Morning clicks: Massa’s new right wing boyfriends, unqualified Liz defended

Matt Drudge gets all hot and bothered over Eric Massa and Rahm in the shower.

Burning questions for today: will newly minted right wing darling and homoeroticist extraordinaire Eric Massa flirt with Glenn Beck on Fox tonight? … Will he wind up sharing a shower with Rush Limbaugh at some time in the near future? Can a full-on affair with Matt Drudge be far off??? And what does it say about the right that they only fall in love with Democrats who act like Larry Craig?

Meanwhile, a flashback: Eric Massa attacks Rush, embraces Spitzer

Over to Politico’s Arena, where neocons step up to defend Liz “McCarthy” Cheney (who you will recall has zero national security credentials other than having gotten a State Department job because her dad was the vice president) … by whingeing that no one stood up for torture proponents John “crush the genitals of children and exterminate the villagers” Yoo and Jay “this guy’s a judge???” Bybee, or prattling on about mob lawyers. Among the whiners: Iran Contra scandal player Elliot Abrams. Nice company. And can we please stop pretending Liz is a credible Sunday and cable show guest now? A Flashback:

At the very heart of U.S. Middle East policy, from the war in Iraq to pressure for regime change in Iran and Syria to the spread of free-market democracy in the region, sits the 39-year-old daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney. Elizabeth “Liz” Cheney, appointed to her post in February 2005, has a tongue-twisting title: principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs and coordinator for broader Middle East and North Africa initiatives. By all accounts, it is an enormously powerful post, and one for which she is uniquely unqualified.

During the past 15 months, Elizabeth Cheney has met with and bolstered a gaggle of Syrian exiles, often in tandem with John Hannah and David Wurmser, top officials in the Office of the Vice President (OVP); has pressed hard for money to accelerate the administration’s ever more overt campaign for forced regime change in both Damascus and Teheran; and has overseen an increasingly discredited push for American-inspired democratic reform from Morocco to Iran. With the unspoken support of her father, Cheney has kept a hawk’s eye on Iraq policy within the department, intimidating opponents of the neoconservative axis within the administration. And, less visibly, according to former officials who’ve worked with her, she has made her influence felt in choosing officials, selecting (or blocking) the appointment of ambassadors and other foreign service officers, and weighing in on other bureaucratic battles at the department.

Now, according to the Financial Times of London, Cheney is coordinating the work of a new entity called the Iran-Syria Operations Group. The unit was established “to plot a more aggressive democracy promotion strategy for those two ‘rogue’ states,” reported the Times. In February, the State Department announced that Cheney would oversee a $5 million program to “accelerate the work of reformers in Syria,” providing grants of up to $1 million each to Syrian dissidents. And in the current fiscal year, she will oversee a similar, $7 million regime-change grant program for Iran, though funding for that effort is expected to grow to at least $85 million soon, to include both a propaganda program and support to Iranian opposition groups.

“She came in knowing very little about the Middle East,” says Marina S. Ottaway, senior associate and co-director of the Democracy and Rule of Law Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who has worked with Liz Cheney on democratic reform issues. “She had a mandate to do democracy promotion, but she had very little familiarity with the subject. … They deliberately picked a person who was not a Middle East specialist, so that the conventional wisdom, well, let me rephrase, so that real, actual knowledge of the issues in the region wouldn’t interfere with policy.” [Robert Dreyfuss, The American Prospect, 06.06.06]

On the healthcare front, Robert Gibbs is sounding tougher, and Bart Stupak is beginning to sound more reasonable (or at least more reasonable than Dennis Kucinich, who insists he will vote no unless the White House scraps the bill and offers Canadian-style universal healthcare which will never happen so he’ll just vote no.)

The Hill, meanwhile, offers a handy House whip count, plus a piece on Joe Biden’s foot in the healthcare debate (he may have to cast the 51st vote in the Senate.)

And nervous Democrats in Washington need only read one more thing on healthcare, and that’s this poll. And then grow a pair and vote for the bill.

In international news, it’s Winnie vs. Nelson … Mandela … oh boy …

UPDATE: Add one more to the unemployment rolls. The Tennessee hospitality exec who forwarded an email comparing Michelle Obama to a chimp has been fired. Apparently, he didn’t quite understand the meaning of the word “hospitality…” but state officials are still worried that the fallout could harm Tennessee’s tourism industry.

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