Capitol Hillbillies

GOP Senator says Bush’s war is failing

Sen. Richard Lugar, a senior Republican and a reliable vote for President Bush on the war, said that Bush’s Iraq strategy was not working and that the U.S. should downsize the military’s role.

The unusually blunt assessment Monday deals a political blow to Bush, who has relied heavily on GOP support to stave off anti-war legislation.

It also comes as a surprise. Most Republicans have said they were willing to wait until September to see if Bush’s recently ordered troop buildup in Iraq was working.

“In my judgment, the costs and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved,” Lugar, R-Ind., said in a Senate floor speech. “Persisting indefinitely with the surge strategy will delay policy adjustments that have a better chance of protecting our vital interests over the long term.”

An incredible double standard

“Do as I say, not as I do” appears to be the credo of some good-government groups, whose reluctance to reveal their contributors could help scuttle congressional ethics reforms.

Watchdog groups Public Citizen, Common Cause and Democracy 21 — which have been some of the most energetic forces for “open” government, campaign-finance reform and tough ethics rules — are now fighting to keep their own donor lists secret.

A grim outlook for Iraq

In remarkably blunt terms, a little-known but highly influential adviser to the top U.S. commander in Iraq is predicting that July and August could be among the deadliest months ever for American forces and Iraqi civilians.

That’s the assessment of David Kilcullen, an Australian army veteran who is considered one of the world’s top authorities on counterinsurgencies. Kilcullen is a personal adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. and allied troops in Iraq.

Reps’ kin live large on campaign funds

Democrats and Republican members of Congress use millions of dollars in campaign funds to pay fat fees and salaries to family members.

The practice is so widespread that lawmakers dismiss it with a nod and a wink and laugh at legislative attempts to ban payments to family members from campaign funds.

Federal Election Commission Reports show Republican and Democratic members of Congress diverted $5.1 million in payments were diverted to family members or entities owned by family members in the past six years and that the practice is increasing with each new campaign season.

Lame duck, lame Congress

More than two-thirds of Americans say they have lost faith not only in President Bush but also in the Democrats running Congress.

All of the presidential candidates should be extremely worried about this development.

Because of rivalry among the states, next year’s primaries have been scheduled in warp speed. In only eight months from now, we will know who the Republican nominee will be and who the Democratic Party’s nominee will be.

Reid blasts generals on Iraq

The top Democrat in the US Senate on Thursday fired off unusually frank criticism of the generals running operations in Iraq, in an acerbic aside to his quarrel with the White House over the war.

Majority leader Harry Reid said he was disappointed in Marine General Peter Pace, outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and hoped for a more candid approach from General David Petraeus, US commander in Iraq.

Senators cut new immigration deal

Democratic and Republican leaders on Thursday agreed a deal to rescue a crippled overhaul of US immigration laws, which would offer a path to citizenship for 12 million illegal immigrants.

The bill, one of President George W. Bush’s last hopes for a signature domestic achievement in his second term, collapsed in the Senate last week, against stiff opposition from conservative Republicans.

“We met this evening with several of the Senators involved in the immigration bill negotiations,” Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and his Republican counterpart Senator Mitch McConnell said in a joint statement.

House passes gun control…sort of

The House of Representatives approved new legislation Wednesday designed to tighten gun ownership, as the government issued a report on the massacre at Virginia Tech University that omits any talk of tougher gun control laws.

Military officers under fire on Hill

A Democratic challenge to Gen. Peter Pace indicates that uniformed officers no longer are exempt from the partisan fire on Capitol Hill once reserved for civilian policymakers.

On Friday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates made the stunning announcement that he would not recommend Pace to serve a second two-year term as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Marine Corps four-star general had not been a target previously of Democrats’ ire on the war, but Gates said lawmakers made it clear the confirmation process would be ugly.

“It would be a backward looking and very contentious process,” Gates said at a Pentagon news conference.

Subpoenas issued in U.S. attorney firings

Two congressional committees are issuing subpoenas for testimony from former White House counsel Harriet Miers and former political director Sara Taylor on their roles in the firings of eight federal prosecutors, according to two officials familiar with the investigation.

Democrats probing whether the White House improperly dictated which prosecutors the Justice Department should fire also are subpoenaing the White House for all relevant documents, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the move had not yet been formally made public.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s subpoena for Taylor compels her to testify on July 11, while the House Judiciary Committee’s subpoena for Miers compels her testimony the next day.