You might not expect a magazine that once ran a 3,229-word cover story decrying an investigation into the outing of a CIA agent as the "criminalization of politics" to be particularly upset over the possibility that a White House official offered a Senate candidate a job. But the Weekly Standard is nothing if not, uh, flexible in its outrage.
And so, having published Fred Barnes' 2006 apologia for the kind of leak that former President George H. W. Bush once declared the work of "the most insidious of traitors," the Weekly Standard is now home to John McCormack's hilarious efforts to drum up support for a bribery investigation predicated on an unnamed White House official's alleged offer of an unspecified job to Joe Sestak. Because, you know, outing a CIA agent is fine; that's merely politics -- just don't offer someone a job!
I say "hilarious" for two reasons. First, the alleged offer is a bit of a non-starter as political scandals go. White House officials have been known to try to "clear the field" for their preferred candidates in campaigns for as long as anyone can remember -- and when Karl Rove and Dick Cheney did it, it was portrayed as a sign of their effectiveness. I don't remember calls for bribery investigations when Team Rove convinced Richard Vinroot to drop out of the 2002 North Carolina Senate race -- or when the RNC sent Vinroot $200,000 to pay off his campaign debt a couple of weeks later. (A Nexis search for Vinroot's name in the Weekly Standard library yields no hits.)
But now John McCormack wants you to think that offering a candidate a job is the worst thing since Watergate. And that brings me to the other reason this is so funny: John McCormack.
See, McCormack sees -- or pretends to see -- illegal White House bribes every time he turns around. Just a few months ago, he was peddling the baseless allegation that the White House tried to buy Rep. Jim Matheson's vote on health care reform by nominating his brother to a federal judgeship. McCormack quickly walked back that ludicrous claim, just as his former Weekly Standard colleague Michael Goldfarb had to walk back his ludicrous claim that the White House threatened to close a Nebraska Air Force base to win Ben Nelson's support.
I can't wait for McCormack's next theory -- it'll probably be something about how Rahm Emanuel offering a visiting congressman a cup of coffee constitutes an offer of a bribe in exchange for a vote on financial reform.
Led by Bill Kristol, the Weekly Standard is waging an interesting little campaign aimed at convincing the public that the military has nothing to do with the military's ban on openly-gay service members. Here's Kristol on May 10:
[I]t is not the military's policy. It is the policy of the U.S. Government, based on legislation passed in 1993 by (a Democratic) Congress, signed into law and implemented by the Clinton administration, legislation and implementation that are currently continued by a Democratic administration and a Democratic Congress. It is intellectually wrong and morally cowardly to call this the "military's policy."
Weekly Standard writer John McCormack endorsed that argument in his own May 11 post. And Kristol was back at it today, criticizing Elena Kagan for "blaming of the military for a congressional/presidential policy choice."
The interesting thing about Kristol & Co. insisting that the military itself has nothing to do with the military's anti-gay policies is that they've been insisting for years that civilian policymakers should defer to the military when it comes to adjusting those policies.
Here's Kristol in February:
[T]he repeal is something that Obama campaigned on. He believes in it. But with all due respect to his sincerely held if abstractly formed views on this subject, it would be reckless to require the military to carry out a major sociological change, one contrary to the preferences of a large majority of its members, as it fights two wars.
John McCain's response to Obama's statement was that of a grown-up: "This successful policy has been in effect for over 15 years, and it is well understood and predominantly supported by our military at all levels. We have the best trained, best equipped, and most professional force in the history of our country, and the men and women in uniform are performing heroically in two wars. At a time when our Armed Forces are fighting and sacrificing on the battlefield, now is not the time to abandon the policy."
John McCormack, also in February:
A couple of interesting nuggets on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in that Quinnipiac poll noted earlier: Although 57% of registered voters say they favor repealing the law banning gays openly serving in the military, voters are evenly split when asked, "Do you think heterosexual military personnel should be required to share quarters with gay personnel or not?"
Perhaps more important is the poll's finding that "military households" are evenly split on the question of repealing DADT: 48% oppose repeal, 47% favor repeal. Presumably households include the responses of members of the military as well as their spouses. It would be interesting to poll just active members of the military.
There have been many reports about the momentum behind DADT repeal, but there's no indication there are 60 votes in the Senate or 218 votes in the House to repeal the law. And the top Marine's stance against repeal should carry a lot of weight with those on the fence.
And another Weekly Standard writer, James Bowman, under the header "Don't Change 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'":
The left has nothing better to offer than riding roughshod over the opinions of the majority of servicemen--58 percent in the latest Military Times poll--and repealing the law.
Well, you get the point. According to Kristol and his Weekly Standard pals, we must all defer to (what they portray as) the military's preference when it comes to allowing gays to serve -- but, at the same time, we mustn't attribute that policy to the military.
And while they're at it, Kristol et al insist on accusing Kagan of "discriminating against the military." What they mean by that is that Kagan briefly ended the military's exemption from Harvard's anti-discrimination policy. It's an impressively audacious bit of spin to twist holding the military to the same policy as all other employers into discriminating against the military. Then again, Kristol is an impressively dishonest fellow.
Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck have falsely suggested Elena Kagan's college thesis shows she is a socialist or radical. In fact, Kagan's thesis did not express support for socialism or radicalism, and regardless, conservatives -- including Hannity -- previously said that nominees' political views are irrelevant to the confirmation process.
The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol reacts to the self-executing rule:
A memo from a top aide to Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen late last week counseled other Democratic staffers to tell their bosses not to worry, that "things like reconciliation and what the rules committee does is INSIDE BASEBALL." Yesterday House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters, "I don't think any American...is going to make the distinction" between the Slaughter procedure and a straightforward vote on the legislation. "Process is interesting, particularly to all of us around this room. But in the final analysis, what is interesting to the American public is what does this bill do for them and their families."
In other words: the American public doesn't care about how our representatives govern us--which is to say, about how we govern ourselves. Whether Congress follows its rules, whether there is democratic accountability, whether there is constitutional probity--none of this matters according to Hoyer. Rather, the self-centered and self-concerned American people only care about the (alleged) results of the legislation.
That second paragraph is about as dishonest as you can get. There's no reason to believe Congress won't "follow its rules" or maintain "constitutional probity" -- reconciliation and self-executing rules have been used in the past by Republicans. Kristol offers no explanation for why either procedure is undemocratic, inconsistent with Congressional rules, or unconstitutional -- he just pretends that's a given.
Kristol may as well have written "In other words: the American people doesn't care about whether our representatives beat puppies to death with hammers." Yes, it's true: If Democrats said anything like that, they'd be crazy! But they didn't.
From the March 16 edition of Fox News' Cavuto:
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When Weekly Standard blogger Michael Goldfarb was mocked last December for making a far-fetched claim about the White House threatening to close an Air Force base in order to secure Ben Nelson's support for health care reform, Goldfarb quickly began walking back his claim, then abruptly stopped talking about it altogether.
So when I saw Weekly Standard writer John McCormack's baseless suggestion that the White House nominated Rep. Jim Matheson's brother for a judgeship in order to win Matheson's support for health care reform, it looked like history was repeating itself.
And sure enough, McCormack promptly began walking back his claim, telling Fox News viewers the next day there "probably" wasn't an "explicit" quid pro quo. The day after that, McCormack wrote that the "most likely" scenario was that "White House officials simply hoped that if they scratched Matheson's back with the nomination, he would scratch theirs with a vote for the health care bill." Then McCormack went silent on the matter.
So, here's how this played out:
March 3: McCormack writes "Obama Now Selling Judgeships for Health Care Votes?" and "Scott Matheson appears to have the credentials to be a judge, but was his nomination used to buy off his brother's vote?"
March 4: McCormack admits there was "probably not" an "explicit quid pro quo."
March 5: McCormack writes that the most likely explanation is that the White House simply "hoped" Matheson would vote for health care reform.
March 6 - Present: Silence.
Now, ideally, the Weekly Standard wouldn't run around peddling baseless conspiracy theories in the first place. But since they do, it's good to know they've perfected The Weekly Standard Walk-back.
And I'm willing to meet them halfway, by acknowledging that they probably don't subsidize their magazine publishing by selling intravenous drugs to six-year-olds.
Right-wing media figures have continued to attack President Obama's appointment of Scott Matheson to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, suggesting that the appointment was made to influence his brother, Rep. Jim Matheson's (D-UT) vote on health care reform. Those pushing the smear have cited no evidence to support their claims and have acknowledged Matheson's qualifications for the job; indeed, his appointment enjoys broad support and, according to Republican Sen. Bob Bennett, "has been in the works for a long time" and was not made in exchange "for votes on health care."
From the March 4 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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Politico rushes to hype the Weekly Standard's baseless speculation that the White House tried to win Rep. Jim Matheson's support for health care reform by nominating his brother to a judgeship, under the header "Some Republicans criticize judge pick."
But Politico could only come up with one such Republican, Rep. Michele Bachmann. By contrast, Politico had two Republicans who praised the nomination, including one who directly debunked the conspiracy theory.
And, of course, Politico didn't mention that The Weekly Standard, where this baseless allegation originated, has a history of making dubious claims about White House efforts to win health care votes.
Instead, Politico concluded: "As pressure mounts on Democrats to pass reform, look for Republicans to pounce on anything that looks like a backroom deal because those previous deals were key to helping sour the public on reform."
Yeah -- and look for Politico to help them do so, no matter how shaky the ground from which the Republicans are pouncing.
Right-wing media figures have recently concocted several baseless scandals in an attempt to portray Democrats as corrupt or guilty of wrongdoing. These include the suggestion that the Democratic leadership acted improperly after learning about sexual harassment allegations against Rep. Eric Massa, the baseless accusation that President Obama is "selling judgeships" for health care reform votes, and the false claim that Rep. Pete Stark has an "ethics scandal."
Right-wing media figures have run with The Weekly Standard's John McCormack's completely baseless accusation that President Obama is buying Rep. Jim Matheson's (D-UT) vote on health care reform by appointing his brother, Scott Matheson, to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. McCormack provided no evidence to support the allegation -- which both Rep. Matheson and the White House have called "absurd" -- and even those pushing the charge acknowledge that Scott Matheson is "plenty qualified for the job."
No, I don't have any evidence that the conservative magazine led by Bill Kristol is selling dime bags to school children. That's why there's a question mark at the end the headline above. So it isn't a despicable smear for me to suggest that The Weekly Standard pays John McCormack's salary by hooking innocent six year olds on deadly drugs that will destroy their lives. You know, because of the question mark.
Anyway, I'm sure McCormack, Kristol & co. won't mind that I've raised the question without any evidence whatsoever. After all, that's how they roll at The Weekly Standard.
Last December, for example, The Weekly Standard's Michael Goldfarb peddled the obviously ludicrous claim that the White House had pressured Sen. Ben Nelson to support health care reform by threatening to put Nebraska's Offut Air Force Base on the BRAC base closure list. The allegation was laugh-out-loud funny on its face -- BRAC simply doesn't work that way. And Goldfarb didn't have any evidence for his claim. And the whole thing appears to have been nothing more than out-of-control rumor-mongering by a couple of former McCain presidential campaign staffers. That didn't stop the media, particularly the right-wingers at FOX, from running with it. Nor did it stop 20 Republican Senators from demanding an investigation. Though none of the people hyping the story apparently had any actual belief that it was true -- after all, they went silent pretty quickly when its obvious flaws were pointed out.
Now comes John McCormack with the sensational headline "Obama Now Selling Judgeships for Health Care Votes?" McCormack writes:
Tonight, Barack Obama will host ten House Democrats who voted against the health care bill in November at the White House; he's obviously trying to persuade them to switch their votes to yes. One of the ten is Jim Matheson of Utah. The White House just sent out a press release announcing that today President Obama nominated Matheson's brother Scott M. Matheson, Jr. to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.
So, Scott Matheson appears to have the credentials to be a judge, but was his nomination used to buy off his brother's vote?
Evidence? John McCormack doesn't need evidence -- he has question marks!
Oh, and McCormack didn't mention that conservative Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah praised Matheson's nomination:
"I'm pleased President Obama has nominated Scott Matheson to fill the vacancy on the 10th Circuit," Hatch said. "I've known Scott a long time, and he is a capable, bright attorney whose experience has prepared him for judicial service. The Matheson family has had a significant impact on Utah and can rightly be proud of Scott's nomination."
UPDATE: And sure enough, this baseless Weekly Standard allegation is playing out just like the last one: The right-wing media is running with it, and Rep. Michele Bachmann is calling for an "independent investigation." How long before they all abruptly drop it and pretend they never said anything?
UPDATE 2: Even PowerLine doesn't buy it: "Thus, President Obama could not have found a more suitable nominee, from a liberal Democratic perspective, than Scott Matheson. It would be unfair to assume that he selected Matheson in order to influence his brother; on the contrary, if Matheson had no siblings at all he would be an ideal liberal judicial candidate. So I think we must acquit President Obama of that charge."
In a Weekly Standard editorial headlined "Don't Mess With Success," editor William Kristol approvingly cited Sen. John McCain's reference to Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) as a "successful policy" and stated that it "works pretty well at accommodating the complex demands of a war-ready military nestled in a liberal society." Those claims are undermined by the discharge of thousands of servicemembers under the law at a cost to replace them of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Rightwing media outlets have distorted testimony by Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair to buttress their false claims that the decision to process alleged Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab through the civilian criminal justice system prevented his interrogation and has made the United States less safe. In fact, in remarks Blair later stated were "misconstrued," he stated that an interrogation team that is not actually operational "should have" been "invoke[d]" with regard to Abdulmutallab, and in a subsequent statement, Blair said that the FBI interrogated Abdulmutallab and "received important intelligence."
Right-wing media outlets have continued to attack Democratic Massachusetts Senate candidate Martha Coakley for her recent comments about terrorism in Afghanistan, often by distorting her remarks on the subject. But the context of Coakley's comments make clear that she was referring to Al Qaeda's presence in Afghanistan -- echoing numerous military experts' statements regarding Al Qaeda's diminished presence in Afghanistan.