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February 5, 2010

WH ON THE SHELBY SHAKEDOWN.... Or maybe "Crimson Bribe"?

Anyway, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs already criticized Sen. Richard Shelby's (R-Ala.) decision to hold the Senate's confirmation process hostage until he gets the earmarks he wants, but White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer followed up with a blog post on the subject.

[Shelby's] holding up 70 nominees, among them top intelligence officials at the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security. According to the National Journal, he's holding them up until two defense contracts that would benefit interests in his state can be fast-tracked.

Let's be clear: Sen. Shelby is preventing qualified nominees who will help protect the American people from being confirmed.

It's an important point that Dems have been reluctant to emphasize -- there are many key government posts, filled with officials who work on keeping Americans safe. Right now, qualified nominees can't fill those posts, because clowns like Shelby have a list of priorities, and earmarks are on top.

If the situations were reversed, and a Senate Democrat were holding up Bush/Cheney nominees to national security posts over earmarks, how intense would the blowback be? How quick would Republicans be to compare that Democrat to Osama bin Laden, the way Rove & Co. smeared Max Cleland?

In the meantime, the story keeps getting even more offensive (via Plum Line).

The unusual "blanket hold" placed on Obama administration nominees by Senator Richard Shelby represents an effort to support a firm that has contributed more than $100,000 to the Alabama Republican over the course of his long political career, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis.

Shelby reportedly initiated the blanket hold in an attempt to back a $35 billion tanker contract for Northrop Grumman and EADS; the plane would be built in his state.... The fourth-term Senator has received at least $108,233 in PAC contributions to his political campaigns and leadership PAC from Northrop Grumman's corporate PACs. This includes contributions, dating back to his first Senate election in 1986, from the company's political action committee and from the PACs of companies that are now part of Northrop Grumman.


Steve Benen 4:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (29)

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Comments

One would like to think that there would be a law under which Shelby could be indicted for public corruption

Posted by: Terry on February 5, 2010 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

I am so over my parties inability to govern. Calling out the opposing party and getting that message out is a part of governing and we are failing miserably. Blaming R's when they are in control is standard operating procedure, blaming them when we had a super majority is pathetic at best.

The 'megaphone gap' is our own damn fault.

Posted by: ScottW on February 5, 2010 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Unless this kinda thing gets fixed we can expect to see more and more of this as the corporations buy their candidates. Once they are entrenched, corporations can hold the whole country hostage until their bottom line looks good.

Posted by: kanopsis on February 5, 2010 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

This Dick is an enemy combatant and is subject to summary arrest and incarceration without bail or access to legal counsel. If this is legal, then we may as well turn this country over to the terrorist within. As far as I can see, the terrorist have won and it is on the backs of the Republicans and their surrogates, the media.

Posted by: st john on February 5, 2010 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

It's gotta be...Roll Bribe, Roll!

Posted by: ZB McFate on February 5, 2010 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

Over his career, he's received $24,000,000+ in campaign contributions, $9,000,000 from PACs. $100,000 is next to nothing really.

Posted by: dk on February 5, 2010 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, he's awful. But the Democrats are wimps. Why isn't the entire Democratic side taking to the floor of the senate to decry this abuse? He should be shamed by them and the fact that they aren't doing it just shows some of them wish they thought of it first...
I'm thoroughly disgusted that their own reelection means more to every single one of them than actually getting anything done.

Posted by: elisabeth on February 5, 2010 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not a Deadhead, but how about "Alabama Porkaway"?

Posted by: Steve M. on February 5, 2010 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Courtesy of The Grateful Dead

32 teeth in a jawbone, Alabama trying for none,
Before I have to hit him, I hope he's got the sense to run.
Reason the poor girls love him, promise them everything,
Why they all believe him? He wears a big diamond ring.

Alabama getaway, getaway. Alabama getaway, getaway,
Only way to please me, ya just gotta leave and walk away.

Major Domo Billy Bojangles, sat down and had a drink with me,
Said "What about Alabama? It keeps a coming back to me.
Heard your plea in the courthouse, Witness box began to rock and rise,
49 sister states had Alabama in their eyes.

Alabama getaway, getaway. Alabama getaway, getaway,
Only way to please me, ya just gotta leave and walk away.

Major said why don't we give him rope enough to hang himself?
No need to worry the jury, they'll probably take care of themselves.
23rd psalm Major Domo, reserve me a table for three,
Down in the valley of the shadow, just you, Alabama, and me.

Alabama getaway, getaway. Alabama getaway, getaway,
Only way to please me, ya just gotta leave and walk away.

Posted by: troglodyte on February 5, 2010 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

I am so over my parties inability to govern...
The 'megaphone gap' is our own damn fault.

Yes, and you're saying this on a post on an influential blog which attacked Shelby for his move, after already attacking him earlier today. And this post cited two important Whitehouse officials publicly attacking Shelby, and links to a NY Times blog on the subject as well as two other influential blogs. And the NY Times link reported that Harry Reid's office is calling attention to this too.

In other words: Dems are calling out Shelby for this and news orgs are reporting it. We're even crafting a clever name for it, so it sticks in people's minds; which we'll use to reinforce the message that Republicans are corrupt bastards who are obstructing the government from functioning.

Do you people even bother reading Benen's stuff any more, or are you just on auto-pilot? Criticize Dems all you want, but try to refrain from doing so on posts which refute your point.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on February 5, 2010 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

Can you say "influence peddling", boys and girls?

Good---I knew you could. Now will someone please sic Justice on this guy? Maybe have Treasury investigate him?

PLE-EEEEEEEEEEEEASE?

Posted by: S. Waybright on February 5, 2010 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

There is a curt English term that sums up Mr. Shelby's perspective and action at this moment in our national history, and that term is -FUCKED UP! Yes, Mr. Shelby is FUCKED up! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on February 5, 2010 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a constituent, so I called His Whoreship's local office to register my complaint. But no one answered and the voice-mailbox was full. Glad to know my representatives care. I'd say that Dems should use this to paint Repubs as soft on security, except nobody in Alabama gives a fuck as long as he has the R after his name and brings home the pork.

Posted by: Equal Opportunity Cynic on February 5, 2010 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Do you people even bother reading Benen's stuff any more, or are you just on auto-pilot? Criticize Dems all you want, but try to refrain from doing so on posts which refute your point.
Posted by: Doctor Biobrain

I hardly call 2 Whitehouse officials and Harry Reid's office mentioning it a 'call-out'. It's pathetic, if this were the dems, this story would be front page, yesterday. So please refrain from telling me what I have and haven't read. And before you claim this story refutes some point, read again, this proves the point. Dems are absolutely pathetic when it comes to message and media control. I hate the media game as much as anyone, but national politicians know the game, and it would be nice if dems played it from time to time, especially when some jackass extorts a branch of government.

And as far as Gibbs is concerned, I doubt half of the country even knows his name. That being said, I bet no more then 5% of voting Americans ever hears/reads of this non-sense, but one can hope.

Posted by: ScottW on February 5, 2010 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Dear Dr. BB,
I hear you and concur, to a degree. What I think is going on here with many posters is a sense of frustration with the slowness of the response and the absence of any substantive consequences, i.e., removal from committees, legal action for corruption, etc. If Mr. Shelby were the first of his kind, I could see the call for patience; he is not and thus the reactive response in spite of evidence that there may be some push-back on this guy.

As far as this being an "influential blog," I'm not so sure. What, in fact, have been the results of criticizing the MSM for their complicity in misreporting or failing to report the atrocities of the right? We hear about Maddow, Oblbermann, Stewart and Colbert and their skewering of the right, but have we had the NYT, Washington Post, etc. change their reporting? Any response from the Network and Cable channels to the exposition of their lies and failure to follow-up on same?

I think we have some grounds upon which to express our rage and frustration. When I see a headline that someone actually paid a price, a significant price, for their lies and deceipt, the I will sing their praises. Until then, I await the shift to a new perspective on the effectiveness of this and other "liberal" blogs.

I am committed to Oneness through Justice and Transformation
peace,
st john

Posted by: st john on February 5, 2010 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

"If the situations were reversed, and a Senate Democrat were holding up Bush/Cheney nominees to national security posts over earmarks, who intense would the blowback be? How quick would Republicans be to compare that Democrat to Osama bin Laden, the way Rove & Co. smeared Max Cleland?"

Hey Steve,

Why don't you ask the current Majority Leader, Senator Harry Reid what happened when he placed a hold on all Bush appointments in 2004. From the Las Vegas Review-Journal story dated June 15, 2004:

"Reid confirmed Monday that he will put a blanket hold on all of President Bush's nominees for executive branch positions except for judges and defense appointees.

He said he will hold up nominees and selected bills until his nuclear waste adviser, Gregory Jaczko, can be confirmed to join the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
. . .
Reid employed the same strategy last year, blocking Bush nominees for more than a month last fall until the White House agreed to put forward Jaczko, a physicist, to become one of five NRC commissioners."

I look forward to seeing your posts from that period decrying Senator Reid's abuse of Senate procedural rules to take "obstructionism to levels unseen in American history." LOL

Posted by: Chicounsel on February 5, 2010 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

The president has the bully pulpit. He can use it or he can let the Repubs beat him up. Having his press secretary make a comment is not the same thing.

People respect a forceful president who protects their interests. They don't respect pussyfooted weak willed politicians.

Posted by: Objective dem on February 5, 2010 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

"Reid employed the same strategy last year, blocking Bush nominees for more than a month last fall until the White House agreed to put forward Jaczko, a physicist, to become one of five NRC commissioners."

Thanks Chicounsel for the history lesson, though I don't see exactly how the Reid situation was similar to Shelby's earmark-bribe situation.

But the point does help refute a lot of the folks who don't think Dems do enough. We DID filibuster Bush judges. We DID put holds on Bush appointments. We DID obstruct their agenda. And we won. And while we didn't always win, we did similar things and succeeded; while the Republican noise machine failed at stopping us.

Are Republicans louder about this? Sure. But they've got the most popular news network pimping their stories, as well as a stranglehold on talk radio and other news outlets. And all the same, we stuffed their agenda into their faces when they were in the majority and make minor gains once we took over. Do we always win? Of course not. Could we improve? Of course. Would it help if Congressional Dems grew a pair? Hell yeah. But to pretend as if Dems are just rolling over and aren't pushing this stuff is absolutely absurd.

Somehow, having multiple Whitehouse attacks as well as attacks from Reid's office aren't enough anymore. Nor is a story in the NY Times. I have no doubts that Shelby's already feeling heat about this and will be forced to backdown before long. And all this will die down and we'll again be beseiged by folks who insist that Dems don't do enough to stop Republicans.

Republicans might be louder than us, but for all their efforts, they have far fewer victories to claim for it. That should never be forgotten.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on February 5, 2010 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

Dick Holder.

Posted by: Bhaal on February 5, 2010 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

The president has the bully pulpit. He can use it or he can let the Repubs beat him up.

I definitely don't agree with that. To have Obama get into every little squabble lowers his stature and waters down his message. Obama has always made a point of picking his battles and while he has been making polite jabs at Republicans more recently, I think it would be a mistake for him to already come out with something on this particular issue. I mean, what, should he have called a press conference about this?

It needs to be remembered that Bush didn't act overly aggressive either. Both while campaigning and as president, he generally took the high road while leaving the dirtywork to his operatives. The man was a child-like d-bag, but all the same, even he knew better than to get in mudfights with his opponents.

It should also be remembered that, for as much as Repubs like to smear Obama, even they couldn't do it to his face. The presidency is a powerful position, but it would lose power if the president starts sounding too much like a political operative. Having his Press Secretary and Communication Director attacking this is about right. It's Congressional Dems who need to do more to make noise about this.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on February 5, 2010 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

Legalized bribery and corruption is public information and still nothing is to be done about this obvious blackmail. No integrity at all. Normally a move like Shelby's should get him thrown out of the senate but not with the current republican crowd who are owned by their corporate paymasters.

Welcome to the corporatocracy. The public is being left no alternatives to combat this corporate take over.

Posted by: bjobotts on February 5, 2010 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

To those who say that an issue is being made of this.... no.

So far this is a "Villager" issue and only a Village issue.

No one cares about a White House reporter session and no one reads this blog. By "no one" I mean regular folks not obsessed with politics. You know, the "electorate".

Repeat: until you see a "senior" ELECTED democrat stand up on this issue and get mad on TV about this, the White House and Harry Reid are playing you guys. They get to seem like they're standing up when they're not.

Posted by: Observer on February 5, 2010 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

Well said, Observer. Until someone pays a real price for obstruction and malfeasance in office; until the banksters are brought into the docks of justice for literally robbing the treasury of the United States of America and her citizens; until the "electorate" are/is informed of the corruption that is forcing them into 3rd world status, there will be no reform or change. While a radical statement, Haiti is not that far from us. Just as Katrina exposed the corruption and lack of infrastructural integrity in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, so the earthquake in Haiti revealed the depth of fragility of their policital, social and physical infrastructure.

This is way more than a political problem; it is a problem of consciousness and transparency of our whole system. When a society loses its sense of community and compassion for its fellows, not just human, but the whole biosphere, we are doomed to follow the path of former cultures that lost their way.

I am committed to Oneness through Justice and Transformation
peace,
st john

Posted by: st john on February 5, 2010 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

Still don't see anything about Shelby in the Dothan Eagle. Too busy reporting on innocent people suffering because the local gov shut down a gambling establishment.

But they did get the headline that President Obama admits health care may die on hill...

Posted by: Not America Anymore on February 5, 2010 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

Shelby is trying to extort the Defense Dept to corrupt a pending contract bid -- he's a corrupt criminal.

Posted by: SquareState on February 5, 2010 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

This is much more than just an earmark holdup. Shelby is apparently trying to get the Air Force to make a contract award outside of legal procedures. At least two people have already been convicted of crime in the previous award. The DOJ should be investigating Shelby for trying to subvert procurement law.

Posted by: wordtypist on February 5, 2010 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

"I look forward to seeing your posts from that period decrying... 'obstructionism to levels unseen in American history.' LOL"
Chicounsel on February 5, 2010 at 4:59 PM

I'm sorry, but is this careless transcription, your being so obtuse as to miss the obvious point, or incredibly weak straw-manning?
The use of quote marks on "obstructionism to levels unseen in American history" indicates that you're directly quoting something Steve B has said -- and specifically about this Pubbie Pinhead from the "deep" (well at least they have a sense of humor) South.
But of course there is no such quote in the post here, so if it is a verbatim quote, it's from another post entirely -- which would be entirely appropriate, since it is well known by everyone (the Publicans lie about it, but that doesn't mean they don't know it) that the current obstructionism is, clearly, unequivocally, undeniably, irrefutably, and by a huge margin, at "levels unseen in American history" -- on the part of the Publican party in its entirety, not just by one inconsequential traitor from a banana-republic state that would long since have gone completely broke if not for the life support that we in the productive states provide* for it.

Viz: The blatant abuse of the filibuster by the Publicans (the ones who flipped out when the Dem's used it to obstruct some of the GWBush Supreme Court appointees) to delay/derail bills that have clear majority support. "Abuse" because a procedural tool specifically designed for, and historically applied in, rare use, in extreme situations, is now considered the norm. The constant droning reference to some "need to get to 60 votes" that we hear w/r/t every single issue the Senate takes up was, of course, nowhere to be heard when the Bushies and the Senate Publicans passed major bills with 50-plus-1 votes. The number of filibuster threats in the Senate has roughly doubled since the Dem's retook the Senate in '04. But the number is up by more than an order of magnitude since 1970. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filibuster ; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cloture_Voting,_U.S._Senate,_1947_to_2008.jpg)
Viz: Repeated Publican rejection of policies that they themselves had previously, and in many cases very recently, supported, as soon as they're adopted by Dem's, such as the individual mandate to purchase health insurance; the cap/trade system for reducing carbon emissions; etc
Viz: the huge and unprecedented numbers of "holds" on Administrative posts, such as Sen DeMint's on Erroll Southers for TSA head; Sen Cornyn's hold on Harold Koh for State Dept counsel; Sen Bond's hold on Martha Johnson as GSA head; Sen Enzi's hold on Patricia Smith for Labor Dept counsel; etcetc ad nauseam...
And, of course, the Puglicans themselves are either too arrogant, too stupid, or both, to be able to keep this obvious truth to themselves. Sen DeMint ("Obama's Waterloo") and world-famous-addict-and-sex-tourist Rush Limbaugh ("I want him to fail") have pithily repeated what Bill Kristol first openly admitted the last time health-care-reform was on the table, 17 years ago -- and I'll let Bill speak for himself here (he's so eloquent!):
passing health-care reform would revive the reputation of the Democratic Party “as the generous protector of middle-class interests,” while striking a “punishing blow against Republican claims to defend the middle class by restraining government.”
Since, by the open admission of one of the more important architects of current Publican positions on, well, everything, the Publican party is clearly not serious in its "claims to defend the middle class," nor does it even wish to be a "protector of middle class interests" (how could it, when those interests are directly opposed to those of the corporate masters of the Publicans?), the only thing they've got is obstruction -- obstruction of everything; and, ultimately, simply for the sake of obstruction; and very clearly at "levels unseen in American history."


*Alabama was, as of 2004 (last data set I could find), #6 on the list of states w/the highest ratio of federal expenditures in the state to federal taxes collected from the state. Fuckin' leeches. Welfare bums. Moochers. Useless parasites. As Alan Greenspan once so eloquently put it, we really ought to let them "perish as they should" for their indolence. Good thing for them we in the productive blue states don't act like that, hm? (Though when it comes to Alabama, we sure do think it.)

Posted by: smartalek on February 5, 2010 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

Gotta problem with this coming from the White House PR guy:
"Let's be clear: Sen. Shelby is preventing qualified nominees who will help protect the American people from being confirmed."
The problem: He is not being clear. Clear would be:
"Let's be clear. Sen. Shelby is hijacking the federal government. He is holding 70 hostages in ransom for two pork-laden earmarks."
Until the Dems step up their messaging, they will always seem weak and lost.

Posted by: RZ on February 6, 2010 at 5:38 AM | PERMALINK

Have we forgotten Freedom Fries?

Forget Osama bin Laden, the man who Bush in mid-2002 famously proclaimed "I am not concerned" about, every Republican in America (and all too many Dems) understood who the real enemy to this country was, the people who simply refused to stand with America in the Coalition of the Billing, er Willing, the perfidious inhabitants of what was derisively called 'Old Europe' the center of which was by the Reichnuts thought inhabited by "Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys". In 2002-2003 the U.S. Senate essentially decided that eating a French Fry made you objectively pro-terrorist, instead the Senate Dining Room served only Freedom Fries.

Now while this truly pathetic exhibition of xenophobic pettiness was or should have been a national embarrassment, it is not like Shelby was a profile in courage here, he was happy enough to see French bashing.

Flash forward to 2010. Is there really some reason why Democrats should scruple to point out to Shelby's supporters that he is holding the executive branch hostage so that he can direct a $40 billion defense contract to FRANCE. The news articles are being very delicate here, you hear references to "EADS" and "Europe" but about zero calling out "France" and "Airbus".

Now Airbus partner Northrup-Grumman is California based and so you would expect a California Senator to be pulling for the EADS/Northrup deal, but imagine an alternative history where Senator Boxer was placing holds on all of Pres. McCain's nominees in an effort to send this same contract to Airbus. Ya think Fox News would be holding back?

I am not actually advocating French bashing here, just pointing out the Republicans would have framed this as a sellout of America in a heartbeat, Boxer would have needed armed guards and the issue would have been ground central in the elections, you wouldn't have been able to turn around without hearing that San Francisco liberals are renowned for eating Brie! and sipping wines with names like Chardonnay! Glenn Beck would be sobbing his eyes out asking 'What is wrong with Velveeta and Sam Adams beer for Christ's sake?'

But can we expect a single headline entitled "Senator Shelby: Objectively Pro-Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey!" (one of the shabbier terms directed at the French back in the day)? Nope. Because it would meet the Senates traditional standards of comity and civility. You know like the ones used to call triple amputee war hero Max Cleland "objectively pro-terrorist" because he resisted union busting at DHS.

I don't know that Democrats should as a practice stoop to the typical tactics of the Republican Party, but when pushing back on such an odious prick as Shelby I don't think we should cry if an errant punch 'happens' to hit him about six inches below the belt. Why not point out that it is not just pork, but a juicy French jambon we are talking here.

Posted by: Bruce Webb on February 6, 2010 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK
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