Bush league: Nominee held up amid controversy
Ted Olson's bid to become solicitor general has been derailed, at least temporarily. Hours after an article appeared in the Washington Post that challenged the veracity of Olson's testimony in his April confirmation hearing, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced that the vote on his nomination has been delayed for one week. The conflict involves Olson's responses regarding his involvement with the "Arkansas Project," the effort funded by Clinton-hating billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife and affiliated with the American Spectator to dig up dirt on the former president and first lady. Salon first broke the news last week that Olson's spoken testimony before the committee regarding the Arkansas Project conflicted with later written responses submitted to the Senate.
In the Post account, former Spectator writer David Brock alleged a much larger role in the project than Olson has ever admitted to.
David Carle, press secretary for the committee's ranking Democrat, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, would not confirm whether the "Arkansas Project" questions or the Post article was a direct cause of the delay, but did acknowledge that Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, mentioned the Post story when the committee met in executive session earlier today. The committee now expects to vote on Olson's nomination Thursday, May 17.
-- Jake Tapper and Alicia Montgomery
Rant: The e-mail boogeyman
It was certainly heartening to read last week that President Bush, concerned about the fate of California residents coping with their electricity shortage, issued plans for federal agencies in the state to conserve energy. Hey, even if Vice President Cheney argues that conservation only makes people feel good about themselves but doesn't really help solve the nation's energy problems, maybe Cheney's boss knows something Cheney doesn't.
But who can say what was going through the minds of Bush and his energy secretary, Spencer Abraham, when they suggested that one of the steps federal workers in California might take to save energy was to send less e-mail?
Turning off computers is certainly a legitimate way to cut electricity use. But once those boxes are on, sending more or less e-mail isn't going to have any impact on power consumption. If it did, surely the quickest path to electricity savings would be to outlaw spam.
-- Scott Rosenberg
"That's My Bush!" recap
The setup: The White House is throwing a "War on Drugs" party, and first mother Barbara Bush (played by eerie look-alike Marte Boyle Slout) drops by to "help" Laura Bush with the party. During the event, the 100-millionth "War on Drugs criminal" will be arrested on national television, and cuffed by Barbara Bush.
The subplot: Barbara hates Laura, whom she frequently refers to as "whore" and "slut," and memorably accuses of marital infidelity by saying, "I can smell the man jam on you!" She is convinced that Laura will screw up the party and, on cue, the signs that Laura ordered arrive. Instead of reading "You must be high to do drugs," the "to" has been deleted, and the red, white and blue sign now reads, split on two lines: "You must be high/Do drugs."
The rub: "The 100-millionth War on Drugs criminal" turns out to be a 20-ish club kid in shiny orange clothes ("He looks like a Gummi Bear!" complains George) coming down from an ecstasy high. And he has ecstasy on him, which he hands over to the president, who soon mistakenly takes the pills.
The high jinks: Before the event, the president begins to trip, hard. He has his assistant, Princess, lock him into his bedroom, but he soon escapes and, following the hallucinatory image of a giant banana, descends on the party, where he begins to dance wildly before Laura and Barbara yank him offstage.
The switcheroo: "The 100-millionth War on Drugs criminal," at George's behest, turns the party into a rave. (Wacky maid Maggie is seen spinning in a panic, saying, "I'm in a K hole. I'm in a K hole.") But as Barbara tries to take control of the event, Laura, captured by the microphone, tells her to stop trying to control her life. This prompts "the 100-millionth War on Drugs criminal" to say that Laura has taught him that drugs, like Barbara Bush, should not control his life, and he promises to use drugs only occasionally. He allows Laura to slap the handcuffs on him, to wild applause.
Reality ranking: Can sort of imagine the president on ecstasy (by accident, of course), and the lunacy of the war on drugs is aptly captured. Most impressively, Barbara Bush seems just as coarse and malevolent as we always figured she was. The score: 9 (out of a possible 10).
-- Kerry Lauerman
"Today's bipartisan budget vote in the House is a victory for fairness and the American people. I commend Republicans and Democrats for joining together to pass a budget framework that will return money to the taxpayers and provide reasonable spending increases."
-- President Bush, in a statement released after the House passed his budget plan
Bush was quick to praise Republicans and Democrats in the House for passing the budget resolution on Wednesday, crediting the spirit of bipartisanship for the success. But there was no such spirit in the House. The resolution passed 221-207 on a largely party-line vote. Just six Democrats sided with Bush, while three Republicans voted with the opposition, and Republican unity carried the day.
Now the budget resolution moves to the Senate, where GOP unity may be enough to win a vote but falls short of being able to stop filibusters. Though the Democrats have given the White House little reason to worry over passage of the budget, finding the final formula for tax cuts may yet raise partisan hackles. After cutting Bush's tax cut from $1.6 trillion to $1.35 trillion, the Senate is now trying to pay for all the president's tax relief from a smaller pot of money. Incomplete information about the defense budget and other programs could also bedevil the process. At a minimum, Republicans will probably have to compromise on their planned reduction of the highest income tax rate, currently 39 percent. Bush hopes to slash it to 33 percent, but the Senate GOP may split the difference at 36 percent.
Bush's interventions helped the House Education Committee split the ideological difference in a last-minute dispute on Wednesday, salvaging a victory on his education reform policy. Bush's entire education package is now ready to be debated by the full House. By courting liberal leader Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., Bush has ensured an easier ride for his education plan in that chamber. Some credit the skills of White House aide Sandy Kress, a Texas Democrat, for converting Kennedy into a friend of Bush.
Senate Democrats are ready to rumble over Bush's first round of judicial nominees. Though they've protested what they consider the unfair rules imposed on the process by their Republican colleagues, Democrats in the Senate say they are prepared to give the 11 Bush picks a fighting chance.
The judiciary procedure battle has already snagged solicitor general nominee Ted Olson, though he helped by withholding information about his past connections to the Clinton-hating Arkansas Project. Salon broke the story last week, and the Washington Post has an item on it in Thursday's issue.
Republicans in the Senate are fighting their own administration's defense nominees. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and others are delaying consideration of two nominations to protest what they consider Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's lack of communication. Rumsfeld is conducting a top-down review of American armed forces, and has apparently left Senate Republicans out of the loop. Meanwhile, GOP members in the House have joined some Democrats in decrying the administration's freeze on new national park expansions. The new Interior Department policy is interfering with a plan by Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., to make Ronald Reagan's childhood home in Dixon, Ill., a historic site.
Not every GOP member is pleased with Bush's hands-off approach to the rising cost of energy. Congressional Republicans from Western and farm states are worried that they will pay the price in the 2002 elections if Bush doesn't step in to help fix skyrocketing fuel prices. But Bush is willing to take some government action to keep the power flowing in tough times. The administration wants Congress to expand the government's authority to seize private land and turn it over to electric companies for the construction of new power lines.
Meanwhile, Bush is set to name John Walters to the post of drug czar Thursday morning, and Rep. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark., will become the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Many critics of the war on drugs believe that these officials will demand too many resources for law enforcement and not enough for the treatment and rehabilitation of addicts.
And don't miss former President Clinton getting the cold shoulder from an exclusive country club near his New York home. Aides expect that the golf-loving Clinton will get into a less discriminating establishment soon. Protesters in South Korea gave Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage another serving of eggs after he completed a breakfast meeting with that country's leaders. A handful of demonstrators, unhappy with U.S. attempts to secure South Korean support for U.S. missile defense, pelted his car with raw eggs.
Thursday schedule: In a morning Rose Garden ceremony, Bush announces the new chief of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. In the afternoon he goes to the Vienna Madison Community Anti-Drug Coalition in Virginia. He then returns to the White House to have his picture taken with this year's NCAA men's hockey champions from Boston College.
-- Alicia Montgomery
This day in Bush history
May 10, 1986: According to a poll published by Audits & Surveys Inc., the majority of respondents, 22 percent, picked Vice President George Bush as the person they would most like to become president, followed by Chrysler Corp. chairman Lee Iacocca with 11 percent. The Rev. Jesse Jackson and New York Gov. Mario Cuomo received 7 percent each.
Now that the president has announced his first 11 nominees to the federal bench, only two of them are virtually guaranteed to win their posts with little difficulty. Roger Gregory, whom former President Clinton had placed on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals using a recess appointment, has been nominated to keep that spot on the bench permanently. And Barrington Parker Jr. is a New York district judge whom Bush has nominated to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Gregory and Parker are both considered locks for approval. Both are black Democrats, meaning they make up two-thirds of the racial diversity and all of the partisan diversity Bush boasts of in this first batch of nominees. Gregory has also become a symbol in the partisan Senate battle over judicial appointments, and Democrats on the panel are unlikely to clip this olive branch from Bush.
The other nine nominees, however, may incur the wrath of Senate Democrats. Here are a few reasons why:
Terrence Boyle, a North Carolina District Court judge, nominated to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court. In March 2000, Boyle ruled that race could not be considered as a factor in drawing the boundaries of his state's 12th District. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned that decision just three weeks ago. Boyle could also be hounded by his position, articulated in a 1998 ruling, that government bans on political contributions are a violation of the First Amendment. Boyle has the avid support of his former boss, Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C. Former President Bush picked Boyle for a federal judgeship -- a nomination that died after Clinton took office -- and Helms blocked two black North Carolina jurists whom Clinton nominated to sit on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court in retaliation. Now the state's junior senator, Democrat John Edwards, is threatening to stall Boyle's nomination again.
Edith Brown Clement, a District Court judge in New Orleans, nominated to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court. In 1988, Clement donated $1,000 to the elder Bush's failed presidential bid, and she won her current post in 1991 after the younger Bush passed along a recommendation for her to his father's advisors. Those with ideological concerns about Clement will likely seize on her membership in the Federalist Society, a conservative/libertarian legal think tank, and her history of attending no-cost seminars funded by the Carthage Foundation, led by Clinton hater Richard Mellon Scaife.
Deborah Cook, an Ohio Supreme Court justice, nominated to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court. Her rulings have made Cook a favorite among conservative activists. Cook dissented from a Ohio Supreme Court decision in January that revived the city of Cincinnati's efforts to hold firearms manufacturers legally liable for gun violence. She also dissented from two of her court's other high-profile decisions: one to toss out state-imposed limits on jury awards in civil cases and another that found that Ohio's public education funding system violated the state's constitution by allowing serious disparities in quality between rich and poor schools to persist. Cook and her husband are also avid contributors to Republican causes, having donated more than $10,000 to GOP committees and candidates since 1997, including a $1,000 gift in 1999 to Bush's presidential campaign.
Miguel Estrada, a partner in the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, nominated to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The lone Latino on the list, Estrada is a partner in the same firm that Ted Olson works for. Olson, Bush's choice for solicitor general, argued the Florida recount case before the Supreme Court in December. Eugene Scalia, son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, is also a partner at the firm, and was just nominated by Bush to be the top attorney at the Department of Labor. Estrada gave $1,000 to Bush's presidential effort and an additional $1,000 to the Republican National Committee during the 1999-2000 election cycle. He is likely to come under increased scrutiny because the D.C. Circuit Court has been the training ground for a third of the justices currently serving on the Supreme Court -- Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Clarence Thomas.
Michael McConnell, a law professor at the University of Utah, nominated to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court. He has earned fans among religious conservatives and enemies among secularists for his strong positions in favor of softening the divide between church and state. In 1992, McConnell wrote that "we must therefore reject the central animating idea of modern Establishment Clause analysis: that taxpayers have a constitutional right to insist that none of their taxes be used for religious purposes." Americans United for the Separation of Church and State wasted no time in attacking McConnell's nomination, with its executive director, the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, calling him "the religious right's dream court nominee" and further charging that McConnell "makes [Robert] Bork look moderate."
Priscilla Owen, a Texas Supreme Court justice, nominated to 5th U.S. Circuit Court. Other than her reputation as a conservative, Owen's record is largely free of the ideological red meat that her fellow nominees are saddled with. However, she did donate $1,000 to Bush's presidential exploratory committee in early 1999, and was tangled in a campaign finance controversy of her own. Elected to the bench in 1994, Owen ran unopposed in the 2000 race. That didn't stop Owen from raising close to $300,000. After it became clear that she wouldn't have any competition, Owen returned $103,000 in contributions, but held onto more than $96,000 to pay expenses for her six-year term. The rest had already been spent on her campaign.
John Roberts Jr., a partner at the firm of Hogan & Hartson, nominated to the D.C. Circuit Court. A former deputy solicitor general who served under Ken Starr from 1989 to 1993, Roberts was originally chosen for a federal judgeship by Bush the elder, though that nomination was never acted on. He has argued more than 30 cases before the Supreme Court, and in 1991 and 1992, he argued as a "friend of the court" on behalf of anti-abortion protesters.
Dennis Shedd, a South Carolina District Court judge, nominated to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court. When he was nominated for his current position in 1990, the American Bar Association gave Shedd a low rating. His detractors claim that Shedd's judgeship was a reward for his 10 years of work for Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., and Shedd was speedily confirmed despite having fewer than two years of experience practicing law prior to his nomination. From the bench, Shedd ruled against a state agency that sought to subject South Carolina Citizens for Life Inc. to campaign finance laws, and also ruled that AIDS and HIV patients seeking state insurance were not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Jeffrey Sutton, an Ohio attorney, nominated to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court. Just days ago, Sutton argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court that would kill a Massachusetts law that prevents tobacco companies from advertising near schools and playgrounds. Sutton, who once clerked for Justice Scalia and retired Justice Lewis Powell, has also gained attention as a states' rights crusader. He recently scored victories in two cases before the Supreme Court -- one that prevents state employees from suing their employer under the Americans with Disabilities Act and another that threw out a racial discrimination suit based on Alabama's English-only driving exam. In 1999, Sutton made a $1,000 donation to Bush's presidential campaign.
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