Monthly Archives: June 2005

Would Tom Davis Prefer a Nazi Own the Nats?

The New York Times has picked up with story about Tom Davis’s bullying. And he’s backing down.

Some Republicans went so far as to suggest that Major League Baseball, which owns the team, could lose its antitrust exemption if it permits Mr. Soros, who would be a part-owner with a group of investors headed by a local entrepreneur, to buy it – a threat that drew immediate ridicule in the sports pages and outrage from Democrats.

By Wednesday, one Republican, Representative Tom Davis of Virginia, backed away from that suggestion, saying he never intended any threat. But Mr. Davis and other Republicans did not back down from their criticism of Mr. Soros, who, they took pains to note, has been convicted of insider trading in France – a ruling he is appealing – and has supported ballot initiatives to legalize medical marijuana.

Unfortunately, the Times story doesn’t add much to what Sally Jenkins wrote yesterday in The Post. But one of her more salient points was picked up by the Times reporter.

“Marge Schott owned a team,” said Senator Herb Kohl, the Wisconsin Democrat, recalling the former Cincinnati Reds owner, who collected Nazi memorabilia and was ultimately suspended from baseball for making racial slurs.

Is that the kind of owner Tom Davis wants?

Birth Tax

Nicolas Kristof has the right framing when he talks about the burgeoning debt we are accumulating during the Bush II regime. Perhaps it is language progressives should adopt.

President Bush has excoriated the “death tax,” as he calls the estate tax. But his profligacy will leave every American child facing a “birth tax” of about $150,000.

Tom “Joe McCarthy” Davis

Yesterday E.J. Dionne adopted the frank language that is usually reserved for the blogosphere, calling the regressive leadership on their modern day McCarthyism. I’m amused that Karl Rove’s saying that many citizens are un-American because they are liberals has been justified by the administration because after all, he wasn’t accusing Democrats of being un-American , just liberals. For years, calling someone a liberal was a sure way to win elections, but this new step is accusing them of sedition is outrageous.

But you expect that from a Karl Rove. Unfortunately, Republicans who have had moderate reputations are jumping on the bandwagon. And they’re ready to blatantly threaten industries that dare to consider Democrats as owners. Sally Jenkins has a good column this morning on Congressman Tom Davis’ attempt to blackball George Soros, the billionaire supporter of liberal causes.

I must have been napping, and that’s why I missed the part where we became a country in which Democrats are no longer allowed to buy things.

If lawmakers start banning people from owning ballclubs just because of their politics or because they have a few woo-woo ideas, there are going to be a lot of shuttered ballparks. Anybody who tries to say that MLB owners should meet a certain standard of political correctness will get knocked back on their butts every time by two simple words: Marge Schott.

It was all right for Schott, the racist collector of Nazi memorabilia, to own a baseball team for years, but it’s not for Soros, the billion-dollar philanthropist and Nobel Prize nominee?

That’s exactly what some Republicans on Capitol Hill are suggesting, led by Tom Davis, the Republican from Virginia who is trying to steer the sale of the Nationals and who says Soros is just not the kind of person “we need or want in the nation’s capital.”

I don’t much care about George Soros, and I don’t care at all which rich guy gets the privilege of spending $400 million in heavy sugar on the Nats. But I do care when members of a ruling party start pushing people around, because next, it could be me. This is supposed to be the party that doesn’t believe in government telling business or private citizens what to do.

Davis defends himself by saying his is “just one fan’s opinion.” That’s the same tact he took in opposing a proposed home and office development he didn’t like near his neighborhood. He said he was just attending a community hearing as “a homeowner.” But then he threatened to pull federal funding for the project.

… the crowd of about 500 broke into applause when Davis announced that he would amend a Metro funding bill to block the sale or lease of land the agency owns next to the Orange Line station in Fairfax County.

In this case, he seemed more interested in keeping Democrats out of his district than he was about the impact on the neighborhood.

With the Nats sale, he seems again intent on keeping out Democrats and proving himself a hypocrite.

You can’t help wondering what’s behind the outrageous attack on Soros, who isn’t even a major partner in the bid for the Nats. (Local entrepreneur Jon Ledecky is the real bidder.) Isn’t it strange that rival bidder Fred Malek, the head of the Washington Baseball club, just happens to be a very big GOP fundraiser? And isn’t it strange that, in a telephone interview, Davis went out of his way to praise Malek’s bid? And isn’t it strange that these attacks on Soros from Republicans came on the very day that Ledecky and his partners were being interviewed by MLB?

Davis doesn’t bother to hide his agenda. He says straight out that baseball needs to cultivate some good will on Capitol Hill at the moment, given the steroid investigations, and that selling the team to billionaire Soros, a critic of President Bush and a massive financial supporter of liberal causes, would anger him.

Yet, Fred Malek is praised.

Malek is a former Richard Nixon aide. When he was White House personnel chief, he was summoned by Nixon to discuss a “Jewish cabal” in the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nixon believed Jews in the bureau were tilting stats to make his policies look bad. He wanted to know how many Jews there were in the bureau, and he wanted Malek to count them. Malek eventually complied and produced a list.

Where’s the ADL on this?

Improving Schools

Most people will tell you that the most important ingredient in a school is the faculty. You want good schools? Hire good teachers. But of course, finding good teachers is tough because the job usually doesn’t pay all that well. Then add the requirements of No Child Left Behind and you can imagine how much harder it will be to find good teachers. Here’s an analogy.

A chief executive decides he wants better performance from his company. He issues a mandate that all employees be highly qualified. Then he proposes, as No Child Left Behind does, that the staff members be more tightly controlled, that they conform closely to his top-down directives and that they be tested yearly to keep their jobs. And he wants all of this without raising salaries a penny. Who would want to work for such an outfit?

Good point. Where do we get the money, though, for good teachers if people complain about taxes, especially property taxes, whence come teacher salaries?

One idea: every day, bonds are approved to build stadiums, even schools. The presumption is that the new buildings will increase the profile of a given city, thus attracting more visitors, more businesses, more families and more tax revenue, all of which will pay down the bond. By the same token, then, wouldn’t it make sense to create a bond to pay for better educators?

The district would get the best teachers, families would get better schools, businesses would settle in the city with the great public schools, property values would go up [Editors Note: Maybe not such a good reason to hire better teachers], and everyone would be happy. Especially the students, who would get the best educators, gain respect for the profession and might even consider becoming teachers themselves. The talent pool would then grow ever stronger, and in 20 years we could have created the best corps of teachers the country has ever known.

I admit that borrowing has its drawbacks. But what better investment can a community make than in its schools?

Buy, Burn, Ban or Ignore?

Some say The Truth About Hillary should be burned.

Prurient in its focus, shameless in its methodology and vile in execution, this volume is a near-perfect example of what has come to be called “bio-porn,” a particularly noxious subgenre of the polemic literature that nowadays infests our bestseller lists.

Others say it unwittingly helped the former first lady.

In terms of political impact it is not a takedown but a buildup. Dick Morris says its sensational charges will only “embolden” her. They will certainly tend to inoculate her against future and legitimate criticism and revelations. The book is poorly written, poorly thought, poorly sourced and full of the kind of loaded language that is appropriate to a polemic but not an investigative work.

Says the LA Times Tim Rutten,

The way to handle “The Truth About Hillary” responsibly is to give it no further notice, no wider discussion.


If the serious media can’t draw the line on this one, then there no longer are any lines to draw.

Funny, I’ve made that suggestion before. When the media covers lies it just gives the lie credibility.

I guess one could argue that a best selling book can’t be ignored. But we really don’t know if it’s best selling. Let’s wait until the returns come in. The book business is one where retailers can buy books on a bet that they’ll be successful but then return them to the publisher if they tank. Judging from the reviews this one is getting, it will soon be on the bargain tables. Where I hope it is also ignored.

Don’t Let the Door Hit You On Your Way Out

Stephen D. Haner, a newspaperman-turned-political operative-turned-lobbyist, is leaving the Virginia Chamber of Commerce to open his own public-affairs shop.
Haner, 50, steps down July 31 as the organization’s vice president for public policy to “establish a consulting firm to represent clients on state government affairs and public-relations projects,” the chamber said in a written statement yesterday.
“It goes without saying he will be missed,” Hugh D. Keogh, the chamber of commerce’s president and chief executive officer.

Don’t bet on it. There are plenty of moderate Republican businessmen who think Haner’s stewardship was a disaster for the Chamber, which is why other ad hoc groups have been forming to push for a more responsible approach to state spending.

How Long Must We Wait?

The Washington Times has decreed that the budget surplus will be the hot topic on the gubernatorial campaign trail. Well, yeah, they’d like that, and along with The Washington Post, I’m sure they’ll make taxes the overriding issue in the campaign. Which is bassackwards. You figure out what you want and how much it will cost frist; only then can you determine if you’re willing to pay for it.

But let’s put to rest the silly argument that Kilgore repeatedly makes.

“The fact that the state’s revenues continue to climb with each passing day underscores what Jerry Kilgore was saying last year, which was that the economy was improving, and we should wait to see the numbers before raising taxes unnecessarily,” [spokesman] Mr. Murtaugh said.

If you recall, Virginia was drowning in a sea of red ink when Warner took office, thanks mostly to Jim Gilmore’s ill-advised car tax scam and his reckless spending. If Gilmore was to have followed Kilgore’s plan of action, he would have waited before spending all that money until he knew whether the late 90s windfall was sustainable. But he didn’t. He spent recklessly and cut taxes instead of seeing whether those revenues were to continue.

So even if a governor is expected have a crystal ball, why is it that Kilgore wants to look at only a year’s horizon before making fiscal policy? If you add up skyrocketing Medicaid costs and simply transportation maintenance needs, you can see that the current surplus isn’t, as Russ Potts says, not really a surplus at all.

In fact, Mr. Potts — a Republican state senator from Winchester who is running as an independent — has said that a shortfall in the state pension fund and a lack of funding for health care and education should dispel talk about a surplus.

“There is no surplus. Nothing could be further than the truth,” said Mr. Potts, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which pushed for the tax increase in May last year. “Not only do we have bills in the drawer, we have massive bills in the drawer.”

Potts, of course, has gone in the other direction, seeming to demand a tax hike for transportation without any idea of how he’d spend it. If he thinks a blue ribbon committee is the way to go, he’ll have plenty of push-back from the many people who voted against the transportation referenda a few years ago precisely because they didn’t like the idea of an non-elected commission deciding the future of the Commonwealth’s transportation system.

Kilgore, Potts and Kaine should be called on to outline what those bills in the drawer may look like and how they plan to pay them.

Don’t hold your breath.

My Hero

Well, Mark Warner has officially gone from being a scared of his own shadow to being my hero. Not that they are two ends of a continuum, I realize. Sure, his leadership on the budget issue went a long way toward changing my opinion of him, but a fall over the handlebars sealed the deal.

Having suffered three broken collar bones, a cracked scapula, numerous broken ribs and a concussion that striped me of hours of my recollected life — all thanks to my suicidal (says my wife) bike riding — I can say, Governor, I feel your pain. And your embarrassment. I cracked several ribs years ago when I stood and looked back over my shoulder to make sure my kids were still behind me while simultaneously braking with my left hand, the one that controls the front brake. As Warner learned yesterday, that means over the handlebars we go.

So Governor, join the ranks of the slightly suicidal and occasionally stupid cyclists. We probably deserve each other.


Michael Getler of The Washington Post has been pretty good about responding to FAIR’s complaints in the past few weeks, the latest being the Downing Street Memo-gate. Dana Milbank, whose work I think is top notch, seems a bit defensive in his reply to Getler’s saying the memo may have deserved wider coverage.

“While you have been within your rights as ombudsman over the past five years to attempt to excise any trace of colorful or provocative writing from the Post [Milbank wrote], you are out of bounds in asserting that a columnist cannot identify as ‘wingnuts’ a group whose followers have long been harassing this and other reporters and their families with hateful, obscene and sometimes anti-Semitic speech.”


Apparently, Milbank thought all who believe the memo was indeed news, should be lumped in with Democrats who held a press conference about it. Milbank, in his column, which should have more leeway for opinion than a news piece, showed his disdain for the group.

A search of the congressional record yesterday found that of the 535 members of Congress, only one — Conyers — had mentioned the memo on the floor of either chamber. House Democratic leaders did not join in Conyers’s session, and Senate Democrats, who have the power to hold such events in real committee rooms, have not troubled themselves.

OK. So the memo is not news to Milbank, but what also struck me was the anti-Semitism charge. Here’s what Milbank had written.

The session took an awkward turn when witness Ray McGovern, a former intelligence analyst, declared that the United States went to war in Iraq for oil, Israel and military bases craved by administration “neocons” so “the United States and Israel could dominate that part of the world.” He said that Israel should not be considered an ally and that Bush was doing the bidding of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

“Israel is not allowed to be brought up in polite conversation,” McGovern said. “The last time I did this, the previous director of Central Intelligence called me anti-Semitic.”

Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), who prompted the question by wondering whether the true war motive was Iraq’s threat to Israel, thanked McGovern for his “candid answer.”

OK. Jim Moran is involved, so it must be anti-Semitism.

Howard Dean was quick to disavow the group.

There are plenty in the blogosphere who agree with Dean: The group must be anti-Semitic.

Now you can argue that Ray McGovern doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And you can surely argue that those who think Israel was behind the 9/11 attacks are loony.

But why is it that if one ever charges that the government of Israel — not the citizens and certainly not all Jews — might be conspiring with the U.S. to transform the region in their image and to their liking you must, ipso facto, be anti-Semitic. As one commentator on Daily Kos put it, “Israel has successfully wrapped themselves in the protection of persecution, meaning, criticize us, you are anti-semetic (sic). It is the SAME way here, when if you criticize Bush, you hate America.”