Max Cleland: Pete Domenici Makes Me Sick

Okay, so Max Cleland didn't really say that. What he said was technically past tense, which means he kind of said that, and I do have fun with a good headline.

The Huffington Post reports that the war hero and former Democratic Senator's forthcoming memoir, "Heart of a Patriot," contains some really interesting (and juicy) Hill tales, including:

  • Cleland had mono at the time of the Clinton impeachment vote, and so "wrapped a green scarf around my neck, trying to keep warm. Pete Domenici, the senator from New Mexico, insisted I remove my scarf, as it 'violated the decorum of the Senate.'" As a result, Cleland got far sicker.
  • One of Cleland's aides, Trey Ragsdale, was a former White House intern with high-level White House access. Ragsdale claims that Monica Lewinsky would frequently ask him to take her to the White House mess for snacks, and the president would always swing down for a hello. "He ultimately came to realize he was only being used as a cover to set up meetings between Monica and the president. In effect... to get Monica signed in to the White House without involving anyone on the president's staff."
  • As one might expect, there is lots of well-deserved venom and bile for Saxby Chambliss and even George W. Bush. A sample: "The inauguration of George W. Bush as president ushered in a period I can only describe as unshirted hell."

More about the patriot and war hero at HuffPo - because I've had a long day and would rather sip my bourbon and blog about political gossip than serious-minded Sunday morning talk show policy discussions.

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IA-Sen: Chuck Grassley Exhibits Symptoms of Frontotemporal Dementia

First thing's first.  I'm not a doctor.  I'm not suggesting that Republican Chuck Grassley has any particular illness.  Simply, I have noticed that Chuck Grassley, over the last many months, has been making increasingly bizarre, aggressive, explicit, and violent remarks - and that such comments coincidentally happen to be early symptoms of dementia, particularly frontotemporal dementia.  It stands out to me because, as a political junkie, I have long considered Grassley to be among the most mild-mannered denizens of the Capitol.  2009 has apparently become the year that the 75-year-old Grassley (he turns 76 next month) has shed his mild-mannered image, perhaps by choice, perhaps not.

In response to the story this Spring about AIG executives receiving exorbitant bonuses after the company was rescued by a massive infusion of public dollars, Grassley said on March 16, 2009:

"I suggest, you know, obviously maybe they ought to be removed, but I would suggest that the first thing that would make me feel a little bit better towards them [is] if they would follow the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say I'm sorry and then either do one of two things: resign or go commit suicide."

Grassley added, "In the case of the Japanese, they usually commit suicide before they make any apology."

The comment was rude, racist, and extremely aggressive, even violent.

The next day, still critical of AIG executives, but in an attempt to tone down the violent "suicide" comment from the previous day, Grassley went the more sexually explicit route:

"From my standpoint, it's irresponsible for corporations to give bonuses at this time when they're sucking the tit of the taxpayer," Grassley explained.

When talking about government spending, "sucking on the teat" is not in and of itself bizarre rhetoric, but that Grassley used the more sexually explicit "tit" instead of "teat." In fact, such a nuanced difference might have flown under the radar entirely if not for a sexually explicit comment Grassley made at a budget hearing toward the end of the same month as his earlier comments, on March 26, 2009:

But yesterday he [Grassley] regained his bounce on the Senate floor, livening up an otherwise dull budget hearing with a joke about banging another senator's wife. His opening came after he pressed Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad to include an amendment of his to a budget resolution by bringing up the fact that Conrad owed him a favor.

"Oh, you are good," Conrad responded.

To which Grassley replied: "Well, your wife said the same thing."

Sure, this comment, in a vacuum, could be one Senator good-naturedly ribbing a colleague.  But a joke intimating sex with a colleague's wife, told, again, at a budget hearing, seems like bizarre behavior.  Further, when you add up these comments, what you have is a pattern of behavior.

Last week, Grassley's pattern of behavior was reinforced by his take on health care reform:

We should not have a government program that determines if you're going to pull the plug on grandma.

In fairness, this one comment has become a sick talking point of many Republicans shilling for corporate interests.  Nevertheless, it particularly stands out for Grassley given that, when he is not flying off the cuff, he is one of the GOP's key negotiators on health care reform.  He should have had the self-control to avoid such aggressive rhetoric.  But that's been Grassley's pattern lately.

So what we have seen from Grassley in 2009 - and this is just in public; no telling what his comments and actions are in private - is a pattern of bizarre, rude, physically aggressive, sexually explicit, and even violent remarks.  Such a pattern even led The Iowa Independent to the headline: "Grassley: Strategic or just eccentric?" Eccentric may be putting it mildly.

Grassley is not the first Republican Senator in recent years to have his mental health questioned.  During his 2004 re-election bid, the Kentucky media began openly questioning Jim Bunning's mental health after a similar pattern of bizarre comments and actions.  Also, in 2006-2007, Pete Domenici's mental health was questioned after a pattern of erratic behavior including reportedly walking around the Capitol in his pajamas.  Subsequently, in late 2007, Domenici revealed that he had a degenerative brain disease and opted against a 2008 re-election bid.  Domenici was 75-years-old at the time of his 2007 diagnosis, the same age Grassley is now.

Now for the coincidental symptoms.  If you hop over to, best friend of the armchair hypochondriac, you can find a page that lists symptoms of dementia.  Such symptoms include "having trouble finding the right words to express thoughts,""having trouble exercising judgment," and "having difficulty controlling moods or behaviors" while noting that "agitation or aggression may occur." What especially caught my eye was the following passage:

The first symptoms of frontotemporal dementia may be personality changes or unusual behavior. People with this condition may not express any caring for others, or they may say rude things, expose themselves, or make sexually explicit comments.

Agitation or aggression?  Check.  Personality changes or unusual behavior?  Check.  Saying rude things?  Check.  Making sexually explicit comments (again, at a budget hearing!)?  Check.  Lack of inhibition? Check.

Again, I'm not suggesting that the 75-year-old Chuck Grassley has frontotemporal dementia.  I am, however, noting that Grassley's pattern of behavior over the last six months coincidentally happens to match the early symptoms of frontotemporal dementia.  With Grassley turning 77-years-old before Election Day 2010, it would not be unfair or unwise for Iowans to get a clean bill of health from Grassley before signing him up for another six-year term (at the end of which he will be 83-years-old).

For daily news and analysis on the U.S. Senate races around the country, regularly read Senate Guru.

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Renegade Justice: An Interview With Former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias

PhotobucketThe topic below was originally posted on my blog, the Intrepid Liberal Journal.

David Iglesias is the prototype twenty first century Republican: charismatic, Hispanic, an evangelical Christian and a captain in the Navy Reserve who served for many years in the Navy's Judge Advocate General Corps ("JAG"). In  1998, Iglesias campaigned to become Attorney General of New Mexico against the heavily favored Patricia Madrid. He nearly pulled off an upset and the Republican Party took notice. In 2000, Iglesias paid his party dues and worked for George W. Bush's election.

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How New Mexico Shapes the Off-Shore Drilling Debate

Note: Daily Kos diarist Environmentalist had a great guest post at Democracy for New Mexico on this subject.  Also a recced diary at Kos.

This is crossposted at New Mexico FBIHOP.

You may wonder what New Mexico, as landlocked as any state, has to do with off-shore drilling.  Let's just say isn't much threat of oil platforms dotting the landscape of Tingley Beach.

But with Pete Domenici as the ranking member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and Jeff Bingaman as the chairman of that same committee, New Mexico holds some significant sway in any energy policy discussion.  Add in the fact that our governor, Bill Richardson, is a former Secretary of Energy under Bill Clinton and we have even more clout in energy policy discussions.  

Read more about it below.

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GOP Sen. Domenici Hit By the Senate Ethics Committee

It's been over a year since New Mexico's longtime Republican Senator Pete Domenici was implicated in the prosecutor purge scandal -- a scandal that in no small part helped lead to his decision to retire rather than run for reelection -- but now the chickens are really coming home to roost: Domenici has been admonished by the Senate ethics panel.

The Senate Ethics Committee today issued GOP Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico a "public letter of qualified admonition" for his involvement in the Justice Department's firing of several US Attorneys last year. It was a scandal that helped lead to the resignation of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

In March of 2007, former US Attorney David Iglesias testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Domenici had called him at home asking about an ongoing investigation of Democrats in the senator's home state of New Mexico. Iglesias said Domenici wanted to know the timing of indictments.

According to the transcript from the hearing, the US Attorney said the senator asked, "'Are these going to be filed before November?' And I said I didn't think so, to which [Domenici] replied, 'I'm very sorry to hear that.'" Iglesias then said, "the line went dead."

Domenici later apologized for the call, but said he did not pressure Iglesias to move on the case. The 75-year-old senator has since announced his retirement saying he was diagnosed with a dementia type brain ailment.  

The committee said it "finds no substantial evidence to determine that you attempted to improperly influence an ongoing investigation." But it did find that Domenici should have known his actions "created an appearance of impropriety that reflected unfavorable on the Senate."

It's not clear what, if any impact this news would have at this point; Democratic Congressman Tom Udall already appears on the inside track to replacing Domenici in the Senate despite Republican hopes of either Congresswoman Heather Wilson or Congressman Steve Pearce winning the New Mexico Senate race in November. Nevertheless, this news does at least round out the story and suggest that a United States Senator cannot attempt to bully a United States Attorney for political reasons and get away unscathed, either in the electoral realm (with Domenici not running for reelection) or in the public realm (with Domenici being publicly admonished by the Senate).

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