This Wacky World

It’s a good news/bad news sort of day. For example, the Connecticut Senate voted to abolish the death penalty. Score one for civilization. On the other hand, the Arizona Senate is considering a bill that would eliminate programs that promote energy efficiency. Why? Because “clean energy programs in Arizona are a plot by the United Nations to create a single world government in order to control people’s lives.”

Maybe we could just sell Arizona to some other country. I’m thinking China would take it if Mexico won’t.

Coca-Cola announced it is withdrawing support from ALEC in the face of a threatened progressive boycott. I’m starting to think that if we’d had social media 30 years ago the right-wing coup would never have gotten off the ground.

On the other hand, Krugman sees ALEC influence in New Jersey.

John Cole has a long and thoughtful post about why he switched from being a wingnut to being a sane person. As he explains why he used to support the Bush Administration, key part to me is “I believed it. I identified with it. It was part of who I was for years. It was my deference to authoritarianism after years in the military. It was tribalism.”

This is why reason doesn’t work on wingnuts. They are a tribe, and wingnuttiness is part of their tribal, and hence personal, identity. Any disagreement with the tribe, any attempt to show that everything they stand for is nonsense and lies, is an existential threat that must be stamped out by any means necessary.

So no matter how patiently one might try to show them that whatever they believe is irrational and a pack of lies, they will simply retreat further into la-la land and retort with whatever non sequiturs and ad hominems they find handy.

Cole says that what finally got to him was the sheer meanness of the Right.

And while Republicans may very well have been crazy for decades, the outright ugliness, I think, has escalated beyond measure. The hideous treatment of Graeme Frost was the final straw, I guess. It was just the last, final, “WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?” moment. You see the same thing from the same folks as they viciously attack Trayvon Martin for his horrible sin of being gunned down in cold blood.

Something like that seems to have happened to Charles Johnson back in 2009, which in many ways was a more remarkable conversion. I don’t remember that Balloon Juice was ever as hard, screaming, foaming-at-the-mouth Right as Little Green Footballs used to be. It’s like Johnson woke up from a bad dream.

Speaking of bad dreams — Item One

A top adviser to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned the Bush administration that its use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading” interrogation techniques like waterboarding were “a felony war crime.”

What’s more, newly obtained documents reveal that State Department counselor Philip Zelikow told the Bush team in 2006 that using the controversial interrogation techniques were “prohibited” under U.S. law — “even if there is a compelling state interest asserted to justify them.”

Item two — Curveball goes public

Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, who openly admitted to fabricating intelligence about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, is breaking his silence with appearances in a BBC documentary that began airing this past Sunday and will conclude next Sunday.

Not that I expect many people to notice …

The Agony of Dick

Everybody is talking about Dick the Dick’s exploding head book. I take it it’s mostly a work of fiction, since Dick’s recollection of events doesn’t seem to match anyone else’s. All kinds of people with firsthand knowledge of events are coming forward to say Dick is just making stuff up.

But IMO the single most interesting semi-revelation from the book is the degree to which Dick was the acting head of the Bush Administration during Bush’s first term — which we knew — but not the second term.

Jefferson Morley, analyzing Cheney’s self-aggrandizing account, says Cheney portrays himself making foreign policy and cabinet decisions without even consulting the President. He seems to have assumed Bush would approve of his decisions without having to ask.

But the reign of Cheney ended in 2006. Morley writes,

In November 2006, Bush fired Rumsfeld without asking for the vice president’s opinion. For the first time in five years, Bush started making key decisions on his own.

Cheney’s account turns petulant at this point. After 2006, no one in the Bush administration (besides Cheney) can do much good. The new Secretary of Defense Robert Gates mistreated two top generals. Secretary of State Condi Rice was so eager to reach an agreement with North Korea she issued a public statement that was “utterly misleading.” And President Bush had failed by acting on her recommendations, not his.

Get this —

“The process and the decision that followed seemed so out of keeping with the clearheaded ways I had seen him make decisions in the past,” he writes with surprise.

What had changed was that Cheney no longer dominated the process of presidential decision-making on foreign policy. He was merely the vice president.

Very sick.

This is from ABC News

He reserves much of his ire for former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and now Powell and his longtime aide and chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, are attempting to set the record straight. In no uncertain terms. Cheney, Wilkerson told ABC News, “was president for all practical purposes for the first term of the Bush administration” and “fears being tried as a war criminal.”

Again, Dick was president during the first term, but not the second one. In foreign policy, Condi took his place. Not that she was much of an improvement.

BTW, you might remember that Bush asked for Rummy’s resignation not because of some failure in Iraq, but because Republicans had just been slaughtered in the 2006 midterms. Karl Rove would resign the following August. The Bush White House was in some kind of meltdown by then, it seems, and Bush appears to have changed his mind about who to trust. It’s water under the bridge now, but someday the real history of the Bush Administration will be written, and I suspect the last three years were especially surreal.

See also “Remembering Why Americans Loathe Dick Cheney.”

Another Year, Another SOTU

The State of the Union

I’ll be out this evening, but I’ll leave a post up for commenting.

Elsewhere — like anybody is surprised — from Politico:

A long-running federal investigation has found that White House political aides to President George W. Bush engaged in widespread violations of a federal law which limits partisan political activity by government employees during the 2006 midterm elections.

A 118-page report issued Monday by the little-known Office of Special Counsel cites numerous violations of the Hatch Act by the Bush-era White House Office of Political Affairs. The report concludes that federal taxpayers footed the bill for improper activities that were intended to advance Republican political candidates.

The report says that partisan political activities were not incidental to the White House staffers’ jobs; that was their job. And taxpayers paid for it, including travel. However, the article doesn’t say whether anyone will ever be indicted. I’m not holding my breath.

That Pesky 4th Amendment

A U.S. District Judge just ruled that the Bush Administration illegally spied on an Islamic charity.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said attorneys for the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, once based in Oregon, could pursue civil remedies for being subjected to warrantless domestic surveillance under an anti-terrorism program put into place by the Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S.

But you know what righties will say — we have to burn our freedoms to save them. Or something.

Update: More info in the New York Times

In a 45-page opinion, Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled that the government had violated a 1978 federal statute requiring court approval for domestic surveillance when it intercepted phone calls of Al Haramain, a now-defunct Islamic charity in Oregon, and of two lawyers who were representing it in 2004. Declaring that the plaintiffs had been “subjected to unlawful surveillance,” the judge said that the government was liable to pay them damages.

The ruling delivered a blow to the Bush administration’s claims that its warrantless surveillance program, which Mr. Bush secretly authorized shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was lawful. Under the program, the National Security Agency monitored Americans’ e-mail messages and phone calls without court approval, even though the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, required warrants.

Presidential Interviews, IOKIYAR Edition

The Right is crowing about Bret Baier’s interview of President Obama on Fox News. It was contentious to the point of being hostile, according to most accounts. Baier repeatedly interrupted the President, John Perr writes at Crooks and Liars. But earlier in his “career” Baier compared George W. Bush to Abraham Lincoln and declared that “The country essentially hated him [Lincoln] when he was leaving office.” Um, no.

Some of you might remember that the Lincoln-like Mr. Bush in 2007 was interviewed by an Irish reporter, Carole Coleman, and was so enraged that Coleman pushed him for more complete answers that he complained to the Irish government and managed to ban the interview from U.S. television. The White House also canceled another interview that had been scheduled between Coleman and First Lady Laura Bush.

By contrast, the Baier interview of Obama has been described as an “interrupt-a-thon.” Katie Connolly wrote,

Baier focused his questions on process, hardly a surprise given that’s what the public debate is largely over right now. Obama did his best to circumvent and focus on policy—which, after all, is the point of the bill. That dynamic wasn’t unexpected. What was unusual—and at times downright jarring—was Baier’s repeated interruptions. He tried time and again to pin the president down, but Obama was having none of it. “I think this conversation ends up being a little frustrating … because the focus entirely is on Washington process. And yes, I have said it, that is an ugly process. It was ugly when Republicans were in charge, it was ugly when Democrats were in charge,” he told Baier.

Scroll down to see just a snip of the Baier interview of Obama. Baier clearly was belligerent; Coleman was politeness itself in comparison (see below).

Iraq = Fail 2

I’ve written in the past about how the wingnut political cosmos is something like old Greek mythology (see, for example, “Why Sarah Palin Is a Goddess.”) In rightie mythology, many presidents — Republican ones, anyway — are gods with the power of bending mortals to their will with simple words and the occasional lightning bolt.

For example, in rightie myth, President Ronald Reagan went to Berlin in 1987 and called on the Soviets to “tear down this wall.” And then, in 1989, the wall came down. And if you listen to righties, you’d believe it came down entirely because of the godlike will of Reagan, who wasn’t even President in 1989. In the Real World, there were, um, lots of other things going on that caused the Berlin Wall to be dismantled. Brave people all over eastern Europe were rising up against Soviet dominance. And at long last the once-mighty Soviet Union was too depleted by its own blunders to maintain control.

So the Berlin Wall came down, as it surely would have done anyway, even if Saint Ronald of Blessed Memory had never made the speech. But saying that out loud is blasphemy in Wingnut World.

Lately some of the losers who were gung-ho to invade Iraq in 2003 are crawling out of the woodwork to declare victory (see, for example, “Iraq=Fail“). As I have written before, these declarations never take into account (1) the original, stated objectives of the invasion were never met; (2) the U.S. considerably weakened itself militarily and economically, possibly permanently. And, as of the most recent count, 4,382 American soldiers have been killed during their tours in Iraq.

Now we’ve got Jeff Jacoby, in a column headlined “Mission Accomplished, Indeed,” arguing that George W. Bush is responsible for “the transformation of Iraq from a hellish tyranny into a functioning democracy.” And then later he wrote, “Where Saddam once ruled a ghastly ‘republic of fear,’ Iraqis live today in democratic freedom and relative peace, dispelling daily the canard that democracy and Arab culture cannot co-exist.”

OK, so in the recent elections about 100 bombs went off, killing 38 people. I would say Jacoby’s standardas of “relative peace” are pretty low.

I also liked this part:

“Iraqis are not afraid of bombs anymore,’’ a middle-aged voter named Maliq Bedawi told a New York Times reporter as they stood amid the rubble of a Baghdad apartment building destroyed by a Katyusha rocket.

See, back in the days of Saddam Hussein’s hellish tyranny Iraqis were afraid of bombs because they were so rare. But according to some figures, by 2007 about 78,000 Iraqis had been killed by coalition airstrikes. I suppose you have to get numb after awhile. And thanks to the invasion and occupation, Iraq became a lightning rod for terrorist hotheads.

Further, I can’t tell from here whether Iraq is truly a “functioning democracy” or not. Voting by itself does not a “functioning democracy” make. The real test of a “functioning democracy” is whether the people of a nation are really governing themselves through elected representation, or whether the elected officials are mostly serving their own ends and just going through the motions of representing the people. One could ask the same question of the U.S., of course.

But if Iraq truly does become a functioning democracy, the primary credit has to go to Iraqis. If they can dig themselves out of what was done to their country and make something positive come of it, this would be a monumental accomplishment. I also think there were many ways the U.S. and the rest of the world could have hurried Saddam out and helped Iraq become democratic that would have been much less costly and violent.

Yes, there were some things the U.S. occupation did long after the invasion that were helpful to Iraqis, but this was not accomplishing our “mission.” This was cleaning up after our mess.

But in Wingnut World, if Iraq becomes a functioning democracy, it will be because the well-protected George W. Bush bravely sat in front of a camera and declared the U.S. would invade Iraq. The simple brown people of Iraq are now enjoying the benefits of Bush’s godlike beneficence.

Report: Bush Let bin Laden Get Away

A Senate Foreign Relations Committee report says the Bush Administration got soft and let bin Laden get away.

Tina Moore, New York Daily News:

Osama Bin Laden was within military reach when the Bush administration allowed him to disappear into the mountains of Afghanistan rather than pursue him with a massive military force, a new Senate report says.

The report asserts that the failure to get the terrorist leader when he was at his most vulnerable in December 2001 – three months after the 9/11 attacks – led to today’s reinvigorated insurgency in Afghanistan. …

… The report calls then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Tommy Franks, the top military commander at the time, to the carpet and asserts the U.S. had the means to mount a rapid assault on Bin Laden with several thousand troops.

Instead, fewer than 100 commandoes, working with Afghan militias, tried to capitalize on air strikes and track down the ragged band of terrorists.

I like this part:

At the time, Rumsfeld expressed concern over the backlash that could be created by a large U.S. troop presence,

It never occurred to him to apply the same concern to Iraq?

On or about Dec. 16, 2001, Bin Laden and bodyguards “walked unmolested out of Tora Bora and disappeared into Pakistan’s unregulated tribal area,” where he is still believed to be, the report says.

Scott Shane, New York Times:

The report, based in part on a little-noticed 2007 history of the Tora Bora episode by the military’s Special Operations Command, asserts that the consequences of not sending American troops in 2001 to block Mr. bin Laden’s escape into Pakistan are still being felt.

The report blames the lapse for “laying the foundation for today’s protracted Afghan insurgency and inflaming the internal strife now endangering Pakistan.”

Here’s the punch line: Jon Meacham, editor of Newsweek, actually has an op ed in the current issue titled “Why Dick Cheney Should Run in 2012.” I don’t think it’s a spoof. Meachem doesn’t exactly say Cheney should be president, but he somehow thinks Cheney’s ideas should still be taken seriously.

A campaign would also give us an occasion that history denied us in 2008: an opportunity to adjudicate the George W. Bush years in a direct way.

Or, we could engage in lots of investigations followed by lots of public hearings.

As John McCain pointed out in the fall of 2008, he is not Bush. Nor is Cheney, but the former vice president would make the case for the harder-line elements of the Bush world view.

And we need to revisit the “Bush world view” why, exactly?

Far from fading away, Cheney has been the voice of the opposition since the inauguration. Wouldn’t it be more productive and even illuminating if he took his arguments out of the realm of punditry and into the arena of electoral politics? Are we more or less secure because of the conduct of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? Does the former vice president still believe in a connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda? Did the counterterror measures adopted in the aftermath of the attacks go too far? Let’s have the fight and see what the country thinks.

Or, let’s not. Instead, let’s round up the turkeys and send them to The Hague. The Bush world view would get thoroughly and objectively aired there, I suspect.

Set the Iraq Record Straight

As we settle into collective amnesia over Iraq, the Brits actually are holding a public inquiry into how they got themselves into that misbegotten adventure. In today’s news we learn from Sir Christopher Meyer, former ambassador to Washington, that at least some people in the British government had realized before the invasion they had no solid proof of weapons of mass destruction hidden in Iraq.

The UN weapons inspectors were not given time to finish their jobs, Sir Christopher said. This was no secret. Blix’s briefing to the UN Security Council in February 2003 basically said, Ladies and gentlemen, we’re inspecting up a storm, but we haven’t found WMDs. We need more time to know what’s going on. The Bush Administration’s response, even before that report, was to undermine Blix.

The problem, Sir Christopher said, essentially is that the Bush and Blair administrations had gotten themselves so solidly committed to war that when evidence for a cause didn’t turn up, they had to fabricate one.

Sir Christopher Meyer said the “unforgiving nature” of the build-up after American forces had been told to prepare for war meant that “we found ourselves scrabbling for the smoking gun”. … Asked about Tony Blair’s meeting with Bush at Crawford, Texas, in April 2002, where, some observers believe, the decision to go to war was made, Meyer said: “To this day I’m not entirely clear what degree of convergence was signed in blood at the Texas range.”

Again, this is not news to most of us who followed events closely at the time. However, it’s important to rub the nation’s nose in the truth about how we got into Iraq. If you young folks will indulge me, let me draw your attention to the aftermath of Vietnam.

With Vietnam, once the Paris peace accords were signed in 1973 the American public didn’t want to hear about Vietnam. Attention was paid to the fall of Saigon in 1975, of course, but that was an exception. Once the U.S. was out of Vietnam, few people wanted to talk about it or think about it. We were tired of it.

This was understandable, but the problem with not talking about it is that there was no processing of what had happened. Everyone’s opinions, impressions, and knowledge of the war remained frozen in place as they were in 1973. And the problem with that came to light during the Bush II Administration. People talked about the “lessons of Vietnam,” and it became apparent that entirely different sets of lessons had been learned.

For some of us, the lesson of Vietnam was that you don’t commit to a foreign war on trumped-up reasons, and without clear (and essential!) goals and an exit strategy.

For others, the lesson of Vietnam was that it’s wrong to dissent against war because it will lead to defeat. Therefore, war dissenters have to be shut up and the military effort supported without question.

The latter position, of course, is held by the same people who whine incessantly that liberals want to take away their “freedoms.” But I digress.

I realize the Obama Administration probably figures it can’t afford to stir up more hard feelings on the Right by making them admit they screwed up while he’s trying to push through health care reform and other vital issues. But I don’t see what difference it would make. The people who would be worked up into a snit over facing facts about Iraq are the same ones fighting the Administration already. How crazier can they get? What trouble could they possibly stir up that they aren’t stirring up?

In a just world, Bush, Cheney, Rove et al. would be too ashamed to be seen in public, if not serving time. We cannot sweep this under the memory rug, or else in a few years the Next Generation of evildoers will be staging a comeback. And that comeback will be built on the uncorrected lies of the Bush Administration.

Good Advice From the Right

Scott Shane writes in the New York Times:

The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency’s director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.

Righties are leaping on the word of several people quoted in the article that the program was never “fully operational.” As far as they’re concerned, that means the whole thing is a non-issue. But of course, they lack the moral courage to face the issue.

The issue is that in the days after 9/11, the unidentified program was devised, and Cheney made the decision to conceal it from Congress, in violation of the law. Planning and training for the program began in 2001 and continued until this year, presumably when Panetta found out about it and shut it down. All we know about the program is that it did not involve domestic surveillance or interrogations. Even if the program was never fully operational, it was an ongoing activity that should have been reported at least to the “Gang of Eight” per the National Security Act of 1947, says Jonathan Turley.

Scott Shane continues,

In the eight years of his vice presidency, Mr. Cheney was the Bush administration’s most vehement defender of the secrecy of government activities, particularly in the intelligence arena. He went to the Supreme Court to keep secret the advisers to his task force on energy, and won.

A report released on Friday by the inspectors general of five agencies about the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program makes clear that Mr. Cheney’s legal adviser, David S. Addington, had to approve personally every government official who was told about the program. The report said “the exceptionally compartmented nature of the program” frustrated F.B.I. agents who were assigned to follow up on tips it had turned up.


Then, of course, there was the role played by that other guy in the Cheney Administration:

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Reports are that President Obama doesn’t want to “look back” at the crimes of the Bush Administration, because this would distract from the enormous domestic agenda he is trying to push through. There are reports that Attorney General Eric Holder may appoint a prosecutor to investigate torture ordered by the Bush Administration. I hope so, but I’m not going to hold my breath until he does.

So what is the “good advice from the Right,” per the title? I give you Reliapundit from THE ASTUTE BLOGGERS, a “global group blog” for people with damaged keyboards stuck in caps lock. Anyway, Mr. R says,



What we’re really dealing with is a steady drip of disinformation from the far-right “think tanks,” astroturf organizations and the various wingnut mouthpieces, scattering scare stories and lies about “socialized medicine” to frighten Congress and the American people from doing what needs to be done. I want the American people to know the truth about President Obama’s health care and energy proposals, but since it’s just about impossible to get the truth out over the screams and lies of the Right, maybe we should go the other way — pull a Karl Rove, as it were — and use investigations of the crimes of the Bush Administration to keep the Right busy so that actual work can get done. Kill two birds with one stone, as it were.

Related: In an absoluely stunning display of cognitive dissonance, one rightie proclaims “Dems Leak Secrets To Cover Pelosi’s Lies.” You can’t make this up.