Friday, June 19, 2009

Lunchtime Reading: What an embarrassment! Edition

Atrios: A Brief Reminder
The last coalition of the willing helped cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people in a war based on lies.

Awesome branding, assholes. Surprisingly appropriate, however!
Roth (TPM): Ensign Admits He Helped Girlfriend's Husband Get Jobs

The sex is looking like the least interesting aspect of the John Ensign story.

Ensign's camp has confirmed to the Associated Press that the Nevada senator helped Doug Hampton, his old friend and the husband of his girlfriend, to get a job after the affair ended and Hampton left Ensign's office.

"Just as he has done for many other staff members, Senator Ensign made recommendation calls for Mr. Hampton," a spokesman told the AP in a statement.

Hampton works as a vice president for government affairs for Allegiant Air, a company whose CEO is a major Ensign backer, as we've reported. Hampton's son Bandon also now works for Allegiant, as we reported as well.

Hampton has also worked since leaving Ensign's office for November Inc., a Nevada political consulting firm with close ties to the senator. Mike Slanker, the firm's founder -- who, as we reported, ran Ensign's Senate campaigns in 1998 and 2000 -- told the AP that Ensign "was supportive, but there was no pressure" on the decision to hire Hampton. Slanker said Hampton worked for the company from May 2008 -- the month he left Ensign's office -- to August 2008.

The AP puts the significance of all this nicely:

Doug Hampton's easy transition from the political to corporate worlds isn't unusual. It does, however, raise questions about to what extent Ensign used his influence to assist two former employees who could have done damage to his career.
Sargent: Poll: Republican Party Now Less Popular Than Dick Cheney

Lost in the news yesterday about the polls showing eroding support for Obama’s policies was a funny detail in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll: The overall popularity of the Republican Party has now dropped below even the abysmal level of approval enjoyed by Dick Cheney.

The poll found that 26% of respondents have a very positive or somewhat positive view of Cheney, up eight points from April. Meanwhile, it found that the GOP overall is viewed very or somewhat positively by only 25%, down four points from April.

Okay, the difference is within the margin of error, making this a statistical tie. But still, this is pretty awful for the GOP, given that for a long time Cheney’s historic unpopularity seemed to define a kind of low-water mark among Republicans.

There a couple of takeaways here. First, it appears that Cheney is doing a better job of making his own case than the current crop of GOP leaders are doing on behalf of the party as a whole, even though he’s no longer in office. And second, it gives the lie to the notion that Cheney’s ongoing media tour is helpful to the GOP overall, as some party leaders have publicly claimed to think. In reality, he only seems to be helping himself.

The same day Sonia Sotomayor was nominated by the president, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) issued a statement that argued, without a shred of evidence, that the judge's ability "to rule fairly without undue influence from her own personal race, gender, or political preferences" is in doubt.

In other words, Inhofe was unlikely to ever treat Sotomayor fairly. But I foolishly expected him to show more class than this.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) is dead set on voting against Sonia Sotomayor's nomination. In fact, he's so certain of his position that he refuses to even meet with her.

Sotomayor has been meeting privately with Senators over the last few weeks, but when it was Inhofe's turn, he declined.

Inhofe's spokesman explained that since the Senator has already decided to vote against the nomination, there's no reason to waste time on a sit-down discussion.

Given the decorum of the Senate, members usually try to maintain the appearance of dignity. In the case of evaluating a judicial nominee, senators are generally inclined to say they're "open minded" and willing to consider the would-be judge's background on the merits.

Inhofe, without looking at Sotomayor's rulings, without evaluating her career, without even speaking to her, has made up his mind.

What's more, Inhofe said he voted against Sotomayor 11 years ago, so he feels comfortable reflexively rejecting her nomination now. He called his opposition a "foregone conclusion."

It's worth noting just how little sense this makes. Inhofe voted against Sotomayor in 1998, convinced she would be a bad judge. But now he has a chance to see if he was right or wrong, scrutinizing her record and analyzing her career on the bench. He can see whether Sotomayor met or exceeded his expectations, and reverse course if confronted with new evidence.

Instead of doing that, Inhofe has decided to effectively stick his fingers in his ears and shout, "La la la, I can't hear you!"

What an embarrassment.

  • David Corn: Kenneth Starr Endorses Sotomayor

    Kenneth Starr, the lawyer who chased after President Bill Clinton and his wife, said on Thursday that he supports President Barack Obama's first Supreme Court nominee, federal appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

    Starr voiced his backing of Sotomayor while delivering the keynote speech at a luncheon held in Los Angeles for Loyola Law School's program for journalists who cover legal issues. He said that he "thinks very well of her." He noted that he has not written any official endorsement letter for Sotomayor but that no one had asked him to do so—suggesting he would if requested. Starr said that he has told more than one US senator that he supports her nomination, but he wouldn't identify which senators he has spoken to about Sotomayor.

    Starr, dean of the Pepperdine University School of Law and a member of the rightwing Federalist Society, is one of the leaders of the conservative legal movement. A former judge and solicitor general, he served as the independent counsel who probed the Clintons on a number of fronts, most notably Bill Clinton's affair with intern Monica Lewinsky. The long and quite graphic report he produced on the Lewinsky matter led to the Republican's divisive and failed impeachment campaign against Clinton. Since then, Starr has worked on several death penalty cases, trying to overturn death sentences. He also represented a school board in Alaska sued by a student suspended for unfurling a banner declaring, "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." He has worked for Blackwater (now known as Xe). More recently, he represented groups in California defending Proposition 8, which outlawed gay marriage in that state.

    This isn’t the first time Starr has publicly offered support for an Obama nominee under fire from the right. In April, he wrote a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urging it to confirm Harold Hongju Koh to be the top legal adviser at the State Department and praising Koh’s "irreproachable integrity."

    Starr has something of a working relationship with Sotomayor. As he noted during his luncheon talk, she twice came to Pepperdine to participate in a program the school runs for judicial clerks. "She was a huge hit with the students," Starr said.

    Starr has made supportive remarks about Sotomayor earlier. On May 26, appearing on Fox News, he noted that she had a "very fine record." He said:

    One of the most characteristics of a Justice is that she be humble, that she be modest in her approach to the Constitution.

    He predicted that as a Supreme Court justice Sotomayor would be "modest, always listening carefully to the lawyers, listening carefully to her colleagues." But he did add that her controversial remark about appeals courts making policy was "a little troubling." He did not endorse her at that time.

    But now he's out of the closet as a Sotomayor booster. How will Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, and other conservatives who have tried to depict Sotomayor as a race-obsessed liberal activist take this news? More important, will Starr's endorsement--this is true conservative cover--make it even harder for Senate Republicans to go after her?

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