Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Now we'll see which side in the 9/11 dispute has really given contradictory statements. Yahoo! News Full Coverage - U.S. - White House to Let Rice Testify in Public

Condi's shaky legal "principle" on testifying:

"Nothing would be better from my point of view than to be able to testify," Dr Rice said on American television's 60 Minutes. But it was a "long-standing principle that sitting national security advisers do not testify before the Congress". From the "60 Minutes" transcript:
ED BRADLEY: But there are some people who look at this and say, "But this - this was an unprecedented event. Nothing like this ever happened to this country before. And this is an occasion where you can put that executive privilege aside. It's a big enough issue to talk in public."

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: It is an unprecedented event. We've said that many, many times. But this commission is rightly not concentrating on what happened on the day of September 11.. So, this is not a matter of what happened on that day, as extraordinary as it is - as it was. This is a matter of policy. And we have yet to find an example of a national security advisor, sitting national security advisor, who has - been willing to testify on matters of policy.

Joshua Marshall points up the line-parsing sophistry of her answer. As he notes, "Then in 1997, when he [Sandy Berger] was NSC Director, he was testifying in the course of an investigation into a scandal -- but certainly one with policy implications, since I'm pretty sure what they were asking him about was whether money affected policy. Why this is a constitutionally significant distinction is lost on me too. But again, that's their out -- it wasn't about 'policy'.

National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski testified before congress in 1980. But again, that was in the context of an investigation -- into an accusation that Billy Carter, the then-president's brother, had tried to influence the US government on behalf of Libya.

But, again, that's not 'policy'. So apparently by Rice's standard, it doesn't count."

The Washington Post reports that there's legal precedent for Condi Rice's stubborn position, BUT, it notes, "The main exception, historically, appears to be in cases of alleged wrongdoing. When scandal strikes, White House aides testify.

Several Nixon White House aides testified before the Senate Watergate committee, as did Carter's national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, during the Senate's investigation of alleged lobbying by the president's brother, Billy Carter, on behalf of Libya.

President Bill Clinton's national security adviser, Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, testified before a Senate committee investigating the Clinton campaign's fundraising practices in 1996. Berger, as deputy national security adviser, testified on Haiti policy in May 1994, but that testimony was behind closed doors.

So it ultimately may be important whether the current commission, created by Congress to "make a full and complete accounting of the circumstances surrounding the attacks, and the extent of the United States' preparedness for, and immediate response to, the attacks" and to recommend "corrective measures," is conducting a probe similar to investigations of such scandals."

Whatever the legal disputes over the issue, there's no question what the morally and politically appropriate response of Rice should be.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Clarke vs. Condi: Clarke ahead on credibility points on Meet the Press. His PR shrewdness after decades of public service is paying off: by calling for declassifying everything related to what he told Congress and the Administration while employed there, he's trumping the assaults against him, including perjury claims. Here's the full transcript:MSNBC - Transcript for March 28

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Wonder why Condi Rice won't testify under oath? She can't keep her stories straight. Kevin Drum's Political Animal has a good round-up of her and other Bush officials' contradictions.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Richard Clarke: Bush stooge? Sure, he's a tough -- and in my view, credible -- critic now, but it is worth reading the transcript of his 2002 background briefing to see just how far a veteran public servant will go to "spin" the facts to keep his job. FOXNews.com - Politics - Transcript: Clarke Praises Bush Team in '02

Thursday, March 25, 2004

New questions about Rice's own credibility. While Condoleezza Rice has been all over TV blasting Clarke and making the unlikely claim that the Bush Administration made terrorism a top priority before 9/11, the evidence is growing about her own contradictions and false assertions. For instance, in today's Times account of Clarke's testimony, it notes at the end how Rice and Dick Armitage couldn't get their stories straight about military options before 9/11:

Although the strategy paper is classified, Ms. Rice, the security adviser, cited it on Sunday in defending the administration's efforts in an opinion article in The Washington Post in anticipation of the release of Mr. Clarke's book. She said the document was prepared before the Sept. 11 attacks and outlined a tough new policy in controlling and eradicating Al Qaeda, including "military options to attack Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership, ground forces and other targets — taking the fight to the enemy where he lived."

But under questioning,, Depuy Secretary of State Richard L.Armitage contradicted her and said the paper had no military option before the Sept. 11 attacks.

"No," Mr. Armitage said, "I think that was amended after the horror of 9/11."

A full run-down of Rice's latest lies and exaggerations can be found at the Center for American Progress:

UNSUBSTANTIATED – RICE COUNTERS WITH DISHONEST FUNDING CLAIM: On Larry King Live last night, Clarke charged that "if Condi Rice had been doing her job [critical information to prevent 9/11] would have been shaken out in the summer of 2001." Instead of appearing before the commission to defend herself as the bipartisan panel has requested, Rice responded on NBC Nightly News, claiming inaccurately that the "the president increased counterterrorism funding several-fold" before 9/11. In reality, the Bush Administration was preparing a FY2003 budget (the first budget fully authored by the new Administration) that proposed serious cuts to key counterterrorism programs. As the 2/28/02 NYT reported, the Bush White House "did not endorse F.B.I. requests for $58 million for 149 new counterterrorism field agents, 200 intelligence analysts and 54 additional translators" and "proposed a $65 million cut for the program that gives state and local counterterrorism grants." Newsweek noted the Administration "vetoed a request to divert $800 million from missile defense into counterterrorism." See a display of Rice's dishonesty in this American Progress video clip.

UNSUBSTANTIATED – RICE COUNTERS WITH DISHONEST PREDATOR CLAIM: Rice also claimed on NBC News that "we were acting on issues like arming the Predator" – an unmanned reconnaissance drone – another statement designed to distort the record. As AP reported, while "the military successfully tested an armed Predator throughout the first half of 2001," the Bush Administration failed to resolve a bureaucratic "debate over whether the CIA or Pentagon should operate" the system, and it did not get off the ground before 9/11. At the same time "the Bush administration did not fly the unmanned planes over Afghanistan during its first eight months" even in a reconnaissance capacity.

DISHONEST – COMMISSION PROVES RICE WAS DISHONEST IN MAY: In May of 2002, Rice held a press conference to defend the Administration from new revelations that the President had been explicitly warned about an al Qaeda threat to airlines in August of 2001. She "suggested that Bush had requested the briefing because of his keen concern about elevated terrorist threat levels that summer." But according to the CIA, the briefing "was not requested by President Bush." As commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste disclosed, "the CIA informed the panel that the author of the briefing does not recall such a request from Bush and that the idea to compile the briefing came from within the CIA."

On the credibility front, Clarke still comes out ahead.

Republicans are shocked: Richard Clarke made his boss, President Bush, look good. The Republicans' main case against Clarke is reduced to painting him as a hypocrite because he praised the Bush Administration while he worked for it. Spin doctoring in Washington? Heaven forbid! Of course, Clarke didn't survive as a high-ranking official in four presidencies without mastering press manipulation and buttering up his employers. All that doesn't undercut the hard-hitting revelations he has offered. CNN.com - Clarke?old reporters different story in 2002 background briefing - Mar 24, 2004

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Clarke vs. Administration credibility: Clarke comes out ahead. . Still, it's possible he may have exaggerated Condi Rice's ignorance about Al Qaeda, and contradicted an earlier interview he gave The Washington Post in 2002 about their first meeting -- even if he was burnishing Rice's image at the time. But on virtually all counts, the various contradictions and hard-to-believe anti-Clarke claims of Adminstration smear-mongers fall flat, as compiled by the Center for American Progress. Fred Kaplan at Slate also has a readable overview making the case for the veracity of Clarke's claims.

But Clarke's claim that Condoleezza Rice never heard of Al-Qaeda somehow doesn't ring true. Yet given this Administration's irresponsibility, who knows? Here's what Clarke wrote: "As I briefed Rice on Al Qaeda, her facial expression gave me the impression that she had never heard of the term before, so I added, `Most people think of it as Osama bin Laden's group, but it's much more than that. It's a network of affiliated terrorist organizations with cells in over 50 countries, including the U.S.'"

A more objective account, "A Strategy's Cautious Evolution," that uses Clarke as a source, appeared in the Washington Post in January,2002, with no mention of Rice being an ignoramus about Al Qaeda:

"At 1:30 on a Wednesday afternoon, two weeks after receiving the nod as Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice walked into a room whose maps and charts only partly obscured the peeling of pale yellow paint. Room 302 of the Old Executive Office Building had become the unlikely seat of a bureaucratic empire built by Richard Clarke and Roger Cressey, his chief of staff.

"Clarke's white crew cut imparts a military demeanor, but he actually came to government by way of Boston Latin School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Under Clinton, he had combined modest authority with immodest infighting skills to become the government's main engine of policy on terrorism. In this first meeting with Rice, on Jan. 3, he won a prompt invitation to keep the job.

"`The focus was on al Qaeda -- who is al Qaeda, what is al Qaeda and why is it an existential threat?'" Clarke recalled in an interview.

"Rice told him first, he said, that the dangers appeared to be greater than she had known.

"`Her second reaction was 'What are you going to do about it?' " Clarke said. "`I don't think we actually got a tasking at that meeting, but it was clear that she wanted an organized strategy review. She didn't just passively take this information.'"

Update: While Clarke portrays her as asking questions about Al Qaeda, this account doesn't portray her as an idiot who never heard of the group before. Of course, there's an alternative explanation: Clarke didn't leave the White House until February, 2003, so, while still employed there, he may have been pulling his punches in describing the meeting to the Washington Post. So it's possible she was just as ignorant about Al Qaeda as he says in his book.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Embed the Dog: Donald Rumsfeld apparently preferred Iraq to Afghanistan after 9/11 because there "weren't any good targets in Afghanistan", i.e. good photo ops. For our next war, under this type of thinking, he'll doubtless pick North Korea, because it will make for better television than Iran or other countries because it has bigger buildings to hit. CNN.com - Ex-Bush aide: Iraq war planning began after 9/11 - Mar 20, 2004

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Believe it or not: Poll says `Passion" is good for the Jews. Last year, nearly 40 percent of Americans sampled for a poll by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research blamed the Jews for killing Christ. But this year, the group's latest poll, picked up by Drudge, says, "A new poll suggests fears that `The Passion of the Christ' would trigger anti-Semitism were unwarranted.

"A nationwide survey conducted for the Institute for Jewish and Community Research finds that 83 percent of Americans familiar with the film say it's made them neither more nor less likely to blame today's Jews for Jesus' crucifixion.

"Nine percent said Mel Gibson's film actually has made them less likely to blame today's Jews, while less than 2 percent said they're more likely to fault modern Jews or Jewish institutions."

Apparently, the other 89 percent thought that repeated exposure to the film's images of Jews as snarling, hook-nosed Christ-killers didn't change their perceptions of Jews.
Surprisingly, the newly-formed Institute reported last year that anti-Semitism was significantly on the rise, with nearly 40 percent of Americans blaming Jews for killing Christ. That's a finding Drudge didn't include in his latest news story.

So, it's surprising to see the organization's upbeat polling this year on the Gibson film.
Click2Houston.com - Entertainment - Survey: 'The Passion' May Be Reducing Anti-Semitism

Saturday, March 13, 2004

George Carlin, move over: The U.S. Congress uses more curse words than you do. The new bill raising fines for indecent language is filled with its own set of obscene language, as noted by Wonkette and other websites. Read on:

"To amend section 1464 of title 18, United States Code, to provide for the punishment of certain profane broadcasts, and for other purposes...

"(2) by adding at the end the following:

"(b) As used in this section, the term `profane', used with respect to language, includes the words `shit', `piss', `fuck', `cunt', `asshole', and the phrases `cock sucker', `mother fucker', and `ass hole', compound use (including hyphenated compounds) of such words and phrases with each other or with other words or phrases, and other grammatical forms of such words and phrases (including verb, adjective, gerund, participle, and infinitive forms)."

There's been progress since Carlin's famous "The Seven Dirty Words You Can't Say on Television" bit. Apparently, it's okay to say "tits" under these profanity guidelines.

Still, while the congressmen who passed this are praised by the Christian right, Lenny Bruce was persecuted for uttering the same words that Congress has immortalized. George Carlin himself sees the New Puritanism for what it is: political grandstanding driven by fear of offending religious fanatics.

The Washington post grills the Congressman who wrote the bill:
Word Games (washingtonpost.com)

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Marthism without Martha: The new business challenge.BW Online | March 10, 2004 | Stain-Removal Hints for Martha's Brand The Times also reports that the search for a new domestic diva is underway.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Here's an antidote to a nasty, divisive campaign: Mark Satin's Radical Middle. We're in for a bruising political battle between Kerry and Bush, with both Democrats and Republicans fighting a polarizing campaign to turn out their base. In the course of that, sensible solutions to the nation's worst problems will often be overlooked because of the ideological blinders of each side. Satin's book shows a way to a more humane, common-sense politics. It's already won praise from James Fallows and others. As the book jacket says:

"Politics today has degenerated into one shouting match after another. If it isn't Democrats against Republicans, then it's the Al Frankens of the world against the Bill O'Reillys. The overheated rhetoric may be entertaining. But in the process, real opportunities - to achieve everything from universal, preventive health care to deep corporate reform to energy independence - are slipping away.

"Does politics have to be this way? No. According to this smart and unabashedly positive book, millions of caring people are coming up with inclusive new solutions to our problems (and collaborative new ways of working on them) that amount to a whole new politics - radical middle politics.

"Instead of playing the usual blame games, the radical middle appreciates the genuine and often very reasonable concerns of the left and right - and builds on them toward something new. Instead of being some mushy middle, the radical middle is both visionary and realistic. It dares to propose path-breaking solutions to everything from underperforming schools to looming terrorism without ever losing touch with the often complex facts on the ground.

"Radical Middle will show you what you can do to make our politics less like schoolyard combat and more like an expression of the practical and creative people that we are."

Amazon.com: Books: Radical Middle: The Politics We Need Now

Monday, March 01, 2004

The Man kidnapped Aristede! And other urban folk tales. The lefty Democracy Now! radio program has the inside scoop on the purported kidnapping, thanks to charges by Maxine Waters and Randall Robinson, based on desperate calls from the exiled Haitian leader. This is the same Maxine Waters who promoted the now-discredited story that charged the CIA with selling crack to inner cities to fund the Contras. But as the American Enterprise Institute noted, "There have been other high-profile cases in the media recently that didn't involve actual fakery but rather extreme carelessness bordering on dishonesty. For instance, the "Dark Alliance" series published by the San Jose Mercury News in late-1996. These stories alleged that CIA operatives working with Nicaraguan contras had started the crack epidemic in America's inner cities. Other news organizations launched investigations to try to substantiate reporter Gary Webb's claims and could not. By mid-1997, Webb had resigned and the Mercury News retracted nearly all of the stories' allegations. Disturbingly, though, Webb published a book repeating the retracted claims which became popular among left-leaning conspiracy theorists and began to show up in college curricula." Waters wrote the forward to this book.

UPDATE: Aristede is telling the kidnapping tale to the AP, too. That doesn't make it any more reliable a claim. Let's hope the mainstream media assigns some investigative reporters to find the truth behind these seemingly wild assertions.

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