CT-04: The “Worst Behavior” in Congress in 20 Years? Really?

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos.)

Chris Shays (CT-04) has been in office for two long (too long) decades.

Over that time, he’s had the opportunity to question countless witnesses in Congressional hearings – questionable, criminal, devious, and laughable characters ranging from Brownie to Rummy to Wolfie.

The other day, he gave an interview to a major national website. And guess who he told them had exhibited the “worst behavior” he’s seen in Congress over all those years?

“Let me just say that they were deceitful… They weren’t cooperative. And they were arrogant. And they were like, ‘How dare you question us,’ kind of attitude. And I want you to know I don’t take offense at that. There are certain things as a member of Congress I don’t like. But personally, I was just stunned by it because I haven’t see worse behavior in anyone in my 20 years in public life in Congress.

No, not war profiteers. Or those responsible for getting us into the war. Or Bush Administration officials who refuse to answer any questions, and refuse to abide by Congressional subpoenas. (Or, say, a Congressman scuffling with a Capitol Hill police officer.)

No, none of those people exhibited worse behavior than… baseball players on steroids:

Christopher Shays describes himself as a casual baseball fan. He’s the kind of guy who tracks the Red Sox and Yankees hardball rivalry from a distance but would never be caught dissecting box scores in the morning’s Washington Post. Actually, after coming face-to-face with some of the leading characters — namely a handful of players, commissioner Bud Selig and union leader Don Fehr — during Congressional steroid hearings in 2005, the Connecticut lawmaker has a somewhat more jaded perspective on the game.

Rep. Shays smiles thinking back on the likes of Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro parading before the House Committee on Government Reform — the sense of entitlement they carried on their broad shoulders, the way they dismissed allegations of widespread steroid use in the game, even though committee members suspected otherwise….

“But personally, I was just stunned by it because I haven’t see worse behavior in anyone in my 20 years in public life in Congress.”

It’s astounding that any rational public official would consider Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro to be more worthy of contempt or criticism than, say, Eric Prince of Blackwater:

But there is actually a long list of Bush Administration officials and despicable characters who have come before Shays who have demonstrably exhibited much worse “behavior”… only to have Shays defend and praise them:

  • He told Condi Rice that he was “happy” that she “resisted the temptation” to actually answer questions from other committee members. (Dana Milbank described the end of the hearing: “[Shays] hurried to intercept Rice and gave her a hug. The secretary clasped his hand tenderly as she departed.”)
  • He told Donald Rumsfeld that he was “particularly grateful” that he “called [the Democrats’] bluff” by merely showing up to the hearing, and refused to press him to answer any tough questions.
  • He told GSA Administrator Lurita Doan, accused of politicizing her office, that he thought she was a “remarkable person” and stated he thought that “when an African American happens to be a Republican… she is treated differently” by his colleagues.

All of the above seemed to have done a perfect job as far as he was concerned. The right-wing/libertarian-leaning blog The Agitator describes Shays’ own behavior thusly:

Pardon my French, but are you fucking kidding me?  Shays has served with colleagues who’ve stolen from the public treasury, taken bribes, committed rape and sexual assault, and otherwise made complete asses of themselves.  And the worst behavior he’s seen in 20 years was when a bunch of baseball people were (correctly) indignant about Congress shoving its nose in internal baseball matters over which had no legitimate authority or jurisdiction?

Shorter Shays:

“Forget about billions of dollars wasted, the constitution shredded, and an executive out of control. It’s baseball players that we need to really worry about.”

So… Want to encourage real oversight, of real issues?

Throw some turkee here… and attend the Pub Quiz blograiser for Jim Himes this Saturday night in Bridgeport, CT either virtually or in person:

When: Saturday December 15 from 7 to 10PM ET

Where: Murphy’s Law, 239 Fairfield Ave., Bridgeport, CT

Online at: http://www.myleftnutmeg.com

Or join the Himes for Congress Facebook group here.

(Disclosure: I am proud to be consulting for Jim Himes.)

CT-04: Shays: More Blood For Oil

(Cross-posted from My Left Nutmeg.)

Don’t know what else you can say about this:

In a sign that moderate Republicans are failing to rethink their positions on a serious scale, centrist Republican Rep. Christopher Shays (CT), speaking on the C-SPAN call-in show Washington Journal on Wednesday, argued ironically that as bad as it is going, the war in Iraq must go on because leaving would hand the country over to foreign intervention. One result, Shays opined, is that “Iraq … has about 20% of the world’s oil. It’s a huge amount to allow an unfriendly country to control.”

Of all the contradictory justifications for the war that Chris Shays has pulled out of his inner anatomy – first for going in, and then for staying in – this one is either the most honest or the most reprehensible. Or, most likely, both. More at Crooks and Liars.

Jim Himes for Congress:
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CT-04: Shays’ Week From Hell Continues

(Cross-posted from MLN.)

It’s tough enough to have come back from your eighteenth trip from Iraq only to see the following caricature of yourself on the cover of a weekly local newspaper, with a subtitle asking out loud if you’ve “lost your mind” on the matter:

It’s tougher still to have to look inside the paper and read a quote like this from an Iraq war vet:

“He has more positions on Iraq than Mitt Romney has on abortion,” says Soltz, a veteran of the Iraq and Kosovo wars. “You never know where he sits on Iraq. He can tell you what he wants, but he is lined up with George Bush on this war.”

“He likes to brag about how many times he’s been to Iraq,” Soltz adds, “but he’s never served, and he doesn’t really know how the military works. Shays-all he talks about is tactics, but military people talk about diplomacy; I want to see a policy change, but that is not going to happen by adding more troops.”

But it must really suck to have to read your hometown paper report that the chairman of one of the House committees you sit on is investigating your campaign for possible coordinated impropriety with Karl Rove, while noting that you opposed an investigation into Rove’s political use of government resources even though you had an obvious conflict of interests as one of the officials implicated in the scheme:

A congressional panel is investigating whether the White House misused federal resources to help re-elect Rep. Christopher Shays, R-4, in 2006.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Ca., who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent letters Tuesday to the heads of 18 federal agencies seeking documents to determine if that is so….

Shays has been critical of the investigation, and voted April 25 against issuing subpoenas to the Republican National Committee seeking e-mails that White House officials wrote on RNC e-mail accounts about using federal resources to help Republican candidates.

At the April meeting, Shays complained that “I feel like we are straining out gnats and swallowing camels.”

There are “so many huge issues that we should be debating,” he added.

Worse, this is all taking place on the same day that you’re holding a press conference to try to placate the local press by promulgating your latest tortured rhetorical contortion on the war.

And there are still two days left…

CT-04: Jim Himes Raises Record $350k in 2Q

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos.)

Things are heating up quickly for Chris Shays. As the Greenwich Time reports today, challenger Jim Himes is reporting he’s raised $352,000 in merely ten and a half weeks:

Trying to gain the attention of national party leaders with money and resources to spare in a targeted congressional race, Greenwich Democrat Jim Himes said yesterday that he has raised about $352,500 for his 2008 challenge of incumbent Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn.

“When I introduced myself to the voters in the 4th (congressional) District, the question was, ‘Is this guy for real?’ ” Himes said. “I think this shows a lot of enthusiasm. It shows that this campaign is for real and we’ve got a good shot.”…

A spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said Himes’ fundraising totals were impressive.

“This is a district that votes Democratic in presidential years, and Democrats are showing at an early stage that they’re active and standing behind Jim Himes,” said Carrie James of the committee. “So I think he’s a very strong candidate.”

Connecticut Local Politics chimes in on the success of the fledgling campaign:

Here are the takeaways: There is no chance that there will be a primary for the Democratic nomination. Shays is in serious trouble. Jim Himes can raise money.

And as a press release from the campaign notes, this is a record for any campaign at this point in a race against Shays. More from Jim:

“The people who have contributed — in amounts small and great — and those who have given of their time and energy — have shown that our District is ready for a different voice in Congress,” said Himes. “We want a Congressman who will put the chaos and confusion of an ill-conceived war behind us and move on to address the issues of the day: education, health care, transportation, energy independence and competent national security. Our working families in Bridgeport, our growing businesses in Stamford and our commuters from every corner deserve nothing less.”

“My pride today is mixed. Today a man half my age is shouldering a weapon and climbing aboard a transport that will deliver him to a foreign battlefield. He, more than any of us, has cause to reflect on how we choose those who will send him away or bring him home,” continued Himes. “Would he, or any of the brave men and women in our military, be interested in dollars raised? Or would he instead select a leader based on the caliber of his ideas and judgment? Thank you very much to everyone who has given of their time and resources to demonstrate their trust in me to do the job better. It is time for change.”

You can learn more about Jim here, or read his recent liveblog at Daily Kos here.

Disclosure: I am currently doing some early volunteer work online for Jim Himes.

CT-04: Jim Himes ramps up before 2Q deadline

In response to David’s request that SSP readers mention some candidates worth supporting before the second quarter ends this weekend, here’s an update on Jim Himes’ campaign in CT-04 – Chris Shays’ district, the last spot of red in the House in all of New England:

There are just under 500 days remaining until Election Day 2008. And I intend to spend every one of those days running a different type of campaign, one that focuses on person-to-person contact and real grassroots participation.

Now is the time to build the foundation of this campaign. And I’m looking to you to help build it. Become a Founding Member of our campaign today, and help us reach our goal of signing up 500 new Founding Members before June 30th.

What will you get for being a “Founding Member” of the campaign? You won’t get any special access or treatment. You’ll get something much more meaningful: the opportunity and responsibility of being one of the first people to join our effort to change the direction of our country and address the real priorities of our district.

Himes’ non-political background is diverse (grew up in Latin America, public schools, Rhodes Scholar, Goldman Sachs VP, now works at an affordable housing nonprofit), he’s already impressive as a candidate at this early stage, and he’s looking to run a different type of campaign in a district that is usually dominated by big media buys.

Shays’ time is finally up in 2008, if the netroots and grassroots starts building the foundation for this campaign now. Contribute or sign up to volunteer and help Jim reach the goal of 500 “founding members” of the campaign before this month is over.

Or sign up for email updates here.

Disclosure: I am currently doing some early volunteer work online for Jim Himes.

ME-SEN: Tom Allen Wants To “Re-Defeat” Joe Lieberman

(Partially cross-posted from My Left Nutmeg.)

This is good stuff. Tom Allen is hanging Joe Lieberman around Susan Collins’ neck:

Joe knows exactly what he’s doing in supporting Collins: attempting to retain any shred of his own continued relevance by keeping the Democratic majority in the Senate as slim as possible in what is looking, once again, like a very tough cycle for GOP incumbents across the board.

And Allen knows exactly what he’s doing in tying Collins to Joe: making sure that this “moderate” Republican owns the Bush-Cheney-Lieberman war that she’s done nothing to oppose (see this NPR report on the Allen campaign this weekend), and that the Democratic Party stays strong and united against the Lieberman-GOP nexus. It’s exactly the approach that Maine Dems hinted at when they “welcomed” news of Joe’s endorsement of Collins back in April.

OR-SEN, NE-SEN, NC-03, MD-01: GOP Attempts “Purge” of All Four Dissenters on Iraq

(Cross-posted at MyDD.)

Back in April, in the face of massive public support for a clear timeline to end the war in Iraq, only two Republicans in the House and two in the Senate dared to buck the White House’s pressure tactics and vote for the Iraq Accountability Act. The four were Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR), Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), and Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD).

Coincidentally, all four are now facing potential primary challenges from the right.

In Nebraska, Sen. Hagel, the most noted opponent of Bush’s Iraq policy in his party, is facing a very real challenge from Attorney General Jon Bruning (who even led Hagel in a recent primary poll):

“It’s pretty clear Nebraska voters understand Sen. Hagel is voting with the Democratic Party on the issue that they feel is most important at this time, which is the Iraq war, and that’s troubling to them”

Meanwhile, in Oregon, Sen. Smith is facing the current wrath and potential candidacy of anti-tax activist Bill Sizemore for his perceived lack of partisan loyalty:

“At the national level, Democrats are licking their chops at the prospect of defeating Gordon Smith. After all he has done for liberals in Oregon, they still want to take him out, simply because he is a Republican. To them, a Republican in name only is still a Republican. Smith’s political vulnerability is no secret.”

Rep. Walter “Freedom Fries” Jones’ marked turn away from supporting Bush’s Iraq policy has been the “single issue” encouraging Joseph McLaughlin, an obscure country commissioner, to challenge the seven-term Congressman from a “safe seat” in North Carolina:

“A number of us have become very concerned about his drift to the left, espousing ideas that we don’t think reflect the views of the conservative base back in the district,” McLaughlin said. “Virtually every major vote on the war on terror, he has lined up with the liberals.”

And in Maryland, Rep. Gilchrest is facing a well-organized primary challenge from right-wing State Senator Andy Harris:

“People across the country desire to return to the Reagan values that brought the Republican Party to power – fiscal responsibility, a strong national defense, traditional values and an optimistic view of this country and its role as a world leader,” Harris said.

Primary challenges are wonderful things. In our two-party, big-money system with engineered super-safe districts for incumbents, it’s where the real small-d democracy gets done these days. The more choices for voters, the better. These four potential primaries, as well as the presidential primaries in the early states, will have the added benefit of providing an early look for the entire nation at the direction GOP activists want the Republican party to take on Iraq.

However, this pro-democracy opinion of primaries (especially those where Iraq is a major issue) was certainly not one shared by right-wing and “centrist” politicians, “civil” pro-war pundits, and other members of the “reasonable” traditional media establishment, all of whom happily took part in last summer’s Rove-inspired media orgy demonizing the year’s most significant primary challenge and grassroots movement as nothing but an attempted party “purge.” (Nevermind that the incumbent in question actually promised to quit the party himself before the primary, and then swiftly followed up on it after losing).

So, a question: How many of the following figures who were so quick to see Stalinism in Stamford last August will be denouncing pro-war Republicans for their attempted quadruple “purge” this cycle? Don’t hold your breath:

It’s no wonder that so much time is being given to the Democratic primary in Connecticut, and that so many voices are being heard. The ideological triumphalists proclaim it a great renewal in the Democratic Party, beginning with the glorious purge of Sen. Joseph Lieberman.

William F. Buckley, August 12, 2006

It should be noted that both Cheney and Mehlman pointedly referred to the Lamont win as a “purge,” echoing the seminal anti-Lamont editorial by the Democratic Leadership Council from two months ago which used the term eight times. They were joined in that effort last week by virtually the entire conservative punditry establishment, with everyone from Cal Thomas (“Purge by Taliban Democrats” was his clever innovation) to American Conservative Union chief Patrick Keene (“The purge that began with the McGovernite seizure of the party . . . “) to Foundation for Defense of Democracies president Clifford May (“The August Purge of Lieberman,” a funny historical malapropism; May was trying to echo Soviet Russia, which had an August putsch, not a purge) to Fox’s John McIntyre to a whole host of others decrying Lamont’s supporters as rich, elitist, neo-commie liberals bent on softening us all up for a terrorist attack, apparently just for the pure, America-hating thrill of it.

Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, August 15, 2006

Meanwhile, the New York Times’s David Brooks lashed out at the “liberal inquisition” unfolding in Connecticut, the type of phenomenon that could be understood “only [by] experts in moral manias and mob psychology.” ABC’s Cokie Roberts sang from the choir sheet this Sunday morning, announcing a Lamont win would mean “a disaster for the Democratic Party.”

Roberts’s ABC colleague Jake Tapper labeled Lieberman’s challenge as a “a party purge of a moderate Democrat”; a cliché repeated constantly among the talking heads. Los Angeles Times columnist Jonathan Chait ridiculed grassroots Lamont activists by suggesting “their technique of victory-via-purge is on display in Connecticut.” Martin Peretz, editor in chief of The New Republic, who in a recent radio interview refused to say whether he actually wanted Democrats to gain control of Congress in November, denounced the “thought-enforcers of the left” supporting Lamont, whom Peretz mocked as “Karl Rove’s dream come true.”

Earlier in the campaign, Washington Post columnist David Broder dismissed Connecticut’s progressives as “elitist insurgents.” Over at the Rothenberg Political Report, Beltway mainstay Stuart Rothenberg was in a tizzy that Lamont’s win would “only embolden the crazies in the [Democratic] party,” the “bomb-throwers.” (Like Broder, Rothenberg opted for terror terminology to describe the democratic process unfolding in Connecticut.)

Eric Boehlert, The Nation, August 11, 2006

“And as I look at what happened yesterday, it strikes me that it’s a perhaps unfortunate and significant development from the standpoint of the Democratic Party, that what it says about the direction the party appears to be heading in when they, in effect, purge a man like Joe Lieberman, who was just six years ago their nominee for Vice President, is of concern, especially over the issue of Joe’s support with respect to national efforts in the global war on terror.”

Vice President Cheney, August 9, 2006