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Bush's Irrational Exuberance

"The inspector general's office cannot bring criminal charges, but it can hand over evidence to prosecutors with a recommendation for further investigation and possible charges, officials have said."

As Eggen points out: "Legal defense funds are common in Washington, but not for attorneys general."

FISA Watch

CNN reports: "In his second day on the job, Attorney General Michael Mukasey leaped into the political fray, telling a key Democratic senator he opposes his electronic surveillance plan and would recommend the president veto it if it is passed.

"In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., on the eve of crucial committee votes to update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), Mukasey was adamant in opposing Leahy's plan for changing the law."

It sounds like the letter pretty much jives with this White House " Fact Sheet." What a coincidence.

Budget Watch

Emily Pierce writes for Roll Call (subscription required): "As the showdown between Democrats and the president over spending limits intensifies, Congressional Republicans are quietly urging the White House to incorporate some wiggle room in its hard-line stance over how much Congress should spend on domestic priorities. . . .

"So far, Democratic leaders repeatedly have asked President Bush to meet with them to discuss a compromise on a top-line discretionary spending cap somewhere between their $954 billion proposal and his $933 billion request. But Democrats say the White House has rebuffed them time and again.

"'The ball is in the president's court right now. He has told us "veto, veto, veto" for months now,' Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), an Appropriations cardinal, said last week. 'The question now is, where are negotiations? Are you willing to come to the table and talk or are you just going to say, "My way or the highway?" . . . To this point, we have not been able to get that conversation.'"

John D. McKinnon writes in the Wall Street Journal about the "Republicans' newfound fascination with spending," which he says "stems from a simple reality: They suffered badly over the issue in 2006, some pollsters say, to a degree that many in the party haven't recognized. . . .

"Republican analysts close to the White House say that among voters who supported the party in 2004 but turned against it in 2006, spending was the biggest concern after congressional corruption, bigger even than the Iraq war."

Tax Cuts Don't Pay For Themselves

The Washington Post editorial board writes: "Tax cuts don't pay for themselves. This might sound like dog-bites-man news, except for one thing: This rather unremarkable statement comes from Jim Nussle, the new director of the Office of Management and Budget in an administration whose president is given to saying things like 'You cut taxes, and the tax revenues increase' ( February 2006) and 'We have cut taxes, causing economic growth, which caused there to be this year alone 187 billion more tax dollars coming into the Treasury' ( August 2007)."

The Post points out that this is all newly relevant in the context of plans by Congress to offset a $50 billion-plus "patch" exempting millions of taxpayers from the alternative minimum tax by closing a loophole used by some super-wealthy money managers.

Here's Bush on Nov. 13: "Last week, the House passed a bill that provides relief for AMT, but raises taxes on others. Preventing a tax increase in one area should not be an excuse for raising taxes in other areas. Congress should eliminate the tax increases in the bill, and send the AMT relief to my desk as soon as possible. That's what the American taxpayer expects."

Writes The Post: "Indeed, that's the kind of free lunch American taxpayers have gotten accustomed to from this administration. If tax cuts don't pay for themselves, though, the administration and its congressional enablers need to explain: Who is going to foot the bill, those enjoying the benefits of the patch or their grandchildren?"

Recess Appointment Watch

Erin P. Billings writes for Roll Call (subscription required): "With just two days to go until the Thanksgiving recess, Democratic leaders once again are considering holding the Senate in a series of pro forma sessions to stop President Bush from using the break to install any of his outstanding executive branch nominees.

"The move comes as speculation mounts that Bush will use the period to push through some controversial appointments while Senators are out of town for the two-week period. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could all but block the president from doing so, however, if he opts to call the chamber into nonvoting sessions every three days -- thus doing away with an extended recess."

Blackwater's Roots

Jeremy Scahill writes in a Los Angeles Times op-ed: "The Bush administration has overseen a radical privatization of the U.S. war machine. There are now more private contractors in Iraq -- tens of thousands of them armed -- than U.S. troops. At the same time, the White House has militarized the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, staffing it with private warriors from Blackwater, DynCorp International and Triple Canopy. This force, conceived as a small-scale bodyguard operation for U.S. diplomats, now constitutes a paramilitary squad thousands strong, seemingly accountable to no one.

"Although Blackwater's operatives must be held accountable, this is not just a case of rooting out 'bad apples.' These forces were deployed without any accountability structure or effective oversight; their mission was to keep U.S. officials alive by any means necessary. Blackwater has done that job, but we may never know how many Iraqis have died as a result. The investigation must determine which operatives killed the Iraqis on Sept. 16, but it can't stop there. It must extend to those who hired them and deployed them, armed, dangerous and apparently above the law."

On Bush Hatred

Peter Berkowitz writes in a Wall Street Journal op-ed: "Hating the president is almost as old as the republic itself. . . .

"But Bush hatred is different. . . . Bush hatred . . . is distinguished by the pride intellectuals have taken in their hatred, openly endorsing it as a virtue and enthusiastically proclaiming that their hatred is not only a rational response to the president and his administration but a mark of good moral hygiene."

Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald responds: "As is so often the case for whining right-wing polemicists with pretenses of high-minded grievances, the whole column is actually about him and his bruised little ego. . . .

"But the far more significant aspect of this whole spectacle is that the WSJ Editors -- of all people -- have the audacity to publish a lecture on the grave harms of hatred towards the President. . . .

"Entire books could be written on the defamatory filth disseminated by the WSJ Editors throughout the 1990s."

Are They Stenographers?

I called attention earlier this week to ABC News White House correspondent Martha Raddatz's quote to Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post, while talking about her frequent trips to international hotspots: "I'd probably go crazy if I had to stay every second at the White House and not go out and be a reporter. . . . I don't want to be a stenographer."

Matthew Felling of CBS's Public Eye writes that Raddatz's quote "wasn't taken well by some of those she sits with in the White House briefing room."

The Houston Chronicle's Julie Mason told Felling: "It's only stenography if you make it that way. . . . There are many reporters at the White House doing serious, important work in spite of the limitations. There is also a lot of humor and pathos in covering the president, and to call it merely stenography misses something."

CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller responded: "Sure, I view it as an insult if someone calls me a stenographer. Yes, I take careful notes on everything the President says. But my reports are far more than mere transcripts of those remarks. As a reporter, I boil his comments down to their essence, put them in context and challenge them for veracity."

Raddatz herself chimes in: "I have enormous respect for the White House press corps. Apologies to those who took that description as anything but a reflection on my own personal whip-cracking."

Bush's Idea of the Humanities

Among the recipients of today's 2007 National Humanities Medal: Stephen H. Balch, president of a conservative group that fights political correctness on college campuses ("for his leadership and advocacy upholding the noblest traditions of higher education"); National Review columnist and Hoover Institution senior fellow Victor Davis Hanson ("He has cultivated the fields of history and brought forth an abundant harvest of wisdom for our times"; and neoconservative Sovietologist Richard Pipes ("He has shaped and sharpened our understanding of the contest between liberty and tyranny").

Cartoon Watch

Tom Toles and Duane Powell on catastrophically wasteful spending.

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