Saturday, November 19


Joe Conason tells it like it is.

You know, ever since I read in All The President's Men way back when that Bob Woodward was a Republican, I've wondered if we'd have ever gotten the revelations we did about Watergate if he hadn't been competing with Carl Bernstein.

He's been a total toady ever since they broke up the partnership.



The Abramoff affair threatens to swamp Congress.

"I think this has the potential to be the biggest scandal in Congress in over a century," said Thomas E. Mann, a Congressional specialist at the Brookings Institution. "I've been around Washington for 35 years, watching Congress, and I've never seen anything approaching Abramoff for cynicism and chutzpah in proposing quid pro quos to members of Congress."

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WaPo doesn't get it, but Tim Rutten does.

Two things have distinguished this Bush administration's efforts at press manipulation from those that have gone before.

One is their sweep and consistency. There has been bribery — as in the egregious case of the wretched Williams. There has been deception — as in the planting of phony news videos. There have been alleged violations of federal laws and regulations — as in Tomlinson's and Rove's efforts to subvert public television. There has been stealth — as in the whispering campaign to discredit Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

And, of course, there has been good old-fashioned bullying, as in the president's and vice-president's assertions that raising questions about their push to war or the torture of U.S. captives is somehow "reprehensible" and unpatriotic. It's a melancholy comment on the state of the American press that it takes a former director of Central Intelligence, Adm. Stansfield Turner, to identify Dick Cheney for what he has become — "vice president for torture" — and that he had to do it in a foreign forum, on Britain's ITV news, as he did Thursday.

The other reason all this has more or less succeeded and gone all but unremarked upon is that the administration has adroitly availed itself of the cultural complicity that prevails in a fin de siècle Washington press corps living out the decadence of an increasingly discredited reporting style. As the Valerie Plame scandal and its spreading taint have made all too clear, the trade in confidentiality and access that has made stars of reporters like Bob Woodward and Judy Miller now is utterly bankrupt.

It still may call itself investigative journalism — and so it once was — but now it's really just a glittering and carefully choreographed waltz in which all the dancers share the unspoken agreement that the one unpardonable faux pas is to ask who's calling the tune.

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Okay, WaPo editorial board. You've demonstrated not onky your failure to understand the issues associated with Bob Woodward's failure to disclose the fact that he was an early (if not the earliest) target of the White House campaign to out CIA operative Valerie Plame but your ignorance of your own reporter's history.

But over the years innumerable cases of official corruption and malfeasance have come to light thanks to sources being able to count on confidentiality. It's astonishing to see so many people -- especially in the journalism establishment -- forget that now. Many of those who condemn Mr. Woodward applauded when The Post recently revealed the existence of CIA prisons around the world, a story that relied on unnamed sources.

Is there a distinction to be made based on the motives of the leakers? If so, Mr. Woodward might have had to pass up his first big scoops three decades ago, because his Watergate source, Deep Throat -- recently revealed as FBI official W. Mark Felt -- was disgruntled at having been passed over for the post of FBI director. Newspapers face difficult questions all the time in evaluating the reliability of sources and the appropriateness of publishing their secrets. But if potential sources come to believe that they cannot count on promises of confidentiality, more than the media will suffer.

First of all, the only case of official corruption we're talking about here is the outing of Valerie Plame, which was done by the very confidential sources WaPo is defending. His sources weren't exposing corruption, they were practicing it.

Secondly, Bob Woodward used "Deep Throat" for guidance on the Watergate story, not as a sole "unnamed source" of any individual reporting. In those glory days of Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee, Woodward and Bernstein were ordered to obtain at least two sources for any reporting -- one would not suffice, they had to get confirmation. Even if Felt's motives were suspect, his information had to be vetted. If an allegation is established as a fact, the motives behind its relevation become irrelevant. And as far as I can tell, nothing Mark Felt told Bob Woodward violated national security interests. In fact, his information was pointed at revealing a crime, not committing one.

Not so with the Plame outing.

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Bunnatine Greenhouse may get her day in court.

The Justice Department is deciding whether to pursue an investigation into the multi-billion dollar contracts secretly awarded to Halliburton for work in Iraq by the Army Corps of Engineers.

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Friday, November 18


Wow. The U.S. House of Representatives is in chaos, shouting all over the place, as Republicans seek to "expose" a split among Democrats about the Iraq War by forcing a vote on a resolution demanding a withdrawal of troops from Iraq. CNN is showing footage of the impassioned debate. This is all in response to Rep. Jack Murtha's (D-PA -- "Mister Military") call for an immediate start to redeployment of our forces from Iraq.

They goofed by trying to substitute for Murtha's resolution a resolution that did not include Murtha's six-month "cushion" -- Murtha estimated that it would take approximately six months to accomplish a withdrawal. That gives Democrats ammunition to expose the Rethugs' obviously partisan gambit (virtually no-one seriously believes that the troops can be withdrawn in toto at one time).

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"Has this White House communications group gone nuts?" Lou Dobbs just asked of David Gergen, relative to administrative attacks upon Congressman Jack Murtha. Gergen said Murtha is very close to U.S. generals, that he "speaks for the generals." The fact that Murtha broke and that he "came out swinging against Dick Cheney," Gergen said, is telling.

Lou was referring to BushCo attacks upon moderately conservative Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA), "Mister Military," VietNam war hero, retired Marine Colonel, decades-long defender of our fighting men and women and the man Dick Cheney once called "a Democrat I can work with" and credited for teaching him about the military, for getting fed up and issuing a call for an immediate plan for withdrawal of our troops from Iraq.

Wow. Veteran Republican strategist Ed Rollins just said, "I'm a Republican, and I don't know what the strategy [for the Iraq War] is anymore."

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British journalist Robert Fisk has published a new book, The Great War for Civilization. His remarks about 9/11 and the state of American journalism at the launch party are worth contemplation. But before you read them, read this.

In April 2003, during the invasion of Iraq, Fisk recalled the words of the British Lt. Gen. Sir Stanley Maude, made during the 1917 invasion of Mesopotamia as part of World War I: "we have come here not as conquerors but as liberators to free you from generations of tyranny." Comparing the two invasions, Fisk says: "History has a way of repeating itself... And within three years we were losing hundreds of men every year in the guerilla war against the Iraqis who wanted real liberation — not by us from the Ottomans, but by them from us — and I think that's what's going to happen with the Americans in Iraq. I think a war of liberation will begin quite soon, which of course will be first referred to as a war by terrorists, by Al-Qaeda, by remnants of Saddam's regime. Remnants: remember that word. But it will be waged particularly by Shiite Muslims against the Americans and the British to get us out of Iraq — and that will happen. And our dreams that we can liberate these people will not be fulfilled in this scenario."

Fisk is a critic of what he perceives as hypocrisy in British government foreign policy: "Again, one needs to also say that Saddam Hussein — I'm sure he's still alive — a most revolting man. He did use gas against the Iranians and against the Kurds. And I also have to say that when he used it against the Iranians — and I wrote about it in my own newspaper at the time, The Times — the British Foreign Office told my editor the story was not helpful because, at that stage of course, Saddam Hussein was our friend — we were supporting him. The hypocrisy of war stinks almost as much as the civilian casualties."

Now for his reminiscence:

On September 11, I was crossing the Atlantic — going to New York. I was on the satellite phone with my business centre office in London. I heard about the attack, I told the attendant to tell the captain that there was an attack going on against the United States of America, aircraft have gone into many buildings — the stewardess stood there and asked where are the planes coming from? I said we do not know, could be from anywhere, Latin America, Europe, wherever. Then the captain came. We went around the plane together to look around for passengers we didn’t like. I noted down 13, two in business class, the rest in economy. The attendant had 14 seat numbers. Of course they were all Muslims, some reading the holy Quran, praying with worry beads. They were dark skinned, they were all Muslims, they looked at me suspiciously. Because I was looking at them suspiciously I realized suddenly that bin Laden has turned nice liberal Bob into a racist. I was going around racially profiling the passengers on the aircraft. I realized that one of the purposes of the attacks of Sept 11 might have been to turn the innocent against the innocent, not just Muslims against the West.

And I remember that night when I returned to Europe, I ended up on Irish Radio which had me along with Harvard Prof Alan Dershowitz, and when I kept saying “We must ask the question Why (these attacks) — to which Mr Dershowitz responded “to ask the question ‘why’ you are a dangerous man you are sympathetic to terrorists, hence you are anti-American and being anti-American you are anti-Semitic’.

It struck me as odd that when a crime is committed on New York streets the first thing is to look at the motive, but the first thing you were not allowed to do was to ask for the motive..... you can ask about gays, lesbians, etc., but not question US relationships and the Middle East, whether it be relationship with Israel or the Arab world. But the first thing you were not allowed to ask was “Why”. And that night the BBC put one guest on its programme who said that my asking why was the worst bad joke of the year. I think it should have been the first question that should be asked. Not asking why would allow the president of the US to change the world forever. I don’t believe it did. I don’t think we should allow 19 killers to change my world forever. I think Bush got away with it.

And I think that by and large for many months Americans were prevented from looking for the motive. By the time they could look for the motive, we were bombing Afghanistan and saying there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And then defeating Saddam Hussein. And so it goes on and on. And it seems somehow that modern-day politicians with, in many cases, the help, I’m afraid, of journalists, are able to continue to bamboozle people. ‘We’ll explain it tomorrow’, ‘that’s too secret to tell you,’ secret intelligence officials insist. Look at The New York Times’s first paragraphs over and over again, “According to American intelligence officials.” “American officials say.” I think sometimes The New York Times should be called “American Officials Say.” Just look at it tomorrow or the day after. Or the L.A. Times, or the, not the San Francisco Chronicle, it’s not much of a paper anymore unfortunately, but The Washington Post.

You know the cozy relationship between American journalists and power is very dangerous. You want to look and see what that relationship is like. The osmotic, the host and the parasite together. You only have to look at a White House press conference, ‘Mr President, Mr President?’ ‘Yes, Bob. Yes, John? Yes, Nancy,’ that’s the relationship. Journalists like to be close to power. They know that if they want to be close to power, they mustn’t challenge power. And that goes back to the Amira Haas definition of journalism, of which I am a total devotee: you must challenge power all the time, all the time, all the time even if the politicians and the prime minister, even if your readers hate you. You must challenge power. And that includes bin Laden power.

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Terrific column by Richard Cohen.

What's more, there's evidence aplenty that the sloppy thinking, false analogies and bad history that led to the Iraq war remain the cultural style of the White House. The president's recent speech, for instance, conflates all sorts of terrorist incidents -- from Israel to Chechnya -- neglecting that they are specific to their regions and have nothing to do with al Qaeda. Every bombing somehow becomes an attack on Western values "because we stand for democracy and peace." Oh, stop it!

It would be nice, fitting and pretty close to sexually exciting if Bush somehow acknowledged his mistakes and said he had learned from them.
At the moment, no one can have confidence in the Bush administration. It has shown itself inept in the run-up to the war and the conduct of it since. Almost three years into the war, the world is not safer, the Middle East is less stable, and Americans and others die for a mission that is not what it once was and cannot be what it now is called: a fight for democracy. It would be nice, as well as important, to know how we got into this mess -- nice for us, important for the president. It wasn't that he had the wrong facts. It was that the right ones didn't matter.



Just heard Ed Schultz on Air America interviewing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-CO). Reid has been such a pleasant surprise since he assumed leadership from the defeated Tom Daschle! The man speaks truth and common sense together in a way that appeals to the common man. I particularly liked his analogy of Bush's current political and policy strategies with those of Richard Nixon. When the nation turned against Nixon, he pointed out, the man "hunkered down," refused to change course, attacked his opposition, and took lots of trips outside the country, just as Dubya is doing. Ronald Reagan, he noted, faced with his own troubles (in particular the Iran-Contra revelations), swept house, brought in Howard Baker and other new advisors and administrators and "went on to have the three most productive years of his presidency." "Bush is following the Nixon example, not the Reagan," Reid said, and hinted that the Chimpster might end the same way.

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Wednesday, November 16


This NYTimes article about Bob Woodward's revelation that he was told by an unnamed source that Valerie Plame was a C.I.A. operative reveals Woodward to be a sycophantic journalist...but then we didn't need any more evidence to prove that to us. It is unconscionable that although he had this knowledge all along, he continued to publicly, and repeatedly, make the "it's no big deal" argument about the outing of Plame as an intel agent -- EVEN AS LATE AS LAST WEEK.

Nearly everyone has denied being his source except Dick Cheney.

He says that he was told in mid-June 2003 that Ms. Wilson worked as a C.I.A. weapons analyst, from an official who made an offhand reference that did not appear to indicate her identity was classified or sensitive.
In a telephone interview, Mr. Woodward said he had apologized to Mr. Downie for not disclosing his own part in such a long-running story long ago and said he had kept a deliberately low profile to protect his sources. "The terms of engagement change when a reporter and reporters are being subpoenaed, agreeing to testify, being forced to testify, being jailed," Mr. Woodward said. "That's the new element in this. And what it did, it caused me to become even more secretive about sources, and to protect them. I couldn't do my job if I couldn't protect them. And to really make sure that I don't become part of this process, but not to be less aggressive in reporting the news."

Bob Woodward BECOMES part of the process, he MAKES news, when he pooh-poohs the leak story on national TV while with full knowledge that some unnamed administration source has told him the same thing that other journalists have been told and not disclosing that information to the public. That's NOT "aggressive reporting the news." That's suppressing it. He could protect his source by not naming him. He didn't have to pretend (because that's exactly what he did) that he wasn't among those who'd been on the receiving end of the leak.

Mr. Woodward, perhaps the nation's single most famous reporter, never wrote about the case, even after it became the most prominent story in Washington, although he made public statements dismissing its importance.
The indictment says that it was Mr. Cheney who specifically first told Mr. Libby, on or about June 12, 2003, that Ms. Wilson worked in the counterproliferation division at the C.I.A., a fact that meant that she worked within the agency's clandestine service, where many employees are undercover. It says that Mr. Libby understood that Mr. Cheney had learned the information "from the C.I.A.," and people who have been officially briefed on the investigation say that notes taken by Mr. Libby at the time say that Mr. Cheney learned it from Mr. Tenet.
[Emphasis mine]

I especially like this part:

Mr. Woodward's statement could help Mr. Libby counter one of the main charges against him, that he lied to the grand jury about a conversation with Tim Russert, NBC's Washington bureau chief, in which Mr. Libby asserted that it was Mr. Russert who told him about Ms. Wilson. The lawyers said that they could say he merely misspoke, never intending to mislead the grand jury because he honestly believed he had heard about the C.I.A. officer as the subject of gossip in news media circles.

In other words, if lots of reporters were told by administration officials that Valerie Plame was a C.I.A. operative, they can be excused for telling because lots of reporters were told?

That's some catch, that Catch-22.

UPDATE: Having reread my own post, I see that I called Woodward "sycophantic" and suggested that Cheney might be his source. Juxtaposing the two, the thought came to me that perhaps the real reason Bobbo didn't come clean is (1) early on he didn't want to anger or implicate his good buddy and often-source for other stories, Mr. Big-time; and/or later on, when the story blew out, (2) he didn't want to become better known as the reporter who was too chicken to follow the story that could have brought down a Vice President instead of the reporter who DID help bring down a president.

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How much more ridiculous can wingnut talk show hosts get? Now they're calling Clinton "the lowest of the low," "slime," "Clintoon," "the worst ex-president who ever lived," "filth," and other assorted epithets not for LYING (as they did during the Monica Lewinsky and impeachment days) but for telling the truth.

DUBAI: The United States made a "big mistake" when it invaded Iraq, former President Bill Clinton told Arab students at a forum in this Gulf nation Wednesday. Clinton cited the lack of planning for what would happen after dictator Saddam Hussein was overthrown. "Saddam is gone. It's a good thing, but I don't agree with what was done," Clinton told students at the American University of Dubai.

"It was a big mistake. The American government made several errors ... one of which is how easy it would be to get rid of Saddam and how hard it would be to unite the country."

Clinton's response drew cheers, and a standing ovation at the end of the hour-long session.

Clinton said the U.S. had done some good things in Iraq: the removal of Saddam, the ratification of a new constitution, and the holding of parliamentary elections.

"The mistake that they made is that when they kicked out Saddam, they decided to dismantle the whole authority structure of Iraq ... We never sent enough troops and didn't have enough troops to control or seal the borders," said Clinton. As the borders were unsealed, "the terrorists came in."

Clinton said it would have been better if the United States had left Iraq's "fundamental military and social and police structure intact."

The last idiot I heard bloviating today with Clinton-hate so intense I thought he'd blow up like the Chinese martial arts dude at the end of Big Trouble in Little China, was David Gold, a radio talk host in the mold of my personal nominee for chief all-things-Clinton hater, Mark Levin. Gold ran out of slurs and had to start repeating them ad nauseum, every one of them punctuated with the phrase, "...and he said this while only 200 miles from where our soldiers are fighting in Iraq and being KILLED!"

Now note, Clinton's criticism was neither scathing nor radical. To the contrary, it was measured, thoughtful and nearly universally endorsed except by Bush's uber-allies in the U.S. and Tony Blair. But it's enough to set the wingers through the roof.

And the Rethugs say we libs harbor an "irrational hatred" for Dubya. Sheesh.

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Tuesday, November 15

THE 237


Prepared at the direction of Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Iraq on the Record is a searchable collection of 237 specific misleading statements made by Bush Administration officials about the threat posed by Iraq. It contains statements that were misleading based on what was known to the Administration at the time the statements were made. It does not include statements that appear mistaken only in hindsight. If a statement was an accurate reflection of U.S. intelligence at the time it was made, it was excluded even if it now appears erroneous.


Drudge reports that Mr. Swaggering Macho Cowboy will only speak to women. Can't you hear the ultimate example of arrested development crying, "Waahh! Momm--eee!!! Everyone's mean to me!"

The sources said Mr. Bush maintains daily contact with only four people: first lady Laura Bush, his mother, Barbara Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes. The sources also say that Mr. Bush has stopped talking with his father, except on family occasions.

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Monday, November 14


Target continues to try to excuse its unconscionable policy of denying Plan B emergency contraceptives to customers with legitimate prescriptions for the drug, simply because they or their employed pharmacist deem it immoral.

This is the kind of issue that mainstream America can, and will, embrace if they KNOW ABOUT IT. Several times in the past five weeks when I've been on a 20-city business travel whirlwind, members of my crew have asked for stops at Target to pick up little personal items they'd neglected to pack. Each time I mentioned that I'd prefer to stop at a Walgreen's or some other (other than Wal-Mart, that is) sundry store and explained the Target position (in fact, I stated, "I'm in the midst of a very serious boycott of Target Stores). In EVERY CASE my overwhelmingly Republican (we're all from Texas, after all) teammates bought into my argument 100%. Several stated, "This time, ________ (my real name), I'm completely in agreement with you!" These are all intelligent professional people who don't have time or the interest or inclination to keep up with this kind of new minutiae (I'm the resident political nutso), but having the facts laid out for them were disgusted and in complete opposition to such policy.

There are so many outrageous and newsworthy issues arising these days, how is it possible for the media to cover them all? The easy answer is, it's not. So it's up to us. We can't allow a single outrage to escape notice. We have to spread the word, as opportunity presents itself, so that the "silent majority" becomes more acquainted with the nonsense that currently permeates our reality in the name of morality.


The American Taliban shows how much more they care about their "principles" than women's lives. Unbelievable.

Do you suppose they hope, in Pat Robertson style, that God will strike the scientists dead for trying to save sinners' lives? Goodness only knows how they would respond to a cure for AIDS.

In clinical trials, a new vaccine was a hundred percent successful in preventing the virus that causes most cervical cancer, the second-leading cancer killer of women in the world. Every year some 10,000 American women are diagnosed with it, and nearly 4,000 die. It now appears that with government approval and funding, we're on our way to ending this scourge.
But it appears that social conservatives aren't drinking from the same chalice.

This was the response of Leslie Unruh of the National Abstinence Clearinghouse: “I personally object to vaccinating children against a disease that is 100 percent preventable with proper sexual behavior.”

The honchos at the Family Research Council said tepidly that they “welcome medical advances,” but with a very frayed welcome mat. FRC's Tony Perkins said he would not inoculate his own daughter: “It sends the wrong message. Our concern is that this vaccine will be marketed to a segment of the population that should be getting a message about abstinence.”

Meanwhile, Gene Rudd of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations acknowledges the worries of fellow travelers: “I've talked to some who have said, `This is going to sabotage our abstinence message.'”


Republicans and many pundits have for some time been demanding that Democrats present an alternative plan for governing. In the face of increased criticism of the Bush administration, this demand seems to have increased -- in my opinion, it's the only way interviewers can figure out to provide "balance" in their newscasts. In other words, if we're going to cover the Bush disasters, we have to have something with which to batter the opposition.

Howard Dean on yesterday's Meet The Press and James Wolcott on AirAmerica this morning reflect my own view, that Democrats ought to continue, for the nonce, to insist on pointing out the failures and pitfalls of BushCo policies and reserve our agenda for 2006, perhaps the spring or early summer. As one of the AirAmerica hosts pointed out, it's our JOB to be the opposition, and after all, Newtie didn't spring the Contract For America on the public until relatively shortly before the 1994 Congressional elections.

Another Democratic response to the demand for a "plan" should be, Why should we present a plan now only to have it sink below the ocean of media coverage of Bush? We cannot command the public's attention at the present -- so we'll wait until we can. We have no intention of presenting a distraction from the Republicans' record when it is finally receiving appropriate notice. After the American public has been educated about the fallacies and faultlines of current Republican policy, about which it has been so deceived during the past five years, then we will offer our alternative agenda and a detailed plan to achieve it.

As Milton said, "They also serve who only stand and wait." Notice to Democrats: the poet said "STAND" not sit...while we're waiting we must stand tall in opposition to this disastrous regime, and as Howard Dean said repeatedly and forcefully to Tim Russert yesterday, speak truth to America and the world. It will serve us ill to simply sit back and watch the Rethugs implode -- we must be seen to be Zolas crying, "J'accuse!" or we'll reinforce the perception of those who consider us wimps.

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Eleanor Clift has an interesting read in which she outlines Bush's, and our, troubles.

Bombings of hotels in Amman, Jordan, begged the question: Why can’t we capture Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born insurgent leader in Iraq suspected of carrying out the attacks—or Osama bin Laden for that matter? Al-Zarqawi moves beyond the borders of Iraq to become a regional threat while Vice President Dick Cheney, a veteran of multiple draft deferments, battles Sen. John McCain, a former POW, for pushing an amendment to the defense appropriations bill that puts the U.S. government on record opposing torture.

Something is deeply askew in the White House when the priorities are so off kilter. Unless events conspire to save President George W. Bush—Iraq turns around, the economy improves for average workers (not just oil execs), and the price of energy comes down—he is heading for a full meltdown, a scary prospect when you realize he’s president for three more years. What’s needed now is the political imagination to change direction, the way President Bill Clinton did after losing both the House and Senate in 1994.
This is a battle between the Bushes of Kennebunkport and the Bushes of Crawford, and who prevails will determine which direction Bush 43 goes for the rest of his term.
If Bush sticks with Rove and goes to the right, there’s a ceiling on his popularity at best of 45 percent. If he moves to the center, like the Bush 41 crowd would like, the base collapses and he doesn’t necessarily pick up votes in the center. The administration is too far gone, the problems intractable.
[emphasis mine]

I'd say, however, that this is a battle not between supporters of the senior Bush and the cronies of Bush lite. I think it's more a matter of an internal war of Dubya's personal demons. Will his stubborn, intractable nature continue to dominate, his fragile ego requiring demonstrations of "respect" and opportunities to prove his manhood? Or will he, as he did so often in his earlier years, allow Daddy's pals to bail him out of this jam? Heaven knows, the latter would be better for us. That crowd might be despicable in many ways but they're certainly a vast improvement over Rove/Cheney et al.

If I weren't so convinced that Bush is either drinking again (see also here and here) or on medication, I'd feel more optimistic that Junior would cave and ask for help. As poor decision-maker as he is during the good times, any impairment of those faculties is downright scarifying. Strong drink makes him belligerent and arrogant and reinforces all his worst qualities.



Vote for Time's Person of the Year for 2005.

The choices: Steve Jobs, Bill & Melinda Gates, J.K. Rowling, Condi Rice, Bono, Dubya, Pope Benedict XVI, The Google Guys, Rick Warren, Valerie Plame, Mother Nature, and Lance Armstrong.

I voted for Mother Nature. She's winning big-time. The Google Guys were my 2nd choice, and they're in second place.


60% disapproval.

It's the first time for the poll to find that less than half approve of the president's performance in the war on terror. 60% said going to war in Iraq wasn't worth it, and those surveyed were split 49%/49% as to whether he is a strong or weak leader. 56% said they either dislike or hate (6%) the president. 48% said they trust Bush less than Clinton, 36% trust him more, 15% said about the same. 52% think Bush is not honest and trustworthy.

Here's the pragmatic punchline: 56% of registered voters said they'd be likely to vote against a local candidate supported by Bush; 34% said the opposite. "Only 9% said their first choice in next year's elections would be a Republican who supports Bush on almost every major issue."

Good indications for Democrats in 2006.

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A dry run for 2006? Terrifying. And it's barely a blip on the media screen.

Issue Two was designed to make it easier for Ohioans to vote early, by mail or in person. By election day, much of what it proposed was already put into law by the state legislature. Like Issue One, it was opposed by the Christian Right. But it had broad support from a wide range of Ohio citizen groups. In a conversation the day before the vote, Bill Todd, a primary official spokesperson for the opposition to Issues Two through Five, told attorney Cliff Arnebeck that he believed Issues Two and Three would pass.

The November 6 Dispatch poll showed Issue Two passing by a vote of 59% to 33%, with about 8% undecided, an even broader margin than that predicted for Issue One.

But on November 8, the official vote count showed Issue Two going down to defeat by the astonishing margin of 63.5% against, with just 36.5% in favor. To say the outcome is a virtual statistical impossibility is to understate the case. For the official vote count to square with the pre-vote Dispatch poll, support for the Issue had to drop more than 22 points, with virtually all the undecideds apparently going into the "no" column.

The numbers on Issue Three are even less likely.

Issue Three involved campaign finance reform. In a lame duck session at the end of 2004, Ohio's Republican legislature raised the limits for individual donations to $10,000 per candidate per person for anyone over the age of six. Thus a family of four could donate $40,000 to a single candidate. The law also opened the door for direct campaign donations from corporations, something banned by federal law since the administration of Theodore Roosevelt.

The GOP measure sparked howls of public outrage. Though again opposed by the Christian Right, Issue Three drew an extremely broad range of support from moderate bi-partisan citizen groups and newspapers throughout the state. The Sunday Dispatch poll showed it winning in a landslide, with 61% in favor and just 25% opposed.

Tuesday's official results showed Issue Three going down to defeat in perhaps the most astonishing reversal in Ohio history, claiming just 33% of the vote, with 67% opposed. For this to have happened, Issue Three's polled support had to drop 28 points, again with an apparent 100% opposition from the previously undecideds.

The reversals on both Issues Two and Three were statistically staggering, to say the least.
And thus the possible explanations for the staggering defeats of Issues Two through Five boil down to two: either the Dispatch polling---dead accurate for Issue One---was wildly wrong beyond all possible statistical margin of error for Issues 2-5, or the electronic machines on which Ohio and much of the nation conduct their elections were hacked by someone wanting to change the vote count.

If the latter is true, it can and will be done again, and we can forget forever about the state that has been essential to the election of every Republican presidential candidate since Lincoln.

And we can also, for all intents and purposes, forget about the future of American democracy.

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This morning on his radio show Bill Bennett was hot on Jay Rockefeller's tail. He says that yesterday on Faux News, in response to a question about his statement pre-war that Iraq posed an "imminent threat" to the U.S., Rockefeller said he had made a personal visit to Syria and Saudi Arabia in the fall of 2002 and told the leadership of those countries that in his opinion, George Bush was ready to go to war with Iraq and that that decision had been made shortly after 9/11. Bennett and his cohort Seth began to discuss just how treasonous such an action might have been -- e.g., how might that information have been used contrary to U.S. interests (the WMD could have been moved -- aha! this helps prove they're in Syria!).

If Rockefeller made such a statement (and I haven't been able to find corroboration yet), it could hand the Republicans a gambit for distraction from their current woes. It would certainly sound irresponsible to many Americans, though I doubt he was telling them anything they didn't know since Bush was beating the war drums pretty loudly by then.

I'll be watching for the transcript to see just what JR really said. Knowing Bill Bennett, it could be a complete distortion.


UPDATE: Bennett has written about the putative Rockefeller "confession" at NRO. Matt Yglesias weighs in. Matt echoes my sentiments, that it was hardly news to the world that Bush was dead-set on invading Iraq. It's still to be seen what the Rethugs, and the media, will make of this.

Sunday, November 13


An article in WaPo says moderate Republicans are unhappy with the GOP. But, it goes on to say, they still don't consider voting Democrat a viable alternative.

This jibes with my own informal polling. However, several moderate Republicans I've queried have stated that they would, given the chance, vote for Bill Clinton (but not Hillary).

Their reasoning: Clinton was good for business, showed fiscal restraint, was smart and a strong leader, and popular around the globe. He was compassionate but not "recklessly" so. They also think that maybe if he'd left Hillary out of the equation his healthcare proposals might have received better notices.

Interesting stuff. What to make of it, I don't know. I'd prefer an Al Gore or John Edwards presidency (since Howard Dean has taken himself out of the running), but more and more I question whether Wesley Clark might not be our best choice in '08. He has many of the Big Dog's best qualities (charm, smarts), his patriotism can't be questioned by even the most vitriolic, hyperbolic right wing, and as a career soldier he has no legislative record to challenge or distort. He may be the only American alive who could truly be a "uniter, not a divider." I only question whether he'd get us out of Iraq.

Worth thinking about, seriously.

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WaPo tells it like it is.

VICE PRESIDENT Cheney is aggressively pursuing an initiative that may be unprecedented for an elected official of the executive branch: He is proposing that Congress legally authorize human rights abuses by Americans. "Cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment of prisoners is banned by an international treaty negotiated by the Reagan administration and ratified by the United States. The State Department annually issues a report criticizing other governments for violating it. Now Mr. Cheney is asking Congress to approve legal language that would allow the CIA to commit such abuses against foreign prisoners it is holding abroad. In other words, this vice president has become an open advocate of torture.
It's not surprising that Mr. Cheney would be at the forefront of an attempt to ratify and legalize this shameful record. The vice president has been a prime mover behind the Bush administration's decision to violate the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention Against Torture and to break with decades of past practice by the U.S. military. These decisions at the top have led to hundreds of documented cases of abuse, torture and homicide in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Cheney's counsel, David S. Addington, was reportedly one of the principal authors of a legal memo justifying the torture of suspects. This summer Mr. Cheney told several Republican senators that President Bush would veto the annual defense spending bill if it contained language prohibiting the use of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by any U.S. personnel.

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