Monday, October 31, 2005

Fitz and Starts
After a crazed few days of work and wedding responsibilities, let me comment briefly on Friday's big news--the indictment of Irving Lewis Libby and the climax, at least for now, of Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity in 2003.

I watched most of Fitzgerald's Friday afternoon press conference, and was deeply impressed. On Friday and throughout this long investigation, he has demonstrated no agenda, no preconceived notions, and no desire either to prolong his moment in the spotlight or score points with any faction or constituency. Just the facts, indeed.

At the same time, I bemoan the truth that when it came time to investigate Bill Clinton, the right wing was able to empower a rabid partisan whose transparent mission and desire was to "get the president"--and spent years and tens of millions in trying to do so, doing great damage to the prestige of government in the process. But when it was time to investigate the Bush White House, we got a man of integrity whose fealty to the Law and commitment to staying within his mandate superceded all other considerations.

That Fitzgerald is so much better than the bastards he has investigated, and that his quality of character and unwillingness to go beyond his instructions might insulate them from their just deserts (aside from Libby, who's likely to serve time), is the crowning irony here. It's a bit like the ideals that Judy Miller's defenders cited, of press freedom and absolutist defense of the First Amendment: the worst actors hide behind the best principles.

But at the same time, I'm glad he was the one to do this job, and hopeful (though not very) that his honorable conduct in the public service might serve as a salutary counter-example to the slimy tactics of the administration. As I felt about Bunnatine Greenhouse, any country that produces public servants of this caliber must still have redeeming qualities.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Unhappy Day
Today marks the anniversary of one tragedy and a milestone for another.

Three years ago today, we lost the great progressive champion Senator Paul Wellstone to a plane crash in Minnesota. Wellstone was headed toward a likely victory in his race against the repellent Norm Coleman for a third term in the Senate; he might well have run for president in 2004, and in any event he would have brought his charisma, integrity and populist credibility to the great political battles of our time since that dismal day. Paul proved that idealists can be winners too. His legacy lives on through Wellstone Action.

Also, it was confirmed today that the American death toll in Iraq has reached 2,000. But you'll look in vain for prominent coverage of this from the big news outlets. About all I have to add here is what Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said today on the subject:

"We do not honor our fallen soldiers simply by adding to their numbers."
Fitzmas Eve?
The word is that indictments are coming--probably tomorrow.

An uber-insider source has just reported the following to TWN:

1. 1-5 indictments are being issued. The source feels that it will be towards the higher end.

2. The targets of indictment have already received their letters.

3. The indictments will be sealed indictments and "filed" tomorrow.

4. A press conference is being scheduled for Thursday.

The shoe is dropping.

The rumor from earlier today, first aired by Raw Story, was that "at least" two indictments were coming; wonder if the source is the same. I probably trust Clemons slightly more than Raw Story, but we're all in the dark here.

Perhaps showing the aftereffects from years of disappointment and pain (a trauma I know well; I'm a Phillies phan), lefties at Daily Kos and elsewhere seemed to be a bit crestfallen about the low number. What I think they miss in this analysis is that the process works over time; we've become so conditioned by 24-hour news and the whole apparatus of real-time information to want things quickly. But the real value here is twofold, and neither corresponds to a quick outcome:

    1. Political: This erodes the credibility and functionality of the White House and the whole corrupt right-wing apparatus. They're distracted, they have no political capital to draw upon, they can't bring good people into the administration (putting aside whether the dimwit-in-chief gives a rat's ass about doing so), and they can't recruit quality candidates for other races. The media grows ever more skeptical, and starts to see the percentage in challenging, rather than parroting what comes out of the West Wing.

    2. Institutional: Ultimately, whether or not wrongdoing is exposed and punished is more important to the nation than "horserace" considerations. If we're Americans first and Democrats/liberals subsequently, the resiliency of our institutions and the system's ongoing ability to correct and improve itself should way outrank whether we get the pleasure of seeing Rove take a perp walk, or even--delicious though this would be--Cheney's resignation press conference.

The reason I thought the last election was so important, and why the continued ascendancy of Cheney/DeLay/Rove/Norquist/Dobson was so dangerous, is that their systemic approach has placed what I consider to be unprecedented pressure on those institutions (checks and balances, country over party, of/by/for the people). Their purpose is self-enrichment and perpetuation of power, not the advancement of the public interest. If abuse of power leads to their downfall--whether through the Plame scandal, DeLay's legal travails, and/or the Abramoff investigations (which I still think are the most structurally important, in terms of showing how these guys work and how amoral they really are)--then the system is redeemed.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Judy Miller: Endgame
After all those high-minded editorials, appeals to principle and hyperbolic declarations issuing from the New York Times during Judith Miller's summer imprisonment, the paper finally seems to be moving toward where many of us have been since Miller's role in the Plame leak scandal first became known. It's an interesting but ultimately academic question whether this change of heart is spurred by a belated recognition of the facts, or just stark terror that their irrational defense of this high-grade hellion was going to damage the bottom line, but either way, the smoke signals clearly read that Miller Time is over at the Times.

See first executive editor Bill Keller's e-mail to the paper's staff, evidently sent Friday afternoon:

I wish that when I learned Judy Miller had been subpoenaed as a witness in the leak investigation, I had sat her down for a thorough debriefing, and followed up with some reporting of my own. It is a natural and proper instinct to defend reporters when the government seeks to interfere in our work. And under other circumstances it might have been fine to entrust the details -- the substance of the confidential interviews, the notes -- to lawyers who would be handling the case. But in this case I missed what should have been significant alarm bells. Until Fitzgerald came after her, I didn't know that Judy had been one of the reporters on the receiving end of the anti-Wilson whisper campaign. I should have wondered why I was learning this from the special counsel, a year after the fact. (In November of 2003 Phil Taubman tried to ascertain whether any of our correspondents had been offered similar leaks. As we reported last Sunday, Judy seems to have misled Phil Taubman about the extent of her involvement.) This alone should have been enough to make me probe deeper.
Dick Stevenson has expressed the larger lesson here in an e-mail that strikes me as just right: "I think there is, or should be, a contract between the paper and its reporters. The contract holds that the paper will go to the mat to back them up institutionally -- but only to the degree that the reporter has lived up to his or her end of the bargain, specifically to have conducted him or herself in a way consistent with our legal, ethical and journalistic standards, to have been open and candid with the paper about sources, mistakes, conflicts and the like, and generally to deserve having the reputations of all of us put behind him or her. In that way, everybody knows going into a battle exactly what the situation is, what we're fighting for, the degree to which the facts might counsel compromise or not, and the degree to which our collective credibility should be put on the line."

Boiled down, Keller is admitting two things: Miller lied to us--her colleagues and management--and in doing so she badly damaged the credibility of the paper. Earlier in the letter, he refers to the Times' struggles in the wake of both the Jayson Blair episode and the specious reporting on WMD in the runup to war with Iraq. That too, of course, was more Miller's doing than anyone else's. The parallel here is quite compelling: Just as leaking Valerie Plame's identity was the original sin of the Bush administration, made more severe by what looks like a conspiracy and cover-up, the Times first erred with Miller's Chalabi-planted stories, and then when she saw her own career threatened--remember why Joseph Wilson went public to start with--she abetted the dirty work of Lewis Libby and the rest of the anti-Wilson cabal.

The Keller letter was, at least in theory, an internal communication. (He must have known it would be leaked, but it wasn't explicitly meant for publication, and I still think it's safe to say that the readership that peruses it on Crooks and Liars is vastly smaller than the NYT audience.) Maureen Dowd's column on Miller, though, was included in Saturday's paper, and is at least as damning. Dowd starts in her entertainingly catty style ("I've always liked Judy Miller"... before relating a story transparently intended to show what a monstrous bitch Miller is), and then lowers the boom:

Judy's stories about W.M.D. fit too perfectly with the White House's case for war. She was close to Ahmad Chalabi, the con man who was conning the neocons to knock out Saddam so he could get his hands on Iraq, and I worried that she was playing a leading role in the dangerous echo chamber that Senator Bob Graham, now retired, dubbed "incestuous amplification." Using Iraqi defectors and exiles, Mr. Chalabi planted bogus stories with Judy and other credulous journalists.
Judy admitted... that she "got it totally wrong" about W.M.D. "If your sources are wrong," she said, "you are wrong." But investigative reporting is not stenography.
She casually revealed that she had agreed to identify her source, Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney's chief of staff, as a "former Hill staffer" because he had once worked on Capitol Hill. The implication was that this bit of deception was a common practice for reporters. It isn't.

She said that she had wanted to write about the Wilson-Plame matter, but that her editor would not allow it. But Managing Editor Jill Abramson, then the Washington bureau chief, denied this, saying that Judy had never broached the subject with her.

It also doesn't seem credible that Judy wouldn't remember a Marvel comics name like "Valerie Flame." Nor does it seem credible that she doesn't know how the name got into her notebook and that, as she wrote, she "did not believe the name came from Mr. Libby."

An Associated Press story yesterday reported that Judy had coughed up the details of an earlier meeting with Mr. Libby only after prosecutors confronted her with a visitor log showing that she had met with him on June 23, 2003. This cagey confusion is what makes people wonder whether her stint in the Alexandria jail was in part a career rehabilitation project.

Judy refused to answer a lot of questions put to her by Times reporters, or show the notes that she shared with the grand jury. I admire Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Bill Keller for aggressively backing reporters in the cross hairs of a prosecutor. But before turning Judy's case into a First Amendment battle, they should have nailed her to a chair and extracted the entire story of her escapade.

Judy told The Times that she plans to write a book and intends to return to the newsroom, hoping to cover "the same thing I've always covered - threats to our country." If that were to happen, the institution most in danger would be the newspaper in your hands.

Dowd sticks the shiv in at the end, almost gratuitously--though I won't deny I like it. But the bigger story here is that there's no way in hell the paper would have allowed this to see print two months ago, probably not even two weeks ago. Better late than never, though sooner would have been better for both the Times and its readers.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Thank You, Jeebus
See here.

Now, the question: to buy or not to buy the inevitable DeLay mug-shot t-shirt? The thought of seeing that prick's face in my clothesdrawer is less than appealing, but then again, seeing him in that context is just about the most appealing notion possible... gonna have to ponder this one.

Update: James Wolcott sounds the warning. Read it, note it, remember it, as "Fitzmas" draws nigh for all us long-suffering Good little boys and girls.

I don't know what indictments, if any, are coming down the pike. But I promise you this: If there are high-reaching indictments from Fitzgerald's grand jury that threaten to rip out several vital organs of the Bush regime, the same milksop Machiavellis who extol "hardball" as the Beltway's favorite sport will suddenly start worming their fingers together in major fits of nervous handwringing and warning us these trials risk "tearing the country apart" and becoming a "terrible distraction" to more "urgent problems facing the nation."

I remember this happening during the early stages of Watergate, when many of the poohbahs of journalism and punditry tried to bottle up the surge force of the investigations, feeling that the country had been through so much pain and woe in the late Sixties (the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the riots at the Chicago convention, etc) that another national trauma would be too much to bear. This was before the full dimensions of the rot and gangsterism were known, and even the Voices of Caution (such as Hugh Sidey) were forced to concede that Nixon had to go. I fully expect a replay if there are major indictments, with David Broder assuming the role of Sidey, Richard Cohen performing his yeoman best to much everything up, etc., and the all the former hardballers going soft, saying that whatever was done to strike back at Joe Wilson is dwarfed by the more important challenges facing us in Iraq, the War on Terror, the Katrina rebuilding, and so on.

If it looks as if Cheney has to resign and Bush himself enters the Nixon danger zone, we'll hear the same frets and cries from the pundit shows about the country being torn apart and Americans losing faith in their government. But it isn't the country that will be torn apart by Plamegate any more than the country was torn apart during Watergate (which provided daily thrilling news entertainment value that bound citizens together); it's the Washington establishment that will be torn apart. And it should be torn apart. It's failed the country, and it's played by its own rules for too long, and "criminalizing politics" is exactly what should be done when political criminals deceive a nation into a war with Judith Miller serving as the Angie Dickinson to their Rat Pack and Richard Cohen auditioning for the part of Joey Bishop.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Strange Bedfellows
Just a quick one here, but I can't resist: Pirro Seeks an Unlikely Donor

Recently, Jeanine F. Pirro sent out letters to potential donors in her campaign to unseat Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton next year. But there is very little chance that she will get any help from one recipient of her appeal: Mrs. Clinton herself.

In a potentially embarrassing (albeit minor) gaffe, one of the Aug. 19 fund-raising letters that Ms. Pirro's campaign sent out was addressed to none other than Mrs. Clinton.

It would have been bad enough if the letter had been addressed to, say, Mrs. Clinton's home in Chappaqua. But this one was sent to her previous residence: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C. 20500-0030 - an address more commonly known as the White House. The letter was forwarded from the White House to Mrs. Clinton's Senate office.

"Dear Hillary, You and I have been through a lot over the years," the solicitation begins. "I need you and every New Yorker on my side. But most importantly in this difficult campaign, I need people like you who I can trust."

Considering that Sen. Clinton has raised over $5 million--an important fact given that campaign finance law allows her to save unspent funds from this cycle for "some future race"--she certainly has it to spare. But still.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Harriet the... Why?
I think Bush Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers is going down. Republican Senate staffers are essentially doing oppo research on her, Bush himself is speaking out both sides of his mouth--telling the theocracy brigade that her religion informs the pick, while maintaining that he hasn't spoken with her about abortion--and even Republican pundits, from George Will to Rich Lowry, are bemoaning her lack of accomplishments and gravitas.

(Will: "If 100 such people had been asked to list 100 individuals who have given evidence of the reflectiveness and excellence requisite in a justice, Miers's name probably would not have appeared in any of the 10,000 places on those lists." Lowry: "[T]o place so much weight on Miers's demographic profile, rather than her own merits and judicial philosophy, is noxious and un-American." One grim philosophical tenet, much loved by high-school stoners, is that we all become what we hate. Thus it seems the Republicans, already rife with the corruption and self-dealing they once deplored in the Democratic congressional majority, are now becoming the party of identity politics as well.)

Josh Marshall makes perhaps the key point: outside of the White House itself and those would-be theocrats who presumably have gotten assurances that she would "vote right," Miers isn't likely to find many vigorous defenders:

Besides James Dobson this nomination has no supporters outside of the senate and the White House. And the conservative opposition isn't just opposing, it's contemptuous -- and critical in ways that mimic the long-expressed criticism from the other side of the aisle.

Nominations can have dynamics similar to those of political scandals.

We tend to think that the real key to a scandalee's fate is how many mobilize against him or her. Usually, though, the key issue is whether and how quickly they can find some committed group to mount a defense. If that happens, and quickly, a scandal equilibrium can be reached, and an embattled pol can often withstand merciless attacks and revelations. With no true base of support, however, a career can rapidly collapse even if the opposition itself isn't all that intense.

Miers' nomination could fail in a similar way.

Sure, only a few Republican senators have expressed serious misgivings. But who is it exactly, either in or out of the senate, who is going to fight hard for this nominee? What argument are those senators going to make on the floor? That the country needs Harriet Miers on the Court? That the criticisms of her nomination are frivolous?

On the Democrats' side, there seems to be no consensus about how to respond to the nomination. Some argue that Dems should support it simply on the grounds that Miers doesn't seem like a fire-breathing righty with nut-job leanings, and that if she's defeated, Bush would likely just pick someone worse (and more formidable). Others argue--and I have to admit, I kind of like this one just on style grounds--that Democrats should simply abstain altogether when it comes time to vote on Miers. What I haven't seen much of, to my dismay, is the argument that Democrats should oppose Miers because... well, she's not really qualified, and the country simply deserves better from its most honored judges.

If there's one thing left and right should still be able to agree upon, it's that the highest public offices should be held by people of stature and talent. (Yes, the other side did nominate, and a slender majority of the voters subsequently elected, George W. Bush. So maybe I'm off-base from the jump here. But I'd rather believe that the public, however erroneously, saw merit in this obviously limited individual than accept that they just figured it didn't matter, or that campaign-filtered "likability" was the key criterion.) While G. Harold Carswell might not have ruled any differently than Antonin Scalia if he'd been confirmed, in terms of outcomes, I'm still happier to have Scalia, with his irascible brilliance, on the bench. Mediocrity need not have "representation" at that level.

At the same time, the nomination of a non-entity like Miers is perhaps the ultimate result of a political philosophy that amounts in large part to "the government sucks, and it can't help you, and only losers pursue public service." She did win first place in The New Republic's very funny and very upsetting piece ranking the top 15 Bush-appointee cronies. Perhaps the rejection of this sub-optimal candidate might signal a new willingness to demand more of our high officials than that they know the right people--and who knows where that might lead?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Public Discourse and the Persistence of Poverty
As I mentioned in the Bob Mould entry, I was on a Center for an Urban Future panel this past Thursday morning titled "Restoring Economic Opportunity for New York City's Working Poor Families." The discussion was a follow-up to our 2004 report "Between Hope and Hard Times," on low-income working families in New York state, with a closer focus on city issues and policymaking. I think it went pretty well on balance, but where I thought the conversation really got interesting was when we began to talk about how even now, after Hurricane Katrina and a welter of distressing statistics showing an increase in poverty within the United States over the last several years, we don't really hear anything about the issue from our press or politicians.

Broadly defined, I think the public discourse in America and probably every other modernized country runs along two tracks. One has to do with scandal and personalities: who's winning elections, who's appointed to high offices, who's under investigation, and what all these things mean in terms of future elections, appointments and juridicial goings-on. This all is sometimes derided as "horse race" style coverage; except for the underlying content, it's not all that different from those celebrity magazines that seem to be proliferating like bacteria and are forever writing about Angelina and Jen and Jess and Brad and Britney and that whole hell-bound rabble (if I might be allowed a little snobbery). How much of this is simply human nature, and how much of it is a reflection of how monoculture and technologically enabled short attention spans have changed the world, I'm not really stoned enough to consider right now.

(Sidebar: Al Gore gave an absolutely superb speech on some of these issues earlier this week. Though I've never been a big fan of the former vice-president--aside from his Futurama guest stints, that is--a few more of these and he might yet make me a believer.)

But they do obscure, probably more than was the case 30 or 40 years ago, the second track, which has to do with the actual substance of governance and public life. This is power relationships, wealth and poverty, economic trends, and the moral choices of those in power. If this "second track" were somehow prevalent, maybe we would ask questions like why none of the self-appointed moral leaders of this country--from Radical Cleric James Dobson to the crypto-racist Bill Bennett, ever talk about poverty. Or why George W. Bush and his peeps can talk about an "Ownership Society" while willy-nilly disinvesting in the tools people need to take ownership of their own careers, like job training and even basic language skill acquisition. (The administration proposed a two-thirds cut in federal support for ESL in its most recent budget.)

It's also why the whole debate over new Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers--is she Souter in a dress? Thomas with eyeliner and without the pube on the Coke can?--misses the point. As does the larger focus on "moral issues"--abortion and gay marriage--in considering Miers and other court nominees. Fortunately, Robert Reich knows the score:

The social or religious values of Bush’s Supreme Court nominees get most of attention, but economic values are also at stake. When Miers said last year that "[t]he future of the American economy depends on ... making the president's tax cuts permanent, lowering the costs of health care, [and] reducing the burden of frivolous lawsuits and unnecessary regulation," she was sharing a particular vision of how American society should be organized.

A central moral problem for the American economy today is that, although it has been growing at a good clip, with corporate profits rising nicely, most American paychecks have been going nowhere. Last year, the Census Bureau tells us, the U.S. economy grew a solid 3.8 percent. Yet median household income barely grew at all. That’s the fifth straight year of stagnant household earnings, the longest on record. Meanwhile, another 1.1 million Americans fell into poverty, bringing the ranks of the poor to 37 million. And an additional 800,000 workers found themselves without health insurance. Only the top 5 percent of households enjoyed real income gains. These trends are not new. They began 30 years ago, but are now reaching the point where they threaten the social fabric. Not since the Gilded Age of the 1890s has this nation experienced anything like the inequality of income, wealth, and opportunity we are witnessing today.

A central moral choice, then, is whether America should seek to reverse this trend. Those who view this society as a group of self-seeking individuals for whom government’s major purpose is to protect property and ensure freedom of contract would probably say “no.” Those who view America as a national community whose citizens have responsibilities to promote the well-being of one another would likely say “yes.” Is the well-being of American society the sum of individual goods, or is there a common good?

Over the next decades, the U.S. Supreme Court will play an important role in helping America make this choice. Under the guise of many doctrines and rationales -- interpretations of the “takings” and due-process clause of the Fifth Amendment, the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment, the commerce clause, the doctrine of federal preemption, and so on -- the Court will favor either property or community, depending on the economic values of a majority of the justices.

Reich goes on to discuss the "switch in time that saved nine"--how the Supreme Court of Franklin Roosevelt's day, supposedly under threat from FDR's "court-packing" scheme, suddenly started upholding New Deal actions in 1937. Reich interestingly dismisses the prevalent and cynical view that the justices did this to save their own power, and instead argues that the balance between community and property simply shifted as the realities of Depression became clear.

I think there are strategies for progressives to start talking about these subjects in ways that could impact the discourse. John Edwards certainly seems to be looking for them. An environment in which record corporate profits have become detached to an unprecedented degree from stagnant wages would seem to allow such a conversation. But for now I just want to make the point that the "moral values" of judges absolutely should not only address questions of sexual behavior and reproductive decisions, important as many believe those things to be.

Friday, October 07, 2005

I Got Your Classic Rock Right Here
Saw Bob Mould playing with his new band this past Wednesday night at Irving Plaza. It might have been the best of the dozen or so times I've seen Bob, in various groupings and contexts (with Husker Du, solo/acoustic, with Sugar) over the past 20 years or so. The really interesting aspect to me was that the set was so obviously designed to be "crowd-pleasing," and that it succeeded so well at it. Here's a review by Jon Parales in the Times, mostly positive but a bit condescending, methinks. And for the devoted, a link to Mould's blog: I'm not sure what he meant by "a little rough in spots;" Bob's voice sounded better than I've ever heard (a tribute to healthy living, I guess) and the backing band was tight and dynamic. Below is the set list, as I remember it--aside from "See a Little Light" and "Egoveride", pretty much only drawn from the new album, Sugar's "Copper Blue", and Huskers classics (which obviously was the thrill for yours truly--aside from seeing Husker Du play "Could You Be the One" when I was 13, I don't think I've ever heard those songs performed live, full-band).

The Act We Act
A Good Idea
I am Vision, I am Sound
Underneath Days
Hoover Dam
See a Little Light
High Fidelity
Hardly Getting Over It
Could You Be the One
I Apologize
Chartered Trips
Best Thing
Celebrated Summer
If I Can't Change Your Mind
Makes No Sense at All

About eight hours after this show ended, I found myself sitting on a CUF panel talking about low-income working families in New York City, which I'll try to write a bit more about later today in a larger context.

And am currently sitting here listening to the new Broken Social Scene album--lovely and weird, though perhaps not to the extent of "You Forgot It In People"--a high bar, to be sure.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Something Bad About Bloomberg
(First, a little disclaimer. There have been roughly a million things going on in the last week and a half that I've wanted to blog about here. Hopefully I'll get to some of them once work stuff--yeah, the job I'm theoretically transitioning out of, but is actually kicking my ass to a nearly unprecedented degree--calms down. Phillies withdrawal ain't helping either, though it's not like I've written about those people here so much anyway since the advent of The Good Phight. Anyway, I'm gonna try to write more. Promise.)

As I've noted here before, the meta-debate about whether New York City Democrats should oppose Mike Bloomberg's bid for re-election hasn't much moved me over the last year-plus. I think the guy has done a good job, I have absolutely no confidence in Fernando Ferrer's ability to govern the city in a competent and effective way, and I instinctively recoil from the notion that blind partisanship should guide anyone's voting choices. (This is one of the things I want to get back to: whether Democrats are better advised to meet any and all Republican measures with knee-jerk resistance, or if there's a way to "tame" the other side such that they stop being the Party of Norquist and Dobson, and return to their Lincoln/TR/Eisenhower roots.)

But I did read something in today's Times that seriously gives me pause.

As he campaigns for re-election this fall, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg never mentions that he is a Republican. Far from it: He has gone out of his way to oppose both President Bush's nominee for chief justice and a federal reconstruction plan for the Gulf Coast, and he expressed disappointment that the Freedom Center was evicted from ground zero by another Republican, Gov. George E. Pataki.

But when it comes to donating money to politicians, Mr. Bloomberg's Republican bona fides are as good as they get, judging from his campaign finance records. As mayor, he gave $250,000 to the same Republican party-building effort that Representative Tom DeLay is now charged with using to launder political money. Mr. Bloomberg has also doled out thousands of dollars to politicians who are far more conservative than he is.

For Mr. Bloomberg, whose campaign slogan casts him as "a leader, not a politician," this pattern of giving may be the most partisan-driven aspect of his life in politics. In a city where Democratic registration far outweighs Republican, the mayor's financial ties to Republicans and President Bush are a source of concern to some allies, who worry that the donations will turn off liberal voters he needs.

Mr. Bloomberg's aides say the donations advance the interests of New York with the political party that controls Washington and federal funds for the city. Yet in the case of his $250,000 donation, in 2002, Mr. Bloomberg was also aiding a major goal of the party that had nothing to do with urban issues: bringing more Republicans to power in statehouses and legislatures. He made his donation when Republicans were considering selecting New York City for their 2004 convention, as they ultimately did.

The recipient of the $250,000, the Republican National State Elections Committee, is the political vehicle that Mr. DeLay is accused of using to violate election laws in Texas, his home state. Mr. DeLay says he is innocent, and Mr. Bloomberg's donation was unrelated to Mr. DeLay and has not been questioned.

Mr. Bloomberg also gave $140,000 to New York Republicans to elect more members to the State Assembly and Senate, and $25,000 to the Republican National Committee. Asked about Mr. Bloomberg's support for expanding Republican control in state capitals, Ed Skyler, a spokesman, said the goal was to enhance the mayor's influence with Republicans in positions to help the city.

None of this is exactly news: Bloomberg's contributions to Bush have been very well documented. But there's something about seeing the mayor's name so close to that of Tom DeLay that just repels me. He's subsidizing the bad guys, and in ways that I think go beyond credibly "representing New York's interests": the fairly explicit goal of Karl Rove and Grover Norquist is to create a one-party nation. I don't think Bloomberg wants this, but his dollars evidently do.

I'll still probably suck it up and vote for the guy, but this confirms me in the thought that if the Democrats had nominated Weiner, or some other competent candidate, I likely would have gone that way.