Obama is not really meeting with troops in this photograph
The great thing about using smear tactics is that even when the smear is proven to be untrue the damage has been done.
This helps explain why in their latest effort to portray Barack Obama as unpatriotic, John McCain and his surrogates are accusing him in a TV commercial and elsewhere of canceling a visit to wounded troops at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a military hospital in Germany, because he was not allowed to take reporters and camera crews with him.
That does not explain why the McCain campaign continues to push the smear five days after it was debunked by the Pentagon and reporters and vigorously denied by the Obama campaign.
The answer is that the presumptive Republican nominee and his handlers know they can't win the old-fashioned way. That is, by convincing voters that he is the best candidate in a one-on-one matchup. McCain is having a hard time getting his message out without stepping on his own lines or being confronted with having multiple positions on the same issue, so he and his handlers have resorted to throwing everything against the wall when it comes to Obama no matter how unseemly or untrue in the hope that something sticks.
And so not only do they continue to use the Landstuhl smear, but claim that the Pentagon doesn't know what it's talking about in stating that the Army itself put the kaibosh on the hospital visit because of concerns that it would be inappropriate since it was part of a trip paid for by the Obama campaign, while reporters and the campaign say that he never intended to take a press entourage with him.
McCain's people have no intention of backing down from the smear and instead are piling on.
The candidate himself fulminated on CNN's "Larry King Live" that "I know that, according to reports, that he wanted to bring media people and cameras and his campaign staffers," while his campaign released a statement from retired Army NCO who once worked at the hospital who blustered that "If Senator Obama isn't comfortable meeting wounded American troops without his entourage, perhaps he does not have the experience necessary to serve as commander in chief."
Ironically, the McCain TV ad shows Obama meeting with troops, specifically shooting hoops at a gym in Kuwait before he ventured into Iraq and then on to Germany. The footage was supplied by the Pentagon. And there has been little mention of a bedside visit that Obama made to wounded soldiers in Baghdad or another in Washington. Without reporters and camera crews.
More ironic still, McCain knows firsthand the damage that a well-aimed smear can do.
His 2000 presidential run was nearly scuttled after a whispering campaign in South Carolina cooked up by George Bush consigliere Karl Rove that he had fathered an illegitimate black child. McCain at the time was stumping with his dark-skinned daughter, Bridget, age 8, who was adopted from a Mother Teresa orphanage in Bangladesh.
Even more ironic, Bridget McCain, now 16, is said to have discovered the slander while Googling herself, summoned her father's aides and got them to swear that they would never allow her daddy's campaign to engage in such tactics.
McCain said after the South Carolina incident that there "must be a special place in Hell" reserved for Rove and his co-smearers, but in the intervening years he has come to realize that the kind of crusading maverick that he once proudly presented himself as being is unwelcome in a hidebound, change averse Republican Party.
Indeed, McCain has morphed into a grumpy Bush hugger who is contemptuously ignorant of the rule of law, the plight of the middle class and the power of diplomacy who finds much to admire in Rove. He now say he "always respected [Rove] . . . as one of the great political minds I think in American politics," adding that he would welcome his advice, which he most certainly has been getting, however indirectly, through the likes of Steve Schmidt.
Schmidt is a Rove disciple and veteran of Bush's 2004 campaign where he specialized in attack ads against that traitorous windsurfing girlie boy, John Kerry. He was brought on board to give the McCain message the hard edge that campaign manager Rick Davis was said to not be delivering on.
Then there is the accumulated wisdom of GOP operative Terry Nelson, the mastermind of the racially charged 2006 TV commercial that not so subtly linked black Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford to a white bimbo. Nelson's grubby hands are all over the latest McCain TV ad that seeks to link Obama to . . . a couple of white bimbos by the name of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton by backhanding him as "the biggest celebrity in the world." Amazing, no? And how much further can these slimemeisters lower the bar? Just wait and see.
All of this begs a question: Where do you suppose Bridget McCain's daddy's special place will be?
Photograph from U.S. military via The Associated Press
Thursday, July 31, 2008
John McCain's Metamorphosis From Smear Politics Victim To Perpetrator
The Shoes Make The Man
Things Get Interesting For Mr. Rove
With the House Judiciary Committee voting 20-14 to hold Karl Rove in contempt, the question is how much longer George Bush's former consigliere will be given free rein in print and on tevee with his legal woes mounting.
The easy answer is that while any self-respecting media outlet would politely tell Rove that he might want to consider a wee vacation from bloviating because he considers himself to be above the law, they have no respect for anything except their bottom line and not pissing off right-of-center Republicans.
In any event, the time may be fast approaching where Rove can no longer blow off subpoenas and such and require some good old presidential intervention a la Scooter Libby.
A President Literally Above The Law
On August 1, 2002, in an infamous memo written largely by Yoo but signed by Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee, the OLC [Office of Legal Counsel] defined the crime of torture to make it all but impossible to commit. . . .
If all else failed, Yoo and Bybee advised, the President could argue that torture was legal because he authorized it. The commander in chief, according to the OLC, had inherent powers to order any interrogation technique he chose. Under this interpretation, U.S. laws and treaties banning torture -- despite having been signed into law by earlier presidents -- were deemed unconstitutional and therefore null. By this logic, the President was literally above the law. It made the President so omnipotent, as former Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson wrote in striking down similar claims to inherent power asserted by Harry Truman, the President's "power either has no beginning or it has no end."
Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere
For the first open cycle in a long while, the religious right has had no discernable impact on the presidential race. And yet, the movement continues to believe that it’s powerful enough to start calling the shots when it comes to the Republican ticket, or at a minimum, that the religious right can veto those who fall short of its standards.-- STEVE BENENBarack Obama has long been his party’s presumptive nominee. Now he’s becoming its presumptuous nominee.-- DANA MILBANKThe span of time between candidate George H. W. Bush's "read my lips, no new taxes" pledge, and his subsequent decision as president to break his pledge by supporting new taxes, was approximately two years. John McCain has now managed to violate that same pledge in just 20 days.-- DICK POLMANI note with interest today, John McCain's new tactic of associating Barack Obama with oversexed and/or promiscuous young white women.-- FOX NEWS
Democratic leaders must learn that they cannot increase their majority in Congress by trampling on the political values of their own base. It’s crucial that they understand that they will not gain seats, but will lose seats, the more they accommodate the right’s agenda.
Ted Stevens indicted. Schadenfreude overdoses expected all over the left-wing blogosphere. Possible antidotes include earnest discussions about how truly fucked we all are because of these guys.
-- JOHN COLE
Who says John McCain can't make a consistent case against Barack Obama and just tosses random aspersions based on the news of the day? Yesterday, the McCain campaign continued its longstanding efforts to frame Obama as
inexperienced, a flip flopper, unpatriotic, a German national, unsupportive of the troopsinsufficiently committed to manned space exploration.
Richard Cohen and others like him who play the role of "liberal" in the mainstream media are the reason why so many people hate liberals. They're idiots.
For four days, Sen. John McCain and his allies have accused Sen. Barack Obama of snubbing wounded soldiers by canceling a visit to a military hospital because he could not take reporters with him, despite no evidence that the charge is true.
-- MICHAEL D. SHEAR and DAN BALZ
A new Democratic administration with engorged Congressional majorities cannot let a well-intentioned desire to focus on the economy, the environment, health care, and foreign policy challenges get in the way of accountability for the crimes of the Bush administration. But that is what is likely to happen for a variety of reasons.
You could call Obama the Teflon-coated candidate, but this would miss the fact that his slickness goes all the way to the core. What has gone unexplored until now is this: How did Barack Obama achieve superslipperiness without becoming greasy?
-- JACK SHAFER
If there is media bias toward Obama, it doesn't seem to be doing McCain much harm.
Cartoon by Pat Oliphant/Universal Press Syndicate
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Woes Befall A GOP Whore & Her Pimp
When George Bush heads back to his Texas ranch to search among the scrub brush for his squandered legacy, he will leave behind a Justice Department that resembles a Superfund site and the legacy of two attorneys general who willingly relinquished the office's most precious asset -- independence -- in the service of partisan politics and enabling the president's historic power grab.
So inured have we become to Bush administration scandal that the latest of a long-running series of revelations this week by no less than Justice's own Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility that the department was an adjunct of the Executive Branch and Republican National Committee barely caused a ripple.
To no one's surprise, the IG and OPE concluded that Monica Goodling, a rabid Regent University soldier of God, was a partisan whore who violated federal law by screening job applicants for career positions based on their political and ideological affiliations.
Jonathan Turley calls Goodling "a perfect political commissar." If job applicants were not Republican enough, conservative enough and enamored enough of the president and his policies, as well as red-blood heterosexuals, they were shown the door.
In yet another instance of the mockery that Justice has made of its role in the so-called Global War on Terror, Goodling put the kibosh on hiring an experienced career terrorism prosecutor because of his wife's affiliations were deemed to be politically incorrect. The job defaulted to a much more junior attorney who lacked any experience in counterterrorism and was not qualified for the position.
Perhaps the greatest barometer of the toxicity that has coursed through the halls of Justice is that nearly one year after he resigned, Goodling's gigolo finds that he has something in common with many Americans: He can't find a job.
Former attorneys general are highly sought after, but Alberto Gonzalez apparently hasn't gotten so much as a nibble. His principal income has been giving a few talks before business groups and at colleges, including one where he was interrupted by protesters dressed as Guantánamo Bay detainees. Might this state of affairs have something to do with the fact that his greatest skill as the nation's top lawyer was perjuring himself?
Gonzalez may yet skate in the latest scandal because about all he can be blamed for is lousy oversight, but Goodling is looking like jail bait because of the detailed record of how she commandeered the department's hiring process and forced out people who were not politically or sexually correct, as well.
There would be a certain . . . er, justice in this because she rejected out of hand at least one applicant who was rumored to be a lesbian, and prison would be an excellent opportunity for her to learn first hand about sexual preferences.
Meanwhile, history will be a lot kinder to John Ashcroft, Bush's first AG, than his enemies on the left have been.
While Ashcroft could be a conservative scold, he spoke out (privately) against some of the administration's excesses and famously arose from his hospital sickbed to banish Gonzalez and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card when they tried to strong arm him into agreeing to an extension of the Terrorist Surveillance Act.
Gonzalez, of course, played dumb because he was, while Michael Mukasey is clever like a fox. The former federal judge rode to confirmation nine months ago promising to clean up the scandal-plagued department while deferring on whether he would confront the torture monster head on. He has, of course, been busy feeding that monster ever since.
Mukasey asserts that Justice already has adopted the recommendations of the IG and OPR in their Goodling report, and while that may be so, it misses the larger point -- that it is his responsibility to root out the perps who remain on the payroll and not merely say it won't happen again.
That is not likely to happen given that Bush's third AG has been resistant to efforts to force Karl Rove and Harriet Meirs to testify under oath on their roles in this and other partisan disgraces and already has squandered that most precious asset in proving himself to be yet another handmaiden to the president.
Powell Made A Last-Ditch Effort
On January 18 , Rumsfeld sent an order to the Joint Chiefs of Staff declaring that the military no longer needed to follow [the] Geneva [Convention's] rules in their handling of Al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners. For a half a century, soldiers had been trained in the rules. Now they would be left to their own devices.
. . . Powell made a last-ditch effort, calling Rice on January 25, 2002, and insisting that they couldn't do this, that he had to see the President in person about it. His office was already inundated with cables from allied countries in shock that America would ignore its treaty obligations. Many warned that this would inhibit their ability to fully cooperate with the United States in the war on terror. But unknown to Powell, the same day that he demanded to see the President, the Vice President's office ginned up a remarkable preemptive memo anticipating and rebutting all of the arguments Powell was sure to make. . . . the following day, Washington's conservative newspaper, the Washington Times, a favorite outlet for the White House, ran a curious front-page story lampooning Powell's position as pro-terrorist -- "bowing to pressure from the Left." It seemed to most astute readers a leak from the Addington camp.
Cartoon du Jour
Meet The Mother Ship
Photograph by Virgin Galactic
Quotes From Around Yon Mediasphere
Network is certainly not the greatest movie ever made, and I would never argue that it achieves any lasting impact as a work of art. Its style is flat (like most television programs, appropriately enough), and you'll hardly remember any of the visuals. Still, it remains my favorite film because I don't believe a better script has ever been penned. Network is, of course, nothing but a series of monologues – all either yelled, screamed, or bellowed -- but the words themselves capture every dimension of the human experience, from the fear of death to the "corrupt comedy" of modern life. Some have argued that despite the prescience of the film (it certainly predicts the rise of tabloid television), it is a dated curiosity that no longer holds any relevance. But more -- much more -- is at work here than a bombastic satire of the decay of television programming. At bottom, Network is the angry, uncompromising blast against the decline of the individual. In the face of corporate hegemony and the commodification of everything from abstract ideas (freedom, justice, rebellion) to human sexuality, the vibrant, vital, dangerous lone man in the wilderness is nearing extinction, if he hasn't already met his end.-- MATT CALE
For all the cost cutting that has traumatized the newspaper industry this year, profitability is falling far faster than sales, suggesting that deeper cuts may be necessary if the industry is to sustain its traditional operating margins.You never know what nuggets congressional investigators will uncover when they set off on official inquiries.
Last week, we learned that while investigators for the House Oversight Committee were looking into the 2004 death of Cpl. Pat Tillman, the former NFL player whose story was promoted by the White House before it was revealed that he had been killed by friendly fire, they discovered that top political aide Karl Rove had exchanged emails with the Associated Press' Ron Fournier on the day the news of Tillman's death broke.
In one email, Rove asked, "How does our country continue to produce men and women like this?" Fournier responded: "The Lord creates men and women like this all over the world. But only the great and free countries allow them to flourish. Keep up the fight."
That sign-off, which seemed to indicate an allegiance between the two men, raised hackles all over the Internet. . . .But Fournier, now the wire service's D.C. bureau chief, shrugged off the embarrassing revelation, conceding only: "I regret the breezy nature of the correspondence."
Of course, Fournier wasn't simply being breezy. "Have a great weekend" -- that's "breezy."Instead, Fournier was declaring sides.
The Star-Ledger in New Jersey just broadcast its first live, daily noon news show on the web and I’m delighted to report that it bears no resemblance to television. That was the point.-- JEFF JARVIS
The level of ignorance about John McCain that exists in the American public would be astounding if we weren't hearing "war hero" and "great American" used every time McCain's name is mentioned. Just how I had Morning Joe on for five minutes, and in a segment with Mort Zuckerman decrying the campaign's placing of McCain in ridiculous situations, such as grocery shopping with a young mom while wearing a full suit and tie, to show what a regular guy McCain is.
And then Scarborough said something astonishing. He said that they were feeding into his earpiece "Don't be mean to John McCain." He then defended himself by saying that he's not being mean to McCain, he's berating the campaign for putting him in these situations. Then he went off into the required litany of "war hero" and "great American."-- JILL
Last night on the O'Reilly Factor, the O'Reilly said, "It is not a stretch to say that MoveOn is the new Klan." Similarly, it is not a stretch to say that Bill O'Reilly is the new Father Coughlin. Actually, the difference between the two statements is that O'Reilly pretty clearly is the heir to the Coughlin tradition (including smearing his opponents with laughably conspiratorial slurs), while MoveOn is more the heir to Dungeons and Dragons tradition, or possibly the BBnet tradition.-- EZRA KLEIN
Both of us--Blue Girl and myself--struggle every day to find the time and the bandwidth to blog. In my case, I use Verizon's FIOS system and I have tremendously reliable and fast Internet access. I personally wish I didn't use Verizon for my Internet and wireless provider--I have tirelessly advocated against retroactive immunity for them and I was damned sorry that it happened. In Blue Girl's case, she doesn't have ready access to a broadband infrastructure, and that's a crying shame. She has to fight to get on, fight to stay on, and more than once she's had to ring me up and give me what she's got and what I can do to finish things up for her.
Never feel sorry for us--we do this because we would do this no matter what. We're here to stay, we battle everyone and everything, and we fight like maniacs against the bullshit, the sleaze, and the just plain batshit crazy. We have our rewards and our families know the deal. We have great support networks.
However, we will bash the living shit out of purity trolls. If this were a perfect world, we certainly would not have anything to do with corporate malfeasance and we would be green, local, and self-supporting. We'd do this like a co-op, probably. We'd never link to suspect blogs or outlets, we'd even recycle the recycled paper we saved from the trash and put into a recycling bin.
Until such time as the United States gets a Federal Communications Commission that makes free, unlimited broadband a right, not a pipe dream, like it goddamned should, fuck purity trolls.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Why Is McCain Acting So Desperate?
The desperation of John McCain -- ranging from character attacks to outright lies to repeated shifts on the issues -- is symptomatic of a candidate scrambling to keep his head above water a few days before an election, not 15 weeks out.
Speaking of 15 weeks, it has been about that long since McCain sewed up the Republican nomination. And yet that all-important turning of the corner -- the moment when everything falls into place and a campaign is running on all cylinders -- remains elusive. In fact, last week was easily the worst for McCain since his last primary challenger dropped out.
This sad state of affairs is the result of two realities: McCain would be a weak candidate in any election year, but he has been rendered weaker still because of the albatross of George Bush and a cascade of bad news at home and abroad that is beyond his control. Meanwhile, Barack Obama is a strong if not fully rounded candidate who has the wind at his back because that news plays to his advantage. .* * * * *McCain's attempts to put lipstick on his pig of a campaign have been so inadequate that they border on the pathetic, and a consequence has been an inextricable slide into the only alternative he and his advisers believe to be available -- Rovian smear politics.
What else to call McCain's TV ad claiming that Obama "made time to go to the gym, but cancelled a visit with wounded troops"? The truth, of course, is that the Pentagon would not allow such visits because it viewed them as campaign appearances, while the ad actually shows him meeting with troops. In a gym.
What else to call other swipes saying that Obama would commit treason to win the election? Or linking him to everyone from Hamas to Castro to Ahmadinejad? Or that he is responsible for high gas prices?
As it is, McCain's extensive media buys have not resulted in even a tiny bump in the polls, which leads me to believe that while many people are not focused on the campaign, those who are have pretty much made up their minds.* * * * *When all is said and done, this election is about the future and about change, and McCain fails on both accounts.
McCain's call for a new round of tax cuts is laughable in the face of a record federal deficit. His cure for America's energy woes is a regurgitated version of the president's. His prescription for health-care reform borders on the draconian, while his positions on Iraq and Afghanistan have morphed into pretty fair imitations of Obama's in key respects.
The election is Obama's to lose. He still could do so and certainly has a way to go to convince me that he would be a credible president. But while the upstart from Illinois barnstormed Middle Eastern and European capitals looking presidential, the septuagenarian was busily popping sour grapes and acting like a grouchy grandfather who can't get the grandkids to obey him while his posse of neocon and big-business advisers busily whispered in his ear about what to say and do next.
Saddest of all, he has abandoned any pretense of occupying the high ground with an increasingly dignity-free campaign that is a reminder that a McCain presidency would be the same old same old.Photograph by Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press
What Do You Do With These People?
Almost from the start, the Bush administration's aggressive use of "extraordinary renditions" stirred fierce internal resistance, much of it coming from surprising quarters -- not just human rights activists but rather hard-line law-and-order stalwarts in the criminal justice system with years of experience fighting terrorism. Their concerns were as much practical as ideological. Firsthand experience in interrogation led most to doubt the effectiveness of physical coercion as a means of extracting reliable information. They also warned the Bush administration that once it took prisoners outside the realm of the law, it would have trouble bringing them back in. By holding detainees indefinitely, without counsel, without charges of wrongdoing, and under circumstances that could, in legal parlance, "shock the conscience" of a court, the administration, they warned, would jeopardize its chances of convicting hundreds of suspected terrorists, or even of using them as witnesses in almost any court in the world.
"It's a big problem," explained Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general and a member of the 9/11 Commission. "In criminal justice, you either prosecute the suspects or let them go. But if you've treated them in ways that won't allow you to prosecute them you're in this no-man's-land. What do you do with these people?"
Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere
The militia that was once the biggest defender of poor Shiites in Iraq, the Mahdi Army, has been profoundly weakened in a number of neighborhoods across Baghdad, in an important, if tentative, milestone for stability in Iraq.
It is a remarkable change from years past, when the militia, led by the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr, controlled a broad swath of Baghdad, including local governments and police forces. But its use of extortion and violence began alienating much of the Shiite population to the point that many quietly supported American military sweeps against the group. . . .
The shift, if it holds, would solidify a transfer of power from Mr. Sadr, who had lorded his once broad political support over the government, to Mr. Maliki, who is increasingly seen as a true national leader.
It is part of a general decline in violence that is resonating in American as well as Iraqi politics: Senator John McCain argues that the advances in Iraq would have been impossible without the increase in American troops known as the surge, while Senator Barack Obama, who opposed the increase, says the security improvements should allow a faster withdrawal of combat troops.
The Mahdi Army’s decline also means that the Iraqi state, all but impotent in the early years of the war, has begun to act the part, taking over delivery of some services and control of some neighborhoods.
All told, at least 61 people were killed and 238 wounded, nearly all of them Kurdish political protesters in Kirkuk and Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad. It was one of the bloodiest days in a year in which violence has dropped strikingly.
-- RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr. and SABRINA TAVERNISE
McCain has had an absolute disaster of a week — on an aesthetic and optical level, looking petty, doddering, bumbling, and entirely presidential; and on a substantive level, being forced to reverse himself on perhaps the key plank of his campaign by essentially supporting Obama/Maliki’s 16-month timeline for withdrawal. But in the media’s eyes, McCain comes out ahead, because… well, I’m not entirely sure why!
By the end of last week, John McCain was agreeing with Barack Obama that 16 months would be "a pretty good timetable" for withdrawing American troops from Iraq, but now Gen. David Petraeus says no.
The situation in Iraq, he tells an interviewer, is too volatile to "project out, and to then try to plant a flag on, a particular date."
Unlike the candidates, who have condensed their positions to bumper stickers of withdrawal or victory, Petraeus is wary of what Colin Powell called the Pottery Barn rule about Iraq, "You break it, you own it."
It should be sobering to hear from our man on the ground that McCain's claims of victory and belaboring of Obama for defeatism are, to put it kindly, premature.
-- ROBERT STEIN
In a stunning upset, Barack Obama this week won the Iraq primary. When Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki not once but several times expressed support for a U.S. troop withdrawal on a timetable that accorded roughly with Obama's 16-month proposal, he did more than legitimize the plan. He relieved Obama of a major political liability by blunting the charge that, in order to appease the MoveOn left, Obama was willing to jeopardize the astonishing success of the surge and risk losing a war that is finally being won.
Maliki's endorsement left the McCain campaign and the Bush administration deeply discomfited. They underestimated Maliki's sophistication and cunning.
Many official and unofficial proponents of a long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq are dismissing Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's demand for a U.S. timeline for withdrawal as political posturing, assuming that he will abandon it under pressure.
But that demand was foreshadowed by an episode in June 2006 in which al-Maliki circulated a draft policy calling for negotiation of just such a withdrawal timetable and the George W. Bush administration had to intervene to force the prime minister to drop it.
I think John is treading on some very thin ground here when he impugns motives and when we start to get into, "You’re less patriotic than me. I'm more patriotic." I admire and respect John McCain very much. I have a good relationship. To this day we do. We talk often. I talked to him right before I went to Iraq, as a matter of fact. John’s better than that.
-- CHUCK HAGEL
The U.S. government paid a California contractor $142 million to build prisons, fire stations and police facilities in Iraq that it never built or finished, according to audits by a watchdog office.
The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction said Parsons of Pasadena, Calif., received the money, part of a total of $333 million but only completed about one-third of the projects, which also included courthouses and border control stations. The inspector general's office is expected to release two detailed audits today, evaluating Parsons's work on the contract, which is worth up to $900 million. . . .Parsons's work is emblematic of other troubles in the $50 billion U.S. reconstruction effort, in which there have been widespread problems of contractors doing poor work, being late and overspending on projects. Those issues combined with bad record-keeping, lack of oversight by overworked government managers, and high personnel turnover for both the government and contractors in an unstable war zone have created millions of dollars in waste, according to the Iraq inspector general.
For it is McCain - ripping a page from the playbook of his bosom buddy President Bush - who has sought since the beginning of the general election to use a combination of recess-level rhetoric and a constant stream of distortions to turn every aspect of American foreign policy into a campaign prop. Regardless of how it affects the safety of Americans in the Middle East and throughout the remainder of the globe.
Photograph by Michael Kamber for The New York Times
Monday, July 28, 2008
All Such Statutes Could Now Be Set Aside
As Bush called for a new spirit of common purpose, however, his legal team, which was ideologically extreme and intensely partisan, was busy across town composing secret legal memos that would grant the President all the powers, and more, that Congress had just denied his administration.
. . . Bush's legal team was arguing that the President not only had power to defend the nation as he saw fit in ways that were not limited by any laws, he also had the power to override existing laws that Congress had specifically designed to curb him. The opinion trampled the distinction between unrestricted presidential power and regulated presidential power, where Congress had purposefully imposed limits. . . . [I]n the view of Bush's lawyers, all such statutes, including those prohibiting torture, secret detention, and warrantless surveillance, could now be set aside.
'But Now I Think I'm Able To Carry On'
Oh and just like the river I've been running ever since
It's been a long, long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will
It's been too hard living but I'm afraid to die
Cause I don't know what's been up there beyond the sky
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will
I go to the movies and I go downtown
Somebody keep telling me don't hang around
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will
Then I go to my brother
And I say brother help me please
But he winds up knocking me
Back down on my knees
Ohhhhhhhhh . . .
There been times that I thought I couldn't last for long
But now I think I'm able to carry on
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will
Sunday, July 27, 2008
We Must Go Down To The Sea Again
OVERALL CONDITION: A relatively mild winter had left the beach substantially intact on our first visit, but the recent cyclonic (hurricane) activity in the Atlantic caused a fair amount of erosion near the high tide line, where there is now a two-foot drop off. No matter, this will soon be evened out, and a welcome consequence of the storm activity is that the beach was debris free and the water sparklingly clear.
WATER TEMPERATURE: Upper 60s, a bit below normal for the latter part of July, but quite swimmable.
WILDLIFE: No dolphins but a fair amount of pelican activity. Some shore birds with many more soon to arrive because nesting is imminent.
OTHER WILDLIFE: Several surf fishermen, a few surfers and a bonus day for dogs, probably 20 in all. There were the usual surf-happy black labs and golden retrievers, but also a goodly number of small breeds. These included two Yorkies, two Yorkie crosses wearing sun visors and skirts, a corgi, a bulldog cross and an adorable, huge-earred French bulldog puppy making its first visit to the bounding main. She kept chasing the surf out and then in turn was chased back in. I'm sure it slept well last night.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
It's A Beach Day Today . . .
Executive Power Was Personal
Conventional wisdom held that September 11 changed everything, including the thinking of [Dick] Cheney and [David] Addington. But a close look at the twenty-year collaboration between the two men suggests that they had long imagined many aspects of the program they put in place after the terrorist attacks. Cheney's writings and speeches suggest he had been laying the political groundwork for years. "This preceded 9/11," said [Bruce] Fein, who has known both men professionally for decades. "I'm not saying that warrantless surveillance did. But the idea of reducing Congress to a cipher was already in play. It was Cheney and Addington's political agenda."
. . . For Addington and Cheney, therefore, executive power was personal. Both had experienced the loss of power firsthand during the Watergate period and were still chafing over the constraints they were forced to accept by self-styled Democratic reformers. Unable to win the fight in the court of public opinion, conservatives instead cast it as a matter of legal principle.
Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere
No polling can really express how Europeans view America and American leadership. After eight years of policies that the majority of Europeans oppose it is easy to forget how much they accept and expect America to lead the West. The reservoir of legitimacy for America's lead-role was on full display in the Tiergarten. And so was the tremendous amount of hope that the crowd placed in Barack Obama's ability to lead. . . .
And, yet, parts of this make me uneasy. I'm all for an American Restoration up to a point. But I'm also firmly convinced that America cannot afford the costs in dollars and security risks that are entailed in being the sole hegemon of the West. We cannot be responsible for carrying the load on anti-proliferation, UN Security Council enforcement, and humanitarian efforts. We need to share more of the load and that involves sharing more of the leadership. Other countries need to increase their capabilities. In return, we need to become more deferential and collaborative. If nothing else, our taxpayers need the relief. But it's more than that. There is a cost to being the leader that goes beyond dollars. We also suffer increased security risks and with that comes pressures that undermine our basic civil liberties. We can be a Republic or an Empire, but I am not sure we can long be both.
Nevertheless, Obama's performance was excellent. And it demonstrated for the first time in a long time just how indispensable American power is in the short-term.-- BOOMAN
Last week, John McCain spent at least $2.3 million on TV ads, and moved the polls almost a few microns in his direction. The McCain campaign is in a somewhat odd situation, where he has to spend money before the convention because he's accepted public funds for the general. But it's not clear that it's doing him any good; the McCain campaign doesn't seem able to get the rest of the GOP on message to amplify their attacks on Obama.-- STEPHEN SUH
I can understand, up to a point, why the McCain campaign is freaked out by Barack Obama's largely flawless foreign foray. One of the presumptive Republican nominee's few advantages in this race is the public perception that he, not Obama, seems more credible as a commander-in-chief, a judgment that owes much to McCain's war hero profile and his long Washington experience. Indeed, the latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, which is conducted jointly by Democratic pollster Peter Hart and Republican pollster Neil Newhouse, finds that, by a margin of 53 to 25 percent, Americans choose McCain over Obama as the guy with the best commander creds.
In other words, if Obama can manage to significantly narrow that margin, McCain will be left with virtually nothing to sell in this race; without his national security advantage, for instance, he might be stuck having to dwell on the subject area that he confesses knowing little about - namely, economics. For instance, he might have to explain how he plans to make permanent the Bush tax cuts, slash corporate taxes, yet somehow keep his promise to balance the budget by 2012.
-- DICK POLMAN
It was inevitable. American advocates of the Iraq war are now arguing that they know better than Iraq's leaders when it comes to how long U.S. troops should stay in Iraq. And this approach seems to be animating John McCain's view of the war.
-- DAVID CORN
If you vote by mail, but die before Election Day, does your vote count?
Porter Goss' tenure as Director of the CIA is noted for two things above all--and neither has to do with the collection and analysis of intelligence.
First, there's his buddy, Dusty Foggo, whom Goss appointed to be Executive Director of the CIA. In that role, Foggo is alleged to have exploited the weaknesses of the earmark system--not to mention Duke Cunningham's weakness for whores--to steer millions of dollars in contracts to the company of his childhood friend, Brent Wilkes. In addition, Foggo pulled strings to get his girlfriend hired at CIA.
Then, there's Jose Rodriguez, whom Goss appointed to be director of the CIA's Clandestine Services after Goss ousted Stephen Kappes because he wasn't a political hack. Rodriguez is best known for ordering the torture tapes depicting Abu Zubaydah's and al-Nashiri's interrogation destroyed. . . .In short, Porter Goss is known to be an incredible hack who oversaw great ethical (and legal) abuses that, at least so long as Goss was in charge, escaped all consequences.
Precisely the kind of guy you'd want in charge of Congress' Ethics Review Board, right? Oh wait, I mean, precisely the kind of guy Nancy Pelosi would want in charge of Congress' Ethics Review Board. You and I, of course, would think it an utterly ludicrous idea to put a guy like Goss, with huge ethical stains on his record, in charge of Congress' ethics. But I guess the Speaker of the House doesn't agree.
Before he died, death row inmate Dale Leo Bishop apologized to his victim's family, thanked America and urged people to vote for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
Cartoon by Tom Toles/Universal Press Syndicate
Friday, July 25, 2008
David Addington: A Patriot Or A Traitor?
One of the underreported and unappreciated aspects of the Age of Bush is that despite the appearance of unanimity some administration officials, typically careerists and not political appointees, were horrified at the embrace of torture and other extralegal actions and spoke up. They were silenced and in some case were fired, demoted or resigned.
When an official whose loyalty to the rule of law ran deeper than their loyalty to the administration tried to fight back, they usually were met by a human chain saw by the name of David Addington. After the president and vice president, the chief of staff and former legal counsel to Dick Cheney has been the most powerful if relatively unknown man in Washington over the past seven-plus years.
History is filled with people like Addington who believed absolutely that they were doing right for god and republic but whose actions were so awful that what they saw as patriotism was in fact traitorous.
By that calculus, the foul deeds of Benedict Arnold, Alger Hiss and Aldrich Ames pale in comparison to Addington's actions.* * * * *Indeed, Addington is in a class of his own. Before the fires at the World Trade Center and Pentagon had even been extinguished, Addington asserted himself as the indispensable man even though his legal, political and military bona fides were overshadowed by his far right-wing views, as well as a paranoia that extended to keeping his office locked at all times and a ruthless mastery of the art of confronting outright or backstabbing anyone who got in his way.
There were career lawyers in the Justice Department who had substantial experience with terrorism, but few in or out of the White House were conversant in presidential powers. Neither was Addington, but he was quick to fill this vacuum with his extreme opinions as the chief lawyer for another paranoiac, the vice president.
Although Condoleezza Rice was nominally President Bush's national security advisor, it was Cheney who ran the national security show. Unfortunately for the victims of 9/11 and the nation as a whole, like Rice he still had a Cold War mindset, did not have the foresight to see the threat Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda represented and blew off the confidential papers and briefings that warned of this imminent danger with his trademark arrogance.
From the outset, Addington pushed what came to be known as "The New Paradigm," a absolutist doctrine at the fringes of even conservative legal thinking that the president had the authority to disregard virtually all legal boundaries, including the Constitution, if national security required it.
It has been widely reported after the fact that this paradigm was predicated on two beliefs:
* That the fight against Al Qaeda should be based on their actions being war-like and not merely criminal, and that interrogation should be stressed over due process. The legal system that the Global War on Terror was ostensibly being fought to protect was viewed from 9/12 on not as one of America's greatest strengths but as something that would get in the way.
* That even though terrorists' actions were considered war-like, terror suspects would have neither the rights of criminal defendants nor the rights of prisoners of war. As so-called "enemy combatants," they would be in a no man's land outside all laws and treaties.
Less reported is that virtually no thought was given to the long-term implication of blazing this extraordinary new legal trail, and that has become obvious as the house of cards that Addington and other helpmates built has begun to fall in the wake of a series of Supreme Court and federal appeals court rulings that found illegal key aspects of The New Paradigm, as well as warnings that the helpmates had better think twice before venturing overseas to countries that take war crimes seriously.
Addington's extraordinary role as chief architect and enabler of virtually all of the Bush administrations most egregious excesses is a central theme of The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals, a must-read by New Yorker writer Jane Mayer.
The administration insiders interviewed by Mayer and those whose accounts she gleaned second hand make it clear that Addington was seen as a someone who believed himself to be a patriot but whose zeal to protect the U.S. was shockingly excessive.
Mayer writes that:
* Addington's radical legal views were less a product of 9/11 than a two-decade collaboration with Cheney. Constitution be damned, the two had long believed that too much power was vested in Congress and begrudged the role that the legislative branch had played in forcing out the last president who declared extraordinary powers -- Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal -- and later during the Iran-Contra scandal.
So bitter was Cheney over Watergate that he described the years afterwards as "the nadir of the modern presidency in terms of authority and legitimacy."
* From the very first post-9/11 meeting on, Addington was extraordinarily strident and demanding.
"He'd sit, listen and then say, 'No, that's not right.' He was particularly doctrinaire and ideological," said Richard Shiffrin, the Pentagon's deputy general counsel for intelligence. "He didn't recognize the wisdom of other lawyers. He was always right. He didn't listen. He knew the answers."
* When the delicate matter of what to do about the Geneva Conventions was first broached, Addington well knew that torturing and renditioning suspects to secret prisons was prohibited.
This was because as general counsel for Cheney when he was defense secretary, an investigation had found that U.S. military training manuals used in Latin America promoted prohibited interrogation techniques, including executions. Cheney promised to destroyed the manuals but kept several copies that Addington locked in his safe. After 9/11, Addington simply advised Bush to scrap the conventions.
* Jack Goldsmith, who had beaten out David Yoo to run Justice's Office of Legal Counsel, was perhaps the highest ranking administration official to refuse to hew to hard-right ideology, questioned the White House's departure from established law and eventually resigned. He found a favorable audience with Attorney General John Ashcroft, who requested a meeting with his successor, White House counsel Alberto Gonzalez.
But when Ashcroft and Goldsmith and were ushered into Gonzalez' office, Addington was present and flew into a rage, shouting that "The president has already decided that terrorists do not receive Geneva Conventions protection! You cannot question the decision!"
* When the photographs of torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were first broadcast and a toxic result of Bush's abuse of power could be seen so vividly, panic spread through the administration.
The ancillary question of whether CIA videotapes of suspects in its own custody being tortured was brought up at a White House damage-control meeting, but Addington understood the explosiveness of even talking about destroying potential evidence and shouted down the questioner.
* So blind was Addington to the possibility that others might have legitimate views, he was utterly stunned by the Supreme Court rulings against the extralegal excursions he had organized.
When Solicitor General Ted Olson and some White House lawyers beseeched him to soften some of the hard edges of his extreme legal positions in order to garner support from Congress and the courts, he accused them of being defeatist and undermining the president's powers. So disgusted was Olson, the administration's most prominent conservative lawyer, that he resigned from his post.* * * * *While it had been widely assumed that the decision to torture enemy combatants and other detainees in the War on Terror began at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay
and the Bush administration long hid behind that "trickle up" explanation, it is now apparent that the origins of this dark chapter in American history can be traced to Dick Cheney and his eager point man -- David Addington.
But until The Dark Side, there has not been a satisfactory answer to the question of why in the wake of 9/11 attacks that the White House did not want to work within existing laws and systems with Congress and the courts, stubbornly objected to the creation of the 9/11 Commission and created an American gulag and rump court system that ignored constitutionally mandated niceties like habeas corpus.
Like the Watergate scandal of four decades earlier that had so assaulted the sensibilities of Cheney and Addington, the answer is that it was all about covering up.
In this instance Addington spearheaded a not vast right-wing conspiracy that was predicated on scaring the crap out of Americans, hence the oft repeated mantra that "everything has changed" because of 9/11, and used that rationale for a descent into morally repugnant methods and actions unprecedented in modern American history.
The purpose was to cover up the administration's failure to act on the repeated warnings that Al Qaeda planned a major attack on the homeland, an attack that it now appears could have been prevented had the White House not been so caught up in its own sense of infallibility.
In the case of Cheney and Addington, this hubris is all the more amazing because they were obsessed with doomsday scenarios and had participated in many drills in previous years that simulated attacks that might harm the government.
How tragic that in the end it that it is the actions of the traitorous Addington that have done the most harm.