Monday, June 30, 2008


If there’s an attack against Iran before Bush leaves office, it won’t come as any surprise to people who read Sy Hersh
Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program. . . [read on]


Losing Pakistan

I think this counts as a LIE
[June 19] Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday the US government was not involved in Iraq's no-bid oil contracts that could see four major western oil firms start their first commercial work there since the war began five years ago.

"The United States government has stayed out of the matter of awarding the Iraq oil contracts. It's a private sector matter," Rice said . . .
[June 30] A group of U.S. advisers led by a small State Department team played an integral part in drawing up contracts between the Iraqi government and five major Western oil companies to develop some of the largest fields in Iraq, U.S. officials say.

The disclosure, coming on the eve of the contracts' announcement, is the first confirmation of such direct Bush administration involvement . . .

McCain gets nasty
John McCain, in his sharpest attack yet against rival Barack Obama, said the Democratic presidential candidate’s word “cannot be trusted.”

“This election is about trust — trust in people’s word, McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, told several hundred donors at a $2 million GOP fundraiser in Louisville, Kentucky yesterday. “And unfortunately, apparently on several items, Senator Obama’s word cannot be trusted.” . . .


McCain versus McCain: on immigration (again)

I don’t know how this will play, but it’s a fair question, really
[Taegan Goddard] In a personal attack that will almost certainly backfire, retired Gen. Wesley Clark blasted Sen. John McCain's military credentials on Face the Nation.

Said Clark: "I don't think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president." . . .
[John Aravosis] It's not "nice" to ask the question, but it's actually a pretty good question. Yes, we all know that John McCain was captured and tortured in Vietnam (McCain won't let you forget). A lot of people don't know, however, that McCain made a propaganda video for the enemy while he was in captivity. Putting that bit of disloyalty aside, what exactly is McCain's military experience that prepares him for being commander in chief? It's not like McCain rose to the level of general or something. He's a vet. We get it. But simply being a vet, as laudable as it is, doesn't really tell you much about someone's qualifications for being commander in chief. If McCain is going to play the "I was tortured" card every five minutes as a justification for electing him president, then he shouldn't throw a hissy fit any time any one asks to know more about his military experience. Getting shot down, tortured, and then doing propaganda for the enemy is not command experience. Again, it's not nice to say, but we're not running for class president here. We deserve real answers, not emotional outbursts designed to quell the questions.
[Dday] So Wes Clark went on Face The Nation today and "went there" . . . [read on]

Theocracy watch, part one
John McCain met today with Franklin Graham, a man who looked forward to the Iraq War as an opportunity to expand Christianity in the Middle East. . . .

Theocracy watch, part two
[Possible McCain VP] Louisiana's Governor Bobby Jindal signed Senate Bill 733 (PDF) into law, 27 years after the state passed its Balance Treatment for Evolution-Science and Creation-Science Act, a law overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987. Jindal's approval of the bill was buried in a press release issued on June 25, 2008, announcing 75 bills he signed in recent days. Houma Today reports (June 27, 2008) that the bill "will empower educators to pull religious beliefs into topics like evolution, cloning and global warming by introducing supplemental materials." . . . [read on]


The future of the Supreme Court (and the rest of the federal judiciary)

Remember when John Roberts was campaigning for the Chief Justice slot, and told everyone how “moderate” he would be? Remember when a key file of his early papers suddenly went “missing” from the National Archives?,0,5374420.story
With his third term as chief justice coming to a close amid three explosive cases last week, John Roberts has proved to be almost everything conservatives hoped and liberals feared. . .
[May 11, 2006] The file, compiled during Roberts's tenure as an associate counsel in the Reagan White House, vanished in July when lawyers from the Bush administration were reviewing the materials at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., as part of a vetting process before Roberts's formal nomination to the Supreme Court. . . .

Will the discrediting of conservative orthodoxy carry over to a loss of popularity and credibility for their shills on Fox News and right-wing radio?
[Steve Benen] In the first quarter of 2008, Fox News, after six years of cable-news ratings dominance, saw itself slip into second place behind CNN in the so-called “money demo” — viewers in their mid-20s through mid-50s, who advertisers care about most. The shift came thanks to a series of competitive primary nights and debates among Democratic candidates, after the Republican nomination had already been settled.

As it turns out, in the second quarter, as the Democratic race quieted down and the general election campaigning began, Fox News reclaimed the lead, but just barely. The NYT notes today that the “back-and-forth these last few months masks a more ominous trend for Fox News.” . . .

Bonus item: book review – “Netroots Rising”

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Sunday, June 29, 2008

[AP] The Taliban has regrouped after its initial fall from power in Afghanistan and the pace of its attacks is likely to increase this year, according to a Pentagon report that offers a dim view of progress in the nearly seven-year-old war.

Noting that insurgent violence has climbed, the report said that despite U.S. and coalition efforts to capture and kill key leaders, the Taliban is likely to "maintain or even increase the scope and pace of its terrorist attacks and bombings in 2008."

The Taliban, it said, has "coalesced into a resilient insurgency." . . .
In the last two months, Taliban militants have suddenly tightened the noose on this city of three million people, one of Pakistan’s biggest . . .

The threat to Peshawar is a sign of the Taliban’s deepening penetration of Pakistan and of the expanding danger that the militants present to the entire region, including nearby supply lines for NATO and American forces in Afghanistan. . . .


Yesterday we had Cheney’s pissy comment on the North Korea deal – now we find out how much he REALLY hated it

The McCains own so many homes they can’t keep their taxes straight (but Obama’s an "elitist")
When you're poor, it can be hard to pay the bills. When you're rich, it's hard to keep track of all the bills that need paying. It's a lesson Cindy McCain learned the hard way when NEWSWEEK raised questions about an overdue property-tax bill on a La Jolla, Calif., property owned by a trust that she oversees. Mrs. McCain is a beer heiress with an estimated $100 million fortune and, along with her husband, she owns at least seven properties, including condos in California and Arizona. . . .

[Mark Kleiman] Update: Of course, John McCain is so in touch with the concerns of ordinary Americans that he doesn't know the price of a gallon of gasoline. Just a regular fellow. . . .

McCain’s not-ready-for-prime-time spokespeople bring up the immigration bill as an example of his bipartisanship. Uh, guys, that is NOT a good example for you

You might think that someone who wants to be President would show due deference and respect to those who served before him. You would be wrong

[NB: At a more serious level, another example of McCain’s snotty “sense of humor,” and tendency to snap off quotable but ill-considered quips.]

Where the “Obama is a Muslim” lie started

No, Barack Obama is not above criticism
"You should always assume that when I cast a vote or make a statement it is because it is what I believe in," Obama said. . . . [read on]


Debate schedule proposed

Bob Barr could cost the GOP two or three states

Sunday talk show line-ups
FOX NEWS SUNDAY: Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D), Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr and former White House budget director Rob Portman.

THIS WEEK (ABC): Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) and independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

NEWSMAKERS (C-SPAN): Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.).

FACE THE NATION (CBS): Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark.

MEET THE PRESS (NBC): California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D) and Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D).

LATE EDITION (CNN): Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine (D), U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker and Clinton campaign chairman Terence R. McAuliffe.

Bonus item: Senate “holds” – how they work (warning: for process dweebs only)

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Saturday, June 28, 2008


The Republicans are trying to see how far they can go in raising the issue of Obama’s race, while still getting away with it
[LAT] Norquist dropped by The Times’ Washington bureau today and, as part of his negative critique of Obama’s liberal stances on economic issues and other matters, he termed the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee “John Kerry with a tan.” . . [read on]
[Jane Hamsher] Earlier this year, the RNC did polling to determine how far they could go in their attacks before they would be perceived as "racist." Not, one would imagine, because they really cared -- but rather, as John Judis noted in an interesting article in TNR, because "too far" could backlash. . . . [read on]

The McCain camp keeps trying to find an unfavorable frame for defining Obama to the American people. They don’t really care what it is, so long as it sticks
[Steve Benen] In 2000, Al Gore, they said, was an “exaggerator.” . . .

In 2004, John Kerry, they said was a “flip-flopper.” . . .

Four years later, the effort to define Barack Obama is proving to be more difficult. The GOP has experimented with a few different memes, but they haven’t stuck yet. Some even contradict each other.

For months, Karl Rove & Co. has sought to characterize Obama as a dangerous outsider who we don’t really know and can’t trust. Everything about him, the argument goes, is “foreign.” The various far-right smears — about Obama’s religion, his family, his name, his patriotism — were all part of the same conservative frame.

More recently, Rove and his cohorts reversed course, and went with the opposite message: Obama isn’t a dangerous outsider anymore, now he’s an elite insider, hanging out “at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette.” . . . [read on]

The Religious Right can’t find traction against him either

It looks as if McCain is preparing to be behind now and throughout this campaign – but to spin it as a good thing
[Mark Kleiman] I see John McCain is casting himself as the underdog and predicting he will pull the election out in "the last 48 hours." That is, he's conceding that his current disadvantage in the horserace polls is unlikely to be transient, and that Obama will stay in the lead most of the way.

I suppose that's one way to keep your troops engaged in the face of bad numbers, but isn't June a little early for desperation?

I'm also curious about what is supposed to happen in those last 48 hours. Is Senator McCain expecting his friend George Bush to bomb Iran, or is he hoping for the terrorist attack his manager Charlie Black said would be "a big advantage" for the campaign? Or is McCain going to ask one of his crazy preacher friends to work a miracle?

Who is Charlie Black?

McCain takes credit for a bill he opposed

McCain has said repeatedly that he doesn’t want to exploit his prisoner of war experience for political purposes . . . . except, that is, when he does

Clinton supporter who says she’ll vote for McCain gets disinvited to the Democratic National Convention – and now she’s upset about it;_ylt=AtrmhrIaNd2ytUvjYqeywtayFz4D

The man behind the Bush gang’s shredding of the Constitution
[Dana Milbank] Throughout the Bush presidency, he toiled in secrecy deep within the White House, a mysterious and feared presence who never stepped into the sunlight of public disclosure.

There he sat, hunched and scowling, at the witness table in front of the House Judiciary Committee: the bearded, burly form of the chief of staff and alter ego to the vice president -- Cheney's Cheney, if you will -- and the man most responsible for building President Bush's notion of an imperial presidency.

David Addington was there under subpoena. And he wasn't happy about it.

Could the president ever be justified in breaking the law? "I'm not going to answer a legal opinion on every imaginable set of facts any human being could think of," Addington growled. Did he consult Congress when interpreting torture laws? "That's irrelevant," he barked. Would it be legal to torture a detainee's child? "I'm not here to render legal advice to your committee," he snarled. "You do have attorneys of your own." . . . [read on]

They let him off the hook:


The latest wingnut conspiracy: that a Democratic congressman called for an Al Qaeda attack against Addington
DELAHUNT: Oh I can understand why [the President] doesn’t talk about it.

ADDINGTON: Because you kind of communicate with al Qaeda. If you do — I can’t talk to you, al Qaeda may watch C-SPAN.

DELAHUNT: Right. Well, I’m sure they are watching, and I’m glad they finally have a chance to see you, Mr. Addington.

ADDINGTON: Yeah, I’m sure you’re pleased.
Delahunt’s sarcastic remark about Addington’s penchant for secrecy was the subject of a segment on this morning’s Fox & Friends. Co-host Brian Kilmeade attempted to argue that Delahunt put Addington at risk because “now al Qaeda can see you and understand who’s putting this policy together.” . . . Kilmeade then argued Addington will now “be targeted” by al Qaeda. . . .


Congress subpoenas DOJ documents

No blood for oil

The Heller decision gives the gun lobby a big victory. But since the essence of their organizing and fundraising is to maintain a panic that “the government is trying to take your guns away,” they’ll have to come up with new fears to monger

NRCC: “There are no safe Republican seats”

Yesterday we showed you John Cornyn’s laughable “Big Bad John” campaign ad. Today it gets its due measure of ridicule from his opponent, Rick Noriega. Don’t miss it

I think this comment is revealing. Did the Supreme Court PUNISH Al Gore in 2000 for bringing his election appeal before the courts in the first place?

Cheese it, folks! Rush is onto us! He’s figured out that we’re trying to destroy America – and just when we were SO CLOSE to succeeding, too
“If you have a basic understanding of the role oil has played in the enrichment of peoples across this planet, if you understand the role that oil has played in the expansion of freedom and opportunity and the creation of wealth, if you understand that -- and most people do -- how in the world can you be an Obama and say, "Well, drilling for oil right now, well, that's a failed policy of the past. It's another one of those failed policies of the past." Failed policy of the past. Where would we be without it? So why do they want us to not drill for more oil? Do you think it's about "saving the planet"? Do you think that it is about all of this global warming stuff? Do you think it's about preventing oil spills? Do you think that's why they're opposed to drilling for oil? It isn't. It has nothing to do with that. It has everything to do with liberalism and the expansion of government and the reduction, ever so slowly, of individual liberties, and it has everything to do, within the minds of some, of weakening this country on purpose.”

Sean Hannity sets a world record
[Ali] On his Fox News show last night, right-wing pundit Sean Hannity originally hailed the [North Korea] agreement as “a clear foreign policy victory” for Bush. But Hannity’s guest John Bolton — a fierce advocate for war over negotiations — disagreed, arguing, “I think it’s actually a clear victory for North Korea.”

Hannity promptly attacked the agreement, reversing his position in less than 30 seconds. . . .

HANNITY: The news today brings a clear foreign policy victory for the Bush administration. But will the press report it that way? Joining us now for analysis, former ambassador to the U.N. and a Fox News contributor, John Bolton. What do you think this means?

BOLTON: I think it's actually a clear victory for North Korea. They gain enormous political legitimacy....In return, we get precious little. I think this is North Korea demonstrating again that they can out-negotiate the U.S. without raising a sweat.

HANNITY: Boy I tell you they've done it time and time again, and I'm sorta perplexed, Mr. Ambassador, to understand why we keep going back to the well knowing that they haven't kept the agreements in the past. Whatever happened to Reagan's "trust but verify"?

And, by the way, what does Dick Cheney think about that North Korea agreement?
[NYT] Mr. Cheney froze, according to four participants at the Old Executive Office Building meeting. For more than 30 minutes he had been taking and answering questions, without missing a beat. But now, for several long seconds, he stared, unsmilingly, at his questioner, Steven Clemons of the New America Foundation, a public policy institution. Finally, he spoke:

“I’m not going to be the one to announce this decision,” the other participants recalled Mr. Cheney saying, pointing at himself. “You need to address your interest in this to the State Department.” He then declared that he was done taking questions, and left the room. . . .


Bonus item: why you should vote Republican (thanks to A.G. for the link)

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Friday, June 27, 2008


This is the face of evil: not vicious or angry, but calm, smiling – and without an ounce of self-doubt
[Spencer Ackerman] Conyers vs. Yoo. Could the president order a suspect's child be tortured, since Yoo was quoted as saying, "It depends on why the president feels the need to do that"? Yoo says he was quoted out of context. Conyers asks what couldn't the president order?

Yoo: "My thinking right now, this moment, Mr. Chairman, is that first, the question you're posing--" Conyers yells: WHAT IS THE ANSWER? "You're wasting my time. Hold it! Could the president order a suspect buried alive?"

Yoo: "I've never given the advice that the president could order someone buried alive... my view right now, no American president would ever order that or feel it necessary to order that.”

Conyers: “I think we understand the games that are being played.”

[NB: “No!” would have been a perfectly acceptable answer.]
Rep. William Delahunt (D-Mass.) gets to ask a question: "Is it true the United States is a signatory to the Convention Against Torture?" Yoo concedes it is, and that there's a whole federal statute to implement the convention. But are there certain things -- say, electric shocks -- that the August 1, 2002 memo would say violates? "Yes." What about waterboarding?

Yoo: "I'd have to know what you mean by waterboarding . . ." [read on]

“Cheney’s Cheney”
Conyers: Do you feel that the Unitary Theory of the Executive allows the President to do things over and above the stated law of the land?

Addington: The Constitution binds all of us, Congressman, the President, all the U.S. members of Congress, all of the federal judges. We all take an oath to support and defend it. I frankly don't know what you mean by the Unitary Theory of Government. I dont -

Conyers: Have you ever heard of that theory before?

Addington: Oh I have, I've seen it in the newspapers all the time-

Conyers: Do you support it?

Addington: I don't know what it is.

Conyers: You don't know what it is.

Addington: No . . . [read on!]
[Steve Benen] Exactly one year ago tomorrow, the Office of the Vice President gave up on the notion that Dick Cheney isn’t really part of the executive branch. In the midst of an oversight fight regarding the handling of classified material, the OVP had made the absurd argument about Cheney’s branch, but on June 27, 2007, the Vice President’s team decided that was too ridiculous to keep repeating.

In fact, the next day, the NYT reported, “A White House official placed further distance from the dual role argument by adding that Mr. Cheney did not necessarily agree with it.”

So, all of this unpleasantness is behind us? We can finally agree that Cheney is the Vice President, and the Vice President is part of the executive branch? Apparently not. Cheney’s reclusive chief of staff, David Addington, told the House Judiciary Committee this afternoon that the VP is “attached” to the legislative branch . . .

Like a barnacle?
[Spencer Ackerman] Did Addington go to Guantanamo, asks Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), as was disclosed in the Senate last week? "Really don't remember the dates," but says he's probably been to Guantanamo "probably five times." Did he meet with JAG attorneys? "Don't recall. Col. Beaver -- I don't remember meeting her there, only remember. ... I was invited by Department of Defense to go." Did he discuss interrogation methods with anyone? "Don't know about methods, but I probably did... They would show us intrg room, with no one in it, or look through a room... where you could see into that, so having done that I would assume, yes."

Did Addington discuss specific types of interrogation methods? "I don't recall doing that." Means you didn't or don't recall? "It means I don't recall, as I said." Says his participation with the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" program was more extensive than with the Defense Dept. interrogation program. Addington denies Philippe Sands' claim that he encouraged interrogators to go all-out.

In fairness, Addington did something important here: he admitted to an involvement in the CIA's interrogation program, which is, shall we say, open to constitutional debate.
Nadler asks Addington: did you help draft in the infamous August 1, 2002 Bybee/Yoo memo?

"No... Didn't have nothing to do with it, but you asked if I had a hand in drafting it."

So what was your role with the memo, sir? . . . [read on]

Summaries and liveblogging:

Bobbing and weaving:
[Spencer Ackerman] Yoo refuses to answer who was in the meeting about the White House meeting referred to by Addington in advance of Yoo/Bybee's August 1, 2002 torture memo." Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) asks if that memo was implemented.

"I don't know exactly" what you mean by "implemented," Yoo says. They go back and forth. Ellison loses patience. "Was the memo implemented? Stop wasting my time." Basically, Yoo is obfuscating because he doesn't want there to be a straight line connecting the memo to Abu Ghraib. . . .
[Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL)] I have been on the committee for a year and a half, I've never seen two witnesses, frankly, struggle as much to appreciate ordinary use of terms and questions. Would you consider instructing the two witnesses to answer the questions that they're asked . . . [watch]

More, more, more:
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) asks the two lawyers to reaffirm the administration talking point that there's lawful "space" between the interrogation methods of the Army Field Manual on Interrogation and the Federal Torture Statute. But Yoo goes off message: "My understanding is there is no space." Quickly, though, Addington contradicts him: "I believe the legal opinions of the Office of Legal Counsel says that yes, there is."

A few questions for the AG
It looks like the House Judiciary Committee will finally play hardball with Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

Committee chairman John Conyers (D-MI) has been requesting a range of documents from DOJ for a long time. . . .

It’s taken almost eight years, but the Bush gang is dragged kicking and screaming into the world of foreign policy pragmatism
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.” . . .

Watch what?
As TPMmuckraker reports, not only did the Pentagon ignore a State Department watchlist in awarding a defense contract to AEY, Inc., those 20-something dudes from Florida, but the State Department itself ignored its own watchlist in awarding separate arms contracts to AEY.


Final FISA vote put off until July 8
[McJoan] Hey Senators! Raise Your Hand if You've Read the FISA Bill . . . [read on]

[AP] Federal agents raided Blackwater Worldwide this week as part of an investigation into a deal that allowed a local sheriff's office to store high-powered assault rifles at the company's armory . . .

Antonin Scalia: a miserable excuse for a jurist

War? What war?

Colin Powell to endorse Obama?

[Marc Ambinder] Never will a campaign predict a landslide, but if only, say, half of the assumptions that guide Obama's general election strategy are true, his campaign is, in essence, preparing for a landslide in the popular vote. There's no way that 10,000 Obama volunteers in Texas won't influence his vote totals there even if he doesn't win.

McCain wants to sit down during the debates with Obama. Can you guess why?

[NB: Bring a phone book!]


Is McCain just pacing himself?
John McCain doesn't work weekends . . .

More financial questions involving a top-ranking McCain official

McCain campaign is trying hard to tell the media how they ought to cover Obama

Bobby Jindal and Mitt Romney are apparently on McCain’s VP short list. Well, we can hope anyway


GOP Senator: Obama doesn’t work bipartisanly – except, well. . . .
[Greg Sargent] This is a fun one. On the McCain conference call this morning, GOP Senator Sam Brownback questioned Obama's bipartisan credentials -- even though Brownback himself has repeatedly worked with the Illinois Senator. . .


GOP blocks Medicare bill – are they TRYING to help the Dems get a 60-vote majority?

Karl Rove test markets one lying slanderous narrative after another against Obama: Damn, one of ‘em has GOT to stick . . .


Joe Lieberman: in a way, even worse than Rove
We already knew that McCain supporter Joe Lieberman had adopted a role as a leading critic of Obama on foreign policy. But now, judging from some quotes buried in this new ABC News interview with the self-described Independent Democrat, it looks as if Lieberman has expanded his repertoire to include attacks on Obama over Reverend Wright, too . . .

Bonus item: Beyond parody

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Thursday, June 26, 2008


War crimes (no, I’m not going to stop using that term)
Philip Gourevitch: "[T]he story of Abu Ghraib was not that Iraqi prisoners were being brutally abused - that was the norm in Iraq. The story was that Americans were doing the abusing - and that they were doing it as a matter of policy."


Meet Esther McDonald
[Jim Popkin] Imagine you are first in your class at Georgetown Law School, had clerked for two federal judges and been the articles editor on a law journal. You’d think you had a pretty good chance at getting an entry-level job as a lawyer at the Justice Department, right?

Not so fast, big shot. The Georgetown Law graduate was turned down, along with a Harvard Law student who had graduated in the top 5 percent of his Harvard undergraduate class, and a Yale Law School standout who had clerked for a federal judge and graduated summa cum laude from Yale College.

Their perceived deficiencies? They were all rejected by the Bush Administration Justice Department because of some affiliation with liberal groups or Democratic Party causes, according to a stinging new report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General (IG) and the Office of Professional Responsibility. . . .

The report is particularly critical of a low-ranking Justice Department lawyer named Esther Slater McDonald, who abruptly resigned from the DOJ last year on the same day that investigators from the Inspector General’s office were scheduled to interview her. She turned down all subsequent interview requests.

The investigators report that McDonald was hired as a political appointee at the Justice Department just three years out of law school. She was assigned to work on the screening committee for the Honors Program and the internship pool, and promptly began doing computer searches on the candidates “for organizations to which candidates belonged,” the report states. In a Nov. 29, 2007 email, McDonald blackballed three candidates “based on her objections to the candidates’ ideological affiliations,” the IG writes. She wrote despairingly in the email of Greenpeace and another group which “increased affirmative action,” and described one applicant’s essay as “filled with leftist commentary and buzz words like ‘environmental justice’ and ‘social justice.’ " She also wrote: “Leftists usually refer to achieving ‘social justice’ or ‘making policy’ or anything else that involves legislating rather than enforcing.”

Under Justice Department regulations and civil service law, it is improper to consider politics or political affiliation when hiring for DOJ career positions, such as the Honors Program and the intern program. . . .
McDonald, who arrived at DOJ in September 2006, was part of the crowd of young DOJ hires who came in during the second Bush term after Alberto Gonzales moved from White House counsel to attorney general. They had limited experience, fierce loyalty to President Bush and sterling conservative credentials.

According to McDonald's LinkedIn profile, she's an alum of Pensacola Christian College and Notre Dame Law School. After graduating in 2003, she worked for Jones Day before being ushered into the hallowed halls of Gonzales' DOJ by none other than the Monica Goodling herself . . .

Within months her work on the Screening Committee would come under scrutiny. When first contacted for an interview by the OIG in September 2007, McDonald agreed. But then she postponed the interview so she could secure counsel. A new interview date was set for October 25, 2007, but department investigators would never get to interview McDonald.

At end of business day on October 24, McDonald's attorney sent an email to investigators, informing them that his client was canceling the interview and was no longer an employee of the Justice Department . . . [read on]


A few funny comments on the ridiculous White House ploy of NOT READING an email they know contains policy advice they don’t want to hear
[David Kurtz] What do you do if the Supreme Court rejects your legal position on greenhouse gas emissions and orders the EPA to make a ruling?

If you're the White House, you stall, delay, and then, when push comes to shove, you simply refuse to open the email from the EPA that contains the new ruling.
[Dday] It is a novel excuse, I will say that. . . .

I would give you my opinion of this, but I refuse to read the article. I excerpted the first two paragraphs with my eyes closed. And if you try to comment I'm not going to read those either. La la la la I can't hear you!
[Kevin Drum] The Bush White House has apparently adopted a bold new strategy for denying that greenhouse gases are an environmental threat: refuse to open email from the EPA that says they are. College freshmen around the world are rejoicing that one of their favorite excuses for avoiding class assignments now has official sanction.


McCain’s money man
As Sen. John McCain's top presidential campaign adviser, Richard H. "Rick" Davis has worked for almost a year without compensation, telling reporters that the sacrifice shows his dedication to the cash-strapped Arizona Republican. He also took a protracted leave from his Washington lobbying firm to distance himself from ethical questions.

But in the eight years since Davis first managed a McCain campaign, his relationship with the senator has been a lucrative commodity. He and his lobbying firm, Davis Manafort, have earned handsome fees representing clients who need McCain's help in the Senate. He also has made money from a panoply of McCain-related entities, some of which have operated from the upscale riverfront office space that houses his lobbying shop.

In all, Davis, his firm and a company he helped start have earned at least $2.2 million in part through their close association with McCain, his campaign and his causes, according to a review of federal campaign, tax and lobbyist disclosure records.

Their relationship is typical of the symbiotic ties that have come to define the culture of the nation's capital. Last summer, Davis provided McCain free tactical advice that rescued his White House bid and helped him clinch the GOP nomination. In the political offseason, Davis turned the relationship into a business asset. . . . [read on]

The Michael Kinsley principle: in DC a “scandal” is saying something everyone knows is true
[Josh Marshall] John McCain says he "strenuously disagree[s]" with advisor Charlie Black's claim that another al Qaida mass casualty terrorist attack would be good news for McCain's election prospects. But back in 2004 he said pretty much the same thing.
[Greg Sargent] Back in 2004, as McCain was stumping in Connecticut on behalf of GOP Rep. Chris Shays, McCain said flatly that the recent release of an Osama Bin Laden tape had likely given the GOP a "little boost." . . .

Black also said that the assassination of Benazir Bhutto had also helped McCain, something the McCain camp also disavowed. But back in December, when the assassination happened, he said it could "serve to enhance" his "credentials."

But IS IT true?
[DarkSyde] It's safe to assume that through 2004 it probably would have helped the Bush administration and thus the Republicans. But what about now, in 2008? Well, hard to say. And much of the eventual reaction might be a function of how bad an attack we're talking about here. If it were a London style train bombing vs an apocalyptic event topping the original 9-11 attacks, would that make a difference?

I don't think it's all clear that a terror attack would indisputably help the GOP at this point. It might even hurt them terribly. In stark contrast to the years immediately following September 2001, President Bush is about as popular as a yeast infection, the GOP hasn't been trusted on terrorism significantly more than democrats for a couple of years. Moreover, the neocons and related media and PR mouthpieces have been whining and promising for years now that everything from Iraq to suspension of the Bill of Rights is necessary because it will protect us from another terror attack, and they've done so at the myopic exclusion of virtually every other issue on the political playing field. What happens if and when that rationale is laid to waste?

McCain admits that our current wars are all about oil
“I also want to make sure that we will take concrete steps towards eliminating our dependence on foreign oil. And I am confident that uh, the, the conflicts that we are in in both Iraq and Afghanistan have also a bearing on that.”

[NB: He did this the other day, too, saying the threat of terrorism is the greatest economic danger to our society. Suddenly, national security is the linchpin for ALL other issues – since this is the only area where he has an advantage over Obama. Worried about gas prices? Keep fighting in Iraq! Worried about your retirement plan? Stop the terrorists before they attack again!]

The emerging McCain policy approach: lay out bold, ambitious targets without ever mentioning how (or even if) it is possible to achieve them
“In recent days I have set before the American people an energy plan.

“And let it begin today with this commitment: In a world of hostile and unstable suppliers of oil, this nation will achieve strategic independence by 2025” . . . [read on]


What IS “strategic independence”? A pile of nonsense, that’s what it is
McCain brought along a little flair, both in his speech and props. While a couple of solar panels were on display off to McCain's left like prizes on the "Price is Right," he chose to deem his grand effort "The Lexington Project" ---named for the site of the first military battle of the Revolutionary War. Moreover, he brought a new term to the table "strategic independence," which McCain said we will achieve by the year 2025--by which time McCain will be 88-years-old . . . .

The latter term had fine journalists scurrying for online dictionaries. The closest we could find was "the ability to protect America without extraneous multilateralist constraints imposed by others." . . .

"Strategic independence is when oil is no longer the primary fuel for our transportation and the oil cartel no longer has the ability to undermine our economy or the paychecks of American workers."

[NB: Again, no problem with this as an aim. We’re headed there inevitably. But the line from here to there, especially in a little over 15 years, is a bit hard to discern . . .]

McCain versus McCain
[Steve Benen] The Supreme Court’s recent ruling on habeas corpus and suspected terrorist detainees has faded a bit on the political world’s radar, but the McCain campaign continues to believe the issue will benefit their candidate. . . . John McCain initially responded to the Supreme Court ruling with mild disappointment. “[I]t is a decision that the Supreme Court has made,” McCain said. “Now we need to move forward.” A day later, McCain said the high court’s ruling was “one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.” It was quite a rapid reversal.

McCain spent the ensuing days bragging about his support for indefinite detention, which is odd, considering that McCain adopted Barack Obama’s position on the issue as recently as three years ago. Here’s what he told Tim Russert June 19, 2005, which as you’ll notice, is the exact opposite of his position now:

“Now, I know that some of these guys [at Guantanamo] are terrible, terrible killers and the worst kind of scum of humanity. But, one, they deserve to have some adjudication of their cases. And there’s a fear that if you release them that they’ll go back and fight again against us. And that may have already happened. But balance that against what it’s doing to our reputation throughout the world and whether it’s enhancing recruiting for people to join al-Qaeda and other organizations and want to do bad things to the United States of America. I think, on balance, the argument has got to be — the weight of evidence has got to be that we’ve got to adjudicate these people’s cases, and that means that if it means releasing some of them, you’ll have to release them.

“Look, even Adolf Eichmann got a trial.”

Imagine, just for a moment, what the right would do if Obama said, for the sake of our national reputation, that we might have release terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay. Indeed, if we took McCain’s quote, attributed it to Obama, and sent it to Fox News and the Wall Street Journal editorial page, they’d talk about little else for the rest of the year.

TP’s Ali noted that McCain, last week, invoked the Nazi war crimes trials to insist that bin Laden should be denied habeas, when in 2005, he cited the exact same war crimes trials to argue the exact opposite point. . . .

We’re getting used to this McCain trick too: meet privately – and in this case secretly – with certain groups so he can tell them, off the record, “Look, whatever I have to say publicly for the masses, just know that I don’t really mean it – nudge, nudge, wink, wink”
[Alex Koppelman] John McCain met recently with Patrick Sammon, the president of the Log Cabin Republicans -- a group for gay Republicans. But to look at his public schedule, you'd never know it. . . .

One other recent example is a meeting McCain held with Republican Latino leaders in Chicago last week, which was closed to the media. In both cases, McCain needs to tread carefully to avoid angering his base, which sees him as not conservative enough in some ways, including on immigration and social issues, but at the same time he needs to project a moderate image to appeal to independents. By keeping these particular meetings quiet, McCain makes it less likely that he'll run into trouble with conservatives or be exposed as someone who changes his positions on issues with the wind. . .

You know, in the old days the Rovian trick of putting others on the defensive for doing the very thing things he or his people were guilty of doing looked like aggressive, audacious politics. Now it just seems kind of laughable
[Steve Benen] O’Reilly, referencing an NYT article published over the weekend, said that the Times had “outed a CIA agent,” which “obviously puts the CIA agent in danger.” . . . Rove added that the NYT has “a very callous view about our nation’s security and interests,” and has “put our country at risk.” . . .

First, the NYT article did, in fact, identify the CIA interrogator who questioned Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. . . . So why include his name? It was a judgment call, but the Times explained that the interrogator “had never worked under cover and that others involved in the campaign against Al Qaeda have been named in news stories and books. The editors judged that the name was necessary for the credibility and completeness of the article.” Whether one finds this responsible or not is open to debate.

But for Karl Rove to have the chutzpah to lambaste the Times for this is extraordinary. . .

The Times identified a CIA agent who wasn’t undercover in order to publish a credible and complete news story. Rove identified a CIA agent who was undercover in order to push back against her husband’s criticism of the White House. And then Rove lied about it.

More on the latent race politics of Rove’s characterization of Obama as “the guy at the country club with the beautiful date”

More Rovian brilliance:

No surprise: McCain pooh-poohs the polls that have him 15 points behind or more

Oh, someone in the Bush campaign brain trust thought this was a great idea: branding Obama as dangerous, mysterious, foreign, and academically effete. Ladies and gentlemen, meet DR. NO

Barack Obama will focus his resources largely in 14 states George W. Bush won in 2004 . . .

The McCain team’s tone-deaf response:
"It’s revealing that Barack Obama has now been forced to expand the states on his map because he’s so weak in traditional Democratic targets such as West Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and Florida, not to mention his ongoing problems in Pennsylvania and Ohio,” said McCain spokesman Brian Rogers. . . [read on]

Hmmm . . . could be smart politics for the Dems: build off that old slogan “make abortion safe, legal, . . . and rare”
Before the Democrats convene in Denver, the Rev. Jim Wallis plans to urge Barack Obama to go along with adding an “abortion reduction” plank to the party platform.

“Abortion reduction should be a central Democratic Party plank in this election,” Wallis told ABC News. “I’ll just say that flat out.” . . . [read on]

James Dobson’s attack on Obama’s Christianity probably helps him

The move to filibuster FISA fails, without Obama’s support. Only 15 Dems voted to uphold the filibuster, so Obama’s vote wouldn’t have made a difference – still, that won’t prevent his being beaten up over it.

This is one of those strange political dynamics where he’s partly doing it to demonstrate his independence from the progressive netroots, who are furious with him. Strangely, then, the more we criticize him, the more it helps him in the public eye

Chris Dodd’s helluva speech:

What a weird system: Clinton can’t ask her supporters to help her cover her campaign debt, but Obama can ask HIS supporters to do it, and then ask HER supporters to support HIM

Chris Matthews mixes up “Obama” and “Osama” on two consecutive shows – what’s going, on, Chris?

I know some of you are Nader fans, but really folks, WTF is he thinking here?
"I haven't heard him have a strong crackdown on economic exploitation in the ghettos," Nader says . . . "Is it because he wants to talk white?”


Schools turn down federal money? (They do when it’s tied to “abstinence only sex education”)

I’ll believe it when I see it, but it’s good news if true
[Marc Ambinder] John McCain's election strategists plan to tone down the Republicans' traditionally aggressive and public campaign against potential voter fraud, several Republicans familiar with the situation say.

The strategists and consultants all would speak only on the condition that their names and affiliations not be used because they were not permitted to divulge the information, they did not want to disclose internal deliberations, and because the issue is still being discussed within the party.

Sources with direct knowledge of the coordinated Republican effort this year say that high-ranking Republicans, including some within McCain's campaign, are convinced that GOP efforts in 2004 were damaging.

"Spreading 10,000 lawyers around the country and announcing a challenge to 40,000 new registrants in Ohio was counterproductive," a Republican familiar with the situation said. The Republican said that many within the party believed that then-Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's efforts to tighten provisional ballot rules ahead of the 2004 may have increased Democratic turnout because it convinced Democrats that Republicans were trying to disenfranchise voters. . . .


Bonus item: Boy, they really just don’t get it, do they?
"John McCain is aware of the Internet" - McCain campaign Internet strategist Mark Soohoo. . .

Pressed again on McCain's tech savvy, he defends his candidate.

"You don't actually have to use a computer to understand how it shapes the country," he says.

"You actually do," former Edwards blogger Tracy Russo responds . . .

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Where do you go when your Justice Dept is breaking the law?
[David Kurtz] The DOJ IG report concludes that Michael Elston, the chief of staff to then-Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, violated federal law and DOJ policy in making partisan-based hiring decisions for the department's Honors Program. . .
[Kate Klonick] The DOJ IG report released this morning, besides providing some memorable quotes on woodland creatures, also gave some valuable statistics on the biased hiring practices of Honor Program attorneys.

The nomination process for attorneys had two stages. First, individual offices in DOJ reviewed applications and selected certain ones for interviews. Then, a Screening Committee selected by the deputy attorney general reviewed the selections and made nominations for final interviews. This was a change made in 2002 when the "involvement of political appointees at the Department in the hiring process was greatly expanded."

The OIG broke down nominees into those that they classified as "Liberal," "Conservative" and "Neutral." They then evaluated the deselection (removal from the hiring process) rate of those nominees between 2002 and 2007. They found a strikingly high percentage of identifiable liberals who were culled from the process compared to identifiable conservatives.

For example, in 2002, of the 100 "liberals" nominated, 80% were "deselected" by the Screening Committee. Of the 46 "conservatives" nominated, only 9% were deselected. . . .
When Fridman asked [Esther] McDonald how she obtained the additional information, she told him she conducted searches on Google and MySpace, and read law review articles written by the applicants. For example, Fridman recalled that one candidate had written a law review article about the detention of individuals at Guantánamo, and McDonald noted on the application that she perceived the applicant's viewpoint to be contrary to the position of the administration. On another application, McDonald noted that she found information on the Internet indicating that a candidate was an "anarchist." . . .
[Christy Hardin Smith] Allow this to soak in for a moment: documentary evidence in personnel files at the US Department of Justice was destroyed, including notes on hiring decisions and other pertinent documents which are generally kept in all cases for review by employers nationwide should there be discrimination or other claims which require later review. They were destroyed. As in missing, taken out of the files, not there...before the OIG and the OPR could look at them.

There will be a lot more on this to come, but that stood out like a big flashing sign to me -- people at the department of justice destroyed evidence in a matter being investigated within the department by the OIG. . .


Oh, boy: Feith, Yoo, and Addington all get called before Congress (but will they show up?)

We knew the Bush gang was reality-challenged. But this is ridiculous
The White House in December refused to accept the Environmental Protection Agency’s conclusion that greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled, telling agency officials that an e-mail message containing the document would not be opened, senior E.P.A. officials said last week.

The document, which ended up in e-mail limbo, without official status, was the E.P.A.’s answer to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that required it to determine whether greenhouse gases represent a danger to health or the environment, the officials said. . . .

[NB: See? If they don’t read it – it doesn’t exist!]

(They’re still doing it)
A large portion of an Inspector General evaluation of federal wildlife programs has been blacked out prior to publication, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Even data tables have been excised from a report on Endangered Species Act implementation, with cutouts so extensive that the core section of the report is virtually unreadable.

It sounds arcane, but it’s quite a story: why did State Dept officials lie to cover up the provenance of weapons that were part of an illegal arms deal?

OK, let’s concede that the “surge is working” (whatever the hell that means). Well, then, what next? Nobody has a clue

Bush declares victory over North Korea (can we just do the same with Iraq and then get out?)

It’s not even news any more, just business as usual
A former top official in the White House's faith-based office was awarded a lucrative Department of Justice grant under pressure from two senior Bush administration appointees. . . .

The ongoing damage caused by Alberto Gonzales

FISA: killing the Intelligence Oversight Board

Is there still a breath of life in the Dems? The coming Senate fight over FISA

Were the Dems bought off?

What will Obama do?
[October 24, 2007] "To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies."

What you can do:

Uh, scratch Tom Ridge off the McCain VP list (he’s pro-choice, he was never going to get it anyhow)

Is this the GOP VP frontrunner? Bring him on!

A second national poll gives Obama a hefty double-digit lead over the other guy. It’s still early, but the GOP should be petrified


Here’s a revealing ad: what does it tell you when a Republican touts his connection with the DEMOCRATIC presidential candidate, not the Republican?

Another strange ad:

So the Religious Right has to deal now with a Democratic candidate who really is a Christian. You’d think they’d be happy. But because for them politics always comes before religion, they’ve come up with a new line: Obama’s the WRONG KIND of Christian

Thank you NYT. Find an angle that spins Charlie Black’s outrageous comment that a terrorist attack would be good for the McCain campaign as a point against the Democrats


Now, HERE’S an energy policy to get behind
[MSNBC] At a town hall in Fresno, CA, McCain admitted that the offshore drilling proposal he unveiled last week would probably have mostly "psychological" benefits, NBC/NJ’s Adam Aigner-Treworgy notes. "Even though it may take some years, the fact that we are exploiting those reserves would have psychological impact that I think is beneficial."

Will M.A.D.D. come out against McCain?

The DNC files suit to expose McCain’s campaign finance violations

Richard Cohen (WP), a steady reliable source of brain-twisting nonsense, now says McCain’s flip-flops, while real, aren’t anything to worry about -- but Obama's are

Bonus item: Yer Prezdent
“I want to tell you how proud I am to be the President of a nation that -- in which there's a lot of Philippine-Americans. They love America and they love their heritage. And I reminded the President that I am reminded of the great talent of the -- of our Philippine-Americans when I eat dinner at the White House.”

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***