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Leading With The Left
The daily view from the oasis

April 9, 2004 PERMALINK
Shake That Tree
(posted April 9 1:30 AM ET)

There are already some very good analyses of Condi Rice's testimony (see The Nation, Slate and Ctr for American Progress).

So allow LiberalOasis to zero in on one key factual point that appears to have been woefully overlooked.

At the heart of Richard Clarke's argument of what could have be done in response to the threat spike in the summer of '01, is that the Principals Committee of top national security officials should have met regularly to share info and take action.

As was done to foil the millennium plot.

Here's Clarke on NBC's Meet The Press, 3/28/04:

The national security adviser... Sandy Berger... held daily meetings throughout December 1999 in the White House Situation Room, with the FBI director, the attorney general, the head of the CIA, the head of the Defense Department.

And they shook out of their bureaucracies every last piece of information to prevent the attacks.

And we did prevent the attacks in December 1999.

Dr. Rice chose not to do that.

Now, in retrospect, we now know that there was information in the FBI that hadn't bubbled to the top, that two of the hijackers were in the United States.

If we had had that kind of process in the summer of 2001 that we had in December '99...maybe the information that was in the FBI would have shaken loose.

Rice sought to rebut that yesterday:

It's questionable to me...that somehow shaking the trees is what broke up the millennium period is actually accurate...

...after September 11th, Dick Clarke sent us the after-action report that had been done after the millennium plot and their assessment was that Ressam had been caught by chance --

Ressam being the person who was entering the United States over the Canadian border with bomb-making materials in store.

I think it actually wasn't by chance, which was Washington's view of it.

It was because a very alert customs agent named Diana Dean and her colleagues sniffed something about Ressam...

...They then apprehended him [and] found that there was bomb- making material and a map of Los Angeles...

...I don't think it was shaking the trees that produced the breakthrough in the millennium plot...

...And the interesting thing is that I've checked with Customs and according to their records, they weren't actually on alert at that point.

So I just don't buy the argument that we weren't shaking the trees enough and that something was going to fall out...that would have led to connecting all of those dots.

A seemingly comprehensive smack-down. Yet extremely misleading.

Her account of Ressam's arrest is accurate. The Clinton Administration has never argued otherwise.

But Ressam was not the entirety of the millennium plot. He was just the part that got publicized because of the nature of his arrest.

On 1/6/00, Berger announced:

The last weeks of 1999 saw the largest US counter-terrorism operation in history.

Terrorist cells were disrupted in eight countries and attacks were almost certainly prevented thanks to the good work of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

And in last month's 9/11 Commission testimony, Berger elaborated:

In late '99, as we approached the millennium celebrations, the CIA warned us of five to 15 plots against American targets...

...I convened national security principals at the White House virtually every day for a month.

During this millennium period, plots were uncovered in Amman against the Radisson Hotel and religious sites and against the Los Angeles airport.

Terror cells were broken up in Toronto, Boston, New York, and elsewhere.

(For better or worse, it would appear that while he was in government, Berger wasn't all that interested in sparking panic by explicitly saying what happened on our soil.)

That's why Clarke, on MTP, referred to the millennium "attacks", not "attack".

Unfortunately, Condi's half-truth was pounded by Tucker Carlson on CNN's Crossfire, and the two Dems on the show clearly did not have the facts at the ready and were compelled to dodge.

But the facts are clear.

Under Clinton, when threats spiked, bureaucratic barriers were overcome with high-level action meetings.

Under Bush, when terrorists struck, bureaucratic barriers were an excuse.

(UPDATE 4/9 12:45 PM ET -- Orcinus has more info on Condi's misleading millennium plot testimony.)

QUICK HITS

The Reaction

YouÎre f**king kidding me, right? Please say, please say, you're f**king kidding me.

-- The Daily Show's Jon Stewart, after Condi Rice revealed the title of the 8/6/01 Presidential Daily Brief, "Bin Laden Determined To Attack Inside The United States"

New DNC Site

The Democratic Party's website has been redesigned with all sorts of new content and grassroots tools. Check it out.

April 8, 2004 PERMALINK
Preparing To Save Face
(posted April 8 1:45 AM ET)

It's not just liberals that see the direction Iraq is going in. It's conservatives too.

And in response, they are beginning to lay down the "it wasn't our fault Iraq was lost" rhetorical foundation.

By arguing the Bush Administration hasn't been harsh enough, and Iraq can't be saved unless they crack down even harder.

For example, NY Post columnist Ralph Peters:

Sadr's militia should have been disarmed and disbanded in the earliest days of the occupation.

Sadr himself should have been arrested for his inflammatory preaching.

But we were afraid to stir up trouble...

...Weakness, not strength, emboldens opponents - and creates added terrorist recruits...

...If the administration lacks the guts to do what must be done, free Iraq will face a dismal future.

National Review's Jonathan Foreman:

It is clear that the pulling of U.S. troops out of key Iraqi cities either in order to minimize "provocation," or in deference to "force protection" doctrines that became army orthodoxy in the 1990s (when casualty avoidance came to seem at least as important as any existing mission), has been a mistake and must cease.

Anything that smacks of fear and weakness ÷ and to Iraq's civilians as well as Iraq's insurgents, the American withdrawal to fortified garrisons outside the country's cities screams just that ÷ must be avoided.

And Fred Barnes on Fox News this Tuesday:

After toppling Saddam...they could have and should have...moved into Fallujah and those other areas...and taken out the old Ba'athists immediately, before they coalesced...

...But that didn't happen. That was a mistake. I think people at the Pentagon would acknowledge that.

Then they tried in Fallujah...the hearts and minds strategy. You know, build clinics and open schools and so on.

Well, that didn't convince these people who realize...that they have no place in a democratic society...These are killers.

While conservatives complain that not enough people died so far, they ignore the glaring political failures at the root of the problem.

The main White House talking point on Sadr's uprising is, as Don Rumsfeld put it yesterday:

It's certainly not a popular uprising or a movement supported by the majority of Iraqis.

The problem with that assertion is, they can't prove it.

There are no popular clerics willing to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Viceroy Paul Bremer and denounce the uprising.

(Ayatollah Sistani, the most popular cleric, reportedly called for calm, while saying the demonstrators demands were "legitimate".)

And the Iraqi police force didn't exactly stand and fight for their country when the uprising began.

It would seem that Iraqis weren't compelled to die in the name of a Bush/Bremer-run Iraq government.

They haven't been convinced that the Bushies have Iraq's long-term interest at heart.

The only way radical insurgents can be fully isolated is if the people isolate them, and clearly show they only speak for a few.

In turn, any military crackdown that lacks popular support is destined to cause more problems.

This is not to say that military action isn't warranted in response to attacks.

Just that without the political piece, without trust in the formation of the new government from the people, the country won't be on a stable path to democracy.

A single nation's government can't lead the effort to bring about that trust. There will always be suspicions of ulterior motive.

That's why Iraq won't be saved without UN control of the transition.

That's why Iraq won't be saved by the time Kerry makes it to the White House.

Of course, the situation may well be even more chaotic at that point.

And the right-wing will probably be up his ass on Day 1 demanding a bigger crackdown.

QUICK HIT

Look Who Else Sees Another Vietnam

While the Right yelps about Sen. Ted Kennedy's Iraq/Vietnam comparison, two retired generals did the same yesterday on ABC World News Tonight.

April 7, 2004 PERMALINK
Getting Desperate
(posted April 7 1:45 AM ET)

LiberalOasis said it in July '03, and again in Dec. '03:

...if we do get Saddam, but the Iraqi people continue to chafe under occupation, and the guerrilla attacks persist, then Dubya will be out of talking points and out of excuses.

The insurgency's flaring and more US soldiers are dying.

Different Iraqi factions are banding together to oppose the Governing Council, reject the interim constitution, and resist the occupation.

All that means, the strategy of "liberation" through unilateral war and occupation is failing.

In turn, criticism at home is rising.

But since Bush's defenders are "out of talking points and out of excuses," all they can do is try to stifle open debate.

After Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) gave a speech this week calling Iraq, "Bush's Vietnam," Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was rushed to the Senate floor to deliver the main rebuttal:

The senator has mounted another vicious attack on the president by leveling claims so outrageous, so completely outrageous, that I'm not going to repeat them here on the Senate floor.

Although they are being carried on television across the world, presumably even in Baghdad, where those who are fighting Americans in the street can view them.

And on CNN's Crossfire yesterday, former RNC Chair James Gilmore also sought to disparage Kennedy to shame others from speaking out:

There's nothing wrong with honest discourse about public policy, but this goes too far. This goes too far.

This is sowing discontent within the ranks...And to have a leading United States senator sow discord within the ranks is dangerous for this country, and he ought to back off.

These are desperate acts, and they won't work.

The fact is Americans have questions. They are not following Bush blindly.

In addition to those of us who were strongly anti-war from the start, there are others who were supportive of the war, but now that Saddam's captured and there are no WMD, wonder what the point is going forward.

We all want answers. We all want changes in policy so Iraq doesn't descend into irreparable chaos.

People won't be satisfied with recycled talking points like Viceroy Bremer's yesterday:

I know if you just report on those few places, it does look chaotic.

But if you travel around the country ... what you find is a bustling economy, people opening businesses right and left, unemployment has dropped.

Nor will people be satisfied with Dubya's delusional blathering:

We will stay the course. The message to the Iraqi citizens is, they don't have to fear that America will turn and run.

Read today's NY Times and W. Post, and you'll see that's not exactly the message that will pacify the Iraqis.

And it's not what Americans want to hear either.

When something is clearly not working, people want to hear why and what's next.

When they don't, they raise questions and demand changes.

That's why the GOP's attempts to shut people up will fail, because there are too many people to shut up.

April 6, 2004 PERMALINK
What Kind Of Economy Do You Want?
(posted April 6 1 AM ET)

Last week's jobs report, with 308,000 jobs created in March, is widely seen as politically good for Dubya.

For good reason.

The report helps pad Bush's narrative: we've been through three crappy years that are not my fault, but now we're turning the corner thanks to me.

And it makes it harder for Dems to simply pound the net jobs lost in Bush's term.

Of course, if you delve into the details, you would see that Bush's job performance is still poor.

For example, when Dubya pushed his most recent tax cut, he promised it would generate 1.4M jobs from July '03 to the end of '04.

But that promise was in addition to the 4.1M new jobs that he predicted the economy would create without any changes in policy (so the total promise is 5.5M jobs over an 18-month period.)

We're at the halfway-point, nine months in. And we've had a total of 689,000 new jobs.

That is way below not only Bush's promise, but way below the number of jobs that the White House said would have been created if the tax cut never passed!

Simply put, the tax cut made things worse.

Now the problem with relying on this line of argument is that it's all numbers.

Bush, of course, will have his own numbers, his own way to slice the data.

And a debate over whose numbers are better is easily tuned out by the public, because it doesn't speak to their basic concerns.

This is why the Dems should rely less on Bush's net job loss number, and start painting a more complete vision about the economy.

The fundamental question that John Kerry should pose to the public is: what kind of economy do you want?

Do you want a Bush economy?

-- Where you're overworked, underpaid and insecure about your future.

-- Because your community's good jobs are being replaced with low-wage service jobs or part-time jobs with no benefits.

-- Because your health care and tuition costs keep going up.

-- Because you can't find quality child care so everyone in your family can easily enter the workforce.

Or do you want a Kerry economy?

-- Where sound fiscal management creates an environment for entrepreneurship.

-- Where we improve conditions overseas, so more jobs stay here while sparking more trade and economic growth.

-- Where child care, health care, and college are reliable and affordable.

-- So you can better take care of you and your family, and take control of your future.

If people think it's a choice between where we are today economically versus two years ago, Bush, the master of low expectations, may be able to win that.

But with the credibility on the economy that Bill Clinton bestowed on the Dems, Kerry has the ability to raise the bar higher.

Not just with wonky numbers, but by showing he knows what people need to live better, and how he can lead a government that would help provide it.

QUICK HIT

Checking It Twice

Before the Bushies get too excited about the March jobs report, here's what the Wall Street Journal had to say yesterday:

[The jobs report] reflected some one-time factors, and elements of the report -- drops in the length of the average U.S. workweek and in employment of temporary workers -- suggest little pent-up demand for labor.

Bottom line: this is not a thriving economy.

April 5, 2004 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted April 5 2 AM ET)
(minor edit April 5 2 PM ET)

The chair and vice-chair of the 9/11 Commission, Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, came to NBC's Meet The Press, seemingly with a paradoxical mission:

Cover for the Bushies, and pressure them too.

In both cases, the motivating factor was to preserve the commission's credibility in the eyes of the public.

On the covering front, Kean sought to nonchalantly shrug off criticism for interviewing Dubya and Dick Cheney at the same time:

TOM KEAN: That's their request, and we didn't see any problem.

We're going to ask the same questions, whether we get them together or apart...

...

TIM RUSSERT: Isn't it better to have people separately so that you can judge them independently as to their veracity?

KEAN: I think it's a matter of judgment.

All things considered, maybe we would have rather had them one at a time, but we don't see any problem with it, really.

Additionally, over at CBS' Face The Nation, commissioners Bob Kerrey and John Lehman were just as blase:

KERREY: Frankly, I'm less concerned about the president and the vice president's testimony...

...I think their testimony is important, but it's not as important as the testimony under oath of the national security adviser.

...

LEHMAN: I'm glad that they've dropped the restrictions on time, which were the most important thing.

And I think testifying together while they basically conceded everything that we really need is just a face saver. So it's fine with me that they're together.

Remember that John, when Bush says after an hour, "Let's wrap this up, I gotta get to my gym workout."

Kean and Hamilton also sought to tamp down a brewing issue -- the conflict of interest of the commission's executive director Philip Zelikow.

Russert, notably, read the two an excerpt from Joe Conason's recent Salon.com piece on how the four leading 9/11 widows are calling for Zelikow's dismissal.

(Though Russert cut the excerpt off before the part spelling out "their demand that he resign or be fired", leaving an impression that the widows were simply angry and hadn't called for specific action).

Kean's talking points in response made no sense:

He was part of the [Bush] transition team for a month.

Because he was one of the best experts on terrorism in the whole area of intelligence in the entire country, they asked him to help [for] the same reason we asked him to help...

...He's taken himself out of the investigation involving the whole transition.

I understand what they've [the widows] said. Respectfully, I would disagree.

Of course, the duration of his time on the transition team is irrelevant.

He was on it. It dealt with terrorism. It's part of the investigation.

This is not like a Justice Dept. investigation or a Supreme Court conflict-of-interest case, where it's helpful to recuse yourself to protect your credibility in future cases.

The 9/11 Commission is a one-shot deal, there's no future anything.

So if you can't be conflict-free for the single job in front of you, then you shouldn't get to run the staff. Period.

If this wasn't clear enough, after Kean and Hamilton were done, Bush confidant Karen Hughes joined the show.

And she brazenly used the Administration's tie to Zelikow to try to defend Dubya and discredit Richard Clarke:

You just heard the chairman of the commission talk about the fact that the executive director of that commission, Mr. Zelikow, was recruited by the administration to brief us during the transition because he was...one of the foremost experts in the world on al-Qaeda.

I think that is a reputation [sic] of Mr. Clarke's assertions in itself...

...we were concerned enough that we recruited one of the foremost experts to brief the new administration about the threat of al-Qaeda.

Despite these two unfortunate episodes, Kean and Hamilton sent a signal to the Bushies not to get cute when reviewing the final commission report for security clearance:

RUSSERT: You remember when the congressional joint inquiry report was submitted to the White House in December of 2002, it was not made public until July of '03.

If you submit your report in July of 2002, can you guarantee the American people that they will see it and read it before the November election, 2004?

KEAN: I have no guarantees, but everybody is planning on that, including the White House...

...Nobody has any interest in having the report sitting around Washington during the election period and pieces of it leaking out...

...I think it's in the White House's interest, our interest, everybody's interest, to get this out in July, and I believe they will.

Translation: Don't even think about sitting on this. We'll make sure the juicy nuggets get out.

So it doesn't look to LiberalOasis that the fix is in (though you never know).

It looks more like they are walking a fine line, between White House accommodation and service to the public, and its leading them to make some bad calls.

But while we know these troubling (arguably inevitable) political dynamics exist, we don't know how much they will affect the final product.

And won't, until we see it.

The Sandbox
Humor Column by Mark Spittle

Osama Really Does Hate Freedom

We've heard the charge over and over: Al Qaeda and the terrorists "hate our freedoms." This is why, the Bush administration says, they blew up the World Trade Center on September 11th.

A lot of skeptics on the Left point to the sheer vapid nature of that statement as evidence that Bush is clueless, or simply reliant on empty rhetoric to make his points.

Other progressives point to the Bush administration's own hatred of freedoms --- like those of the democratically elected president of Haiti, for example --- to prove that Bush is pretty selective about which liberties he's concerned with.

But in a shocking revelation, I uncovered actual proof that, in fact, Osama bin Laden really does hate freedom.

It's not just goofy GOP rhetoric meant to puff up the patriotism of the ignorant, ill-mannered right-wing after all. It's really true.

I sent a Freedom of Information Act Request to the Saudi Arabian government (you didn't know they had a FOIA over there? Shame!) to release any information on their most notorious son, Osama bin Laden.

I was given a whole stack of stuff, mostly irrelevant documents about the bin Laden's links to the Bush family, the Carlyle Group, John Major's support for Osama, etc... -- you know, conspiracy theory stuff.

But one piece got my attention.

Back in 1963, a six-year old named Osama wrote a paper Mrs. Appletree's second grade class at Al-Aqsa Boy's School.

The paper was called "Why I Hate Freedom," and here it is in its entirety. As you read this you will understand that Bush was right: Arabs really are a one-dimensional, simplistic and evil.

WHY I HATE FREEDOM
By Osama bin Laden

I hate freedom because it means people can do anything they want even bad things.

I think freedom is really bad especially like when the older kids bully me in the school yard.

Like the time Mordecai hit me with a rake and stole my milk money. If he didn't have freedom then he wouldn't get my milk money. Some day I'm going to get even with him.

Freedom also sucks at home.

I think if my mom didn't have so much freedom she would never be able to spank me after I wet the bed.

If I ever become a world leader I will make sure moms don't get no freedom.

My dad told me that in other countries they got lots of freedom and that's why they are bad.

Like did you know that in the United States they got freedom to vote for Republicans? That is sick.

Some day I will become a world leader and blow them up just for that.

I hear they also got television in every house, which really makes me mad, so maybe I will blow them up for that, too. And for their plumbing.

If people didn't have freedom then the world would be a better place. And someday I hope I get big enough to blow people up so they know I don't like freedom.

Mark Spittle is one half of the political satire duo Spittle & Ink. He is a former Washington lobbyist and congressional assistant.

**************

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