Thursday, May 31, 2007

Brownback Detects 'Atheistic Theology Posing As Science'

In most modern countries, someone like this would not be a serious contender for any major political position.

What I Think About Evolution

By Sam Brownback

In our sound-bite political culture, it is unrealistic to expect that every complicated issue will be addressed with the nuance or subtlety it deserves. So I suppose I should not have been surprised earlier this month when, during the first Republican presidential debate, the candidates on stage were asked to raise their hands if they did not "believe" in evolution. As one of those who raised his hand, I think it would be helpful to discuss the issue in a bit more detail and with the seriousness it demands.

The premise behind the question seems to be that if one does not unhesitatingly assert belief in evolution, then one must necessarily believe that God created the world and everything in it in six 24-hour days. But limiting this question to a stark choice between evolution and creationism does a disservice to the complexity of the interaction between science, faith and reason.

The heart of the issue is that we cannot drive a wedge between faith and reason. I believe wholeheartedly that there cannot be any contradiction between the two. The scientific method, based on reason, seeks to discover truths about the nature of the created order and how it operates, whereas faith deals with spiritual truths. The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal with very different questions, but they do not contradict each other because the spiritual order and the material order were created by the same God.

People of faith should be rational, using the gift of reason that God has given us. At the same time, reason itself cannot answer every question. Faith seeks to purify reason so that we might be able to see more clearly, not less. Faith supplements the scientific method by providing an understanding of values, meaning and purpose. More than that, faith — not science — can help us understand the breadth of human suffering or the depth of human love. Faith and science should go together, not be driven apart.

The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.

There is no one single theory of evolution, as proponents of punctuated equilibrium and classical Darwinism continue to feud today. Many questions raised by evolutionary theory — like whether man has a unique place in the world or is merely the chance product of random mutations — go beyond empirical science and are better addressed in the realm of philosophy or theology.

The most passionate advocates of evolutionary theory offer a vision of man as a kind of historical accident. That being the case, many believers — myself included — reject arguments for evolution that dismiss the possibility of divine causality.

Ultimately, on the question of the origins of the universe, I am happy to let the facts speak for themselves. There are aspects of evolutionary biology that reveal a great deal about the nature of the world, like the small changes that take place within a species. Yet I believe, as do many biologists and people of faith, that the process of creation — and indeed life today — is sustained by the hand of God in a manner known fully only to him. It does not strike me as anti-science or anti-reason to question the philosophical presuppositions behind theories offered by scientists who, in excluding the possibility of design or purpose, venture far beyond their realm of empirical science.

Biologists will have their debates about man's origins, but people of faith can also bring a great deal to the table. For this reason, I oppose the exclusion of either faith or reason from the discussion. An attempt by either to seek a monopoly on these questions would be wrong-headed. As science continues to explore the details of man's origin, faith can do its part as well. The fundamental question for me is how these theories affect our understanding of the human person.

The unique and special place of each and every person in creation is a fundamental truth that must be safeguarded. I am wary of any theory that seeks to undermine man's essential dignity and unique and intended place in the cosmos. I firmly believe that each human person, regardless of circumstance, was willed into being and made for a purpose.

While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man's origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.

Without hesitation, I am happy to raise my hand to that.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Secret Service Was Told To Delete VP Visitor Logs

A lawyer for Vice President Dick Cheney told the Secret Service in September to eliminate data on who visited Cheney at his official residence, a newly disclosed letter states. The Sept. 13, 2006, letter from Cheney's lawyer says logs for Cheney's residence on the grounds of the Naval Observatory are subject to the Presidential Records Act.

Such a designation prevents the public from learning who visited the vice president.

The Justice Department filed the letter Friday in a lawsuit by a private group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, seeking the identities of conservative religious leaders who visited Cheney at his official residence.

The newly disclosed letter about visitors to Cheney's residence is accompanied by an 18-page Secret Service document revealing the agency's long-standing practice has been to destroy printed daily access lists of visitors to the residence.

Separately, the agency says it has given Cheney's office handwritten logs of who visits him at his personal residence.

Because of pending lawsuits, the Secret Service says it is now keeping copies of all material on visitors to Cheney's residence. According to the Secret Service document, Cheney's office has approved the agency's retention of the records, while maintaining they are presidential records subject to Cheney's control.

"The latest filings make clear that the administration has been destroying documents and entering into secret agreements in violation of the law," said Anne Weismann, CREW's chief counsel.

Regarding visitor information, the Secret Service "shall not retain any copy of these documents and information" once the material is given to the office of the vice president, says the September 2006 letter by Shannen Coffin, counsel to the vice president.

"If any documents remain in your possession, please return them to OVP as soon as possible," the letter added. ...

The letter regarding the vice president's residence was in addition to an agreement quietly signed between the White House and the Secret Service a year ago when questions were raised about visits to the executive compound by convicted influence peddler Jack Abramoff.

That agreement, which didn't surface publicly until late last year, said White House entry and exit logs were presidential records not subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

When the agreement was signed in May 2006, a number of private groups and news organizations had filed FOIA requests with the Secret Service in an effort to identify how many times Abramoff or members of his lobbying team visited the White House.

The Washington Post -- which had filed a lawsuit seeking to use the FOIA to pry these records out of the Vice President's office -- in January of this year abruptly dropped their litigation and let the matter drop.

The Washington Post has quietly retreated from a legal battle with Vice President Cheney by dropping a lawsuit demanding Secret Service logs of visitors to his office and residence.

The newspaper's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit prompted a flurry of press attention and court action just prior to the November election. In October, a district court judge in the capital, Ricardo Urbina, cited the looming vote when he ordered the Secret Service to comply immediately with the Post's request. However, just six days before the election, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an emergency stay blocking Judge Urbina's order.

"We have decided not to pursue litigation further, though we believe we would have prevailed in the court of appeals as we did in the trial court," a Post attorney, Eric Lieberman, said in an e-mail yesterday. He said the paper had "a fundamental goal" of getting the records to inform voters before the election and failed in that regard.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Economic Action Against Iran

Political Skullduggery in the form of Economic Action by the United States against the Islamic Republic of Iran is in the spotlight today.

The United States is piling pressure on European banks and energy firms to avoid doing business with Iran, sending a blunt message that reputations are at stake if they do so, officials and analysts said on Monday.

Washington, leading efforts to isolate the Islamic Republic over its atomic program, has slapped sanctions on two Iranian banks. United Nations sanctions have targeted one.

But U.S. arm-twisting may be having a stronger impact, with one bank withdrawing finance for a major gas deal and oil majors rethinking investment. A U.S. official warned multinationals in March to steer clear of OPEC's second biggest producer.

"The world's top financial institutions and corporations are re-evaluating their business with Iran because they are worried about the risk and their reputations," said Stuart Levey, the U.S. Treasury's top anti-terrorism official.

"You should worry too and be especially cautious when it comes to doing business with Iran."

French bank Societe General got the message and has pulled the plug on financing for a $5 billion project to develop part of Iran's massive South Pars gas field.

"SocGen has stopped their financial support because of pressure from the U.S.," Akbar Torkan, head of Iran's Pars Oil and Gas Company, said.

"No European bank is ready to prepare new financing for us. The U.S. is putting pressure on all European banks."

Iran is fighting back with plans to set up an overseas investment fund in Bahrain or Dubai to help finance South Pars.

Washington is working hard behind the scenes to ensure that Iran cannot raise the cash it needs.

"The U.S. government is sending out letters to banks on plain white paper with a clear message -- side with us or we'll make it difficult for you to operate," said an Iranian executive who wished to remain anonymous.

Iranian officials have brushed off the impact, but Torkan -- a former defense minister -- said major oil companies such as Statoil and Total were also being leaned on.

"They have to follow American policy, otherwise the U.S. will find tools to pressure them," he said.

"It's punishment for their activities in Iran."

Industry sources said Statoil may have second thoughts about developing the Azar oilfield because it is keen to protect its U.S. interests. Norsk Hydro was planning the Azar development, but Statoil bought Norsk's oil and gas assets in December and will own the concession when that takeover is complete.

Royal Dutch Shell, Eni and Total have all invested billions of dollars in Iran and also own U.S. assets. Top brass have indicated that political concerns could impact new investment plans.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Palast Has Some Of The 'Missing' Rove E-Mails

Investigative reporter Greg Palast ... has 500 e-mails the House sought in its probe of the firings but that Rove said were deleted and lost forever.

How did he get them? Rove's "operatives" accidentally sent them to the spoof Web site back in 2004.

What does Palast say they reveal? A "scheme to steal" the 2008 election through "caging," an illegal form of voter suppression.

Palast writes that in her opening testimony Wednesday regarding the U.S. attorney firings, former Justice Department official Monica Goodling confirmed that "caging" had occurred in 2004, but that House members did not pick up on the disclosure or question her about the claim.

The blog 10 Zen Monkeys followed up with an interview with Palast.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Fitzgerald Playing Hard Ball On Libby Sentencing

Former top Bush administration aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby should spend 30 to 37 months in prison for obstructing the CIA leak investigation, Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald contended in court documents filed yesterday.

Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, has shown no remorse for lying to investigators and "about virtually everything that mattered" in the probe of who disclosed the identity of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame to the media in 2003, Fitzgerald wrote.

"Mr. Libby, a high-ranking public official and experienced lawyer, lied repeatedly and blatantly about matters at the heart of a criminal investigation concerning the disclosure of a covert intelligence officer's identity," Fitzgerald said in court papers. "He has shown no regret for his actions, which significantly impeded the investigation."

Libby was convicted in March of obstruction of justice, making false statements and perjury, becoming the highest-ranking White House official convicted of a crime since the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal.

His sentencing is scheduled for June 5 before U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton. Libby's defense has not yet filed its recommendation.

Fitzgerald disputed assertions by Libby supporters who have called the leak investigation politically motivated and have claimed that Libby is the victim of an unfair indictment and a wrongful conviction.

"The judicial system has not corruptly mistreated Mr. Libby," Fitzgerald said. "Mr. Libby has been found by a jury of his peers to have corrupted the judicial system." ...

No one was charged with the leak itself -- Fitzgerald knew early on that the original disclosure to columnist Robert D. Novak came from then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage, a fact Libby's supporters have cited in claiming that the probe went too far. Fitzgerald rejected that idea yesterday, saying that it was critical to know who else was involved and that Libby tried to thwart that effort.

Libby "showed contempt for the judicial process when he obstructed justice by repeatedly lying under oath about material matters in a serious criminal investigation," Fitzgerald said.

Libby's attorneys have said their client should be pardoned, something top Democrats have warned against.

President Bush has said he is "pretty much going to stay out of" the case, at least until the legal process has run its course.

Some independent lawyers have calculated that Mr. Libby's sentence is likely to be as brief as 27 months.

Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence on Prewar Assessments About Postwar Iraq

The Senate Intelligence Committee late yesterday afternoon released their review of the intelligence community's performance before the Iraq invasion in predicting the post-war ramifications of deposing Saddam Hussein.

The same studies were recently discussed here (see They Can't Say They Weren't Warned). Basically, the White House was told beforehand that we could expect all the bad things that have since happened in occupied Iraq.

Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence on Prewar Assessments About Postwar Iraq (229 page pdf).

The report declassifies and publishes in full two January 2003 National Intelligence Council (NIC) Intelligence Community Assessments (ICA): "Regional Consequences of Regime Change in Iraq" and "Principal Challenges in Post-Saddam Iraq."

There are a sizable number of excised passages in the original papers dealing with other countries in the region, the deletions being most noticeable when the subject turns to Iran's reaction to events in Iraq.

Much information is presented about the political environment in Iraq during Saddam's reign, with the conclusion that the political culture there is far from fertile ground in which to transplant democracy.

Other analysis wasn't always real accurate. Oil going up to $40 a barrel is a negative possibility foreseen in case of a cutoff of Iraqi supplies, especially -- according to the paper -- in combination with instability in Venezuela. But we are told that $15 barrels would be back as soon as the respective situations returned to normal. However, maybe the analysts were right about the basic economics, which would naturally lead to the suspicion that oil company skullduggery may be responsible for the dissonance.

In July 2002, the intelligence community held a simulation of how the post-Saddam political reconstruction might look. A long-term requirement for large numbers of U.S. forces to remain in country was envisioned. The Iraqis were seen to be focused on short-term political advantage over their rivals rather than focusing on the big picture. And the U.N. was seen as not acquiescing to U.S. plans for Iraqi political development.

After the two big ICAs (which are NIE caliber papers), there is also an Overview of Other Intelligence Assessments on Postwar Iraq, listing and summarizing various products of individual intelligence community agencies.

A CIA assessment from August 2002 entitled The Perfect Storm: Planning For Negative Consequences of Invading Iraq summed up in one handy package what could still be in store for Iraq. Intended as a worst case scenario, here are some highlights: "anarchy and territorial breakup in Iraq; instability in key Arab states; a surge of global terrorism and deepening Islamic antipathy towards the United States; major oil supply disruptions; and severe strains in the Atlantic alliance." Also, "Al Qaeda operatives take advantage of a destabilized Iraq to establish secure safe havens from which they can continue their operations", and "Iran works to install a regime friendly to ... Iranian policies." The Perfect Storm also warns of "Afghanistan tipping into civil strife as U.N. and other coalition forces are unable or unwilling to replace American military resources."

The distribution list of the two primary studies is included, attesting to the fact that this material was sent all over town.

This lengthy report tells us that a lot of effort was expended examining the likelihood that a U.S. invasion of Iraq would turn out to be detrimental to U.S. interests. The issue of whether Iraq was actually a threat was not the subject matter of these Phase II (Senate Intelligence Committee investigative terminology, as opposed to the DOD usage of Phase IV to refer to the postwar scenario) studies.

The Kerr Study Group's second report (a 2004 CIA evaluation) noted vis-a-vis these earlier studies, "Intelligence projections in this area [analysis of post-Saddam Iraq], however, although largely accurate, had little or no impact on policy deliberation."

A more damning indictment of how we got to this national nightmare would be hard to conceive.

Friday, May 25, 2007

DOJ Inquiry Into Politicization of Appointee Process Expands

The Justice Department has broadened an internal investigation into whether aides to Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales improperly took into account political considerations in hiring employees, officials familiar with the probe said Thursday.

The expanded inquiry, conducted by the department's inspector general and its Office of Professional Responsibility, comes after testimony Wednesday by former Gonzales aide Monica M. Goodling.

She told a House committee that she had considered party affiliation in screening applicants to become immigration judges.

The Justice Department said it could find no record to support claims by Goodling that taking politics into account to fill positions on the immigration bench had been approved by department officials.

Goodling is already under investigation on suspicion of violating federal civil service rules and department policy for considering political activity while she conducted reviews of candidates for career prosecutors.

She testified before the House Judiciary Committee under a grant of immunity from prosecution.

The internal Justice Department investigation, although focused on Goodling, could turn up embarrassing information about Gonzales' management practices and what, if anything, he knew about the role that politics played in hiring employees protected by civil service laws. ...

President Bush stands by Gonzales, and he reiterated his support for his longtime aide at a Rose Garden news conference Thursday. He said he thought questions about the conduct of the attorney general were "kind of being drug out" for political reasons.

Bush sidestepped questions about whether he was concerned that the Justice Department had become politicized under Gonzales, deferring to the internal investigation for a judgment.

"If there's wrongdoing, it will be taken care of," Bush said.

The president said nothing there about punishment or ramifications for malfeasance. Basically a pledge to more competently cover the White House's ass.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Hillary's Iowa Dilemma

Well, she's trailing in Iowa, and it was a creative idea to skip the embarrassment of losing the opening engagement of the primary season.

But she is so flush with cash that she couldn't claim poverty as the reason. So she will have to suck it up, and take her medicine.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign has considered — and rejected — a plan to stop competing in Iowa, the traditional kickoff state in the nominating process, and to concentrate instead on later states, including the 20 or so that are slated to vote on a single day in early February.

The recommendation to pull out of Iowa was in a memorandum written by Mike Henry, Mrs. Clinton's deputy campaign manager. He made a case that Iowa would consume too much time and money that could be better invested elsewhere.

Mr. Henry’s memorandum, dated May 21, said Mrs. Clinton would have to spend $15 million and 70 days in the state to be competitive there, and suggested that if she did not pull out she might not have the money she would need for the rapid-fire series of contests that follow. The Iowa caucuses are scheduled for Jan. 14, with the New Hampshire primary eight days later, Florida a week after that and about 20 other states on Feb. 5.

The Clinton campaign said Mr. Henry’s advice had been rejected. Soon after learning that the memorandum would become public, the campaign announced that Mrs. Clinton, a New York Democrat, would be campaigning in Iowa this weekend.

"It's not the opinion of the campaign," Mrs. Clinton told Radio Iowa on Wednesday, referring to the memorandum. "It's not my opinion."

But the memorandum was evidence of the ways in which the shifting political calendar is forcing campaigns to rethink their traditional strategies and confront complex trade-offs.

"Thirteen of the last 14 major-party nominees have won Iowa, New Hampshire, or both," Mr. Henry wrote, adding, "but I think this old system is about to collapse, and it will happen this year because of the impact of primary elections that are being held on February 5th."

"In effect, the Democratic Party is holding a national primary with over 20 states choosing a nominee on Feb. 5," the memorandum continued. "This new focus forces us to rethink our overall strategy and assess where our time and money are best spent."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Troop Withdrawal Timetable Out Of War Funding Bill

Democrats gave up their demand for troop-withdrawal deadlines in an Iraq war spending package yesterday, abandoning their top goal of bringing U.S. troops home and handing President Bush a victory in a debate that has roiled Congress for months. ...

The spending package, expected to total $120 billion when the final version is released today, would require Bush to surrender virtually none of his war authority. Democrats were working to secure two other priorities that the president had previously resisted: an increase in the minimum wage and funding for domestic programs, including veterans' benefits, Hurricane Katrina relief and agricultural aid.

Instead of sticking with troop-withdrawal dates, Democrats accepted a GOP plan to establish 18 political and legislative benchmarks for the Iraqi government, with periodic reports from Bush on its progress, starting in late July. If the Iraqis fall short, they could forfeit U.S. reconstruction aid. ...

Republicans remained united throughout the debate, despite strong public opposition to the war and growing internal doubts that a military victory in Iraq is achievable. While some Republicans chastised Democrats for backing off from "surrender dates," GOP reaction was somewhat muted when details of the deal circulated yesterday afternoon. ...

From the outset of the battle on spending, Democratic leaders knew that their options would be limited by the party's slim majorities in both chambers. In the 51 to 49 Senate, Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) was absent after a brain hemorrhage, while independent Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.), a member of the Democratic caucus, backed Bush on the war. Passage of the first spending bill was secured by a narrow 51 to 46 vote, with support from two Republicans, Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and Gordon Smith (Ore.). ...

Almost all Republicans, along with Lieberman and seven Democrats, backed the Warner (benchmeark) proposal last week in a symbolic Senate vote. In a meeting Friday with congressional leaders, White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten signaled that Bush would accept the Warner terms, but Pelosi and Reid continued to press for a withdrawal timetable, even offering Bush a waiver option.

Democrats said they would drop the domestic spending in the bill in exchange, but when Bolten declined the withdrawal offer, Reid and Pelosi put the additional billions back on the table. Last night, negotiators said Democrats had dropped just three items from the first bill, including funding for a low-income heating program and fishing industry subsidies. ...

Even before the ink was dry on the spending deal, antiwar lawmakers expressed strong opposition. "There has been a lot of tough talk from members of Congress about wanting to end this war, but it looks like the desire for political comfort won out over real action," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.).

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Immigration Reform Bill Debate Begins In Senate

The Senate on Monday agreed to consider a bill legalizing millions of undocumented immigrants after supporters won a critical test vote and then turned to face a barrage of amendments that could unravel the compromise measure.

The bill cleared its first parliamentary hurdle when the Senate voted 69-23 to begin at least two weeks of debate, giving the White House and a bipartisan coalition of senators an opening victory in their push to overhaul the nation's immigration system.

But the vote - nine more than the required 60-vote "super majority" needed - marked only a wobbly starting point as critics in both parties readied dozens of amendments for the ensuing days of debate on the bill.

Senators quickly acknowledged they would be unable to finish work before leaving on a Memorial Day recess at the end of the week, a delay that could widen divisions as senators return home to face constituents. Debate will continue for another week after they return on June 4. ...

Members in both parties were readying several dozen amendments aimed at virtually every major feature in the bill. An early confrontation over a proposed guest worker program is expected on Tuesday when Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., attempts to sharply reduce the numbers permitted into the program each year.

The guest worker program, backed by the White House and a broad coalition of businesses, could bring in up to 600,000 workers a year to fill low-skilled jobs. Bingaman's amendment, identical to one that the Senate approved 79-18 last year, would reduce the cap to 200,000, a level that business groups say is woefully inadequate to meet a chronic labor shortage.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., hopes to dismantle the guest worker program entirely, saying it would take away jobs from U.S. workers and exacerbate hardships in economically distressed areas of the country. In contrast, pro-immigration groups and Hispanics want to recast the temporary worker program to enable participants to get on track for citizenship instead of returning to their home countries when their visas expire. ...

A fundamental element - and the most controversial - would enable all illegal immigrants who entered the United States before the first of the year to stay in the country and work under "Z visas" that would be renewable every four years. They would be required to pass criminal background checks and pay a $1,000 fine.

Those who wanted to get on track for U.S. citizenship by getting a green card would have to wait more than eight years and return home to apply. They would also have to pay an additional $4,000 and show proficiency in English.

Conservatives have assailed the proposal as amnesty that rewards illegal behavior and will rally behind amendments to make it more restrictive or eliminate it all together.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Feds Watching Anti-Immigrant Extremists

Since 2000, the number of extremist groups has increased by 40%, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which closely tracks the groups' activities. In the past two years, the growth has been largely driven by the emergence of about 144 "nativist" groups that oppose immigration. ...

Charles Frahm, FBI deputy assistant director for counterterrorism, said there is increasing concern that the most radical elements of the anti-immigration wing may be "susceptible" to recruitment by white supremacists and other groups inclined toward violence.

Police departments across the country also are uneasy as political divisions regarding immigration enforcement have raised local tensions.

"This is certainly a concern for every police chief in the country," said Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C. Police Chief Darrel Stephens, president of the national Major City Chiefs Association. "As long as the issue remains unsettled, the tension grows."

Perhaps not since the anti-government militia movement came to prominence in the early 1990s, the Southern Poverty Law Center says, have so many groups embraced such a common campaign for dealing with what they describe as failed government policy.

"The infection is spreading," said Mark Potok, editor of the center's Intelligence Report.

"It's no longer unusual to hear vilifying fairy tales of immigrant-borne secret conspiracies and massive criminality on radio, cable television and even in the mouths of pandering politicians," he said.

Goodling To Testify Wednesday

It's going to be interesting to see what happens on Wednesday:

Monica M. Goodling, the former Justice Department liaison to the White House, will testify Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee. This appearance has been long in coming: Goodling first declined to testify in the investigation into the firing of several federal prosecutors, citing her constitutional right not to incriminate herself. She subsequently received limited immunity in exchange for testimony.

White House Lashes Back At Carter

Sticks and stones...

Perhaps not since Herbert Hoover took issue with the blame heaped on him for the Great Depression by Franklin D. Roosevelt have two presidents or their spokesmen feuded quite so publicly — and angrily — as former President Carter and President Bush. On Sunday, the White House fired a new salvo.

Carter kicked off the war of words by declaring that Bush's tenure in the White House was "the worst in history" in terms of international relations.

Then Bush spokesman Tony Fratto, who had shrugged off the comment Saturday, returned fire. Responding to a question Sunday, he said Carter's criticism had been "reckless" and "out there."

"It's unfortunate," he added. "He has proven to be increasingly irrelevant with these sorts of comments."

The exchange broke the unwritten code of the presidential fraternity — that members treat each other gently.

For a Democratic former president to find fault with the conduct of a GOP president was not surprising. Nor was a White House decision to respond.

But the vehemence of the language was unusual — especially in contrast to the friendship that Bush's father has developed with former President Clinton, who tossed him out of office after one term in the bitter 1992 campaign.

So against that recent history of cross-party fraternization, Carter's broadside was surprising. Speaking to BBC Radio, he said, "The almost undeviating support by Great Britain for the ill-advised policies of President Bush in Iraq have been a major tragedy for the world."

In a telephone interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Carter was quoted as saying, "I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history."

Bush, spending the weekend at his ranch in Crawford, had no public comment Sunday.

Lloyd Gardner, a professor of American history at Rutgers University, said, "Hoover had some pretty harsh things to say about his successor," but "Carter has gone beyond anything Hoover has said."

Then again, he added, Carter prides himself "in being different" and "a lot less concerned about pleasing everybody," and the White House is less receptive to criticism these days.

"There's a feeling there of very much being cornered and wounded, and they're going to strike back," Gardner said.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Jimmy Carter On Failures Of Bush, Blair

Former President Jimmy Carter criticized George W. Bush's presidency in interviews released Saturday as "the worst in history" in international relations and faulted Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain for his loyal relationship with Mr. Bush.

"I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history," Mr. Carter, 82, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, said in a telephone interview with The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette from the Carter Center in Atlanta.

"The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me," Mr. Carter told the newspaper.

In an interview on BBC radio, he criticized Mr. Blair for his close relations with the president, particularly concerning the Iraq war.

"Abominable," he said when asked how he would characterize Mr. Blair's relationship with Mr. Bush. "Loyal, blind, apparently subservient." ...

In the newspaper interview, Mr. Carter said Mr. Bush has taken a "radical departure from all previous administration policies" with the Iraq war.

"We now have endorsed the concept of pre-emptive war where we go to war with another nation militarily, even though our own security is not directly threatened, if we want to change the regime there or if we fear that some time in the future our security might be endangered," he said.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

'Motions To Recommit' Big Part of House GOP Playbook

House Republicans, fighting to remain relevant in a chamber ruled by Democrats, have increasingly seized on a parliamentary technique to alter or delay nearly a dozen pieces of legislation pushed by the majority this year. ...

Since January, GOP leaders have relied on a maneuver known as the "motion to recommit" to stymie Democrats and score political points for Republicans still adjusting to life in the minority.

The motion to recommit allows the minority a chance to amend a bill on the floor or send it back to committee, effectively killing it. In a legislative body in which the party in power controls nearly everything, it is one of the few tools the minority has to effect change.

In the 12 years of Republican control that ended in January, Democrats passed 11 motions to recommit. Republicans have racked up the same number in just five months of this Congress.

Democrats say any comparison is unfair because when Republicans controlled Congress, they directed their members to vote against all Democratic motions to recommit.

Now in the majority and mindful of staying there, Democrats have given no such instruction to their members, allowing them to break with the party if they choose. Many freshmen Democrats from GOP-leaning districts find themselves voting with Republicans as a matter of survival -- a reality Republicans have seized upon. ...

This week, Democratic staffers privately discussed a rule change to limit the Republicans' ability to make motions to recommit. GOP leaders were incensed and threatened to use all available procedural techniques to block every bill except war spending legislation. But Democrats are hampered by their promise to run the chamber in a more open fashion than Republicans did when in the majority.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Senators Want CIA IG Report On 9/11 Released

A bipartisan group of senators is pushing legislation that would force the CIA to release an inspector general's report on the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The CIA has spent more than 20 months weighing requests under the Freedom of Information Act for its internal investigation of the attacks, but the agency has yet to release any portion of it. It is the only federal agency involved in counterterrorism operations that has not made at least a version of its internal Sept. 11 investigation public.

Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, and two other intelligence committee leaders -- Jay Rockefeller, chairman and Democrat of West Virginia, and senior Republican Kit Bond of Missouri -- are pushing legislation that would require the agency to declassify the executive summary of the review within one month and submit a report to Congress explaining why any material was withheld.

The provision has been approved by the Senate twice but never made it into law.

Wyden said he is also considering whether to link the report's release to his acceptance of President Bush's nominations for national security positions.

"It's amazing the efforts the administration is going to to stonewall this," Wyden said. "The American people have a right to know what the Central Intelligence Agency was doing in those critical months before 9/11. . . . I am going to bulldog this until the public gets it."

The inspector general's report, completed in June 2005, examined the responsibility of individuals at the CIA before and after the attacks. Other agencies examined structural problems within their organizations.

Wyden, who has read the classified report several times, would not offer any details on its findings or the conversations he has had with the CIA's director, Michael V. Hayden; its former director, Porter Goss; and the former director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte.

But he did say that protecting individuals from embarrassment is not a legitimate reason for keeping the report's contents from public review. He also said that he believed the decision to classify the report has nothing to do with national security, but rather political security.

Hayden declined to be interviewed about the report. His spokesman, Mark Mansfield, said the CIA director wants the agency to learn from any mistakes but doesn't want to dwell on them.

"Given the formidable national security challenges our nation faces, now and down the road, General Hayden believes it is essential for the agency to move forward," Mansfield said. "That's where our emphasis needs to be."

The CIA's actions prior to Sept. 11 have received renewed attention with the release of a memoir by the agency's former director, George Tenet. Critics say he should have done more to warn Bush about the Al Qaeda threat.

Bond said some intelligence officials have dismissed the inspector general's report as "ancient history," which he doesn't accept. He said the report has information that would be useful to the public.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Futile Search For Rove E-mails

Karl Rove is no slouch when it comes to practicing proper tradecraft.

Justice Department officials told the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday that they'd searched high and low for all the e-mails to, from or copied to White House political adviser Karl Rove about the controversial firings of U.S. attorneys.

Responding (a day late) to a subpoena from the committee, they reported that Justice Department officials searched the e-mail accounts of 16 people, between Nov. 1, 2004, and May 2, 2007. They found exactly two: something old and something new.

The old e-mail, dated Feb. 28, 2007, and previously released, warned that fired New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias was about to hold a news conference alleging that Republican members of Congress from New Mexico had interfered with his work.

The something new was a story by McClatchy Newspapers Justice Department correspondent Marisa Taylor, published the same day, which quoted Iglesias saying that he was fired because he wouldn't rush an indictment of Democrats shortly before the 2006 congressional elections.

The newspaper story and the two e-mails were sent "without redaction," Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard A. Hertling assured the judiciary committee.

J. Scott Jennings, the White House deputy political director, forwarded Taylor's story via e-mail to several officials, including Rove, White House counsel Fred Fielding and political director Sara Taylor. He also copied Kyle Sampson, the Justice Department chief of staff who's since resigned.

Jennings marked the e-mail "urgent," but Rove apparently didn't agree. He didn't respond, or if he did, the search didn't turn up his reply.

Maybe it will. Justice's Hertling wrote the senators that his team is "continuing to review the completeness of our efforts."

What Did Yesterday's Senate Action Mean?

The media is having trouble deciding on the significance of yesterday's Senate votes on Iraq war funding.

Here's a sample of the "symbolic defeat for the administration" slant.

The Senate yesterday edged closer to a bipartisan rebuke of President Bush's war policy, as 52 members backed benchmarks for progress in Iraq and a majority of Democrats supported a hard timeline for ending the war.

Both Iraq options fell short of the 60 votes needed to pass officially, while giving Democrats and Republicans alike room to claim victory as new conference talks begin this week on the war-funding supplemental. The votes also offer new ammunition for 2008, as all four Democratic presidential hopefuls in the upper chamber backed Sen. Russ Feingold's (D-Wis.) plan to withdraw most troops from Iraq within a year and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) added to his string of missed Iraq votes.

The four Democratic leaders also voted for the Feingold amendment to the water-resources bill, a test roll call that showed the majority’s growing openness to using the power of the purse to force Bush's hand on Iraq. Notably for Democrats, each of the four Republican leaders supported Sen. John Warner’s (R-Va.) plan to condition future aid to the Iraqi government on several benchmarks for political stability.

"It's clear from the Warner amendment that Republicans are beginning to realize our path in Iraq is unsustainable," a heartened Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) echoed the message his party saw in the Warner vote: "They want change," he said of Republicans. Only three GOP senators, Jon Kyl (Ariz.), David Vitter (La.) and James Inhofe (Okla.), voted against the Warner language.

Interestingly though, today's New York Times views the Senate votes as a weakening of the Democratic resolve to take on the president over Iraq.

Congressional Democratic leaders signaled today that they were ready to give ground to end an impasse with President Bush over war spending after the Senate soundly rejected a Democratic plan to block money for major combat operations in Iraq beginning next spring.

The 67-to-29 vote against the proposal demonstrated that a significant majority of senators remained unwilling to demand a withdrawal of forces despite their own misgivings and public unease over the war. ...

The margin also illustrated the divide among Democrats over how far to go in challenging Mr. Bush over the war. All four Democratic senators seeking the presidential nomination, including Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, were among the 29 who backed the proposal. Among those opposed were Democratic leaders on military policy like Carl Levin of Michigan, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a former Army officer.

After the vote, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader and a co-sponsor of the Feingold plan, said he was committed to delivering legislation acceptable to Mr. Bush by the end of next week. He conceded that the compromise was likely to disappoint war opponents who had pushed Congress to set a pull-out date.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Old Story Comes Back To Bite Gonzales

The basics of this story were known as long ago as Jan 1, 2006.

However, a few tantalizing tidbits came to light during yesterday's testimony by then-acting Attorney General James Comey.

The Bush administration ran its warrantless eavesdropping program without the Justice Department's approval for up to three weeks in 2004, nearly triggering a mass resignation of the nation's top law enforcement officials, the former No. 2 official disclosed Tuesday.

In testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, former Deputy Attorney General James Comey said that those he believed were prepared to quit included then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller.

Comey said then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card visited Ashcroft as he lay gravely ill in a hospital bed on March 10, 2004, and pressed him to re-certify the program's legality. Ashcroft refused.

"I was angry. I thought I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very seriously sick man, who did not have the powers of the attorney general because they had been transferred to me," Comey recalled. "I thought it was improper."

Comey, who'd assumed Ashcroft's powers on an acting basis, had raced ahead of Gonzales and Card to the George Washington University Hospital, his car's emergency lights flashing, and dashed up the stairs to Ashcroft's room, trailed by his security detail.

"That night was probably the most difficult time of my professional life," Comey recalled.

Vice President Dick Cheney and his chief counsel, David Addington, also challenged the Justice Department's stand on the legality of the program, which was intended to detect terrorist threats and would have expired on March 11, 2004, if Bush hadn't reauthorized it, he said.

The revelations dealt a new blow to Gonzales' efforts to keep his job as Ashcroft's successor amid congressional and Justice Department investigations into whether he's politicized his agency with the pursuit of alleged voter fraud, the screening of job applicants based on their party affiliations, and the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, which Gonzales said Tuesday were overseen by Comey's successor, Paul McNulty.

Comey's testimony also raised new questions about the administration's repeated assurances that the monitoring program has been conducted legally and that Americans' constitutional right to privacy has been fully respected.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Playing "Survivor" At DOJ

Who will be the last contestant left on the island?

Paul J. McNulty, a career Republican operative who rose to the No. 2 spot at the Department of Justice, announced his resignation Monday in the midst of the widening scandal over the firings of eight U.S. attorneys.

His exit marks the fourth resignation since the matter became public this year. It is all the more dramatic because of his high rank — deputy attorney general — in the Bush administration.

McNulty has admitted misleading Congress about the reasons for the dismissals. Though he maintained he was out of the loop about the terminations, documents showed he attended a crucial meeting with Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales and others to review a final list of prosecutors to be fired. ...

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) said he hoped McNulty would return to Capitol Hill to explain more about the firings.

"Mr. McNulty's resignation is a sign that top-level administration at the Justice Department may be crumbling under the pressure of ongoing revelations, and what is yet to be disclosed," Conyers said.

McNulty's resignation letter (PDF)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Earth Revolves Around Sun, Hagel Announces

Gosh, Chuck, do ya think?

Senator Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican, said Sunday that his party had "been hijacked by a group of single-minded, almost isolationist insulationists, power-projectors."

"I am not happy with the Republican Party today," Mr. Hagel said on "Face the Nation" on CBS. "It has drifted from the party of Eisenhower, of Goldwater, of Reagan, the party that I joined. It isn't the same party."

Senator Hagel, who said "a credible third-party candidate" for president would benefit the United States, said he planned to decide by late summer whether to run for president.

"I think it shakes the system up," he said of a third-party or independent candidacy. "The system needs to be shaken up."

"I think we're living today at the most unpredictable political time in modern history," Mr. Hagel said, adding that Americans needed "some new, fresh, independent ideas to lead this country forward."

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Goodling To Talk To Investigators Next Week

A federal judge has now signed off on the immunity offer made by Congress to the former assistant to Attorney General Gonzales who presumably knows of the political skullduggery that went on between the White House and the Department of Justice in the U.S. Attorney firing scandal.

Under the order from Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan, Monica M. Goodling "may not refuse to testify, and may not refuse to provide other information" if asked by Congress. ...

The committee extended the offer of immunity after Goodling refused to testify or answer questions from congressional investigators, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination because of allegations that she may have played a role in providing false information to Congress.

"Monica Goodling is a critical witness to this ongoing investigation," House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) said in a statement.

Committee staffers and Goodling's attorney, John Dowd, have held only informal talks about her testimony, according to aides on Capitol Hill. Those talks are expected to intensify next week, with the committee's goal to have Goodling testify before the House breaks for a week-long Memorial Day recess on May 25.

Goodling -- as a top official -- used questionable criteria in hiring new employees at Justice:

Ms. Goodling would soon be quizzing applicants for civil service jobs at Justice Department headquarters with questions that several United States attorneys said were inappropriate, like who was their favorite president and Supreme Court justice. One department official said an applicant was even asked, "Have you ever cheated on your wife?"

Ms. Goodling also moved to block the hiring of prosecutors with résumés that suggested they might be Democrats, even though they were seeking posts that were supposed to be nonpartisan, two department officials said.

And she helped maintain lists of all the United States attorneys that graded their loyalty to the Bush administration, including work on past political campaigns, and noted if they were members of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group.

By the time Ms. Goodling resigned in April — after her role in the firing of the prosecutors became public and she had been promoted to the role of White House liaison — she and other senior department officials had revamped personnel practices affecting employees from the top of the agency to the bottom.

The people who spoke about Ms. Goodling's role at the department, including eight current Justice Department lawyers and staff, did so only on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. Several added that they found her activities objectionable and damaging to the integrity of the department. ...

Ms. Goodling, now 33, arrived at the department at the start of the Bush administration after working as an opposition researcher for the Republican National Committee during the 2000 presidential campaign.

Her legal experience was limited; she had graduated in 1999 from Regent University School of Law, which was founded by Pat Robertson. Deeply religious and politically conservative, Ms. Goodling seemed to believe that part of her job was to bring people with similar values into the Justice Department, several former colleagues said.

She joined the department in the press office. Soon after, two lawyers said, Ms. Goodling complained that staff members in Puerto Rico had used rap music in a public service announcement intended to discourage gun crime.

"That is just outrageous," she told one department lawyer. "How could they use government money for an ad that featured rap music? That kind of music glorifies violence."

Friday, May 11, 2007

Are We Nearing an Elephant Stampede?

Like their symbol, Republicans can exhibit a herd mentality that is an awesome spectacle to behold. Lots of evidence has been accumulating as to the possibility of a sudden lurching move by the president's party against the Iraq war as soon as late summer.

Although, given their propensity to pander to the lowest common denominator, this is by no means a sure thing.

From this morning's New York Times editorial:

The difference between mainstream hawks and mainstream doves on Iraq seems to have boiled down to two months, with House Democrats now demanding visible progress by July while moderate Republicans are willing to give White House policies until September, but no longer, to show results.

Then there is President Bush, who has yet to acknowledge the reality that Congressional Republicans and even administration officials like Defense Secretary Robert Gates now seem to tacitly accept. Three months into Mr. Bush's troop escalation, there is no real security in Baghdad and no measurable progress toward reconciliation, while American public support for this folly has all but run out.

The really important question now facing Washington is the one Mr. Bush still refuses to address: how, while there is still some time left, to design an exit strategy that contains the chaos in Iraq and minimizes the damage to United States interests when American troops inevitably leave.

There was no shortage of reminders this week of how swiftly and thoroughly the political landscape has shifted against the war. Yesterday, the House voted to approve the next two months worth of war spending, linking further money to a progress report from the administration in July. On Tuesday, a delegation of Republican moderates went to the White House to warn Mr. Bush that they could not continue supporting his war beyond September unless conditions improved markedly. ...

If Mr. Bush hopes to salvage anything from his 20 months left in office, and, more to the point, if he wants to play a constructive role in the accelerating Iraq endgame, he needs to understand how much has changed in this country, and how tragically little has changed in Iraq.

The American people are no longer willing to write blank checks of blood and treasure to an Iraqi government that has refused to stop rampaging Shiite militias, has failed to approve constitutional changes to bring estranged Sunni Arabs back into the political system, and has still not come up with a way to share oil revenues fairly. Now it wants to give itself a two-month summer vacation.

Mr. Bush needs to face up to this grim reality and abandon his fantasies of ultimate victory and vindication. Otherwise, he could find himself, and America's best long-term interests, run over by a bipartisan rush toward the nearest exit.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Worried Republicans Vent Iraq Concerns To Bush

The gradual -- though at times, fitful -- attenuation of the Republican party as a result of the self-inflicted Iraq disaster, has become so troubling to some House GOP members that they made a visit Tuesday afternoon to try to play upon any residual sympathies President Bush may have for his unfortunate confreres.

The House members pressed Bush and Gates hard for a "Plan B" if the current troop increase fails to quell the violence and push along political reconciliation. (Rep. Tom) Davis (VA) said that administration officials convinced him there are contingency plans, but that the president declined to offer details, saying that if he announced his backup plan, the world would shift its focus to that contingency, leaving the current strategy no time to succeed.

Davis, a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, also presented Bush dismal polling figures to dramatize just how perilous the party's position is, participants said. Davis would not disclose details, saying the exchange was private. Others warned Bush that his personal credibility on the war is all but gone.

Snow, who sat in on the meeting in the president's private quarters, said it should not be overdramatized or seen as another "marching up to Nixon," a reference to the critical moment during Watergate in 1974 when key congressional Republicans went to the White House to tell President Richard M. Nixon that it was time to resign.

"This is not one of those great cresting moments when party discontents are coming in to read the president the riot act," he said. But Snow acknowledged that the meeting included some blunt, if respectful, discussion.

Davis stressed that Republicans will remain united against the Democratic bill in the House today. But the search for an exit is almost inevitable. "The key for everybody is to try to find a way to declare victory and get out of there," he said.

This will come as a surprise to the Iraqi National Security Advisor, who happens to be visiting Washington.

In a sign of growing tensions between Washington and Baghdad, Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie said yesterday that the United States needs to give Iraq more "time and space" to take pivotal military and political steps and to stop making plans based on "the Washington clock."

Although U.S. troops could eventually redeploy to forward bases in Iraq and the region, he said, a U.S. presence will be needed until Iraq builds not just an army, but also an air force and a navy, which could take decades.

"We will need coalition forces for the foreseeable future," he said in an interview with editors and reporters at The Washington Post. "Building an air force to own our air and to be able to defend Iraq cannot be done overnight, or in months. It will take decades to build an air force and to build a navy." He added: "People are trying to fit or to sync the Iraqi clock to the Washington clock, and this is all about Iraq. This is not about Washington. We need to sync the Washington clock to the Baghdad clock."

Rubaie is one of several senior Iraqi officials now in Washington or expected soon as part of Baghdad's campaign to get Democratic lawmakers to ease the pressure on the White House to have a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. But Rubaie's trip has only accentuated the differences between the Democratic-controlled Congress and Baghdad -- and the increasing dispute over a timeline for the U.S. military presence.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

New House Proposal On Iraq

There is a very good chance that this effort will not go very far.

But it is an interesting approach.

A House Democratic proposal introduced yesterday that would give President Bush half of the money he has requested for the war effort, with a vote in July on whether to approve the rest, hinges on progress in meeting political benchmarks that Iraq has thus far found difficult to achieve.

The House measure, which could come to a vote as early as tomorrow, would substantially raise the pressure on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government to meet lagging commitments -- including new laws on oil revenue and de-Baathification, constitutional revisions, provincial elections and the demobilization of militias -- that Bush has said are crucial to the success of the U.S. military strategy.

The plan would make about $43 billion of the administration's requested $95.5 billion immediately available to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, train troops from both nations and pay for other military needs. Congress's approval of the rest, intended to last through September, would await Iraqi passage of restructuring laws, or Bush's ability to prove that significant progress had been made. The July vote would mark the first time a mandatory funding cutoff would come before Congress. ...

The Senate is not expected to take the same short-term funding approach, but it is likely to make political benchmarks the centerpiece of its own legislation, with consequences if they are not met.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Petraeus On The "Surge"

U.S. Army General David H. Petraeus told the Associated Press annual meeting [yesterday], via satellite from Baghdad, that the "surge" campaign he is leading in Iraq "is likely to get harder before it gets better. ... We are putting our soldiers at greater risk." He said it was far too early to declare it a success and for now only cited "some progress" in "some areas." On two occasions he referred to "some" Iraqi units truly pulling their weight.

But he sidestepped a key question from an AP reporter in New York who asked what it would take for him to advise President Bush, at a promised early September meeting, that it was time to start to get out of Iraq. Petraeus replied to that in general terms and said he did not want to "speculate," which might leave the news gathering with a "big headline" or land him in a "political minefield." He also hinted that the U.S. could "modify the objectives."

Yep, when the "surge" fails, you can bet that there will be a new "strategy" (tactic would be the proper operational term) to fight the war. And of course, we will be asked to give it 6-12 months minimum.

Asked about a poll showing that 68% of Iraqis want us out of that country, Petraeus said his forces have to combat "rumors" because "our motives are pure."

Asked about a new military study which showed increasing mental problems among U.S. personnel -- and an alarming spillover into admitted ill treatment of noncombatants -- Petraeus replied, "When I received that survey I was very concerned by the results. It showed a willingness of a fair number to not report the wrongdoing by their buddies." But he asserted that it showed that only a "small number" admitted they may have "mistreated detainees."

Actually, the study found that 10% percent of U.S. forces reported personally abusing Iraqi civilians. More than 40% said they backed torture in certain circumstances.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Looking Bad For Wolfowitz

The World Bank committee investigating misconduct charges against Paul D. Wolfowitz, the bank president, failed to complete its review on schedule this weekend, but bank officials said the panel would eventually find that he violated bank rules barring conflicts of interest.

The committee, made up of 7 of the 24 members of the bank’s board, indicated last week that it would reach a conclusion about Mr. Wolfowitz on Saturday and transmit its findings to him to allow him to prepare for a rebuttal this week.

But no results were transmitted by early Sunday evening, though some officials said it was theoretically possible for the panel to finish later Sunday night.

Bank officials said the committee was also preparing a recommendation on what the full board should do in light of its finding but would not be disclosing that to Mr. Wolfowitz.

The committee is considering whether to recommend an outright removal or some kind of no-confidence vote that may persuade him to resign. That part of the conclusion is not likely to become known until later, bank officials said.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Committee Seeks Niger Documents and Testimony and Instructs State Department Not to Impede Probe

[Friday] Chairman Waxman sent a letter to Secretary of State Rice informing the Secretary that the legislative affairs officials in the Department should not hinder the Committee's inquiry into why Secretary Rice and President Bush cited forged evidence to build a case for war against Iraq; advising the Secretary that the Committee will depose a nuclear weapons analyst at the State Department; and requesting relevant documents. Letters were also sent to the CIA, the White House, and the Department of Defense requesting relevant documents.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Another Sponsor For Cheney Impeachment

Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, has joined two other members of Congress in sponsoring a bill to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney.

The bill seeks to have Cheney removed because, the measure contends, he led Americans into a war in Iraq on false pretenses.

"Despite all evidence to the contrary, the vice president actively and systematically sought to deceive the citizens and Congress of the United States about the alleged threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction," the bill states. It is not expected to go far in the Democratically controlled House.

The other two sponsors are Rep. Janice Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, a long-shot presidential candidate.

Clay said he signed on to the bill at the urging of his constituents and because he believes Cheney deceived America to push it toward war.

"That deception has resulted in a tragic, unnecessary war that has already cost the lives of over 3,300 brave Americans and has cost the taxpayers over $400 billion," he said in a statement.

2002 War Authorization On The Table Again, Pt. 2

This idea has been bandied about since February (see 2002 War Authorization On The Table Again).

Now, a prominent 2008 Democratic presidential candidate is backing a plan to put the president's original authorization for the Iraq War back in play.

As Democrats in Congress search for new ways to bring an end to the conflict in Iraq while producing a funding bill that President Bush will sign, the front-runner for the party's presidential nomination yesterday endorsed legislation that would revoke the administration's authority to wage the war.

Amid a flurry of backroom negotiations yesterday afternoon, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) took the Senate floor to join Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd (W.Va.) in offering a bill that would sunset the 2002 authorization of military operations in Iraq. It would take away the president's authority to wage war in Iraq five years to the day after it was granted, meaning Bush would be required to convince Congress to reapprove it in October. ...

Clinton's endorsement of the sunset legislation represents a significant escalation in her opposition to the White House on war policy and signals an effort by Democratic presidential candidates -- including four sitting senators -- to assume higher profiles in the war debate. For Clinton, it is also an opportunity to address what has emerged as perhaps her greatest liability in the Democratic contest: her vote to authorize the war. "If the president will not bring himself to accept reality, it is time for Congress to bring reality to him," said Clinton, who has expressed support for a similar de-authorization, although not as a stand-alone bill.

The Clinton-Byrd proposal, which was floated in February but not introduced, emerged as Democrats began weighing different legislative vehicles to end the war. One approach favored by many House members is to allow a relatively unencumbered, shorter-term spending bill to reach the president, while the weightier and more controversial war-policy language would be shifted to another measure.

Another Democratic proposal is also making the rounds.

House Democratic leaders last night mulled a new proposal, floated by House Appropriations Committee Chairman David R. Obey (D-Wis.), that would fund the war effort for three months, through the end of August. Further funding would come only after Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander in Iraq, briefed Congress on military progress and the progress of the Iraqi government in achieving a set of benchmarks, such as quelling sectarian violence, disarming militias and adopting changes to the Iraqi constitution to guarantee equality among ethnic and religious groups. ...

Obey, who is leading the negotiations for House Democrats, told a closed-door Democratic caucus meeting yesterday that leaders will divide war policy prescriptions among three bills: a second version of the $124 billion emergency war-funding bill; the annual defense policy bill; and the 2008 defense spending bill. All three would come to the House floor in rapid succession.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Is DOJ Tampering With Goodling's Immunity Grant?

This allegation of possible law-breaking by Ms. Goodling may be an attempt by the Justice Department to supply a legally acceptable reason to stifle the grant of immunity being offered to the former DOJ official by the House Judiciary Committee.

You see, the Department of Justice must approve the immunity agreement, and certify that it will not jeopardize any current criminal investigations.

This new charge would seem to be ready made for just that purpose.

The Justice Department has begun an internal investigation into whether a former senior adviser to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales improperly tried to fill vacancies for career prosecutors at the agency with Republicans loyal to the Bush administration, department officials said Wednesday.

The inquiry focuses on whether the former adviser, Monica Goodling, sought to determine the political affiliations of job applicants before they were hired as prosecutors -- potentially a violation of civil service laws and a break with a tradition of nonpartisanship in the career ranks at the Justice Department.

The investigation of Goodling complicates efforts by the House Judiciary Committee to offer her immunity in exchange for testimony. Goodling quit as Gonzales's senior counselor last month and has invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in refusing to answer questions from Congress about the prosecutor firings.

Goodling's attorney, John M. Dowd, said yesterday that Goodling would agree to testify under such a deal. But the Justice Department must approve the immunity and certify that the move would not interfere with current or possible criminal prosecutions.

Dowd said Goodling would demand similar immunity before Justice investigators can interview her.

Bush Again Ties Iraq To 9/11

From Dana Milbank's column this morning:

President Bush is at odds with the American public and a restive congressional majority over the Iraq war, and even some Republicans talk about imposing new requirements that could trigger a troop withdrawal.

It's time to play the Qaeda card.

In a speech about Iraq yesterday morning at the Willard Hotel, the president mentioned Osama bin Laden's group -- 27 times. "For America, the decision we face in Iraq is not whether we ought to take sides in a civil war, it's whether we stay in the fight against the same international terrorist network that attacked us on 9/11," Bush told a group of construction contractors.

Never mind all that talk about sectarian strife and civil war in Iraq. "The primary reason for the high level of violence is this: Al-Qaeda has ratcheted up its campaign of high-profile attacks," Bush disclosed.

The man who four years ago admitted "no evidence" of an Iraqi role in the Sept. 11 attacks now finds solid evidence of a role in Iraq by the Sept. 11 hijackers.

"I don't need to remind you who al-Qaeda is," Bush reminded. "Al-Qaeda is the group that plot and planned and trained killers to come and kill people on our soil. The same bunch that is causing havoc in Iraq were the ones who came and murdered our citizens."

This new line of argument would seem to present some difficulty for the White House, and not only because, as the Pentagon inspector general reported last month, al-Qaeda had no ties to Iraq before the U.S. invasion in 2003. More to the point: If the problem in Iraq isn't sectarian strife, then why is the U.S. military building walls to separate Sunni enclaves from Shiite neighborhoods?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A Gooper Alternative To YouTube


Republican White House veterans Charlie Gerow and Jeff Lord have created a new conservative video Web site called QubeTV, which they describe as an alternative to YouTube, a popular clearinghouse for sharing video files.

YouTube rose to prominence in political circles last year when former Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, had his infamous "macaca" moment posted on the site, which many believe led to his defeat by Democrat James H. Webb Jr.

Both Mr. Gerow and Mr. Lord, who served as aides during the Reagan administration, say QubeTV is necessary because of what they view as an anti-conservative bias by the administrators of YouTube.

"We saw a need for a social-networking site for the center-right," Mr. Gerow said of the site, at "They want something that isn't controlled by our good friends at Google."

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Anti-War Supplemental As Groundwork For Later Moves

Anti-war legislation on the way to President Bush for his promised veto represents a rare rebuke by Congress of a large and ongoing ground conflict, even eclipsing challenges made during the Vietnam War.

While a bill ordering troops home from an ongoing military mission is not unprecedented -- legislation aimed at conflicts in Somalia and Haiti are other examples -- the Iraq bill is an unusually swift feat by a Congress forcefully challenging a war involving thousands of U.S. troops.

"Congress is not shy usually about attempting to create problems for a president when a war becomes unpopular," said Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian and professor at Boston University. "But I think the significance here is that in a big war, they were able to at least get the legislation to the president's desk pretty early from a historical perspective." ...

The passage of the legislation in many ways surpasses congressional efforts to end the Vietnam War, a longer and far deadlier war for U.S. forces. Congress went years before it was able to agree on legislation significantly challenging presidential war policy, holding some 94 roll call votes on the war between 1966 and 1972, according to data provided by the Senate Historian office.

By the time legislation cutting off funds for the war went into effect in 1973, the U.S. military mission was already over. ...

William Howell, a war powers expert and associate professor at the University of Chicago, said whatever the historical significance of last week's vote, Democrats have gained considerable traction in opposing a wartime president because of the war's unpopularity.

"It establishes this marker so that not now, but six months from now ... Democrats can have the momentum to (override) a presidential veto" if the war is still going badly, Howell said. "Just because it doesn't pass doesn't mean it's not of consequence."

Zelizer agreed, adding that an anti-war vote is no easy task when U.S. troops are fighting abroad.

"It's harder to extricate yourself from a big war, not just strategically but politically," Zelizer said. "It's that first vote that's sometimes the hardest."