Thursday, August 14, 2008

Kristol: Colin Powell likely to endorse Obama at Democratic convention; Powell disputes it.

Today on Fox News, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol revealed that former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell may endorse Obama and speak at the Democratic convention on Wednesday, Aug. 27:

I’m hearing from people who talked directly to the Obama campaign, that Colin Powell will endorse Sen. Obama, and he may well give a speech at the Democratic convention explaining his endorsement of Obama.

Watch it:

Caution: Note that the Kristol Ball has a mixed record. Powell spokeswoman Peggy Cifrino has strongly denied Kristol’s report, saying there is “absolutely no truth to it whatsoever.”

Original here

McCain's Top Foreign Policy Advisor Got Money From Georgia

Randy Scheunemann, top foreign policy adviser for Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., facing camera, holds a map of Georgia, while speaking to the senator, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2008, on board the Straight Talk Air campaign airplane while waiting on the runway to take off in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

WASHINGTON — John McCain's chief foreign policy adviser and his business partner lobbied the senator or his staff on 49 occasions in a 3 1/2-year span while being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the government of the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

The payments raise ethical questions about the intersection of Randy Scheunemann's personal financial interests and his advice to the Republican presidential candidate who is seizing on Russian aggression in Georgia as a campaign issue.

McCain warned Russian leaders Tuesday that their assault in Georgia risks "the benefits they enjoy from being part of the civilized world."

On April 17, a month and a half after Scheunemann stopped working for Georgia, his partner signed a $200,000 agreement with the Georgian government. The deal added to an arrangement that brought in more than $800,000 to the two-man firm from 2004 to mid-2007. For the duration of the campaign, Scheunemann is taking a leave of absence from the firm.

"Scheunemann's work as a lobbyist poses valid questions about McCain's judgment in choosing someone who _ and whose firm _ are paid to promote the interests of other nations," said New York University law professor Stephen Gillers. "So one must ask whether McCain is getting disinterested advice, at least when the issues concern those nations."

"If McCain wants advice from someone whose private interests as a once and future lobbyist may affect the objectivity of the advice, that's his choice to make."

McCain has been to Georgia three times since 1997 and "this is an issue that he has been involved with for well over a decade," said McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers.

McCain's strong condemnation in recent days of Russia's military action against Georgia as "totally, absolutely unacceptable" reflects long-standing ties between McCain and hardline conservatives such as Scheunemann, an aide in the 1990s to then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.

Scheunemann, who also was a foreign policy adviser in McCain's 2000 presidential campaign, has for years traveled the same road as McCain in pushing for regime change in Iraq and promoting NATO membership for Georgia and other former Soviet republics.

While their politics coincide, Russia's invasion of Georgia casts a spotlight on Scheunemann's business interests and McCain's conduct as a senator.

Scheunemann's firm lobbied McCain's office on four bills and resolutions regarding Georgia, with McCain as a co-sponsor or supporter of all of them.

In addition to the 49 contacts with McCain or his staff regarding Georgia, Scheunemann's firm has lobbied the senator or his aides on at least 47 occasions since 2001 on behalf of the governments of Taiwan and Macedonia, which each paid Scheunemann and his partner Mike Mitchell over half a million dollars; Romania, which paid over $400,000; and Latvia, which paid nearly $250,000. Federal law requires Scheunemann to publicly disclose to the Justice Department all his lobbying contacts as an agent of a foreign government.

After contacts with McCain's staff, the senator introduced a resolution saluting the people of Georgia on the first anniversary of the Rose Revolution that brought Mikhail Saakashvili to power.

Four months ago, on the same day that Scheunemann's partner signed the latest $200,000 agreement with Georgia, McCain spoke with Saakashvili by phone. The senator then issued a strong statement saying that "we must not allow Russia to believe it has a free hand to engage in policies that undermine Georgian sovereignty."

Rogers, the McCain campaign spokesman, said the call took place at the request of the embassy of Georgia. And McCain campaign spokeswoman Nicolle Wallace added that the senator has full confidence in Scheunemann. "We're proud of anyone who has worked on the side of angels in fledgling democracies," she said in an interview.

McCain called Saakashvili again on Tuesday. "I told him that I know I speak for every American when I said to him, today, we are all Georgians," McCain told a cheering crowd in York, Pa. McCain's Democratic rival, Barack Obama, had spoken with Saakashvili the day before.

In 2005 and 2006, McCain signed onto a resolution expressing support for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia; introduced a resolution expressing support for a peace plan for Georgia's breakaway province of Ossetia; and co-sponsored a measure supporting admission of four nations including Georgia into NATO.

On Tuesday, McCain told Fox News that "as you know, through the NATO membership, ... if a member nation is attacked, it is viewed as an attack on all."

Scheunemann's lobbying firm is one of three that he has operated since 1999, with clients including BP Amoco, defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. and the National Rifle Association.

Scheunemann is part of the community of neoconservatives who relentlessly pushed for war in Iraq.

No one in Washington is more closely aligned with the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq than prominent neoconservatives, who for years had regime change in Iraq as a goal as part of their philosophy that the United States shouldn't be reluctant to use its power, both diplomatic and military, to spread democracy and to guarantee world order.

Now, McCain and other politicians who pushed for the invasion are seeking to emphasize the progress, albeit fragile, of the current troop surge in Iraq.

In the months before the war began, Scheuenemann ran the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, set up in November 2002 when public support for the looming invasion was eroding.

Before that, Scheunemann was on board with the Project for the New American Century, whose letter to Bush nine days after the Sept. 11 attacks pointed to Iraq as a possible link to the terrorists.

The letter said American forces must be prepared to support "by all means necessary" the U.S. government's commitment to opponents of Saddam Hussein.

Scheunemann was among the letter's 37 signers, a Who's Who of neoconservative luminaries including William Kristol and Richard Perle.

If anything, Scheunemann's duties have been enhanced from McCain's 2000 presidential campaign, when Scheunemann also advised McCain on national security and foreign policy issues.

Earlier in his political career, McCain displayed the kind of caution that could be expected from someone who fought in Vietnam and was a prisoner of war.

In 1983, McCain urged U.S. withdrawal from Lebanon. "I do not see any obtainable objectives in Lebanon, and the longer we stay there, the harder it will be to leave," he said.

As the United States prepared for the first Gulf war, McCain was among a handful of members in Congress who began raising caution flags about the operation.

"If you get involved in a major ground war in the Saudi desert, I think support will erode significantly," said McCain. "Nor should it be supported. We cannot even contemplate, in my view, trading American blood for Iraqi blood."

Original here

While Aide Advised McCain, His Firm Lobbied for Georgia

Washington Post Staff Writers

Sen. John McCain's top foreign policy adviser prepped his boss for an April 17 phone call with the president of Georgia and then helped the presumptive Republican presidential nominee prepare a strong statement of support for the fledgling republic.

The day of the call, a lobbying firm partly owned by the adviser, Randy Scheunemann, signed a $200,000 contract to continue providing strategic advice to the Georgian government in Washington.

The McCain campaign said Georgia's lobbying contract with Orion Strategies had no bearing on the candidate's decision to speak with President Mikheil Saakashvili and did not influence his statement. "The Embassy of Georgia requested the call," said campaign spokesman Brian Rogers.

But ethics experts have raised concerns about former lobbyists for foreign governments providing advice to presidential candidates about those same countries. "The question is, who is the client? Is the adviser loyal to income from a foreign client, or is he loyal to the candidate he is working for now?" said James Thurber, a lobbying expert at American University. "It's dangerous if you're getting advice from people who are very close to countries on one side or another of a conflict."

At the time of McCain's call, Scheunemann had formally ceased his own lobbying work for Georgia, according to federal disclosure reports. But he was still part of Orion Strategies, which had only two lobbyists, himself and Mike Mitchell.

Scheunemann remained with the firm for another month, until May 15, when the McCain campaign imposed a tough new anti-lobbyist policy and he was required to separate himself from the company.

Rogers said Scheunemann "receives no compensation of any type from Orion Strategies and has not since May 15, 2008." Scheunemann declined to be interviewed for this story.

As a private lobbyist trying to influence lawmakers and Bush administration staffers, Scheunemann at times relied on his access to McCain in his work for foreign clients on Capitol Hill. He and his partner reported 71 phone conversations and meetings with McCain and his top advisers since 2004 on behalf of foreign clients, including Georgia, according to forms they filed with the Justice Department.

The contacts often focused on Georgia's aspirations to join NATO and on legislative proposals, including a measure co-sponsored by McCain that supported Georgia's position on South Ossetia, one of the Georgian regions taken over by Russia this weekend.

Another measure lobbied by Orion and co-sponsored by McCain, the NATO Freedom Consolidation Act of 2006, would have authorized a $10 million grant for Georgia.

For months while McCain's presidential campaign was gearing up, Scheunemann held dual roles, advising the candidate on foreign policy while working as Georgia's lobbyist. Between Jan. 1, 2007, and May 15, 2008, the campaign paid Scheunemann nearly $70,000 to provide foreign policy advice. During the same period, the government of Georgia paid his firm $290,000 in lobbying fees.

Since 2004, Orion has collected $800,000 from the government of Georgia.

Rogers said Orion's representation of Georgia had no bearing on McCain's decision to speak with Saakashvili in April. "The Embassy of Georgia requested the call because of Georgian concerns over recent Russian actions dealing with South Ossetia and Abkhazia," he said.

McCain has said that he has worked closely with Georgia and its top officials since the mid-1990s. On the campaign trail yesterday, McCain referred to Saakashvili as a close friend.

But Rogers acknowledged that "Scheunemann and others on the foreign policy staff are involved in call requests and statements on foreign policy issues."

After the April call, McCain issued a statement that day voicing support for Georgia's position.

"We must not allow Russia to believe it has a free hand to engage in policies that undermine Georgian sovereignty," McCain said in the statement. "Georgia has acted with restraint in its response and should continue to do so."

Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said it may be impossible to know whether Scheunemann's advice to McCain was truly unvarnished.

"The question is, whose views are you really espousing?" Sloan said. "Are they really your own views, or are they the views that are bought and paid for by the clients of your top aides? McCain probably would be sympathetic to Georgia regardless, but having a guy like Scheunemann as a top aide raises questions."

Hari Sevugan, a spokesman for the Democratic candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, said Scheunemann's business ties to Georgia raise questions about how much he influenced McCain's position on the Georgia conflict.

"It's these sorts of appearances of a conflict of interest that are a natural consequence of having a campaign run by lobbyists, staffed by lobbyists and being ensconced in a lobbyist culture for over a quarter of a century," Sevugan said.

Original here

How “Green” is the McCain VP Short List?

With the opportunity for sustained media face-time at a premium before the upcoming national party conventions, people are expecting to learn any day who the presidential candidates have chosen to be the respective choices for vice-presidential candidates. Now that energy and environmental issues have become increasingly salient, each of the candidates has to give at least some consideration to how their potential ticket-mate stands on energy-related and environmental issues. Believe it or not, this may actually ring more true for Republican John McCain than it does for Democrat Barack Obama, as the Democrats have historically been the party of environmental protection.

To help you wade through all of media hype and speculation, I’ve put together a short list of possible McCain runningmates and their positions on energy and the environment. To add some color, I’ve enlisted the support of several prominent bloggers who have more intimate knowledge of the potential candidates’ environmental stance and record (where possible).

[Please note that I do not claim to be a prognosticator. And with the list of potential GOP vice-presidential candidates longer than the list of Beltway lobbyists running the McCain campaign, who actually can? I've added a few 'long-shots' to the end of this list, but it is quite possible that McCain's selection is absent from the following collection.]

The Short List:

minnesota governor tim pawlentyTim Pawlenty: Pawlenty is relatively young, conservative, and popular. As the Governor of Minnesota, Pawlenty Advanced the Community Based Energy Development Credit to encourage the development and use of locally owned wind and clean energy sources and established a goal of obtaining 800 megawatts of community based wind to be added to our electric system by 2010. Pawlenty also proposed and passed Minnesota’s largest ever Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) agreement, authorizing the set-aside of 120,000 acres of marginal crop land near environmentally sensitive waterways.

Maria Surma Manka of Maria Energia: “Governor Pawlenty has responded well to Minnesotans - including his evangelical Christian pastor - who have demanded action to fight global warming. Thanks to citizens, legislators and the Governor, Minnesota has a biofuels mandate, renewable energy standard and efficiency requirements. But we still struggle with our dependence on coal and oil. Whether chosen as VP or not, I hope “T. Paw” will show even stronger leadership to help move us away from our old-fashioned energy system and on to something cleaner and more efficient for the 21st century.”

former massachusetts governor mitt romneyMitt Romney: I know I might make some enemies by saying this, but I have a hard time believing that anyone with five children in this day and age can honestly call themselves an environmentalist [Editor's note: this thread has been picked up in the GO Forums if you'd like to discuss it at depth].

As governor of Massachusetts from January 2003 to January 2007, Mitt Romney got off to a promising start on a green issues, but then repeatedly disapointed the state’s environmental community [PDF]. In 2005, Romney pulled Massachusetts out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a pact between Northeastern states that calls for emissions cuts, even though his administration had spent more than two years helping to shape the deal (since then, Romney’s successor, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick [D], reversed that decision).

Romney’s opposition to the proposed offshore wind farm in the waters of Nantucket Sound is not likely to gain him any favor in the eyes of renewable energy advocates, or the larger environmental community. Wendy Williams at The Huffington Post: “Throughout his four-year term heading up the Bay State government, Romney’s behind-the-scenes stalling tactics were both legion and legend.”

florida governor charlie christ

Charlie Crist: Florida Governor, Charlie Crist may have one of the most progressive environmental platforms of all McCain’s pottential VP candidates. In a January interview with Grist, Gov. Crist spoke unflinchingly about his support for the environment. He said, “[I]t really goes back to Teddy Roosevelt for me, as a Republican — here was a guy 100 years ago who understood the importance of conservation: protecting the environment, establishing our national park system.

Noah Levy of Red, Green, and Blue: “He has shown himself through words and actions to be a true friend to the environment. However, the reversal of his position toward offshore drilling combined with his shrugging off of McCain’s negative vote toward the restoration of the Everglades reek of political opportunism.”

south dakota senator john thuneJohn Thune: The young, extremely conservative senator from South Dakota, spent 3 terms in the House and then knocked off Tom Daschle in the 2004 election. Thune had the highest LCV score of all the potential VPs at 30%. But that figure is up from a 9% rating the Congressman earned in the 109th Congress (2001-2002), and from 2004, when he earned the LCV’s “Dirty Dozen” designation.

More recently, Thune has been a champion of the corn ethanol industry, and has voted to protect the economic interests of Big Ag in his home state of South Dakota. Thune is also part of the so-called “Gang of Ten,” a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators pushing a proposed energy policy that would break the stalemate currently dogging Congress. The proposal would open additional drilling areas in the Gulf of Mexico, and allows Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia to choose whether they want to drill of their coasts. Existing bans off the West Coast and ANWR would remain in place. The proposal would also dedicate $20 billion to R&D of alternative fuels and extends a series of tax credits and incentives, such as for the purchase of hybrid vehicles.

eric cantorEric Cantor: The four-term Republican Representative from Virginia’s seventh district took two full terms to break out of the basement of the LCV ratings with a score of 0%; but is now making a run for double digits as Cantor has moved to 5% in the last term and 7% in the current term.

Terry Carter of Too Progressive: “Eric Cantor has a history of blindly following the failed regressive policies of the Bush administration and the Republican party as a whole, voting nearly 100 percent of the time with the Bush administration throughout his (Cantor’s) Congressional career. That having been said it pretty much goes without saying that Cantor is once again siding with the Republican party (and the big oil companies) and promoting a regressive energy policy that will provide virtually no long OR short term relief for average American’s struggling with gas and energy prices. Cantor, a potential VP candidate, Republican presidential nominee John McCain and the Republican party as a whole are once again showing where their true allegiance lies - with the big oil companies that have upported their party for years.a prolific fundraiser for the campaign.”

Longer Shots:

Christine Todd Whitman: Though probably a long shot, the former Secretary of the EPA in the at the beginning of George W. Bush’s first administration now runs an energy lobbying group called the Whitman Strategy Group.

Newt Gingrich: Newt’s been hard at work billing himself as an environmentalist as of late. Economically-bereft “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” campaign. While Gingrich might have the conservative record to attract that particular wing of the party, he may be too polarizing of a figure to be McCain’s runningmate.

Bobby Jindal: of Louisiana. Jindal Voted NO on removing oil & gas exploration subsidies in 2007 and Voted YES on deauthorizing “critical habitat” for endangered species in 2005. It’s not all bad though. Jindal did vote YES on increasing AMTRAK funding by adding $214M to $900M in 2006.

Bob Portman: Virtually unknown nationally, Portman is a former one-term congressman from the key state of Ohio, who, in his single term as a U.S. Representative earned an LCV score of 36% in the 105th Congress (1998-1999). Portman likes canoeing and kayaking. In 1984 he traveled to China to kayak the Li River and a portion of the Yangzi River. He has also kayaked the entire Rio Grande.

Concluding Remarks:

John McCain has a very real dilemma to address: How does he simultaneously satisfy the conservative wing of the Republican Party and attract the moderates and independents who would be a critical component of a McCain win? More specifically, can candidate McCain select a VP runningmate with a strong record on the environment, one that might also support a cap-and-trade for carbon emissions - a rather unpopular among most conservative Republicans - and still mobilize the conservative base?

We’ll soon find out.

Why Russia’s response to Georgia was right

For some of those witnessing the fighting in the Caucasus over the past few days, the narrative is straightforward and easy. The plucky republic of Georgia, with just a few million citizens, was attacked by its giant eastern neighbour, Russia. Add to this all the stereotypes of the cold war era, and you are presented with a truly David and Goliath interpretation – with all its accompanying connotations of good and evil. While this version of events is being written in much of the western media, the facts present a different picture.

Let me be absolutely clear. This is not a conflict of Russia’s making; this is not a conflict of Russia’s choosing. There are no winners from this conflict. Hours before the Georgian invasion, Russia had been working to secure a United Nations Security Council statement calling for a renunciation of force by both Georgia and South Ossetians. The statement that could have averted bloodshed was blocked by western countries.

Last Friday, after the world’s leaders had arrived at the Beijing Olympics, Georgian troops launched an all-out assault on the region of South Ossetia, which has enjoyed de facto independence for more than 16 years. The majority of the region’s population are Russian citizens. Under the terms of the 1992 agreement to which Georgia is a party, they are afforded protection by a small number of Russian peacekeeping soldiers. The ground and air attack resulted in the killing of peacekeepers and the death of an estimated 1,600 civilians, creating a humanitarian disaster and leading to an exodus of 30,000 refugees. The Georgian regime refused to allow a humanitarian corridor to be established and bombarded a humanitarian convoy. There is also clear evidence of atrocities having been committed – so serious and systematic that they constitute acts of genocide.

There can be little surprise, therefore, that Russia responded to this unprovoked assault on its citizens by launching a military incursion into South Ossetia. No country in the world would idly stand by as its citizens are killed and driven from their homes. Russia repeatedly warned Tbilisi that it would protect its citizens by force if necessary, and its actions are entirely consistent with international law, including article 51 of the UN charter on the right of self-defence.

Russia has been entirely proportionate in its military response to Georgia’s attack on Russian citizens and peacekeepers. Russia’s tactical objective has been to force Georgian troops out of the region, which is off limits to them under international agreements. Despite Georgia’s assertion that it had imposed a unilateral ceasefire, Russian peacekeepers and supporting troops remained under continued attack – a fact confirmed by observers and journalists in the region. Russia had no choice but to target the military infrastructure outside the region being used to sustain the Georgian offensive. Russia’s response has been targeted, proportionate and legitimate.

Russia has been accused of using the conflict to try to topple the government and impose control over the country. This is palpable nonsense. Having established the safety of the region, the president has declared an end to military operations. Russia has no intention of annexing or occupying any part of Georgia and has again affirmed its respect for its sovereignty. Over the next few days, on the condition that Georgia refrains from military activity and keeps its forces out of the region, Russia will continue to take the diplomatic steps required to consolidate this temporary cessation of hostilities.

Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia’s president, has stated that “unless we stop Russia, unless the whole world stops it, Russian tanks will go to any European capital tomorrow”, adding on a separate occasion that “it’s not about Georgia any more. It’s about America”. It is clear that Georgia wants this dispute to become something more than a short if bloody conflict in the region. For decision-makers in the Nato countries of the west, it would be worth considering whether in future you want the men and women of your armed services to be answerable to Mr Saakashvili’s declarations of war in the Caucasus.

Russia is a member of the Security Council, of the Group of Eight leading industrialised nations and partner with the west on issues as varied as the Middle East, Iran and North Korea. In keeping with its responsibilities as a world power and the guarantor of stability in the Caucasus, Russia will work to ensure a peaceful and lasting resolution to the situation in the region.

Original here

Did Scheunemann Engineer McCain’s 2005 Nobel Prize Nomination Of Georgian President For Financial Gain?»

The Washington Post reports today that Sen. John McCain’s senior foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann may have used his position in the McCain campaign for his own financial benefit by advancing the interests of his former lobbying client, the Georgian government:

Sen. John McCain’s top foreign policy adviser prepped his boss for an April 17 phone call with the president of Georgia and then helped the presumptive Republican presidential nominee prepare a strong statement of support for the fledgling republic.

The day of the call, a lobbying firm [Orion Strategies] partly owned by the adviser, Randy Scheunemann, signed a $200,000 contract to continue providing strategic advice to the Georgian government in Washington.

The McCain campaign responded saying, “Georgia’s lobbying contract with Orion Strategies had no bearing on the candidate’s decision to speak with President Mikheil Saakashvili and did not influence his statement,” they said.

But there appears to be more evidence of Scheunemann using McCain for financial gain. In 2005, operating as Georgia’s lobbyist, Scheunemann may have engineered McCain’s nomination of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili for the Nobel Peace Prize just before his contract with the Georgian government was due to expire. Here are the details:

– In March 2004, Scheunemann signed his first contract worth $150,000 with the Georgian government to provide “advice and consulting services concerning Georgia’s full integration into Western institutions.” By the time the contract was signed, McCain had become a favorite target of Scheunemann’s lobbying.

– As Scheunemann’s year-long contract with Georgia neared expiration, McCain and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) nominated Saakashvili for the Nobel Peace Prize, despite his mixed human and civil rights record. On January 25, 2005, McCain and Clinton wrote that Saakashvili had “won popular support for the universal values of democracy, individual liberty, and civil rights.

– On March 15, 2005 — just weeks after being nominated for the Nobel Prize — Saakashvili’s government signed a new 12-month contract with Scheunemann, worth nearly a quarter-million dollars.

Given this context, Scheunemann’s lobbying is troubling. Rather than simply advocating on behalf of the Georgian government, is Scheunemann, in fact, able to manipulate McCain’s policy statements for his own financial gain?

Original here

McCain: ‘In the 21st century, nations don’t invade other nations.’»

In recent days, Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) rhetoric toward Russia has mostly been overblown bluster, including an accusation that the country wanted to restore its old empire. However, since a cease-fire was announced and his predictions were proven wrong, McCain has backtracked, saying there won’t be a Cold War. To justify his new position, he told reporters in a press conference today:

In the 21st century, nations don’t invade other nations.

Watch it:

As Matt Yglesias writes, “We all recall, of course, John McCain’s outrage when the United States violated this rule back in 2003.”

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Will The White House Finally Comment On The Plame Leak?»

Today, the D.C. Court of Appeals dismissed Valerie Plame’s lawsuit against members of the Bush administration for leaking her covert CIA status in 2003. Plame had hoped that the appeals court would overturn the ruling of U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, who had initially rejected her case. Today, the appeals court agreed with Bates, ruling that Vice President Cheney and others were acting within their official capacities:

Government employees who engage in questionable acts, such as abusing prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay facility or engaging in defamatory speech, cannot be held individually liable if they are carrying out official duties, the court said.

The conduct, then, was in the defendants’ scope of employment regardless of whether it was unlawful or contrary to the national security of the United States,” Appeals Court Chief Judge David Sentelle wrote in the opinion.

Plame’s lawyer, Melanie Sloan, is not sure what the next steps for the case will be, but is investigating another appeal. If an appeal doesn’t happen, however, the White House will be forced to start publicly commenting on its role in the Plame leak. For years, officials have been stonewalling, citing the various ongoing investigations:

– “I know that there’s going to be a lot of disappointment with this, but there is an ongoing criminal proceeding. … And so our principled stand of not commenting on ongoing legal investigations is going to continue.” [White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, 3/6/07]

– “I did talk to our counsel’s office because I forgot that there is a civil case that is pending on this issue. I did forget. The Wilsons have filed a case in civil court, it was dismissed, and they are on appeal.” [Perino, 12/12/07]

What will be the White House’s excuse once there are no more cases pending?

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FOX News Calls White Supremacist, Holocaust Denier and Anti-Semite a 'Free Speech Activist'

On Aug. 4, FOX News aired a segment about the Canadian prosecution of conservative author Mark Steyn for alleged anti-Muslim human rights violations. Steyn, the author of the No. 1 Canadian bestseller, America Alone: The End Of The World As We Know It, has had three complaints lodged against him for human rights violations by the Canadian Islamic Congress. Two cases have been dismissed, but the Human Rights Tribunal of British Columbia is still investigating a charge that Steyn's work amounts to hate speech against Muslims.

Steyn's book, which was serialized in the well-known Canadian newsmagazine Macleans, contends that Western democracies, particularly in Europe, may become fertile ground for Islamic extremists because of rapidly growing Muslim populations.

While there are many individuals and groups that think the prosecution of Steyn harms free speech in Canada -- including PEN Canada and the Canadian Association of Journalists -- Fox News correspondent Steve Brown chose to interview a decidedly odd source: Paul Fromm, who was very sparingly identified on the broadcast as a "Free Speech Activist." That's a pretty weak, not to say completely misleading, description of Paul Fromm. As anyone who lives in Canada or who has access to Google should know, Fromm is Canada's most notorious extremist, whose views form a trifecta of hate: he's a white supremacist, a Holocaust denier and an anti-Semite. And he's got a history of extremism a mile long.

"What we are seeing is an effort by minority groups, including in this case radical Muslims, to shut down criticism and that's what it is," Fromm, who habitually mocks Muslims, once calling a Muslim woman "a hag in a bag" while participating in a conference put on by former Klansman David Duke, told FOX about the Steyn investigations. At a 2007 meeting of racists and Holocaust deniers in Atlanta, Fromm pulled the Muslim hate card again, labeling Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama "a crypto-Moslem of mixed parentage."


Fromm's been a source to news reporters before -- but not the type who most American news operations would want to brag about. In 2005, Fromm told the Iranian Mehr News Agency that Hollywood is "controlled by Zionists," discussed "the story of the 'Holocaust' [that] has allowed the Jews to acquire many billions of dollars," and described the Nazi genocide as "a religion created by the Jews for non-Jews."

Fromm, whose Canadian teaching certificate was yanked in 2007 because of his racist views and activities, is a stalwart of the American white supremacist and anti-Semitic scene. He has attended dozens of white supremacist events, including one held to mark the anniversary of Adolf Hitler's death.

Besides running his own extremist group in Canada -- the Canada First Immigration Reform Committee -- Fromm is a national director of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, a group that believes in "racial integrity" and views blacks as a "retrograde species of humanity." Fromm is also a signatory to a 2004 hate group protocol calling for an alliance between various racist and anti-Semitic groups, including David Duke's European-American Unity and Rights Organization and the neo-Nazi National Alliance.

Original here

McCain flubs the name of Georgian President three times.»

The McCain camp has been proud to note the Senator’s close ties to the President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili. Randy Scheunemann, McCain’s foreign policy aide, boasted “McCain and the Georgian leader rode jet skis together” while visiting his presidential villa on the Black Sea. McCain even nominated Saakashvili for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. But in a speech yesterday, McCain mispronounced his name three times. Stephen Hayes, editor of the Weekly Standard, defended McCain by saying “he knows the players even if he mispronounces the name.” Watch a compilation:

As Matt Duss at the Wonk Room has noted, McCain’s close affiliation with the Georgian President would impair his ability to be an honest broker in dealing with the conflict. And Matt Yglesias notes that McCain’s rhetorical bluster does nothing to actually help Georgia.

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