Joe Conason's Journal

Readers speculate about White House secrecy. Plus: When Maureen's very, very good.

Published August 28, 2002 3:31PM (EDT)

Rich speculation
Some readers differ with me about the Bush administration's insistence on secrecy regarding Clinton pardon documents. A few think the policy is meant to bolster Dick Cheney's ongoing concealment of his Energy Task Force deliberations. Another thinks the files may contain "exculpatory" material: "Clinton has maintained all along that the [Marc] Rich pardon removed the threat of criminal prosecution, but that Rich could still face a potential civil suit, and that the government was more likely to recover damages in a civil suit ... Could it be that this viewpoint is documented [by the withheld papers]?" And one wit wonders, unpardonably, whether "perhaps the real reason behind the administration's shenanigans isn't to protect the Shrub from inquiry when he starts pardoning all his old friends (Ken Lay comes to mind) who've managed to get themselves in hot water with their, uhm, business acumen."

More than a few readers also doubt that the varied demurrals of Kissinger, Scowcroft, Schwarzkopf, Baker and Zinni about invading Iraq are sincere. Several believe that all the dissent from within represents nothing more than "sleight of hand" to manipulate or distract the public. Even if such an elaborate deception were possible, the repudiation of Cheney-Bush policy by European and Arab leaders has emphasized the same themes as prominent domestic critics. Sometimes elites simply disagree. Meanwhile, it's now Rumsfeld making the Churchill comparison, which isn't playing too well among our allies.

When she's good
Maybe everybody always reads Maureen. Today, as she deftly rips the veil off White House hypocrisy regarding the House of Saud, everybody certainly should.

Down the Hutch
Here's that Arkansas Senate race poll. When an incumbent shows only 41 percent support at this point in the cycle, it's probably time to say bye-bye.
[2:37 p.m. PDT, Aug. 28, 2002]

One less righteous brother?
Karl Rove's concerns about the electoral vulnerability of Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark., were prescient. (He is, of course, the sibling of drug czar and ex-impeachment manager Asa; the two Bob Jones graduates are known together in some local circles as the "righteous brothers.") A reliable Little Rock informant says that the incumbent senator suffered a defeat, if not a knockout, in last night's debate with Democrat Mark Pryor, the state attorney general. The low point came after Pryor accused Hutchinson of voting too slavishly with his own party, when the senator was reduced to defending himself by noting how many times he has voted with Ted Kennedy. That may further disillusion devout churchgoing voters, who are already troubled by this "family values" politician's abrupt divorce and remarriage to a younger aide. (A county GOP leader in Arkansas explained that "we all have things that occur in our lives that are unfortunate.") I also hear that a newspaper poll will appear shortly showing Pryor ahead by 10 points.

News from local sources about close Senate and House races across the country is of great interest to me now that the final weeks of the midterm election are approaching -- so please send along whatever seems most useful and informative, with links if possible.

The hackdom of God
For those who don't think religion is sufficiently politicized already, North Carolina Republican Walter Jones has introduced a bill in Congress that would allow houses of worship to endorse and finance political candidates. (Converting hallowed sanctuaries into partisan clubhouses is an unwholesome trend in North Carolina, where the state GOP recently directed its candidates to collect church directories for use by party organizers.) David Waters has an excellent column on all this foolishness in today's Memphis Commercial-Appeal. Actually, the Jones bill would be fine -- if it also canceled the tax exemptions enjoyed by the politicized clergy.
[8:38 a.m. PDT, Aug. 28, 2002]

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