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July 12, 2003 PERMALINK
The Tenet "Admission"
And Best of the Blog This Week
(posted July 12 12 PM ET)

A quick uncharacteristic Saturday thought, before the semi-traditional weekly "Best Of":

If you're worried that George Tenet's "admission" was going to take the heat off of Dubya, think again.

Everyone seems to have caught Tenet's thinly veiled F-You to Condi at the end of his statement:

...[CIA] officials who were reviewing the draft remarks on uranium raised several concerns about the fragmentary nature of the intelligence with National Security Council colleagues.

[Translation: my team tried to push back on Condi's team]

Some of the language was changed.

[and we got a weak concession]

From what we know now,

[I'm maintaining I wasn't fully in the loop at the time]

Agency officials in the end concurred that the text in the speech was factually correct - i.e. that the British government report said that Iraq sought uranium from Africa.

[I told you it was a weak concession]

This should not have been the test for clearing a Presidential address.

[We should have had the spine to go over Condi's head, though who knows what hell that would have wrought upon us.]

Today's NY Times front-pager offers notable details on how those talks went, towards the end of the piece.

More importantly, today's NY Times lead editorial, serving as assignment editor for all the media, says:

George Tenet...stepped up to the issue yesterday when he said the C.I.A. had approved Mr. Bush's speech and failed to advise him to drop the mistaken charge...

Now the American people need to know how the accusation got into the speech in the first place, and whether it was put there with an intent to deceive the nation.

The White House has a lot of explaining to do.

Ari Fleischer is trying to shift to the old stand-by, "The president has moved on."

Nice try, but this isn't over.

And now...

BEST OF THE BLOG THIS WEEK

More IntelliGate insight from Talking Points Memo and Joe Conason

Check out the DNC ad and petition about IntelliGate

Left Coaster has a handy Niger timeline

Tapped has constructive advice on how self-identified liberals and moderates can stay unified

Tristero on what happens when an Ashcroft ethics adviser actually does her job

Terminus explores opposing war in Iraq and supporting military intervention in Liberaia

Off The Kuff has the latest on the Texas redistricting debate

Wellstone Cornerstone has advice for both parties on how to campaign, with sincerity, among the poor

July 11, 2003 PERMALINK
Drip Drip Drip
(posted July 11 1:30 AM ET)

As the IntelliGate (how's that for a name?) story drips and drips, the defenses get weaker and weaker.

Fred Barnes, on yesterday's FOX News' Special Report, sputtered:

If the President exaggerated a little bit, or, by putting a stronger face on the question of weapons of mass destruction than he maybe should have --

You know, look, that's what selling a policy consists of, often, with many presidents and all politicians.

Exaggeration, schmaggeration? That's the standard of the conservative media Establishment? Tell it to Al Gore.

And Colin Powell -- like Rummy, Ari, Don Bartlett and Dubya earlier -- swung and missed big yesterday.

As noted by TPM, Powell's argument rests upon the laughable notion that he figured out the Niger claim was bogus in the 8 days between Dubya's State of the Union and his own UN speech.

Furthermore, Powell tries to take credit for forthrightly acknowledging the supposed mistake. That's another joke.

If Powell and the Administration concluded the charge "didn't hold up" back in February, to be forthright would require saying so back then, not now under pressure.

While the Bushies and their sycophants grasp at straws, it looks like the intelligence officials are pushing back hard.

LiberalOasis suggested yesterday that the apparent Administration attempt to hang CIA Director George Tenet could backfire in just this way.

Powell continued the subtle tack yesterday, laying the final responsibility on the "intelligence community" for vetting the SOTU.

But also yesterday, CBS News reported that the Africa charge was put in the SOTU "despite objections from the CIA."

(UPDATE July 11 3:15 PM ET -- That CBS link now has an updated and edited story, and has changed the above quote to "despite initial objections from the CIA".)

The story sources that vaguely to "senior administration officials."

But the story ends with, "intelligence officials say the director of the CIA never saw the final draft."

That implies that the SAOs are intelligence officials. (Perhaps including Tenet?)

Not so coincidentally, "senior administration officals" -- at least one who is "familiar with the intelligence program" -- told the W. Post that the CIA was telling the Brits to drop the Africa charge way back in September.

On top of that, "intelligence officials" told Newsday that "[t]he CIA 'from day one' was highly skeptical of reports that Iraq had been shopping for uranium ore in Africa...".

That all looks like a pretty coordinated front from these "intelligence officials."

And it looks like the White House's arrogant, defensive ways are just making more enemies and fueling the story.

(UPDATE July 11 11 AM ET -- The White House-CIA catfight continues. AP reports major counter-pushback from Dubya and Condi.

Also, note that Condi's words about Tenet are quite similar to those said by an SAO printed in yesterday's W. Post. LO had floated that it might have been Bartlett. Could still be, but it looks more like Rice now.)

July 10, 2003 PERMALINK
The Pathetic Dance of the Lying Weasels
(posted July 10 1:45 AM ET)

JIM LEHRER: You had no sexual relationship with this young woman?

BILL CLINTON: There is not a sexual relationship. That is accurate.
-- PBS Newshour, 1/21/98

Q: Do you still believe they were trying to buy nuclear materials in Africa?

GEORGE W. BUSH: Right now?

Q: No, were they? The statement you made --

BUSH: One thing is for certain. He's not trying to buy anything right now. If he's alive, he's on the run.
-- South Africa Press Conference, 7/9/03

Here's one thing that's really for certain:

When you have to resort to being cute with verb tenses, you're in real trouble.

The Bushies are in overdrive trying to beat back Nigergate, with various members of the Liars' Squad misdirecting in their own special way.

It's pathetic to watch.

Dubya failed in his job to charm his way out of it.

"Skirts" is the verb both the NY Times and W. Post headlines chose to describe how he handled questions about Iraq-Africa intelligence.

A far cry from "moral clarity."

Communications Director Dan Bartlett's job was to satisfy the media desire to know how the Africa line got into the State of the Union, by giving a vague description of the process to the W. Post.

But it amounted to worthless info.

He refused to say who exactly wrote the relevant section, making it impossible for reporters to follow-up with this key player who could connect more dots.

Bartlett may have had a second job: setting up CIA Director George Tenet as the fall guy.

Following a long section excerpting the interview with Bartlett, the W. Post piece abruptly turned to a "senior administration official" who said:

If Tenet had called up and said, "Take it out," we would have taken it out.

That SAO could easily be Bartlett, shifting away from being "on the record" to "on background."

(Watch Ari Fleischer clumsily employ this maneuver in his press briefing yesterday.)

Whether it's Bartlett or not, the point is someone in the White House is putting heat on Tenet.

And if Tenet isn't down with this, the pushback could be gloriously fierce.

Don Rumsfeld had a job too, as he faced a Senate committee. Apparently it was to offer the most moronic argument possible:

The coalition did not act in Iraq because we had discovered dramatic new evidence of Iraq's pursuit of weapons of mass murder.

We acted because we saw the existing evidence in a new light, through the prism of ... Sept. 11th.

Thankfully, at least one Dem, Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) wasted no time ramming that back up Rummy's ass:

It is deeply troubling that Congress would be asked to vote on something as serious as sending American troops into harm's way and then be told after the fact, "There's nothing new."

Finally, as Talking Points Memo has already noted, short-timer Ari Fleischer was dispatched to brazenly lie about Ambassador Joseph Wilson's account of his Niger mission.

The Clinton experience is a classic example of what happens when you don't fully 'fess up right away.

The Bushies seem to think they can scoot by if they say they're 'fessing up, when they're really are not.

Looks like they will learn the hard way.

July 9, 2003 PERMALINK
Prove The Lie
Don't Rehash The War
(posted July 9 1:45 AM ET)

Nigergate is heating up. That's good.

But if Dems don't play their newfound cards right, the mainstream media may let the story fade, and leave the allegations unresolved.

Their overall response is by no means a disaster, but it's not completely coordinated either, based on the quotes from yesterday's AP story.

Every Dem wants a formal investigation.

But leading congressional Dems sound somewhat cautious, refraining from full-throated attacks against Bush.

While prez candidates, and congressional backbenchers are more pointed.

LiberalOasis prefers pointed to restrained. But to actually achieve political gains, it needs to be done smartly, not haphazardly.

What the Dems are not consistently doing is stressing why people should care, why people should want an investigation.

Without the "why," calling for an investigation just sounds like partisan politics.

And the trick is not to get sucked into rearguing the war.

That's what the GOP wants Dems, and liberals in general, to do.

From today's W. Post:

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) [told] reporters that it is "very easy to pick one little flaw here and one little flaw there."

He defended the U.S.-led war against Iraq as "morally sound, and it is not just because somebody forged or made a mistake. . . . The Democrats can try all they want to undermine that, but the American people understand it and they support it."

LiberalOasis would dispute that there ever was a rock-solid majority support for the war, as DeLay implies -- the majority is a combination of the rock-solid and the wishy-washy.

Nevertheless, DeLay's warning should be heeded.

Why? Because the goal is not to win a debate about whether the war was right or wrong.

The goal is getting rid of Bush.

And you don't need to change anyone's mind about the war to do that.

But taking away the perception that Bush is trustworthy would go a long way, since that's where much of his personal appeal is based.

And exposing Bush as dishonest is relatively easier than winning converts about the war.

This is where the Dem split on the war -- which up until now has made the party seem rudderless -- comes in handy.

Now, the pro-war and anti-war Dems, representing a broad swath of Americans, can stand together and say:

Whether or not you believed war with Iraq was necessary at this time,

no one believes a President has the right to mislead the public when our soldiers' lives are on the line, and our credibility with the world is at stake.

The GOP retort, for the moment, is the Bushies are being forthright by admitting a mistake.

They just weren't aware of the mistake until after the State of the Union was given.

But at least two accounts yesterday -- from the BBC and ABC's World News Tonight -- claimed the White House was told the Niger story was likely bunk, 10 months before the State of the Union.

ABC reported:

...a senior intelligence official tells ABC News that in March of 2002, when Ambassador Wilson finished his investigation, the CIA sent a classified cable to all the appropriate agencies, including the White House...raising serious doubts about the uranium allegations.

Yet 10 months later, the president presented the allegations as fact.

That's serious smoke. That's what the Dems and liberals need to focus on, fan the flames and guide the media.

Proving the lie. Not disproving the entire argument for the war.

(UPDATE July 9 10:30 AM ET -- Today's Drudge Report screamer "NOW BBC TAKES ON WHITE HOUSE!" conveniently ignores the similar ABC report, which has no web link. That may give the false impression that it's just leftist Euros pushing the charge, when both reports are based on American sources.)

July 8, 2003 PERMALINK
Africa: It's About The Oil
Try To Look Surprised
(posted July 8 1 AM ET)

Dubya speaks the multilateral, humanitarian liberal truth:

It's in our national interest that Africa become a prosperous place.

It's in our interest that people will continue to fight terror together.

It's in our interest that, when we find suffering, we deal with it.

The only problem is he doesn't mean it.

Shock of shocks, he's really after more oil.

As MSNBC reports:

While in Senegal, Bush will meet with the heads of seven West African states ÷ a list that...includes tiny countries with large undeveloped oil resources...

...Diplomacy with these countries has ramped up since 2001.

Last September, President Bush held an unusual audience at the White House for 10 West African heads of state, including some of the most notorious dictators on the continent.

Among them was Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the leader of Equatorial Guinea, where the United States has also recently opened a new consulate.

Last October, the NY Times also touched upon our newfound relationship with the loveable Obiang:

After two years of lobbying at the State Department, and after being turned down twice on human rights grounds, [private military contractor] MPRI was finally given approval last year to work with...Obiang..., whom the State Department describes as holding power through torture [and] fraud...

...MPRI advised...Obiang on building a coast guard to protect the oil-rich waters being explored by Exxon Mobil off the coast.

Note the timeframe. That means the Clinton Administration turned the company away, while Bush wasted no time to help out an oil-drenched dictator.

So Bush talks about making Africa "prosperous."

And when does, he wants you to think about his pro-trade Africa Growth and Opportunity Act.

(Even though we actively undercut it with unfair trade practices.)

But he doesn't talk about how exploiting Africa's oil doesn't quite spread the prosperity around.

From MSNBC:

The problem is that money going into the oil industry tends to fill the pockets of top politicians...but [does] little for the population at large [and] create[s] relatively few jobs...

(Here's how Obiang does it, from the LA Times.)

And so, Bush talks about "fight[ing] terror together."

When he does, he wants you to think about busting Al Qaeda cells.

But he blithely ignores that he is playing off oppressive dictators he likes -- ones that rule by terror -- against oppressive dictators he doesn't.

That's the exact geopolitical strategy that breeds the resentment among the disenfranchised that leads to terrorism.

And finally, Bush claims that he will "deal" with "suffering."

When he does, he wants you to think about his heavily hyped AIDS initiative, even though it's become clear that the $15B price tag is a smokescreen.

But what he really hopes is that you won't even find out about the suffering inflicted by his dictator friends.

The Sandbox
Humor by John Cougarstein

Have You Forgotten?
(Reality Remix)
Sung to Darryl Worley's "Have You Forgotten?"

VERSE 1
I hear Bushies saying
That was one cool war

But what was it again
That we were fighting for?

What about those weapons?
The W-M-D?

Think I was more threatened
by Avril Lavigne

They say we've made Iraq
safe for democracy

While we wait for that election
Let me ask you just one thing

CHORUS 1
Have you forgotten
What they used to say

Like the day when Iraq had nukes
Was just six months away

Have you forgotten
About that Osama guy

Bush don't say his name no more
Hmm, I wonder why

On that carrier you said "Mission Accomplished"

Have you forgotten?

VERSE 2
Who cares about weapons?
Iraqis are now free!

We now return you
To who killed Laci

And those free Iraqis
Their memories do seem short

They keep killing our troops
The ones that we support

Some say we won
since Saddam's no longer a threat

But Osama Bin Laden
don't seem all that upset

CHORUS 2
Have you forgotten
What they used to say

We'd be greeted with flowers
Then we'd all be home by May

Have you forgotten
Who attacked us that day

Not Saddam, or Scott Peterson
Or even Natalie Maines

We once vowed to get the ones behind Bin Laden

Have you forgotten?

For more Cougarstein, check out The Cougarstein Ramble and download Cougarstein songs at Iuma.com

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

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