"I will veto any legislation that weakens current federal policies and laws on abortion, or that encourages the destruction of human life at any stage," [Bush] wrote. (Link (emphasis added).)
So where does he really stand on the Iraq fandango? Is he coming out against this inexcusable tragedy he enabled in his stupidity and weakness? Is he going to veto the next spending bill for Iraq because it's "legislation that weakens encourages the destruction of human life at any stage"?
That's what I want to know: Exactly what does the idiot mean?
Friday, May 04, 2007
Thursday, May 03, 2007
George Tenet, enabler of the Iraq fandango, could only find his principles after he gets his book contract.
Morally-challenged, to say the least.
This guy agrees with me.
And Maureen, on one of her good days, says it all for me:
Morally-challenged, to say the least.
This guy agrees with me.
And Maureen, on one of her good days, says it all for me:
Instead of George Tenet teaching at Georgetown University, George Tenet should be taught at Georgetown University.Link.
There should be a course on government called “The Ultimate Staff Guy.” A morality saga about how much harm you can do as a go-along, get-along guy, spending so much time trying not to alienate the big cheese so he doesn’t can you that you miss the moment where you have to can him or lose your soul.
If Colin Powell and George Tenet had walked out of the administration in February 2003 instead of working together on that tainted U.N. speech making the bogus case for war, they might have turned everything around. They might have saved the lives and limbs of all those brave U.S. kids and innocent Iraqis, not to mention our world standing and national security.
It would certainly have been harder for timid Democrats, like Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and John Edwards, to back up the administration if two members of the Bush inner circle had broken away to tell an increasingly apparent truth: that Dick Cheney, Rummy and the neocons were feverishly pushing a naïve president into invading Iraq with junk facts.
General Powell counted on Slam Dunk — a slender reed — to help him rid the speech of most of the garbage Mr. Cheney’s office wanted in it. Slam, of course, tried to have it both ways, helping the skeptical secretary of state and pandering to higher bosses. Afterward, when the speech turned out to be built on a no-legged stool, General Powell was furious at Slam. But they both share blame: they knew better. They put their loyalty to a runaway White House ahead of their loyalty to a fearful public.
Slam Dunk’s book tour is mesmerizing, in a horrifying way.
“The irony of the whole situation is, is he was bluffing,” Slam said of Saddam on “Larry King Live” on Monday night, adding, “And he didn’t know we weren’t.” Mr. He-Man Tenet didn’t understand the basics of poker, much less Arab culture. It never occurred to him that Saddam might feign strength to flex muscles at his foes in the Middle East? Slam couldn’t take some of that $40 billion we spend on intelligence annually and get a cultural profile of the dictator before we invaded?
If he was really running around with his hair on fire, knowing the Osama danger, shouldn’t he have set off alarms when W. and Vice went after Saddam instead of the real threat?
Many people in Washington snorted at his dramatic cloak-and-dagger description of himself to Larry King: “I worked in the shadows my whole life.”
He was not Jason Bourne, lurking in dangerous locales. He risked life and limb on Capitol Hill among the backstabbers and cutthroat bureaucrats — from whom he obviously learned a lot. He spent nine years on the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee, four as staff director. When Bill Clinton appointed him to run the C.I.A. in 1997, the profile of him in The Times was headlined “A Time to Reap the Rewards of Being Loyal.” It observed that old colleagues had said “he had an ability to make many different superiors feel at ease with him.”
Six former C.I.A. officials sent Mr. Tenet a letter via his publisher — no wonder we’re in trouble if spooks can’t figure out the old Head Spook’s home address — berating him for pretending he wrote his self-serving book partly to defend the honor of the agency and demanding that “at least half” of the profits be given to wounded soldiers and the families of dead soldiers (there needs to be a Son of Slam law). One of the signers, Larry Johnson, told CNN that Slam “is profiting from the blood of American soldiers.”
“By your silence you helped build the case for war,” the former C.I.A. officials wrote. “You betrayed the C.I.A. officers who collected the intelligence that made it clear that Saddam did not pose an imminent threat. You betrayed the analysts who tried to withstand the pressure applied by Cheney and Rumsfeld.”
They also said, “Although C.I.A. officers learned in late September 2002 from a high-level member of Saddam Hussein’s inner circle that Iraq had no past or present contact with Osama bin Laden and that the Iraqi leader considered Bin Laden an enemy & you still went before Congress in February 2003 and testified that Iraq did indeed have links to Al Qaeda.
“In the end you allowed suspect sources, like Curveball, to be used based on very limited reporting and evidence.” They concluded that “your tenure as head of the C.I.A. has helped create a world that is more dangerous. & It is doubly sad that you seem still to lack an adequate appreciation of the enormous amount of death and carnage you have facilitated.”
Thus endeth the lesson in our class on “The Ultimate Staff Guy.” If you have something deadly important to say, say it when it matters, or just shut up and slink off.
By the time the president wound his way back to the "consequences of success" in Iraq today, his goals seemed to be just a little more limited: "Slowly but surely, the truth will be known. Either we'll succeed, or we won't succeed. And the definition of success, as I described, is sectarian violence down. Success is not no violence. There are parts of our own country that have got a certain level of violence to it. But success is a level of violence where the people feel comfortable about living their daily lives. And that's what we're trying to achieve."Link.
Update: As Think Progress notes, the definition of success the president offered today sounds a lot like something John Kerry used to say -- that we'll never eliminated acts of terrorism, but that we've got to get to the point where terrorists are reduced to a "nuisance." Of course, when Kerry said that in 2004, Bush claimed that his challenger "fundamentally misunderstands the war against terror." "Our goal is not to reduce terror to some acceptable level of nuisance," Bush said then. "Our goal is to defeat terror by staying on the offensive, destroying the networks, and spreading freedom and liberty."
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
According to my fan mail, it appears Sean Hannity criticized my essay on the Blacksburg massacre picked up by "CounterPunch," and his listeners somehow got my e-mail address. I have long wondered who Hannity's fans are, and at last I had the chance to find out. More than 150 emails arrived, most of which only cursed me or suggested I depart the country, preferably feet first. Others, though, suggested various tortures, including taking me apart with a pliers; and a few took the trouble to prescribe harsher punishments should I cross their path. One of the typical, albeit more profound letters, which I quote in its entirety, came from Ken Land of email@example.com, who said, "You are a piece of s---."(Note: as a believer in family values, I am not reprinting the s---- -word.)Link.
Kenneth A. Ciullo, at firstname.lastname@example.org, wrote, "If I ever see you or hear you at a meeting, in public, at a private party, beware, I might be standing next to you, about to blow your f---ing twisted brains all over the wall." Other Hannity followers also explained why gun control won't work.
Some letters lifted my spirits. One from Noel Granite, at email@example.com, was cause to make me thank my lucky stars: "You are lucky I can't get my hands on you. Call it a threat, report it, do whatever you want but if you ever cross my path you will never be able to write again." (Noel, I am NOT reporting it. I like a guy who speaks his mind. Besides, the FBI must be so busy trying to find the perp of the 10/11 anthrax attacks on Congress, I don't want to hand them another tough nut to crack.)
From firstname.lastname@example.org came advice to "open my carotid artery and suck on a barrel for being such a piece of s--- low life that would write such a thing. ...Die filthy America hater. Just die." (Please note: this is NOT a death threat, merely a suicide suggestion, so I am only forwarding it to the State of Oregon.) Not one to be left out, Jeff Slegaitis at email@example.com, wrote, "Just quit breathing! Lick the snotty-end of my f--- -stick BITCH! (Note: as a believer in family values, I am not reprinting the f-word.)You live under the freedom provided by soldiers of past and present who served and DIED so you can write the S--- you write! Respect that or GET THE F--- OUT of our country." Actually, Jeff, I learned to write contributing to the Lackland Air Force Base "Tailspinner" during my military service. If my prose is insipid, blame them!
A number of readers objected to the fact I said negative things about the compassionate conservative in the White House. Jeff Geslison of Salt Lake City, Utah, Jgeslison@aol.com, put it bluntly: "WHAT THE F--- IS WRONG WITH YOU? (Again, as a believer in family values, I am NOT spelling out the f-word.) How dare you attack President Bush as you did. You are one sick mother f----r. You need to wake up and smell the coffee a-- hole. I've got a serious problem with you and the s--- you spew out of your mouth...! Grow up ass f---! Get a life and quit harassing our President." (Relax, Jeff, a president who won't heed Jim Baker won't listen to me.)
Anyway, the above should provide a representative sampling of the mental apparatus of Hannity's listeners and if that's what Hannity's advertisers want, as a believer in free enterprise, that's okay with me.
Four years ago, we were victorious. Our Beloved Leader told us so:
Thank you all very much. Admiral Kelly, Captain Card, officers and sailors of the USS Abraham Lincoln, my fellow Americans: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. (Applause.) And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.Link.
In this battle, we have fought for the cause of liberty, and for the peace of the world. Our nation and our coalition are proud of this accomplishment -- yet, it is you, the members of the United States military, who achieved it. Your courage, your willingness to face danger for your country and for each other, made this day possible. Because of you, our nation is more secure. Because of you, the tyrant has fallen, and Iraq is free. (Applause.)
Operation Iraqi Freedom was carried out with a combination of precision and speed and boldness the enemy did not expect, and the world had not seen before. From distant bases or ships at sea, we sent planes and missiles that could destroy an enemy division, or strike a single bunker. Marines and soldiers charged to Baghdad across 350 miles of hostile ground, in one of the swiftest advances of heavy arms in history. You have shown the world the skill and the might of the American Armed Forces.
This nation thanks all the members of our coalition who joined in a noble cause. We thank the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom, Australia, and Poland, who shared in the hardships of war. We thank all the citizens of Iraq who welcomed our troops and joined in the liberation of their own country. And tonight, I have a special word for Secretary Rumsfeld, for General Franks, and for all the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States: America is grateful for a job well done. (Applause.)
The character of our military through history -- the daring of Normandy, the fierce courage of Iwo Jima, the decency and idealism that turned enemies into allies -- is fully present in this generation. When Iraqi civilians looked into the faces of our servicemen and women, they saw strength and kindness and goodwill. When I look at the members of the United States military, I see the best of our country, and I'm honored to be your Commander-in-Chief. (Applause.)
In the images of falling statues, we have witnessed the arrival of a new era. For a hundred of years of war, culminating in the nuclear age, military technology was designed and deployed to inflict casualties on an ever-growing scale. In defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, Allied forces destroyed entire cities, while enemy leaders who started the conflict were safe until the final days. Military power was used to end a regime by breaking a nation.
Today, we have the greater power to free a nation by breaking a dangerous and aggressive regime. With new tactics and precision weapons, we can achieve military objectives without directing violence against civilians. No device of man can remove the tragedy from war; yet it is a great moral advance when the guilty have far more to fear from war than the innocent. (Applause.)
In the images of celebrating Iraqis, we have also seen the ageless appeal of human freedom. Decades of lies and intimidation could not make the Iraqi people love their oppressors or desire their own enslavement. Men and women in every culture need liberty like they need food and water and air. Everywhere that freedom arrives, humanity rejoices; and everywhere that freedom stirs, let tyrants fear. (Applause.)
We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We're bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We're pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, who will be held to account for their crimes. We've begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated. We're helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built palaces for himself, instead of hospitals and schools. And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people. (Applause.)
The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done. Then we will leave, and we will leave behind a free Iraq. (Applause.)
The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11, 2001 -- and still goes on. That terrible morning, 19 evil men -- the shock troops of a hateful ideology -- gave America and the civilized world a glimpse of their ambitions. They imagined, in the words of one terrorist, that September the 11th would be the "beginning of the end of America." By seeking to turn our cities into killing fields, terrorists and their allies believed that they could destroy this nation's resolve, and force our retreat from the world. They have failed. (Applause.)
In the battle of Afghanistan, we destroyed the Taliban, many terrorists, and the camps where they trained. We continue to help the Afghan people lay roads, restore hospitals, and educate all of their children. Yet we also have dangerous work to complete. As I speak, a Special Operations task force, led by the 82nd Airborne, is on the trail of the terrorists and those who seek to undermine the free government of Afghanistan. America and our coalition will finish what we have begun. (Applause.)
From Pakistan to the Philippines to the Horn of Africa, we are hunting down al Qaeda killers. Nineteen months ago, I pledged that the terrorists would not escape the patient justice of the United States. And as of tonight, nearly one-half of al Qaeda's senior operatives have been captured or killed. (Applause.)
The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We've removed an ally of al Qaeda, and cut off a source of terrorist funding. And this much is certain: No terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime, because the regime is no more. (Applause.)
In these 19 months that changed the world, our actions have been focused and deliberate and proportionate to the offense. We have not forgotten the victims of September the 11th -- the last phone calls, the cold murder of children, the searches in the rubble. With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States. And war is what they got. (Applause.)
Our war against terror is proceeding according to principles that I have made clear to all: Any person involved in committing or planning terrorist attacks against the American people becomes an enemy of this country, and a target of American justice. (Applause.)
Any person, organization, or government that supports, protects, or harbors terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent, and equally guilty of terrorist crimes.
Any outlaw regime that has ties to terrorist groups and seeks or possesses weapons of mass destruction is a grave danger to the civilized world -- and will be confronted. (Applause.)
And anyone in the world, including the Arab world, who works and sacrifices for freedom has a loyal friend in the United States of America. (Applause.)
Our commitment to liberty is America's tradition -- declared at our founding; affirmed in Franklin Roosevelt's Four Freedoms; asserted in the Truman Doctrine and in Ronald Reagan's challenge to an evil empire. We are committed to freedom in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and in a peaceful Palestine. The advance of freedom is the surest strategy to undermine the appeal of terror in the world. Where freedom takes hold, hatred gives way to hope. When freedom takes hold, men and women turn to the peaceful pursuit of a better life. American values and American interests lead in the same direction: We stand for human liberty. (Applause.)
The United States upholds these principles of security and freedom in many ways -- with all the tools of diplomacy, law enforcement, intelligence, and finance. We're working with a broad coalition of nations that understand the threat and our shared responsibility to meet it. The use of force has been -- and remains -- our last resort. Yet all can know, friend and foe alike, that our nation has a mission: We will answer threats to our security, and we will defend the peace. (Applause.)
Our mission continues. Al Qaeda is wounded, not destroyed. The scattered cells of the terrorist network still operate in many nations, and we know from daily intelligence that they continue to plot against free people. The proliferation of deadly weapons remains a serious danger. The enemies of freedom are not idle, and neither are we. Our government has taken unprecedented measures to defend the homeland. And we will continue to hunt down the enemy before he can strike. (Applause.)
The war on terror is not over; yet it is not endless. We do not know the day of final victory, but we have seen the turning of the tide. No act of the terrorists will change our purpose, or weaken our resolve, or alter their fate. Their cause is lost. Free nations will press on to victory. (Applause.)
Other nations in history have fought in foreign lands and remained to occupy and exploit. Americans, following a battle, want nothing more than to return home. And that is your direction tonight. (Applause.) After service in the Afghan -- and Iraqi theaters of war -- after 100,000 miles, on the longest carrier deployment in recent history, you are homeward bound. (Applause.) Some of you will see new family members for the first time -- 150 babies were born while their fathers were on the Lincoln. Your families are proud of you, and your nation will welcome you. (Applause.)
We are mindful, as well, that some good men and women are not making the journey home. One of those who fell, Corporal Jason Mileo, spoke to his parents five days before his death. Jason's father said, "He called us from the center of Baghdad, not to brag, but to tell us he loved us. Our son was a soldier."
Every name, every life is a loss to our military, to our nation, and to the loved ones who grieve. There's no homecoming for these families. Yet we pray, in God's time, their reunion will come.
Those we lost were last seen on duty. Their final act on this Earth was to fight a great evil and bring liberty to others. All of you -- all in this generation of our military -- have taken up the highest calling of history. You're defending your country, and protecting the innocent from harm. And wherever you go, you carry a message of hope -- a message that is ancient and ever new. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, "To the captives, 'come out,' -- and to those in darkness, 'be free.'"
Thank you for serving our country and our cause. May God bless you all, and may God continue to bless America. (Applause.)
Monday, April 30, 2007
Since some indeterminable hour between the final dousing of the pyre at The World Trade Center, and the breaking of what Sen. Barack Obama has aptly termed "9/11 fever," it has been profoundly and disturbingly evident that we are at the center of one of history's great ironies.Link (emphases added for EZ reading :))
Only in this America of the early 21st century could it be true that the man who was president during the worst attack on our nation and the man who was the mayor of the city in which that attack principally unfolded would not only be absolved of any and all blame for the unreadiness of their own governments, but, moreover, would thereafter be branded heroes of those attacks.
And now, that mayor -- whose most profound municipal act in the wake of that nightmare was to suggest the postponement of the election to select his own successor -- has gone even a step beyond these M.C. Escher constructions of history.
"If any Republican is elected president -- and I think obviously I would be best at this -- we will remain on offense and will anticipate what (the terrorists) will do and try to stop them before they do it."
Insisting that the election of any Democrat would mean the country was "back ... on defense," Mr. Giuliani continued: "But the question is how long will it take and how many casualties will we have. If we are on defense, we will have more losses and it will go on longer."
He said this with no sense of irony, no sense of any personal shortcomings, no sense whatsoever.
And if you somehow missed what he was really saying, somehow didn't hear the none-too-subtle subtext of "vote Democratic and die," Mr. Giuliani then stripped away any barrier of courtesy, telling Roger Simon of politico.com:
"America will be safer with a Republican president."
At least that Republican president under which we have not been safer has, even at his worst, maintained some microscopic distance between himself and a campaign platform that blithely threatened the American people with "casualties" if they, next year, elect a Democratic president -- or, inferring from Mr. Giuliani's flights of grandeur in New Hampshire -- even if they elect a different Republican.
How ... dare ... you, sir?
"How many casualties will we have?" -- this is the language of Osama bin Laden.
Yours, Mr. Giuliani, is the same chilling nonchalance of the madman, of the proselytizer who has moved even from some crude framework of politics and society, into a virtual Roman Colosseum of carnage, and a conceit over your own ability -- and worthiness -- to decide who lives and who dies.
Rather than a reasoned discussion -- rather than a political campaign advocating your own causes and extolling your own qualifications -- you have bypassed all the intermediate steps and moved directly to trying to terrorize the electorate into viewing a vote for a Democrat, not as a reasonable alternative and an inalienable right ... but as an act of suicide.
This is not the mere politicizing of Iraq, nor the vague mumbled epithets about Democratic "softness" from a delusional vice president.
This is casualties on a partisan basis -- of the naked assertion that Mr. Giuliani's party knows all and will save those who have voted for it -- and to hell with everybody else.
And that he, with no foreign policy experience whatsoever, is somehow the messiah-of-the-moment.
Even to grant that that formula -- whether posed by Republican or Democrat -- is somehow not the most base, the most indefensible, the most un-American electioneering in our history -- even if it is somehow acceptable to assign "casualties" to one party and "safety" to the other -- even if we have become so profane in our thinking that it is part of our political vocabulary to view counter-terror as one party's property and the other's liability ... on what imaginary track record does Mr. Giuliani base his boast?
Which party held the presidency on Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Giuliani?
Which party held the mayoralty of New York on that date, Mr. Giuliani?
Which party assured New Yorkers that the air was safe and the remains of the dead recovered and not being used to fill potholes, Mr. Giuliani?
Which party wanted what the terrorists wanted -- the postponement of elections -- and to whose personal advantage would that have redounded, Mr. Giuliani?
Which mayor of New York was elected eight months after the first attack on the World Trade Center, yet did not emphasize counter-terror in the same city for the next eight years, Mr. Giuliani?
Which party had proposed to turn over the Department of Homeland Security to Bernard Kerik, Mr. Giuliani?
Who wanted to ignore and hide Kerik's organized crime allegations, Mr. Giuliani?
Who personally argued to the White House that Kerik need not be vetted, Mr. Giuliani?
Which party rode roughshod over Americans' rights while braying that it was actually protecting them, Mr. Giuliani?
Which party took this country into the most utterly backwards, utterly counterproductive, utterly ruinous war in our history, Mr. Giuliani?
Which party has been in office as more Americans were killed in the pointless fields of Iraq than were killed in the consuming nightmare of 9/11, Mr. Giuliani?
Drop this argument, sir.
You will lose it.
"The Democrats do not understand the full nature and scope of the terrorist war against us," Mr. Giuliani continued to the Rockingham County Lincoln Day Dinner last night. "Never, ever again will this country be on defense waiting for (terrorists) to attack us, if I have anything to say about it. And make no mistake, the Democrats want to put us back on defense."
There is no room for this.
This is terrorism itself, dressed up as counter-terrorism.
It is not warning, but bullying -- substituted for the political discourse now absolutely essential to this country's survival and the freedom of its people.
No Democrat has said words like these. None has ever campaigned on the Republicans' flat-footedness of Sept. 11, 2001. None has the requisite, irresponsible, all-consuming ambition. None is willing to say "I accuse," rather than recognize that, to some degree, all of us share responsibility for our collective stupor.
And if it is somehow insufficient, that this is morally, spiritually, and politically wrong, to screech as Mr. Giuliani has screeched, there is also this: that gaping hole in Mr. Giuliani's argument of "Republicans equal life; Democrats equal death."
Not only have the Republicans not lived up to their babbling on this subject, but last fall the electorate called them on it.
As doubtless they would call you on it, Mr. Giuliani.
Repeat -- go beyond -- Mr. Bush's rhetorical calamities of 2006.
Call attention to the casualties on your watch, and your long, waking slumber in the years between the two attacks on the World Trade Center.
Become the candidate who runs on the Vote-For-Me-Or-Die platform.
Do a Joe McCarthy, a Lyndon Johnson, a Robespierre.
Only, if you choose so to do, do not come back surprised nor remorseful if the voters remind you that "terror" is not just a matter of "casualties." It is, just as surely, a matter of the promulgation of fear.
Claim a difference between the parties on the voters' chances of survival -- and you do bin Laden's work for him.
And we -- Democrats and Republicans alike, and every variation in between -- We Americans! -- are sick to death of you and the other terror-mongers trying to frighten us into submission, into the surrender of our rights and our reason, into this betrayal of that for which this country has always stood.
Franklin Roosevelt's words ring true again tonight.
And, clarified and amplified, they are just as current now as they were when first he spoke them, 74 years ago.
"We have nothing to fear but fear itself" -- and those who would exploit our fear, for power and for their own personal, selfish, cynical, gain.
Good night, and good luck.
So kids aren't allowed to have strong opinions anymore....
High school senior Allen Lee sat down with his creative writing class on Monday and penned an essay that so disturbed his teacher, school administrators and police that he was charged with disorderly conduct.[more]
"I understand what happened recently at Virginia Tech," said the teen's father, Albert Lee, referring to last week's massacre of 32 students by gunman Seung-Hui Cho. "I understand the situation."
But he added: "I don't see how somebody can get charged by writing in their homework. The teacher asked them to express themselves, and he followed instructions."
Allen Lee, an 18-year-old straight-A student at Cary-Grove High School, was arrested Tuesday near his home and charged with disorderly conduct for an essay police described as violently disturbing but not directed toward any specific person or location.
The youth's father said his son was not suspended or expelled but was forced to attend classes elsewhere for now.
Old News: Big Media Journalists Keep Dropping the Ball -- But in the 21st Century, that's their Job, not Reporting
IN AN E-MAIL uncovered and released by the House Judiciary Committee last month, Tim Griffin, once Karl Rove's right-hand man, gloated that "no [U.S.] national press picked up" a BBC Television story reporting that the Rove team had developed an elaborate scheme to challenge the votes of thousands of African Americans in the 2004 election.Link.
Griffin wasn't exactly right. The Los Angeles Times did run a follow-up article a few days later in which it reported the findings. But he was essentially right. Most of the major U.S. newspapers and the vast majority of television news programs ignored the story even though it came at a critical moment just weeks before the election.
According to Griffin (who has since been dispatched to Arkansas to replace one of the U.S. attorneys fired by the Justice Department), the mainstream media rejected the story because it was wrong.
"That guy is a British reporter who accepted some false allegations and made a story up," he said.
Let's get one fact straight, Mr. Griffin. "That guy" is not a British reporter. I am an American living abroad, putting investigative reports on the air from London for the British Broadcasting Corp.
I'm not going to argue with Rove's minions about the validity of our reporting, which led the news in Britain. But I can tell you this: To the extent that it was ignored in the United States, it wasn't because the report was false. It was because it was complicated and murky and because it required a lot of time and reporting to get to the bottom of it. In fact, not one U.S. newsperson even bothered to ask me or the BBC for the data and research we had painstakingly done in our effort to demonstrate the existence of the scheme.
The truth is, I knew that a story like this one would never be reported in my own country. Because investigative reporting — the kind Jack Anderson used to do regularly and which was carried in hundreds of papers across the country, the kind of muckraking, data-intensive work that takes time and money and ruffles feathers — is dying.
I've been through this before, too many times. Take this investigative report, also buried in the U.S.: Back in December 2000, I received two computer disks from the office of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris. Analysis of the data, plus documents that fell my way, indicated that Harris' office had purged thousands of African Americans from Florida's voter rolls as "felons." Florida now admits that many of these voters were not in fact felons. Nevertheless, the blacklisting helped cost Al Gore the White House.
I reported on the phony felon purge in Britain's Guardian and Observer and on the BBC while Gore was still in the race, while the count was still on.
Yet the story of the Florida purge never appeared in the U.S. daily papers or on television. Until months later, that is, after the Supreme Court had decided the election, when it was picked up by the Washington Post and others.
U.S. papers delayed the story until the U.S. Civil Rights Commission issued a report saying our Guardian/BBC story was correct: Innocents lost their vote. At that point, protected by the official imprimatur, American editors felt it safe enough to venture out with the story. But by then, George W. Bush could read it from his chair in the Oval Office.
Again and again, I see this pattern repeated. Until there is some official investigation or allegation made by a politician, there is no story.
Or sometimes the media like to cover the controversy, not the substance, preferring an ambiguous and unsatisfying "he said, she said" report. Safe reporting, but not investigative.
I know some of the reasons why investigative reporting is on the decline. To begin with, investigations take time and money. A producer from "60 Minutes," watching my team's work on another voter purge list, said: "My God! You'd have to make hundreds of calls to make this case." In America's cash-short, instant-deadline world, there's not much room for that.
Are there still aggressive, talented investigative reporters in the U.S.? There are hundreds. I'll mention two: Seymour Hersh, formerly of the New York Times, and Robert Parry, formerly of the Associated Press, who uncovered the Iran-Contra scandal. The operative word here is "formerly." Parry tells me that he can no longer do this kind of investigative work within the confines of a U.S. daily newsroom.
One of the biggest disincentives to doing investigative journalism is that it jeopardizes future access to politicians and corporate elite. During the I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby trial, the testimony of Judith Miller and other U.S. journalists about the confidences they were willing to keep in order to maintain access seemed to me sadly illuminating.
Expose the critters and the door is slammed. That's not a price many American journalists are willing to pay.
It's different in Britain. After the 2000 election, when Harris' lawyer refused to respond to our evidence, my BBC producer made sure I chased him down the hall waving the damning documents. That's one sure way to end "access."
Reporters in Britain must adhere to extraordinarily strict standards of accuracy because there is no Bill of Rights, no "freedom of the press" to provide cover against lawsuits. Further, the British government fines reporters who make false accusations and jails others who reveal "official secrets."
I've long argued that Britain needs a 1st Amendment right to press freedom. It could, of course, borrow ours. We don't use it.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
That state of denial was center stage at the correspondents’ dinner last year, when the invited entertainer, Stephen Colbert, “fell flat,” as The Washington Post summed up the local consensus. To the astonishment of those in attendance, a funny thing happened outside the Beltway the morning after: the video of Mr. Colbert’s performance became a national sensation. (Last week it was still No. 2 among audiobook downloads on iTunes.) Washington wisdom had it that Mr. Colbert bombed because he was rude to the president. His real sin was to be rude to the capital press corps, whom he caricatured as stenographers. Though most of the Washington audience failed to find the joke funny, Americans elsewhere, having paid a heavy price for the press’s failure to challenge White House propaganda about Iraq, laughed until it hurt.Link.
You’d think that l’affaire Colbert would have led to a little circumspection, but last Saturday’s dinner was another humiliation. And not just because this year’s entertainer, an apolitical nightclub has-been (Rich Little), was a ludicrously tone-deaf flop. More appalling — and symptomatic of the larger sycophancy — was the press’s insidious role in President Bush’s star turn at the event.
It’s the practice on these occasions that the president do his own comic shtick, but this year Mr. Bush made a grand show of abstaining, saying that the killings at Virginia Tech precluded his being a “funny guy.” Any civilian watching on TV could formulate the question left hanging by this pronouncement: Why did the killings in Iraq not preclude his being a “funny guy” at other press banquets we’ve watched on C-Span? At the equivalent Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association gala three years ago, the president contributed an elaborate (and tasteless) comic sketch about his failed search for Saddam’s W.M.D.
But the revelers in the ballroom last Saturday could not raise that discrepancy and challenge Mr. Bush’s hypocrisy; they could only clap. And so they served as captive dress extras in a propaganda stunt, lending their credibility to the president’s sanctimonious exploitation of the Virginia Tech tragedy for his own political self-aggrandizement on national television. Meanwhile the war was kept as tightly under wraps as the troops’ coffins.
By coincidence, this year’s dinner occurred just before a Congressional hearing filled in some new blanks in the still incomplete story of a more egregious White House propaganda extravaganza: the Pat Tillman hoax. As it turns out, the correspondents’ dinner played an embarrassing cameo role in it, too.
What the hearing underscored was the likelihood that the White House also knew very early on what the Army knew and covered up: the football star’s supposed death in battle in Afghanistan, vividly described in a Pentagon press release awarding him a Silver Star, was a complete fabrication, told to the world (and Tillman’s parents) even though top officers already suspected he had died by friendly fire. The White House apparently decided to join the Pentagon in maintaining that lie so that it could be milked for P.R. purposes on two television shows, the correspondents’ dinner on May 1, 2004, and a memorial service for Tillman two days later.
The timeline of events in the week or so leading up to that dinner is startling. Tillman was killed on April 22, 2004. By the next day top officers knew he had not been killed by enemy fire. On April 29, a top special operations commander sent a memo to John Abizaid, among other generals, suggesting that the White House be warned off making specific public claims about how Tillman died. Simultaneously, according to an e-mail that surfaced last week, a White House speechwriter contacted the Pentagon to gather information about Tillman for use at the correspondents’ dinner.
When President Bush spoke at the dinner at week’s end, he followed his jokes with a eulogy about Tillman’s sacrifice. But he kept the circumstances of Tillman’s death vague, no doubt because the White House did indeed get the message that the Pentagon’s press release about Tillman’s losing his life in battle was fiction. Yet it would be four more weeks before Pat Tillman’s own family was let in on the truth.
To see why the administration wanted to keep the myth going, just look at other events happening in the week before that correspondents’ dinner. On April 28, 2004, CBS broadcast the first photographs from Abu Ghraib; on April 29 a poll on The Times’s front page found the president’s approval rating on the war was plummeting; on April 30 Ted Koppel challenged the administration’s efforts to keep the war dead hidden by reading the names of the fallen on “Nightline.” Tillman could be useful to help drown out all this bad news, and to an extent he was. The Washington press corps that applauded the president at the correspondents’ dinner is the same press corps that was slow to recognize the importance of Abu Ghraib that weekend and, as documented by a new study, “When the Press Fails” (University of Chicago Press), even slower to label the crimes as torture.
After last weekend’s correspondents’ dinner, The Times decided to end its participation in such events. But even were the dinner to vanish altogether, it remains but a yearly televised snapshot of the overall syndrome. The current White House, weakened as it is, can still establish story lines as fake as “Mission Accomplished” and get a free pass.
To pick just one overarching example: much of the press still takes it as a given that Iraq has a functioning government that might meet political benchmarks (oil law, de-Baathification reform, etc., etc.) that would facilitate an American withdrawal. In reality, the Maliki “government” can’t meet any benchmarks, even if they were enforced, because that government exists only as a fictional White House talking point. As Gen. Barry McCaffrey said last week, this government doesn’t fully control a single province. Its Parliament, now approaching a scheduled summer recess, has passed no major legislation in months. Iraq’s sole recent democratic achievement is to ban the release of civilian casualty figures, lest they challenge White House happy talk about “progress” in Iraq.
It’s our country’s bitter fortune that while David Halberstam is gone, too many Joe Alsops still hold sway. Take the current dean of the Washington press corps, David Broder, who is leading the charge in ridiculing Harry Reid for saying the obvious — that “this war is lost” (as it is militarily, unless we stay in perpetuity and draft many more troops). In February, Mr. Broder handed down another gem of Beltway conventional wisdom, suggesting that “at the very moment the House of Representatives is repudiating his policy in Iraq, President Bush is poised for a political comeback.”
Some may recall that Stephen Colbert offered the same prediction in his monologue at the correspondents’ dinner a year ago. “I don’t believe this is a low point in this presidency,” he said. “I believe it is just a lull before a comeback.” But the fake pundit, unlike the real one, recognized that this was a joke.
NY19's John Hall; a breath of fresh air after the vile Sue Kelly, to say the least:
JOHN HALL'S RETURN TO BLUE AMERICALink.
Last September, on the day after he beat Rahm Emanuel's shill candidate in the Democratic primary, John Hall joined Blue America for a free ranging discussion at Firedoglake. He went on to beat a far worse shill in November, a George Bush/Tom DeLay rubber stamp named Sue Kelly. He now represents the 19th congressional district north of New York City. John campaigned on a solidly progressive platform that was strong on confronting and solving environmental issues and strong on bringing a speedy end to Bush's occupation of Iraq. He's been in office for 4 months and he's been living up to his campaign promises-- scrupulously. In fact, in a Republican-leaning district, he thinks the way to be re-elected isn't to compromise on basic principles but to work closely with his constituents the way real leaders do.
And John Hall is already showing signs of being one of the next generation of progressive leaders in Congress. Only 3 freshmen were asked to chair congressional subcommittees. One of them was John-- the Subcommitte on Disability Assistance. The work he's doing there is one of his passions, although, I have to say, that John seems to throw himself into what he believes in-- be it alternative energy, protecting women's health choices, ending the war, or ameliorating the plight of our wounded vets-- with unbounded passion.
"It's a scandal and a travesty to so quickly-- and so frequently-- send our servicemen and women to fight on the far side of the world and yet not support them with medical assistance, housing aid or economic opportunities when they come home."
One of his priorities is to reduce the unbelievable backlog of veteran disability claims. There are over 646,000 initial claims waiting from six months to a year to be acted on and then there's an appeals process that takes 2 more years! "There's an aging Vietnam era population experiencing the aftereffects of Agent Orange and infirmities that come with age plus we're at the front edge of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans coming home now." He gave me a mind-boggling statistic that I'm still trying to comprehend. During the Vietnam War the ratio of wounded to killed was two to one. Now the ratio is sixteen to one. In many ways that is very, very good news. Keep in mind though that many of these vets coming back, who might have died in past decades, are coming back with far more serious injuries, especially when you consider how many have traumatic brain injuries or are missing multiple limbs.
When Congressman Hall and I spoke on the phone a couple weeks ago he had just walked out of the first meeting of the first meeting of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. His enthusiasm was brimming over, palpable. Chairman Markey had decided to focus on the geopolitical implications of rising oil dependence and global warming and John could barely stop talking about it, especially about the national security implications of climate change. Witnesses had included ex-CIA Director James Woolsey, Ambassador Richard Haass (President of the Council on Foreign Relations), Carl Pope of the Sierra Club, and Admiral Dennis McGinn.
Much of John's public career, long before he got involved in politics, has centered on environmental sanity. Sure, he drives a hybrid-- a Mercury Mariner-- but the level of excitement he had when he tried explaining how in the future owners of plug-in hybrids would be able to sell excess electricity back into the power grid the way solar power generators do today was tremendous. He even thinks some of the Republicans on the committee may have been convinced, although, interestingly, Minority Leader Boehner, a dyed-in-the-wool obstructionist, only appointed Republicans to the committee who had voted against its creation.
Last year in just over 2 months 735 Blue America donors contributed over $12,000 to John's campaign and he beat Kelly by just over 4,000 votes, 51% to 49%. She spent over two and a half million dollars and John spent a little less than $1.6 million. Approximately 85% of his money came from grassroots and netroots contributors. Her money came overwhelmingly from Big Business PACs, desperate for a Republican majority to keep up the rubber stamping of Bush's excruciating agenda. If you watched the congressional testimony about Rove's politicization of the GSA, you know that he has targeted John and that Republicans are pouring resources-- perhaps illegally-- into the race already. They have persuaded a fashion industry multimillionaire, Andrew Saul, chairman of Caché Inc, to run against John. (There are also several fringe far right loons who are interested in tossing their hats into the ring.)
SOUTH CAROLINA: Columbia - State lawmakers have started debating two spending plans that could shave pennies off grocery bills or trim income taxes for wealthier residents. The grocery tax cut would save shoppers $1 for each $100 spent and eliminate the tax in the future. Gov. Sanford contends that reducing the state's income tax for top earners would spur the economy.
The bottom line, in other words: Save a couple of bucks a week on groceries if you're an ordinary Joe or Jane. Save tens of thousands a year on income taxes if you're a "top earner." Madness. But entirely consistent with conservative "philosophy," which claims that helping ordinary people might make them lazy and indolent, but that "reducing the top marginal rate," something that effects only rich people, makes the world a better place—the "trickle down" theory that one of its very architects, Reagan budget director David Stockman, admitted actually created "fiscal catastrophe."
Did someone say fiscal catastrophe? Travel with us to neighboring Tennessee:
TENNESSEE: Chattanooga - The rising cost of oil and the strong demand for concrete have slowed some state highway projects. Costs have climbed 24% from 2004, officials said. To combat the problem, officials are using a thinner application of asphalt in some projects. A dozen road construction projects have been delayed, but none were canceled, according to state Department of Transportation.
Commodity prices sometimes increase sharply and without warning; that's a fact of life. But before conservatives got hold of them, governments practiced a radical notion: socking away spare money for just such unexpected emergies in "rainy day" funds. When politicians started claiming the most noble thing they could do was cut—or never, ever raise—taxes, this is the natural result: thinner applications of asphalt, even as streets around the nation have started opening up and swallowing cars because the pipes underneath them are rotten.
The federal government used to help much more. Now, thanks to federal tax cuts, they can't. And as I pointed out before, Bush tax cuts lead inevitably to tax hikes in municipalities. Travel with me to lovely Fresno County, California:
CALIFORNIA: Los Osnos - A water rate increase for some 8,000 customers of the city's Community Services District means that they'll be paying 20% more for water starting May 19. The district board said the increase is needed to keep water flowing. The district filed for federal bankruptcy protection last year to deal with nearly $40 million in debt.
Meanwhile, here's what won't be showing in the Show-Me State:
MISSOURI: St. Louis - The Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park will not be open this summer because of damage from the Taum Sauk Reservoir collapse. The move could hurt a region economically dependent on tourists. Johnson's Shut-Ins was devastated in December 2005 when the reservoir failed and sent water rushing through the area. The park, partially opened last year, must shut down entirely this season so repair work can begin, said state Department of Natural Resources Deputy Director Kurt Schaefer.
OK. So we know what consevative government has destroyed—a nation in which we can count on our reservoirs holding and our streets not swallowing up our cars, one where budgeting is based on something other than fantasies about the magic of tax cuts for the rich. But what has it built?
Come with me, dear reader, to Vermont, where USA Today's "Across the USA" page for April 25 takes us to the state's flagship college campus:
VERMONT: Burlington - A dozen University of Vermont students are staging a hunger strike to seek higher wages for the university's lowest paid employees. Based on year-old figures, 256 UVM employees were paid less than $12.28 an hour, the amount considered a livable wage in Burlington. The students, who began the hunger strike Monday, are promising to consume only water and fruit juices. UVM President Dan Fogel says the school offers some of the best wages and benefits in Vermont.
Don't you just love the flacking? Some people at the university get good wages, so that negates the fact that others receive so little they can't survive. It's hard to write about how badly conservative governance has degraded us as a nation because, well, it has so degraded us as a nation: They have managed to make us forget once-sturdy pillars of our national morality. University presidents used to be high-minded civic leaders. Now they've become flacks like everyone else, all in service to a fatter bottom line.
Well, at least conservatives have restored the honor afforded to our brave officers of the law, who work so hard to keep us safe. Conservatives love police, right? Even the strictest libertarian agrees enforcing laws is the bedrock function of government.
Last stop, the Pennsylvania statehouse, and the ascendence of the anti-law enforcement right:
PENNSYLVANIA: Harrisburg - Hundreds of gun-rights advocates packed the state capitol Rotunda as some lawmakers, most of them Republicans, pushed for proposals aimed at expanding those rights. Several participants mentioned their particular opposition to a bill to require annual registration of most guns and a $10 annual fee on firearms. GOP Rep. Daryl Metcalfe wants to eliminate a gun-sales database maintained by the state police.
In just one day, six dots to connect across the country about a great nation laid low by the conservatives we mistakenly let govern us, even though they abhor government.
Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., was furious and publicly assailed McCain on the House floor.Link.
"Imagine a presidential candidate making a joke about IEDs when our kids are getting blown up," he said.
Responding to Murtha's reaction, McCain said that he was going to use comedy during his campaign, just as he did during his military duty.
"I don't know how to react to that kind of hysteria to a comedy show," he told Diane Sawyer on "GMA." "All I'm going to say to Murtha and others. … Lighten up and get a life."
Well, with almost all Republicans now on record voting in support of permanent war, the only thing which could prevent another big victory for Democrats in '08 is campaign consultants telling their candidates not to run on the war.Link.
Not since the days of Watergate, when our judicial system and intelligence community were deployed by the White House in the service of partisan politics, have we seen such abuses. And in many ways, what we have seen from this administration is far more extensive than that scandal.Link.
Partisan politics has infiltrated every level of our federal government – from scientific reports on global warming to emergency management services to the prosecutorial power of the federal government itself. Even the Iraq War – from our entry to the reconstruction – has been thoroughly politicized and manipulated.
Recently, even those who had become somewhat inured to the intense partisanship of this Administration were shocked by the political manipulation of our U.S. Attorneys. And we have just begun to feel the impact of this scandal. Just as Hurricane Katrina exposed the issue of incompetence, the U.S. Attorney scandal has placed a spotlight on the Administration’s pattern of always placing the Republican Party’s interests before the public interest.
Now, the U.S. Attorney scandal will be to public corruption what Hurricane Katrina was to incompetence in the Bush Administration.
And the scandal has created a new context for viewing and evaluating scandals in the Bush Administration. Americans have learned just how the Bush Administration works and are discovering that under President Bush, no function of the federal government is free from the influence of politics.
And this is no accident. It’s all by design. The incidents I will list today are not a laundry list of one offs or isolated cases of corruption. There is a common denominator. Instead of promoting solutions to our nation’s broad challenges, the Bush Administration used all the levers of power to promote their party and its narrow interests.
During the 2000 presidential campaign, Karl Rove, George W. Bush’s political architect, often drew an analogy between that election and the election of 1896, in which adviser Mark Hanna joined forces with many of the plutocrats of that Gilded Age and ushered in a 35-year era of Republican dominance – dominance that didn’t end until the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Without a trace of reserve, George Bush and Karl Rove set out to recreate that earlier era of one-party rule. And they pursued their goal by inverting the very purpose of government.
Under this Administration, the federal government has become a stepchild of the Republican Party. And in promoting its partisan interests, absolutely nothing is out of bounds – from our national security to our justice system and everything in between – places that in past Administrations were off limits to political influence.
Principals and supporters of the Bush Administration have taken to attributing its myriad failures to mere incompetence. This is an ironic defense for an Administration that once touted President Bush as the first MBA President and boasted about a cabinet filled with CEOs.
In his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales denied politics was involved in his firing of eight U.S. Attorneys. Instead, he suggested that the dismissals were just “poorly handled” or a PR failure.
The Attorney General could offer no coherent explanation for the fiasco, because to do so would unveil the guiding principle at the core of this White House -- insinuating partisan politics into every aspect of government and bringing politics into what used to be a political-free zone – the Justice Department.
Even today, after three months of interviews and investigations and public discussion we still do not know who drafted the list of U.S. attorneys to be fired. We have been left with only three logical explanations for their dismissal:
1) the names of 93 U.S. Attorneys were thrown in a hat and eight were selected at random; or
2) the eight U.S. Attorneys were incompetent, a notion that has been dismissed by the Justice Department’s own rankings; or
3) a White House fearful of public corruption cases further weakening their hold on power concluded that attorneys leading public corruption cases were not “loyal Bushies” and had to go.
They had a plan. They told us what they were going to do. They carried it out. And now America is paying the price.
From the very beginning, the Bush Administration has seeded the government with highly partisan appointees – people more interested in serving their party than serving the broader public interest.
Almost every senior Bush appointee to the EPA and Interior Department has come out of the very industries they regulate – and which generously fund the Republican Party. As Jim Hightower has noted, this Administration eliminated the middleman. The corporations don’t have to lobby the government, because they are the government.
This cronyism transcends the regulatory agencies. The Bush Administration even laced FEMA with political operatives rather than people with experience handling emergencies.
There were early signs, not heeded, that this Administration would be driven by partisan politics, not public policy. In Ron Suskind’s book “The Price of Loyalty,” former-Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill complained that he couldn’t interest anyone in policy discussions at the White House, because it was populated with political operatives rather than policy experts.
Even the President’s highly touted faith-based initiative turned out to be a purely political play. The top two leaders of that new office both quit in frustration. John J. DiIulio Jr. left after being forced to work in a White House that he likened to “the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis.” Former Deputy Director David Kuo later alleged that then-White House political affairs director Ken Mehlman knowingly participated in a scheme to use that government office to mobilize religious voters in 20, targeted congressional races – of which the Republicans won 19.
I’ve got to tell you – Tammany Hall had nothing on team Bush.
The Bush Administration has redefined the famous challenge of President Kennedy’s inaugural address. Instead of “Ask not what your country can do for you,” it has become “Ask what your government can do for our party.”
It’s true that Franklin Roosevelt started an era of Democratic domination of Washington that lasted into the 1960s. Roosevelt forged a lasting political coalition by conquering the economic blight of the Great Depression and uniting our country to win World War II. The Democratic Party reaped the political dividends of successfully confronting those national challenges.
In contrast, the Bush Administration has ignored the great challenges of our day. And for six years, the Legislative Branch was complicit in this scheme. Now our country is paying the price.
Let’s begin with the biggest issue facing our nation: the war in Iraq. We now know that when the CIA and other intelligence agencies failed to find evidence to justify the President’s rationale for war, the Administration browbeat the CIA to tailor its intelligence. Vice President Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld even set up their own intelligence arm to provide the desired evidence.
And when former-ambassador Joseph Wilson cast doubt on the Administration’s contention that Saddam was trying to obtain uranium in Niger for a nuclear weapon, Cheney’s chief of staff, “Scooter” Libby, embarked on a smear campaign by leaking the identity of Wilson’s wife, an undercover CIA officer.
Once the Iraq War was launched, we all knew how important the reconstruction would be to securing the peace. But politics extended to that country’s reconstruction and the examples are truly shocking:
The person chosen to oversee Iraq’s health care system was the community health director for the former Republican governor of Michigan. The man he replaced was a physician with a master’s degree in public health and post-graduate degrees from Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth and UC-Berkeley and taught at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health where he specialized in disaster response.
A 24 year-old with a background in commercial real estate was hired by the Authority to reopen and manage the Iraqi stock exchange.
The daughter of a prominent neoconservative was tapped to manage Iraq’s $13 billion annual budget.
Nothing was free from political influence.
This bias toward political appointees for key positions extended beyond Iraq to our own homeland security. At Mayor Giuliani’s urging, President Bush nominated former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik as Secretary of Homeland Security. Bush’s legal counsel, Alberto Gonzales, took charge of Kerik’s vetting by the White House. Kerik was later convicted of taking gifts from a construction firm with ties to organized crime.
Politically connected individuals weren’t the only beneficiaries of the Administration’s Iraq operations. Before the invasion of Iraq, Halliburton’s KBR subsidiary was granted a $7 billion classified contract to restore the country’s oil fields. Halliburton then went on to overcharge the government for fuel imports by more than $100 million.
The Administration’s coziness with corporations extends to the treatment of our injured veterans. Last year, a company called IAP Worldwide Services won a $120 million contract to privatize the management of Walter Reed. IAP is owned by a firm chaired by former Bush Treasury Secretary, John W. Snow, and has political ties to Congressman Jerry Lewis, the former Republican chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Everyone knows about Vice President Cheney’s secret energy task force meetings with top executives from Exxon-Mobil, Conoco, Shell Oil and BP America. But science and sound policy have also taken a back seat to political considerations when it comes to the government’s findings on global warming. The New York Times reported that when Philip Cooney served as chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, he removed or adjusted descriptions of scientific research to downplay links between emissions and global warming. Before joining the Bush Administration, Cooney worked for the American Petroleum Institute. After resigning his government post, he went to work for Exxon-Mobil.
Bush Administration officials even vacation with energy lobbyists. The Justice Department’s former top environmental prosecutor, Sue Ellen Wooldridge, recently bought a beach house with an energy lobbyist and J. Steven Griles, a former Bush Administration official who pled guilty in the Abramoff case.
From legislation to government reports to oversight, the energy industry, one of the GOPs largest donors got what they needed.
Even federal efforts to help students learn and afford college aren’t off-limits to manipulation. The Washington Post recently reported that Matteo Fontana, a senior official in the Department of Education’s financial-aid office owned about $100,000 worth of stock in a student loan company that has been subpoenaed by New York officials.
Last weekend, we learned of an investigation into President Bush’s Reading First program and allegations that officials improperly profited when implementing the program and the case has now been referred to the Justice Department.
The Bush Administration memorably demonstrated its willingness to enrich those who helped carry out its political agenda. Seeking to build support among African-Americans for the No Child Left Behind law, the Administration paid Armstrong Williams $240,000 in taxpayer funds to promote the law on his nationally syndicated TV show.
An even more egregious misuse of public funds took place around the Administration’s budget-busting Medicare prescription drug program. The non-partisan General Accounting Office concluded that the Department of Health and Human Services illegally spent federal money to produce videos made to look like news reports and distributed them to TV stations across the nation.
After the bill was passed it was revealed that the Administration purposely withheld information from Congress on the true cost of the prescription drug program. Richard S. Foster, Medicare’s chief actuary for two Administrations said Bush Administration officials threatened to fire him if he disclosed that the drug plan would cost hundreds of billions more than what President Bush was telling Congress. In short, he would be fired if he did his job.
Perhaps the most thoroughly politicized bureau in the federal government is the General Services Administration, the mammoth agency charged with procuring supplies and managing federal properties. Its former chief of staff, David Safavian, was convicted of covering up his efforts to assist Jack Abramoff in acquiring two properties controlled by the GSA.
Safavian was also convicted of concealing facts about a lavish weeklong golf trip he took with Abramoff to Scotland and London– a trip that included Congressmen Bob Ney.
The current head of the GSA is Lurita Doan, a former government contractor, who has donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Republican Party. On January 26th of this year, Doan took part in a meeting at the GSA that included 40 regional administrators by videoconference. At this meeting, Karl Rove’s deputy, J. Scott Jennings, gave a PowerPoint presentation on the 2006 elections. The Washington Post reported that one slide named 20 Democrats in Congress the Republicans will try to defeat in 2008. Another slide listed Republican Congressmen the party wants to protect.
According to the Post, Ms. Doan asked the assembled government employees how they could “help our candidates” in the next election.
Of course, it’s illegal for political activity of this kind to occur in a federal office, involving federal employees on taxpayer time. At a House hearing last month, Ms. Doan claimed she couldn’t recall the slide presentation or making the remarks that were attributed to her by various Republican appointees who were in attendance. Now, the Office of the Special Counsel is investigating this matter.
The most vivid example of this Administration’s corruption– and the one that revealed its true cost to the American people – was the fumbling of the Katrina disaster. Under President Clinton, FEMA was run by James Lee Witt, a political appointee and a man with years of experience in disaster management. But the Bush Administration chose to staff that sensitive agency with unqualified political appointees.
Bush first appointed his 2000 campaign manager, Joseph Allbaugh, to run FEMA. Allbaugh hired his long-time friend, Michael Brown, as the agency’s general counsel. Brown had no emergency management experience, having served as attorney for the International Arabian Horse Association. Allbaugh left in early-2003, and Bush named Michael Brown to replace him.
When the Gulf Coast was hit by the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, FEMA, one of the best agencies in the federal government and only four years after 9/11, was woefully unprepared to provide the needed assistance.
Now, millions of Americans are continuing to suffer terrible consequences and FEMA has left behind a striking legacy of mismanagement. Even FEMA’s attempt to take modest action failed. After purchasing thousands of trailers for those displaced by the hurricane, the trailers continue to sit empty in Arkansas. FEMA had no plan to move the trailers to the communities where they were needed.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with political appointees, per se. James Lee Witt, whom I mentioned before, was a political appointee and he was qualified to run FEMA. So was Alexander Hamilton as our nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury. And Harold Ickes Senior, appointed by FDR, was a key architect of the New Deal that helped our nation emerge from the Great Depression.
Political appointees are not inherently corrupt. The difference is that these appointees were well qualified for their positions. And they put the welfare of the nation ahead of purely partisan interests. Judged by those criteria, few of this President’s appointees would pass the test.
We have all focused on the recent firing of eight U.S. Attorneys, but they didn’t come out of the blue. There were a number of examples of political considerations overriding the work of Justice Department lawyers that should have woken us all up.
Indeed, the removal of U.S. Attorneys for political reasons is not a new occurrence. In 2002, a grand jury in Guam opened an investigation into Jack Abramoff’s secret arrangement to block a bill threatening his clients in the U.S. Territories.
Just days later, the U.S. Attorney who launched that probe was demoted after more than a decade in office. A report by the Interior Department’s Inspector General later concluded that Abramoff had actively lobbied for his dismissal and had a pipeline into the White House to accomplish that goal. And he wasn’t shy about reaching out to the White House for help. While the White House initially told us Jack Abramoff only occasionally reached out to the West Wing, we later learned he contacted the White House 485 times.
You can see the beginnings of a scandal – a U.S. Attorney was removed who wasn’t a “loyal Bushie.”
Sharon Y. Eubanks, the 22-year veteran career Justice Department lawyer who led Justice Department team that prosecuted a landmark lawsuit against tobacco companies, told the Washington Post that three political appointees in Attorney General Gonzales’s office undermined the government’s case in the final weeks of the 2005 trial, which cost the federal government billions of dollars.
Now we’ve learned that political considerations were behind the dismissal of eight U.S. Attorneys across the country, including some who were actively investigating Republican Members of Congress. Recently released emails between staff at the Justice Department and staff at the White House show that loyalty to President Bush and pressure from political figures led to the firings.
In the course of the ongoing congressional investigation, we have also learned that White House staffers, including Karl Rove, have used email addresses issued by the Republican National Committee. I have a simple question and it remains unanswered: why? Why did government officials need a political tool to conduct business each day? Of course, party computers are necessary for running a re-elect campaign. But are they still necessary two years later when the President had no campaign ahead of him? These email accounts were only necessary because politics was so deeply engrained in the administration’s normal course of business. R.N.C. – U.S. Government…it is all one seamless political machine to them.
The Administration would like the press and public to believe all of this corruption and cronyism consists of isolated instances and one-offs. But I ask you:
Michael Brown. Scooter Libby. Bernard Kerik. Halliburton. Philip Cooney. David Safavian. Lurita Doan. Matteo Fontana. Sue Ellen Wooldridge. Steven Griles. Alberto Gonzales. FEMA. Iraq intelligence. Iraq reconstruction.
This Hall of Shame is no accident and these are not isolated incidences. It’s a pattern of political appointees who put partisan interests ahead of country – and were told to do so.
The good news is that this pattern of putting party first and country second has been brought into the light of day and can no longer be explained away as the product of errors or lapses in judgment by individuals. The implausible excuses are piling up, the explanations becoming harder and harder to believe and the truth more difficult to obscure. Americans now know that we are witnessing much more than just incompetent individuals at work. We are watching corruption in action.
This corruption might have continued unchecked, except for the last election – which brought a Democratic majority to Congress with subpoena power and a real seriousness about oversight and accountability. This Administration, and a complicit Congress, thought that the American people didn’t care about the rampant corruption infecting their national government.
Many in Washington dismissed Democratic efforts to make corruption an issue in the 2006 elections. But voters across the country rendered a different verdict than official Washington. And now we Democrats are accountable for fixing the problems we inherited.
I’m proud that the Democratic-led House and Senate have passed the most sweeping ethics reforms since the Watergate era. It was the first step toward ending the culture of corruption and cleaning up Washington. But we have more work to do.
First, we must pass comprehensive lobbying reform legislation. The Senate has already taken action and the House is scheduled to vote on this bill before the Memorial Day Recess.
Next, we must extend lobbying and ethics reform to the executive branch by passing the Executive Branch Reform Act of 2007, a bill co-authored by Congressmen Henry Waxman and Tom Davis that I am proud to co-sponsor.
Finally, we must continue aggressive oversight efforts in Congress and hold government agencies accountable.
While we pursue these ideas – and others – to get politics and policy back into balance, ultimately we need leaders who see public service as a calling and not a profit center for themselves or their political allies. A Congress that takes its oversight responsibilities seriously is our best antidote to the unprecedented politicizing of government. Furthermore, the media must also continue to shine a bright light on government and keep our leaders honest and accountable. That vigorous oversight ought to extend to the next Administration, whether Democratic or Republican and Congress.
The saddest legacy of the Bush Administration’s six-year trail of cronyism and corruption is that it contributes to the public’s already cynical view of government. This makes it even more difficult for those of us who believe that the purpose of government is to secure a better future for our country and all of its people. Repairing this sorry legacy is the first challenge our next President will face.
Just more proof of Our Leaders hatred of what America represents:
The entire scheme has been laid out before us. The question now is whether Karl Rove will get away with it.Link.
Here's the scheme, as revealed over the past month: Rove and his deputies traveled to various agencies throughout the government, lecturing management there about Republicans' political prospects. Which House and Senate members were in trouble? Which Democratic seats were vulnerable? What were the major issues in the election?
But there was a line to be drawn: no commands were to be given -- because such a directive would be a blatant violation of the Hatch Act, which forbids the use of government resources for political ends.
On the contrary, the government officials receiving the briefing were supposed to get the hint -- as Tom Hamburger reported, "employees said they got a not-so-subtle message about helping endangered Republicans." The briefing simply gave them the tools to be helpful in the next election. They were supposed to take the ball and run with it.
The Washington Post reports today that Rove and his deputies gave such briefings to at least 15 different agencies (ranging from NASA to the Department of Homeland Security). But one briefing in particular continues to shine a light on all the rest: the one given this January to officials at the General Services Administration, the government's massive procurement agency.
Rove's deputy Scott Jennings simply showed up and gave the briefing (the slides (pdf) for which have been obtained by the House oversight committee -- that's one of them above). Employees were supposed to get the "not-so-subtle" message. But unfortunately for Jennings, GSA chief Lurita Doan doesn't do "not-so-subtle." From today's Post:
At its completion, GSA Administrator Lurita Alexis Doan asked how GSA projects could be used to help "our candidates," according to half a dozen witnesses. The briefer, J. Scott Jennings, said that topic should be discussed "off-line," the witnesses said. Doan then replied, "Oh, good, at least as long as we are going to follow up," according to an account given by former GSA chief acquisition officer Emily Murphy to House investigators, according to a copy of the transcript.
"Something was going to take place potentially afterwards" regarding Doan's request, GSA deputy director of communications Jennifer Millikin told investigators she concluded at the time.
Doan was obviously supposed to come to the tacit understanding that such things should be discussed "off-line." But, as anyone who watched Doan testify before the House last month can attest, she doesn't think well on her feet.
Now, the White House has adopted the line that the briefings were simply to provide employees a look at "the political landscape." And apparently that talking point has been widely distributed, as R. Jeffrey Smith from the Post found:
By the end of yesterday afternoon, all of those describing the briefings on the record had adopted a uniform phrase in response to a reporter's inquiries: They were, each official said, "informational briefings about the political landscape."
It's all about plausible deniability. As Scott Bloch, the head of the Office of Special Counsel -- the office that is charged with investigating Hatch Act violations -- tells Smith, "Political forecasts, just generally . . . I do not regard as illegal political activity." Bloch, remember, is the one who announced to the world earlier this week that he'd leave no stone unturned in his pursuit of Karl Rove. (There's more on Bloch here.)
The burning question here is this: what about those agency officials who are smarter than Doan? The briefings have been going on since the beginning of the Bush administration. Somebody got the hint, had that "offline" conversation, and successfully helped "our candidates." How many? When? Where?
Oh, man. You just have to listen to these caricatures of black pols that Rush Limbaugh is pushing right now. They're quite -- how should we put this -- "racially charged."Link.
You may already have heard the "Barack the Magic Negro" shtick that Rush sang on his show the other day (more on that in a bit). But we've found a bunch of new ones that are way more eye-popping. They're done by Paul Shanklin, a self-described "political satirist" who's been doing stuff on Rush's show for many years. You can only access them in the members-only section of Rush's Web site, but we've put together a montage of them for you below.
Let's start with a particularly lovely Rush/Shanklin special. It has a voice parodying an Al Sharpton who is so illiterate that he spells the word "respect" like this: "r-e-s-p-e-c-k." Here's a transcript of the relevant bit, where the Sharpton stand-in is standing outside Barack Obama headquarters asking Obama for attention by singing the following lyrics to the tune of Aretha Franklin's "Respect":
"R-E-S-P-E-C-K. Wha-choo mean it ain't spelt that way? R-E-S-P-E-K-T? I need a dictionary!"
There's more. As Media Matters reported the other day, Rush sang the ditty "Barack the Magic Negro" on his show on March 19, basing the lyrics on an L.A. Times Op-ed piece. But it gets better.
Now Rush is running a new, improved version of the "Magic Negro" song that's way more fleshed out -- and way, way, more eye-opening, too. It features a parody of Sharpton singing about "da hood" and saying that Obama is "ar-ti-coo-late." Just give it a listen, it's hard to describe how low it is.
There are also routines where the Sharpton stand-in insults Obama by saying "yo mama's so fat" and so forth, as well as one where Sharpton demands that Obama explain himself to the "commooonity." Listen to them all here:
This is hardly a new point, of course, but it still never ceases to amaze that top officials of the Republican Party -- including the Vice President -- go on a show that traffics in this sort of thing.
Whaddaya think, all?
Special thanks to TPM associate editor Ben Craw for making the video and to reporter-researcher Eric Kleefeld for help in digging these up.
Update: As commenter Crust points out, President Bush himself went on Limbaugh in November of 2006.
Update II: Much more on this from Digby and John Amato, who says sources are telling him that stations around the country are getting heavily criticized for airing this bile.
Meanwhile, one other point. It's sad that this has to be repeated so often, but so be it: This is not a free speech issue. It's about the fact that top officials in one of the two major political parties in America -- including the President and Vice President -- have no problem lending whatever credibility they have left to someone who's trafficking in the worst kind of vile, demeaning garbage, in exchange for the use of his megaphone. Rush can say whatever he wants. Likewise, so can his critics. They can even put pressure on his advertisers if they like -- also a form of speech. The stations that air Rush's crap will weigh whatever benefits they accrue from running Rush against whatever costs are incurred as a result of the criticism running Rush brings. These stations are not obliged to run Rush. If they were to decide not to, that would be their choice. It would not an impingement on Rush's right to free speech.
Again: This is not a free speech issue. This is not a free speech issue. This is not a free speech issue. Okay?
The Bush administration will not try to assess whether the troop increase in Iraq is producing signs of political progress or greater security until September, and many of Mr. Bush’s top advisers now anticipate that any gains by then will be limited, according to senior administration officials.[more]
In interviews over the past week, the officials made clear that the White House is gradually scaling back its expectations for the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. The timelines they are now discussing suggest that the White House may maintain the increased numbers of American troops in Iraq well into next year.
That prospect would entail a dramatically longer commitment of frontline troops, patrolling the most dangerous neighborhoods of Baghdad, than the one envisioned in legislation that passed the House and Senate this week. That vote, largely symbolic because Democrats do not have the votes to override the promised presidential veto, set deadlines that would lead to the withdrawal of combat troops by the end of March 2008.
Several American officials who have spoken recently with Mr. Maliki say they believe that he would like to achieve the kind of political reconciliation that Mr. Bush outlined in January as the ultimate goal of the troop increase. But they say the Iraqi prime minister appears to have little ability to manage the required legislation, including bills requiring fair distribution of oil revenues among Iraq’s Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, and reversing the American-led de-Baathification that barred many Sunnis from participation in the new government.
Mr. Crocker said that he had told Mr. Maliki that evidence of progress “is important in American terms” because “to sustain American support we have to be able to see that Iraqis are stepping up to hard challenges.”
But the new view of Mr. Maliki’s limitations was put bluntly by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the American commander in Iraq, who spent the week pressing Congress not to put limits on either the timing or conduct of his operations, as he described what he discovered upon returning to Iraq after a two-year hiatus.
“He’s not the Prime Minister Tony Blair of Iraq,” General Petraeus said of Mr. Maliki on Thursday. “He does not have a parliamentary majority. He does not have his ministers in all of the different ministries,” and they “sometimes sound a bit discordant in their statements to the press and their statements to other countries. It’s a very, very challenging situation in which to lead.”
But the Democrats say that if there is no measurable success by August, they believe several more Republicans will defect from Mr. Bush’s camp and vote for a staged pullout. Moderate Republicans like Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who grudgingly backed the administration in the Senate vote this week, have said they are not willing to back an open-ended commitment.
Other Republicans have urged Mr. Bush to explain the political strategy more clearly, arguing that the troop increase is merely a tactic, and not one that can be sustained for long.
Rudy of course is all talk and thinks the world of himself -- I mean, he's overly-conceited by politico standards.
And here is America's Mayor getting played:
And here is America's Mayor getting played:
Jerry Falwell highlighted Rudy Giuliani's dilemma in an email to supporters today: Guiliani's only hope of becoming the GOP nominee is to overcome his past by being publicly held hostage to the religious right. He's probably already lost some centrist support by reversing himself on core social issues, but if he expected gratitude from his new allies he'll be disappointed. In fact, Falwell wasted no time before turning up the heat.
The canny ex-DA's been checkmated by the preacher from Lynchburg.
The New York Sun covered Giuliani's reversal on the topic of civil unions yesterday, calling it "a startling departure from his previously stated position." But this change does more than just leave him open to the charge of compromising his convictions for political expediency. It also gives the far right extraordinary leverage over his candidacy. Having burned his bridges to moderates, he now has to do whatever it takes to placate religious conservatives.
Falwell immediately used his email list to remind his supporters of Guiliani's past positions on abortion as well as civil unions. Falwell wrote of the former New York mayor, "he is the candidate we wish we could love." (emphasis mine)
The politician/preacher goes on to take predictable swipes at Hollywood before re-emphasizing the need to take control of the judiciary. He concludes: "So while Mr. Giuliani's abrupt rebuke of the New Hampshire Senate's bill is welcomed, we are still hopeful for more encouraging evidence of his commitment to social conservatism."
Here's where it now stands: Giuliani has already exposed himself to the charge of political expediency, which a Democratic opponent would be foolish not to use against him. So he's already paid a high price. The mayor has foreclosed the option of running to the left of his party (which, in fairness to him, probably would have ensured his defeat in the primaries.)
Falwell is telling him "that's not enough - you haven't proven yourself to us." In effect, the Religious Right is telling Giuliani via Falwell that he is now completely dependent on their largesse and support. Having received two major concessions, their response is that they expect much more.
You've seen it a dozen times in the movies. It's the blackmail scenario, where the first payment only encourages bigger and bigger demands. Giuliani's in a tough position, and he doesn't have many options.
How should Democrats respond? By hitting Giuliani on these reversals every chance they get. Will they do it? I don't know. The Democratic candidates had a perfect opportunity to go on the offensive against Giuliani over terrorism in last night's debate, since he has vulnerabilities on the issue. None of them did.
As for Giuliani - unfortunately, there's not too much he can do. He could try running against the religious activists, but that backfired against McCain in 2000. So the mayor's running out of options.