Saturday, September 30, 2006


In more than two and half years of doing this, I don’t think I’ve ever had an issue like today’s. I was going to lead with more Woodward revelations, but late Friday developments suggest that the Foley scandal has the potential to bring down the entire Republican House leadership! And I wonder how the media will manage to keep focus on Foley, Woodward, the NIE reports, and a ripening Abramoff scandal all at once, especially when they are so easily distracted – oh, look! A forest fire! A high school shooting! A tropical storm that may some day develop into a hurricane!

Never mind that our national government is rotten to the core . . .

Rep Mark Foley (R-FL): Yesterday we thought he was just guilty of some bad judgment. His staffers dutifully replied:
[ABC] Congressman Mark Foley's office says the e-mails were entirely appropriate and that their release is part of a smear campaign by his opponent.

Well, today we find out it was much, much worse than that. (You might not even want to read these emails – but then again you might.) Foley has quit, may very likely go to jail, and his seat could now swing to a Democrat

Not so bad:

[John Aravosis] Foley's "instant message" communications with yet another underage boy, circa 2003, have now been posted by ABC. They are horrendous. I cannot believe that Denny Hastert knew about Foley using the Net to chat-up underage boys a year ago and DID NOTHING . . . Tell me why Denny Hastert shouldn't be forced to immediately resign. They left your kids with this man AFTER they knew what he was doing. They let him stay in the GOP leadership. They let him remain the chair of the child sex offender caucus. Jesus Christ.
[WP] Foley chaired the House caucus on missing and exploited children and was credited with writing the sexual-predator provisions of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, which Bush signed in July.

Statement, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC)
On the Resignation of Congressman Mark Foley
September 29, 2006

“Congressman Mark Foley’s resignation is a great loss to Florida and the nation. He has been a hard-working, dedicated and effective Congressman. He will be missed."
[Josh Marshall] Rep. Foley (R-FL) may be prosecuted under child sex predator laws he helped pass. . .
[AP] His departure sent Republicans scrambling for a replacement candidate less than six weeks before midterm elections in which Democrats are making a strong bid to gain control of the House.
[Paul Kiel] According to state law, they can pick a new candidate -- but Foley's name will stay on the ballot. . .
[Josh Marshall] Let me explain.

Florida law says that the state GOP cannot remove Foley's name from the ballot. However, since he's dropped out of the race, they can designate a replacement. And any votes "Foley" gets will go to that GOP replacement.

The problem for the GOP is that Florida's 16th congressional district isn't that strong a GOP district. Foley won in 2004 with 68% of the vote. But President Bush pulled only 54%. That tells me it's a GOP district. But not by much. And there was already a serious Democratic challenger in the race.

So here's how this plays out to me. No question, strong Republican partisans will vote for "Foley" because they know that vote goes to the candidate the local GOP has chosen to replace him. But outside of strong partisans, I really don't think a lot of voters are going to check off the box next to the candidate who's just resigned because he was exposed for having sex chats with underaged congressional pages. That just doesn't play to me.

And once the replacement gets picked, candidate X and the local Republican party can start putting up flyers that say "Vote for guy who had cybersex with a minor because the vote will really go to candidate X who would never do such a thing." . . .

But then the real fun starts: let’s play Hot Potato
[Josh Marshall] Big. Big Trouble.

. . . The page in question worked for Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA). And the page brought the matter of his contacts with Foley to the congressman's attention via a staffer, who I'm told has since left Rep. Alexander's employ.

Here's the key passage from the AP article ...

The page worked for Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., who said Friday that when he learned of the e-mail exchanges 10 to 11 months ago, he called the teen's parents. Alexander told the Ruston Daily Leader, "We also notified the House leadership that there might be a potential problem," a reference to the House's Republican leaders.

. . . So Rep. Alexander knew about this 10 or 11 months ago. And he says he notified the House leadership. That means Hastert and (at the time) either Tom DeLay or Rep. Blunt (R-MO). . .
[T]he boy e-mailed a staff member from Alexander’s office about Foley’s e-mails, saying, “This freaked me out.” On the request for a photo, the boy repeated the word “sick” 13 times.
Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., who sponsored the page from his district, told reporters that he learned of the e-mails from a reporter some months ago and passed on the information to Rep. Thomas Reynolds, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Republican campaign organization [the National Republican Congressional Committee].
An NRCC spokesman says the matter was brought before the House Page Board. But it's not clear what they did about it.
Chairman of the House Page Board, Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) interviewed Foley last year about some of the contacts with the page. The House clerk, who is also a member of the Board, was also present. Speaker Hastert's office was informed of the interview, but according to GOP leadership sources who spoke to Roll Call, Hastert himself was not informed.

Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI), the only Democrat on the Board, was not informed of the interview. . .
Rep. Shimkus on why he didn't inform the Page Board's lone Democrat about the Foley matter: "I'm the chairman of the page board. The Clerk and I addressed this issue."
Rep. Shimkus released the following statement ...

“As chairman of the bipartisan House Page Board in late 2005, I was notified by the then Clerk of the House, who manages the Page Program, that he had been told by Congressman Rodney Alexander about an email exchange between Congressman Foley and a former House Page. I took immediate action to investigate the matter.

“In that email exchange, Congressman Foley asked about the former Page’s well-being after Hurricane Katrina and requested a photograph. When asked about the email exchange, Congressman Foley said he expressed concern about the Page’s well-being and wanted a photo to see that the former Page was alright.

“Congressman Foley told the Clerk and me that he was simply acting as a mentor to this former House Page and that nothing inappropriate had occurred. Nevertheless, we ordered Congressman Foley to cease all contact with this former House Page to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. We also advised him to be especially mindful of his conduct with respect to current and former House Pages, and he assured us he would do so. I received no subsequent complaints about his behavior nor was I ever made aware of any additional emails.

“It has become clear to me today, based on information I only now have learned, that Congressman Foley was not honest about his conduct.

“As Chairman of the House Page Board, I am working with the Clerk to fully review this incident and determine what actions need to be taken.

“The House Page Program has been an integral part of the House of Representatives for many decades. Preserving the integrity of the House Page Program is of utmost importance to me and to the House of Representatives, and we intend to uphold and protect its values and traditions.”

The whole matter has been turned over to the House ethics committee.
[John Aravosis] What was the extent of Shimkus' investigation of whether a member of Congress was soliciting sex with a minor, or at the very least bordering on sexually harassing a minor? Shimkus asked Foley if he was hitting on the kid, Foley said no, so Shimkus said "okay," and let it go. Obviously sex with children is a real big concern to the Republican house. . .

First off, nice that Shimkus, who according to the Associated Press wrote this statement with the help of GOP Speaker Denny Hastert's office, after avoiding reporters for hours, spins Foley's creepy emails to sound totally benign. In fact, Shimkus doesn't bother mentioning the most damning parts of the email exchange, Foley commenting on the underage kid's apparently underage friend's hot body, and also somewhat creepy, asking the kid for a picture and asking how old he is. I'm sure it was an oversight. Oh that's right, there is no oversight in the Republican house. You simply ask someone a question and believe whatever answer they give you, then the investigation is over.

Interesting that the pages now say they were routinely warned about Foley by their page overseers. Did Shimkus bother talking to the page overseers, or any of the pages, to find out what was up with Foley? How is it that in just 24 hours ABC was able to get a copy of Foley's sex-talk instant message chat with an underage page, yet Shimkus found nothing? . . .

More from Roll Call, "According to a senior House GOP leadership aide, Speaker Dennis Hastert's (R-Ill.) office was informed of the interview shortly after it occurred, but Hastert himself was not told." Right. A male Republican member of Congress is being investigated for possibly sexually harassing an underage male page and Denny Hastert's office is notified and nobody tells Hastert? Right. And the matter is considered so important that the Clerk of House gets involved and joins in the interview with Foley. Yet still no one tells Hastert. Uh huh.

We still don't know when the kid's congressman, Rodney Alexander (R-LA), was told about the incident, and what he did about it. He claims he found out from a reporter. But at the same time he says his staff found out when the kid contacted them and was creeped out. Which one was it? Did Alexander sit on the information until the press finally contacted him and he was forced to act?

What are the House procedures for dealing with an allegation of this kind? Simply to pass it to the Page Board, having Foley's own Republican peers investigate him? There are no House rules whatsoever about having someone independent look into whether a member of Congress sexually harassed a minor page? . . .

So the Republicans are telling us that they never heard anything else about Foley in all the time he was in Congress. Very interesting. Because I certainly heard some rumors about Foley over the years . . .
[Hunter] [Minority Leader Nancy] Pelosi, furious that the Democratic leadership were not informed of the situation for nearly an entire year after the emails were discovered, has already demanded and gotten a House Ethics investigation -- her resolution passed the House 410 to zero. The House committee on Official Conduct now has ten days to issue a preliminary report on what the Republican leadership knew, when they knew it, and what they did or didn't do about it. . .
Though I haven't seen the point made explicitly, it's clear from the late ABC News reports that there are multiple pages in question. . .
[Hunter] This is huge. The number of Republican representatives who knew about the Foley advances towards young pages nearly a year ago appears to include House Speaker Dennis Hastert; Tom Reynolds; John Shimkus; Alexander; and as Josh Marshall points out, Tom Delay and/or Roy Blunt.

Jesus. They knew for nearly a year, and covered it up. The "corruption" frame just got a hell of a lot more serious. Today, Dennis Hastert said an investigation would be forthcoming. I'll bet he's right, and I'll bet he's going to be one of the ones investigated -- because he knew of it ten months ago.
Republican Majority Leader John Boehner was also informed by Alexander of Foley's behavior.

That makes between seven and nine Republican Congressmen, minimum, that had been informed.
Roll Call says "at least four Republican House Members, one senior GOP aide and a former top officer of the House were aware of the allegations about Foley that prompted the initial reporting regarding his e-mail contacts with a 16-year-old House page. They include: Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) and Reps. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) and John Shimkus (R-Ill.), as well as a senior aide to Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and former Clerk of the House Jeff Trandahl."
House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told The Washington Post last night that he had learned this spring of some "contact" between Foley and a 16-year-old page. Boehner said he told House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), and that Hastert assured him "we're taking care of it."
[John Aravosis] GOP House Speaker Denny Hastert has asked for an investigation to make sure other pages weren't sexually harassed or abused. But the House leadership was told almost a year ago about Mark Foleys' hanky-panky online communications with underage pages and Hastert did nothing. Why didn't Hastert do an investigation at the time to make sure the pages were all right? Why did Hastert leave Foley in charge of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children when he knew Foley had some possible personal issues involving the exploitation of children? Why did Hastert let Foley remain in the House leadership for a good year after he knew about these accusations? Cruising underage kids isn't a disqualifier for being in the House leadership? Why did Denny Hastert let Foley remain anywhere near underage pages at all?

Would you let your kids near someone like Foley if you had been warned a year ago? Then why did Denny Hastert? The parent of every kid who was a page in the last year should be livid at the Republicans right now.

And where is our wonderful religious right? Or doesn't the sexual exploitation of children bother them when it's their own politicians who are doing the exploiting and the covering up?
[Roll Call] Boehner strongly denied media reports late Friday night that he had informed Hastert of the allegations, saying "That is not true."
Boehner later contacted The Post and said he could not remember whether he talked to Hastert. . .
[Chris] Did the GOP not learn anything from the massive Vatican cover up with pedophilia? Sweeping this under the rug and hoping it goes away is not a strategy. Helping a pedophile and sexual predator is not a positive value. Choosing to prop up a pedophile and predator for campaign purposes tells me this crowd, who seems to have known about the Foley abuses for a long time, tells me that the GOP will say and do anything to hold power.

It is especially disturbing to hear that everyone seemed to know that Foley was a child predator yet it continued to happen without helping the children involved. How morally bankrupt is the GOP leadership when they just sit there and let this happen?
[Joe] In most of these scandals involving elected officials, it's not the crime, it's the cover-up. In the Foley case, it's the crime AND the cover-up. . . .

So, let's get it started....

The Woodward hits keep a’coming
Former White House chief of staff Andrew Card on two occasions tried and failed to persuade President Bush to fire Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, according to a new book by Bob Woodward that depicts senior officials of the Bush administration as unable to face the consequences of their policy in Iraq.

Card made his first attempt after Bush was reelected in November, 2004, arguing that the administration needed a fresh start and recommending that Bush replace Rumsfeld with former secretary of state James A. Baker III. Woodward writes that Bush considered the move, but was persuaded by Vice President Cheney and Karl Rove, his chief political adviser, that it would be seen as an expression of doubt about the course of the war and would expose Bush himself to criticism.

Card tried again around Thanksgiving, 2005, this time with the support of First Lady Laura Bush, who according to Woodward, felt that Rumsfeld's overbearing manner was damaging to her husband. Bush refused for a second time, and Card left the administration last March, convinced that Iraq would be compared to Vietnam and that history would record that no senior administration officials had raised their voices in opposition to the conduct of the war. . .

Last May, Woodward writes, the intelligence division of the Joint Chiefs of Staff circulated a secret intelligence estimate predicting that violence will not only continue for the rest of this year in Iraq but increase in 2007.

"Insurgents and terrorists retain the resources and capabilities to sustain and even increase current level of violence through the next year," said the report, which was distributed to the White House, State Department and other intelligence agencies.

The report presented a similarly bleak assessment of oil production, electricity generation and the political situation in Iraq. . .

Woodward writes that Rice and Rumsfeld have been warned repeatedly about the deteriorating situation in Iraq.

Returning from his assignment as the first head of the Iraq Postwar Planning Office, retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner told Rumsfeld on June 23, 2003, that the United States had made "three tragic mistakes" in Iraq.

The first two, he said, were the orders his successor, L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer, had given banning members of the Baath Party from government jobs and disbanding the Iraqi military. The third was Bremer's dismissal of an interim Iraqi leadership group that had been eager to help the United States administer the country in the short term.

"There's still time to rectify this," he said. "There's still time to turn it around."

But Rumsfeld dismissed the idea, according to Woodward. "We're not going to go back," Rumsfeld said. . .

A year later, Rumsfeld received an even more blunt criticism from Steve Herbits, a longtime friend who according to Woodward has served as an informal adviser to Rumsfeld since he became defense secretary. . .

Herbits . . . described "Rumsfeld's style of operation," which he said was the "Haldeman model, arrogant," referring to Nixon's White House chief of staff H. R. "Bob" Haldeman. "Indecisive, contrary to popular image. Would not accept that some people in some areas were smarter than he. . . . Trusts very few people. Very, very cautious. Rubber glove syndrome---a tendency not to leave his fingerprints on decisions." . . .

Some of the highest-ranking officers serving under Rumsfeld had similar misgivings about Iraq.

Last March, Gen. John Abizaid, head of the Central Command, met privately with Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), who had criticized the Bush administration for its approach to Iraq as "a flawed policy wrapped in illusion" and called for withdrawal. Murtha was then attacked by the White House for "endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party."

According to Murtha, Woodward writes, Abizaid raised his hand for emphasis and held his thumb and forefinger a quarter of an inch from each other and said, "We're that far apart."

But, according to Woodward, Rumsfeld made sure that the two men who he has chosen to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- Air Force Gen. Richard Myers and Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace -- were not people who would directly challenge him. . .

Woodward describes Rice as frequently at odds with Rumsfeld when she served as national security adviser and her staff as increasingly concerned about the lack of a strategy for winning the war in Iraq.

When she became secretary of state in 2005, Rice asked Philip Zelikow, an old friend, to travel to Iraq to assess the situation. On February 10, Rice's 14th day as secretary, Zelikow presented her with a 15-page, single-spaced memo.

"At this point Iraq remains a failed state shadowed by constant violence and undergoing revolutionary political change," Zelikow wrote.

"State of Denial" adds new information about Rice's role in the Bush administration's efforts to combat terrorism in the months before the Sept. 11 attacks. . .

Woodward writes that on July 10, 2001, then-CIA director George Tenet became so concerned about the communication intelligence agencies were receiving indicating that a terrorist attack was imminent that he went to the White House with counterterrorism chief J. Cofer Black . . . But Tenet and Black felt that Rice gave them "the brush-off," according to Woodward, telling them that a plan for coherent action against bin Laden was already in the works. Woodward writes that both Tenet and Black felt the meeting was the starkest warning the White House was given about bin Laden. . .
Robert D. Blackwill, then the top Iraq adviser on the National Security Council, is said to have issued his warning about the need for more troops in a lengthy memorandum sent to Ms. Rice. The book says Mr. Blackwill’s memorandum concluded that more ground troops, perhaps as many as 40,000, were desperately needed.

It says that Mr. Blackwill and L. Paul Bremer III, then the top American official in Iraq, later briefed Ms. Rice and Stephen J. Hadley, her deputy, about the pressing need for more troops during a secure teleconference from Iraq. It says the White House did nothing in response.

The book describes a deep fissure between Colin L. Powell, Mr. Bush’s first secretary of state, and Mr. Rumsfeld. . .

Vice President Cheney is described as a man so determined to find proof that his claim about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was accurate that, in the summer of 2003, his aides were calling the chief weapons inspector, David Kay, with specific satellite coordinates as the sites of possible caches. None resulted in any finds. . .

[More on that wild Cheney story:]
[Kevin Drum] Bottom line: Powell didn't get along with Rumsfeld, Rumsfeld didn't get along with Rice, Cheney didn't get along with anyone, the war was going to hell the entire time, and Bush was sleeping through the whole thing. Cheers!
The White House on Friday dismissed a new book’s portrayal of division and discord inside the Bush administration, suggesting that the account by Bob Woodward had been provided by former aides who believed that their advice on troop levels and other questions of strategy in Iraq had been ignored.

[NB: Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s not true!]

Even as the White House scrambled to obtain a few copies of the book, “State of Denial,” to be released Monday, administration officials were rebutting specific examples in Mr. Woodward’s account, which described sharp clashes and long-running feuds fueled by the debate over the war. But other administration officials, speaking only if they were not identified, said the details in the book reflected a breakdown of discipline in an administration that once prized its ability to keep its disputes in-house. . . .

Mr. Snow had difficulty explaining why President Bush had failed to listen to such a broad range of officials who had called for more troops, including Robert D. Blackwill, the former top Iraq adviser, and L. Paul Bremer III, the senior American official running the occupation. Nor did Mr. Snow explain why Mr. Bush’s upbeat assessments of a “Plan for Victory” in Iraq, laid out in speeches late last year, contrasted so sharply with the contents of classified memorandums written by officials who warned that failure was also a significant possibility.

Some of those memorandums were written by Philip D. Zelikow, a counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, including one in early 2005 in which Mr. Zelikow characterized Iraq as “a failed state” two years after the invasion, and another in September 2005, in which he said there was a 70 percent chance of success in achieving a stable, democratic state. That meant, Mr. Zelikow said, that there was a 30 percent chance of failure, including what he called a “significant risk” of “catastrophic failure,” meaning a collapse of the state Mr. Bush has tried to create. . .

The book contends that Andrew H. Card Jr., as White House chief of staff, urged Mr. Bush to replace Mr. Rumsfeld. In a telephone interview on Friday, Mr. Card confirmed that he had raised the issue, but suggested that Mr. Woodward had ignored the context. “Right after the election, I went to Camp David and talked to the president, and we talked about a lot of changes, starting with the chief of staff,” Mr. Card said, recounting how he used to tote around what he called his “hit by a bus book,” a notebook of lists of potential replacements for senior White House staff members and top cabinet officials.

“It’s not inaccurate to say that we talked about Rumsfeld,” he said. “I can understand why Bob would try to create a climate around these conversations.” But he added: “There was no campaign, and I didn’t go out and solicit others to back any view about getting rid of anyone. I could talk about these things with the president, and plant seeds, because there is a cadence to life in Washington and you raise these issues periodically.”

Mr. Card acknowledged that he renewed the question of replacing Mr. Rumsfeld this year, but again insisted that it was not part of a specific effort to single out the defense secretary for removal. . .

The White House went to extra lengths to dispute Mr. Woodward’s portrait of Mr. Bush as a president who viewed news from Iraq through the best possible lens and who failed to come to grips with reports of a deteriorating security situation.
[Dan Froomkin] After two books that made President Bush look pretty good, Bob Woodward is out with a new one that comes awfully close to calling the president a liar. . .

This snippet is interesting. It suggests that Woodward partly composed his latest book by taking material that wasn’t used in the previous two – which came out when Bush was riding high. Now that he’s not, and the disaster of Iraq is becoming apparent to all, Woodward is taking the out-takes that didn’t fit the “Bush as hero” narrative, and reconstructing an alternative view of history that suits the current mood. But it seems apparent that he must have had a lot of this material before, and buried it (either that or a lot of people are suddenly changing their stories)
Mr. Woodward’s first two books about the Bush administration, “Bush at War” and “Plan of Attack,” portrayed a president firmly in command and a loyal, well-run team responding to a surprise attack and the retaliation that followed. As its title indicates, “State of Denial” follows a very different storyline, of an administration that seemed to have only a foggy notion that early military success in Iraq had given way to resentment of the occupiers. . .

Or, as Susan Madrak puts it. . .
Bob Woodward senses the massive problems with the Iraq war, and runs to the front of the parade. . .

Two can play that game
Snow ignored a question from one reporter who asked why the White House had hailed Woodward's two previous books on Bush and the war as accurate but now they say the new one has many errors. . .
White House spokesman Tony Snow, meanwhile, says the book and its tales of dysfunction, deceit, and backstabbing is "sort of like cotton candy—it kind of melts on contact." . . .

More on the emerging struggle to rewrite history
[E.J. Dionne] We remember the period immediately after Sept. 11 as a time when partisanship melted away. That is largely true, especially because Democrats rallied behind President Bush. For months after the attacks, Democrats did not raise questions about why they had happened on Bush's watch.

But not everyone was nonpartisan. On Oct. 4, 2001, a mere three weeks and a couple of days after the twin towers fell and the Pentagon was hit, there was Rush Limbaugh arguing on the Wall Street Journal's op-ed page: "If we're serious about avoiding past mistakes and improving national security, we can't duck some serious questions about Mr. Clinton's presidency."

To this day I remain astonished at Limbaugh's gall -- and at his shrewdness. Republicans were arguing simultaneously that it was treasonous finger-pointing to question what Bush did or failed to do to prevent the attacks, but patriotic to go after Clinton. . .

[Steve Benen] The debate, for quite a while, has been rather one sided — Bush's allies have said simultaneously that we can't play the "blame game," and in the next breath, have said everything is Clinton's fault.

It's not only contradictory, it's plainly, demonstrably wrong. It's no wonder the Bush gang is sensitive about it. . .

Add to this today's revelation that the Bush White House was presented with a plan to kill Osama bin Laden months before 9/11, but Condi Rice and the Bush gang blew off intelligence officials, and we see that this isn't an argument the president and his supporters really want to have.

Indeed, it's been an odd week in this regard. The Bush gang fueled the fight over pre-9/11 counter-terrorism, even though they knew they'd end up looking bad. The same Bush gang responded to the NIE leak with a bogus defense, even though they knew the NIE would make them appear foolish.

I wonder what the weather is like in the Bush gang's reality?
Olbermann examines the recent claims that Bush in his first 8 months was as aggressive in going after bin Laden as Clinton. Guess what? It's all lies and Olbermann has compiled the facts and footage to prove it, including stuff I suspect is quite new to most of us (such as that the Taliban offered Bush, yes Bush, to hand over bin Laden to the Saudis and he ignored the offer). And guess what? It's on MSNBC and nobody will see it. . .

And in Iraq. . . .
[Barbara Raab] In Iraq, the minority Sunni Arabs have long been pissed off about the problem of rogue militia members and criminals infiltrating the Shiite-dominated national police and security forces, and Iraqi leaders' unwillingness or inability to purge the worst offenders. In May, Iraqi and American inspectors found a house of horrors at the police prison in eastern Baghdad known as Site 4—1,400 prisoners crowded into a small space, some with "lesions resulting from torture," others beaten, bound, and hung by their arms. The Times reports the U.S. is warning Iraqi leaders that if they do not crack down on the abuses, the U.S. will withhold funding for the police forces under a law, known as the Leahy law, that prohibits the financing of foreign security forces that commit "gross violations of human rights."

The Times makes no mention of what feels like the elephant in the (news)room: the administration's high road stand on human rights comes just two days after the Bush administration succeeded in getting Congress's permission for all but the most extreme types of interrogation techniques for terror suspects in U.S. custody. Moreover, TP notes that it was just 10 days ago that the Times gave front page real estate to senior Iraqi and American officials' strong doubts about Maliki (note: subscription required); is the paper merely reporting on, or is it being used to help create, a dump-Maliki movement?

The WH has been flirting with this new mantra for a while: now it bursts forth in full blossom. Questioning the war – or even referring to THE GOVERNMENT’S OWN EVIDENCE that the war is going badly – is succumbing to the “propaganda” of the enemy
[Josh Marshall] I think we're getting down to that true last refuge of the scoundrel marrow.

According to the president, those who think he's created a mess in Iraq which is making us less rather than more secure are "buy[ing] into the enemy's propaganda."

Isn't this what the president's own intelligence agencies are telling him? I guess they're buying into the enemy's propaganda. From what the polls seem to say, more than half the country is buying into the enemy's propaganda too. Pretty much everybody does, I guess, beside the president and those who sign on to his dogmas. . .
[Kevin Drum] You have to give the hawks credit. Here is Robert Kaplan on why George Bush will have trouble getting support for a war with Iran:

Though they may not admit it, the political elites beyond loyal administration circles, and particularly in Europe, simply do not trust Bush's ability to wage another war. Here is where the real problem lies; by delegitimizing his ability to wage war, they delegitimize his right to wage war.

That's a helluva triple gainer, isn't it? The problem, apparently, lies not in the actual fact that Bush has prosecuted the Iraq war with astonishing incompetence, but in the fact that non-Republican "political elites" have peevishly decided to take note of Bush's performance. Wow.

Believe it or not, though, it gets worse later on in the piece:

As someone who supported the invasion of Iraq, I know that the problem with grand assumptions is that they're nice when they succeed; otherwise you require a Plan B. The idea that there is no alternative to diplomacy in dealing with Iran, even after it achieves nuclear status, is another grand assumption, but without a Plan B.

The president and his hawkish enablers are rather plainly trying to maneuver the country into a position where military force will be the only plausible option available to us against Iran. Not only do they have no Plan B, but they're actively trying to close off even the possibility of a Plan B in the future. Is this a problem? You'd think so, but in a breathtaking piece of table-turning chutzpah Kaplan declares that the real problem lies with those who are trying to keep our options open. Apparently they suffer from the unforgivable stain of having been right about Iraq.

Bush logic
"The Democrats can't have it both ways," said President Bush. "Either they believe that Iraq is a distraction from the war on terror, or they agree with the intelligence community and the terrorists themselves that the outcome of Iraq is important in the war on terror. The truth is the Democrats are using the NIE to mislead the American people . . .

Desperate whitehousewives
"It's hard to overstate how frantically the White House has swung into damage control in response to the NIE on terrorism. It's the biggest deal here this week - not the escalation in Bush's rhetoric on terrorism, not Abramoff, not Bob Woodward's new book, not the housing picture. Bush has not discussed Iraq without trying to spin the NIE. For quite some time, we'd heard Bush use his speeches to challenge the idea that attacking Iraq had stirred up a "hornet's nest." And he'd been offering up variations on "some say Iraq made terrorism worse, I disagree." Now we know who "some" were: The US intelligence community."

The Abramoff case starts to bear fruit – will the press take the time to lead people through the details of systemic Republican corruption?
[Paul Kiel] There's already a lot of evidence out there that Ken Mehlman was Jack Abramoff's prime favor man in the White House -- but this new congressional report provides the most damning example yet.

[WP] One exchange of e-mails cited in the report suggests that former Abramoff lobbying team member Tony C. Rudy succeeded in getting Mehlman to press reluctant Justice Department appointees to release millions of dollars in congressionally earmarked funds for a new jail for the Mississippi Choctaw tribe, an Abramoff client. Rudy wrote Abramoff in November 2001 e-mails that Mehlman said he would "take care of" the funding holdup at Justice after learning from Rudy that the tribe made large donations to the GOP.

So in exchange for political contributions, Mehlman made sure the Choctaw got their $16 million contract. I believe that's called a quid pro quo.

It's by no means the only example of Mehlman's favors.

In 2001, he made sure a State Department official wasn't re-nominated for his post -- the official, Allen Stayman was a long-time foe of Abramoff's.

And according to a report from the Justice Department's Inspector General, Mehlman ordered one of his suboordinates at the White House to keep Abramoff updated on issues related to Guam; Abramoff was keen to see the U.S. Attorney there replaced. . .
[Paul Kiel] In an email exchange subject-lined "were you able to whack mccain's wife yet?" Ralph Reed and Jack Abramoff discuss derailing the nomination of a woman named Angela Williams to an Interior post.

Williams was up for head of the Office of Insular Affairs in the Department of the Interior, which has authority over decisions affecting the Northern Mariana Islands, an Abramoff client.

With the White House's help, Abramoff's effort was successful. Ralph Reed emailed Abramoff, "talked to rove about this and I think I killed it."
A top aide to presidential adviser Karl Rove passed along inside White House information to superlobbyist Jack Abramoff at a time when she was also accepting his tickets to nine sports and entertainment events, according to e-mails released yesterday in a bipartisan congressional report. . .
The House Government Reform Committee has released a bipartisan report on the Jack Abramoff scandal, including hundreds of emails between Abramoff and various GOP luminaries, including Karl Rove's assistant, Susan Ralston. And why not? Ralston used to work for Abramoff, after all.

You can see 'em all here. Mostly they seem to be obsessed with the giving and getting of skybox tickets to various sporting events, but Abramoff's bilking of Indian tribes and other clients is an ongoing favorite too. I haven't read the whole bunch, but I've reproduced my favorite exchange below. I wonder how many emails to "Susan's mc pager" didn't get into the White House system? . . .

The press:
CBS and NBC have almost completely ignored Roll Call's revelation that a House committee is preparing to release a bipartisan report documenting closer ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff than the Bush White House previously acknowledged.

The kind of people they are
[Glenn Greenwald] These two coddled authoritarian cultists are giggling about people who have been put into cages for the last five years on an island, away from their lives and their families, with little hope of ever being released. Many of them have attempted suicide. . . To sit around chortling about how great these detainees have it and how grateful they should be requires a sociopathic derangement that is nothing short of grotesque. . .

Didn’t I predict this? Republicans voted for the torture/tribunal bill KNOWING it would be overturned by the courts
And even some Republicans who voted for the bill said they expected the Supreme Court to strike down the legislation because of the habeas corpus provision, ultimately sending the legislation right back to Congress. . .
[Paul Kiel] How long before the torture bill the Senate passed yesterday is challenged in court? "Days." . . .

Having cowed the media, the Congress, and half the population not to dare question their war and terror policies, or be branded as traitors, the Bush gang now prepares to browbeat the courts. (They REALLY ARE totalitarians.)
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who is defending President Bush's anti-terrorism tactics in multiple court battles, said Friday that federal judges should not substitute their personal views for the president's judgments in wartime. . .
Supreme Court decisions that are "so clearly at variance with the national will" should be overridden by the other branches of government, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says. . .

The Senate caves (again)

The drip, drip, drip of George Allen (R-VA) N-word anecdotes is becoming a flood
Edward J. Sabornie, a special education professor at North Carolina State University. . . remembered Allen using the word "nigger" to describe blacks. "It was so common with George when he was among his white friends. This is the terminology he used," Sabornie said in that article.

Sabornie said he has now decided to let his name be known because he was upset by how Allen responded this week to the Salon story. "What George said on Monday really kind of inflamed me -- that it was 'ludicrously false' that he ever used the N-word," Sabornie told Salon. "I don't know how George can look himself in the mirror after saying that."

Since Sunday, four other named acquaintances of Allen have told news organizations that they witnessed Allen using a racial epithet or demonstrating racist behavior. Allen, and his campaign staff, have denied each of the claims. . .

Sabornie said his opinion of Allen dimmed after the senator called an Indian-American student "macaca" at a recent campaign rally. "That was the catalyst," Sabornie said. "I saw the old George." . . He said he remembers Allen also referring to blacks as "roaches," and using the word "wetback" to refer to Latinos.

And now Allen’s getting it from the other side!
Now, Even Allen's Apologies Are Getting Him in Trouble
Sons of Confederate Veterans Is the Most Recent Group Offended by Senator's Comments . . . [read on!]

Theocracy watch

More on Bush’s “comma”

Yes, the 2000 election was stolen, and no, I’m not willing to let it go and get over it

Bonus item: Rush Limbaugh is a racist pig (I know, I know – stop the presses)

***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, September 29, 2006


Let me warn you: this is an angry posting today. Read on, and see if it doesn’t make you angry too.

I had a lot of post mortems to choose from, commenting on the criminal act the Republicans pulled off yesterday (with some Democratic culpability). Here are a few of the best
[Steve Benen] Listening to today's floor debate in the Senate on Bush's detainee bill, and reading various commentaries and analyses, I keep hoping to find that one summary that will magically help the nation understand that the legislation under consideration isn't just another piece of right-wing nonsense, it's an assault on our democracy. . .
History Will Not Absolve Us
[McJoan] Today, the Congress has forever stained its reputation and that of the United States of America. . .
[Bruce Ackerman] The compromise legislation, which is racing toward the White House, authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States....It also allows him to seize anybody who has "purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States." This grants the president enormous power over citizens and legal residents. They can be designated as enemy combatants if they have contributed money to a Middle Eastern charity, and they can be held indefinitely in a military prison. . . What is worse, if the federal courts support the president's initial detention decision, ordinary Americans would be required to defend themselves before a military tribunal without the constitutional guarantees provided in criminal trials.
[Tristero] The truth is that the United States government is presently holding, torturing, and even murdering countless numbers of people who have no chance in hell of obtaining a lawyer, let alone anything resembling a trial. The government is doing this under the direct orders of George W. Bush. There is no law, no bill, and no legislature who can stop him. If Congress were to pass a law unequivocably banning torture and send it to him, he'd use it for toilet paper. If the Supreme Court were to rule against Bush in the harshest and bluntest language, he'd yawn.

The truth is that there is a rogue presidency . . .
[Glenn Greenwald] There really is no other way to put it. Issues of torture to the side (a grotesque qualification, I know), we are legalizing tyranny in the United States. Period. . .
[Dan Froomkin] Today's Senate vote on President Bush's detainee legislation, after House approval yesterday, marks a defining moment for this nation.

How far from our historic and Constitutional values are we willing to stray? How mercilessly are we willing to treat those we suspect to be our enemies? How much raw, unchecked power are we willing to hand over to the executive?

The legislation before the Senate today would ban torture, but let Bush define it; would allow the president to imprison indefinitely anyone he decides falls under a wide-ranging new definition of unlawful combatant; would suspend the Great Writ of habeas corpus; would immunize retroactively those who may have engaged in torture. And that's just for starters.

It's a red-letter day for the country. It's also a telling day for our political system.

The people have lost confidence in their president. Despite that small recent uptick in the polls, Bush remains deeply unpopular with the American public, mistrusted by a majority, widely considered out of touch with the nation's real priorities.

But he's still got Congress wrapped around his little finger.

Today's vote will show more clearly than ever before that, when push comes to shove, the Republicans who control Congress are in lock step behind the president, and the Democrats -- who could block him, if they chose to do so -- are too afraid to put up a real fight.

The kind of emotionless, he-said-she-said news coverage, lacking analysis and obsessed with incremental developments and political posturing -- in short, much of modern political journalism -- just doesn't do this story justice. . .
[Alexander Dryer] The Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the New York Times all lead with the Senate's approval of rules for the interrogation and prosecution of terror detainees. . . Amazingly, only the LAT fronts a substantive account of what the detainee bill actually says. . .

The Post, citing constitutional scholars, argues that "the bill pushes at the edges of so much settled U.S. law that its passage will not be the last word on America's detainee policies." As Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh tells the paper, "it's not clear that most of the members understand what they've done."

The Bill of Rights: what’s left of them

What CNN cares about
[Atrios] I know getting upset over the quality of cable news is really a waste of emotion, but CNN has spent the entire day repackaging pointless local news stories as if they mattered. . .

What Republicans care about
In June, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said, with a straight face, that a constitutional amendment on "flag desecration" was the single most important issue facing the nation. . .
[Think Progress] Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO), the lead sponsor of the constitutional ban on gay marriage in the House, . . . declared that gay marriage "is the most important issue that we face today."
[CNN] Trent Lott told reporters today that George Bush and GOP Senators barely mentioned Iraq when they met this morning and that they don’t obsess over the war. . . “You're the only ones who obsess on that. We don't . . .”

[BONUS] On the sectarian violence in Iraq, Lott said: “Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me.”

Angry yet?
[Steve Benen] Paul Kiel raises a point that's been bothering me all day.

Over the last two days, the Senate has been considering a bill that, just about everyone can agree, is of singular importance.

The Senate has allotted itself ten hours of debate to consider the bill and five amendments offered for it.

Compare that to the three days of debate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) provided in June, to consider the Marriage Protection Amendment (and even after that, the amendment failed). At the time, Democrats complained that Frist was eating up precious floor time with a political stunt.

Of course it was a stunt. GOP leaders knew in advance they didn't have the votes, but they scheduled three days of debate anyway, because they needed to drag it out as long as possible to satisfy the extremist base.

In one sense, the debate over the detainee bill might as well be cancelled — proponents of this bill aren't going to be swayed by evidence or reason — but on principle alone, what does it say about a Senate that devotes three days to an anti-gay bill that they know can't pass, but 10 hours to a measure to discard habeas, undercut due process, and embrace torture?

Kiel added, by the way, Rick Santorum argued, back when the anti-gay amendment was under consideration, that the three days of scheduled debate had nothing to do with exploiting homophobia for partisan gain.

"If it was purely politics, Santorum said, "let me assure you we'd be debating this in September."

Good point, Rick. When the GOP majority really wants to abuse the process and manipulate Senate debate for purely political reasons, they wait until September, when more voters are likely to notice.

Remind me, what are they debating today?

Republican moderates? I’ll never use the expression again

If there is any cosmic justice, this cynical travesty will gain the Republicans ZERO congressional seats they wouldn’t have won anyway, and cost them Joe Lieberman
[Mark Kleiman] With Joe Lieberman voting for the torture and arbitrary detention bill on final passage, Ned Lamont has the chance to turn the Connecticut Senate race into a referendum on whether we intend to remain the United States of America, or give in to the terrorists by shredding our Constitution and sacrificing our national honor to our fears. . .

Bob Woodward is about to throw a huge stink bomb into the middle of the “we are winning the war in Iraq” party
The White House ignored an urgent warning in September 2003 from a top Iraq adviser who said that thousands of additional American troops were desperately needed to quell the insurgency there, according to a new book by Bob Woodward, the Washington Post reporter and author. The book describes a White House riven by dysfunction and division over the war. . .

As late as November 2003, Mr. Bush is quoted as saying of the situation in Iraq: “I don’t want anyone in the cabinet to say it is an insurgency. I don’t think we are there yet.”

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld is described as disengaged from the nuts-and-bolts of occupying and reconstructing Iraq — a task that was initially supposed to be under the direction of the Pentagon — and so hostile toward Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser, that President Bush had to tell him to return her phone calls. The American commander for the Middle East, Gen. John P. Abizaid, is reported to have told visitors to his headquarters in Qatar in the fall of 2005 that “Rumsfeld doesn’t have any credibility anymore” to make a public case for the American strategy for victory in Iraq. . .
[CBS] Veteran Washington reporter Bob Woodward tells Mike Wallace that the Bush administration has not told the truth regarding the level of violence, especially against U.S. troops, in Iraq. He also reveals key intelligence that predicts the insurgency will grow worse next year. . . .

According to Woodward, insurgent attacks against coalition troops occur, on average, every 15 minutes, a shocking fact the administration has kept secret. "It’s getting to the point now where there are eight-, nine-hundred attacks a week. That's more than 100 a day. That is four an hour attacking our forces," says Woodward.

The situation is getting much worse, says Woodward, despite what the White House and the Pentagon are saying in public. "The truth is that the assessment by intelligence experts is that next year, 2007, is going to get worse and, in public, you have the president and you have the Pentagon [saying], 'Oh, no, things are going to get better,'" he tells Wallace. "Now there’s public, and then there’s private. But what did they do with the private? They stamp it secret. No one is supposed to know," says Woodward.

"The insurgents know what they are doing. They know the level of violence and how effective they are. Who doesn't know? The American public," Woodward tells Wallace.

Woodward also reports that the president and vice president often meet with Henry Kissinger, who was President Richard Nixon’s secretary of state, as an adviser. Says Woodward, "Now what’s Kissinger’s advice? In Iraq, he declared very simply, ‘Victory is the only meaningful exit strategy.'" Woodward adds. "This is so fascinating. Kissinger’s fighting the Vietnam War again because, in his view, the problem in Vietnam was we lost our will."

President Bush is absolutely certain that he has the U.S. and Iraq on the right course, says Woodward. So certain is the president on this matter, Woodward says, that when Mr. Bush had key Republicans to the White House to discuss Iraq, he told them, "I will not withdraw, even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me.”. . .
[Atrios] I've been saying it for a very long time, but perhaps now it will penetrate the consciousness. Bush will never leave Iraq. . .

Now don’t you really want to know what’s in that “unfinished” NIE on Iraq the Bush gang is sitting on?
[Josh Marshall] Anybody in the White House press corps want to ask Tony Snow why he lied to you guys yesterday? . . .

[Tony Snow] What happened is, about a month ago Director Negroponte informed the committees that he was, in fact, going to do an exhaustive review on Iraq. That's a month ago. These reviews take about a year to do, so the idea that it is in "draft" form -- they're just beginning to do their work on it. [T]here is not a waiting Iraq document that reflects a national intelligence estimate that's sitting around gathering dust, waiting until after the election.

[Marshall] Well, that's just a crock. Justin Rood looked into this yesterday. And according to the 2004 Senate intel committee report, most NIEs take between two weeks (for a rush job) and two months to complete. And how long did it take to complete the Iraq WMD NIE. Less than three weeks. (Amazing what you can accomplish when your heart is really in it, isn't it?)
[Justin Rood] "This is -- you don't pull an all-nighter. It's not like a college term paper that you slap together," White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters today, trying to brush off nagging questions about why it's taking so damn long for the administration to assemble an intelligence report on the situation in Iraq.

Snow incorrectly noted that the Director of National Intelligence "just started [the report] a month ago." In fact, DNI John Negroponte announced his effort on Aug. 4, exactly eight weeks from tomorrow. That's an awfully long month, isn't it? . . . [read on]
Senators Reid/Schumer/Durbin letter to President Bush: "We are growing increasingly concerned about reports that your Administration is withholding important information about the war in Iraq from the American public. In order to succeed in Iraq and the war on terror, the Congress and the American people need and deserve the truth. We received an important part of the truth this week when you decided to declassify a portion of the intelligence community’s National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism. Congress requested a similar intelligence assessment on Iraq nearly three months ago. Given the stakes in Iraq, we believe the American people deserve to see the results of this assessment as soon as possible."


IT’S NOT GETTING BETTER. Why isn’t this front-page, screaming headline news?
[T]he past week saw the highest number of suicide bomb attacks of any week since the American-led invasion in 2003, according to the chief United States military spokesman in Iraq, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV. . . .

More bloody news:
The bodies of 40 men who been tortured were found in the capital in a span of 24 hours, police said Thursday. Bombings and shootings killed at least 21 people in and around Baghdad, including five people who died from a car-bomb explosion near a restaurant. . .

Here’s another indicator of what a total mess they have made out of rebuilding Iraq
[Steve Benen] In 2004, the Coalition Provisional Authority (run by unqualified Bush lackeys) hired Parsons Corp., the U.S. construction giant, to rebuild and revitalize the Baghdad Police College. The WaPo described the old academy as "a ramshackle collection of 1930s buildings," which Parsons would transform into a functioning, modern facility, equipped to train thousands of Iraqi police officers . . . [T]op U.S. military commanders declared 2006 "the year of the police," in an acknowledgment of their critical role in allowing for any withdrawal of American troops. The Baghdad Police College was touted as a success story by administration officials.

They couldn't have been more wrong.

A $75 million project to build the largest police academy in Iraq has been so grossly mismanaged that the campus now poses health risks to recruits and might need to be partially demolished, U.S. investigators have found.

The Baghdad Police College, hailed as crucial to U.S. efforts to prepare Iraqis to take control of the country's security, was so poorly constructed that feces and urine rained from the ceilings in student barracks. Floors heaved inches off the ground and cracked apart. Water dripped so profusely in one room that it was dubbed "the rain forest."

"This is the most essential civil security project in the country — and it's a failure," said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an independent office created by Congress. "The Baghdad police academy is a disaster."

And if the Parsons Corp. name sounds familiar, there's a good reason.

It's the same company that screwed up the reconstruction of Iraq's public health care system. . .

And while we're at it, Kevin Drum reminds us that Parsons screwed up Iraqi prison projects as well.

[Ezra Klein] Following this bit of good news out of Iraq, there is a new congressional analysis showing that we're spending $2 billion a week on the war -- more than twice as much as it cost per week during the first year of operations. The change in spending is coming both from increased combat, but also from "the building of more extensive infrastructure to support troops and equipment in and around Iraq and Afghanistan."

[NB: And what THAT tells you is that they’re settling in for a long stay . . .]

Britain wants out

Freedom on the march
Ahmed al-Karbouli, a reporter for Baghdadiya TV in the violent city of Ramadi, did his best to ignore the death threats, right up until six armed men drilled him with bullets after midday prayers.

He was the fourth journalist killed in Iraq in September alone, out of a total of more than 130 since the 2003 invasion, the vast majority of them Iraqis. But these days, men with guns are not Iraqi reporters’ only threat. Men with gavels are, too.

Under a broad new set of laws criminalizing speech that ridicules the government or its officials, some resurrected verbatim from Saddam Hussein’s penal code, roughly a dozen Iraqi journalists have been charged with offending public officials in the past year. . .

You just watch: Iraq PM Maliki, just a few weeks ago hailed as the second coming of Abraham Lincoln, the great hero of democracy, is about to get thrown to the wolves
Senior American military officials are warning that time is growing short for Iraq to root out militias inside and outside the government and purge ministries of corrupt officials who are diverting large sums of money to their own political parties.

“We are now at a time when we have a little bit of influence there,” a senior military official said. Referring to the problem of militias, he added, “There is going to come a time when I would argue we are going to have to force this issue.” . . .
Last week, senior American officials leaked word to the New York Times that they're no longer confident that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has what it takes to hold the country together. Patience, the NYT reported, is "wearing thin." . . .

Theocracy watch
[Taegan Goddard] In a recent CNN interview, President Bush suggested history would judge the Iraq war as "just a comma." He repeated the statement today in Alabama. While it seems an odd thing to say, a Political Wire reader suggests it's designed to speak to the religious right while not unnecessarily alarming others. In other words, it's a classic example of "dog whistle politics" used to energize his base.

The Christian proverb Bush was evidently referring to is "Never put a period where God has put a comma." In essence, trust in God to make a bad situation better.

I know the geopolitical world is a complex pattern of shades of grey, but do we really have to buddy up to these people?
President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan came to London today and found himself facing accusations that his country’s intelligence service had indirect ties to Al Qaeda.

He arrived after a rocky visit in Washington, where President Bush used a White House dinner to try to mediate between the Pakistani leader and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan over their mutual accusations of responsibility for the resurgence of the Taliban, Afghanistan’s former rulers. . .

485 contacts between Abramoff and the White House – and every one of them completely innocent
[Roll Call] 485 contacts . . . from January 2001 to March 2004, with 82 of those contacts occuring in Rove’s office, including 10 with Rove personally.
On learning in July 2002 that Mr. Rove planned to dine at Signatures with a party of 8 to 10 people, Mr. Abramoff wrote to a colleague: “I want him to be given a very nice bottle of wine and have Joseph whisper in his ear (only he should hear) that Abramoff wanted him to have this wine on the house.” In another e-mail message, Mr. Abramoff directed his restaurant staff to “please put Karl Rove in his usual table.”

Alphonso Jackson (HUD Sect’y) should be hounded from office – but these days there are so many bigger issues of incompetence and corruption, the man’s flying under the radar (just like Ken Tomlinson)
New revelations from the report show that Jackson himself admitted to investigators that political affiliation was a factor: "I’m not going to go out of my way to help somebody who’s castigating the President…Now, if that’s my bias, I have it."

A back-door UN appointment for John Bolton?

Another person comes out and says George Allen (R-VA) used the N-word – and every one of them is lying, right?

GOP Congressman and 16 year-old page. Nope, no problems here
As a rule, when a member of Congress sends personal emails to a 16-year-old page, and asks how old he is, what he wants for his birthday, and requests a photo of him, there's something not quite right about the situation. . .


Bonus item: America Is Better Than This
"The issue isn't whether we are the same as the Nazis. The issue is, we aren't different enough"

***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, September 28, 2006


I really can’t decide which of two big stories to lead with today – the impending passage of a bill that is Congress’s lowest moment since the Alien and Sedition Acts, or the collapse of support for Bush’s war in Iraq.

The Big Paper editorials slam Congress
[NYT] Here’s what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans’ fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws — while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser.

Republicans say Congress must act right now to create procedures for charging and trying terrorists — because the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks are available for trial. That’s pure propaganda. Those men could have been tried and convicted long ago, but President Bush chose not to. He held them in illegal detention, had them questioned in ways that will make real trials very hard, and invented a transparently illegal system of kangaroo courts to convict them.

It was only after the Supreme Court issued the inevitable ruling striking down Mr. Bush’s shadow penal system that he adopted his tone of urgency. It serves a cynical goal: Republican strategists think they can win this fall, not by passing a good law but by forcing Democrats to vote against a bad one so they could be made to look soft on terrorism.

Last week, the White House and three Republican senators announced a terrible deal on this legislation that gave Mr. Bush most of what he wanted, including a blanket waiver for crimes Americans may have committed in the service of his antiterrorism policies. Then Vice President Dick Cheney and his willing lawmakers rewrote the rest of the measure so that it would give Mr. Bush the power to jail pretty much anyone he wants for as long as he wants without charging them, to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, to authorize what normal people consider torture, and to deny justice to hundreds of men captured in error.

These are some of the bill’s biggest flaws:

Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of “illegal enemy combatant” in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.

The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret — there’s no requirement that this list be published.

Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.

Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.

Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable — already a contradiction in terms — and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.

Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence.

Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.

There is not enough time to fix these bills, especially since the few Republicans who call themselves moderates have been whipped into line, and the Democratic leadership in the Senate seems to have misplaced its spine. If there was ever a moment for a filibuster, this was it.

We don’t blame the Democrats for being frightened. The Republicans have made it clear that they’ll use any opportunity to brand anyone who votes against this bill as a terrorist enabler. But Americans of the future won’t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration.

They’ll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts.
[WP] What's important is that any legal system approved by Congress pass the tests set by Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) months ago: that the United States can be proud of it, that the world will see it as fair and humane, and that the Supreme Court can uphold it.

The compromise legislation cobbled together in the past week by administration officials and a group of Republican senators, including Mr. Warner, doesn't pass those tests. . .

[Andrew Sullivan] Put all that together and you really do have the danger of taking emergency measures for wartime and transforming a peace-time constitution into an essentially martial system, where every citizen or non-citizen can be apprehended at will and detained without charge. I repeat: this is a huge deal. It really should be a huge deal for conservatives who care about restraining government power. Its vulnerability to abuse is enormous; sanctioned torture, history tells us, never remains hermetically sealed. It always spreads. It eats away at decency and law and civility. If the president sincerely believes that torture is our most potent weapon in this war, and that habeas corpus is a quaint relic from the past, then we are in far greater peril than even the most dire pessimists believe.

“Pep rally”??!!??
[WP] Bush is scheduled to meet today with GOP senators in the Capitol for a final pep rally before the measure’s expected passage.

Are the Republicans voting for a habeas corpus measure that they KNOW is unconstitutional, and which will be overturned by the Supreme Court, just so they can look tough on the eve of the elections (and damn the consequences later)?

There might still be a chance to block this bill: here are the two pivotal votes

And what are the Democrats doing? Not enough

Oh, for more Louise Slaughter’s (D-NY)
We are at a crossroads today, and I fear that we will not by judged kindly by future Americans for what my Republican friends want us to do today.

This bill sends a clear message to both our friends and our enemies about what kind of people we are. . .

The myth of Republican moderates

[Harold Meyerson] Sen. Lincoln Chafee, Republican of Rhode Island, is seeking reelection in his heavily Democratic state by insisting he's not really a Republican, or at least not part of the gang responsible for the decade's debacles. He didn't even vote for George W. Bush in 2004, he protests. He cast his vote for George H.W. Bush -- a kinder, gentler, more prudent, less strident Republican.

Big deal. . .

Will Bush trash the Republicans for failing to pass the other bills he has described as absolutely essential for national security before the election? (yeah, right)
Half of President George W. Bush's anti-terror legislative agenda stalled Tuesday when discord among Republicans forced the party's leaders to give up on trying to legalize his warrantless wiretapping program before the Nov. 7 election. . .
[Shaun Waterman] Two key must-pass defense and homeland security bills are being blocked in a row between Republican lawmakers over border and immigration security measures.

The homeland security appropriation bill and the defense authorization bill are among the handful of pieces of legislation that lawmakers had hoped to complete this week before heading home for the elections. Now both are stalled because GOP House leaders want to include a series of measures passed in their chamber designed to strengthen border security and toughen immigration enforcement.

Support for Bush’s war collapses (thanks to Buzzflash for the link)
Fewer adults in the United States believe their government’s handling of the coalition effort has been adequate, according to a poll by Harris Interactive. Only 20 per cent of respondents are confident that U.S. policies in Iraq will be successful, down nine points in two years. . .
[DarkSyde] Pundits and political operators would have Americans believe the midterm election is between Republicans and Democrats. It's not. It's between a tiny band of powerful, incompetent extremists who have hijacked the conservative movement and the rest of the country . . .

Iraq is on the verge of complete chaos
[Alexander Dryer] The NYT and the Post both stuff sobering reports on U.S. military officials' assessment of the worsening situation in Iraq. Commanders are questioning whether Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has the will or the ability to end corruption and rein in militias. The concerns come as the country sinks ever-deeper into chaos. The NYT reports that "the past week saw the highest number of suicide bomb attacks of any week since the American-led invasion in 2003." Yet violence is so out of hand that the bombings failed to displace murders and executions as the No. 1 cause of civilian deaths in Baghdad. (And in still more bad news from Iraq, the Post fronts a report on the Baghdad Police College, which cannot train recruits because "feces and urine rained from the ceilings" of barracks that were built by U.S. contractor Parsons Corp.) . . .
The radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr has lost control of portions of his Mahdi Army militia that are splintering off into freelance death squads and criminal gangs . . .

The first (war on terror) NIE: what does it really tell us?
[Josh Marshall] The deeper point is that Iraq is simply not a key part of the War on Terror, as the president routinely claims. We've actually done fairly well in the actual War on Terror, in the sense of taking down the organization that attacked us on 9/11. Simultaneously we've both squandered hundreds of billions of dollars and a lot of valuable time and good will creating a new threat with the fiasco in Iraq. . .

Fran Townsend, “Homeland Security Advisor,” talks to the press (they often roll out the women on these occasions – why?)
Q Hi, thank you for doing this. I just have one question. You were going through a lot of the judgments in the document. The one that you didn't go over was I guess in paragraph two, where it says that activists identifying themselves as jihadists are increasing in both number and geographic dispersion. And that seems to answer the question that Secretary Rumsfeld posed back in 2003 -- are we capturing, killing or dissuading more terrorists than are being trained and deployed every day? One, do you agree with that? And doesn't this say that more jihadists are being created every day than we're capturing or killing?

MS. TOWNSEND: Well, I guess, George, what I would say to you is, one, we have killed -- I think the -- you know, it's hard to make precise estimates, but we've captured or killed thousands over the course of the conflict. It's difficult to count how many have been added. I mean, there's no -- as you know, they hardly carry membership cards, and they are dispersed and they do hide in the shadows. It would be very difficult to count them. . .

The second, “grim” and “bleak” NIE (on Iraq): is it being stalled?

A new UN report confirms that the Iraq war has worsened the terrorist problem, and the Bush gang is scrambling . . .
[John Aravosis] Sometimes you just have to let an idiot hang himself.

As you all now know, George Bush made public the executive summary of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq late yesterday. Bush claimed that the NIE was going to exonerate him and show how peachy everything was in Iraq and in the war on terror. In fact, the document was horrifically pessimistic, and said just what the NYT said it said - namely, that Bush's quagmire in Iraq is fueling more terror and making us less safe.

The thing I can't fathom is what possessed Bush to make this document public AND to claim that it was going to be a really happy and peppy assessment. . .

Buried in the NIE, a disturbing association
[NIE] Anti-US and anti-globalization sentiment is on the rise and fueling other radical ideologies. This could prompt some leftist, nationalist, or separatist groups to adopt terrorist methods to attack US interests. . . .

[Steve Benen] Did you catch that reference to "leftists"? I thought you might. How about the reference to dangerous right-wing or anti-government groups? They seem to have been left out of the report.

It prompted Glenn to ask, "Are 'leftist' groups one of the principal targets on the anti-terrorism agenda of the Bush administration, and if so, aren't the implications rather disturbing?" It hardly seems like an unreasonable question. . .

So, in summary, all Americans need to watch what they say; if you criticize the president you're helping al Qaeda; liberal blogs should be considered inherently suspect, and that never mind that cool breeze you're feeling — it's just a little chilling effect.

Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Bush’s sock-puppet
[Greg Sargent] Even the news about the National Intelligence Estimate, which found that the Iraq war had spread terrorism, did not deter Lieberman.

"Are there terrorists in Iraq? Of course there are. That's a reason we went in," he said. . .

The terrorists were in Iraq before "we went in"? Anybody have any idea who Lieberman's referring to? Our best guess is that he's talking about al Zarqawi, whose presence in Iraq has been held up at times by various Bush administration officials as proof of "ties" between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. But the recently-released Senate Intelligence Committee report concluded that there were no ties between the two men, that Saddam didn't "harbor" him, and that Saddam viewed Al Qaeda as an enemy.

More on how Lieberman got to be Bush’s favorite “Democrat”
[Paul Bass] Leading Democrats Wednesday, like U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, called on Bush to release the entire document in order to give the public "the full story." The Bush administration refused, saying that to release the full report would endanger lives by revealing classified secrets.

Asked during the conference call where he stood, Lieberman declined to join the Democrats' call.

"Look, it's a shame that this was leaked," he said. "But I think in the context of this being leaked [to the press], it was important that the essence of it be" released. . .

The Iraqis REALLY don’t want us there
About six in 10 Iraqis say they approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces, and slightly more than that want their government to ask U.S. troops to leave within a year, according to a poll in that country. . .

Almost four in five Iraqis say the U.S. military force in Iraq provokes more violence than it prevents. . .

Three-fourths say they think the United States plans to keep military bases in Iraq permanently. . .

This could be big,1,1122264.story
Congress is on the verge of barring the construction of permanent bases for U.S. forces in Iraq, a move aimed at quelling concerns in the Arab world that American forces will remain in the war-torn country indefinitely. . .

Pentagon and State Department officials have insisted that the U.S. military is not building permanent American bases in Iraq and that all facilities under construction will be handed over to the Iraqi government.

But the massive American bases in Iraq have long fueled speculation that the United States plans to maintain a military presence there, as it does in other parts of the Arab world. . .

Bounty payments (thanks to A.G. for the link)
[London Times] PRESIDENT Musharraf of Pakistan says that the CIA has secretly paid his government millions of dollars for handing over hundreds of al-Qaeda suspects to America. The US government has strict rules banning such reward payments to foreign powers involved in the war on terror. General Musharraf does not say how much the CIA gave in return for the 369 al-Qaeda figures that he ordered should be passed to the US.

The US Department of Justice said: “We didn’t know about this. It should not happen. These bounty payments are for private individuals who help to trace terrorists on the FBI’s most wanted list, not foreign governments.” . . . [read on]

Snake oil salesmen (thanks to Ahmad for the link)
It always comes back to oil. . .

Condi Rice, caught in another lie about the Bush gang’s pre-9/11 failures
In the pants on fire department, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she doesn't recall seeing this memo from Richard Clarke in January, 2001, describing the severity of the al-Qaeda threat.

In it, Clarke advocates for a principal level review of Al Qaeda threat, calling Al Qaeda "not some narrow, little terrorist issue" but a "transnational challenge." . . .
[Avedon Carol] Y'know, someone needs to do a campaign ad made up of all the times a member of the Republican leadership, including Bush and Cheney, answers a question by saying that they hadn't read some report, or otherwise didn't know something they should have known. People need to be reminded that their excuse for not being on the ball is that they just weren't on the ball.

Dan Froomkin nicely parses the lies, evasions, deceptions, and non-answers in a typical Bush press conference. Notice too something that Froomkin doesn’t highlight – how absolutely formulaic these responses have become. Bush has memorized about six answers, and all he can do any more is repeat them, virtually word for word, whenever the war in Iraq comes up
President Bush's angry nonanswers to two straightforward questions yesterday were among the best illustrations yet of his intense aversion to responding to his critics' actual arguments.

Rather than acknowledge and attempt to rebut the many concerns about his policies, Bush makes up inane arguments and then ridicules them. . .

"Q Thank you, sir. Even after hearing that one of the major conclusions of the National Intelligence Estimate in April was that the Iraq war has fueled terror growth around the world, why have you continued to say that the Iraq war has made this country safer?"

"PRESIDENT BUSH: I, of course, read the key judgments on the NIE. I agree with their conclusion that because of our successes against the leadership of al Qaeda, the enemy is becoming more diffuse and independent. I'm not surprised the enemy is exploiting the situation in Iraq and using it as a propaganda tool to try to recruit more people to their -- to their murderous ways. . . I think it's a mistake for people to believe that going on the offense against people that want to do harm to the American people makes us less safe."

OK, that's straw-man number one. Nobody I've heard of is suggesting that going on the offense against terrorists is bad. The question at hand is whether going on the offense against Iraq -- which had nothing to do with 9/11 -- made us less safe. By using this absurd straw-man, Bush leaves that issue unaddressed.

Bush: "The terrorists fight us in Iraq for a reason: They want to try to stop a young democracy from developing, just like they're trying to fight another young democracy in Afghanistan. And they use it as a recruitment tool, because they understand the stakes. They understand what will happen to them when we defeat them in Iraq."

Here, Bush makes it sound like the fight in Iraq is between the United States and terrorists. But of course the vast majority of fighting is now sectarian in nature, with U.S. troops caught in the middle. . . .But his ensuing argument is bizarre.

Bush: "We weren't in Iraq when we got attacked on September the 11th. We weren't in Iraq, and thousands of fighters were trained in terror camps inside your country, Mr. President. We weren't in Iraq when they first attacked the World Trade Center in 1993. We weren't in Iraq when they bombed the Cole. We weren't in Iraq when they blew up our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania."

. . . No one is suggesting that the invasion of Iraq was responsible for terrorist act that predate that invasion! The argument is that invading Iraq has made the threat of terrorism since then worse than it otherwise would have been. Reciting past terrorist acts is almost laughably nonresponsive. . .

"This government is going to do whatever it takes to protect this homeland. We're not going to let their excuses stop us from staying on the offense. The best way to protect America is defeat these killers overseas so we do not have to face them here at home. We're not going to let lies and propaganda by the enemy dictate how we win this war."

And here, of course, Bush is planting the idea that his critics -- whose arguments he has refused to face head on -- are succumbing to the lies and propaganda of the enemy.

Later, Bush was asked this question:

"Q Thank you, Mr. President. Former President Clinton says that your administration had no meetings on bin Laden for nine months after he left office. Is that factually accurate, and how do you respond to his charges?"

"PRESIDENT BUSH: You know, look, Caren, I've watched all this finger-pointing and naming of names, and all that stuff. Our objective is to secure the country. And we've had investigations, we had the 9/11 Commission, we had the look back this, we've had the look back that. The American people need to know that we spend all our time doing everything that we can to protect them. So I'm not going to comment on other comments."

But he used the question as a springboard to some familiar talking points -- and some more straw men.

Bush: "But I will comment on this -- that we're on the offense against an enemy that wants to do us harm. . . . You can't protect America unless we give those people on the front lines of protecting this country the tools necessary to do so within the Constitution. And that's where the debate is here in the United States. There are some decent people who don't believe -- evidently don't believe we're at war, and therefore, shouldn't give the administration what is necessary to protect us. "

But of course that's not where the debate is in Washington. Bush's critics acknowledge the battle against terrorists and want to give him the tools to win it. The debate is over how to conduct the war, and how to provide the executive branch with the necessary tools without violating the law and the Constitution. . .

What's even more astonishing than the fact that the president makes a mockery of legitimate criticism rather than confront it is the fact that the press corps routinely lets him get away with it. Aside from a few paragraphs here and there, like those from the Sanger story above, most reporters quoted Bush's statements without putting them in the appropriate context.

Hmmm. . . remember, not so long ago, reports about death and destruction in Iraq were a daily feature of the news? Well, the death and destruction haven’t stopped, certainly, but the coverage has . . .
[Eric Boehlert] There is, however, ample evidence that the American media, on the eve of the crucial midterm elections, have lost interest in the chaotic saga, with network news coverage in recent weeks plummeting and Page One newspaper dispatches from Iraq growing sparse. The media fade has come at a perfect time for the White House as it attempts to shift voters' attention away from Iraq and move it over to the war on terror.

What's so startling is that we've seen this exact media retreat before -- during the fall of the 2004 campaign. . .

Bush can spin the domestic coverage of his economic record, but you can’t fool the international investors who know a bad play when they see one


Manipulating gas prices on the eve of the election? (thanks to Ahmad for the link)

George Allen (R-VA) is caught in that slow drip-drip-drip stage of his N-word scandal. Of course he deserves just what he gets – those stupid, blanket denials that he “ever” used the word were implausible on their face
Another acquaintance of Senator George Allen said Tuesday that she heard him use a racial slur in 1976 . . .

The “deer head” story – if this turns out to be true, Allen’s political career is over

What’s he smokin’?
[Jamie Holly] On Hardball this afternoon, House Majority Leader John Boehner was asked questions about Iraq. Boehner insisted that Saddam had WMD and that we just "haven’t found them yet". Boehner also states that Saddam was supporting the terrorists for 9/11 and was "providing cover" for the training camps in Iraq. . .

Matthews was in shockingly good form during this interview. He would not back down from Boehner and in turn Boehner came off like a bumbling idiot. Boehner says that we will listen to the generals on the ground in Iraq, and Matthews responded by asking him why the generals come out and talk about how bad things are in Iraq once they retire. Boehner refused to answer that question.

Be glad that Tony Snow is such a terrible Press Secretary

But he’s a hell of a fund-raiser:

Oh, this is rich: Roger Ailes, honcho of Fox News, whines that Clinton’s comeback after being blindsided in his Chris Wallace interview constitutes “an assault on all journalists” (I didn’t know Ailes HAD any journalists on his staff at Fox News)

Idiots. IDIOTS! Which is worse: Bill Bennett’s bald-faced lie or the refusal of “news” professionals to question him?
BENNETT: [On whether Clinton did enough to catch or kill Bin Laden] I don't know why Clinton wanted to bring up these things. A lot of us didn't really blame Clinton, didn't blame Bush. We -- we -- we look at the CIA and some other parts.

LAUER: Mistakes on both parts.

BENNETT: Well, yeah, but, I mean, he brought it up, and now that he's brought it up, he's got to expect his record will be examined. . .

Remember? [Chris] WALLACE: When we announced that you were going to be on Fox News Sunday, I got a lot of email from viewers, and I gotta say, I was surprised. Most of them wanted me to ask you this question: Why didn't you do more to put bin Laden and Al Qaeda out of business when you were president? . . .

When the press does its job . . .
[Hunter] [I]t would be worth your while to catch the Countdown repeat later tonight on MSNBC. An extended report, of the sort that news programs used to do, once upon a time, clarifies in blistering fashion the Bush approach to terrorism, after taking office. The Bush administration did not simply do little, in anti-terrorism efforts: they did nothing. . .

Bonus item: You couldn’t make this up
[Paul Kiel] Boy, it's been a rough year for Jeanne Pirro. First her fledging challenge to Sen. Hilary Clinton (D-NY) exploded after the worst campaign launch ever.

Now she's under federal investigation for plotting -- with onetime NYPD chief, former Iraq security head, would-be DHS secretary and crook Bernard Kerik -- to illegally spy on her own husband. (Come to think of it, it hasn't been a great year for Kerik, either). Oh, did I mention that their conversations were recorded? . . .

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