Wednesday, February 23

Rove-Gannon Connection?

Rove-Gannon Connection?

WASHINGTON, Feb. 18, 2005


Karl Rove (Photo: AP)



Karl Rove's hope to become a respected policymaker will be hampered if the dirty tricks from his political past are more apparent than his desire to spread liberty around the globe.





(CBS) Dotty Lynch is the Senior Political Editor for CBS News. E-mail your questions and comments to Political Points

Karl Rove took a victory lap at an SRO lunch at the Conservative Political Action Committee meeting at the Ronald Reagan building in Washington on Thursday. After a glowing introduction by Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association, Rove proclaimed "conservatism as the dominant political creed in America," but warned Republicans not to get complacent or grow "tired and timid." He recalled the dark days when the Democrats were dominant and cautioned that that could happen again if they let down their guard. The new White House deputy chief of staff also called on conservatives to "seize the mantle of idealism."

Tired and timid are two adjectives never applied to Rove. The architect of the Bush victories in 2000 and 2004 came through the ranks of college Republicans with the late Lee Atwater, and their admitted and alleged dirty tricks are the legends many young political operatives dream of pulling off. So when Jeff Gannon, White House "reporter" for Talon "News," was unmasked last week, the leap to a possible Rove connection was unavoidable. Gannon says that he met Rove only once, at a White House Christmas party, and Gannon is kind of small potatoes for Rove at this point in his career.

But Rove's dominance of White House and Republican politics, Gannon's aggressively partisan work and the ease with which he got day passes for the White House press room the past two years make it hard to believe that he wasn't at least implicitly sanctioned by the "boy genius." Rove, who rarely gave on-the-record interviews to the MSM (mainstream media), had time to talk to GOPUSA, which owns Talon.

GOPUSA and Talon are both owned by Bobby Eberle, a Texas Republican and business associate of conservative direct-mail guru Bruce Eberle who says that Bobby is from the "Texas branch of the Eberle clan." Bobby Eberle told The New York Times that he created Talon to build a news service with a conservative slant and "if someone were to see 'GOPUSA,' there's an instant built-in bias there." No kidding.

Some of the real reporters in the White House pressroom were apparently annoyed at Gannon's presence and his softball, partisan questions, but considered him only a minor irritant. One told me he thought of Gannon as a balance for the opinionated liberal questions of Hearst's Helen Thomas. But what Gannon was up to was not just writing opinion columns or using a different technique to get information. He was a player in Republican campaigns and his work in the South Dakota Senate race illustrates the role he played. It is also a classic example of how political operatives are using the brave new world of the Internet and the blogosphere. Gannon and Talon News appear to be mini-Drudge reports; a "news" source which partisans use to put out negative information, get the attention of the bloggers, talk radio and then the MSM in a way that mere press releases are unable to achieve.

One of Gannon's first projects was an attempt to discredit the South Dakota Argus Leader, South Dakota's major paper, and its longtime political writer, David Kranz. According to the National Journal, which reported on this last November, Gannon wrote a series of articles in the summer of 2003 alleging that Kranz, who went to college with Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle, was not only sympathetic to him but was an actual part of the Daschle campaign. These articles then got a huge amount of play on the blogs of John Lauck and Jason Van Beek, and were picked up by other conservative sites and talk radio. The paper was bombarded with messages about its bias and acknowledges that these had an impact on its coverage.

Daschle opponent John Thune's campaign manager was Dick Wadham, an old political crony of Karl Rove's; the kind of pal Rove could ask to hire his first cousin, John Wood, a few years back. Wadham put the bloggers on the campaign payroll and the symbiotic relationship between the campaign, the bloggers and "reporter" Gannon continued. On September 29, Gannon broke the story that Daschle had claimed a special tax exemption for a house in Washington and the bloggers jumped all over it. According to a November 17 posting on South Dakota Politics – a site that Van Beek, who has become a staffer for now-Sen. Thune, has bequeathed to Lauck – "Jeff Gannon, whose reportage had a dramatic impact on the Daschle v. Thune race (his story about Sen. Daschle signing a legal document claiming to be a D.C. resident was published nearly the same day Thune began to run an ad showing Daschle saying, "I'm a D.C. resident) has written an analysis of the debacle."

Daschle aides told Roll Call, "This guy (Gannon) became the dumping ground for opposition research." The connections are so strong that there is an FEC challenge which could be a test case on the limits of the use of the Internet in federal campaigns.

Gannon also had Thune on his radio show "Jeff Gannon's Washington," and the White House correspondent for Talon became touted as the "resident D.C. expert on South Dakota politics" by the bloggers. Thune and Wadham (who has been hired by aspiring White House Republican Sen. George Allen) have become go-to guys on the use of blogs in campaigns. Thune was cited in The New York Times as introducing "Senators to the meaning of 'blogging,' explaining the basics of self-published online political commentary and arguing that it can affect public opinion."

This week Democrats, who have serious case of Rove envy, went a little nuts and started sending around information and graphic pictures of Gannon and his porn Web sites. But it is the more routine part of Gannon's life that deserves serious scrutiny. Planting or even just sanctioning a political operative in the WH press room is a dangerous precedent and Karl Rove's hope to become a respected policymaker will be hampered if the dirty tricks from his political past are more apparent than his desire to spread liberty around the globe.

Thom Hartmann : The Radical Middle

What is the Radical Middle?
by Thom Hartmann

The Founders of this nation represented the first Radical Middle. Back then they called it "being liberal." As George Washington said, "As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality."

They didn't want King George or his military or corporate agents snooping in their houses, mails, or private matters; preventing them from organizing together and speaking out in public in protest of government actions; imprisoning them without access to attorneys, due process, or trials by juries of their peers; or reserving rights to himself that they felt should rest with the people or their elected representatives. (They ultimately wrote all of these in the Bill of Rights in our Constitution.)

They also didn't want giant transnational corporations dominating their lives or their local economies. When, in 1773, King George III signed the Tea Act - a massive tax cut for the British East India Company - they protested this first attempt to WalMart-itize America by preventing the Company's ships from landing in several cities up and down the eastern seaboard, and boarding and destroying over a million dollars (in today's money) of tea in the ships that did dock in Boston. This was the beginning, by the Radical Middle, of the American Revolution.

The Radical Middle has always believed in fairness and democracy, and understood that completely unrestrained business activity and massive accumulations of wealth into a very few hands can endanger democratic institutions.

As James Madison said, "There is an evil which ought to be guarded against in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by … corporations. The power of all corporations ought to be limited in this respect. The growing wealth acquired by them never fails to be a source of abuses." Similarly, John Adams wrote that when "economic power become concentrated in a few hands, then political power flowed to those possessors and away from the citizens, ultimately resulting in an oligarchy or tyranny."

Thomas Paine, among others, wrote at length about the dangers to a free people of the massive accumulation of wealth, and following the excesses of the Gilded Age - which led to massive corruption of the American government by corporate and wealth-based interests - laws were put into place limiting the size and behavior of corporations (such as the Sherman Anti-Trust Act), and taxing inheritance of the most massive of family estates so that a new hereditary aristocracy wouldn't emerge in the nation that had thrown off the economic and political oppressions of the hereditary aristocracy of England.

The Radical Middle always believed in the idea of a commons - the things that we all own collectively, and administer the way we want through our elected representatives. Our parks, roads, police, fire, schools, and our government itself. Our ability to vote in fair and transparent elections. Our military and defense. Our systems for protecting our air, water, food, and pharmaceuticals. Our ability to retire in safety if we've worked hard and played the game by the rules, and to know that an illness won't financially wipe us out.

Regardless of electoral politics (since both of the major political parties often overlook these values, and both have become corrupted by wealth and corporate influence), poll after poll shows that the vast majority of Americans embrace the values of the Radical Middle.

In recent years, America has been hijacked by the Radical Right. Corporations now write most of our legislation. Our elected representatives cater to the interests of wealth rather than what is best for the commons we collectively own, or what will sustain that bulwark of democracy known as the middle class. They have, in large part, seized control of our media, wiped out our family farms, and wiped out small, middle-class-owned businesses from our towns and cities. They seek a "merger of corporate and state interests" - a definition Mussolini used for what he called "fascism."

The Radical Right has even gone so far as to use sophisticated psychological programming tools, like Newt Gingrich's infamous "word list," to paint the Radical Middle as some sort of insidious anti-Americanism.

We in the Radical Middle are calling for nothing less than a restoration of democracy, of government of, by, and for We The People, in a world that works for all.

Kinsley's Proof : Privatization won't work

Kinsley's Proof That Social Security Privatization Won't Work
by Michael Kinsley

Social Security privatization is not just unlikely to succeed, for various reasons that are subject to discussion. It is mathematically certain to fail. Discussion is pointless.

The usual case against privatization is that (1) millions of inexperienced investors may end up worse off, and (2) stocks don't necessarily do better than bonds over the long run, as proponents assume. But privatization won't work for a better reason: It can't possibly work, even in theory.

The logic is not very complicated:

1. To "work," privatization must generate more money for retirees than current arrangements. This bonus is supposed to be extra money in retirees' pockets and/or it is supposed to make up for a reduction in promised benefits, thus helping to close the looming revenue gap.

2. Where does this bonus come from? There are only two possibilities-- from greater economic growth or from other people.

3. Greater economic growth requires either more capital to invest or smarter investment of the same amount of capital. Privatization will not lead to either of these.
a) If nothing else in the federal budget changes, every dollar deflected from the federal treasury into private Social Security accounts must be replaced by a dollar that the government raises in private markets. So the total pool of capital available for private investment remains the same.

b) The only change in decision-making about capital investment is that the decisions about some fraction of the capital stock will be made by people with little or no financial experience. Maybe this will not be the disaster that some critics predict, but there is no reason to think that it will actually increase the overall return on capital.
4. If the economy doesn't produce more than it otherwise would, the Social Security privatization bonus must come from other investors, in the form of a lower return.
a) This is in fact the implicit assumption behind the notion of putting Social Security money into stocks, instead of government bonds, because stocks have a better long-term return. The bonus will come from those saps who sell the stocks and buy the bonds.

b) In other words, privatization means betting the nation's most important social program on a theory that cannot be true unless many people are convinced that it's false.

c) Even if the theory were true, initially, privatization would make it false. The money newly available for private investment would bid up the price of (and thus lower the return on) stocks, while the government would need to raise the interest on bonds in order to attract replacement money.