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Sunday, April 24, 2005 
the fall
while many of us had hoped that the GOP's constant scandalous behavior could catch up with them before last year's election, allowing the people to sweep them out of office en masse, their long-awaited comeuppance has been slow to materialize. but thanks in part to the corporate media's pack mentality--where the more coverage a story gets, the more coverage it will continue to get until you can hear about nothing else--scandal is all over the place and increasingly hard to ignore.

the rumors surrounding ethical breaches by house majority leader tom delay have been circling for years, but getting consistently louder in past weeks. even prominent republicans have been starting to say that it's time for him to go. but delay is not ready to go, claiming that he hasn't done anything that everyone else doesn't do (not the best of moral or ethical arguments), and that he's never done anything that was actually illegal or in breach of house ethical rules.

now we know the truth. delay won't be able to talk his way out of this story.

The airfare to London and Scotland in 2000 for then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) was charged to an American Express card issued to Jack Abramoff, a Washington lobbyist at the center of a federal criminal and tax probe, according to two sources who know Abramoff's credit card account number and to a copy of a travel invoice displaying that number.

DeLay's expenses during the same trip for food, phone calls and other items at a golf course hotel in Scotland were billed to a different credit card also used on the trip by a second registered Washington lobbyist, Edwin A. Buckham, according to receipts documenting that portion of the trip.

House ethics rules bar lawmakers from accepting travel and related expenses from registered lobbyists. DeLay, who is now House majority leader, has said that his expenses on this trip were paid by a nonprofit organization and that the financial arrangements for it were proper. He has also said he had no way of knowing that any lobbyist might have financially supported the trip, either directly or through reimbursements to the nonprofit organization.

there's no mistaking: that's a clear violation of the house rules. cut and dry. copy and paste, click submit, and the verdict is in. or it would be if the house ethics committee hadn't effectively disbanded after delay had the rules changed in order to keep him out of trouble. but he's damaged goods now, and the longer it takes him to resign, the more damage he does to his party and his allies.

meanwhile, john bolton is a loyal bush crony who once famously remarked that there is no such thing as the united nations. naturally, bush nominated him for UN ambassador. and until the other day it seemed to be fate that his nomination would be shoved through committee and be sent to the senate floor... where it would possibly ignite the "nuclear option" (more on that in a minute). this was expected to happen despite the fact that bolton has been described in senate hearings as "a kiss-up, kick-down kind of guy" who is routinely abusive to co-workers and underlings, trying to get them fired or chasing them down hotel hallways while throwing stuff at them.

but surprisingly, the other day a republican senator (sen voinovich of ohio) stepped forward and said he wasn't comfortable voting just yet. this bold action actually set off the daily show's first-ever "bipatisanship alert" and stalled the nomination, pending further investigation, until next month. (in contrast, my own senator, dick lugar, was the one rearing to force the vote through until voinovich had a break.)

at the rate that stories damaging to bolton keep coming out, there's no way his nomination will succeed next month:

Colin Powell plainly didn't like what he was hearing. At a meeting in London in November 2003, his counterpart, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, was complaining to Powell about John Bolton, according to a former Bush administration official who was there. Straw told the then Secretary of State that Bolton, Powell's under secretary for arms control, was making it impossible to reach allied agreement on Iran's nuclear program. Powell turned to an aide and said, "Get a different view on [the Iranian problem]. Bolton is being too tough."

Unbeknownst to Bolton, the aide then interviewed experts in Bolton's own Nonproliferation Bureau. The issue was resolved, the former official told NEWSWEEK, only after Powell adopted softer language recommended by these experts on how and when Iran might be referred to the U.N. Security Council. But the terrified State experts were "adamant that we not let Bolton know we had talked to them," the official said.


But the London story is further evidence that Bolton and the White House have their work cut out for them. On several occasions, America's closest ally in the war on terror, Britain, was irked by what U.S. and British sources say were efforts by Bolton to undermine promising diplomatic openings. Perhaps the most dramatic instance took place early in the U.S.-British talks in 2003 to force Libya to surrender its nuclear program, NEWSWEEK has learned. The Libya deal succeeded only after British officials "at the highest level" persuaded the White House to keep Bolton off the negotiating team. A crucial issue, according to sources involved in the affair, was Muammar Kaddafi's demand that if Libya abandoned its WMD program, the U.S. in turn would drop its goal of regime change. But Bolton was unwilling to support this compromise. The White House agreed to keep Bolton "out of the loop," as one source puts it. A deal was struck only after Kaddafi was reassured that Bush would settle for "policy change"—surrendering his WMD. One Bush official called the accounts of both incidents "flatly untrue."

so bolton is no incredibly hard to work with that the only way to get things done is to go over his head. exactly the kind of guy we want as our top diplomat.

so we have scandals involving the house majority leader and one of bush's top nominees... but what's going on in the senate? how about a scandal involving the senate majority leader, too?

majority leader bill frist will appear (via video) at a gathering today at a louisville megachurch denouncing "judicial activism" and promoting the "nuclear option" (the concept of eliminating filibusters during nominations, an idea so outrageous that democrats have promised to shut down the senate if it occurs). the gist of today's event, called "justice sunday", is that the judiciary is "against people of faith". the message being that if you aren't in the radical right, you have no faith, something which, surprisingly, millions of people find insulting.

the event will be netcast as well as on satellite tv (i already have my tivo set to record it when it comes on WHT tuesday night; there could be lots of sample-able crazies on there). and by appearing on the program, even if only by videotape, frist is aligning himself with the farthest of the far-right wing and tacitly endorsing their definition of faith. either you are with him or you are a heathen.

lots of people are fuming about this all over the net... like here and here and hell... here.

something rotten is afoot in between the states of virginia and maryland.


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