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Hullabaloo


Monday, October 31, 2005

 
Unleashing The Id

Can somebody explain to me why American interrogation techniques seem to always involve sticking objects up prisoners' asses? This has got to be some sort of "method" because it is reported over and over again:

"He had two, 10-hour beatings from the Americans and I said to David, 'Sure they were Americans?' (because) he said he had a bag over his head and he said, 'Oh look ... I know their accents, they were definitely American'," Mr Hicks told Four Corners.

"Some pretty horrific things ... were done to him."

The program reported the abuse had included Hicks being injected and then penetrated anally with various objects.

Hicks' lawyers say they have witnesses relating to the abuse and that the United States has photographic evidence.

His American lawyer, Major Michael Mori, would not comment on the specifics of what information he had.

"I'd say it's an area that I'm investigating and that I've already found some evidence and witnesses that support that occurring," he told Four Corners.

Former Australian Guantanamo Bay detainee, Mamdouh Habib, who was released earlier this year, has also claimed that he was abused while on foreign soil.

In February, Mr Habib detailed how he was tortured in a military airport in Pakistan.

During a particular episode of abuse, Mr Habib said 15 men stripped him, inserted something into his anus, put him in a nappy and tied him up.



Is this some sort of American sexual panic or is it official policy that sexual violence is the best way to "interrogate" prisoners?

Every time I read this stuff it makes my stomach churn. What is being described is depraved sexual violence--- rape. And I wonder about the men and women who are perpetrating these horrifying acts. This is a license to unleash the darkness which I assume exists to some extent or another in most people --- and then they are going to come back into society and we are going to expect them to behave like decent people.

I'm beginning to think that we're not dealing with interrogation at all. We're dealing with something insidious and familiar: rape camps. It appears that based upon some strange reading of Islam that says being raped is unusually unpleasant for Muslims, we are using rape as a military strategy. The same thing happened in Bosnia to Muslim women:


...the Mission accepted the view that rape is part of a pattern of abuse, usually perpetrated with the conscious intention of demoralising and terrorising communities, driving them from their home regions and demonstrating the power of the invading forces. Viewed in this way, rape cannot be seen as incidental to the main purposes of the aggression but at serving a strategic purpose in itself


Americans are apparently doing the same thing --- to men. There is just too much evidence of this wierd sexual violence and humiliation for it to be a coincidence. We have become the Serbs.



.
 
Catastrophe Strategy

I'm reading a lot of comments in the blogosphere saying things like this today:

"...we'd be far better off politically if Roe were overturned and Griswold were curbed. And if a couple states -- say Kansas and Alabama -- enacted medieval restrictions that made the rest of the country puke."


This is a great idea and I don't know why we don't use it for everything. For instance, why don't we stop talking about torture. Our position is "soft" and it turns off the NASCAR dads we need to reach. Certainly, the prohibition against torture, which nobody even considered was in danger of being repealed until a couple of years ago, cannot be easily abandoned. Once people become aware of this medieval behavior, they will "puke" and step in to do something about it, right? Isn't that how it works? When the right pulls some outrageous stunt, the country stands up en masse and rejects it.

There is a lot of action on the right these days about due process. If we just keep very quiet about the threat to habeas corpus and the right to confront your accuser, trial by jury of your peers --- all of these fundamental constitutional rights, people will see how bad it is when our system of justice becomes "medieval" and then they will rebel.

Following this strategy, we should allow the Republicans to have their way on tort reform and consumer rights. Once people get ripped off badly enough they will look at the Republicans and see that they don't have their best interests at heart and they will vote for us instead. Indeed, I think that we should carefully consider whether or not it's smart to keep harping on tax policy too, for that matter. If we let the Republicans completely bankrupt the country so that we have a catastrophic economic meltdown, destroy social security and medicare, all those old, poor and unemployed people on the streets will surely wake people up. It will probably make them puke.

I'm not sure why that would lead to anyone voting for the Democrats, though. After all, we'll have sat idly by and let these things happen without fighting because we thought it would be politically helpful to our cause to force women to have back alley abortions, enable torture, destroy our judicial system, let common citizens be conned out of their hard earned money, and their lives destroyed in economic calamity --- in order to make a political point. But hey, it's a good plan anyway. We'll run on the "we told you so" platform and everyone will love us.


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Generative Consequences

"Men's liberation" aside, there are many many people, both male and female, who believe that a woman should be required to inform her husband that she is pregnant -- after all, they reason, the baby is his too, right?

I don't believe that women should have to inform anyone of their decision to have an abortion because it infringes on her fundamental right to personal autonomy. But even those who disagree with that should recognise that it's not always so simple:

The name of the woman pictured below is Gerri Twerdy Santoro. She was just 28 years old. She was a sister, a daughter, and she was the mother of two daughters when she died a very painful and frightening death.

This New York coroner's picture first appeared in MS Magazine in April 1973. When Gerri's picture appeared in MS, no one knew her name or all the circumstances that surrounded her death from an illegal abortion. While it was assumed that she died at the hands of a back alley butcher, the family later confirmed that she died the way most women died before Roe vs. Wade legalized abortion in this country in 1973; she died from a self-induced abortion attempt.

Gerri was estranged from her abusive husband when she met Clyde Dixon and became pregnant by him. Terrified that once her abusive husband returned to town and learned it was Dixon's baby she was carrying, he would kill her. She was determined and desperate to end her unintended pregnancy. That desperation and determination made her akin to thousands upon thousands of women in those days that were desperate and determined enough to terminate their unintended pregnancies in spite of the fact that abortion was illegal. Illegality affected the safety of abortion but it never affected the number of abortions that were performed.

Gerri was 6 ½ months pregnant in June 1964. Gerri's boyfriend obtained a medical book and borrowed some surgical equipment. They went to a motel where Dixon tried to perform the abortion. When the attempt failed, when it all went terribly wrong, Dixon fled the scene, leaving her there to die, alone, in this cold impersonal hotel room. She was bleeding profusely and tried with towels to stop it but she couldn't. How frightened she must have been, knowing she was going to die. She was found like this, on her stomach with her knees under her, her face not visible, bloody, nude, alone and dead.


You can go to the link to see the picture, if you need to see the horror.

The new nominee for the Supreme Court voted that a woman today, in the same position this woman was in in 1964, would probably have to do the same thing Gerri Santoro did. Informing her husband would put her in the exact position she is desperate to avoid. And that woman might very well end up the same way Gerri Santoro did.

Now, I'm sure there are many on the right who believe that this poor woman deserved what she got for being unfaithful to her abusive husband. Her crime was having unauthorized sex and she should have had to "pay the price" by bringing a child into an angry abusive marriage --- or perhaps being killed by her violent husband.

Indeed, great thinkers on the right are now saying this right out loud.

From Pandagon I find out that Leon Kass is dead serious about outlawing birth control, because it has unhinged women's "desire" from its "consequences:"

The sexual revolution that liberated (especially) female sexual desire from the confines of marriage, and even from love and intimacy, would almost certainly not have occurred had there not been available cheap and effective female birth control — the pill — which for the first time severed female sexual activity from its generative consequences.

[...]

Her menstrual cycle, since puberty a regular reminder of her natural maternal destiny, is now anovulatory and directed instead by her will and her medications, serving goals only of pleasure and convenience, enjoyable without apparent risk to personal health and safet

[...]

Her sexuality unlinked to procreation, its exercise no longer needs to be concerned with the character of her partner and whether he is suitable to be the father and co-rearer of her yet-to-be-born children.


How touching. If it weren't for birth control we could pretend we're in Victorian England and have a nice cup of tea. Sadly, his little fantasy wasn't even true during that time for any but the richest Mayfair heiresses (who were also bartered off like cattle) and it sure wasn't true for women who had no means.

I think it's time to call upon some down home wisdom from somebody red staters revere about the "character" of partners and the "generative consequences" for women in a life without repropductive freedom:

You wined me and dined me
When I was your girl
Promised if I'd be your wife
You'd show me the world
But all I've seen of this old world
Is a bed and a doctor bill
I'm tearin' down your brooder house
'Cause now I've got the pill

All these years I've stayed at home
While you had all your fun
And every year thats gone by
Another babys come
There's a gonna be some changes made
Right here on nursery hill
You've set this chicken your last time
'Cause now I've got the pill

This old maternity dress I've got
Is goin' in the garbage
The clothes I'm wearin' from now on
Won't take up so much yardage
Miniskirts, hot pants and a few little fancy frills
Yeah I'm makin' up for all those years
Since I've got the pill

I'm tired of all your crowin'
How you and your hens play
While holdin' a couple in my arms
Another's on the way
This chicken's done tore up her nest
And I'm ready to make a deal
And ya can't afford to turn it down
'Cause you know I've got the pill

This incubator is overused
Because you've kept it filled
The feelin' good comes easy now
Since I've got the pill
It's gettin' dark it's roostin' time
Tonight's too good to be real
Oh but daddy don't you worry none
'Cause mama's got the pill
Oh daddy don't you worry none
'Cause mama's got the pill

Loretta Lynn 1972


Scalito doesn't want women to have family leave when they get pregnant, and he thinks that women should have to inform their husbands if they want an abortion (at least until he can outlaw it all together.) Considering his views are considered to be in the same ballpark as Scalia, I assume that he thinks that Griswold should be overturned as well -- all the best right wing fascists do.

Good luck with this. If these guys have their way it's going to be a rude awakening for the women in this country.




Update: Excuse me, I just found out that Scalito believes that there should have been an exception to the "inform the husband" provision --- she would have had to go to court and reveal all of her private business to a judge in order to get permission not to tell her estranged, abusive husband. The supreme court found that to be an undue burden. I'm sure he and Nino will take care of that nonsense the first chance they get.



.
 
It's Traitorgate, Stupid.

Alito, schmalito. Of course, he stinks, and stinks worse than usual. You expected a reasonable nominee from Bush? Are you joking?

Now look. Of course, if Alito isn't vigorously opposed and if he gets to the court, the extreme right will advance one more ominous giant step along the road to establishing the US as a Christian Taliban state (and no, rightwing nuts: I don't think they'll convert baseball stadiums for use as mass execution centers of heretics, liberals, abortion doctors, their patients, and gays. Well, at least not for a few more years, anyway.)

But look at where we were up to 1 second before Bush announced Alito's name, and where we still are. Bush is perceived by the press and politicos as wounded. And the wound is serious: The perception of his administration's ability to protect us, to keep our secrets, and to tell us the truth is heavily, perhaps permanently damaged. With Bush injured, now is the time to press harder exactly where it hurts, and vigorously rub it with salt.

By contrast, Alito is for Bush as Oxycontin is for Limbaugh. Alito is intended to ease the pain of Fitzgerald's indictments and continuing investigation by changing the subject. Bush, Cheney and Rove expect us to play along on their timetable, which requires that the country get distracted quickly from the brief glimpse Fitzgerald provided everyone, even Kristof, of the enormously fetid swamp of crimes and traitorous behavior behind the sealed gates of the Bush White House. No one, except Bush's base, can be anything but disgusted at what was revealed on Friday.

And Bush's base will rally around Alito no matter what. They have their carefully honed defenses of Alito ready to roll out. But they are not planning on having the country stay focused on Traitorgate. And that is why I'm saying we must.

I'm NOT saying ignore Alito. What I'm saying is DON'T LET BUSH CHANGE THE SUBJECT. Yes, we should attack Alito hard, but only when it's entirely to our advantage to do so, and not when Bush thinks we will, when it he expects it to work mostly to his advantage. And so, don't forget:

It's Traitorgate, stupid.

It's the foul stench of betrayal of country that will follow Libby around for the rest of his life. And in the mainstream (and even some places on the right), the sense that Rove and even Cheney have engaged in utterly unacceptable, if not outright criminal, behavior has begun to catch on as within the bounds of acceptable discourse. Look at what Reid said, he's calling for Rove to resign regardless of indictment! (And he's right.)

And so, it is on Traitorgate we should push. Alito can wait a bit for that heavy concerted effort to oppose him. Please, folks, think twice before jumping whenever Bush snaps. It's Traitorgate right now, not rightwing courtpacking. Let's make sure no one forgets it.
 
Krugman

Sing it:
Let me be frank: it has been a long political nightmare. For some of us, daily life has remained safe and comfortable, so the nightmare has merely been intellectual: we realized early on that this administration was cynical, dishonest and incompetent, but spent a long time unable to get others to see the obvious. For others - above all, of course, those Americans risking their lives in a war whose real rationale has never been explained - the nightmare has been all too concrete.

[SNIP]

So the Bush administration has lost the myths that sustained its mojo, and with them much of its power to do harm. But the nightmare won't be fully over until two things happen.

First, politicians will have to admit that they were misled. Second, the news media will have to face up to their role in allowing incompetents to pose as leaders and political apparatchiks to pose as patriots.

It's a sad commentary on the timidity of most Democrats that even now, with Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, telling us how policy was "hijacked" by the Cheney-Rumsfeld "cabal," it's hard to get leading figures to admit that they were misled into supporting the Iraq war. Kudos to John Kerry for finally saying just that last week.

And as for the media: these days, there is much harsh, justified criticism of the failure of major news organizations, this one included, to exert due diligence on rationales for the war. But the failures that made the long nightmare possible began much earlier, during the weeks after 9/11, when the media eagerly helped our political leaders build up a completely false picture of who they were.

So the long nightmare won't really be over until journalists ask themselves: what did we know, when did we know it, and why didn't we tell the public?
It's hard to believe how isolated a voice Krugman was from, say, about Spring 2000 to about January, 2004. There was all but nowhere else in the mainstream press where Bush's total absence of presidential qualifications, his incompetence, and his lack of personal integrity were being honestly discussed.

And no one believed him. He was ignored and ridiculed by fellow journalists as shrill, he went mostly unread by mainstream politicians. He was disbelieved by ordinary readers including literally all of my milieu, who seemed desperate to believe that Bush - whose negligence and incompetence were crystal clear to me even when the towers were still smoking and the networks were overwhelmed with ominous reports and rumours - would actually save and protect us from the horrible fate that befell our fellow New Yorkers.

So now, if Krugman wants to tell the country and especially his colleagues, "I told you so," he deserves to. He told us exactly so. When no one else dared.

Paul, I owe you. Big time.

(Edited slightly after original posting.)

Sunday, October 30, 2005

 
Fitz In The Tank?

Michael Isikoff reports:

Fitzgerald made another visit early Friday morning—shortly before the grand jury voted to indict Dick Cheney's top aide, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby—to the office of James Sharp, President George W. Bush's own lawyer in the case, to tell him the president's closest aide would not be charged.


Holy Shit. Can someone tell me why Fitzgerald would go to President Bush's personal lawyer on Friday to tell him that Bush's "closest aide wouldn't be charged?" Is it in any possible sense ethical for the prosecutor to be telling the president's lawyer information that isn't available to the public about members of the president's staff in the middle of an investigation?

If this is true, I think Mr Fitzgerald has some splainin' to do, otherwise it might look like he's got some back channel communication with the White House about a case that directly affects it. This would not seem in character for Mr Fitzgerald, who is by all acounts a very ethical prosecutor. If this is true, it's a bomb shell. Fitzgerald has no business discussing Karl Rove with anyone but Karl Rove and Karl Rove's lawyer.

Michael Isikoff repeats this line as if it is a matter of objective truth, but there is no way to know that, of course. This prosecutor doesn't leak so this is coming from Rove's lawyer, Luskin, or Bush's lawyer, Sharp. I'm unaware of any leaking from Sharp but there has been a ton of it from Luskin over the past few months. I think reporters like Isikoff should probably take a little inventory of all the blind alleys they've been led down by Robert Luskin these past few months. Here are just a few of the highlights:

"Karl has truthfully told everyone who's asked him that he did not circulate Valerie Plame's name to punish her husband, Joe Wilson," Luskin said. Asked if that included President Bush, Luskin said, "Everyone is everyone."


Added Luskin,
"Karl did nothing wrong. Karl didn't disclose Valerie Plame's identity to Mr. Cooper or anybody else ... Who outed this woman? ... It wasn't Karl."
Luskin said Rove "certainly did not disclose to Matt Cooper or anybody else any confidential information."

"If Matt Cooper is going to jail to protect a source, it's not Karl he's protecting."



Luskin is a defense lawyer. It's part of his job. I'm not criticising him for it. But, he and Rove are working overtime to get Rove out of this jam -- and prepare the ground for a big PR push if Rove is indicted --- and all reporters should think carefully about credulously repeating what they are saying.

You'd think Luskin would be very careful before he charges Fitzgerald with unauthorized discussions of the case with Bush's lawyer. If it isn't true, Fitzgerald might just get a little testy about it.
 
Turdblossom In The Punchbowl

Karl Rove is spinning like Tanya Harding at the nationals right now, telling everyone who will listen that he wasn't part of any conspiracy to leak Plame's identity to the press, that he has a major case of CRS disease (can't remember shit.) But it just doesn't hold water.

One thing we do know is that Official A in LIbby's indictment has been acknowledged to be Rove. Here's the passage that refers to him:

On or about July 10 or July 11, 2003, LIBBY spoke to a senior official in the White House ("Official A") who advised LIBBY of a conversation Official A had earlier that week with columnist Robert Novak in which Wilson's wife was discussed as a CIA employee involved in Wilson's trip. LIBBY was advised by Official A that Novak would be writing a story about Wilson's wife.


Interesting phrasing, isn't it? Rove knew that Novak was writing a story "about Wilson's wife" --- not about Cheney's non-involvement, not about Joe Wilson never submitting a report, but "about Wilson's wife."

And here I thought Karl was just trying to warn reporters off Wilson's allegations and mentioned Wilson's wife to Cooper as an afterthought. Byron York interviewed Rove's lawyer Luskin back in July:

"Look at the Cooper e-mail," Luskin continues. "Karl speaks to him on double super secret background...I don't think that you can read that e-mail and conclude that what Karl was trying to do was to get Cooper to publish the name of Wilson's wife."

According to Luskin, the fact that Rove did not call Cooper; that the original purpose of the call, as Cooper told Rove, was welfare reform; that only after Cooper brought the WMD issue up did Rove discuss Wilson — all are "indications that this was not a calculated effort by the White House to get this story out."


Yet Karl "Official A" Rove specifically informed Libby that Novak would be writing a story "about Wilson's wife." Perhaps they were just idly sharing small tid-bits of their conversations with journalists over the urinals, but it certainly would seem that Karl had an interest in "Wilson's wife" as opposed to Wilson's alleged misstatements.

I am not a lawyer so I'm probably missing something vitally important here, but can someone explain to me why this item is included in the obstruction count? From what I gather the obstruction charge rests on the fact that he lied so often and so completely that the Grand Jury concluded that he was actively obstructing the investigation. But it does not appear that he lied about this conversation, or at least it isn't mentioned in the enumerated lies in the perjury counts. So, what does this conversation with Rove have to do with Libby's obstruction activities?

Karl, of course, has been telling everyone who will listen that he's only potentially on the hook for perjury about Matt Cooper and that he just forgot. Luskin has been spinning this as Karl presenting evidence at the eleventh hour that gave Fitzgerald "pause" because Karl never mentioned his conversation with Cooper to his flunky so he must not have remembered it. (I think Jane has the best take on that silly defense.)

Karl has a history of memory lapses about his ratfucking activity going way back. But it's always been a little bit hard to swallow, since he can recall the most arcane electoral information for any district in the country and can recite passages of books he's read verbatim. You see, Karl doesn't just have a good memory, or a prodigious memory --- he has a photographic memory.


[His sister Reba] told journalist Miriam Rozen the family used to rely on Rove's photographic memory for evening entertainment.

"The game was, "see if you can stump Karl," she said in an interview published in the Dallas Observer. His older brother Eric would read a passafe from abook Karl had read the week before. That challenge was to guess which word his brother had intentionally left out. (Bush's Brain, p.116)


Once people with photographic memories see something they remember it. If Karl Rove wrote an e-mail, he remembered it.



.
 
Pakistan

Ann-Marie Slaughter reprints a letter from Pakistan:
The situation is, as per any and all analyses, profoundly dire. The statistics speak for themselves, both in terms of the damage done and the lives lost, but more importantly, for the people still at risk (at least 3.5 million). By UN estimates, the relief challenge is three times that of the tsunami.

As we have discussed, my family is actively involved in social and development work in Northern Pakistan; I myself have spent much time working in the region. I am writing to you because, having just visited the region and spoken to many community leaders across the NWFP and Pakistani-held Kashmir, it is apparent that there is a tremendous strategic opportunity for the United States and its allies. For a fraction of the cost of what is spent in other arenas of the War on Terror, an extremely volatile region and country's hearts and minds can be won over. All that is required is a very substantial, very visible US relief effort. [Emphasis added.]
'Nuff said. And needless to say, if the US doesn't help in a substantive way, it will be interpreted as the worst kind of punishment and abandonment.
 
39% Approval? After Everything That's Happened?!?

What is wrong with this country? Bush's approval is at 39%. True, it's the lowest ever for the Post/ABC survey but think about it. How could more than 1/3 of the people think this president, whose performance in office makes it clear that Yale was already cursed with serious grade inflation when they gave him a C+, be so clueless? Look at it this way.

We just got a wonderful puppy who loves everyone; he's trusting, affectionate, and was easily housetrained. But what if I was so negligent that I let a known dog hater from the next block attack him so violently that two of his legs had to be amputated? What if I forced him through obedience training to sit, to beg, to rollover, and then as a reward, I gave all the well-fed dogs on the block delicious yummy treats while putting my puppy on a starvation diet? What if, then, on the hottest days of the year, I arranged for my dog to participate in a totally pointlesss cockfight with no end, a fight which left him bleeding, exhausted, and humiliated? What if I grabbed other dogs off the street and tortured them right in front of my dog, so they associated their pain with my dog's loving face? What if I then nearly drowned my dog in a clogged sewer, leaving him there for half a week while I joked about how I once partied hard down there, when it was an elegant cabana?

Yes, the average puppy scores twice as high as Jeb Bush on scholastic aptitude tests, but let's face it: there are smarter critters out there. But even so, don't you think that any puppy, if they endured what I've imagined mine enduring, would just about now start thinking there was something majorly seriously wrong with the guy tugging his leash? Don't you think that any puppy would snap and bite whenever I came within 10 feet of him? Or snarl menacingly whenever I pretended once again to feed him but gave his food away to the big fat dogs who regularly stomp on him at the dog run?

Am I saying that over 1/3 of the American public is dumber and more complacent than my 10 month old puppy? Not at all. Here's another possible explanation.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

 
Headline of the Year



 
On or about September 26, 2003

the Department of Justice authorized the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") to commence a criminal investigation into the possible unauthorized disclosure of classified information regarding the disclosure of Valerie Wilson's affiliation with the CIA to various reporters in the spring of 2003.


On or about October 7, 2003.

Karl Rove says to George W. Bush, "Reporters do a very good job of protecting leakers, Mr President. Don't worry."

October 8, 2003:

I have no idea whether we'll find out who the leaker is, partially because, in all due respect to your profession, you do a very good job of protecting the leakers," he said. "You tell me: How many sources have you had that's leaked information that you've exposed or had been exposed? Probably none. I mean, this town is a town full of people who like to leak information.


October 14, 2003


LIBBY stated to FBI Special Agents that:

a. During a conversation with Tim Russert of NBC News on July 10 or 11, 2003, Russert asked LIBBY if LIBBY was aware that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. LIBBY responded to Russert that he did not know that, and Russert replied that all the reporters knew it. LIBBY was surprised by this statement because, while speaking with Russert, LIBBY did not recall that he previously had learned about Wilson's wife's employment from the Vice President.

b. During a conversation with Matthew Cooper of Time magazine on or about July 12, 2003, LIBBY told Cooper that reporters were telling the administration that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, but that LIBBY did not know if this was true; and

c. LIBBY did not discuss Wilson's wife with New York Times reporter Judith Miller during a meeting with Miller on or about July 8, 2003.


Can there be any doubt that the Bush administration bet the farm on the idea that the press would keep their mouths shut? And can we all see that they were very close to being right? If Fitzgerald hadn't been willing to take it to the mat, they would have gotten off scott free.

The Republican (Washington) estabishment very wisely have figured out that they can use the press to disseminate anything they choose and the press will either eagerly report it or "decline" to follow up. They consider the press a cog in their noise machine and the press is willing to be a cog as long as they are given access.

It's not just Judy Miller. It's the whole lot of them.

Recall, if you will, the unbelivable performance of reporters at the presidential and department of defense press conferences in which they laughed uproariously at every lame joke as if it were Robin Williams at Carnegie Hall. Remember the way they reported the president's halting, ignorant, inarticulate answersd to questions as if they were handed down from the Oracle of Delphi. Remember how they dutifully reported every single lie the administration spewed forth in the run up to the war --- between khaki safari jacket fittings and salute lessons in anticipation of their thrilling (em)bedding with the he-men of the American military. It was enough to make you sick.

The Bush administration must be reeling with betrayal. I can certainly understand why they believed that the press would do exactly as they were told. They always had before.

They didn't realize that for Tim Russert, it was a matter of picking which government official he would keep silent for. And they couldn't have anticipated that Pat Fitzgerald would see that since reporters were first hand witnesses to a crime of national security that he would put the squeeze on them so hard they had to cooperate.

I have no doubt that Karl and Scooter gave their bosses complete assurance that the press would never talk. They wouldn't have received any more official leaks on backround if they didn't and then they would have to do real reporting. Nobody could imagine such a thing.



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No Hero

Now that Tim Russert has finally told his story --- and it appears to be central to the case --- a lot of people are saying that we owe him an apology for giving him grief.

While I certainly agree with Atrios that this notion of default confidentiality any time you speak to a government official is mind-boggling (and I give Russert some credit for not being a total Bush toady on this) but I don't think Russert gets any kudos for his behavior. I know that Fitzgerald asked him to keep quiet, but I don't think it's any more ethical for a reporter not to report what he knows for that reason, than if he kept quiet because he allowed Scooter to assume that he had confidentiality. There is no secrecy required for Grand Jury witnesses and there certainly is no secrecy required for discussions with the prosecutor. Where there is no secrecy required, which should be a little as possible, reporters should report. We are all better off if these people don't go around deciding whether the government is doing the right thing by keeping secrets. We the people are the government and we have a right to know.

NBC put put out a lawyerly press release which turns out to be pretty much the extent of Russert's testimony. In the context of the case it became ripe for parsing, using such words as it did about"the name" and the word "operative" which had been discussed in great depth in the context of Novak's column. By never clarifying what he meant by those words --- by never ever even addressing them --- he allowed misconceptions and speculation to simmer for months. He failed in his job as a journalist by not clearing that up.

But Russert's biggest crime was consistently discussing this case, and grilling those involved, without ever mentioning his own involvement. For two years he has been reporting this story and leaving out relevant information (as it turns out extremely relevant information) about this case. He grilled Joe Wilson like a criminal, he never challenged the Vice president, he had Bob Novak right in front of him and he talked about the case and speculated grandly while never (except in one very bizarre instance) coming clean about what he knew.

Here's the one bizarre instance from July 25, 2005:

MR. GREGORY: ... There's a political problem and then potentially a legal problem because I think what the special prosecutor is looking at right now is who might have actually blown Valerie Plame's cover, or did somebody lie, in their testimony, about their conversations with reporters? The White House defense has been that they learned about Valerie Plame from reporters. There is now information, including a classified State Department memo, that may contradict that. There at least is the potential that White House officials were aware of who she was, what she did and her role in sending her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, to Niger to investigate this uranium-Iraq thing.

MR. RUSSERT: There has to be an original source, somebody.

MR. GREGORY: Yes.

MS. TOTENBERG: Right.

MR. RUSSERT: Even if it came from a reporter...

MR. GREGORY: Right.

MR. RUSSERT: ...the reporter got it from someplace.

MS. TOTENBERG: Right. And...

MR. RUSSERT: But I was asked what I said. I did not know.


I have no idea what he meant by that, but it certainly didn't inform the discussion. (And, of course, nobody followed up. Russert is godhead.)

Unless Russert had an explicit legal obligation to stay quiet, he should not have done it. His job is to inform the public of what he knows, period. By not clearing up the press release and speaking up in various roundtables and interviews he passively misinformed the public for months.

The bottom line is that a reporter's obligation is not to the government, it's to his readers or viewers, whether the government is represented by Scooter Libby or Patrick Fitzgerald. They are the Fourth Estate, empowered by a heavy duty constitutional right --- freedom of the press, which was not put in the bill of rights so that reporters could get delicious gossip about people with whom they socialize along with their tasty official propaganda. It also wasn't put into the Bill of Rights so that they could help prosecutors. Our democracy will not function if they do not operate in a separate sphere of responsibility from the government they cover.

I'm reminded of this little exhange between Russert and the Dean from a few months back:

Russert: David Broder, explain to our viewers what you have observed, and why journalists have this code where they simply will not divulge their sources.

Broder: The principle is pretty simple. It is the government’s responsibility to keep the government’s secrets secret. It is not the press’ responsibility. Our inclination, once we have information, is to try to verify it, to amplify as much as we can, the background and the context. But our basic obligation, then, is to share information with the public.


It seems that many members of the Washington press corpse believe that the story stops with printing what their favored confidential sources feed them. Then they go back for more. They've been doing this for a long time and the result has been a disasterous kind of incentuous amplification of the political establishment's efforts to guide the discourse in the direction they choose.

In this case, even after all this manipulation and lying on the part of the administration, even blaming reporters for their own misdeeds and using the threat of betraying omerta to silence them, the press is still serving as little more than conduits for the target's lawyers' public relations roll out. Their reporting on the underlying issues about the war is perfunctory at best, thrown in at the end of each article like so much filler, and calling it "context."

I heard John Dean last night on Keith Olbermann make an interesting claim: that the Nixon administration as part of their Stonewall Defense had wanted the case to be investigated in the Grand Jury because of the secrecy requirement. (Remenber Nixon's famous words on the tape: "I want you all to stonewall it, let them plead the Fifth Amendment; cover-up or anything else, if it'll save it; save the plan.") Dean said that if congress hadn't investigated Watergate, it would have died behind the wall of Grand Jury secrecy and the facts behind this case may die there too.

However, there was at the time, some intrepid reporting taking place as well, some of which was aggressive interviewing of reluctant Grand Jury witnesses --- former employees of CREEP and the like. Reporters worked hard to get them to tell their tales and it was the constant revelations coming out in the Washington Post, informed by Mark Feldt but reported with shoe leather investigative work, that propelled the congress to act. Today, we have reporters who are actually part of the story refusing to tell their tales all because they are protecting, in one way or another, the government.(Andsadly, one of the reporters involved in that story is now a total whore for the Bush administration.)

This is one of the most perverse aspects of this entire story. The culture of Washington has become so insular that reporters are in the business of protecting the government's secrets on a constant basis. (The only secrets they refuse to keep are lurid tales of people's private sex lives.)

I'm glad that Fitzgerald was able to make a perjury case against Scooter Libby, since he is obviously covering up something bigger than gossip or he wouldn't have done something so uncharacteristically dumb.("Stonewall it, let them plead the Fifth Amendment; cover-up or anything else, if it'll save it; save the plan.") He deserves to be prosecuted. But I can't help but wonder how I would look at this if the prosecutor were Ken Starr and Tim Russert had helped him rather than do his job.

Oh wait, I forgot. He did.



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Friday, October 28, 2005

 
It's All Good

With yesterday's indictment of Vice President Cheney's top aide, President Bush's administration has become a textbook example of what can go wrong in a second term. Along with ineffectiveness, overreaching, intraparty rebellion, plunging public confidence and plain bad luck, scandal has now touched the highest levels of the White House staff.


Read the whole thing. When you see it all together you realize just how much trouble this administration is in.

Best Quote:

Noting that Clinton's approval ratings remained above 60 percent throughout the impeachment battle, while Bush's are in the low 40s, Podesta said, "When Clinton said, 'I'm going back to do my work,' people cheered," Podesta said. "When Bush says, 'I'm going to do the job I've been doing,' people say, 'Oh, no.' "




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Shaken Not Stirred

To those who want to trivialize these perjury and obstruction charges against Scooter Libby, I would just suggest they take a quick look at the report that was filed publicly by Kenneth Starr against President Clinton (and which served as the basis of an impeachment in the House of Representatives.) Here's a little excerpt in case you've forgotten what a restrained and dignified legal document it was:

According to Ms. Lewinsky, she and the President had ten sexual encounters, eight while she worked at the White House and two thereafter. The sexual encounters generally occurred in or near the private study off the Oval Office -- most often in the windowless hallway outside the study. During many of their sexual encounters, the President stood leaning against the doorway of the bathroom across from the study, which, he told Ms. Lewinsky, eased his sore back.

Ms. Lewinsky testified that her physical relationship with the President included oral sex but not sexual intercourse. According to Ms. Lewinsky, she performed oral sex on the President; he never performed oral sex on her. Initially, according to Ms. Lewinsky, the President would not let her perform oral sex to completion. In Ms. Lewinsky's understanding, his refusal was related to "trust and not knowing me well enough." During their last two sexual encounters, both in 1997, he did ejaculate.

According to Ms. Lewinsky, she performed oral sex on the President on nine occasions. On all nine of those occasions, the President fondled and kissed her bare breasts. He touched her genitals, both through her underwear and directly, bringing her to orgasm on two occasions. On one occasion, the President inserted a cigar into her vagina. On another occasion, she and the President had brief genital-to-genital contact.

Whereas the President testified that "what began as a friendship came to include [intimate contact]," Ms. Lewinsky explained that the relationship moved in the opposite direction: "[T]he emotional and friendship aspects . . . developed after the beginning of our sexual relationship."

As the relationship developed over time, Ms. Lewinsky grew emotionally attached to President Clinton. She testified: "I never expected to fall in love with the President. I was surprised that I did." Ms. Lewinsky told him of her feelings. At times, she believed that he loved her too. They were physically affectionate: "A lot of hugging, holding hands sometimes. He always used to push the hair out of my face." She called him "Handsome"; on occasion, he called her "Sweetie," "Baby," or sometimes "Dear." He told her that he enjoyed talking to her -- she recalled his saying that the two of them were "emotive and full of fire," and she made him feel young. He said he wished he could spend more time with her.

Ms. Lewinsky told confidants of the emotional underpinnings of the relationship as it evolved. According to her mother, Marcia Lewis, the President once told Ms. Lewinsky that she "had been hurt a lot or something by different men and that he would be her friend or he would help her, not hurt her." According to Ms. Lewinsky's friend Neysa Erbland, President Clinton once confided in Ms. Lewinsky that he was uncertain whether he would remain married after he left the White House. He said in essence, "[W]ho knows what will happen four years from now when I am out of office?" Ms. Lewinsky thought, according to Ms. Erbland, that "maybe she will be his wife."


That's how a responsible prosecutor works. He writes a bodice ripping yarn as an indictment. You can certainly understand why everyone was expecting something a little bit more James Bondish in this spy thriller. No wonder everyone's expectations are dashed. What a shame that Pat Fitzgerald is just a prosecutor instead of an all 'round entertainer like Ken Starr, eh?



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Talking Point Tryout

Crooks and Liars has the footage I posted about yesterday in which Mr (Ed) Rogers says that government officials lying about their sex lives is worse than lying about whether they outed a CIA agent to discredit a critic.



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The Big Picture

I wrote previously that I believed Fitzgerald was investigating a fairly narrow case and would not get into all the bigger issues of the lead up to the war. I also wrote that what is important is that the story of how we got bamboozled into the war by a corrupt, venal Republican political machine is finally told. This case is the hook that allows those stories to be told. It's all tied into the same thing --- dishonesty, secrecy, revenge and dirty politics at the highest levels in both large and small ways.

If the Republican leadership of congress weren't spineless Bush toadies and insane religious fanatics they would do their job and investigate this honestly for the good of the country. But they won't. They are nothing more than braindead fatcats gorging at the pork barrel with a fistfull of C-notes in one hand and a bible in the other. (If you want to read a purely political document, spend a little time with the Senate Intelligence Committee report on Iraq. Rush Limbaugh is more subtle.)

We are left with a timorous press and an honest prosecutor to get to the bottom of what these people have done to us.

If they care to do it, this case is a way for the media to save its soul after its outrageous conduct helping the administration make its case for war on lies. It is the responsibility of the NY Times and the Washington Post and NBC and all the rest to revisit what this administration has done ever since 1999 when the national press overlooked its sleazy and dangerous behavior. If they care to salvage their reputations they have the chance right here, right now.

And if nothing else, Fitzgerald is doing this country a huge, vastly important service simply by being honest and apolitical, proving that its still possible. Taking Libby to task (and possibly Rove) for being reprehensible pieces of shit and then lying about it is extremely meaningful after the way that Republicans have behaved for the last 15 years. Exposing the way they work to smear and destroy anyone who gets in their way, whether that's his purpose or not, is important work. This case is a window into a high level Republican smear job and cover up.

The Republicans will do anything to advance their agenda. They are fundamentally undemocratic --- they do not believe that the people have a right to vote, to see their elected politicians allowed to serve a full term, to know the reasons for their government's policies or even why they are going to war. They believe that they can do anything. That's what this case is about.


Update: I also wrote the other day that prosecutors hate perjury and obstruction because when someone covers up a crime they tend to make it more difficult to prosecute it. Fitz's "sand in the face" comments were saying exactly that.

There is no reason to think that anyone else is out of the woods, though. In the Governor Ryan case remember, Ryan was the 66th person indicted --- partially on the basis of testimony of his closest aide:

“I’m still not overly comfortable with participating,” Fawell told a federal judge last Oct. 28 during a teary testimonial to try to keep his mistress-turned-fiancee, Andrea Coutretsis, out of prison. “I don’t relish testifying against George Ryan.”

Fawell, 48, was once the heir to DuPage County political royalty. His mother is Beverly Fawell, a former state legislator. His father is Bruce Fawell, a former chief judge in the county. And his uncle, Harris Fawell, was a respected congressman from Naperville.

Scott Fawell rose through the GOP political ranks rapidly, serving as a driver for then-U.S. Sen. Charles Percy, lobbyist for the tollway authority and campaign operative for then-Gov. Jim Thompson. He ended up working for then-Lt. Gov. Ryan, and helped Ryan win a close race in 1990 for secretary of state.

Ryan rewarded him with the chief of staff job and then the nearly $200,000-a-year plum of running the agency that oversees McCormick Place and Navy Pier.

So if Ryan indeed has figurative bodies buried somewhere, as prosecutors allege, Fawell is in position to know the location. He gave prosecutors a 45-page sworn statement.

[...]

A jury found Fawell guilty for his part in the corruption scandal. He’s serving a 6¨-year sentence at a federal work camp in Yankton, S.D.

Fawell, however, gave his testimony to prosecutors reluctantly, a fact that Ryan’s defense team undoubtedly will bring to jurors’ attention.

“I’m not going to sell myself out just to save myself,” Fawell said after his sentencing in late June 2003. “I’m not sitting on any bomb of George Ryan’s. I’m not going to go in there and make up stories about him just to save myself, which unfortunately that’s the game (prosecutors) like you to play.”

That, however, was before Fitzgerald’s office charged Coutretsis, formerly of Long Grove. Coutretsis, a mother of two and Fawell’s one-time assistant at McPier, faced a prison sentence for perjury before persuading Fawell to turn on Ryan. In return, she could get six months or probation. Fawell could get six months shaved off his sentence.


Stay tuned.



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Rove Must Resign, Too

Since Rove is under investigation and since the potential crime is so serious - compromising the status of a CIA agent - Rove simply must resign. Now, I won't remind everyone again of Bush's remarks in 2000 about creating an atmosphere of probity and changing the tone of Washington, yadda yadda. They are unnecessary, especially when it comes to national security, because they are assumed. If there is even a hint that Rove cannot be trusted with access to government secrets, and there is more than a hint, he must immediately step down.

Karl, stop wasting my taxes and go back to whatever rock you crawled out from under. Oh, and one more thing. Fuck you, traitor.
 
Scooter's Replacement

From MYDD

Where there has been controversy over the past four years, there has often been Addington. He was a principal author of the White House memo justifying torture of terrorism suspects. He was a prime advocate of arguments supporting the holding of terrorism suspects without access to courts.

Addington also led the fight with Congress and environmentalists over access to information about corporations that advised the White House on energy policy. He was instrumental in the series of fights with the Sept. 11 commission and its requests for information.

[...]


Colleagues say Addington stands out for his devotion to secrecy in an administration noted for its confidentiality.

[...]

Even in a White House known for its dedication to conservative philosophy, Addington is known as an ideologue, an adherent of an obscure philosophy called the unitary executive theory that favors an extraordinarily powerful president.



If this is the game plan, I think we can expect to see Randall Terry nominated to replace Harriet Miers.



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Still Under Investigation

Official A, also known as Karl Rove, has to be worried. He should probably be very, very nice to everyone involved, especially Scooter. Very nice.



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Libby Indicted

This is the first time in 130 years that a sitting White House official has been indicted. The last time was in the Grant administration.

Honesty. Integrity. Honor. Dignity.



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Shiverin' In Our Boots

Joe DiGenova just pulled a Mark Levin on CNN threatening everybody that the movement conservatives (which he says he isn't) will unleash hell if this issue of lying about intelligence becomes a part of the discussion because the CIA was scheming against the president and they just won't stand for it.

This is the old, "better behave or I'll tell your father" bullshit. Fuck them.

The neocons and and the movement conservatives, remember, have been at war with the CIA for decades. The CIA hasn't always been right, but the Neocons have always, always been wrong about everything.

The answer to this crap is --- show us the WMD, bitches.



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Pure As The Driven Snow

Reminder:

Karl Rove’s animus toward Wilson was so intense that curiosity arose within the White House about it. When asked about this, Rove reportedly said, “He’s a Democrat.”



Reminder:

Rove insisted, he had only circulated information about Plame after it had appeared in Novak's column. He also told the FBI, the same sources said, that circulating the information was a legitimate means to counter what he claimed was politically motivated criticism of the Bush administration by Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

Rove and other White House officials described to the FBI what sources characterized as an aggressive campaign to discredit Wilson through the leaking and disseminating of derogatory information regarding him and his wife to the press, utilizing proxies such as conservative interest groups and the Republican National Committee to achieve those ends, and distributing talking points to allies of the administration on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. Rove is said to have named at least six other administration officials who were involved in the effort to discredit Wilson.


Reminder:

In my administration, we will ask not only what is legal, but also what is right - not just what the lawyers allow, but what the public deserves.

In my administration we will make it clear there is the controlling authority of conscience. We will make people proud again - so that Americans who love their country can once again respect their government.



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Rove Roll

Jeralyn at Talk Left has been right over and over again on Plamegate. This makes sense, since she is a criminal defense lawyer and knows how to read between the lines of these things.

She has been convinced for some time that Karl Rove cut a deal. She still thinks so:

As I noted earlier, the news reports on Rove are conflicting. But this statement by one "non-legal" member of his team, who I assume is the P.R. specialist Mark Carballo who signed on to Rove's team the other day, leads me to believe Rove took a deal and Fitzgerald has agreed not to announce it immediately


It would be prefectly in keeping with Rove's PR style to have portrayed himself these last few days as fighting the charges with everything he's got while he's actually rolling on Libby.

Everything Rove does from now on must be seen through the prism of spin.



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Standards Of Official Conduct

Memorandum
January 20, 2001

MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES

SUBJECT: Standards of Official Conduct

Everyone who enters into public service for the United States has a duty to the American people to maintain the highest standards of integrity in Government. I ask you to ensure that all personnel within your departments and agencies are familiar with, and faithfully observe, applicable ethics laws and regulations, including the following general principles from the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch:

(1) Public service is a public trust, requiring employees to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws, and ethical principles above private gain.

(7) Employees shall not use public office for private gain.

(11) Employees shall disclose waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption to appropriate authorities.

(12) Employees shall satisfy in good faith their obligations as citizens, including all just financial obligations, especially those -- such as Federal, State, or local taxes -- that are imposed by law.

(14) Employees shall endeavor to avoid any actions creating the appearance that they are violating applicable law or the ethical standards in applicable regulations.

Please thank the personnel of your departments and agencies for their commitment to maintain the highest standards of integrity in Government as we serve the American people.

GEORGE W. BUSH




Via Mike Liddell
 
More Fearsome than Al Qaeda

Ok, we'll just have to be patient and wait until two o'clock, it seems. Meanwhile, I learned something very, very disturbing.

There is a group operating freely in the United States that strikes so much terror in the hearts of Americans, they fear them more than al Qaeda. Who could they be? Saddamists? A coalition of renegades from Peru's Shining Path and the Tamil Tigers? And my God, what are they planning?!??! Will they attack tomorrow and blow up Mt. Rushmore or Las Vegas or Boca Raton? Is anyone safe from these Mega-Terrorists????

Learn the facts here, if you can stand the truth. We must all be forewarned against them.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

 
The Clinton Defense

I just heard a Republican mouthpiece on Matthews' show pull out the old "how dare you compare these silly charges to the reprehensible behavior of Bill Clinton!" He went on to defend Rove and Libby by exclaiming that Clinton "wasn't indicted!" as if the second impeachment in history was a trivial matter and nothing compared to the persecution of poor powerless Karl and Scooter.

Matthews and the Dem on the panel dropped their jaws in disbelief, but I think we should expect more of this. They will drag out their old talking points because they want to make this appear to be the same as the Lewinsky scandal --- only this time they are the victims, their favorite role. Poor Karl is being tormented by an out of control jack booted thug for doing things that anyone can understand. Karl was just forgetful, he's a busy man and he's being strung up for just doing what any man might do in his position --- he misspoke. How dare they torture this fine public servant this way?

To that end, it appears that they have been lining up some help from those who have experience in Republican witchhunts:

The presidential aide's legal team has made contingency plans to defend him in both court and in public. They've consulted with former Justice Department official Mark Corallo and G-O-P strategist Ed Gillespie.


Marc Corallo is a very interesting person for the Rovians to consult on these matters. He was a major player in the impeachment:

Via Mithras

In a surprising disclosure, Baker says that shortly before the impeachment drive went to the House floor in December 1998, Republican House Speaker-elect Bob Livingston wanted to call the whole thing off.

Livingston, who would soon be forced to resign over his own marital infidelities, told an aide, Mark Corallo, "We've got to stop this. This is crazy. We're about to impeach the president of the United States."

Corallo convinced Livingston to reconsider. "Boss, we have a rapist in the White House," he said, a reference to allegations against Mr. Clinton by a woman named Juanita Broaddrick about a 1978 incident. Broaddrick's calims were not included in the House impeachment findings.


He went on to become Ashcroft's spokesman at Justice. He's a professional partisan flak with very relevant experience in scandal management. But here's an interesting little post from The American Spectator Blog that we should all tuck into a folder for later use if he becomes a member of the team:

Attacking the Prosecutor? Bad Idea - Tuesday, October 25, 2005 @ 9:39:12 AM

Message to Republicans: Whoever is generating the "Attack Pat Fitzgerald" talking points needs to cease and desist. This veteran (and some might say "victim") of the Impeachment in '98, finds it highly hypocritical to hear the same attacks that the left leveled at Ken Starr now being floated by the right to discredit Pat Fitzgerald -- Sen. Kay Baily Hutchison called perjury a "technicality." What has separated US from THEM is our adherence to intellectual honesty and principle even when it costs us politically. The Ds made excuse after excuse for Slick Willie while demonizing Ken Starr. If Fitzgerald indicts anyone, not for violating any of the statutes governing the handling of classified information, but for obstruction or perjury, Republicans must refrain from trivializing the charges or defending the indicted.

All should be thoroughly mindful of the FACT that Pat Fitzgerald is arguably the best prosecutor in the country. Nobody knows more about Al Qaeda, their methods and the way they finance their operations. America is safer from terrorism because of him.

The many recent profiles extolling his blue-collar upbringing, his brilliance, his record and his unrivaled work ethic neglect one of his core character traits: he is also eminently reasonable. This is not Javert, bent on getting his man no matter the consequences or the "triviality" of the crime. This is a servant of the law who has, to his credit, a thick vein of common sense and an understanding of what motivates usually law abiding people to violate the law. He is not out to get anyone.

I know Pat. Simply put, he is a really good guy.

If we are honest about the impeachment of Mr. Clinton, then we are acutely aware that he alone, by simply telling the truth from day one (or even day 20) could have saved the country from 2 years of insanity. While the Plame imbroglio does not rise to that level of seriousness, the same can be said (assuming there are charges for perjury or obstruction) of the indicted in this case. Pat Fitzgerald, like Ken Starr, was simply doing his job with honor, integrity and from the look of it, an inordinate amount of patience.

Posted By: Mark Corallo


If anyone thinks that's what Rove heard from Carollo yesterday, I've got a nice bridge to nowhere to sell you.





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Death By A Thousand Cuts

To anyone who thinks either Bush or the GOP are wounded and no longer able to concentrate on their agenda to wreck the government - oh, I'm sorry, I meant reduce the role of government - think again:
House Republicans voted to cut student loan subsidies, child support enforcement and aid to firms hurt by unfair trade practices as various committees scrambled to piece together $50 billion in budget cuts.

More politically difficult votes [!!!!!!] -- to cut Medicaid, food stamps and farm subsidies -- are on tap Thursday as more panels weigh in on the bill.

It was originally intended to cut $35 billion in spending over five years, but after pressure from conservatives, GOP leaders directed committees to cut another $15 billion to help pay the cost of hurricane recovery.

President Bush met with House and Senate GOP leaders and said he was pleased with the progress.
No doubt.
 
"Very Serious" Indeed

To add a couple of observations to Digby's last post...

Please recall that recently Bush described the Fitzgerald investigation as "very serious." I took this originally to mean that Bush thought the charges were substantive and needed a "very serious" investigation, but a little bit of reflection makes it clear that's not what he meant at all.

Bush was issuing a threat. He deems Fitzgerald's probe to be a "very serious" danger to his presidency. We can expect him and his attack ghouls to act accordingly. They will treat the indictments as attacks on the United States, as a kind of terrorism. It is imperative, as Digby notes, for anyone who goes up against the Bush administration to be prepared for the worst. They have both the will and the power to destroy careers and lives. And they will surely do so if they believe their power is threatened. Proof? Valerie Plame Wilson.

Also, let us not forget the proximate causes for the Fitzgerald investigation, a serious suspicion which is now a terrible certainty. There existed a conspiracy at the highest levels of the Bush administration to expose the identity of an undercover CIA agent. That is a crime. That crime was covered-up. The ongoing cover-up entailed more crimes. But all these actions are more than crimes.

These people betrayed their country. Regardless of whether the evidence rises to the level of legal proof, the people who participated in this conspiracy cannot be permitted to stay. As difficult as it might be to unseat some of the worst of them, they must go. Will they? Put it this way: your physical safety may depend on it.

These sleazebags hindered and subverted the covert gathering of intelligence on weapons of mass destruction. If the damage of Plame's outing is minimal, that is a lucky accident- not for them, but for the country. That in no way diminishes the "very serious" havoc these scoundrels were prepared to accept if Plame's work was vital, danger far worse than that of 9/11. Had Plame's undercover status not been transitional but still deep, there is no public evidence that any of these people would have hesitated one nano-second in their efforts to expose and destroy her, out of retribution for her husband's actions.

Digby is right. This is going to be an ugly fight. But it is a fight that is entirely the fault of those who betrayed their country, not those who refuse to be their victims. We should make sure that it is crystal clear that this is not Fitzgerald's fault, not the CIA's fault, not the Democrats' fault. It is their fault - Rove's, Libby's, and all who aided and abetted their multiple betrayals. They failed us and they can no longer be entrusted with our safety and governance.

We should never let the media get away with spinning this as anything trivial. Even if you haven't done so before, after Fitzgerald's report comes out, please consider taking a few valuable moments of your time to write letters to papers and electronic media, to your representatives both local and national, and let them know how important it is to you that these people go.
 
Unleashing The Furies


Kevin says:

MIERS REACTION....I fear that Mark Levin's reaction to the Harriet Miers withdrawal might be unnervingly on the money:

It's time for our liberals friends to worry. If the president picks a solid nominee, the base — meaning Republican Party loyalists and conservative activists — will be united, reinvigorated, and ready for battle. At least that's the indication from my radio audience. And frankly, as an aside, there's another event that is uniting them, and that's their growing resentment toward Patrick Fitzgerald. Positive press profiles aside, they increasingly view him as a threat to the presidency, and are not much impressed with all the talk in the media about possible indictments for perjury or false statements over emails or memory lapses.


There's nothing that movement conservatives like more than redemption, and if Bush chooses a God-fearing, fire-breathing conservative to replace Miers, then not only will all be forgiven, but Bush's support from the base might well be redoubled. They'll be primed and ready to go after Patrick Fitzgerald and the hated liberal lynch mob who are gunning for their newly repentant savior.



To which I reply, no kidding? Is there anyone on the planet who thought that the wingnuts were going to sit idly by and let the White House go down in flames without marshalling a feral response? It's their MO about everything. Cross them and they turn into shrieking harpies swooping and swirling in inchoate fury.

Guys, this is Karl Rove we are talking about here. He made his bones more than 30 years ago destroying his Republican opponent. This is what he does. Pat Fitzgerald had better be prepared to be portrayed as a jack-booted, cross-dressing, gay Torquemada willing to do anything to please his Stalinist masters. Anyone who thought differently has not been paying attention.

This is why we shove their previous mantras about perjury and obstruction and "rule of law" in their faces. This is why we repeat the words that Bush used in the 2000 campaign about "not only doing what is legal but what is right." This is why we always, always, bring this back to the fact that 2000 Americans are dead and tens of thousands are disabled because of a war that the administration lied about --- lies that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby tried to cover up.

And when they go after Joe Wilson, we simply say every single time --- "Joe Wilson was right. There were no WMD." That is the lie that is really killing them and that is the lie that they sputter and trip over trying to explain. Democrats should never let a conversation go by in which the public is not reminded that there were no WMD. When the Dem spokesman is (inevitably) confronted by he fact that some of our leading lights voted for the war resolution, they should just say, "the Democrats took the president at his word. They won't make that mistake again."

This is going to be a huge battle, don't ever think it won't. Pat Fitzgerald is going to be destroyed as if he were a Democrat. I hope that the real Democrats who appear on television are preparing for this and are ready to respond. It won't be pretty.




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Owned By The Base

Yesterday I wrote that the Beltway Boys were all saying that in order to weather the current storms, Bush needs to run to his base and it looks like Bush heard it. (They only listen to Fox in the White House, you know.)

I'm glad to see that the Democrats seem to be saying the obvious about the Miers nomination, which is that Bush is the right wing's love slave. This is important because it looks as though the "base strategy" is going to be the way Bush will govern for the rest of his term as well. The LA Times has an interesting article this morning discussing the White House strategy for dealing with the scandals --- push "tax reform" and "immigration." (Oh, and he's going to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict, too) Good luck with all that. You can run but you can't hide.

The right wing has been empowered by this "win." They are going to be more demanding than ever and Bush is going to have to accomodate them. This is both an opportunity and a danger for Democrats. If we frame the Republican party as being taken over by extremists who want to force average Americans to keep their 90 year old father alive on machines, then we can set ourselves up as the rational alternative. If, on the other hand, we position ourselves as simply against the "far right" it will be seen as a pissing match between the "far right and "far left," (which is anyone to the left of Ann Coulter.)

The Dems badly need to start using real stories to explain their positions. The rhetoric has become so abstract that nobody really understands what it means to them anymore. The president's base, the "right wing," are people who want to outlaw birth control and interfere with your medical decisions on religious grounds. I don't think people really realize that.

Bush is in real trouble, with his only option apparently to try to appease a base that is basically unappeasable. He's Phyllis Schlaffly's houseboy now. And with this taste of blood, the whole party is going to be more in the thrall of this minority than ever. But we won't be able to take advantage of it if we don't explain in terms people can understand why that is a problem.

The big national issues, of course, remain corruption and incompetence. But this is an issue that has salience in the congressional races where a little straight talk about the extreme right could go a long way. We need to develop some effective rhetoric for our candidates to use to illustrate the problem.

Update: Kos has an interesting tick-tock from the Hotline that suggests it really was Miers incompetence that did her in. Kos says:

It seems to me that Miers wasn't done in from a lack of conservative cred as the wingers want to believe. Bush was convinced she was like him and would've fought for her all the way through. She was done in from simple incompetence. Her responses to committee questions betrayed a complete lack of understanding of constitutional law. Her meager writings were incoherent. She was unable to articulate competence in meetings with senators
.

Of course, that doesn't mean that the wingnuts don't believe they won. We need to make sure the public believes they did. The narrative of the Miers nomination is that Bush nominated an incompetent crony that the right wing didn't believe was enough of a religious zealot.


Update II: Perhaps we could quote this guy:

Former Republican Sen. John Danforth said Wednesday that the political influence of evangelical Christians is hurting the Republican Party and dividing the country.

[...]

"I think that the Republican Party fairly recently has been taken over by the Christian conservatives, by the Christian right," he said in an interview. "I don't think that this is a permanent condition, but I think this has happened, and that it's divisive for the country."

He also said the evangelical Christian influence would be bad for the party in the long run.




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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

 
Confidence Man

Steve Clemons reports:

The one interesting tidbit that came my way by way of an unnamed senior American journalist is this:

My sense is that the Rove team is feeling more confident today, the Libby team despondent


I would just remind everyone that Rove has a faith based belief in the psych-out. He believes that if you can influence events by acting as if you have knowledge they do not have. (See: bandwagon effect, election 2000, final swing through California.)

If he's still negotiating with Fitzgerald, he could easily have issued an edict to his people (or even lied to them) to give a certain impression of confidence to the press. That's the kind of thing he does.

The thing is, the bandwagon effect is bullshit and cost him 2000. If it hadn't been for good company men on the Supreme Court, instead of having the reputation as the most brilliant political strategist the world has ever known, he would have been remembered as the man who blew the most expensive presidential race in history because of his arrogant belief that he could shape events just by acting like he knew things that nobody else knew.

Like everyone else I'm ODing on speculation, and he may very well have gotten some good news. But let's just say that when I hear that Karl Rove is acting like a winner before the score is posted, I'm skeptical.



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Good As Gold

Via tribe34 at DKos, I see that Condi is a little bit on edge these days:

Rice bristled when asked how the U.S. could be trusted when it doesn't live up to its international agreements.

"Well, I think the word of the United States has been as good as gold in its international dealings and its agreements," she snapped.


Good as gold means withdrawal from the Kyoto Treaty on global warming, refusing to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and abrogating the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty, I guess.

And then there's this:

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed in 1997, Bolton articulated his dismissive view of international treaties. “Treaties are law only for U.S. domestic purposes,” he wrote, “In their international operation, treaties are simply political obligations.”

[...]

Bolton called the moment he signed the letter abrogating Clinton’s approval of the ICC “the happiest moment in my government service.”

[...]

Following the 1999 Senate vote rejecting the treaty, Bolton said that the vote marked “the beginning of a new realism on the issue of weapons of mass destruction and their global proliferation. The Senate vote is an unmistakable signal that America rejects the illusionary protections of unenforceable treaties.”


And she bristles when other countries question whether a treaty with our signature on it is worth more than toilet paper.

According to MikeCan over at DKos, after this little snit:

"...local media in Ottawa reported this morning that Condi Rice canceled some interviews etc and rushed back to Washington based upon a phone call."


What ever could that be about?


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What A Good Boy! Mama's Real Proud

Taking the blame for your messed up brother one more time:


Gov. Jeb Bush took the blame Wednesday for frustrating delays at centers distributing supplies to victims of Hurricane Wilma, saying criticism of the Federal Emergency Management Agency was misdirected. "Don't blame FEMA. This is our responsibility," Bush said at a news conference in Tallahassee with federal Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who oversees the agency.


And then he added, "Chertie, yer doin' a heckuva job."



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The Kids Who Couldn't Wait For Fitzmas

It's driving me crazy too. But we need to take a longer view of this, I think. If we get sealed indictments, if the grand jury is extended, if a new grand jury is empaneled it is only our nerves that are stretched.

Mark Kleiman writes
, and I agree:

Yes, I'm as eager as everyone else to know what Fitzgerald is going to do. But today's delay strikes me as both a Good Thing in itself and a good sign as to the eventual outcome.

It's a Good Thing because it keeps the Plame scandal on the front page and keeps the bad guys paralyzed with fear. Moreover, after two years of steady drumbeat of conservative propaganda about no crime having been committed and no charges forthcoming, the more time the commentariat and the public have to wrap their heads around the idea of All the President's Men going to stir over burning a CIA NOC, the better.


Most of the country is only beginning to wake up to the fact that this is a Big Deal and the Bush administration is in big trouble over it. It doesn't hurt a bit to keep the White House off balance, the press salivating and the story percolating for a little while.


You'll have to excuse me while I have a pacemaker installed, however.



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What is this investigation you speak of?

If you want to have a little laugh, watch Faux not cover the Plame story today. Harriet Mieres is the only story in Washington, apparently.

Oh, and the Democrats are ruining America, as usual.

Update: The Beltway Boyz are waxing nostalgic about how well Reagan handled his problems with Iran Contra. They all agree, including Mara Liasson, that Bush needs to appeal more to his base. (Maybe he can name James Dobson to replace Karl Rove?)

But enough of all that unpleasantness. Let's talk about how well things are going in Iraq and how great the economy is. Move along citizens.



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Flirting With Moneypenny

People seem to be wondering why Fitz had FBI agents out asking the Wilsons' neighbors if they knew she was an undercover agent. Why would he do this so late in the game?

I suspect it came from a grand juror's question. In presenting the case for violation of the identities protection act, one of them may have wondered how, dispute the CIA's clear assertion that she was undercover, she could live an every day life while keeping her job a secret. There seems to be a perception, born of Hollywood, that undercover agents are all glamorous, cloak and dagger figures who are very different from ordinary people. Perhaps the earlier interviews with her neighbors were a bit vague about that and so Fitz had them re-interview them with the specific intent to show she led a very normal life but told no one that she worked with the CIA.

As to the fact that she went to Langley every day to work, even if you see the spook world only through the prism of Hollywood, you can't help but notice that even James Bond shows up at headquarters between assignments to have a face to face with M. He wouldn't even know Miss Moneypenny otherwise.



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Pakistan Disaster Toll May Double To Over 100,000

Like Katrina, but far more extensive, it's a disaster after a disaster, and it's preventible:
Doctors are having to amputate the limbs of many survivors because they have gone so long without help, he said. Many more lack shelter as night temperatures plunge below freezing, with the full force of winter only a few weeks away.

"This disaster may have the number of people who died after the disaster bigger than those killed by the earthquake," U.N. chief aid coordinator Rashid Khalikov said at his tent office in the wrecked city of Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistani Kashmir.
Bad weather in the mountains grounded the vital helicopter fleet at the main airbase near Islamabad on Wednesday.

With the known quake death toll at more than 54,000, relief workers had until the end of November to provide shelter, treat the countless injured and supply food, Khalikov said.

"What these communities will have by December 1 is what they will have to live with," he said.

"We basically have four weeks to deliver."
There was a time when this was considered a moving statement of some moral truths about humankind's obligations. But that wasn't good enough. We now have this expression of sympathy for the less fortunate to guide us.

And what is our Compassionate Leader doing? Well, it turns out the US has pledged a whopping 50 million bucks for earthquake relief. Who says Bush is stingy? That's nothing to sneeze about. Why, that's at least 1/3 the cost of a Hollywood blockbuster these days and let's face it: where's that money better spent, huh?

Oh, and Pakistan estimates that it will take 100 times the current US committment of funds to rebuild the earthquake area (see here. )
 
Whoa

Richard Sale is not an idle nobody conspiracy blogger like me. He is a seasoned intelligence coorespondent with impeccable sources. And he is writing some amazing, amazing stuff today, which, if true, is going to blow the lid off this government:

Although most press accounts emphasized that Fitzgerald was likely to concentrate on attempts by Libby Rove and others to cover-up wrongdoing by means of perjury before the grand jury, lying to federal officials, conspiring to obstruct justice, etc. But federal law enforcement officials told this reporter that Fitzgerald was likely to charge the people indicted with violating Joe Wilson's civil rights, smearing his name in an attempt to destroy his ability to earn a living in Washington as a consultant.

The civil rights charge is said to include "the conspiracy was committed using U.S. government offices, buildings, personnel and funds," one federal law enforcement official said.

Other charges could include possible violations of U.S. espionage laws, including the mishandling of U.S. classified information, these sources said.

That Vice President Cheney is at the center of the controversy comes is no surprise. Last Friday, Fitzgerald investigators were talking to Cheney's attorneys, and detailied questionaires, designed to pin down in meticulous sequence what Cheney knew, when he knew it, and what he told his aides,, were delivered to the White House on Monday, these sources said.

The probe is far from being at an end. According to this reporter's sources, Fitzgerald approached the judge in charge of the case and asked that a new grand jury be empaneled. The old grand jury, which has been sitting for two years, will expire on October 28.

Thanks to a letter of February, 2004 which Fitzgerald asked for and obtained expaneed authority, the Special Prosecutor is now in possession of an Italian parliament nvestigationi into the forged Niger documents alleging Iraq's interest in purchasing Niger uranium, sources said.

They said that Fitzgerald is looking into such individuals as former CIA agent, Duane Claridge, military consultant to the Iraqi National Congress, Gen. Wayne Downing, another military consultant for INC, and Francis Brooke, head of INC's Washingfton office in an effort to determine if they played any role in the forgeriese or their dissiemination. Also included in this group is long-time neoconservative Michael Ledeen, these federal sources said.


First of all, the fact that there have been recent contacts with Cheney suggests that something really big is up. Second, the fact that he is going to empanel a new grand jury is also huge.

I have long believed that this investigation was going to be rather narrow. It seemed to me that Fitzgerald would have explicitly asked for permission to expand the scope of his investigation into areas that did not touch upon the Plame leak.

But if this is true, all bets are off. There is little doubt that the Niger forgeries are becoming salient all of a sudden. It may be a coincidence and it may not be. But, if someone could possible put that nutball Micael Ledeen in the crosshairs it would be a beautiful thing to see.

Gird yourselves for shrieks coming from the right so cacophanous that you will have permanent hearing damage if Fitz files civil rights charges. Their heads will start spinning like Linda Blair's and the words "criminalization of politics" are going to be bursting forth like green pea soup. Richard Cohen and Nick Kristoff will sit shiva around Robert Novak's decaying corpse.

I have serious doubts that Fitz will do it, but if he does I'll say a silent prayer that somebody, somewhere has finally noticed that character assassination is wrong.


Update: To clarify, when I say character assassination is wrong, I'm speaking here of
using the pwoer of the government, as the Republicans did with their partisan hearings and bogus impeachment and now with the official smearing of Joe Wilson, should not be tolerated. Also, using dirty tricks, lies and ratfucking to portray someone dishonestly is also wrong.

Using hot rhetoric --- even name calling, openly and above board --- is protected free speech and a common part of political argument. It's not always pretty, but it falls under the rubrik of opinion. There are magnitudes of difference between that and disseminating lies to damage someone's reputation.



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"We will ask not only what is legal, but also what is right"

"Only one in 10 Americans said they believe Bush administration officials did nothing illegal or unethical in connection with the leaking of a CIA operative's identity, according to a national poll released Tuesday."


I will change the tone of Washington. I'll bring good people to our nation's Capitol, and surround myself with a strong team of capable leaders.

I sent a clear signal of my intentions when I named a great citizen to be my running mate: Dick Cheney.

It would be presumptuous for me to name other names before the people have spoken, but I have great respect for the man who introduced me today -- and I hope his greatest days of service to his country might still lie ahead.

Should I earn your confidence, I intend to work with Republicans and Democrats to get things done for the American people that both parties represent.

We won't always agree, but I'll work to keep our disagreements respectful and I'll work to find common ground. I will do everything I can to restore civility to our national politics - a respect for honest differences, and decent regard for one another.

I know you can't take the politics out of politics. I'm a realist. But I'm convinced our government can show more courage in confronting hard problems; more good will toward the other side; more integrity in the exercise of power.

This isn't always easy, but it is always important. It is what people expect of their leaders, and what leaders must require of themselves. My administration will provide responsible leadership.

Finally, a leader upholds the dignity and honor of his office. In my administration, we will ask not only what is legal, but also what is right - not just what the lawyers allow, but what the public deserves.

In my administration we will make it clear there is the controlling authority of conscience. We will make people proud again - so that Americans who love their country can once again respect their government.


Bush gave versions of that speech several thousand times during the 2000 campaign and it was probably the single most compelling part of his message. People were sick of the scandals and even if they knew the Republicans were behind it, many thought that Bush was different. (A majority knew better, but that's a different story.) He may have been a little bit dim but at least he was a decent guy. He was hiring the "grown-ups," the old guard like Cheney and Powell, people who were above the sort of petty politicking that characterized the Gingrich-Burton era.

That was, of course, fiction. Bush Sr, of Willie Horton fame, was as ruthless as they come and little Junior was the creation of the most ruthless Republican operative in the country.

Karl Rove, "the architect," came to the Bush family's attention in 1972:

Republican Natinal Committe Chairman George Bush has reopened an investigation into allegations that a paid official of the GOP taught political espionage and "dirty tricks" during weekend seminars for College Republicans during 1971 and 1972. Some of the 1972 seminars were held after the watergate break-in.

Bush said he will urge a GOP investigating committee to "get to the bottom" of charges against Karl C. Rove 32 [sic], who was executive director of the College Republican Committee. (Washington Post story, Bush's Brain p.135)


This had come to the attention of the Washington Post by a fellow college Republican who Rove and Lee Atwater had cheated in an election (in which Rove had sent "an alternate slate of electors" --- sound familiar?) Bush pere looked into it and wrote the guy who blew the whistle on Karl out of the party, telling him, "don't ever take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever," (Or something like that.) A short time later he hired Rove as a special assistant to the RNC.

This was all known in 2000. Wayne Slater wrote about it in the Dallas Morning News. But the national press corpse was so enamored of their darling narrative that had the simple but virtuous Bush paired against the lying, freakish metrosexual Gore that they couldn't be bothered. And, as we've seen so perfectly demonstrated lately, they have been infected by the toxic political culture that says character assassination and dishonest smears are not only perfectly natural, they are admirable actions by virtuous people.

Still, reality does bite eventually. George W. Bush is at the center of the most powerful, vicious political machine in American history. They will destroy anything that gets in their path. They aren't just playing with silly, gossip items like extra-marital blow-jobs. They are deadly serious. Outing a CIA agent for political purposes is the least of it. They purposefully took this country to war on false pretenses for reasons that were in large part purely political:

"One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.' And he said, 'My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.' He said, 'If I have a chance to invade·.if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency."


Now, if the reports we are hearing about indictments are true, Karl Rove is going to be charged with perjury and obstruction of justice in the Plame case. And the Republicans are going to howl that he's being charged for politics, not criminal activity. When this happens I would hope that every single Democrat who is quoted or goes on television reminds the American people that Bush and his White House won the election by claiming that they would not only ask what was legal but what was right.

And when the Republicans say that Karl Rove wasn't committing perjury or obstructing justice --- that he just stumbled and couldn't remember --- every Democrat should remind people that Karl Rove has been doing this stuff since 1972. He is known to have an almost photographic memory. He is the man who everybody on both the right and the left have acknowledged as the most effective political operative in history. You can say a lot of things about the Boy Genius (as Bush calls him) --- bumbling, confused and dim-witted aren't among them. He does not do things he doesn't mean to do.

Bush's Brain has left a long trail of bodies behind him; it's simply not believable that a man who has been a Master of Hardball Politics since 1972 is just an innocent bystander this time. After all, his motto since he was in high school is a quote from Napoleon:

"The whole art of war consists in a well-reasoned and extremely circumspect defensive, followed by rapid and audacious attack."





Update: And somebody needs to have a talk with John Weaver, Rove's Texas rival, if the man is not drunk on schadenfreude today. There are many things he's never told. If he has ever fantasized about sticking in the shiv, once Karl is indicted and begins his PR offensive to portray himself as a poor lil' office clerk who got confused, Weaver may have some tid-bits to share.



Update II: Think Progress has video of Bush making one of his "honor and integrity" speeches. I'm thinking it may be time to do some national ads.



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