Gonzo gets the Isikoff treatment in the latest explication of his midnight ride to push John Ashcroft to sign onto warrantless wiretapping through the fog of medication.
Aug. 6, 2007 issue - Late on the afternoon of March 10, 2004, eight congressional leaders filed into the White House Situation Room for an urgent briefing on one of the Bush administration's top secrets: a classified surveillance program that involved monitoring Americans' e-mails and phone calls without court warrants. Vice President Dick Cheney did most of the briefing. But as he explained the National Security Agency program, the lawmakers weren't fully grasping the dimensions of what he was saying. Tom Daschle, then the Senate minority leader, tells NEWSWEEK that Cheney "talked like it was something routine. We really had no idea what it was all about." Still, as Daschle recalls, there were "a lot of concerns" expressed by some Democrats in the room when Cheney asked for their approval to continue the program. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, then the House minority leader, recalls that she "made clear my disagreement with what the White House was asking."
Last week, embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales gave a different account of the briefing, provoking yet another controversy in his tenure as the country's top law-enforcement officer. In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales, who participated in the briefing as the White House counsel, said the legislators were told the deputy attorney general at the time, James Comey, had raised objections to the program. Gonzales said there was "consensus" that the program, aimed at catching terrorists, was needed. "The congressional leadership ... told us, 'Continue going forward with this very important intelligence activity'," Gonzales testified.
It was only after getting that go-ahead, Gonzales said, that he and then White House chief of staff Andrew Card visited the hospital room of John Ashcroft, the gravely ill attorney general recovering from surgery. Gonzales tried, unsuccessfully, to get the heavily medicated Ashcroft to overrule Comey—a pivotal moment in one of the fiercest behind-the-scenes clashes of the Bush presidency. ...
Another interesting bit:
Congressional Democrats plan to step up the heat in coming weeks, pressing for Justice memos and other documents. They also plan to call a potentially crucial witness: Jack L. Goldsmith, the former chief of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel. It was Goldsmith who wrote a key opinion concluding the eavesdropping program was illegal. A conservative lawyer now at Harvard, Goldsmith, who declined to comment, will have every incentive to talk. He is due to publish a new book this fall called "The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment Inside the Bush Administration." According to its Amazon.com listing, the book will chronicle how the president's "apparent indifference to human rights has damaged his presidency." On the cover are pictures of Bush, Cheney—and Gonzales.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is in the hospital. The seizure is from an unknown cause...
Update: More details have been released about Chief Justice Roberts' seizure:
St. George Ambulance responded to a call at about 2 p.m. Monday of a man who had fallen 5 to 10 feet and landed on a dock, hitting the back of his head. The patient was ashen and was foaming at the mouth. National news report quotes a Supreme Court spokeswoman as saying that Roberts was conscious the entire time of the incident. That spokeswoman has not returned a telephone call to the newspaper.
PBMC issued a statement at about 7 p.m., saying that Roberts was being kept overnight as a precaution and was recovered. He suffered some minor scrapes from the fall, the hospital stated. A comprehensive neurological examination was administered to the chief justice and the seizure was determined to be a benign one, the hospital stated. The chief justice suffered a similar seizure in 1993.
Soccer (that's football, to you) may not be able to save Iraq, but for a few brief hours this weekend, it did bring that broken country together. What a great story -- despite the revelers throwing their Kalashnakovs in the air and waving them like they just don't care, resulting in at least four accidental deaths, not to mention the bombers who were determined to turn the festivity into tragedy, the way a bomber did after Iraq clinched the semifinals. The Iraqi team, known as the "Lions of Mesopotamia," is comprised of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, who played together as Iraqis, though they had to practice as Jordanians, since it's too dangerous for them to practice at home on one of those soccer fields our troops are risking their lives to construct. And they are an example of what Iraq can be -- plural, unified, and nationalistic beyond the constrictive bounds of sect.
But wait, it gets better...
The guy who scored the winning goal to clinch the 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia? He told the press afterward that U.S. troops should get out of Iraq. Like, yesterday.
Fox News can't find anyone in the White House or on Capitol Hill to come on Chris Wallace's White House/GOP hour and defend Alberto Gonzales, and Newt Gingrich treats the A.G. like a spoiled, smelly enchilada. Watch and enjoy. (Sigh.) Pobre Albertcito...
The soldier who was with Pat Tillman at the time of his death contradicts the official account, including that of the chaplain who supposedly took the soldier's statement. From the AP:
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - As bullets flew above their heads, the young soldier at Pat Tillman's side started praying. "I thought I was praying to myself, but I guess he heard me," Sgt. Bryan O'Neal recalled in an interview Saturday with The Associated Press. "He said something like, 'Hey, O'Neal, why are you praying? God can't help us now.'"
Tillman's intent, O'Neal said, was to "more or less put my mind straight about what was going on at the moment."
"He said, 'I've got an idea to help get us out of this,'" said O'Neal, who was an 18-year-old Army Ranger in Tillman's unit when the former NFL player was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in April 2004.
O'Neal said Tillman, a corporal, threw a smoke grenade to identify themselves to fellow soldiers who were firing at them. Tillman was waving his arms shouting "Cease fire, friendlies, I am Pat (expletive) Tillman, damn it!" again and again when he was killed, O'Neal said.
A chaplain who debriefed the entire unit days after Tillman's death later described this exchange to investigators conducting a criminal probe of the incident. But O'Neal strongly disputes portions of the chaplain's testimony, outlined in some 2,300 pages of transcripts released to the AP this week by the Defense Department in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
The chaplain told investigators that O'Neal said Tillman was harsh in his last moments, snapping, 'Would you shut your (expletive) mouth? God's not going to help you; you need to do something for yourself, you sniveling ..."
"He never would have called me 'sniveling,'" O'Neal said. "I don't remember ever speaking to this chaplain, and I find this characterization of Pat really upsetting. He never once degraded me. He's the only person I ever worked for who didn't degrade anyone. He wasn't that sort of person."
The chaplain's name is blacked out in the documents.
Not to sound conspiratorial, but can you imagine what it would have meant to the Bush administration, just after the Abu Ghraib disaster, to have a famed NFL player turned warrior in Afghanistan come out publicly against the Iraq war, which Tillman may have been preparing to do? Just sayin' ... anyway, more from the AP story:
Soldiers and commanders who worked with Tillman have repeatedly testified that he was respected, admired and well-liked.
In the same testimony, medical examiners said the bullet holes in Tillman's head were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away.
O'Neal said the shooters were "close, close enough for me to recognize them, but they sure weren't 10 yards away. They were further than that. I've thought about this plenty of times. They wouldn't have been more than 50 yards away."
Another key issue raised in the transcripts involved never-before-mentioned snipers who were apparently there when the firing broke out, got out of their vehicle and walked alongside the convoy, cutting up the canyon firing.
O'Neal said Saturday that he knew there were snipers in the convoy that fired at them, but that he can't remember their names. Were they fired at by the snipers? "Not that I know of," O'Neal told the AP.
His recollections of the snipers reflected other testimony in the transcripts, including answers given by Capt. Richard Scott, who conducted the first, immediate investigation:
Q: Are you aware whether or not any U.S. forces snipers were at the scene? Scott: They were in serial two.
Q: And, and do you know whose GMV (ground mobility vehicle) they were traveling in?
Scott: I don't think they were in a GMV. I think they were in a cargo Humvee.
Q: Okay. Do you know if the snipers fired any rounds during this incident involving CPL Tillman?
Scott: I do not, no.
More questions here than answers, to be sure. And while we're at it, recall that the Tillman death, and White House conversations with the military about it, are the subject of one of Fred Fielding's many executive privilege filings on behalf of President Bush... one wonders why...
When you're in a hole, stop digging ... unless you have a magic spade
President Bush is either the most balsy politician ever made, or he's completely insane. In response to the continuing controversy over his illegal warrantless wiretapping scheme, a scandal that has brought his attorney general to the brink of criminal perjury and possibly other charges, Bush has presented Congress with a new demand: in short -- "give me the legal authority to use our foreign intelligence services to spy on Americans." It's a stunning development, even for this president. Bloomberg reports:
July 28 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush urged Congress to pass legislation to expand potential surveillance targets, a step he said is important to help fight terrorism.
Bush's plea comes days after Robert Mueller, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said he had serious concerns about the Bush administration's terrorism surveillance program, saying there had been a dispute in the administration over the spying.
``Today we face sophisticated terrorists who use disposable cell phones and the Internet to communicate with each other, recruit operatives, and plan attacks on our country,'' Bush said in his weekly radio address.
Equally stunning, is the fact that it appears that Democratic leaders are actually considering accommodating Bush's demand. More from Bloomberg:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that Democrats would advance a proposal next week to revise laws governing the the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping programs under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Bush said Congress should update the law to include people in the U.S. suspected of possessing significant information on terrorists or enemy government plots. The law now allows the government to get court approval for eavesdropping only if it shows a clear link to an enemy government or terrorist group.
``The law is badly out of date,'' Bush said. ``Our intelligence community warns that under the current statute, we are missing a significant amount of foreign intelligence that we should be collecting to protect our country.''
The Bush administration in April proposed legislation to update FISA to take into account the development of cell phones and e-mail, which they say has made it easier for terrorists to communicate.
Nancy, are you serious???
Could it be that Bush is being this assertive because his dutiful White House monkeys have found the secret key to get Alberto out of lock-up, preserving the presence of the most scandalized attorney general, the better to keep the cover-up of Bushie crimes going?
The New York Times on Saturday revealed new details about the fight within the U.S. intelligence community -- the one Alberto Gonzales claimed wasn't going on in his perjurious testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week -- over warrantless spying on Americans. And if you read the article carefully, it reads like a very clever plant from administration loyalists to very carefully ease Alberto off the perjury hot seat. Here's an excerpt from the Times article:
WASHINGTON, July 28 — A 2004 dispute over the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance program that led top Justice Department officials to threaten resignation involved computer searches through massive electronic databases, according to current and former officials briefed on the program.
It is not known precisely why searching the databases, or data mining, raised such a furious legal debate. But such databases contain records of the phone calls and e-mail messages of millions of Americans, and their examination by the government would raise privacy issues.
The N.S.A.’s data mining has previously been reported. But the disclosure that concerns about it figured in the March 2004 debate helps to clarify the clash this week between Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and senators who accused him of misleading Congress and called for a perjury investigation.
The confrontation in 2004 led to a showdown in the hospital room of then Attorney General John Ashcroft, where Mr. Gonzales, the White House counsel at the time, and Andrew H. Card Jr., then the White House chief of staff, tried to get the ailing Mr. Ashcroft to reauthorize the N.S.A. program.
Mr. Gonzales insisted before the Senate this week that the 2004 dispute did not involve the Terrorist Surveillance Program “confirmed” by President Bush, who has acknowledged eavesdropping without warrants but has never acknowledged the data mining.
If the dispute chiefly involved data mining, rather than eavesdropping, Mr. Gonzales’ defenders may maintain that his narrowly crafted answers, while legalistic, were technically correct.
Really? A bit more:
A half-dozen officials and former officials interviewed for this article would speak only on the condition of anonymity, in part because unauthorized disclosures about the classified program are already the subject of a criminal investigation. Some of the officials said the 2004 dispute involved other issues in addition to the data mining, but would not provide details. They would not say whether the differences were over how the databases were searched or how the resulting information was used.
Nor would they explain what modifications to the surveillance program President Bush authorized to head off the threatened resignations by Justice Department officials.
An agency spokesman declined to comment on the data mining issue but referred a reporter to a statement issued earlier that Mr. Gonzales had testified truthfully.
Are these unauthorized leaks to the Times, which, recall, was the preferred recipient of Ahmad Chalabi and Pentagon leaks in the run-up to the Iraq war... or are these strategic leaks intended to push Congress off the independent counsel track? So now, Alberto was obfuscating about the data mining, and not the eavesdropping part of the TSP? Then why did FBI director Mueller acknowledge, during questioning before the House Judiciary Committee, that the disputes inside the administration indeed involved the Terror Surveillance Program -- in toto, one must assume -- unless the administration is now trying to divorce the data mining from the program intended to benefit from it? It will be worth watching whether Russert and Stephanopoulos use the NYT article to let Alberto off the hook (my money's on their doing just that.) Two more key paras from the article, which has also been picked up by the Washington Post:
The first known assertion by administration officials that there had been no serious disagreement within the government about the legality of the N.S.A. program came in talks with New York Times editors in 2004. In an effort to persuade the editors not to disclose the eavesdropping program, senior officials repeatedly cited the lack of dissent as evidence of the program’s lawfulness.
In December 2005, The Times published articles describing the program, the data mining and the internal legal debate. The newspaper reported that the N.S.A. had combed large volumes of telephone and Internet traffic in search of patterns that might point to terrorism suspects.
In other words, the data mining and the wiretapping were part and parcel of the same, illegal, program. But look for poor Tony Snow to be given a new talking point to add to his rather pathetic, flailing defense of Albertcito last week. Now, Tony can say to Chris Matthews, over pizza, apparently, that Alberto couldn't testify fully about the programs that were in dispute, because they involved ... voila! ... data mining, and not warrantless wiretapping, which "everybody agreed with." Really?
It's hard to see through the White House obfuscation about its warrantless wiretapping program, but thanks in part to former deputy attorney general James Comey's congressional testimony in May, we think we know this much:
Soon after 9/11, the administration started eavesdropping on Americans. By March 2004, Bush's own Justice Department had decided that the program was clearly illegal, and top department officials couldn't find a way to rationalize it. After a rebellion led by Comey -- and backed by a hospitalized John Ashcroft -- the White House agreed to make some changes. The revised program, still controversial, was described in the New York Times in December 2005. The White House christened it the "Terrorist Surveillance Program." And in January 2007, Bush agreed to put the revised program under court jurisdiction -- although it's not clear exactly what that means.
The talk sweeping Washington today of a possible perjury investigation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales stems from Gonzales's assertion in a February 2006 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that "there has not been any serious disagreement about the program that the president has confirmed."
Even after Comey's testimony, Gonzales insisted that he had testified truthfully.
How could that be? It appears that Gonzales is engaged in what one anonymous Justice Department official this week charitably called " linguistic parsing."
Gonzales is trying to make a distinction between the "Terrorist Surveillance Program" that was "publicly confirmed by the President in December 2005" and what he calls "other intelligence activities" that Comey objected to. But he dug himself deeper during his congressional testimony on Tuesday, when he characterized a March 2004 meeting with some members of Congress that was obviously about the Terrorist Surveillance Program as being about -- you guessed it -- "other intelligence activities." Those members of Congress begged to differ.
This is not just a story about Gonzales's relationship to the truth. It's also a story about all the things we still don't know about the White House and illegal wiretapping.
One of the chief unanswered questions, as I wrote in my May 17 column: What was the program like when it was illegal even in the opinion of Bush's own Justice Department? What was the government doing to its citizens for two and a half years -- starting soon after 9/11 through the spring of 2004?
Apparently, the answer this week, from the White House, will be that what they were doing to Americans was "data mining," and that it was that which became the object of dispute.
Watch and marvel at the hubris. And let's see if the Dems -- and the media talking heads -- fall for it.
31: The percentage of Americans according to a new ABC/WaPo poll who say the Supreme Court is leaning too far to the right (BTW Bush's approval rating in that poll: 33 percent, with 65 disapproving -- 52 percent strongly so... the highest strong disapproval Bush has faced since he took office.)
Other tidbits from the poll:
58 percent strongly disapprove of the situation in Iraq (68 disapprove period), and a record 56 percent disapprove of the U.S. "campaign against terrorism." Interesting... both all-time highs for those questions.
64 percent disapprove of the job Republicans are doing in Congress, with 34 percent approving; and 51 percent disapprove of the job Democrats are doing, with a much more respectable 46 percent approving. i'd wager that most of the Dems' disapproval stems from their failure to really take on (if not take down) this president. Evidence of that: 63 percent disapprove of the Dems' handling of the situation in Iraq, though the public prefers the Dems to handle Iraq over President Bush by a margin of 55 to 32 percent, and 59 percent of respondents favor withdrawing U.S. troops from the conflict.
A new report by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government (CREW) finds that Katrina victims literally may have died waiting for relief in the form of foreign aid, including generous offers from U.S. allies, that never came because the Bush administration either bungled it our outright refused it. RawStory posts excerpts:
Offers to help came from 145 countries and 12 international organizations. The US did accept help from its top allies around the globe, but CREW's report shows it left unclaimed hundreds of thousands of prepared meals, water pumps, doctors and medicine.
Many of the offers were turned down because of a strict adherence to bureaucratic regulations, the report reveals. For example, questions about medical licensing prevented foreign-trained doctors from helping in the Gulf Coast.
"All, The (sic) word here is that doctors of any kind are in the 'forget about it' category," read an e-mail from the State Department responding to an offer of assistance from Argentina. "Human assistance of any kind is not on our priorities list ... It's all about goods, not people, at this point."
A ban on British beef in place over fears of Mad Cow disease prevented Meals Ready to Eat from the UK being given to Katrina refugees. The uneaten MREs were kept in a storage unit at a cost of $16,000 per month, according to the report.
The disorganization that plagued Katrina cleanup efforts also strained diplomatic relations, when the US ignored offers of aid from other countries.
"It is getting downright embarrassing here not to have a response to the Estonians on flood relief," Jeffrey Goldstein, a U.S. Embassy official in Estonia, wrote in an e-mail to several State Department officials. "... We know that what the Estonians can offer is small potatoes and everyone at FEMA is swamped, but at this point even 'thanks but no thanks' is better than deafening silence." ...
And now, for a brief reminder of what the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was like for the people of New Orleans and Mississippi:
Just in case you had any remaining doubt that the leading right wing bloggers are little more than stenographers for the White House and the GOP, dutifully tapping out talking points garnished to look like original thoughts, RawStory cops a link that utterly clears the fog:
At the urging of top conservative bloggers, the White House set up a Friday morning conference call to promote its message on the subject of executive privilege, RAW STORY has found.
"The White House hosted a blogger conference call to discuss the issues surrounding the Bush administration's use of executive privilege in the probe of the firings of eight federal prosecutors," wrote Ed Morrissey, who produces the blog Captains Quarters. "The White House arranged the call based on a recommendation by this blog, in order to familiarize the blogosphere with the legal and political arguments on which the administration will rely to prevail in the upcoming fight regarding the contempt citations Congress seems likely to approve." ...
Morrisey did not name any other participants in the call or identify the administration official who spoke to the assembled bloggers. But he showed that the message being delivered by the White House was short and to the point.
"The power to hire and fire federal prosecutors belongs exclusively to the executive branch," Morrissey wrote. "Congress has no particular oversight in these matters, and so the executive privilege claim is very compelling in this instance."
At least one commenter was critical of Morrissey's efforts.
"Thanks for reporting the administration's talking points, Captain Steno," wrote the posts only commenter. "You have a reputation for being a rational thinker, so how's about a little more in-depth analysis of the legal merit of the points?"
The offending post can be found here. Some of the commenters appear to be rightfully appalled at Captain's new job as Tony Snow's virtual lieutenant, but many of the BushBots are circling the wagons around the president and his lackey attorney general. Typical of the lap-dog commenters is someone called "Skywatch":
We are at war.
That does not forgive everything. I was and still am very worried about some of the patriot act (tho some concernces have been addressed).Like a Dem commentor said above would you want Hillary having this power? I would not. I trust the Bush toadies to use the powers to protect me. To listen and collect data on folks that wish harm on the country but I think Hillary would use those same powers to collect data on political foes.
Do you, now? Well that'll do, then, donkey, that'll do...
But there are also some lucid commenters over at Ed's, including someone called "Shieldvulf":
Lying to Congress and the people, politicizing law enforcement, and ignoring Congressional subpoenas are not at issue at all! The only question to be asked is, which side is someone on? Them over there? They are bad! It doesn't matter how well documented their outrage may be. All that matters is whether or not they get in line.
During this week's CNN/Youtube debate, the candidates were asked whether they'd commit to meeting with America's foes, including such leaders as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, Kim Jong Il of North Korea and Fidel Castro of Cuba. Obama said absolutely yes -- we have to change the paradigm that has isolated this country over the past seven years ... Clinton said she wouldn't make such a commitment in her first year, but would use potential meetings as a bargaining chip in her larger bag of aggressive diplomacy. Natch.
What escalated the drama:
After the debate, Hillary gave a newspaper an interview to the Quad City Times of crucial Iowa, n which she called Obama's position "naive." In a separate interview with the paper, Barack shot back that what was naive, was "giving George W. Bush authorization to invade Iraq without a plan to get out." Ouch! After that, Obama laid it on even thicker, telling supporters at a campaign rally that what we don't need in the White House is "Bush lite." Double ouch!
Where it stands now:
Hillary is attacking Barack for attacking her, saying "what ever happened to the politics of hope?" She appears to now want to simmer down the fight she started, lest it boost Barack's profile even more. Barack's camp seems to be enjoying the fight, which raises his stature and most certainly increasing the devotion of his supporters. I think Hillary wins the argument on substance, and she looks more experienced and presidential than Barack based on her answer, but he probably made himself look highly desirable by the world (though as Chris Matthews said yesterday, we don't have a "world election.")
Where it will end:
Both camps will likely let it die a natural death, the better to preserve their potential coming together as running-mates.
In the meantime, it's kind of nice to see the Dems mix it up for a change.
Last night on "Hardball," former Reagan deputy Attorney General Bruce Fein threw down the gauntlet, saying that the real problem with Alberto Gonzales' testimony was that by standing alone in saying there was no disagreement among the administration's legal and intelligence chiefs about the legality of the warrantless NSA spying program, he puts himself out on a very serious legal limb. Why? Because in all probability, the NSA's "terrorist surveillance program" or TSP, violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and all of the leading intelligence and legal officials in the administration, including then acting A.G. James Comey, FBI director Mueller, and even John Ashcroft, objected to it as such. If the then White House counsel ignored those disagreements and tried to push an ailing Ashcroft to OK the program anyway, he was suborning the breaking of the FISA law, which as Chris Matthews bluntly put it, "could make him a criminal." (I'll post the transcript when it's available.)
Further, it is clear to most legal scholars that Gonzales perjured himself before the Senate committee, which puts him in even further jeopardy, especially now that he has been directly contradicted by the director of the FBI.
Fein went on to explain that the Congress can do nothing to bring about the prosecution of Mr. Gonzales for perjury -- they can only recommend a special counsel, which Democrats have now done, or they can do something else to address President Bush's refusal to bring his attorney general in line with the law. I'll paraphrase:
"...impeachment is the remedy if the president refuses to faithfully execute the laws."
Amen, brother. After hearing Fein, who is a conservative constitutional and international lawyer as well as a frequent critic of the Bush administration, I looked up an article he wrote prior to the 2004 Congressional elections. It's very interesting, and very prescient. Here's a bite:
Suppose Democrats capture control of one or both chambers of Congress in November. A conservative would instinctively cringe. ...
... perhaps not.
The most conservative principle of the Founding Fathers was distrust of unchecked power. Centuries of experience substantiated that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Men are not angels. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition to avert abuses or tyranny. The Constitution embraced a separation of powers to keep the legislative, executive, and judicial branches in equilibrium. As Edward Gibbon wrote in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: “The principles of a free constitution are irrevocably lost, when the legislative power is nominated by the executive.”
But a Republican Congress has done nothing to thwart President George W. Bush’s alarming usurpations of legislative prerogatives. Instead, it has largely functioned as an echo chamber of the White House.
President Bush has flouted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) for five years by directing the National Security Agency to target American citizens on American soil for electronic surveillance on his say-so alone. The president has defended his warrantless domestic spying with an imperial theory of inherent constitutional power that would empower him to open mail, break in and enter homes, or torture detainees, even in violation of federal criminal statutes. He has concealed details of the spying program indispensable to rational congressional oversight—for example, the number of Americans targeted, the earmarks employed to select the targets, or the intelligence yield of the spying. He has never explained to Congress why FISA could not have been amended to accommodate any unforeseen evasive tactics by al Qaeda in lieu of simply disregarding the law. Indeed, Congress has amended FISA six times since 9/11 at the request of the White House, and the Senate Intelligence Committee was informed by Bush’s Justice Department on July 31, 2002, that FISA was working impeccably. The president has also refused to disclose what legal advice he received to justify the NSA’s warrantless domestic spying at its inception. And Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez has confessed that President Bush is operating other intelligence collection programs that are unknown to Congress and the public and that will never be revealed, absent leaks to the media.
Republicans in Congress have bowed to the president’s scorn for the rule of law and craving for secret government. They have voted against Democratic Sen. Russell Feingold’s resolution to rebuke Bush for violating federal statutes and crippling checks and balances. They have resisted brandishing either the power of the purse or the contempt power (with which it can compel testimony) to end the president’s violation of FISA and to force full disclosure of his secret foreign-intelligence programs. Indeed, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter, is sponsoring a bill that in substance endorses President Bush’s FISA illegalities and authorizes an electronic-surveillance program warrant that would enable the NSA to spy on Americans indiscriminately without the particularized suspicion of wrongdoing required by the Fourth Amendment.
Republicans in the House and Senate have been equally invertebrate in the face of presidential signing statements that usurp the power to legislate. In approximately 800 cases, President Bush has both signed a bill and declared his intent to disregard provisions he believes are unconstitutional, the equivalent of a line-item veto. For instance, he signed the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 prohibiting torture while issuing a signing statement declaring his intent to ignore the law in order to gather military or foreign intelligence.
The Presentment Clause of Article I, Section 7 gives the president but two options when presented with a bill passed by Congress: sign or veto the bill in its entirety. That was the holding of the Supreme Court when it found a line-item veto statute unconstitutional in 1998’s Clinton v. City of New York. The president is obligated to veto a bill that he believes to be unconstitutional; Congress may override that judgment by two-thirds majorities. In the 217-year history of the United States under the present Constitution, Congress has overridden only 28 constitutionally based vetoes, and on only one occasion did the override engender a constitutional battle between the president and Congress. Presidential signing statements further usurp the legislative power by resulting in the enforcement of laws that Congress has not passed. Members vote on all the provisions of a law collectively in the expectation that all will be executed if the president approves.
Signing statements also flout the president’s obligation in Article II of the Constitution to execute the laws faithfully. The Founding Fathers were acutely aware of the example of King James II, whose practice of suspending or dispensing with laws he believed encroached on royal prerogatives eventually occasioned his overthrow in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. With such precedents in mind, the framers of the United States Constitution directed the president to execute the laws without fail. The Republican Congress, however, has acted as a disinterested spectator while President Bush has stolen its legislative authority in plain view and exercised the tyrannical power of making, executing, and conclusively interpreting the law and the Constitution.
The most frightening claim made by Bush with congressional acquiescence is reminiscent of the lettres de cachet of prerevolutionary France. (Such letters, with which the king could order the arrest and imprisonment of subjects without trial, helped trigger the storming of the Bastille.) In the aftermath of 9/11, Mr. Bush maintained that he could pluck any American citizen out of his home or off of the sidewalk and detain him indefinitely on the president’s finding that he was an illegal combatant. No court could second-guess the president. Bush soon employed such monarchial power to detain a few citizens and to frighten would-be dissenters, and Republicans in Congress either cheered or fiddled like Nero while the Constitution burned. The Supreme Court ultimately entered the breach and repudiated the president in 2004’s Hamdi v. Rumsfeld. Republicans similarly yawned as President Bush ordained military tribunals to try accused war criminals based on secret evidence and unreliable hearsay in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Convention. The Supreme Court again was forced to countervail the congressional dereliction by holding the tribunals illegal in 2006’s Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.
Republicans have shied from challenging Bush by placing party loyalty above institutional loyalty, contrary to the expectations of the Founding Fathers. They do so in the fear that embarrassing or discrediting a Republican president might reverberate to their political disadvantage in a reverse coat-tail effect.
Democrats, for their part, likewise place party above the Constitution, but their party loyalty at least creates an incentive to frustrate Bush’s super-imperial presidency. This could help to restore checks and balances. For the foreseeable future, divided government is the best bet for preserving both the letter and spirit of the Constitution. If Democrats capture the House or Senate in November 2006, the danger created by Bush with a Republican-controlled Congress would be mitigated or eliminated.
Pat Tillman (left) pictured with his brother Kevin
A three star Army general is facing a demotion in the cover-up of the Pat Tillman friendly fire death in Afghanistan, putting the coda to a shameful incident in which even the uniformed military was drawn into the political hackery of the Bush administration (U.S. attorneys, the Justice Department, the military ... what hasn't this crowd politicized?)
Back to the story... the AP is reporting that the U.S. Army actually blocked doctors from investigating whether Tillman might have been deliberately "fragged" -- read murdered by his fellow troops. And there's more. From the AP:
Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman's forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player's death amounted to a crime, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
"The medical evidence did not match up with the, with the scenario as described," a doctor who examined Tillman's body after he was killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2004 told investigators.
The doctors - whose names were blacked out - said that the bullet holes were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away.
Ultimately, the Pentagon did conduct a criminal investigation, and asked Tillman's comrades whether he was disliked by his men and whether they had any reason to believe he was deliberately killed. The Pentagon eventually ruled that Tillman's death at the hands of his comrades was a friendly-fire accident.
The medical examiners' suspicions were outlined in 2,300 pages of testimony released to the AP this week by the Defense Department in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
Among other information contained in the documents:
_ In his last words moments before he was killed, Tillman snapped at a panicky comrade under fire to shut up and stop "sniveling."
_ Army attorneys sent each other congratulatory e-mails for keeping criminal investigators at bay as the Army conducted an internal friendly-fire investigation that resulted in administrative, or non-criminal, punishments.
_ The three-star general who kept the truth about Tillman's death from his family and the public told investigators some 70 times that he had a bad memory and couldn't recall details of his actions.
_ No evidence at all of enemy fire was found at the scene - no one was hit by enemy fire, nor was any government equipment struck.
The Pentagon and the Bush administration have been criticized in recent months for lying about the circumstances of Tillman's death. The military initially told the public and the Tillman family that he had been killed by enemy fire. Only weeks later did the Pentagon acknowledge he was gunned down by fellow Rangers.
The gent facing demotion, Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger Jr., reportedly used the phrase "I don't recall" some 70 times during some four hours of questioning by the Pentagon's inspector general last December, and he contradicted not only other officers' testimony, but his own as well. A bit more from the Forbes/AP article:
The documents show that a doctor who autopsied Tillman's body was suspicious of the three gunshot wounds to the forehead. The doctor said he took the unusual step of calling the Army's Human Resources Command and was rebuffed. He then asked an official at the Army's Criminal Investigation Division if the CID would consider opening a criminal case.
"He said he talked to his higher headquarters and they had said no," the doctor testified. ...
... The documents also shed new light on Tillman's last moments.
It has been widely reported by the AP and others that Spc. Bryan O'Neal, who was at Tillman's side as he was killed, told investigators that Tillman was waving his arms shouting "Cease fire, friendlies, I am Pat (expletive) Tillman, damn it!" again and again.
But the latest documents give a different account from a chaplain who debriefed the entire unit days after Tillman was killed.
The chaplain said that O'Neal told him he was hugging the ground at Tillman's side, "crying out to God, help us. And Tillman says to him, `Would you shut your (expletive) mouth? God's not going to help you; you need to do something for yourself, you sniveling ..."
So could Tillman's fellow soldiers have gotten angry at what they saw as his arrogance, and deliberatly shot him to death on the battlefield? No enemy around? Gunshots to the forehead?
"Wade in the water ... Wade in the water, children Wade in the ater ... God is gonna trouble the water..."
Here we go. Four members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have asked the solicitor general of the United States to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate possible -- if you want to call it that -- perjury by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in the illegal NSA warrantless wiretapping probe, in the wake of the latest bombshell: the FBI director's testimoney directly contradicting Gonzales' sworn statements. From the National Journal:
The senators -- Charles Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, Russ Feingold and Sheldon Whitehouse -- are also members of the Judiciary Committee. In testimony esterday before the committee, Gonzales contradicted his own earlier sworn accounts, along with those of other witnesses in the probe.
And despite his blistering cross-examination of Gonzales at yesterday's hearing, ranking Judiciary Committee member Sen. Arlen Specter returned to form today. Apparently he was traveling with the president, and so perhaps this particular Specterism has more to do with fear of your dinner partners than genuine moral outrage. The Journal continues:
In a press conference this afternoon, ranking Republican Arlen Specter railed against the request, and indicated that Chairman Leahy was not on board, either.
"I think that Senator Schumer has made a practice of politicizing this matter," Specter told reporters. "Senator Schumer's not interested in looking at the record. He's interested in throwing down the gauntlet and making a story in tomorrow's newspapers."
Specter has previously accused Schumer of having a conflict of interest in the firings probe, because the New York Democrat is also head of the DSCC, the Senate's campaign fundraising arm.
Specter has backed congressional subpoenas of administration officials, and drew a distinction with the prosecutor request. "The inspector general generally does not conduct investigations with a view to a prosecution. The inspector general conducts investigation with a view to improprieties and recommendations for changes in policy," Specter said. "I think there's a little bit of Don Quixote here. People are riding off in all different directions at once."
Meanwhile, the Leahy committee has also subpoenaed Karl Rove, the president's increasingly addled brain, in the U.S. attorney firings scandal. Expect that to be the next "executive privilege" showdown in D.C. ...
Drip ... drip ... drip ... how long can the house of cards that is the Bush administration continue to stand? Haven't we had enough yet?
The plot thickens in the ongoing U.S. attorney firings scandal. Now, FBI Director Robert Meuller has weighed in, telling Senators that the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program, the "terrorist surveillance program" or TSP, was indeed the subject of an emergency March 4, 2004 meeting between the White House and the so-called "gang of eight", and of the notorious March 10, 2004 bedside raid on then-A.G. John Ashcroft. The AP reports:
WASHINGTON — FBI Director Robert S. Mueller said Thursday the government's terrorist surveillance program was the topic of a 2004 hospital room dispute between top Bush administration officials, contradicting Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' sworn Senate testimony.
Mueller was not in the hospital room at the time of the dramatic March 10, 2004, confrontation between then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and presidential advisers Andy Card and Gonzales, who was then serving as White House counsel. Mueller told the House Judiciary Committee he arrived shortly after they left, and spoke with the ailing Ashcroft.
The case against Mr. Gonzales is building to a crescendo, and there really are only two ways that it can go -- he will either be forced to resign (in which case he can still be prosecuted for perjury), or the Dems will have to force an impeachment hearing on a president who could stubbornly refuse to let Gonzo go. Gonzo is walking toward the cliff, backward and with a blindfold on.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy threatened yesterday to request a perjury investigation of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, as Democrats said an intelligence official's statement about a classified surveillance program was at odds with Gonzales's sworn testimony.
The latest dispute involving public remarks by Gonzales concerned the topic of a March 10, 2004, White House briefing for members of Congress. Gonzales, in congressional testimony Tuesday, said the purpose of the briefing was to address what he called "intelligence activities" that were the subject of a legal dispute inside the administration.
Gonzales testified that the meeting was not called to discuss a dispute over the National Security Agency's controversial warrantless surveillance program, which he has repeatedly said attracted no serious controversy inside the administration.
But a letter sent to Congress in May 2006 by then-Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte described the congressional meeting as a "briefing on the Terrorist Surveillance Program," the name that President Bush has publicly used to describe the warrantless surveillance program.
Democrats pointed to the Negroponte letter yesterday in an effort to portray Gonzales's remarks as misleading. They said Gonzales is trying to conceal the existence of a dispute between White House and Justice Department lawyers that involved the surveillance program, which many Democrats have criticized as an illegal or unjustified abuse of executive-branch authority.
Several Democratic lawmakers, including Senate intelligence committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), have also said the meeting focused on the NSA program and have strongly disputed other Gonzales characterizations of the meeting.
Leahy (D-Vt.) told reporters he is giving Gonzales until late next week to revise his testimony about the surveillance program or he will ask Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine to conduct a perjury inquiry: "I'll ask the inspector general to determine who's telling the truth."
Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said yesterday that Gonzales "stands by his testimony," and that "the disagreement . . . was not about the particular intelligence activity that has been publicly described by the president. It was about other highly classified intelligence activities."
DNI spokesman Ross Feinstein referred questions to the Justice Department.
WASHINGTON -- Sen. John McCain's media team has resigned, an indication that a campaign shake-up two weeks ago is continuing to backfire and further imperil the Arizona Republican's presidential candidacy.
Political ad-makers Russ Schriefer and Stuart Stevens, veterans of President Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns, on Monday emailed the new campaign manager -- lobbyist and longtime McCain adviser Rick Davis -- to say that they were quitting. The two men told friends they had considered leaving for days, as they hadn't been paid and the campaign's financial straits raised questions of when and how much they would be.
Their resignations followed a story in The Wall Street Journal Monday about Mr. Davis's business and lobbying activities. Current and former McCain campaign advisers say those activities -- which involved a business he started and another launched by an acquaintance of his -- amounted to profiteering at the campaign's expense and risked embarrassing the senator.
Since Mr. McCain accepted the resignations of former campaign manager Terry Nelson and chief strategist John Weaver two weeks ago, and put Mr. Davis in charge, more than a dozen senior staffers have left from the headquarters in northern Virginia as well as state offices in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina -- all states with early nominating contests. Several fund-raisers have cut their ties to the campaign, which reported a debt at the end of the second quarter.
Now the loss of the Schriefer-Stevens media team is considered a new blow, Republican strategists say. The McCain campaign had long planned to begin running ads this fall in early contest states; those plans are at risk given Mr. McCain's debt, compounded now by the difficulty of getting donors to invest in a troubled campaign. ...
It's stunning how fast this man is falling. It's hard to believe he ever was the front runner...
The Blotter has learned that plans for a controversial new U.S. Embassy in Beirut have been put on hold indefinitely, and effectively killed according to a U.S. State Department spokesperson.
The news came just hours after we reported that the State Department had been pushing ahead with plans to build the new embassy in a part of Beirut controlled by the militant anti-American group Hezbollah, despite strong protests from the U.S. ambassador in Lebanon.
A U.S. official tells the Blotter on ABCNews.com that Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman, in a May 31, 2007 classified cable to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, registered his strong objections, saying his staff "unanimously opposes construction" of the embassy on the proposed site.
Feltman also said in the cable that his local staff would be "an easy target" for Hezbollah and that U.S. diplomats would "be under siege" during any conflict.
The FBI is taking cues from the CIA to recruit thousands of covert informants in the United States as part of a sprawling effort to boost its intelligence capabilities.
According to a recent unclassified report to Congress, the FBI expects its informants to provide secrets about possible terrorists and foreign spies, although some may also be expected to aid with criminal investigations, in the tradition of law enforcement confidential informants. The FBI did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
The FBI said the push was driven by a 2004 directive from President Bush ordering the bureau to improve its counterterrorism efforts by boosting its human intelligence capabilities.
The aggressive push for more secret informants appears to be part of a new effort to grow its intelligence and counterterrorism efforts. Other recent proposals include expanding its collection and analysis of data on U.S. persons, retaining years' worth of Americans' phone records and even increasing so-called "black bag" secret entry operations.
To handle the increase in so-called human sources, the FBI also plans to overhaul its database system, so it can manage records and verify the accuracy of information from "more than 15,000" informants, according to the document. While many of the recruited informants will apparently be U.S. residents, some informants may be overseas, recruited by FBI agents in foreign offices, the report indicates.
Cost to the U.S. taxpayer: $22 million (that we know of)...
Meanwhile, President Bush's latest outrage against the constitution is a move to criminalize dissent against the Iraq war. The executive order, entitled "Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq" gives Bush the authority to seize the assets of any person -- including any American citizen -- who is:
...determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense,
(i) to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of:
(A) threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq; or
(B) undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people;
(ii) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, logistical, or technical support for, or goods or services in support of, such an act or acts of violence or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; or
(iii) to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.
The order, quietly issued on July 17, is even drawing outrage from conservative Republicans, who warn that the order essentially criminalizes dissent ... read "interference" ... with Bush's Iraq policies, and according to folks like former Reagan assistant treasury secretary Paul Craig Roberts, is about a step away from the creation of a police state, with a popuulation riven by fear:
Too much is going wrong for the Bush administration: the failure of its Middle East wars, Republican senators jumping ship, Turkish troops massed on northern Iraq's border poised for an invasion to deal with Kurds, and a majority of Americans favoring the impeachment of Cheney and a near-majority favoring Bush's impeachment. The Bush administration desperately needs dramatic events to scare the American people and the Congress back in line with the militarist-police state that Bush and Cheney have fostered.
William Norman Grigg recently wrote that the GOP is "praying for a terrorist strike" to save the party from electoral wipeout in 2008. Chertoff, Cheney, the neocon nazis, and Mossad would have no qualms about saving the bacon for the Republicans, who have enabled Bush to start two unjustified wars, with Iran waiting in the wings to be attacked in a third war.
The Bush administration has tried unsuccessfully to resurrect the terrorist fear factor by infiltrating some blowhard groups and encouraging them to talk about staging "terrorist" events. The talk, encouraged by federal agents, resulted in "terrorist" arrests hyped by the media, but even the captive media was unable to scare people with such transparent sting operations.
The AP has the smoking gun on Alberto Gonzales' perjury before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday.
Remember those idiotic answers Gonzo gave to the committee yesterday regarding his midnight ride to John Ashcroft's bedside, and his claims that the "visit" -- and his briefings to the so-called "gang of eight" in Congress -- had to do with "other surveillance programs" and not the notorious Terrorist Surveillance Program being conducted, illegally, by the NSA? Well, turns out, he was lying:
(AP) Documents indicate eight congressional leaders were briefed about the Bush administration's terrorist surveillance program on the eve of its expiration in 2004, contradicting sworn Senate testimony this week by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
The documents, obtained by The Associated Press, come as senators consider whether a perjury investigation should be opened into conflicting accounts about the program and a dramatic March 2004 confrontation leading up to its potentially illegal reauthorization.
A Gonzales spokesman maintained Wednesday that the attorney general stands by his testimony.
At a heated Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Gonzales repeatedly testified that the issue at hand was not about the terrorist surveillance program, which allowed the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on suspects in the United States without receiving court approval.
Instead, Gonzales said, the emergency meetings on March 10, 2004, focused on an intelligence program that he would not describe.
Gonzales, who was then serving as counsel to Bush, testified that the White House Situation Room briefing sought to inform congressional leaders about the pending expiration of the unidentified program and Justice Department objections to renew it. Those objections were led by then-Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey, who questioned the program's legality.
"The dissent related to other intelligence activities," Gonzales testified at Tuesday's hearing. "The dissent was not about the terrorist surveillance program."
"Not the TSP?" responded Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. "Come on. If you say it's about other, that implies not. Now say it or not."
"It was not," Gonzales answered. "It was about other intelligence activities."
A four-page memo from the national intelligence director's office shows that the White House briefing with the eight lawmakers on March 10, 2004, was about the terror surveillance program, or TSP.
Gotcha. So what now, Dems?
A special counsel should and must be empaneled to investigate Mr. Gonzales for perjury. Second, Congress should move to impeach him on the same grounds. If the Democrats refuse, they aren't fit to hold their offices, or to sit in the houses of Congress. It's time to stop bitching about the administration and take some goddammned action.
Update: ThinkProgress has the DNI's smoking gun letter.
Will the Democrats ever develop enough intestinal fortitude to actually put teeth into their disdain for the defiant Bush administration and the criminal, lying, perjurious attorney general?
House Democrats finally passed criminal contempt citations against two top White House officials, former White House counsel Harriet Miers and current White House chief of staff Josh Bolten, the first such finding since an EPA administrator nearly went to jail for contempt in the 1980s, an episode described by former Nixon White House counsel John Dean here (And how ironic is it that Fred Fielding, once counsel to Richard Nixon as well as Ronald Reagan, is the man arguing that the White House can summarily dismiss Congressional subpoenas by writ of executive privilege, and that it can also order the Justice Department not to pursue such cases...):
A leading scholar on Executive Privilege, Mark Rozell, reports that although "President Reagan invoked executive privilege on several occasions, he never fully exercised that power. When confronted by congressional demands for information, Reagan generally followed a pattern of initial resistance followed by accommodation of Congress's request. Reagan never made a concerted effort to defend his prerogative in this area. As a result, he further weakened a constitutional presidential power …."
How much of Reagan's reluctance to press the "executive privilege" issue derived from Fielding, Reagan himself, or other Reagan aides, is not known. Also, some of the criticism of Reagan's decision not to aggressively assert the privilege occurred largely after Fielding had left. For instance, Vice President Cheney later insisted that Reagan provided too much information to Congress during their Iran-Contra investigation.
Fielding was White House Counsel, however, during one of the more thrilling episodes involving executive privilege -- one that could parallel the current situation, with Congress calling for testimony by White House aide Karl Rove and former aide Harriet Miers. In explaining what happened back in 1982, I've drawn heavily on -- paraphrasing, greatly abbreviating, and then quoting -- Mark Rozell's report:
Two House committees issued subpoenas to EPA Administrator Anne Gorsuch, directing her to appear before Congress with certain documents. Gorsuch was prepared to turn over the documents, but the Justice Department urged President Reagan to assert executive privilege. When he did so, White House Counsel Fielding assured Gorsuch that "the administration would stand solidly behind this claim of executive privilege."
When Gorsuch invoked the privilege, both committees voted to hold her in contempt, and on December 16, 1982, the House of Representatives voted 259-105 to find her in contempt of Congress. Immediately following the House vote, however, the Justice Department filed civil suit against the House of Representatives. Then, rather than follow the language of the contempt statute, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia -- obviously after being instructed by the Justice Department regarding this matter- refused to "bring the matter before the grand jury for their action" while the suit against the House was pending. (It was a delaying ploy.)
The House requested that the federal district court dismiss the civil lawsuit, which the court did. The court also encouraged the two branches "to settle their differences without further judicial involvement" and warned that "[i]f these two co-equal branches maintain their present adversarial positions, the Judicial Branch will be required to resolve the dispute by determining the validity of the Administrator's claim of executive privilege."
Two weeks later, the Administration made a deal with one of the congressional committees, agreeing to a limited disclosure of the requested information. Again, EPA administrator Gorsuch pushed for full disclosure, but the White House disagreed. Meanwhile, the other congressional committee would not agree to a limited release and continued to press for full disclosure, advising the White House that the investigations would continue until the documents were provided.
Having had enough, Gorsuch resigned her position as head of EPA when the White House finally agreed to release its documents Congress wanted. Following the contempt statute, the U.S. attorney presented a contempt citation to a grand jury, which unanimously declined to indict Gorsuch.
Rozell concludes, "Although the administration initially had taken a strong stand on executive privilege, it backed down in the face of mounting political pressure. The decision to compromise did not settle the executive privilege controversy. The House Committee on the Judiciary further investigated the Justice Department role in the controversy and concluded that the department had misused executive privilege by advocating the withholding of documents that had not been thoroughly reviewed. T bghe committee also alleged that the department withheld documents to cover up wrongdoing at EPA. The administration's compromise served as a temporary political expedient which eventually allowed Congress to examine previously withheld documents and draw broader conclusions about the exercise of executive privilege. Reagan may have won a temporary reprieve from political pressures, but he had lost ground in his effort to re-establish the viability of the doctrine of executive privilege."
Dean concludes that:
This time, it is my belief that Bush -- unlike Reagan before him -- will not blink. He will not let Fielding strike a deal, as Fielding did for Reagan. Rather, Bush feels that he has his manhood on the line. He knows what his conservative constituency wants: a strong president who protects his prerogatives. He believes in the unitary executive theory of protecting those prerogatives, and of strengthening the presidency by defying Congress.
In short, all those who have wanted to see Karl Rove in jail may get their wish, for he will not cave in, either -- and may well be prosecuted for contempt, as Gorsuch was not. Bush's greatest problem here, however, is Harriett Miers. It is dubious he can exert any privilege over a former White House Counsel; I doubt she is ready to go to prison for him; and all who know her say if she is under oath, she will not lie. That could be a problem.
In the latest episode, the House Judiciary Committee last week subpoenaed Bolton and Miers to testify about the U.S. attorney firings, and both refused to reply, and in fact, neither showed up for the hearings, setting up the current showdown. According to the AP:
Fielding has offered to make White House officials available for private interviews without a transcript, but Democrats have rejected that.
Conyers subpoenaed Miers and Bolten last month, but neither responded. Miers skipped the hearing to which she had been summoned, infuriating Democrats.
Contempt of Congress would be a federal misdemeanor punishable by up to a $100,000 fine and a one-year prison sentence. If the citation wins support in the full House, it would be forwarded to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia — a Bush appointee.
And that's as far as it's likely to go, the Justice Department said in a letter to the committee late Tuesday.
Brian A. Benczkowski, principal deputy assistant attorney general, cited the department's position, "articulated during administrations of both parties, that the criminal contempt of Congress statute does not apply to the president or presidential subordinates who assert executive privilege."
Benczkowski said it also was the department's view that that applies to Miers, who left the White House earlier this year.
So what next? Congress will likely not even take up the contempt issue until after their August recess ... the wussies...
Did you catch Alberto testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee again yesterday? He put on quite a show of blatant, stammering ignorance. In fact, he apparently has no idea what he has said before, what he's doing as attorney general, or what in god's name to say about it now. Here's Alberto trying to explain his midnight ride to the bedside of then-sidelined A.G. John Ashcroft:
Basically, he's saying that there's no rue against Ashcroft changing his mind about ceding his powers to James Comey while he was gravely ill and under anesthesia ... he could wake up from his delirium and decide to OK warrantless wiretapping ... no problem.
Russ Feingold has called Alberto Gonzales' testimoney outright misleading. Good thing the White House has forbidden the Justice Department to pursue contempt of congress charges against any administration official who has been clothed in executive privelege.
Updates: Jane Harman has weighed in on the NSA domestic spying scandal, saying the White House never sought approval for the program from the so-called "gang of eight" --the top intelligence committee chairs in Congress.
Also, TPM Muckraker reports that Nancy Pelosi has made it clear that she, too voiced objections, as did other members of the gang of eight (Jay Rockefellar and Tom Daschle objected, too.)
BAGHDAD, July 23 — While Washington is mired in political debate over the future of Iraq, the American command here has prepared a detailed plan that foresees a significant American role for the next two years.
The classified plan, which represents the coordinated strategy of the top American commander and the American ambassador, calls for restoring security in local areas, including Baghdad, by the summer of 2008. “Sustainable security” is to be established on a nationwide basis by the summer of 2009, according to American officials familiar with the document.
The detailed document, known as the Joint Campaign Plan, is an elaboration of the new strategy President Bush signaled in January when he decided to send five additional American combat brigades and other units to Iraq. That signaled a shift from the previous strategy, which emphasized transferring to Iraqis the responsibility for safeguarding their security.
That new approach put a premium on protecting the Iraqi population in Baghdad, on the theory that improved security would provide Iraqi political leaders with the breathing space they needed to try political reconciliation.
The latest plan, which covers a two-year period, does not explicitly address troop levels or withdrawal schedules. It anticipates a decline in American forces as the “surge” in troops runs its course later this year or in early 2008. But it nonetheless assumes continued American involvement to train soldiers, act as partners with Iraqi forces and fight terrorist groups in Iraq, American officials said.
The goals in the document appear ambitious, given the immensity of the challenge of dealing with die-hard Sunni insurgents, renegade Shiite militias, Iraqi leaders who have made only fitful progress toward political reconciliation, as well as Iranian and Syrian neighbors who have not hesitated to interfere in Iraq’s affairs. And the White House’s interim assessment of progress, issued n July 12, is mixed.
But at a time when critics at home are defining patience in terms of weeks, the strategy may run into the expectations of many lawmakers for an early end to the American mission here.
The plan, developed by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior American commander, and Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador, has been briefed to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. William J. Fallon, the head of the Central Command. It is expected to be formally issued to officials here this week. ...
So when are we getting out of Iraq? President Bush has said that "future presidents..." plural ... will decide that. And Hillary got a smart-ass answer from the Pentagon when she asked about withdrawal plans. Now we're starting to see the bigger picture.
CNN did a nice job with the Youtube debate last night. No major news, nothing to really shake up the race. I still think Joe Biden is freaking hilarious, John Edwards looks rather desperate (and there was something strange going on with his hair ... kind of an airplane hangar effect in the front...) Bill Richardson looks like a bullfrog, Dennis Kucinich fades into the background and Mike Gravel is nuts ... with moments of lucid truthtelling, if in a bug-eyed crazy kind of way. Hillary and Barack did well and they remain the leaders.
Russ Feingold appeared on MTP this weekend, offering a coherent case for censuring the president, the vice president, and the attorney general of the United States. His case would be even stronger, in my opinion, if he were calling for the impeachment of all three -- since, as I've said before, I think that step is necessary in order to restore the Constitutional balance of power in this country, and in order to restore the proper meaning of impeachment, after the idiotic impeachment of President Clinton for failing to call oral sex "intercourse." That said, at least Feingold is trying. Here's the audio:
So what does the Senate leader have to say about that? Not much, unfortunately:
REID: I’m sure Russ Feingold will try to find a way to offer that amendment. The Republicans won’t let us vote on it. They’ll block it.
SCHIEFFER: So would you go along with it if they let you vote on it?
REID: Bob, frankly, we have so many other things to do. The president already has the mark of the American people that he’s the worst president we’ve ever had, and I don’t think we need a censure resolution in the Senate to prove that. We have to do…
SCHIEFFER: So you’re not going along with it?
REID: Well, at this stage, Russ is going to have to make his case as to why we should do that rather than do our appropriation bills, finish the defense authorization bill, Homeland Security appropriation bill.
REID: We have a lot of work to do.
What's that, Harry? Bush has been punished enough by the polls? The polls??? Is that how you measure the balance of the power of the Senate versus the power of the president? A president is diminished by the polls, whether or not he is held accountable by the only body capable of doing so ... the Congress? Impeachment, censure, etc. are tools in the arsenal of Congress in order to rebalance power. Taking them off the table, as Reid and Pelosi have done, has the effect of emasculating Congress, and handing the president the ultimate victory: allowing his interpretation of his power under the Constitution, not to mention his affronts against that Constitution and against a co-equal branch of government, to stand, unchallenged. Mr. Reid's comments are not intellectually serious. The American people are demanding, not that their opinions be heard by Congress, but that they be acted upon. By outright refusing to do so, the Senate majority leader is flouting the will of the American people, subordinating himself to the president, and defying his employers, namely, us. Maybe it's time to censure him, and Mother Pelosi, too...
At 7:16 a.m. EDT Bush invoked Section 3 of the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to voluntarily transfer his powers of the presidency to Cheney while he was unable to discharge his duties during the colonoscopy procedure.
He reclaimed his powers at 9:21 a.m. EDT, Stanzel said. Bush is expected to return to the White House on Sunday.
This frightening scenario has happened before, back in July of 2002, during his previous colonoscopy. Back then, one writer out West had this to say:
Thankfully, Mr. Cheney didn't order a robot duplicate of himself made, since his own robotic parts are rusting and aren't compatible with Mr. Gore's parts. After a two-hour procedure, President Bush's presidential powers were returned scandal-free.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush had five polyps removed during a routine colon cancer test on Saturday, but his doctors described them as small and apparently not worrisome, the White House said.
The polyps, all less than one centimeter (0.4 inch), will be tested to determine whether there are any signs of cancer and the results are expected to be available within 48 hours to 72 hours, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel told reporters.
"None appeared worrisome," he said, citing the president's doctors. The president "was in very good spirits and in good humor and looks forward to returning to his activities."
OK now here's the funny part:
Bush was planning to take a bicycle ride later on Saturday afternoon after participating in briefings with National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and eating lunch with them, Stanzel said.
Ouch ... that's gonna smart...
So what did Mr. Cheney, who has fought for more than 30 years to build an imperial presidency, do with his vast powers as the Unitary Executive? According to White House spokesman Scott Stanzel:
Stanzel said Cheney spent the morning reading at his home on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and "nothing occurred that required him to take official action as acting president."
Whew. Looks like we dodged the bullet. But just in case, somebody please double check that Iran is still there...?
Finally, a major New York paper (The New York Times) delves into the issue of Rudy and race. It's long, but worth the read.
The Times has also annotated a number of its stories on the former New York mayor and his dicey relationship with Black New Yorkers, starting from the moment he announced against then-mayor David Dinkins, whom Giuliani termed a "Jesse Jackson Democrat."
The Pentagon's Eric Edelman, one of those notorious neoocn undersecretaries, tossed Hillary a big, juicy softball with his ridiculous "aiding the enemy" letter in response to her letter, via the Senate Arms Services Committee, on which she serves to oversee the Pentagon ... duh ... and in which she asked for any Pentagon plans for an orderly eventual withdrawal from Iraq. Here's the background, in case you missed it:
On May 23, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates urging him to “prepare plans for the phased redeployment of U.S. forces.”
Given the express will of the Congress to implement a phased eplroyment of United States forces from Iraq and the importance of proper contingency planning to achieve that goal, I write to request that you provide the appropriate oversight committees in Congress - including the Senate Armed Services Committee - with briefings on what current contingency plans exist for the future withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Alternatively, if no such plans exist, please provide an explanation for the decision not to engage in such planning.
Clinton said she conveyed similar concerns in a private meeting with Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Peter Pace, and has publicly warned the administration that redeployment is “complicated” and “If they’re not planning for it, it will be difficult to execute it in a safe and efficacious way.”
Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia. … [S]uch talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks.
Tough talk, and I'm sure Mr. Edelman thought that as in the past, such talk would shut down any talk about withdrawal, timetables, or opposition to the president's policy in Iraq. But this is not 2004, and Hillary Clinton is not John Kerry. In fact, as The Politico's Ben Smith points out, Edelman's broadside was probably the best thing to happen to Hillary all week:
Defense Undersecretary Eric Edelman, a former Cheney aide, really handed Hillary an enormous gift with his letter warning that "premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda."
That may have worked in 2004. Now it's just a gift to Hillary. Her staff would not, of course, say whether they knew how the AP had "obtained" Edelman's letter. But it was an incredible gift to her, and her aides promptly hit it out of the park, right there in the first version of the story.
Her Senate spokesman, Philippe Reines, demanded that the administration provide a withdrawal plan rather than "a political plan to attack those who question them."
He also called the comments "outrageous and dangerous" and, to boot, warned against "redeploying out of Iraq with the same combination of arrogance and incompetence with which the Bush administration deployed our young men and women into Iraq."
Is there still any danger here for Clinton, any chance that voters — Democratic primary voters?! — consider criticism of the war effort and discussion of withdrawal disloyal? Edelman seems to have thought so -- that excerpt reads as a shot across the bows. But it's a bit too late in the day for that, isn't it? When you've everyone from Richard Lugar to a front-page blogger on Kos getting your back, it's a pretty good day.
Indeed. Hillary, who is clearly thinking about her administration, rather than her nomination, is simply smoking the Bush administration out on its continued lack of planning in Iraq. The fact that the undersecretary would throw elbows in such a retro, 2004 manner might leave one to conclude that, just as they failed to plan properly for the occupation of Iraq, the Pentagon has made no plans for withdrawal from Iraq. And Hillary is on firm ground in asking the questions, first, since its her job as a member of the Armed Services Committee, and because the American people are demanding withdrawal by 70 percent majorities, and it would help to know if the civilian morons running the Pentagon have any clue how to get it done.
Hillary gets to try out her Dojo Bill immediate slap-back style, plus she gets some love from the left end of the base, and she plumps up her credentials as a pragrmatic, thorough and forward thinking commander in chief. Nice work if you can get it. More on Clinton's response, including her letter to Edelman's boss:
Saying that other members of the Bush administration had not resorted to political attacks when asked about contingency plans or the possibility of a phased withdrawal, Senator Clinton, a member of the Armed Services Committee wrote:
Rather than offer to brief the congressional oversight committees on this critical issue, Under Secretary Edelman – writing on your behalf – instead claims that congressional oversight emboldens our enemies. Under Secretary Edelman has his priorities backward. Open and honest debate and congressional oversight strengthens our nation and supports our military.
His suggestion to the contrary is outrageous and dangerous. Indeed, you acknowledged the importance of Congress in our Iraq policy at a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee in March, when you stated, “I believe that the debate here on the Hill and the issues that have been raised have been helpful in bringing pressure to bear on the Maliki government and on the Iraqis in knowing that there is a very real limit to American patience in this entire enterprise.”
I renew my request for a briefing, classified if necessary, on current plans for the future withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq or an explanation for the decision not to engage in such planning. I also renew my concern that our troops will be placed in unnecessary danger if the Bush Administration fails to plan for the withdrawal of U.S. Forces. Finally, I request that you describe whether Under Secretary Edelman’s letter accurately characterizes your views as Secretary of Defense.
I would appreciate the courtesy of a prompt response directly from you.
Take that in our backside. (Full letter via ThinkP here)
Meanwhile, the headline I get out of the New York Times/CBS poll is that Americans of both sexes are united in finding Hil to be a credible CIC, and that she's holding all the cards when it comes to the women's vote, with the exception of the throwback '50s housefrau vote. ...
Update: Bob Gates apparently is saying he will get back to Mrs. Clinton shortly. Meanwhile, the headlines have been gonzo for her:
The latest program set to debut on Black Entertainment Television is a new low, even for Bob Johnson's bastard cable child:
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.—"Hot Ghetto Mess," a BET series that's provoked criticism and sent advertisers fleeing before it's even aired, will prove detractors wrong, BET entertainment head Reginald Hudlin said.
"It's unfortunate that people are making an erroneous presumption based on absolutely zero information," Hudlin told a meeting Sunday of the Television Critics Association.
"Hot Ghetto Mess," debuting July 25, combines viewer-submitted home videos and BET-produced man-on-the-street interviews that the channel said are intended to challenge and inspire "viewers to improve themselves and their communities."
The six-episode series is hosted by comedian Charlie Murphy ("Chappelle's Show"). It's based on a Web site that features photos of men and women, mostly black, with extreme hairstyles and clothing typically linked to hip-hop fashion.
At least two companies, State Farm Insurance Cos. and Home Depot, asked BET to drop their ads from the series' debut. Sponsors had yet to see the show, Hudlin said Sunday.
Observers including What About Our Daughters, a blog and audio podcast that focuses on how black women are depicted in popular culture, have accused the site and the show of demeaning blacks.
Hotghettomess.com was created by Jam Donaldson, 34, a black lawyer from Washington, D.C., who's also an executive producer on the BET program. On her site, Donaldson calls for a "new era of self-examination."
The show builds on the Web site's effort to take "a hard look at some dysfunctional elements of our community," Hudlin said.
"The intent of the show is no different than what Bill Cosby is doing as he's going across the country and lecturing as he talks about the problems of the (black) community that we need to address," he said.
The Republican leadership in the Senate has done it again.
After an all-night session called by Democrats, led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in which the Iraq war was, at long last, debated as to its continued viability, Republicans led by Mitch McConnell, John McCain, and phony Independent Joe Lieberman, blocked attempts to pass the Levin-Reed (Jack Reed of RI, not Harry) amendment, which would have finally begun the process of bringing this disastrous war to an end. The Republicans are feeling quite proud of themselves tonight, having voted to protect the president, rather than American troops, once again. Apparently, support the troops, for Republicans, means supporting only their commander in chief, and to hell with those who are actually fighting and dying for his catastrophic mistake. (Note that the latest NIE indicates that Bush insistence on switching our focus from Afghanistan to Iraq in 2002 hurt the war on terror, by taking our eye off the ball in the Afghan-Pakistan border region, where al-Qaida is actually based, as opposed to Iraq, where only name-only offshoots dwell... for Michael Ware's spot-on take, click here.)
Reid has responded by pulling the entire Defense Authorization Bill from the floor, leading Republicans, in an incredible display of chutzpah, to blame Democrats for not supporting the troops. John McCain's melodramatic press conference performance, gilded by his pathetic attempts to get back into the good graces of the hard core fools who now constitute the Republican Qaida, was actually embarassing.
So now, Republicans, you must take complete ownership of this war. The Democrats are now four square against its continuation, as are seven in ten Americans. That leaves you alone as the defenders of the president an his Mesopotamian adventure. You own it, with all its consequences.
The tally in today's 52-47 vote: only four of the seven or so Republicans who have now publicly expressed opposition to the current war strategy had the courage to vote their convictions. They were: Chuch Hagel of Nebraska, Gordon Smith of Oregon, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Susan Collins, also of Maine. Others, like Virginia's John Warner, tucked their pride and manhood into their pockets and voted with the president. Shame on them.
And to those who are still clinging to this war, and to this president, apparently without regard to the carnage its creating, both against Iraqis, and against our troops, shame on you.
The Palm Beach Post has an excellent story about Dunbar Village -- the housing project that has become infamous as the site of a horrifying case of gang rape and child exploitation. But though the housing project has always been intended as a place to stowe lower income Black people, Dunbar, named for the famed poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar, hasn't always been a hell-hole. Here's the story.
Well, senator, with the "Sopranos"-influenced video gone viral, you managed to convince millions of Americans that you do have a sense of humor. With the continuing massaging of your position on Iraq, you've managed to convince a significant number of liberals that you have a sense of urgency about the war. And with the most recent poll results, you must have a sense of yourself as the front runner.
Now it's time to show that you have a sense of history, a sense that this election is bigger than just one woman's ambitions. Make it your business to persuade Barack Obama to be your running mate.
Conventional thinkers like to make this sound risky, pairing a woman and a black man on the ticket. But it's not as wild as it sounds. The calculus of choosing someone for the second spot is always, first and foremost, whether the choice hurts your chances. The answer here is no. Anyone who would be put off by Obama isn't going to vote for you in the first place.
The second question is what you gain. The way in which that has been interpreted has usually been tediously predictable, and has centered on geographic balance. That's how John Kerry of Massachusetts wound up with Southerner John Edwards.
You have a more inventive and useful role model where this issue is concerned, and, I'm sorry, but it's Bill. You probably get tired of hearing about how good he was at all of this, especially since one key to how good he was, was you. But people forget that he stood the issue of how to choose a running mate on its head. Instead of balance, he and Al Gore were a double threat—two young Southerners with future-forward notions about government. Millennium squared.
But that was nothing compared with the excitement that would ensue if you eschewed your customary caution and asked Obama to join you in creating the first real 21st-century ticket. It's not simply that with one fell swoop you would solidify the two largest blocs of Democratic support, but that the historic nature of the pairing would galvanize the race and make any Republican slate seem so same-old. Every politician likes to talk about a new era. The day the Clinton-Obama ticket is announced would really be one for the history books.
There's more. Read the rest of Quindlen's piece here.
"The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. ...
... Before he enter on the execution of his office, he shall take the following oath or affirmation:--"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." -- Article II, Section I, United States Constitution
Article II of the U.S. Constitution contains four sections, just 13 paragraphs, describing the manner of election, and the duties of the president of the United States. (Unlike Article I, which describes the same for Congress in some 54 paragraphs and 9 sections...) The duties are simple -- only appearing in Section 2, eight paragraphs inso the Article: the president commands the armed forces, as well as the state militas in times of war; he can require written opinions from each Cabinet head within the executive branch; he can make treaties, but only with the assent of two-thirds of Congress; he can appoint ambassadors, consular officials and judges, including Supreme Court Justices, subject to Senate approval, and he can make recess appointments to certain government and judicial posts when the Senate is not in session. And of course, he can grant pardons and commutations.
[Nowhere in the Article, the Constitution, or in the oath of office, by the way, does the president pledge to protect the American people. That is the collective responsibility of the American government, and it rests equally with the three branches.]
The Congress, on the other hand, has the power to borrow and even coin money, and then to determine its value, to borrow money on the credit of the United States, to establish immigration and bankruptcy rules, establish post offices and toll roads, to collect taxes, punish crimes committed on the high seas, to create tribunals below the level of the Supreme Court, to raise and support armies and to declare war, among other things.
And that's where we pick it up with President George W. Bush, and the case that is to be made for his impeachment.
Count 1: Violation of his oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States.
Article II, Section 9, paragraph 2 of the Constitution states that: "The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it." President Bush violated that article when he ordered U.S. citizens to be held incommunicado, and without trial, wrongs which were ultimately righted by the Supreme Court in the Hamdan case, but which were made more egregious by the Military Commissions Act of 2006, signed by the president, which calls for any person, including U.S. citizens, who is found, by the president, to have consorted with enemies of the United States, will bypass the courts and the writ of habeas corpus, and be tried by a military commission.
Count II: Engaging the United States in violations of international law:
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any state to the Contrary notwithstanding.
The past five years have seen the USA engage in systematic violations of international law, with a distressing impact on thousands of detainees and their families. Human rights violations have included:
Secret detention Enforced disappearance Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment Outrages upon personal dignity, including humiliating treatment Denial and restriction of habeas corpus Indefinite detention without charge or trial Prolonged incommunicado detention Arbitrary detention Unfair trial procedures
The specific violations here, are of the United Nations Charter, and of the Geneva Conventions, something this administration and its attorney general have characterized as "quaint," but both of which constitute the "supreme law of the land" under the Constitution. In addition, the torture of prisoners in U.S. custody both in Guantanamo Bay, and at secret CIA prisons around the world, may have violated U.S. anti-torture laws.
Count III: The outing of Valerie Plame, something unprecedented in the annals of U.S. history, and a possible violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. And, the probably coverup of violations of that act by the vice president (also grounds for impeaching him.)
Count IV: Illegal domestic surveillance, wiretapping, syping on bank records and the seizure of the assets of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. These include probable violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Count V: Politicization of the office of attorney general, and suborning the possible perjury of Attorney General Gonzales before the Congress in the firings of U.S. Attorneys, and in Gonzales' fibs regarding his knowledge of FBI misuse of national security letters. The most egregious issue in the U.S. attorney scandal is that the misuse of the powers of the attorney general and U.S. attorneys may have been part of a widespread GOP attempt to violate the Voting Rights Act, by creating hindrances for African-Americans to vote.
And last but not least...
Count VI: Lying to Congress about the case for war against Iraq. This is the one most people seize on, but the plain truth is that there is ample evidence that the Bush administration knew, right up until the day they ordered the "shock and awe" bombing of Baghdad in March of 2003, that they had no case for war against Iraq. The CIA had made clear to the administration that Iraq was not, in fact, reconstituting its nuclear weapons -- or at least that there was no evidence that they were. Yet, Mr. Bush made just that case in his January 2003 State of the Union address. And there is also ample evidence that the case presented to the Congress, let alone to the American people, was false and misleading. A good book on the subject can be found here. And then of course, there is the Downing Street Memo, which told us that the British government knew that:
"Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
None of the above is new, but the fact that it has become such common knowledge makes the case for impeachment even stronger. And perhaps as important, Congress should impeach President Bush in order to restore the meaning and relevancy of impeachment, following the silly, politicized impeachment of President Clinton.
Lastly, there is the fact that a preponderance of the American people support impeachment, something that was not the case with President Clinton. Ultimately, impeachment is a political process, and the politics of the present time, when two thirds of Americans believe Mr. Bush's Iraq surge to be a failure, and nearly as many judging his presidency to be the same, demand that Congress stiffen its spine, stop whining about how bad they'd look (they wouldn't) and get on with it. Democrats are masters at misreading public sentiment. What a shame it would be if they did it again. Even if they couldn't win a conviction in the Senate, the impeachment of this president, (his vice presidnet, and his attorney general, while they're at it,) would send a message to future presidents that Congress will indeed guard its Constitutional primacy, and force the president to faithfully uphold this country's laws and founding document. Otherwise, they consign themselves to irrelevancy.
New York's firefighters have good reason to despise Rudolph Giuliani.
As mayor of New York, he made the absolutely ridiculous decision to locate the command center for emergency response inside World Trade Center 7, a decision he made just months after the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, just before he took office ... Giuliani's decision was apparently made for his own convenience -- to locate the command center close to City Hall, rather than in Brooklyn, a place Giuliani was loathe to go (too many Black people, you know...)
He failed to make sure that firefighters, like his cherished New York police, had the most modern radios, leading to tragedy on September 11, 2001, when New York City's bravest failed to get the radio message that the towers were going to collapse -- something Giuliani knew in advance, but that the firefighters did not. As a result of the confusion on that day, most of the police officers who were, heroically, working to evacuate people from the towers got out alive. Scores of firefighters did not (a total of 343 firefighters and paramedics, along with 23 NYPD officers and 37 Port Authority Police officers lost their lives, including 200 firefighters who never got the order to evacuate.) A PBS account of that morning tells the chilling story:
8:46 a.m. American Airlines Flight 11 crashes into the north tower of the World Trade Center.
8:47 Eighteen fire companies begin responding to a fifth alarm, setting up a command post in the lobby of the north tower when they arrive.
9:03 United Airlines Flight 175 crashes into the south tower of the WTC. Another command post is set up in south tower, as a second fifth alarm is broadcast. ...
... 9:10 Over thirty more companies have arrived, and a third interior command post is set up inside the Marriott Hotel, located by the base of the north tower. Meanwhile, an exterior command center has been set up on West Street. Top-level fire chiefs send units into the towers from here. ...
... 9:45 Battalion Chief Orio J. Palmer and Fire Marshal Ronald P. Bucca have reached the impact zone on the 78th floor of the south tower. Palmer radios to Chief Edward Geraghty that they are sending a group of injured survivors to the tower's only working elevator on the 41st floor.
9:57 Dozens of firefighters near the south tower command post are still waiting in the lobby for orders to go up into the tower.
A warning about the towers' instability is issued from the Fire Vehicle Staging Area, where emergency vehicles from Brooklyn have gathered and wait for orders.
9:59 On the 35th floor of the north tower, some firefighters hear a cry of "mayday! Evacuate the building" over the radio, and four companies begin to descend. Around the 28th or 30th floor, a crowd of resting firefighters is told to evacuate.
Meanwhile, the south tower collapses.
10:00 Battalion Chief Joseph Pfeifer radios an evacuation order that is received by some chiefs in the north tower, but not all.
A firefighter on the 65th floor radios that a nearby floor has collapsed. This is the highest floor a firefighter is known to have reached in the north tower.
10:15 Firefighters, court officers, and other witnesses find group of firefighters, according to some estimates as many as a hundred, catching their breath on the 19th floor. Most in the north tower are not aware that the south tower has already collapsed. Told to evacuate, many of the firefighters say they'll come down "in a minute."
10:29 The north tower collapses, bringing down the Marriott Hotel as well. Over a third of the firefighters lost were in the north tower, and some were still in the lobby of the Marriott directing evacuations.
Some two weeks after the September 11 attacks, on September 30, Mayor Giuliani was informed that a cache of silver, gold and precious metals, including $200 million worth of gold bullion deposited in the vaults of the Bank of Nova Scotia -- a cache worth several hundred millions of dollars -- had been located beneath World Trade Center building 4. The next day, Giuliani ordered the recovery of remains -- including those of still missing firefighters, to halt, and instead, called for a mass excavation of soil from the site which was transported to Fresh Kills landfill -- a dump. Remains of many firefighters and other victims of the World Trade Center attacks and collapse are believed to still be in that rubble, at that garbage dump.
After September 11, Giuliani proceeded to use the attacks, not as a platform to try and heal the nation, or the city he himself had torn apart during his stormy mayoral term, but rather, to enrich himself, literally trading on the memories of murdered Americans and others, and on the deaths of the same firefighters he couldn't be bothered to recover from the field where they had fallen. Giuliani has become filthy rich making speeches, and taking on clients for his security consulting business, all while burnishing a phony image, greased by a pliant, sycophant American media, as "America's mayor."
President Bush is trying desperately to hang on to his Iraq war policy, as Republicans jump ship left and right (figuratively). Bush was practically begging Ohioans yesterday to support the war, and to give General Petreus a chance to report some "good news" in September. Meanwhile, Michael Moore points out the crying shame that Democrats -- who were swept into power in 2006 for one reason: to end the war (okay, too, the second being to end the rampant cronyism and corruption of the GOP) --haven't been able to find the stones to get the job done, or at least to keep pushing their position and forcing the Republicans to defend the president at their own risk. The sad truth is, it's going to take Republicans to bring this war to a close. They'll push to do it, because they fear for their own reelections, and they fear the loss of the White House in 2008. The problem, both for them and for the Democrats, is that we have a president who is determined to pass the Saigon moment of the Iraq war's eventual end on to the next president.
Related: Gordon Smith takes Iraq from the criminal to the insane.
Update: The Senate's Republican leadership successfully blocked an amendment to H.R. 1585 (the 2008 Defense authorization bill) put forward by Virginia Dem Jim Webb to limit troops combat tours to allow them adequate time to rest. Cynically, the GOP blocked that opportunity for our troops, with Joe Lieberman siding with them. In the end, only seven Republicans -- most up for reelection or otherwise politically inclined to walk away from the president (with a few principled ones like Chuck Hagel and Gordon Smith) -- voted with the unanimous Democrats, leaving the measure four votes shy of the needed 60-vote margin. To read all of the proposed amendments, click here. By the way, the goodly Senator Brownback declined to cast any vote at all... what a punk...
Update 2: with the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars now reaching $12 billion a month and $600 billion overall -- the cost of the Vietnam war -- the country now solidly against the war, and even election-minded Republicans starting to walk away from the policy, US News reports that White House West Wingers are starting to panic. I don't know that it would matter if they were, since I continue to believe that this president wants to wage this war until his last day in office, pushing off any total collapse of Iraq until the next administration -- particularly if it is a Democratic one -- takes over. Then the Republicans can blame Iraq's descent into utter chaos on the opposing party, rather than taking responsibility for their war. The Dems have finally caught on to this, and are preparing, in their weak little Democratic way, to fight back.
The sitting attorney general of the United States is very likely guilty of lying to Congress, contempt of Congress, and possibly even perjury. And yet, he's still on the job, as the nation's chief law enforcement officer. Here's the story, from the Washington Post:
Two senior Justice Department officials said yesterday that they kept Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales apprised of FBI violations of civil liberties and privacy safeguards in recent years.
The two officials spoke in a telephone call arranged by press officials at the Justice Department after The Washington Post disclosed yesterday that the FBI sent reports to Gonzales of legal and procedural violations shortly before he told senators in April 2005: "There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse" after 2001.
"I have discussed and informed attorneys general, including this one, about mistakes the FBI has made or problems or violations or compliance incidents, however you want to refer to them," said James A. Baker, a career official who heads the Justice Department's Office of Intelligence Policy and Review.
"I've discussed a number of times oversight concerns and, underlying those oversight concerns, the potential for violations. And I'm sure we've discussed violations that have occurred in the past," said Assistant Attorney General for National Security Kenneth L. Wainstein.
But Wainstein defended the 2005 statement by Gonzales that he was unaware of civil liberties abuses related to the government's counterterrorism effort. Wainstein cited what he described as a dictionary definition of "abuse" in defending Gonzales's remark.
Democratic lawmakers, citing that disclosure, yesterday accused Gonzales of misleading them about the existence of legal or rules violations by the FBI.
Wainstein said Gonzales was saying only that there had been no intentional acts of misconduct, rather than the sorts of mistakes the FBI was self-disclosing. "That is why I cited the definition of 'abuse,' which in Webster's . . . implies some sort of intentional conduct. And I think that is sort of the common understanding of the word 'abuse,' " Wainstein said.
Civil liberties groups and key Democratic lawmakers dismissed that explanation.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) noted that Gonzales said in a written statement last week that he first became aware of problems with the FBI's use of a tool known as a "national security letter" earlier this year. Copies of the FBI reports sent to Gonzales in 2005 and 2006 described several problems with the letters, which allow agents to secretly collect Americans' phone, computer and bank records without a court order or grand jury subpoena.
"This inconsistency is a disturbing addition to a growing list of misleading answers by the attorney general to questions from the Judiciary Committee, and it is unacceptable," Leahy said.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on civil liberties, said Gonzales should resign and a special prosecutor should be appointed. "Attorney General Gonzales has shown an apparent reckless disregard for the rule of law and a fundamental lack of respect for the oversight responsibilities of Congress," Nadler said.
The White House stood behind Gonzales. President Bush "has said repeatedly that he has great faith in the attorney general, and that has not changed," spokesman Scott Stanzel said.
So when does Gonzales' behavior go beyond the point where the White House's sense of embarassment surpasses its stubbornness?
We talked on the show yesterday about the case of the teen thugs in West Palm Beach who gang raped a woman inside her apartment in a notorious housing project, beat and cut her and her son and then forced the son, who is 12, to participate in the rape of his own mother, at gunpoint. The case was so horrifying, it was almost too awful to talk about, but indeed we did. We also talked with two lawyers who called in, about the prospects for the two teens out of about 10 who are already under arrest -- 16-year-old Nathan Walker and 14-year-old Avion Lawson. They could be looking at life in prison ...
Walker and Avion Lawson, 14, will be held in jail cells with other teenagers for up to 21 days until the state attorney's office formally files paperwork charging them as adults. State Attorney Barry Krischer directed prosecutors to send them to adult court, an automatic decision anytime someone 14 or older is charged with a violent felony, spokesman Mike Edmondson said.
When that paperwork is filed, Walker and Lawson will be in the Palm Beach County Jail on charges that include armed sexual battery while wearing a mask, home invasion and aggravated battery.
If convicted, the maximum sentence for both is life in prison.
What's really stunning in this case is the almost surreal response to the situation of Walker's father, Nathan Senior:
"I love my son," the father said. "I'm going to stick by him. I don't teach violence to my son, so it really puzzles me. Maybe he's just hanging out with the wrong crowd. I don't know."
He acknowledged that he hadn't spent as much time with his son as he should have after parting ways with the boy's mother. But he said his son is shy and timid, and they went to places like the Fun Depot arcade together.
"It's been awhile since I really spent a lot of time with him," the father said. In the meantime, his son has been getting into trouble with the law.
I understand the love part, but how is it that a man can be so thoroughly unacquainted with the character and personality of his own son? That's just one of the things that's scary about this case.
“This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible,” Vitter said in a statement released by his office.
“Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling,'' he added. "Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there -- with God and them. But I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way.”
Some interesting facts about Mr. Vitter:
Vitter, 46, then became Louisiana’s first Republican senator since the end of Reconstruction and has built a reputation as a solid conservative, opposing abortion rights, same-sex marriage and gun control. Last month, he took a leading role in efforts to kill the comprehensive immigration overhaul bill.
A Harvard graduate and former Rhodes Scholar, he was elected to the House in 1999, filling the seat vacated by Rep. Bob Livingston, who was headed toward the House speakership in 1998 when he was forced to reveal his marital infidelities.
In 2000, Vitter was included in a Newhouse News Service story about the strain of congressional careers on families.
His wife, Wendy, was asked by the Newhouse reporter: If her husband were as unfaithful as Livingston or former President Bill Clinton, would she be as forgiving as Hillary Rodham Clinton?
“I’m a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary,” Wendy Vitter told Newhouse News. “If he does something like that, I’m walking away with one thing, and it’s not alimony, trust me.”
“I think fear is a very good motivating factor in a marriage,” she added. “Don’t put fear down.”
Ouch! And how is the Vitter marriage going, anyway?
Vitter briefly considered a run for governor, but bowed out in May 2002, citing strains on his marriage. He announced that he and his wife had entered counseling.
"This wasn't in response to any dramatic issue or event, but to the cumulative stress from working in a high-pressure job, living in two cities, building a house, raising four young kids including a newborn, having our campaign activities based at home and traveling the state considering running for governor,” Vitter said in the 2002 statement.
A week after the announcement, Vitter was forced to publicly address allegations that he had visited a New Orleans bordello, according to the Daily Advertiser in Lafayette, La. He denied the charge, calling it “a rumor and attack campaign” led by enemies to destroy his character and name.
In the run-up to his Senate campaign in 2004, Vitter was confronted again, this time on a talk radio show. And once again, he called the allegations, circulated by political opponents, “absolutely and completely untrue.”
Read the DC Madam's black book for yourself here (assuming the link is back up...)
He didn't listen to Collin Powell before the invasion of Iraq, when the decorated military man spent a whole 2 and a half hours trying to talk him out of the war. Two and a half hours? Wow. Now that's a statesman! Yeesh...
He just might be possibly thinking about bringing the Iraq war to a close ... not!
And apparently, while he is a wide open book to the creators of Lil' Bush, he remains a singular mystery to the people who work with him:
"Top administration officials are aware that the strategy's stated goal -- using U.S. forces to create breathing space for Iraqi political reconciliation -- will not be met by September, said one person fresh from a White House meeting," Karen DeYoung and Thomas E. Ricks wrote for the Post. "But though some, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, have indicated flexibility toward other options, including early troop redeployments, Bush has made no decisions on a possible new course."
The official told the paper, "The heart of darkness is the president. Nobody knows what he thinks, even the people who work for him."
New reporting on the caging of Florida voters, not in 2000, but in 2004, and without due credit to Greg Palast in the story. Not to worry, Greg, we feel ya. Here's the story from the Florida Times Union:
TALLAHASSEE - Internal city memos show the issue of Republican "vote caging" efforts in Jacksonville's African-American neighborhoods was discussed in the weeks before the 2004 election, contradicting recent claims by former Duval County Republican leader Mike Hightower - the Bush-Cheney campaign's local chairman at the time.
"Caging" is a longtime voter suppression practice by which political parties collect undeliverable or unreturned mail and use it to develop "challenge lists" on Election Day.
The contradiction comes to light as the U.S. Justice Department continues to consider a June 18 request from two U.S. senators for an investigation into potential illegal voter suppression tactics in Duval County three years ago. A department spokeswoman said last week that the request is still being reviewed.
Hightower, in a Times-Union interview last month, said the controversial voter suppression tactic of "caging" was never raised in daily meetings hosted by former Duval County Supervisor of Elections Bill Scheu, and he had never heard "of that expression or that practice." Hightower said last week he stands by those recollections.
City officials have disputed that, saying Scheu's daily pre-election meetings with local Republicans, Democrats and African-American community leaders repeatedly included the topic. The city also released attendance records showing Hightower was present.
"This issue was raised during the 2004 election; the supervisor of elections and his counsel were aware of the allegations, discussed them at times during daily meetings with both political parties, and did not have any instances of challenges based on caging," Cindy Laquidara, chief deputy general counsel for Jacksonville, said in a June 20 e-mail to Duval County elections officials. The elections office was responding to a Times-Union public record request; the e-mail was obtained through a similar request.
Scheu told the Times-Union last week the caging issue "probably" came up during repeated discussions over vote challenges.
Hightower, however, stuck by his denial.
"I've never heard the phrase or the practice. I don't care what anybody says," he said. "That's their opinion. Mike Hightower doesn't remember that. Call it a senior moment."
"Vote caging" has a long history in politics. In one such procedure, a campaign will send out postcards to a particular group of addresses with instructions to return the mail. The campaign then creates a database of addresses that did not return the postcards and challenges the right of anyone registered at those addresses who attempts to vote on Election Day. The effect often dissuades turnout. The tactic is legal, but not if voters are targeted by race.
The 3-year-old allegation of caging in Jacksonville gained new life last month, when the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee received testimony indicating the GOP may have used the tactic in 2004.
Ann Farra, a former chairwoman of voter registration and education for the Duval County Democratic Party, said the fact no challenges occurred in 2004 is irrelevant, and Hightower was aware of the Bush-Cheney campaign tactics.
"This is like Bill Clinton saying he didn't have sex with Monica Lewinsky," Farra said. "Word had gotten out into the communities and caused people to stay away from the polls. Suppression was going on left and right."
Supporters of Manuel Noriega are anticipating his possible release from a Miami prison in September ... but all I want to know is whether or not he was a CIA informant...
Hearing alert! The Senate judiciary committee plans to call Patrick Fitzgerald to testify in their investigation of Libby commutationgate.
Inside the neoconservative mind: Bill Kristol likes George W. Bush more when he's Machiavellian. And he loves it when the president goes to the tired Clinton well for cover for his own disgraceful actions. Kristol's explanation of the timing of Bush's Libby rescue: he did it because the Clintons were in Iowa, and he wanted to distract the media into talking about them, and about Bill's pardons. And Kristol says, that's a good thing...
I can't think of a more horrible crime. A gang of teenaged hoodlums ambush and gang rape a woman -- a mom -- and then force her 12-year-old son to join in, at gunpoint. The two out of about 10 masked, gun-wielding monsters that Palm Beach, Florida police have caught? They're aged 16, and 14. Yep. 14. Unbegoddamnedlievable. Meanwhile, the father of one of the teens, who apparently come from the requisite screwed up backgrounds, is standing by his boy. Yeah. Figures. Blah blah blah... send them to jail for life...
Wow. "Hardball" stand-in David Shuster just bitch slapped Iraq war-o-phile and Scooter Libby defender Fouad Ajami over the latter's ridiculous comparison of Scootie-pie to the U.S. troops fighting, dying, bleeding, losing limbs and coming home permantly disabled from the war in Iraq. It was a thing of beauty, as Shuster cut up every lame argument Adjani tried to make, then brought in Paul Reikhoff to tag team the squirmy little weasel from the troops' point of view. After that, Shuster utterly dismantled that kook Dan Burton who tried so hard to take down President Clinton, but apparently hasn't learned the difference between an acquittal on perjury and obstruction and a conviction. The poor old cooter seems to still be salivating for the blood of Bill, but he can't wrap his addled mind around Libby's having been found guilty, but not punished for his criminal behavior. What a show. What a couple of maroons! Damn. Chris Matthews had better watch his back. There's a new big dog at MSNBC.... The video is here or get the link here. I'll post the transcript as soon as it's available. It's a thing of beauty...
For more classic Shuster smack-down, check out Youtube... first victim: Libby pal Tucker Carlson.
By the way, to understand why so many people are outraged by Ajami's idiocy, here's the crux of what he wrote in the Wall Street Journal last month:
In "The Soldier's Creed," there is a particularly compelling principle: "I will never leave a fallen comrade." This is a cherished belief, and it has been so since soldiers and chroniclers and philosophers thought about wars and great, common endeavors. Across time and space, cultures, each in its own way, have given voice to this most basic of beliefs. They have done it, we know, to give heart to those who embark on a common mission, to give them confidence that they will not be given up under duress. A process that yields up Scooter Libby to a zealous prosecutor is justice gone awry.
So Scooter is akin to our troops fighting in Iraq? Really? I hope Mr. Ajami doesn't really believe that, because such a belief is an insult not only to the troops in Iraq, but to anyone who has ever worn the uniform, which, by the way, includes neither Libby nor the boss he nearly went to prison to protect. Just thought I'd mention that. Oh, and by the by, in addition to being a recalcitrant and rather delusional neocon, Ajami is a Lebanese Shiite, which would make him likely quite pleased with the new government of Iraq, such as it is.
Ajami also wrote this:
This case has been, from the start, about the Iraq war and its legitimacy. Judge Walton came to it late; before him were laid bare the technical and narrowly legalistic matters of it. But you possess a greater knowledge of this case, a keen sense of the man caught up in this storm, and of the great contest and tensions that swirl around the Iraq war. To Scooter's detractors, and yours, it was the "sin" of that devoted public servant that he believed in the nobility of this war, that he did not trim his sails, and that he didn't duck when the war lost its luster.
Funny ... I thought it was about the outing of a covert CIA operative by her own government. Funny, that.
WASHINGTON -- The day before Senate Watergate Committee minority counsel Fred Thompson made the inquiry that launched him into the national spotlight -- asking an aide to President Nixon whether there was a White House taping system -- he telephoned Nixon's lawyer.
Thompson tipped off the White House that the committee knew about the taping system and would be making the information public. In his all-but-forgotten Watergate memoir, "At That Point in Time," Thompson said he acted with "no authority" in divulging the committee's knowledge of the tapes, which provided the evidence that led to Nixon's resignation. It was one of many Thompson leaks to the Nixon team, according to a former investigator for Democrats on the committee, Scott Armstrong , who remains upset at Thompson's actions.
"Thompson was a mole for the White House," Armstrong said in an interview. "Fred was working hammer and tong to defeat the investigation of finding out what happened to authorize Watergate and find out what the role of the president was."
Asked about the matter this week, Thompson -- who is preparing to run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination -- responded via e-mail without addressing the specific charge of being a Nixon mole: "I'm glad all of this has finally caused someone to read my Watergate book, even though it's taken them over thirty years."
The view of Thompson as a Nixon mole is strikingly at odds with the former Tennessee senator's longtime image as an independent-minded prosecutor who helped bring down the president he admired. Indeed, the website of Thompson's presidential exploratory committee boasts that he "gained national attention for leading the line of inquiry that revealed the audio-taping system in the White House Oval Office." It is an image that has been solidified by Thompson's portrayal of a tough-talking prosecutor in the television series "Law and Order."
But the story of his role in the Nixon case helps put in perspective Thompson's recent stance as one of the most outspoken proponents of pardoning I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. Just as Thompson once staunchly defended Nixon, Thompson urged a pardon for Libby, who was convicted in March of obstructing justice in the investigation into who leaked a CIA operative's name.
Thompson declared in a June 6 radio commentary that Libby's conviction was a "shocking injustice . . . created and enabled by federal officials." Bush on Monday commuted Libby's 30-month sentence, stopping short of a pardon.
The intensity of Thompson's remarks about Libby is reminiscent of how he initially felt about Nixon. Few Republicans were stronger believers in Nixon during the early days of Watergate. ...
Thompson, in his 1975 memoir, wrote that he believed "there would be nothing incriminating" about Nixon on the tapes, a theory he said "proved totally wrong."
Another Republican (Pete Domenici) begins to back away from the war, suddenly voicing support for redeployment. Don't get it twisted. These guys could give a damn about the troops (in my opinion). They care about their reelections, and in 2008, they don't want to have to run on the war. Domenici is up for reelection in 2008, along with several other GOP Senators who are now "evolving on Iraq." The list (with the newly doubtful highlighted):
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby has been a long-serving intelligence agent for Israel's Mossad, according to a veteran CIA "official cover" officer who spoke to WMR on deep background. The CIA's Clandestine Service has, over the years, gathered a tremendous amount of intelligence on Libby's activities on behalf of Mossad.
Libby served as the lawyer for Switzerland-based American fugitive financier Marc Rich, aka Mark David Reich, who is also known to be an Israeli intelligence asset and someone Israel relies upon for missions that demand "plausible deniability" on the part of the Mossad. Rich heads up a worldwide empire of dummy corporations, foundations, and numbered bank accounts that have been involved in sanctions busting and weapons smuggling. The nations involved include Israel, United States, United Kingdom, Iran, Panama, Colombia, Russia, Iraq (under Saddam Hussein), Cuba, Spain, Nigeria, Singapore, Bolivia, Jamaica, Bermuda, France, Italy, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Kazakhstan, Philippines, Australia, Argentina, Peru, Ireland, Zambia, Sweden, Monaco, and apartheid South Africa.
In 1983, the then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York urged jail time for Rich and his partner Pincus Green for racketeering. The name of that U.S. Attorney is Rudolph Giuliani. Giuliani, who is now running for president, praised Bush's decision to commute Libby's jail sentence. After Clinton's pardon of Rich, Giuliani said he was "shocked." Paul Klebnikov, the Moscow editor for Forbes' Russian edition, wrote about the connections of Rich to Russian gangsters like Boris Berezovsky, a business partner of Neil Bush, in his book "Godfather of the Kremlin." Klebnikov was shot to death gangland-style on a Moscow street on July 9, 2004.
Libby not only provided the Mossad with a top agent inside the White House but also an important conduit for the Russian-Israeli Mafia.
Libby arranged for Rich's eleventh hour pardon by outgoing President Bill Clinton in January 2001. The pardon of Rich was urged in a phone call to Clinton by then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, as well as Shimon Peres and Ehud Olmert.
A bit more, from further down the post:
Libby worked for Paul Wolfowitz in the State Department's Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs from 1982 to 1985. Libby again worked for Wolfowitz in the Pentagon as the Principal Undersecretary for Strategy and Resources. Libby later became the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and served as a chief aide to Defense Secretary Dick Cheney.
It was while Libby was working for Wolfowitz at State, the FBI arrested Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, who had delivered enough highly-classified U.S. documents they could have entirely filled a garage. It was well known that Pollard had a "control officer" within the Reagan administration. The control officer was code-named "Mega."
Current British Lord Chancellor and former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said that during Middle East peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, "It's a toss-up whether [Libby] is working for the Israelis or the Americans on any given day." Clinton's Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder told the House Government Affairs Committee in 2001 that he discovered much more about Rich after Clinton's pardon and said, "Knowing everything that I know now, I would not have recommended to the president that he grant the pardon."
It has also been reported that, in addition to pressure from leading neocons in the United States to keep Libby out of jail, Bush was urged by leading Israeli government officials to prevent Libby from going to prison.
Interesting, and who knows, it may even be true...
And if it is, how ironic wouldi it be if Libby's get out of jail free trick winds up aiding an alleged Hamas operative? Already, defense attorneys are lining up to file "Libby motions" for their clients convicted of obstruction and perjury... nice work, Bushie.
Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee is planning hearings on the Libby affair, and on the use of the presidential clemency power. Not sure how far that will get.
More Libby-Rich intrigue here, from Conspiracy Planet.
Joe Biden has rarely been at a loss for words. Political acumen? Maybe. But not words. Here's his latest verbal fireball (which often is tied to his penchant for self-immolation):
DES MOINES — Joseph Biden, the Delaware Democrat running for president, is a man of strong opinions. During a campaign event in a Des Moines backyard today, Mr. Biden had some choice words for President Bush and two of the Republicans running for the White House.
“This guy is brain dead,” Mr. Biden said to surprised applause and laughter from the crowd. “I know I’ll be quoted, I’ll be killed for that.”
“This is a guy who is on the balls of his heals, here’s a guy who is lower off in the polls than any president in modern history and he goes ahead and he does something that just flies in the face of the sensibilities of the American people.”
Ha! I love Biden's bluntness in a lot of ways, and I agree that Dubya is a moron, but damn, Joe, that's not exactly presidential...
What a strange thing it is to have a day off in the middle of the week ... it's enough to make Thursday feel like a Monday. Oh well ... here's what-a-gwan:
Al Gore to Tipper: "Well, at least the boy was in a Prius..." (after his son gets pinched for possession of marijuana, Xanax, Adderol, Soma and more. And just days before daddy's 7-7-07 global warming concert? Duuuude...
A man is arrested outside Barack Obama's hotel in Iowa holding an eight-inch knife. Scary, with shades of Bobby Kennedy, or a security detail overacting? I hope for the latter but fear the former is more on the money.
The British government says the idea that the eight doctors and others who were arrested in the recent attempts at creating 'splosions at Glasgow and London airports were al-Qaida isn't quite accurate... now THIS is al-Qaida, if you still believe they are the boogeyman the administration wants you to believe they are...
So who gets pardoned and commuted by George W. Bush? Well we already know about Scooter, but who else has felt the warm glow of Dubya's compassion? The list includes just a handful of commutations, and 113 pardons to convicts who have already served their sentences. Among the lucky, five bootleggers or moonshiners, several tax cheats, mortgage and other fraudsters and white collar criminals, a couple of high caste-sounding folk convicted of cocaine or marijuana possession (like Harper James Finucan, convicted of weed possession in 1980 and James Edward Reed, convicted of the same thing in 1975) and two men: William Grover Frye and Devin Timothy Kruse, both convicted of going AWOL during the Vietnam War ... now that's one crime Dubya can really relate to.
As for commutations, in addition to Scooter, Bush has commuted the following sentences:
Geraldine Gordon (1989 distribution of phencyclidine) (sentenced to 20 years plus 10 years supervised release; sentence commuted after 15 years, term of supervised release left intact)
Bobby Mac Berry (1997 conspiracy to manufacture and possess with intent to distribute marijuana, money laundering) (sentenced to 9 years imprisonment plus 5 years supervised release; sentence reduced to 6 and a half years, terms of supervised release left intact)
Phillip Anthony Emmert (1992 conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine) (sentenced to 21 years and 10 months plus 5 years supervised release; sentence reduced Feb. 21, 1996; sentence commuted to 15 years and 1 month plus 5 years supervised release)
Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald issued the following statement about the commutation of Scooter Libby's prison sentence:
“We fully recognize that the Constitution provides that commutation decisions are a matter of presidential prerogative and we do not comment on the exercise of that prerogative.
We comment only on the statement in which the President termed the sentence imposed by the judge as “excessive.” The sentence in this case was imposed pursuant to the laws governing sentencings which occur every day throughout this country. In this case, an experienced federal judge considered extensive argument from the parties and then imposed a sentence consistent with the applicable laws. It is fundamental to the rule of law that all citizens stand before the bar of justice as equals. That principle guided the judge during both the trial and the sentencing.
Although the President’s decision eliminates Mr. Libby’s sentence of imprisonment, Mr. Libby remains convicted by a jury of serious felonies, and we will continue to seek to preserve those convictions through the appeals process.”
In early August 1999, then Presidential candidate Governor George W. Bush mocked Karla Tucker's plea for clemency during an interview with Talk Magazine. Bush mentioned that he had watched Larry King's interview with Karla Tucker from Texas Death Row.
"I didn't meet with Larry King either when he came down for it," Bush told the magazine. "I watched his interview with (Tucker), though. He asked her real difficult questions, like, `What would you say to Governor Bush?' "
The Talk reporter asked how she answered. " `Please,' Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, `don't kill me,' " according to the magazine.
“A New Mexico lawyer who pushed to oust U.S. Attorney David Iglesias was an officer of a nonprofit group that aided Republican candidates in 2006 by pressing for tougher voter identification laws…
“That strategy, which presidential advisor Karl Rove alluded to in an April 2006 speech to the Republican National Lawyers Association, sought to scrutinize voter registration records, win passage of tougher ID laws and challenge the legitimacy of voters considered likely to vote Democratic.
“Public records show that the two nonprofits were active in at least nine states. They hired high-priced lawyers to write court briefs, issued news releases declaring key cities 'hot spots' for voter fraud and hired lobbyists in Missouri and Pennsylvania to win support for photo ID laws. In each of those states, the center released polls that it claimed found that minorities prefer tougher ID laws. With $1.5 million in combined funding, the two nonprofits attracted some powerful volunteers and a cadre of GOP-allied attorneys. Of the 15 individuals affiliated with the two groups, at least seven are members of the Republican National Lawyers Association, and half a dozen have worked for either one Bush election campaign or for the Republican National Committee…”
George W. Bush has a mixed record when it comes to commuting prison sentences, and so far, it seems that the advantage goes to middle aged men who reveal classified information to reporters. Here's the scorecard so far, from both his term as governor and his one and a half terms as president of the United States:
Mentally ill 62-year-old great-grandmothers accused of killing their abusive husbands: zero
Born again Christian female death row inmates whose pleas for clemency are supported by the Pope: zero (mocking snarkery included free of charge!)
Men who disclose the identity of covert CIA agents at the behest of the vice president and who then come down with a curious case of amnesia that conveniently protects that vice president from prosecution: one!!! ... or is that ... two...?
Ensconced in his family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, President Bush today played the sneak thief -- commuting Scooter Libby's prison sentence, after a federal appeals court (which included a judge who had a hand in appointing Kenneth Starr back in the bad old days of the anti-Clinton coup attempt by the Republican Congress,) denied Scooter's request to stay out of jail pending his appeal. Many analysts had thought Bush would wait until the end of his term, or even until after the November 2008 elections to do what most of us believed he would do -- pardon Libby outright. Instead, Bush surprised everyone by splitting the difference -- upholding Libby's conviction on perjury and obstruction of justice charges but keeping his, or rather Dick's, boy out of the slammer (he won't do the 2 1/2 years, but he will still have to pay the $250,000 fine, which should quickly be taken care of by his neocon friends -- and Fred Thompson... and his felony conviction remains in tact, meaning he'll probably lose his law license.) The White House issued the following statement -- which amounts to "on the one hand, on the other hand" -- on Bush's behalf:
The United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit today rejected Lewis Libby's request to remain free on bail while pursuing his appeals for the serious convictions of perjury and obstruction of justice. As a result, Mr. Libby will be required to turn himself over to the Bureau of Prisons to begin serving his prison sentence.
I have said throughout this process that it would not be appropriate to comment or intervene in this case until Mr. Libby's appeals have been exhausted. But with the denial of bail being upheld and incarceration imminent, I believe it is now important to react to that decision.
From the very beginning of the investigation into the leaking of Valerie Plame's name, I made it clear to the White House staff and anyone serving in my administration that I expected full cooperation with the Justice Department. Dozens of White House staff and administration officials dutifully cooperated.
After the investigation was under way, the Justice Department appointed United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Patrick Fitzgerald as a Special Counsel in charge of the case. Mr. Fitzgerald is a highly qualified, professional prosecutor who carried out his responsibilities as charged.
This case has generated significant commentary and debate. Critics of the investigation have argued that a special counsel should not have been appointed, nor should the investigation have been pursued after the Justice Department learned who leaked Ms. Plame's name to columnist Robert Novak.
Furthermore, the critics point out that neither Mr. Libby nor anyone else has been charged with violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act or the Espionage Act, which were the original subjects of the investigation. Finally, critics say the punishment does not fit the crime:
Mr. Libby was a first-time offender with years of exceptional public service and was handed a harsh sentence based in part on allegations never presented to the jury.
Others point out that a jury of citizens weighed all the evidence and listened to all the testimony and found Mr. Libby guilty of perjury and obstructing justice. They argue, correctly, that our entire system of justice relies on people telling the truth. And if a person does not tell the truth, particularly if he serves in government and holds the public
trust, he must be held accountable. They say that had Mr. Libby only told
the truth, he would have never been indicted in the first place.
Both critics and defenders of this investigation have made important
points. I have made my own evaluation. In preparing for the decision I
am announcing today, I have carefully weighed these arguments and the circumstances surrounding this case.
Mr. Libby was sentenced to thirty months of prison, two years of probation, and a $250,000 fine. In making the sentencing decision, the district court rejected the advice of the probation office, which recommended a lesser sentence and the consideration of factors that could have led to a sentence of home confinement or probation.
I respect the jury's verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison.
My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby. The reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged. His wife and young children have also suffered immensely. He will remain on probation. The significant fines imposed by the judge will remain in effect. The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant, and private citizen will be long-lasting.
The Constitution gives the President the power of clemency to be used when he deems it to be warranted. It is my judgment that a commutation of the prison term in Mr. Libby's case is an appropriate exercise of this power.
Jeff Toobin just called this "a complete departure from what is usually done. Scooter Libby is getting something that millions of prisoners would die for."
Toobin also added that Libby was sentence precisely within the federal sentencing guidelines for obstruction of justice convictions, so Bush is free to have the opinion that the sentence was excessive, but he is not accurate. At the same time, Bush's decision is irrevocable in that he has the power to do it, and there are no appeals. Case closed, game over.
Democrats are sure to be furious about this, but I wonder whether right wingers will be satisfied either, given that their wunderkind remains a felon in the eyes of the law. Bush did not wipe his slate clean.
Update: Republican reactions are starting to roll in...
Mark Levin, at the start of his show, expressed his regret that the president didn't all-out pardon Libby, but stressed on his listeners that the president will get attacked by the Left for the commutation and he deserves support for doing as much as he did.
RedStater Mark I had been whingeing for a pardon for federal inmate number: 28301-016 since the federal appeals court denied his request to stay out of the slammer, and now, for Mark, vindication ... sort of, since it's kind of hard to tell if the Staters are happy with the less-than-pardon.
On another note, Paris Hilton should be pissed. When her sentence was commuted, it was as if the world was going to end, and now this.
Update 2: Ambassador Joe Wilson just told CNN that the president's commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence was shameful, and said, pointedly, "Scooter Libby is a traitor." Now Joe DiGenova is attempting to clean it up for Scooter.
"This decision to commute the sentence of a man who compromised our national security cements the legacy of an Administration characterized by a politics of cynicism and division, one that has consistently placed itself and its ideology above the law. This is exactly the kind of politics we must change so we can begin restoring the American people's faith in a government that puts the country's progress ahead of the bitter partisanship of recent years."
Back to CNN: Jeff Toobin is now debating Joe DiGenova, making the point that Bush's commutation of the sentence was highly unusual, it having not gone through the normal procedure, and having completely bypassed the Department of Justice. Then again, why pass by there, their chief is Bush's butler...
Update 3: Hillary Clinton's reaction to the Scooter commutation:
"Today's decision is yet another example that this Administration simply considers itself above the law. This case arose from the Administration's politicization of national security intelligence and its efforts to punish those who spoke out against its policies. Four years into the Iraq war, Americans are still living with the consequences of this White House's efforts to quell dissent. This commutation sends the clear signal that in this Administration, cronyism and ideology trump competence and justice."
Rudy Giuliani, former federal prosecutor and apparently, newly minted believer in obstruction fo justice, perjury and lying to the FBI, had this to say:
"After evaluating the facts, the President came to a reasonable decision and I believe the decision was correct."
"While for a long time I have urged a pardon for Scooter, I respect the president's decision. This will allow a good American, who has done a lot for his country, to resume his life." — Former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn.
Did I mention that Thompson is a contributor to Scooter's defense fund? Means he'll be one of the sops paying Scootie-Scoot's fine.
Meanwhile, the New York Times explains the difference between a commutation and a full pardon here.
Why would the Carlyle Group want to buy Virgin Media, parent company of Virgin Records and Virgin Mobile? Aren't they the cats that employ former presidents and plot Middle Eastern wars for profit? Take a closer look, courtesy of Wikipedia:
Carlyle deals in the following industries: Aerospace & Defense, Automotive, Consumer & Retail, Energy & Power, Healthcare, Real Estate, Technology & Business Services, Telecommunications & Media, and Transportation. The Carlyle Group's investments are focused on East Asia, Europe and North America, with most investment money coming from the United States (65%), Europe (25%), Asia (6%), Latin America, and the Middle East. Defense investments represent about 1% of the group's current portfolio — though this translates, for example, into a 33.8% ownership of QinetiQ, the UK's recently privatized defence company.
Current portfolio and major acquisitions
Though known for its expertise in aerospace and defense, Carlyle invested more than thirty percent of its assets in the telecommunications and media sector. Noted portfolio companies are Dex Media, the former directories business of Qwest Communications; Willcom, a Japanese wireless company; Casema, a Dutch cable company; and Insight Communications, the ninth largest cable company in the U.S. The Carlyle Group is also a major investor in US Investigations Services, which is the privatized arm of the United States Office of Personnel Management's Office of Federal Investigations.
Brand-name companies that Carlyle owns include: Dunkin' Brands, which owns Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, and dental hygiene company Water Pik. Carlyle also recently took rental car company Hertz public.
On June 28, 2007, Carlyle announced that it would partner with Onex Corporation to buy the Allison Transmission unit from General Motors for $5.6 billion.
Dunkin Donuts??? ... Oh, by the way, wanna hear a funny story about George W. Bush and the Carlyle Group? Here 'tis, courtesy of Information Clearning House, circa April 2003:
In a column posted yesterday on Salon.com, Joe Conason writes: "Preferring to avoid public scrutiny for obvious reasons, executives at the Carlyle Group usually say nothing about their firm's connections with the Bush dynasty. But last April 23, Carlyle managing director David Rubenstein spoke quite frankly about the comfy sinecure he provided to George W. Bush more than a decade ago -- and how useless Bush turned out to be. Whether he knew it or not, Rubenstein's remarks to the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association were recorded." Rubenstein said, "We put [Bush] on the board and [he] spent three years. Came to all the meetings. Told a lot of jokes. Not that many clean ones. And after a while I kind of said to him, after about three years - you know, I'm not sure this is really for you. Maybe you should do something else. Because I don't think you're adding that much value to the board. You don't know that much about the company.
Rubenstein continued: "He said, well I think I'm getting out of this business anyway. And I don't really like it that much. So I'm probably going to resign from the board. And I said, thanks - didn't think I'd ever see him again. His name is George W. Bush. He became President of the United States. So you know if you said to me, name 25 million people who would maybe be President of the United States, he wouldn't have been in that category. So you never know. Anyway, I haven't been invited to the White House for any things."
I would think not. So will the major defense contractor and employer of former presidents (and apparently, major donut pusher...) soon own the Virgin Megastores and access to millions of iPods and mobile phones (including 3 million in the U.S. alone)? One shudders to think of the possibilities...
The WaPo's Fred Hiatt does a nice ulogy for the many ills wrought by George W. Bush:
As the Bush presidency implodes, some of its worst policies mercifully will go, too -- including, we can hope, the torture and unregulated detention of alleged enemy fighters that have so discredited the country throughout the world.
But valuable strands of policy also may end up strewn in the wreckage, victims (in varying combinations) of President Bush's ineptitude, inconstancy and unpopularity. Among these are what Bush called compassionate conservatism, now moribund; American promotion of democracy abroad, now flailing; and accountability in elementary and high school education, losing ground as it approaches a major test in Congress.
Bush most likely lost his last chance to weave compassion into domestic policy last week when he could not persuade his party to put people ahead of fences in immigration reform. And while a shard of compassionate conservatism survives in his foreign-aid budgets and support for AIDS patients in Africa, these will come under increasing pressure from the fiscal squeeze that Bush has designed.
Overall, in fact, compassionate conservatism was an early casualty of Bush's fiscal policy, which tilted the tax code toward the wealthy at a time of rising inequality, forced the government to devote increasing sums to pay interest on the national debt and ensured that less and less would be available for social programs for the vulnerable.
Unlike compassionate conservatism, democracy promotion was of no interest to Bush when he ran for president. He embraced the idea after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But he has had little success: Iraq and Afghanistan remain at war, tentative gains for democracy in the Mideast have been reversed, and autocracies in the former Soviet Union, China, Iran and elsewhere are emboldened. Not surprisingly, polls show increasing skepticism about democracy promotion, particularly among Democratic voters.
In fact, democracy was not the primary goal of U.S. invasions in Afghanistan or Iraq, and elsewhere Bush has not matched strategy or consistency to his soaring rhetoric. Two leading political scientists, Francis Fukuyama and Michael McFaul, argue in a recent paper for the Stanley Foundation (" Should Democracy Be Promoted or Demoted?") that the policy could be carried out far more intelligently.
The promotion of freedom has long been a tenet of American foreign policy, they write, and should remain so: "No country in the world has benefited more from the worldwide advance of democracy than the United States." This isn't a question for the military -- force "is the rarest used and least effective way to promote democratic change abroad," Fukuyama and McFaul argue -- but of setting priorities, reorienting the bureaucracy and enlisting allies.
But they worry that Bush's failures will instead lead the next administration to give up on the idea. "The tragic result" of the mismatch between rhetoric and results, they write, is that "Americans are starting to view this goal as no longer desirable or attainable."
Hiatt makes a good point that the spreading of Democracy has been given a bad name by the Bushies (including Fukuyama, who was for using force to spread democracy before he was against it,) and it would be a shame if it was abandoned altogether by subsequent American presidents. A shame, yes, but also a constitutional imperative, since spreading democracy around the world is NOT the job of the American president, nor some tenet of manifest destiny that is to be revived in the American spirit. Americans are not the world's policeman, nor are we the world's daddy. Promoting democracy is one thing, spreading it is quite another. The preamble to the United States Constitution reads:
"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty..."
Endism" has been a favorite neoconservative theme over the years: every once in a while the neocons announce the death of some commonly assumed idea that the rest of us take for granted– during the 1950s, for example, they wrote the obituary of ideology itself, proclaiming that their own self-satisfied complacency was the apotheosis of human achievement. In the early 1990s, we heard all about the purported "End of History," similar to "the end of ideology," except extended to the four corners of the earth. No one thought it at all unusual or alarming when Irving Kristol welcomed Hegel and his contemporary doppelgänger into the pages of The National Interest, at the time the leading neocon theoretical journal devoted to foreign policy. More recently we have seen the implicit endism energizing the post-9/11 ideology of the official conservative movement, which has ended its long-standing defense of the Constitution, narrowly constructed, against the modern liberal "expansionist," or loose constructionist, view, which likens the original intent of the Framers to the primitive thoughts of Neanderthal man and avers that the Constitution and its meaning are always "evolving."
The rise of the surveillance state, the repeal of habeas corpus, the consolidation of a police-state apparatus that spies on Americans and foreigners at will – these post-9/11 assaults on constitutional government in America have all been adopted as holy writ by a thoroughly neoconized "conservative" movement, which these days is just an adjunct of the GOP. The Goldwater-fusionist devotion to decentralized power, the genuine fear of Big Government, the libertarian disdain for officialdom and its inherent inefficiencies have all been thrown overboard and a state-and-leader-worshipping cult of power installed in their place. As the favorite slogan of these post-9/11 Bizarro-cons puts it: Everything has changed. Including what used to be called "conservatism," which morphed rapidly into an inverted funhouse-mirror image of itself.
The neocons have been consistently wrong in their "endism," although this sorry record hasn't punctured their intellectual pretensions. The Grand Consensus of the 1950s, which saw the welfare-warfare state as the culmination and endpoint of Western civilization, was soon wrecked on the rocky shores of the 1960s, which gave birth to a popular rebellion against an unpopular foreign war and a thoroughgoing exposure and rejection of the government's war on domestic dissent.
The termination of History, announced by Francis Fukuyama in his famous 1992 essay, proved even more problematic, what with 9/11 and the subsequent Middle Eastern wars that promise to preoccupy us for decades to come. Instead of blending into the bureaucratic grayness of the Universal Homogenous State – as Fukuyama's inspiration, the philosopher Alexandre Kojève, characterized the "final form of human government" – the waters are roiled by powerful currents of nationalism and religiosity that threaten to unleash a global conflagration.
The implied end of constitutional government in America, as a matter of supposed necessity, may have been yet another case of premature burial. There are now powerful dissents coming from conservatives, including this pledge to uphold the Bill of Rights and "restore the Constitution's checks and balances as enshrined by the Founders," issued to all the GOP presidential candidates by a panel of right-wing leaders. Add to this the excitement generated among the younger set by the Ron Paul campaign – which is to antiwar conservatives what the Eugene McCarthy effort to take the White House was to an earlier generation of antiwar activists – and we have the makings of a full-scale rebellion on the Right. What Lew Rockwell calls "red-state fascism" is facing a significant challenge from within the conservative movement.
Having sacrificed everything – their devotion to less government, their traditionally prudent temperament, their general distrust of power – in order to follow the neocons off the Iraqi cliff, the ostensibly "conservative" wing of the Republican Party faces an electoral catastrophe. There is, consequently, a "surge" of skepticism in GOP ranks as the administration tries to tamp down Republican voices of protest in the Senate. The GOP caucus was supposed to be giving the White House until September, when Gen. David Petraeus is slated to give his much-vaunted progress report, but they aren't waiting to jump ship. First in the water is Sen. Richard Lugar, the GOP's foreign policy maven:
Ding Dong, is neoconservatism dead? I wouldn't count on it, but the political movement to implement it around the world, and to strip us here at home of the constitutional protections that would prevent that implementation, have been seriously damaged by the incompetence of the Bush administration.
I attended a Women for Hillary event in Miami over the weekend, at which more than 1,200 people crammed into the former Parrot Jungle ballroom to hear Ms. Hillary make her case for the presidency before a very receptive crowd of mostly women, including a number of local pols (Rep. Kendrick Meek and his wife were among the hosts). Hillary clearly has the chops to be president -- she presents herself well, and "sounds like a president," meaning she is commanding, concise, and has a thorough command of the issues. Hillary drew several standing ovations, including when she said that she was recently told that after eight years of George W. Bush, we're going to need a woman in the White House to do some serious house cleaning. "Get out your mops and your brooms," Hillary added, prompting a few chuckles in the room from the pretties (and their little dogs, too...)
Hillary may have it over the other candidates in terms of her presentation and debate skills (she has clearly won all three of the Democratic debates, including the most recent one at Howard University), but there's one place she has fallen somewhat behind -- and it's a surprising one: money.
The reason? It starts with Barack and ends with Obama.
Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama reported today that he raised at least $32.5 million during the second quarter of the year, enough to likely make him the top money raiser among Democrats during the latest quarter and for the year so far. The second-quarter figure showed Obama's fundraising pace is accelerating even from the staggering $25.7 million he raised during the first quarter. His campaign said that about $31 million of the second-quarter total were dollars that can be used for the primary campaign.
"Together, we have built the largest grassroots campaign in history for this stage of a presidential race," Obama said in a statement. "We now have hundreds of thousands of Americans who are ready to demand health care for all, energy independence, and an end to this war in Iraq. That’s the kind of movement that can change the special interest-driven politics in Washington and transform our country. And it’s just the beginning."
Obama's campaign Web site on Sunday morning reported nearly 258,000 overall donors for the first six months of the year, meaning about 154,000 new donors gave him money during the second quarter.
"Every day over the past three months, over 1,500 Americans have made clear to Barack Obama that they believe in his vision for our country by contributing to his campaign," Chicagoan Penny Pritzker, Obama's national finance chair, said in a statement.
Barack's incredible take stands in contrast to Hillary's approximate $27 million for the second quarter -- no slouch figure, but still less than Barack's. As for the also-rans, John Edwards is expected to raise about $9 million and Bill Richardson about $7 million. South of them, I doubt any of the third tier guys will raise enough to stay in it through the end of the year.
The Repubs report their totals tomorrow.
Update: Site to watch -- Hillaryis44.com ... posted by a mystery Beltway insider whom some GOPers suspect of being inside the Clinton campain.