The Mahablog: Truth and the Bush Administration

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saturday, april 10, 2004

Hot Links, Foot-Dragging Edition

An unnamed government official disclosed to the New York Times that "President Bush was told more than a month before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that supporters of Osama bin Laden planned an attack within the United States with explosives and wanted to hijack airplanes."

This appears to contradict Condi Rice's sworn testimony that the memo said no such thing.

More on the famous August 6 PDB:

White House officials, after indicating Thursday that the briefing document could be declassified within a day, announced yesterday that they were delaying any release until at least next week.

We are actively working on declassification and are not quite ready to put it out," said Sean McCormack, a spokesman for the National Security Council. He attributed the delay to "unprecedented activity" needed to prepare for public release the article from the Aug. 6, 2001, President's Daily Brief (PDB), the daily report of significant new intelligence and analysis provided the chief executive and his most senior national security advisers. [Walter Pincus and Dan Eggan, "Briefing on al Qaeda Includes Specifics," The Washington Post, April 10, 2005]

"Unprecedented activity" my ass. They're waiting for a more favorable news cycle moment -- like when something else has taken over the headlines. And what do you want to bet that the juicy parts will be redacted?

Yesterday the FBI expressed, um, surprise -- yeah, that's it -- at Condi's sworn statement that the FBI had been conducting 70 separate investigations of al Qaeda cells in the U.S. before the 9/11 attacks.

Rice, testifying before the Sept. 11 commission Thursday, said that those 70 investigations were mentioned in a CIA briefing to the president and satisfied the White House that the FBI was doing its job in response to dire warnings that attacks were imminent and that the administration felt it had no need to act further.

But the FBI Friday said that those investigations were not limited to al-Qaida and did not focus on al-Qaida cells. FBI spokesman Ed Coggswell said the bureau was trying to determine how the number 70 got into the report. [Knut Royce and Tom Brune, "Disputing Rice Testimony," New York Newsday, April 10, 2004]

Want to know where the number 70 came from? The Bushies are champs at pulling random numbers out of their butts, that's where. They do it with such conviction they get away with it most of the time. The President's budget and tax cut plans are based on numerical fantasies; why not national security, too? Let's just call it faith-based mathematics.

Spokesman Coggswell said there may have been 70 separate investigations going on, but not investigations of al Qaeda.

Coggswell Friday said that those 70 investigations involved a number of international terrorist organizations, not just al-Qaida. He said that many were criminal investigations, which terrorism experts say are not likely to focus on preventing terrorist acts. And he said he would "not characterize" the targets of the investigations as cells, or groups acting in concert, as was the case with the Sept. 11 hijackers.

The FBI also was surpised by Condi's statement that before 9/11 she had "tasked all 56 of its U.S. field offices to increase surveillance of known suspected terrorists" and to contact informants who might provide leads.

Commissioner Timothy J. Roemer told Rice that the commission had "to date ... found nobody, nobody at the FBI, who knows anything about a tasking of field offices." Even Thomas Pickard, at the time acting FBI director, told the panel that he "did not tell the field offices to do this," Roemer said.

Two and a half years after the terrorist attacks, it remains unclear why the FBI, given the general but dire warnings that preceded the attacks, did not go on full alert.

(Of course, according to some distinguished editorialists and bloggers, the political cimate before 9/11 would not have permitted the FBI being put on full alert; see yesterday's Mahablog. And someone should explain to this besotted child that he might want to refrain from writing opinion pieces until he grows up and gets a clue. But I digress.)

A former grad school professor of Condi's explains why she's such a liar: 

Condi has always been a great performer. As a pianist, as an ice skater, as a student, as a provost, as a presidential advisor, she has always been on stage. She adapts her performance to her audience: Josef Korbel and, to some extent, me once upon a time, President Bush now. She can be fierce. Donald Rumsfeld, who waged war in Iraq without a plan for the occupation, lost control to Condi and the National Security Council. But tragically, she is also a person without a core, who loses herself in her performance. National security was her responsibility. She failed in that responsibility because she was too busy perfecting her performance as a Bush team player when the Bush team, obsessed with wild fantasies of global domination, had lost touch with reality. [Alan Gilbert, "The Performer Lost in Her Performance," Salon, April 9, 2004]

In other news -- in the past few hours six more U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq. (And did you remember that it's been a year since the statue of Saddam Hussein was pulled down? I may say more about that later.)

But you'll be glad to know that the President, weighed down as he is by the heavy burden he bears, plans today to go fishing:

On Saturday, Bush and his father were to go fishing at the ranch's bass pond with a crew from the Outdoor Life Network's "Fishing with Roland Martin."

The White House approached the network about coming to film Bush, who is eager to cultivate an image as a sportsman with the millions of voters who hunt and fish. The crew was to bring its own boat for the shoot on the small pond. [Scott Laidlaw, AP, April 9, 2005]

Anyone else out there who'd cheerfully wring the Usurper's neck?

Nero Fiddles

Toxic Tipping Point

Rice's Star Flamed Out

Income Tax Shell Game

Bush's Absence Questioned

James Ridgeway: Daily Condi

Juan Cole: Fallujah Bloodbath

Cynthia Tucker: Bush vs. Truth

Condi Rice Testimony Tote Board

U.S. Asks for Ceasefire in Fallujah

Nicholas Kristof: A Spanish Lesson

Eleanor Clift: No Apologies from Condi

Our Condi -- A Liar or Incompetent? Or Both?

7:25 am | link

friday, april 9, 2004

Drip, drip, drip
"President" Bush has decided to declassify the August 6, 2001, memo titled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States." Yes, the same one Condi says didn't contain a warning that Bin Laden was determined to attack inside the United States. It remains unclear if all of the document will be declassified. It's always possible somebody will black out the parts about how Bin Laden was determined to attack inside the United States.
The argument is that the document doesn't say that bin Laden would attack the United States, only that he was determined to. But didn't we invade Iraq and capture Saddam Hussein because Saddam intended to develop weapons of mass destruction? (Or, in the timeless words of the 2004 State of the Union Address, weapons of mass destruction-related program activities?)
Yeah, I know the original argument for war was that Hussein was about to nuke us. But once it became clear there were no WMDs, the fact that Saddam Hussein wanted WMDs was still supposed to be enough justification to be at war. You'd think Osama's determination to attack the U.S. would have been taken more seriously. 

9:00 pm | link

Hot Links, No Excuses Edition
Eric Rauchway is subbing for Eric Alterman at Altercation, and I don't mind.

Here's the bottom line: Rice said something in passing that rather sums up the situation: "There are plans and plans and plans. And the problem is, unless those plans are engaged by the civilian leadership... those plans simply sit." So: Why didn't the civilian leadership, AKA the White House, engage?

Well, yeah, that pretty much sums it up. If you strip away the extraneous verbiage from Condi's testimony, what's left are some stark facts:
  • Before 9/11 the intelligence agencies were adrift because the White House wasn't doing its job of overseeing and coordinating them.
  • Although the Bush Administration was given copious warning of an impending terrorist attack, it didn't occur to them to take any actions that might have prevented it. 

Condi keeps repeating that there was no silver bullet -- no one simple action -- that would have prevented 9/11. But as I said yesterday, nobody was asking for a silver bullet. There are a number of actions that, taken together, might have stopped at least some of the hijackers. (Be sure to read or watch "9/11 Widows React to Condi.") Condi's excuse is that, since there wasn't one simple thing the White House might have done, they was nothing they could do. And that's just wrong.

There's no guarantee that 9/11 could have been prevented, no matter how hard the White House tried. But it's damn certain that their doing nothing made the hijackers' work a lot easier.

Today some editorialists are saying that it wasn't realistic to expect the White House to have taken action before 9/11. Here's one:

Some commissioners seem to have forgotten what life was like before the Sept. 11 attacks. They're ignoring the fact that the security policies made sense and fit the circumstances, until the circumstances changed. And they're ready to point fingers at Rice and President Bush for not pushing for changes that Americans never would have accepted until after Sept. 11. [Debra Saunders, "Swatting at Flies," The San Francisco Chronicle, April 9, 2004]

Oh, bullshit. Does Debra think the American people would not have accepted putting NORAD on high alert for possible hijackings? For having more than two armed jet fighters ready to protect the eastern U.S.? For the White House "shaking the trees" to find the intelligence the FBI and CIA already had about Middle Eastern men taking flight training? Puh-leeze...
The other excuse one hears is that the 9/11 Commission should be looking forward, not backward. What the White House did or did not do before September 11 is water under the bridge. What's important is how Bush has conducted the war on terror since then. To which I say, have you geniuses noticed what's going on in Iraq lately? In Afghanistan? In Madrid?
Which brings us back to Condi, who after more than three years doesn't seem to know what her job is. Joe Conason writes,

How dysfunctional was the Bush administration during that fateful summer? Commissioner Jamie Gorelick challenged Rice's assertion that federal agencies and their field offices had been put on alert status during the threat spike. Citing previous commission interviews with the FAA administrator, FBI officials from around the country, and Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, among others, Gorelick said that none of them had ever heard the warnings of a potential attack.

Debra Saunders would have us believe the American public wouldn't have stood for federal agencies being placed on alert status before 9/11, but never mind. The bottom line is that Bush was and remains a play-pretend president, and his staff of chuckleheads exists to play-pretend along with him. Bush wears various presidential costumes (suit, cowboy hat, flight suit, etc.) and struts around pretending to be a leader, when he's not. And the rest of the White House staff pretends to be an administration, and it isn't.
For example, what was Dear Leader up to yesterday, as U.S. troops were under fire in Iraq?

Bush spent the morning watching national security adviser Condoleezza Rice's televised testimony to the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, then toured his ranch with Wayne LaPierre Jr., chief executive of the National Rifle Association, and other leaders of hunting groups and gave an interview to Ladies' Home Journal. On Sunday, he is to appear in public at nearby Fort Hood, the home base for seven soldiers recently killed in Baghdad. [Dana Milbank and Robin Wright, "Powell Calls U.S. Casualties 'Disquieting,'" The Washington Post, April 9, 2004]

(Notice how Bush just loves to use military bases for public appearances. He likes to have all those soldiers in the background when he gets his picture taken. Wonder if he'll wear one of his military costume jackets?)
On 9/11 Bush was told about the first plane slamming into the WTC tower before he entered that Florida classroom. He said later that his reaction was, boy, that must be some terrible pilot. It didn't even occur to him that such a catastrophe might require the attention of the president. And while the war he started spins out of control, it still doesn't occur to him to cut his vacation short and return to Washington. It doesn't occur to him to spend his time following events in Iraq, not giving tours of his ranch to the NRA. The boy still doesn't know what his job is. 
Maura Reynolds writes in the Los Angeles Times that Condi's testimony painted a picture of a passive White House.

The problem for Dr. Rice in her testimony," as Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, put it, "is that the concept of bureaucracy she offers is essentially a passive, not an active concept." ...

Though the still-classified memo was entitled, "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States," Rice said, "This was not a threat report to the president or a threat report to me. If there was any reason to believe that I needed to do something or that [Chief of Staff] Andy Card needed to do something, I would have been expected to be asked to do it. We were not asked to do it," Rice said.

At least some of the 10 commissioners saw the issue a different way: Not did the administration do what it was asked, but did it ask what it should do?

Since when does upper management sit around passively waiting for the bureaucracy below to tell them what to do? Again, what we're seeing are a pack of people who have absolutely no clue what their jobs are.

Of course, the White House can be fierce as mother tigers when faced with a political challenge. But don't get me started on that ...


8:18 am | link

thursday, april 8, 2004

The Worms Turn
You won't believe who wrote this:

Remember the picture of the president in the classroom, being told of the attack by chief of staff Andy Card? The American people thought they were seeing a man suddenly thrust into a grave challenge no one could have anticipated. That won him enormous sympathy and patience from the voters. But what if he was literally on vacation—at the ranch in Crawford—when he should have been making sure that someone was ringing alarm bells throughout the bureaucracy?

Already on the defensive for his leadership in the post-9/11 world—the war in Iraq grows less popular by the day—Bush now finds himself with questions to answer about his pre-9/11 leadership. He says he’s running for re-election as a “war president.” But by Rice’s own standards, the war was well underway by the time he took office. He was a “war president” the moment he took the oath. But did he act like one? The election may hinge on the answer.

Howard "the Whore" Fineman. I kid you not. Howard also noticed that Condi has problems with her job description:

Asked at the hearing why she hadn’t pressed the FBI more closely about what it knew, or didn’t know, about domestic terrorist threats, Rice acted as though the question was an odd one: it wasn’t her job. Well, in retrospect, it was and now certainly is.

Rice identified the chief “structural” problem—that the CIA and FBI don’t share information—in a speech she gave in October 2000. She even said that the problem could result in a disastrous domestic terrorist attack. And yet, based on her own testimony, she did little or nothing before 9/11 to break down those walls. The student of bureaucratic change didn’t really attempt to foment any, at least not with the kind of urgency we know she needed to have.

The role of a National Security Adviser is to be an interface between the President and the several intelligence agencies, the Department of Defense, and the State Department. He/she is supposed to be certain the many bureaucracies are working together and not spinning off on their own.
Anyone who has ever managed a complicated project learns that you cannot assume all the pieces are going to come together when needed. You have to get into people's faces -- politely but firmly -- and make sure each member of the team knows what's expected, and when.
Many years ago the late, great Mike Royko wrote a column about his experiences in a new restaurant. The food was bad, service was terrible, the glassware didn't look clean. He found the manager in charge -- a recent college graduate -- sitting in a booth studying spreadsheets, not noticing customers walking out. What was needed was someone taking hands-on charge of the place, not a theorist.
Condi reminds me of the kid with the spreadsheets.

One clear inference can be drawn from Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 commission this morning: She has been a bad national security adviser—passive, sluggish, and either unable or unwilling to tie the loose strands of the bureaucracy into a sensible vision or policy. In short, she has not done what national security advisers are supposed to do.


her job as a high-ranking decision-maker is to strip away the blinders and maneuver around the constraints. This is especially so given that she is the one decision-maker who is supposed to coordinate the views of the various agencies and present them as a coherent picture to the president of the United States. Her testimony today provides disturbing evidence that she failed at this task—failed even to understand that it was part of her job description.

Of course, the ultimate problem with the Bush Regime is the vaccuum at the top. Today I don't believe anyone asked why, if there was a plan ready for approval in July, the principals didn't meet on it until September. We know the answer -- nobody wanted to interfere with Bush's month-long vacation. And now Mr. Flight Suit is vacationing while his pet war is flaming out of control. He doesn't even know there are times you'd better look busy or be branded a slacker. Like now.
Maybe Bush doesn't understand his job description, either.

9:54 pm | link

Much is being made of the title of the famous August 6 memo, "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States." Condi assured us that the memo did not warn of an impending al Qaeda attack. OK. As I said, much is being made of this -- much ridicule in particular.
Much is also being made of Condi's statement that no "silver bullet" would have prevented September 11. (Strange, but I hadn't heard anyone asking for a silver bullet; have you? We just want to know if the White House did or did not have its head shoved up its collective ass in regard to al Qaeda.)
Here is Condi responding to Congressman Hamilton:

... the president had been told by the director of central intelligence that it was not going to be a silver bullet to kill bin Laden, that you had to do much more.

And, in fact, I think that some of us felt that the focus, so much focus, on what you did with bin Laden, not what you did with the network, not what you did with the regional circumstances, might, in fact, have been misplaced.

So I think the president is responding to go a specific set of questions.

All that I can tell you is that what the president wanted was a plan to eliminate al-Qaida so he could stop swatting at flies. He knew that we had in place the same crisis-management mechanism, indeed the same personnel, that the Clinton administration, which clearly thought it a very high priority, had in place.

And so, I think that he saw the priority as continuing the current operations and then getting a plan in place.

In a nutshell, Condi's argument was that the Bush Administration hadn't taken any actions on terrorism before September 11 because they were preparing a more comprehensive plan to combat terrorism -- indeed, a more robust plan, the be-all and end-all of plans -- and while all the alarms were going off in the summer of 2001, the White House didn't respond because it wasn't done planning its great plan.
Isn't that a bit like saying we can't put out a fire in our house because we're busy fixing the roof?
Regarding fly swatting -- here is another part of this morning's questioning I especially enjoyed: Let's join Bob Kerry's section, in progress:


Let me ask you, first of all, a question that's been a concern for me from the first day I came on the commission, and that is the relationship of our executive director to you.

Let me just ask you directly, and you can just give me – keep it relatively short, but I wanted to get it on the record.

Since he was an expert on terrorism, did you ask Philip Zelikow any questions about terrorism during transition, since he was the second person carded in the national security office and had considerable expertise?

RICE: Philip and I had numerous conversations about the issues that we were facing. Philip, as you know, had worked in the campaign and helped with the transition plans, so yes.

KERREY: Yes, you did talk to him about terrorism?

RICE: We talked – Philip and I over a period of – you know, we had worked closely together as academics ...

KERREY: During the transition, did you instruct him to do anything on terrorism?

RICE: Oh, to do anything on terrorism?

Do we need a hearing aid, Condi?


RICE: To help us think about the structure of the terrorism – Dick Clarke's operations, yes.

KERREY: You've used the phrase a number of times, and I'm hoping with my question to disabuse you of using it in the future.

You said the president was tired of swatting flies.

Can you tell me one example where the president swatted a fly when it came to al-Qaida prior to 9-11?

RICE: I think what the president was speaking to was ...

KERREY: No, no. What fly had he swatted?

RICE: Well, the disruptions abroad was what he was really focusing on ...

KERREY: No, no ...

RICE: ... when the CIA would go after Abu Zubaydah ...

KERREY: He hadn't swatted ...

RICE: ... or go after this guy ...

KERREY: Dr. Rice, we didn't ...

RICE: That was what was meant.

KERREY: We only swatted a fly once on the 20th of August 1998. We didn't swat any flies afterwards. How the hell could he be tired?

Well, you know, all that tough-talking and boasting and grandstanding. It wears a guy out.

RICE: We swatted at – I think he felt that what the agency was doing was going after individual terrorists here and there, and that's what he meant by swatting flies. It was simply a figure of speech.

KERREY: Well, I think it's an unfortunate figure of speech because I think, especially after the attack on the Cole on the 12th of October, 2000, it would not have been swatting a fly. It would not have been – we did not need to wait to get a strategic plan.

Dick Clarke had in his memo on the 20th of January overt military operations. He turned that memo around in 24 hours, Dr. Clarke. There were a lot of plans in place in the Clinton administration – military plans in the Clinton administration.

In fact, since we're in the mood to declassify stuff, there was – he included in his January 25th memo two appendices – Appendix A: Strategy for the elimination of the jihadist threat of al-Qaida; Appendix B: Political military plan for al-Qaida.

So I just – why didn't we respond to the Cole?

RICE: Well, we ...

KERREY: Why didn't we swat that fly?

Condi was ready for this one; she responded:

RICE: I believe that there's a question of whether or not you respond in a tactical sense or whether you respond in a strategic sense; whether or not you decide that you're going to respond to every attack with minimal use of military force and go after every – on a kind of tit-for-tat basis.

By the way, in that memo, Dick Clarke talks about not doing this tit-for-tat, doing this on the time of our choosing.

I'm aware, Mr. Kerrey, of a speech that you gave at that time that said that perhaps the best thing that we could do to respond to the Cole and to the memories was to do something about the threat of Saddam Hussein.

That's a strategic view ...


And we took a strategic view. We didn't take a tactical view. I mean, it was really – quite frankly, I was blown away when I read the speech, because it's a brilliant speech. It talks about really ...


an asymmetric ...

KERREY: I presume you read it in the last few days?

RICE: Oh no, I read it quite a bit before that. It's an asymmetric approach.

Now, you can decide that every time al-Qaida ...

KERREY: So you're saying that you didn't have a military response against the Cole because of my speech?

Condi fell back on the Plan for the Plan:

RICE: We simply believed that the best approach was to put in place a plan that was going to eliminate this threat, not respond to an attack.

KERREY: Let me say, I think you would have come in there if you said, We screwed up. We made a lot of mistakes. You obviously don't want to use the M-word in here. And I would say fine, it's game, set, match. I understand that.

But this strategic and tactical, I mean, I just – it sounds like something from a seminar. It doesn't ...

RICE: I do not believe to this day that it would have been a good thing to respond to the Cole, given the kinds of options that we were going to have.

She's right that the U.S. needed a comprehensive strategy for combating terrorism. The problem is that the Bushies' "comprehensive strategy" was to invade Iraq.

You know what, Condi? We'd be in better shape today if we'd stuck with swatting flies. 

3:30 pm | link

Home Improvements?
In an effort to get my site to load a little faster, I've moved most of my links -- blogrolls, etc. -- to the next page. Now that page will probably not load. And I have to organize it -- now it's just a link dump. But let me know if the first page is loading better for you.  

1:32 pm | link

Hot Links, Boilin' Bag Edition
I'm listening to Condi dissembling to the 9/11 Commission. The audience is a tad hostile, wouldn't you say?
Stirling Newberry is doing a real-time blog of Condi's testimony at BOP News. Even if the testimony is finished by the time you read this, it will be worth reading.
James Risen writes  in today's New York Times that accounts of the Iraqi insurgence coming from intelligence officials are at serious odds with what the White House is saying.

Sidney Blumenthal: Condi Screwed Middle East Peace

10:25 am | link

wednesday, april 7, 2004

Hot Links
This just in --
American-led international troops in Iraq were locked today in the fiercest fighting since the fall of Saddam Hussein a year ago, waging a two-front war against Sunni Muslim insurgents west of Baghdad and a ferocious and fast-spreading Shiite uprising in the south and center of the country.

American marines fired rockets at a wall surrounding a mosque in Falluja, west of Baghdad, killing more than two dozen people, news services reported, quoting witnesses. The American military would not confirm the accounts, which are certain to aggravate the violent opposition movement. [Kirk Semple, "U.S. Rockets Reportedly Kill Over 2 Dozen Iraqis in Fallujah," The New York Times (online), February 7, 2004]

It's a tar baby, I tell you. The harder we fight, the tighter we're stuck.
The wingnuts are adamant that we're not going to make the "mistake" we made in Somalia, withdrawing after the firefight in Mogadishu. (And you'll notice the wingnuts only remember the Clinton "mistake," and not the Reagan "mistake" of evacuating Lebanon after the murder of 278 marines, or the Bush I "mistake" of not retaliating the destruction of Pan Am 103 over Scotland. But never mind.)
It's an article of faith among the Kool-Aiders that the Iraqi insurgents are only fighting back because we retreated from Somalia after Mogadishu. I suspect that many Iraqis never heard of Mogadishu, but never mind; if we had gotten ourselves stuck in a war in Somalia a decade ago, Those People wouldn't dare fight back now. We would have defoliated Africa, and that would have shown them.
You know what's going to happen? I can see it, plain as day. We'll stay stuck in the Iraq tar baby while the violence gets worse and worse, and more and more soldiers are killed, and eventually we'll cut some kind of deal with somebody and retreat without actually accomplishing anything. The wingnuts will blame "liberals" and/or "Democrats" for losing Iraq. And they will never, ever acknowledge that Iraq was not ours to lose.
Same old, same old.   

Sometimes a looming crisis needs to be brought to a head. But if that's so, we seem to have done little to prepare for the reaction. Where's the White House's strategy? Where is it now, three days later?

All we seem to be hearing are hollow assertions of a vacant will.

From the White House's advocates we hear logic puzzles about appeasement in which the fall-out from the president's screw ups become the prime argument for continuing to support them.

We invaded Iraq without a plan for the postwar period, and now a year has gone by and we still don't have a bleeping plan for the bleeping postwar period.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch ...

President Bush, vacationing in Texas, conferred with his advisers today on the surge in bloodshed in Iraq and what to do or say about it. On Capitol Hill, several senators readily expressed a range of concerns at the events unfolding across Iraq.

There was no indication from the president's Crawford ranch that Mr. Bush planned to comment publicly on the worst violence in Iraq since Saddam Hussein was overthrown a year ago, claiming the lives of more than 20 Americans and scores of Iraqis since Sunday. But the very fact that a session was taking place, during what was supposed to be an Easter Week respite at the presidential retreat, illustrated the seriousness of the situation. [David Stout and Carl Hulse, "Bush, in Texas, Confers Long Distance on Fighting in Iraq," The New York Times (online), April 7, 2005]

Oh, gracious me, how dreadful -- we had to interrupt His Majesty's vacation to inform him that the war he got us into is going to hell.  
And firing missiles at a mosque is especially brilliant, diplomatically speaking.
Today's hottest link is Harold Meyerson's essay in the Washington Post, "In Iraq, Without Options":  

The only unequivocally good policy option before the American people is to dump the president who got us into this mess, who had no trouble sending our young people to Iraq but who cannot steel himself to face the Sept. 11 commission alone.

... and who can't be bothered to interrupt his precious vacation and act like a President.
Also in today's New York Times -- there's an op ed about how the employment situation really isn't as bad as it seems. The devil, you say? Indeed; the author is a research fellow at The Heritage Foundation. That means you don't even have to read it to know it's all lies. It's just a shame the Times feels compelled to publish crap like this. A waste of paper. 

1:15 pm | link

Year of the Monkey
I apologize for late hot links. These past few months I've been turning into a jellyfish, and I realized I'd better get some exercise while I'm still in vertebrate form. So henceforth first thing in the morning is now gym time instead of blog time. There will still be blog, just a little later in the day.
Where's George? The situation in Iraq appears to be deteriorating rapidly. So what's our "war president" doing on vacation? Don't you think a real "war president" would be staying on top of developments in the Situation Room? Was Lincoln on vacation when Robert E. Lee marched on Gettysburg? Was FDR on vacation when the marines were taking Iwo Jima? I don't know, actually, but I doubt it.
Of course, you and I know Bush is not a real "war president." He just plays one on TV.

White House-AP -- A spokesman says President Bush is mourning the life of each of the U-S troops killed in Iraq.

The president is vacationing at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, through the Easter holiday.

But spokesman Scott McClellan says Bush conducted a conference call on the Iraq situation with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and other top advisers. More such briefings are expected.
Has there been a president since the invention of radio who has been so reluctant to address the American people himself? It seems that whenever anything significant happens -- power failures, Black Hawk helicopters shot down, whatever -- the boy is on vacation and can't be bothered to speak to the nation. He has a flunkie at the White House speak for him.
This is very weird. Presidents don't normally act like this. When something significant happens, usually they get themselves in front of a camera as soon as the teleprompter is warmed up.
But you've got to admit the boy has a talent for being out of town when anything really significant is happening. And this brings me to another point. Have you ever worked on a big, critical project when the manager in charge was out of town? And you had to get a sign-off from that manager whenever decisions had to be made? If so, have you noticed how much that slows everything down? Even if the manager is available by phone or fax, the project will be slowed. Staff on site will take some time coming to a consensus that the manager must be contacted. Then there may be a delay getting the manager's attention. And then someone has to explain what is happening and what decision needs to be made.
So, one would think it  irresponsible for a president to spend so much time on vacation and so much time mostly out of the loop. Of course, in Bush's case, it doesn't matter. But assuming he were a "real" president, it would be a problem.
Hot Links comin' up.

12:38 pm | link

tuesday, april 6, 2004

Hot Links 9:44 am | link

monday, april 5, 2004

Hot Links
Eight U.S. soldiers were killed in yesterday's riots, which swept several Iraqi cities. The rioters were shiites, who are supposed to like us because Saddam had oppressed them so. The Bushies cannot claim these were Baathist die hards. This situation is not going to get better soon. Find commentary by Josh Marshall here.
I grieve for the soldiers' families and for the families of all soldiers in Iraq. Those families must live in fear.
And Bush can make jokes about not finding WMDs? Is he a sociopath, or what?
In other news -- yesterday on "Press the Meat" the cochairs of the 9/11 Commission, Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, said they thought the 9/11 attacks could have been prevented.  They promise to grill Condi aggressively on Thursday. Should be a good show.
Also yesterday, Senators Richard Luger and Joe Biden revealed on "This Week" that Paul Bremer would be briefing the Senate this week in a closed-door session. They also questioned the wisdom of Shrub's June 30 deadline, acknowleding that the date had more to do with the November election than what is going on in Iraq.

7:23 am | link

sunday, april 4, 2004

Hot Links, Hot Air
Today's must-read is a New York Times investigation into the threat of terrorism before 9/11 and the Bush response to it. In brief, reporters David Johnston and Eric Schmitt found that the Bushies did in fact have plenty of warning that a massive terrorist attack involving hijacked airplanes was about to occur, and that it could occur on American soil. And the Bushies mostly shrugged it off.

The warnings during the summer were more dire and more specific than generally recognized. Descriptions of the threat were communicated repeatedly to the highest levels within the White House. In more than 40 briefings, Mr. Bush was told by George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, of threats involving Al Qaeda.

The review suggests that the government never collected in one place all the information that was flowing into Washington about Al Qaeda and its interest in using commercial aircraft to carry out attacks, and about extremist groups' interest in pilot training. A Congressional inquiry into intelligence activities before Sept. 11 found 12 reports over a seven-year period suggesting that terrorists might use airplanes as weapons.

There were also no specific new military plans for attacking Qaeda forces or the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The Pentagon's priorities that summer were developing a national missile defense plan and conducting a broad strategy and budget review. Military planners had previously offered a comprehensive plan to incorporate military, economic, diplomatic and political activities to pressure the Taliban to expel Al Qaeda's leader, Osama bin Laden. But the plan was never acted on by either the Clinton or Bush administrations. [David Johnston and Eric Schmitt, "Uneven Response Seen on Terror in Summer of 2001," The New York Times, April 4, 2004]

Of course, Bill Clinton wasn't president in the summer of 2001, when warnings of an impending terrorist attack were spiking.
On Thursday Condi Rice will be challenged to cough up evidence that the Bush Regime really was working on a new plan to eradicate al Qaeda in the months before 9/11. She claims that the old Clinton-era plan would have only "rolled back" al Qaeda, and "President" Bush wanted a more robust plan that would decisively wipe al Qaeda off the face of the earth. But all indications are that the Bushies never came up with a plan that was substantially different from the one given them by the outgoing Clinton Administration.
Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank write in today's Washington Post:

For example, Rice and others in the administration have said that they implemented much more aggressive policies than those of Clarke and President Bill Clinton. Rice said the Bush team developed "a comprehensive strategy that would not just roll back al Qaeda -- which had been the policy of the Clinton administration -- but we needed a strategy to eliminate al Qaeda."

But in 2002, Rice's deputy, Stephen J. Hadley, wrote to the joint committee that the new policy was exactly what Rice described as the old one. "The goal was to move beyond the policy of containment, criminal prosecution, and limited retaliation for specific attacks, toward attempting to 'roll back' al Qaeda." [Pincus and Milbank, "Framework of Clarke's Book Is Bolstered," The Washington Post, April 4, 2004]

Oh, Condi, you got some 'splainin' to do!
The Pincus and Milbank article discusses the many corroborations of Richard Clarke's testimony and is definitely worth a look.
Also, it occurs to me that the reason the White House was reluctant to let go of the Clinton papers is that it would show the Clinton White House more actively concerned with al Qaeda than the Bushies were before 9/11. We can only speculate, for now.
See also "Bush's Credibility Now Rests on Her Shoulders" by Elisabeth Bumiller. The much-compromised Bumiller writes that Condi was the gatekeeper "between the President and the entire counterterrorism policy of his administration." Is it typical for presidents to be so distanced from their own policies that there could even be a "gatekeeper"? I bet Abe or Teddy or Franklin never had gatekeepers.
Messing with Mother Nature. The Observer reports that the Bush campaign sent an email to the press secretaries of all Republican congressmen telling them what to say when asked about global warming and other environmental issues: lie. 

EM>The Observer has obtained a remarkable email sent to the press secretaries of all Republican congressmen advising them what to say when questioned on the environment in the run-up to November's election. The advice: tell them everything's rosy.

It tells them how global warming has not been proved, air quality is 'getting better', the world's forests are 'spreading, not deadening', oil reserves are 'increasing, not decreasing', and the 'world's water is cleaner and reaching more people'.

The email - sent on 4 February - warns that Democrats will 'hit us hard' on the environment. 'In an effort to help your members fight back, as well as be aggressive on the issue, we have prepared the following set of talking points on where the environment really stands today,' it states.

The memo - headed 'From medi-scare to air-scare' - goes on: 'From the heated debate on global warming to the hot air on forests; from the muddled talk on our nation's waters to the convolution on air pollution, we are fighting a battle of fact against fiction on the environment - Republicans can't stress enough that extremists are screaming "Doomsday!" when the environment is actually seeing a new and better day.'

Among the memo's assertions are 'global warming is not a fact', 'links between air quality and asthma in children remain cloudy', and the US Environment Protection Agency is exaggerating when it says that at least 40 per cent of streams, rivers and lakes are too polluted for drinking, fishing or swimming. [Antony Barnett, "Bush Attacks Environment 'Scare Stories,'" The Observer, April 4, 2004]

Now read a long and magnificent article in today's New York Times magazine, "Changing All the Rules" by Bruce Barcott. Barcott documents how the Bushies are reversing 30 years' of environmental protection law in order to benefit some of Bush's biggest campaign donors. See also "Courting Big Business" by Dan Noyes in Salon.  

When President Bush nominated William G. Myers III to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in May 2003, judicial experience apparently wasn't a factor in the choice. Myers has spent little time in the courtroom as a lawyer, and has never been a judge. Instead he made his name as a lobbyist for major Republican donors, especially in the coal industry. Despite that lack of experience, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-9 to move Myers' nomination to the full Senate on Thursday.

But a Federal Trade Commission decision to block a Wyoming coal consolidation that was made possible by a Myers lobbying blitz is shining a spotlight on the nominee's corporate background, and raising new questions about whether the Bush White House is using the courts as another way to pay back the special interests from which it raises millions of dollars. Corporate interests have become increasingly involved in attempts to influence the outcome of state judicial elections, so developing sway with the federal judiciary seems a logical step. There is no doubt that confirming Myers would give big business a friend on the crucial 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. [Dan Noyes, "Courting Big Business," Salon, April 1, 2004]

Instead of protesting, maybe those of us opposed to the Iraq War could have prevented it by raising massive amounts of money for a bribe.

News in the News. Which of the many momentous developments of the past week do you think Time put on its cover? The answer is: none of the above. The cover story is "Why Did Jesus Have to Die?" On the other hand, the cover story of New Republic's new issue is "God Bless Atheism."

And I feel compelled to point out that today is 04/04/04.

Bush and Blair Made Secret Iraq War Pact

Thomas Oliphant: It's Still the Economy

Why Your Tax Cut Doesn't Add Up

Don't Underestimate Kerry

Why Condi Will Testify

It's Not Just the Sunnis

Policing Pregnancy

10:58 am | link

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"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918


The War Prayer

I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.

"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into those pregnant words.

"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·

It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

[Mark Twain, 1905]

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