Archive for June 25th, 2009

June 25, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Report on Amtrak IG case

Sen. Charles Grassley’s office has released a 94-page report (PDF). Will update shortly with details.

UPDATE: Press release from Grassley’s office:

Senator Chuck Grassley has asked Amtrak about the circumstances of the Inspector General’s unexpected retirement seven days ago and invited Amtrak to provide information about the interference by Amtrak in the work of the Inspector General described in a report prepared at the request of the retired watchdog.
Grassley said the report indicates that Amtrak’s policies and procedures have systematically violated the letter and spirit of the Inspector General Act.
“As I continue my investigation into whether the independence of the Inspector General was undermined by Amtrak officials, I want to make sure I have any and all information Amtrak wants to provide,” Grassley said. “The allegations are serious, including third parties being told to first send documents under subpoena by the Inspector General to Amtrak for review, and the Inspector General being chastised for communicating directly with congressional appropriations and authorizing committees . . .”

Read the whole thing. I had been warned to expect something like this, so I just kept refreshing the press release page at Grassley’s site until it was posted. Well, I’ve got work to do.

UPDATE 8:45 ET: The first news story about this report, from . . . well, me, at The American Spectator:

Officials of Amtrak have “systematically violated the letter and spirit of the Inspector General Act,” Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) charged Thursday, making public a 94-page legal report prepared at the request of the Amtrak inspector general who resigned suddenly a week ago.
Fred Wiederhold, a veteran IG, retired without notice or explanation June 18 after a meeting with Amtrak officials where he presented the report by the law firm of Willkie, Farr & Gallagher. “The allegations are serious, including third parties being told to first send documents under subpoena by the Inspector General to Amtrak for review, and the Inspector General being chastised for communicating directly with congressional appropriations and authorizing committees,” Grassley said in a statement.
Grassley’s accusation of illegal actions by Amtrak, including failure to comply properly with subpoenas, is the most serious to date in an investigation that has expanded quickly since the IG for the AmeriCorps program was given an ultimatum two weeks ago to resign or be fired.
In a letter to Amtrak Chairman Thomas Carper, Grassley said the legal report “suggests a long-term and unrelenting interference with the activities and operation” of the IG’s office. Grassley said his staff believes that members of the Amtrak IG office “be fearful of retaliation if they were to discuss the matters set forth in this letter with anyone, including Congress.” . . .

Read the whole thing. Meanwhile, Michael Jackson is dead. He was a few months older than me, much richer, and never scored an exclusive news story in his life. His kickspin was better than mine, however.

UPDATE 10:15 p.m.: A little more news at the Green Room:

Investigators for Sen. Joe Lieberman (Ind.-Conn.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) are now becoming involved with the IG-Gate probe.
Previously, Lieberman and Collins had seemed willing to accept Obama administration officials’ version of the firing of AmeriCorps IG Gerald Walpin without even hearing Walpin’s side of the story. Now, as a clear pattern of pressure against IGs has developed, the multiple investigations have gotten the attention of Lieberman and Collins, the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. This is the chief oversight committee with jurisdiction to hold hearings and subpoena materials in the IG probe.
Some Republicans, however, have been disappointed by Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Mike Enzi of Wyoming. Both GOP senators have expressed interest in the IG investigations, but neither has sought to interview Walpin or ordered their own staffers to coordinate with Grassley’s investigators, who have already been on the case for two weeks.

Astute blog readers will recognize that I’ve linked the contact pages for those senators, and for a good reason. If you want to see Congress hold hearings on IG-Gate, you need to get in touch with your own members of Congress and tell them so. “Sources close to the investigation” say that it is up to citizens to push Congress to take action. It doesn’t matter whether your senators or representatives; preserving the independence of IGs ought to be a bipartisan concern.

UPDATE 10:23 p.m.: Welcome Hot Air readers. And thanks to Bob Belvedere for his IG-Gate compilation at WWU-AM.

UPDATE 11:12 p.m.: No Watchdogs Allowed

UPDATE 11:22 p.m.: I use Google News to search for online information about these stories, and somehow had previously missed this story today from Youth Today about CNCS acting NCNS head Nicole Goren’s explanation of the Walpin firing. You can check that out, but it still doesn’t address the question of fundamental fairness. In the three weeks between the May 20 board meeting and June 10, when Walpin was told to quit or be fired, neither CNCS nor anyone in the Obama administration made any effort to get Walpin’s side of the dispute.

PREVIOUSLY:
6/25:
IG-Gate: It’s not about Walpin
6/24: Another shoe leather day
6/23: IG-Gate: Asking the right questions
6/23: More questions for Secretary Geithner
6/22: Your man in Washington
6/21: Obama’s no Daley, but . . .
6/19: IG investigation: ‘Dominoes Fall’
6/18: Grassley expands IG investigation
6/18: Targeting AIG bailout?
6/18: How’s the weather in Sacramento?
6/18: Sen. Grassley wants more answers

June 25, 2009

Fred Thompson concerning Mark Sanford

by Smitty

Fred has an .mp3 available here.
He has some interesting points, essentially saying, don’t muck about on public time.
Additionally, Fred throws in the tangentially related idea of term limits.
Sanford: eject.

June 25, 2009

No transparency on energy billUPDATE: House must ‘come to its senses’

Rep. Spencer Bachus:

The Democrat leadership is preventing the public from learning important details about the cap and tax plan by bypassing several key committees. . . .
My committee should be given time to review “green housing” mandates that could lead to stiff fines against owners and builders. Penalties for violating the act are $100 per day. A day! What effect does such a law have on home prices, on seniors trying to sell their home in a tough market, and builders struggling to sell their inventory of unsold homes?
I am very disturbed by the repeated pattern of the House leadership in rushing expensive legislation like cap and tax, the so-called stimulus package, and appropriations bills to a vote without adequate review or debate. It’s irresponsible to fast-track legislation that puts taxpayers on the hook for literally trillions of dollars.

Just like the White House playing hardball with the IGs, we find that Democrats prefer to work fast and dirty, and without even the slight effort toward the “transparency” Obama promised.

REMINDER: Two months ago, Democrat Rep. John Dingell said cap-and-trade is a “huge” tax:

UPDATE: Conservatives oppose cap-and-trade:

Although Americans want Washington to stay focused on putting the economy back on track, Nancy Pelosi and her liberal Democratic Congress are trying to enact legislation that will keep the economy crippled. Analysts agree that the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill would cost millions of American jobs, shrink our economy and impose huge increases in gas prices, heating and electric bills on American families. . . .
The House of Representatives needs to come to its senses – don’t pass a massive job-killer in the middle of the worst economic crisis in decades. . . .

Read the whole thing. Signers include Tim Phillips, President of Americans for Prosperity; Fred Smith, President of the Competitive Enterprise Institute; Richard Viguerie, Chairman of ConservativeHQ.com; and American Spectator publisher Al Regnery.

June 25, 2009

Mary Jo Kopechne couldnot be reached for comment

Having suggested that Jenny Sanford should ventilate her cheating SOB husband with .38 slugs, I think I cannot be accused of making excuses for Republicans with zipper problems.

Well, what about David Shuster of NBC News? A friend was following Shuster’s Twitter feed yesterday:

Does Spitzer deserve more “credit” (wrong word choice, I know) because he resigned as opposed to Sanford who is staying in office?

To quote Andrew Sullivan, words fail. My opinion is that Sanford’s next office should be under a tombstone, and comparing the Last Tango in Buenos Aires to the sordid saga of Spitzer — the anti-prostitution crusader who found himself entangled in an FBI investigation of an interstate call-girl ring — tends to obscure, rather than enlighten.

What kind of perverse mind tries to use Sanford’s shame to rehabilitate the scoundrel Spitzer? Absurd.

Meanwhile, speaking of Twitter and Sanford, Dave Weigel just Twittered a quote from his story about the Sanford scandal:

“It proves men who oppose federal spending are irresistible to women.”
Grover Norquist

Heh. No wonder Dr. Helen keeps such a close eye on Glenn Reynolds. Keep that .38 handy, Dr. Helen!

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin is definitely not a member of the Grover Norquist Fan Club:

Just what we need: Beltway conservatives showing how tone-deaf and insensitive they are for the sake of a self-aggrandizing soundbite.

Note Malkin’s mother-bear reaction:

I don’t find anything funny about the Sanford affair. It’s the mom in me thinking about four handsome boys on Father’s Day weekend abandoned by their stupid, selfish father, who was busy tanning with his mistress in Argentina. Heart-breaking. Yes. Nauseating. Yes. Maddening. Yes. Funny? No.

Sarcasm is my natural metier, and spending two decades in the newroom tends to put a keen edge on one’s cynical indifference to the foibles of the famous and powerful. In some circles, a big-shot politician is like a rock star, so when a politician behaves like he’s on tour with Aerosmith, it brings out my inner Mencken. (He once remarked that the only way a journalist should ever look at a politician is down.)

My cynicism is bipartisan. Sanford’s Argentine escapade is, to me, as ludicrous and deserving of scornful laughter as any shenanigans of Gary Hart, Ted Kennedy or Bill Clinton.

I was on the phone a few minutes ago with a Texas Republican, a Christian conservative gentleman with extensive experience in the blogosphere. As I explained to my friend, for 20 years I’ve had a saying: My wife has a kitchen drawer full of knives, and I’ve got to sleep sometime.

Humor can expresss truth. In an act of divine irony, God blessed an ugly old hound like me with a beautiful wife, a blessing deserving of eternal gratitude. If I ever cheated on Mrs. Other McCain, no jury would ever convict her. My well-deserved death (or grievous mutilation) would be the subject of a thousand jokes, and appropriately so.

UPDATE II: Weigel’s story is now on Memeorandum and if you’re offended by humor, let’s look at a couple of serious reactions to l’affaire Sanford. Erick Erickson:

What Mark Sanford did was wrong. He needs to go in a dark hole somewhere where no one can see him or hear him and rehabilitate himself. . . . The left is going to spend the next week making Sanford into the second coming of James Dobson to smear real marriage advocates and social conservatives — positions Sanford was rarely vocal on.

There are things from which a politician can “rehabilitate himself.” Flying off to Argentina to screw a “glorious” woman named Maria Belen Shapur? Nope. I caught a minute of yesterday’s press conference while at the American Spectator office. When Sanford used the word “forgiveness,” I shouted at the TV a two-word response. (Hint: The second word was “you.”)

Welcome to the private sector, sir. Resign now. Meanwhile, Sanford’s downfall contributes to the disillusionment of a young Washingtonian:

Forget shaking my faith in the Republican Party, after a while it just starts to shake your faith in men. I mean, are all men incapable of remaining faithful?
I’ve been following this story with fingers crossed, “Please, don’t be another Republican having an affair!” I guess that was too much to ask for. What a chump. It just leaves me shaking my head with a look of disgust across my face. It’s just so disappointing.

Question: What about the Marias of the world, who seem to have no compunction about affairs with other women’s husbands? Do such women bear no responsibility? Whatever sort of two-faced scumbag horndog Mark Sanford may be, even in Buenos Aires it still takes two to tango. Sanford is 100% responsible for keeping his own vows, but his responsibility does not exempt Maria from blame.

Amid all these serious considerations, I still defend my right to sarcasm. If Bill Clinton is a punchline, Mark Sanford is a Monty Python routine.

June 25, 2009

IG-Gate: It’s not about Walpin

That’s perhaps the most important thing in my American Spectator report today:

Yet the investigations into President Obama’s evident crackdown on IGs — designated watchdogs who guard against waste, fraud and abuse in federal agencies — are not about [Americorps inspector general Gerald] Walpin.
Those familiar with the investigations (and yes, that noun is plural) caution against personalizing or politicizing the situation. These sources are especially concerned that inquiries by Republican members of Congress should not be portrayed as a partisan “gotcha” game against the popular new president.
Similar words of caution are expressed by some members of the IG community, who note that Walpin had only been watchdogging the Corporation for National and Community Service for two years. An able attorney and certainly not the doddering incompetent that Obama officials portrayed him to be, Walpin hasn’t been an IG long enough to have acquired “veteran” status, and some say he had a reputation as “arrogant” or “holier-than-thou.”
Whatever Walpin’s reputation, however, sources familiar with his dismissal believe it was no accident that he was shown the door immediately after getting into a dispute with Eric Holder’s Justice Department over a program affiliated with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, an enthusiastic political ally of Obama. And perhaps the most important fact of the case so far is that the FBI is now investigating an accusation that e-mails relevant to Walpin’s work were deleted by Johnson or others. Destroying evidence in a federal investigation is a serious crime, no matter what the other circumstances of the case may be. . . .

Lots more where that came from, so please read the whole thing. And I want to emphasize that the implied criticism of Walpin is not my personal point of view, it’s what others have said. These sources, however, also emphasize that criticism from other IGs does not mean that Walpin wasn’t doing good work or that his firing was justified. But this is not a referendum on Walpin; it’s about the principle of IG independence.

Also, please especially note that there are multiple investigations underway at this point. Walpin is one of only three IGs who have gotten the ax in the past two weeks, and the Amtrak IG situation is currently heating up. Last night, Dan Riehl turned up some very interesting research about Amtrak general counsel Eleanor Acheson.

Really, this goes back to the question that Rick Moran asked Tuesday night: “Is there a story here?” The answer is clearly, “yes.” Whether there is a scandal or any actual crime, there is no such accusation. But if you just stop to consider that AmTrak got $1.3 billion in the “stimulus” bill, and that the IG for Amtrak was complaining about interference from Amtrak bosses, the investigation of that alleged interference is a definitely a story — no matter what the investigation discovers.

Personally, the angle that I find most intriguing is the reported conflict between the Treasury Department and Neil Barofsky, the special IG for the TARP financial bailout. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) is bird-dogging that one and . . .

Like I said, read the whole thing.

June 25, 2009

Old School Ties UPDATE: Lobbyist?

Yesterday, the question was asked, “Who Is Eleanor Acheson?” The answer is that she’s the Amtrak vice president and legal counsel whose name is relevant to last week’s unexpected retirement of Amtrak inspector general Fred Wiederhold.

Acheson (“Eldie,” to her friends) was also Hillary Rodham Clinton’s college roommate and . . .

By sheerest coincidence, yesterday the State Department held its annual commemoration of “Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month,” at which the remarks were given by the department’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills:

First, on behalf of Secretary Clinton, I am honored to be here today and to celebrate LGBT Pride Month . . .
It is my great pleasure now to introduce a woman who has spent years serving the American people at Amtrak, at the Justice Department, at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. She is a dear friend of Secretary Clinton, and she has been a wonderful public servant model and friend to me, Eldie Acheson.

NTTAWWT.

UPDATE: Ah, but there might be something wrong with this: Dan Riehl has discovered that, as recently as December 2008, Acheson was listed on a lobbyist disclosure form.

So, dear old Joe Biden gets $1.3 billion in “stimulus” money for Acheson’s Amtrak, and they don’t need no stinkin’ IG sniffing around.

But wait a minute, there’s more. As Michelle Malkin points out, Biden’s all abou Amtrak. Suppose that Biden’s fingerprints were discovered on some shenanigans at Amtrak, so that there was a real scandal? If dear old Joe had to resign . . .

Vice President Hillary? OK, that’s far-fetched. But did anybody else notice that Hillary’s now got Sidney Blumenthal working for her over at State Department?

Obama’s popularity is starting to fade, Obama backstabs the gays, now all sorts of scandal talk is starting to swirl and is it really a conspiracy theory to ask, Cui bono?

C’mon, folks. Andrew Sullivan blogs kookier stuff than that every day. Question the timing!

June 25, 2009

‘You have the right to remain silent’

I love my husband . . . I remain willing to forgive Mark completely for his indiscretions . . . This is a very painful time for us . . .”

Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Really, Mrs. Sanford, just shoot the two-timing son of a bitch. Please. No jury in South Carolina would ever convict you. While you’re at it, go ahead and shoot that worthless son of a bitch Lindsey Graham — another guaranteed mistrial, because there would be at least one jury member who’d figure Lindsey needed killing.

You’d be more popular with the base than Sarah Palin.

June 25, 2009

Sanford: eject, recoup

by Smitty
With around twenty tabs on Governor Sanford open in Firefox, it’s time to add some value by offering something of a pan-blogosphereic roundup. Then, some general thoughts on Nitwits in Public Office.

Link Note
HuffPo: Sex, Lies, and Argentina “while I do not approve of how he handled himself as an elected public official or as a husband, I am empathetic to him and understanding of his frailty as fellow human being.
I think we all should be and here is why: I have been there. And so have many of you.”
HuffPo: Traveled There Before on Taxpayer Dime “the Republican Governor has traveled to the South American country before, on the taxpayer dime.”
HuffPo: Wife: Begone “South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s wife, Jenny, issued a statement in which she says that she told him to leave their home two weeks ago “to maintain my dignity, self-respect and my basic sense of right and wrong.”
HuffPo: Harsh Critic of Clinton Affair “The standard Sanford has set for other politicians over the years has been fairly high. A member of the House of Representatives during the heyday of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, he was often a harsh critic of the president for his marital misconduct.
This is “very damaging stuff,” Sanford declared at one point, when details of Clinton’s conduct became known. “I think it would be much better for the country and for him personally (to resign)… I come from the business side,” he said. “If you had a chairman or president in the business world facing these allegations, he’d be gone.””
Nat Turner’s Revenge: Impeach “No. He’s not hiking. He’s having his ashes hauled. In Argentina. He’s having an affair, this typical family values Republican. This son of the South. This hero in the face of Obamaism. In Argentina. Hope he got some good meat. Hope he brought his kids back some bolos. Hope he got tango lessons.”
Liberal Land: Emails “The newspaper promises that the full e-mail exchange will be published in tomorrow’s edition.”
Liberal Land: Called for Clinton to Resign “As it turns out the biggest threat to marriage is not gays; it’s heterosexual, cheating husbands.”
WaPo: The Fix “He said that he had met the woman, who he did not name, roughly eight years ago and that it had become romantic within the last year. He visited her three times during the past year, Sanford said, and noted that his wife, Jenny, had been aware of the affair for the past five months. “
Little Miss Attila: Only Monks “I don’t see politicians’ private lives as fair game, any more than journalists’ should be. I’m with Dennis Prager: if someone is otherwise competent, but has had a problem or two in his marriage, he might well be a better candidate than another one whose private life is otherwise “pure.””

LMA: how about some Funky Monks? “I’ll be doing all I can, if I die an honest man.”

HotMes: Sanford Admits “What is it with politicians (of both parties) and affairs? It’s so idiotic. There’s so much to lose, and for what? Is it ever worth it? Especially for Republicans. Democrats can survive a sex scandal, and most other scandals for that matter. There’s a double-standard in politics. Republican affairs have a tendency to be a career-ender. Is that ever really worth it?”
Pink Elephant Pundit: Bye Bye, Sanford “Can we not find anyone who will keep it together and not screw themselves and the entire party over? I never cared much about Sanford either way, but now the GOP has even more damage control to do. The spectacle he’s made out of it is not helping anything. Mysterious South American trips? Disappearing acts?”
Track-a-‘Crat: Mental Breakdown Imminent “Thank you, Mark Sanford, for distracting from the avalanche of Democratic sleaze and criminality that the media wasn’t reporting anyway, and instead giving them something juicy that they’ll really appreciate sinking their teeth into.”
Hot Air: Video “He could have been president, now he’s finished: Witness the power of the male libido.”
Hot Air: Kerry on Sanford “Don’t be too hard on Waffles. His humor’s always been laced with nastiness, which is why he periodically finds himself in clusterfarks over “botched jokes.””
Pundit & Pundette: Sanford’s Betrayal “people like Gov. Sanford make it very, very difficult to convince our teens and young adults that all politicians aren’t corrupt in one way or another. This is precisely the kind of thing that sours the idealistic young on politics and converts them into cynics. Sanford was correct when he said that, in addition to hurting his wife and children (the self-centered rat), he has hurt his state and his party. The conservative movement doesn’t need perfection but it does need sincere people who live the values they promote.”
AoSHQ: Vid: Sanford’s Presser “That doesn’t make it noble or anything. But the media seems to be expecting him to say “and it’s all over now, and a huge mistake,” etc., etc., and he doesn’t appear nearly willing to say that. The complaint seems to be that Sanford’s not saying the typical, Oprah-approved contrition stuff, and they’re holding it against him that he’s deviating from accepted Contrition Tour form.”
Paco Keep Mr. Happy on a Leash “To quote Talleyrand, this is worse than a crime; it is a blunder. All we need right now, when we’re trying to mobilize against the Red hosts of Democrat nationalization, is to give the donks and the media an opportunity to distract the people from the health care and cap-and-trade disasters.”
Fisherville Mike: B.A. Connection “Thanks for Gov. Sanford, we’ll be learning lots more about Buenos Aires in the next few days.”
The Corner: Don’t Stand By Your Man “I was further impressed that, unlike the wives of Larry Craig, Elliot Spitzer and Jim McGreevey, she had the dignity to remain home when Sanford made his embarassing admission at today’s press conference.”

Having spared you all the trouble of that much surfing (tip jar), here is some analysis.
The questions concern the Sanford family, and public service as a whole.
The Sanford family is a private matter. They need time to heal. They need 100% of Mark to effect that healing. Sanford should resign.
Now, public service in general. The question of whoever is guiltless casting the first stone is a bugaboo. I don’t know Mark, his family, or any of those details. I do know that lines have to be drawn. It’s not about him personally, it’s about the moral authority of the office. The same calculus Sanford applied to Clinton applies to Sanford. Let him resign, let him show repentance, and, if after evidence of repentance has been proffered, the citizens of South Carolina feel like trusting him again, let them say so at the ballot box. Sanford, it’s not about you, a particular political party, your 2012 ambitions, or your non-command of your manhood. It’s about trust placed in office holders. It’s about demanding and receiving integrity. If you retain your position, you’re cheapening the office for your successor, and making immoral behavior elsewhere easier to excuse. You’ve been been part of the problem, now join the cure.
Also, the links describe a lengthy relationship that recently became intimate. Men: cut that out. I’m not advocating sharia. Take heed, though: all men, husbands and fathers need to guard their virtue(!) vigorously. If you have some form of a relationship with a woman, ensure it’s transparent to your wife. People are people. If hormonal tensions grow, do the right thing and ratchet the relationship down. I perceive (and could be wildly wrong) that The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover is a movie, and that kind of no-words-just-grind relationship doesn’t happen much. Boring monogamist that I am, it’s unlikely (let us hope) that I’ll explore this in detail.
So, Sanford, you’ve been dishonorable. Eject, recoup, and see if you can be rehabilitated.