Republicans on Capitol Hill have enough on their plates just pleasing Rush Limbaugh every day. The last thing they want is Dick Cheney running around without his shock collar on... From The Hill, word that Congressional GOPers feel they'd have a better shot at reinventing the party without the Man from Hopeless (hat tip to ThinkProgress):
Rep. John Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.) said, “He became so unpopular while he was in the White House that it would probably be better for us politically if he wouldn’t be so public...But he has the right to speak out since he’s a private citizen.”
Another House Republican lawmaker who requested anonymity said he wasn’t surprised that Cheney has strongly criticized Obama early in his term, but argued that it’s not helping the GOP cause.
The legislator said Cheney, whose approval ratings were lower than President Bush’s during the last Congress, didn’t think through the political implications of going after Obama.
Cheney did “House Republicans no favors,” the lawmaker said, adding, “I could never understand him anyway."
Cheney responded to requests for comment with the following statement: "GRRRRRRRRR...."
For your viewing pleasure: the Chris Matthews Ari smackdown
Ari Fleischer (who apprently really is a douchebag, Jon Stewart!) and a charter member of the hilarious Bush Legacy Project, defends the Bush years, and declares it "shameful" to place 9/11 within the Bush years, when clearly he wasn't president until immediately afterward. Enjoy!
BTW the one thing Matthews didn't do, was point out to Ari that 1) the recession that Bush "inherited" began in the second quarter of 2001 -- after I'm pretty sure he was president. And the so-called "record job creation" Ari touted during Bush's term, which he said were the best EVER! ... were actually the third worst job creation numbers of all the presidents dating back to Harry Truman. Only Bush's father and Gerald Ford saw fewer jobs created on their watch. Payrolls expanded by about 3 million during Bush's two terms, or about 375,000 per year, which puts him DEAD LAST in the per year number versus all the presidents since Harry gave 'em hell. Here are the totals:
Truman - 8.4 million Eisenhower - 3.5 JFK - 3.6 LBJ - 11.9 Nixon - 9.4 Carter - 10.5 Reagan - 16.0 Bush I - 2.5 Clinton - 23.1 Dubya - 3.0
It's official. After September 11, 2001, George W. Bush was crowned Julius Caesar by his Justice Department. Proof? The current J.D. released two memos issued by the Bush Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) and seven previously undisclosed opinions, all of which had been sought by civil libertarians including the ACLU. The subject? What John Yoo and company believed that the president could do, not on some foreign "battlefield" of the "war on terror," but here in America. From NBC:
WASHINGTON - The Justice Department on Monday released a long-secret legal document from 2001 in which the Bush administration claimed the military could search and seize terror suspects in the United States without warrants.
The legal memo was written about a month after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. It says constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure would not apply to terror suspects in the U.S., as long as the president or another high official authorized the action.
The memos can be found and read online here. The titles alone are frightening:
A sample of the truly frightening contents, from a June 27, 2002 memo signed by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Yoo:
Section 4001 of Title 18 states:
(a) No citizen shall be improsoned or otherwise detained by the United States except pursuant to an Act of Congres.
However, according to the Bush Office of Legal Counsel,
"...the President's authority to detain enemy combatants, including U.S. citizens, is based on his constitutional authority as Commander in Chief. We conclude that Section 4001(a) does not, and constitutionally could not, interfere with that authority."
Another memo showed that, within two weeks of Sept. 11, the administration was contemplating ways to use wiretaps without getting warrants.
The author of the search and seizure memo, John Yoo, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
In that memo, Yoo wrote that the president could treat terrorist suspects in the United States like an invading foreign army. For instance, he said, the military would not have to get a warrant to storm a building to prevent terrorists from detonating a bomb.
Yoo also suggested that the government could put new restrictions on the press and speech, without spelling out what those might be.
"First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully," Yoo wrote, adding later: "The current campaign against terrorism may require even broader exercises of federal power domestically."
On their way out the door, Alberto Gonzales' follow-ons in the Justice Department issued memos of their own, trying to disavow the earlier memos (two of the disavowals are included in today's release) saying they should not be relied on, and that they were a "product of an extraordinary -- indeed, we hope, a unique -- period in the history of the Nation: the immediate aftermath of the attacks of 9/11."
But some of the memos were written later -- much later. The memo on detaining U.S. citizens without trial or warrants was written in June of 2002. Interestingly enough, the later memos came during a time when the Bush administration was contemplating going to war against Iraq. And Michael Issikoff just reminded us on "the Rachel Maddow show" that Steve Bradbury, the OLC chief who spearheaded the disavowal memos, was himself under investigation for the issuance of the clearly un-American, unconstitutional legal opinions.
In other torture news, the CIA finally announced the actual number of interrogation tapes (read torture tapes) were destroyed by the agency to prevent investigations into torture at Gitmo. The answer? 92. Natch.
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...
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.
Poll: Most Americans say, 'investigate the bastard'
Dubya flipped off the Constitution, too...
A new poll shows that Americans want at least for there to be an investigation of torture under the Bush regime.
Even as Americans struggle with two wars and an economy in tatters, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds majorities in favor of investigating some of the thorniest unfinished business from the Bush administration: Whether its tactics in the "war on terror" broke the law.
Close to two-thirds of those surveyed said there should be investigations into allegations that the Bush team used torture to interrogate terrorism suspects and its program of wiretapping U.S. citizens without getting warrants. Almost four in 10 favor criminal investigations and about a quarter want investigations without criminal charges. One-third said they want nothing to be done.
The breakdown is as follows:
Regarding possible use of torture in terror interrogations:
Criminal investigation: 38%
Independent panel: 24%
Not sure: 2%
Meanwhile, when it comes to politicizing the Justice Department, even more of those polled want a probe:
Re possible attempts to use the Justice Department for political purposes:
Criminal investigation: 41%
Independent panel: 30%
And finally, regarding the "possible use of wiretaps without a warrant":
Criminal investigation: 438%
Independent panel: 25%
Read more of the Gallup poll here. Meanwhile, when it comes to torture prosecutions, civil libertarians like Jonathan Turley are not backing down:
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.
The CIA's station chief at its sensitive post in Algeria is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for allegedly raping at least two Muslim women who claim he laced their drinks with a knock-out drug, U.S. law enforcement sources tell ABC News.
Officials say the 41-year old CIA officer, a convert to Islam, was ordered home by the U.S. Ambassador, David Pearce, in October after the women came forward with their rape allegations in September.
The discovery of more than a dozen videotapes showing the CIA officer engaged in sex acts with other women has led the Justice Department to broaden its investigation to include at least one other Arab country, Egypt, where the CIA officer had been posted earlier in his career, according to law enforcement officials.
Great. Another Bush-era mess for Obama to clean up while trying to restore normal relations with the Muslim world.
Not that everything that happens everywhere is George W. Bush's fault, but the permissive atmosphere created by the Bush administration for both military and intelligence personnel, whether in interrogations that morphed into torture sessions, or the indiscriminate shelling and shooting of Iraqi civilians by CACI and other contractors, clearly the previous commander in chief failed to set the necessary conditions for conduct becoming of the United States. During the high points of the war, American troops were routinely accused of raping Iraqi women on various Arab and Muslim websites (often using faked photos,) and the very real, sexualized abuse and torture of Iraqi men, possibly by both military intelligence and CIA operatives, at Abu Ghraib (not to mention the alleged rape of child prisoners at the facility,) is now infamous in the annals of American history. This sorry situation can only add to the damage.
If you're among the 11.1 million Americans who are out of work today, don't feel bad. Members of the Bush administration are with you (and I'm not just talking about Dubya)...
The revolving door has been a lucrative business for many former Bush administration officials, who've landed plum jobs in the private sector. But there are a few notable ones who haven't yet: former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alfonso Jackson.
The problem? Both still face criminal investigations into conduct during their respective tenures as head of their government agencies.
Gonzales, who resigned in September 2007 amid increasing questions about his oversight during the U.S. Attorney scandal, remains under scrutiny in connection with that probe.
Likewise, Jackson resigned in March 2008 over allegations that he lied to Congress when he vowed he never intervened in contracting awards at his department.
On the plus side, they're extremely hard workers who aren't afraid to commit a crime or two on behalf of the boss! Meanwhile:
That contrasts a pattern documented in a recent report by Citizens for Ethics & Responsibility in Washington, which found that numerous Bush administration officials leveraged their government service for lucrative jobs in the private sector. Gonzales' predecessor, John Ashcroft, founded his own lobbying group, The Ashcroft Group. Former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card joined the public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard and the board of Union Pacific Railroad. Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson became a consultant with Deloitte & Touche and lobbyist for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld for numerous health companies.
Oh, and Gonzo's spokesman? It's Robert Bork Jr. Priceless.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney disagreed publicly with his boss just four times in the eight years they served together. Yesterday, however, on the first day after the official end of the Bush administration, Cheney disagreed with George W. Bush once more.
Cheney told THE WEEKLY STANDARD that his former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, whom he described as a "victim of a serious miscarriage of justice," deserved a presidential pardon.
Asked for his reaction to Bush's decision Cheney said: "Scooter Libby is one of the most capable and honorable men I've ever known. He's been an outstanding public servant throughout his career. He was the victim of a serious miscarriage of justice, and I strongly believe that he deserved a presidential pardon. Obviously, I disagree with President Bush's decision."
Bush's decision not to pardon Libby has angered many of the president's strongest defenders. One Libby sympathizer, a longtime defender of Bush, told friends she was "disgusted" by the president. Another described Bush as "dishonorable" and a third suggested that refusing to pardon Libby was akin to leaving a soldier on the battlefield. ...
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?"
Alberto Gonzales, who has kept a low profile since resigning as attorney general nearly 16 months ago, said he is writing a book to set the record straight about his controversial tenure as a senior official in the Bush administration.
Mr. Gonzales has been portrayed by critics both as unqualified for his position and instrumental in laying the groundwork for the administration's "war on terror." He was pilloried by Congress in a manner not usually directed toward cabinet officials.
"What is it that I did that is so fundamentally wrong, that deserves this kind of response to my service?" he said during an interview Tuesday, offering his most extensive comments since leaving government.
During a lunch meeting two blocks from the White House, where he served under his longtime friend, President George W. Bush, Mr. Gonzales said that "for some reason, I am portrayed as the one who is evil in formulating policies that people disagree with. I consider myself a casualty, one of the many casualties of the war on terror."
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.
Dick Cheney works on his own legacy tour, with an exit interview with Chris Wallace that features an interesting discussion of the president's powers, and a certain "football":
Cheney defended the administration's aggressive prosecution of the War on Terror, which he said was a major reason the nation hasn't been attacked in seven years. He said the 1973 War Powers Act is a violation of the Constitution because Congress does not have the right by statute to alter presidential constitutional power.
"That it is an infringement on the president's authority as the commander-in-chief," Cheney said. "It has never been resolved, but I think it's a very good example of a way in which Congress has tried to limit the president's authority and, frankly, can't.
"The president of the United States now for 50 years is followed at all times, 24 hours a day, by a military aide carrying a football that contains the nuclear codes that he would use and be authorized to use in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States," Cheney said. "He could launch the kind of devastating attack the world has never seen.
"He doesn't have to check with anybody. He doesn't have to call the Congress. He doesn't have to check with the courts. He has that authority because of the nature of the world we live in."
Cheney also told Wallace he tried to talk Bush out of firing Donald Rumsfeld in 2006:
"I did disagree with the decision," Cheney said. "The president doesn't always take my advice."
Cheney said he supports Rumsfeld's successor, Robert Gates, "but I was a Rumsfeld man. I'd helped recruit him and I thought he did a good job for us."
And he defended cursing at Pat Leahy. But that's not the news, I think, in the interview. It's that football bit. Cheney just declared that the president can start a global, thermonuclear war at his own discretion, without even checking in with Congress! Could that possibly be true? Let's go back in time, to 2002, when the folks at FindLaw were trying to talk sense to the Congress of the United States:
The decision to go to war is exclusively that of Congress
Sadly, it seems we've reached the point where the Constitution is no longer relevant on matters of a president's war-making powers. Presidents, the Congress and the courts have made going to war, once a serious constitutional issue, and a purely political question.
As a result, in the last half century, the war powers clause of the Constitution has become a nullity, if not a quaint relic. While conservatives often insist on following the letter of the Constitution on most issues, on matters of war they ignore it.
That's a disgrace, because the Framers of the Constitution carefully laid out the decision-making process for war. Pursuant to the document, war is a decision to be made exclusively by the representatives of the people -- the Congress. Only Congress is authorized to declare war, raise and support armies, provide and maintain a navy, and make the rules for these armed forces. There is nothing vague or unclear about the language in Article I, ¤ 8, clauses 11-16.
And Dick, (who ironically, also spent part of his latest interview mocking Joe Biden's understanding of the Constitution) I think that includes the football... Congress could have stepped in at any time to stop the Bush administration from waging war in Iraq, and had it come to that, they could also stop the president from launching a nuclear strike against, say, Iran. It's within their power to do, Dick. They simply have failed, in recent history, to exercise it.
But the fact that Cheney believes that a president is free to do almost anything ... and yes, he said that too ... in a "time of war," including launch a nuclear war, is truly frightening.
The New York Times digs into the housing mess, and finds a Bush in there. A clip:
The president’s first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission promised a “kinder, gentler” agency. The second was pushed out amid industry complaints that he was too aggressive. Under its current leader, the agency failed to police the catastrophic decisions that toppled the investment bank Bear Stearns and contributed to the current crisis, according to a recent inspector general’s report.
As for Mr. Bush’s banking regulators, they once brandished a chain saw over a 9,000-page pile of regulations as they promised to ease burdens on the industry. When states tried to use consumer protection laws to crack down on predatory lending, the comptroller of the currency blocked the effort, asserting that states had no authority over national banks.
The administration won that fight at the Supreme Court. But Roy Cooper, North Carolina’s attorney general, said, “They took 50 sheriffs off the beat at a time when lending was becoming the Wild West.”
The president did push rules aimed at forcing lenders to more clearly explain loan terms. But the White House shelved them in 2004, after industry-friendly members of Congress threatened to block confirmation of his new housing secretary.
In the 2004 election cycle, mortgage bankers and brokers poured nearly $847,000 into Mr. Bush’s re-election campaign, more than triple their contributions in 2000, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The administration did not finalize the new rules until last month.
Among the Republican Party’s top 10 donors in 2004 was Roland Arnall. He founded Ameriquest, then the nation’s largest lender in the subprime market, which focuses on less creditworthy borrowers. In July 2005, the company agreed to set aside $325 million to settle allegations in 30 states that it had preyed on borrowers with hidden fees and ballooning payments. It was an early signal that deceptive lending practices, which would later set off a wave of foreclosures, were widespread.
Andrew H. Card Jr., Mr. Bush’s former chief of staff, said White House aides discussed Ameriquest’s troubles, though not what they might portend for the economy. Mr. Bush had just nominated Mr. Arnall as his ambassador to the Netherlands, and the White House was primarily concerned with making sure he would be confirmed.
“Maybe I was asleep at the switch,” Mr. Card said in an interview.
Ya think??? Sheesh ... It's a long article. Read it from the top, here. I do think the Times puts too much focus on lower income borrowers in this piece, rather than also focusing on all of the middle class buyers who "traded up" to homes they couldn't afford, and those who saw the easy money loans as an opportunity to "flip and grow rich." But the article does lay out the main culprit: a shredding of federal regulations; something the GOP continues to see as the Holy Grail of "governing."
Dana Milbank turns off the snark for a change, and paints a rather sad portrait of our out-going president:
Slowly, painfully, self-awareness has come to George W. Bush.
"Turns out this isn't one of these presidencies where you ride off into the sunset, you know, waving goodbye," the president told the conservative American Enterprise Institute yesterday. He gave a little wave to illustrate his point; the sympathetic audience obliged him with a laugh.
It was the latest stop on what amounts to a legacy-salvaging tour for Bush. At the same time, a Bush Legacy Project, under the auspices of Karl Rove, is said to be at work on reinventing the president's image. But whatever they come up with, it will be difficult to displace in the public imagination the more obvious symbols of Bush's reign: The "Mission Accomplished" banner. The flight suit. Yellowcake. Curveball. Katrina. Brownie. The Pretzel. The Segway. The Shoe. An incipient depression. My Pet Goat.
A poll released yesterday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that just 11 percent of people think Bush will be remembered as an outstanding or above-average president.
It gets sadder:
Yesterday he took his regrets to a gathering at the Mayflower Hotel of AEI, a think tank that has provided Bush with both ideas and manpower. It was bound to be a supportive audience, and in the first row sat Paul Wolfowitz and Michael Barone. The press was kept at a safe distance of 35 feet -- the outer limit of shoe-throwing range -- and behind two barriers. Five Secret Service agents stood around the stage. The White House even tried to confine retired Washington Post editor Len Downie to the press section rather than the audience; possibly he was considered to be a shoe-flight risk.
AEI President Christopher DeMuth did his best to polish the presidential résumé during his introduction. "It'll be many years before it is possible to take a full account of the Bush presidency," he cautioned. "His contemporaries -- he, himself -- will not have the last word on the matter." Still, DeMuth praised Bush's "major reforms" of taxes, his "firm" free-trade position, his "superlative" judicial appointments and even his "most important disappointment," Social Security.
Bush, slouched in a chair, his legs crossed and his jacket open wide, was considerably harder on himself. He spoke so softly that some in the rear stood, leaned in and cupped their ears to hear. "We lost 533,000 jobs last month," he volunteered. And: "Wall Street got drunk, and we got a hangover." And: "I came with the idea of changing the tone in Washington and frankly didn't do a very good job of it."
The 62-year-old president looked tired, and his rapidly graying hair showed the aging effects of the job. He presented a glass-half-full view of his polices. "Obviously, we weren't successful about getting comprehensive immigration reform; nevertheless, I feel good about having tried," he offered. On Social Security, likewise, "it didn't succeed, but nevertheless I used the presidency, the executive branch, the concept of the presidency, to lay out in -- a way forward."
Cheney said the new administration must carefully assess the tools put in place to fight terror. "How they deal with these issues are going to be very important, because it's going to have a direct impact on whether or not they retain the tools that have been so essential and defending the nation for the last seven-and-a-half years, or whether they give them up," he said.
Obama's team needs to look at the specific threats, understand how the programs were put together, and how they operate, the vice president said.
"They shouldn't just fall back on campaign rhetoric to make these very fundamental decisions about the safety of the nation," he warned.
Throw a shoe at Dubya, get a parade. Well maybe not exactly a parade, but lots of support for sure, even from our supposed friends in the Middle East...
Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets to demand the release of a reporter who threw his shoes at President George Bush during a press conference.
Protesters hailed the journalist as a hero and praised his insult as a proper send-off to the US president.
Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who was kidnapped by Shiite militants last year, was being held by Iraqi security and interrogated about whether anybody paid him to throw his shoes at Bush during Sunday's press conference in Baghdad, said an Iraqi official. He was also being tested for alcohol and drugs, and his shoes were being held as evidence, said the official.
Showing the sole of your shoe to someone in the Arab world is a sign of extreme disrespect, and throwing your shoes is even worse.
Newspapers across the Arab world printed front-page photos of Bush ducking the flying shoes, and satellite TV stations repeatedly aired the incident, which provided fodder for jokes and was hailed by the president's many critics in the region.
"Iraq considers Sunday as the international day for shoes," said a joking text message circulating around the Saudi capital Riyadh.
Palestinian journalists in the West Bank town of Ramallah joked about who would be brave enough to toss their shoes at Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, another US official widely disliked in the region.
Many users of the popular internet networking site Facebook posted the video of the incident to their profile pages, showing al-Zeidi leap from his chair as Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki were about to shake hands and hurl his shoes at the president, who was about 20 feet away. Bush ducked the airborne footwear and was not injured in the incident.
"This is a farewell kiss, you dog," al-Zeidi yelled in Arabic as he threw his shoes. "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."
Sorry, but that "airborne footwear" bit is priceless. And I thought the Saudis were our pals! (eyes rolling...)
... from the New York Daily News. Not to be outdone by their bonus online headline: "Shoe-icide attack." How droll.
And now, seven of the top ten reasons the shoe in the face incident was "totally awesome"
1. Because before the shoe was even thrown by Iraqi reporter Muntadar al-Zaidi, George Bush went in for a straight-on fraternity-style handshake with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. 2. Because shoe-throwing (along with calling someone a dog, which al-Zaidi also did) is one of the most offensive insults an Iraqi Arab can hurl. After the fall of Baghdad, the United States government made much ado about those seemingly trumped-up videos of children throwing shoes at the fallen statue of Saddam Hussein. It's not awesome to see our president attacked, but it does neatly complete the circle, doesn't it? 3. Because al-Maliki totally tried to deflect the second shoe. 4. But he didn't try that hard. 5. Because George Bush was kind of laughing throughout the whole thing. 6. Because the other Iraqi reporters immediately jumped in to stop the shoe attacks. 7. But the Secret Service took their sweet, sweet time to take the guy down.
Read the other three reasons for yourself, right here on the New Yorker website.
Meanwhile, if Mr. Al-Zeidi, who is now a bonafide celebrity in the Muslim world, is harshly punished ... say, tortured... by Iraqi security forces, does that mean we really didn't change much in Iraq?
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?
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other members of the Bush administration "conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees," claims a Senate Armed Services Committee report issued Thursday.
According to the committee, prisoners were tortured in the Iraqi prison Abu Ghraib, the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other US military installations. Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ) were responsible for the content of the Senate's findings.
The report determined that placing the blame on "a few bad apples," as Bush administration officials attempted to do in the aftermath of the Abu Ghraib scandal, is inappropriate.
The policies were adopted after government assessments determined waterboarding and other torture techniques were "100 percent effective" at breaking the wills of US officers who underwent the military's Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape program.
General Richard Myers, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is also singled out for approving inhumane interrogation techniques, which the former general counsel of the navy, Alberto Mora, said had led to attacks on US troops in Iraq.
"There are serving US flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of US combat deaths in Iraq — as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat — are, respectively, the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo," Mr Mora said.
The report, which took 18 months to compile, was issued jointly by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the Democratic chairman of the panel, and Senator John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican.
It said the techniques used were "based, in part, on Chinese communist techniques used during the Korean War to elicit false confessions" from captured US prisoners.
Instructors from the Pentagon agency that trains soldiers in resisting such treatment were sent to Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Iraq to assist in adapting the methods, it said. The report said senior Defence Department officials approached that agency about techniques as early as December 2001. The head of the agency responded that his officials "stand ready to assist" Pentagon efforts at prisoner "exploitation".
See, we do get too much stuff from China. So when do the trials start?
WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration plans to sign its first nuclear-cooperation agreement with a Middle Eastern nation within the next few weeks, according to a senior U.S. official, raising concerns among congressional critics who say the deal could fuel nuclear proliferation in the region.
The proposed deal with the United Arab Emirates has attracted attention because the U.A.E.'s largest trading partner is Iran. The U.A.E. has served in the past as a transshipment point for technology with military applications headed to Iran.
The move could place President-elect Barack Obama in a political tight spot with a Middle East ally by forcing him to decide whether to push Congress to ratify the agreement. He hasn't taken an official position on the deal. An Obama spokesman declined to comment. The Bush administration has championed the nuclear agreement with the U.A.E. as a model for promoting peaceful nuclear energy while guarding against weapons proliferation.
But wait, there's more!
In recent months, the U.A.E. signed agreements with two American engineering companies -- Thorium Power Ltd. of Virginia and CH2M Hill of Colorado -- to oversee the development of its nuclear-power program. The U.A.E. has also hired a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, William Travers, to help run the U.A.E.'s nuclear regulatory body.
"This is a real counterexample to what Iran is doing," said the senior U.S. official Thursday. "We're seeking commitments from nations within the Middle East that they're going to rely on the markets for nuclear fuel."
The Bush administration also is working on nuclear-cooperation agreements with the governments of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Bahrain. The pacts require Washington to share nuclear fuels, technologies and know-how on the condition that the countries commit to abiding by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and IAEA safeguards.
So let me get this straight... Iran is not allowed to develop nuclear reactors for its energy needs, but the U.A.E., whom most Americans didn't trust to run our ports, can? And not only that ... they're going to do so with American help and technology? And this helps reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation, and the possibility that the very wealthy Emirates will also develop weapons on the side, to counter Iran, how? Or maybe ... just maybe ... the Bushies WANT the Sunni Arabs to develop a bomb, the better to win an arms race in the Persian Gulf...
In case you missed it: George W. Bush checks out on reality
Summary: George W. Bush wasn't even here when all that "economic collapse" stuff happened, don't look at him if you want to blame somebody for Iraq, he's never sad (sorry poor people, families of dead people and the rest of you suckers,) and boy, Air Force One is cool! Here's part one:
Bush meets with his economic team on March 17, 2008. To Bush's right are Treasury Secretary Henry Paulsen (center) and National Economic Council Director Keith Hennessey. Photo: Getty Images
An AP headline this morning shows that, surprise! ...okay, no surprise ... the Bush administration was forewarned about the mortgage meltdown, and backed off regulating non-bank and bank profligates anyway. The bottoom line:
WASHINGTON – The Bush administration backed off proposed crackdowns on no-money-down, interest-only mortgages years before the economy collapsed, buckling to pressure from some of the same banks that have now failed. It ignored remarkably prescient warnings that foretold the financial meltdown, according to an Associated Press review of regulatory documents.
"Expect fallout, expect foreclosures, expect horror stories," California mortgage lender Paris Welch wrote to U.S. regulators in January 2006, about one year before the housing implosion cost her a job.
Bowing to aggressive lobbying — along with assurances from banks that the troubled mortgages were OK — regulators delayed action for nearly one year. By the time new rules were released late in 2006, the toughest of the proposed provisions were gone and the meltdown was under way.
"These mortgages have been considered more safe and sound for portfolio lenders than many fixed rate mortgages," David Schneider, home loan president of Washington Mutual, told federal regulators in early 2006. Two years later, WaMu became the largest bank failure in U.S. history.
The warnings were contained in a 2005 set of proposals from banking industry regulators. The recommendations were promptly ignored. A bit more from the AP story:
Many of the banks that fought to undermine the proposals by some regulators are now either out of business or accepting billions in federal aid to recover from a mortgage crisis they insisted would never come. Many executives remain in high-paying jobs, even after their assurances were proved false.
In 2005, faced with ominous signs the housing market was in jeopardy, bank regulators proposed new guidelines for banks writing risky loans. Today, in the midst of the worst housing recession in a generation, the proposal reads like a list of what-ifs:
_Regulators told bankers exotic mortgages were often inappropriate for buyers with bad credit.
_Banks would have been required to increase efforts to verify that buyers actually had jobs and could afford houses.
_Regulators proposed a cap on risky mortgages so a string of defaults wouldn't be crippling.
_Banks that bundled and sold mortgages were told to be sure investors knew exactly what they were buying.
_Regulators urged banks to help buyers make responsible decisions and clearly advise them that interest rates might skyrocket and huge payments might be due sooner than expected.
Those proposals all were stripped from the final rules. None required congressional approval or the president's signature.
"In hindsight, it was spot on," said Jeffrey Brown, a former top official at the Office of Comptroller of the Currency, one of the first agencies to raise concerns about risky lending.
So, who will be held accountable for this disaster? Not the banks. They're being paid off for their malfeasance. And not anybody in the Bush administration, either. Democrats in Congress simply don't have the stomach for it, even after the big November win. And I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the incoming A.G. to start racking up the prosecutions, either. The Obama administration will come into office feeling that it has bigger fish to fry than the old fish stinking from the previous administration. And that's a shame.
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.
Lame Duck Teasury Secretary Henry Paulsen insisted on talking again today, as did his boss, sending the markets south, as happens every time either of these clods drops jaw. Meanwhile, the latest brand new proposal out of George Bush's Washington sounds as lame as the first twothree ten. And as usual, it's focused on handouts to Paulsen's friends in the banking industry. The idea is artfully cloaked in the pretense of "helping Main Street":
The Federal Reserve and Treasury moved today to boost consumer spending and lower home mortgage rates, committing up to $800 billion to make it easier for households to borrow money for cars, tuition bills and new homes as part of a broad effort to rekindle economic growth.
The new program puts the balance sheet of the country's central bank behind two critical but troubled parts of the economy -- consumer spending and housing. It is largely separate from the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, administered by the Treasury Department and focused on shoring up the country's financial system.
Ah, that sounds lovely. But what this really is, is a bailout of wealthy investors:
A Treasury news release noted that in 2007, about $240 billion in car, student and other consumer loans had been packaged by the companies that issued them into larger securities and sold to investors, who then benefit from the flow of payments from borrowers. That system of packaging and reselling loans keeps money flowing to banks and other lenders, allowing them to make even more money available to consumers.
However it all but stopped over the past two months, leading to rising interest rates, a downturn in lending -- and a risk that economic growth could be dragged down even further.
The Fed said it would provide up to $200 billion to investors who put the money toward consumer loans in the form of credit cards, auto loans and student loans, as well as some forms of small business lending.
In other words, Uncle Sam is about to write a big, fat check to erase the risk that big investors took when they bought junk credit card and mortgage debt. Then, magically relieved of the burden of that bad paper, banks will suddenly decide to start lending packagable money again. Tada! But wait, there's more:
The Fed's consumer lending program is partially backed by $20 billion from the TARP, which will be used to absorb losses on the program up to that amount. The Fed loans to investors will earn interest and also a fee from those who take advantage of it.
Paulson said the initial $200 billion "is a starting point" and could grow over time.
In addition to consumer spending, the Fed announced it would buy up to $100 billion in mortgages held by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Bank in an effort increase the flow of money into the housing markets and lower interest rates. The Fed will also buy another $500 billion in bundles of mortgage-backed securities issued by the agencies.
The fact that TARP money is wrapped up in this is just one problem. The federal government is clearly going to have to become the spender of last resort, given that consumers aren't secure enough in our jobs to start buying things (or gassing up) any time soon. But for the government to use tax money to eliminate investment risk, and to bail out big investors, is criminal. Oh, and the banks that have been getting these shovels full of your money? They've been using them to bail out THEIR investors too, by paying dividends (something they plan to keep doing for the next three years), and they've been using their TARP money to pay bonuses to their executives, and even (hello, Citibank and Wells Fargo,) to buy other banks. I'd like to see the Big Three automakers even think about doing anything like that.
Meanwhile, the administration continues to reject a reasonable proposal from the head of the FDIC, which would directly help struggling homeowners stay out of foreclosure, while protecting taxpayers, all at a cost of just $40 billion -- a fraction of the $7 trillion estimated cost of all these serial bailouts of the rich.
The Paulsen regime's eagerness to hand out taxpayer cash to the investor class on their way out the door is so brazen, it's like a bank robbery in broad daylight, with the police holding open the vault door. And Paulsen and Bush used alarmism, and threats of a "Great Depression II" to scare Americans into going along with the $700 billion (and climbing) bank bailout. Meanwhile, the U.S. auto industry, with 3 million "regular folks' jobs" in the balance, isn't worthy of help. Fancy that.
From the Iraq money pit to the Bush tax cuts for the top 1 percent income earners to the Wall Street bailout, the Bush administration has been one, eight year long mugging; a reverse Robin Hood spree in which we, the middle class working people, are being robbed blind, right before our eyes, in order to give to the rich.
The decision came in the case of six Algerians who were detained in Bosnia after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and have been held at the military prison in Cuba for nearly seven years. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon, a Bush appointee, ruled that five of the men must be released "forthwith" and ordered the government to engage in diplomatic efforts to find them new homes.
In an unusual move, Leon also urged the government not to appeal his ruling, saying "seven years of waiting for our legal system to give them an answer" was long enough.
In the case of the sixth Algerian, Belkacem Bensayah, Leon found that the government had met its evidentiary burden and could continue to hold him. Bensayah's lawyers said he would appeal.
The landmark ruling is the first by a federal judge who has weighed the government's evidence in lawsuits brought by scores of detainees who are challenging their detentions. In June, the Supreme Court ruled in a case brought by the Algerians, that Guantanamo Bay detainees have the right to challenge their detentions in federal court under the legal doctrine of habeas corpus.
To review, Boumediene and his cohorts were picked up in Sarajevo on the tip of a single, anonymous person, and accused of plotting to blow up the U.S. enemy, and planning to go to Afghanistan to fight the Americans. Boumediene's case ultimately went to the Supreme Court, causing various right wing heads to 'splode:
Scalia got the ball rolling in his shrieky dissent yesterday, adopting almost word for word, the Fox News/right wing talk show formulation that "Americans will die" if our eternal detainees are allowed to challenge their endless detention in court.
Justice Kennedy's opinion is remarkable in its sweeping disregard for the decisions of both political branches. In a pair of 2006 laws – the Detainee Treatment Act and the Military Commissions Act – Congress and the President had worked out painstaking and good-faith rules for handling enemy combatants during wartime. These rules came in response to previous Supreme Court decisions demanding such procedural care, and they are the most extensive ever granted to prisoners of war.
Yet as Justice Antonin Scalia notes in dissent, "Turns out" the same Justices "were just kidding." Mr. Kennedy now deems those efforts inadequate, based on only the most cursory analysis. As Chief Justice John Roberts makes clear in his dissent, the majority seems to dislike these procedures merely because a judge did not sanctify them. In their place, Justice Kennedy decrees that district court judges should derive their own ad hoc standards for judging habeas petitions. Make it up as you go!
Or not... More on Boumediene himself:
Lakhdar Boumediene, now 41, travelled to Bosnia with five other Algerian men during the civil war in the 1990s, and may have fought with Bosnian forces against the Serbs.
The six stayed in Bosnia, married Bosnian women, were granted citizenship and took jobs working with orphans for various Muslim charities.
In October 2001, the US embassy in Sarajevo asked the Bosnian government to arrest them because of a suspicion they had been involved in a plot to bomb the embassy.
The six men were duly arrested. But after a three-month investigation, in which the Bosnian police searched their apartments, their computers and their documents, there was - according to a report by the New-York-based Center for Constitutional Rights - still no evidence to justify the arrests.
Bosnia's Supreme Court ordered their release, and the Bosnian Human Rights Chamber ruled they had the right to remain in the country and were not to be deported.
However, on the night of 17 January 2002, after they were freed from Bosnian custody, they were seized and rendered to Guantanamo.
Since arriving in Guantanamo, the men have faced repeated allegations of links to al-Qaeda - but the embassy plot has never been mentioned.
Now, all that's left is for the Bush administration to defy the federal judge and continue to hold them anyway, until President Obama is sworn in and the U.S. finally does the right thing. Either way, these men's ordeal is almost over. Let's hope it's not too late, and that they have not become so embittered that they really do become combatants against the United States.
The Wapo reports, the Bush administration is trying electioneering by other means:
Just weeks before leaving office, the Interior Department's top lawyer has shifted half a dozen key deputies -- including two former political appointees who have been involved in controversial environmental decisions -- into senior civil service posts.
The transfer of political appointees into permanent federal positions, called "burrowing" by career officials, creates federal sinecures for those employees, and at least initially will deprive the incoming Obama administration of the chance to install its preferred appointees in some key jobs.
Similar efforts are taking place at other agencies. Two political hires at the Labor Department have already secured career posts there, and one at the Department of Housing and Urban Development is trying to make the switch.
Between March 1 and Nov. 3, according to the federal Office of Personnel Management, the Bush administration allowed 20 political appointees to become career civil servants. Six political appointees to the Senior Executive Service, the government's most prestigious and highly paid employees, have received approval to take career jobs at the same level. Fourteen other political, or "Schedule C," appointees have also been approved to take career jobs. One was turned down by OPM and two were withdrawn by the submitting agency. ad_icon
The personnel moves come as Bush administration officials are scrambling to cement in place policy and regulatory initiatives that touch on issues such as federal drinking-water standards, air quality at national parks, mountaintop mining and fisheries limits.
Why do such things? Because federal employees with civil service protections -- something conservatives purportedly dislike -- are harder to fire (you know, like pesky union workers.) and keeping them around can mean locking in bad policies for years to come:
Most of the personnel shifts have been done on a case-by-case basis, but Interior Solicitor David L. Bernhardt moved to place six deputies in senior agency positions with one stroke, including two who have repeatedly attracted controversy. Robert D. Comer, who was Rocky Mountain regional solicitor, was named to the civil service post of associate solicitor for mineral resources. Matthew McKeown, who served as deputy associate solicitor for mineral resources, will take Comer's place in what is also a career post. Both had been converted from political appointees to civil service status.
In a report dated Oct. 13, 2004, Interior's inspector general singled out Comer in criticizing a grazing agreement that the Bureau of Land Management had struck with a Wyoming rancher, saying Comer used "pressure and intimidation" to produce the settlement and pushed it through "with total disregard for the concerns raised by career field personnel." McKeown -- who as Idaho's deputy attorney general had sued to overturn a Clinton administration rule barring road-building in certain national forests -- has been criticized by environmentalists for promoting the cause of private property owners over the public interest on issues such as grazing and logging.
One career Interior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to jeopardize his position, said McKeown will "have a huge impact on a broad swath of the West" in his new position, advising the Bureau of Land Management and the Fish and Wildlife Service on "all the programs they implement." Comer, the official added, will help shape mining policy in his new assignment.
"It is an attempt by the outgoing administration to limit as much as possible [the incoming administration's] ability to put its policy imprint on the Department of Interior," the official said.
So, why does the Bush administration hate America?
I wonder if the voters of Utah, who favored McCain-Palin nearly two-to-one over Obama-Biden, and who have voted Republican since time immemorial, cherish their parks and lands as much as they cherish the Grand Old Party...
Gale Norton has to be happy. In 2003, Ms. Norton, then President Bush’s secretary of the interior (and now a senior oil executive at Royal Dutch Shell), struck a deal with the governor of Utah that would open about 3 million pristine acres of federal land to oil and gas drilling.
Environmental groups and the courts managed to keep the drillers at bay. No longer. In the last few days, the Bureau of Land Management has completed six long-range management plans for Utah that will expose these acres (and as many as 6 million more) to some form of commercial exploitation.
On Tuesday, the bureau announced that it would soon begin selling oil and gas leases — essentially the right to drill — in some of the most beautiful and fragile areas.
Conservationists are aghast, and rightly so. Apparently without consulting the National Parks Service, one of its sister agencies at the Interior Department, the bureau plans to auction more than two dozen leases adjacent to Arches National Park and very close to Canyonlands National Park, risking the parks’ air and water.
Also on the auction block, among other rare and spectacular vistas, is Desolation Canyon, so named by the explorer John Wesley Powell in 1869 while he traveled down the Green River to the Grand Canyon.
This sort of pillage would be hard to justify even if Utah’s reserves were large enough to make a difference, which they are not. The Energy Information Administration says that Utah has 2.5 percent of the country’s known natural gas reserves and less than 1 percent of its known oil reserves. And even if those reserves were worth going after, it would still be essential to protect areas of special cultural, scenic and recreational value.
The Interior Department’s writ is to manage the public lands for “multiple uses,” a difficult and ambiguous task. The Clinton administration issued many leases but tried hard to balance the competing claims of commerce and nature; the Bush administration heard only the voice of Vice President Dick Cheney and his one-sided mantra of “drill now, drill everywhere.” ...
What would John McCain's supposed hero, Teddy Roosevelt, think?
From David Kilcullen, a "former Australian Army officer who is now an adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice," and the guy who helped design the current U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq with David Petraeus:
Kilcullen, who helped Petraeus design his 2007 counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, called the decision to invade Iraq "stupid" -- in fact, he said "fucking stupid" -- and suggested that if policy-makers apply the manual's lessons, similar wars can be avoided in the future.
"The biggest stupid idea," Kilcullen said, "was to invade Iraq in the first place."
I guess he cares more about pointing out stupidity than he does about the security of the American people... right John McCain? Sadly, Kilcullen's assessment is far from a unique one:
David Rothkopf, a former Clinton administration official and now with the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, said: "Declaring this to be a success based on recent improvements is like saying that a person badly disabled by gunshots has seen his wounds heal. The damage has been done.
"Bush's foreign policy has been a failure and it will be judged on Iraq. He will bear responsibility for an unnecessary and costly war that violated international law, alienated allies and distracted us from the core issues of terrorism, Afghanistan and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.
"This has to be the worst managed foreign policy of any president since the Second World War. Even if in the medium term Iraq becomes comparatively peaceful, would it be worth the cost? I do not think so."
As for America's standing around the world, the war alienated some major American allies, France and Germany most notably. Others did send troops after the invasion - Spain and Italy among them - but then left as public opinions at home turned hostile.
On the other hand, a number of smaller countries, many of them from the former Soviet block, saw an opportunity to show their loyalty to the US and sent contingents - the Czech Republic, Poland, Georgia and others. For them, a strong and active United States bodes well for their future security.
In turn, Britain's support for the United States has led to further divisions within Europe. These had an impact in the Lisbon treaty talks about a future foreign policy for the EU, strengthening the British determination to keep it firmly in the hands of individual governments.
The invasion of Iraq also caused alarm bells to ring in Russia. There, a new mood of hostility to the West has developed and the Russians have become wary of American power.
Nor has Iraq sparked the democratic revolution in the Middle East that Mr Bush hoped for. And the Israeli/Palestinian conflict remains unresolved.
Ironically it is Iran, with which the US shares a mutual hostility, that has emerged with greater strength, to the concern of the Gulf Arab states.
A Justice Department report confirms that two former underlings of America's worst Attorney General EVER, Alberto Gonzales, broke the law by taking political persuasion into account in JD hiring. The perps: Regent University "Law School" grad Monica Goodling, and fellow traveler D. Kyle Sampson. Alberto wasn't faulted in the report... why? The only remaining question: how quickly does Michael Mukasey announce that he will do nothing?
Meanwhile, how big of a budget deficit will George W. Bush leave to the next president? Try $490 billion:
The next president will inherit a record budget deficit approaching $490 billion, a Bush administration official said Monday.
The official said the deficit was being driven to an all-time high by the sagging economy and the stimulus payments being made to 130 million households in an effort to keep the country from falling into a deep recession. A deficit approaching $490 billion would easily surpass the record deficit of $413 billion set in 2004.
The administration official spoke on condition of anonymity because the new estimate had not been formally released. Administration officials were scheduled to do that at a news conference later Monday.
The new figure actually underestimates the deficit, since it leaves out about $80 billion in war costs. In a break from tradition — and in violation of new mandates from Congress — the White House did not include its full estimate of war costs.
White House press secretary Dana Perino had no comment on the $490 billion figure. But she told reporters that the White House and lawmakers acknowledged months ago that they were going to increase the deficit by approving a short-term boost for the slumping economy.
"Both parties recognized that the deficit would increase, and that that was going to be the price that we pay," Perino said.
The White House had earlier predicted next year's deficit at $407 billion. Figures for the 2008 budget year ending Sept. 30 may also set a record.
When Dubya took office in 2001, the CBO estimated the U.S. had a ten-year budget surplus of $5.6 trillion. Bush even trumpeted the surplus in a campaign ad back in 2000:
Bush for President, Inc. "Surplus" 30 sec. TV spot run in NH latter part of Jan. 2000. Maverick Media
Male Announcer [music]: George W. Bush's tax plan is called an economic agenda worthy of a new president.
The Bush plan reserves $2 trillion of the surplus to protect and strengthen Social Security and pay down the national debt. The rest is dedicated to priorities--education, rebuilding our military, and providing a real tax cut for every taxpayer.
Some Washington politicians say it's better to keep the money in Washington. Governor Bush believes we can meet priorities and still give families back more of what they earn.
Over to Iraq (a/k/a "Surgistan,") where two apparent female suicide bombers killed more than 50 people and injured some 240 others in Baghdad and Kirkuk. The Guardian puts the death and injured toll even higher, at 55 and 300.
President Bush sought to reassure shaky markets and frightened consumers about worsening economic conditions today, asserting that the U.S. economy is fundamentally sound and urging Congress to quickly pass legislation to shore up mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac....
...The president also played down predictions that large numbers of banks may be on the verge of failure and spoke at length about the federal insurance system that guarantees deposits up to $100,000. Federal regulators last week took over IndyMac Bancorp of California amid a run on the bank's reserves.
"My hope is that people take a deep breath and realize their deposits are safe. I think the system is basically sound," Bush said.
"I'm not an economist, but I do believe we're growing," he said later, adding that the economy is "not growing the way it should."
Maybe Dubya should have bypassed the presser and given his speech directly to his Fed chairman...
The twin problems of slow growth and rising prices are making it difficult for federal policymakers to chart a course for the economy, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said today, as he outlined a raft of problems facing the country -- including "ongoing strains" at banks and finance companies and a string of recent job losses and declining home prices.
... or to Wall Street...
Wall Street was lower again today, with major U.S. indexes initially off as much as 1.5 percent. Shares, however, rebounded to near even by midday as news came oil prices fell by more than $8 a barrel, to around $136, as investors weighed the degree to which a global slowdown will undercut demand. Asian and European markets fell overnight.
Or struggling businesses ...
Bernanke described worry about the run-up in the price of oil and other commodities, and said that it may lead businesses to raise prices for goods other than food and energy in the future.
"With businesses facing persistently higher input prices, they may attempt to pass through such costs into prices . . . more aggressively than they have so far," Bernanke said.
DETROIT (AP) — General Motors Corp. said Tuesday it will lay off salaried workers, cut truck production, suspend its dividend and borrow $2 billion to $3 billion to weather a severe downturn in the U.S. market. GM said the moves will raise $15 billion to help cover losses and turn around its North American operations, including $10 billion from internal cost-cutting and $5 billion from selling some assets and borrowing against others. "In short, our plan is not a plan to survive. It is a plan to win," GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner said in a broadcast to employees.
GM's shares fell as much as 6 percent to a new 54-year low of $8.81, then rebounded to $9.94 in midday trading, up 56 cents from Monday's close.
Chief Operating Officer Fritz Henderson said GM wants to reduce its total salaried costs in the U.S. and Canada by more than 20 percent. A large chunk of the reduction, he said, would come from cutting health care benefits for salaried retirees. Those people would get a pension increase from the company's overfunded pension fund to help compensate for Medicare and supplemental insurance, the company said.
Several thousand jobs will be cut through normal attrition and retirements, and through early retirement and buyout offers, Henderson said. The company could resort to involuntary layoffs but does not want to, he said.
(Bloomberg) -- The dollar declined to a record low against the euro on speculation Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson will say credit- market losses are hurting U.S. economic growth.
The currency dropped the most versus the yen since the March collapse of Bear Stearns Cos. and fell to a 25-year low versus the Australian dollar on concern confidence in the debt of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will diminish even after the U.S. government pledged support for the firms. The pound surpassed $2 for the first time since July 1 as inflation accelerated.
The economy showed the depth of its twin problems on Tuesday, slow growth and rising inflation, as the nation wrestled with a teetering financial system, a slumping dollar and rising prices for food and fuel.
The Labor Department reported that soaring costs for gasoline and food pushed inflation at the wholesale level up by a bigger-than-expected 1.8 percent in June, leaving inflation rising over the past year at the fastest pace in more than a quarter-century.
Over the past 12 months, wholesale prices are up 9.2 percent, the largest year-over-year surge since June 1981, another period when soaring energy costs were giving the country inflation pains.
Core inflation, which excludes energy and food, was better behaved in June, rising by just 0.2 percent, slightly lower than expectations.
A separate report from the Commerce Department showed that all the economy's problems were weighing on the consumer. Retail sales edged up by a tiny 0.1 percent in June, weaker than had been expected, as consumer spending was held back by a sharp plunge in sales at auto dealerships.
While the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is keeping secret its official list of 90 troubled banks, ABC News has obtained other lists prepared by several research groups and financial analysts.
The lists use versions of the so-called "Texas ratio" which compare a bank's assets and reserves to its non-performing loans, based on financial data made public by the FDIC in March.
Analysts say banks with a ratio over 100 per cent would be the most likely to fail, based on what happened to Texas savings and loans during the 1980's.
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...)
Despite all of the kudos from the TV punditocracy, George W. Bush's massive capitulation on North Korea -- which included walking back from demands that Pyongyang detail just what nuclear weapons it has, and to whom it has sold its weapons technology, in exchange for a generalized accounting of NK's uranium, and additional details to be provided later (whenever that is,) was a pretty shocking turn-back from the cowboy diplomacy that brought us the Iraq War. (That the Bush administration's soft shoe was a punk move actually brings parts of the left, myself included, into agreement with, of all people, John Bolton...)
But it may not be as out of character as it seemed. Bush has shown a surprising willingness to bend to the wishes of China, and to accommodate the Communist government, on trade, on Taiwan, on China's mad scramble for often blood-soaked African oil, including in the Sudan, on the North Korea deal (which is really China's deal, which Russia co-piloted and the other four parties simply gave in to,) and on Tibet, which China continues to oppress, a fact that has given rise to several world leaders' principled decision to skip the opening ceremonies of the poorly placed 2008 Summer Olympic Games. Bush's give-and-go on China has shined an unpleasant spotlight on his dogged determination to show up at the opening ceremonies, something he was forced to defend at a G8 summit press conference today in Tokyo (standing alongside Japan's Prime Minister, Yasuo Fukuda (who also capitulated on NK, without getting something his country dearly wanted -- answers on abducted Japanese soldiers thought to have been taken by the North Koreans during the 1970s and '80s. Fukuda plans to go to the opening ceremonies, too.) (Photo at left by Reuters)
At a news conference with Fukuda, Bush defended his decision to attend the Olympics opening ceremonies Aug. 8. Among the leaders who plan to skip that event are British Minister Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is considering not attending.
China's role as host has focused attention on its human rights record and the security crackdown in Tibet; some U.S. conservatives have criticized Bush for planning to go to the opening ceremonies.
"The Chinese people are watching very carefully about the decisions by world leaders and I happen to believe that not going to the opening ceremony for the games would be an affront to the Chinese people, which may make it more difficult to be able to speak frankly with the Chinese leadership," the president said.
It's tempting, since Dubya is such a sports buff, to figure he's just going because it's a chance to get out of the White House, where schedulers mostly are booking him at children's parties these days, and go see some sports! But I suspect there's more to it than that, and that sucking up to China, for reasons perhaps to be explained later, is at least part of the calculation.
Bush's tendency to back down where China is concerned has been in evidence from the day he took office. Remember in the days before 9/11 spun the wheels of the constitutional spokes? What was Bush's first presidential crisis? It happened in April 2001:
A U.S. reconnaissance plane made an emergency landing in China on Sunday after colliding with a Chinese fighter sent to intercept it.
U.S. officials said the EP-3 Aries II, a U.S. Navy electronic surveillance aircraft, was on a routine mission over international waters off China when the collision occurred about 9:15 a.m. (8:15 p.m. Saturday EST). The damaged spy plane landed on the Chinese island of Hainan, about 400 miles (640 kilometers) southwest of Hong Kong, and none of its crew of 24 was injured.
Chinese state television said the F-8 fighter jet involved in the collision crashed into the South China Sea off Hainan, and its pilot was missing. The collision appeared accidental, said Air Force Lt. Col. Dewey Ford, a spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii.
... The incident comes at a time when relations between Washington and Beijing are strained over issues such as human rights and U.S. support for Taiwan.
The EP-3 is a sensitive surveillance aircraft that aviation experts say is capable of monitoring electronic communications and aircraft movements inside the Chinese mainland from points offshore.
Bush wound up kowtowing to Beijing, which had demanded an apology, by instead issuing a face-saving, but still contrite, statement of regret, which was greeted by Beijing with a "thanks, but not enough," as they continued to refuse to release the American crew. Meanwhile, Chinese editorials (in papers that are official organs of the government) blasted away at the U.S. human rights record, and at America in general, while Americans waited for resolution. One piece, in the Hong Kong Economic Times, dated April 5, 2001, stands out:
"Beijing Waits At Ease For An Exhausted Enemy"
"This incident gives China a great opportunity, turning the nation from a passive position to an active one. China's leaders can take this opportunity to test how strong the new Bush administration is.... China can clearly see whether its rival is strong and powerful, or externally strong but internally weak. Then China can lay down its strategy of how to deal with the Bush administration in the next four years. In conclusion, it can be seen from how China is handling this incident that it does not intend to let tensions escalate, nor does it want to damage Sino-U.S. relations. Since it has the bargaining chip, China can test the ability of the Bush administration to resolve this crisis. China is therefore not anxious to settle the incident."
Indeed, the Bush administration was tested, and China has pretty much known how to deal with Dubya ever since. The American pilots were released after an 11-day stand-off.
Fast-forward to September 2006, when Bush was again faced with a China problem:
China has fired high-power lasers at U.S. spy satellites flying over its territory in what experts see as a test of Chinese ability to blind the spacecraft, according to sources.
It remains unclear how many times the ground-based laser was tested against U.S. spacecraft or whether it was successful. But the combination of China's efforts and advances in Russian satellite jamming capabilities illustrate vulnerabilities to the U.S. space network are at the core of U.S. Air Force plans to develop new space architectures and highly classified systems, according to sources.
The blogger who "snipped" that clip, Afarensis, adds a bit more from Defense News:
Pentagon officials, however, have kept quiet regarding China's efforts as part of a Bush administration policy to keep from angering Beijing, which is a leading U.S. trading partnerand seen as key to dealing with onerous states like North Korea and Iran. Even the Pentagon's recent China report failed to mention Beijing's efforts to blind U.S. reconnaissance satellites. Rather, after a contentious debate, the White House directed the Pentagon to limit its concern to one line. In that one line, the report merely acknowledges China has the ability to blind U.S. satellites, thanks to a powerful ground-based laser capable of firing a beam of light at an optical reconnaissance satellite to keep it from taking pictures as it passes overhead. According to top officials, however, China not only has the capability, but has exercised it. It is not clear when China first used lasers to attack American satellites. Sources would only say that there have been several tests over the past several years.
... Wynne stressed that what's at stake isn't merely U.S. military superiority, but the fate of global commerce because signals from Air Force GPS satellites are critical to everything from airline and maritime commerce to car navigation systems.
It does beg the question, what is it with Bush and China?
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...
Chuck Hagel and Collin Powell at the Vietnam Veterans' memorial in D.C., photo from Reuters Pictures
The two that really worry the McCain team are Chuck Hagel and Collin Powell, who could provide Barack Obama with an October surprise of his own, by endorsing him, according to the Prince of Darkness, Robert Novak. He also adds a few nice broadsides at the prez:
Powell, Hagel and lesser-known Obamacons harbor no animosity toward McCain. Nor do they show much affection for the rigidly liberal Obama. The Obamacon syndrome is based on hostility to Bush and his administration and on revulsion over today's Republican Party. The danger for McCain is that desire for a therapeutic electoral bloodbath could get out of control.
That danger was highlighted in a June New Republic article on "The rise of the Obamacons" by supply-side economist Bruce Bartlett, who was a middle-level official in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. He expressed "disgust with a Republican Party that still does not see how badly George W. Bush has misgoverned this country" -- echoing his scathing 2006 book, "Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy." While Bartlett says "I'm not ready to join the other side," his anti-Bush furor characterizes the Obamacons.
The prototypal Obamacon may be Larry Hunter, recognized inside the Beltway as an ardent supply-sider. When it became known recently that Hunter supports Obama, fellow conservatives were stunned. Hunter was fired as U.S. Chamber of Commerce chief economist in 1993 when he would not swallow Clinton administration policy, and he later joined Jack Kemp at Empower America (ghostwriting Kemp's column). Explaining his support for the uncompromisingly liberal Obama, Hunter blogged on June 6: "The Republican Party is a dead rotting carcass with a few decrepit old leaders stumbling around like zombies in a horror version of 'Weekend With Bernie,' handcuffed to a corpse."
The San Francisco Chronicle reports, former Bush spokesguy Scott McClellan is considering jumping off the GOP ship:
Scott McClellan - the longtime supporter of President Bush who served as his White House press secretary for nearly three years - said Tuesday he hasn't ruled out registering as a Democrat or voting Democratic for president this year.
"I haven't made any long-term decisions," McClellan said after an address to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, where he received a warm reception from an audience numbering in the hundreds at the Fairmont Hotel.
Hey, you go where it's friendly. Meanwhile, Scotty reveals a serious lack of love for Dick Cheney:
McClellan pointedly warned both campaigns to be particularly attuned to a crucial decision, one that had a huge impact in his former boss' administration: picking a vice presidential candidate. Vice President Dick Cheney, he said, "had a terribly negative influence over this president ... and was shown too much deference" on major decisions, including Iraq. ...
... McClellan who is clear that he has no great admiration for Cheney, joked to the audience that his national book tour has given him some ideas for book titles Cheney might consider: "The Lies I Told," or "I Upped Halliburton's Income - So Up Yours." He also said that during his two terms, Cheney has increased the power of the vice presidency, which was "one of the vice president's pet projects."
McClellan painted a painful portrait of Bush, whom it's clear he still has affection for, as a man surrounded by sharks (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Condi Rice,) who would have gone into Iraq even knowing what we all know now. The president, he thinks, would not, if he could have foreseen the casualties and calamities (somehow, given his animal- and pledge-torturing history, I doubt that, but Scott's entitled to his affections...)
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
(GUARDIAN, UK) -- The lobbyist and convicted fraudster Jack Abramoff had a direct pipeline to the Bush White House and influenced several key decisions, according to a bipartisan draft report released in Congress today.
The draft report found Abramoff associates using expensive gifts to curry favour with White House aides and orchestrating the sacking of a US state department negotiator who disagreed with them.
In addition, the congressional report uncovered six one-on-one encounters between Abramoff and George Bush — four more than the White House has acknowledged previously in its denials of any significant ties to the lobbyist.
"This evidence suggests that the White House failed to conduct even the most basic internal investigation of the White House relationship with Mr Abramoff before making public statements characterising the connection," the report states.
Abramoff's corrupt courtship of Republican congressmen played a central role in the Democrats' sweeping victory in the 2006 election.
Though his case has largely faded from public view since then, today's report sheds a new and unwelcome spotlight on the Bush administration's role in the scandal.
Three former White House officials contacted by the House of Representatives oversight committee, which produced the report, invoked their constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination in refusing to answer questions about their relationship with Abramoff.
E-mails uncovered by the oversight committee show that White House aides eliminated the job of a state department negotiator in 2001 after Abramoff associates complained about his support for labour reform in the Mariana Islands, the Pacific manufacturing hotspot.
"I'm trying to figure out what is the best way to go about [sacking the negotiator]," one White House official wrote at the time. "I don't want a firing scandal on our hands." ...
Total contacts between Bad Jack and the White House from 2001 to 2004: 485. Number of months Abe is serving in prison on tax evasion, fraud and bribery charges? 70. ("He has admitted to stealing $23m from US banks via a fake wire transfer, among other crimes," the Guardian says.)
The full committee votes on whether to make the draft report final this week.
More Bush items for the first steps of your recovery:
That, according to a new book – “Machiavelli’s Shadow” – by former Time magazine reporter Paul Alexander, is where President George W. Bush informed trusted advisor Karl Rove in 2007 that his services would no longer be needed at the White House.
“On a Sunday in midsummer, George W. Bush accompanied Karl Rove to the Episcopalian Church Rove sometimes attended,” writes Alexander. “They made their way to the front of the congregation. Then, during their time in the church, Bush gave Rove some stunning news. ‘Karl,’ Bush said, ‘there’s too much heat on you. It’s time for you to go.’”
The same article states that Republican strategists have joined everyone else in the free world (with the exception of the RedStaters and the really recalcitrant neocons) in turning on the Bushies:
"Machiavelli's Shadow" doesn't portray Rove in a favorable light and Alexander includes plenty of interviews with GOP notables unsatisfied with Rove's influence during the Bush administration.
"Every Republican I know looks at the Bush administration as a total failure," said Matt Towery, chairman of Newt Gingrich's political organization.
“To do what he did politically to us is unforgivable," Rep. Tom Tancredo told Alexander. "It will take generations to recover. I don't know how long; maybe never."
"I think the legacy is that Karl Rove will be a name that'll be used for a long, long time as an example of how not to do it," said long-time GOP strategist Ed Rollins.
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Bush's former spokesman, Scott McClellan, will testify before a House committee next week about whether Vice President Dick Cheney ordered him to make misleading public statements about the leaking of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity.
McClellan will testify publicly and under oath before the House Judiciary Committee on June 20 about the White House's role in the leak and its response, his attorneys, Michael and Jane Tigar, said on Monday.
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."
Bush is finally right: this really IS like World War II !!!
For the first time since the 1940s, Americans' net equity in our homes is negative.
NEW YORK - The equity Americans have in their most important asset — their homes — has dropped to its lowest level since the end of World War II.
Homeowners’ portion of equity slipped to 46.2 percent in the first quarter from a revised 47.5 percent in the previous quarter. That was the fifth quarter in a row below the 50 percent mark, the Federal Reserve said Thursday.
The total dollar value of equity also fell for the fourth straight quarter to $9.12 trillion from $9.52 trillion in the fourth quarter, while Americans’ total mortgage debt rose to $10.6 trillion from $10.53 trillion.
You're starting to see the abandoned homes strewn around even this very suburban, once booming neighborhood, meaning that people have mailed the keys to the bank and walked away, leaving an overgrown lawn, and sometimes a purposefully damaged property. Thanks for everything, George.
Even as the U.S. military struggles to make improvements in the way we treat detainees in Iraq, the Bush administration continues to stain America's honor with its brutal, ugly so-called "war on terror." First, the military effort:
BAGHDAD — Once a byword for torture and disgrace, the American-run detention system in Iraq has improved, even its critics say, as the military has incorporated it into a larger counterinsurgency strategy that seeks to avoid mistreatment that could create new enemies.
But these gains may soon be at risk. Thousands of detainees are to be turned over to the Iraqi government, some perhaps as early as the end of the year, a further step toward Iraqi sovereignty. Yet however tarnished America’s reputation may be for its treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay, the reputation of many Iraqi prisons is worse.
“The Americans are better than Ministry of Interior prisons,” said Mahmoud Abu Dumour, a former detainee from Falluja, the Sunni stronghold west of Baghdad. “They will torture you. Maybe you will die. With the Americans, if you enter Abu Ghraib, they will only wage psychological war on you.”
Already, Human Rights Watch has criticized the military for transferring some convicted juveniles to Iraqi custody, where they are kept in what the group said are abusive conditions.
Criticism also remains high that the American military detains too many people, deprives them of due process and holds them too long, even if innocent. Many are taken in only because they were near an insurgent attack.
While nearly all of the more than 21,000 detainees in Iraq are in American custody, Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone, who runs detainee operations countrywide, is proceeding with a broad experiment to restructure it. His goal is to use the system of detention centers as another front in the counterinsurgency war, trying to reduce the likelihood that they become a recruiting ground for militants.
“The extremists owned the battlefield of the mind,” said General Stone, a Marine Reserve counterinsurgency expert who took responsibility for the detention system last spring. Before he arrived, moderate and extremist detainees were usually mixed, turning the American-run detention facilities into what he called a “jihadi university.”
General Stone’s goal now is to isolate those he believes are extremists, who are a minority of detainees, and persuade the other detainees that they will have better lives if they keep away from those who preach jihad. It is part of the effort to bring detention policy here in line with American military strategy that seeks to separate insurgents from civilians, mentally and physically.
General Stone’s goal is to move detainees, particularly more moderate ones, through the system faster by instituting review boards to hear each detainee’s case. So far, these boards have released at least 8,400 people. He has also pushed to expand paid work programs, like carpentry shops, brick factories and laundries, as well as educational programs, especially for juvenile detainees and the many illiterate adults.
It is difficult to assess this drive toward improvement. Outsiders are forbidden to interview detainees. The International Committee of the Red Cross has regular access to the facilities, but the United Nations and human rights groups say they have not been permitted to enter. ...
And then there's this, not-so-minor issue, that has to do with the wind-down of the Bush administration's stewardship, if you can call it that, of Iraq:
Looming on the horizon is the end of the United Nations authorization of the American involvement in Iraq, including the detention system. The authorization expires Dec. 31 and the United Nations is not expected to take up the issue again, leaving it to negotiations between the United States and Iraq. But the outlook for such a deal, which involves sweeping issues of troop withdrawal, as well as detention and other aspects of an American presence in Iraq, is in doubt.
On Sunday, for instance, the Iraqi government said it would not accept an American draft proposal on the issues.
The detention issues at play cover difficult legal and ethical ground, so much so that no American official interviewed for this article was willing to speak on the record about the discussions.
At the heart of the problem are all the so-called security detainees, who make up an overwhelming majority of the 21,000 people in American custody. They are the people who have been arrested because, in the judgment of the United States military, they could present some threat, even if they are not accused of extremist activity.
It is expected that Iraqi officials, who are now completing new prisons, will seek to take more control of detention operations, including taking custody of at least some of the current Iraqi detainees. That prompts the question characterized by one American military lawyer as “What do we do with the red population?” or those detainees the Americans consider to be extremists — the 8,000 detainees that General Stone referred to as a continuing threat.
Even as the Americans try to overcome their reputation for past mistreatment, serious allegations of torture and substandard conditions in some Iraqi prisons persist. Iraq’s Interior Ministry detention centers, which hold the largest numbers of pretrial detainees, have been run primarily by Shiites and have a record of overcrowding and abuse against the predominantly Sunni detainee population.
There have also been many allegations of torture. In cases in 2005 and 2006, it was American and British soldiers who rescued beaten and starved prisoners.
“If the coalition is going to turn over detainees, there are real Convention Against Torture issues,” said Kevin Lanigan, a former Army Reserve judge advocate in Iraq who is director of the law and security program at Human Rights First, a rights organization.
He was referring to the international Convention Against Torture, which among other things prohibits nations that have signed it from turning detainees over to countries where there are “substantial grounds” to believe that they would be tortured. Iraq has also signed the convention.
And speaking of "Convention Against Torture issues," the Guardian reports on "ghost ships" rendering detainees to ports unknown, where they may indeed, pose those issues.
The United States is operating "floating prisons" to house those arrested in its war on terror, according to human rights lawyers, who claim there has been an attempt to conceal the numbers and whereabouts of detainees.
Details of ships where detainees have been held and sites allegedly being used in countries across the world have been compiled as the debate over detention without trial intensifies on both sides of the Atlantic. The US government was yesterday urged to list the names and whereabouts of all those detained.
Information about the operation of prison ships has emerged through a number of sources, including statements from the US military, the Council of Europe and related parliamentary bodies, and the testimonies of prisoners.
The analysis, due to be published this year by the human rights organisation Reprieve, also claims there have been more than 200 new cases of rendition since 2006, when President George Bush declared that the practice had stopped.
It is the use of ships to detain prisoners, however, that is raising fresh concern and demands for inquiries in Britain and the US.
According to research carried out by Reprieve, the US may have used as many as 17 ships as "floating prisons" since 2001. Detainees are interrogated aboard the vessels and then rendered to other, often undisclosed, locations, it is claimed.
Ships that are understood to have held prisoners include the USS Bataan and USS Peleliu. A further 15 ships are suspected of having operated around the British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, which has been used as a military base by the UK and the Americans.
Reprieve will raise particular concerns over the activities of the USS Ashland and the time it spent off Somalia in early 2007 conducting maritime security operations in an effort to capture al-Qaida terrorists.
At this time many people were abducted by Somali, Kenyan and Ethiopian forces in a systematic operation involving regular interrogations by individuals believed to be members of the FBI and CIA. Ultimately more than 100 individuals were "disappeared" to prisons in locations including Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Guantánamo Bay.
Reprieve believes prisoners may have also been held for interrogation on the USS Ashland and other ships in the Gulf of Aden during this time. ...
So let's get this straight. The Bush administration is concerned about turning over Iraqi prisoners to the Iraqi government because of concerns they might be tortured, but we continue to ferry prisoners secretly on American military vessels, where we might be torturing them ... I mean "interrogating" them ... and where we very well might be rendering them to rogue governments so that THEY can torture them?
And right wingers want to keep this outrage going with four years of John McCain?
I plan to read Scott McClellan's book, "What Happened" (it's at the top of my summer reading list, along with Vincent Bugliosi's "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder.") And I think that he may be the unlikliest, but also among the most important, truth-tellers to emerge from the nightmare era known as the Bush administration. McClellan is important, not because he was a policy insider, but because he was a personal one. He and the president went back all the way to Texas, and he was the first of the Texas inner circle to break publicly with George W. Bush. Yes, he left disgruntled, but it's why he was disgruntled that is important: he was angry because Karl Rove (another of the Texans) and Scooter Libby, principally, but also Dick Cheney and Bush himself, repeatedly lied to him about important matters. They lied about the outing of Velerie Plame, and then sent him out to lie. They lied to him about the war he was selling. And he had a front row seat to the lies that they were telling us, about Iraq.
So while his former colleagues may not like it, none of their synchronized, personal attacks has touched the fundamental premises of his book. None have even tried to refute his facts. And so his story stands basically unrefuted, even if he is now an enemy.
And yes, it's unprecedented for a press secretary to spill his guts while the boss is still in place (I was a press secretary, so I have some sympathy for McClellan's position,) precedent was thrown out the window long ago by the Bush team. They threw out 200 years of precedent on America's non-aggression foreign policy, 200 years of precedent of America as the "good guy," not torturing our captives, for instance. And in setting up a truly Soviet domestic spying regime, they took the J. Edgar Hoover playbook and super-sized it.
So keep your head up, Scott. You've turned out to be a more articulate, more honest, and more substantial a figure than I certainly ever gave you credit for. And don't worry about the "snitching" rap. We have a lot of that same pathology in the black community when it comes to reporting crimes and turning in criminals. At the end of the day, "snitching" is ghetto-ese for "doing the right thing." I think it's a safe bet that history will judge you a hell of a lot more kindly than it will your former boss.
Scott McClellan wasn't as much of a douchebag as Ari Fleischer, or as slick as Tony Snow, but he was as stonewally a press secretary as they whip up in Texas. Do you remember the time?
"I've said that it's not true. And I have spoken with Karl Rove." McClellan on PlameGate, September 23, 2003.
"The President knows he [Rove] wasn't involved." McClellan on PlameGate, September 23, 2003.
"There are unsubstantiated accusations that are made. And that's exactly what happened in the case of these three individuals. They're good individuals, they're important members of our White House team, and that's why I spoke with them, so that I could come back to you and say that they were not involved. I had no doubt of that in the beginning, but I like to check my information to make sure it's accurate before I report back to you, and that's exactly what I did." McClellan on the roles of Libby, Rove and Abrams in revealing the identity of Valerie Plame, October 7, 2003
"As I've previously stated, while that investigation is ongoing, the White House is not going to comment on it." McClellan on new PlameGate revelations, July 11, 2005.
"That's accurate." Later changed in White House transcript to "That's not accurate" regarding a statement that Rove and Libby were involved in outing Valerie Plame, October 31, 2005.
"The last thing anyone should do is politicize this issue by rewriting history." McClellan on revelations regarding bogus uranium in Niger claims, July 17, 2003.
"[I]t is sad and irresponsible that The New York Times is rewriting history to fit an inaccurate storyline and conveniently ignoring key facts." McClellan on criticism of Bush's preparation for Hurricane Katrina, February 10, 2006.
"This is getting into trying to finger-point and play the blame game." McClellan on bungled Bush response to Katrina, September 6, 2005.
"This was a report based on a single anonymous source that could not substantiate the allegation that was made." McClellan describing Newsweek's Koran desecration story, not the role of Curveball in Iraq pre-war intelligence, May 16, 2005.
"Declassifying information and providing it to the public, when it is in the public interest, is one thing. But leaking classified information that could compromise our national security is something that is very serious. And there is a distinction." McClellan justifying President Bush's authorization to leak classified information from the October 2002 NIE to attach Joe Wilson and other White House critics, April 7, 2006.
"The Democrats have a credibility problem when they try to suggest that we were manipulating intelligence, or that this is about something other than what I just said. That's crass politics." McClellan on criticism of President Bush's leaking classified material, April 7, 2006.
Scott McClellan is no longer GWB's chubby little buddy. Now, the sweatiest press secretary ever will forever be known as the guy who wrote "the book."
ormer White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan writes in a surprisingly scathing memoir to be published next week that President Bush “veered terribly off course,” was not “open and forthright on Iraq,” and took a “permanent campaign approach” to governing at the expense of candor and competence.
Among the most explosive revelations in the 341-page book, titled “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception” (Public Affairs, $27.95):
• McClellan charges that Bush relied on “propaganda” to sell the war.
• He says the White House press corps was too easy on the administration during the run-up to the war.
• He admits that some of his own assertions from the briefing room podium turned out to be “badly misguided.”
• The longtime Bush loyalist also suggests that two top aides held a secret West Wing meeting to get their story straight about the CIA leak case at a time when federal prosecutors were after them — and McClellan was continuing to defend them despite mounting evidence they had not given him all the facts.
• McClellan asserts that the aides — Karl Rove, the president’s senior adviser, and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the vice president’s chief of staff — “had at best misled” him about their role in the disclosure of former CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity.
It's safe to say the media is going ape-crap over the McClellan book bomb, as the White House says "we don't know this guy" and reporter David Gregory practically squeals on MSNBC, "the media did NOT let the country down! Waa." Because of course, if Scotty is right, and the media was weak and fed propaganda (by him and the White House) well then that would make Gregory a dupe ... (ahem)
http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifThe New York Times, which it should be said, supported, promoted, and through its former reporter, Judith Miller, laid the groundwork for the war in Iraq, delivers a stinging rebuke of President Bush and his opposition to a new G.I. Bill:
President Bush opposes a new G.I. Bill of Rights. He worries that if the traditional path to college for service members since World War II is improved and expanded for the post-9/11 generation, too many people will take it.
He is wrong, but at least he is consistent. Having saddled the military with a botched, unwinnable war, having squandered soldiers’ lives and failed them in so many ways, the commander in chief now resists giving the troops a chance at better futures out of uniform. He does this on the ground that the bill is too generous and may discourage re-enlistment, further weakening the military he has done so much to break.
So lavish with other people’s sacrifices, so reckless in pouring the national treasure into the sandy pit of Iraq, Mr. Bush remains as cheap as ever when it comes to helping people at home.
Thankfully, the new G.I. Bill has strong bipartisan support in Congress. The House passed it by a veto-proof margin this month, and last week the Senate followed suit, approving it as part of a military financing bill for Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Senate version was drafted by two Vietnam veterans, Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia, and Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska. They argue that benefits paid under the existing G.I. Bill have fallen far behind the rising costs of college.
Their bill would pay full tuition and other expenses at a four-year public university for veterans who served in the military for at least three years since 9/11.
At that level, the new G.I. Bill would be as generous as the one enacted for the veterans of World War II, which soon became known as one of the most successful benefits programs — one of the soundest investments in human potential — in the nation’s history.
Mr. Bush — and, to his great discredit, Senator John McCain — have argued against a better G.I. Bill, for the worst reasons. They would prefer that college benefits for service members remain just mediocre enough that people in uniform are more likely to stay put.
They have seized on a prediction by the Congressional Budget Office that new, better benefits would decrease re-enlistments by 16 percent, which sounds ominous if you are trying — as Mr. Bush and Mr. McCain are — to defend a never-ending war at a time when extended tours of duty have sapped morale and strained recruiting to the breaking point.
Their reasoning is flawed since the C.B.O. has also predicted that the bill would offset the re-enlistment decline by increasing new recruits — by 16 percent. The chance of a real shot at a college education turns out to be as strong a lure as ever. This is good news for our punishingly overburdened volunteer army, which needs all the smart, ambitious strivers it can get.
This page strongly supports a larger, sturdier military. It opposes throwing ever more money at the Pentagon for defense programs that are wasteful and poorly conceived. But as a long-term investment in human capital, in education and job training, there is no good argument against an expanded, generous G.I. Bill.
By threatening to veto it, Mr. Bush is showing great consistency of misjudgment. Congress should forcefully show how wrong he is by overriding his opposition and spending the money — an estimated $52 billion over 10 years, a tiniest fraction of the ongoing cost of Mr. Bush’s Iraq misadventure.
In today's editorial, "Mr. Bush and the GI Bill", the New York Times irresponsibly distorts President Bush's strong commitment to strengthening and expanding support for America's service members and their families.
This editorial could not be farther from the truth about the President's record of leadership on this issue. In his January 2008 State of the Union Address, while proposing a series of initiatives to support our military families, President Bush specifically called upon Congress to answer service members' request that they be able to transfer their GI Bill benefits to their spouses and children. In April, he sent a legislative package to the Hill that would expand access to childcare, create new authorities to appoint qualified spouses into civil service jobs, provide education opportunities and job training for military spouses, and allow our troops to transfer their unused education benefits to their spouses or children.
As Congress debates the best way to expand the existing GI Bill, Secretary Gates has laid out important guidelines to ensure that legislation meets our service members' needs and rewards military service. First, since our servicemen and women have regularly requested the ability to transfer their GI bill benefits to their family members, legislation should include transferability. Second, legislation should provide greater rewards for continued military service in the all volunteer force.
There are several GI bill proposals under consideration in both the House and Senate. The Department of Defense has specific concerns about legislation sponsored by Senator Webb because it lacks transferability and could negatively impact military retention.
The President specifically supports the GI Bill legislation expansion proposed by Senators Graham, Burr, and McCain because it allows for the transferability of education benefits and calibrates an increase in education benefits to time in the service. ...
To which Jim Webb, Chuck Hagel and the members of the U.S. armed forces should rightly say, "whatever."
Congrats again to Webb, Hagel, the IAVA and others on pushing the G.I. Bill through. And Happy Memorial Day.
Talk about appeasement. George W. Bush gave Osama bin Laden what he was demanding when he pulled U.S. troops out of Saudi Arabia after 9/11. Now, he goes with hat in hand to the Saudis, who supposedly adore him, to plead for higher oil production in order to deflate gas prices before the summertime drive pushes his approval ratings into the teens. So what do the Saudis say?
(CBS/AP) President Bush's second stab this year at getting oil-rich Saudi Arabia to increase production and drive down the soaring gasoline prices hurting U.S. consumers appears to have again failed.
Saudi Arabian leaders made clear Friday they see no reason to increase oil production until their customers demand it, apparently rebuffing Mr. Bush, the White House said.
During Mr. Bush's second personal appeal this year to King Abdullah, Saudi officials stuck to their position that they are already meeting demand, the president's national security adviser told reporters.
"What they're saying to us is ... Saudi Arabia does not have customers that are making requests for oil that they are not able to satisfy," Stephen Hadley said on a day when oil prices topped $127 a barrel, a record high.
Maybe he could give them part of Czechoslovakia...?
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...
So who originally said the now infamous quote, "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided," used by George W. Bush to, in unprecedented fashion, to attack a political opponent and fellow American on foreign soil?
It was Senator William E. Borah, Conservative/isolationist Republican out of Ohio, and an opponent of U.S. entry into World War II, and he said it in 1939.
Joe Biden makes it plain regarding President Bush's un-American conduct in Israel:
Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), piling on to Democratic complaints about President Bush’s speech in Israel today:
“This is bullshit, this is malarkey. This is outrageous, for the president of the United States to go to a foreign country, to sit in the Knesset ... and make this kind of ridiculous statement.”
Speaking before the Knesset, Bush said that “some people” believe the United States “should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along."
"We have heard this foolish delusion before," Bush said. "As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."
Democrats have interpreted the comments as an attack on Sen. Barack Obama, and Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that the president was out of line.
“He is the guy who has weakened us,” he said. “He has increased the number of terrorists in the world. It is his policies that have produced this vulnerability that the U.S. has. It’s his [own] intelligence community [that] has pointed this out, not me.”
Biden noted that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have both suggested that the United States ought to find a way to talk more with its enemies.
"If he thinks this is appeasement, is he going to come back and fire his own cabinet?” Biden asked. “Is he going to fire Condi Rice?”
How about firing himself? After all, Bush is the man who turned to the Iranians after 9/11 for cooperation against our mutual enemy, al-Qaida, in neighboring Afghanistan. Bush then "appeased" al-Qaida itself, by pulling American troops out of the Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia (whom he constantly appeases, even though they produced 15 of the 19 hijackers who flew planes into our buildings on 9/11, and their money funds global terrorism...) giving in to one of Osama bin Laden's chief complaints. Gates and Rice have indeed advocated talking to the Iranians, and worse, Bush's Iraq policy has done more to benefit Iran than a decade of its own war with Iraq ever could. Bush has made Iran the preeminent power in the Gulf region, and by driving up oil prices, his war has enriched the Mullahs to no end.
So congratulations Mr. Bush, you're our Appeaser in Chief.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that Bush's remarks were "beneath the dignity of the office of the president and unworthy of our representation" at the celebration of Israel's 60th anniversary.
Referring to Sen. John McCain, Pelosi said: "I would hope that any serious person that aspires to lead the country, would disassociate themselves from those comments.”
As Pelosi was speaking, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel issued a statement in which he said: "The tradition has always been that when a U.S. president is overseas, partisan politics stops at the water's edge. President Bush has now taken that principle and turned it on its head: for this White House, partisan politics now begins at the water’s edge, no matter the seriousness and gravity of the occasion. Does the president have no shame?”
Speaking of the "promise of God" for a "homeland for the chosen people" in Israel, Bush told the Israeli parliament after a visit to the Roman-era Jewish fortress at Masada: "Masada shall never fall again, and America will always stand with you."
He predicted the defeat of Islamist enemies Hamas, Hezbollah and al Qaeda in a "battle of good and evil". ...
... Of the Palestinians, half of whom were pushed into exile to make way for the Jewish state, Bush said that, looking ahead another 60 years in the future, "the Palestinian people will have the homeland they have long dreamed of and deserved".
"SLAP IN THE FACE"
The president's language in Israel has dismayed Palestinians looking for the U.S. superpower to mediate in their negotiations with Israel. Islamist Hamas, which spurns such talks, said Bush sounded "like a priest or a rabbi" and had delivered a "slap in the face" to those Palestinians who placed their hopes in him.
... In a speech marking what Palestinians call the "Nakba", or catastrophe, when some 700,000 Arabs fled or were forced from their homes during Israel's foundation, President Mahmoud Abbas said: "Isn't it time for Israel to respond to the call of a just and comprehensive peace and achieve historic reconciliation between the two peoples on this sacred and tortured land?"
But Palestinian political analyst Ali Jarbawi said Bush's rhetoric showed Washington was not being an honest broker: "He is not talking about a two-state solution. He is talking about a state of leftovers for the Palestinians," Jarbawi said.
George W. Bush and the politicization of absolutely everything
Never in American history have we seen a sitting U.S. president go onto foreign soil and knee-cap a fellow American ... a sitting U.S. Senator, who could follow him into the presidency, at that. Then again, we've never had a president quite like George W. Bush. Speaking before Israel's Knesset today, Bush, having arrived in Israel this week to the tune of rocket fire, took a nakedly political swipe at Senator Barack Obama, essentially comparing his fellow American to an appeaser of Hitler:
JERUSALEM (CNN) – In a particularly sharp blast from halfway around the world, President Bush suggested Thursday that Sen. Barack Obama and other Democrats are in favor of "appeasement" of terrorists in the same way U.S. leaders appeased Nazis in the run-up to World War II.
"Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along," said Bush, in what White House aides privately acknowledged was a reference to calls by Obama and other Democrats for the U.S. president to sit down for talks with leaders like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"We have heard this foolish delusion before," Bush said in remarks to the Israeli Knesset. "As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American Senator declared: 'Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."
Full transcript here. Obama's communication team wasted no time firing back:
“Obviously this is an unprecedented political attack on foreign soil,” Obama Communications Director Robert Gibbs told CNN’s John Roberts on American Morning Thursday, adding that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had been quoted Wednesday making remarks about dialogue with Iran that were similar to the Illinois senator's.
“Let's not confuse precondition with preparation,” said Gibbs of any talks with Iran. “Obviously these meetings would be full of preparation. But we're not going to sit down and engage Iran, unless or until they give up their nuclear weapons program.
“It is unfortunate that an American president would fly halfway across the world and make a political attack instead of honoring the tremendous accomplishment and achievement of the 60th anniversary of the birth of Israel,” he added.
Obama's camp also released a statement, amplifying the point:
It is "sad" that Bush would use Israel's 60th anniversary "to launch a false political attack. George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists."
Meanwhile, the White House issues a rather flimsy denial that Bush's comments were directed at Obama:
"It is not," press secretary Dana Perino told reporters in Israel. "I would think that all of you who cover these issues and have for a long time have known that there are many who have suggested these types of negotiations with people that the president, President Bush, thinks that we should not talk to. I understand when you're running for office you sometimes think the world revolves around you. That is not always true. And it is not true in this case."
No thank you note yet from the McCain campaign for his buddy George's "help" with the Jewish vote. No reaction, either, from Reagan's ongoing dialogue with the Soviets or Nixon's visit to China.
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF My Times colleague Barry Bearak was imprisoned by the brutal regime in Zimbabwe last month. Barry was not beaten, but he was infected with scabies while in a bug-infested jail. He was finally brought before a court after four nights in jail and then released.
Alas, we don’t treat our own inmates in Guantánamo with even that much respect for law. On Thursday, America released Sami al-Hajj, a cameraman for Al Jazeera who had been held without charges for more than six years. Mr. Hajj has credibly alleged that he was beaten, and that he was punished for a hunger strike by having feeding tubes forcibly inserted in his nose and throat without lubricant, so as to rub tissue raw.
“Conditions in Guantánamo are very, very bad,” Mr. Hajj said in a televised interview from his hospital bed in Sudan, adding, “In Guantánamo, you have animals that are called iguanas ... that are treated with more humanity.”
Al Jazeera’s director general, Wadah Khanfar, said by telephone from the hospital that Mr. Hajj was so frail when he arrived that he had to be carried off the plane and into an ambulance. Guantánamo inmates are not allowed to see their families, so that evening Mr. Hajj met his 7-year-old son, whom he had last seen as a baby.
Reliable information is still scarce about Guantánamo, but increasingly we’re gaining glimpses of life there — and they are painful to read.
Murat Kurnaz, a German citizen of Turkish descent, has just published a memoir of his nearly five years in Guantánamo. He describes prolonged torture that included interruptions by a doctor to ensure that he was well enough for the torture to continue.
Mahvish Rukhsana Khan, an American woman of Afghan descent who worked as an interpreter, has written a book to be published next month, “My Guantánamo Diary,” that is wrenching to read. She describes a pediatrician who returned to Afghanistan in 2003 to help rebuild his country — and was then arrested by Americans, beaten, doused with icy water and paraded around naked. Finally, after three years, officials apparently decided he was innocent and sent him home.
A third powerful new book about Guantánamo, by an American lawyer named Steven Wax, is summed up by its title: “Kafka Comes to America.”
The new material suggests two essential truths about Guantánamo:
First, most of the inmates were probably innocent all along, but Pakistanis or Afghans turned them over to America in exchange for large cash rewards. The moment we offered $25,000 rewards for Al Qaeda supporters, any Arab in the region risked being kidnapped and turned over as a terrorism suspect.
Second, torture was routine, especially early on. That’s why more than 100 prisoners have died in American custody in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantánamo. ...
It gets even bleaker after that, and Kristoff ultimately concludes that "Granted, it can be hard to figure out what version to believe. When I started writing about Guantánamo several years ago, I thought the inmates might be lying and the Pentagon telling the truth. No doubt some inmates lie, and some surely are terrorists. But over time — and it’s painful to write this — I’ve found the inmates to be more credible than American officials. The comments on his column are unsurprising, including this one:
I am a Canadian living in Vancouver. As a state that practices, condones and justifies torture, the U.S. has departed the family of civilized nations.
The Bush administration has conclusively lost its “war on terror” by embracing the barbaric practices of the presumed enemy and attacking fundamental human rights.
The initial Bush policy of unilateralism undermined American leadership of the liberal democracies. Americans should realize that the subsequent descent into bestiality has caused widespread revulsion amongst your closest friends and allies. The entire Guantanamo security command structure are not brothers and sisters of other Western security services, they are the brothers of the SS and NKVD.
But there are a few comments like this one, too:
who is surprised that the nytimes writers believe terrorists who killed our people on 9/11 over the men and women who risk their lives protecting us from the savage barbaric killers down in gitmo? — Posted by jimmy lee williams
To those recalcitrant Dittoheads like Jimmy Lee, who probably get most of their news from right wing talk radio and Fox News, rather than the New York Times, I refer you to the story of Specialist Sean Baker, also from Mr. Kristof:
The prison abuse scandal refuses to die because soothing White House explanations keep colliding with revelations about dead prisoners and further connivance by senior military officers -- and newly discovered victims, like Sean Baker.
If Sean Baker doesn't sound like an Iraqi name, it isn't. Specialist Baker, 37, is an American, and he was a proud U.S. soldier. An Air Force veteran and member of the Kentucky National Guard, he served in the first gulf war and more recently was a military policeman in Guantánamo Bay.
Then in January 2003, an officer in Guantánamo asked him to pretend to be a prisoner in a training drill. As instructed, Mr. Baker put on an orange prison jumpsuit over his uniform, and then crawled under a bunk in a cell so an ''internal reaction force'' could practice extracting an uncooperative inmate. The five U.S. soldiers in the reaction force were told that he was a genuine detainee who had already assaulted a sergeant.
Despite more than a week of coaxing, I haven't been able to get Mr. Baker to give an interview. But he earlier told a Kentucky television station what happened next:
''They grabbed my arms, my legs, twisted me up and unfortunately one of the individuals got up on my back from behind and put pressure down on me while I was face down. Then he -- the same individual -- reached around and began to choke me and press my head down against the steel floor. After several seconds, 20 to 30 seconds, it seemed like an eternity because I couldn't breathe. When I couldn't breathe, I began to panic and I gave the code word I was supposed to give to stop the exercise, which was 'red.' . . . That individual slammed my head against the floor and continued to choke me. Somehow I got enough air. I muttered out: 'I'm a U.S. soldier. I'm a U.S. soldier.' ''
Then the soldiers noticed that he was wearing a U.S. battle dress uniform under the jumpsuit. Mr. Baker was taken to a military hospital for treatment of his head injuries, then flown to a Navy hospital in Portsmouth, Va. After a six-day hospitalization there, he was given a two-week discharge to rest.
But Mr. Baker began suffering seizures, so the military sent him to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center for treatment of a traumatic brain injury. He stayed at the hospital for 48 days, was transferred to light duty in an honor burial detail at Fort Dix, N.J., and was finally given a medical discharge two months ago.
Meanwhile, a military investigation concluded that there had been no misconduct involved in Mr. Baker's injury. Hmm. The military also says it can't find a videotape that is believed to have been made of the incident.
Baker's probably disability payment: about $2,100 a month.
KHARTOUM, May 2 (Reuters) - Al Jazeera journalist Sami al-Haj returned home to Sudan on Friday after more than six years in the U.S.-run Guantanamo Bay prison, urging Washington to respect human rights and branding torture as terrorism.
Haj said he and the other Guantanamo detainees had been subjected to all kinds of torture, but the worst had been when his jailers insulted Islam or desecrated the Koran in front of prisoners.
"Security and human rights are inseparable issues -- you cannot have one without the other," he told Reuters in an interview.
"Human rights are not only for times of peace -- you need to hold onto them always even during difficult times and times of war," he added.
"My last message to the U.S. administration is that torture will not stop terrorism -- torture is terrorism."
Haj looked frail but visibly stronger than 12 hours earlier, when he arrived in chains aboard a U.S. military plane from the U.S. prison in Cuba, where he spent the last 16 months on hunger strike in protest at his illegal detention. ...
And yet, what could ultimately push the Bush administration to close America's gulag, won't be conscience or a decent respect for the opinions of mankind. It could be the Supreme Court:
The government is under international and domestic pressure to close the prison camp, which opened at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay on Cuba in January 2002 to house terrorism suspects caught after the invasion of Afghanistan.
"A decision could be made in this administration to announce the closure of Guantanamo," said a senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition he was not identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.
"It is unlikely in the next nine months that Guantanamo could be physically (closed) but it is possible the policy decision could be taken to close it."
Officials say planning and debate has intensified in recent months over how to deal with Guantanamo, which President George W. Bush acknowledges has tarnished America's image and human rights advocates say has damaged U.S. credibility.
"Everyone is agreed that we need to find a way that eventually leads to the closure of Guantanamo, which is the president's policy decision. It is a very complicated matter," said National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule within weeks whether Guantanamo prisoners have rights under the U.S. Constitution even though they are held on the base in Cuba, where the United States has had a presence for about 100 years.
The court decision could influence whether the government announces plans to close the prison before Bush leaves office in January 2009, several officials said. ...
I wouldn't bet against the Roberts court ruling on the side of the Bush administration. After all, that's what Mssrs. Roberts and Alito are there for. But on the slight chance that the court might eke out a 5-4 ruling against the Bush torture policy, the sources in the Reuters story say it could push the administration to make a move, if for no other reason, than to deprive Bush's successors of the opportunity to make him look even worse in history:
There is also a drive to announce the closure before Bush leaves office rather than have his successor claim credit.
Support the troops? Not in the Bush administration...
The Bush administration has a long, sorry history of covering up the costs of the war in Iraq, from their "emergency appropriations" that feed the financial costs piecemeal to the Congress and the American people, to their denial of press coverage of the flag draped coffins of our veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan (or at their funerals), to, apparently, boldfaced attempts to downplay the horrors of war's aftermath for the men and women returning from service.
The latest outrage, which you might have heard on Olbermann's show last week:
WASHINGTON - Two Democratic senators have called for the chief mental health official of the Veterans Affairs Department to resign, saying he tried to cover up the rising number of veteran suicides.
Sens. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii and Patty Murray of Washington state said Tuesday that Dr. Ira Katz, the VA's mental health director, withheld crucial information on the true suicide risk among veterans.
"Dr. Katz's irresponsible actions have been a disservice to our veterans, and it is time for him to go," said Murray, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. "The No. 1 priority of the VA should be caring for our veterans, not covering up the truth."
So what did Dr. Katz do?
A number of Democratic senators said they were appalled at e-mails showing Katz and other VA officials apparently trying to conceal the number of suicides by veterans. Ahttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifn e-mail message from Katz disclosed this week as part of a lawsuit that went to trial in San Francisco starts with "Shh!" and claims 12,000 veterans a year attempt suicide while under department treatment.
"Is this something we should (carefully) address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?" the e-mail asks. ...
...Another e-mail said an average of 18 war veterans kill themselves each day — and five of them are under VA care when they commit suicide.
[an estimated] 300,000 U.S. troops — about 20 percent of those deployed — are suffering from depression or post-traumatic stress from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The saddest part is, the Bush administration (and their sycophant followers online and in talk radio, plus their acolytes like Joe Lieberman and John McCain,) are willing to feed our finest young men and women into the grinder, slogging on in a war that was long-since over, but they haven't the slightest interest in what happens to them when, or if, they come home.
Bush admits to knowledge of lawbreaking, Washington yawns
So George W. Bush has no problem admitting to ABC news' Martha Raddatz that not only did his top cabinet officials meet inside the White House to game out torture techniques, but also that he knew about the meetings, and approved. Two questions: why isn't Dubya ever allowed in the room when the big kids are talking, and did the president of the United States just admit to war crimes on a national television network?
Forgive me if I don't get all exercised about President Bush giving his umpteenth speech on Iraq today. The fact of the matter is that mosts Americans, myself included, have long since tuned him out. Nothing he says could move me, or most of you. That said, there are two ways in which Bush's ongoing prattle about Iraq are in fact important:
1. George W. Bush intends to drag the Iraq war into the next president's term, and to achieve that goal, he is willing to destroy the United States military, and the men and women in it, without remorse. For the families of the men and women who will now be assured of yearlong deployments instead of 15 month deployments, implying that this war will drag on, for years, and for the troops themselves, that is disastrous, and more than important. It's everything.
2. Bush used his speech today to imply that before his term ends, he will give in to the ongoing neocon demand that he extend the war into Iran. Cheney clearly wants it, and his would-be successor, John McCain wants it so badly he can probably taste it. The danger is that Bush will make good on that threat, leaving us a nation waging three wars as we head into the November elections. What that will do to the election is anybody's guess. Maybe the American people really are dumb enough to fall for the same trick twice (three times if you count Vietnam.) Or maybe they will pull a Laos on Bush and reject his attempts to use his endless wars for politics, or to twist politics in order to ensure more financially lucrative war.
We need to watch those developments. Trust me when I tell you, the major media will not.
Keith Olbermann explained the speech, and exposed its many lies, much better than I could tonight, since I didn't watch it. When the Youtube is up, I'll post the link.
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.
Bush and Cheney's "torture trio": Donald Rumsfeld, David Addington and John Yoo.
On "The Chris Matthews Show" this morning, conservative writer Andrew Sullivan (of the Atlantic these days) dropped one hell of a prediction, saying, to paraphrase, that as a result of the latest revelations about what the legal staff of the White House was advising on the potential parameters of the treatment of detainees by the U.S. military, Donald Rumsfeld, former Cheney adviser David Addington and Deputy Assistant Attorney General / serial torture memo author John Yoo "had better not leave the country any time soon. At some point, they will be indicted for war crimes."
That's a hell of a prediction, and it's not at all unlikely. a criminal complaint was filed against Mr. Rumsfeld in Germany in 2004 by a pair of human rights groups, as was reported in Deutsche Welle at the time:
The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and Berlin's Republican Lawyers' Association said they and five Iraqi citizens mistreated by US soldiers were seeking a probe by German federal prosecutors of leading US policymakers.
They said they had chosen Germany because of its Code of Crimes Against International Law, introduced in 2002, which grants German courts universal jurisdiction in cases involving war crimes or crimes against humanity.
It also makes military or civilian commanders who fail to prevent their subordinates from committing such acts liable.
... "We filed these cases here because there is simply no other place to go," CCR vice president Peter Weiss said in a statement, adding that the US Congress had "failed" to seriously investigate the abuses. "It is clear that the US government is not willing to open an investigation into these allegations against these officials."
The complaint was prompted by the now infamous abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, for which only low level U.S. servicemen were prosecuted. A Pentagon investigation earlier that year cynically absolved those higher up the chain of command, but the groups named them anyway, including Mr. Rumsfeld, "former CIA director George Tenet, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Steven Cambone, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, Brigadier General Janis L. Karpinski and other military officers who served in Iraq." It was filed on behalf of five former Iraqi prisoners. Yoo wasn't on the list then, but he has certainly moved ahead in line.
In theory, trying former U.S. officials for war crimes is entirely possible, because once they have left office, these officials lose their immunity from such prosecution. Rumsfeld got the message and cancelled a trip to Germany in 2005 as a result.
John Yoo's Memorandum, as intended, directly led to -- caused -- a whole series of war crimes at both Guantanamo and in Iraq. The reason such a relatively low-level DOJ official was able to issue such influential and extraordinary opinions was because he was working directly with, and at the behest of, the two most important legal officials in the administration: George Bush's White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, and Dick Cheney's counsel (and current Chief of Staff) David Addington. Together, they deliberately created and authorized a regime of torture and other brutal interrogation methods that are, by all measures, very serious war crimes.
If writing memoranda authorizing torture -- actions which then directly lead to the systematic commission of torture -- doesn't make one a war criminal in the U.S., what does?
Good question, and it's one the United States Congress will never take up, at least not while there are politicians there -- a point Greenwald picks up nicely:
The political reality is that high government officials in the U.S. are never going to be held accountable for war crimes. In practice, "international law" exists as a justifying instrument for powerful countries to impose their will on those which are less powerful, and war crimes tribunals are almost always a form of victor's justice. So neither John Yoo, David Addington nor Alberto Gonzales, and certainly not their bosses at whose behest they were working, are going to be sitting in a dock charged with war crimes any time soon -- regardless of whether they ought to be.
But those who propound these principles and claim to believe in them ought to apply them consistently. John Yoo is not some misguided conservative legal thinker with whom one should have civil, pleasant, intellectually stimulating debates at law schools and on PBS. Respectfully debating the legality and justification of torture regimes, and treating systematic torture perpetrators like John Yoo with respect, isn't all that far off from what Yoo and his comrades did. It isn't pleasant to think about high government officials in one's own country as war criminals -- that's something that only bad, evil dictatorships have -- but, pleasant or not, it rather indisputably happens to be what we have.
Worse, we have a media establishment that is singularly uninterested in such things as U.S. government complicity in torture, or even in the stunning revelations of the sitting attorney general -- the alternatively ignorant and ignominious Michael Mukasay -- that we had intelligence about phone calls from an Afghan safehouse where terrorism was afoot BEFORE 9/11 but did nothing about it, because the Bush administration hadn't found a legalistic justification to spy on Americans yet. That too, passes into the good night, in favor of endless discussions of the Democratic horse race and Barack Obama's inability to bowl. (Andrew Sullivan channels Greenwald on that subject here.)
Apparently, the Bush administration's "take it all, leave nothing but the drapes" approach to governing even extends to their junior members:
An aide to President Bush has resigned in the midst of an investigation by the Justice Department over allegations he misused an unspecified amount of U.S. grant money intended to promote democracy in Cuba, the White House said Friday.
Felipe Sixto, a Cuban American from Miami, was the special assistant to the president on inter-governmental affairs, dealing with Cuba, Native American issues, state legislators, Latino elected officials and Puerto Rico.
Sixto was until last summer the chief of staff of Frank Calzón, the head of the Washington-based Center for a Free Cuba. Sixto did not respond to emails and calls to his home Friday.
Calzón said he welcomed the investigation by the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, which had provided the grants.
Neither Calzón nor the White House revealed how much money was involved. White House spokesman Blair Jones said the White House learned of the allegations from Sixto himself as he resigned from his post on March 20.
''Our understanding is that Mr. Sixto allegedly had a conflict of interest with the use of USAID funds in his former employment,'' Jones said. White House lawyers investigated and referred the matter to the Department of Justice.
Miami Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart said in a joint statement they were ''deeply disturbed by any allegation of misuse of taxpayer funds'' and urged the Department of Justice and the Inspector General of the USAID ``to move thoroughly and swiftly in investigating all the facts in this matter.''
''The transparency and accountability of U.S. taxpayer funds require nothing less,'' they said.
Joe Garcia, the Democratic candidate to the House seat held by by Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, said the resignation underscored ``the fundamental flaws of a policy designed to win votes in Miami and patronize partisan supporters -- not bring freedom to Cuba.''
In 2006, the Government Accountability Office pointed out most bids for Cuba grants were awarded without competitive bids and found some instances of abuse, like the purchase of cashmere sweaters with U.S. taxpayer money.
But the report also found that the grant money also led to large amounts of equipment and literature getting distributed to Cuban democracy activists.
The Center works with foreign governments and activists in Cuba to raise awareness on human rights abuses and distribute literature and other materials on the island. Calzón said it was the Center that initiated an investigation in mid-January when ''an allegation'' of the misuse of funds emerged.
''As weeks went by and some substance came up on the charges, a letter went to the inspector general of USAID,'' he said. ``We expect all the money to be returned.'' ...
I haven't been a big fan of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Something about him just seems a bit ... well ... never mind (he does have a Jackie O wife (when she's dressed, of course...) a jilted ex a-la Ronald Reagan. (Seulement en France...) But has taken a strong, and I believe, correct stand on Chinese-hosted Summer Olympic Games, which may be well in need of an international boycott, even if just of the opening ceremonies.
Without a boycott by leaders of "A list" countries like France, the U.K., and, if we had a real leader with the slightest international stature, the United States, the world must just admit it fears Beijing, and cannot influence its horrific mistreatment of Tibet. Sarkozy can send such signals, because France, having sat out the Iraq fiasco, retains its stature in the international community. (Belgium's leaders have indicated they might boycott the opening ceremonies, too.)
Unfortunately, I'm not surprised that President Bush has already ceded the boycott trump card in his supposed "pressuring" of the Chinese government over Tibet, given the corporate nature of his presidency, and the utter dependence of the U.S. on our Chinese bankers. Oh, and Bush says he's a sports fan, so he's goin'! Well yee-haw. Our bumpkin president strikes again.
I was sitting in the newsroom at the local NBC affiliate on March 19, 2003, the day that "shock and awe" began in the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Like many newsrooms, the cynicism was such that the affiliates of the online news operation ran a pool to see who could come closest to guessing when the bombing would begin. I nearly won -- I guessed the night of March 18, because there was to be a full moon that night, and that presented the U.S. military with the best strategic chance to visualize the targets. I was the second closest guesser.
I found the atmosphere in the newsroom on the day the bombing actually began to be ... well ... disturbing. Some people actually cheered. I had a couple of reporter friends who were (and still are) hardline, pro-Bush Republicans. We had a lot of debates about the war over the next several days. I nearly got fired for an op-ed I wrote for the Miami Herald which the editors titled: "Against a Senseless War" (I had a less controversial title in mind...) I'll never forget Ike Seamans, the elder statesman in the newsroom and a veteran reporter who also wrote a column for the Herald, telling me not to back down; that I had every right to utilize my First Amendment privilege, news job or not. I didn't get fired.
Five years later, I still don't see how the war in Iraq was worth it. Saddam Hussein posed no military threat to the United States. He was contained. Iran was less bold. Al-Qaida was nowhere near Iraq. And Iraq was stable, and producing enough oil to keep price spikes at bay. Now, we have lost 3,990 U.S. troops, and the coalition has lost 4,298 in total. The war hasn't made us any safer. Iran is bolder. Terrorism has seeped into Iraq. The region is more unstable than it has been in my lifetime. And oil is at $108 a barrel (and nearly $5 at the pump.)
There have been winners. The Big Oil companies have reaped record profits, as have crony firms of the vice president, who have gorged themselves on our tax dollars, even as they short change and even poison our troops.
President Bush will give a speech today to argue that the war was not only worth it, it should go on, and on, and on.
I will mark the anniversary by not bothering to listen.
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.
The U.S. commander in charge of the Middle East, Admiral William Fallon, "retired" today, following the publication of an important piece in Esquire magazine that cast him as the lone voice of reason, and the man standing between the U.S. (and its Nero-like president) and war with Iran. One of the fatal clips:
while Admiral Fallon's boss, President George W. Bush, regularly trash-talks his way to World War III and his administration casually casts Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as this century's Hitler (a crown it has awarded once before, to deadly effect), it's left to Fallon--and apparently Fallon alone--to argue that, as he told Al Jazeera last fall: "This constant drumbeat of conflict . . . is not helpful and not useful. I expect that there will be no war, and that is what we ought to be working for. We ought to try to do our utmost to create different conditions."
What America needs, Fallon says, is a "combination of strength and willingness to engage."
Those are fighting words to your average neocon--not to mention your average supporter of Israel, a good many of whom in Washington seem never to have served a minute in uniform. But utter those words for print and you can easily find yourself defending your indifference to "nuclear holocaust."
How does Fallon get away with so brazenly challenging his commander in chief?
The answer is that he might not get away with it for much longer. President Bush is not accustomed to a subordinate who speaks his mind as freely as Fallon does, and the president may have had enough.
Prophetic work. And farewell to a good soldier, and a good man. Here's the story as told by CNN, complete with the appropriate spin (no, Admiral Fallon is NOT at odds with the president. Nah...)
George W. Bush may want to pass on being Keith Olbermann's valentine. The MSNBC host (who today admitted a "deep and abiding affection for the Clintons" -- the right wing will have a field day with that one ...) called George W. Bush a liar, a fascist and a terrorist, all in one Special Comment -- and he called the Republicans in Congress crash test dummies. In short: I heart Olbermann. Enjoy.
Okay, now I've got a few, and none of them are in the Senate.
President Bush says he will veto any FISA reform bill that doesn't give immunity from lawsuits to the telecom companies who helped his administration illegally spy on Americans. (Placing the government's national security aparatus in the service of big business: priceless... using fearmongering to do it? Bush.) Well, go ahead, Dubya, delay that trip to Africa, veto the bill, see if anybody who matters cares.
On Thursday, February 14th, Valentine's Day 2008, finally someone had the balls to stand up to this maniac. From Wired News:
House Democrats Stand Up To Bush, Refuse to Rubber Stamp Domestic Spying
The Protect America Act, a temporary but expansive warrantless spying bill passed by Congress last summer, will likely expire Saturday at midnight, a casualty of a battle between President Bush and House Democrats over amnesty for phone companies that aided his secret, warrantless spying program and how much of that program should be legalized. The House leadership announced there will be no more votes before the long President's Day legislative break.
The bill's expiration is largely symbolic, but demonstrates that House Democrats are willing to fight Bush on anti-terrorism policies, where fear-mongering rhetoric had previously cowed their opposition.
Though Republicans charge that the expiration will endanger national security, no wiretaps or dragnets will be forced to stop and the government will retain longstanding surveillance powers.
Additionally, any broad domestic surveillance of emails and phone calls started under the expiring act can continue for another year, and new targets can be added such programs without getting a court order.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) laid the blame for expiration at the White House's door and said the House wanted extra time to protect Americans' rights.
"We are committed to protecting the American people and protecting the constitution," Pelosi said. "We will continue to work with the Senate to produce a [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] bill that does both."
The Protect America Act, passed in August last year, was a temporary measure enacted after a secret spying court ruled that the president's spying was illegal. That secret ruling came just months after Bush bowed to political pressure and submitted the program to the court more than a year after the New York Times exposed its existence.
On Wednesday, House Democrats attempted to pass a three-week extension to give it time to work out a compromise bill with the Senate. The Senate bill, passed by a wide, bi-partisan margin on Tuesday, is far more Administration- and telecom-friendly than the House's bill.
But Bush threatened to veto any extension to the temporary measure, a move clearly intended to push the House to adopt the Senate version verbatim. House Republicans, joined by conservative Democrats and a handful of anti-warrantless wiretapping liberal, voted down that extension Wednesday. ...
This comes after the Senate capitulated to the president, voting down Chris Dodd's attempt to strip telco immunity from its bill, and then approving a monstrosity of a FISA reform act that essentially gives this weakest of presidents -- this total lame duck -- everything he wants. How this guy can continue to run over Senate Democrats at this stage of his undress is beyond me. I'm starting to wonder if his domestic spying started, and perhaps ended, with Senate Democrats...
But the biggest theatrics of the day came from House Republicans, who threw a tantrum after their colleagues refused to kiss the backside of the president one more 'gain and walked out of the chamber (to waiting microphones, of course...) Someone get John Boehner a tissue...
18 Senate Democrats were caving on telecom wiretap immunity. Barack Obama voted with the 30 Democrats who don't think telecom companies should be shielded from lawsuits stemming from their collusion in government spying on its own citizens. Hillary missed the vote. Now the Senate must reconcile its bill with the House bill that contains no immunity. Harry Reid isn't making me feel any better:
"Holding all the Democrats together on this, we've learned a long time ago, is not something that's doable," the party's Senate leader, Harry Reid, told reporters today.
Neither is Russ Feingold:
"The Senate has buckled," Democratic senator Russ Feingold said. "We are left with a very dangerous piece of legislation."
Okay, let's try this guy:
"It's time for Speaker Pelosi to draw a line the sand and make clear to the president that this House of Representatives is never going to pass any bill that includes immunity for lawbreaking telecoms," Bankston said in a statement.
The EFF is representing a group of Americans who are suing AT&T in a California federal court, alleging mass interception of their private communications without a warrant. Granting immunity to AT&T would almost certainly halt that lawsuit.
Steve Doocy: Do you think it's interesting that the president will not mention John McCain by name today?
Mark Halperin: Mike Huckabee http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifis still formally in the race. The President behind the scenes has told people for months that he thought McCain would be the nominee. Even during some of those dark periods he still thought he could win. And also that McCain would be the best to carry forth his agenda. I've got news for you before the president starts, Karl Rove, a friend of Fox, Fox Contributor, yesterday delivered a check for $2,300 to John McCain." [Fox News, Fox and Friends, 2/8/2008]
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.
George W. Bush has done some stupid things during his two terms as U.S. president, the invasion of Iraq being the dumbest. But here's another one for the tally, courtesy of the New York Times:
Six months ago, the Bush administration quietly eased some restrictions on the export of sensitive technologies to China. The new approach was intended to help American companies increase sales of high-tech equipment to China despite tight curbs on sharing technology that might have military applications.
But today the administration is facing questions from weapons experts about whether some equipment — newly authorized for export to Chinese companies deemed trustworthy by Washington — could instead end up helping China modernize its military. Equally worrisome, the weapons experts say, is the possibility that China could share the technology with Iran or Syria.
The technologies include advanced aircraft engine parts, navigation systems, telecommunications equipment and sophisticated composite materials.
The questions raised about the new policy are in a report to be released this week by the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, an independent research foundation that opposes the spread of arms technologies.
As usual, the Bush administration puts favors for its corporate friends ahead of U.S. interests. So who are the friends?
the Wisconsin Project report, made available to The New York Times, asserts that two non-military Chinese companies designated as trustworthy are in fact high-risk because of links to the Chinese government, the People’s Liberation Army and other Chinese entities accused in the past of ties to Syria and Iran.
One of the Chinese companies, the BHA Aero Composites Company, is partly owned by two American companies — 40 percent by the American aircraft manufacturer Boeing and 40 percent by the aerospace materials maker Hexcel. The remaining 20 percent is owned by a Chinese government-owned company, AVIC I, or the China Aviation Industry Corporation I.
“In principle, you could find companies that would be above suspicion, but in this case they haven’t done it,” said Gary Milhollin, Washington director of the Wisconsin Project. “If you just look at the relations these companies have, rather than be above suspicion, they are highly suspicious.”
The Wisconsin Project report also charges that both Boeing and Hexcel have been cited for past lapses in obtaining proper licenses for exports.
Spokesmen for both Boeing and Hexcel said in interviews that they are fully confident that BHA has no ties to the Chinese military and that its use of aircraft parts and materials were strictly for commercial and civilian ends.
“Boeing is not involved in any defense activities in China,” said Douglas Kennett, a company spokesman. “All our activities in China are in compliance with U.S. export laws and regulations.”
Yet another reason to jettison the Bush form of "conservatism," which is more properly termed "corporatocracy" -- or profits at any cost.
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?"
The Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where the White House staff and vice president have their offices ... is burning ... on the same day the NYT reports the following:
Bush Lawyers Discussed Fate of C.I.A. Tapes
By MARK MAZZETTI and SCOTT SHANE WASHINGTON — At least four top White House lawyers took part in discussions with the Central Intelligence Agency between 2003 and 2005 about whether to destroy videotapes showing the secret interrogations of two operatives from Al Qaeda, according to current and former administration and intelligence officials.
The accounts indicate that the involvement of White House officials in the discussions before the destruction of the tapes in November 2005 was more extensive than Bush administration officials have acknowledged.
Those who took part, the officials said, included Alberto R. Gonzales, who served as White House counsel until early 2005; David S. Addington, who was the counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney and is now his chief of staff; John B. Bellinger III, who until January 2005 was the senior lawyer at the National Security Council; and Harriet E. Miers, who succeeded Mr. Gonzales as White House counsel.
It was previously reported that some administration officials had advised against destroying the tapes, but the emerging picture of White House involvement is more complex. In interviews, several administration and intelligence officials provided conflicting accounts as to whether anyone at the White House expressed support for the idea that the tapes should be destroyed.
One former senior intelligence official with direct knowledge of the matter said there had been “vigorous sentiment” among some top White House officials to destroy the tapes. The former official did not specify which White House officials took this position, but he said that some believed in 2005 that any disclosure of the tapes could have been particularly damaging after revelations a year earlier of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. ...
Here's a bit more, and check out who one of the principals in the growing case has lawyered up with...
The new information came to light as a federal judge on Tuesday ordered a hearing into whether the tapes’ destruction violated an order to preserve evidence in a lawsuit brought on behalf of 16 prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The tapes documented harsh interrogation methods used in 2002 on Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, two Qaeda suspects in C.I.A. custody.
The current and former officials also provided new details about the role played in November 2005 by Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., then the chief of the agency’s clandestine branch, who ultimately ordered the destruction of the tapes.
The officials said that before he issued a secret cable directing that the tapes be destroyed, Mr. Rodriguez received legal guidance from two C.I.A. lawyers, Steven Hermes and Robert Eatinger. The officials said that those lawyers gave written guidance to Mr. Rodriguez that he had the authority to destroy the tapes and that the destruction would violate no laws.
The agency did not make either Mr. Hermes or Mr. Eatinger available for comment.
Current and former officials said the two lawyers informed the C.I.A.’s top lawyer, John A. Rizzo, about the legal advice they had provided. But officials said Mr. Rodriguez did not inform either Mr. Rizzo or Porter J. Goss, the C.I.A. director, before he sent the cable to destroy the tapes.
“There was an expectation on the part of those providing legal guidance that additional bases would be touched,” said one government official with knowledge of the matter. “That didn’t happen.”
Robert S. Bennett, a lawyer for Mr. Rodriguez, insisted that his client had done nothing wrong and suggested that Mr. Rodriguez had been authorized to order the destruction of the tapes. “He had a green light to destroy them,” Mr. Bennett said.
Bennett is a popular lawyer 'round there...
The NYT report also reveals that the CIA kept the tapes overseas, in the unidentified country where the "harsh interrogations" (read "torture,") took place, something almost unbelievable from a security standpoint. Had they been stolen, say, in whatever country we're talking about, but which could very well be a majority Muslim one, the damage to U.S. interests would have been enormous.
John Dean commented before today's revelation that:
There are three court orders that may have been violated, but one in particular strikes me as a very serious problem for the CIA. Accordingly, we may well be in the unique situation in which a pending civil lawsuit might flush out some answers, and the federal judiciary might thus embarrass the other branches into actually taking meaningful action. I say "might" because the Bush Administration thinks nothing of stiffing federal court judges who seek information, and they probably figure they can tap-dance for the federal judiciary - along with all the other inquiries -- until they are out of Washington on January 20, 2009.
Nevertheless, the situation in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, as a result of Freedom of Information Act requests by the American Civil Liberties Union, could well force the Bush Administration's hand. An order holding the CIA in contempt of court might get the Administration's attention.
The ACLU's Lawsuit, and the Order that the CIA Produce Documents
When word of mistreatment of detainees surfaced, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request targeting the CIA and others on October 7, 2003 and May 25, 2004, seeking records concerning the treatment of all detainees apprehended after September 11, 2001 and held in U.S. custody abroad. This, of course, would mean not only in Guantanamo but in the secret prisons in Eastern Europe operated by the CIA.
Not surprisingly, the government stiffed the request, so the ACLU filed a lawsuit in June 2004 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The case ended up in the courtroom of Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein. On September 15, 2004, Judge Hellerstein ordered the CIA and other government departments to "produce or identify" all responsive documents by October 15, 2004.
The CIA claimed that some of the relevant documents were the subject of an inquiry by the CIA's Office of the Inspector General, so its attorneys requested a stay of the judge's order and an extension of time to comply with the request for other documents. In February 2005, Judge Hellerstein denied the CIA's request for a stay, but he did not enforce the stay immediately when the CIA moved for the judge to reconsider his ruling based on additional evidence from the CIA's Director - as the CIA entered a full-court press to prevent the ACLU from getting anything.
This stalling action had been playing out, when news of the destruction of the tapes became public. Now, in the action before Judge Hellerstein, he ACLU has moved to hold the CIA in contempt of court, based on the Judge's September 15, 2004 ruling. It is difficult to see why the CIA is, in fact, not in contempt, given the nature of the FOIA request and the judge's order.
Well, another federal district judge has ordered hearings for Friday on the matter, and whether the destruction of the tapes violated a court order:
n June 2005, Kennedy ordered the Bush administration to safeguard "all evidence and information regarding the torture, mistreatment, and abuse of detainees now at the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay."
Five months later, the CIA destroyed the interrogation videos. The recordings involved suspected terrorists Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. The Justice Department argued that the videos weren't covered by the order because the two men were being held in secret CIA prisons overseas, not at the Guantanamo Bay prison.
David Remes, a lawyer who represents Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo Bay, said the government was obligated to keep the tapes and he wants to be sure other evidence is not being destroyed.
"We want more than just the government's assurances. The government has given these assurances in the past and they've proven unreliable," Remes said. "The recent revelation of the CIA tape destruction indicates that the government cannot be trusted to preserve evidence."
Those should be some hearings.
Meanwhile, Georgetown law professor Johnathan Turley sees about 6 possible crimes in the CIA tapes destruction...
And the White House says the NYT has gotten it all wrong... and the story is "pernicious and troubling," to boot! Oh, that Dana Perrino!
There will be no prosecution, at least for now, of the former CIA agent, Mr. Kiriakou, for his revelations about the torture (his words) of terror suspect Abu Zubayda whilst Mr. Zubayda was in the custody of the agency. Kiriakou has told ABC and NBC News that not only did he participate in the torture of Mr. Zubayda via waterboarding, but that the torture was cleared, specifically, up the chain of command from CIA headquarters to the Justice Department to the White House. The former agent said that each time agents wanted to use "harsh interrogation techniques" on a suspect, they didn't just do it willy nilly -- they had to get specific permission to do so, technique by technique.
So why is he talking?
On Dan Abrams' show last night it was clear that John Kiriakou wants to protect the reputation of the CIA, and to clear the agency of having acted somehow in a rogue fashion, waterboarding people willy nilly simply because agents wanted to do so. It seems pretty clear what his motivations are: to inoculate the CIA while redirecting the responsibility for what was done to the White House. Along with that, Kiriakou is telling the media in no uncertain terms that he felt that what was done was torture, but that he personally deemed it necessary, even "forced" -- at the time, "to save American lives."
Maybe on "24" (I've never heard one convincing piece of evidence that Abu Zubayda knew anything of importance regarding supposed future terror attacks on the United States. If torture worked, why didn't one of the torturees tip off the CIA to the Bali bombings, or the tube bombings in London...?) In fact, many on my end of the blogosphere are quite skeptical of the right's "torture works! ...but only for us..." claims.
Lesson number one from Kiriakou's tale is that you can't beat the CIA. Even the Bush administration, which operates with almost Darth Vader's Empire-like radicalism when it comes to lawbreaking, can beat the spooks. They always hit back. And no president that I can think of has ever out-foxed them. Bush has blamed the CIA for the "bad" intelligence on Iraq, when actually, his vice president and Pentagon cooked the vague intel coming out of Langley for the purpose of pushing the Congress, and the country, into a war with Iraq. Bushies imply that it was the CIA, and the FBI, who dropped the ball before 9/11, though somebody must have briefed Bush's then National Security Advisor Condi Rice, because she knew full well that "Bin Laden was determined to attack the United States" on at least August 6th, a full month before the attacks.
Back to Mr. Kiriakou... ABC reports on his "get out of prosecution" card (which is mirrored, apparently, by the White House's even as it becomes crystal clear that there's obstruction of justice afoot. From ABC:
The former CIA intelligence official who went public on ABC News about the agency's use of waterboarding in interrogations, John Kiriakou, apparently will not be the subject of a Justice Department investigation, even though some CIA officials believe he revealed classified information about the use of waterboarding.
"They were furious at the CIA this morning, but cooler heads have apparently prevailed for the time being," a senior Justice Department official told the Blotter on ABCNews.com.
Gen. Michael Hayden, the CIA director, did sent out a classified memo this morning warning all employees "of the importance of protecting classified information," a CIA spokesperson told ABCNews.com.
... and then, that new classified memo got out. Hm.
I don't know about you, but I think the spooks doth protest too much. They like having this guy out there. He's not hurting them -- he's hurting the people the CIA lifers apparently distrust -- George W. Bush and his band of nut-o-cons.
Here's Kiriakou on Abrams last night:
And here's part two, where poor GOP hack Jack Burkman tries to roll out the talking points, to hilarious effect:
A shocking gang rape allegation is the latest twist in the scandal over the privatization of the American military by the Bush administration. From ABC News:
A Houston, Texas woman says she was gang-raped by Halliburton/KBR coworkers in Baghdad, and the company and the U.S. government are covering up the incident.
Jamie Leigh Jones, now 22, says that after she was raped by multiple men at a KBR camp in the Green Zone, the company put her under guard in a shipping container with a bed and warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job.
"Don't plan on working back in Iraq. There won't be a position here, and there won't be a position in Houston," Jones says she was told.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court against Halliburton and its then-subsidiary KBR, Jones says she was held in the shipping container for at least 24 hours without food or water by KBR, which posted armed security guards outside her door, who would not let her leave.
"It felt like prison," says Jones, who told her story to ABC News as part of an upcoming "20/20" investigation. "I was upset; I was curled up in a ball on the bed; I just could not believe what had happened."
Finally, Jones says, she convinced a sympathetic guard to loan her a cell phone so she could call her father in Texas.
"I said, 'Dad, I've been raped. I don't know what to do. I'm in this container, and I'm not able to leave,'" she said. Her father called their congressman, Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas.
"We contacted the State Department first," Poe told ABCNews.com, "and told them of the urgency of rescuing an American citizen" -- from her American employer. ...
The full story will be on 20/20 this Friday. Among the allegations are that the young woman's rape kit was handed over, not to authorities, but to security officials within KBR. Not surprisingly, it was never seen again.
Goes to show you the dangers of allowing a private corporation to operate in the name of the United States, completely outside the reach of any law -- in this case, American or Iraqi.
Over two years later, the Justice Department has brought no criminal charges in the matter. In fact, ABC News could not confirm any federal agency was investigating the case.
Legal experts say Jones' alleged assailants will likely never face a judge and jury, due to an enormous loophole that has effectively left contractors in Iraq beyond the reach of United States law.
"It's very troubling," said Dean John Hutson of the Franklin Pierce Law Center. "The way the law presently stands, I would say that they don't have, at least in the criminal system, the opportunity for justice."
That these kinds of things are going on inside America's mercenary army is shocking enough. The fact that no one in our government will likely do much about it is worse. In many ways, large and small, our government (all three branches) almost exists for the protection of private corporations, and for the advancement of their interests.
Nowadays, the commerce they're protecting includes our military, citizens like Ms. Jones be damned.
Here's the final insult:
Since no criminal charges have been filed, the only other option, according to Hutson, is the civil system, which is the approach that Jones is trying now. But Jones' former employer doesn't want this case to see the inside of a civil courtroom.
KBR has moved for Jones' claim to be heard in private arbitration, instead of a public courtroom. It says her employment contract requires it.
In arbitration, there is no public record nor transcript of the proceedings, meaning that Jones' claims would not be heard before a judge and jury. Rather, a private arbitrator would decide Jones' case. In recent testimony before Congress, employment lawyer Cathy Ventrell-Monsees said that Halliburton won more than 80 percent of arbitration proceedings brought against it.
I spend a lot of time focusing on the ills wrought by Republicans, whether President Bush or his lackeys in Congress and the blogosphere. But Democrats have some things on their consciences, too. Democrats have in many ways been the chief enablers of this most lawless of presidents, by refusing at every turn, to stand in the way of his trashing of both the law and the constitution, or to apply the Constitutionally mandated prescriptions for such violations.
In other words, the Democrats won't stop George W. Bush from violating the law. They won't punish him for violating the law. So they are inherently complicit in his lawbreaking, the same way someone who hides an escaped convict is guilty of aiding and abetting a fugitive.
When you look at the conduct of the 110th Congress -- which definitely is superior to the 109th in that it is not a complete fool's palace full of sycophant courtiers -- you can't help but notice a certain, I guess you could call it fear? of the president of the United States, or at least an unusually deferential and non-confrontational attitude, that is nothing like the "jealous" guardian of its own prerogatives that the framers intended each governmental branch to be. Hell, the Congress doesn't seem the least bit jealous about guarding its prerogatives. You can lie to them. You can hide information, even destroy it, with little consequence beyond quiet hearings without the force of consequences.
So what's the point of having hearings at all?
Think about a situation in which a Democratic president flagrantly violate U.S. statutes outlawing the torture of prisoners, violated the Geneva Conventions, possibly even condoning the commission of war crimes, then destroyed the evidencee, even after it was requested by the president's own commission, flouted Congress' authority by attaching signing statements to laws passed by the legislative branch, refused subpoenas, abused executive privilege in order to continue to shade information, outright lied to Congress about the case for starting a war, and issued dicta stating that the president literally is beyond the reach of the law, so long as we are in a war that he himself has declared to be endless ... your head spins wondering how thick the impeachment briefing would be. And yet, not only will the Democratic-led (barely in the Senate, which is actually 50/50...) Congress not move to hold a single impeachment hearing, they go further:
- They refuse to even censure the president, or even to criticize him in the stark terms his actions seem to call for.
- They refuse to call for an independent counsel to investigate the myriad Bush administration scandals, from the midnight coercion of former attorney general Ashcroft, to the summary firing of U.S. attorneys who wouldn't play ball on the Bush political agenda, to the latest bombshell -- the erasure of CIA tapes showing the torture of prisoners in U.S. custody.
- And they won't even verbalize what has become patently obvious, not just to the blogosphere or to talk radio hosts, but to a majority of Americans, and a majority of constitutional and legal scholars, including those from Republican administrations: that this president -- the man entrusted with leading the executive branch of our government -- is a liar and a lawbreaker.
And if the Congress won't hold him accountable, who will? Worse, if the Congress sees no point in stopping him, because they think it would be "bad politics in an election year," and they therefore take their oaths to defend the Constitution no more seriously than George W. Bush does, then what the hell is the point of the Congress?
OK, off my soap box. To the news.
The NYT reports that lawyers inside the CIA OK'd the destruction of those torture tapes, including the ones involving terror suspect Abu Zubayda.
ABC Newsman Brian Ross made short work of General Hayden's lie about the tapes being destroyed in order to protect the identities of the agents involved in the interrogations (et tu, Valerie Plame outers?) by interviewing one of the lead interrogators, who says yes, it was torture, and the tapes shouldn't have been destroyed.
Team ABC updates their coverage with an interview with President Bush, who denies, in very legalistic terms, remembering that he knew about the tapes:
he President said he was told just a few days ago.
"My first recollection of whether the tapes existed or whether they were destroyed was when [CIA Director] Michael Hayden briefed me," Bush said.
"There's a preliminary inquiry going on and I think you'll find that a lot more data, facts will be coming out," he said, "that's good. It will be interesting to know what the true facts are."
Watching Senator Jim Webb on Russert's show yesterday, it struck me that Democrats have a hell of a hard time explaining their opposition to the war in Iraq, and their position on national security issues generally. Why, I'm not sure, since Republicans have done nothing but botch both the war and the national security posture of the United States for more than 20 years. Democrats, on the other hand, have a history of facing down tough crises successfully (the Cuban missile crisis), taking responsibility for mistakes (the Bay of Pigs, Rwanda), and winning wars without compromising America's position on the world stage (Bosnia, Herzogovnia).
Anway, Russert was doing his usual schtick, attempting to solicit praise for the Bush administration and the "surge" from Webb, who recently returned from his first trip to Iraq. Webb's answer was a jumble of "yes it seems to be working" and "but that's not enough."
The answer, it seems to me, should have been much simpler and more forceful, and could have gone something like this:
RUSSERT: Doesn't the administration deserve praise for the surge, which the Washington Post says is working?
WEBB: Tim, if the point of your question is to get me to praise George W. Bush, then fine, Bush's surge is having positive results, as far as we can tell. But here's the question: what is the purpose of having a successful military operation in Iraq? If the point is to create success so that we can stay in Iraq forever, then George W. Bush is going to have a problem with the American people, and with the Congress. If the point is to achieve success so that we can withdraw American forces safely from Iraq, and soon, then I can both praise the success, and support the policy.
RUSSERT: But Democrats don't support the administration's policy. Doesn't that leave you in the position of not supporting an American military success?
WEBB: Again, Tim, if your point is to make the administration's political argument, you're not going to get agreement out of me. I'm not here to debate Republican talking points. We were supposed to be in Iraq in order to stand up an elected government. Our military did that. We were supposed to be creating an independent country, not an American client state. The only political purpose for a successful surge, as far as I'm concerned, is to get our troops safely out of Iraq. Period. That's the policy I support. If that's not what George Bush wants to do, then we have a problem.
...wouldn't that have been so much simpler?
Democrats have got to learn how to communicate more forcefully with the media, which is going to coddle the president at every available opportunity. They particularly must learn to handle insider journos like Russert, who are going to wave the WaPo and NYT at them every chance they get, as evidence that "even the liberal media support the surge." Webb, to be fair, did point out that "the Washington Post has editorialized in favor of the Iraq war from the beginning." That's a good start. But he and his fellow Dems have got to have a stronger, more straightforward answer on the surge. That answer is, in a nutshell:
If it's working. Good. So let's use this opportunity to get the hell out of Iraq.
That's what the vast majority of Americans want. And its why we elected Democrats to run Congress in 2006.
Damn, I love Chuck Hagel! My favorite Republican lawmaker (and a man who should be running for president) is at it again, calling out the Bushies in no uncertain terms:
"This is one of the most arrogant, incompetent administrations I've ever seen personally or ever read about," the always blunt and frequently quotable Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., said yesterday during an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
"This administration in my opinion has been as unprepared as any administration I'm aware of," Hagel added, "not only the ones that I have been somehow connected to and that's been every administration -- either I've been in Washington or worked within an administration or Congress or some way dealing with them since the first Nixon administration. I would rate this one the lowest in capacity, in capability, in policy, in consensus -- almost every area, I would give it the lowest grade. ...
"And you know, I think of this administration, what they could have done after 9/11, what was within their grasp. Every poll in the world showed 90% of the world for us. Iran had some of the first spontaneous demonstrations on the streets of Tehran supporting America. They squandered a tremendous amount of opportunity."
Hagel, who toyed with the idea of running for president himself, also said:
He would be open to the idea of either working in a Democratic administration or even running as the vice presidential nominee on a Democratic ticket -- though, he conceded, "I probably won't have to worry about it" because he's unlikely to be asked.
"If there was an area that I thought I could make a difference and influence policy, leadership, outcome ... then I would entertain" those possibilities, Hagel said. ...
Don't count on not being asked, Chuck. You're one of the few clear-thinking, independent-minded Republicans in Congress, and one of only a handful of people who truly embody the term "Senator" -- quite the opposite of the kow-towing, royal boot-licking Joe Liebermans around you. If you ran for president, I would seriously consider crossing political lines to support you.
The full transcript of Hagel's remarks can be found on the CFR website.
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...