FIGHTING WORDS

Daniel Levy: “The bottom line might read as follows: that defending the occupation has done to the American pro-Israel community what living as an occupier has done to Israel – muddied both its moral compass and its rational self-interest compass.”

Josh Marshall: “And to hear her tell it, the K Streeters just came to Tom after he got all the power. They just sort of importuned him, almost took advantage of him. Maybe she hasn’t heard of the K Street Project.”

Russ Feingold: ““As I said at the Kenosha County listening session, gay and lesbian couples should be able to marry and have access to the same rights, privileges and benefits that straight couples currently enjoy. Denying people this basic American right is the kind of discrimination that has no place in our laws, especially in a progressive state like Wisconsin. The time has come to end this discrimination and the politics of divisiveness that has become part of this issue.”

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ABRAMOFF PLEADS GUILTY

Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty today to charges of conspiracy, fraud, and tax evasion under a plea bargain which limits him to ten years in prison. TPM and TPMCafe are Abramoff central today – check out the insight and speculation over there. As Josh observes:

This seems more like the beginning of a long process. They go after Ney first and continue their investigation, with Abramoff’s fate hanging in the balance, depending on how cooperative he chooses to be in providing information on coconspirators and sundry bad acts.

Abramoff is a bad, bad man (more on this from me here, here, and here) who did bad things not – as talking heads will tell you tomorrow – out of simple personal greed but as a devoted cog in a fundamentally corrupt corporate-GOP alliance which continues to wreak havoc on the country. So taking away his toys and using his testimony to go after his proven accomplices is a step – but only a step – in restoring honor and integrity to government.

Max Sawicky offered a sobering reminder that even if we’re facing a “Watergate moment,” Watergate itself, and the Democrats’ response, failed to stem the rising conservative tide in this country:

Watergate ushered in a generation of Democratic politicians with little in the way of ideological commitment other than honesty. Not long after Watergate we got the Reagan revolution. Honesty is not enough.

In response, Josh argued that

the country was in the midst of a broad shift toward the right. The scandals surrounding Watergate upended the political dynamic in the country but not the ideological one…the other side’s scandals can reshuffle the political cards temporarily. But it probably won’t be for that long if the scandals aren’t intrinsically connected to the bases of the afflicted party’s power or if their fall-out doesn’t catalyze a some deeper political and ideological reconfiguration in the country. Nixon’s dirty-tricksterism wasn’t at the heart of the rise of the American right in the late 20th century. So it continued on without him.

Thing is, whether you buy Max’s argument that the attention to Watergate ultimately hastened the rise of Reaganism or Josh’s that it merely failed to do more than slow it, I think the key point going forward is that it’s not just the facts on the ground that determine whether the scandals now inundating the White House are understood as “intrinsically connected to the bases of the afflicted party’s power.” Conservatives, with many in the media in tow, aren’t just trying to obscure the partisan nature of the current scandal crop – they’re trying to obscure the ideological nature of it. That’s because they recognize that this is about more than just the 2006 elections, important as they are – it’s about public understandings of what kind of people are fit to lead the country. So it’s on progressives to expose not just the partisan narrative behind these scandals but the ideological one as well:

Republicans take bribes from men like Jack Abramoff because they are the party of big business, and they represent wealthy elites pushing policies that hurt working families.

Republicans lie about what their intelligence says and how they get it because they need to justify immoral wars that make us less safe and obscure their attacks on our privacy that leave us less free.

Needless to say, these talking points will not win any points from Al From, Chris Matthews, or Joe Klein. But if it’s elections you care about, each of these men only gets one vote. And if it’s ideological realignment you care about, they may get even less.

THE WEEK IN, UM, ME

Just got back tonight from a great week in Cali with the mishpuchah. Turns out that jellyfish aren’t fish, there were no birds at Alcatraz, and “Half Dome” isn’t particularly dome-like (though it is particularly awesome).

“But enough about your vacation,” you say, “how about your sprawling media empire?” Funny you should ask.

Just kidding.

Absence of a sprawling media empire notwithstanding, I am happy to report that Josh Marshall, in a valiant effort to give me something to do this summer that (unlike learning to drive and speak Spanish) doesn’t fall under the category of “Finally getting around to what everyone else did in high school,” generously asked me last month to be a Research Fellow over at TPMCafe. I’ve been working with a great group of folks over there on the Auction House, our attempt to keep up with the many-splendored series of scandals surrounding The Hammer and his tools. It’s been a blast so far, and I’m sure will continue to be. My first Auction House post, a look at DeLay and Abramoff’s sketchiest mutual friends, went up last week. Think of it as (with pretty insincere apologies to fellow Akiba Hebrew Academy alum Mitch Albom) Six People You Don’t Meet in Heaven. Check it out.

Josh Marshall just posted a transcript of a conference call between journalists and “senior administration officials” about the contours of the immigration policy President Bush plans to propose tomorrow. I’m glad to see a shift back towards the White House’s September 10, 2001 position on immigration, and have no doubt that the organizing coalition and voting bloc mobilized most visibly through the Immigrant Worker Freedom Rides has been vital in that achievement. The framing of the problem – the imperative of family reunification, the centrality of undocumented labor to our economy, the humanitarian crisis – is improved, and the approach is certainly more consonant with the Freedom Riders demands than it once was. A “temporary worker” status, however, opens up new avenues for abuse and exploitation, and simply creating a legal process for undocumented workers to go “above ground” and air labor grievances does little to change the facts on the ground about employers’ power over immigrant workers. That would require the right to organize, which is conspicuously absent from the discussions of “senior administration officials.” Josh Marshall closes by asking whether “the president expects to or even wants this ‘policy’ to pass.” We’ll have to see. Meanwhile, the coalition for progressive immigration reform will have to keep fighting for an immigration policy that truly enshrines the best values of this country.