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Monday, October 24, 2005


"He's a vile, detestable, moralistic person with no heart and no conscience who believes he's been tapped by God to do very important things," one White House ally said, referring to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald.


I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, first learned about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak investigation in a conversation with Mr. Cheney weeks before her identity became public in 2003, lawyers involved in the case said Monday.

Notes of the previously undisclosed conversation between Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney on June 12, 2003, appear to differ from Mr. Libby’s testimony to a federal grand jury that he initially learned about the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, from journalists, the lawyers said.

The notes, taken by Mr. Libby during the conversation, for the first time place Mr. Cheney in the middle of an effort by the White House to learn about Ms. Wilson’s husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was questioning the administration’s handling of intelligence about Iraq’s nuclear program to justify the war.

Lawyers said the notes show that Mr. Cheney knew that Ms. Wilson worked at the C.I.A. more than a month before her identity was made public and her undercover status was disclosed in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak on July 14, 2003.

Mr. Libby’s notes indicate that Mr. Cheney had gotten his information about Ms. Wilson from George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, in response to questions from the vice president about Mr. Wilson. But they contain no suggestion that either Mr. Cheney or Mr. Libby knew at the time of Ms. Wilson’s undercover status or that her identity was classified. Disclosing a covert agent’s identity can be a crime, but only if the person who discloses it knows the agent’s undercover status.

Hmmm. I'd have to say that Cheney wasn't exactly forthcoming with the Monsignor in September of 2003, was he?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: No. I don’t know Joe Wilson. I’ve never met Joe Wilson. A question had arisen. I’d heard a report that the Iraqis had been trying to acquire uranium in Africa, Niger in particular. I get a daily brief on my own each day before I meet with the president to go through the intel. And I ask lots of question. One of the questions I asked at that particular time about this, I said, “What do we know about this?” They take the question. He came back within a day or two and said, “This is all we know. There’s a lot we don’t know,” end of statement. And Joe Wilson—I don’t who sent Joe Wilson. He never submitted a report that I ever saw when he came back.

I guess the intriguing thing, Tim, on the whole thing, this question of whether or not the Iraqis were trying to acquire uranium in Africa. In the British report, this week, the Committee of the British Parliament, which just spent 90 days investigating all of this, revalidated their British claim that Saddam was, in fact, trying to acquire uranium in Africa. What was in the State of the Union speech and what was in the original British White papers. So there may be difference of opinion there. I don’t know what the truth is on the ground with respect to that, but I guess—like I say, I don’t know Mr. Wilson. I probably shouldn’t judge him. I have no idea who hired him and it never came...


VICE PRES. CHENEY: Who in the CIA, I don’t know.

Evidently, when he was chatting with Tenet and Libby about Wilson's CIA wife he forgot to ask Tenet who in the CIA hired him. Now, that doesn't sound right, does it?

East Of The Potomac

Mediagirl reminds us of:
the horrible situation in Pakistan, where tens of thousands have died, and tens of thousands more, including children, still have not received any aid.

Let's look at the facts:

50,000 dead, maybe more, many of whom were children, who were in school at the moment the quake hit.

10,000 more children are facing imminent death due to injury, infection, disease, starvation, dehydration, exposure to the sub-zero temperatures at night. 120,000 children are at risk.

These figures are conservative. And aid money has not been coming.

Almost two weeks after the quake, less than 14 per cent of the UN's emergency appeal for £180 million has been received.

Unicef, the UN children's organisation, yesterday estimated that 10,000 children will die in weeks. The figure was described as "conservative" by a UN field worker.

Although the official death count remains at 49,739, local authorities put it at almost 80,000.
And once again, it is not only simple humanity that cries out for a concerted effort to help. Sheer self-interest points to making the rescue of the abject in Pakistan a major international priority. Guaranteed: if the rest of the world wont help, Osama will.
Liberals With Guns

As of 5:49 am Monday (EST), it seems Jeffrey Goldberg's already famous article on Scowcroft in the New Yorker will not be posted - you'll have to buy the zine, unless it gets liberated and posted elsewhere. But the New Yorker did put up an interesting interview with the author.I'll leave it to others to analyse the political ramifications and content. But I seem to be unusually sensitive to Republican rhetorical hanky-panky ("pro-life," "tax relief," etc), and I couldn't help but notice some spanking new jargon bubbling up into the mainstream:
...the deeper meaning here is ideological: George W. Bush’s father was committed to a realist understanding of foreign policy. This served him well in Iraq, and not so well in Bosnia. George W. Bush, on the other hand, has become a leading proponent of democratic transformationalism; he believes it is America’s job to help non-democratic countries become democratic. The realists don’t believe that the internal organization of another country is any of our business; George W. Bush, evidently, does.


Are the conservatives turning against the neoconservatives?

They’ve been doing so for some time. Just read George Will. Their complaint is that neoconservatives aren’t conservative; they’re liberals with guns. [emphasis added.]
You got that? "Democratic transformationalists" are "liberals with guns." Those are the clowns that got us into that stupid mess in Iraq.

In other words, the term "conservative" has been surgically removed from the failed ideology of neoconservativism and replaced with the word "democratic." This of course is purely coincidental, no associations to a certain political party should be inferred.

And "democratic" is paired with the brain-twisting neologism "transformationalist." Only a paranoid mentality would wonder whether the pairing of "democratic" with something invented, something hard to understand, and something hard to say, is intentional.

As for "liberals with guns," well...what could be a scarier image, given the relentless demonization of liberals that has been going on since McCarthy, if not earlier?

But never mind, as so many expert Democratic consultants are quick to tell us, it's not the language that matters, but the ideas. I mean it's not as if you can easily redefine failed Republican strategies as liberal and Democratic, y'know. That's preposterous. No one would fall for that and repeat it. LIke if you tried, people would just get confused about what things mean and then they wouldn't listen to anyone. What good would that be?

(By the way, reporter Jeffrey Goldberg shouldn't, necessarily, be blamed for the terminology. It's likely he's probably just repeating jargon that's getting tossed up into the air. As for passing it on, shame, shame, shame!)

{Update:} Content edited somewhat after original posting to focus the sarcasm.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


I have often felt that the real story of this time will be written as a family history between a father and a son. If only Shakespeare were alive to write it.

Steve Clemons has excerpts of the New Yorker's Brent Scowcroft article that has everyone on pins and needles. Scowcroft is 80 years old and has apparently decided that he should speak out clearly. And he does:

The first Gulf War was a success, Scowcroft said, because the President knew better than to set unachievable goals. "I'm not a pacifist," he said. "I believe in the use of force. But there has to be a good reason for using force. And you have to know when to stop using force." Scowcroft does not believe that the promotion of American-style democracy abroad is a sufficiently good reason to use force.

"I thought we ought to make it our duty to help make the world friendlier for the growth of liberal regimes," he said. "You encourage democracy over time, with assistance, and aid, the traditional way. Not how the neocons do it."

The neoconservatives -- the Republicans who argued most fervently for the second Gulf war -- believe in the export of democracy, by violence if that is required, Scowcroft said. "How do the neocons bring democracy to Iraq? You invade, you threaten and pressure, you evangelize." And now, Scowcroft said, America is suffering from the consequences of that brand of revolutionary utopianism. "This was said to be part of the war on terror, but Iraq feeds terrorism," he said.

The underlying narrative, however, is the subconscious rivalry between the father and the son, Scowcroft becoming the stand-in for 43's resentment toward 41. You wonder how many of the tragic blunders of the last five years are the result of crafty neocons playing into Junior's desire to gainsay his father:

Like nearly everyone else in Washington, Scowcroft believed that Saddam maintained stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, but he wrote that a strong inspections program would have kept him at bay. "There may have come a time when we would have needed to take Saddam out," he told me. "But he wasn't really a threat. His Army was weak, and the country hadn't recovered from sanctions." Scowcroft's colleagues told me that he would have preferred to deliver his analysis privately to the White House. But Scowcroft, the apotheosis of a Washington insider, was by then definitively on the outside, and there was no one in the White House who would listen to him. On the face of it, this is remarkable: Scowcroft's best friend's son is the President; his friend Dick Cheney is the Vice-President; Condoleezza Rice, who was the national-security adviser, and is now the Secretary of State, was once a Scowcroft protege; and the current national-security adviser, Stephen Hadley, is another protege and a former principal at the Scowcroft Group.


According to friends of the elder Bush, the estrangement of his son and his best friend has been an abiding source of unhappiness, not only for Bush but for Barbara Bush as well. George Bush, the forty-first President, has tried several times to arrange meetings between his son, "Forty-three," and his former national-security adviser to no avail, according to people with knowledge of these intertwined relationships. "There have been occasions when Forty-one has engineered meetings in which Forty-three and Scowcroft are in the same place at the same time, but they were social settings that weren't conducive to talking about substantive issues," a Scowcroft confidant said.

George H.W. Bush was a bastard in many ways. He was one of the first to bring the new generation of operative thugs into national politics. Lee Atwater ran his 1988 campaign. But his spawn took it to a new level. This is but one of many good arguments against monarchy and succession. Think of the average family Thanksgiving table and imagine that it's the ruling elite of the most powerful country in the world.

I recommend that you read all of Clemens post and the New Yorker article when it is posted. This on top of the Lawrence Wilkerson speech from last week shows that things are breaking down in a most serious way for the Bush administration.

Lambert at Corrente notes
that Wilkerson even predicts some very dangerous times ahead --- not from terrorists, but internal revolution:

WILKERSON: We have courted disaster, in Iraq, in North Korea, in Iran, generally with regard to domestic crises like Katrina… we haven’t done very well on anything like that in a long time. And if something comes along that is truly serious, truly serious, something like a nuclear weapon going off in a major American city [“Reckless Indifference to the Nightmare Scenario”] , or something like a major pandemic, you are going to see the ineptitude of this government in a way that will take you back to the Declaration of Independence. Read it some time again. … Read in there what they say about the necessity of people to [inaudible - background voice] tyranny or to throw off ineptitude or to throw off that which is not doing what the people want it to do.

And you’re talking about the potential for, I think, real dangerous times if we don’t get our act together.

Shakespearean indeed.

Update: Matthew Yglesias makes the important point that this would have been oh so much more courageous if they had backed up the likes of Richard Clarke instead of waiting until Junior was tanking in the polls. And he points to this op-ed by Richard Holbrook on Wilkerson's speech, which points out that Colin Powell is a putz.

Perjury Smergury

Lying is a moral wrong. Perjury is a lie told under oath that is legally wrong. To be illegal, the lie must be willfully told, must be believed to be untrue, and must relate to a material matter. Title 18, Section 1621 and 1623, U.S. Code.

If President Washington, as a child, had cut down a cherry tree and lied about it, he would be guilty of `lying,' but would not be guilty of `perjury.'

If, on the other hand, President Washington, as an adult, had been warned not to cut down a cherry tree, but he cut it down anyway, with the tree falling on a man and severely injuring or killing him, with President Washington stating later under oath that it was not he who cut down the tree, that would be `perjury.' Because it was a material fact in determining the circumstances of the man's injury or death.

Some would argue that the President in the second example should not be impeached because the whole thing is about a cherry tree, and lies about cherry trees, even under oath, though despicable, do not rise to the level of impeachable offenses under the Constitution. I disagree.

The perjury committed in the second example was an attempt to impede, frustrate, and obstruct the judicial system in determining how the man was injured or killed, when, and by whose hand, in order to escape personal responsibility under the law, either civil or criminal. Such would be an impeachable offense. To say otherwise would be to severely lower the moral and legal standards of accountability that are imposed on ordinary citizens every day. The same standard should be imposed on our leaders.

Nearly every child in America believes that President Washington, as a child himself, did in fact cut down the cherry tree and admitted to his father that he did it, saying simply: `I cannot tell a lie.'

I will not compromise this simple but high moral principle in order to avoid serious consequences to a successor President who may choose to ignore it.

That is from the bizarre incoherent statement Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson gave in the impeachment case against Bill Clinton's penis. (The cherry tree story is apocryphal -- "a lie" if you will --- but whatever.)

Today, on Press The Meat, she was not quite so convinced that perjury and obstruction of justice were terrible things at all, much less "morally wrong." She talked about overzealous US Attorneys and prosecutors abusing the statute and how troubling it all was that people were being prosecuted for lies when there is no underlying crime. She said that the Clinton penis case was different because he was charged with an underlying crime --- which is, of course, "a lie."

If the Republicans are going to use the "perjury and obstruction aren't real crimes" defense then I think we need to gather all the material that Mr Google (and the Washington Post, here) conveniently provide and bombard the gasbags and the alleged journalists with them. They need to be spoonfed this stuff.

The Democratic defense for Clinton was that Republicans conducted a witchhunt that led their handpicked prosecutor Ken Starr to start digging inappropriately into Clinton's sex life. The country understood this and agreed with it and the Republicans lost seats in the 1998 election because of it.

The underlying crime here is outing a CIA agent and lying about a war. They apparently believe that this is politics as usual, no big deal. William Kristol wailed this morning:

Scooter Libby or Karl Rove are going to be judged criminals for perhaps acknowledging her name, perhaps knowing, though there’s no evidence they did, that she was a covert operative…That’s a crime?

Tom DeLay is not a criminal…Are we seriously going to pretend that shuffling hard and soft money around which hundreds of politicians have done over the last two decades, before McCain-Feingold was enacted [is a crime]?

This from the whining moralists who screeched like a bunch of deranged harpies for years that lying about 10 furtive blow-jobs in a dismissed civil case was a High Crime that was destroying the fabric of our country.

I just can't help but reprise again this little gem from the man himself:

Politicians, jittery as they are, may wish to reread the prophetic words of author Mark Helprin, in a Wall Street Journal piece from October 1997. For Republicans, wrote Helprin, "there can be only one visceral theme, one battle, one task" -- "to address the question of William Jefferson Clinton's fitness for office in light of the many crimes, petty and otherwise, that surround, imbue, and color his tenure. The president must be made subject to the law."

Thanks to Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp -- and, of course, Ken Starr -- Helprin's call to arms carries a new urgency. Starr's report will reveal, in Helprin's words, "a field of battle clearly laid down." The lines have been drawn. What Republicans now need is the nerve to fight. They must stand for, to quote Helprin again, "the rejection of intimidation, the rejection of lies, the rejection of manipulation, the rejection of disingenuous pretense, and a revulsion for the sordid crimes and infractions the president has brought to his office." (William Kristol, Weekly Standard, May 25, 1998, page 18.)

And now the party who rode into Washington on a promise to "restore honor and dignity" are on television saying that revealing the names of covert CIA agents isn't a crime and perjury and obstruction are just politics as usual and shouldn't be "criminalized."

So much for the Strict Daddy party. Welcome to the Juvenile Delinquent party.

Update: Haha. ReddHedd has a beautiful take down of Mizz Bailey Hutchison, here. Here's the money quote from her appearance on Press The Meat this morning:

I certainly hope that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn’t indict on the crime so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation were not a waste of time and dollars.

Yes, those Republicans hate to waste money on those bogus investigations.

Day 2000

The Daou Report directs us to a national memorial marking the sadly inevitable passing of the 2000th US combat death in Iraq. Please consider attending a local gathering.

Such a terrible milestone should be a somber moment that the entire country, as one, should acknowledge. After all, pro-war or anti-war, no one wants our friends, our neighbors, and our children to die. It is clearly a time when all of us should support the troops by making sure they understand all Americans share in the mourning.

But no. Michelle Malkin, Peter Daou informs us (and I sure as hell won't pollute Digby's blog with a link to her), thinks we'll be partying, i.e. celebrating, on Day 2000.

And to prove it, no doubt Ms. Malkin and her fellow maniacs will grab their digicams and stalk the memorials, like the good fascist volunteers they are, looking to capture any and all grimaces of grief that could possibly be construed as a triumphant smile. After all, they photog'd us during the war protests, pretending the occasional nut represented all the middle-class marchers with families who were there. So they'll do it again on Day 2000. And they'll call us traitors again.

Well, Michelle, ma belle, I think we know who the real traitors are, don't we now? Oh, I'm not only talking about the clowns who placed loyalty to Texas Moses above their country's security. I'm also thinking of the people who sent American soldiers into battle with inadequate armor, inadequate intelligence, and deliberately false information on what they could expect in terms of a reception among the people they had been repeatedly told they were "liberating."

Below, Digby makes the point that Republicans have for a long time been the preferred party of criminals. Not just Republicans like Nixon and the goons who did Watergate, Iran-Contra, the Starr witchhunt. Not even Libby, Rove, Lay, DeLay, Frist, Franklin, Wurmser, Brownie, Allbaugh, Abramoff. But also a huge felonious database, brimming with GOP scoundrels, statutory rapists, corporate thieves and assorted unclassifiable scumbags so large, there isn't a server on the internet big enough to store all their names and their multiple serial crimes against their country. Face it, Michelle: For every decent Republican like Jim Jeffords, who finally had to quit his longtime party in disgust, it seems there's 50 or more DeLay clones snorking around the pigsty, just waiting to pork honest taxpayers and other rubes.

No, Michelle. Those of us opposed to the crooks you admire will not be celebrating on Day 2000; we'll be weeping.

But if there's a day that these bastards who got us into this insane war, who ruined all Americans' reputations by authorizing systematic, repeated torture and murder, who abandoned America's most vulnerable parents, children, and workers, to a horrible death from flood and neglect -

If ever there's a day that the fuckers who did all this, and so much more, start getting hauled in front of the courts of law they have been conspiring so long to subvert and ruin - We, the people, who love our country and revere its traditional liberal values, we will raise a huge... what's the word, I'm thinking of? oh yes...Hullabaloo!

The (French) champagne will flow like water; the banners will fly in the (globally warmed, hurricane-strength, another rightwing fuckup) winds. And we'll dance to the Dixie Chicks all night long.

And the next day, we'll recycle the empty bottles, give any leftover brie to the homeless shelter, and then drink a very strong double espresso latte. We'll get right back to work, making sure that you and your far-right asshole buddies are never taken seriously in American politics again.

Of course, that's a huge if...
Judy's Enablers

I have been unable to find a complete copy of Craig Pyes' e-mail, the reporter who refused to share a byline with Judy Miller back in 2000 on the al Qaeda series. Howard Kurtz quoted pieces of it last week:

"I'm not willing to work further on this project with Judy Miller... I do not trust her work, her judgment, or her conduct. She is an advocate, and her actions threaten the integrity of the enterprise, and of everyone who works with her. . . . She has turned in a draft of a story of a collective enterprise that is little more than dictation from government sources over several days, filled with unproven assertions and factual inaccuracies," and "tried to stampede it into the paper."

The LA Times today has a few more choice quotes today:

"A reason I don't have my name on any of her stories is precisely because of this sloppy, single-source reporting," warned Pyes, now a contract reporter with the Los Angeles Times, in the e-mail. "Which, believe me, when she reports closer to home, you're going to pay for someday. You heard it here first."

Has anyone seen this entire e-mail? This guy was prescient, as were a lot of people who worked with Miller.

The LA Times article delves deeply into how Judy was given so much rope to hang herself on the WMD stories --- it was clearly the work of Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd, both of whom resigned over the Jayson Blair scandal.

After the prize-winning Al Qaeda series, then-Executive Editor Howell Raines (later forced out by the scandal over fabrications by reporter Jayson Blair) reportedly urged Miller to "go win [another] Pulitzer."

That directive made her even bolder, colleagues said.

Douglas Frantz, then Miller's boss as investigative editor — and more recently a Los Angeles Times reporter who this month was named an L.A. Times managing editor — said he and then-Foreign Editor Roger Cohen were undercut when their doubts led them to delay publishing several of Miller's stories on weapons of mass destruction.

After Miller complained, the New York Times' then-Managing Editor Gerald Boyd instructed the lower-ranking editors to get out of the star reporter's way, according to Frantz.

"Judy Miller is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter," Frantz recalled Boyd telling him, "and your job is to get her stories into the paper."

Frantz said that despite that admonition, he blocked a Miller story about claims of 1,000 weapons sites in Iraq and also a profile of exile leader Ahmad Chalabi, a source of many of the overblown weapons reports.

Boyd could not be reached for comment.

I had not realized until I read this that Raines and Boyd had been around the paper as late as June of 2003. This clears something up for me. I have found it completely bizarre that Miller claimed she pitched the story to an editor and yet her editor, Jill Abramson, says it never happened. Miller refused to name the editor yesterday, which means she's either lying outright or she has a reason not to name the person.

The White House had been agitated about Wilson since the spring, particularly about Nicholas Kristoff's NYT columns in May, using Wilson as an anonymous source.
Raines and Boyd resigned on June 5, 2003.

I think it's likely that Miller pitched the idea to Raines or Boyd before they left, which means that she was on this Wilson beat weeks before she admits to it. And it explains why she won't say to whom she pitched it.

It also means that she could have been operating independently during this period, before Bill Keller was named executive editor and pulled her off the WMD beat. Keller wasn't kicked upstairs until July 14, 2003, coincidentally the day that Novak published his famous column.

Somebody should probably try to get Gerald Boyd and Howell Raines on the record.

Update: Expert Plame Kremlinologist Emptywheel writes in to remind me that Joseph Lelyveld was the interim editor during the period between Raines' and Boyd's resignations and Keller's promotion. I had assumed that the writers of the big story had asked him if he turned down Judy's pitch, but there is no record of it, so perhaps they didn't. If they haven't, they should.

If there is an editor (current or former)at the NY Times who knew of Judy Miller's interest in writing this story they need to come forward. And somebody needs to ask Judy why she's refusing to name him or her.

The Sinning Choirboy

And little Karl too:

... in at least one instance, [Ralph]Reed acknowledges he used his White House access for Abramoff. In December 2001 the lobbyist was eager to prevent Angela Williams from being appointed head of the Interior Department's Office of Insular Affairs, which oversees the government's dealings with the Northern Mariana Islands, an important Abramoff client. Williams is married to former Federal Trade Commissioner Orson Swindle, who was a Vietnam pow with Senator John McCain. The subject header of Abramoff and Reed's e-mail exchange (it is unclear who initiated it) contained a misstatement about Williams that is practically Freudian in what it reveals about their animosity toward McCain: "Were you able to whack McCain's wife yet?" Reed assured Abramoff he had "weighed in heavily" with the White House personnel office to block her appointment but had received no commitment. "Any ideas on how we can make sure she does not get it?" Abramoff asked. "Can you ping Karl on this? I can't believe they just don't get this done?" Reed replied, "I am seeing him tomorrow at the WH and plan to discuss it with him as well." Baron says, "Ralph passed the information on to the White House. He is confident the Administration's decision was based on the merit." As for Rove, White House spokeswoman Erin Healy tells TIME, "It is my understanding that Mr. Rove does not recall any of these incidents."


Reed has rested his defense on fine distinctions, saying the payments he received from Indian tribes didn't come from gambling. But that line may be tested when the Senate Indian Affairs Committee—chaired by his old nemesis McCain—holds another hearing on the Abramoff scandal next week. Reed has not yet been called to testify, but the hearing will focus on the Louisiana Coushattas, whom Abramoff arranged to pay more than a million dollars to Reed for his services.

Inconveniently, the tribe has no profitmaking ventures other than gambling.

Imagine that. Saint Ralphie Reed supporting gambling and then lying about it.

If I were a member of the religious right I'd start to think I'd been royally conned. It turns out that Reed and Abramoff's buddy Grover Norquist not only consorts with gays (*gasp*) he also launders pro-gambling money for his pal Abramoff, which he excuses by saying that he supports gambling "on libertarian grounds."

One has to wonder how long the Christian Soldiers on the right are going to put up with that crap. Beverly LaHaye just woke up with a gay-loving libertarian gambler in her bed.

hu·bris Pronunciation Key (hybrs) also hy·bris (h-)

Overbearing pride or presumption; arrogance

Monsignor Tim

Surprise, suprise. Nobody asked (and he didn't offer) an explanation about his own role in the Plame affair this morning despite discussing it in great depth during the program. Apparently, there is nothing even remotely relevant about the fact that his only public statement sounds like he's covering his ass from here to next Tuesday:

Mr. Russert told the Special Prosecutor that, at the time of that conversation, he did not know Ms. Plame's name or that she was a CIA operative and that he did not provide that information to Mr. Libby. Mr. Russert said that he first learned Ms. Plame's name and her role at the CIA when he read a column written by Robert Novak later that month.[emphasis mine]

It appears that the first we will learn about Russert's role in this when he appears as a witness at Scooter Libby's trial. And yet he still a revered figure in DC journalism and considered the toughest interviewer on television. Interesting standards we have these days.

I'm beginning to wonder if he's covering somebody's ass other than his own.


Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Good Aspen

This article in the Columbia Journalism Review is the first I've seen that comes to the same conclusion I did about Judy Miller's mea culpa:

The more you analyze Miller’s story (I have read it four times now) the less it seems like a straightforward recitation of events and the more it seems like a carefully scripted message to Libby, and perhaps to other sources with whom Miller spoke about Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson.

I confess part of this impression may stem from my own legal background. I know too well that once a prosecutor starts circling, especially a super predator like Patrick Fitzgerald, it can get very hard for parties to communicate with one another without stepping on a landmine. This, for example, is why Libby’s lawyer, Joseph Tate, went ballistic when Floyd Abrams, one of Miller’s lawyers, suggested that Libby had “signaled” to Miller that she shouldn’t testify. To reporters such a request might be a normal part of the reporter-source relationship, but to a prosecutor it’s witness tampering and obstruction of justice. Abrams put Libby on the spot. That’s why Miller’s insistence on a personal letter or telephone call from Libby releasing her to testify was so problematic. Anything much beyond “please testify” could easily be construed as an attempt to influence Miller’s testimony. As Libby, a seasoned lawyer in his own right surely knows, a more complex communication is what obstruction charges are made of.

Which makes it all the more amazing that Libby wrote just such a letter to Miller while she was still in prison. The September 15 letter pointedly reminded Miller that no other reporter subpoenaed in the investigation had testified that Libby had discussed Valerie Plame with them. It also contained a loaded reference to how “out West where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters because their roots connect them.” Their roots connect them? Is it a coincidence that Libby and Miller shared a long-held concern about the intersection of WMD and Islamic militantism? Miller’s story implies in several places that she didn’t know Libby all that well (going so far as to point out she didn’t even recognize him when she bumped into him on a trip out West, a trip that Libby mentions in his letter to her). But it doesn’t address the key question of whether Libby was a source for Miller’s post-9/11 WMD reporting, or whether he helped arrange meetings with the Iraqi defectors who were peddling fabricated stories about Saddam’s weapons.

In analyzing Miller’s account, several themes emerge. First, with Fitzgerald clearly probing Vice President Cheney’s office, the administration would obviously have a concern that Miller’s notes might cause problems. But in her account in the Times Miller goes out of her way to stress that Libby protected Cheney at all times. This is key. While there seems little doubt that Libby would fall on his sword to protect his boss, a reporter is an altogether different matter. Miller’s account clearly signals that her notes don’t give Fitzgerald an avenue of attack on Cheney.

Second, as many have noted, Miller makes the suspect claim that she now can’t recall who gave her Valerie Plame’s name. Obviously then her direct testimony won’t be the lynchpin that lets Fitzgerald make a case that Libby or anyone else supplied Valerie Plame’s name, though the presence of her name in the same notebook as the notes of the Libby interview could allow a grand jury to draw a strong inference. Miller says she doesn’t recall who gave the name, which, by default, doesn’t finger Libby. But neither does it clear him.

It was a strange meandering account written using the odd affectation of "what she told the grand jury" instead of a straightforward, chronological account of what she knows about the case. I felt from the beginning that its purpose was to signal Libby as much as it was to inform the public. She was, as I wrote last week, a good little aspen and let them know she didn't do any "turning" on the crucial stuff.

I would bet money that her very bizarre anecdote about accidentally meeting up with Libby in Jackson Hole was a message to him as well. Can any of you say that you could spend two hours looking across a table at someone and not recognise them a few weeks later? Please. I would recognise Scooter Libby even if he were dressed up as Howdy Doody, and I've never been within a hundred miles of him.

Lying Accomplices

Kevin makes note of the eery sameness of Novak and Miller's contention that Plame was idly brought up in unrelated casual conversation and asks that these assholes (my paraphrase) stop insulting our intelligence with this nonsense. He points out that someone within the White House spilled those beans long ago when he or she told the Washington Post:

A senior administration official said two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and revealed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife..."Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge," the senior official said of the alleged leak.

It's clear to me that it was meant to discredit Wilson, but even if you take away that explanation, the mere fact that six different reporters (at a minimum) were "casually" told in "idle converstaion" ought to be enough for Judy to have gotten a fucking clue by now.

And let's not forget that Novak sang a different tune when he was first questioned about this:

"Novak, in an interview, said his sources had come to him with the information," New York Newsday reporters Timothy M. Phelps and Knut Royce wrote. They quoted Novak saying: "I didn't dig it out, it was given to me. They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it."

That doesn't sound like idle water cooler talk to me.

Kevin concludes with this:

I have no doubt that these officials did their best to make their disclosures sound casual. Miller and Novak either fell for it, or else were willing accomplices. Neither option speaks well for their ability to do their job.

Considering the histories of both of these "journalists" I would have to say that they are lying accomplices. These are two reporters with many decades of national security reporting between them. They knew exactly what they were hearing.

The question still remains as to what Miller was doing. She claims that she wasn't writing an article because she had pitched the idea to "an editor" and was turned down. The editor to whom she supposedly reported says that no such conversation occurred. Yet, Judy was making agreements with Libby that she would refer to him as a "hill staffer" because she "assumed Mr. Libby did not want the White House to be seen as attacking Mr. Wilson." Seen by whom? If she wasn't writing a story, if this was casual conversation, why would Libby be concerned about how she would portray him. Why wouldn't the conversation just be on backround and leave it at that?

Judy said:

Mr. Fitzgerald asked whether I ever pursued an article about Mr. Wilson and his wife. I told him I had not, though I considered her connection to the C.I.A. potentially newsworthy. I testified that I recalled recommending to editors that we pursue a story.

Mr. Fitzgerald asked my reaction to Mr. Novak's column. I told the grand jury I was annoyed at having been beaten on a story. I said I felt that since The Times had run Mr. Wilson's original essay, it had an obligation to explore any allegation that undercut his credibility. At the same time, I added, I also believed that the newspaper needed to pursue the possibility that the White House was unfairly attacking a critic of the administration.

It is quite clear that she was writing a story and that she was writing the story that Novak actually published --- outing Valerie Plame. She admits that she was annoyed that she was "beaten" to it. Indeed, she felt the Times had an obligation to explore allegations that undercut Wilson's credibility.

And there is not one piece of evidence that she was concerned in the least that the White House was unfairly attcking a critic of the White House. All during the period when she and Libby were buttering each other's toast at the St Regis (thank you James Wolcott) and chatting on the phone and agreeing that she would refer to him as an ex hill staffer, Judy never once called Joe Wilson to get his side of the story.

Focus Pulling

I am with Billmon on this. I find it highly doubtful that Fitzgerald is going to indict on charges unrelated directly to the Plame leak and ensuing cover-up, but I do think he's going to indict. As much as I'd like to believe that he's spent the last 22 months getting to the bottom of the forgeries and Iraq lies and the inner workings of the propaganda campaugn that led us to war, I don't think it's going to happen.

First of all, I think he would have sought a specific expansion of his mandate (which he helpfully supplied here on his brand new web site yesterday.) As Billmon points out, it was almost certainly done to show that he was charged with more than investigating the potential violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act --- and that the Justice Department explicitly gave him the power to investigate charges of perjury, obstruction etc in a second follow-up letter dated February 6, 2004. Fitzgerald asked for this explicit permission in order to make it very clear that he wasn't going outside his mandate by investigating a cover-up. Posting this on his web-site was very likely done to quell the predictable GOP line of defense that he is an out of control prosecutor who strayed far outside his mandate. (I doubt that he was asleep during the Starr investigation.) For this reason I don't think he's gone far outside it.

This, however, doesn't mean that these issues are not going to finally get an airing. Judy Miller's little drama is a crucible for the Washington press corps. If any of them hope to save their journalistic souls, now's the time to do it. They are already publishing articles about the WHIG, about Cheney's monomaniacal insistence on the war. Critics are coming out of the woodwork (better late than never, I guess) and the lies that perpetrated this debacle in Iraq are being examined.

I realize that this is too little too late to save the blood and the treasure that has been wasted since the media turned themselves into a group of evil teen-aged girls and helped Karl Rove propel his creature into the White House. But the country must recover somehow and we need the press to try to right itself. Democracy depends upon it.

Fitzgerald's probe may focus on the Valerie Plame leak and it may only touch upon the larger issues peripherally. But it is the hook, the opening, that allows the media to revisit the run-up to the war and correct the jingoistic cheerleading they called journalism for the first two years after 9/11. It means that there is a second chance for the American public to learn the truth of what really happened then, outside the manufactured hysteria that engulfed the culture for the last three years.

This is the most important thing. Much of the public already know a lot of this subconsciously. This case gives them a way to understand what happened without losing face. The "grown-ups" who led them into this war were liars and criminals. We need to make sure they realize that the "grown-ups" are the Republican establishment.

Many of us wrote a lot about certain memes the Republicans used to make the Dems look bad during the last few years. We are "soft" on terrorism, crime, morals --- whatever. Soft. It's a powerful primal image that they have used to great effect to put us on the defensive and turn the country to the right with coded slogans like "law and order" and "fight em there so we don't have to fight em here." It works because they've been saying it so long, and there is just enough truth in it, that people have internalized it.

But the Republicans have some baggage of their own that goes back just as far. They have long been associated with corruption and criminality in office and their poster boy is Richard Nixon, the father of the modern Republican party. "I am not a crook" has a resonance far beyond that moldy time. People know this, deep down, in their subconscious, just as surely as they know that Democrats are flip-flopping libertines. "Republicans are crooks." It just rings true.

These primitive heuristics cut both ways. If we choose to play that game, and we should, we have a perfect opportunity to portray the Republicans the way that people already think they are.

Quote of the Day

[T]here is no question from private remarks and public grimaces, some reaching back to early 2001, neither Powell nor Armitage had or has much trust or respect for Rice, and they share with other senior Republican wisemen the conviction that Rumsfeld is quite literally mad, and Cheney a dangerous, vindictive monomaniac.

Chris Nelson, via Steve Clemons.

But it does the beg the obvious question. If you have this kind of a situation, aren't you, you know, kind of obligated to speak up before an election? Doesn't loyalty to country trump loyalty to party?

I think I just answered my questions. Never mind.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Day After Fitzmas

Well, it really is looking like it's gonna happen, don't it, boys and girls? Maybe Rove, Maybe Libby, and maybe a whole bunch of other scuzballs - it looks like they just may be feelin' old Mr. Law's big paw on their shoulders soon. It will be a sad day for America, a tragedy shared by all, not a time for partisan gloating. Not. It will be a totally great day. And those fuckers brought it on themselves.

Yes, things can happen, so we shouldn't count our chickenhawks just yet. There's nervous speculation of presidential pardons (aka, pee-pees) and and even a potential reprise, as farce, of Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre, when Robert Bork, on Nixon's command, fired the first Watergate prosecutor, Archibald Cox. IMO, I don't think so, and therefore we should be prepared for the best. With that in mind, here's the big question I've been mulling:

On the day after Fitzmas, what do you think a truly effective opposition party should do?

No fair trying to predict what the Democrats will do. Instead, what should they do? I'll start the ball rolling:

They should demand a full independent investigation of the charges of encouraging and covering-up murder, torture and "extreme rendition" at the highest levels of the Bush administration.

Any other ideas? Let your imaginations soar, dear friends...

[Update: Added a link to Billmon's post that emphasizes the point I originally made with the remark about counting chickenhawks: that whatever happens may be less than overwhelming.]

It's still a bit untidy over there:
A defense lawyer in Saddam Hussein's mass murder trial has been found dead, his body dumped near a Baghdad mosque with two gunshots to the head, police and a top lawyers union official said Friday.

In other violence, four U.S. service members were killed in two attacks Thursday, the U.S. military said. Three Marines died when a bomb hit their patrol in the village of Nasser wa Salam, 25 miles west of Baghdad, and other American troops clashed with gunmen, killing two insurgents and capturing four, the military said.

An American soldier was killed in the northwestern town of Hit by ''indirect fire,'' a term that usually means a mortar or rocket attack, the military said.

Nineteen Americans have been killed in the past week. The latest deaths brought to 1,992 the number of members of the U.S. military who have died since the beginning of the war in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
And it looks like we'll hit the ghastly 2000 soldiers dead soldiers mark right around the time Fitzgerald makes an announcement.
Libby's Whale

My oh my, it appears that Libby was stalking Wilson all the way up until April 2004 when the white house finally put a stop to his psychotic obsession:

Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff was so angry about the public statements of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, a Bush administration critic married to an undercover CIA officer, that he monitored all of Wilson's television appearances and urged the White House to mount an aggressive public campaign against him, former aides say.

Those efforts by the chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, began shortly after Wilson went public with his criticisms in 2003. But they continued into last year — well after the Justice Department began an investigation in September 2003, into whether administration officials had illegally disclosed the CIA operative's identity, say former White House aides.


Libby's anger over Wilson's 2003 charges has been known. But new interviews and documents obtained by The Times provide a more detailed view of the depth and duration of Libby's interest in Wilson. They also show that the vice president's office closely monitored news coverage.

On one occasion, the office prohibited a reporter from traveling with Cheney aboard Air Force Two, because the vice president's daughter said Cheney was unhappy with that newspaper's coverage.

Libby "would see something had appeared in the newspaper or on television and wanted to use the White House operation to counter it," one former official said.

After Wilson published a book criticizing the administration in April 2004, during the closely fought presidential campaign, Libby became consumed by passages that he believed were inaccurate or unfair to Cheney, former aides said. He ordered up a meticulous catalog of Wilson's claims and public statements going back to early 2003.

The result was a packet that included excerpts from press clips and television transcripts of Wilson's statements that were divided into categories, such as "political ties" or "WMD."

The compendium used boldfaced type to call attention to certain comments by Wilson, such as one in the Daily Iowan, the University of Iowa student newspaper, in which Wilson was quoted as calling Cheney "a lying son of a bitch." It also highlighted Wilson's answers to questions from television journalists about his work with Sen. John F. Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee.

Yes, it's now entirely believable to me that Libby just "heard" something in casual conversation with a reporter and had no idea that Valerie Plame was a covert agent. His friend Mary Matalin doesn't help when she characterizes him like this:

"Scooter is the most methodical, detail-oriented and comprehensive worker of anybody I've ever worked with in my life," said Mary Matalin, a former Cheney advisor who worked as a consultant on the 2004 campaign.

"He leaves no stone unturned, and it doesn't matter what the topic is," she said. "That's the nature of Scooter, and that's why he's such a superior intellect and why Cheney and the president and everybody over there respects him."

It seems to me that someone like that would find out specifically what Wilson's wife did at the CIA.

The White House has obviously decided that Scooter is a goner so they are planting the idea that Wilson was his white whale. But that doesn't leave our friend Karl off the hook. Libby may have had a special hatred for Wilson but Karl had a special reason for wanting him destroyed. An earlier LA Times article had this:

Prosecutors investigating whether administration officials illegally leaked the identity of Wilson's wife, a CIA officer who had worked undercover, have been told that Bush's top political strategist, Karl Rove, and Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, were especially intent on undercutting Wilson's credibility, according to people familiar with the inquiry.

Although lower-level White House staffers typically handle most contacts with the media, Rove and Libby began personally communicating with reporters about Wilson, prosecutors were told.

A source directly familiar with information provided to prosecutors said Rove's interest was so strong that it prompted questions in the White House. When asked at one point why he was pursuing the diplomat so aggressively, Rove reportedly responded: "He's a Democrat."

This is that everyday political hardball the beltway chatterers like Andrea Mitchell and William Kristol are all worried will be "criminalized." Back in Nixon's day, the media, at least, were incensed to find out that he was using the taxpayers resources to pursue his political enemies. Now it's business as usual, the poltical press content to be nothing more than the Republican party's bitches, begging for juicy scraps from Karl and Scooter's table.

"This Is Just Not Going To Happen"

Hoo boy:
Marty Bahamonde, a FEMA regional director, told a Senate panel investigating the government's response to the disaster that he gave regular updates to people in contact with then-FEMA Director Michael Brown as early as Aug. 28, one day before Katrina made landfall.

In most cases, he was met with silence. In an Aug. 29 phone call to Brown informing him that the first levee had broke, Bahamonde said he received a polite thank you from Brown, who said he would check with the White House.


Later, on Aug. 31, Bahamonde frantically e-mailed Brown to tell him that thousands are evacuees were gathering in the streets with no food or water and that "estimates are many will die within hours."

"Sir, I know that you know the situation is past critical," Bahamonde wrote.

Less than three hours later, however, Brown's press secretary wrote colleagues to complain that the FEMA director needed more time to eat dinner at a Baton Rouge restaurant that evening. "He needs much more that (sic) 20 or 30 minutes," wrote Brown aide Sharon Worthy.

"We now have traffic to encounter to go to and from a location of his choise (sic), followed by wait service from the restaurant staff, eating, etc. Thank you."
Remember what Michael Brown said when he "stepped aside?" How he was gonna go home and have a margarita and some yummy Mexican food ? Y'know, I think he may have a heckuva eating disorder. The poor guy.

But let's not dwell on the past, shall we?
Meanwhile, at a separate hearing, lawmakers considering Louisiana's request for $32 billion for Gulf Coast rebuilding were told that Mississippi would need tens of billions of dollars of its own to restore its coastline.

Gulf Coast lawmakers and state officials have been pushing for vast infusions of federal aid since Katrina hit Aug. 29, killing more than 1,200 people and forcing hundreds of thousands to evacuate.

"It will be in the billions, with a 'b,' level, it may be in the tens of billions; it won't be in the hundreds of billions," William W. Walker, head of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, told a House transportation panel.

But Rep. John J. Duncan (news, bio, voting record) Jr., chairman of that panel, earlier had said flatly that Congress cannot afford Louisiana's request. "This is just not going to happen," he said.
Got that?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Hardest Working Devious Minds In The Business

Winner of the Palme D'Rovegate Speculation Award goes to Jane and Emptywheel for their mousetrap theory.

As Jane says, "note to self: do not EVER play poker with Patrick Fitzgerald."

It Ain't The Crime It's The You Know What

Apparently lawyers for Rove and Libby have been told that their clients are in serious legal jeopardy. Not much news there. The leaking lawyers seem to be quite sure that Fitz will not indict them under the Toensing statute (I'm sure that Richard "Joey Bishop" Cohen will be shrieking to high heaven if he indicts for the cover-up crimes) but others may not be so lucky (Wurmser, Hannah?)

Since these leaks are obviously coming from Rove and Libby, I take it with a grain of salt. They cannot know yet what (or who) Fitz has up his sleeve so they cannot know that he is planning cover-up indictments. This could be a coordinated "criminalization of politics" shot across the bow. (Which, by the way, should be met with "I know. It's terrible. We really need to get the criminals out of politics." Make them sputter and explain what they mean.)

It is news to me, however, that Fitzgerald knows who Novak's original source is (described by Novak as not being a partisan gunslinger) and that person does not work at the white house. This could mean that they don't currently work at the white house but once did --- Ari Fleischer or Mary Matalin or any number of others. Or it could mean that this person never worked at the white house, like the head of the CIA, even. Or maybe it's Tim Russert ...

I don't trust Novak's definition of what constitutes a partisan gunslinger --- Novak himself is a partisan gunslinger and calls himself a journalist. He could be talking about John Bolton for all we know.

I had my money on Andy Card early on but he still works at the white house. So, who is it?

One thing that I continue to find fascinating. The final paragraph of this NY Times article:

In Mr. Libby's case, Mr. Fitzgerald has focused on his statements about how he first learned of Ms. Wilson's identity, the lawyers said. Mr. Libby has said that he learned of Ms. Wilson from reporters. But Mr. Fitzgerald may have doubts about his account because the journalists who have been publicly identified as having talked to Mr. Libby have said that they did not provide the name, that they could not recall what had been said or that they had discussed unrelated subjects.

Gosh I wonder who those "journalists" could be? Perhaps they'll share it with the public when they write their memoirs.

Buying Into The Program

In a sane political world, Press The Meat this Sunday would be a very interesting show. This is because over the past couple of days it's become obvious that Karl Rove is selling the line that he found out about Plame from Libby and that Libby says that his source for the Plame leak was none other than Tim Russert. It's long past time that the King of the Kewl Kids got the kind of treatment that Judy Miller has received. He's up to his neck in this thing.

Here is what NBC released after Russert testified:

Mr. Russert told the Special Prosecutor that, at the time of that conversation, he did not know Ms. Plame's name or that she was a CIA operative and that he did not provide that information to Mr. Libby. Mr. Russert said that he first learned Ms. Plame's name and her role at the CIA when he read a column written by Robert Novak later that month.[emphasis mine]

As I and others have been writing since the summer, that is a very carefully worded statement that leaves open the clear possibility that Russert did tell Libby that "Joe Wilson's wife worked at the CIA."

It is long past time that Russert was asked about this. He has grilled everyone from Wilson to Novak on his show about this matter and has never mentioned the fact that he was questioned by the prosecutor, nor has he explained the overlawyered answer. And the Washington press corpse has been much too polite (or intimidated) to mention it, as far as I can tell, anywhere. (Sidney Schanberg wrote about this in the Village Voice.)

As I wrote last summer, all it would take is for one intrepid journalist (or guest on Tim's show) to ask:

Prior to Bob Novak's column in 2003 did you tell anyone who works in the administration that Joseph Wilson's wife worked at the CIA?

In a healthy media climate, that would not be a problem. But our political culture in Washington has become dangerously removed from reality. Unsurprisingly, James Wolcott says it best:

If it looks as if Cheney has to resign and Bush himself enters the Nixon danger zone, we'll hear the same frets and cries from the pundit shows about the country being torn apart and Americans losing faith in their government. But it isn't the country that will be torn apart by Plamegate any more than the country was torn apart during Watergate (which provided daily thrilling news entertainment value that bound citizens together); it's the Washington establishment that will be torn apart. And it should be torn apart. It's failed the country, and it's played by its own rules for too long, and "criminalizing politics" is exactly what should be done when political criminals deceive a nation into a war with Judith Miller serving as the Angie Dickinson to their Rat Pack and Richard Cohen auditioning for the part of Joey Bishop.

I would also point out that the media pearl clutching was an important aspect of the Florida Recount (orchestrated by Karl Rove) in which the likes of Jeff Greenfield quivered like little old ladies every night fretting about how the country wouldn't survive if the election wasn't decided within minutes. This is an old trick.

This story is about a lot of different things. First and foremost, it's about this country going to war on false pretenses, the real reasons for which are obscure and inscrutable. It's about a powerful GOP political machine that thought it could foist off the village idiot as president and became so seized by hubris that it literally thought it could get away with anything.

But it is also about a toxic political culture in the nation's capital that has abdicated its responsibility to behave within certain norms of decent behavior. After eight long years of being fed the juiciest tabloid lies from a masterful Republican disinformation campaign and a group of friendly GOP special prosecutors, the media became joined with the republican establishment and took on its cheap ethics and ruthless attitudes. They began to identify with them. They helped them destroy Bill Clinton's reputation and piled-on to keep Al Gore from the presidency with a puerile smear campaign which they admitted to waging just because they found it amusing. And when George W. Bush became president, their condescending refrain to the majority of the country who didn't vote for him was "get over it."

That cozy relationship among the purveyors of Republican cant led directly into an unquestioning acceptance of administration lies after 9/11. The country would have rallied temprorarily regardless of the media's complicity in GOP messaging during that time, but the previous 10 years of confederacy between the hungry media and the Republican noise machine established a system in which it was possible to perpetrate one of the most outrageous frauds in history --- the Iraq war. The culture that marginalized dissent, that mocked anything other than manufactured beltway conventional wisdom and that normalized character assassination as "fair game" created a jingoistic circus that can be best illustrated with the allegedly liberal icon Dan Rather, saying: "I would willingly die for my country at a moment's notice and on the command of my president…."

Tha media then created a hagiography of George W. Bush that was hallucinogenic. From Howard Fineman:

So who are the Bushes, really? Well, they’re the people who produced the fellow who sat with me and my Newsweek colleague, Martha Brant, for his first interview since 9/11. We saw, among other things, a leader who is utterly comfortable in his role. Bush envelops himself in the trappings of office. Maybe that’s because he’s seen it from the inside since his dad served as Reagan’s vice president in the ‘80s. The presidency is a family business.

Dubyah loves to wear the uniform—whatever the correct one happens to be for a particular moment. I counted no fewer than four changes of attire during the day trip we took to Fort Campbell in Kentucky and back. He arrived for our interview in a dark blue Air Force One flight jacket. When he greeted the members of Congress on board, he wore an open-necked shirt. When he had lunch with the troops, he wore a blue blazer. And when he addressed the troops, it was in the flight jacket of the 101st Airborne. He’s a boomer product of the ‘60s—but doesn’t mind ermine robes.

Ermine robes and flight jackets. That was the apogee of mainstream media Republican worship and it carried this administration right into an illegal war, unprecedented debt, and even a torture regime. The beltway press, which eagerly assisted the Republican party in the political battles of the 1990's quite naturally fell into line when the "winners" of that war decided to use real guns and bullets for political purposes.

The war with Iraq could not have happened without them and they have a lot to answer for --- most especially for uncritically supporting an insane decision to unilaterally attack a country which had not attacked us and then affirmatively helping the administration cover-up the fact that they lied about the reasons for it -- with cocktail party gossip no less.

Maybe someday a member of the press corpse will ask Tim Russert whether he helped the White House expose an undercover CIA agent, but I'm not holding my breath. There are only a handful of people in Washington who seem to have even a modicum of courage and I've yet to see a member of the mainstream press among them.

Grover's Sagging Tent

It's very hard for me to feel any sympathy for Grover Norquist who is being battered by the religious zealots for daring to speak at a Log Cabin Republican meeting. Very hard. After all, he's the main guy responsible for creating bullshit ideas like this:

"If he was a serious economic conservative, Grover Norquist would not have accepted the invitation or the honorarium for speaking at a fund-raiser for a group bent on the destruction of traditional families."

He built a vote machine of ignorant saps who really believe that economic conservatism has something to do with hating gays and traditional families. When you let the nutballs into the tent and give them real electoral power, this is what you get.

Wait until Big Business understands that after they get their tax cuts and deregulation they'll have to contend with a generation of creationist witch burners to sustain a first world economy.


Sam Rosenfeld and Matthew Yglesias hit one out of the park. Just read it all. It looks like finally Matt's begun to get it. Whew! I dunno what prompted this. Perhaps Sam and Matt simply faced reality. Perhaps they sensed a genuine worry that the compelling arguments from longtime war opponents might lead to a sea change in power centers amongst liberals, affecting their career prospects if they didn't openly acknowledge that some of our most important objections were correct. Perhaps both. Whatever. They have done good. But if they want to write for the New Republic anytime soon, they may not be getting their phone calls returned right away...

My only serious bone to pick, which is fairly minor given the extent of the insight and about face exhibited, is that Sam and Matt still privilege, albeit critically, an Isolationist/Realist dichotomy. This was never a good way to frame foreign policy debates, and is not terribly relevant anymore. We need better, more "realistic" - in the sense of closer to how the world works - models and as far as I can tell, no good alternatives are around. (I'll take a pass on Walter Mead's Jacksonians, Jeffersonians, et al. As Schlesinger once got Mead to admit, according to Walter's definition Jackson himself wasn't a Jacksonian.)

Finally, finally Yglesias is beginning to get it. They even addressed the cynical careerism in the liberal hawks' position (although bizarrely, they appear to find little wrong with that; their writing is quite unclear on this). I've been saying most of this stuff for three years now and I was truly beginning to despair, not that I personally wasn't getting anywhere: political punditry and analysis is not my career and I don't care to make it one. I've just wanted to see some sanity in the present discourse where there has been very, very little. So in all seriousness, I'm very glad - relieved- something somewhere has finally started to permit some smart folks, whose grasp on consensual reality seemed quite fragile for a while, to start the long road back to clear-eyed sanity.

Go thou and read.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Mind Boggles

As we saw in the marketing of the "new product" - the Bush/Iraq war - success (whatever that meant) rested on the assumption that nearly all steps of the most optimistic scenario would unfold as predicted. Those of us who snorted and said, "that's impossible!" were accused of not realizing that nothing is certain in foreign affairs.

Likewise, those of us who marvel at the wonders of science and read about the extraordinary discoveries and mind-stretching new theories of the last few years with a sense of genuine awe are accused of being close-minded and incurious if we strenuously object to cynical efforts to pollute the teaching of science with blatantly obvious lies.

Now, sooner or later, the national embarassment known as "the controversy [sic] over 'intelligent design' " will hit the Supreme Court because whichever side loses has promised they will appeal the Dover trial decision. All I can say is this. If the Supreme Court chooses to side with the "intelligent design" crowd, America will deserve all that is coming its way. And it won't be purty. Genuinely new levels of sheer idiocy are being achieved by proponents of "id." Read this and weep, dear friends:
A leading architect of the intelligent-design movement defended his ideas in a federal courtroom on Tuesday and acknowledged that under his definition of a scientific theory, astrology would fit as neatly as intelligent design.


The cross-examination of Professor Behe on Tuesday made it clear that intelligent-design proponents do not necessarily share the same definition of their own theory. Eric Rothschild, a lawyer representing the parents suing the school board, projected an excerpt from the "Pandas" textbook that said:

"Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency with their distinctive features already intact, fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks and wings, etc."

In that definition, Mr. Rothschild asked, couldn't the words "intelligent design" be replaced by "creationism" and still make sense? Professor Behe responded that that excerpt from the textbook was "somewhat problematic," and that it was not consistent with his definition of intelligent design.

Mr. Rothschild asked Professor Behe why then he had not objected to the passage since he was among the scientists who was listed as a reviewer of the book. Professor Behe said that although he had reviewed the textbook, he had reviewed only the section he himself had written, on blood clotting. Pressed further, he agreed that it was "not typical" for critical reviewers of scientific textbooks to review their own work.


Listening from the front row of the courtroom, a school board members said he found Professor Behe's testimony reaffirming. "Doesn't it sound like he knows what he's talking about?" said the Rev. Ed Rowand, a board member and church pastor.
"Doesn't it sound like he knows what he's talking about?"

Well, who knows, right? I mean, like, let's not limit ourselves. Anything's possible! After all, Doesn't it sound like he knows what he's talking about? And y'never can tell, there's a genuine possibility it could be true.

I think I'm going to vomit.
Preznit Enforcer

Finally we have come to the real question. WDTPKAWDHKI?

Considering today's NY Daily News story reporting that Bush knew Rove had taken out a hit on Wilson, (and was angry that he'd been so sloppy about it) it's worthwhile to revisit some of the compassionate conservative's past dealings with the press and those he considers disloyal:

In 1990, he told writer Ann Grimes, "I was the enforcer when I thought things were going wrong. I had the ability to go and lay down some behavioral modification."


As one might expect, much of Bush's work for his father's presidential campaigns was done behind the scenes. Yet it's clear he was steeped in political minutiae and imposed few limits on what he was willing to do to get the job done.In 1986, veteran reporter Al Hunt predicted that Jack Kemp would receive the 1988 Republican presidential nomination instead of George H.W. Bush. When George W. saw Hunt dining with his wife and 4-year-old son at a Mexican restaurant in Dallas, he went up to their table and said, "You fucking son of bitch. I won't forget what you said and you're going to pay a fucking price for it." Bush didn't apologize until 13 years later, when the incident resurfaced in the context of his own presidential campaign.


After his father was elected president in 1988, Bush was placed in charge of a group called the Silent Committee (aka the "scrub group"), which was made up of "about fifteen blood-oath Bushies," according to the Texas Monthly. The purpose of the group was "to 'scrub' potential appointees for their loyalty and past service to Bush." The Washington Post noted at the time that George W. had a "somewhat more developed sense of political loyalty than even his father."

Although Bush left Washington after the campaign concluded, his role as loyalty enforcer remained largely unchanged. In November 1991, for example, then White House chief of staff John Sununu told a reporter the president had "ad-libbed" an ill-advised line during a speech about credit card interest rates. The younger Bush was infuriated that Sununu didn't defend his father. George W. told another White House staffer, "We have a saying in our family: If a grenade is rolling by the Man, you dive on it first. The guy violated the cardinal rule."

George W. was dispatched to Washington to deal with the Sununu situation. He met with Sununu and told him he should resign. On Dec. 3, 1991, Sununu -- also facing criticism for his misuse of government vehicles -- stepped down. Asked about the confrontation, George W. would only say, "The conversations between me and Mr. Sununu are going to be private. I talked to him, and then he and Dad reached an agreement."

Bush and Rove come from the same school of thuggish politics. Bush not only has no problem with such behavior, he endorses and expects it. The only thing that matters is results. In that respect Rove (and Cheney) failed him.

When looked at in that light, the following comment can be seen as Bush doing his own damage control:

"I have no idea whether we'll find out who the leaker is, partially because, in all due respect to your profession, you do a very good job of protecting the leakers," he said. "You tell me: How many sources have you had that's leaked information that you've exposed or had been exposed? Probably none. I mean, this town is a town full of people who like to leak information."

He has a history of strong-arming the press:

In 1987, the George H.W. Bush campaign gave unusually close access to Newsweek reporter Margaret Warner. That resulted in a cover story titled "Fighting the Wimp Factor," in which Warner discussed "the potentially crippling handicap" that the senior Bush wasn't tough enough for the job. George W. was incensed. He called the magazine and "told reporters that his father's campaign would no longer talk to Newsweek." According to White House reporter Thomas DeFrank, George W. told him that Newsweek was "out of business." In his anger, however, Bush "went somewhat beyond the authorized message." The following day, a Bush campaign spokesman announced, "We're not cutting them [Newsweek] or anybody else off from their efforts to cover the campaign." George W., apparently, has never gotten over the incident. In his memoir, "A Charge to Keep," published more than a decade later, he wrote, "My blood pressure still goes up when I remember the cover."

By the way, Thomas DeFrank is the same journalist who reported today that Bush knew about the leak two years ago and was only pissed that Karl got caught. Seems he's been following this aspect of Bush's character for quite some time. And it appears that there are some people who are beginning to recognise that they needn't throw themselves on the grenade when the president is a 38% lame duck and sinking fast. The question is, who?

Update: Tangential question --- the president and veep didn't testify under oath. But my understanding is that it is a crime to lie to a justice department official regardless a la Martha Stewart. Bush and Cheney might not be subject to perjury charges, but it seems they could be charged with "making false statements to the government." Here's what Fitzgerald's mentor James Comey said about this with respect to Martha Stewart:

"This case is about lying" — to investigators and to investors. "Lying" is a harsh word....But "perjury" is a much harsher word, meaning "lying under oath." Martha Stewart has not been accused of perjury.

Normally, I would be outraged at the thought that someone not under oath could be indicted for lying. I thought Martha's case was a total sham because the underlying crime was insignificant and commonplace. I'm not big on "send a message" prosecutions. But I'm willing to make exceptions when it comes to a group of criminal thugs who are bamboozling the press and stealing elections to gain power so they can start wars for no reason and bankrupt the country. I just don't know what else can stop these people.

Clarification: I do not believe the president could be indicted. Impeachment is the only option for a sitting president and that ain't gonna happen. He could, however, be named as an unindicted co-conspirator as Nixon was, for lying to the prosecutors under the Martha Stewart statute.

UpdateII: Josh Marshall has much more on Thomas DeFrank's relationship with the Bushes. He's definitely well-connected. Who on the inside is talking?


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Judy's Silver Bullet

Puttering around I came upon this paper (pdf) that Judy Miller delivered to the Aspen Institute's 2003 symposium called "In Search Of An American Grand Strategy For The Middle East" just days before she accidentally met up with Rootin-Tootin' Scooter in Jackson Hole. It's not particularly revealing --- not even one mention of the roots or the turning. It's only notable for its almost embarrassing incoherence, in which she tries to strike a neutral analytical pose but can't seem to help slipping in her belief that those darned weapons just must have existed! Even as she pretends to be skeptical of the Bush Doctrine she says that our mission in Iraq has been successful because we've managed to scare the Mid East and Europe into doing our bidding.(The Tom Friedman "Our Guy's Crazier Than Your Guy" theory.)

Despite the superficially balanced tone, she gives her little neocon self away in numerous small ways. For instance:

Absent profound reform, the nation’s six intelligence agencies, as currently structured and staffed, are unlikely to be able to detect such sophisticated, deeply hidden WMD programs. Given its record on the former Soviet Union, India, Pakistan, and Iraq, relying mainly on the CIA for good WMD intelligence seems ill-advised.

No matter how wrong the CIA eve was, they were never as wrong as Judy's neocon pals who are now operating faith-based intelligence agencies under hacks and war criminals. But that's another story.

One thing is clear, though. Relying on Judy for good journalism is definitely ill-advised:

The military should also continue the policy of embedding journalists with weapons hunting units and urge international organizations to do the same. For the U.S., the presence of journalists would help avoid charges of having planted incriminating evidence against a proliferator. It would also help keep such units and international agencies honest. Yes, the embedding experiment was problematic in many ways, but it was important in building Administration credibility and public support for such capabilities.

Clearly it's journalists' jobs to build Adminstration credibility and public support, so this is obviously a good idea. And lord knows that Judy has fulfilled her duty on that count. But Judy Miller seems to have some sort of conginitive dysfuntion about her own reporting. When Judy was embedded, "keeping the unit honest" was hardly her highest priority:

In "Illicit Arms Kept Till Eve of War, an Iraqi Scientist Is Said to Assert" (Page One, April 21) Miller disclosed that she agreed to 1) embargo her story for three days; 2) permit military officials to review her story prior to publication; 3) not name the found chemicals; and 4) to refrain from identifying or interviewing the Iraqi scientist who led Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha to sites where he maintained Iraqis had buried chemical precursors to banned chemical weapons. Although Miller didn't talk to the scientist, the military allowed her to view him from afar. She writes, "Clad in nondescript clothes and a baseball cap, he pointed to several spots in the sand where he said chemical precursors and other weapons material were buried."

According to MET Alpha, the scientist also said Iraq had sent unconventional weapons technology to Syria, had cooperated with al-Qaida, had recently focused its WMD efforts on research and development, and had destroyed WMD equipment just days before the U.S. invasion.

The next day on the NewsHour With Jim Lehrer, Miller described the unnamed Iraqi scientist as not just the "smoking gun" in the WMD investigation, but the "silver bullet … who really worked on the programs, who knows them firsthand, and who has led MET Team Alpha people to some pretty startling conclusions. …"

But Miller's silver bullet tarnished overnight. The next day in the Times, she reported the military's new "paradigm shift" from finding WMD to locating the people behind them. Then Miller abandoned the remarkable findings of her April 21 scoop. The silver bulleted "Iraqi scientist" and his "precursor chemicals" vanished from her reporting after her April 23 dispatch. (She reprised some of his allegations and described how he made contact with American forces.) By May 7 she was writing about MET Alpha's search not for WMD but for an ancient copy of the Talmud! The Washington Post's Barton Gellman reported May 11 that the leaders of the 75th Exploitation Task Force, of which MET Alpha is a part, had found nothing and were leaving Iraq. At a May 13 Pentagon press briefing, 101st Airborne Division commander Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus downgraded to "theory" status the allegations the Iraqi scientist allegedly made to MET Alpha about destroyed WMD.

Judith Miller's writing and thinking is illogical and internally inconsistent. Her testimony before the GJ was too. (As a reader pointed out to me, why did she agree to refer to Libby as a "Hill Staffer" if she wasn't writing a story?) She has almost no self-awareness.

How on earth does someone this vapid become an "expert" on national security issues for the New York Times?

Update: Christorpher Dickey writes a very illuminating analysis of Judy's writing and the state of modern journalism, here:

Judith Miller takes good notes, but she doesn’t always know where they come from. That was one of the first lessons I learned about her when we were both based in Cairo 20 years ago, she for The New York Times and I for The Washington Post.


For some reason none of us had a tape recorder, so on the flight back to Casablanca we compared our notes from the one interview we’d had with a Moroccan general a few hours before. We wanted to be sure the phrases we’d scribbled down were accurate. But there was a problem. Judy had many more quotes in her notebook than I and another reporter had in ours. And Judy’s were much better. Then I realized why. I’d done a lot more homework on that particular story than she did, and I was asking much more detailed questions. She’d written them down, and now she thought they came from the general, but many of the quotes actually were from … me.


Judy’s great talent as a reporter is in gaining access. Full stop. She doesn’t always know what she has when she’s got it, and she isn’t always good at analyzing what she’s heard when she hears it. Indeed, that may be one reason so many very high level sources—kings, princes, dictators, presidents, politicians—have enjoyed confiding, through her, so many supposed scoops and secrets published in The New York Times.

All those who fret about the damage done to journalism and freedom of the press done by Fitzgrald's investigation ought to ask themselves whether that ship didn't sail some time ago. And they should ask how much Judy's kind of reporting has contributed to it:

The righteous response is that such stories should not be made public until we can report them from the bottom up, not just the top down. That’s what Craig Pyes believes, and one of many reasons he wrote a scathing memo to the Times editors back in 2000, when he was forced to team up with Judy on a reporting project about Al Qaeda that eventually won a Pulitzer. "I'm not willing to work further on this project with Judy Miller," he wrote in the memo, which recently leaked to The Washington Post. "I do not trust her work, her judgment, or her conduct. She is an advocate, and her actions threaten the integrity of the enterprise, and of everyone who works with her ... She has turned in a draft of a story of a collective enterprise that is little more than dictation from government sources over several days, filled with unproven assertions and factual inaccuracies." Worse still, she had "tried to stampede it into the paper."

That was in 2000.

Vice President Corleone

Apropros of my earlier post about how the right and left view the CIA, I see (via Jeanne D'Arc) that the Senate is going to water down the anti-torture legislation to exempt the CIA.

Marty Lederer at Balkinization:

It's increasingly clear that the strategy of McCain's opponents -- the Vice President and his congressional supporters -- will be to amend the McCain Amendment in the Conference Committee so as to exempt the CIA from the prohibition on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees. The Senate delegation to the Conference Committee presumably will include three of the nine Republicans who voted against the McCain Amendment -- Ted Stevens, Thad Cochran and Kit Bond. A recent Congressional Quarterly article, reprinted here, reports Stevens -- who would "lead the Senate's conferees" -- as saying that "he can support McCain's language if it's augmented with guidance that enables certain classified interrogations to proceed under different terms." "'I'm talking about people who aren't in uniform, may or may not be citizens of the United States, but are working for us in very difficult circumstances,' Stevens said. 'And sometimes interrogation and intimidation is part of the system.'"

What this barely veiled statement means is that Senator Stevens will support inclusion of the McCain Amendment in the final bill only once it has been "augmented" to exempt the CIA from the prohibition on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. (Stevens's reference to persons who "may not be citizens of the United States, but are working for us" suggests that he also intends to include a carve-out for foreign nationals acting as agents of the CIA, such as the team of the CIA-sponsored Iraqi paramilitary squads code-named Scorpions.) If Stevens (read: Cheney) is successful in this endeavor, and if the Congress enacts the Amendment as so limited, it will be a major step backwards from where the law currently stands. This can't be overemphasized: If Stevens is successful at adding his seemingly innocuous "augment[ation]," it would make the law worse than it currently is.

This is Cheney's baby all the way. Does anyone harbor even the tiniest doubt that Cheney would put out a political hit on a CIA operative to punish her husband? He's a thug through and through.

Place Yer Bets

And now for something completely different.

Atrios reports that the rumor that there are rumors that Cheney might resign are true. Got that?

Well let's just say Cheney does resign (be still my beating heart!). Who do you think Bush would choose to replace him?

Now unfortunately, the link Atrios chose mentions my first choice, Condoleeza Rice. So for those of us who say Condi as the new Veep, I don't want you to be left out of all the fun and games. Here's a question for youse (as we used to say back in Jersey):

If Condi becomes the Veep, how many hours/weeks/months/hours will it take for Bush to resign, Condi to become president, and all the Democratic hopes for a weak opponent in 2008 to be dashed?

Those who guess right will get Tristero Horn t-shirts emailed to them, once I make them up. I'm outta her for the night.