Saturday, October 04, 2003

Keeping Us Safe 

Kenneth "The Threatening Storm" Pollack in the NYT proves that he was really a double agent for the appeasers and quislings in the Democratic Party all along:

But within the C.I.A., the exposure of Ms. Plame is now considered an even greater instance of treachery. Ms. Plame, a specialist in nonconventional weapons who worked overseas, had "nonofficial cover," and was what in C.I.A. parlance is called a Noc, the most difficult kind of false identity for the agency to create. While most undercover agency officers disguise their real profession by pretending to be American embassy diplomats or other United States government employees, Ms. Plame passed herself off as a private energy expert. Intelligence experts said that Nocs have especially dangerous jobs.

"Nocs are the holiest of holies," said Kenneth M. Pollack, a former agency officer who is now director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. "This is real James Bond stuff. You're going overseas posing as a businessman, and if the other government finds out about you, they're probably going to shoot you. The United States has basically no way to protect you."

Nothing to see here, folks. She was clearly just an analyst, and besides everyone knew she was an operative, and besides if her identity was secret, no harm was done. And in any event, she was a Democrat.

Gloating Republicans used to taunt us for defending Clinton over Lewinsky, but I really don't see how one can sink much lower than defending this. Clinton was Alfred Dreyfus compared to the leakers and their accomplices in the Bush Administration.

The Best Little Whorehouse for Texans 

Over at Slate, where John Kerry's hairdo is a constant matter of grave concern, Jack Shafer assures us that the Plame scandal is likely much ado about nothing.

1) Shafer commits every armchair lawyer's biggest mistake, which is not reading the entire statute. Instead he bases his entire argument on paragraph (a) of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, and the assumption that the leakers were not authorized to receive classified information, to conclude that the leak to Novak did not reach the threshold for prosecution. Unfortunately for Shafer, paragraph (c) reads,

Whoever, in the course of a pattern of activities intended to identify and expose covert agents and with reason to believe that such activities would impair or impede the foreign intelligence activities of the United States, discloses any information that identifies an individual as a covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such individual and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such individual’s classified intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined under title 18, United States Code, or imprisoned not more than three years, or both. (emphasis added)

No requirement that the leaker be "authorized" here, Jack, and I daresay that shopping the same leak to 6 journalists before finding the not-too-bright Novak qualifies as a "pattern". As for the mens rea element of the offence, well, that's what trials are for, aren't they? Until you have a defendant you can't very well make that determination. But note that even here, the statute does not care much about actual motive or knowledge of the leaker, but whether the the leaker has "reason to believe" that the leak would harm intelligence activities.

I for one would be happy to listen to Bush Administration officials testify as to why there was no reason to believe that blowing the identity of a covert operative working on WMD's would have any effect on national security. It would certainly be a bracing change of pace from their usual imputations of treason to any critic of their policy, not to mention its carefully burnished image as Selfless Protector of the Nation.

2) Shafer ignores the background to passage of the Act. Here's what one person had to say at the Act's signing:

The Congress has carefully drafted this bill so that it focuses only on those who would transgress the bounds of decency; not those who would exercise their legitimate right of dissent. This carefully drawn act recognizes that the revelation of the names of secret agents adds nothing to legitimate public debate over intelligence policy. It is also a signal to the world that while we in this democratic nation remain tolerant and flexible, we also retain our good sense and our resolve to protect our own security and that of the brave men and women who serve us in difficult and dangerous intelligence assignments. (emphasis added)

The law is broadly intended to bar the revelations of agents' names for the purposes of influencing public debate over intelligence policy; it's not a narrowly tailored "Stop Phillip Agee Forever Act." Gee, it's almost like Reagan was channeling the Plame scandal. Imagine that.

3) Shafer is, as usual, missing the forest for the trees. Hell, he's even ignoring the trees. This is, it bears repeating, about sliming a career diplomat, ruining his spouse's career, and harming national security as political payback for publicly crossing the Bush Administration about lies told to lead us into a disastrous, illegal war. If that is legal, it only compounds the scandal.

Shafer should try working standing up for a change.



Wilson and his wife have hired Washington lawyer Christopher Wolf to represent them in the matter.

The couple has directed him to take a preliminary look at claims they might be able to make against people they believe have impugned their character, a source said.

I bet everyone named by the Wilsons will raise national security as a defense against having to answer questions. And the press will nod along.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Clark at War 

Good profile of Wesley Clark's conduct of the Kosovo campaign in the NYT that throws cold water on several of the memes being circulated by smearmongers on the Right, such as the Pristina airfield episode:

General Clark's plan was to put NATO troops on the airfield to make it impossible for reinforcements to land. But a British general, Mike Jackson, who was in charge of the peacekeeping force that was to stabilize Kosovo after the Serb troops withdrew and who now serves as the head of the British Army, complained that it was too risky, famously asserting, with some hyperbole, that it would be risking World War III.

Britain was the United States' staunchest ally, and so the Clinton administration decided to defer to the British position. Still, General Clark's recommendation was not rash; it was a judgment call that had been discussed in detail in Washington and that was initially supported at senior levels of the American government.

The reporter, Michael Gordon, covered the Kosovo war. Firsthand experience with his subject probably makes him automatically subversive to Clark's detractors on the Right, but sane people might want to go check out the article.

Who Says There's An Unemployment Problem? 

Good news from the NYTimes:

The nation's unemployment rate held steady at 6.1 percent in September as businesses added to payrolls for the first time in eight months, suggesting a turnaround in the weak job market.

A survey of U.S. companies showed a net increase of 57,000 jobs last month in wide-ranging industries, the Labor Department reported Friday, and there was new hope for recovery in the slumping manufacturing sector. Some 29,000 factory jobs were lost, but that was considerably fewer than in previous months.


Job losses in August, initially reported at 93,000, were sharply revised to 41,000, a positive sign, he said.

Wall Street extended its gains into a third day on the encouraging data, which reinforced investor hopes that the economy was recovering. In morning trading, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 103 points and the Nasdaq gained 11 points.

But this President is not about to rest on such narrowly based laurels. No siree.

The Bush administration said the reports were positive news. But President Bush will not be satisfied because ``people are still looking for work,'' said his chief spokesman, Scott McClellan.

As long as there is a single American who can't find work, this president will not rest from the arduous task of promoting exactly the same economic ideas with which he took office.

Bush is touting the job-creating power of small businesses as he looks to blunt news about an economy that is not generating enough jobs. He was meeting Friday with small business leaders in Milwaukee before giving a speech on the economy.

Bush was to renew a call for six steps that he has said would build confidence among employers and strengthen the economy, ranging from health care measures, streamlined regulations and restrictions on medical lawsuits to a comprehensive energy plan, expanded trade and tax breaks. Bush also has challenged Congress to make recently enacted tax cuts permanent rather let them expire on schedule.

On the other hand:

The number of jobless people looking for work for 27 weeks or more rose to 2.1 million last month. Also, people working part time because they can't find full-time work increased to nearly 5 million, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.

If my arch tone suggests some skepticism about the president's sincerity, it's not meant to. What the president does or does not genuinely feel about unemployment seems to me to be an irrelevancy, and surely one of the more obnoxious aspects of this administrations policies is its insistence that George Bush's personal, deeply felt commitment to this or that program is precisely how that policy should be judged.

Is it not the sourest of ironies that two of the most persistent raps on Bill Clinton, that there was something unseemly about his public display of "caring," and that such caring was a function of his own narcissism which meant that it was always about himself, turn out to be far more applicable to George W. Bush? What could be more narcissistic than the White House's schedule of events around the country, designed entirely to present evidence that the president cares about this or that issue, followed by an evening fund raiser at which the faithful are reassured for whom his true heart will always beat.

What matters is that Bush is continuing the madcap economics of the Reagan era, cut taxes, cut social spending, increase beyond all sense military spending, ignore deficits, but make sure their true dimension isn't ever glimpsed by using the surpluses of Social Security receipts to obscure that fact, yes that same supply side theory that Clinton won his first term by criticizing as a failed economic theory, and then spent the next eight years trying to clean up the mess that theory had made not only of the economy but of the social contract.

Since the SCLM always writes most about the large overarching storylines, as the economy picks up steam, that SCLM is going to create an illusion of growing economic strength, however unevenly is the distribution of its benefits, and however oblivious this administration remains to long-range problems like the underfunding of private pensions, or the continued reliance on non-rewnewable resources, all investment in renewable resources limited exclusively to lip service.

So it's not too soon for all of us who think that the advances in the quality of lilfe for growing numbers of Americans accomplished by Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, none of which even Nixon dared undo, are worthy of defense, to begin to consider how we at the grassroots level can assure that to the drumbeat we can expect from the finely tuned Republican propoganda machine, a countervailing flow of information will be getting out to the voters, even if it means a lot of us standing outside of supermarkets passing out flyers that reproduce stories that tell it like it is for far too many Americans, like this one published recently in the CSMonitor:

Underemployed: a euphemism for violent lifestyle change

By Barbara Card Atkinson

In our house, Bush's child-tax rebate checks went to past-due utility bills, groceries, and a full tank of gas. So much for stimulating the economy.

My husband and I are two of the almost 1 million "underemployed" in this country - a demure label for a violent lifestyle change. We, with our college degrees and previous incarnations as latte-swilling yuppies, are now attempting - and failing badly - to keep our family of four afloat on an average combined income of substantially less than $1,000 a month.

Like those others, we're holding our breath, waiting for the economy to rebound. For us, it's been more than a year. Our personal trajectory in the high-tech flameout happened to so many others that it's now cliché: the faltering of a dotcom job, the bankruptcy of a software company. We had great connections, my husband and I, so finding another job wouldn't be a problem, we thought.

Read the whole thing, it's a story worth remembering.

Howie the Whore Doing the Whore Thing 

With that inimitable sense of innocent wonderment that so becomes him, Howie wonders what on earth the connection, the thread out of the labyrinth, the elusive common factor could possibly be ... between The Arnis™ being outed as Der Gropester, Rush Limbaugh being outed as a racist and a man whose maid brings him back drugs in a cigar box, and the as-yet-not-outed White House official who outed Valerie Plame?

What could the connection be? Could it be .... liberal bias in the media?

Howie, no. There is a commmon factor, and I'll tell you what it is:

Republicans breaking the law in shamelessly scummy ways!

In reality, not as part of some ginned-up two-bit VWRC-funded whore-churned scandal...

Say, how's your wife, The Arnis™'s press secretary, doing on that Nazi thing?

More snake oil 

Bush on tax cuts.

Yep, they're responsible for our low, low unemployment rate of 6.1%!

The ever-excellent Orcinus 

Has excellent analysis of the Limbaugh flame-out, as well as a fine series (which I missed when it was first published) on the origins of the Bush family fortune.

The Plame Affair 

AP in time for lunch:

The Justice Department also sent a new letter to the White House requesting that it turn over some materials, spokesman Scott McClellan said Friday.

"Some materials" ... Hmmm...

Meanwhile, the Democrats continue to hammer on Ashcroft's refusal to recuse himself. Schumer points out that Ashcroft did recuse himself in the 2001 probe of former Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., because Torricelli had campaigned against Ashcroft in the attorney general's unsuccessful bid for re-election as a senator from Missouri in 2000. And in 2002, Ashcroft recused himself from an Enron investigation because he had received $60,000 from Enron in campaign contributions. So why doesn't he recuse himself in a situation where he paid one of the (potential) suspects in a criminal investigation $300,000 in consulting fees?

And ABC's The Note tells the White House to brace themselves "for some new bylines to show up on the Wilson story perhaps quite soon." Seymour Hersh would be nice...

Speaking of bylines: The Howler deconstructs a piece by Jennifer Harper of the Washington Times. It seems that in her coverage of public opinion "beyond the Beltway" she manages not to mention that 82 percent of the American people called The Plame Affair "serious" until the last third of the piece. Isn't 82% is a lot of "beyond"?

UPDATE: AP gives detail on a memo from White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales to White House staffers on how to comply with DOJ's request for more documents. Staffers have until Tuesday to turn everything over to him and will have to sign a "certificate" saying they've turned everything relevant over. The story says that Gonzales wants "electronic records, correspondence, computer records, notes and calendar entries." From DOD and State, however, DOJ wants "phone logs, e-mails and other documents." Interesting that phone logs (and cell phone bills?) are on DOJ's list, but not on the White House list. Just the reporting, or something more? Again, "some materials" ...

The Plame Affair today (is Bush off the hook?); versus Whitewater (back).

...Some of the People All of the Time 

So he's a recognized screwup on the economy, and now he's a recognized screwup on foreign policy. Yet he's still perceived as a "leader." And if that's not risible enough, he's also perceived as having "more honesty and integrity than most people in public life and 6 in 10 credit him with making the country safer from terrorist attack."

The "leadership" question didn't rule out "leading the country off a cliff," so perhaps that poll result doesn't prove that 60% of Americans are complete imbeciles. But honest? There's some deep, deep denial going on. Someone you love needs a copy of this under the Christmas tree. As Atrios observes, at 300+ pages, this must just be Volume I.


MoveOn, against Der Groper.

The Plame Affair 

Well, the Plame Affair seems to be losing steam—NPR gave it a sentence this morning, placed in the context of the larger "struggle for Iraq" (as the Times would put it). However, as alert reader anonymous reminds us, these things take time. And alert reader Melanie points out that the CIA will drive the schedule.

The original story is as compelling as ever: A White House official shops a story all around DC designed to undermine the reputation of Niger yellowcake whistleblower Joseph Wilson, for revenge, and in the process reveals the identity of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA operative in WMD, which is a felony. Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame agrees, saying "It seems to me appropriate to find out if somebody in the White House put ideology above the law."

To repeat: A potential felony, committed by a high White House official. Motives: intimidation and revenge. That should be the story.

Three factors are converging to reframe and bury the story—not all, it must be said, driven by the White House.

First, the press is framing the story under the heading "Iraq"; that is what NPR did this morning, and that is what the Kremlinology yesterday did as well.

This takes the focus off the commission of a crime, and puts the focus on Inside Baseball-style political commentary and "analysis." (The keyword is "partisan squabbling" or putting the word scandal in quotes.) Here the press is much more comfortable, since no legwork or reportage is required, and little in the way of actual work. Moreover, no offense need be given to powerful sources. (Today, the Post put "Steno Sue" Schmidt on the case, presumably hoping that the great work she did with Ken Starr's "career prosecutors" will be repeated with the DOJ investigators in The Plame Affair.)

Second, the press will not focus on its sourcing, nor on its behavior. Obviously, it's necessary for the press to protect sources, or there'd be no whistleblowers at all—and indeed, the intricate dance of "anonymous sources", "administration officials," "White House aides," "confirmation" and so forth would come to a halt. This predictable story is how the news is done. So the idea of simply subpoena-ing Novak, in whose column Plame's name first appeared, for the name of the criminal who revealed Plame's identity is not on. (Incidentally, the statute under which the criminal would be prosecuted protects Novak.)

However. The criminal shopped the story to six different journalists/news organizations. As Atrios wrote yesterday, every Beltway insider already knows the name of the criminal. Only the American citizen doesn't know. As Richard Cohen wrote yesterday of the original story, "Somehow, someone got in with a conscience." But the person with a conscience was the administration official who broke the original story of the crime.

We have yet to see a person with a conscience come forward from journalism. For example, the Post wrote a "balanced" editorial this morning on whether an independent counsel might shield the investigation from political pressure. Well and good—but suppose that one of the six different journalists to whom the criminal shopped the story was a Post reporter?

Will the Post break the logjam by asking its reporters to see of their source will release them from their pledge of confidentiality in this matter? From its side, will the White House break the logjam by asking its officials to release journalists from their pledge of confidentiality in this matter? If not, the press and the White House are colluding to maintain business as usual regarding sourcing and the creation of the news, and that is a new story.

Third, DOJ and the White House together have reframed the story. The story is a felony committed by a White House official. The FBI, however, is treating The Plame Affair as a leak of classified information. This shifts the focus from the White House to the White House, DOD, and State. That is, instead of a circle of suspects of perhaps twenty people—remember, the original story said quite explicitly that the criminal was an administration official, not some underling at DOD or State—the circle of suspects is in the 100s. Still, the circle of 20 is where the DOJ intends to start. According to several reports, the the DOJ will "move quickly" "within days" to interview those who have been named in the press as possible perpretrators. However, as a letter from Ashcroft to Hastert, cc Cheney, makes clear if you read between the lines, the whole purpose of "investigating" leaks is not to catch anyone. That is the true "expertise" of the "career prosecutors" in this field at DOJ. (Letter via Atrios alert reader Sovok.)

In the days of Nixon, the press would have called that stonewalling. Stories headlined "Leak investigation could go beyond White House" signalled the success of this tactic, as did the analysts who agreed that the investigation is going to take a very long time. (It would, as Josh Marshall has suggested, be simpler to release Karl Rove's phone logs, which the White House has done when it served their purposes.) Of course, "where there's a will, there's a way" as John Dean points out in Salon (get the one-day). Judge Norma Holloway Johnson tried Starr leaker Bakaly during Whitewater, with success.

The bottom line for today: Bush thinks he's off the hook, and he might be right.

"I'm against leaks," Bush said, to laughter. "I would suggest all governments get to the bottom of every leak of classified information." Turning to the reporter who asked the question, Martin Mbugua of the Daily Nation, Kenya's largest daily newspaper, Bush said, "By the way, if you know anything, Martin, would you please bring it forward and help solve the problem?"

"Everybody needs to have a good abogado," Bush said, drawing laughter as he used the Spanish word for "lawyer." "I've got a really good one," he added, to more laughter. "Al Gonzales is my lawyer and close friend."

As before, the answer is for someone with a conscience to step forward. Will it happen? Who will write the J'Accuse for The Plame Affair?

Other aspects of The Plame Affair include:

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Ever notice how Bush has trouble finding stuff? 



Saddam Hussein....

The criminal in the White House who outed Valerie Plame...

Why is that?

UPDATE: Thanks to alert reader radish for reminding me of Saddam. I knew there was something....

The Plame Affair: White House playing defense 

Helpful Democrats have suggested a variety of ways for the criminal investigation in The Plame Affair to proceed expeditously (great Newsday coverage), including having White House officials sign affidavits or take polygraph tests to the effect that they didn't identify intelligence operative Valerie Plame, and that any staffer who refused to participate should be fired—apparently all standard investigative techniques in cases of this kind. (Interestingly, the Heritage Foundation advocates this course as well.) At this point, however, no investigators have showed up, and the realization is dawning that the probe could take a long time. No White House staffers have hired lawyers, as of yet.

This morning, an anonymous Republican Senator also tried to be helpful: "The lesson that all of these people never learn is: Cut your losses... The mistake they are making is the classic error - deny, obfuscate, delay, etc."

Could that helpful Senator have been (notoriously loose though Pennsylvanian cannon) Arlen Spector? Says Spector this afternoon: "[R]ecusal is something Ashcroft ought to consider." Interestingly, Spector was not on the list we gave earlier of Senators that the White House was watching, suggesting that the White House political operation is less efficient than usual right now. In fact, the White House assessment only this morning of "So far so good"—"There's nervousness on the part of the party leadership, but no defections in the sense of calling for an independent counsel"—has already collapsed. (Who would the Attorney General recuse himself in favor of except an independent counsel?)

Meanwhile, White House spokesman Scott McClellan seems to be taking refuge in technicalities. He categorized the above suggestions as "hypothetical" and refused to say whether Rove had encouraged journalists to write about Plame. "We're not going to go down every single allegation that someone makes. We can do that all day long. Let's stay focused on what the issue is here."

And speaking of technical details, the 11 hour delay between DOJ's "heads up" to the White House and the formal criminal referral was just about the time that Ollie North needed to destroy evidence back in the Iran-Contra affair, according to John Barrett, former federal prosecutor and law professor at St. John's university.

And speaking of criminal referrals, the process goes like this:

Justice Department officials say they received a CIA "crime report" about possible disclosure of classified information soon after Novak's column, then sent the agency a list of 11 standard questions to answer about the case. Those answers were received last week, leading to the decision to begin a probe.

So what did the DOJ ask, and what did the CIA answer? And what will the DOJ ask the other agencies, and what will they answer?

The Plame Affair today here; as treason here; versus Whitewater here. Oh, and there's Kremlinology from The Times and MSNBC.

UPDATE: Ashcroft's DOJ now expects other agencies, like the DOD and State, to be involved in the probe as well. This is interesting, since the original story involved White House officials, limiting the circle of suspects to about twenty. Widening the probe (what for?) would expand that circle to hundreds and take months. But surely there's no need for that? ABC's The Note reports that WaPo has returned to the language suggesting that the criminal was a "senior administration official" motivated by a desire for revenge.

UPDATE: The newest line seems to be that the White House didn't really want vengeance—the motive for the crime assigned by the officials who originally sparked this story (back)— the White House simply had "the desire to explain why, in their view, Wilson wasn’t a neutral investigator" when he did the investigation of the Niger yellowcake story. This line has its problems: if the White House only wanted to attack Wilson's neutrality, why not just do that, instead of revealing his wife's identity as an intelligence operative, which is a Federal crime?

UPDATE: DOJ's acting deputy Robert McCallum "is an old friend and Yale classmate" of Bush's; "both were members of the secret Skull & Bones Society at Yale."

UPDATE: Thanks to alert reader Sidhe.

UPDATE: Although the administration proposes to leave the matter in the hands of its career prosecutors, this will be difficult to carry out in practice, since DOJ regulations require the Attorney General to sign all subpoenas.

Someone remind the Dems not to go up in small planes 

Like the one numbered N8354N.

Thank heavens for Google caching, where we can look at the (now scrubbed) site for this (former) Republican staffer's views:

The title of this blog ["N8354N"] marks an inflection point in current Missouri politics -- on that day, the worm began to turn.

Right. "N8354N" was the number of the small plane that crashed, killing Democratic Senator Mel Carnahan.

Some "inflection point," the death of an opponent, eh?

Wonder what's up with that Wellstone investigation....

The Plame Affair: Treason, not a "leak" 

So says the father of Johnny "Mike" Spann, another dead American intelligence operative.

"If someone in the Bush administration leaked this, they need to be punished, and they need to be made an example of, because that's not just a leak, that's treason," Spann, of Winfield, Ala., told The Associated Press. "They should appoint an independent counsel so the American people can be sure, and let the chips fall where they may."

As Clyde Prestowitz remarked on ABC

Politics is a contact sport, of course. But even in football, you have rules against illegal contact and I think this one clearly is in that category.

Except that this is not a game....

No, I don't think the White House's "leaks are bad" line is going to stick ....

The Plame Affair today here; the Plame Affair versus Whitewater here.

Postcards from Over the Edge 

The Freeper thread on the providentially nicknamed Rush is just too delicious. Highlights:
"Look at there full court press, going after Arnold on the groping, GWB and Ashcroft on this CIA thing, and Now Rush with a Drug Habit.

If this isn't Hillary and Co. and the Art of Personal Destruction Crowd trying to pull down ALL GOP numbers so she can throw her hat in the ring, I am Richard Millhouse [sic] Nixon.

I am not a Tim Foil Hat Type but ..."

"I agree with you - this is the beginning of something that I can't even imagine.

I need to remember to take a deep breath (a VERY deep breath) and - being a Christian - I will then remember that God IS in Control!!

May God have mercy on us."






"Rush - say it ain't so - Rush --PLEASE, say it ain't so!!"
To quote Morpheus: "Welcome to the real world."

Wall of Denial 

Life being a heavy-handed ironist, I am of course listening to that Great Republican, Stevie Ray Vaughan, when I pull up the latest news about El Rushbo:
A wall of denial
Is fallin' down
Wo it's fallin' so hard
Down to the ground
Never knew something so strong
Could be washed away by tears
But this wall of denial
Was just built on fear
Bill "The Bookie" Bennett, Plame-gate, the Gropinator, now this.

The way things ought to be, indeed.

Looks like some folks are having trouble detoxing, however. Maybe David Brock can organize a group intervention?

The Plame Affair 

The Plame Affair is viewed as "very serious" by 48% of those polled by the Washington Post. 68% of them think that an outsider should be in charge of the criminal investigation. (Here is the law.)

Of course, an insider is in charge: John Ashcroft, who is in a "delicate position" because of his deep ties to all the officials he is about to investigate for the commision of the crime. In particular, Karl Rove (a leading suspect) was a paid consultant on three of Ashcroft's campaigns. Interestingly, even Rove associates think that Ashcroft is going to have to recuse himself. It doesn't help that someone at DOJ gave the White House a "heads up" before the officially notifying them of the investigation (Atrios); some might see that as giving a criminal the chance to destroy evidence.

Unless the White House can keep the lid on. Reframing the story as a "leaks are bad" story (example) has brought the Bush damage control team some success, if the metric is headlines. (Though see AP here.) Most of the headlines use the word "leak," and the story has dropped off the breaking news on the wires.

However, the "leaks are bad" line is so weak that it's hard to believe that it will hold up for long; the polling data above suggest it's already been discounted by the public. Richard Cohen of WaPo risks stating what must be obvious to all: "[H]ypocrisy was on display Tuesday when President Bush indignantly declared war on leaking, asserting that there are 'just too many leaks.' The president, as is his wont, misspoke. What he meant to condemn are leaks that do damage to his administration." So DeLay distributing paper sacks labeled "Leak Hyperventilation Bags," while cute, probably won't have much impact outside the Hill. (It's hard to see how the atmosphere there could be more embittered than it already is.)

So fresh damage control tactics are already emerging from the White House, as Tresy has already seen (back). The White House is now trying to make Plame's husband, Ambassador Wilson, the issue, asserting that Wilson, the yellowcake whistleblower, contributed to the Democratic Party (example). Josh Marshall deals with that high floater by pointing out that Wilson also contributed to the Republican party; and whether he did or not, that has nothing to do with whether a White House official committed a crime by revealing the identity of Ambassador Wilson's wife, an intelligence operative.
Unlike Whitewater (back), this one is serious.

Meanwhile, the defense that Plame was just an analyst—that the criminal could not have blown her cover since she had no cover to blow—has been quietly dropped; it turns out that Plame was, indeed, an operative, and so the law applies. Condi Rice's line that the CIA's criminal referral to the DOJ was just a routine matter has also been dropped.

With regard to the potential for an independent investigation, the Republicans are trying out the "overreaching" meme for themselves, but it's hard to see how that will stick, given the prima facie case for the commission of a felony. Here again, the Republicans are trying a line that the polling data suggests people have already discounted.

Republican tactics depend on making sure that no Republicans break ranks. The Republicans the White House is watching include Senators John McCain of Arizona, Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and John W. Warner of Virginia, and Representative Porter J. Goss of Florida. And it looks like Hagel is breaking ranks already.

Finally, a new suspect has emerged: "Scooter" Libby from Cheney's Office (Josh Marshall). (Readers may remember the Veteran Intelligence Professionals and the work they did to bring Cheney's intimidation of the intelligence community to light as the White House built the case for the Iraq war.)

In the world outside the Beltway, crises fester. It's unfortunate that accurately assessing and interpreting North Korea's announcement that it has plutonium and will make bombs with it depends on the WMD intelligence community—exactly the community that Plame worked in as an intelligence operative.

Unless, of course, the Bush administration has already decided to go to war.

$600 million for more WMD inspection in Iraq 

More than half a billion to cover aWol's narrow ass.

That's one expensive ass!

Some differences between The Plame Affair and Whitewater 

1. With the Plame Affair, there's a prima facie case that a crime had been committed. Revealing the identity of an intelligence operative is a felony. Not so with Whitewater. There, investigation was needed to determine whether a crime had been committed.

2. With the Plame Affiar, the national security is involved. Plame worked as an operative, and worked in the WMD field. Not so with Whitewater, a decade-old failed real estate speculation.

3. With Whitewater, there was never any sense to it. That's why the story kept changing. Everyone knew that whatever Bill Clinton cared about, it wasn't making money in real estate. (When we got to Monica, there was a story that made sense at last, but that was several years down the line, and had nothing to do with the real estate deal that sparked the initial investigation.)

In The Plame Affair, by contrast, the motivation of the Bush administration is quite straightforward: to intimidate whistleblowers by ruining their careers. Anne Gerhart of WaPo has a real thumbsucker trying to "puzzle out" the logic of the crime (not "leak," crime).

Could it just possibly be intimidation—not just of whistleblowers in the intelligence community, but whistle blowers in Plame's field, the WMD community? After all, with North Korea and Iran posing proliferation issues—and most of our strength tied down in Iraq—the administration has every incentive to keep very tight control of WMD intelligence. (They may have concluded that the lesson of Iraq was not that the intelligence was bad, but that the story broke.)

4. With Whitewater, there was an entire quasi-journalistic cottage industry and meme tranmission apparatus funded—note that word—by the right-wing (Scaife, et al.) dedicated to keeping the story before the public by constantly generating scandal. There is no VWRC in The Plame Affair.

5. With Whitewater, the regular press (especially the Times) brought the memes transmitted by the into the mainstream. There is no equivalent to the VWLC in The Plame Affair.

6. In Whitewater, the "independent" counsel statute was in force. Not so with The Plame Affair. For the crime to be investigated properly, and for justice to be done, professionals in both the criminal justice system (John Dion, a 30-year career prosecutor at DOJ) and the press will have to be allowed to do their jobs, will have to do them, and will have to be seen to do them.

7. Whitewater was never genuine grounds for impeachment; it was not a "high crime." The Plame Affair, since it involves both the national security and the commission of a felony, is.

8. In Whitewater, the elected President was a Democrat, and the government was divided. In The Plame Affair, the President is a Republican, and all three branches of government are in Republican hands.

Another winger pundit down in flames 

Bennett, Savage Weiner, now Colonel Blimp himself.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Living on a Thin Line* 

The Bushies are continuing to push the notion (as parrotted by Tucker Carlson on Crossfire today) that there's a scandal of some sort in the CIA sending the allegedly "negligent" Joe Wilson to Niger, seemingly forgetting that the Administration itself has long since admitted that the uranium claim was bogus, confirming Wilson's report.

If only we'd sent someone who didn't let facts get in the way of ideology, seems to be the argument, we wouldn't have all these problems.

Smear your critics, and when that blows up in your face, throw rationality overboard and smear them some more. It's like some collective form of mental illness with these people.



Wingers Coulter and convicted felon Ollie North at an official Boy Scout rally, trashing Democrats as quislings and finding gay people "personally offensive."

Oh the humanity! 

And speaking of gasbags going down in flames...

A little confusion at The Newspaper of Record—Not! 

Yes, they're still running that headline, "The Struggle for Iraq," but under it are the following bullet points:

  • Text: White House Counsel's E-mail

  • Justice Dept. Starts Inquiry on Leak of C.I.A. Officer's Identity (Aug. 8, 2003)

  • Joseph C. Wilson's Op-Ed: 'What I Didn't Find in Africa' (July 6, 2003)

Really, these items don't have a lot do with the "struggle" for Iraq, do they?

They have to do with the (now potentially criminal) nature of the Bush regime and the character of those who have gained power within it—a subject the Times has resolutely refused to face up to, with the honorable exception of some of its editorial writers, like Paul Krugman.

C'mon, guys! WaPo is beating you like a gong on this story!

That word "criminal" 

It's important to remember, as the White House desperarately tries to make the Plame Affair an issue of leaking in general, or a problem with the press, or a "routine matter," or anything but what it is—a case where a White House official (potentially) broke the law— to keep using the word "criminal."

Remember, Plame was a CIA operative, and revealing the identity of an operative is a felony.

Felonies are committed by criminals.

Therefore, there is a potential criminal in the White House, and we need to discover who it is (or who they are). That's the issue, and let's keep the focus on it.

Good Idea 

Freeway blogging.

Probably seen by more eyeballs than Atrios, too.

The Morality of Bush Hating 

Following on the timid Molly Ivins, who wants Democrats to confine themselves to polite disagreement about Bush's "wrong" policies, Bob Somerby thinks Jonathan Chait should have kept his big mouth shut instead of running "to hand his head to the cons" with his New Republic piece, Mad at You." Chait's thought crime? Saying he "hates" Bush, thereby supposedly vindicating the current vogue for exposing vile "Bush hating" among liberals.

Digby has had typically trenchant things to say about the GOP's sudden, touching concern for Democrats' mental health that I can't possibly improve upon. However, Somerby's chastisement of Chait, and Ivins' advocacy of unilateral disarmament, marks a peculiar turn in the evolution of this debate that cries out for response.

It's certainly true, as Somerby amply documents, that "Clinton hating" during the 90s had a much wider and more demented cast to it, than "Bush hating" does now. However, in so doing Somerby commits the fallacy of treating "irrational hate" as a redundancy, so that it is not possible to properly and validly hate someone.

On the contrary, as Robert Wright would agree, hate is one of the moral emotions, whose evolutionary utility is to enforce social values by mobilizing the collective disapproval of society at flagrant violations of those norms. Simply put, hate is healthy when it functions to identify and punish the most serious malefactors. The question, then, is whether a given hatred is well-founded, or if it is simply the hypocritical expression of the hater's own aggrieved self-interest tricked up in moral garb.

This is where the spuriousness of the comparison between Bush- and Clinton hating completely breaks down. Unlike the case for hating Clinton, the case for hating Bush does not depend in any way, shape or form on manufactured evidence, speculation about motives, or unwarranted inferences from known facts. (No, I'm not saying Clinton didn't do anything worthy of censure.) You don't have to believe in the Bush family's connection to the Nazis, his possible desertion from the Air National Guard, whether he "let 9/11 happen," or even the role of oil interests in motivating the rush to invade Iraq. The real grounds for hating Bush, which Chait eloquently lays out, is the complete mockery his life, persona, and policies make of the very Christian values that he and his followers claim to promote, of honesty, hard work, compassion, frugality, humility, and sincerity, to name just a few.

This is a professedly "moral" man (and movement), after all, who has knowingly set us up for an unavoidable fiscal crisis a decade from now by repeatedly lying to the voters about his policies (and appealing to their short-sightedness) in order to line his own class' pockets; in the process he is undermining, likely intentionally, social institutions and compacts between generations that have taken decades to nurture. And that's just for starters. What's not to hate?

If we aren't allowed to state this baldly and with a healthy sense of outrage, we're not being fully human, and we're certainly not fulfilling our responsibilities to each other as moral citizens. As Chait puts it in a rebuttal to David Brooks and others yesterday, "[I]f Brooks wants to proscribe all Bush-haters, not just the conspiracy-mongers, then what he seeks isn't a higher level of discourse but raw partisan advantage." Hating Bush openly is not "handing one's head to the cons"--that's holding one's head up, and speaking the truth to illegitimate and abusive power.

The Big Picture 

The standard GOP gambit when caught in yet another scandal is to define culpability as narrowly and irrelevantly as possible, and then shout vindication when they successfully stonewall investigation on that issue. This was successfully deployed in Iran-contra, where the failure to prove that the demented Regan "knew" of the sale of arms to a terrorist nation was used to paint the entire investigation as a witchhunt and ultimately justify Bush I's pardons. The dodge this time, as Lambert reminds us, is to shift the discussion onto leaks generally to minimize this particular one. So let's keep the big picture in focus here. Someone in the White House:
  • repeatedly leaked the name of a CIA agent to the press
  • breaking federal law and jeopardizing national security
  • to exact political payback
  • for the exposure of lies
  • uttered by the President
  • to the public
  • to justify putting American lives at risk
  • in a war that itself was illegal.

    It doesn't get much uglier than this. We can't let them get away with reframing the issue.

  • The criminal investigation in the Plame Affair 

    The crime: Revealing the name of a CIA operative is a felony that carries a penalty of up to 10 years in jail and a $50,000 fine. In this case, the name of a CIA operative, Valerie Plame, was revealed to two journalists (Robert Novak and Time magazine). Note that the law applies not on the journalists for printing the name, but on their source, who revealed it.

    Means: The White House shopped the story involving Plame to at least six journalists and/or publications, two of whom (Robert Novak and Time) printed it.

    Motive: The administration officials involved in the story suggest "vengeance" (back). Valerie Plame is the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson, the whistleblower on the Niger yellowcake uranium story. Wilson suggests the additional motive of intimidating whistleblowers by attacking their families.

    Suspects: The prime suspect is Karl Rove (Borger in the Guardian). The body language of the press suggests Karl Rove (scroll down); however, Cheney's office is also a possibility. (An otherwise mysterious comment by Bush at at a Chicago fundraiser suggests that Cheney is indeed the criminal: "Our country has had no finer vice president than Dick Cheney. Mother may have a different opinion."

    Opportunity: Any White House official with sufficient clearance, whose job involves dealing with critics of the administration by neutralizing them. It's possible that the criminal was simply ignorant of the law; this would suggest a domestic Republican operative (i.e., Rove) rather than a national security apparatchik.

    The investigation: Run by the DOJ, with the FBI doing the legwork. The investigation was immediately compromised by DOJ informing the White House on Monday evening that the probe was underway, while White House counsel Alberto Gonzales only issued a memo to staff to retain records the following morning. Whether the delay was inadvertant or not, it would give the criminal plenty of time to destroy any records of his (or her) crime.

    White house tactics: The most recent memos from Gonzales, and Bush's recent talking points, try to take the focus off the actions of the criminal, and make the story one of leaking in general. This has the two-fold advantage of (a) taking the focus off the White House and putting it on the SCLM, and (b) intimidating the press and securing more favorable coverage. (Atrios; Josh Marshall.)

    Interesting questions:

    1. Why not simply subpoena the phone logs for the White House to find out who the criminal talked to on or around the date of Novak's column, which the White House has already done when it was to their advantage? (Josh Marshall) Assuming that the criminal didn't use a cell, of course.

    2. Will the DOJ pull an Ollie North? That is, grant immunity to members of the press or White House officials as a way of damping down the scandal and making sure the criminal goes free? (Atrios.)

    3. Who are the administration officials who gave details of the crime to WaPo and the press?

    4. Who are the other 4 journalists that the criminal shopped the story to?

    5. The original column from the now backtracking Novak was printed months ago, and journalists Paul Krugman and David Corn immediately wrote that it was evidence of the commission of a crime by an administration official. Why was a felony committed by a White House official not a story then?

    6. Why did Tenet spark the scandal by referring the case to the DOJ?

    7. Was Plame (merely) an analyst or an intelligence operative? The backtracking Novak suggests the former, but CIA officials (quoted by Drudge using an (uncited) transcript from Atrios) say otherwise.

    And last but not least: 8. What is a good name for the scandal? One that will keep the focus on the White House criminal, and so defeat the tactics of the Bush gang?

    UPDATE: Kos is going with "The Plame Affair" as well. I like it because "gate" is a cliche by now. "Affair" also pays homage to the Dreyfus Affair, which was a battle for the soul of France, much as resistance to the Bush regime is a battle for the soul of America.

    Tuesday, September 30, 2003

    "Pentagon Plans Huge 'Homeland Defense' Dirigible" 


    Yeah, I hear Rush isn't doing so well at ESPN so I guess he's seeking other employment....

    Don't Believe That Schwnis Polls 

    I suppose this should be aimed primarily at California residents.

    MoveOn.org is notifying those of us who do and are about to vote in an absurd but dangerous recall election, not to pay attention to that Gallup poll that seems to say to those of us who are determined to resist the advances of the Arnold candidacy, give up, don't resist, just relax and enjoy it. The poll was enough for almos all pundits to tell the public it's over, why vote.

    Pundits almost always lie, and even numbers sometimes do...it's not over, it's closer than it may look, and MoveOn offers this from Charlie Cook to add some perspective:

    "While the Gallup Poll is normally reliable, strategists in both parties are scoffing at a Gallup Poll in California that showed the 'yes' position on the recall of Gov. Gray Davis registering a whopping 63 percent. Private polling by both Democratic and Republican pollsters shows something quite different. In those polls, 'yes' runs between 51 percent and 53 percent and, on the replacement ballot question, Republican actor Arnold Schwarzenegger is usually ahead of Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante by three to four points."

    In addition, they offer these links:

    For in-depth coverage of polling in the recall election, check out this Sacramento Bee article:http://www.sacbee.com/content/politics/recall/story/7510384p-8452348c.html

    This Christian Science Monitor article has more coverage of just how wide-open this race still is:

    Seven days left and MoveOn has all kinds of things for all of us who live out here to do. Go here to sign up for day by day emails that will give you ways to feel better about the world.

    This is from today's communique:

    Since yesterday more than 15,000 people have joined our No Recall team. We're 260,000 strong: pledged to stop the madness, stop the recall and stop Arnold Schwarzenegger. There are enough of us to win this. All we need to do is act -- every single one of us, this week, today, right now.

    The first action in our seven-day countdown is easy. We're asking you to print out a No Recall sign and post it somewhere visible such as a window, your cubicle or a public place. Print out a sign and let's get the momentum going. There are so many of us. Let's show California that No Recall is winning!

    The signs are really nifty. You can find them here.

    If you're not here in California, but know someone who is here, well, you know what to do.

    As Tresy has observed, getting out the news is too important to be left to the professionals.

    Just Standard Procedure; So Says The Attorney-General 

    The Dept of Justice is moving forward on an investigation of who outed Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame as a CIA, well a CIA something or other.

    This after having the referral from the CIA, based on their own investigation establishing that a potential crime had been committed, for at leasts two months. Just standard procedure, claimed General Ashcroft. Just standard procedure to wait until the subject blows up in the media. Sounds about right to me.

    The Counsel to the President, Alberto R. Gonzales, informed the White House staff in a message this morning that the Justice Department would be sending a letter instructing employees to "preserve all materials that might be relevant to its investigation."

    The letter, Mr. Gonzales's message said, "will provide more specific instructions on the materials in which it is interested, and we will communicate those instructions directly to you. In the meantime, you must preserve all materials that might in any way be related to the Department's investigation."

    Mr. Gonzales's message said the White House had been notified of the investigation on Monday evening.

    So White House personnel will have had at least twenty-four hours before it's spelled out for them what they should be preserving in the way of materials. Not that I don't trust each and every last person who make up that personnel, but I can't help but remember how the Republicans, all Republicans, every last bloody one of them, never stopped haunting and taunting the Clinton White House on the assumption that any possible opening for dishonesty meant that a dishonesty could be assumed to have happened. What would they have made of that twenty-four hours notice to get rid of anything that might prove embarrassing if it had been pre-suicidal Vince Foster. Dare one even imagine?

    Damands by Democrats that a special prosecutor be appointed? Purely partisan, we're told by Republicans, with the straightest of straight faces.

    Remember when Clinton had agreed to ask for appointment of an Independent Councel to investigate the Clinton's investment in the Whitewater property, and any ties they might have had to Madison Guarantee, despite the fact that all of that was under investigation by the RTC, and AG Reno consulted with congressional Republicans before appointing, with their approval, a Republican independent councel, and once the Independent Councel Act was reauthorized, Republicans demanded, and then got from a panel of Repuglican Judges appointed by Republican Chief Justice Rhenquist, removal of that independent councel on the basis that his appointment, just his appointment, mind youl, by the administration's AG constituted the appearance of conflict of interest? Remember that? But Bush's AG doing the entire investigation of a potential felony committed by someone high up in the adiministration? Not to worry, you partisan fools.

    What must these thugs really think of the American polity? Methinks laughing all the way to the bank, just about covers it.

    For additonal insight, Cal Pundit has some terrific stuff up, especially his summary of the evidence for Valerie Plame's status as a deep cover agent, and including a link to this fascinating summary by Alan Brill at Right Christians of the reaction by Christian Hawks, (his nomenclature)to the L'affaire Plame. Great stuff. Don't skip the comments.

    Also, don't miss this worthy addition to the discussion by James C. Moore, who wrote the book, ("Bush's Brain") on Karl Rove, in a reluctant Buzzflash editorial.

    I am very tired of writing about Karl Rove. Lately, though, I have felt a kind of moral obligation, and almost a patriotic duty to remind people of the man who really runs the White House. Politically, and strategically, nothing has happened in the Bush Administration without Rove's imprimatur. Reporters have discovered Rove’s steely control in the form of what they call a leak proof White House. Nothing comes out of the Bush White House without Rove's approval. Generally, that means nothing comes out of the White House.

    Until Karl Rove wants something to leak.

    And it gets better.

    David Brooks 

    What a hoser. The Times cleans house, and this is what we get?

    If you can't stand the heat, serve warmed over tripe....

    All Eyez on Rove 

    Terence Hunt of the AP writes:

    The focus on Rove brought an odd twist to Bush's travels. When the president boarded Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington, he walked up the steps and waved - and not a single camera followed. He looked momentarily perplexed. All lenses were trained on Rove at the bottom of the steps.

    Heh heh heh...

    But NPD crushed to earth will rise again...

    It's a bird—it's a Plame— 

    It's Super Scandal!

    The FBI starts the investigation.

    Of course, this is only the investigation of a potential felony committed by White House officials, not anything important, like a travel office firing or a twenty-year-old failed real estate deal or a b******b, so there's obviously no reason for any independent investigation, or even for the Newspaper of Record—Not! to make it front page news...

    And if the Times puts Jeff Gerth on this story, I'm going to hang myself.

    Krugman is back, thank Heavens 

    The cronyism of the Bush Gang is holding back Iraqi reconstruction. here:

    For example, in July two enterprising Middle Eastern firms started offering cellphone service in Baghdad, setting up jury-rigged systems compatible with those of neighboring countries. Since the collapse of Baghdad's phone system has been a major source of postwar problems, coalition authorities should have been pleased.

    But no: the authorities promptly shut down the services. Cell service, they said, could be offered only by the winners in a bidding process — one whose rules, revealed on July 31, seemed carefully designed to shut out any non-American companies. (In the face of strenuous protests the rules were revised, but still seem to favor the usual suspects.) Oddly, the announcement of the winners, originally scheduled for Sept. 5, keeps being delayed. Meanwhile, only Paul Bremer and his people have cellphones — and, thanks to the baffling decision to give that contract to MCI, even those phones don't work very well. (Aside from the fact that its management perpetrated history's biggest accounting fraud, MCI has no experience in building cell networks.

    Gosh, it's sure going to be hard for the Iraqis to write that Constitution without cellphones. Or power, for that matter. And by "power," I mean "electrical power" ....


    From AP vis the Kansas City Star here:

    Text of an e-mail to White House staff Tuesday from counsel Alberto R. Gonzales about the Justice Department's investigation about the leak of a CIA officer's identity:

    PLEASE READ: Important Message From Counsel's Office

    We were informed last evening...

    And what were they going between then and when this memo was sent? Wiping the disks and running the shredder? Faking the phone logs?—or bringing out the second set?

    ... by the Department of Justice that it has opened an investigation into possible unauthorized disclosures concerning the identity of an undercover CIA employee. The department advised us that it will be sending a letter today instructing us to preserve all materials that might be relevant to its investigation. Its letter will provide more specific instructions on the materials in which it is interested, and we will communicate those instructions directly to you. In the meantime, you must preserve all materials that might in any way be related to the department's investigation. Any questions concerning this request should be directed to Associate Counsels Ted Ullyot or Raul Yanes in the counsel to the president's office. The president has directed full cooperation with this investigation.

    Say, isn't that Alberto Gonzales theAlberto Gonzales—the one who wrote the Texas Clemency memos that:

    repeatedly failed to apprise Bush of some of the most salient issues in the cases at hand

    in death penalty cases Yep, Alberto and Bush go way back, and I certainly hope Gonzales does a better job for aWol this time, even though it's merely a political career at stake instead of a life. Ha.

    No Kidding, What A Surprise 

    Damn that NYTimes, always looking for the bad news:

    The number of people without health insurance shot up last year by 2.4 million, the largest increase in a decade, raising the total to 43.6 million, as health costs soared and many workers lost coverage provided by employers, the Census Bureau reported today.

    The increase brought the proportion of people who were uninsured to 15.2 percent, from 14.6 percent in 2001

    But I sure wish that Joe Scarborough would stop accusing the Times of never reporting the good news.

    The figure remained lower than the recent peak of 16.3 percent in 1998.

    Here's the reason for that peak in 1998:

    The number of uninsured increased each year from 1987 to 1998, even when the economy was booming. Small businesses accounted for many of the new jobs then, and such businesses are far less likely to provide insurance.

    And not because those small business owners are heartless. Even mid-sized employers are having trouble keeping up with the explosion in the cost of insuring the health of their employees, even through those supposedly "cost-effective" HMOs.

    Ronald F. Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a liberal-leaning consumer group, said: "It's hard to grasp the magnitude of the number of uninsured. It exceeds the aggregate population of 24 states."

    The number of full-time workers without health insurance rose by 897,000 last year, to 19.9 million. Kate Sullivan, director of health care policy at the United States Chamber of Commerce, said the increase was alarming and predicted it would continue this year.

    "Workplace coverage is becoming unaffordable for many employers and employees," Ms. Sullivan said.

    And whenever some Republican tries to tell you that the economy's expanding growth rate will cure all this, remember, they're lying.

    On Friday, the Census Bureau reported that poverty rose in 2002 for the second consecutive year. The poverty rate generally declines when the economy expands, but there is no guarantee that the number of uninsured will also decline.

    Not that this administration wasn't ready with its usual impressive response to the new statistics.

    Tommy G. Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, said the numbers showed that "the nation must do more" to help the uninsured.

    And you can always trust this administration to come up with an inadequate answer whose only guaranteed beneficiary is one its own contributor groups.

    Mr. Thompson said, for example, that Congress should provide tax credits for the purchase of private insurance

    Not that there isn't some good news.

    But no action is imminent. Congress is preoccupied with efforts to help a large, politically potent group that already has insurance, the elderly, by adding drug benefits to Medicare.

    Remember when the SCLM was obessed with the degradation visited upon the nation by the Clintons and their Lincoln bedroom-loving minions?

    This health care crises, and that's what it is, not merely a health insurance crises, as folks like Fred Barnes like to slice the Viagra, as if a health insurance crises wasn't also a health crises, has gone unnoticed in mondo punditcano. And you know why? Because Chris Matthews, Howard Fineman, Margaret Carlson, Juan Williams, Mara Liasson and et their fucking al, which includes wives, children, parents, grandparents, friends, children's friends, colleagues, probably just about everyone not in a service capacity with whom these folks come in contact all have health insurance.

    Of course this is all the fault of the Clintons. Let's take a moment now to remember what a disaster they made of health care. Isn't that how their attempt to find a way to insure the health of all Americans is usually set up for discussion? On both the left and the right?

    I've always had a problem with the way the liberal/left has been so ready to trash the Clintons on this issue. Granted, the failure of support for their efforts by key Democrats, many of them DLC members, their own mistakes, and the lethal mobilization of a campaign of lies on the part of the right wing and the health industry, both of whom were determined to forestall any changes that might limit the status quo of their own highly profitable mismanagment of the way health care was being distributed among Americans, resulted in a political disaster for the Clinton administration.

    But the real disaster was that nothing was done then, in the early nineties to change the trend lines that have led us to where we are. That was the message the Clintons were trying to get across to Americans. Do something now, or be even sorrier later. Some on the left seem to think that had the Clintons gone with a single payer system, a grassroots groundswell would have successfully developed to counter the charges of socialized medicine. To which I would say, "huh?" The charge of socialized medicine worked with a proposal that didn't even take on the role of the privitized health industry, that, instead, only tried to manage it to provide all Americans with health insurance coverage; why wouldn't it have worked with a proposal that would have been a variation of the European/Canadian model, which are, arguably, forms of socialized medicine?

    Isn't it time for the liberal/left not to take so much pleasure in trashing the Clintons' attempt to do something about the inequities of the American healthcare system, and I include in this plea, the Clintons themselves; Bill and Hillary, enough with the mea culpas. The people who should be mea culpa-ing are the Gingrichs and the Bob Doles and TNR and the Manhattan Institutes and the health insurers and the HMOs, and the AMA, and yes, the DLC. To those of you who asking yourselves, why am I fighting this old battle, my answer is because this background is affecting the foreground of our healthcare discussions.

    Ask yourself why none of the Democratic presidential candidates are willing to breath the words, "single-payer," at a time when it's appropriate to be at least considering that option. One did. Al Gore. And he framed the issue perfectly when he said that reluctantly he'd come to the conclusion that single-payer was the only way to provide health insurance to all Americans . Why has no other candidate taken up Gore's challenge?

    Now ask yourself why Al Gore is no longer a candidate? (to be addressed in an upcoming post)

    Le jeu de cartes du regime Bush 

    From Reseau Voltaire:
    The 52 Most Dangerous American Dignitaries / The Bush Regime Card Deck
    "A behind the scenes look of [sic] the Bush administration reveals a team of cronies, carrying out a "neo-conservative" revolution in total opposition with the History and Values of their country."

    Ace of Diamonds | Dick Cheney
    "A former chairman of Halliburton (oil equiptment) and KBR (mercenaries). Now vice-president of US, he subcontracts part of the military intervention in Iraq to mercenary troops and awards the reconstruction of destroyed Iraqi infastructure to Halliburton."

    King of Diamonds | George Bush
    "Chairman of a baseball club and director of the oil company owned by Osama bin Laden's brother, Salem bin Laden. He was declared President of the US by his father's Supreme Court appointees before the election results could show that he had lost the election."

    King of Hearts | Karl Rove
    "Brains-in-chief, Secretary General of the White House."

    Eight of Spades | Lewis Libby
    "Past and current mafia lawyer. Now also the Secretary General to Vice-President Cheney. Libby is in charge of the White House's ultra-secret National Energy Policy Development, and works closely with directors of Enron and major oil companies."

    Play with a full deck here: The Bush Regime Card Deck from Reseau Voltaire

    Update: More Bush Regime playing cards (thanks to Dave in comments) available here: HERE

    Monday, September 29, 2003

    The Worst American President In The History Of The Republic 

    Consider this post a safe, convenient way to get your daily minimum requirement of howling rage at the way this illegitimate, unAmerican administration demeans all of us, and gets away with it.

    As reader Beth wittily notes in comments below, the attitude of the President and those who speak for him, the increasingly robotized Condi Rice and the increasingly flumoxed Scott McClellan, seems to be "We'll certainly cooperate with any investigation just as soon as we have no other choice."

    How right she was. After months of ignoring the possibility that someone in the administration had leaked the name of a CIA operative as part of an attempt to discredit a public servant who sought only to tell what he knew about administration claims, only today, after the bombshell WaPo weekend story that the CIA had determined a crime might have been committed and had asked the Justice Dept to investigate, has the White House finally roused itself sufficiently to issue a denial that Karl Rove had any involvement in outing Mrs. Wilson.

    "He wasn't involved," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said of Rove. "The president knows he wasn't involved. ... It's simply not true."

    Let's skip over how the president can be so sure it wasn't Rove unless the president knows who it was who outed Valerie Plame. Instead, let's notice the air of bemused detachment being projected by administration spokesmen, as if none of this unpleasantness re: Ambassador Wilson and his wife has anything to do with this president and this administration. Except we know, as a matter of actual fact, that at least one and probabely two administration officials tried to peddle the story of Valerie Plame's position as a CIA agent to six journalists, we even know who two of them were, Robert Novak, who went with the story, and Andrea Mitchell, who didn't, so how is it possible that between the mid-July date of Novak's story and now, three months later, there has been no internal investigation as to what happened? Where is the president's anger that his administration has been compromised by behavior he claims to believe is unacceptable?

    How could any member of his adminisration get that message from the president's total disinterest in getting what actually happened? The message of the president's own behavior has clearly been, hell yes, such behavior will be tolerated, and good job whoever you are, that's the way to deal with any citizen, even if his wife is a CIA operative, who gets in the way of what this president wants to do.

    Oh, and BTW, here's how concerned is the administration to discover what happened:

    McClellan urged anyone with information about the alleged leak to contact with Justice Department. "The president expects everyone in his administration to adhere to the highest standards of conduct," McClellan said. "No one would be authorized to do such a thing."

    And faced now with the certainty that someone has done such a thing, what is the White House prepared to do? Absolute nothing, except to wait and see what General Ashcroft decides to do.

    White House officials said they would turn over phone logs if the Justice Department asked them to. But the aides said Bush has no plans to ask his staff members whether they played a role in revealing the name of an undercover officer who is married to former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, one of the most visible critics of Bush's handling of intelligence about Iraq.

    Of course not. The president has known since July that the standard he claims for his staff had been betrayed by someone and he did nothing. And no one in the press made a fuss, as Tresy notes so trenchently below. It was only when two informants within the administration confirmed the CIA referral of the matter to Justice for a crminal investigation to the WaPo that there was any concern about any of this registered in the SCLM. And please notice that the referral has been sitting at Justice for several months, without any action having been taken.

    Meanwhile, Bob Novak is refusing to give the names of his sources and insisting that there was no crime here:

    What's the fuss about?" asked Novak, a Chicago Sun-Times columnist who is also a conservative commentator on CNN.

    "There is no great crime involved here... The fuss is made on this because it involves (Republican President George W.) Bush," he said on CNN. "I do not reveal confidential sources."

    And how's this for splitting hairs:

    "Nobody in the Bush administration called me to leak this," Novak said, saying the information was disclosed to him while he was interviewing a senior Bush administration official.

    Just watched Hardball. Plamegate was the lead story. Naturally neither Jed Babbin, R. or Matthews, or Howard Fineman or Norah O'Donnel were in sufficient command of the basic facts of the case to ask any of the trenchent questions, like those posed by Tresy below. Especially interesting was Matthews reaction to the notion of a Special Prosecutor; seems Chris thinks that would be a bad idea because such people have an investment in finding something.

    Babbin kept bringing up the spectre of poor Lawrence Welsh, who was exactly the kind of old-fashioned Republican, more loyal to country than party, these guys just don't get.

    Well, there's always Robert Fisk; he showed himself to be efficient, fast-moving, and committed to no particular outcome other than that dictated by the evidence at hand. Whoops, entirely wrong qualifications.

    American Squirm 

    Josh Marshall and others have been rolling around the idea of asking the White House to continue with the precedent established in their earlier half-baked efforts to smear Wes Clark, and check the phone logs for calls to Robert Novak shortly before his now-infamous story. Since the press clearly knows (or should know) that it's being played once again for the kind of saps that the Bush Administration has been able to stonewall with impunity in the past, they might appreciate additional lines of questioning calculated to raise the discomfort level. Some ideas:

  • "According to a White House source for the Post, the same leakers shopped the Plame story to at least 6 other journalists, all of whom presumably are under promises of confidentiality to the leakers. Pursuant to President Bush's call for those with knowledge to cooperate with Justice, will he direct his staff to publicly disavow any such pledges so that the journalists can come forward with what they know? If not, why not?"

  • "If a member of the President's staff refuses to disavow any pledge of confientiality on this matter, will that staff member be subject to sanction? If not, why not?"

  • "Clearly Robert Novak knows who leaked to him, and Mr. Novak is an admirer of the President and a patriot concerned about preserving intelligence methods and assets. Will President Bush ask Mr. Novak, as a patriot, to reveal who leaked to him? If not, why not?"

    Jump in with your own ideas. After all, journalism is too important to be left to the professionals.

  • The Blind Spot (cont.) 

    The Daily Howler beats me to it:
    But don’t miss the remarkable back-story here—the amazing silence of the Washington press corps over the past three months. This story broke in Robert Novak’s July 14 column.... And it was obvious that these “senior officials” may have committed a serious crime. But over the course of the past three months, have you seen a word—have you seen one word—from Washington’s pundits about this story? Of course not! Instead, pundits did what they do best—they hid beneath their mahogany desks, pretending not to have heard this report. ...Even in this morning’s New York Times, this story is given secondary status, folded into another story. It doesn’t even rate its own headline. The Times was brilliant at ginning up Clinton “scandals,” including Whitewater, the mother of all fake and phony flaps. Now it fiddles, diddles and blathers in the face of acknowledged White House crime.

    I doubt there is a single story to be told about the Bush Syndicate that doesn't inculpate the media and its connivance in one way or another, yet you can be sure that, if the day of reckoning finally comes for these thugs and brigands, the press will hand out Pulitzers like E at a rave instead of submitting their resignation en masse to the public they have so disgracefully disserved.

    Plame, Plame, And More Plame 

    It looks like Ambassador Wilson & family are going to be something more than a minor irritant to the Bush administration. Josh Marshall, whose don't miss two part interview with Joe Wilson is now available in PDF format , has scads on the fallout from the Friday annoucement that a referral has been made by the CIA to the Justice Department requesting an investigation of how Mrs. Wilson's maiden name and occupation as an undercover CIA agent got leaked to Bob Novak, as does Atrios, and Cal Pundit, for whom this story appears to have been both a clarifying and a cauterizing moment, and Billmon, who is ready to go at it 24/7 if sufficient material continues to trickle outside of insider confines, and is asking for suggestions from readers as to other possible angles of coverage.

    Billmon also has an hilarious re-imagining of a famous Watergate phone call.

    From the right, mainly silence, with notable exceptions, like Daniel Drezner, whose tough stance runs under the intriguing title, "What Could Cause Me To Switch Parties."

    What was done here was thuggish, malevolent, illegal, and immoral. Whoever peddled this story to Novak and others, in outing Plame, violated the law and put the lives of Plame's overseas contacts at risk. Compared to this, all of Clinton's peccadilloes look like an mildly diverting scene from an Oscar Wilde production. If Rove or other high-ranking White House officials did what's alleged, then they've earned the wrath of God. Or, since God is probably busy, the media firestorm that will undoubtedly erupt.

    Let me make this as plain as possible -- I was an unpaid advisor for the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign, and I know and respect some high-ranking people in the administration. And none of that changes the following: if George W. Bush knew about or condoned this kind of White House activity, I wouldn't just vote against him in 2004 -- I'd want to see him impeached. Straight away.

    Pretty damn tough. But Josh Marshall does a good job of showing that Bush has to have known, at least from mid-July when Wilson went public with the whole issue of Novak's printed leak. Atrios and various of his commentators pick up on the same point, and Brad de Long takes on Drezner's misperception directly:

    Whether or not he knew about it beforehand, for two and a half months--ever since two senior White House officials called six reporters and got Robert Novak to take the bait in his July 14 column--George W. Bush has "condoned this type of White House activity." No heads have rolled. No sanctions have been applied. The White House's posture has one of hunkering down: that this is no big deal, that this will pass, that nothing internal has to change, and that this is a tempest in a teapot.

    Whether or not George W. Bush knew beforehand, his reactions since July 14 put him well over the line of "condoning." We don't need to write, "If George Bush knew about or condoned..." We need instead to write, "Since George Bush condoned..."

    To which Atrios adds his own little twist.

    All of this has provoked some fascinating comment threads; in particular, if you want a sense of what the non-freep right is saying and thinking, read the comments to Drezner's post.

    The White House appears to be taking a passive non-approach to the possibility of a major underminging of that old Republican favorite, the rule of law, as exemplified by Condi Rice's extraordinary performances on both Meet The Press and Fox News Sunday.

    Here's a sampling of her responses to questions from the always friendly, Tony Snow:

    RICE: I know nothing of any such White House effort to reveal any of this, and it certainly would not be the way that the president would expect his White House to operate.

    My understanding is that, in matters like this, as a matter of routine, a question like this is referred to the Justice Department for appropriate action, and that's what's going to be done.


    SNOW: Well, when the story came out...his wife's name is in the paper....was it known in the White House that she was a CIA employee?

    RICE: I'm not going to go into this, Tony, because the problem here is this has been referred to the Justice Department. I think that's the appropriate place...



    Was there, at least within the White House, a gasp when somebody said, "Uh oh"? And if so, did the White House take any action, back then in June, when the story appeared?

    RICE: Well, it was well known that the president of the United States does not expect the White House to get involved in such things. We will see...

    HUME: You mean the revelation of names?

    RICE: Anything of this kind. But let's just see what the Justice Department does. It's with the appropriate channels now, and we'll see what the Justice Department....how the Justice Department disposes of it.

    There's more. Apparently this White House has no mechanism by which to monitor or investigate what goes on inside of it.

    One aspect of all this I found particularly intriguing is the potential use of White House phone logs, or, indeed, phone logs from whatever telephones might be involved. Remember that phone logs were made available to The Weekly Standard for their hit piece on Wesley Clark. Remember the alacrity with which the Republican congress jumped to investigate the most remote possibility of Clinton scandals.

    And while we're remembering, let's return, for a moment, to yesteryear, to a time when no one, and I do mean no one, in the media, among Republicans, and even among Democratic office holders or among those vermin Democratic strategists who started showing up on the tube around that time, early in the Clinton administration, considered there to be anything remarkable about the incessant demands by various congressional staffs for all manner of phone logs: they asked for and got phone logs from the oval office, from the first Lady's office, from the White House residence, logs from the phones of the President's closest advisers, from the phones of his Presidential legal councels, phone logs from the first Lady's stay at her parents in Little Rock during her father's final illness, phone logs from the first lady's friends, all of them produced as demanded without complaint.

    Surely one of the biggest of the many big lies produced in American history was the lie that the Clinton's first response to questions about potential scandals was to stonewall, and the corollary lie that they were mainly responsible for the never-ending investigations of their administration because of their withholing of documents, or delays in producing them.

    I've longed for some time now to begin a Freedom of Information claim against the various congressional committees that carried on these investigations, the point being to get hold of copies of every piece of information turned over by the Clinton administration; someone or some group should; the result would be nothing less than astonishing. The contrast with the genuine stonewalling of the Bush administration nothing less than embarrassing, if anyone in that administration was capable of embarrassment.

    Then, perhaps, we could retire at least one of the thousands of slanderous lies that continue to be circulated about the Clintons and the Clinton administration, by our SCLM as much as by Republicans.

    (Anyone interesting in participating in such a project, especially anyone who knows anything about the Freedom Of Information Act, feel free to contact me)

    corrente SBL - New Location
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