So elation that Amtrak would be spinning off its Northeast Corridor operations was premature. The change only means that the Northeast Corridor will be operated by an Amtrak subsidiary, but with its own president and management. In other words, for now, another layer of bureaucracy. This is a first step toward privatization, but it looks like an ugly solution without the timeline of the next step.
The Spectacle Blog
As one might glean from my column today, I think a scuttling of the Miers nomination is more likely now than I thought it was when I posted here on the topic last week. But it still depends in part on what the Democrats do.
Ironically, if you agree with RET that stopping Miers would be too costly, then it makes sense from the Democrats' perspective to oppose her. And if you agree with me that it's better for our side to stop Miers, then it makes sense for Democrats to vote to confirm. Thus, if one is trying to build a bipartisan coalition in the Senate -- whether pro-Miers or anti-Miers -- the task is to convince each side to read the political landscape differently.
Ya gotta love the Al-Qaeda denial of the Zawahiri-Zarqawi letter. They say that it is the product of the imagination of the "Black House and their slaves." This communique certainly has all the earmarks of the favored literary style in those parts, what we Americans usually abandon after the 7th Grade: "Your Mama wears combat boots."
Black House, hahaha. White House, Black House, get it?
The BBC says that neither the original letter nor the denial can be confirmed. In other words, the word of the U.S. Department of Defense is considered of equal trustworthiness as the word of the Arab kid with the walleye -- who brings in a note and says that the man handed him a dinar and told him to deliver the Al Qaeda denial to the BBC reporter getting sozzled at the hotel bar somewhere on the quieter side of Baghdad.
"White House officials are privately bracing for the possibility that Rove or other officials could be indicted in the next two weeks," Jim VandeHei and Peter Baker report in Friday's Washington Post -- the same paper in which liberal columnist Richard Cohen on Thursday urged special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to close up shop and go back to Chicago and, if I may capture Cohen's essential point, put an end to the chronic criminalization of politics in Washington.
Al-Qaeda announced earlier today that the Zawahiri letter, in which OBL's #2 waves a tin cup at Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Q chief in Iraq, is a fake. (The Beeb is reporting the denial, of course, as big breaking news.) In that letter, Zawahiri asked Zarqawi to send him $100,000. Another senior DoD official told me the Defense Department is "absolutely standing by the authenticity" of the letter. Above which there is no higher endorsement.
Sounds like the world's most wanted terrorist is very afraid that his followers and supporters will burrow back into the sand when they realize how weakened he really is. And don't look for this bit of news on BBC tonight, or in Le Monde tomorrow.
Earlier this afternoon I spoke with a senior Defense Department official who would only talk on background. He has a tough but hopeful forecast for the Iraq constitutional referendum this weekend.
First -- and this isn't news -- he said he expected a lot of violence leading up to, and probably on, the date of the election. Suicide bombers -- mostly Saudis and some from North Africa -- are expected to make their attacks and will likely kill a lot of people.
Second, despite the terrorist activity, he expects the referendum to succeed and be ratified even in the Sunni provinces. This, he said, should put Iraq on track to elect a new government in December. We'll see.
If I had spilled my sentences across the page in the disorderly way Ramesh responds to them, I suppose I would agree with his one-liners. But my argument proceeded more solidly. Yet from the jumble he assembles I would make one observation. My argument is for depoliticizing court nominations in as much as that is possible. That does not seem to be his wish. He is for the politics of the moment. I am for the enduring usefulness of the Constitution.
A friend this morning informed me that Britain's America-bashing playwright Harold Pinter has just been awarded this year's Nobel in literature. He then asked, "What do you think he'll say in his speech?" I replied: "You mean, Al Gore didn't deliver it yesterday?"
Of course, it'd would be a livelier world if Gore were as talented as Pinter. Stuart Reid wrote about Pinter for us some years ago. The piece will be posted tomorrow. Here's a preview.
Meanwhile, my mind happily goes back to what John Simon wrote with foresight in June 1967:
The White House has tried to argue that Harriet Miers is a trailblazing nonconformist. But her shunning of the Federalist Society illustrates that she made sure to restrict her trailwalking to well-worn mainstream paths. Heavy involvement in the ABA, which is basically an arm of the Democratic Party? That's okay, she figured. But the Federalist Society? Oh no, that's the kiss of death. Why should anyone think Miers would stick her neck out on the Supreme Court? She's never done so before. Her instincts are conformist. The idea that a nominee who considered mere membership in the Federalist Society to be outrÃ© would overturn Roe v. Wade and decades of liberal jurisprudence is a joke.
Drudge is now reporting that Miers, testifying in a lawsuit fifteen years ago, professed her membership in something called the "Democratic Progressive Voters League" but eschewed membership in horrids such as the Federalist Society. She apparently didn't like the way Federalist Society membership -- which she characterized as "politically-charged" -- might be seen to color her views. At the same time, she said she didn't think the NAACP was a political organization. (And, to be fair, fifteen years ago they weren't as far out in deep left field as they are today.) But what the devil is the "DVPL"?
Meanwhile, the White House has confirmed that Karl Rove did speak to James Dobson about the Miers nomination (without, I believe, confirming all the details we looked at yesterday). This second issue is much more important than the first. All the concerns about what was told to Dobson by Rove, especially about her "judicial philosophy," are going to fuel a large fire in the Judiciary Committee.