding, size matters.

I don’t think steroids are Arnold’s downfall. I suspect that Mrs. Governator is. How do you solve a problem like Maria, you might ask tunefully. I don’t think she is solvable.

My primary reservation when I supported Schwarzenegger and the 2003 recall election was the Clintonesque “buy one, get one free” deal – except that, with Arnold, you get the whole Kennedy-Shriver clan for free. Maria isn’t old enough to remember when the Kennedys were conservative. In her lifetime, her father was George McGovern’s 1972 running mate and her maternal relatives took a sharp turn leftward.

Special interests are Uncle Teddy’s core constituency - the very same special interests who run Sacramento, who were threatened by Schwarzenegger’s propositions and who mounted a winning offensive. The very same special interests who feel more empowered than ever after Tuesday's triumph.

During the 2004 election, when he still had momentum and so many Democrat incumbents were vulnerable, Arnold should have issued an ultimatum - work with me to reform the broken system or I will campaign against you in your home district. Clearly, with his mojo in a jar on Maria's nightstand, he was never going to play hardball with the Friends o' Ted. Instead of unloading his arsenal on them, he unloaded his problems onto the voters via the Special Election.

The preponderance of propositions in California is a symptom that the State Senate and Assembly are ineffective and out of touch - and now also a symptom that the Governor is ineffective and out of touch. Even prospective Democrat gubernatorial candidates Rob Reiner and Warren Beatty concede that ballot initiatives are not a substitute for good governance, although Reiner sheepishly admitted that he is still sponsoring one in 2006.

I voted no on Prop. 77, which would have transferred the authority to redistrict from the elected legislature to a panel of retired judges. I oppose term limits for the same reason. I firmly believe that voters should feel the consequences of their actions or inaction. If they elect lousy officials, they deserve lousy governance. Sometimes the consequences have to be really painful before there is a bottom-to-top correction, as evidenced by the 2003 revolt against Gray Davis.

Back then some Republicans counseled that the recall election would backfire on the California GOP – that the Davis disaster was a golden state opportunity to instruct the electorate why conservatism works better than liberalism. I admit they were right. In retrospect, I regret that I did not support Tom McClintock instead. Fairly or unfairly, more was expected of Arnold Schwarzenegger than of Gray Davis. More was promised. More of the same has been delivered, but this time the face of lousy governance is Republican.

For a world renowned action hero, Arnold's record has been more Clark Kentish than Supermanly. His concession speech heralded the era of conciliation and compromise, portending that re-election may be more important than fulfilling his original mission. If he moves even more to the left, election night 2006 will conclude as unsatisfactorily as 2005 did and with broader implications for all Republican candidates on next year's ballot.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Headline Grabbers

I'm a sucker for clever headlines, especially if the writing quality extends throughout the full length of the ensuing article.

Jeff Goldstein of Protein Wisdom and Tom Maguire of Just One Minute are two of the most interesting writers online and, lucky us, they toil in our right half of the blogosphere. I am having a rotten week - my beloved cat is gravely ill - but reading their headlines today made me smile.

Goldstein penned Swing Roe, Sweet Harriet, including in the title a typically self-aware, self-mocking disclaimer: (note: post not really about Harriet Miers per se; but somehow I didn't come up with this headline until just now. I blame ketamine and gin gimlets). If there were an award for excellence in headlines, it would bear Jeff's likeness. His imaginary vignettes are wickedly funny, too.

Just One Minute is currently my favorite blog. When we hear the phrase the Plame leak investigation, many of us think of Tom Maguire first and Patrick Fitzgerald as an afterthought. Maguire is the leading forensic journalist on the subject and a fascinating writer besides. I l-o-v-e today's headline: How Green Was the Room with Vallely?

In his Review of Right Wing Blogs, last week Jon Henke of The QandO Blog wrote that "in my opinion, Tom Maguire (along with Kevin Drum) is the quintessential blogger. JustOneMinute regularly combines both the attitude and the investigative aspects of blogging in a way that few others ever manage."

Henke's post prompted Brainster to add this comment: "I like Maguire’s writing a lot, but the Plame story lost its fascination for me ages ago. I feel like I’ve walked into a roomful of people discussing a Russian novel I haven’t read." I'm positive this is meant as a tribute to Maguire's gift for detail and for inspiring detailed threads. However, when you enter the Just One Minute maze, it helps to bring breadcrumbs.

Of Goldstein, Henke wrote, "[Y] ou know how you and your friends used to get into wandering, but interesting, all-night conversations about every subject imaginable—school, politics, jokes, sports, news, girls, philosophy, etc—in your younger days? Well, replace you with PJ O'Rourke, and replace your friends with a lot of drugs. Voila! Jeff Goldstein: a right winger somewhere between libertarian and libertine."

The Indigent Blogger of Vagabondia is not yet on Henke's list - and he may not be strictly right wing - but he should be.

Happy reading!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Nick and Nora Second-Guess Ness

On Monday's Hugh Hewitt radio show, legal sleuths Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing - Mrs. diGenova - uncovered an ulterior motive to explain why Patrick Fitzgerald is keeping his investigation of Karl Rove open and ongoing.

VT: And I'll tell you what else bothers me...

HH: Go ahead.

VT: ...that after almost two years, the prosecutor can't make a decision yet about Karl Rove? Does he understand how government works?

HH: We've had Andrew McBride and Andy McCarthy, two former Republican prosecutors on with great respect for Patrick Fitzgerald. Is is unusual, Joe DeGenova [sic], as a former United States attorney, to leave someone twisting in the wind this way?

JG: Oh, absolutely. In fact, it borders on the abusive. And it is inconceivable to me that he can't make up his mind that no crime was committed by Rove. What he's doing is he's isolating Rove to prevent him from being a defense witness for Libby.

HH: Expand on that. I don't understand that. I'm not a crimes lawyer.

JG: Well, by keeping him hanging out there, and by making him unable to talk or communicate with anybody, and holding over the head the possibility of indictment, he's making it very obvious that the last thing in the world he wants him to do is appear as a defense witness in the case.

Transcript excerpt courtesy of Radio Blogger.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Halloween Leftovers

Last year our Halloween traffic was so light that my husband Luis, dressed as Dracula, handed out two or three pieces of candy to each trick-or-treater. Then suddenly it was rush hour and I had to scurry down to the supermarket for reinforcements.

This year I bought enough candy to fill Nancy Pelosi's cauldron and we have about one-third left. My son Chris will be eating most of the leftovers and his tastes have changed somewhat now that he is 22. According to his guidelines revised for 2005, old favorites like Skittles and Snickers could be given away first while reserving new favorites like white chocolate Peanut Butter Cups and white chocolate Kit Kats. The preteen boys who sauntered half-embarrassed to the door dropped their sneers and exclaimed, "Skittles! Cool." Ah, yes, I remember it well.

Chris is obsessed with all things Japanese, so he would have preferred that I had picked a peck of Pocky instead.

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Yeah, all the Skittles gangstas would have loved that. Pocky.

My favorite aspects of most holidays are decorating and food, not necessarily in that order. Tonight Chris took some pictures of our house with our rudimentary digital camera and tried his best to doctor them, but they are still blurry. This is the front of the house adorned with purplish orange lights.

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This closeup of the porch shows an abundance of spider webs on the low hedges and a hanging lighted web. Hidden behind the bushes is the fog machine Chris always wanted.

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Here you can see the giant spider on the left side of the porch. The blurry lights in the middle are from a candelabra and a flashing lighted skeleton skull.

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The weather was unseasonably hot and I was under the weather, feeling not so hot. So our family Halloween party menu of mostly orange and black food was abbreviated: chile con queso, black bean dip, bluish-black corn tortilla chips, salmon roll with miniature toast, homemade chili with cornbread, pumpkin and pecan pies. Last year I made a pumpkin souffle and an extravagant buffet. I cook for three men, so leftovers never get a chance to go bad.

This year Dracula sat at his computer, playing World of Warcraft and trying to cool down. Even at 7:00pm, it was too warm for Chris to don his glowing-eyed zombie costume. Only my brother Richard got into the spirit of the celebration.

Richard is deaf and has learning disabilities, but he reads print and online materials voraciously. Fine details often escape him and I never know how much he really understands. He has always lived with immediate family and we are a politically conscious family. Some of that obviously has influenced him.

This Halloween he wanted a costume flexible enough to wear to his deaf bowling league party, so off we went to Party City, population everybody and his mother. He selected a mask to complete the ensemble, which he models below.

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I swear he picked it out all by himself.

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Here he is clutching his heart.

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Apparently he understood the news reports about President Clinton's cardiac trouble - and tacky, lowbrow humor is hereditary.

In character, Bubba, I mean Richard, flirted with all the mommies who came to our door with his legendary incorrigible charm.

How incorrigible? Even his portrait can't help himself when there's a pretty girl around.

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The Alito family, from left to right: Laura, Philip and Martha (courtesy of Bench Memos at National Review Online).

This Halloween Is Flippin' Sweet

As Napoleon Dynamite Might Say

The President reached deep into his political bag o' tricks and delivered a Halloween treat that is not only pleasing to the conservative palate but nourishing and easy to digest. Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr. is superbly qualified to serve on the Supreme Court.

Today's announcement was met by attacks from the left, not from the right. This morning the Democrat leadership team held an emergency strategy session (pictured below).

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Nancy Pelosi was heard to shriek, "I'm melting, I'm melting!"

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Scrotus or Scalita

The rumors are running rampant that President Bush will announce his nomination of Janice Rogers Brown for the SCOTUS.

The rumormongers are wishful thinking, but, oh, how I wish it were true. Heavy sigh.

JRB has been on the media short lists and conservative wish lists to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor for both vacancies. Along with Miguel Estrada, she has been at the top of my list, too. More importantly, she has not, to the best of my knowledge, been on the leaked lists of candidates under serious consideration for either vacancy by Bush.

No matter how much many of us would relish that fight, for whatever reason the President does not appear to share our devotion to Judge Brown. Chastened by the Miers backlash he may be, but he still holds the deciding vote.

I think the leaks naming Judges Michael Luttig and Sam Alito as the preferred candidates are deliberate signals to conservatives that Bush will get this one right, in both the literal and political sense. If true, the only remaining mystery is whether he will select a Scrotus – a man – or a Scalita – a woman.

I believe the best man for the job may be a woman, Judge Brown, but I will be grateful for any conservative who has a clear, consistent judicial philosophy of originalism/strict constructionism. The only serious argument for a gender-based selection is to counter accusations that critics of the Harriet Miers nomination were sexist – and I personally do not find it that compelling. For reasons that should be obvious after the Miers disappointment, I am reluctant to become too attached to any specific candidate.

Chris Cox is a late entry in the SCOTUS guessing game and would be the kind of surprise Bush likes to spring occasionally, but these are not light and playful times. If Bush is looking for a John Roberts type, Cox might be a close match. He is bright, personable, courteous and humble, which are qualities that seem to resonate with the President. Like Roberts, he is a solid Reagan conservative who has earned the respect of Democrats.

Regardless of Bush’s picks now or in the future, Janice Rogers Brown should still be a highly desirable candidate for the SCOTUS after 2008. She is such a brilliant jurist that her age would be irrelevant. If she were ever to seriously consider elective office again, I would l-o-v-e her to run against Barbara Boxer for Senate, please God.

Friday, October 28, 2005

The First Daze of Fitzmas

Countless numbers of boys and girls have been posting their Fitzmas wish lists online, inciting a frenzied obsession for one prize above all others. They woke up this morning to find in their stocking, instead of Tickle Me Elmo or a Cabbage Patch doll, a Pet Rock.

Yes, Virginia, Massachusetts, Vermont, Berkeley, San Francisco, and Hollywood – there is no Santa Claus.

Although special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald probably won enough Democratic followers today to lead a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, it is not St. Patrick's Day, either. There are still too many snakes in the greater Washington, D.C. area, some of them – *cough* David Corn *cough* – asking questions today in the Department of Justice 7th Floor Conference Center.

I have watched the press conference twice now and read all 22 pages of the indictment. Here are my Twelve D'ohs of Fitzmas:

1. We are a nation of laws and perjury subverts the enforcement of them. Public officials have a unique responsibility not only to obey laws but to model them. If I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby is guilty as charged, he has wronged his boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, his boss's boss, the President, and perhaps one or more reporters. Although Patrick Fitzgerald was tasked with determining whether the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson’s name and identity was a crime, he has not charged Libby nor anyone else with that crime. He is charging Libby with technical crimes that, if real, were a byproduct of the investigation. Hence, I call this the Case of the Crimeless Investigation.

2. Libby is acclaimed as an extremely bright man and successful lawyer between his stints in both Bush administrations. Testifying falsely while providing contradictory records is a bizarre allegation - and I am mindful that Fitzgerald's indictment is based on unproven allegations. Fitzgerald's certainty that Libby fabricated an elaborate backstory scapegoating reporters suggests he has solid evidence supporting testimony from Tim Russert, Matt Cooper and Judith Miller or else he has supreme confidence in his own instincts to deconstruct a "he said, he/she said." Did Libby assume that journalists would never reveal their sources? Might he have blabbed to one or more cooperating witnesses about his reporter alibi? Reconciling the accusations detailed today to his sterling reputation is perplexing. However, they are consistent with the infamous September 15, 2005 letter to Judith Miller, in which Libby may have attempted to influence her testimony. That letter already called into question Libby’s – and his attorney’s – legal smarts.

3. We still don’t know everything Patrick Fitzgerald knows. We don’t know much of anything that Scooter Libby knows. Libby may yet be exonerated or Fitzgerald vindicated. Until one or the other comes to pass, we are doomed to many more months or years of rampant speculation unfettered by facts, such as past predictions of 22 indictments of multiple officials that failed to materialize. The rigid, leak-averse discipline maintained by Fitzgerald and his team reminds me of Bush’s tight ship. Speaking of whom, the President's reputation for political ethics survives despite the best - or worst - efforts of left-wing wackos to draw moral equivalency between his administration and his predecessor's, between Scooter Libby and Slick Willy. Unlike the series of prosecutors investigating throughout the Clinton era, Fitzgerald was given prompt access to the President, Vice President and every other official he asked to interview, plus their documents. The only witnesses he was forced to subpoena were journalists. There was no administration conspiracy and no coordinated cover-up. Interestingly, that may be due in part to the context in which Libby was working the media back channels to expose Joseph Wilson's fraud. Libby has emerged as a loyalist countering CIA chicanery and defending the administration at a time when the President's team, beleaguered by CIA chicanery, was preparing to retreat from the controversial but accurate sixteen words he cited in his 2003 State of the Union address.

4. Fitzgerald, who held the most publicized press conference of his career, was as earnest and unpolished as a freshman at his first college debate. If Ken Starr was an unflappable Eagle Scout, as methodically decent and even-tempered as Ned Flanders, Patrick Fitzgerald is a semper fi Marine who gets emotional defending truth, justice and the American way. The results-driven left will praise him because he a) nabbed Libby and b) furnished sound bites in support of the CIA, their cynical crusade du jour. The principled right will respect his fidelity to law despite the fact that he nabbed Libby, the unlikely conservative hero.

5. Fitzgerald seemed tired but intense - and intensely conscious of his role on the national stage. He alternated between hard-selling his case against Libby, whom he acknowledged deserves the presumption of innocence, and advocacy in favor of protecting CIA confidentiality. Unfortunately, Fitzgerald appeared to be trying a political case against Libby in the court of public opinion based on his personal concerns about the CIA and not his actual counts against Libby. Fitzgerald belied his "put up or shut up" assertion that he would not discuss any information outside of the Libby indictment. He created the false impression that Libby has been charged with compromising Valerie Plame Wilson’s cover and harming national security, which he has not. As impassioned as Fitzgerald's rhetoric was regarding classified CIA information, I have to think he would have indicted him in a heartbeat if he could prove Libby violated the Espionage Act - and, of course, he did not. Watching, I wondered whether he was seeking to influence the jury pool and what Libby's new legal team could with this video clip.

6. On Monday, Fitzgerald’s investigators interviewed the Wilsons’ neighbors for the first time ever in the course of the investigation, which seemed very strange at this late date. When Fitzgerald cited those interviews as evidence of Plame’s CIA cover, I thought, “Oh, that’s why he did it. Not to conscientiously search for new, possibly exculpatory information, but to support the conclusion he already formed and give him a talking point.” If bass-ackwards is how he conducts his investigations and Libby buys himself some slick lawyering, this could be a real illuminating trial.

7. At some point in the investigation, perhaps when former Attorney General John Ashcroft felt compelled to recuse himself, the focus shifted from a violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act to Libby’s alleged perjury. What prolonged the investigation were delays as journalists sought to avoid testimony, at least partly to protect an assumed shield of journalistic confidentiality. From the indictment you could infer that Libby, not Fitzgerald, was to blame for the First Amendment showdown.

8. Libby’s alleged perjury, false statements and obstruction of justice should not have impaired Fitzgerald’s ability to determine the exact level of covertness the CIA assigned to Plame at the time of Novak's leak. Unless the CIA did not cooperate, Fitzgerald should have retrieved the damage assessment report issued after the leak early in his investigation. Clearly, her compromised status was not sufficiently covert to warrant an indictment or there would have been one. Otherwise, he would not have referred repeatedly to her status as classified instead of covert. Either way, he didn’t get any indictments under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act or the Espionage Act – and we don’t know if he even tried. I am happy to welcome the return of Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, experts on the applicability of both acts, to the punditry class.

9. Is Wall Street bullish on Turd Blossom? Well, I am, more than ever. Today, Black Friday, the Dow Jones rallied on the news that Scooter Libby, not Karl Rove, was the biggest catch in Fitzgerald’s net. The rumor is that Fitzgerald told Rove, “Boy, I’m gonna be watchin’ you.” That means Bush opponents still hope Fitzgerald might be able to get Libby to incriminate Rove, possibly as part of a plea bargain. But Fitzgerald indicated that he is not actively pursuing any other significant targets, suggesting that Rove may be free and clear. Whatever else happens, for the sake of the Republic, Libby and Rove cannot be allowed to correspond.

10. The hounds of Plame blame are on Robert Novak’s trail. They believe that the MSM, er, the American people have a right to know who his primary source was that named and identified Valerie Plame Wilson – and if he or she was part of Cheney’s Iraq cabal. If Novak had omitted her name from his July 14, 2003 column but published the rest, almost anyone could have identified her from her husband's biography posted on the EPIC website one month earlier, which could have been located with a simple internet search. If he had omitted only her CIA employment, he could not expose her husband's fraud and Plame's identity would have remained an open secret in Georgetown. And that is what irks the MSM - that Wilson's cover was blown, not Plame's. I still don't understand how Tim Russert, the Washington bureau chief for NBC, did not know what Marty Peretz's circle of friends knew before reading Novak's column - that Plame was "under cover, but not really."

11. President Bush is a man of action more than words. His response to the chronic corruption and irrelevance of the U.N. was to make a recess appointment of John Bolton. His response to the institutional disloyalty of the State Department was to promote Condoleezza Rice. His response to the chronic CIA sabotage of his agenda was to install Porter Goss at the helm. Bush is not likely to lead the long overdue investigation of the CIA. But Dick Cheney might be so inclined, especially after losing his esteemed assistant. This is a battle we cannot afford to postpone.

12. Dick Cheney has been the most effective vice president in my lifetime. His successes were made possible by Scooter Libby, who took a considerable pay cut to return to government work. According to co-workers and friends like Mary Matalin, he has served with dedication and honor during one of the most challenging, politicized periods in our nation’s history. I wish him and his family strength, love, faith, forgiveness and, if appropriate, a January 2009 pardon.

Libby in the Can?

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The rumor is that Patrick Fitzgerald is serving I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby for lunch today. Fitzgerald, the mainstream media and Fitzmas revelers everywhere may need lots of antacids.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Case of the Crimeless Investigation

And the Mystery of the Unseen Forgeries

Byron York, posting at National Review Online, described his meeting tonight with two of Valerie Plame’s neighbors. With the Plame leak grand jury set to expire on Friday, David Tillotson and Marc Lefkowitz told York that Monday was the first time any of prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigators contacted either one of them to ask if they knew that Plame worked for the CIA. Even though they considered themselves friends of Plame, they were unaware of her true employment.

Isn’t this a fundamental background check that should have been performed, say, in December 2003 or January 2004 when Fitzgerald took over the investigation? If he could have established then that Plame’s CIA cover was porous and had been compromised more than once before Robert Novak cited her name in his July 14, 2003 column, couldn't he have saved us from an unnecessary, unwarranted investigation that wasted scads of money and launched a First Amendment crisis?

Well, apparently it’s not too late in the investigation for a fact check. Here are some other leads for Fitzgerald to chase down.

Joe Wilson was one of the keynote speakers at the EPIC Iraq Forum in Washington, D.C. on June 14, 2003, one month before Novak’s column was published. The EPIC website listed the forum presenters and their brief biographies, including Wilson’s, which included this nugget: “He is married to the former Valerie Plame and has four children.” The entire blurb reads like a Who’s Who entry - perhaps the one Novak mentioned in his October 1, 2003 column, for instance?

Bill Gertz reported on July 22, 2004 that Plame’s undercover identity had been disclosed on two occasions unrelated to Novak’s column: once in the mid-1990s and again more recently.

On September 29, 2003, Clifford D. May asked, “Who leaked the fact that the wife of Joseph C. Wilson IV worked for the CIA? What also might be worth asking: ‘Who didn't know?’ I believe I was the first to publicly question the credibility of Mr. Wilson, a retired diplomat sent to Niger to look into reports that Saddam Hussein had attempted to purchase yellowcake uranium for his nuclear-weapons program. On July 6, Mr. Wilson wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in which he said: ‘I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.’ On July 11, I wrote a piece for NRO arguing that Mr. Wilson had no basis for that conclusion - and that his political leanings and associations (not disclosed by the Times and others journalists interviewing him) cast serious doubt on his objectivity. On July 14, Robert Novak wrote a column in the Post and other newspapers naming Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA operative. That wasn't news to me. I had been told that - but not by anyone working in the White House. Rather, I learned it from someone who formerly worked in the government and he mentioned it in an offhanded manner, leading me to infer it was something that insiders were well aware of.”

On July 21, 2004, Martin Peretz, editor-in-chief of the New Republic, blew the lid off of Plame’s cover. “I myself had wondered why the CIA had been so dumb--such dumbness is something to which we should have long ago become accustomed!--as to send a low-level diplomat to check on yellowcake sales from Niger to Iraq when it should have dispatched a real spook. Well, it turns out that a ‘real spook’ had recommended him to her boss, that spook being Valerie Plame, who happens also to be Wilson's wife. He has long denied that she had anything to do with his going to Niger and that, alas, was a lie. It appears, in fact, that this is the sole reason he was sent. Still, in a lot of dining rooms where I am a guest here, there is outrage that someone in the vice president's office ‘outed’ Ms. Plame, as though everybody in Georgetown hadn't already known she was under cover, so to speak. Under cover, but not really. One guest even asserted that someone in the vice president's office is surely guilty of treason, no less--an offense this person certainly wouldn't have attributed to the Rosenbergs or Alger Hiss, Daniel Ellsberg or Philip Agee. But for the person who confirmed for Robert Novak what he already knew, nothing but high crimes would do.”

When Patrick Fitzgerald sends his investigators to interview May and Peretz, as a conscientious prosecutor should do, he can also ascertain what they know about how Wilson got his Niger assignment and if it was a boondoggle to benefit his consulting business. If Fitzgerald wants to investigate how Wilson learned that the “the dates were wrong and the names were wrong” on the alleged Niger forgeries, he should debrief Kevin Drum.

On July 24, 2004, Drum posted the rumor that Wilson learned the Niger documents were deemed by the CIA to be forgeries from an inside CIA source – wink wink, nudge nudge – before the agency issued its official findings in the final draft of an internal memorandum on June 17, 2003. Drum speculated that Wilson first accessed the classified information in May 2003, fed it anonymously to Nicholas Kristof for his May 6th column, and went public to claim the credit in the New York Times op-ed that he wrote under his own name on June 22.

If Fitzgerald is interested in CIA leaks that actually harmed national security, he should start with the Blowhard Ambassador and the Case of the Classified Forgeries.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

What If the Ham Sandwich Bites Back?

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According to the January 31, 1985 New York Daily News quote attributed to former judge Sol Wachtler and popularized by Tom Wolfe in Bonfire of the Vanities, “district attorneys now have so much influence on grand juries that ‘by and large’ they could get them to ‘indict a ham sandwich.’” In the recent indictment of Tom DeLay, Ronnie Earle’s ham sandwich was so unappetizing that the second grand jury out of three refused to take a nibble.

In What I Told the Grand Jury, Matt Cooper was moved to employ the same edible metaphor in the context of the special counsel investigation into the so-called Plame affair. “A grand jury, the old maxim goes, will indict a ham sandwich if a prosecutor asks it of them. But I didn't get that sense from this group of grand jurors. They somewhat reflected the demographics of the District of Columbia. The majority were African American and were disproportionately women. Most sat in black vinyl chairs with little desks in rows that were slightly elevated, as if it were a shabby classroom at a rundown college. A kindly African-American forewoman swore me in, and when I had to leave the room to consult with my attorneys, I asked her permission to be excused, not the prosecutor's, as is the custom. These grand jurors did not seem the types to passively indict a ham sandwich. I would say one-third of my 2 1/2 hours of testimony was spent answering their questions, not the prosecutor's, although he posed them on their behalf.”

On April 7, 2005, the Washington Post reported that the “special prosecutor investigating whether Bush administration officials illegally revealed the identity of a covert CIA operative says he finished his investigation months ago, except for questioning two reporters who have refused to testify.” Those two reporters were Cooper, who testified in July 2005, and the more recent witness, Judith Miller. Perhaps the grand jury did not seem passive or disinterested to Cooper because they had been kept waiting several months specifically for his testimony.

I have spent the bulk of my spare time this past week reading and re-reading scores of online articles and wild speculation about Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation, trying like everybody else to prepare for its resolution. I do not see any clear cut evidence in the accounts by Cooper and Miller of their grand jury testimony that support indictments on the leak of Plame’s name and identity, which was the original grounds for this investigation. In fact, I would hesitate to use them as primary witnesses.

The current issue of Newsweek offers a possible antidote to hysterical, hyperbolic hyperventilation on the left. “Some press reports identified John Hannah, Cheney's deputy national-security adviser, as a potentially key figure in the investigation. Hannah played a central policymaking role on Iraq and was known to be particularly close to Ahmad Chalabi, whose Iraqi National Congress supplied some of the faulty intelligence about WMD embraced by the vice president in the run-up to the invasion. Lawyers for Rove and Libby have said their clients did nothing wrong and broke no laws. Last week Hannah's lawyer Thomas Green told NEWSWEEK his client ‘knew nothing’ about the leak and is not a target of Fitzgerald's probe. ‘This is craziness,’ he said.”

We do not know everything that Patrick Fitzgerald knows about his investigation, but surely he knows everything that we know.

We know that on July 14, 2003, Robert Novak wrote the column, from which most of us first learned of Valerie Plame, that triggered the CIA-referred investigation.

We know that on August 1, 2005, Novak broke his silence of nearly two years on the Plame affair to write a rebuttal to quotes from ex-CIA spokesperson Bill Harlow cited in a July 27, 2005 Washington Post article, in which Walter Pincus and Jim VandeHei wrote the following: “In a strange twist in the investigation, the grand jury -- acting on a tip from Wilson -- has questioned a person who approached Novak on Pennsylvania Avenue on July 8, 2003, six days before his column appeared in The Post and other publications, Wilson said in an interview. The person, whom Wilson declined to identify to The Post, asked Novak about the ‘yellow cake’ uranium matter and then about Wilson, Wilson said. He first revealed that conversation in a book he wrote last year. In the book, he said that he tried to reach Novak on July 8, and that they finally connected on July 10. In that conversation, Wilson said that he did not confirm his wife worked for the CIA but that Novak told him he had obtained the information from a ‘CIA source.’”

Surely Fitzgerald has questioned Robert Novak about this amazing coincidence.

We know that Robert Novak has been a widely respected reporter for 48 years whose journalistic integrity had never been questioned until he revealed Plame’s name. In his August 1st column, Novak wrote, “I eagerly await the end of this investigation when I may be able to correct other misinformation about me and the case.” Surely Fitzgerald knows what Novak means by this. Surely he knows that Novak could testify about what he calls the “massive political assault on President Bush” by Wilson and other Democrats, such as Senator Charles Schumer.

We know that Joe Wilson’s version of the events surrounding his 2002 trip to Niger were contradicted by the Senate Intelligence Committee report ordered on July 7, 2004 during Fitzgerald’s first year investigating the leak. Surely Fitzgerald heard or read of Wilson’s documented deceptions and has tested the veracity of Wilson’s testimony.

We know that Novak explained in his October 1, 2003 column how he came to reveal Plame’s name and identity. “First, I did not receive a planned leak. Second, the CIA never warned me that the disclosure of Wilson's wife working at the agency would endanger her or anybody else. Third, it was not much of a secret.”

Later in the column, Novak reiterated, “How big a secret was it? It was well known around Washington that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. Republican activist Clifford May wrote Monday, in National Review Online, that he had been told of her identity by a non-government source before my column appeared and that it was common knowledge. Her name, Valerie Plame, was no secret either, appearing in Wilson's ‘Who's Who in America’ entry.”

He added, “During a long conversation with a senior administration official, I asked why Wilson was assigned the mission to Niger. He said Wilson had been sent by the CIA's counterproliferation section at the suggestion of one of its employees, his wife. It was an offhand revelation from this official, who is no partisan gunslinger. When I called another official for confirmation, he said: ‘Oh, you know about it.’ The published report that somebody in the White House failed to plant this story with six reporters and finally found me as a willing pawn is simply untrue.”

According to speculation, the confirming official was Karl Rove, but Fitzgerald and Novak know for sure. There is rampant guessing about Novak’s first source, the senior administration official, but Fitzgerald and Novak know for sure.

According to credible reports, Tim Russert and Judy Miller were allowed to limit the scope of their testimony. Isn’t that a dangerous strategy for Fitzgerald if he plans to bring indictments related to their testimony? At trial, Russert might be asked about Scooter Libby’s side of their conversation and Miller could be grilled about sources other than Libby. If Fitzgerald has not presented these issues before the grand jury, as has been reported, isn’t he leaving important stones unturned that could lead to surprise testimony later from Russert or Miller?

If Fitzgerald indicts one or more big league players in the Bush administration, surely he knows they will have big league representation when they go to trial – the kind that will leave no stone unturned. Surely he would expect Victoria Toensing and Bruce W. Sanford, who drafted the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act at the heart of Fitzgerald's investigation, to testify as expert witnesses. Surely he has no doubts about their position after they co-authored a critical Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post; after they filed the amici curiae brief on behalf of 36 news organizations to prevent the forced testimony of Miller and Cooper; and after Toensing recently described the Plame affair as "the CIA doing a covert action against the President." About the CIA's role, she asked Jed Babbin, "Now why is it that they would allow Joe Wilson to go over, do this mission, not sign a confidentiality agreement, and then allow him to write about it in the New York Times?"

Here’s another famous maxim: be careful what you wish for. The liberal MSM have been pushing Wilson’s discredited version of the Iraq-Niger-yellowcake events to the forefront of the Plame leak investigation without regard for facts or consequences. If indictment leads to trial, the same reporters who appeared before Fitzgerald’s grand jury may be answering detailed interrogatories about names, dates and other potentially embarrassing revelations – and so might other interested parties, including Mr. and Mrs. Wilson.

Take a lesson from Ronnie Earle's mistake. If you hunger to get a ham sandwich indicted, make sure you drive a skewer through its heart so it cannot come back to bite you.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

I Still Oppose the Miers Nomination

N. Z. Bear is calling on bloggers to declare their support for or opposition to the nomination of Harriet Miers. The Truth Laid Bear tracking page charts bloggers pro and con.

I oppose the Miers nomination. I expressed my concerns here, here, here, here, here and here. However, I cannot improve on the remarks published this weekend by George Will and Professor Stephen Bainbridge.

Hugh Hewitt writes that it "is disappointing to see both Judge Bork and George Will run off the cliff in the same week, and to do so with such intemperate rhetoric." Has Hugh become so disconnected from his own bitter invective and inconsistencies that he thinks he holds the higher moral standing to chastise Bork and Will for erecting a rhetorical bridge too far? I fear that Hewitt has built a bridge to nowhere that would be the envy of Senator Ted Stevens - and I hope that he is not so invested in partisan support for a nominee he would never have chosen himself that he cannot find his way back.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Love Blogging My Anniversary

I woke up this morning and thought, “Who is this beautiful man in my bed and how did I get so lucky?” This has been my ritual for 1,819 mornings, which would have been 1,825 but for six days of forced separation.

Five years ago today, Luis and I married at the historic Old Orange County Courthouse in Santa Ana, California, with my son Chris as our witness.

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I wore an ivory lace dress that I bought at the thrift store for $20.00, gold earrings my mother bequeathed to me, and my grandmother’s antique amethyst-and-diamond cameo brooch, which is so special that I have not worn it before or since. Per Chris’s request, afterward we went to the IHOP for a late breakfast

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before Luis and I drove down to Laguna Beach

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for an afternoon stroll along the water. That evening we “honeymooned” at an inland motel near the freeway, as Luis started a new job the next morning, and we dined on In-N-Out Burger to go.

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It was one of the best 2,085 or so days of my life since I found my true love.

Luis won’t let me post his picture, but he reminds me of the young John Derek.

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Luis has the kind of strikingly attractive looks that prompted a lonely co-worker to send a photo of my husband to his favorite actress, pretending that he was Luis. I expect Kim Basinger to show up on our doorstep any day now. I admit that my attention was caught by his broad shoulders and gorgeous eyes, but I fell in love with his inner beauty. Honest.

These have not been trouble-free years for us. My son, a spoiled teenager at the beginning of our marriage, was not thrilled to share his mother, the Coddler, with a man who likes to call himself the Enforcer. I was diagnosed with breast cancer, underwent a radical mastectomy (one of our forced separation days), became bald and quite ill during chemotherapy, and then immediately plunged into premature menopause. One month into chemotherapy, my sister died unexpectedly, which was devastating enough. Compounding our family tragedy, we had to relocate almost immediately to a larger home to make room for my handicapped brother and his service dog, whom Luis moved from Florida (thus the remaining five days of forced separation) to be with us. Living with my brother can be quite the challenge.

Heck, living with me can be a challenge. Since the cancer treatment, my photographic memory is gone and my health is easily impaired. In the past month I broke a toe, contracted first the stomach flu and then an upper respiratory virus, and finally developed a sinus infection and bronchitis. I am not merely menopausal – I am super menopausal. I am nearly two years into a five-year treatment that suppresses any stray hormones that might even think of acting up.

Yet, in spite of everything, Luis and I are still best friends and soulmates. The honeymoon continues. What is the secret to our happiness?

He calls me on his way home from work every evening. We always greet each other at the front door with a hug and kiss. We share mutual love and respect, humor, values, and a low maintenance lifestyle. We are devoted to and considerate of each other. We laugh and snuggle a lot. Our love and laughter have the power to heal whatever ails me.

Luis even teases me about my surgical disfigurement. I can share one of the jokes here. When I first showed him the railroad track scar where my breast used to be, I was terrified that he would be repulsed. He smiled reassuringly before turning deadly serious. “Oh, dear God,” he said in a deliberately flat monotone before the impish humor spilled out of his eyes and spread across his face. Then he showed me that my fear was unfounded and I never worried about it again.

We still look at each other with the jolt of recognition that first startled us over five years ago, except with more tenderness in his eyes and more gratitude in my heart. Love isn’t blind - it just sees what is important.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

A Triumphant Weekend for Democracy

The Iraqi people voted this weekend on a constitutional framework for their democracy - their second electoral opportunity in an historic year. The turnout, which was met with an insignificant number of terrorist disruptions, is reportedly more widespread among the entire population and all eighteen provinces.

Here is one happy Iraqi who voted twice.

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Voter fraud, you ask? No!

He voted once for the Iraqi charter and once for Kiihnworld in the Crosley Solo Blog of the Week contest at Radio Blogger.

Have you voted yet for Theresa Kiihn’s excellent post, Trust?

Do you have insurgents threatening to shut off your electricity?

Well, then, what are you waiting for? Voting closes at 12:00 noon Pacific Time on Monday, October 17, 2005.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

If You Can't Beat the Right . . .

You Must Indict!

The Daily Standard, the online edition of The Weekly Standard, features two columns about legal problems facing the Republican leadership - and, for a change, I am not referring to Harriet Miers.

In Criminalizing Conservatives, editor Bill Kristol writes that the investigation of Bill Frist, the indictment of Tom DeLay, and potential indictments of Karl Rove or Lewis "Scooter" Libby pose serious threats to the conservative agenda. In The White House, the CIA, and the Wilsons, Stephen F. Hayes reconstructs the chain of events in the "Plame affair" from Joe Wilson's trip through the release of the bipartisan Senate Select Intelligence Committee's report, which contradicted nearly every public assertion Wilson made on the subject but is omitted from all mainstream media accounts, including the New York Times timeline that appeared alongside its July 22, 2005 version of the same story.

Today the New York Times published My Four Hours Testifying in the Federal Grand Jury Room by Judith Miller. Miller writes, "My notes do not show that Mr. Libby identified Mr. Wilson's wife by name. Nor do they show that he described Valerie Wilson as a covert agent or 'operative,' as the conservative columnist Robert D. Novak first described her in a syndicated column published on July 14, 2003."

In the weeks preceding publication of the Novak column, Miller and Libby spoke three times and discussed Wilson, who wrote his own misleading Op-Ed for the New York Times during this period. Either before or during their third conversation, which took place over the phone just two days prior to Novak's scoop, she had written down Plame's name erroneously as Victoria Wilson. Although she couldn't remember exactly why she had the wrong name among her notes, she testified to Fitzgerald that she may have deliberately used a false name to see if Libby might corrrect her.

She had also written down Valerie Flame in the same notebook but in a part separate from her Libby notes. She testified that she thinks she may have gotten that second misnomer from another source whose name she cannot recall.

Special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald inquired whether Libby intimated that Vice President Cheney was aware of what he was telling Miller - her answer was "no" - and if Libby shared classified information with her - she thought so but wasn't sure.

Fitzgerald had her read to the grand jury the final three paragraphs of the September 2005 letter she received from Libby when she was in jail. Here is her bizarre account:

Mr. Fitzgerald asked me to read the final three paragraphs aloud to the grand jury. "The public report of every other reporter's testimony makes clear that they did not discuss Ms. Plame's name or identity with me," Mr. Libby wrote.

The prosecutor asked my reaction to those words. I replied that this portion of the letter had surprised me because it might be perceived as an effort by Mr. Libby to suggest that I, too, would say we had not discussed Ms. Plame's identity. Yet my notes suggested that we had discussed her job.

Mr. Fitzgerald also focused on the letter's closing lines. "Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning," Mr. Libby wrote. "They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them."

How did I interpret that? Mr. Fitzgerald asked.

In answer, I told the grand jury about my last encounter with Mr. Libby. It came in August 2003, shortly after I attended a conference on national security issues held in Aspen, Colo. After the conference, I traveled to Jackson Hole, Wyo. At a rodeo one afternoon, a man in jeans, a cowboy hat and sunglasses approached me. He asked me how the Aspen conference had gone. I had no idea who he was.

"Judy," he said. "It's Scooter Libby."

According to his letter, none of the other reporters testified that they discussed Valerie Plame's name or identity (as a CIA employee) with Libby. I think it's pretty clear that Miller did not get Plame's name from Libby either, but they did discuss Mrs. Wilson's CIA employment, although not in any covert capacity. As Miller assumed Plame was just an analyst until she read Novak's column, obviously Libby did not tell her otherwise. However, Miller claims that Libby cited the specific unit, WINPAC, in which Wilson's wife worked. If that was classified information, Miller does not say so and did not draw such a conclusion at the time.

If Fitzgerald is prosecuting any other leak of classified information, it's hard to believe that Miller's vague testimony can help much. If the case against Scooter Libby is so skimpy that Fitzgerald is reduced to divining subliminal messages sent to Miller ostensibly to influence her testimony, an indictment of Libby on such flimsy charges would be a low blow worthy of Ronnie Earle.

Furthermore, Libby is a genuinely good writer, so much better than Harriet Miers. That bit about the aspens turning in clusters is sheer romantic prose. My wedding anniversary is Tuesday and I might have to borrow the line for my husband's card.

Seriously though, either Libby's letter was encoded - an incredibly stupid move if true - or Miller is irresistibly ingratiating. His letter, written in a familiar tone that hints at an unexpectedly personal rapport, began, "Your reporting, and you, are missed." I wonder if Fitzgerald, who may harbor a grudge against Miller, made her read the excerpts aloud to embarrass her.

Apparently Judy and Scooter spent time together bonding on the Iraq WMDs issue - enough to make her go to jail to cover for her friendly source? On the contrary, I agree with the Power Line crew that Miller's incarceration gambit was intended to limit the scope of her testimony to her conversations with Libby, excluding unfinished business, and she succeeded.

I guess we'll have to wait until Miller's book is published - or at least until she deposits the advance - for her explanation as to what they were both doing in Jackson Hole, apart from the rodeo, and how Libby knew she attended the Aspen conference. Tom Maguire at Just One Minute owns this story and I eagerly await his insight.

P.S. My son, channeling the late Johnnie Cochran, thought up the title of this post.

October 16, 2005 Update:

Be sure to read Tom Maguire's interpretation at Rove on the Bubble, Libby in Trouble. If Tom is right and Libby is likely to be indicted, will Judith Miller write him a letter asking, "Scooter, how's your aspen?"

Andy McCarthy at NRO is inclined to bet against a Libby indictment. Mark Levin contends that WINPAC was not classified.

The full text of Scooter Libby's letter to Judith Miller can be read here in PDF format (Adobe Reader required), along with correspondence between Libby attorney Joseph Tate and Miller attorney Floyd Abrams.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Judge Dread: Waiting for the Miers Verdict

How Handcuffs and a Unisex Bathroom Might Save the Constitution

President Bush is an extraordinarily determined man who honors his commitments to the bloody end. He has an excess of sticktuitiveness.

President Reagan had a soaring vision of freedom taking flight across the globe, so it was fitting that an airport would be renamed in his honor.

When President Bush retires, they're going to rename Elmer's Glue.

Do I expect Bush to withdraw the nomination of Harriet Miers? Not in this lifetime.

Then why did I sign David Frum's petition? Because I am a conservative of conscience. Results matter, but principles matter more.

Harriet Miers is not Linda Chavez or Michael Brown. She is Karl Rove and Karen Hughes. It will take a criminal indictment for Bush to cut her loose.

Barring Miers' own withdrawal, the nomination will proceed to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The President will invoke executive privilege, which was the strategery behind her selection. So we will learn little or nothing about her Bush years, the transformative time when she forged her qualifications, whatever the President thinks they are, for the SCOTUS.

We will learn something from Miers' performance and a lot from the Senate's reaction. If enough Senators of both parties - and Jim Jeffords - support her nomination, we may have a Supreme Court Justice with a blank slate on one side and the Presidential seal of approval on the other.

In ten years, Vice President Cheney assured Rush Limbaugh, we will appreciate what an outstanding selection Miers is. Can you imagine long years of nervous anticipation as we wait for Cheney's prediction to be proven true or false? Can you endure ten more years of this internecine debate? How about twenty or more, if she serves until her eighties?

The solution is not for principled conservatives to suck it up one more time for Bush. Those of us who disagree are sending our messages via petitions, blogs, talk radio, print media to this administration and to politicians with presidential aspirations for 2008.

Some gleeful observers of the Miers debate are asking, "Can this marriage be saved?" I ask instead, "Can this family be saved?"

Bush is like the son we send off to college and hope he stays true to his principles. He promises that he will. We worked hard to help him get where he is. We are deeply invested in his success.

We become concerned when he entertains some liberal notions that we did not teach him, but he reassures us that he is fundamentally unchanged. Then we start to get credit card bills with budget-busting charges, but he explains that they are necessary expenses. Some are impulse purchases to help others in need. We like that he is so tender-hearted, but we are already in considerable debt due to unforeseen emergencies. However, his grades are good overall, so we let him keep the credit card. All we ask is that he stay true to his principles and come home on really important family occasions.

At Christmas, he brings home a new friend who impresses us instantly. He is exceptionally bright, articulate, ambitious and yet humble. They talk about their social activities on campus with several young women of accomplishment who sound equally impressive. We are so relieved and proud of our son.

When he returns to college, he encounters opposition from leftist professors and obstacles that lead him to drop some classes. He starts talking about one special woman who is helping him deal with his problems, but she is not one of the campus standouts he mentioned earlier. He brings her home at spring break and immediately we are alarmed by how serious he is about her.

She seems nice but almost too agreeable, too deferential, even gushy. She seconds our son's every opinion and seems to have none of her own, although we learn that she changed many longheld views after becoming close to him. She reminds us of a lovely woman we know who avoids confrontation and usually agrees with the last person she talked to.

We understand that he has been living in an unnaturally cloistered, often stressful environment where personal loyalty assumes enormous significance. However, we suspect that he is relying more on his emotions than his reason, breaking his pledge to us and compromising his principles. We begin to question his judgment and revisit prior actions that caused concern.

She has an opportunity for advancement and he expects us to pay for her training. We think she is an unnecessary mistake that will cost us all for years. Looking ahead to the not-too-distant future, she plans to stay behind in the same hostile environment after he returns to the comforts of home far away. Knowing how stubborn he can be, we expect him to remain faithful. But she is so obviously impressionable that we foresee in their inevitable separation too great a risk of betrayal.

Indisputably, he has the right to make this decision. Indisputably, we have the right to revoke our support, financial and otherwise. *

Reagan said, "'Trust me' government asks that we concentrate our hopes and dreams on one man; that we trust him to do what's best for us. Well my view of government places trust not in one person or one Party, but in those values that transcend persons and parties."

The Miers nomination is the product of personal politics over conservative values. The President was moved by her personal attributes, not her judicial values. He implored the nation to trust him personally. In the absence of substantial evidence to support the nomination, his defenders resort to personal slurs against his critics. We worry that Miers' personal loyalty to Bush may not withstand the personal charms and pressures of the liberal Beltway establishment after he returns to his ranch half a continent away. I offer a personal analogy to describe our national impasse.

Even if Miers is confirmed and votes with Justices Scalia and Thomas more often than not, God willing, it won't justify the series of flawed judgments that led to her nomination. The integrity of the process does matter.

I have a solution. It may seem radical, but I think it is the only way to save the Bush coalition and the Republic.

Immediately after Miers is sworn in as an Associate Justice to the Supreme Court, Bush should walk her over to Scalia. "Harriet," he should say, "Meet Nino, your new best friend." He should slap a set of handcuffs on them and wish them luck.

Then Chief Justice Roberts needs to requisition a unisex bathroom ASAP. You know how women are. We can never powder our noses alone. In one of the most personal places where ladies gather, we share secrets, we share our dreams, we bond.

On this point I believe all conservatives can agree. When the fate of the Constitution is as stake, we want Scalia to be there where he is needed most, not Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

* For the record, my son is attending a local college while living at home, has no credit cards, is an uncompromising originalist conservative, and prefers Japanese women.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Reagan Rebuts the Miers Defense

Today Rush Limbaugh took a call from Trudy in Bloomington, Illinois, which illuminated the contrasts between George W. Bush and past presidents - and between Rush and other radio talk show hosts (ahem) prominently involved in the Harriet Miers debate. Trudy supported Bush's reelection and likewise supports Miers' nomination due to her own deep commitment to issues of faith, including abortion, which she believes they share. Consequently, the criticism of Bush and his nomination made her feel alienated and used.

With his customary patience and respect toward callers, especially dissenting callers, Rush sought to define his disagreement over Miers without being disagreeable. He enumerated the moral and constitutional arguments against Roe v. Wade, describing why the latter is more relevant to the Supreme Court. He distinguished the ideology of conservatism from GOP politics and from judges perceived as conservative who drifted leftward on the bench.

Then Rush quoted an excerpt from Ronald Reagan's 1980 GOP convention speech to accept the nomination for president. "Back in 1976 Mr. Carter said, 'Trust me,' and a lot of people did. Trust-me government asked that we concentrate our hopes and dreams on one man, that we trust him to do what's best for us. My view of government places trust not in one person or one party, but in those values that transcend persons and parties. The trust is where it belongs, in the people. The responsibility to live up to that trust is where it belongs, in their elected leaders." Thus Reagan articulated one of the founding principles of conservatism, which advocates a healthy, necessary skepticism of authority even when exercised by conservatives.

This week Theresa Kiihn reported why she does not automatically accept the evangelical exhortation to trust in this or any other context. Taken together, these anti-trust cases explain why so many moral and constitutional conservatives reject President Bush's "trust me" defense of his selection - and conclude, regretfully, that he failed to live up to our trust.

In Thursday's edition of the Opinion Journal, Peggy Noonan summarizes the scope of Bush's blunder. "If the administration had a compelling rationale for Harriet Miers's nomination, they would have made it. Simply going at their critics was not only destructive, it signaled an emptiness in their arsenal. If they had a case they'd have made it. 'You're a sexist snob' isn't a case; it's an insult, one that manages in this case to be both startling and boring." The same could be said of some media-based supporters of Miers.

Until October 3, 2005, the worst insult Hugh Hewitt could hurl at a caller was that he was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Ah, those were the good old days. Now he confronts dissenters on the phone and in the blogosphere with the obsessive focus of an interrogator and the righteous zeal of a missionary. His interviews posted at Radio Blogger read like courtroom transcripts of a prosecutor trying to trip up a witness. Hugh is an attorney, after all, although he seems to have forgotten that sometimes he is a talk show host in conservative radio land where nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. His audience includes many whom he now castigates as knuckleheads and elitists. I think there is a joke in there somewhere, but your inner voice is going to have to finish it for me.

Peggy Noonan offers a constructive resolution to to the Miers dilemma, which I hope President Bush - and Hugh Hewitt - will consider.

My advice to Hugh is simply this: Rush Limbaugh is the beacon of truth and Excellence in Broadcasting. Hugh, swim toward the light.

P. S. Rush has a tribute page, The Greatness of Ronaldus Magnus, featuring Reagan media clips, documents and photos.

You can vote to make Theresa's awesome post the Crosley Solo Blog of the Week.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Hewitt Hardball

Not Hugh's Finest Hours

Anyone who examines the archives here will find that I have been as staunch a supporter of Hugh Hewitt as of George W. Bush. I listen to Hugh at work and on my drive home, although the show quality from KRLA, Hugh’s home station in Los Angeles, is just awful and San Diego station KCBQ, while farther away, is actually a slight improvement. I have been such a dedicated Hewitt fan since July 10, 2000, when his current radio show debuted, that I have gladly tolerated three hours each weekday of high-pitched static – listening online at work is forbidden – to hear the blogfather of modern conservatism.

For the past eighteen broadcast hours and counting, the whiny, grating sound has been coming from Mr. Hewitt himself – and it was never more painful to hear than when he interviewed erstwhile friend Professor Bainbridge. You can read the transcript at Radio Blogger, the website of Hugh’s producer Generalissimo Duane Patterson. I grimaced throughout their discussion as Hewitt interrupted Bainbridge repeatedly whenever he tried to finish a thought with which Hugh disagreed and talked over his guest. It was the type of interview I usually associate with Chris Matthews.

Since President Bush nominated Harriet Miers, Hugh has expressed little disappointment in the President and his selection but righteous indignation that many long-time conservatives have dared to express their disappointment. Hugh is angry, too, but his anger is directed at the conservative blogosphere and his scapegoat is National Review Online.

Today Hugh attributes to the “anti-Miers crowd” – meaning the fine folks at NRO – “the refusal to entertain any competing fact” on the Miers debate. This is an absurd assertion and Hugh Hewitt, more than anyone in the blogosphere, must know that it is an absurd assertion. The M.O. at NRO is to engage opponents in open, freewheeling discourse, as they did with Hugh on the issue of Arlen Specter's elevation to Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. At that time, Andrew Sullivan injected his grudge against the Cornerites into their civil debate.

In the Miers debate, Hugh has assumed the unlikely role of Andrew Sullivan, picking a fight with NRO. He blames NRO for leading the conservative blogosphere into a mutiny against Bush, implying that the right’s collective disapproval can be so easily manipulated or controlled. Hugh has been trying to control the debate and keep the Bush coalition together, but the only person who can repair the damage Bush has done is Bush.

On the day of the announcement, I heard about Miers’ nomination while listening to the Laura Ingraham show. Laura was mightily discouraged but looking for a reason to be optimistic. Long before I got around to reading The Corner that evening, I learned enough to feel crushingly disappointed.

We read NRO to get not our talking points but a variety of conservative viewpoints from an unruly array of bloggers who never speak with one voice, except perhaps in reverence for William F. Buckley and Ronald Reagan. When they are not debating amongst themselves, the Cornerites are posting dissenting opinions from e-mailers and other media sources.

We have been reading and listening to Hewitt and the few selective sources he cites, hoping to be persuaded by a credible argument in favor of the Miers nomination. We are not persuaded, but it is not entirely Hugh’s fault that his case for Miers is so inconsistent with his case for Roberts – and inconsistent with his case for Luttig or McConnell on the eve of the Miers nomination.

Here's another inconsistency. As a Constitutional Law professor at Chapman University, Hewitt states with authority that Con Law is not all that complicated and Miers can catch up in no time. Tellingly, when the famous Arroyo Toad case involving Hugh's client was argued before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in Rancho Viejo v. Norton, he hired the most knowledgeable, qualified attorney who specialized in constitutional law - those were his words about John Eastman - that he could find. Does that mean Hugh holds a higher standard for his clients than he does for the American people?

Hugh has been generous to all bloggers on the center-right, including me. He has linked to this blog and even read one of my posts on his radio show – which I am sure will never happen again after this kerfuffle. For his kindness I owe him my gratitude and my patience but not my silence when he mischaracterizes me and those who think like me.

When Hugh and like-minded Miers supporters insult NRO, they are insulting all of us who question her nomination. They are insulting me. They are insulting Theresa Kiihn. They are insulting Bunnie Diehl. They are insulting countless conservatives of faith and countless conservative non-believers who agree that fidelity to religion is not a qualification for the Supreme Court and fidelity to originalist judicial philosophy is the best qualification for the Supreme Court.

Conservatives who oppose the nomination of Miers are tolerant of disagreement within our movement. However, none of us is masochistic enough to stand for insults and bullying. In response to Hugh's insults, Jonah Goldberg calls Hugh's argument "cheap." And now that Sullivan has insulted Hewitt once too often, Hugh calls him “the Ronnie Earle of the blogosphere.” All this proves is that, when pushed, we all tend to push back.

The conservative movement is strong enough to survive this debate, hopefully with Hugh's good name intact, but a shakeup in leadership is taking place. Anyone who deliberately alienates such a substantial segment of the base over the Miers mess may find himself marginalized.

According to Bunnie Diehl, who attended the 50th birthday tribute last week to the magazine that Buckley founded, “Rich Lowry told the crowd that he could reveal that Chief Justice John Roberts was a long-time subscriber." If that insight reassures you that Roberts is more conservative than his Senate Judiciary Committee testimony suggests, that is because National Review – online and NRODT – has been and will continue to be the gold standard for conservative credentials.