- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Seriously corrupt’

Congressional Democrats may be implicated by convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is scheduled to report to federal prison today, ABC News reports.

“Sources close to the investigation say Abramoff has provided information on his dealings with and campaign contributions and gifts to ‘dozens of members of Congress and staff,’ including what Abramoff has reportedly described as ‘six to eight seriously corrupt Democratic senators,’ ” Brian Ross and Rhonda Schwartz reported at ABCNews.com.

“The sources say Abramoff was about to provide information about Bush administration officials, including Karl Rove, ‘accepting things of value’ from Abramoff. Rove has denied any wrongdoing in his dealings with Abramoff. But the lobbyist visited the White House at least seven times, according to Secret Service logs obtained by Judicial Watch.”

Abramoff, sentenced to six years for fraud in a casino-boat gambling scheme, has been ordered to report to today to the Federal Correctional Institute in Cumberland, Md., the reporters said.

Cheney responds

Vice President Dick Cheney asked a federal judge yesterday to dismiss a lawsuit brought against him by a former CIA operative who says the White House leaked her identity to the press.

Mr. Cheney’s attorneys criticized the lawsuit in court papers, saying it invented constitutional rights, intruded on national security discussions and came two years after the statute of limitations had expired, the Associated Press reports.

Former CIA employee Valerie Plame Wilson claims that she was outed as retribution for her husband’s criticism of the administration’s prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald spent years investigating who revealed her identity to syndicated columnist Robert Novak in 2003, but nobody was charged with the leak. Mr. Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who faces trial in January on perjury and obstruction, is the only person charged in the case. Richard Armitage, a former deputy secretary of state, has since acknowledged that he was the initial and primary source for the columnist.

Bloggers bummed

Conservatives bloggers who were among the most enthusiastic supporters of outgoing Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele to become chairman of the Republican National Committee are also the harshest critics of the White House’s choice of Florida Sen. Mel Martinez for that post.

An online poll at HotAir.com drew more than 3,000 responses, with about 93 percent of the popular site’s visitors preferring Mr. Steele, prompting blogger Ian Schwartz to ask, “When will the RNC try to keep its diminishing base instead of looking for new members?”

“Count me thoroughly demoralized,” Mary Katherine Ham said at TownHall.com. “Not only is this guy not a terribly distinguished senator, but his pick is a transparent little identity politics stunt.”

Miss Ham urged readers to write to the Republican Party ([email protected]), as did Michelle Malkin, who called Mr. Martinez “a squish on border security.”

“Has the GOP learned anything?” Mrs. Malkin wrote at her site (www.michellemalkin.com).

Meanwhile, at RedState.com, one despondent contributor said that he would have preferred “a lobotomized sea lion” to Mr. Martinez, since the sea lion would “at least know to bark to get some kind of fish on command.”

Unlikely choice

A House Republican and Democrat are urging President Bush to name defeated Republican Rep. Jim Leach to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

“He is the most diplomatic politician I have ever met,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Oregon Democrat, said of Mr. Leach, a liberal from Iowa known for his opposition to the war in Iraq.

“I can’t think of any American better qualified to represent our interests before the United Nations,” said Rep. James T. Walsh, New York Republican, who yesterday joined Mr. Blumenauer in circulating a letter in the House seeking support for Mr. Leach if the acting U.N. ambassador, John R. Bolton, fails to win Senate approval as ambassador.

Mr. Bolton has been temporary ambassador since August 2005. He was unable to win confirmation because of a Democratic filibuster.

The White House recently renominated Mr. Bolton to the post, but Senate supporters appear to lack the votes, in which case Mr. Bolton would be forced to step down when the new Congress is seated in January.

Mr. Leach, 64, narrowly lost to college professor Dave Loebsack in last week’s election, ending a 30-year career as a House legislator.

Surprise, surprise

“That was fast. A mere two days after Democrats capture Congress claiming they wouldn’t raise taxes, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin tells them they should do so anyway,” the Wall Street Journal says in an editorial.

” ‘You cannot solve the nation’s fiscal problems without increased revenues,’ declared Mr. Rubin, the Democratic Party’s leading economic spokesman, in a speech last Thursday. He also took a crack at economic forecasting by noting that ‘I think if you were to increase taxes right now, you would have probably about zero negative effect on the economy.’ The economics and politics here are worth parsing,” the newspaper said.

“We suppose it’s reassuring that Mr. Rubin now thinks the economy is strong enough to withstand a tax increase. That’s a switch from his opposition to the 2003 Bush tax cuts, which he predicted would bust the budget and do little for growth. The U.S. economy proceeded to grow by an average of nearly 4 percent a year for three years following mid-2003, until the recent slowdown due largely to the housing slump.

“Everyone makes mistakes, but raising taxes amid a housing decline doesn’t sound like brilliant policy to us. Depending on inflation signals in the coming weeks, the Federal Reserve may not be done raising interest rates. The best hope for avoiding a recession next year and into 2008 is that strong corporate profits and the tight job market will lift business investment and consumer spending enough to offset the impact of tighter monetary policy. The last thing the economy needs now is a tax increase, too.”

Backing Bolton

“The Democrats claim they are tired of the fierce partisanship that has shaped the debate in Washington the last six years. They even want to play nice with the president. So, one of the first things they can do to prove their good intentions is to confirm John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations,” the Chicago Sun-Times said yesterday in an editorial.

“Bolton has done an exemplary job at the U.N. He succeeded in getting resolutions to impose sanctions on North Korea; he brokered a Security Council resolution to end the war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon,” the newspaper said.

“If the Democrats are genuine about working in a collegial manner with the president, they will endorse Bolton: He has turned out to be far more co-operative than divisive. He is, in fact, an able diplomat.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected].

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