Friday, October 28, 2005

Economic News From Ace

From Ace at Ace of Spades who in addition to being a solid blogger is hilarious. (News in italics, Ace's comments in bold.)

What's An Economy Gotta Do To Get A Table Dance?

- Economic activity expanded at an energetic 3.8 percent annual rate in the third quarter, providing vivid evidence of the economy's stamina even as it coped with the destructive forces of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The latest snapshot of the country's economic performance, released by the Commerce Department on Friday, even marked an improvement from the solid 3.3 percent pace of growth registered in the second quarter.

Growth in the third quarter was broad-based, reflecting brisk spending by consumers, businesses and government.

"Holy Katrina! The economy weathered two major hurricanes and in spite of that showed accelerated growth," said Ken Mayland, president of ClearView Economics. "I think what this shows is that fundamentally the economy was and is in really good shape."

In related news, Paul Krugman just tried to hang himself, but he was too f'n' short to reach the noose.

He blames Karl Rove.

More On Scooter Libby

The 22 page indictment seems reasoned and doesn't overreach and if Libby is found guilty then he should be punished. I read a transcript of Patrick Fitzgerald's press conference and he was very specific in his answers and didn't speculate as to intent or much of anything beyond the scope of his inquiry.

This is an opportunity for Republicans; although having the Chief of Staff to the Vice President indicted isn't a good thing for the White House or the G.O.P. if they accept Fitzgerald's conclusions, while allowing Libby to vindicate himself in court if he can, it will provide a contrast to the Democrats in 1998 who vociferously argued that Bill Clinton lying under oath wasn't even really a crime worthy of punishment.

Libby Indicted

From the WaPo, "Scooter" Libby has been indicted.

A federal grand jury today indicted Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, after a two-year investigation into the leak of a CIA agent's identity but spared -- at least for now --President Bush's top political strategist, Karl Rove.

Libby was indicted on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements. The indictment charged that he gave misleading information to the grand jury, allegedly lying about information he discussed with three news reporters. It alleged that he committed perjury before the grand jury in March 2004 and that he also lied to FBI agents investigating the case.

I have yet to read the indictment on Libby so I will reserve judgment but the way in which Fitzgerald is handling the Rove investigation seems unfair: the Sword of Damocles is left to hang over Rove allowing the pundits and Left to still speculate gleefully that he may yet be indicted.

And since all Libby did was lie to a grand jury, I am sure will be advocating a censure and return to full duties as Cheney's Chief of Staff. Right? Hello?

Paul Krugman Supports Bush Fed Nominee

Really. Why?

Obviously I'm pleased, too. Full disclosure: Mr. Bernanke was chairman of the Princeton economics department before moving to Washington, and he made the job offer that brought me to Princeton.

Because Bernanke is one of the few perceptive souls to notice Krugman's unalloyed brilliance, of course.

The Next Nominee

Now that the unpleasantness of the Harriet Miers nomination is behind President Bush, where does he go from here? It is a lock that whomever he nominates will be excoriated by the Democrats and left-wing interest groups, so why not go for broke? Pick the fight he should have picked when he chose Miers.

And here is a question I hope, wistfully, that will be asked by one Senator during the upcoming confirmation hearings: What are your thoughts on the 18th and 21st Amendments?

If one needed any proof that the Constitution works as the Framers designed it to work one need look no further than Prohibition. Those who favored temperance (damn them) didn't go before the Court in an attempt to convince five Justices that somewhere in the Constitution alcohol was proscribed; they instead availed themselves of the amendment provision, and through the state and federal legislatures changed the law of the land. In the same way, proponents of the manufacture, importation, and sale of alcohol (bless them) had the previous law invalidated by a subsequent amendment.

Why isn't this same approach applied to abortion? Why are those who favor or oppose the procedure disinclined to have a law passed allowing it or forbidding it? Might such a law, like those relating to prohibition, be subject to the will of the electorate and changed? Of course. But isn't that the whole point of having a republic in the first place?

Are we as a nation willing to be governed by nine unelected quasi-legislators?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A Miers Post-Mortem


#41 and #43 are loyal, and in Washington that is a rare trait, but it brought them to grief in Court nominations.

George H. W. Bush relied on John Sununu to arrive at appointing David Souter, and that has been an abject debacle. So when #43 asks those of us with an originalist bent to support his instincts, there are going to be problems.

I feel for Harriet Miers, a deer in headlights who never should have even been considered for the Supreme Court. She displayed a lot of grace and character, usually lacking in Washington, in withdrawing her nomination. Now it is time for President Bush to pick some one with "a fair amount of the ready", in this case meaning intellect and judicial provenance.

Karl Rove Not Indicted...

But Fitzgerald wants the grand jury extended. What a shock.

If "Scooter" Libby is indicted, as appears to be the case, he needs to resign. But does anyone expect a Democrat to stand up in the well of the House or Senate and lament what is beginning to appear to be another investigation without limits?

Shortly thereafter, the Easter Bunny will appear on the Hill for a presser.

Miers Withdraws

Thank God. The WaPo has the details.

This was a disaster from the start and the fact that Miers has the grace to withdraw saves the Bush Administration, and Miers herself, what would have been an embarrassing confirmation hearing and the growing likelihood of her being rejected by the Senate. (And in a spasm of immodesty, this was something I predicted on October 4th.)

It is entirely possible that this is the first executive nomination affected by the advent of blogs and if it was, good. Instapundit, Michelle Malkin, Ann Althouse, Captain's Quarters, Polipundit, along with a lot of others helped derail this train wreck. Bravo.

Charles Krauthammer was prescient:

Finally, a way out: irreconcilable differences over documents.

For a nominee who, unlike John Roberts, has practically no record on constitutional issues, such documentation is essential for the Senate to judge her thinking and legal acumen. But there is no way that any president would release this kind of information -- "policy documents" and "legal analysis" -- from such a close confidante. It would forever undermine the ability of any president to get unguarded advice.

That creates a classic conflict, not of personality, not of competence, not of ideology, but of simple constitutional prerogatives: The Senate cannot confirm her unless it has this information. And the White House cannot allow release of this information lest it jeopardize executive privilege.

Hence the perfectly honorable way to solve the conundrum: Miers withdraws out of respect for both the Senate and the executive's prerogatives, the Senate expresses appreciation for this gracious acknowledgment of its needs and responsibilities, and the White House accepts her decision with the deepest regret and with gratitude for Miers's putting preservation of executive prerogative above personal ambition.

Did Krauthammer write Bush's statement too?

I understand and share her concern, however, about the current state of the Supreme Court confirmation process. It is clear that senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure at the White House disclosures that would undermine a president's ability to receive candid counsel. Harriet Miers' decision demonstrates her deep respect for this essential aspect of the constitutional separation of powers and confirms my deep respect and admiration for her.

I am grateful for Harriet Miers' friendship and devotion to our country.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Judith Miller Is On Her Way Out

From the Wall Street Journal:

New York Times reporter Judith Miller has begun discussing her future employment options with the newspaper, including the possibility of a severance package, a lawyer familiar with the matter, said yesterday.

The discussion about her future comes several days after the public rupture of the relationship between the Times and Ms. Miller, a 28-year veteran of the paper. Both the editor and the publisher of the Times have expressed regret for their unequivocal support for Ms. Miller when she spent 85 days in jail for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the unmasking of a Central Intelligence Agency operative.

Apparently the Times has had quite enough of Saint Judy, First Amendment Martyr. The indictments to be issued this week will only be the next chapter in what will continue to be an unfolding story; there is still more to this than meets the eye.

Clearly if White House staffers are named, and the speculation is that is a virtual certainty, then they will have to resign and face prosecution. (Note to the Left: They are innocent until proven guilty.) But in the same way it came to light that many unsavory characters were involved in the various investigations of the Clintons (about which more in a future post) I have a feeling the same will be true here.

Expect this to be elevated to a "gate", Plame-Gate, by the end of the week.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Leave Cindy Alone

Grieving mother/media whore/compensated speaker Cindy Sheehan is at it again. This time, in celebration of the 2,000th casualty in Operation Iraqi Freedom, she is going to chain herself to the fence outside the White House.

I'm going to go to Washington, D.C. and I'm going to give a speech at the White House, and after I do, I'm going to tie myself to the fence and refuse to leave until they agree to bring our troops home," Sheehan said in a telephone interview last week as the milestone approached. "And I'll probably get arrested, and when I get out, I'll go back and do the same thing," she said.

I have a suggestion: Leave her there. Don't arrest her, don't forcibly remove her from the fence. Let her sit there. I suspect that after about 15 minutes, once the prearranged media photos have been taken and more banality issues forth from an unstable mind, she will get tired of no longer being the center of attention and go home. Or perhaps she might run with scissors around the Ellipse.

Monday, October 24, 2005

It's Bernanke

The President has named Ben Bernanke as the new head of the Federal Reserve. Although he has expressed a desire to continue Greenspan's policies Bernanke is less of an inflation hawk and Wall Street is reacting to the news by rallying the market, perhaps in hopes that the Fed will slow its tightening of the money supply.

Up next, the confirmation hearings which promise to be hilarious because most Senators know less about economics than a pig knows about Sunday. There are going to be a lot of prepared statements and questions read verbatim off a piece of paper. Kind of like Daniel Akaka does with everything.

On the other hand, Bernanke hired Paul Krugman at Princeton...

Washington Waits

The indictments in the Judith Miller/Valerie Plame leak case, such as they may be, will be issued from Patrick Fitzgerald's office this week; the grand jury disbands on the 28th and Fitzgerald will wait until mid-week for maximum press coverage and a strong tie in to the Sunday morning pundits. It is the way Washington works.

Their scope will determine what Bush will be able to accomplish in the remainder of his second term. One can argue the merits of Fitzgerald's case but in the end, as always, it is perception that counts more than any notion of objective reality. Not helping matters for the White House are the concurrent investigations of the former House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay, and the Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

I have avoided speculation about who may be indicted because it is irresponsible and I am not privy to anything that would inform an intelligent opinion. It is safe to say however, that no indictments against key persons in the White House is a vindication, an indictment of Libby alone is a real problem, and indictments of both Rove and Libby is a disaster.

Thus far Fitzgerald has kept his cards close to his vest and has avoided the appearance of politicizing the process; after the indictments are handed down all hell will break loose. For the Democrats it will be payback time for the investigations of Bill Clinton and I anticipate Howard Dean and others to use the indictments in fundraising efforts, candidate recruitment, earned media, etc. Were the shoe on the other foot Republicans would do no less. There will be an immediate call for impeachment hearings and my bet is that John Conyers, the embarrassment from Michigan, will make this request.

Second term presidencies have almost universally been difficult, one only need note Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, and the breadth of Fitzgerald's indictments may well determine the agenda of George W. Bush's next three years in office. More to come...

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Maureen's Meow

Maureen Dowd, who has not gone off to sea but only now resides behind the curtain of Times Select, weighs in on the Judy Miller affair.

Once when I was covering the first Bush White House, I was in The Times' seat in the crowded White House press room, listening to an administration official's background briefing. Judy had moved on from her tempestuous tenure as a Washington editor to be a reporter based in New York, but she showed up at this national security affairs briefing.

At first she leaned against the wall near where I was sitting, but I noticed that she seemed agitated about something. Midway through the briefing, she came over and whispered to me, "I think I should be sitting in the Times seat."

It was such an outrageous move, I could only laugh. I got up and stood in the back of the room, while Judy claimed what she felt was her rightful power perch.

She never knew when to quit. That was her talent and her flaw. Sorely in need of a tight editorial leash, she was kept on no leash at all, and that has hurt this paper and its trust with readers. She more than earned her sobriquet "Miss Run Amok."

So Mo is miffed that Judy took her seat? Did Maureen pass notes to her friends about this later in math class? Although Maureen goes on to raise some valid points about the lack of oversight the Times exercised over Miller's reporting, and the honesty of that reporting, to open up a column with an anecdote like this trivializes her arguments.

Perhaps Maureen can heal this breach with Judy with some shoe shopping followed by some Cosmos at the Four Seasons.