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July 19, 2003 PERMALINK
Bush Poll Roundup
And Best of the Blog This Week
(posted July 19 11:30 AM ET)

Since the country has "moved on" regarding this minor matter of the mere 16 words, it couldn't be hurting Dubya in polls, right? Take a look:

CNN/Time, July 16-7
If George W. Bush runs for reelection, how likely are you to vote for him?

Likely (Very and Somewhat) -- 50%
Unlikely (Very and Somewhat) -- 46%

Very Likely -- 33%
Very Unlikely -- 36%

Zogby, July 16-7
Do you think President Bush deserves to be reelected or do you think it is time for someone new?

Someone New Ų 47%
Deserves Ų 46%

If the election for president were held today∑for whom would you vote?

Bush Ų 47%
Dem -- 44%

FOX News
∑do you think you would be more likely to vote to reelect President Bush or for the Democratic candidate?

For Bush:
July 15-6 Ų 42%
June 17-8 Ų 51%

Newsweek, July 10-11
In general, would you like to see George W. Bush reelected to another term as president, or not?

Yes Ų 47%
No Ų 46%

BEST OF THE BLOG THIS WEEK
(updated July 19 4:30 PM ET)

The Nation's Capital Games suggests that the White House may have broken the law by exposing the identity of an undercover CIA agent in an attempt to punish Amb. Joseph Wilson for speaking out

Body and Soul says it‚s not just the politicization of intelligence, but also of humanitarian aid

Counterspin Central offers a different view regarding yesterday‚s LiberalOasis column

Angry Bear crunches the numbers and shows how tax cuts (surprise) are the main cause of the deficit (via Thinking It Through)

Left Coaster and Wampum on newly released documents from Cheney‚s secret energy task force

July 18, 2003 PERMALINK
Will They Plant The WMD?
Or, Why Haven‚t They Already?
(posted July 18 12:30 AM ET)

Yesterday‚s Wall Street Journal reported:

∑the normally sure-footed White House communications operation is divided∑

∑Some senior aides are lobbying for a frank session with reporters to explain how the dubious charge got in the speech.

Others recommend that, after suffering a string of contradictory statements by senior advisers by senior advisers and even Mr. Bush himself, the best course is to stop talking and ride out the storm.

(Aaah, the warm fuzzies you get when „honor and dignityš return to a White House.)

Based on the Bush-Blair news conference Ų where Dubya‚s stammering and Blair‚s elegance both underscored their evasiveness Ų don‚t hold your breath for that „frank session.š

But while some will focus on Bush‚s blatant dodge when asked if he‚d take „personal responsibilityš for the 16 words, a more direct (albeit stammering) comment of his is also worth noting:

∑we will bring the weapons and, of course -- we will bring the information forward on the weapons when they find them.

And that will end up -- end all this speculation.

I understand there has been a lot of speculation over in Great Britain, we've got a little bit of it here, about whether or not the -- whether or not the actions were based upon valid information.

We can debate that all day long, until the truth shows up. And that's what's going to happen.

Is that certainty based on foolish, blind pride, or is something up his sleeve?

A few days after the Saddam statue came down in April, LiberalOasis said:

∑if this whole disarmament thing was a ruse∑the Bushies need only to worry about the politics.

And the politics can be taken care of by exaggerating the importance of what [few] weapons are found, or by planting the weapons themselves in case none are found.

(Yes, discussing the planting of evidence is arguing conspiracy. And conspiracy arguments are weak.

But Bush is so far out on a limb here, there is just no way he would ever face the public and admit the US couldn‚t find any weapons.)

Well, LO shouldn‚t have been so quick to jump to conspiracy.

Obviously, a backup plan to plant evidence wasn‚t in the works at the onset. Otherwise, the Bushies wouldn‚t be in this mess.

Which is a healthy reminder that conspiracies aren‚t always so simple to execute.

But LO was right about one thing. There‚s still no away they‚ll ever admit failure.

Bush sounds quite confident that „the information∑on the weaponsš will be found.

Does that mean a belated Operation Plant The Goods in the works?

Probably not.

But (another) Operation Exaggerate The Evidence probably is.

The man in charge of the WMD team is David Kay, a former UN inspector who was a talking head vociferously backing the Administration during the war‚s run-up.

Not exactly an objective analyst.

And he‚s already predicting, that in about six months, he will produce the proof. Sort of.

From Reuters:

David Kay, a former U.N. chief nuclear weapons inspector, said on "NBC Nightly News" that U.S. forces had collected a massive amount of documents that when completely analyzed would prove ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction∑

∑"You cannot believe how many cases we have of documents and equipment stored in private residences," Kay said in an interview in Baghdad∑

∑ "We're finding progress reports, Kay said. "They actually went to Saddam and said we have made this progress. There are records, audiotapes of those interviews which give us that."

Of course, „documents and equipmentš are not the weapons themselves.

If Kay is on the level, he will presents elements of an alleged program, not exactly weapons cocked at our collective head.

Still, Kay can‚t be assumed to be on the level.

And we‚ve already seen how documents, photos and recordings can be used to distort, with Colin Powell‚s (Niger-less) UN presentation back in February.

So we can assume there will be a day when the Bushies will proclaim they have the goods.

Though that day looks to be in January ‚04 at the earliest. (Not that they can‚t leak stuff before then.)

Senate Intelligence Chair Pat Roberts has said the public hearings on IntelliGate should happen in September, so the story will keep drip-drip-ing for some time.

The question for the Bushies is: can all the potential damage done to Bush over the next several months be wiped away once Kay‚s done?

The bet here is that the damage is already done, that the weasel responses to date have already sullied Bush „plain-spokenš rep.

And that will only be furthered as the story lingers into the fall.

Nevertheless, Dems, particularly those taking the lead on criticizing Bush, need to be prepared for the big „we told you soš pushback.

And they need to have someone knowledgeable at the ready (paging Scott Ritter) to thoroughly scrutinize Kay‚s eventual report and flag any possible distortions.

Thankfully, that should be relatively easier to do, now that reporters have gotten the message that the Bush word is not necessarily bond.

July 17, 2003 PERMALINK
Deficit Death Blow
(posted July 16 8:15 PM ET)

Last month, when the Congressional Budget Office said this year's deficit would be more than $400B, the White House line was that it was "modest and manageable."

Now that the White House numbers show a deficit of $455B -- not counting the estimated $4B a month for future costs in Iraq -- the party line subtly changed.

It's no longer "modest," just "manageable."

The line was a joke before and it's a bigger joke now.

As always, the Bushies rest on the fact that Reagan's deficits were so bad, relative to the economy, they can say Bush's aren't the worst.

Still, that doesn't disguise that this deficit is still awful, and that there is no plan to correct it in the long-term, just projections hinged on wishful thinking.

But what are the political ramifications? Do giant deficits kill presidents?

Carter cut the deficit relative to the economy and lost. Reagan's deficits skyrocketed in his first term and he won.

Bush I's deficits were nasty, though not as bad as Reagan's. Nevertheless, Ross Perot softened him up good over it.

The difference is the economy itself.

Carter drowned in "stagflation." Reagan suffered a recession in the middle of first term, but GDP growth was on the upswing in time before the '84 election.

Whereas Poppy's GDP spike came before the '92 election, yet too late for the effects to be felt by the population.

And since Poppy's economy was a bad one, the deficit served as a powerful symbol of government mismanagement and ineffectiveness -- a simple way to communicate that he wasn't doing his job.

Dubya risks the same fate.

Poppy couldn't get the annual GDP growth rate over 3% in any quarter from mid-1990 (when the technical recession of negative growth began), all the way through 1991. That's the rough benchmark where real job creation kicks in.

1991's growth was in positive turf, but still anemic, below 3%.

1992 it crossed the 3% line, but too late. People didn't feel the ripple effects yet. Just quoting the stats wasn't good enough.

Now, Dubya's own projections predict a mere 2.3% GDP growth for this year.

They predict it will get over the 3% next year, but that would be too late for them as well.

Bush needs the big growth immediately, if not yesterday, so the job creation will happen in time.

And so, with the effects of the bad economy persisting, the mounting deficit will be nothing less than a sledgehammer for Dems to use to smash this presidency.

July 16, 2003 PERMALINK
Meet The New Ari
Same As The Old Ari
(posted July 16 12:30 AM ET)

In case you were worried you‚d have Ari Fleischer Withdrawal Syndrome, fear not.

Scott McClellan has all lies and evasiveness you‚ve been craving.

What tactics did he employ in his first presser as the new press secretary? Only the classics.

The Half-Truth

Q: ∑why is it that the President made the comment yesterday that doubts were only raised about the underlying intelligence behind that statement after the State of the Union address,

when other administration officials and other evidence suggests that's not true?

McCLELLAN: Well, when it came to our attention, when it came to the President's attention was when the IAEA came out in March with the report showing that those documents relating to Niger were forged.

And that was only one part of the overall piece of information that was cited.

Q: But doubts were raised clear back to the previous --

MR. McCLELLAN: But go back to the NIE, and in the NIE it stated that Iraq was trying to seek uranium from Africa.

And I think that we have addressed this issue.

Of course, if you really went back to the NIE (National Intelligence Estimate), you would find the uranium charge, but also, the State Department‚s doubt about the uranium charge.

And there are questions about how the charge even got into the NIE in the first place.

The Straight-Faced Lie

Q: ∑When the President said of Saddam Hussein, we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in and he wouldn't let them in,

why didn't he say that, when the inspectors went into Iraq?

McCLELLAN: What he was referring to was the fact that Saddam Hussein was not complying with 1441.

That he continued his past pattern and refused to comply with Resolution 1441 of the United Nations Security Council, which was his final opportunity to comply.

And the fact that he was trying to thwart the inspectors every step of the way, and keep them from doing their job.

So that's what he's referring to in that statement.

Q: But that isn't what he said.

No fancy-schmancy finesse. No cutesy wordplay. Just good old-fashioned lying.

The „Huh?š

Q: ∑was the President aware that this information had been deleted in October?

McCLELLAN: This had nothing to do with -- this did not -- this statement, in and of itself, was not a reason we went to war.

Q: Yes, I understand that. But was the President aware that this had been deleted from the October speech, which was an early sign that the intelligence was sketchy?

McCLELLAN: This has all been addressed over the last few days.

Q: This question hasn't been addressed --

McCLELLAN: I mean, I think these statements --

Q: No, not this question.

McCLELLAN: All these statements have continued to come up.

Well, points for truth. These statements sure do continue to come up.

Granted, McClellan hasn‚t yet attained the level of art form that Ari brought to the realm of official deception.

But the kid has a lot of heart. Before you know it, you‚ll forget all about Ari.

Until Ari‚s (shudder) book tour.

QUICK HIT

The Real Tim Shady

A nice exchange yesterday at the Human Rights Campaign Presidential Forum between Howard Dean and moderator Sam Donaldson.

Dean was defending his view that he would insist that all states provide the same rights for committed gay couples as for straight married couples, but would not mandate that states call it marriage, civil unions or something else.

And Donaldson was grilling him on why should there be a hang-up on the word marriage:

DONALDSON: What about marriage though? Why not allow gays to marry --

DEAN: I feel like I‚m back on the Tim Russert show here.

(applause)

DONALDSON: Tim was but a pup when I was doing this in Washington.

(more applause)

Watch the entire forum here.

July 15, 2003 PERMALINK
Why It Sticks
(posted July 15 12:30 AM ET)

On the second day after Dubya and Ari „moved onš from IntelliGate, both offered up new explanations Ų ones that were beautifully shredded in today‚s W. Post.

Since it‚s impolite for that stately newspaper to use the word „lie,š various forms of the word „contradictš needed to be used several times.

Meanwhile, a Senate Republican, Chuck Hagel, sought to distance himself from the White House, on CNN‚s Newsnight:

Many people have had their -- and still do -- arms wrapped around this. The Vice President and his office. Secretary Rumsfeld. Secretary Powell. Dr. Rice.

To say that the CIA Director was the one who alone signed off on, and had the influence on, putting those 16 words in the President‚s State of the Union message is just not quite accurate here. Now c‚mon...

∑Some quick answer like, „Well we just shouldn‚t have had 16 words in the President‚s speech" -- we need to go a little deeper and wider than that.

And NY Times‚ Nicholas Kristof publicized the call from Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity for Cheney to resign.

The Bushies collective head must be spinning: why can‚t we BS our way out of this one?

It‚s in large part their own fault.

It had been easy for Dubya to change the subject or brush off allegations because he put us on a months-long run-up to war.

That further cowed the media and made criticism tantamount to treason.

But the Bushies got greedy.

They couldn‚t help spiking the ball, and cutting that campaign footage with Dubya on the aircraft carrier under the „Mission Accomplishedš banner.

They were careful in their words, deeming it the „Battle of Iraq,š a mere chapter in the larger terror war (does anyone, will anyone, ever call it that?) and noted that only „major combatš was over.

But they should know more than anyone that visuals are more powerful than words. And the visual said: war is over.

They thought they were sealing the deal for ‚04.

But there‚s no new exciting war around the corner. Just the messy denouement of this one.

And without a pending war, and no „wartime presidency,š they lost their main tool to fend off attacks.

They have become mere mortals. And that‚s a major reason why this story isn‚t fading away.

July 14, 2003 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted July 14 12:15 AM ET)

The president has moved on. And I think, frankly, much of the country has moved on, as well.
-- Ari Fleischer, 7/12/03

We begin with a controversy here in the United States that's simply not going away.
-- Wolf Blitzer, CNN‚s Late Edition, 7/13/03

On June 8, LiberalOasis said the tag team of Condi Rice and Colin Powell „utterly failed in squelching the issueš of suspect intelligence.

Consider that Strike One.

Strike Two was yesterday, as Don Rumsfeld and Condi Rice‚s scripted protestations continued the contradictory, defensive posture that‚s eroding Dubya‚s poll numbers.

Here‚s Condi, summing up the main talking points on CBS‚ Face The Nation:

∑knowing what we know now, we would not have put it in the president's speech∑because we don't believe that it rises to the quality of intelligence reporting that we use in presidential speeches.

It's not that it's inaccurate. It's not that it's wrong.

The British stand by it. We have no reason to believe that they are wrong about that.

Huh? The statement is based on intelligence of suspect quality, but you have no reason to believe it‚s wrong?

How much are they paying the flack that wrote that?

By refusing to fully cop to the „mistake,š and by not dealing with the evidence that calls the uranium charge into question, they have failed again to kill the story.

Condi, who blew it last June on NBC‚s Meet The Press and ABC‚s This Week, was sent to handle the arguably gentler questioners on CBS and FOX and CNN. Rummy took NBC and ABC.

But any such strategy was moot. All five interviewers, including Fox News Sunday‚s Tony Snow, displayed more aggressiveness than usually found when Bushies are in the chair.

Granted, all could have drawn more blood considering the pathetic responses tbat were served up.

For example, no one noted that the British government has just as much self-interest as the Bushies to claim their intelligence was good, as just as little evidence to prove it.

As the BBC reported last week:

Mr Blair told a committee of MPs on Tuesday that the evidence about the Niger link "did not come from these so-called forged documents. They came from separate intelligence."∑

∑The Foreign Affairs committee asked what this other intelligence was but has not been told.

Nevertheless, no interviewer seemed all that satisfied with the Administration line.

Even Snow, the former Bush I speechwriter, ended his interview with a condescending, „OK, I'm going to let you off the hook on this one.š

In fact, later on FNS, Fred Barnes, who was straining to defend the Bushies earlier the week, threw up his hands and called the Administration‚s performance, „political bungling.š

So Ari, think the country has moved on now?

Whose Heads Will Roll?

There are three high-level heads that could potentially roll, in order of probability: CIA Director George Tenet, Condi, VP Dick Cheney.

The Bushies probably hope Tenet‚s scalp will end the whole thing.

Not likely. Too many people are openly asking who in the White House was pushing the CIA to approve the line.

A Tenet resignation doesn‚t answer that. That question points to Condi or Cheney.

While Maureen Dowd wasn‚t the first to note that, she has put the notion in wide circulation in her Sunday column.

So on CNN‚s Late Edition, Condi tried to knock that down:

WOLF BLITZER: But 11 months earlier, you, the Bush administration, had sent Joe Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador to Niger, to find out whether it was true.

He came back, reported to the CIA, reported to the State Department, it wasn't true, it was bogus. The whole issue was bogus.

And supposedly, you never got word of his report.

RICE: Well, first of all, I didn't know Joe Wilson was going to Niger.

And if you look at Director Tenet's statement, it says that counterproliferation experts on their own initiative sent Joe Wilson, so I don't know...

BLITZER: Who sent him?∑ Supposedly, it came at the request of the vice president.

RICE: No, this is simply not true, and this is something that's been perpetuated that we simply have to straighten out.

The vice president did not ask that Joe Wilson go to Niger. The vice president did not know.

I don't think he knew who Joe Wilson was, and he certainly didn't know that he was going.

Sounds like a blanket denial. But since word parsing is back in vogue, let‚s look at this closely.

Condi doesn‚t say that Cheney was unaware of any Niger inquiry, just that he didn‚t ask for Joe Wilson, specifically, to go check it out.

That kind of response brings us back to the notion of knowing and not knowing simultaneously, discussed here last month.

Cheney can know, and even direct what‚s happening, but be protected enough from the details to make it hard to pin anything on him.

But if news reports, based on anonymous intelligence sources, are true that say Wilson‚s report was cabled via the CIA to Cheney‚s office and elsewhere, than what Condi said would be a flat lie.

Also, someone appears to be talking to Talking Points Memo, challenging how Condi and others are characterizing the substance of Wilson‚s report.

Will one of these unnamed sources go public? That could lead to a Condi, or even a Cheney, resignation.

About That War∑

What will probably be lost in the IntelliGate fallout was George Stephanopoulos‚ notable exchange with Rumsfeld about the Phantom WMD.

First, Rummy belatedly walked back his earlier „we know where they areš statement from back in March:

I probably should have said „we know where they were,š instead of „we know where they are.š

Of course, this was done with the classic Rummy nonchalant, devilish grin, trying to make a blatant lie come across as an innocuous „oops!š

Which would be easier to get away with if so much else wasn‚t going so wrong.

Then, Stephanopoulos brought up a point that hasn‚t received much attention:

STEPHANOPOULOS: ∑couldn‚t the war then∑have provoked your worst fear, that these weapons would be moved and get in the hands of terrorists?

RUMSFELD: It could have. And it still could. Which is the reason you need to find them∑

STEPHANOPOULOS: Does that show a failure then of the Defense Department∑to secure those sites?

RUMSFELD: No. I mean, how can you secure∑sites in a country the size of California, that has open borders, porous borders∑

∑It‚s not possible to secure every single site.

What one has to do is to go in and win the war. Throw out the regime.

And then, as rapidly as possible, shift that fighting force into a presence force and try to provide security in the country.

The logic here is simply bizarre, and should call into question the entire pre-emption argument.

If the whole point of the war is to remove the WMD, but the realities of war make it difficult to get the WMD, then why go to war in the first place?

Apparently, using Rummy logic, it would only make sense if the WMD were in a really tiny island nation. (Watch out Barbados.)

Stephanopoulos wasn‚t done. He dared to challenge the whole premise of war.

He threw out this quote from the current New Republic cover story:

„The Iraqi scientists I met insist that the combination of U.S. bombing, U.N. inspections, disarmament efforts, unilateral destruction by Iraqi officials, and stiff U.N. sanctions had indeed eliminated Saddam‚s illicit weapons by the mid-90‚s∑

Ultimately, the scientists and others say, Saddam may have feared that admitting his WMD were gone would have shown a weakness that could have threatened his hold on power.š

George continued:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is that what the scientists are telling the US teams?

RUMSFELD: I don‚t know. I‚m sure there are∑a lot of interrogations. I don‚t doubt for a minute that some people are saying that.

Others have done what I‚ve said, taken you to a backyard under a rosebush and said, I was told not to destroy it. I was told to bury it∑

∑Maybe they‚re both true∑there‚d be some people who believe that they were told that they were going to destroy them, and others who were told, bury this∑

STEPHANOPOULOS: ∑Is it plausible that perhaps Saddam Hussein, by the time the war began, really didn‚t have an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction?

RUMSFELD: I think it's unlikely∑

∑It seems to me that he could have had billions and billions of dollars of revenues from his oil lifting, if he had wanted to do what other countries did∑and say, "Come in here, inspect."

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, it could be for the reason those scientists said∑

∑But you say, in the end, it's unlikely that he didn't have an arsenal but not impossible?

RUMSFELD: You know∑until we've done this job and talked to enough people and been through it, we won't know precisely what we'll find.

Stephanopoulos attacks the entire premise of the war. And Rumsfeld -- perhaps caught a little off-guard, perhaps simply out of gas -- effectively shrugs.

Stunningly pathetic.

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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