Monthly Archives: March 2007

Monica Goodling, One of 150 Pat Robertson Cadres in the White House

Monica Goodling, a previously unknown Justice Department official who served as liaison to the White House, has become a key figure in the Attorneygate scandal. When newly released emails revealed the prominent role Goodling played in engineering the firing of seven US Attorneys, Goodling pled the Fifth Amendment, refusing to testify under oath.

Josh Marshall writes that Goodling may be “afraid of indictment for perjury because she has to go up to Congress and testify under oath before the White House has decided what its story is.”

Goodling’s involvement in Attorneygate is not the only aspect of her role in the Bush administration that bears examination. Her membership in a cadre of 150 graduates of Pat Robertson’s Regent University currently serving in the administration is another, equally revealing component of the White House’s political program.

Goodling earned her law degree from Regent, an institution founded by Robertson “to produce Christian leaders who will make a difference, who will change the world.” Helping to purge politically disloyal federal prosecutors is just one way Goodling has helped fulfill Robertson’s revolutionary goals.

Regent has assiduously cultivated close ties to the administration and its Republican outriders. Gonzales’s predecessor, John Ashcroft, is currently cooling his heels at Regent as the school’s “Distinguished Professor of Law and Government.” Christian right super-lawyer Jay Sekulow, who also teaches at Regent and shares a Washington office with Ashcroft, participated in regular briefings with the White House on court appointments. In 1998, he leased a private jet through Regent to fly Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to speak at the school’s 20th anniversary (Though Sekulow regularly argues cases before the Supreme Court, he apparently did not view hobnobbing with Scalia as an ethical breach).

When the Bush administration came into power, it looked to Regent for a reliable pool of well-groomed Republican ideologues eager to wage the culture war from the inside. The former dean of Regent’s Robertson School of Government, Kay Coles James, was promptly installed as the Director of the Office of Personnel Management.

According to her bio, from 2001 to 2005, James was “President Bush’s principal advisor in matters of personnel administration for the 1.8 million members of the Federal civil service.” In that role, James rolled back the power of unions in the federal sector. Now that she’s out of government, James is back among her Christian right allies, appearing frequently as a guest on James Dobson’s Focus on the Family radio show.

Another Regent figure who impacted White House policy is Jim David, the current Assistant Dean for Administration in the Robertson School of Government. David was REPLACEed in the Justice Department in 2003 as yet another sop to the Christian right; he served as deputy director of the department’s Task Force for the Faith-Based & Community Initiative.

Since leaving the DoJ, David has spent a considerable portion of his spare time writing opinion pieces that appear on Regent’s website. One of his most noteable screeds, penned in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, described a bright spot in the destruction of New Orleans. “We do not grieve, however, for the flooded and destroyed sex clubs that filled men with lust and degraded women,” David wrote. “We do not miss the casinos that preyed upon individuals whose lack of self-control deprived families of needed food and shelter. We do not lament the destruction of voodoo stores prevalent in New Orleans before the flood.”

At Regent, Goodling was drilled in the importance of unflinching loyalty to the Republican program. Once in the Justice Department, she proved an able cog in the Bush administration’s political machine, meeting with Republican activists in 2006 to help plot the firing of New Mexico’s prestigious US Attorney David Iglesias, a fellow Republican who “chafed” against administration initiatives.

But as scrutiny of her actions intensifies, the evangelical Goodling resorts to the 5th Amendment — man’s law — to avoid breaking the biblical commandment against lying. Only the goodly and godly Pat Robertson could have prepared her to make such a decision.

The Gringo Invasion

A really interesting article by the US-Mexico border wire service, Frontera Norte-Sur, came across my radar today. It deals with a phenomenon that has not been given enough attention in the US press: the reverse migration of middle class Americans to Mexico. According to this article, a record number of Americans are moving to Mexico to escape high healthcare costs and life under the Bush administration. Their lifestyle in Mexico represents an ironic mirror of the culture of Mexican migrants living in the US. Here is an excerpt of this piece, which is not available online yet:

…A recent, path-breaking article published in Dissent magazine described a group that doesn’t learn the new language, displays its native flag, maintains its traditional customs, and even celebrates its old holidays in the new country. “Some live and work without proper documentation and have even been involved in the illegal transport of drugs across borders,” stated the piece. Sound familiar?

Written by Sheila Croucher, a professor of political science at Ohio’s Miami University who is studying US migration to Mexico, the article delved into the complex aspects of the new Gringolandia south of the border. Professor Croucher found that many of the same issues which surround the Mexican immigrant community in the US ring true with the US immigrant community in Mexico as well. As Croucher summarized it in an interview with Frontera Norte Sur, “The precise things that politicians and pundits are railing against in the US.”

Nobody knows for sure how many people of US origin reside in Puerto Vallarta and other regions of Mexico, but Croucher said that one US State Department estimate made several years ago pegged the number at about 600,000 souls. Since 9-11, the US government has become reticent about disclosing information concerning US citizens living abroad, Croucher added.

In addition to the older haunts of San Miguel Allende and Lake Chapala in central Mexico, newer gringo “clusters” are emerging in the Baja Peninsula, in Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco) in Sonora, around Banderas Bay in Jalisco and Nayarit, in Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa and Troncones in Guerrero, and along the Mayan Riviera on the Caribbean Coast.

Mirroring Mexican immigrant communities north of the border, US migrant communities in Mexico boast their own social and civic organizations, participate in the political life of the old country and enjoy access to native-language newspapers, radio programs and cablevision.

The 2004 US Presidential campaign signaled the new importance of the US migrant population in Mexico. Speaking by telephone from Mexico City, Croucher recounted how the Democratic Party dispatched former Clinton Administration official Ana Maria Salazar to round up the expatriate vote, while the Republican Party sent President Bush’s nephew, George P. Bush, to rally his party’s faithful. In the town of San Miguel Allende alone, the Democrats raised $10,000 dollars for Kerry’s bid, Croucher added.

“After 2000 it became clear to people how close the elections could be and the importance of the vote abroad,” Croucher affirmed.

A good percentage of the US migrants complain about the drift of politics as well as the propensity for overregulation back in the states. A young woman from the United States who preferred to identify herself only as Denise, has tasted the world from Pakistan to Puerto Vallarta. The world traveler contended that the strict security measures on US borders symbolize the end of liberty as we once knew it, and represent a closing window on the rest of the global community.

“It’s a freedom thing, nobody likes to be controlled,” she said. “In the states, it’s black and white. Here there is a gray area. If you get stopped in the states, you always get a ticket.”

For Croucher, economics, specifically health care costs, are far more influential in driving US citizens to Mexico than either George W. Bush or the local street cop. Many Mexican dental clinics and doctor’s offices in the border region and points south thrive on a growing US clientele. Fees are reasonable, prescription medicines are affordable, appointments are given in minutes or hours instead of weeks or months, and the quality of service is good, “Americans I talk to have nothing but positive things to say about health care in Mexico.” Croucher said.

Considering that the looming mass retirement of the baby boomers coincides with the growing melt-down of the US health care system, Croucher noted a certain irony in the snappy remarks of commentators who accuse Mexico of exporting its problems to the US. “We’re exporting our problems abroad,” Croucher contended.

Who Is Christian? Only Dobson Knows

James Dobson has a peculiarly narrow definition of Christianity. To Dobson, possible GOP presidential candidate Fred Thompson, who was baptized in the Church of Christ, is not a Christian. (“We use that word – Christian – to refer to people who are evangelical Christians. Dobson wasn’t expressing a personal opinion about his reaction to a Thompson candidacy,” said Dobson spokesman Gary Schneeberger.) But Newt Gingrich, according to Dobson, is “the brightest guy out there” and one of “the most articulate positions on the scene today.” Apparently Thompson needs to have a few more wives before he earns Dobson’s stamp of approval.

The Fred Thompson Effect

The latest USA Today/Gallup poll is out and it is pretty startling. Despite being undeclared, actor Fred Thompson is polling at 12%. Giuliani, meanwhile, is down 13%, partly as a side-effect of Thompson’s potential candidacy, partly as a result of increased conservative awareness of Rudy’s personal profile. And Romney barely registers anymore.

Thompson’s instant appeal clearly reflects the hunger among Republican primary voters for a candidate with genuine conservative credentials and national name recognition. I know very little about him off the top but my instinct is to write him off as a threat in the general.