Friday, January 27, 2006

The Axis of Couric

This was the scene two days ago on the Today show as Professor Katie Couric grilled Chairman Yeeow! on the Republican money-for-laws scandal:

COURIC: Hey, wait a second. Democrats took — Democrats took money from Abramoff too, Mr. Dean.

DEAN: That is absolutely false. That did not happen. Not one dime of money from Jack Abramoff went to any Democrat at any time.

COURIC: Let me just tell you — According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Abramoff and his associates gave $3 million to Republicans and $1.5 million to Democrats, including Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid.

DEAN: Not one dime of Jack Abramoff money ever went to any Democrat. We can show you the FEC reports, we’d be very happy to do it. There’s a lot of stuff in the press that the Republican National Committee’s been spinning that this is a bipartisan scandal. It is a Republican-financed scandal. Not one dime of money from Jack Abramoff ever went to any Democrat, not one dime.

COURIC: Well, we’ll obviously have to look into that and clarify that for our viewers at a later date. Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Mr. Dean, Governor Dean, thanks so much for talking with us.

And clarify they did! Yesterday morning, Professor Lauer interviewed Dr. Russert:

LAUER: Katie pressed him [Howard Dean] on that and we did some research. We went to the Center for Responsive Politics and found out that technically speaking, Howard Dean may be correct. But here’s what we found. That 66 percent of the money in this situation went to Republicans, but 34 percent of the money — not from Abramoff, but from his associates and clients — went to Democrats. So, can Democrats wash their hands of this?

RUSSERT: No, they will say it is a primarily a Republican scandal because the personal money of Abramoff went only to Republicans. But Matt, the issue is broad and wide. Democrats also understand that they accept trips from lobbyists and meals and so forth, and that’s why in order to reform all this, it has to be a bipartisan approach. But Democrats get raging mad when you suggest this is a bipartisan scandal.

I wouldn't be surprised to find that Katie Couric is too stupid to understand the nature of this scandal, but Russert and Lauer too? Saying that 34% of the money "in this situation" went from "associates of Abramoff" to Democrats is FOX-league obfuscation.

"[I]n this situation" and "associates of Abramoff" are euphemisms for Indian tribes who were allegedly defrauded by Abramoff and his true associates; Indian tribes that had always contributed money to legislators from their home states; Indian tribes that, once they began to do business with Abramoff, were directed by him to decrease their contributions to Democrats and increase contributions to Republicans. This is a simple money-for-laws scandal, and no Democrats are implicated. The only way that this is a bipartisan scandal is if the incendiary charge is that politicians take money from special interests. Though this probably should be a scandal, that's not what we're talking about here.

So why are Lauer and Russert carrying water for Republicans? Russert is feeling the heat from attention to his ethical lapses and bizarre behavior surrounding the Scooter Libby story, and has been doing an increasingly poor job of hiding his bias lately, so no big news there. I can only conclude that Lauer feels some sort of fraternal sympathy towards his dimwitted co-anchor, so bias may not be the culprit. Still, the "forced objectivity" model ("Tornado a killer, but trailer park residents culpable too") of the cowardly American journalistic profession is ultimately to blame.

16 Comments:

Blogger sexyretard said...

To what extent does taking someone's money implicate the receiver in the sins of the giver?

I have little doubt that Abramoff is a horribly flawed individual, what I also doubt is that somehow those who give to Democrats never are, either.

I have no problem with calling Abramoff a Republican scandal, as it really is. I do have a problem with the unspoken assumption that everything done on the other side is perfectly legit and clean. No, no one ever SAYS that, but the left-wing pontifications sure do assume that.

10:33 AM  
Blogger mkchicago said...

"I have no problem with calling Abramoff a Republican scandal"

Agreed. Rich Lowry at National Review has said as much.

10:49 AM  
Blogger Germanicu$ said...

The Abramoff dust-up is a Republican scandal, and any implication that Dems are involved is testament to the power the GOP talking points have over the so-called liberal MSM.

Maybe this was a ploy by Katie to ruffle Howard's feathers, and have him make a scene. Further evidence (was it needed?) that Couric/Lauer are not "journalists," in any meaningful sense of the word.

I can't believe I used to think she was hot.

10:51 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

"To what extent does taking someone's money implicate the receiver in the sins of the giver... I do have a problem with the unspoken assumption that everything done on the other side is perfectly legit and clean. No, no one ever SAYS that, but the left-wing pontifications sure do assume that."

Again, if the scandal were about campaign contributions and the ways in which they compromise legislators--and I wish it were, but it isn't--then your points would be relevant. However, this is about Jack Abramoff and his Republican allies defrauding Indian tribes of lobbying fees by playing a shell game with legislation, specifically for the purpose of shaking down the tribes. Along the way, other Republican congressmen have been caught up in the net because of their illegal dealings with Abramoff, and now that he is going to spill the beans, and we know that Duke Cunningham wore a wire, it's likely that other Republicans are going to be caught as well.

If Democrats are doing the same thing, I hope they get busted as well, but at this point it doesn't appear that they are nearly as implicated, which makes sense, given the fact that are increasingly being cut off from access to K Street money.

If I thought that making this a bipartisan scandal would do anything to focus people on the basic question of money in politics, I would probably try to do so. However, the MSM's forced objectivity, and the RNC's attempt to promote that forced objectivity, is just a strategy for saving the jobs of dirty Republican congressmen.

10:56 AM  
Blogger sexyretard said...

Jeff,

I disagree, because the numbers being touted are total contributions from Abramoff, rather than total contributions to those known to have given rewards for those contributions.

If Ney and others rewarded dollars, they should go. I never cared for Ney anyway, much preferring Trafficant (I really do, and he's ALREADY in jail) to his north.

But until others are named, indicted and convicted, the calls for "culture of corruption" being somehow a Republicans-only problem will remain absurd. I think we have just as much, comparatively speaking, to condemn both groups, and Gary Condit plus Jim Trafficant equals Duke Cunningham and a player to be named later.

Even in those cases where a quid pro quo cannot be established in dollars for votes, dollars definitely buy time, and I've been a lobbyist on Capitol Hill and I can tell you that we got less time in Nick Rahall's (D-WV) office than better financed groups from Kentucky.

But I don't think that makes Nick Rahall a bad man, and I would even vote for him if I lived in his district. Nevertheless, we must have uniform expectations and clear lines of delineation between ethical and unethical, and right now they are downright fuzzy and seemingly moveable based on political ideology.

I'm beyond gratified to see that Republican criminal George Ryan being tried and I hope they send him up the river for so long he finds Betty Loren-Maltese attractive. But for the representatives of machine politics in New England to play all high and mighty about the Abramoff thing is just unfair.

Simple dollars and lists can be a little deceiving, too. I wrote a very scathing letter to the Minnesota Twins because of their published support of Planned Parenthood. It turned out their "published support" consisted of a 4 dollar program that they would have given to anyone who asked.

Also, was EVERYTHING Abramoff stood for wrong, and was EVERYTHING he did unethical? That is, was there anything about his work that was above board? I don't know enough to say, but it seems to me that some of the access he bought may have been for more legitimate lobbying.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

"But until others are named, indicted and convicted, the calls for "culture of corruption" being somehow a Republicans-only problem will remain absurd."

No dice. Of course, no one will go to jail until he's had his day in court, but "culture of corruption" is in no way a premature judgment when referring to the current Republican caucus. Unless you consider the whole establishment corrupt because they take legal corporate/union/special interest money.

"I think we have just as much, comparatively speaking, to condemn both groups, and Gary Condit plus Jim Trafficant equals Duke Cunningham and a player to be named later."

Gary Condit? OK, well, I can add to that the Republican asshole who changed his middle name to "low taxes," then killed his Democratic congressional opponent. I don't think "murder" can really be considered symptomatic of what ails the American political system. Besides, we're talking not about all the historical corruption of both parties (of which there is a huge amount on both sides), but about the specific, illegal corruption of the current congress, which is overwhelmingly Republican.

3:25 PM  
Blogger Germanicu$ said...

As it turns out, Alan Keyes has the remedy for what ails the GOP :

http://www.renewamerica.us/news/misc/060128keyes.pdf

Keyes apparently has been watching the TODAY show: "While the fact remains that both political parties appear tainted by the lobbying largess, the media have this generally as a 'Republican' scandal."

3:36 PM  
Blogger sexyretard said...

Alan Keyes, you are no doubt aware, has the solution to everything. Unfortunately, my archaic wind-powered computer is taking its time in showing me just what this particular one is.

I want to reiterate that I have no problem calling this a Republican scandal; my problem is the assumption of immaculate purity on the part of the Demoncrats.

I'll use this occasion to mention something else I find hypocritical about the Democrats. They grilled Justice Alito over "one man, one vote," due to his opposition to the mandated equal districting in the United States House (before Baker v Carr, states could make their congressional districts as large or small as they wanted to).

Well, one voter in Delaware has the power of 25 voters in Illinois when voting for Senate. For the Democrats in the SENATE to suggest Alito is bad because of any issues with one man, one vote, is hypocritical.

So I'm not against sending Republicans up the river, or calling this a Republican scandal. What I am against is our current broken system in which money buys access, and the practice of half of those guilty of participating of pontificating while ignoring their own flaws.

8:46 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

"Well, one voter in Delaware has the power of 25 voters in Illinois when voting for Senate. For the Democrats in the SENATE to suggest Alito is bad because of any issues with one man, one vote, is hypocritical."

Huh? How is this Democratic hypocrisy? Democrats would JUMP at the chance to overhaul the system and change to a truly representational electoral model across the board, but Republicans would NEVER, ever agree to it (that is, to representational democracy) because the system as currently constituted gives them a HUGE electoral advantage:

"Yet the Democrats consistently win more votes for Senate than Republicans. The current 100 senators have been elected over the past three election cycles, dating back to the year 2000. According to Professor Matthew Shugart from University of California-San Diego, in those elections, over 200 million votes were cast in races choosing each of the fifty states' two senators. The Republicans won 46.8% of the votes in these elections -- not even close to a majority. The Democrats won 48.4% of the votes, more than the Republicans -- yet the GOP currently holds a lopsided 55 to 44 majority. In 2004, over 51% of votes cast were for Democratic senatorial candidates, yet Republicans elected 19 of the 34 contested seats."

Read the whole thing.

Mind you, I'm not really badmouthing Republicans for refusing to support such an overhaul. From a strategic point of view, agreeing to do things in a democratic fashion would probably be electoral suicide, so it's tactically much smarter for them to bloviate about the wisdom of the Founding Fathers. However, the Republicans' refusal to consider a "one man, one vote" policy change in no way makes Democrats into hypocrites.

9:51 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

"However, the Republicans' refusal to consider a "one man, one vote" policy change in no way makes Democrats into hypocrites."

I mean: Democrats are hypocrites for other reasons, but not for that one.

10:01 AM  
Blogger sexyretard said...

I would say that proportional representation is the solution.

As for the Senate, are there really serious Republican contenders in Massachusettes and Connecticut? I don't have an Almanac handy, but I get the sense ()and it's only a sense) that the reason the Democrats' Senate numbers are higher is because they insist on seriously challenging more often than the Republicans do.

Last time Rockefeller and Byrd were up for re-election there wasn't much of a Republican opposition in WVA. I recall some guy named "Gallaher" from "Beaver" running as the Republican, something I found out on election day.

10:09 AM  
Blogger sexyretard said...

Jeff,

Feel the wrath of individual cases.

In Florida, Bush won the Presidency in 2004 by a wider margin than Martinez won the Senate.

In Texas, there was no Senate race.

In California, Bush received 5.5 million votes but the Republican named Miller received 4.5 million.

In New York, Bush received 3 million votes but the Republican Mills received 1.6 million votes.

Then there is Illinois in which Bush goit 2.3 million votes but Keyes (may his name be forever revered) only got 1.4 million.

Fielding weak Republican candidates in solidly Democratic states does not mean that more people prefer Democrats, but rather that the Republicans have not seriously contested strong-Democratic states. Maybe the disaster that was Ric Lazio in New York and Michael Huffington in California has led to such matters.

11:26 AM  
Blogger hurtleg said...

The House is done proportionally, one man one vote style, and the republicans have a majority there.

To pick up on Sexrytard's point a republican winning close in South Dakota has may net a few thousand votes, whereas a democrat winning big in New York with an uncompetitive race can rack up a huge margin.

11:29 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

S-Tard:

"Feel the wrath of individual cases."

I'm a little confused: the estimates I've seen on house districts are that about 85% of them are non-competitive, and the majority of those are Republican-dominated (which makes sense, given the general breakdown). So... are you saying that if Democrats only fielded better candidates there, they might win? If so, I agree. If not, then I don't understand your original point.

Hurtleg:

"The House is done proportionally, one man one vote style, and the republicans have a majority there."

Move to the back of the class, Hurtleg! It's not done proportionally. The average district has 646,952 voters in it, but that's just an average, and urban districts typically have larger district populations than non-urban districts, which is why
they say in that link I provided that votes for House Republicans and votes for House Democrats could be split 50/50 in any given year, and Republicans would still win 50 more districts than Democrats.

"To pick up on Sexrytard's point a republican winning close in South Dakota has may net a few thousand votes, whereas a democrat winning big in New York with an uncompetitive race can rack up a huge margin."

Yeah, sure. And?

I guess the Republican answer to this is that the Founders meant this not to be a democracy, but a Republic and a loose confederation of states, and that the collective interests of states should somehow be given an advantage over the interests of individuals across the country (strange argument for a Republican to make, but, whatever). That's a solid excuse, and it plays well on Meet the Press. Nice job.

But the bottom line is that any change to the electoral system that would make it more proportional/representative/democratic, would give Democrats and edge over Republicans. The corollary is that Republicans are most successful in an environment with relatively less democracy. Which explains a lot.

3:18 PM  
Blogger sexyretard said...

Jeff,

The MOther Jones article you cite references the Senate and the disparity in aggregate votes of the Senate, and I was responding that those figures are misleading.

That the Districts, which are equal in number pose any threat to your ideology suggests nothing but the Democratic desire to blame anything but their own foibles for their lack of success. Square districts are only "gerrymanders" when people have lost their minds or failed geometry.

9:28 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

"That the Districts, which are equal in number pose any threat to your ideology suggests nothing but the Democratic desire to blame anything but their own foibles for their lack of success."

When did we start talking about ideology? Mine, as yours, is not dependent on how the Democrats do in elections. In what sense are the districts "equal in number"?

10:04 AM  

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