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Leading With The Left
June 13, 2003 PERMALINK
One of the stubborn strands of the building Phantom WMD scandal is the fraudulent intelligence which said that Iraq attempted to buy uranium from Niger.
When Condi Rice was asked on Sunday how that charge -- which was based on forgeries -- ended up in the '03 State of the Union, she responded:
Somebody, somebody down may have known. [But] the intelligence community did not know at that time, or at levels that got to us, that there were serious questions about this report.
Good guess, Condi! Why, just a few days later, W. Post ran an article, "CIA Did Not Share Doubt on Iraq Data," which said:
...President Bush's claim in his State of the Union address last January [about Niger] was disputed by a CIA-directed mission to the central African nation in early 2002, according to senior administration officials and a former government official.
But the CIA did not pass on the detailed results of its investigation to the White House or other government agencies, the officials said...
So Condi and the Post (at least, the Post's sources) would have us believe that the story is that simple.
But in these matters, the question of who knew what when is never simple.
The classic book What It Takes, which went in-depth into the lives of several 1988 presidential candidates, offers some key insight.
From the chapter "To Know," which explores Daddy Bush's dealings with the Iran-Contra scandal:
...there has developed, in Washington, a kind of knowing without being known to know, for which there is no word at all.
It is a nonoperational, untraceable knowing, which can seldom be proven or disproven...
...which brings us to that veteran capital personage, that longtime practitioner of the Washington arts, that most knowing of men, Vice President Bush.
Here was a man whose very job, whose only job, was To Know, as the capital understands the verb...
...Every meeting, every act, each step in his daily Vice Presidential march, down to the last skip-and-jump through the briefcase full of papers which he'd tackle in his study at home, at night, had simply to do with knowing, and knowing in the Washington Way...
...and yet...and yet!...He could not know, could not afford to know, in the full operational sense of the word, anything beyond what the administration was known to know,
or anything different from what the administration Officially Knew,
or anything that put the lie to any of the fond and rosy myths that swaddled, like a blessed baby, the mind of the most know-nothing President in the capital's known history.
Here was, in short, the most creative and subtle knower of knowledge in the capital...
...[so] when Iran-contra transpired, and God, like The Washington Post, was angry...an answer was sought a thousand times...Did George Bush know?
Now what could they possibly mean by that?
[underlines replace italics in original]
Today, if the Washington Post was angry, it would suspect that Cheney has assumed the role of "the most creative and subtle knower of knowledge."
And that he is in service to "the most know-nothing President in the capital's known history."
It would then take a big whiff of the reporting from competitor columnist Nicholas Kristof, which points a big fat finger at Cheney, trying his best to know and not know.
And it would hear loud and clear Condi's Sunday stumble, inadvertently acknowledging Cheney's efforts to know and not know.
What an angry W. Post would not do is regurgitate what high-level Administration spinners are spinning, like it did yesterday:
The CIA's decision to send an emissary to Niger was triggered by questions raised by an aide to Vice President Cheney during an agency briefing on intelligence circulating about the purported Iraqi efforts to acquire the uranium, according to the senior officials.
Cheney's staff was not told at the time that its concerns had been the impetus for a CIA mission and did not learn it occurred or its specific results...
...He and his staff did not learn of its role in spurring the mission until it was disclosed by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof on May 6, according to an administration official.
But The Post doesn't mention that Kristof alleged more, that the emissary was sent as a direct request of Cheney:
...more than a year ago the vice president's office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger...
Kristof goes on to say that the Administration was well informed of the mission:
...The envoy's debunking of the forgery was passed around the administration and seemed to be accepted ÷ except that President Bush and the State Department kept citing it anyway.
While, the Post reports the Administration spin:
...the CIA did not include details of the former ambassador's report and his identity as the source, which would have added to the credibility of his findings, in its intelligence reports that were shared with other government agencies.
Instead, the CIA only said that Niger government officials had denied the attempted deal had taken place, a senior administration [official] said.
Of course, both reports can be true, in the paradoxical world of knowing and not knowing.
You'd think that with the Post's storied history, it would be cognizant of that, and display some more skepticism.
Although, there is another possibility: that the Post is not angry, but sly.
That the Post is restraining itself, to curry favor with key sources while it accumulates more goods.
For example, the Post story includes this:
Cheney and his staff continued to get intelligence on the matter, but the vice president, unlike other senior administration officials, never mentioned it in a public speech.
That understated nugget is not explicitly connected to any other dot.
But it's another big fat finger pointing to Cheney as someone who was actively seeking to know, to not know, and maybe to protect others.
Is the Post glossing over it, or planting a seed for later?
(Another take on the W. Post story from Tapped.)
(UPDATE June 13 8:45 AM ET -- Kristof has a few things to say today about all this.)
FROM THE MAILBAG
Lots of reader response from Wednesday's call on what to name the WMD scandal. Here's a sampling.
First, the Gates:
And the WMDs:
W's Mass Deception
And the rest:
The Phanton Menace
Thanks to all who wrote in with their suggestions. Feel free to send in more.
June 12, 2003 PERMALINK
Modest and Manageable? Try Again.
Many conservatives have tried to downplay Bush's deficit problem by arguing that even if the deficits are big in dollars, they are modest relative to the economy.
But now, the CBO announced that the Fiscal Year 2003 budget is headed toward a whopping $400B deficit.
In dollar terms, that's a record. Relative to the economy, it's nearly 4% of GDP -- the biggest in 11 years.
So the "modest" argument should be dead in the water.
Amazingly, the Bushies are still peddling it. Said a White House spokesman:
As a share of the economy, the deficit is still modest and manageable.
Oh really? Let's put that in perspective.
When Daddy Bush was in charge, he was so spooked by his huge deficits that in June 1990, he reneged on his "no new taxes" pledge.
The deficit as a share of GDP in Fiscal Year 1990? 3.9%.
The best argument the conservatives can respond with is that their beloved Ronald Reagan had deficits that were even worse, peaking at 6% of GDP in 1983.
But just because things really, really sucked back then, doesn't mean that they don't really suck now.
Or that we won't leave Reagan in the dust in the near future.
McCain, Back To Annoying Bush
Earlier this week, LiberalOasis suggested that Bill Kristol, by speaking openly about the Phantom WMD, may have been laying the groundwork for Sen. John McCain to criticize Bush.
Yesterday, McCain, after being in lockstep with Bush during the war, pushed for hearings to review the intelligence, in opposition to the Administration.
Rejecting the White House argument that U.S. search parties should first be given time to comb hundreds of possible weapons sites, McCain said:
"Any delay will, I think, not be in the interest of the American people. Let's move forward, have those hearings and have the American people in on it."
What's unclear is if McCain will attack Bush for manipulation, or just push for reform in the intelligence agencies.
On Sunday, McCain backer Kristol did not accuse Bush of exaggerating, and pointed his finger at faulty intelligence:
...we've let our intelligence capacity run down for 20 years.
An astute reader informed LiberalOasis that such an argument is a precursor to what's become the GOP stand-by: blaming Clinton.
In fact, Rep. Tom DeLay has already floated this. From the Modesto Bee:
DeLay said any faulty reports the Bush administration may have issued resulted from the "devastation" of U.S. intelligence capabilities during President Clinton's White House years.
Speaking Of Clinton
Of course, it's highly doubtful that the blame Clinton canard still has legs (if it ever did).
On CNN's Inside Politics yesterday, Bill Schneider noted that the polls for Bill and Hillary Clinton are on the up, back over 50% for both.
Furthermore, Schneider says:
We asked people if they thought the country was better off with Bill Clinton or George W. Bush as president.
And the result, look at this, a near tie. [49% Bush. 46% Clinton.]
Instead of dredging up bad memories of the Clinton scandals, her book may be setting off a wave of Clinton nostalgia.
And Bush's approval? Down 16 points since April.
Man, people sure love them tax cuts. A political masterstroke!
Get On The Nuke Train
In what's sure to be an underreported story, a Senate vote took us a step closer to revitalizing the nuclear power industry with our tax dollars.
The provision, which eked by in a 50-48 vote, is part of a larger energy bill, an ugly concoction of bad policy and corporate giveaways.
But the unwieldy bill is by no means assured of passage.
Tell your Senators to kill the bill by going to NewEnergyFuture.com.
Does the WSJ read LiberalOasis?
...Graham's candidacy will be useful to the Democrats...
...his relentless focus on terrorism, his credible perch on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and his willingness to attack Bush directly, should help soften up Bush on the security issue.
And that will help no matter who the eventual nominee is.
From John Hardwood, Wall Street Journal, 6/11/03
Sen. Bob Graham's distinctive role in the Democratic presidential race is now clear: to swing a battering ram at the foundation of George W. Bush's support...
...win or lose for Mr. Graham, his strategy may help his party's chances of beating Mr. Bush just the same.
June 11, 2003 PERMALINK
Some argue that the brewing Phantom WMD* scandal won't hurt Bush politically, because the public is basking in the war's success.
But a recent NPR poll (conducted by a Dem firm and a GOP firm) shows the war's popularity is softer than many think.
The poll asked if the war was "a success" and if it was "worth the cost in U.S. lives and dollars." The results:
A success, worth cost -- 48%
Once again, the 50-50 split of 2000 remains.
Only half of the country are unabashed war supporters. The other half appears either ambivalent or opposed.
And this poll was taken two weeks ago (May 27-9), before the big shoes dropped about the politicized intelligence.
In fact, Bush is taking the worst tack possible, for his own sake.
He's not being consistent with his past comments.
He's not even taking the Bill Kristol tack: admit error and then deflect problems to the intelligence agencies.
What he is doing is flinching without apologizing. That just makes you look like a weasel.
And the above poll implies that Dems have some political room to make that case.
Thankfully some are.
So keep watching those polls.
*Any good scandal needs a name. Reader suggestions most welcome.
FROM THE MAILBAG
A couple of letters in response to yesterday's column about the prospect of a Lieberman nominee.
Terry Barton, member of the Killingly, CT Democratic Town Council writes:
Here's something we should ponder:
Assuming a Dem wins the Presidency in 2004 and it doesn't matter who the Dem is, will the Republicans, who control the House and Senate, as well as their ground troops outside Washington enact a domestic guerrilla warfare to undermine the Dem president?
That was their plan if Gore won the White House...If Lieberman gets elected, I don't see him fighting the Repukes.
I see him caving in or making a facade of resistance, like he did on the corporate scandal investigations. This will deflate or enrage the progressive ground troops and could split the Dem party even more.
The ones I see fighting this Repuke scenario are Dean, Kerry, Kucinich, and Edwards, but even their proposed presidency will be undermined and they could be one-termers as well...
[In turn,] progressives have to see more than the White House. We have to look to Congress, the state and local governments...
We need to offset the conservative biased media, which intentionally distorts or ignores the progressive policies, which are beneficial to all Americans.
And as important as participating in our democratic government, we also have to become more active in the Democratic party, especially within our local and state branches.
Robert Greenleaf, the late AT&T executive and proponent of the Servant Leadership paradigm said, "followers will be responsive only to able servants who would lead them - but that they will respond. Discriminating and determined servants as followers are as important as servant leaders...."
If progressives leave the Democratic party, we decrease the progressive voice of that party and leave a void filled by conservative voices, like Lieberman's and Zell Miller's.
Another reader writes to say we can't have a repeat of 2000:
If we place the Democratic candidates on the political spectrum, we find Lieberman at dead center, or perhaps a little to the right, Kerry and Dean to his left, and Sharpton and Kucinich at the farthest left.
Yet the difference between Lieberman near center and Sharpton and Kucinich on the left is far less than the difference between any of the Democratic candidates and Bush, who has moved to the right of Reagan, Goldwater, Hoover, and McKinley.
Surely we have been burned with the lesson of the 2000 Nader candidacy. We know that a vote for a Natural Law, Reform, or Green candidate is a vote for Bush...
A vote for anyone other than the Democratic nominee is a vote for the enactment of all that Grover Norquist dreams of -- more tax injustice, more domestic theocracy, more economic inequity, more ecological poisoning, and more isolation in world affairs.
Does any liberal -- or even any radical -- really want this?
June 10, 2003 PERMALINK
Let's say right off that Joe Lieberman probably will not be the nominee.
He's the frontrunner in many national polls, but in the states where campaigning is hottest, he fades.
And his fundraising has been tepid.
As such, his strategy appears to rest on winning some states with newly early primaries, and hope that the low-level of campaign activity will allow his name ID to carry the day.
Not exactly a hard-charging game plan.
However, anything can happen in a nine person race, where winners may only score 25% of the vote.
(Though by January, don't be surprised if the field's down to around six).
The possibility exists that we'll be faced with the unpalatable choice of Dubya or Joe.
Pro-military bases in Iraq, pro-school voucher, soft on corporate crime Joe.
In that case, the Green Party may well be in overdrive hustling for votes.
And there are rumors that Rep. Dennis Kucinich could also run under the Natural Law banner (the party's leader has already endorsed him).
LiberalOasis won't make a call on that until it becomes absolutely necessary (in hopes that it won't).
But yesterday gave us a reminder why, in that scenario, voting for Joe may be necessary.
It not only reveals what's in store if the Right controls Washington for the next five years:
The new Republican policy is an annual tax cut...
...The Bush administration -- wisely -- has not proposed fundamental tax reform in a single piece of legislation. But the president has been taking deliberate steps toward such reform with each tax cut...
...Conservatives want to move to a flat-rate income tax...
It also shows how cocky the Right is that they will be in control:
In crafting its agenda for economic reform, the Bush administration has the luxury of being able to think and plan over a full eight years.
This is because the 2002 redistricting gave Republicans a lock on the House of Representatives until 2012 and the Founding Fathers gerrymandered the Senate for Republican control.
In the 50-50 election that was 2000, Bush carried 30 states and Al Gore 20. [sic]
Over time, a reasonably competent Republican Party will tend to 60 Republicans in the Senate.
This guarantee of united Republican government has allowed the Bush administration to work and think long-term.
Before you completely freak out and take his wishful thinking as gospel.
Recall that many politicos in the 80s thought the GOP had the "L" shaped Electoral College lock on the presidency.
The 90s showed otherwise. The people often have a say on such matters.
The fact that the Right is trying to psych Dems out by creating a sense of inevitability is not a reason to wilt.
It's a reason to stand together and fight harder.
And so, while a President Lieberman would do some decidedly un-liberal things.
He most certainly will not keep us on the Bush-Grover flat-tax path.
A path which is nothing but a giant windfall to the wealthy, and a recipe for, in Grover's words, reducing government "to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."
And which, if it succeeds by 2008, will not only do immense damage to the poor and middle-class, but will (paradoxically, perhaps) be immensely difficult to reverse.
Any other Dem running would be a no-brainer versus Bush, and in all likelihood, we won't be faced with any Lieberman dilemma.
But if we are, as hard as it may be to vote for Joe, the Grover vision would loom large in the final decision.
June 9, 2003 PERMALINK
The lesson for the Bushies from Sunday:
If you're in need of damage control, do not call Condi Rice.
Both Condi and Colin Powell we're sent to cover all five Sunday shows.
Though Condi was asked to hit the three higher-rated shows: NBC's Meet The Press, CBS' Face The Nation, and ABC's This Week.
And she was hit with the fiercest questioning.
She responded with an overall shaky, defensive performance -- with a quiver in her voice that showed an uncharacteristic nervousness.
George Stephanopoulos, who had one of his best performances as an interviewer, pushed her the hardest:
Stephanopoulos aired Dubya's unequivocal comment from a Sept. 26, 2002 speech:
The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons.
The Iraqi regime is building the facilities necessary to make more biological and chemical weapons.
And then he had this exchange with Condi:
STEPHANOPOLOUS: Why did the Defense Intelligence Agency, one of the top intelligence agencies in the government, say:
"There's no reliable information [on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons]"?
RICE: Because, George, I have never seen a worse case of selective quotation.
That quotation is taken out of context of a larger paper in which there's a lot about potential preparations...to use weapons of mass destruction.
And of course, is at odds, with the national intelligence estimate in October 2002, to which the DIA signed on, saying for instance, that the Iraqis likely had as much as 100 to 500 metric tons of chemical agent.
Well, which is it Condi?
Either it's out of context, and so its meaning is distorted.
Or it's "at odds" with another, supposedly more important and credible, intelligence report.
Which leads to another question: Why should that other report be deemed superior?
That report, which she pointed to on all her Sunday appearances, the national intelligence estimate, is just that -- an estimate.
A strategic estimate of the capabilities, vulnerabilities, and probable courses of action of foreign nations produced at the national level as a composite of the views of the intelligence community.
The big question, of course, is if, in the course of producing the "composite of...views," that manipulation occurred.
And even if it didn't, it's still an estimate -- a best informed guess that certainly appears to have been loaded with qualifiers, based on Condi's own description above ("Iraqis likely had").
That would still make Bush's "definitive" statements, at minimum, serial exaggeration.
(Hey, wasn't some presidential candidate, that wasn't Bush, called a "serial exaggerator"?)
Similar to Condi, Colin (who was also defensive, but seemingly more self-assured, on Sunday) also pushed the "out of context" line on CNN's Late Edition:
...the DIA sentence you made reference to is taken out of context in all of the reporting.
The very next sentence after the sentence that says we're not sure what they're doing, says we have information that they have transferred chemical weapons within the last few weeks.
The sentence Colin is referring would appear to be this one mentioned in an earlier CNN.com story:
Unusual munitions transfer activity in mid-2002 suggests that Iraq is distributing CW [chemical weapons] munitions in preparation for an anticipated attack.
But that sentence is by no means definitive. There's a big hedge -- "suggests."
In fact, following the Powell interview, Pat Lang, former DIA analyst and a war supporter, gave further insight on Late Edition:
...when they say we have no reliable information about such-and-such, they are telling you that, with regard to that question, they have no opinion. They're not going to say anything about it.
And if in the next sentence, as the secretary said, they say we have information that weapons were transported to units, and there is no reliable or some such similar qualifier in front of the word, what that means is that they do have information, but they're not sure if it's true or not...
The best exchange of the day, if not the year to date, was back on This Week.
Again, the segment started with a Bush flashback, this time the 2003 State of the Union Address:
BUSH: The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That claim was later discredited by the International Atomic Energy Agency, found out to be based on forged documents.
So how did it make it into the State of the Union address?
RICE: At the time that the State of the Union address was prepared, there were also other sources that said that the Iraqis were seeking "yellowcake," uranium oxide, from Africa.
And that was taken out of a British report.
Clearly, that particular report, we learned subsequently -- subsequently -- was not credible --
[Sounds like she's coming clean, no?]
STEPHANOPOULOS: No, but --
RICE: But it was also a very small part, George, of a larger picture of a program aimed at developing nuclear weapons --
[Uh, hasn't everybody given up on the nukes by now?]
STEPHANOPOULOS: But let me stop you right there. Because many in the United States government knew before then, that this --
RICE: Somebody, somebody down may have known.
[Whoa! Major pre-emptive CYA action!]
But I will tell you that when this issue was raised with the intelligence community...
...The intelligence community did not know at that time, or at levels that got to us, that there were serious questions about this report.
["Levels that got to us"! When you'd rather argue you have no idea what your own staff is saying, you're in big trouble.]
STEPHANOPOULOS: But let me show you something.
This is a column from Nicholas Kristof from the New York Times. It was on May 6. And he wrote in that column:
[quote displayed on screen]
"More than a year ago the vice president's office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger."
"In February 2002, according to someone present at the meetings, that envoy reported to the C.I.A. and State Department that the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged..."
"...The envoy's debunking of the forgery was passed around the administration and seemed to be accepted ÷ except that President Bush and the State Department kept citing it anyway."
That's hardly low-level, the vice-president's office.
RICE: Well, the vice-president's office may have asked for that report.
[Hmmm. That doesn't sound pre-written. Someone got caught off-guard?]
But I am telling you George, that the information that this particular report, this particular report, which was cited by the British, and if you notice the president cites the British on this, this particular report was not known to us --
[Getting awfully nuanced here, a little "definition of 'is' is" perhaps?]
STEPHANOPOULOS: Then why would we cite the British if there were people in the US government -- and I also know the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research, I spoke to someone there yesterday -- knew it wasn't true and had discredited it?
[Sweet Jesus! A real follow-up question!]
RICE [increasingly exasperated]: George, I am telling you that when this was raised with the intelligence community they said what we could say.
And there were other attempts to get yellowcake from Africa.
[Brazen assertion without evidence. Haven't we learned our lesson?]
But the important thing here, is that this case about the nuclear weapons program did not rest on a document that the British cited.
Despite all of this decent journalism, everyone let Colin and Condi get away with trumpeting the two trailers that the Bushies insist are mobile bio weapons labs.
Even though Saturday NYT reported:
American and British intelligence analysts with direct access to the evidence are disputing claims that the mysterious trailers found in Iraq were for making deadly germs.
In interviews over the last week, they said the mobile units were more likely intended for other purposes and charged that the evaluation process had been damaged by a rush to judgment.
But no Sunday questioner raised this report in response.
(Could it be that no one bothers with the Saturday paper?
Or that one of the reporters of the story, Judith Miller, has had her credibility questioned because of her dubious reports that WMD have already been found?)
Nevertheless, the defensive performances by Condi and Colin, utterly failed in squelching the issue.
For example, from the Dems, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), on MTP said:
I think our credibility will be weakened [if no WMD are found].
Even the president has said that our credibility is significantly going to be determined by whether we find weapons of mass destruction or not.
I was kind of stunned the other day when the president said that we have found weapons of mass destruction.
He said this twice, I believe, in Poland, that we actually have found them. I think that raises credibility issues.
But if we do not find weapons of mass destruction, I think that the credibility and reliability of our intelligence is going to be challenged in the future.
And it's going to be much more difficult for us to lead the world.
And if you're surprised that a Dem was putting more pressure on Bush, you won't believe this.
Mr. PNAC, Bill Kristol, on Fox News Sunday, while still supporting the war, said:
We shouldn't deny, those of us who are hawks, that there could have been misstatements made, I think in good faith,...by the president, and by the secretary of state, that will turn out to be erroneous.
And I made [such] statements...
...[And] I'm worried about the fact that we have a Bush Doctrine...a foreign policy that, I think correctly, is aggressive in terms of pre-empting threats against us by states developing weapons of mass destruction.
We need awfully good intelligence to know what states have...where these weapons are. And we've let our intelligence capacity run down for 20 years.
Of course, this gets at the entire problem with pre-emption. But that's another column.
(Also, keep in mind that Kristol backed John McCain in 2000, not Bush. Is this a softening up of Bush in advance of a McCain comeback?)
All in all, this was one bad Sunday for George Bush. This issue ain't going nowhere.
WASHINGTON, May 3 -- Leading religious conservatives said today that war with Iraq has wrongly opened to door to Communism and prostitution, leading to a breakdown of the moral underpinnings of Iraqi society.
At a news conference organized by the Christian Coalition, President Bush's former rival Gary Bauer noted, "When Saddam was in charge, the Communists were underground and the hookers were decapitated. We shouldn't have been dropping bombs. We should have been taking notes."
Sen. Rick Santorum echoed the comments, "Once you have pinkos and sluts banging each other, before you know it, the liberals will be crying out for a Department of Prostitution. And then how can you crack down on the rampant man-on-dog action? It's constitutionally impossible."
Noted role model Bill Bennett also expressed indignation. "Prostitution is wrong and we can't let it fester. I mean, I go to prostitutes. Have since I was a boy. But I keep it under control. Just a few hours from time to time so I can relax. But I never use my wife's money. It's on my dime and nobody gets hurt. If you can't handle it, you shouldn't do it. And nobody in Iraq can handle it."
President Bush was busying regaling his aides on how cool it is to fly an F-18, and could not be reached for comment.
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July 26, 2002
"The parallel dimension in which supporters of Stalin, Hitler, Saddam Hussein and various and sundry other shitheels live."
July 29, 2002
GET A JOB
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