Monday, January 09, 2006

Mark Schmitt Gets It Right

Mark Schmitt is one of the first political bloggers I started reading a couple of years ago and I'm sorry to say that I don't read him nearly enough. That's nothing to do with him and everything to do with me and my short attention span. Mark does an excellent job of being thorough and to my chagrin, I'm way too often reduced to reading blogs of the "Heh, indeedy" variety just because I don't have the time. But Mark, as usual, says something that is really important that I'll repeat here because we all need to keep repeating it. In his entry titled Please, Don't Say "Lobbying Reform", he writes:

Please don’t reinforce the frame that this is a "lobbying scandal" and the villain a "lobbyist" named Jack Abramoff. That’s the other side’s frame. This is not a lobbying scandal. It’s a betrayal-of-public-trust scandal. Lobbyists have no power, no influence, until a public servant gives them power. That’s what DeLay and the K Street Project was all about. What they did was to set up a system by which lobbyists who proved their loyalty in various ways, such as taking DeLay and Ney on golf trips to Scotland, could be transformed from supplicants to full partners in government.

Abramoff did lots of terrible things and should go to jail, but never forget that every single criminal and unethical act of his was made possible by a public official. On his own, Abramoff had no power. At another time -- say, 1993 -- he would have been a joke.

But every time we say "lobbying reform," we reinforce the idea that it is the lobbyist who is the wrongdoer. Sure, many lobbyists are slimy and aggressive. (Others, in my experience, can be helpful and informative, as long as you understand that they represent only one side of an argument.) But no one forces any legislator or staffer to accept lunches, trips, or favors from a lobbyist. And the reason not to do that is that the legislator risks surrendering some of her power, which is a public trust, to these private interests.

[Emphasis is Mark's] Sorry to quote so much, but I do think that this is important and we need to help make sure that the attention doesn't focus solely on Abramoff and his cronies. Reform is all well and good, but how are more laws or regulations going to help? There are laws on the books today that these people broke repeatedly and brazenly - how are more laws going to fix anything? We need to identify and prosecute those in office (either elected or appointed) that were part of the illegal activity and do it openly and quickly. If Democrats turn out to have been involved, then they have to go down, but so far again there is no evidence of that - hell, if nothing else we haven't had any influence to sell.

Molding (or Boring) Young Minds

I got an invitation through my membership in the UNC GAA to attend a student/alumni "networking" reception in a couple of weeks, the purpose being to provide an "opportunity for current Carolina students to meet with and learn from Carolina alumni who are already in the 'real world'". I said sure cause I thought it might be a hoot but... yikes! Now that I think about it, what the hell do I say to anyone looking for a career in the wonderful world of IT? Don't do it? Do it but make sure you stay in roles that can't be easily offshored (like hardware support)? More generally, do any of you guys have any experience you can share on doing these types of events? Sounds like it'll be pretty informal. Any feedback would be appreciated!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Howard Dean Rips Wolf Blitzer a New One

From the CNN transcript, via Atrios:

BLITZER: Should Democrats who took money from Jack Abramoff, who has now pleaded guilty to bribery charges, among other charges, a Republican lobbyist in Washington, should the Democrat who took money from him give that money to charity or give it back?

DEAN: There are no Democrats who took money from Jack Abramoff, not one, not one single Democrat. Every person named in this scandal is a Republican. Every person under investigation is a Republican. Every person indicted is a Republican. This is a Republican finance scandal. There is no evidence that Jack Abramoff ever gave any Democrat any money. And we've looked through all of those FEC reports to make sure that's true.

BLITZER: But through various Abramoff-related organizations and outfits, a bunch of Democrats did take money that presumably originated with Jack Abramoff.

DEAN: That's not true either. There's no evidence for that either. There is no evidence...

BLITZER: What about Senator Byron Dorgan?

DEAN: Senator Byron Dorgan and some others took money from Indian tribes. They're not agents of Jack Abramoff. There's no evidence that I've seen that Jack Abramoff directed any contributions to Democrats. I know the Republican National Committee would like to get the Democrats involved in this. They're scared. They should be scared. They haven't told the truth. They have misled the American people. And now it appears they're stealing from Indian tribes. The Democrats are not involved in this.

BLITZER: Unfortunately Mr. Chairman, we got to leave it right there.

Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic Party, always speaking out bluntly, candidly.

As Atrios pointed out, the transcriptionist left out the big fish-out-of-water sigh that Wolfie let out before he ended. There's also a link to the video - well worth it!

Go read the whole thing, where he also takes Lieberman to task for being a Democrat-in-name-only. (Who thinks JoeMentum might the the token Dem on the podium of the RNC in 2008?)