This sure ain’t a good week for Republican self-righteousness. Aside from the firestorm over Karl Rove’s possible involvement in outing a CIA agent, a federal crime against national security, it looks like the most visible and vociferous convert to Roverie, Zell Miller, may have gotten caught pocketing state funds when he left the governorship of Georgia back in 1999. The story, broken by an Atlanta television reporter named Dale Cardwell, is that Miller took home a $60,000 balance in the Governor’s Mansion account upon leaving office. Speaking through a flack, Miller admitted taking the money, and claims it was part of his compensation as Governor. But Cardwell quickly and definitively established otherwise, by contacting every other living former Governor, along with legal and budget officials from both political parties. Looks like Miller is totally busted, though it’s not yet clear he’ll be prosecuted so long as he coughs up the funds pronto.As regular readers know, I worked for Miller during his first term as Governor, back when he was a loud ‘n’ proud Democrat. And I personally never saw any signs that the man had a greedy or crooked streak, or was into conspicuous consumption of anything other than pride and bile. Still, it’s hard to understand how he’d think he could pocket Mansion funds. In most states, and certainly in Georgia, Governors’ Mansions are clearly public property, used frequently for public business; that’s why they are staffed by public employees and benefit from public funds. And the Governor lives there as a public employee as well. Converting “excess” Mansion funds to private use is about as clearly wrong as selling off the furniture.But whatever Miller thought he was doing, he sure as hell should have reconsidered it before setting himself up in recent years as a paragon of virtue and a scourge of alleged Democratic “indecency.” Instead, here he is, a favorite of a White House awash in mendacity and scandal allegations, and most recently, a big supporter of the scandal-ridden Ralph Reed–and now he’s got his own scandal to contend with.Whether or not Zell Miller has committed any crime or misdmeanor, he’s certainly living down to the reputation of his new political friends, just when they are almost daily getting caught in all sorts of unsavory gigs. If he manages to get out of his own mess, he should finally and definitively retire from the business of telling other people what to do.
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
The federal government is going to shut down this weekend, barring some miracle. And Democrats really need to make sure Americans know exactly who insisted on this avoidable crisis. It’s the House GOP, as I explained at New York.
If you are bewildered by the inability of Congress to head off a government shutdown beginning this weekend, don’t feel poorly informed: Some of the Capitol’s top wizards are throwing up their hands as well, as the Washington Post reports:
“’We are truly heading for the first-ever shutdown about nothing,’ said Michael Strain, director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning think tank. Strain has started referring to the current GOP House-led impasse as “the ‘Seinfeld’ shutdown,” a reference to the popular sitcom widely known as ‘a show about nothing.’ ‘The weirdest thing about it is that the Republicans don’t have any demands. What do they want? What is it that they’re going to shut the government down for? We simply don’t know.’”
That’s a bit of an exaggeration. Many House Republicans, led by a band of right-wing hard-liners, want to impose their fiscal and policy views on the nation despite the GOP’s narrow majority in the House. Their chief asset, beyond fanaticism, is that the federal government can’t remain open past the end of the fiscal year without the concurrence of the House, and they don’t really mind an extended government shutdown, if only to preen and posture. They are being encouraged in this wildly irresponsible position by their leader and likely 2024 presidential nominee Donald Trump.
But the hard-liners’ real motive, it seems, is to use the dysfunction they’ve caused in the House to get rid of Speaker Kevin McCarthy for being dysfunctional. The not-so-hidden plan hatched by Florida congressman Matt Gaetz is to thwart every effort by McCarthy to move forward with spending plans for the next fiscal year and then defenestrate him via a motion to vacate the chair, which just five Republicans can pass any time they wish (with the complicity of Democrats). Indeed, the Post reports the rebels are casting about for a replacement Speaker right now:
“A contingent of far-right House Republicans is plotting an attempt to remove Kevin McCarthy as House speaker as early as next week, a move that would throw the chamber into further disarray in the middle of a potential government shutdown, according to four people familiar with the effort who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private talks.”
McCarthy’s tormenters would like to have a successor lined up who will presumably be even less inclined to compromise with Democrats than the current Speaker. And that’s saying a lot, since McCarthy has already bowed to the Gaetz demand that House Republicans reject even the idea of a continuing resolution — the stopgap spending measures used to forestall or end government shutdowns in the past — and instead plod through individual appropriations bills loaded with provisions no Democrat would ever accept (e.g., deep domestic spending cuts, draconian border policies, anti-Ukraine measures, and abortion restrictions). It’s a recipe for a long shutdown, but it’s clear if McCarthy moves a muscle toward negotiating with Democrats (who have already passed a CR in the Senate), then kaboom! Here comes the motion to vacate.
Some observers think getting rid of McCarthy is an end in itself for the hard-liners — particularly Gaetz, who has a long-standing grudge against the Californian and opposed his original selection as Speaker to the bitter end — no matter what he does or doesn’t do. In theory, House Democrats could save McCarthy by lending a few “no” votes to him if the motion to vacate hits the floor, but they’ve made it clear the price for saving him would be high, including abandonment of the GOP’s Biden impeachment inquiry.
So strictly speaking, the impending shutdown isn’t “about nothing”; it’s about internal far-right factional politics that very few of the people about to be affected by the shutdown care about at all. Understandably, most Democrats from President Biden on down are focusing their efforts on making sure the public knows this isn’t about “big government” or “politicians” or “partisan polarization,” but about one party’s extremism and cannibalistic infighting. For now, there’s little anyone outside the GOP fever swamps can do about it other than watch the carnage.