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The LiberalOasis Blog
The daily view from the oasis

October 21, 2005 PERMALINK
The Beltway Whine: Criminalization of Politics
(posted Oct. 21 2:15 AM ET)

LiberalOasis is not terribly afraid of the “criminalization of politics” line that Fox News and others in the punditocracy are tossing out.

For one thing, as LO has suggested earlier, this is not a full court press effort by the GOP.

They are in a defensive crouch, and as a result, Special Counsel Fitzgerald’s coverage has been just a hair less than glowing.

For another, it’s a pathetic message.

You respond to indictments, not with evidence of innocence, but with a whine? “Waah! Why can’t government officials smear citizens? It’s not fair! What does Fitzgerald want politicians to do all day, talk about policies and facts and statistics? Boring!”

If that’s all they got, bring it on.

Having said that, it is quite irksome to hear respected members of the Beltway media treat such dirty acts so nonchalantly.

For example, here’s an exchange on last Friday’s Hardball on MSNBC between Chris Matthews and National Review’s David Frum:

FRUM: ...the indictments just seem so ridiculous.

Because the core of the theory of the prosecution‘s case, is that if you are the White House and somebody makes up outrageous stories about you, you are not allowed to talk to the reporters and say you should know something about this person.

MATTHEWS: I agree with that, by the way. I completely agree with that.

I think it‘s not even hardball. I think it‘s basic self defense.

And another one from last night, with Matthews and Time’s Matt Cooper:

COOPER: You’ve been in politics Chris ... You wake up in the morning. You see an op-ed, or before that, you hear whispers of a former Ambassador dissing your guy.

And you wake up and you think, “who is this guy?”

MATTHEWS: And it’s your job to defend him.

COOPER: And it’s your job to pushback, and you know, that’s part of politics.

This is a woefully misguided and inaccurate rendering of what is in the job descriptions of Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

They are not campaign operatives. They are taxpayer-funded public servants.

Rove, at the time of the leak, was Senior Adviser to the president (now he’s Deputy Chief of Staff), and Libby was and is Chief of Staff and National Security Adviser to the vice president.

While they report to Bush and Cheney, as government officials, their fundamental loyalty is to the people and the law.

To the extent that their jobs involve communicating government info to the public through the media, (which is primarily the Press Secretary’s job) slinging anonymous mud isn’t part of it.

Like any public servant, they have a duty to share relevant facts with the public so the electorate can make informed decisions about their governance.

If Joe Wilson was spreading inaccurate info, they had an obligation to share facts and correct the record.

But that would mean factually challenging Wilson’s charge that he reported to the CIA there was no evidence of a uranium transaction between Niger and Iraq, that the Bush Administration ignored his findings as they painted scary “mushroom cloud” scenarios.

Clandestine personal attacks on Wilson (with or without revealing top secret info) is not factually correcting the record.

It is not serving the public. It is simply self-serving dirty politics.

W. Post’s Richard Cohen argues it’s “what Washington does day in and day out” and therefore shouldn’t be considered a problem, let alone a crime.

So what if it’s done all the time. It’s not their “job.” It shouldn’t be done all the time.

Now, not everything that is wrong in Washington is necessarily a crime.

But using government information outside the bounds of your job description may well be a crime. As John Dean wrote back in July:

[There is] a law that prohibits theft (or conversion for one's own use) of government records and information for non-governmental purposes. But its broad language covers leaks, and it has ... been used to cover just such actions.

That’s for the grand jury, and perhaps later, a court of law to definitively determine.

But crime or not, such actions by our public servants erode public trust in government.

Jaded Beltway pundits may be unphased at seeing our government’s credibility tainted once again, harming our government's effectivevness at home and abroad.

Fortunately, they will not have the last word.

October 20, 2005 PERMALINK
Miers: More Than Just Unqualified
(posted Oct. 20 1:45 AM ET)

The good news on the Harriet Miers is that Dems are stepping up the criticism, increasing the chances for a left-right coalition to sink the nomination.

But Dems need to be careful that their criticism is not too narrow.

Otherwise, they may not put themselves in a good position to beat back a subsequent nominee with a longer paper trial.

Dem Senators Pat Leahy and Chuck Schumer (and assisted by GOP Sen. Arlen Specter) have humiliated Miers -- ripping her responses to their written questionnaire as “inadequate,” “insufficient” and “insulting,” and making her do it over like a 9th grader that blew off her homework.

That feeds the perception that Miers is unqualified for the Court.

And it also makes is harder for her to get away with giving vague answers to questions about her judicial views, putting more pressure on her to get specific in next month’s hearings (the last thing she wants to do.)

But putting all the emphasis on her scant qualifications is not ideal for two reasons.

One, if Miers manages to overcome the pressure and performs well at the hearings, she may be seen as rising above the sexist condescension of her critics, which would put to rest the one criticism people were offering.

Two, if Miers wilts at the hearings and the nomination is killed over her lack of qualifications, and Bush then nominates an overt right-winger with better credentials, Dems risk looking political – changing their arguments to fit the candidate.

When Miers was first picked, LiberalOasis argued that Dems should aim for her defeat, then work to defeat any overt right-winger that may come next. The double defeat would give Dems “the political leverage to force a real moderate pick.”

But to have the maximum political capital to wage two fights back to back, the messages must be as consistent as possible.

The problem with Miers is not simply that she’s unqualified.

It’s that the public does not share Bush’s agenda to set back privacy rights, the environment, workplace equality and consumer protections – which is why Bush insists on nominating people like Miers with no clear records for lifetime Court appointments.

Without linking her lack of qualifications to our substantive concerns about the direction of the Court, Dems may find it harder to oppose an overt right-winger down the road if that person is successfully defined as “qualified.”

Granted, this may be an unfounded short-term concern on LiberalOasis’ part.

An overt right-winger may be scary enough to the public that inconsistent Dem messaging won’t be a problem (certainly Bush is concerned enough about the reaction that he hasn’t nominated one to the Court).

But there’s no need to take chances.

Furthermore, as a long-term concern, it is always important for Dems to articulate their underlying principles.

A vague desire for qualified nominees doesn’t say all that much about what drives the party.

October 19, 2005 PERMALINK
The CIA Leak Scandal Is About The Future, Not Just The Past
(posted Oct. 18 11:45 PM ET)

The Iran-Contra scandal, which surfaced in 1986, did a number on Ronald Reagan’s second-term.

His approval rating fell from the 60s to the mid 40s (and only mildly recovered into the low 50s after Reagan finally admitted “no excuses. It was a mistake.”) And his domestic agenda stalled.

Yet there wasn’t any permanent damage to the GOP. It retained the presidency in 1988. Beyond that, it never lost its rep for defending our national security.

Why? Because the Reagan Administration’s illegal actions could still be seen as part of its commitment to defeating Communism.

The public was not happy about the scandal, and certainly didn’t approve of sending arms to Iran.

But it did not automatically follow that you couldn’t trust Republicans to stare down the Soviets, or that you could trust Dems more than before the scandal.

Fast-forward to today.

Assuming that major indictments are forthcoming, what would that mean for the GOP?

The perception of the GOP as strong on national security is deep-seated, and will not be reversed by scandal alone.

Bill Kristol is correct: “Policy Trumps Scandal.”

If Bush’s foreign policy is seen as effective, or more effective relative to anything Dems would do differently, the scandal does nothing to change perceptions.

And if Republicans are able to put the White House’s actions in a broader context of the party’s perceived commitment to fighting terrorism, that further limits the scandal’s potential.

Several folks, professional pundits and bloggers, have noted that the scandal at is core is about Iraq and how we went to war.

This is true. And with the war’s increasing unpopularity, it may seem tempting to re-open the debate about WMD.

But we should have a more sophisticated approach.

The question on most people’s minds about Iraq is not whether or not it was a good idea (a majority already say it wasn’t) or even whether or not Bush misled us about WMD (a majority already say he did).

The question on most people’s minds is:what the hell do we do now?

It’s about the future of Iraq, not the past.

Will we be able to connect a scandal over how we went to war to the debate about how we can best end the war?

Yes.

The key link is “credibility.”

What the scandal starkly shows is how the Bushies preferred smearing a whistleblower, ruining a CIA agent’s career and putting the lives of her network at risk over trusting the public with the facts about Iraq and the truth about their policy motives for war.

They have shown their lack of credibility. And what is essential to changing the political dynamic in Iraq is a restoration of credibility.

Unless we can credibly communicate to the Iraqi people, via words and actions, that we have no intention to impede Iraqi democracy by exerting political influence through a permanent military presence, the current political process will fail.

As Iraq veers closer to disintegration, it desperately needs honest brokers with no ulterior motives to negotiate between factions, and it needs to know the US troops aren’t sticking around to suck the oxygen out of the insurgency.

The Bush Administration has shot our credibility, and a change in leadership and approach is necessary to get it back.

From there, we can also talk about specific course corrections: Increasing the UN presence, getting Bush crony companies out and international companies in to improve the Iraqi infrastructure, a flexible timetable for full troop withdrawal, etc,

As the CIA Leak scandal shows, the Bushies were not honest about Iraq from the beginning. Their word is mud at home and abroad.

We need a foreign policy that is tough, moral and honest. The Republican Party has refused to provide it, Democrats can do better.

October 17, 2005 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Oct. 17 12:45 AM ET)

A few awards to hand out...

Worst PlameGate Question: George Stephanopoulos

While interviewing Judith Miller’s lawyer, Stephanopoulos explained to ABC's This Week audience how Miller claimed she “could not recall” who was the source that gave her the name “Valerie Flame” that was found in her notebook.

The obvious question for Miller’s lawyer at that point was “How are we to believe that a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter can’t remember the name of the source that told her such crucial information? Is Miller lying so she can protect somebody else in the White House?”

Instead, Stephanopoulos asked this nonsensical, easy-to-swat question: “Did Judy Miller spend 85 days in jail for a source she doesn’t remember?”

The issue of Miller’s credibility did not directly come up on any of the main Sunday shows, although it was touched upon on during CNN’s Reliable Sources.

Biggest Flip-Flop & Biggest Backstab: Joseph diGenova

LiberalOasis recently noted how the White House and its defenders are not going to battle mode even though indictments loom.

No coordinated efforts to smear Joe Wilson (as there were in July ‘05) and no attacks on Special Counsel Fitzgerald as a “runaway prosecutor.” Just signals of panic and nervousness.

Further evidence of this comes from Joseph diGenova, former Reagan aide and media-friendly right-wing legal pundit, who was another guest on ABC's This Week.

Back during the coordinated spin effort in July (when Matt Cooper admitted Karl Rove was his source, sparking fresh media attention), diGenova was one of the soldiers of the spin army.

Apparently, his specific task was to extend the smear job beyond just Joe Wilson to cover the entire CIA. Here’s some of his finer July wisdom:

-- “All the evidence makes it absolutely clear that Mr. Rove is not in any legal jeopardy whatsoever.”

-- “I believe the agency didn’t properly protect [Plame’s] identify because they didn’t want to and clearly didn’t try.”

-- “To think that journalists are being put through this is crazy. Where we are now is absolutely absurd.”

-- (The Hill’s Albert Eisele) “diGenova questions whether some of the information the CIA provided the Justice Department on those 11 questions ‘was materially false.’”

-- “The CIA isn’t stupid. They wanted this story out. I’m raising the question: Did the CIA mislead Fitzgerald?”

But on ABC yesterday, diGenova was singing a very different tune.

No longer did diGenova argue Rove was not in hot water. When Stephanopoulos mentioned Rove’s fourth grand jury appearance, diGenova remarked, “not good.”

Instead of calling the investigation “absurd,” diGenova offered that “there are many, many facts on the table which raise serious questions about the conduct of a lot of different people – the journalists involved in this matter ... and perhaps the conduct of people in the White House.”

And when discussing the potential violations of the Espionage Act, diGenova did not dismiss it, saying, “it certainly is a question which needs to be investigated by a prosecutor, absolutely.”

Stephanopoulos did not bother asking diGenova to reconcile his analysis with his July remarks.

So that’s how diGenova wins Biggest Flip-Flop. Why also Biggest Backstab?

Because back in July, he was joined in the Right’s spin army by his wife and partner in pundit crime, Victoria Toensing.

This past week, Toensing proved to be one of the “bitter enders” in the spin war, continuing the attacks on Joe Wilson and Fitzgerald largely by her lonesome on MSNBC’s Hardball.

But yesterday, she couldn’t even get some support from her hubby. Ouch.

Worst Iraq messaging: Sen. Dick Durbin

Durbin, #2 in the Senate Dem leadership, was tasked to test run the Dems attempt to reconcile the party split on Iraq and present a unifying message, on Fox News Sunday.

Roll Call reported last week that congressional Dems were soon to release a policy agenda to run on in the 2006 mid-term election, and the Iraq piece would call for “benchmarks for determining when to bring troops home from Iraq.”

Here’s how the message worked when challenged:

CHRIS WALLACE: But, Senator, I mean, the fact is we've had the election of an interim assembly. Now we've had a vote, nine million- plus people voting on the constitution ...

There are 32 Iraqi battalions -- that's about 27,000 Iraqi soldiers who are trained now to lead counterinsurgency with the support of U.S. forces.

I guess the question I have is what's the Democratic plan? What would you do now in Iraq?...

DURBIN: ...The plan is to move Iraqis toward political stability and toward their own safety and security, taken up on their own.

And our position on the Democratic side is to make sure that we hold this administration accountable in ways it's not been held before.

We can do better in Iraq. America can do better.

And we need to have metrics of accountability so that we know exactly how many Iraqi soldiers are prepared to defend that country.

WALLACE: But they're telling you that, sir... They've told you that there's one Level 1 Unit, about 750 troops, that's completely independent.

27,000 troops, 36 brigades, or battalions, rather, that can lead counterinsurgency.

I mean, you're getting those figures.

DURBIN: The figures that we're not getting from this administration to indicate progress are what worry me.

That one battalion you point to -- a few months ago they told us there were three or four battalions ready. So we see a movement in the wrong direction.

There is less electricity available to the people of Iraq today than before the invasion of Iraq. There is less production of oil today in Iraq today than we had at the time of the invasion.

And so when you look back at the actual metrics of accountability, holding this administration accountable, in many respects, we don't see the progress that we need to bring America's troops home.

The “benchmarks” plan is not a plan at all. And it shows.

It’s a fine way to quantify and criticize Bush’s failures in Iraq, but Dems were already doing that adequately.

Dems are still not articulating how their foreign policy goals would be superior to Bush’s, how those goals would shape tactics, and how they can better implement those tactics because they will be able to restore America’s credibility with the Iraqi people and the international community.

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

Mark A.R. Kleiman: "A politician, it is said, needs a good memory and an even better forgettery. But I thought Judith Miller was a reporter, not a politician? My bad."

Juan Cole: "If the Sunni Arabs reject the constitution virtually en masse in this referendum, it will severely bring into question the legitimacy of this national charter. Its passage, under these conditions, seems a guarantee of ongoing guerrilla warfare against the new order, and possibly a partition of the country."

War and Piece: "who exacty at the Pentagon did Cheney's office task with finding out about the Niger reports? Was it Rumsfeld? Feith? Luti? Who?"

Lawyers, Guns and Money: "A reporter for the New York Times, the flagship newspaper in the United States of America, and the paper most often critcized for its attachment to liberal causes, decided to sit in jail so that she wouldn't contradict the testimony of one of her conservative sources by suggesting that, after all, he had lied in his testimony."

Oct. 14: It has been 826 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

Angry Arab News Service, Abu Aardvark and Syria Comment offer different takes on the death of Syria's Interior Minister

Tapped: "[The White House takes] Darfur so seriously that they are rewarding Kharotum with diplomatic ties ... next maybe we'll warn Khartoum to stop using oil proceeds to finance genocide, then lift sanctions"

Ragged Thots (maverick conservative blogger), Hullabaloo and The Left Coaster connect Judy Miller to dead British weapons expert David Kelly, and in turn, PlameGate to the joint US-UK effort to sell the Iraq war

Oct. 13: It has been 825 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

Hullabaloo: "If the Iraq Group (WHIG), which implicates all the big players in this, possibly even the president, becomes a part of a federal criminal case, it will likely also become the subject of intense media scrutiny. Finally."

War and Piece: "has Fitzgerald already subpoenaed the White House Iraq Group's documents and correspondence from June 2003?"

Political Animal: "keep in mind that Fitzgerald has been investigating the WHIG all along"

Talking Points Memo: "If Fitzgerald has lassoed this operation [the White House Iraq Group] into a criminal conspiracy ... Every key person in the White House will be touched by it. And all sorts of ugly tales could spill out."

Informed Comment: "Iraqis are now voting on a constitution that may be subsequently changed at will! As with the Jan. 30 parliamentary elections, in which they had no idea for whom they were voting for the most part, so in the referendum they will have no idea for what they are voting."

Oct. 12: It has been 824 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

Tapped: "John Bolton, blocked the Security Council from meeting with Juan Mendez, Kofi Annan’s special adviser for the prevention of genocide. Mendez, you see, had just returned from Darfur and was going to urge Security Council members to pressure Khartoum to cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s ongoing investigation."

The Nation's "Editor's Cut:" "What's The Matter With 'What's The Matter With Kansas'? ... Has the white working class abandoned the Democratic Party? No."

firedoglake: "it sounds like the long knives are coming out. Rove has made a lot of enemies outside the GOP, but his tactics and machinations have apparently made even more within the walls of the White House itself." (via Middle Earth Journal)

Oct. 11: It has been 823 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

Carpetbagger Report: A Busy Plame Game Weekend (via Daou Report Rove-Plame page)

Roger Ailes: "As an attempt at investigative/consumer reporting, and because I'm bored, I've decided to sign up for the NYT's free 14-day trial of Times Select and see what readers are getting for their $7.95 per month. I've already put a big circle on the calendar for October 23, to remind myself to cancel before they run my credit card."

Legal Fiction: "I remember being relieved when I found out that Arlen Specter had survived the challenge to his Chairmanship ... if anybody on the GOP side is going to drag [James Dobson] up there because of his stupid comments, Specter will."

The Sideshow: The Trouble With "moderate" Dems

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ASPCA is taking donations for its disaster relief fund

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