... or did they? ... Much like Bush's court-appointed victory in 2000, and his Ohio-tainted win in 2004, the opposition begs to differ with the result. From the Independent UK:
Supporters of the main election challenger to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad clashed with police and set up barricades of burning tires today as authorities declared the hard-line president was re-elected in a landslide. Opponents responded with the most serious unrest in the capital in a decade and charges that the result was the work of a "dictatorship."
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, closed the door on any chance he could use his limitless powers to intervene in the disputes from Friday's election. In a message on state TV, he urged the nation to unite behind Ahmadinejad, calling the result a "divine assessment."
But Ahmadinejad's main challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, has rejected the result as rigged and urged his supporters to resist a government of "lies and dictatorship."
The clashes in central Tehran were the more serious disturbances in the capital since student-led protests in 1999 and showed the potential for the showdown over the vote to spill over into further violence and challenges to the Islamic establishment.
Several hundred demonstrators — many wearing the trademark green colors of Mousavi's campaign — chanted "the government lied to the people" and gathered near the Interior Ministry as the final count was announced. It gave 62.6 percent of the vote to Ahmadinejad and 33.75 to Mousavi, who served as prime minister in the 1980s and has become the hero of a youth-driven movement seeking greater liberties and a gentler face for Iran abroad.
The turnout was a record 85 percent of Iran's 46.2 million eligible voters. Two other candidates received only a fraction of the vote.
Protesters set fire to tires outside the Interior Ministry and anti-riot police fought back with clubs and smashed cars. An Associated Press photographer saw a plainclothes security official beating a woman with his truncheon.
In another main street of Tehran, some 300 young people blocked the avenue by forming a human chain and chanted "Ahmadi, shame on you. Leave the government alone."
And there are signs that the government is responding to the "Green Movement" in what you might call "the Chinese fashion"...
It was even unclear how many Iranians were even aware of Mousavi's claims of fraud. Communications disruptions began in the later hours of voting Friday — suggesting an information clampdown. State television and radio only broadcast the Interior Ministry's vote count and not Mousavi's midnight press conference.
Nationwide, the text messaging system remained down Saturday and several pro-Mousavi Web sites were blocked or difficult to access. Text messaging is frequently used by many Iranians — especially young Mousavi supporters — to spread election news.
... Mousavi's backers were stunned at the Interior Ministry's results after widespread predictions of a close race — or even a slight edge to Mousavi.
"Many Iranians went to the people because they wanted to bring change. Almost everybody I know voted for Mousavi but Ahmadinejad is being declared the winner. The government announcement is nothing but widespread fraud. It is very, very disappointing. I'll never ever again vote in Iran," said Mousavi supporter Nasser Amiri, a hospital clerk in Tehran.
Bringing any showdown into the streets would certainly face a swift backlash from security forces. The political chief of the powerful Revolutionary Guard cautioned Wednesday it would crush any "revolution" against the Islamic regime by Mousavi's "green movement."
... Historic because Ahmadenijad is getting election results that are just about impossible to believe. I always thought he would probably win -- but nuance and subtlety are not skill sets of the regime's election rigging operation.
To be up front, I never thought that Mousavi's strategic policy course would differ substantively from his now unlikely predecessor Ahmadenijad -- but a change in optics and posture, which Mousavi would have offered, might have yielded significant new opportunities down the road.
Iran will be tied in knots now -- for a long time. What worries me about this is the tendency of Iran's leadership to generate external crises and international focal points to try and distract a frustrated citizenry and unify the nation.
Even before the results were in, Foreign Policy predicted that Iran 2009 could wind up like Florida 2000, and explained how Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a lot like George W. Bush:
Lastly there is 52-year-old Ahmadinejad himself, who despite his profound mismanagement of the economy and foreign policy adventurism seemingly retains the support of the Supreme Leader. An Iranian Joe Six-pack who intertwines religion and populism and infuriates urban elites -- think Ayatollah Khomeini meets Sarah Palin -- Ahmadinejad's supporters are the Iranian equivalent of American evangelicals: a small percentage of the population with outsize political influence given their high voter turnout.
While his divine inspirations, lack of introspection, and polarizing rhetoric have frequently earned comparisons to George W. Bush, what's unclear is whether Ahmadinejad is the Bush of 2004 (who got the benefit of the doubt) or the Bush of 2008, whose legacy was shunned even by his own party. There are increasing signs of the latter.
Absent credible polling, however, Iran's political landscape is difficult to decipher. In elections past, much has been made of the gap between affluent-middle class North Tehran, and working class South Tehran. The real disparity, however, is between Tehran and a few other urban centers (Iran's blue states) and the rest of the country (Iran's red states). Just as Staten Island residents probably have more in common with Manhattanites than Alabamans, South Tehran residents tend to have more in common with north Tehranis than with their rural compatriots who don't have access to the Internet and satellite TV and rely on state television as their primary source of information. [Note: Think Fox News...]
Because the last two presidents in Iran -- Mohammed Khatami and Ahmadinejad -- were both surprises, seasoned observers are loath to make predictions this time around. Based on media coverage coming mostly out of the capital, Ahmadinejad is looking like Jimmy Carter in 1980. But the vote of the provinces, and the potential for fraud, are impossible to foresee.
Given the depth of polarization in Iran, the final results will likely be hotly contested by the losing side. Florida in 2000 could be most instructive. But while in America the memory of unelected elders in robes deciding the country's outlook was an historical anomaly, for Iranians it has been, and will likely continue to be, a way of life.
While Obama's proposed budget will hit Bush hard in the wallet, just like other wealthy Americans, the main blow may be aimed at his reputation.
The 134-page spending plan opens with a 10-page preamble entitled "Inheriting a Legacy of Misplaced Priorities" that lays blame for many of today's problems at the doorstep of the former president.
"It is no coincidence that the policy failures of the past eight years have been accompanied by unprecedented Governmental secrecy and unprecedented access by lobbyists and the well-connected to policymakers in Washington. Consequently, the needs of those in the room trump those of their fellow citizens," the plan says.
But others get blamed in a broad-brush condemnation: "For the better part of three decades, a disproportionate share of the Nation's wealth has been accumulated by the very wealthy," the budget says. It blasts "a legacy of irresponsibility," adding, "It's our responsibility to change it."
A great story of the post-presidential life of George W. Who? From the Independent:
How fast they fade. Poor George W Bush decided that an unannounced visit to a Dallas hardware shop at the weekend would be a fun way to emerge from a month of post-presidential purdah and make a splash with his new neighbours. But the greeter who met him inside, a pensioner named Henry Long, didn’t recognise him.
It could be that Mr Bush looks smaller in real life than he does on TV. That, at least, was the observation yesterday of Andrea Bond, the marketing director for Elliott’s Hardware, who was there the moment the 43rd President of the United States pushed open the door on Saturday and asked Mr Long where he might find a torch and batteries. It probably didn’t help that Mr Bush was dressed not in a suit but, says Ms Bond, “sweatpants and a windbreaker”.
No one will fault Mr Bush for having kept a low profile – mostly at his Crawford ranch with his wife, Laura; it is just polite since someone else is in charge. But sweatpant obscurity is not something he can afford to contemplate. There are memoirs to sell – no luck so far – and lectures to give and he already has the serious handicap of having left office with some of the lowest approval ratings of any president in modern history.
Maybe he could get a job at Citibank? It would be kind of like being back in government...
The return of a Binyam Mohamed, a four-year Gitmo detainee, to Great Britain raises new questions about the Bush-era "war on terror," and the complicity of the U.K. in what are by all accounts illegal detentions in an American gulag. From the Guardian:
Senior MPs said they intended to pursue ministers and officials over what they knew of his ill-treatment and why Britain helped the CIA interrogate him.
In a statement released shortly after he arrived in a US Gulfstream jet at RAF Northolt in west London, Mohamed said: "For myself, the very worst moment came when I realised in Morocco that the people who were torturing me were receiving questions and materials from British intelligence."
Once inside the terminal building he met his sister for the fist time in more than seven years and in the most emotionally charged moment of the day they both cried and hugged.
Mohamed, a British resident, was released after several hours of questioning by police and immigration officials and was last night being looked after by his legal team.
Clive Stafford Smith, his lawyer, spoke of a "fantastic day" after the long campaign to free his client, who spent weeks on hunger strike being force-fed at Guantánamo and looked "incredibly skinny and very emaciated". Binyam was "extraordinarily grateful to be back in Britain", said Stafford Smith, who said he had "zero doubt" Britain was complicit in his client's ill-treatment.
"Britain knew he was being abused and left him," he said, referring to his secret abduction to Morocco where Mohamed says he was tortured. The lawyer also said his client was subjected to "very serious abuse" in Guantánamo.
Stafford Smith said that while his family was not vindictive they wanted the truth to be known. Mohamed hoped to be allowed to remain in the UK. "What we in Britain need to do is to make up for some of the things in the past and if the British government was, as I contend, deeply involved in the torture that Binyam had to go through, the least we can do is offer him his homeland," Stafford Smith said.
The Guardian Editorial team tackles the potential damage to U.S.-U.K. relations.
The Beeb reports on U.S. Defense Department plans to "ease conditions" at Gitmo.
And the Independent delves deeper into Binyam's claims that he was the victim of "Medieval torture" at Guantanamo.
In the waning days of the Bush administration, Vice President Dick Cheney launched a last-ditch campaign to persuade his boss to pardon Lewis (Scooter) Libby - and was furious when President George W. Bush wouldn't budge.
Sources close to Cheney told the Daily News the former vice president repeatedly pressed Bush to pardon Libby, arguing his ex-chief of staff and longtime alter ego deserved a full exoneration - even though Bush had already kept Libby out of jail by commuting his 30-month prison sentence.
"He tried to make it happen right up until the very end," one Cheney associate said.
In multiple conversations, both in person and over the telephone, Cheney tried to get Bush to change his mind. Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in the federal probe of who leaked covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to the press.
Several sources confirmed Cheney refused to take no for an answer. "He went to the mat and came back and back and back at Bush," a Cheney defender said. "He was still trying the day before Obama was sworn in."
After repeatedly telling Cheney his mind was made up, Bush became so exasperated with Cheney's persistence he told aides he didn't want to discuss the matter any further.
And the NYDN's Tom DeFrank reports that the Bush-Cheney relationship became more "businesslike" than warm over time, after the WMD not turning up and the rosy Iraq scenarios not panning out and such. I suppose even George W. Bush could tell when his presidency was ruined, and who contributed most to ruining it.
Sorry Chris Matthews ... I mean the George Washington's Birthday survey. C-SPAN asked leading historians to rank the presidents (42 of them, since Grover Cleveland's two non-consecutive terms are counted as one...) Spoiler alert: Dubya was ranked number 36th overall: just barely better than Willian Henry Harrison, the guy who died a month into office, and actually two spots lower than Herbert freaking Hoover. Sure hate it...
Meanwhile, over at the top 10:
I mostly agree with the top ten, though personally, I wouldn't put Wilson or Reagan there, since the former failed with the League of Nations (and screened "Birth of a Nation" in the White House -- yes, he was that racist) and even practiced segregation within the federal workforce, supressed anti-war protesters and created the first federal "war on drugs" ... and the latter began the drive into the ditch that Dubya finished a generation later,) but that's just me. I suppose Wilson continues to rank high because he was a consequential president, whether it's the Federal Reserve, the progressive income tax, or World War I. So there you go.
Just outside the top ten, Bill Clinton scored 15th overall, moving up 6 places from 2000, and George H.W. Bush moved up two places to 18. Jimmy Carter also improved his position, moving up three points to 25. The biggest mover seems to be Ulysses S. Grant, who moves up a full 10 points to 23. I think he's being looked at more favorably these days because of his incredibly progressive views about racial equality in the post-civil war era.
As for Barack Obama, he of course won't be ranked until 2004. But one thing is assured, and it will burn the righties to no end: he is already a consequential president, no matter what he does from here on in. And he will get that statue on the National Mall that Dubya fans can only dream of...
BTW, last night in honor of President's Day, we watched the Oliver Stone picture "W." Good film -- a little long, but I think it captured the essence of the man: gluttonous, jealous (of Jeb), self-centered and incurious, incapable of deep thought, and determined to best not only Jeb, but dear old dad. Oh, and manipulated completely by Dick Cheney and an even more gluttonous and thoughtless Don Rumsfeld. Lastly, Collin Powell comes across as weak and sputtering in the film, spouting objections to the Iraq war and then going along anyway, and Thandie Newton's Condi Rice immitation was an SNL parody at best. Other than that? Good film.
The cost of 'liberation': about 1 million Iraqis dead
George W. Bush will probably go to his grave spouting neocon claptrap about being the great liberator of Iraq -- about the more than 4,000 dead from American forces alone (more than were killed in the World Trade Center and Pentagon, plus United 93 combined, on 9/11...) was well worth it because we, the Americans, "liberated" Iraq from Saddam Hussein. Well, I wonder how the Iraqis feel about their "liberation." And how will they feel as the death toll is counted?
The numbers are shocking, though not unexpected. Alternet reports that in counting the war's human costs:
We have a better grasp of the human costs of the war. For example, the United Nations estimates that there are about 4.5 million displaced Iraqis -- more than half of them refugees -- or about one in every six citizens. Only 5 percent have chosen to return to their homes over the past year, a period of reduced violence from the high levels of 2005-07. The availability of healthcare, clean water, functioning schools, jobs and so forth remains elusive. According to Unicef, many provinces report that less than 40 percent of households have access to clean water. More than 40 percent of children in Basra, and more than 70 percent in Baghdad, cannot attend school.
The mortality caused by the war is also high. Several household surveys were conducted between 2004 and 2007. While there are differences among them, the range suggests a congruence of estimates. But none have been conducted for eighteen months, and the two most reliable surveys were completed in mid-2006. The higher of those found 650,000 "excess deaths" (mortality attributable to war); the other yielded 400,000. The war remained ferocious for twelve to fifteen months after those surveys were finished and then began to subside. Iraq Body Count, a London NGO that uses English-language press reports from Iraq to count civilian deaths, provides a means to update the 2006 estimates. While it is known to be an undercount, because press reports are incomplete and Baghdad-centric, IBC nonetheless provides useful trends, which are striking. Its estimates are nearing 100,000, more than double its June 2006 figure of 45,000. (It does not count nonviolent excess deaths -- from health emergencies, for example -- or insurgent deaths.) If this is an acceptable marker, a plausible estimate of total deaths can be calculated by doubling the totals of the 2006 household surveys, which used a much more reliable and sophisticated method for estimates that draws on long experience in epidemiology. So we have, at present, between 800,000 and 1.3 million "excess deaths" as we approach the six-year anniversary of this war.
This gruesome figure makes sense when reading of claims by Iraqi officials that there are 1-2 million war widows and 5 million orphans. This constitutes direct empirical evidence of total excess mortality and indirect, though confirming, evidence of the displaced and the bereaved and of general insecurity. The overall figures are stunning: 4.5 million displaced, 1-2 million widows, 5 million orphans, about 1 million dead -- in one way or another, affecting nearly one in two Iraqis.
Meanwhile, the Iraqis are becoming more like us every day. Turnout in the recent national elections was only about 50 percent. According to AfterDowningStreet, the coming victory of Nuri al-Maliki's Dawa Party is seen by Iraqis as the best option to end the American occupation. But the turnout also reflected a dispirited nation:
Interviews suggest that the low voter turnout also is an indication of Iraqi disenchantment with a democracy that, so far, has brought them very little.
Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and the fall of a brutal dictator, Iraqis witnessed unprecedented violence in their nation and what they believe is humiliation under a foreign occupation. Even on Saturday, U.S. tanks could be spotted across Baghdad on largely empty roads.
Following elections in 2005 Iraq spiraled into a sectarian war. People cowered in their homes while others literally killed each other in the streets. Many here feel the people they elected were party to or were at least complicit in the violence. The security forces too were feared as sectarian death squads and Iraqis also believed that American raids or passing U.S. tanks sometimes resulted in innocent civilian deaths.
Many blame the U.S. presence in Iraq for sowing the seeds of sectarianism by bringing back exiles to rule them.
And still more evidence of the Bush-Americanization of Iraq:
Beyond the disillusionment, thousands of potential voters were unable to cast ballots Saturday because official voter lists did not contain their names. Street protests resulted.
Has anybody seen Karl Rove, and does he have an alibi...?
Two must-read articles on the HuffPo, both having to do with the legal twists and turns of the former president.
First up: Bush's last minute end run around accountability, in the form of letters issued to memebers of his now defunct administration, attempting to immunize them against probes by Congress:
Michael Isikoff reported for Newsweek that while many of us were fomenting about Bush preemptively pardoning at-risk members of his administration, he and his lawyer Fred Fielding (White House Counsel) were concocting one last expansion of executive privilege. Four days before he left office, Mr. Bush authorized Fielding to write letters to Harriet Miers and Karl Rove giving them "absolute immunity" from Congressional inquiry and prosecution. Preemptively. In perpetuity. Absolute and irrevocable.
The letters set the stage for what is likely to be a highly contentious legal and political battle over an unresolved issue: whether a former president can assert "executive privilege" -- and therefore prevent his aides from testifying before Congress -- even after his term has expired.
These letters were delivered before Congress or any prosecutor had initiated action against Miers and Rove. Clearly Bush sought to inoculate Rove and Miers from all attempts to prosecute them for their actions during his administration. Only when John Conyers (Chairman, House Judiciary Committee) subpoenaed Mr. Rove did the letters come to light. Waving his letter in the air, Karl Rove refused to appear before the committee.
Read the full Isikoff piece here. Meanwhile, Dick Cheney gave his own set of interviews, all but daring the new administration to charge him with a war crime for ordering torture, he says, at Bush's behest. Wonder if he has a letter, too...
Next up: Slate uncovers a college thesis by none other than Liz Cheney (the non-gay Cheney offspring, who apparently was an inspiration to her father in more ways that one. The thesis was called "The Evolution of Presidential War Powers 1988." ...
In 1988, while Dick Cheney was Wyoming's sole representative in the House of Representatives, his daughter's senior thesis was quietly published in Colorado Springs. The 125-page treatise argued that, constitutionally and historically, presidents have virtually unchecked powers in war. Thirteen years before her father became vice president, she had symbolically authored the first legal memorandum of the Bush administration, laying out the same arguments that would eventually justify Guantanamo and extraordinary rendition, wiretapping of American citizens, and, broadly, the unitary theory of the executive that shaped the Bush presidency.
Elizabeth's thesis contains such gems as the justifiable fabrication of enemy attacks to launch pre-emptive wars, and other nuggets of the founding father's hidden intent:
Elizabeth Cheney begins her survey at the Constitutional Convention. Contrary to today's middle-school mythology, she tells us, fear of enabling a tyrannical monarch was not foremost in the Founding Fathers' minds. Rather, they did not want to repeat the failure of the Continental Congress' attempts to manage the war for independence. Our constitutional architects, she argues, believed they could not "foresee every possible future use of American armed forces" and, as a result, wanted a commander in chief endowed with great latitude in wartime.
For Cheney, Thomas Jefferson established the path presidents would and should take when dealing with Congress. In engaging American warships against Barbary pirates, Jefferson "chose to inform Congress of his actions at his own convenience." When he did, he fabricated an attack on an American ship to secure their support.
If a presidency's success or failure is judged on how the country as a whole changed during its time, how its people are doing by the end of his term or terms, or how America's standing in the world changed, relative to where it was when the president's reign began, then George W. Bush's presidency can rightly be judged an abject failure. The vast majority of Americans are worse off economically than when Bush came into office in the closing months of the heady days of boom and surplus during the Clinton years. The United States remains mired in an unnecessary war in Iraq, for which an astounding 650,000 Americans have already paid the price in physical and mental injuries serious enough to require medical treatment or disability. The war in Afghanistan rages on, and the world economy has been dragged into the tar pit of mortgage backed securities and derivatives invented on Wall Street.
But if a presidency is to be judged on whether it achieved its prime directive -- whether it lived up to the implicit promise made by its leadership on their way in, campaign rhetoric aside -- then George W. Bush's presidency has to be judged a resounding success. George W. Bush came into office calling the very wealthy his "base." He rode in on a promise to restore the full promise of trickle down "Reaganomics" in Washington, complete with neutering the federal government through deregulation, fattening the wealthy's pockets through corporate tax cuts and the virtual elimination of the concept of taxing wealth, and making war a permanent fixture of the American GDP. And Bush did just that, and more.
Bloomberg reports that, according to recently released IRS data, “the average tax rate paid by the richest 400 Americans fell by a third to 17.2 percent through the first six years of the Bush administration and their average income doubled to $263.3 million.” Much of their income came from capital gains resulting from the Bush tax cuts.
The 17.2 percent tax rate in 2006 was the lowest since the IRS began tracking the 400 largest taxpayers in 1992, although the richest 400 Americans paid more tax on an inflation-adjusted basis than any year since 2000.
The drop from 2001’s tax rate of 22.9 percent was due largely to ex-President George W. Bush’s push to cut tax rates on most capital gains to 15 percent in 2003.
Capital gains made up 63 percent of the richest 400 Americans’ adjusted gross income in 2006, or a combined $66.1 billion, according to the data. In all, the 400 wealthiest Americans reported a combined $105.3 billion of adjusted gross income in 2006, the most recent year for which the IRS has data.
“The big explosion in income for this group is clearly on the capital gains side, although there are also sharp increases in dividend and interest income,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy and Research in Washington.
In other words, Bush did precisely what he came to Washington to do: namely, to pull of the largest bank robbery in history -- a "reverse Robin Hood" scheme that consists of stealing from the United States treasury to give to the rich, and not just to individuals, but also to the energy industry, particularly oil and gas, which reaped huge profits from his presidency, and from the defense contractors from whence his chief henchmen, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld, slunk.
The only trouble is, Bush also succeeded in thoroughly discrediting the idea of "trickle down" a/k/a "supply side" economics or "Reaganomics," revealing, ironically, that his father was right when he called it "voodoo." Because, though dummies and ideologues like Rudy Giuliani (who is both) still believe that you have to feed the rich so they'll keep holding up the economy on their strong, broad shoulders, the rest of us are on to the fact that it is the middle class, not the wealthy, who carry the economy with our spending. That's why the suddenly robust personal savings rate of 2.9% last quarter helped tank economic expansion by 3.5 percent. No middle class buying TVs and computers and clothes, on credit, usually ... no economic growth, which leads to layoffs that even further restrict spending. The middle class -- wage earners -- not Wall Street fat cats and richie rich's who plough their extra duckets into really bad investments (and bubbles) drive the economy. If you want to help the economy, help THEM.
It's a painful lesson that an entire nation, and indeed the world, has now learned, the hard way.
Though Dick Cheney would seem to have been at the epicenter of America's totalitarian torture, detention and domestic spying regimes, one man stands front and center as probably the most easily prosecutable "first case" in what should be a series of U.S. war crimes trials: Donald Rumsfeld. RawStory reports:
Monday, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak told CNN's Rick Sanchez that the US has an "obligation" to investigate whether Bush administration officials ordered torture, adding that he believes that there is already enough evidence to prosecute former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
"We have clear evidence," he said. "In our report that we sent to the United Nations, we made it clear that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld clearly authorized torture methods and he was told at that time by Alberto Mora, the legal council of the Navy, 'Mr. Secretary, what you are actual ordering here amounts to torture.' So, there we have the clear evidence that Mr. Rumsfeld knew what he was doing but, nevertheless, he ordered torture."
George W. Bush gave his farewell address to the nation tonight. It was a sad, strange ending to a failed presidency, full of denial, self justification, self-soothing, and an apparent total lack of comprehension of just how bad the last eight years have been, and by extension, what an utter failure his presidency has been.
Bush during the speech was so delusional, he actually claimed that the air and water in the country are cleaner for his having been there. And he congratulates himself for siding with his conscience in his utter determination to keep the country safe from evil, as if his presidency did not begin until September 12, 2001. The evil terror attack that happened before that revised start date to the Bush presidency is apparently, not his problem.
I have long believed George Bush to be an ignorant, shallow man -- a man who came into office, as Chris Matthews brilliantly put it tonight during an appearance on "Countdown," as a "tabula rasa," devoid of his own ideology, disdainful of "intellectuals" and their book learnin'. But somehow, after 9/11, he adopted a very strong ideology, which happened to belong to the coterie of neoconservatives Dick Cheney brought in with him when he muscled his way into the vice presidency, clearly sensing the possibilities for himself with such an intellectually inferior "boss." Now that Dubya has absorbed the ideology, the poor thing actually believes it. Among the delusions:
Over the past seven years, a new Department of Homeland Security has been created. The military, the intelligence community, and the FBI have been transformed. Our nation is equipped with new tools to monitor the terrorists' movements, freeze their finances, and break up their plots. And with strong allies at our side, we have taken the fight to the terrorists and those who support them. Afghanistan has gone from a nation where the Taliban harbored al Qaeda and stoned women in the streets to a young democracy that is fighting terror and encouraging girls to go to school. Iraq has gone from a brutal dictatorship and a sworn enemy of America to an Arab democracy at the heart of the Middle East and a friend of the United States.
Really? Last time I checked, we stopped "taking the fight to the terrorists" so that we could kill 4,000 of our troops and help Iran out by invading Iraq. And pardon me, Dubya, but the Taliban are still stoning women in the streets of Afghanistan, and girls remain terrified to go to school. From RAWA, the main organization fighting for the women of that country (since 1977):
Disappointingly, there has been little progress for women under the Western-backed Government of Hamid Karzai. RAWA's struggle for women's rights is as vital - and dangerous - as ever. These brave Afghans put their lives at risk every day, but the alternative - submitting to degrading and brutal treatment - is not an option for them.
Forced marriage for girls, sometimes as young as 11, abuse, wife beating and other forms of maltreatment are commonplace in Afghanistan and often lead to women committing suicide. In one such case, during November 2006, in the north of Afghanistan, an 11-year-old girl, Sanubar, was kidnapped by warlords and exchanged for a dog.
Extreme poverty, high mortality rates related to malnutrition and childbirth; and a culture of misogamy are still bleak features of everyday life in Afghanistan.
Security for girls is extremely poor, kidnap, rape and murder are frequent. Thirty years of war have left two million widows in Afghanistan, 50,000 of them in Kabul. These women and their children often live in horrific conditions.
When people live in freedom, they do not willingly choose leaders who pursue campaigns of terror. When people have hope in the future, they will not cede their lives to violence and extremism. So around the world, America is promoting human liberty, human rights, and human dignity. We're standing with dissidents and young democracies, providing AIDS medicine to dying patients -- to bring dying patients back to life, and sparing mothers and babies from malaria. And this great republic born alone in liberty is leading the world toward a new age when freedom belongs to all nations.
Peace, hope and freedom? All from "elections?" Tell it to the Palestinians. And as for "promoting human liberty, human rights and human dignity," you might want to refer to this Washington Post article in which a member of your own administration admits that we're in the business of committing Saddam Hussein-style torture. And the piece de resistance:
For eight years, we've also strived to expand opportunity and hope here at home. Across our country, students are rising to meet higher standards in public schools. A new Medicare prescription drug benefit is bringing peace of mind to seniors and the disabled. Every taxpayer pays lower income taxes. The addicted and suffering are finding new hope through faith-based programs. Vulnerable human life is better protected. Funding for our veterans has nearly doubled. America's air and water and lands are measurably cleaner. And the federal bench includes wise new members like Justice Sam Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts.
The U.S. ranks #24 among the 30 most affluent countries in life expectancy – yet spends more on health care than any other nation.
The U.S. infant mortality rate is on par with that of Croatia, Cuba, Estonia, and Poland; if the U.S. infant mortality rate were the same as that of top-ranked Sweden, 21,000 more American babies would live to celebrate their first birthdays every year.
A baby born in Washington, D.C. is almost two-and-a-half times more likely to die before age one than a baby born in Vermont. African American babies are more than twice as likely to die before age one than either white or Latino babies.
... and on education:
Fourteen percent of the population – some 30 million Americans – lacks the literacy skills to perform simple, everyday tasks like understanding newspaper articles and instruction manuals.
Twelve percent of Americans lack the literacy skills to fill in a job application or payroll form, read a map or bus schedule, or understand labels on food and drugs.
More than one in five Americans – 22 percent of the population – have “below basic” quantitative skills, making it impossible to balance a checkbook, calculate a tip, or figure out from an advertisement the amount of interest on a loan.
In 2006, 4.5 million young people ages eighteen to twenty-four were not in school, not working, and had not graduated high school.
Heck of a job, Bushie. ...
Meanwhile, the faith based initiatives were declared a failure by the very man Bush put in charge of them. And veteran's funding has been given such short shrift, the Bush presidency manage to heap utter disgrace on such a vaunted place as Walter Reade Hospital, redefined under Bush's policies as a Dickensian hell hole.
And we haven't even gotten to Katrina, the corruption of the Justice Department, war crimes, war profiteering, Guantanamo prison and the decimated economy. ...
Bush's address tonight solved nothing for his place in history, which will be terribly low. It did nothing to advance his "legacy project," except to seal his place as one of the worst, if not the worst, presidents we've ever been cursed with.
The Economist puts it most succinctly with their headline: "The frat boy ships out." And their subhead makes the point crystal clear:
Few people will mourn the departure of the 43rd president
Here's Chris Matthews' take on Bush's speech. The best line, a quote from Shakespeare -- "where did we find this sudden scholar?"
In the 1990s, America exerted leadership in all the remote corners of the globe, from the southern cone of South America to Central Asia. Now, the United States has largely left the field in many regions, leaving others to step forward.
Bush has been blamed widely for the erosion of American prestige. And the decline in U.S. influence is partly the result of the reaction to his invasion of Iraq, his campaign against Islamic militants and his early disdain for treaties and international bodies.
But the shift is also a result of independent forces, though hastened by an aversion to Bush. These include the steady ascent of China, India and other developing countries that throughout the last decade have seen their economies grow, amassing wealth and quietly extending their reach.
As smaller countries have built economic and political ties to these rising powers, they have worked to free themselves from exclusive dependence on the United States.
"There is no return to the time when the United States was the 'indispensable power,' " said Stewart M. Patrick, a former State Department official at the Council on Foreign Relations. "The world has moved on."
According to the author, part of the problem is Bush unilateralism in Iraq, on climate change, and on Russia. Another factor in the decline is Bush's benign neglect of whole regions, including both Asia and South America:
The U.S. National Intelligence Council issued a report this year, "Global Trends 2025," that notes a shift of economic power from the West to the East that is "without precedent." In 2025, the United States will "remain the single most powerful country, but will be less dominant," it predicts.
Since World War II, the United States has led by its power of persuasion, as well as its economic might. But other countries' unhappiness with the Iraq war and the conduct of the Bush administration's "global war on terror," means that the "American brand is less legitimate and its persuasive powers are compromised," said Charles Kupchan of Georgetown University and the Council on Foreign Relations.
There also has been a dwindling of U.S. influence as the administration has focused most of its energy and resources on the Middle East and Southwest Asia, leaving much less for Central and Southeast Asia, Latin America and other regions. Many are going their own way, developing new ties among neighbors.
Latin American countries, for example, are building an organization called the Union of South American Nations and a NATO-like defense alliance called the South American Defense Council. The United States, long dominant in the hemisphere, is pointedly excluded from both.
An 8-year-old group called the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, with Russia, China, and four Central Asian states, has been slowly developing, in part because some members want a bulwark against U.S. involvement in the region.
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's Christians, a scant minority in this overwhelmingly Muslim country, quietly celebrated Christmas on Thursday with a present from the government, which declared it an official holiday for the first time.
But security worries overshadowed the day for many, particularly in the north where thousands of Christians have fled to escape religious attacks.
Overall security in Iraq has improved markedly in the past year, but a fatal car bombing in Baghdad on Christmas morning was a gruesome reminder that serious problems remain.
The bombing outside a restaurant frequented by police killed four people and wounded 25 others in the Shiite neighborhood of Shula, said a police officer on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give information to news media. The U.S. military later announced that one person was killed and 21 wounded. There was no way to immediately reconcile the differing numbers.
An American soldier was killed in a rocket or mortar attack near the northern city of Mosul, the military announced.
How much does it suck being George W. Bush right now?
You make a surprise trip to Baghdad to burnish your "legacy" and some Iraqi guy throws a shoe (or two) at you:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A man identified as an Iraqi journalist threw shoes at -- but missed -- President Bush during a news conference Sunday evening in Baghdad, where Bush was making a farewell visit.
Bush ducked, and the shoes, flung one at a time, sailed past his head during the news conference with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in his palace in the heavily fortified Green Zone.
The shoe-thrower -- identified as Muntadhar al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist with Egypt-based al-Baghdadia television network -- could be heard yelling in Arabic: "This is a farewell ... you dog!"
While pinned on the ground by security personnel, he screamed: "You killed the Iraqis!"
Al-Zaidi was dragged away. While al-Zaidi was still screaming in another room,Bush said: "That was a size 10 shoe he threw at me, you may want to know."
Hurling shoes at someone, or sitting so that the bottom of a shoe faces another person, is considered an insult among Muslims.
Yeah, I think it's pretty much an insult in any religious tradition... Now of course, it wouldn't be a proper CNN scoop without 4 minutes of commentary by our favorite Aussie, Michael Ware (he broke the story on CNN). And catch George W. Bush's explanation of the incident (spoiler alert! He says "so what if somebody threw a shoe at me???" Hilarious!) Watch:
You really can't make this stuff up!
Oh, and I wonder why an Arab journalist would have a problem with Dubya ... hm... could it be ... Abu Ghraib? up to 1 million Iraqis killed in the war? The illegality of the war itself? The suffering the Iraqi people continue to endure in the advent of war? 2 million Iraqi refugees? Torture at Guantanamo? Need I go on?
WASHINGTON (AFP) — George W. Bush hopes history will see him as a president who liberated millions of Iraqis and Afghans, who worked towards peace and who never sold his soul for political ends.
"I'd like to be a president (known) as somebody who liberated 50 million people and helped achieve peace," Bush said in excerpts of a recent interview released by the White House Friday.
"I would like to be a person remembered as a person who, first and foremost, did not sell his soul in order to accommodate the political process. I came to Washington with a set of values, and I'm leaving with the same set of values."
He also said he wanted to be seen as a president who helped individuals, "that rallied people to serve their neighbor; that led an effort to help relieve HIV/AIDS and malaria on places like the continent of Africa; that helped elderly people get prescription drugs and Medicare as a part of the basic package."
Bush added that every day during his eight-year presidency he had consulted the Bible and drawn comfort from his faith.
"I would advise politicians, however, to be careful about faith in the public arena," the US leader said in the interview with his sister Doro Bush Koch recorded as part of an oral history program known as Storycorps.
Keep dreaming, Georgie. And praying. For now, it appears that rather than seeing you as the Great Liberator, history will judge you as America's worst president ever, and a man who:
Squandered the world's good will after 9/11, and his own country's, by politicizing the tragedy.
Invaded and occupied a country that did not threaten the United States, costing the lives of some 5,000 Western troops, and countless Iraqi lives.
Destroyed his country's military.
Returned Afghanistan to war-torn disaster, while doing no better there than the Soviets did in the 1980s, while failing to capture or kill Osama bin Laden.
Turned the United States into a practitioner of torture.
Created an American gulag at Guantanamo Bay, while producing no significant prosecutions related to the 9/11 terror attacks.
Turned the nation's spying infrastructure on its own citizens.
Raised a private, mercenary Army of contractors who ran roughshod through Iraq, destroying American credibility and endangering both Iraqi and American lives.
Banrupted the United States, taking our economy from the surplus he inherited from President Clinton to the largest deficits in our history.
Presided over the largest increases in domestic spending in history.
Presided over a near criminal bailout of Wall Street, that amounts to the largest transfer of wealth from the middle class and working class to the rich since the Robber Barons.
Watched as his party became a criminal gang operating out of the White House, K Street and Capitol Hill.
Turned the American presidency into a laughing stock.
Turned the United States into a rogue nation and international pariah.
Failed utterly in his role as communicator in chief.
Empowered the forces of religious intolerance in the U.S., to the detriment of the now utterly politicized Christian faith.
And the least of his sins, destroying the Republican Party's brand, perhaps for a generation.
The Dow keeps plummeting, (below 8,000 -- losing nearly half its value this year...) along with the global markets. It's a crisis that it seems no entity, no agency of government can stop. General Motors' stock fell below FIVE DOLLARS for the first time in 60 years. FIVE... Jesus... analysts are projecting that the big three U.S. auto makers cannot all survive. At least one will go away completely, or be absorbed by another company... President Bush is making noises about doing something, but honestly, events have overtaken him, and everybody else... World finance chefs are holding an emergency meeting. Good luck with that.
BTW one astute blogger posted a chart plotting McCain's poll numbers against the S&P 500.
Fascinating. Clearly, this guy is going to need more than Bill Ayers to get back into the race. Or not:
As Pollster’s Steve Lombardo says, “The economic situation has virtually ended John McCain’s presidential aspirations and no amount of tactical maneuvering in the final 29 days is likely to change that equation.”
Meanwhile, Barack Obama slams McCain for "stoking anger and division" at a time like this ... Italy's Silvio Berlusconi walks back from his suggestion that world markets simply be closed.
Cheney is booted from a speaking gig before a disabled vets group after his camp demands they be locked in room for two hours in order to hear him speak:
The veep had planned to speak to the Disabled American Veterans at 8:30 a.m. at its August convention in Las Vegas.
His staff insisted the sick vets be sequestered for two hours before Cheney's arrival and couldn't leave until he'd finished talking, officials confirmed.
"Word got back to us ... that this would be a prerequisite," said the veterans executive director, David Gorman, who noted the meeting hall doesn't have any rest rooms. "We told them it just wasn't acceptable."
When Cheney spoke to the group in 2004, his handlers imposed the same stringent security lockdown, upsetting members, officials said.
Many of the vets are elderly and left pieces of themselves on foreign battlefields since World War II, and others were crippled by recent service in Iraq and Afghanistan. For health reasons, many can't be stuck in a room for hours.
"It was a huge imposition on our delegates," added David Autry, another Disabled American Veterans official.
Autry said vets would've had to get up "at Oh-dark-30 and try to get breakfast and showered and get their prosthetics on."
Once inside, they "could not leave the meeting room, and the bathrooms are outside," he said.
Cheney's office acknowledged the security requests, but insisted he is sensitive to combat veterans' needs.
Spokeswoman Megan Mitchell said the two-hour rule is "a recommendation, not a requirement," and "we always work to make sure the bathrooms are within the security perimeters."
Turns out the veep has tougher security requirements than the POTUS, who apparently has no interest in addressing disabled vets anyway:
President Bush routinely speaks at events such as large dinners where thousands of guests freely pass back and forth through Secret Service screening portals.
Gorman first invited Bush, who has never addressed the group, but the White House declined last month.
At British Parliament today, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, met with Tory Leader David Cameron.
Seemingly unaware of an enormous fuzzy boom mike held by ABC News' Eric Kerchner, the two chatted casually -- and privately.
"You should be on the beach," Cameron told Obama. "You need a break. Well, you need to be able to keep your head together."
"You've got to refresh yourself," agreed Obama.
... "These guys just chalk your diary up," said Cameron, referring to a packed schedule.
"Right," Obama said. "In 15 minute increments …"
"We call it the dentist's waiting room," Cameron said. "You have to scrap that because you've got to have time."
"And, well, and you start making mistakes," Obama said, "or you lose the big picture. Or you lose a sense of, I think you lose a feel-- "
"Your feeling," interrupted Cameron. "And that is exactly what politics is all about. The judgment you bring to make decisions."
"That's exactly right," Obama said. "And the truth is that we've got a bunch of smart people, I think, who know ten times more than we do about the specifics of the topics. And so if what you're trying to do is micromanage and solve everything then you end up being a dilettante but you have to have enough knowledge to make good judgments about the choices that are presented to you."
CBS helpfully edits McCain interview, ABC affiliate puts Dubya on the hot mic
Who says the mainstream media doesn't love John McCain? CBS has even pulled a Soviet-style edit to help him out of a major foreign policy gaffe, just the way the print press helpfully edits George W. Bush's syntax, as Countdown reported tonight and the Jed Report clarifies:
The Secretary of State, who is one of the few people with the President's ear, has shown the door to Vice-President Dick Cheney's cabal of war-hungry advisers. Ms Rice was able to declare yesterday that the administration's decision to break with past policy proves that there is international unity in opposing Iran's nuclear programme. "The point that we're making is the United States is firmly behind this diplomacy, firmly behind and unified with our allies and hopefully the Iranians will take that message," Ms Rice said.
Mr Bush's decision to send the number three in the State Department, William Burns, to attend talks with Iran in Geneva at the weekend caused howls of outrage that were heard all the way from the State Department's sanctuary of Foggy Bottom to the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. A parallel initiative to reopen the interest's section of the American embassy in Tehran, which would be the first return of a diplomatic presence on Iranian territory since 1979, has also received a cool response from neo-conservatives.
"This is a complete capitulation on the whole idea of suspending enrichment," said Mr Bush's former UN envoy, John Bolton. "Just when the administration has no more U-turns to pull, it does another."
Ms. Rice is described in the article as a "prime mover" behind the disastrous Iraq invasion, but her change of direction has pushed her man Bush in a new direction, one in which she appears to be steering the ship:
The breakthrough, if that is what it turns out to be, that persuaded Mr Bush that it was time to end the 30-year boycott of high-level diplomatic contacts with Iran, came from the simple act of Ms Rice signing her name to a joint letter offering sweeter terms to Tehran than it had seen before.
The very act of putting her name to a package of incentives presented in Tehran last month persuaded the Iranian authorities that there was movement that would allow them to proclaim victory over the US, while ending their nuclear programme.
When he saw Ms Rice's signature on the document, Iran's Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, was visibly stunned, according to those present at the meeting. He formally responded to the offer with a letter addressed to Ms Rice and the EU's foreign policy envoy, Javier Solana, as well as foreign ministers of the five other countries at the talks.
His letter skirted around the hot-button issue of Iran's uranium enrichment programme, but it contained an olive branch of an offer to "find common ground through logical and constructive actions", according to reports.
But the piece also makes it clear who the real ship's captain in the Bush administration is:
Before approaching the President with a plan to avoid war in the last six months of his presidency, Ms Rice had to persuade Mr Cheney, chief among those described as the "Vulcans" of his administration. She made her pitch at a meeting that included Mr Cheney, Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, Joshua Bolton, the White House Chief of Staff, and Mr Burns, who is heading to Geneva at the weekend to take part in the "one time only deal".
Scary. Read the entire article for a nice recounting of Condi's greatest hits, including her assertion that "no one could have anticipated planes flying into buildings..."
You've got to feel sorry for South Caroline Gov. Mark Sanford. I mean, it really is kinda hard to figure out the difference between John McCain's economic policy, and George W. Bush's. Hell, I'd be speechless too...
WE know what a criminal White House looks like from “The Final Days,” Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s classic account of Richard Nixon’s unraveling. The cauldron of lies, paranoia and illegal surveillance boiled over, until it was finally every man for himself as desperate courtiers scrambled to save their reputations and, in a few patriotic instances, their country.
“The Final Days” was published in 1976, two years after Nixon abdicated in disgrace. With the Bush presidency, no journalist (or turncoat White House memoirist) is waiting for the corpse to be carted away. The latest and perhaps most chilling example arrives this week from Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, long a relentless journalist on the war-on-terror torture beat. Her book “The Dark Side” connects the dots of her own past reporting and that of her top-tier colleagues (including James Risen and Scott Shane of The New York Times) to portray a White House that, like its prototype, savaged its enemies within almost as ferociously as it did the Constitution.
Some of “The Dark Side” seems right out of “The Final Days,” minus Nixon’s operatic boozing and weeping. We learn, for instance, that in 2004 two conservative Republican Justice Department officials had become “so paranoid” that “they actually thought they might be in physical danger.” The fear of being wiretapped by their own peers drove them to speak in code.
The men were John Ashcroft’s deputy attorney general, James Comey, and an assistant attorney general, Jack Goldsmith. Their sin was to challenge the White House’s don, Dick Cheney, and his consigliere, his chief of staff David Addington, when they circumvented the Geneva Conventions to make torture the covert law of the land. Mr. Comey and Mr. Goldsmith failed to stop the “torture memos” and are long gone from the White House. But Vice President Cheney and Mr. Addington remain enabled by a president, attorney general (Michael Mukasey) and C.I.A. director (Michael Hayden) who won’t shut the door firmly on torture even now.
Nixon parallels take us only so far, however. “The Dark Side” is scarier than “The Final Days” because these final days aren’t over yet and because the stakes are much higher. Watergate was all about a paranoid president’s narcissistic determination to cling to power at any cost. In Ms. Mayer’s portrayal of the Bush White House, the president is a secondary, even passive, figure, and the motives invoked by Mr. Cheney to restore Nixon-style executive powers are theoretically selfless. Possessed by the ticking-bomb scenarios of television’s “24,” all they want to do is protect America from further terrorist strikes.
Meanwhile, members of the administration appear not to be completely oblivious to the perils they find themselves in. Former U.N. ambassadorial temp John Bolton got a nice scare in Europe this spring, when a citizen attempted to arrest him for war crimes. Baron von Rumsfeld has had to be fleet footed in France after narrowly escaping a war crimes indictment (Bush has even sought to immunize his defense team from indictment in the International Criminal Court. No consciousness of guilt there... and failing to get blanket immunity, has forced bilateral agreements on about 100 countries to ensure that U.S. officials won't be handed over.) And no less an insider than retired Gen. Antonio Taguba, who probed the infamous abuses at abu-Ghraib, has definitively stated that key members of the Bush administration committed war crimes by ordering and devising the torture of detainees
The remarks by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who's now retired, came in a new report that found that U.S. personnel tortured and abused detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, using beatings, electrical shocks, sexual humiliation and other cruel practices.
"After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes," Taguba wrote. "The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."
(The Red Cross, the lead organization in such matters, concurs.) And ccording to Rich:
Top Bush hands are starting to get sweaty about where they left their fingerprints. Scapegoating the rotten apples at the bottom of the military’s barrel may not be a slam-dunk escape route from accountability anymore.
No wonder the former Rumsfeld capo, Douglas Feith, is trying to discredit a damaging interview he gave to the British lawyer Philippe Sands for another recent and essential book on what happened, “Torture Team.” After Mr. Sands previewed his findings in the May issue of Vanity Fair, Mr. Feith protested he had been misquoted — apparently forgetting that Mr. Sands had taped the interview. Mr. Feith and Mr. Sands are scheduled to square off in a House hearing this Tuesday.
So hot is the speculation that war-crimes trials will eventually follow in foreign or international courts that Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, has publicly advised Mr. Feith, Mr. Addington and Alberto Gonzales, among others, to “never travel outside the U.S., except perhaps to Saudi Arabia and Israel.” But while we wait for the wheels of justice to grind slowly, there are immediate fears to tend. Ms. Mayer’s book helps cement the case that America’s use of torture has betrayed not just American values but our national security, right to the present day.
Worse, the Mayer book makes it clear that for all the descent into Communist Chinese military tactics, the Cheney-led torture mania hasn't helped U.S. national security. Instead, the lies that torture has elicited have been principle causes leading us into the Iraq quagmire:
In her telling, a major incentive for Mr. Cheney’s descent into the dark side was to cover up for the Bush White House’s failure to heed the Qaeda threat in 2001. Jack Cloonan, a special agent for the F.B.I.’s Osama bin Laden unit until 2002, told Ms. Mayer that Sept. 11 was “all preventable.” By March 2000, according to the C.I.A.’s inspector general, “50 or 60 individuals” in the agency knew that two Al Qaeda suspects — soon to be hijackers — were in America. But there was no urgency at the top. Thomas Pickard, the acting F.B.I. director that summer, told Ms. Mayer that when he expressed his fears about the Qaeda threat to Mr. Ashcroft, the attorney general snapped, “I don’t want to hear about that anymore!”
After 9/11, our government emphasized “interrogation over due process,” Ms. Mayer writes, “to pre-empt future attacks before they materialized.” But in reality torture may well be enabling future attacks. This is not just because Abu Ghraib snapshots have been used as recruitment tools by jihadists. No less destructive are the false confessions inevitably elicited from tortured detainees. The avalanche of misinformation since 9/11 has compromised prosecutions, allowed other culprits to escape and sent the American military on wild-goose chases. The coerced “confession” to the murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to take one horrific example, may have been invented to protect the real murderer.
The biggest torture-fueled wild-goose chase, of course, is the war in Iraq. Exhibit A, revisited in “The Dark Side,” is Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, an accused Qaeda commander whose torture was outsourced by the C.I.A. to Egypt. His fabricated tales of Saddam’s biological and chemical W.M.D. — and of nonexistent links between Iraq and Al Qaeda — were cited by President Bush in his fateful Oct. 7, 2002, Cincinnati speech ginning up the war and by Mr. Powell in his subsequent United Nations presentation on Iraqi weaponry. Two F.B.I. officials told Ms. Mayer that Mr. al-Libi later explained his lies by saying: “They were killing me. I had to tell them something.”
That “something” was crucial in sending us into the quagmire that, five years later, has empowered Iran and compromised our ability to counter the very terrorists that torture was supposed to thwart. As The Times reported two weeks ago, Iraq has monopolized our military and intelligence resources to the point where we don’t have enough predator drones or expert C.I.A. field agents to survey the tribal areas where terrorists are amassing in Pakistan. Meanwhile, the threat to America from Al Qaeda is “comparable to what it faced on Sept. 11, 2001,” said Seth Jones, a RAND Corporation terrorism expert and Pentagon consultant. The difference between now and then is simply that the base of operations has moved, “roughly the difference from New York to Philadelphia.”
Meanwhile, in Rich's telling, we're back where we were in the summer before 9/11. Hell, even Chandra Levy is making a comeback, courtesy of a 12-part "investigative" series by the Washington Post... (BTW that summer, Chandra consumed about 90 percent of my time as editor of an NBC News website. Here we go again...)
He no longer has his Republican human shields in Congress. With dicey re-elections looming, it's every GOPer for him/herself. And with Bush's new tack to the center (which appears for all the world to be a mad dash for some shred of a legacy beyond Iraq,) combined with his dismal polling, Bush has become the guy nobody invited to the party, but who showed up anyway. (Hell, the POTUS can't even get a porch wave...) Quite a fall from the hero worship and almost cultish support he enjoyed from the FReeperati for years after 9/11 (remember the days when you would get banned for criticizing "The President?" or when the Free Republic had a gauzy, nauseating daily thread called "pray for the president"? Gonzo.)
So now, Dubya is in trubya with his former winger friends, over turning North Korea into a one-country "Axis of not-so-evil." Observe:
Several prominent House Republicans blasted the White House Thursday for removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, as some of President Bush’s staunchest supporters in the war on terror publicly lambasted him for engaging the country once famously branded as part of the "axis of evil."
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed her “profound disappointment” over the decision, while Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, also expressed his outrage.
“Lifting sanctions and removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism flies in the face of history and rewards its brutal dictator for shallow gestures,” said Hoekstra, who has not shied away from criticizing the White House in recent years.
“Just as the Clinton administration was fooled by the Kim Jong-Il regime, time will soon tell if the Bush administration will fall for the same bait,” he added.
...“The administration’s call for North Korea to be removed from the state sponsors of terrorism list is cause for profound concern,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “Serious verification questions linger, and I would have hoped that the administration would have shown more caution, and less haste, on a matter of this gravity.”
Let's face it. Ileana's got a tough re-election fight for the first time in her career, and distancing herself from Bush at a time when many Cuban-American voters are jumping the GOP ship (no pun intended) is good politics. And with winger voters, it never hurts to make ominous noises in the general direction of foreign countries...
As Ed said, Dennis Kucinich read his 35 Articles of Impeachment into the Congressional record yesterday evening, and now awaits a brave majority of House members to come forward so that hearings on the Bush administration's possible high crimes and misdemeanors can begin. Bob Wexler wants hearings, but few other members, including Democrats, seem eager to rehash the administration's crimes, none of which could have been committed without the obsequious obeisance of Congress...
Impeachment is the sole remedy provided by the Constitution to check the presidency when it gets out of control. For Democrats, including Mother Nancy, to take it off the table without digging into the facts is unpardonable.
ARTICLE I.--CREATING A SECRET PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN TO MANUFACTURE A FALSE CASE... Page: H5089 ARTICLE II.--FALSELY, SYSTEMATICALLY, AND WITH CRIMINAL INTENT CONFLATING THE... Page: H5090 ARTICLE III.--MISLEADING THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AND MEMBERS OF CONGRESS TO BELIEVE... Page: H5091 ARTICLE IV.--MISLEADING THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AND MEMBERS OF CONGRESS TO BELIEVE... Page: H5092 ARTICLE V.--ILLEGALLY MISSPENDING FUNDS TO SECRETLY BEGIN A WAR OF AGGRESSION ARTICLE VI.--INVADING IRAQ IN VIOLATION OF THE REQUIREMENTS OF H.J. RES. 114. Page: H5093 (A) Information provided with Article I, II, III, IV and V. ARTICLE VII.--INVADING IRAQ ABSENT A DECLARATION OF WAR ARTICLE VIII.--INVADING IRAQ, A SOVEREIGN NATION, IN VIOLATION OF THE UN... ARTICLE IX.--FAILING TO PROVIDE TROOPS WITH BODY ARMOR AND VEHICLE ARMOR ARTICLE X.--FALSIFYING ACCOUNTS OF U.S. TROOP DEATHS AND INJURIES FOR POLITICAL... ARTICLE XI.--ESTABLISHMENT OF PERMANENT U.S. MILITARY BASES IN IRAQ ARTICLE XII.--INITIATING A WAR AGAINST IRAQ FOR CONTROL OF THAT NATION'S... Page: H5095 ARTICLE XIII.--CREATING A SECRET TASK FORCE TO DEVELOP ENERGY AND MILITARY... ARTICLE XIV.--MISPRISION OF A FELONY, MISUSE AND EXPOSURE OF CLASSIFIED... ARTICLE XV.--PROVIDING IMMUNITY FROM PROSECUTION FOR CRIMINAL CONTRACTORS IN... Page: H5096 ARTICLE XVI.--RECKLESS MISSPENDING AND WASTE OF US TAX DOLLARS IN CONNECTION... Page: H5097 ARTICLE XVII.--ILLEGAL DETENTION: DETAINING INDEFINITELY AND WITHOUT CHARGE... ARTICLE XVIII.--TORTURE: SECRETLY AUTHORIZING, AND ENCOURAGING THE USE OF... Page: H5098 ARTICLE XIX.--RENDITION: KIDNAPPING PEOPLE AND TAKING THEM AGAINST THEIR WILL... ARTICLE XX.--IMPRISONING CHILDREN Page: H5099 ARTICLE XXI.--MISLEADING CONGRESS AND THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ABOUT THREATS FROM... ARTICLE XXII--CREATING SECRET LAWS Page: H5100 ARTICLE XXIII--VIOLATION OF THE POSSE COMITATUS ACT ARTICLE XXIV.--SPYING ON AMERICAN CITIZENS, WITHOUT A COURT-ORDERED WARRANT, IN... Page: H5101 ARTICLE XXV.--DIRECTING TELECOMMUNICATIONS COMPANIES TO CREATE AN ILLEGAL AND... Page: H5102 ARTICLE XXVI.--ANNOUNCING THE INTENT TO VIOLATE LAWS WITH SIGNING STATEMENTS,... ARTICLE XXVII.--FAILING TO COMPLY WITH CONGRESSIONAL SUBPOENAS AND INSTRUCTING... ARTICLE XXVIII.--TAMPERING WITH FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS, CORRUPTION OF THE... Page: H5103 ARTICLE XXIX.--CONSPIRACY TO VIOLATE THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT OF 1965 Page: H5104 ARTICLE XXX.--MISLEADING CONGRESS AND THE AMERICAN PEOPLE IN AN ATTEMPT TO... ARTICLE XXXI.--KATRINA: FAILURE TO PLAN FOR THE PREDICTED DISASTER OF HURRICANE... Page: H5105 ARTICLE XXXII.--MISLEADING CONGRESS AND THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, SYSTEMATICALLY... Page: H5106 ARTICLE XXXIII.--REPEATEDLY IGNORED AND FAILED TO RESPOND TO HIGH LEVEL... ARTICLE XXXIV.--OBSTRUCTION OF INVESTIGATION INTO THE ATTACKS OF SEPTEMBER 11,... Page: H5107 ARTICLE XXXV.--ENDANGERING THE HEALTH OF 9/11 FIRST RESPONDERS
George W. Bush will leave office next January, having somehow survived being impeached for his administration's pre-war lies, doctored intelligence, Iraq war bungling, war profiteering, propaganda campaigns, domestic spying regimes and politicization of the federal judiciary, not to mention escaping electoral retribution for his crowd's denuding of the treasury, post-disaster bungling, regulation stripping, profligate spending and general mismanagement of the federal government.
So, Dubya's headed to Europe, to try and find some love.
The leading German news source, Der Spiegel, reports that “senior politicians from Merkel’s ruling grand coalition as well as from opposition parties have done away with diplomatic niceties, seizing on Bush’s farewell visit to express their aversion to the president who remains vilified in Germany for launching the Iraq war”:
– Hans-Ulrich Klose, foreign policy expert for the center-left Social Democrats and deputy chairman of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said: “One really can’t say George W. Bush made the world a better place. On the contrary: His actions played a big part in damaging America’s image around the world.”
– Guido Westerwelle, the head of the business-friendly Free Democratic Party, said: “The Bush era was not a good one — neither for America nor for those who see themselves as friends of America.” … The Iraq war weakened the UN, he said, adding that the Guantanamo Bay detention camp was a “disgrace to all the values that America, of all countries, stands for.”
– Jürgen Trittin, a senior member of the opposition Green Party, said Bush “definitely made the world worse.”
Hell, maybe he should skip Europe altogether. After all, they consider America a "force for evil" under his management.
When he's ready to come home, George might want to skip reading newspapers, magazines, or anything where his presidency might come up... He won't like what he reads:
As the door begins to close on his tenure, Bush is increasingly drawing on selected events of the past to argue that history will vindicate him on Iraq, terrorism, trade and other controversial issues.
Historical analogies have become a staple of Bush speeches and interviews this year, whether he is addressing regional leaders in Egypt or talking to workers at an office park in suburban St. Louis. Bush will continue this historical focus in a visit to Europe this week, where he will commemorate the Berlin Airlift in Germany and deliver a speech in Paris marking the 60th anniversary of the Marshall Plan.
White House aides say Bush, who majored in history at Yale, likes to emphasize historical comparisons because they are easy for the public to understand and illustrate in dramatic fashion how differently future generations may come to view him.
Unfortunately for the president, many historians have already reached a conclusion. In an informal survey of scholars this spring, just two out of 109 historians said Bush would be judged a success; a majority deemed him the "worst president ever."
"It's all he has left," said Millsaps College history professor Robert S. McElvaine, who conducted the survey for the History News Network of George Mason University. "When your approval ratings are down around 20 to 28 percent and the candidate of your own party is trying to hide from being seen with you, history is your only hope." ...
Bush MAJORED IN SOMETHING at Yale? Geez, I thought he just did bong hits and cheerleaded...
Anyhoo, countdown to the Bush-McCain reference, in three... two... one...
Many historians accuse Bush of cherry-picking history to bolster his arguments, in what the late author David Halberstam last year called a "history rummage sale."
One controversial example emerged during a speech at the Israeli parliament on May 15, when Bush compared talking with "terrorists and radicals," including Iran, to the appeasement of Nazis before World War II.
The reference was widely seen as an attack on Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) -- who has said that if elected president, he would talk with Iran's leaders -- although the White House said that was not Bush's intent. Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive GOP nominee, seized on Bush's words to attack Obama.
Oh, Johnny Mac didn't need that. Let's go to something sunnier ... say, Bush as Harry Truman:
Some historians are particularly critical of Bush's frequent references to Truman, who had an even lower approval rating than Bush amid opposition to the Korean War. They say Truman's place in history is elevated by his roles in leading the victory in World War II, creating institutions such as the United Nations and implementing the Marshall Plan, which helped rebuild Europe.
"The only connection between Harry Truman and George Bush is that they left office with low opinion numbers," said historian Douglas Brinkley of Rice University. "That's a very thin reed."
If your man has introduced you to his friends, if you've been invited to Thanksgiving dinner at his parents' house, if he takes you out to places where he could reasonably be recognized, and if, when he answers your phonecalls, he uses your name, rather than just "hey" or your first initial, you ARE the girlfriend. If not, it's time to lower your expectations.
PHOENIX (AP) — John McCain's complex relationship with President Bush can be summed up with a simple saying: can't live with him, can't live without him.
The president's own popularity is bottom-of-the-barrel low. Even allies privately fret that he's an albatross for the Republican looking to succeed him. Voters are crying out for change amid a prolonged Iraq war and a weakened economy.
But Bush also is beloved among GOP loyalists. He's a proven campaigner who can raise serious money. Those are huge assets as Arizona Sen. McCain works to rally the Republican base and fill his coffers while facing the Democrats' unrivaled enthusiasm and record-breaking fundraising.
The president and his would-be successor were appearing together Tuesday for the first time in nearly three months at an event that epitomized both elements of their tricky alliance — they were holding a fundraiser with GOP faithful at a private home, without the media to document it.
By the McCain campaign's own planning, the only time Bush and McCain would be captured on camera would be after the event — and too late to make most evening newscasts — on the Phoenix airport tarmac in the shadow of Air Force One, just before the president departs. McCain's fundraisers typically are closed to the press; the White House deferred to the campaign. No statements were expected.
There was originally supposed to be an arena event, but ... well ... you know, ticket sales aren't what they used to be ... and then there are all those cell phone cameras ... (shudders thinking about Youtube pics of McCain and Bush embracing lustily...)
("Yes, George, give me more pioneers ... and MORE ... and MORE!!!)
"Today, John McCain is having a different kind of meeting. He's holding a fundraiser with George Bush behind closed doors in Arizona. No cameras. No reporters," Obama said before a town hall in Las Vegas, "And we all know why. Senator McCain doesn't want to be seen, hat-in-hand, with the President whose failed policies he promises to continue for another four years. But the question for the American people is: do we want to continue George Bush's policies?"
Oh, and if nobody at his job knows who you are...?
Remember the Lying Guy on Saturday Night Live? The White House is channeling him with a pathetic denial on Bush's un-American remarks in Israel:
"We did not anticipate that it would be taken that way, because its kind of hard to take it that way when you look at the actual words. ... There was some anticipation that someone might say you know its an expression of rebuke to former President Carter for having met with Hamas. that was something that was anticipated but no one wrote about it or raised it."
Yeah, Ed Gillespie ... Jimmy Carter ... that's the ticket...
Economists weigh in on the Clinton-McCain gas tax holiday plan and give it the thumbs down:
Backing up Obama's position against Clinton's proposal to suspend the 18.4-cent-per-gallon tax for the summer is a slew of economists who argue that the proposal, first offered by Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee, would be counterproductive. They argue that cutting the tax would drive up demand for gas at a time when the supply is tight, which would mean that the price at the pump would drop by much less than 18 cents per gallon.
The tax suspension would, as a result, cut into the highway trust fund that the tax supports, a loss of about $9 billion over the summer, but also result in fatter profit margins for oil companies. Clinton says she would replace the lost revenue by raising taxes on the oil industry.
Harvard professor N. Gregory Mankiw, who has written a best-selling textbook on economics, said what he teaches is different from what Clinton and McCain are saying about gas taxes. "What you learn in Economics 101 is that if producers can't produce much more, when you cut the tax on that good the tax is kept . . . by the suppliers and is not passed on to consumers," he said.
He anticipates the Clinton campaign "will use the same words and the same language to attack me that Republicans used to attack me when I was DNC chair and I was defending Bill Clinton."
"I say this as a longtime participant in old politics," he says. "I've sparred with everyone from Lee Atwater to Karl Rove."
Andrew points out that he was in charge during a rather tumultuous time for the party — during impeachment and the Florida recount.
"The same words will come out of the [Clinton campaign's] surrogates' mouths to attack me that the Republicans used — and that demonstrates the very hypocrisy of the old politics," he says. "We need to unite the party. You can actually be for someone without being against someone else."
According to an advance copy of the script leaked to the Hollywood Reporter, Oliver Stone's new film, "W," about our very own George W. Bush, portrays the prez as a drunken, oedipal baseball nut being run around like Lassie by Dick Cheney. Sounds about right to me.
The WaPo posts an article by energy writer Steven Mufson that takes a fresh look at whether the Iraq war, whose fifth anniversary is approaching, was waged primarily to secure U.S. access to oil:
Instead of making Iraq an open economy fueled by a thriving oil sector, the war has failed to boost the flow of oil from Iraq's giant well-mapped reservoirs, which oil experts say could rival Saudi Arabia's and produce 6 million barrels a day, if not more. Thanks to insurgents' sabotage of pipelines and pumping stations, and foreign companies' fears about safety and contract risks in Iraq, the country is still struggling in vain to raise oil output to its prewar levels of about 2.5 million barrels a day.
As it turns out, that has kept oil off the international market at just the moment when the world desperately needs a cushion of supplies to keep prices down. Demand from China is booming, and political strife has limited oil production in Nigeria and Venezuela.
In the absence of Iraqi supplies, prices have soared three-and-a-half-fold since the U.S. invasion on March 20, 2003. (Last week, they shattered all previous records, even after adjusting for inflation.) The profits of the five biggest Western oil companies have jumped from $40 billion to $121 billion over the same period. While the United States has rid itself of Saddam Hussein and whatever threat he might have posed, oil revenues have filled the treasuries of petro-autocrats in Iran, Venezuela and Russia, emboldening those regimes and complicating U.S. diplomacy in new ways.
American consumers are paying for this turmoil at the pump. If the overthrow of Hussein was supposed to be a silver bullet for the American consumer, it turned out to be one that ricocheted and tore a hole through his wallet.
"If we went to war for oil, we did it as clumsily as anyone could do. And we spent more on the war than we could ever conceivably have gotten out of Iraq's oil fields even if we had particular control over them," says Anthony Cordesman, an expert on U.S. strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who rejects the idea that the war was designed on behalf of oil companies.
But that doesn't mean that oil had nothing to do with the invasion. Says Cordesman: "To say that we would have taken the same steps against a dictator in Africa or Burma as we took in Iraq is to ignore the strategic realities that drove American behavior."
The GOP is feeling a bit down these days, particularly regarding their congressional election prospects in November. I don't think they're in as bad shape as they seem to -- Americans are notorious for saying they want change and then voting for more of the same -- but they are probably looking at losing seats in both the House and Senate. (As for the White House, I think the Democrats are doing a good job of keeping John McCain competitive ...) Anyway, the best line in this WaPo story about the GOP doldrums comes from Virginia Congressman Thomas Davis, with a nice assist by analyst Stu Rothenberg:
"It's no mystery," said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.). "You have a very unhappy electorate, which is no surprise, with oil at $108 a barrel, stocks down a few thousand points, a war in Iraq with no end in sight and a president who is still very, very unpopular. He's just killed the Republican brand."
Stuart Rothenberg, a nonpartisan analyst of congressional politics, said: "The math is against them. The environment is against them. The money is against them. This is one of those cycles that if you're a Republican strategist, you just want to go into the bomb shelter."
A dead brand and the bomb shelter? All in one story? Damn.
I was thinking tonight, while watching bits of John McCain's CPAC speech on "Countdown" tonight ... what if John McCain were to actually pull it off?
What I mean is, John McCain seems to have been pursuing a single goal for at least the last decade, and very likely many, many more, and what if the only way for him to achieve his dream of being president of the United States, is to give the "base" what they want? (I say "base" lightly, because it's becoming increasingly clear that what we call the base is actually just the last, sputtering remnants of a dying chattering class that backed George W. Bush in 2000, only to find out that he wasn't competent to carry out their agenda even if he wasn't faking his way through it... the loud mouths who have granted themselves the authority to choose the Republican Party's leaders ... forgetting that in the end, actual voters get to decide, and don't have to follow blindly behind them ...)
Anyway, what if John McCain decides that the only way to win the White House is to promise to give the Limbaugh-Ingram-Gingrich axis everything they want -- permanent, deep personal and corporate tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans (in other words, them...) an end to talk of global warming, clearing the way for Big Oil to drill into every square inch of undeveloped soil across this country, consequences be damned ... the abandonment of government regulation of coal mining, foresting and anything else that rapes the natural landscape while sapping the health of the human beings who labor to extract the resources ... and the simultaneous ramping up of government regulation and monitoring of the speech, movement and personal habits of every Americans, from emails to phone calls, marriage to child birth ... the abolition of all gun laws, opening the door to a Baghdad-style arming of the American public, with Uzis and bazookas and Tommy Guns brandished openly in every car, on every street and in every home or business ... sealed southern borders and mass deportation of Mexicans ... and the legalization of torture, secret detention and whatever degradations the CIA can cook up ...
Because frankly, that -- in short -- is the "conservative agenda"...
Lets say John McCain promises all of that, satiates the chattering classes of the conservative movement, and with their help and zeal ... he wins the presidency.
And what if he then keeps his word to his newfound base?
He will have gone through all that he has gone through, from Vietnam to South Carolina in 2000 to his acrimonious climb to the nomination, only to become precisely the opposite of the president he seems to have wanted to be. He will have gone through it all ... gaining the nomination of a party that in some measure, doesn't want him ... only to become George W. Bush.
How depressing is that?
... and how fitting ... John McCain feuded with George W. Bush in 2000, was bested by him in the nastiest way, and then, strangely, embraced him (literally). McCain became Bush's best friend on Iraq (even when dissing his Secretary of Defense, Baron von Rumsfeld -- convenient, actually, because it meant he wasn't dissing the president) ... and even though the punditocracy keeps insisting that he can't stand the man ...
McCain bore the brunt of Bush's desire to open the Southern border to Mexican indentured servants by pushing what's now derided as the McCain amnesty bill. He took the incoming for Bush on both of these issues, and never -- and I mean never -- complained, even when Dubya signed his and Russ Feingold's campaign finance bill into law (funny, you don't hear conservatives braying about Bush's part in that...) and didn't even invite him to the signing ceremony.
And what did John McCain get for his teeth-gritting fealty to his commander in chief?
He got Bush's advisors -- the same ones who did him in in 2000 -- they work for Johnny Mack, now...
He got Bush's top fundraisers ... they suddenly decided the so-called "maverick" was A.O.K. with them...
And, it seems, he became Bush's choice to be the next president (you didn't think it was Rudy, did you? Not after that Bernie Kerik mess...) From a prescient column by E.J. Dionne in the Washington Post back in 2005:
Times change and politicians do what they have to do. For years, McCain and the president couldn't stand each other. The surest way not to get a job in the early Bush administration was to have supported McCain over Bush in the 2000 primaries.
But McCain made a crucial decision to alter the relationship in 2004. Courted hard by John Kerry as a potential running mate, McCain said no. He decided he wanted to be president and that it was unlikely he would ever get a Democratic nomination -- and implausible that he could win as an independent. His one shot was as a Republican.
Once this choice was made, everything else fell into place. McCain joined the Bush crowd. He gave a powerful speech endorsing the president at last year's Republican National Convention in New York. The address was perfect for both McCain and Bush. Unlike the speeches bashing Kerry and the Democrats by Zell Miller, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rudy Giuliani, McCain's stuck to policy and praised Bush for his decision to go to war in Iraq.
This allowed McCain to keep his reputation for clinging to the high ground, but it was also important for Bush, whose central policy legacy, for better or worse, will be Iraq.
The standard view of McCain's choice, especially among Democrats, is that he sold out to Bush for nothing. This assumes that McCain can't win the 2008 Republican nomination because of the intense opposition he will face from the Republican right, especially from Christian conservatives. It also assumes that Bush will never lift a finger to help McCain.
In Bush's ideal world, that would probably be true. But the current moment is not ideal for Bush, and the economy, Iraq and the political situation may be even less ideal two and three years from now. ...
Natch! A bit more:
The situation in Iraq shows no sign of turning around quickly. Who would be willing to stick with Bush's adventure? Bush would like to hand over power to a president committed to his Iraq policy. McCain -- who is close to the party's neoconservative wing -- has been steadfast in defending the president's decision to go to war, despite doubts about prewar planning and mistakes early in the occupation.
And if middle-class income growth is sluggish, bread-and-butter discontent will benefit any Democrat running on a throw-the-bums-out platform. McCain could promise just enough change to win the election. He voted against Bush's tax policies, yet he is also among the most fiscally conservative members of the Senate.
For all these reasons, Bush and McCain could end up as each other's best friends. Bush has been battling, with Rove's help, for a long-term political realignment in favor of the Republicans. The president could well come to see McCain as the only Republican with a chance to push a Republican era forward. McCain, in turn, knows that his only way around the Republican right is to run with Bush's open blessing, if not his outright endorsement. ...
The rest of the column is Dionne's explanation of why Jeb Bush might be the ideal running mate for Baghdad John. I rather doubt that -- the Bush name is pretty badly tarnished thanks to his brother, although stranger things have happened.
But there is another Bushie whom McCain could put on the ticket who might well satisfy the loudmouths, blunt the Democrats' chances of stealing away Republican women and wavering Black GOPers and draw him even closer to Dubya (and his fundraising Pioneers...)
What if you gave a State of the Union and nobody cared ... not even Dick Cheney?
Could there be anything more emblematic of George W. Bush's irrelevancy than his SOTU address tonight, in which not a single thing mentioned was new, with the exception of those ridiculous rebates ... which themselves are a relic of Reaganomics. How sad that despite his supposedly triumphant moment in New York City after 9/11 (and his supposedly triumphant stint as a "war president" ... not ...) this president ultimately ends his administration the way he began it: as a marginal, tepid figure, who might as well spend the rest of his term on vacation. One of the dullest, most inconsequential speeches I've ever barely not slept through... and totally upstaged by the Kennedy endorsement of Obama earlier today.
Bush attempted to sound defiant tonight, even as the economic walls are crumbling all around the castle. He didn't offer any soaring rhetoric. How could he? There's, quite frankly, not much to soar about. Even his attempts to Baghdad John the war in Iraq fell flat tonight. No hoots and roars coming to him even from the Fox News side of the chamber. Hell, Sam Alito looked bored as hell.
In some ways, I'm actually moving past loathing of George W. Bush and straight on to pity. This is a man whose entire life was about being second best -- to his father, to Jebbie, and now, to Barack Obama, Ted Kennedy, and anyone else who cares to steal the news cycle. He's a war president without a country at war ... a man who elicits laughter in my household when he talks about appointing judges who respect the Constitution ... a man who has squandered not only his legacy, but his country's, and for nothing. Even the Wall Street titans he has propped up for all these years are going belly-up. Luckily for them, and for Dubya, there's a fat golden parachute to land with. The rest of us aren't so lucky.
On second thought, forget the pity. I'm back to loathing again.
That was essentially George W. Bush's answer to reporter's queries during a press conference today, regarding his foreknowledge of the destruction of those CIA torture tapes. This will sound familiar to Valerie Plame and her husband:
The president, fencing good-naturedly with reporters at a White House news conference, parried a question that suggested there was ambiguity in his earlier statements that he had no recollection about the existence or destruction of the tapes.
“It sounds pretty clear to me,” Mr. Bush said. “The first recollection is when Mike Hayden briefed me. That’s pretty clear.” Gen. Michael V. Hayden is the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Nor would the president respond directly when asked whether he thought the C.I.A.’s 2005 destruction of the videotapes showing harsh questioning of two suspected terrorists was “the responsible thing to do.”
The president said he was confident that inquiries being started by Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, by the C.I.A.’s own inspector general’s office and in Congress “will end up enabling us all to find out what exactly happened.”
“And, therefore, over the course of these inquiries and oversight hearings, I’m going to reserve judgment until I find out the full facts,” Mr. Bush said. “I know I’m going to be asked about this question a lot as time goes by. I’m just going to prepare you. Until these inquiries are complete, until the oversight’s finished, then I will be rendering no opinion from podium.”
"There's a serious investigation," the president said. "I'm not going to prejudge the outcome of the investigation." He commented in response to reporters' questions during a meeting with Bulgaria's president, Georgi Parvanov. ...
Oh, it was Scooter??? Well I'll be damned! Okay, here's where Bush just gets downright embarrassing:
Only a few minutes went by at Thursday morning’s news conference before the subject of the tapes was raised again, this time by a questioner who asked the president whether he was concerned that the episode would raise “questions from people around the world” about how the United States treats terrorism suspects.
“You know, you’re trying to get me to prejudge the outcome of this inquiry,” Mr. Bush said. “Let’s wait and see what the facts are.”
As for America’s image in the world, Mr. Bush said, “I’m not surprised we get criticized on a variety of fronts. And you know, on the other hand, most people like to come to our country, and most people love what America stands for.
“And so, it’s like I said about the presidency,” Mr. Bush went on. “People in America, you know, like the presidency, and sometimes they like the president. Get it?”
Yeah, get it? What a shmuck. I wonder what that press conference would have sounded like in pre-war Iraq...?
So, Saddam, do you think that the disclosure that your government tortures people harms Iraq's image around the world?
"Well, infidel, people like to come to Iraq. This is where the Garden of Eden was, you know. ... and the Tower of Babel. People like that sort of thing. Get it?"
George W. Bush didn't stick around long enough to find out if his girlfriend Secretary of State's lil' old peace initiative got off the ground. But he did stay at the (laughs here) Bush administration Middle East peace summit in Anapolis long enough to butcher the names of the two men he theoretically hopes to bring together.
And you've got to love the part at the end where Ehud Olmert (that's "OHL-mert" for you White House phonetic spellers) instructs the Prez that if they would just step out from behind the podium, (you shmuck...) the cameras could actually capture the photo op for which they came -- featuring the American, Palestinian and Israeli leaders shaking hands ... an op btw that seems somehow to have had a lot more resonance during previous administrations... you know, back in the days when presidents spent more than three hours working on this stuff.
T minus thirty minutes to the three martini lunch ...
All jokes aside, I said back in 2000 that perhaps the only up-side to a Bush presidency might be a solution to the Mideast conflict, which I've always believed would be more likely to come with the help of a Republican president than a Democratic one, given their wider latitude to get tough with the Israelis. That was true with Bush's father, who for all his faults, wasn't afraid to take a hard line with the Likudniks, particularly given all the money he and his family make with the Arab world... ahem ...
Well, fool me once. Bush Jr. has turned out to be a dud in that regard, possessed with a zeal to nestle into the pockets of the Likud that is unlike anything this side of a neocon (or Pat Robertson). And whether or not George actually succeeds in bringing on the Armageddon (that'll show dad who's a failure!) it seems more likely than not that he will fail to create a Mideastern counterbalance to the legacy killing adventure in Iraq.
Of course, stranger things have happened, and hell, they have set a convenient deadline that would make peace a lovely parting gift for the Worst President Ever...
Every so often, something happens -- sometimes big, sometimes small -- that forces you to contemplate the possibility that George W. Bush isn't a stupid as he seems to be. ... that somehow, he actually does know what's going on around him, and that worse, he is in on it. This used to happen to me with Ronald Reagan from time to time -- those moments when you got the feeling that he may have only seemed senile, but in fact, was the mastermind behind all the bad things being done in his name (Iran Contra was such a moment, but looking back, I'm leaning more toward his being used by people like Ollie North and Elliot Abrams...)
This is that kind of moment for GWB, and it comes courtesy of a doughey, sweaty little Texan named Scott, who used to work at the White House... Today, the company that's publishing his "tell all" book issued a couple of tantalizing paragraphs related to Scott's role in the cover-up following the outing of CIA covert agent Valerie Plame. Bloomberg picks it up from there:
Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan writes in a memoir that he unintentionally misled the public about the leak of a CIA operative's name because of misinformation given to him by President George W. Bush, political adviser Karl Rove and other top officials.
A three-paragraph excerpt from the book released today by the publisher doesn't give details of what the president told McClellan. The case eventually led to the indictment and conviction of Lewis ``Scooter'' Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.
``I stood at the White House briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby,'' McClellan, 39, wrote. ``There was one problem. It was not true.''
McClellan wrote that he ``unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest-ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president's chief of staff, and the president himself.''
The White House, through its current flaks, has of course denied that Georgie would EVER ask anyone to lie, much less about the leaking of classified information -- something he claimed back in 2003 he knew not a thing about. As for McClellan -- the White House is implying that "he thinks the paragraphs were taken out of context." How Dana Perrino knows what Scott McClellan thinks is not explained, unless of course Dick Cheney is somewhere in a secret location, to which poor Scott has been dragged, bound and gagged, and is now telling him what he thinks.
What's intriguing about the McClellan eruption is that it brings us back to the fundamental question that Patrick Fitzgerald was never able to answer for us during the Plame leak investigation, because of the sand thrown in his eyes by the perjurious Scooter Libby: namely, who inside the White House knew that Scooter Libby was peddling classified information that the White House hoped would discredit Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had blown the whistle on the Bush administration's foreknowledge of the emptiness of their charges about Iraq and yellowcake from Niger. Who knew, and who may have ordered Libby, and perhaps others (Newsweek's new golden boy Karl Rove comes to mind... kudos to the editors at Time, by the way, for having higher standards...) to leak Plame's identity, outing and endangering her and anyone who worked with her, and blowing years of weapons intelligence that had been gathered by her through the CIA front company Brewster Jennings.
Fitzgerald's indictment of Libby clearly suggests that he believes that the vice president was involved -- perhaps even the key player in the treasonous game of hardball. But McClellan's little paragraphs open the door to the possibility that the culprits in the unprecedented betrayal of a covert agent by her own government -- something brand new in American history -- may have gone all the way to the top.
A reporter on MSNBC tonight suggested that the book is "Scottie's revenge," and says that McClellan left the White House bitter and angry at having been misused by the White House in the Libby affair. David Gregory disagreed with the revenge thing (he would, he doesn't often go out on a limb when it comes to politics...) but he did agree that McClellan left the White House a bitter man. He certainly seems to be putting some distance between himself and the 22 other administration officials involved in either the leak itself, or the cover-up. ... including one rather dim, but maybe not-so dumb ... George W. Bush. More on the case against Bush in the Plamegate affair from Thinkprogress here.
Part of the flawed rationale for supporting George W. Bush, for those who did in 2000 and 2004, was that he "knows who he is," is "comfortable in his own skin," and that he makes up for his lack of international experience and book knowledge with good old fashioned cowboy sense.
Well, call it the "brokeback presidency." Instead of using common sense. Dubya falls in love with some of the world's most undemocratic leaders, and like many people who make bad relationship choices, he misjudged his paramours ... repeatedly.
He holds hands with the Saudis. ... the Saudis who send allllll that money to al-Qaida ... and to George W. Bush ... ok, he's getting something out of that relationship...
Then there's Vladimir Putin -- Bush looked into his eyes and saw a strong friend and democratic leader, rather than a guy who's even more blatant than Bush himself at crushing dissent and scuttling democracy. This despite having a Russia expert on the payroll.
Bush has backed a series of failed leaders in Iraq (after completely blowing the analysis of Saddam Hussein, the supposed scariest man on earth before we found out he was more honest than Dubya about WMD...) He listened to Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney and backed lying, thieving Ahmad Chalabi. Then he had his viceroy place former CIA asset Ayad Allawi in the prime minister's chair. And he has repeatedly praised incompetent Shiite militia ... I mean government ... leader, P.M. Nouri al-Maliki, despite the latter's many failings.
So it's little wonder that Bush also got it wrong ... very, dangerously wrong ... when it came to General Pervez Musharraf -- a man Bush couldn't even name before he took office. The New York Times has more:
WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 — In the six years since Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, joined President Bush in the fight against Al Qaeda, it has been an unlikely partnership: a president intent on promoting democracy and a military commander who seized power in a bloodless coup.
Mr. Bush has repeatedly called Gen. Musharraf “a friend.” In 2003, the president invited the general to Camp David, a presidential perk reserved for the closest of allies. Last year, at the general’s insistence, Mr. Bush risked a trip to Pakistan, jangling the nerves of the Secret Service by spending the night in the country presumed to be home to Osama bin Laden.
But now that the general has defied the White House, suspending Pakistan’s Constitution and imposing martial law, old tensions are flaring anew. Mr. Bush is backing away from the leader he once called a man of “courage and vision,” and critics are asking whether the president misread his Pakistani counterpart.
They said Mr. Bush — an ardent believer in personal diplomacy, who once remarked that he had looked into the eyes of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and had gotten “a sense of his soul” — was taken in by the general, with his fluent English and his promises to hold elections and relinquish military power. They said Mr. Bush looked at General Musharraf and saw a democratic reformer when he should have seen a dictator instead.
“He didn’t ask the hard questions, and frankly, neither did the people working for him,” said Husain Haqqani, an expert on Pakistan at Boston University who has advised two previous Pakistani prime ministers, Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto. “They bought the P.R. image of Musharraf as the reasonable general. Bush bought the line — hook, line and sinker.” ...
Experts in United States-Pakistan relations said General Musharraf has played the union masterfully, by convincing Mr. Bush that he alone can keep Pakistan stable. Kamran Bokhari, an analyst for Stratfor, a private intelligence company, who met with General Musharraf in January, said the general views Mr. Bush with some condescension.
“Musharraf thinks that Bush has certain weaknesses that can be manipulated,” Mr. Bokhari said, adding, “I would say that President Musharraf doesn’t think highly of President Bush, but his interests force him to do business with the U.S. president.”
In his autobiography, “In the Line of Fire,” General Musharraf writes glowingly of the trust Mr. Bush placed in him. But he passed up a chance to praise Mr. Bush on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” where he was promoting the book. Mr. Stewart asked who would win a hypothetical contest for mayor of Karachi, Mr. Bush or Mr. bin Laden.
“I think they’ll both lose miserably,” the general replied.
Mr. Bush, by contrast, was “favorably impressed” with General Musharraf, according to Ari Fleischer, the president’s former press secretary. Mr. Fleischer recounted one session where the general had been warned in advance not to ask the president for F-16 fighter jets, because the answer would be no.
“Musharraf brought it up anyway,” Mr. Fleischer said, “and Bush told him the answer is no. But I think Bush liked the fact that he does what he wants to do, and says what’s on his mind.”
Could the Iraq disaster, with its cost careening toward $700 billion, and estimated to ultimately cost U.S. taxpayers $2 trillion ... have been avoided for a measly $1 billion? A newspaper story out of Spain has some revealing allegations:
Saddam Hussein offered to step down and go into exile one month before the invasion of Iraq, it was claimed last night.
Fearing defeat, Saddam was prepared to go peacefully in return for £500million ($1billion).
The extraordinary offer was revealed yesterday in a transcript of talks in February 2003 between George Bush and the then Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar at the President's Texas ranch.
The White House refused to comment on the report last night.
But, if verified, it is certain to raise questions in Washington and London over whether the costly four-year war could have been averted.
Only yesterday, the Bush administration asked Congress for another £100billion to finance the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The total war bill for British taxpayers is expected to reach £7billion by next year.
The newspaper account of the conversation between Mr. Bush and Mr. Asnar, which reportedly took place on February 22, 2003 at Bush's Crawford ranch -- at a time when Bush was publicly telling the American people (and the world) that he was still hoping diplomacy would work to bring Iraq to heel, paints a now familiar portrait of a president who was outright lying -- he had every intention of invading Iraq, no matter what.
Asked by the Spanish premier whether Saddam - who was executed in December last year - could really leave, the President replied: "Yes, that possibility exists. Or he might even be assassinated."
But he added that whatever happened: "We'll be in Baghdad by the end of March."
We invaded Iraq on March 19th. The conversation with Jose Maria Asnar was said to have been recorded by a diplomat who attended the meeting. Other revelations:
Mr Bush was dismissive of the then French President Jacques Chirac, saying he "thinks he's Mr Arab".
Referring to his relationship with Downing Street, he said: "I don't mind being the bad cop if Blair is the good cop."
The President added: "Saddam won't change and he'll keep on playing games.
"The time has come to get rid of him. That's the way it is."
Days before the invasion began on March 22, 2003, the United Arab Emirates proposed to a summit of Arab leaders that Saddam and his henchmen should go into exile.
It was the first time the plan had been officially voiced but it was drowned out in the drumbeat of war.
A spokesman for Mr Aznar's foundation had no comment on its authenticity.
Saved for posterity: Our childrens really IS learning...
Damn, I'm gonna miss this guy... By the way, the White House press team has returned the transcripts to their original Bushism form, having previously cleaned up the "childrens" for public viewing. Yeesh. Will these clods ever learn?
Is George W. Bush offering free advice to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on how, if either becomes president, they can help us stay in Iraq? (And isn't that rather like Adolph Hitler advising Moshe Dyan?) I'd almost prefer to believe that Bush is devious enough to be trying to poison the waters for the Democratic front runners with their base by making it appear that they're on his side when it comes to keeping U.S. troops in Iraq for years to come ... but that's not our President Bush, is it?
Our president Bush is delusional, and apparently quite insane. He's like a little Nero fiddling away, unaware that the city is in flames.
George W. Bush just can't win. He can't win the war in Iraq. His approval ratings are crap. And he's ... well ... stupid. Exhibit A: Bush in Australia, fresh off his Iraq visit stunt that the media didn't fall for, screws up the speech to a half-empty auditorium: I'm gonna miss this guy. Not the incompetance, or the lying, or the spying, or the warmongering... no, I'm just going to miss the comedy.
Disentangling the mangled hash that is George W. Bush's brain can't be an easy thing to do, but new information seems to come out every month that attempts to explain what the president was thinking when he made the disastrous decision to put the United States Army and Marines into Iraq.
And depending on who you believe, George Bush either knew that Iraq had no WMD and didn't care, or he still believed Iraq had WMD as late as 2006. At the end of the day, it may not matter, but for the purposes of history, it will be pondered for generations whether this man took his country to war based on deliberate lies, or negligent ones.
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.
"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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
The Bush administration has made a near science of duplicitousness, secrecy, stonewalling and, in my opinion, extra-constitutional lawbreaking. On the latter subject, apparently, Congress is finally taking action, and not just on cutting off Dick Cheney's executive branch allowance.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Patrick Leahy, has issued subpoenas to the White House and the Office of the Vice President for documents related to the Bush administration's illegal warrentless NSA spying program. At the same time, the committee is also demanding documents related to the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, apparently at the behest of White House functionaries within the Justice Department. Not surprisingly, the White House is refusing to comply, citing something that might come as a surprise to Dick Cheney at this stage: executive privilege. (TPMM has White House Counsel Fred Fielding's letter to the twin judiciary committees here.)
Meanwhile, Leahy, and his counterpart in the House, John Conyers of Michigan, are seeing shades of Dick Nixon, and Conyers is even threatening to take the White House to court. And speaking of Nixon, wasn't he nearly impeached, and didn't his vice president resign in disgrace? Hey, let's as this guy:
The nation's first vice president, John Adams, bemoaned: "My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived; and as I can do neither good nor evil, I must be borne away by others and meet common fate." Vice President John Nance Garner, serving under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, lamented: "The vice presidency isn't worth a pitcher of warm piss." In modern times, vice presidents have generally been confined to attending state funerals or to distributing blankets after earthquakes.
Then President George W. Bush outsourced the lion's share of his presidency to Vice President Cheney, and Mr. Cheney has made the most of it. Since 9/11, he has proclaimed that all checks and balances and individual liberties are subservient to the president's commander in chief powers in confronting international terrorism. Let's review the record of his abuses and excesses:
The vice president asserted presidential power to create military commissions, which combine the functions of judge, jury, and prosecutor in the trial of war crimes. The Supreme Court rebuked Cheney in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. Mr. Cheney claimed authority to detain American citizens as enemy combatants indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay on the president's say-so alone, a frightening power indistinguishable from King Louis XVI's execrated lettres de cachet that occasioned the storming of the Bastille. The Supreme Court repudiated Cheney in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld.
The vice president initiated kidnappings, secret detentions, and torture in Eastern European prisons of suspected international terrorists. This lawlessness has been answered in Germany and Italy with criminal charges against CIA operatives or agents. The legal precedent set by Cheney would justify a decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to kidnap American tourists in Paris and to dispatch them to dungeons in Belarus if they were suspected of Chechen sympathies.
The vice president has maintained that the entire world is a battlefield. Accordingly, he contends that military power may be unleashed to kill or capture any American citizen on American soil if suspected of association or affiliation with al-Qaida. Thus, Mr. Cheney could have ordered the military to kill Jose Padilla with rockets, artillery, or otherwise when he landed at O'Hare Airport in Chicago, because of Padilla's then-suspected ties to international terrorism.
He has advocated and authored signing statements that declare the president's intent to disregard provisions of bills he has signed into law that he proclaims are unconstitutional, for example, a requirement to obtain a judicial warrant before opening mail or a prohibition on employing military force to fight narco-terrorists in Colombia. The signing statements are tantamount to absolute line-item vetoes that the Supreme Court invalidated in the 1998 case Clinton v. New York.
The vice president engineered the National Security Agency's warrantless domestic surveillance program targeting American citizens on American soil in contravention of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. He concocted the alarming theory that the president may flout any law that inhibits the collection of foreign intelligence, including prohibitions on breaking and entering homes, torture, or assassinations. As a reflection of his power in this arena, today the Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Cheney's office, as well as the White House, for documents that relate to the warrantless eavesdropping.
The vice president has orchestrated the invocation of executive privilege to conceal from Congress secret spying programs to gather foreign intelligence, and their legal justifications. He has summoned the privilege to refuse to disclose his consulting of business executives in conjunction with his Energy Task Force, and to frustrate the testimonies of Karl Rove and Harriet Miers regarding the firings of U.S. attorneys.
Cheney scorns freedom of speech and of the press. He urges application of the Espionage Act to prosecute journalists who expose national security abuses, for example, secret prisons in Eastern Europe or the NSA's warrantless surveillance program. He retaliated against Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, through Chief of Staff Scooter Libby, for questioning the administration's evidence of weapons of mass destruction as justification for invading Iraq. Mr. Cheney is defending himself from a pending suit brought by Wilson and Plame on the grounds that he is entitled to the absolute immunity of the president established in 1982 by Nixon v. Fitzgerald. (Although this defense contradicts Cheney's claim that he is not part of the executive branch.)
The Constitution does not expressly forbid the president from abandoning his chief powers to the vice president. But President Bush's tacit delegation to Cheney and Cheney's eager acceptance tortures the Constitution's provision for an acting president. The presidency and vice presidency are discrete constitutional offices. The 12th Amendment provides for their separate elections. The sole constitutionally enumerated function of the vice president is to serve as president of the Senate without a vote except to break ties. ...
...In the end, President Bush regularly is unable to explain or defend the policies of his own administration, and that is because the heavy intellectual labor has been performed in the office of the vice president. Cheney is impeachable for his overweening power and his sneering contempt of the Constitution and the rule of law.
And who is that guy? He's Bruce Fein, the former Associate Deputy Attorney General under Ronald Reagan. Missed the Washington Post series on draft-doging Dick? Here it is.
Update: On the House side, Conyers prepares for war:
"The President's response to our subpoena shows an appalling disregard for the right of the people to know what is going on in their government. The executive privilege assertion is unprecedented in its breadth and scope, and even includes documents that the Adminstration previously offered to provide as part of their 'take it or leave it' proposal. This response indicates the reckless disrepect this Administration has for the rule of law. The charges alleged in this investigation are serious - including obstruction of justice and misleading Congress - and the White House should be as committed to this investigation as the Congress. At this point, I see only one choice in moving forward, and that is to enforce the rule of law set forth in these subpoenas."
WASHINGTON -- President Bush was presented with a letter Monday signed by 50 high school seniors in the Presidential Scholars program urging a halt to "violations of the human rights" of terror suspects held by the United States.
The White House said Bush had not expected the letter but took a moment to read it and talk with a young woman who handed it to him.
"The president enjoyed a visit with the students, accepted the letter and upon reading it let the student know that the United States does not torture and that we value human rights," deputy press secretary Dana Perino said.
The students had been invited to the East Room to hear the president speak about his effort to win congressional reauthorization of his education law known as No Child Left Behind.
The handwritten letter said the students "believe we have a responsibility to voice our convictions."
"We do not want America to represent torture. We urge you to do all in your power to stop violations of the human rights of detainees, to cease illegal renditions, and to apply the Geneva Convention to all detainees, including those designated enemy combatants," the letter said. ...
Here in Florida, we have what's called the "Sunshine law" -- which states that no two (or more) government employees or other public officials may conduct official business outside of a clearly public meeting. No backroom tetes-a-tete, no private lunches, nada.
In Washington, we have what's called the Hatch Act -- which prohibits federal and certain state and civil service employees from engaging in proscribed political activity, including conducting partisan business using government resources. The Act was named after a New Mexico Senator named Carl Hatch, and back in 1939:
The Hatch Act grew into a general tradition of electoral reform. In essence, it finally did away with the last vestiges of patronage, and one could say it was the end of the civil service reforms started in the 1880s. But the most significant impetus, affecting both its timing and its content, was the widespread allegation that Works Progress Administration (WPA) funds had been misused by staff members and local Democratic Party politicians during the congressional elections of 1938.
And as for the substance:
The Hatch Act restricts the political activity of executive branch employees of the federal government, District of Columbia government and some state and local employees who work in connection with federally funded programs. In 1993, Congress passed legislation that significantly amended the Hatch Act as it applies to federal and D.C. employees (5 U.S.C. §§ 7321-7326). (These amendments did not change the provisions that apply to state and local employees. 5 U.S.C. §§ 1501- 1508.) Under the amendments most federal and D.C. employees are now permitted to take an active part in political management and political campaigns. A small group of federal employees are subject to greater restrictions and continue to be prohibited from engaging in partisan political management and partisan political campaigns.
Ah, and who is in this "small group of federal employees" who are "subject to greater restrictions? Why it includes:
Administrative Law Judges (positions described at 5 U.S.C. § 5372) Central Imagery Office Central Intelligence Agency Contract Appeals Boards (positions described at 5 U.S.C. § 5372a) Criminal Division (Department of Justice) Defense Intelligence Agency Federal Bureau of Investigation Federal Elections Commission Merit Systems Protection Board National Security Agency National Security Council Office of Criminal Investigation (Internal Revenue Service) Office of Investigative Programs (Customs Service) Office of Law Enforcement (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) Office of Special Counsel Secret Service Senior Executive Service (career positions described at 5 U.S.C. § 3132(a)(4))
Uh oh... did you says Senior Executive Service? Let's pursue... Oh, and there's another law we're going to want to remember, called the Public Records Act. But we'll get to that later ... First: here are some exerpts from today's Washington Post:
Almost 90 White House officials have maintained private e-mail accounts on the server of the Republican National Committee, including top advisers such as Karl Rove and former White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card, according to a House committee report released today.
The disclosure means the practice is much more common than Bush administration officials have previously acknowledged, the report noted.
The RNC has preserved more than 140,000 e-mails sent or received by Rove, but only 130 were written before President Bush won re-election in 2004, according to the report. The committee has preserved another 100,000 e-mails from two of Rove's top lieutenants, former White House political director Sara M. Taylor and deputy political director W. Scott Jennings, according to the House Oversight Committee.
But the RNC has no e-mail records for 51 of 88 White House officials -- such as Ken Mehlman, the White House political director from 2001 through early 2003 -- who used their servers in addition to government e-mail accounts, according to a summary of the panel's report.
The committee, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), has been investigating whether the e-mail accounts run by the RNC and the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign committee violated the Presidential Records Act, which requires that every White House official "assure that the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of his constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties are adequately documented."
The House and Senate Judiciary committees also are seeking the RNC e-mails of White House officials, particularly Rove, Taylor and Jennings, to examine whether Bush's top advisers played roles in the firings of nine U.S. attorneys last year.
... Citing executive privilege, President Bush has refused to let any of his West Wing advisers turn over government documents or e-mails to congressional committees conducting investigations of his administration. The RNC has stated its intention to first provide White House officials' e-mails to White House Counsel Fred Fielding to determine whether Bush will want to withhold those as well. ...
... In early March, when the RNC e-mail trail first was raised during investigations of the U.S. attorney dismissals and the alleged politicization of the General Services Administration, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said "a handful" of White House advisers used the private accounts. That number was upgraded to about 50 a few weeks later. The RNC and White House initially said that almost all of Rove's e-mails were destroyed.
Just 130 of the 140,216 Rove e-mails come from Bush's first term, none of them before November 2003. Susan Ralston, Rove's former executive assistant, who privately gave a deposition to committee aides, told the committee that Mehlman used his RNC account "frequently, daily."
She added that other officials for whom there are no e-mail records also used the private accounts regularly.
The report shows that Waxman plans to investigate Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's knowledge of the use of the private e-mails during his term as White House counsel, and whether he took steps to preserve the records.
Waxman's panel also is threatening to subpoena the Bush-Cheney campaign committee. Eleven White House officials use e-mail accounts on the committee's servers, but it has refused to provide any more information to the committee.
The Presidential Records Act (PRA) of 1978, 44 U.S.C. ß2201-2207, governs the official records of Presidents and Vice Presidents created or received after January 20, 1981. The PRA changed the legal ownership of the official records of the President from private to public, and established a new statutory structure under which Presidents must manage their records.
Specifically, the Presidential Records Act:
Defines and states public ownership of the records.
Places the responsibility for the custody and management of incumbent Presidential records with the President.
Allows the incumbent President to dispose of records that no longer have administrative, historical, informational, or evidentiary value, once he has obtained the views of the Archivist of the United States on the proposed disposal.
Requires that the President and his staff take all practical steps to file personal records separately from Presidential records.
Establishes a process for restriction and public access to these records. Specifically, the PRA allows for public access to Presidential records through the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) beginning five years after the end of the Administration, but allows the President to invoke as many as six specific restrictions to public access for up to twelve years. The PRA also establishes procedures for Congress, courts, and subsequent Administrations to obtain special access to records that remain closed to the public, following a thirty-day notice period to the former and current Presidents.. Requires that Vice-Presidential records are to be treated in the same way as Presidential records.
Oh, and since we're talking about Bush, here, there are amendments. Here's his:
Executive Order 13233 This Executive Order, issued by President George W. Bush on November 1, 2001, supersedes the previous Executive Order. The Bush Executive Order also includes the documents of former Vice Presidents.
The E.O. was drafted by none other than Alberto Gonzales, back when he was White House counsel. Essentially, it severely limits access to the records of previous presidents, including Bush's father, and Bill Clinton, over the objection of Clinton, by the way...:
"...reflecting military, diplomatic, or national security secrets, Presidential communications, legal advice, legal work, or the deliberative processes of the President and the President's advisers, and to do so in a manner consistent with the Supreme Court's decisions in Nixon v. Administrator of General Services, 433 U.S. 425 (1977), and other cases..."
The order also reversed a previous executive order by Ronald Reagan in 1989, which called for a delay in the release of presidential records if the out-going president requests it, and it altered the relative openness of presidential records that had been in place since the Act was passed to preserve the records of Richard Nixon from being destroyed by his henchmen. More on the history here. Intriguingly enough, the order was issued by Dubya just 60 days after 9/11, on November 1, 2001.
When you're George W. Bush, and you've already committed the biggest foreign policy blunder in U.S. history, how can you possibly go it one better ... or worse, as the case may be...? Why, you restart the Cold War! Groovy! (Hey, isn't Condi supposed to be a Russia expert? Didn't Bushie see that Putin guy's soul???)
Well, NATO's not happy. But I'd gather that Europe isn't exactly thrilled at the ham-handed Bush attempt to offer them "protection" from Iranian missiles by ratcheting up the threat to them from Russian missiles. (The Czechs and Poles, who are set to receive the missile largesse, are getting nervous, too...) Kind of reminds me of the type of "protection" you get from the Mob. Look, Bush, that whole Putin is my buddy thing was idiotic anyway. The Russians continue to view the West, including Western Europe and the U.S., as an enemy/adversary (and crude oil client.) They haven't changed (despite having shed all those "Stans") -- our posture toward them has. And you, my dear, are in way over your head.
Have Condi handle it, dear. ... Then again, she might not be up to the task, either...
It appears it's bye-bye, Bushie for Reagan's former speachwriter and biggest fan:
What political conservatives and on-the-ground Republicans must understand at this point is that they are not breaking with the White House on immigration. They are not resisting, fighting and thereby setting down a historical marker--"At this point the break became final." That's not what's happening. What conservatives and Republicans must recognize is that the White House has broken with them. What President Bush is doing, and has been doing for some time, is sundering a great political coalition. This is sad, and it holds implications not only for one political party but for the American future.
The White House doesn't need its traditional supporters anymore, because its problems are way beyond being solved by the base. And the people in the administration don't even much like the base. Desperate straits have left them liberated, and they are acting out their disdain. Leading Democrats often think their base is slightly mad but at least their heart is in the right place. This White House thinks its base is stupid and that its heart is in the wrong place.
For almost three years, arguably longer, conservative Bush supporters have felt like sufferers of battered wife syndrome. You don't like endless gushing spending, the kind that assumes a high and unstoppable affluence will always exist, and the tax receipts will always flow in? Too bad! You don't like expanding governmental authority and power? Too bad. You think the war was wrong or is wrong? Too bad.
But on immigration it has changed from "Too bad" to "You're bad."
The president has taken to suggesting that opponents of his immigration bill are unpatriotic--they "don't want to do what's right for America." His ally Sen. Lindsey Graham has said, "We're gonna tell the bigots to shut up." On Fox last weekend he vowed to "push back." Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff suggested opponents would prefer illegal immigrants be killed; Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said those who oppose the bill want "mass deportation." Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson said those who oppose the bill are "anti-immigrant" and suggested they suffer from "rage" and "national chauvinism."
Why would they speak so insultingly, with such hostility, of opponents who are concerned citizens? And often, though not exclusively, concerned conservatives? It is odd, but it is of a piece with, or a variation on, the "Too bad" governing style. And it is one that has, day by day for at least the past three years, been tearing apart the conservative movement.
I suspect the White House and its allies have turned to name calling because they're defensive, and they're defensive because they know they have produced a big and indecipherable mess of a bill--one that is literally bigger than the Bible, though as someone noted last week, at least we actually had a few years to read the Bible. The White House and its supporters seem to be marshalling not facts but only sentiments, and self-aggrandizing ones at that. They make a call to emotions--this is, always and on every issue, the administration's default position--but not, I think, to seriously influence the debate.
They are trying to lay down markers for history. Having lost the support of most of the country, they are looking to another horizon. The story they would like written in the future is this: Faced with the gathering forces of ethnocentric darkness, a hardy and heroic crew stood firm and held high a candle in the wind. It will make a good chapter. Would that it were true!
If they'd really wanted to help, as opposed to braying about their own wonderfulness, they would have created not one big bill but a series of smaller bills, each of which would do one big clear thing, the first being to close the border. Once that was done--actually and believably done--the country could relax in the knowledge that the situation was finally not day by day getting worse. They could feel some confidence. And in that confidence real progress could begin.
The beginning of my own sense of separation from the Bush administration came in January 2005, when the president declared that it is now the policy of the United States to eradicate tyranny in the world, and that the survival of American liberty is dependent on the liberty of every other nation. This was at once so utopian and so aggressive that it shocked me. For others the beginning of distance might have been Katrina and the incompetence it revealed, or the depth of the mishandling and misjudgments of Iraq.
What I came in time to believe is that the great shortcoming of this White House, the great thing it is missing, is simple wisdom. Just wisdom--a sense that they did not invent history, that this moment is not all there is, that man has lived a long time and there are things that are true of him, that maturity is not the same thing as cowardice, that personal loyalty is not a good enough reason to put anyone in charge of anything, that the way it works in politics is a friend becomes a loyalist becomes a hack, and actually at this point in history we don't need hacks.
There are two things you need to know about George W. Bush. One is that he has no sense of history. The other is that he has no sense of shame. Once you understand those two things about the 43rd president of the United States, you basically know what to expect from him.
It is because Bush has no sense of history that he was so easily convinced, flattered and goaded by his neoconservative handlers into invading Iraq, and why he still fails to understand the ramifications of that invasion, not only for his presidency, but for the country, the Middle East, and the world. It's because he lacks shame that he is so clearly willing to fight to the last American to see his policy continue for as long as he can get away with it, preferably, until he leaves office, leaving Iraq to complete its collapse on someone else's watch.
Which brings me to the Democrats.
They clearly don't understand who the president is, which is why they're unable to stop him from getting away with the things he does -- domestic spying and other outrages against the Constitution, torture, an unnecessary war in Iraq, a failed war in Afghanistan, and the pillaging of American blood and treasure for the benefit of his corporate friends, most notably Big Oil and the defense industry. The Democrats cannot, or will not, stop George W. Bush, because they constantly underestimate his failure to comprehend history, and his incapacity for shame. They think that if they meet with him, he'll compromise, and if they compromise with him, he'll bend, and if they give him a short term victory or two, he'll reward them by changing course.
George W. Bush is going to hang on to every single thing he holds dear, from his war to his Karl Rove to his pitiful attorney general, because his only fear is of a small, hardened core of fanatics who are demanding that American blood continue to be spilled until it is possible to call Iraq, the war on terror, and the triumph of Christ over the Infidels, a victory. His only loyalty is the oil and defense giants who have propped him up all his life. His fanatics guard his corporate paymasters, and together, they are his base -- his "Qaeda."
The only way to fight such a person is to bloody his nose over and over and over again until he has no choice but to relent. The Democrats blinked on Iraq funding, and now they will have little if any chance of bringing the war to an end, as 7 in 10 voters want them to do. Meanwhile, the president is rubbing their moist little puppy noses in his utter defeat of them, even as the vast majority of Americans groan.
The Democrats suffer from so many deficiencies and so many fears, it's almost too depressing to begin naming them. They fear Karl Rove and the 30 second ads accusing them of not funding the troops more than they fear their own voters. They fear that somehow, Iraq will turn itself around, blossom into a democracy, and make Bush appear to have been right, leaving them on the wrong side of history. They fear Bush will find a way to rebound in the polls. They fear that he must have some supernatural power to keep them out of the White House. Because they operate based on fear, they lack the ruthlessness it would take to fight a guileless president.
And because of that, the Democrats likely will continue to fail the American people.
Jimmy Carter can be called many things, but shy isn't one of them. The former president has been pasting the Bush administration for its foreign policy blunders for years, and Mr. Carter remains firmly convinced that Bush's policies -- most notably Iraq -- have seriously damaged America's standing around the world, weakened our moral authority, and left us more, not less, vulnerable to terrorism. Worse, Carter believes that Bush squandered the oppourtunities created during his administration, and nurtured by subsequent presidents Bush I and Clinton, to bring closure to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. On all those points, Carter is dead on, in my opinion.
But who thought the man could be so gangsta???
Carter did two big interviews this past week. The first, with the Arkansas Post-Gazette, covered Bush's assorted foreign policy sins. Said Carter:
"I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history." ...
... "The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me."
Next, Carter did an interview with the BBC, in which he spread the lack of love to retiring Prime Minister Tony Blar. Asked to desribe Blair, Carter's answer was blunt and to the point, as reported by the BBC's Barney Porter:
JIMMY CARTER: The war was unjustified, unnecessary and has worked a tragedy on the Iraqi people, on the American people, on some of the British people and has caused deep schisms on a global basis.
BARNEY PORTER: But President Carter hasn't stopped there. He has also commented on British Prime Minister Tony Blair's unconditional support for President Bush.
JIMMY CARTER: Abominable. Loyal, blind, apparently subservient and I think that the almost undeviating support by Great Britain for the ill-advised policies of President Bush in Iraq have been a major tragedy for the world.
BARNEY PORTER: He also says Mr Blair could have exerted greater influence over President Bush, and made it tougher for Washington to shrug off critics. Instead, he says Britain's strong support has been crucial in bolstering the administration's position.
JIMMY CARTER: Okay, we must be more correct in our actions than the world thinks because Great Britain is backing us, and so I think the combination of Bush and Blair giving their support to this tragedy in Iraq has strengthened the effort and has made opposition less effective and has prolonged the war and increased the tragedy that has resulted.
Carter has gone after Blair before, including calling him "subservient" to Bush. And Carter has savaged the Iraq war itself, telling the anti-war UK Independent back in 2004 that it was both unnecessary, and based on lies. But the comments from a former president about a sitting president (and about a departing ally) are being called "unprecedented," and presidential historian Douglas Brinkley is calling them "fighting words." Maybe that's why Carter is walking back from his tough statements today, as criticism mounts, including from the White House, which had this to say about Carter:
In response, White House spokesman Tony Fratto on Sunday said: "I think he is proving to be increasingly irrelevant with these kinds of comments."
Well, the White House's ire may finally have gotten to Carter, who began the walk back from his comments today.
This all comes as the Bushies are worried that Blair's successor, Gordon Brown, will reverse Britain's all-in support for Bush's policies in Iraq, something that Brown's people presently deny.
It also comes at a time that some analysts are predicting that the Bushies may see the answer to their problems in Iraq in a familiar thing: regime change, once again in Iraq, whre Mr. Maliki's days may be numberd, and possibly even in Iran.
President Bush tours an ethanol plant with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
President Bush hasn't had much fun on his Latin America jaunt so far, between the angry protesters wearing Hitler=Bush T-shirts and burning effigies of him, and the tepid reponse of Latin leaders to his initiatives. But damn, now his very presence is being counted as toxic. According to a news report:
With Bush scheduled to visit Guatemala City next week, Bush antagonism has reached new levels as Mayan priests decide to purify a sacred archaeological site to eliminate 'bad spirits' after his visit.
Juan Tiney, the director of a Mayan non-governmental organization with close ties to Mayan political and religious political leaders said: “That a person like (Bush), with the persecution of our migrant brothers in the United States, with the wars he has provoked, is going to walk on our sacred lands, is considered an offense for the Mayan people and their culture.”
Bush's controversial seven-day tour of South America includes a stopover in Guatemala late Sunday. He is scheduled to visit the consecrated archaeological site 'Iximche' on the high Western plateau in a region of the Central American country populated mostly by Mayans.
Tiney said the “spirit guides of the Maya community” decided it would be necessary to cleanse the sacred site of “bad spirits” after Bush's visit so that their ancestors could rest in peace.
Bush's trip has already sparked protests in other Latin American countries, showing the immense depths of his unpopularity in the continent. There were protests and clashes with police in Brazil hours before his arrival. In Bogota, Columbia, which Bush will visit on Sunday, 200 masked students battled 300 riot police with rocks and homemade explosives.
The tour is seen to be a desperate attempt at challenging rising support for the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who is steadily gaining strong influence in the region. Chavez has publicly called Bush “history's greatest killer” and “the devil”.
Silly Maya, everybody knows the Devil is Dick Cheney...