Monthly Archives: March 2009

The Newt Deal

With Newts conversion to Catholicism, his sins no longer exist. Thats what Deal Hudson told me, and he knows a thing or two about sin.

With Newt's conversion to Catholicism, his sins "no longer exist." That's what Deal Hudson told me, and he knows a thing or two about sin.

When Catholic University announced in January 2005 that Newt Gingrich would deliver a speech on campus, a group of students rose up in protest, accusing the twice-divorced, admitted philanderer of violating the Catholic values that their school was founded upon. Four years later, just last week, on March 24, Gingrich blasted another hallowed institution of Catholic higher learning: “It is sad to see Notre Dame invite President Obama to give the commencement address since his policies are so anti-Catholic values,” Gingrich wrote on Twitter of the president’s scheduled May address. What happened?


During the George W. Bush era, Gingrich rose quietly from the ruins of his failed crusade to impeach President Bill Clinton, trying to transform himself from a Republican pariah into a voice of conscience for the badly demoralized conservative movement. The religious-right elements that helped orchestrate Gingrich’s downfall as Speaker of the House became the catalyst for his resurrection and may now propel him into contention for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012. But winning them over has not been easy. Before earning a seat at their table, Gingrich has had to confess his darkest sins and beg for redemption, first on the radio show of his former nemesis, James Dobson, and then before a priest at St. Joseph’s Rectory, a Catholic church on Capitol Hill.

Indeed, on Sunday, March 29, Gingrich converted to Catholicism, the faith of his third wife, Calista Bisek. Though the ceremony was announced without fanfare, leading Catholic conservatives like Deal Hudson are brimming with excitement. Hudson was the most important Catholic political adviser to President Bush and Karl Rove, founder of the seminal Catholic journal, Crisis magazine, and self-described “theocon.” He contends that Gingrich’s conversion represents more than a concession to his wife; it signals a dramatic break from the past, both personally and politically.

“From a Catholic point of view,” Hudson told me, “Newt’s sins no longer exist—they’ve been absolved. He’s made a fresh start in life. So Newt will continue to sin and confess but there aren’t going to be a lot of Catholics who will hold that against him. They understand why being a Catholic makes a difference.”

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The Backdoor Bailout Backlash

The bonuses paid to AIG executives from the insurance firm’s bailout fund have become a national outrage, and with good reason. Members of AIG’s financial-products division—the unit that sold more derivatives than the company could insure, bringing it to its knees—were essentially rewarded for their failures with $160 million in “retention” bonuses. When I went to Manhattan’s Financial District on March 20 to talk to people about AIG, the public’s anger and disbelief was palpable. Everyone from financial workers to street preachers seemed fed up. For example, when I jokingly raised a scenario to interview subjects where AIG executives were waterboarded until they returned their bonuses, few people even flinched. “If that’s possible, it would be a good idea,” one man flatly stated.

On March 23, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced that nine of the top ten AIG bonus recipients had announced plans to return their bonuses. The news may create a sense that scrutiny of the bailout, however late it might have been applied, is forcing some important reforms. But an arguably greater outrage remains shrouded behind the bonus controversy: AIG’s secret funneling of tens of billions in bailout money to its counterparties, including several foreign banks. “People see that the guys that ruined AIG are getting paid more money, and that creates outrage,” investment-research specialist Porter Stansberry told Reuters. “If you want to be outraged, be outraged that the counterparties got paid out full value.”

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AJE on Freeman’s Withdrawal

A packaged version of my appearance on AJE. Hillary Mann Leverett, who has been consistently excellent as a counter-weight to the neocons, also makes an appearance:

So why has US cable news either avoided covering the Freeman withdrawal altogether, or downplayed the Israel Lobby element? I don’t think I need to answer my own question.

Following up on Freeman’s Sabotage, by “Max Blumenfeld”

I’m trying to get footage of my AJE appearance on Youtube. In the meantime, here is a write-up from AJE that includes some of my comments about Freeman:

Max Blumenthal, a blogger and journalist for the Daily Beast website who has been following Freeman’s nomination process, told Al Jazeera that his withdrawal was “a catastrophic defeat for the Obama administration”.

“What happened is the Israel lobby won,” he said.

“What [Freeman] said that I think is most remarkable in his statement, is that apparently the Obama administration will not be able to dictate its own Mideast policy and he places the blame for this squarely on the Israel lobby.”

Blumenthal said that the Israel lobby had “been furiously emailing sympathetic reporters, smearing him [Freeman] in public” and that “political decisions came into play with respect to [Freeman’s] views on Israel and essentially his appointment was torpedoed”.

This was the Israel lobby’s “first all-out fusillade and they succeeded because they knew that Freeman would be dispensable to political elements in the White House that needed to court the Israel lobby, needed their money for senate races”, he said.

Also, Daniel Pipes refers to reporting by me, or at least some doppelganger version of me named “Max Blumenfeld,” to take credit for taking Freeman down:

Dear Reader:

As many of you may know, Charles Freeman has “has requested that his selection to be Chairman of the National Intelligence Council not proceed.”

What you may not know is that Steven J. Rosen of the Middle East Forum was the person who first brought attention to the problematic nature of Freeman’s appointment, in a February 19 blog titled “Alarming appointment at the CIA.” Within hours, the word was out; and three weeks later Freeman has conceded defeat. Only someone with Steve’s stature and credibility could have made this happen.

Even those who backed the Freeman appointment acknowledge Steve’s leadership in this effort. For example:

I congratulate Steve and am proud of this early achievement by the Forum’s newly created Washington Project.

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Pipes

Chas Freeman Speaks Out

Chas Freeman blames the Israel Lobby for forcing his withdrawal and says the Obama administration will not be able to dictate its own Middle East policy. Looks like he has seen the same emails I’ve been seeing:

“You will by now have seen the statement by Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair reporting that I have withdrawn my previous acceptance of his invitation to chair the National Intelligence Council.

I have concluded that the barrage of libelous distortions of my record would not cease upon my entry into office. The effort to smear me and to destroy my credibility would instead continue. I do not believe the National Intelligence Council could function effectively while its chair was under constant attack by unscrupulous people with a passionate attachment to the views of a political faction in a foreign country. I agreed to chair the NIC to strengthen it and protect it against politicization, not to introduce it to efforts by a special interest group to assert control over it through a protracted political campaign.

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