Joe Conason's Journal

Supreme Court passes on case, and Lautenberg's in. Will Forrester run on the issues now? Plus: What Bush won't address tonight.

Published October 7, 2002 3:33PM (EDT)

Stamp him "rejected"
So the U.S. Supreme Court isn't interested in Doug Forrester's complaint. The same Republican bench that barged into Florida has sent his plea back with a "rejected" stamp.

But that may not dissuade Forrester from yammering on about the "horrible" state court decision that allowed Frank Lautenberg onto the ballot. He noticed yesterday that he is trailing in the polls and wants to debate immediately. (I expect he's already working on a lame joke where he turns to Lautenberg and calls him either "Bob" or "Sen. Torricelli." Recommended retort: "You wish you were still running against him.") The Republican candidate may soon be as sorry that he got his wish about debates as he is that Torricelli followed his advice to quit.

Now Forrester's lawyers are running to the Federal Election Commission to stop Torricelli from giving $5 million or so in campaign funds to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, which can then turn them over to Lautenberg.

Forrester won't stop talking about Torricelli or the ballot substitution, because his issue positions are unpopular in Democratic Jersey, and he is none too articulate on other subjects, anyway. When he does bring up the Torch snuff by the New Jersey Supreme Court, someone should remind Forrester about this widely neglected account of his own campaign's post-deadline ballot-shuffling last spring. The most damaging quote comes from a legal brief filed last April by Forrester attorney Peter Sheridan, when he was arguing that his client should be allowed to appear on the GOP primary ballot in place of James Treffinger, the Republican front-runner who dropped out after his county executive office was raided by the FBI (and 11 days after the 51-day deadline for ballot substitutions, which also applies to primaries).

Back then, Sheridan pleaded for exemption from the legal deadline so that his client could assume a preferred spot on the ballot: "Strict compliance to statutory requirements and deadlines within Title 19 are [sic] set aside where such rights may be accommodated without significantly impinging upon the election process," he wrote. Despite his bad grammar and diction, the lawyer's message is clear enough: Let my guy and his friends in Bergen County ignore the nitpicking requirements of the law. Forrester won that case as well as the primary.

That April case wasn't about ensuring a contested statewide election. It was an intraparty squabble about the Bergen Republican machine's determination to assist its preferred candidate Forrester. Mitch Bainwol and crew at the National Republican Senatorial Committee ought to ponder Forrester's mind-bending hypocrisy before they crank up the smoke machine again.

Time for a break
I will be away until next Tuesday, Oct. 15. See you then.
[10:30 a.m. PDT, Oct. 7, 2002]

It's the economy ... sir
Tonight the president will explain why he believes it is essential to immediately prepare for war on Iraq. The early leaks predict that Bush will present his most comprehensive argument yet that Saddam Hussein is a threat to American security. What evidence will he present? He probably won't mention the report on Baghdad's nuclear weapons program by the International Atomic Energy Authority that he cited a month ago -- which turned out to be nonexistent. Instead he will no doubt emphasize the latest demagogic theme, previewed in his radio address over the weekend and expanded in William Safire's column today: that Saddam constantly schemes to attack the United States and kill American citizens. "Horrible" as the Iraqi despot surely is (and surely was back in the days when the president's father and the military-business-industrial complex were still building up the Ba'ath regime), the advocates of preemptive war have yet to display any evidence whatsoever that Saddam has sought to harm an American since the end of the Gulf War.

That doesn't mean the United States and its allies shouldn't demand that Saddam surrender weapons he has amassed in defiance of U.N. resolutions. It does mean that the president ought to be dealing with other problems that more immediately threaten the nation and the world -- such as the apparent continuing activity of Osama bin Laden, and the global economic downturn that may be heading toward a real crisis in both Europe and Latin America. Karl Rove wants Americans to think about Iraq rather than the economy, but they can't help noticing that the market is crashing, unemployment is rising and the administration has no program except war. (It may be fortunate that Bush is waiting until after the market closes to deliver his national address.)

Casting call
Howard Kurtz reports on production of the Stephen Glass story, a Lions Gate feature film that will take certain liberties with the facts. The role of former New Republic editor Charles Lane, who exposed the journalistic fraud, has been cast. Who will play Michael Kelly, the editor who defended Glass?
[8:47 a.m. PDT, Oct. 7, 2002]

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By Salon Staff

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