"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." Theodore Roosevelt
The investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame's identity as a covert C.I.A. officer has illuminated the conspiracy behind the selling of the war in Iraq.
Asked repeatedly about Mr. Rove's serial appearances before a Washington grand jury, the jittery Mr. Bush, for once bereft of a script, improvised a passable impersonation of Norman Bates being quizzed by the detective in "Psycho." Like Norman and Ms. Stewart, he stonewalled.
That stonewall may start to crumble in a Washington courtroom this week or next. In a sense it already has. Now, as always, what matters most in this case is not whether Mr. Rove and Lewis Libby engaged in a petty conspiracy to seek revenge on a whistle-blower, Joseph Wilson, by unmasking his wife, Valerie, a covert C.I.A. officer. What makes Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation compelling, whatever its outcome, is its illumination of a conspiracy that was not at all petty: the one that took us on false premises into a reckless and wasteful war in Iraq. That conspiracy was instigated by Mr. Rove's boss, George W. Bush, and Mr. Libby's boss, Dick Cheney.
Mr. Wilson and his wife were trashed to protect that larger plot. Because the personnel in both stories overlap, the bits and pieces we've learned about the leak inquiry over the past two years have gradually helped fill in the über-narrative about the war. Last week was no exception. Deep in a Wall Street Journal account of Judy Miller's grand jury appearance was this crucial sentence: "Lawyers familiar with the investigation believe that at least part of the outcome likely hangs on the inner workings of what has been dubbed the White House Iraq Group."
Very little has been written about the White House Iraq Group, or WHIG. Its inception in August 2002, seven months before the invasion of Iraq, was never announced. Only much later would a newspaper article or two mention it in passing, reporting that it had been set up by Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff. Its eight members included Mr. Rove, Mr. Libby, Condoleezza Rice and the spinmeisters Karen Hughes and Mary Matalin. Its mission: to market a war in Iraq.
Of course, the official Bush history would have us believe that in August 2002 no decision had yet been made on that war. Dates bracketing the formation of WHIG tell us otherwise. On July 23, 2002 - a week or two before WHIG first convened in earnest - a British official told his peers, as recorded in the now famous Downing Street memo, that the Bush administration was ensuring that "the intelligence and facts" about Iraq's W.M.D.'s "were being fixed around the policy" of going to war. And on Sept. 6, 2002 - just a few weeks after WHIG first convened - Mr. Card alluded to his group's existence by telling Elisabeth Bumiller of The New York Times that there was a plan afoot to sell a war against Saddam Hussein: "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August."
The official introduction of that product began just two days later. On the Sunday talk shows of Sept. 8, Ms. Rice warned that "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," and Mr. Cheney, who had already started the nuclear doomsday drumbeat in three August speeches, described Saddam as "actively and aggressively seeking to acquire nuclear weapons." The vice president cited as evidence a front-page article, later debunked, about supposedly nefarious aluminum tubes co-written by Judy Miller in that morning's Times. The national security journalist James Bamford, in "A Pretext for War," writes that the article was all too perfectly timed to facilitate "exactly the sort of propaganda coup that the White House Iraq Group had been set up to stage-manage."
The Bush-Cheney product rolled out by Card, Rove, Libby & Company had been bought by Congress, the press and the public. The intelligence and facts had been successfully fixed to sell the war, and any memory of Mr. Bush's errant 16 words melted away in Shock and Awe. When, months later, a national security official, Stephen Hadley, took "responsibility" for allowing the president to address the nation about mythical uranium, no one knew that Mr. Hadley, too, had been a member of WHIG.
It was not until the war was supposedly over - with "Mission Accomplished," in May 2003 - that Mr. Wilson started to add his voice to those who were disputing the administration's uranium hype. Members of WHIG had a compelling motive to shut him down. In contrast to other skeptics, like Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency (this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner), Mr. Wilson was an American diplomat; he had reported his findings in Niger to our own government. He was a dagger aimed at the heart of WHIG and its disinformation campaign. Exactly who tried to silence him and how is what Mr. Fitzgerald presumably will tell us.
It's long been my hunch that the WHIG-ites were at their most brazen (and, in legal terms, reckless) during the many months that preceded the appointment of Mr. Fitzgerald as special counsel. When Mr. Rove was asked on camera by ABC News in September 2003 if he had any knowledge of the Valerie Wilson leak and said no, it was only hours before the Justice Department would open its first leak investigation. When Scott McClellan later declared that he had been personally assured by Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby that they were "not involved" with the leak, the case was still in the safe hands of the attorney general then, John Ashcroft, himself a three-time Rove client in past political campaigns. Though Mr. Rove may be known as "Bush's brain," he wasn't smart enough to anticipate that Justice Department career employees would eventually pressure Mr. Ashcroft to recuse himself because of this conflict of interest, clearing the way for an outside prosecutor as independent as Mr. Fitzgerald.
This modus operandi was foolproof, shielding the president as well as Mr. Rove from culpability, as long as it was about winning an election. The attack on Mr. Wilson, by contrast, has left them and the Cheney-Libby tag team vulnerable because it's about something far bigger: protecting the lies that took the country into what the Reagan administration National Security Agency director, Lt. Gen. William Odom, recently called "the greatest strategic disaster in United States history."
Whether or not Mr. Fitzgerald uncovers an indictable crime, there is once again a victim, but that victim is not Mr. or Mrs. Wilson; it's the nation. It is surely a joke of history that even as the White House sells this weekend's constitutional referendum as yet another "victory" for democracy in Iraq, we still don't know the whole story of how our own democracy was hijacked on the way to war.
Is just me, or does this Associated Press piece err a wee bit too far on the side of being sensitive to the American Nazi Party's civil rights? Hell, you don't have to go any further than the title: Emergency Declared After Anti-Nazi Riots.
President Ford had enough sense to eventually realize the effort was futile, but such will not be the case with this sitting president:
President George W. Bush vowed on Saturday that the United States "will not run" from Iraq as it did from Vietnam, as he welcomed voting on a new Iraqi constitution and called it step forward for democracy.
Does Dubya acknowledge - even in his own mind - that today's purple finger parade, is just that, another scripted photo-op? Or is he too drunk on his own freedom's-on-the-march brand of kool-aid to know the difference? And will he ever realize to be "resolute", is just not the same as actual resolution? He is like a gambler risking it all, and losing... Except our brothers, fathers, children, and uncounted Iraqi civilians are paying the price. And what is the noble cause? To this day, we still do not know. Regardless of today's "milestone", the time is now. We have nothing to gain, and too much to lose. Bring the troops home.
U.S. intelligence officials who released a letter purporting to be from an al Qaeda leader to Iraq insurgency leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi this week said on Friday they could not account for a passage that has raised doubts about the document's authenticity.
That contradicts their rationale for the "War on Terror"?
While the Bush administration calls Iraq "the central front in the war on terrorism," the letter indicates that al-Qaida believes the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has created an opportunity to rally Muslims behind "the greatest battle of Islam in this era," one that eventually will lead to the creation of a pan-Islamic state, or caliphate.
Are they trying to rationalize an immediate withdrawal, that would otherwise be interpreted as an acknowledgement of failure? It's the only explanation I can come up with.
A senior United Nations official has accused US-led coalition troops of depriving Iraqi civilians of food and water in breach of humanitarian law. Human rights investigator Jean Ziegler said they had driven people out of insurgent strongholds that were about to be attacked by cutting supplies. [...] "A drama is taking place in total silence in Iraq, where the coalition's occupying forces are using hunger and deprivation of water as a weapon of war against the civilian population," Mr Ziegler told a press conference in Geneva. He said coalition forces were using "starvation of civilians as a method of warfare."
"For the first time," reports the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, "more people say George W. Bush's presidency will be judged as unsuccessful than say it will be seen as a success, a poll finds. People were inclined to say Bush's policies have made things worse on a wide range of issues such as the federal budget deficit, the gap between rich and poor, health care, the economy, relations with US allies, the tax system and education. Republicans give the president mixed reviews in many of these areas. Almost half of Republicans said Bush's policies have made the deficit worse and just 12 percent say he has improved that situation."
That last bit about Republicans giving Bush mixed reviews is especially unnerving for the folks at 1600 Pennsylvania, and is buttressed by a poll conducted by, of all things, the FOX News Channel. "As has been the case for much of his presidency," reports FOX, "Bush's approval rating shows a huge partisan gap; however, this is the first time of his presidency that approval among Republicans has dropped below 80 percent." When GOP partisans start walking away from this administration, as they seem to be for the first time, you can almost hear the Fat Lady working her way through the do-re-mi's.
Rove's defense team asserts that President Bush's deputy chief of staff has not committed a crime but nevertheless anticipates that special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald could find a way to bring charges in the next two weeks, the source said.
Via Reuters: [Rove] declined to comment when he left 4-1/2 hours later, mouthing to reporters: "Not supposed to take questions." Two sources close to the case said Rove's lengthy appearance suggested prosecutors wanted to closely scrutinize his earlier testimony or that he was questioned about new information obtained by prosecutors. "Being in there that long after testifying three times before can't be viewed as a particularly positive sign," said a legal source involved in the case. And the Associated Press:
His lawyer, Robert Luskin, said Rove was told by prosecutors they likely would not need further testimony or cooperation from him and that they had no yet decided whether Rove should be charged criminally. [...] After Rove's testimony, White House spokesman Scott McClellan was asked whether Rove still has the president's confidence. He would say only, "Karl continues to do his duties." [...] Rove walked into the grand jury area with Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald before 9 a.m. Friday and walked out a couple of minutes after the prosecutor in the afternoon.
The American and British governments seem disconnected from the terrible reality of Iraq. Tony Blair says the time scale for withdrawal is "when the job is done." But stop any Iraqi in the streets of Baghdad and the great majority say the violence will get worse until the US and Britain start to pull out. They say the main catalyst for the Sunni Arab insurrection is the US occupation.
A deep crisis is turning into a potential catastrophe because President George Bush and Tony Blair pretend the situation in Iraq is improving. To prove to their own voters that progress is being made, they have imposed on Iraq a series of artificial milestones. These have been achieved but have done nothing to halt the ever deepening violence.
The latest milestone is the referendum on the new constitution - the rules of the game by which Iraq is to be governed - on which Iraqi will vote tomorrow. The document was rushed through with the US and British ambassadors sitting in on the negotiations. The International Crisis Group, a highly regarded think-tank, warns that because the country's 5 million Sunni Arabs see the constitution as legitimising the break up of the country, the referendum will ensure that "Iraq will slide towards full-scale civil war and dissolution".
An obstacle to the Iraqi, American and British governments resolving the crisis in Iraq is that at no stage over the last 30 months have they been willing to admit how bad things really are. This is hardly surprising. Neither Mr Bush nor Mr Blair want to reveal the depth of the quagmire into which they so confidently plunged in 2003. They also presumably believe that at any moment they may touch bottom. Iraqi governments, dependent on foreign support, parrot whatever they believe Washington or London wants to hear at the time. Iraq is full of mirages. In theory Iraqi army and security forces are being built up towards the 200,000 level but when Kurdish intelligence counted a unit entering Kirkuk they found most of the soldiers were not there. Its men stayed home or never existed while commanders pocketed the salaries of these "ghost battalions".
Much of the Iraqi government exists only on paper. It is more of a racket than an administration. Its officials turn up only on pay day. Elaborate bureaucratic procedures exist simply so a bribe has to be paid to avoid them. The US, with Britain in tow, was always going to be in trouble in Iraq. They did not see that Saddam Hussein was the product as well as the creator of fierce ethnic, religious and regional tensions. His demonic personality was not the only reason why Iraq's recent history is soaked in blood. This mistake would not have mattered so much if Washington had not sought to persuade the US public that all was going to plan in Iraq. A set of milestones were devised - the turning over of sovereignty to Iraq, the elections, the constitution - whose primary purpose was to give a spurious sense of progress to American voters. Not surprisingly they show increasing anger at being duped.
The most damaging consequence of this pretence at progress is that it has prevented the pursuit of more effective policies. The fact that so many Iraqis blame the US occupation for their ills does not mean they are right. But, having spent most of my time in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, I believe that the biggest mistake being made by the US and Britain is a very simple one: They do not realise the unpopularity of the occupation. No people wants to be ruled by another.
Read the speeches Howard Dean gave before the Iraq war, and compare them with Colin Powell's pro-war presentation to the U.N. Knowing what we know now, it's clear that one man was judicious and realistic, while the other was spinning crazy conspiracy theories. But somehow their labels got switched in the way they were presented to the public by the news media.
Why does this happen? A large part of the answer is that the news business places great weight on "up close and personal" interviews with important people, largely because they're hard to get but also because they play well with the public. But such interviews are rarely revealing. The fact is that most people - myself included - are pretty bad at using personal impressions to judge character. Psychologists find, for example, that most people do little better than chance in distinguishing liars from truth-tellers.
More broadly, the big problem with political reporting based on character portraits is that there are no rules, no way for a reporter to be proved wrong. If a reporter tells you about the steely resolve of a politician who turns out to be ineffectual and unwilling to make hard choices, you've been misled, but not in a way that requires a formal correction.
A top CIA manager who remains undercover will soon oversee the traditional human spying activities for the entire intelligence community, a position created in the intelligence changes after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Jose's posting as head of the new National Clandestine Service ends weeks of debate over whether the CIA would retain its role as the primary agency responsible for traditional human spywork, as an increasing number of US national security agencies take on this type of work. He will now broadly coordinate operations for the FBI, Defense Department, and other agencies involved in human intelligence, or the information gathered by people, rather than by technical means.
A series of scandals involving some of the most powerful Republicans in Washington have converged to disrupt President Bush's agenda, distract aides and allies, and exacerbate political problems for an already weakened administration, according to party strategists and White House advisers.
Several Republicans close to Bush said they believe the CIA leak investigation has taken a particular toll, reducing Rove's role in key decisions and prompting Bush to rely on other, less sure-footed advisers. One well-connected outside adviser cited the Miers pick as an example. He said even if Rove considered the selection a risk or mistake, he knew he was in no position to press Bush on it. "My sense is Karl knows he has spent a lot of political capital with the president on this CIA leak case," the adviser said. "No matter how close Karl is to the president, there is a limit of how much capital you can spend even with a close, close friend."
Two Republicans close to the White House said officials are nervous that Rove and Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the two most powerful staffers in the federal government, could be indicted by special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald within two weeks. While the idea struck many on the Bush team as unfathomable a few months ago, now the common assumption is that both men could be in trouble.
Contrary to early accounts, President Bush's question-and-answer session with U.S. troops in Iraq tied to Saturday's vote on the new constitution now seems far from spontaneous. Subsequent reports from journalists on the scene revealed quite a bit of choreography in Thursday's teleconference with the president in Washington.
The official pool report, in fact, painted this scene: "The soldiers, nine U.S. men and one U.S. woman, plus an Iraqi, had been tipped off in advance about the questions in the highly-scripted event. Allison Barber, deputy assistant to the Secretary of Defense for internal communication, could be heard asking one soldier before the start of the event, 'Who are we going to give that [question] to?'"
It was billed as a conversation with U.S. troops, but the questions President Bush asked on a teleconference call Thursday were choreographed to match his goals for the war in Iraq and Saturday's vote on a new Iraqi constitution. "This is an important time," Allison Barber, deputy assistant defense secretary, said, coaching the soldiers before Bush arrived. "The president is looking forward to having just a conversation with you." Barber said the president was interested in three topics: the overall security situation in Iraq, security preparations for the weekend vote and efforts to train Iraqi troops.
In what may turn out to be one of the biggest free-falls in the history of presidential polling, President Bush's job-approval rating among African Americans has dropped to 2 percent, according to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. The drop among blacks drove Bush's overall job approval ratings to an all-time low of 39 percent in this poll. By comparison, 45 percent of whites and 36 percent of Hispanics approve of the job Bush is doing.
And for a little more perspective:
A few months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found Bush's approval rating among blacks at 51 percent. As recently as six months ago, it was at 19 percent
The best thing Patrick Fitzgerald could do for his country is get out of Washington, return to Chicago and prosecute some real criminals. As it is, all he has done so far is send Judith Miller of the New York Times to jail and repeatedly haul this or that administration high official before a grand jury, investigating a crime that probably wasn't one in the first place but that now, as is often the case, might have metastasized into some sort of coverup -- but, again, of nothing much. Go home, Pat.
Former Vice President Al Gore said Wednesday he had no intention of ever running for president again, but he said the United States would be "a different country" if he had won the 2000 election, launching into a scathing attack of the Bush administration.
"I have absolutely no plans and no expectations of ever being a candidate again," Gore told reporters after giving a speech at an economic forum in Sweden.
When asked how the United States would have been different if he had become president, though, he had harsh criticism for Bush's policies.
"We would not have invaded a country that didn't attack us," he said, referring to Iraq. "We would not have taken money from the working families and given it to the most wealthy families."
"We would not be trying to control and intimidate the news media. We would not be routinely torturing people," Gore said. "We would be a different country."
Of all the words written about Harriet Miers, none are more disturbing than the ones she wrote herself. In the early 90's, while she was president of the Texas bar association, Miers wrote a column called "President's Opinion" for The Texas Bar Journal. It is the largest body of public writing we have from her, and sad to say, the quality of thought and writing doesn't even rise to the level of pedestrian.
Of course, we have to make allowances for the fact that the first job of any association president is to not offend her members. Still, nothing excuses sentences like this: "More and more, the intractable problems in our society have one answer: broad-based intolerance of unacceptable conditions and a commitment by many to fix problems."
Or this: "We must end collective acceptance of inappropriate conduct and increase education in professionalism."
Or this: "When consensus of diverse leadership can be achieved on issues of importance, the greatest impact can be achieved."
Or passages like this: "An organization must also implement programs to fulfill strategies established through its goals and mission. Methods for evaluation of these strategies are a necessity. With the framework of mission, goals, strategies, programs, and methods for evaluation in place, a meaningful budgeting process can begin."
Or, finally, this: "We have to understand and appreciate that achieving justice for all is in jeopardy before a call to arms to assist in obtaining support for the justice system will be effective. Achieving the necessary understanding and appreciation of why the challenge is so important, we can then turn to the task of providing the much needed support."
Throw aside ideology. Surely the threshold skill required of a Supreme Court justice is the ability to write clearly and argue incisively. Miers's columns provide no evidence of that.
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has been subpoenaed to turn over personal records and documents as federal authorities step up a probe of his July sales of HCA Inc. stock, according to sources familiar with the investigation. The Securities and Exchange Commission issued the subpoena within the past two weeks, after initial reports that Frist, the Senate's top Republican official, was under scrutiny by the agency and the Justice Department for possible violations of insider trading laws.
An epic electoral reversal for the GOP in 2006 may be in the offing, but there is a larger game afoot. We are sliding back into the kind of ideological malaise endured during the late 1970s. The end days of the Carter administration saw skyrocketing gas prices, economic stagnation, the humiliating hostage crisis in Iran, the shock and disgust derived from the crimes of Watergate and the resignation of a sitting President, and let's not forget the lingering sting of a lost war in Vietnam. All of that balled together left the country at a loss. The belief that we were special took a furious beating, and only the superlative shyster salesmanship of Ronald Reagan was able to restore faith in the desiccated mythology.
Americans, by and large, have a fundamental need to feel like they are part of something great, above the fray and beyond the rest of the world. They are fed American exceptionalism with mother's milk, and will fight like rabid wolverines to avoid being forced to believe otherwise. Anyone mystified by the public support Bush has enjoyed until very recently, despite the endless litany of disasters that have befallen us, can look to this bone-deep need as the main reason for that support. It isn't just about 9/11. Americans need to feel good about America in the same way fish need water. Americans need to believe, and will thrash around like boated marlin if that belief is undercut. That belief serves as a kind of ideological Prozac, shoving bad thoughts to the background.
Iraq. Afghanistan. The continued freedom enjoyed by Osama bin Laden. Katrina. Abu Ghraib. Frist and insider stock trading. DeLay and a handful of indictments. Rove and Libby staring down the barrel of more indictments. Bush's approval ratings are plummeting, and the entire country is beginning to wilt under the depressing reality that we are, in fact, getting screwed with our pants on. Any conceits of moral authority being put forth by the White House and the Republican Party have been washed away in a flood of graft, death, lies and corruption. Our supply of Prozac is running short. The belief in American excellence so desperately necessary to the mental balance of the populace is being eroded by the hour, and there will be hell to pay because of it.
A panel appointed by U.S. President George W. Bush on Tuesday backed limiting tax breaks for housing and health care, in hopes of making the tax system simpler, fairer, and more friendly to economic growth.
Panel member James Poterba, an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, suggested capping mortgage interest rate deductions at current Federal Housing Administration mortgage limits, which range from around $190,000 to about $310,000, depending on the locality. Total tax revenue foregone from housing provisions is around $100 million a year, Poterba said. "Whenever we think about revenue-raising options, this is one that appears on the table," he said. Under current law, home owners can deduct mortgage interest on loans up to $1 million and home-equity line of credit interest up to $100,000. Home owners may deduct $250,000 in capital gains for the sale of primary residence and the cost of local property taxes.
Tax breaks for employer-provided health insurance are "one of the most opaque and costly tax benefits," said panel member Timothy Muris, who served as chairman of the Federal Trade Commission in during Bush's first term. This insurance is deductible for employers and tax free for employees. Also, some employees can set aside pretax dollars for health care costs not covered under insurance. All tax preferences for health care will cost about $140 billion in 2006, of which $125 billion is for workers' ability to exclude employer-provided health care from their income, Muris said.
The $6,000,000,000 a month for Iraq has to come from somewhere. Right?
A 6,000-word letter from Osama bin Laden's second-in-command to al-Qaida's leader in Iraq outlines the terrorist group's strategy to oust American troops from Iraq, create a militant Islamic state there, use that as a base to overthrow the governments of other Muslim nations and finally destroy Israel. John D. Negroponte, the new director of national intelligence, on Tuesday released a U.S. translation of the July 9 letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri to Jordanian-born terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and took the unusual step of posting it on his office's Web site. [...] While the Bush administration calls Iraq "the central front in the war on terrorism," the letter indicates that al-Qaida believes the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has created an opportunity to rally Muslims behind "the greatest battle of Islam in this era," one that eventually will lead to the creation of a pan-Islamic state, or caliphate.
The speaker of Iraq's parliament said Wednesday that lawmakers had approved a last-minute compromise on the draft constitution aimed at gaining Sunni support just days before a nationwide referendum. [...] The lawmakers gathered for about an hour at a special session of the National Assembly to hear a set of amendments to the constitution that are at the heart of the compromise, which was reached Tuesday night. The session, attended by 157 of the body's 275 members, ended without a vote on the measure. Parliament speaker Hajim al-Hassani said a vote was not necessary and that the amendments were approved. [...] Earlier in the day, Iraq's president, prime minister and other leaders praised the compromise, reached after marathon talks between Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish negotiators.
Given this initial response from conservatives on Bush's latest Supreme Court pick, it seems likely that Bush's honeymoon with pro-life conservatives may finally be coming to an end as they realize that he failed to keep his promise to appoint social conservatives to the Supreme Court.
There has been increasing conservative unrest stemming from Bush's proposal to amnesty millions of illegal immigrants, his failure to veto even one liberal spending bill in nearly five years of being President and his budget breaking proposal to provide $200 billion in federal aid help rebuild New Orleans. Together with tens of billions of dollars budgeted for the badly mismanaged war in Iraq, this threatens to increase next year's federal budget deficit to half a trillion dollars. In response to the demoralization he and many conservatives have felt in response to the Miers nomination, Bill Kristol posed the question, "What are the prospects for holding solid GOP majorities in Congress in 2006 if conservatives are demoralized?" This is the important issue we need to be asking. Bush's latest betrayal of conservatives may spell trouble for Republican efforts to retain their hard-won majority in both houses of Congress in next fall's election by depressing the turnout of the GOP's conservative base without which it cannot win elections.
By a margin of 50% to 44%, Americans want Congress to consider impeaching President Bush if he lied about the war in Iraq, according to a new poll commissioned by AfterDowningStreet.org, a grassroots coalition that supports a Congressional investigation of President Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003.
The poll was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, the highly-regarded non-partisan polling company. The poll interviewed 1,001 U.S. adults on October 6-9.
The poll found that 50% agreed with the statement: "If President Bush did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq, Congress should consider holding him accountable by impeaching him."
According to the Wall Street Journal, Fitzgerald may be investigating the entire White House Iraq Group in the leaking of Valerie Plame:
Mr. Fitzgerald's pursuit now suggests he might be investigating not a narrow case on the leaking of the agent's name, but perhaps a broader conspiracy. [...] Until now, Mr. Fitzgerald appeared to be focusing on conversations between White House officials such as Mr. Libby and Karl Rove, President Bush's senior political adviser, after Mr. Wilson wrote his op-ed. The defense by Republican operatives has been that White House officials didn't name Ms. Plame, and that any discussion of her was in response to reporters' questions about Mr. Wilson, the kind of casual banter that occurs between sources and reporters. [...] Lawyers familiar with the investigation believe that at least part of the outcome likely hangs on the inner workings of what has been dubbed the White House Iraq Group. Formed in August 2002, the group, which included Messrs. Rove and Libby, worked on setting strategy for selling the war in Iraq to the public in the months leading up to the March 2003 invasion.
The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg are working on stories that point to Vice President Dick Cheney as the target of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the leaking of CIA operative Valerie Plame's name.
In two appearances before the federal grand jury investigating the leak of a covert CIA operative's name, Lewis (Scooter) Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, did not disclose a crucial conversation that he had with New York Times reporter Judith Miller in June 2003 about the operative, Valerie Plame, according to sources with firsthand knowledge of his sworn testimony. The new revelations regarding Libby come as Fitzgerald has indicated that he is wrapping up his investigation and making final decisions as to whether criminal charges will be brought in the case. Libby also did not disclose the June 23 conversation when he was twice interviewed by FBI agents working on the Plame leak investigation, the sources said.
Has the white working class abandoned the Democratic Party? No. White voters in the bottom third of the income distribution have actually become more reliably Democratic in presidential elections over the past half-century, while middle and upper-income white voters have trended Republican. Low-income whites have become less Democratic in their partisan identifications, but at a slower rate than more affluent whites--and that trend is entirely confined to the South, where Democratic identification was artificially inflated by the one-party system of the Jim Crow era--itself a holdover from the legacy of the Civil War and Reconstruction.
Has the white working class became more conservative? No. The typical views of low-income whites have remained virtually unchanged over the past 30 years. (A pro-choice shift on abortion in the 1970s and '80s has been partially reversed since the early 1990s.) Their positions relative to more affluent white voters--generally less liberal on social issues and less conservative on economic issues--have also remained virtually unchanged.
Do working class "moral values" trump economics in determining voting patterns? No. Social issues (including abortion) are less strongly related to party identification and presidential votes than economic issues, and that is even more true for whites in the bottom third of the income distribution than for more affluent whites. Moreover, while social issue preferences have become more strongly related to presidential votes among middle- and high-income whites, there is no evidence of a corresponding trend among low-income whites.
Are religious voters distracted from economic issues? No. For church-goers as for non-church-goers, partisanship and voting behavior are primarily shaped by economic issues, not cultural issues.
The Bush administration is spending about $7 billion a month to wage the war on terror, and costs could total $570 billion by the end of 2010, assuming troops are gradually brought home, a congressional report estimates. The paper by the Congressional Research Service underscores how the price tag has been gradually rising for the war in Iraq. A year ago, the Pentagon was calculating its average monthly costs in that conflict at below $5 billion — an amount the research service says has now grown close to $6 billion.
It is fair to say that a good many Americans perceive George W. Bush to be a doltish incompetent who does not know the first thing about fighting terrorism. But whatever the president's actual level of competence may be, it is now clear that he has even less respect for the intelligence of the American people than his critics have for his cognitive capabilities.
On March 25 , on the letterhead of her Dallas law firm, Locke Purnell Rain Harrell, Ms. Miers wrote to thank him "for taking the time to visit in the office and on the plane back - cool!" "Keep up all the great work," she wrote. "The state is in great hands. Thanks also for yours and your family's personal sacrifice."
[In 1996,] Ms. Miers wrote to thank the Bushes, saying, "Texas has a very popular governor and first lady!" She recalled a little girl who collected Mr. Bush's autograph and said, "I was struck by the tremendous impact you have on the children whose lives you touch."
In October 1997, Ms. Miers sent Mr. Bush a flowery greeting card in thanks for a letter that he had written on her behalf. In it, she said of his daughters: "Hopefully Jenna and Barbara recognize that their parents are 'cool' - as do the rest of us."
Yahoo Inc. online news search tool on Monday added Internet journal entries as a supplement to professional media offerings — an experiment that figures to test the public's appetite for information from alternative sources. Under Yahoo's new approach, a keyword search for online news will include a list of relevant Web logs, or "blogs," displayed in a box to the right of the results collected from mainstream journalism. [...] Yahoo's inclusion of blogs in its news section represents another validation for a growing group of people that are bypassing newspapers, magazines and broadcast outlets to report and comment on topical events. [...] Although many top bloggers lack formal journalism training, it hasn't stopped them from building loyal readerships or breaking news that the mainstream media either missed or ignored. Those scoops have helped rally more support for "citizen journalism" — a cause that Yahoo wanted to recognize by spotlighting some of the news appearing in blogs.
Bloggers would "probably not" be considered journalists under the proposed federal shield law, the bill's co-sponsor, U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar (R.-Ind.), told the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) Monday afternoon.
Because we certainly qualify for the rest of the criteria:
According to the first draft of the Free Flow of Information Act of 2005, the "covered person" protected by the bill's terms includes "any entity that disseminates information by print, broadcast, cable, satellite, mechanical, photographic, electronic, or other means and that publishes a newspaper, book, magazine, or other periodical in print or electronic form; operates a radio or television station (or network of such stations), cable system, or satellite carrier, or channel or programming service for any such station, network, system, or carrier; or operates a news agency or wire service."
Ever since President Bush promised to rebuild the Gulf Coast in "one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen," many people have asked how he plans to pay for that effort. But looking at what has (and hasn't) happened since he gave that speech, I'm starting to wonder whether they're asking the right question. How sure are we that large-scale federal aid for post-Katrina reconstruction will really materialize?
Bear with me while I make the case for doubting whether Mr. Bush will make good on his promise.
First, Mr. Bush already has a record of trying to renege on pledges to a stricken city. After 9/11 he made big promises to New York. But as soon as his bullhorn moment was past, officials began trying to wriggle out of his pledge. By early 2002 his budget director was accusing New York's elected representatives, who wanted to know what had happened to the promised aid, of engaging in a "money-grubbing game." It's not clear how much federal help the city has actually received.
With that precedent in mind, consider this: Congress has just gone on recess. By the time it returns, seven weeks will have passed since the levees broke. And the administration has spent much of that time blocking efforts to aid Katrina's victims.
I'm not sure why the news media haven't made more of the White House role in stalling a bipartisan bill that would have extended Medicaid coverage to all low-income hurricane victims - some of whom, according to surveys, can't afford needed medicine. The White House has also insisted that disaster loans to local governments, many of which no longer have a tax base, be made with the cruel and unusual provision that these loans cannot be forgiven.
Since the administration is already nickel-and-diming Katrina's victims, it's a good bet that it will do the same with reconstruction - that is, if reconstruction ever gets started.
Nobody thinks that reconstruction should already be under way. But what's striking to me is that there are no visible signs that the administration has even begun developing a plan. No reconstruction czar has been appointed; no commission has been named. There have been no public hearings. And as far as we can tell, nobody is in charge.
Last month The New York Times reported that Karl Rove had been placed in charge of post-Katrina reconstruction. But last week Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, denied that Mr. Rove - who has become a lot less visible lately, as speculation swirls about possible indictments in the Plame case - was ever running reconstruction. So who is in charge? "The president," said Mr. McClellan.
Finally, if we assume that Mr. Bush remains hostile to domestic spending that might threaten his tax cuts - and there's no reason to assume otherwise - foot-dragging on post-Katrina reconstruction is a natural political strategy.
I've been reading "Off Center," an important new book by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, political scientists at Yale and Berkeley respectively. Their goal is to explain how Republicans, who face a generally moderate electorate and have won recent national elections by "the slimmest of margins," have nonetheless been able to advance a radical rightist agenda.
One of their "new rules for radicals" is "Don't just do something, stand there." Frontal assaults on popular government programs tend to fail, as Mr. Bush learned in his hapless attempt to sell Social Security privatization. But as Mr. Hacker and Mr. Pierson point out, "sometimes decisions not to act can be a powerful means of reshaping the role of government." For example, the public strongly supports a higher minimum wage, but conservatives have nonetheless managed to cut that wage in real terms by not raising it in the face of inflation.
Right now, the public strongly supports a major reconstruction effort, so that's what Mr. Bush had to promise. But as the TV cameras focus on other places and other issues, will the administration pay a heavy political price for a reconstruction that starts slowly and gradually peters out? The New York experience suggests that it won't.
Of course, I may be overanalyzing. Maybe the administration isn't deliberately dragging its feet on reconstruction. Maybe its lack of movement, like its immobility in the days after Katrina struck, reflects nothing more than out-of-touch leadership and a lack of competent people.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Monday called off a high alert for the city's subway system after the attack date cited in a federal warning passed without incident. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security had warned New York officials of a possible threat to New York's underground mass transit system on or about October 9, based on an uncorroborated claim to Iraqi authorities. Federal authorities had said the threat was of doubtful credibility but Bloomberg said it was serious enough to warn the public.
On a less snarky note, this type of crying wolf could have some serious impact when there is an actual credible threat. If this was in fact an orchestrated political diversion - which it appears to be - those responsible should be held accountable to their actions. But we all know that would never happen. Right?
Republican politicians in multiple states have recently decided not to run for Senate next year, stirring anxiety among Washington operatives about the effectiveness of the party's recruiting efforts and whether this signals a broader decline in GOP congressional prospects. [...] With an unpopular war in Iraq, ethical controversies shadowing top Republicans in the House and Senate, and President Bush suffering the lowest approval ratings of his presidency, the waters look less inviting to politicians deciding whether to plunge into an election bid. Additionally, some Capitol Hill operatives complain that preoccupied senior White House officials have been less engaged in candidate recruitment than they were for the 2002 and 2004 elections.
On a related note, why is the Democratic establishment telling Paul Hackett to step aside? Greyhair has more...
The United States must be prepared to fight the war on terror for decades to bring peace to Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, Vice President Dick Cheney said Wednesday. "Like other great duties in history, it will require decades of patient effort, and it will be resisted by those whose only hope for power is through the spread of violence," said Cheney. "As the people of that region experience new hope, progress, and control over their own destiny, we will see the power of freedom to change our world and a terrible threat will be removed."
Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and several Democrats on the committee said Sunday that they were considering calling the evangelical conservative James C. Dobson to testify on what he has been told about Harriet E. Miers, the president's Supreme Court nominee. "If Dr. Dobson knows something that he shouldn't know or something that I ought to know, I'm going to find out," Mr. Specter said Sunday in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on the ABC News program "This Week."
In response to a later question, Mr. Specter added, "If there are back-room assurances and if there are back-room deals and if there is something which bears upon a precondition as to how a nominee is going to vote, I think that's a matter that ought to be known by the Judiciary Committee and the American people."
And guess who may have been the architect of the deal:
Mr. Dobson, the influential founder of the conservative evangelical group Focus on the Family, has said he is supporting Ms. Miers's nomination in part because of something he has been told but cannot divulge. He has not disclosed the source of the information, but he has acknowledged speaking with Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser, about the president's pick before it was announced.
Whether or not indictments come down, our domesticated mainstream media probably will continue to play down the damage to US intelligence. Even more important, they are likely to ignore completely the very curious event that started the whole business - the forging of documents that became the basis of reporting that Iraq was seeking uranium in Niger for its (non-existent) nuclear weapons program. Together with other circumstantial evidence, the neuralgic reaction of Vice President Dick Cheney to press reports that he was point man for promoting the bogus "intelligence" report suggests that he may also have been its intellectual author/authorizer.
Yes, I am suggesting that it may have been an inside job. Cheney and his chief of staff Lewis Libby may well have had a hand in commissioning the forgery, as a way of manufacturing an intelligence report, with "mushroom cloud" written all over it - in order to deceive Congress into approving an unnecessary war. The more you look into the whole affair, the curiouser and curiouser it becomes. Why, for example, would Senate Intelligence Committee chair Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) adamantly refuse to investigate the provenance of a forgery used to start a war?
And why did former Secretary of State Colin Powell, addressing the UN on February 5, 2003, decide to delete from his very long laundry list of spurious charges against Iraq its alleged attempt to acquire uranium from Niger? Even though he himself had avoided repeating the famous "16 words" used by President Bush just five weeks before (see below), Powell was forced to listen stoically as Mohammed El-Baradei, head of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, reported on worldwide TV that his own and outside experts had concluded that the Iraq-Niger documents were "not authentic." The White House left it to Powell to concede that El-Baradei was correct, and Powell eventually did so.
Perhaps special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will be able to shed light on some of this.
Pat Buchanan told Keith Olbermann that conservatives were "agonized," "depressed," and "virtually heartbroken," and Charles Krauthammer wrote: "If Harriet Miers were not a crony of the president of the United States, her nomination to the Supreme Court would be a joke, as it would have occurred to no one else to nominate her." Ouch.
Conservatives are shocked to discover that President Bush has been stuffing his administration with cronies and mediocrities in important places? If Ms. Miers were a sworn foe of Roe v. Wade and an ardent advocate of originalism in constitutional jurisprudence, would the same conservatives be so sick about her qualifications? Clarence Thomas, after all, was anything but a leading light of American jurisprudence.
The right is right about Ms. Miers's insufficiency to join the Brethren, even if the right is cynical. Actually, there's a lot of cynicism in the Miers affair. Those on the left are perfectly happy to look away from mediocrity because it is the lesser of two evils, because they were spared the nightmare of a reactionary maniac.
The persistent reluctance of the administration to confront the political background of the terrorist menace has reinforced sympathy among Muslims for the terrorists. It is a self-delusion for Americans to be told that the terrorists are motivated mainly by an abstract "hatred of freedom" and that their acts are a reflection of a profound cultural hostility. If that were so, Stockholm or Rio de Janeiro would be as much at risk as New York City. Yet, in addition to New Yorkers, the principal victims of serious terrorist attacks have been Australians in Bali, Spaniards in Madrid, Israelis in Tel Aviv, Egyptians in the Sinai and Britons in London.
There is an obvious political thread connecting these events: The targets are America's allies and client states in its deepening military intervention in the Middle East. Terrorists are not born but shaped by events, experiences, impressions, hatreds, ethnic myths, historical memories, religious fanaticism and deliberate brainwashing. They are also shaped by images of what they see on television, and especially by feelings of outrage at what they perceive to be the brutal denigration of their religious kin's dignity by heavily armed foreigners. An intense political hatred for America, Britain and Israel is drawing recruits for terrorism not only from the Middle East but as far away as Ethiopia, Morocco, Pakistan, Indonesia and even the Caribbean.
In a very real sense, during the last four years the Bush team has dangerously undercut America's seemingly secure perch on top of the global totem pole by transforming a manageable, though serious, challenge largely of regional origin into an international debacle. Because America is extraordinarily powerful and rich, it can afford, for a while longer, a policy articulated with rhetorical excess and pursued with historical blindness. But in the process, America is likely to become isolated in a hostile world, increasingly vulnerable to terrorist acts and less and less able to exercise constructive global influence. Flailing away with a stick at a hornets' nest while loudly proclaiming "I will stay the course" is an exercise in catastrophic leadership.
As part of the expanding counterterrorism role being taken on by the Pentagon, Defense Intelligence Agency covert operatives need to be able to approach potential sources in the United States without identifying themselves as government agents, George Peirce, the DIA's general counsel, said yesterday. "This is not about spying on Americans," Peirce said in an interview in which he defended legislative language approved last week by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The provision would grant limited authority for DIA agents to clandestinely collect information about U.S. citizens or emigres in this country to help determine whether they could be recruited as sources of intelligence information.
Pakistan says more than 18,000 have been killed by Saturday's powerful earthquake that also hit northern India and Afghanistan. The 7.6-magnitude quake, with an epicentre 80km (50 miles) north-east of Islamabad, flattened entire villages. [...] "The people of the United States offer our deepest sympathies for the loss of life and destruction," said George W Bush in a statement. [...] The US has promised $100,000.