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June 30, 2004

Rev. Moon: Now It's For Real 

posted by Paul Smith @ 10:30 PM
People, what else can I do to convince you that this story is worth wasting your eyeball moisture on?

MoonDavisDirksenFreakGate has made it to The Daily Show.

To be fair, Danny Davis has for once managed to avoid the spotlight, with Roscoe Bartlett getting the focus tonight as the example patsy Congressperson.

Topinka Flexing Muscle Over Senate Pick 

posted by Paul Smith @ 6:41 PM
Looks like Rauschenberger may already be out:
[Peter] Fitzgerald also accused Topinka of setting up a vetting process for replacement candidates so it would exclude candidates such as state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger, R-Elgin, who lost to Ryan in the March primary.

Fitzgerald said Topinka wants screeners to review certain documents, such as drunken driving arrests, and credit histories of candidates.

Rauschenberger was arrested for drunken driving in 1994 and had furniture and hardware stores that closed in the 1990s. He has said he closed the stores because they did not make money and that he never filed personal or corporate bankruptcy.

"I think she has designed the criteria to rule him out," Fitzgerald said.

[…]

The party hopes to have a replacement candidate by mid-July, [GOP Spokescritter] Gerwig said.

Rauschenberger questioned why he would have to go through a screening process at all.

"If the screening process is for novice candidates, I guess I would understand," Rauschenberger said. "What are the implications for a candidate like myself, having won a number of elections, if they were to find me not qualified?"
If he's making public statements like this … Doesn't look good, Steve.

Obama to Give DNC Keynote? 

posted by Paul Smith @ 12:05 PM
Via So-Called Austin Mayor:
The Democratic National Committee has not yet announced or, in fact, selected the keynote speaker for its convention in Boston next month, but Senator John Kerry, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, let a hint slip here this morning.

"I cannot wait to hear his voice," Mr. Kerry said of Barack Obama, the Democratic Senate candidate here in Illinois, who became a hot commodity in national political circles after emerging from a crowded primary field this spring.
Can't say I'm surprised: what other Democrat has received such star treatment and unbridled adulation on the national scene this year? They need to do this after letting the GOP take the "big tent" concept away from them four years ago. Besides Jesse Jackson, when was the last time a person of color was in such a high-profile position in the party? [This post edited for clarity.]

UPDATE: But, no one will see it

Rev. Moon presents: The Meaning of Life (PowerPoint edition) 

posted by Paul Smith @ 11:39 AM
Via Radosh.net and Velizar:
The Principle of Creation - Divine Principle Two Hour Lecture


The fundamental questions about life and the universe can never be solved without understanding the nature of God, who created all things.
I know you're just dying to see the True Parents Venn diagram!

June 29, 2004

GOP Senate Whack-a-mole 

posted by Paul Smith @ 1:17 PM
Via Taegan Goddard's excellent Political Wire
Now that Illinois Senate candidate Jack Ryan (R) has quit the race, Survey USA asked Republicans who they would like to replace him:
  1. Former Gov. Jim Thompson - 44%
  2. Jim Oberweis - 22%
  3. Steve Rauschenberger - 17%
  4. Ron Gidwitz - 4%
The AP says Republicans think they can still win the race and "insist all they need is the right candidate and the right amount of cash."
I don't believe that they really think they can still win. What they mean by "right amount of cash" is "self-financer who won't drain the party coffers on a lost cause."

I'd rank them:
  1. Rauschenberger: ran a cost-efficient primary campaign with better-than-expected results; is a standard bearer for the party's core beliefs
  2. Gidwitz: business ties gets him cash to run on; can go negative as a virtual unknown with nothing to lose
  3. Corinne Wood: moderate, pro-choice, could take suburban votes
  4. Oberweis: demagoging the immigration issue smacked of racism; conservative but not a politician, a lesson learned from neophyte Ryan

June 28, 2004

Nobel Prize Winner's Troubling Comments 

posted by Scott @ 12:14 PM
The charm and greatness of 2001 Nobel Prize winner in literature V.S. Naipaul has always been his savage wit, but this Guardian essay from March reveals that the famous writer may have a few marbles loose when it comes to simple history and fascist propaganda. Basically before this year's Indian elections, Naipaul stood by the BJP and their anti-Muslim and historically baseless platform that Muslims are non-Indians. It's so sad because he really is a wonderful writer.

Cole on Moore 

posted by Scott @ 12:01 PM
Check out Juan Cole's assessment of Fahrenheit 9/11. I pretty much agree with his point that the movie doesn't exactly make for a coherent or logical argument, but the footage in the second half is utterly provocative. I don't think this movie will be convincing to people who don't already have doubts about Bush, but it will certainly serve as a compelling reminder and recap of what the hell has happened to this country in the past 4 years. It's on that level that I think the film can have an effect on the November election. I imagine the DVD will be released sometime in the fall.

More ObamaPorn 

posted by Scott @ 11:51 AM
It just never stops. Time takes a turn.

And Salon examines the strange expectations Americans have of their politicians regarding sex.

Davis-Moon, it just keeps going 

posted by Paul Smith @ 1:34 AM
Oh, no you didn't!
The official story from Davis' office was that he had no idea what was about to unfold when Moon went to the stage.

"We didn't anticipate the event to be one of a crowning ceremony for Rev. Moon," said Richard Boykin, Davis' chief of staff.

Why, then, was Davis carrying the crown to Moon?

"In the spirit of decorum, you just don't walk out," Boykin said.
Ha! I love the chutzpah. Put on these white gloves, you say? Well, alright, I don't want to be rude … hmm, a crown on a velvet pillow? I don't know, I am a Congressman, after all. Bow to him? OK, but that's the last thing! May I go now please, True Parent?

I'll let Dennis Roddy finish his thought:
Davis' profession of surprise would carry more weight if his own ethics disclosure forms did not show him accepting honoraria totaling more than $5,000 from two Moon fronts, the Family Federation for World Peace and the Pure Love Alliance.

The Pure Love Alliance, a pro-chastity group, worked its way into the curriculum of the Chicago Public Schools until it was ejected after someone noticed it advocating a Moon theory called "absolute sex." The theory, as espoused by Moon, suggested sex with a partner chosen by Moon.

Ryan and the meta-sin 

posted by Paul Smith @ 1:25 AM
Chicago journalist Christopher Hayes writes in The New Republic that the Ryan affair was all "meta-sin" (i.e., the way he bungled the handling of the divorce papers rather than the content) and no actual sin, meaning that, if you actually look at it, what he and wife Jeri did did not rise to the level of something that should bring down a candidate for Senate. Some folks might find their actions objectionable, perhaps, but no serious wrong was done. To wit:
There can't be a meta-sin without a sin; the only reason there's a sin in this case is because journalists are incapable of writing about sex and politicians in any kind of considered or nuanced way--that is, incapable of distinguishing between a sex scandal in which someone did something wrong and a sex scandal in which someone did nothing wrong.
There's no doubt about that fact. But I think Chris somewhat misses the mark:
The point is that Ryan shouldn't be taken to task by scolds for mishandling embarrassing allegations when it is these same scolds who incorrectly define the allegations as embarrassing in the first place. [emphasis in the original]
If Ryan hadn't sealed the files in the first place, Hayes would have a point. I think this was a de facto acknowledgement that Ryan was either embarrassed by his actions (unlikely) or believed it would be a deal-breaker for Republican voters (more likely), long before and quite independent of any media assessment.

Eric Zorn addresses Hayes and defends the media's response thusly:
The point that eludes Hayes is that even if Jack Ryan were trying to cover up a parking ticket, his statements and tactics in the service of that concealment are a legitimate gauge of his character, which in turn many voters feel is a measure of his fitness for office.
Still, what this was all about was sex, reactions to sex and anticipatory reactions about reactions to sex. Nobody would try to conceal a parking ticket. It's time for detente.

Fitzgerald for Senate (Patrick, that is) 

posted by Paul Smith @ 12:42 AM
Rumors of US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald being considered to replace Jack Ryan:
Fitzgerald, unlike former Jim Thompson when he served as U.S. Attorney, has shown no interest in running for public office. He is not known for leaking information about ongoing cases to the media the way Thompson did.

If Fitzgerald has not interest, then why are Washington movers and shakers putting out the word that he is their guy?

The answer is not new and not surprising. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats in the bi-partisan Illinois establishment combine want a U.S. Attorney in Chicago who will really fight corruption., political corruption, that is.

They want to induce Patrick Fitzgerald to step down as U.S. Attorney to run for U.S. Senate (or for any other reason). If they succeed, the possibility exists that he could be replaced by someone less dedicated to fighting political corruption than is Fitzgerald.
This seems really far-fetched. It's just hard to imagine what it would take to convince Fitzgerald to take on such an unenviable task as this when he is currently conducting a major investigation — the Plame/CIA leak — that goes right to the highest offices in the land. The Plame case can be won, the Illinois Senate race will be lost.

June 25, 2004

Ron Gidwitz, GOP Senate candidate? 

posted by Paul Smith @ 6:04 PM
ArchPundit has all your early background info on Gidwitz, who's one of several names being kicked around as a possible successor to the dearly departed Jack Ryan, here, here, here and here. How 'bout it, Ron? Care to join the Sacrificial Lamb Squad?

Dionne hitches to Obama's star 

posted by Paul Smith @ 5:27 PM
E.J. Dionne refreshes Obama's profile on the national scene with a nice op-ed piece today in the WaPo: In Illinois, a Star Prepares (bullshit registration required, or not)
"Democrats are reluctant to talk about big things," [Obama] says, because they're so fearful that "we'll be labeled tax-and-spend."

For Obama, reasonableness does not translate into timidity. If Democrats worry most about what Republicans will say about them, Obama says, they will be left with "this tepid, tired and rudderless message, one that can't move a lot of ordinary citizens who feel they're grinding it out, day in and day out, and not making any progress."

He frames the basic issue of our politics this way: "We need some balance between community and mutual obligation on the one side and the need for competitiveness and market incentives on the other. The biggest challenge for the Democrats is to articulate a plausible solution to this problem."
It's almost embarrassing that he needs to restate what should be core Democratic principles, but that's where the party is right now, sorely in need of some backbone. I can't wait to have him on the floor representing Illinois and holding Daschle or whoever the leader is accountable. He and Durbin will be quite a team.

It Makes Sense 

posted by Scott @ 1:36 PM
After so much bad mouthing from just about every direction within the party, I think it's wise for the GOP to just clean house and start over (of course the final decision is Ryan's but I'm sure that they can persuade him to do their bidding). Can you imagine how little support Ryan would get from key party leaders through to November? A large swath of 'supporters' would just be going through the motions. Not exactly great coattails to hang other campaigns in the state.

If Chico isn't a realistic Ryan replacement, I really really hope that Oberweis gets the nod. Just for his great commercials.

Blair Hull tries to get some sympathy out of this whole situation. Beyond divorce records, the one commonality of Ryan and Hull's campaign is that they both ran terrible campaigns. Both of their situations were weatherable; they just both didn't know how to properly handle them.

Ryan Aftermath: The Replacement 

posted by Paul Smith @ 1:19 PM
My money's on Rauschenberger: of course he doesn't have a chance, but the GOP will use the opportunity to run a pure ideologue and get their issues out there without needing to hew to the center. It's a face-saving move, too: trying to make a serious challenge with, say, an Edgar, at this point would just be another loss to endure in November. With Rauschenberger, they'd be able to go out with a bit of dignity and battle-test a challenger for Durbin's seat in 2008.

Ryan exit imminent? 

posted by Paul Smith @ 1:09 PM
Everyone's reporting that Jack is expected to drop out of the Senate race as early as this evening.
After gauging internal poll numbers and recent public polls, the Ryan campaign decided that carrying on would be futile, the source said.

"His unfavorable [poll ratings] were ahead of his favorable. You can't win if your unfavorables are ahead of your favorables."
Looks like this will be the only timely damage control the Ryan campaign ever managed to do.

Friday non-Moon/Davis blogging 

posted by Paul Smith @ 12:09 PM
The Ponys: a great new Chicago band. It's like the Cure got in a car wreck with the Velvet Underground, and scientists accidentally mixed their DNA together and then cloned them and then they were the Ponys. (I'm sorry. I'm truly sorry.)

Thou-Shalt-See TV: "SODOMITE EYE FOR THE MAN RIGHTEOUS BEFORE THE LORD (BRAVO) Identical to "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," except that each episode ends with the Fab Five being stoned to death. (Note: working title.)"

June 24, 2004

A Good Replacement for Ryan 

posted by Scott @ 12:34 PM
I know this may sound a bit unorthodox, but I think Republican leaders should consider Gery Chico as Ryan's replacement. He's still got that sign up on 90/94, which would save some money on advertising. All that's needed is some spraypaint to edit out the democrat thing.

Ryan Roundup III 

posted by Scott @ 11:45 AM
Slate's Will Saletan does a comprehensive job of making a few of the Clinton impeachment supporter eat their words.

Let's cut Jack Ryan a little slack

Surviving Sex Scandals Glance

Ryan 'reassessing' bid

REPUBLICANS MAY NOT GET SHOT AT DIRTY TRICKS

Handwriting on the wall for Ryan, IL GOP committeemen say

THE SEX SCANDAL

Obama lets opponent do talking

Ryans' custody files create national media frenzy

Original Sin

Why Did He Do It? 

posted by Scott @ 10:33 AM
The one question that I haven't heard anyone adequately answer is why, especially after the Hull incident, Ryan gambled his own political future on the chance that these files would remain sealed. What was his strategy? Was he just gambling that they wouldn't be released, which was at best maybe a 50/50 wager--bad odds if you're going to potentially take the State's party down with you. Last night on Chicago Tonight, State Rep Paul Froehlich was asked this very question and he just shook his head almost in disbelief and said "I honestly don't know." Is Ryan's problem that he's incredibly wreckless or just plain dumb.

John Kass seems to agree with the former:

"I don't care about his sex life. It's his judgment that worries me."

But I'm not willing to let him off the hook that easily. He's obviously a smart man who presumably surrounded himself with capable advisors. So what was their strategy in all this?

Update: Zorn has a good roundup of the latest editorials on Ryan. His Notebook got a nice plug on Chicago Tonight last night. Maybe Phil Ponce clicks over to this site every once in a while. Sigh, I can dream can't I?

Davis-Moon reaches the Times 

posted by Paul Smith @ 1:18 AM
Well, now it's gone all the way to the Gray Lady. The story covers no new ground, basically the Times is arriving fashionably late. Again, Davis stands out as the most active participating Congressperson, although the reporter tries to frame it like he too was "surprised."

I've been focusing almost exclusively on the March 23rd event and that Davis would go along with a cult ceremony crowning its leader the Messiah. It's worth reminding people that Moon is not just a loopy, unsavory religious figure. Check out the articles on Moon's involvement with North Korean missile development and his influence peddling around Washington over at Consortium News.

June 23, 2004

Press Conference Tonight? 

posted by Scott @ 2:28 PM
Wonkette says that CapitolFax is reporting that Ryan has a news conference scheduled for this evening at 7. She's wrong all the time with her "scoops" so don't bet the farm on this one.
And of course she's been having a field day with this whole incident.

UPDATE: No press conference of course. Serves me right for thinking Wonkette could be trusted.
But from the signs in the political air today, it looks like some sort of press conference may be in the making for later in the week. I guess those polls have to come in first, but from the language of lots of GOPers all over the tube tonight things don't look particularly rosy for Jack. Personally, I hope they stick with him. A wounded foe is better than a healthy dud.

BS Fatigue 

posted by Scott @ 2:13 PM
Ok, so I assume it's pretty obvious to everyone that Ryan is clearly lying when he says that he never denied that there was embarrassing items in his divorce file. Numerous Republican leaders have come out and said pretty much that. Like most other sane people, I repeat that I couldn't care less what Ryan did or didn't do with his wife, but it's his slimy attempts to avoid facing his past lies that is of real concern. It's the GOP's problem that he deceived them in March when they wanted to make sure that he was the strongest possible candidate to represent their party, but I think it's interesting and telling to see how exactly he is trying to wiggle out of this particular lie.

At the press conference on Monday, he was asked how he responded to party leaders' inquiries as to whether there was anything embarrassing in his divorce files. Carefully avoiding admitting that he actually lied, Ryan quibbled with the language of the question and said that he was not asked if there was anything embarrassing in the files by GOP leaders, but rather he claimed that he was asked "is there was anything in the files that would prevent him from becoming a good U.S. Senator." And of course he could say no to that.

But clearly that couldn't have been what was asked of him. Of course he was asked if there was anything in the files that would be damaging to his candidacy. Why else would people be asking him about the files? They were really concerned that his ability to vote on bills could be compromised by some past sexual deeds? Come on. Whether the files contained anything that would prevent him from being a good Senator......that's not a question anyone but a campaign writer would think up or utter. That Ryan had the gall to stand up there and repeat that line is just too much to stomach.

Again this is something the GOP has to deal with, but I think it's a good example of the general tone of that press conference and Ryan's response to all these allegations in general since then. It's insulting and tiresome to have to listen to these absurd attempts to wiggle out of his own web of lies. I don't understand why the Ryan camp thinks that this tactic of just repeating these equivocations will work. It's just going to piss people off and keep the press on their back.

Ryan Roundup Part II 

posted by Scott @ 11:51 AM
Santorum Raising Money for Jack Ryan--Atrios weighs in

Republicans rebuke LaHood for asking Ryan to step down
Fitzgerald said the fifth-term congressman is little known outside his Peoria-based 18th District. “I always say, ‘Ray who?’” Fitzgerald said.
Ouch!

Illinois Senate Campaign Thrown Into Prurient Turmoil

IL GOP national committeeman accused of urging Ryan info to be squelched

Ryan campaign disperses talking points
This is my favorite one:

The very notion that the individual - ANY individual - must be sacrificed for the good of the people … isn't that what we fought the Cold War over? I mean, isn't the notion that the state's interests trumps the individual's interests in itself a totalitarian concept?

Ryan works to shore up support for Senate bid

Senate Hopeful Ryan's Honesty Questioned

Comedians on the political campaign--Never thought I'd link to Jay "Oh My God He's So Unfunny' Leno.

Sex, lies and politics

Ryan's trouble with the truth

Pontificating politicians better watch their backs--Sorry to skewer this guy but read this quote and go look at the picture of him here:

Call me a prude, but I'd have a hard time voting for a guy who wants his wife to get kinky in sex clubs.
That lurid smile is kinky enough I guess.

Politicians' private lives disappearing

Poll: Many unfazed by Ryan files

Davis-Moon hits the front page of the Post 

posted by Paul Smith @ 1:17 AM
Looks like I spoke too soon about seeing the end of this story. Page A1 of today's (Wednesday) Washington Post:
More than a dozen lawmakers attended a congressional reception this year honoring the Rev. Sun Myung Moon in which Moon declared himself the Messiah and said his teachings have helped Hitler and Stalin be "reborn as new persons."

At the March 23 ceremony in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) wore white gloves and carried a pillow holding an ornate crown that was placed on Moon's head. The Korean-born businessman and religious leader then delivered a long speech saying he was "sent to Earth . . . to save the world's six billion people. . . . Emperors, kings and presidents . . . have declared to all Heaven and Earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity's Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent."
Yep, that pretty much sums it up. Poor Danny; you'll never be able to shake the "white glove-wearing Congressman who crowned Moon" label.

This bit caught my eye:
Davis said in an interview that he is a lifelong Methodist who does not agree with many of Moon's religious teachings. [emphasis added]
Hmm? I'm no Divinity School alum, but I'm almost certain Davis is a Baptist, and has claimed as much in the recent spate of Moon-related interviews. Did the interviewer transcribe this wrong, or did Davis tell him "Methodist?"
Davis said that some Moon associates have donated money to his congressional campaigns, but that that has nothing to do with his support for Moon's organization.
The thing is: I believe him. Until he started going on the record comparing Moon's coronation to a Scouts meeting, I just assumed Davis was in it for the money. Of course no serious person would have anything to do with Moon unless it was strictly business, I thought. I think the relationship to Moon is closer and more complex than we yet know.

June 22, 2004

Davis-Moon Watch, ongoing 

posted by Paul Smith @ 11:59 PM
Barack Obama must be the only person happier than Danny Davis that Jack Ryan's divorce files have dropped. Jack's lying takes the spotlight off Davis and his dalliances with Moon for the foreseeable future, just as the story was gaining traction in Chicago, with both the Trib and the Daily Southtown picking it up in print. The whole phenomenon was rather ephemeral to begin with; a surge of interest over a months-old event that could only happen in the age of blogs and Google caches. Of course, though, the story of the coronation and its Congressional representation is alive and well: witness Monday's Salon lead article from Gorenfeld, and local pieces from around the country (cf. Pittsburgh; my hometown of Frederick, MD, which needs a healthy dose of BugMeNot, unfortunately). And everyone who knows the story knows Davis is the only attending Congressman that's not distancing himself from the event's stated purpose. So it's not hard to imagine the focus looping back around to him somewhere down the road.

I don't believe Davis has a political problem yet, especially this year when Democrats are loathe to jeopardize any safe seat. The district is so heavily Democratic — Davis' share of the general election vote in each of his wins has been 80% or above — that it's nearly inconceivable that it would fall into GOP hands. (However, his Republican opponent, Antonio Davis-Fairman is also African-American; while inexperienced and virtually unknown to voters — he received less votes running unopposed in the Republican primary than the last place candidate in the three-way Democratic race — he could present himself as the sane alternative to Davis in a heavily African-American district.)

But Davis does have a major image problem now. It could become a weakness that draws out a serious primary challenge in two years. But mostly, it's embarrassing, and not the kind of embarrassment that solicits sympathy. As if the mere association to Moon wasn't bad enough, Davis compounds the problem by delivering bewildering rationalizations of the infamous coronation:
"People crown kings and queens at homecoming parades all the time," (to Eric Zorn, Chicago Tribune)
"You know the Boy Scouts have rituals that they go through and they make individuals Eagle Scouts and they give awards and presentations." (to Christopher Hayes, Chicago Reader)
Davis wouldn't budge, comparing the elaborate ceremony to a "fraternity or sorority meeting," or rituals performed by the local Elks lodge. "That's kind of the way I regard these ceremonies." (to Rich Miller, Capitol Fax)
What's troubling is that Davis may well be the only person on earth who believes that. Surely the true believers at the Dirksen took Moon at his word. And the Congresspeople who have sinced disavowed the event took it seriously enough to go out of their way to claim they didn't know what it was really about. Ironically, Davis dismisses the event as "symbolic" and yet fails to grasp that it's precisely the symbology of this religious ceremony taking place on government grounds with governmental countenance that's set this whole thing in motion. Davis comes across as a dupe or a low-rent flak for Moon, and I don't know which is worse. In any case, Davis is clearly willing to risk being seen as a loony cultist rather than running afoul of Moon, for what reason, we still do not know.

Ryan Roundup Part I 

posted by Scott @ 1:17 PM
Some funny stuff here.

Ex-wife says Ryan pushed sex clubs--The Sun-Times report.

Excerpts from the U.S. Senate candidate's divorce records

The Smoking Gun has it all

Ryan file a bombshell--Trib headline

Ryan campaigns to salvage candidacy--From Crain's

Ryan Vows to Stay in Illinois Senate Race--WAPO

Illinois Leader has a pdf of the files

Headlines statewide tell all on Ryan records--More from the Leader

Political analysts speak out on Ryan campaign

Archpundit Has It All Covered 

posted by Scott @ 1:08 PM
He's got tons of good analysis covering all the possible angles.

I heard the Eight-Forty Eight interview this morning, and it sounded as if he was conceding that he took her to three clubs, not just the one he admitted to in last night's press conference. That seems to suggest that he's not going to deny the allegations, which means that he lied to the GOP and the voters in March. I'm at work so I can't listen to it right now, but the audio is here.

Go read everything over at Archpundit.

Zorn Slams Ryan 

posted by Scott @ 12:40 PM
The measure of Jack Ryan's character is not that he had a rough divorce, or that he may have or may at one time have had unconventional sexual interests. It's not even that he didn't spill every juicy detail when reporters came nosing around.

Few will fault him for not being perfect or heedlessly forthcoming.

The measure of Jack Ryan's character is that he continues to invoke his child to advance the increasingly flimsy idea that he has higher priorities than his own ambition.


Read it all here.

I'm obviously not a Ryan supporter, but in all honesty if he had come clean with this stuff during the primary I would be the loudest one here in blogland declaring this a non-issue. It goes against every one of my political principles to care a smidgen about what people do in their private lives. If anything, these allegations (if true) make Ryan a more interesting candidate and person in my eyes.

Zorn is exactly right that what is outrageous about this is not what he did then but the cowardly way he has used his son as a prop to protect his own political career. Let's hope the media doesn't buy Ryan's self-serving protective parent line and that they hammer him for trying to play politics with his son.

Update: Zorn answers reader mail and further clarifies his position on his blog.

June 21, 2004

Disgraceful 

posted by Scott @ 8:46 PM
I just sat through the half hour of the Jack Ryan news conference aired on WTTW this evening and I'm still in shock. The gall that this guy has to stand up there and try to play this off like he is taking the higher ground to protect his son is unbelievable. His original justification to keep these documents sealed if we remember was that they contained information about his son that was inappropriate to air in public. Everyone agreed that this would be sufficient justification to keep them sealed. Then the leaks started suggesting that there was more in the files beyond information about his son; that the information in the files concerned the behavior of Jack and his wife, and nothing specific to his son.

Throughout this period Ryan maintained, and in my opinion, exploited the position that he was doing this all in an effort to protect his innocent son. Well, now we find out that none of this was true. Information directly about his son has in my understand been redacted from the files and all that is left are allegations made by his ex-wife that he pressured her to go to numerous sex clubs.

As shown in this evening press conference, it appears that Jack is now trying to morph his original position of protecting his son into these new circumstances. He's now trying to claim that his aim all along has been to protect his son from information about his messy divorce--this is not the same as protecting his son from information about the young boy in the files. Just as Zorn suggested a few days ago, this is the most vile of offensives. Hiding behind your son for political gain is utterly distasteful, and I can't imagine how he is going to pull this off in front of the electorate. The press needs to nail him to the wall with this hypocrisy and slimy maneuvering. From the grumbling reaction of the press at the news conference at Ryan's attempts to confuse them with rhetorical Fujitsu, I would guess that they are going to have a field day with this for a few days.

Ryan's strategy seems to be to avoid admitting that he mislead voters and party leaders when he gambled in March that these files would not be unsealed. Thus the maneuver to pretend that he has had continuity in his arguments about the contents of the files. He is also trying to avoid denying or affirming the allegation made by his ex-wife about the sex club visits. He's in a pickle with this because if he admits that there is some truth to the allegations he both looks like a liar (from his earlier position about the contents of the files) and he faces the embarrassment of being a pro-family candidate who has a strange sexual past (and potential present). He can't deny the allegations outright, I would guess, because then he by extension charges his ex-wife with lying. We saw a similar situation with Blair Hull's ex-wife. When he tried to deny the charges that he hit her, she came out and defended herself which pushed the issue back on Hull more intensely. Ryan is obviously trying to avoid this and from the letter of support that his ex-wife released this evening that communicated continued support but didn't address the sex club allegations it appears that she isn't willing to concede that she lied or exaggerated in her original claims.

The problem with this strategy is the same as it was for Hull. By not admitting that the allegations are partially or fully true, Ryan keeps this issue in play. People want to know whether it was true or false and the press won't move on until they get a straight answer. But because Ryan already lied about there being anything bad in the files during the primaries and not being able to sell out his wife, he can't do that. He's painted himself in a tight corner for sure.

This all goes back to lesson one in politics, get your dirty laundry out early and fast. Sure attending sex clubs with your wife is embarrassing, but people accept a lot more than that out of their politicians. What's more embarrassing is dragging your party through the mud five months before the general election because you tried to pull one over on them and the electorate. We'll see how the press plays this but if it does come off as as bad as I think it will and should, Republicans should start warming up another candidate.

[Note to whatever god Ryan kept evoking during the press conference: can you think up some especially brutal punishment for him in your hell that can be inflicted on him for every time he made reference to his son in that press conference? I lost count at 56.]



June 20, 2004

Davis-Moon public service 

posted by Paul Smith @ 2:03 PM
As of 2pm CDT on Sunday, June 20, 2004, Jon Gorenfeld's site appears to be down (or is at least unreachable from my entry point to the Internet: can anyone report their experience trying to access it?).

So, as a public service in case the Moonies have gone into enemy-eradication mode (note: my tongue in planted firmly in cheek here), here's the Google cache of Gorenfeld's blog's homepage.

June 18, 2004

Gambling For Your Party 

posted by Scott @ 2:54 PM
Everyone has probably already heard the news that Ryan's divorce files are going to be released and that the GOP has come out and said that any speculation about Ryan pulling out of the race is premature. But let's take a step back and think about the trajectory of this controversy. Right before the primary, rumors of some nasty allegations in his divorce files started to spread. Ryan denied this and promised Republican Party leaders that there was nothing in there to hurt the team. After the primary, with the status of the divorce files stuck in the courts, Ryan tried to close the issue by categorically denying that there was anything damaging in the files. He did this on the March 30th edition of Chicago Tonight (anyone have access to that tape?) as well as elsewhere in the press. Now in the past week with the imminent release of the files, Ryan has backed down a bit saying that "maybe" there is something damaging in the files. A classic non-denial denial.

["Oh excuse me Illinois Republicans, Jack Ryan here, remember a few months ago when I promised you that there wasn't anything damaging in those pesky files? Well, uh, this...this is sort of humorous actually....after all there maybe say out of 100%, maybe 5% of some kinda bad stuff. Sorry about that, it's just 5% though and you know I still have that great smile."]

Basically I interpret all of this as Ryan taking a huge and costly risk for not only his own political future but for the immediate future of his party. As if Illinois Republicans need more to overcome, they may have to replace their candidate with less than 5 months to the election or run with a candidate maimed by some damaging personal foibles. Something tells me that he's not going to get Christmas cards from a few party officials next year.
That is if there is in fact anything damaging in those files. But if I were a gambling man like Jack, I'd say that the news is going to get a little bit more interesting in the next week or so. Even though I don't like the fact that the race could turn ugly soon, I do admit that it'll be fun to watch Republicans gnash their teeth about having personal issues enter politics. I just hope for Ryan's sake that he doesn't smoke cigars or keep them around the house.

And there's more. With inside access to Ryan, Zorn suggests that Ryan has been using his son as a shield against damaging information about he and his wife. If that turns out to be true, not only will whatever is in the files be damaging to his campaign, but this indefensible ploy to use his son for personal gain will absolutely destroy him in the public's eye. Zorn's columns will no doubt make sure of that. And rightly so I might add.

Meanwhile the Obama camp gets to sit by and watch Ryan and the Republican party hang themselves. Good god are they in a comfortable position right now.

And with all the talk about what's rumored to be in the files and with the imminent release of the files, why don't we all reveal what we think is going to come out. I think it'll be a fun exercise to see how exaggerated and/or mistaken rumors can become. Right before the primary, I received an email from one of Ryan's primary competitors that claimed that Ryan forced his wife to have sex with him and to participate in "Eyes Wide Shut" style orgy parties. I heard similar accusations from other sources as well. Is that about what everyone else has been hearing?

If any truth comes of this, Ryan's family values cred is going to go down but I think he'll see a bump in the orgy-friendly/swingers constituency. ArchPundit, any poll numbers on those groups? In any case, something tells me this race is going to get real sexy real soon. [queue 70's porn music]

Roots of Radical Islam in South Asia 

posted by Scott @ 2:34 PM
Be sure to read this important op-ed piece in today's New York Times about the history of Islamic radicalism in South Asia. I'm not familiar with the author, but he covers all the necessary ground to understand why these movements have popular support and where they emerged from. For a more in depth study of this history read Barbara Metcalf's excellent essay on the roots of the Taliban from Social Science Research Council's After September 11th series. I also recommend the following essays:
"September 11 and the Struggle for Islam"
"Neo-Fundamentalism"
"Theorizing Islam"

June 17, 2004

Davis-Moon Watch, Part IV 

posted by Paul Smith @ 8:04 PM
The story breaks big, as Eric Zorn of the Trib posts twice on it in his online Notebook, and Chris Hayes has a lengthy piece in the Chicago Reader (no online version, but John Gorenfeld got permission to repost it on his blog in its entirety).

June 15, 2004

Davis-Moon Watch, Part III 

posted by Paul Smith @ 10:26 PM
Capitol Fax gets the interview I never got to do:
Davis said he "probably" met people associated with Moon "at some black church event or something with ministers and the relationship has probably grown over the years." (Moon's organization has run an outreach program to African-American activists and churches since the mid-1990s.)

"Generally, whenever I'm around them, they're talking two things, peace and family values. Both are things that I have a great deal of interest in, although I probably disagree with many of their social positions."
Davis sounds like a guy in denial with himself about how deep he is in something he knows is raising eyebrows all over. Either that or he's just soft-pedaling his criticism for fear of alienating Moon.

So, why does he bother with Moon? There are plenty of faith-based groups that talk peace and family values. He's definitely not trying to distance himself: is he getting contributions from Moon? Sure would be nice if a Chicago-based investigative reporter picked up this ball.

Senate Race Roundup 

posted by Scott @ 11:25 AM
We've been quiet about the goings on of the Illinois senate race lately b/c there really hasn't been much to talk about. But in the last week things have picked up a bit. Here's a sampling:

A peek inside senators' wallets

Ryan calls 6 debates and raises by 4

Ryan admits shadowing opponent was disrespectful

Ryan criticizes Obama's health-care stance

Ryan, Obama debating over number of face-offs

Latest poll shows Obama with 11-point lead

U.S. Senate race: "And they're off . . . "

LEANING DEMOCRATIC TAKEOVER--From The National Review

LaHood scolds Ryan for running 'bonehead campaign'

"Obama - 'Liberal Destruction' for U.S. Senate"

Cheney headlines Ryan campaign event

Obama and Ryan broach topic of debates 

posted by Paul Smith @ 12:28 AM
Obama made his pitch in a news conference, in which he asked for six long, discussion-oriented forums, with at least four outside the Chicago media market. […]

Obama's news conference Sunday was somewhat surprising. Typically, it is the underdog who steps before the media first in the hope that public debates will even things out. Obama has been substantially ahead of Ryan, an investor turned inner-city-school teacher, in public opinion polls.
Ultimately, as the article says, sponsors and media outlets will constrain the debates to the formats we're now used to. But it's a smart move on Obama's part as it demonstrates to voters the best of his intentions: once more he puts political fortunes at risk (mildly, in this case, but taking chances with his considerable lead nonetheless) for a principle, to have a more meaningful discussion of issues.

June 14, 2004

Obama's voting record 

posted by Paul Smith @ 11:24 PM
As expected, Ryan's campaign is digging into Obama voting record on the floor of the Illinois legislature, trying to turn Obama's decisions into potential liabilities. From the AP:
Ryan is already hitting him on taxes and guns, contending Obama has supported huge tax increases on businesses, turned his back on gun owners and espoused other views that are far too liberal for Illinois. […]

Obama acknowledges he has had to make some tough decisions on measures that may go over well in his inner-city legislative district but not elsewhere. But he says he has tried to maintain a consistent voting record — something Ryan, a political newcomer, hasn't dealt with.

"I think it's one of the things that differentiates me from Mr. Ryan, who can say a lot of things but isn't accountable for anything he says," Obama said. "Nothing's easier than standing on the sidelines and trying to score cheap political points."
A voting record is generally a two-edged sword: on the one hand it does hold Obama accountable to various political positions that could be unpopular, but on the other it reminds us that he has a record, and that Ryan has no similar experience. But I have to believe that in this race, the latter edge is a lot sharper than the former. Primary voters rewarded Obama in large part for being the candidate who has skin in every deal, putting his political life at risk to take the stances he believes in. It demonstrates his integrity. It establishes trust with the voter. "Hypocrite" or "flip-flopper" are not words you'll hear anyone use to describe Obama. How can Ryan prove to Illinoisians that he's a man of his word, that he's a politician who will put his constituents interests above his own? To what record can he point?

This race is not a referendum on Obama's voting record, because he's not the incumbent U.S. Senator. This race is about who is more qualified to legislate for the interests of Illinois. Ryan's campaign will have to work very hard to convince the undecided that he deserves this distinction more than Obama.

Davis-Moon blog roundup 

posted by Paul Smith @ 11:27 AM
There's been no shortage of blogging on the Bizarro World in which elected representatives literally crowned a media baron and cult leader the King of Peace.and of course Jon Gorenfeld's blog is ground zero:In case you're just joining us, this is all in reference to an event in the United States Senate Office Building in which a man, addressing a credulous audience that included Illinois 4th district Representative Danny Davis, actually said this:
The time has come for you as well to open your hearts and receive the secrets that Heaven is disclosing in this age through me. In one sense, I am a human being living with a physical body like each of you. But in the context of Heaven's providence, I am God's ambassador, sent to earth with His full authority. I am sent to accomplish His command to save the world's six billion people, restoring them to Heaven with the original goodness in which they were created.

The five great saints and many other leaders in the spirit world, including even Communist leaders such as Marx and Lenin, who committed all manner of barbarity and murders on earth, and dictators such as Hitler and Stalin, have found strength in my teachings, mended their ways and been reborn as new persons. Emperors, kings and presidents who enjoyed opulence and power on earth, and even journalists who had worldwide fame, have now placed themselves at the forefront of the column of the true love revolution. Together they have sent to earth a resolution expressing their determination in the light of my teaching of the true family ideal. They have declared to all Heaven and Earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity's Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent. This resolution has been announced on every corner of the globe.

June 13, 2004

Davis-Moon Watch, Part II 

posted by Paul Smith @ 5:37 PM
I think I can state without hyperbole that this video is truly one of the most unsettling things I have seen: to see members of Congress participating in a cult-like ceremony in which a right-wing media tycoon and leader of a controversial church is proclaimed the messiah is nauseating. I'm not a Christian or even religious for that matter, so it's not as if I'm offended by Moon's claims (except on an intellectual level, of course). Is it really necessary to state that I am disturbed to see our elected representatives credulously and subserviently going along with it?

John Gorenfeld is all over this story, but I want to shine a light in particular on Rep. Danny Davis' piece in this, following up on my previous post. It's a longish video, but you need only watch the first few minutes which focus on the March 23rd event at the Senate Office Building. In it, we see Rep. Davis reading from a poem written by Moon, some treacle about a "crown of glory." Moments later, during the "highlight" of the evening — the "Crown Peace Ceremony" in which Moon and his wife are enrobed and various figures come before them and bow [a pang in my heart as I hear the name of the Congressman of my home district in Maryland, Roscoe Bartlett, announced] — Rep. Davis, wearing a set of white gloves, brings Moon a crown on a velvet pillow. (House Speaker Denny Hastert (IL 14, R) is also named in the video as having sent congratulations to Moon.)

I plan to call Rep. Davis' office Monday with several questions concerning this. I will try to post any responses and give the Congressman or his staff a chance to explain his participation in this strange ceremony. Update: No time today, will try again soon.

Update: Photos of Rep. Davis at the March 23rd event: here, here [that's Davis underneath the "s" in "Awards"] and here

Franz Ferdinand 

posted by Paul Smith @ 12:47 AM
Metro * Chicago IL — Franz Ferdinand! Not just for archdukes any more, they proved yet again that a superior rhythm section does a great band usually make. I haven't seen a Metro crowd that electrified in a long time. In two or three new non-album songs I heard the family resemblance to the Talking Heads, a comparison often made but one I didn't get until then. Geek chic was definitely in effect throughout. They were a lot of fun; a first-rate show.


June 12, 2004

Rep. Davis and Sun Myung Moon 

posted by Paul Smith @ 3:15 PM
Does Congressman Danny Davis (IL 7, D) has some explaining to do? A screen capture [scroll a little more than half-way down the page] of a video of a bizarre event held at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in March appears to show Rep. Davis participating in the "coronation" of Washington Times publisher and self-professed messiah Sun Myung Moon. Davis is listed prominently on the guest list.

Why am I posting this now, months after the fact? Well, at the time, so soon after the Illinois Senate primary, it just wasn't on my radar. But recently a closer look (via Matt Yglesias) is being given to Moon's cozy relationship with a number of our federal elected officials. Davis, while not powerful Congressman, has been a reliable liberal and advocate for the poor, as he was during his time as 29th Ward alderman in the Harold Washington era. What's he doing not just allowing himself to be seen cavorting with Moon, but actively participating in a cult-like ceremony? Should Illinois democrats — and especially his constituents in the Loop, Near North and South Sides, the West Side and Oak Park — be concerned? And how do South and West Side black ministers — a large base of political clout for Davis, a Baptist — feel about it?

June 11, 2004

Primetime Snoozing 

posted by Scott @ 1:33 PM
The Atlantic has a pretty funny and insightful article this month that asks why political ads are so formulaic and boring? A Pittsburgh based media consultant quips:
"It's a lot like fast food........[i]t's cooked up and served the same way every time, and it leaves you unsatisfied and probably with a bit of indigestion."

It's hard not agree with that considering that most ads for either party, or in any year, are more or less interchangeable. The article is a good read, but it's disappointing that it doesn't really explore why this is the case. If ads can be such a powerful force in a campaign and producing interesting and creative ones is such a boon, why wouldn't every campaign be hiring Spike Jonze to make their spots? I suspect that part of the reason may be that most campaigns are essentially conservative in their methods. Viewers may enjoy a creative and memorable commercial, but campaigns are cognizant that a failed attempt could easily backfire and sink their candidate. For every great commercial out there there are dozens of raspberries. Voters may crave more interesting campaign commercials, but at the same time they also like politics to remain a serious affair. A great ad may be homerun, but homerun hitters usually strike out a lot too.

June 10, 2004

Wealth of nations (not so much) 

posted by Paul Smith @ 6:29 PM
Of the world's 100 largest economic entities, 51 are now corporations and 49 are countries.

June 09, 2004

Contradictions on torture 

posted by Paul Smith @ 7:25 PM
Nina Totenberg had a great segment on tonight's All Things Considered on just how consistent our executive branch is when it comes to torture.

She simply described the arguments by which the recently leaked Justice Department and Pentagon memos rationalize the President's authority to set aside signed agreements prohibiting torture vis-à-vis his role as Commander-in-Chief, and then she played clips of the Bush Administration's counsel contradicting the basis for these claims in front of the Supreme Court, in the context of the April hearing of the "enemy combatants" case.

I don't think counsel was trying to undermine the legal claims of these memos (of course, at the time, the public had no idea they existed). I think they were just trying to win the case in front of them. Earlier, needing to provide justification for torture, they choose a different set of foundational arguments.

June 08, 2004

Unhitched 

posted by Scott @ 1:04 PM
The standard practice all over the press of commmenting on dead politicans whom you disagreed with seems to be to give them a week or so of peace and hold off any harsh critiques. That seems reasonable enough to me. Everyone has a family and I guess some people (not me) hold all presidents, whatever political persuasion, to be sublime in of themselves.
Not Cristopher Hitchens though. On Monday he ripped Reagan a new one before he even made it into the casket. With the saturation of 24 cable news and the networks tripping over themselves to roll out the cheasiest tributes, I'm sure that I'm not the only one out there that considered Hitchens' piece a breath of fresh air. And isn't that the beauty of Hitchens? That he's such a contarian, that he doesn't let anything get in his way in his ongoing mission to tear through hipocrasy and corruption? He took down Mother Teresa for god's sake.
Well, that praise would be warranted if it were the year 2000, but ever since 9/11 Hitchens has completely lost all credibility as he has championed one ill-conconceived Bush foriegn policy after another. To this day I am still stunned that someone who I admired as much Cris Hitchens can continually give a pass to this administration. That he can still swing his bat like he used to, as evidenced by this Reagan piece, just makes that fact so much sadder.

June 03, 2004

Hmm … 

posted by Paul Smith @ 8:18 AM
Allawi's selection last week by his colleagues in the interim Iraqi Governing Council testified to his political skills. But some analysts said his campaign in Washington also had been a major help.
Haven't we heard this story before?
"It was a bid for influence, and it was money well spent," said Danielle Pletka, a Middle East analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank. "Allawi has always assumed, in many ways correctly, that he didn't need a constituency in Iraq as long as he had one in Washington." [emphasis added]
Like many, I don't know Allawi's story well-enough to have a solid opinion on his rise to prime minister, but didn't we just learn the lesson of trusting a general without an army?

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