Thursday, October 20, 2005

Morning copy 10.20.2005 (Tea Leaves)

"We're re-fighting the war through this case," wrote Howard Kurtz in his Media Notes.

But, this is no journalistic-psychological exercise. This is not some healing process nor is it a weird legal push for closure. We are re-fighting the war and a casus belli advanced by some in the administration.

This is a grave and serious moment.

The battle over justifying a war was well underway when Bob Novak wrote his column and outed Valerie Plame as a covert CIA operative. Joseph Wilson was not the first U.S. official to go to Niger to investigate reports of Iraqi WMD efforts. The Niger/uranium casus belli had been suspect in late 2002, dropped from a speech in Cincinnati, only to return January 28, 2003, in the State of the Union Address.

Recall that Novak's July, 2003, column had two "senior administration officials" and that the author has since said that one source was no "partisan gunslinger". Most "senior administration officials" in the George W. Bush administration could easily be called "partisan gunslingers". It is more rare not to earn that moniker in the current White House -- or the White House of 2003. Perhaps Novak's source found common cause with the columnist's conclusion:

The story, actually, is whether the administration deliberately ignored Wilson's advice, and that requires scrutinizing the CIA summary of what their envoy reported. The Agency never before has declassified that kind of information, but the White House would like it to do just that now -- in its and in the public's interest.

The war over justifying the invasion of Iraq began before the tanks rolled. It has been detailed in Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack and in Vanity Fair's May 2004 issue, among numerous other sources. This battle involved many big players in the White House, with the Vice President, his staff and Defense squaring off with State and the CIA.

Now to the news.

CIA Leak, Plame Flame Out, Miller Time, etc.

All of what is written above may or may not have lead to a crime.

The long, troubled history of Cheney and the CIA is in the Los Angeles Times:

Fitzgerald has learned about ongoing tensions between Cheney's circle and the CIA. According to a former White House official interviewed by The Times, Libby and others in the White House were incensed by Wilson's public criticism, in part because they saw it as a salvo fired by the CIA at administration officials, including Cheney, who was perhaps the most outspoken advocate of the case against Iraq.

Senator Chuck Schumer, New York, followed up on Thomas DeFrank's interesting NY Daily News story yesterday. NY Daily News today:

Citing yesterday's Daily News story detailing Bush's angry 2003 outburst, Schumer requested particulars of that heated discussion about Rove's role in the CIA leaks. "It seems you may have been angry that White House officials were caught, not that they had compromised national security," Schumer wrote in a letter to Bush. Schumer also questioned why Bush didn't suspend Rove's top secret security clearance if he was aware his senior aide had a role in the Plame affair.

A source familiar with Karl Rove's testimony told the Washington Post that Rove said he discussed Joseph Wilson and his CIA wife with Scooter Libby:

In a talk that took place in the days before Plame's CIA employment was revealed in 2003, Rove and Libby discussed conversations they had had with reporters in which Plame and her marriage to Iraq war critic Joseph C. Wilson IV were raised, the source said. Rove told the grand jury the talk was confined to information the two men heard from reporters, the source said.

The same story, more of less, is reported by the AP. But this graf stands out:

They said Rove testified that his discussions with Libby before Plame's CIA cover was blown were limited to information reporters had passed to them. Some evidence prosecutors have gathered conflicts with Libby's account.

Miers nomination

The Los Angeles Times editorial:

IF HARRIET E. MIERS WERE A SOFT DRINK, she would be New Coke: a carefully marketed product that no one is buying. The Bush administration deserves most of the blame for this clumsy campaign, but part of the problem is the confirmation process itself.


The New York Times editorial:

But as time went on, it became increasingly clear that ideology aside, the qualification question looms large. So far this nominee has yet to demonstrate that she can even satisfactorily fill out a questionnaire about her attitude toward important constitutional questions. This page has urged that Ms. Miers be given a fair chance to prove that she is worthy of a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. But based on the evidence so far, it is getting hard to believe that she is.

I love the photo that accompanies this Washington Post story on Senators Specter and Leahy asking for better answers from Miers:

They sent Miers a three-page letter asking for more detailed responses in several areas, and Specter said he has asked the Bush administration for more documents concerning her work as White House counsel. Specter said Miers must provide "amplification on many, many of the items" included in the first questionnaire.

Miers quickly replied, writing that she would comply with the new request. She also wrote that "as a result of an administrative oversight," her Texas law license was suspended for 26 days in 1989 because of unpaid dues. On Monday, Miers disclosed that her D.C. law license was briefly suspended last year because of unpaid annual dues.

The Los Angeles Times on Miers, the courts and religion:

The left and right quickly found something they could agree on: Both sides said religion should not be the basis for being a justice.

"We are the last people on Earth to object to the news that she is a committed Christian," said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, whose conservative advocacy group says it "promotes the Judeo-Christian worldview." But "this fact is not grounds for certifying her to us or to the public," Perkins said. "Inferences drawn from an individual's religious affiliation have no place in decisions to nominate or confirm a judicial appointee."


Mary Curtius in the LA Times makes my life easy by noting the point I wanted to make about Chertoff.

WASHINGTON — FEMA's lack of planning, not the failures of state and local officials, was to blame for much of what went wrong with the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told a congressional committee Wednesday.

The assessment by the most senior administration official to face lawmakers since the hurricane struck in late August contrasted sharply with testimony earlier by Michael D. Brown, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

So, this would mean that we need to define FEMA so the FEMA chief and his boss agree what each other should be doing. Great.

Iraq and the Middle East

More testimony. The New York Times on testy Rice testimony at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Note the kicker:

Mr. Sarbanes asked whether she thought President Bush should seek Congressional approval for expanding the war to Syria, she said she did not want to "circumscribe" his powers to use military action as commander in chief.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the United States may seek help from Iran to quell the insurgency in Iraq.

"We're considering whether that might be useful," Rice said in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. She added that any contact probably would take place between embassies in Baghdad and would be restricted to the Iraq issue.

Saddam's trial adjourns until November 28, al Jazeera.

Bush to meet with Abbas today, al Jazeera.

More links

Though it may be a minor oversight, Senator Tom Harkin is not going to like a story naming him with Jack Abramoff reported in The Hill.

The UN is calling for more donations for the earthquake zone, BBC News.

Education in America, in the Washington Post:

Reading scores among fourth- and eighth-graders showed little improvement over the past two years, and math gains were slower than in previous years, according to a study released yesterday. The disappointing results came despite a new educational testing law championed by the Bush administration as a way to improve the nation's schools.

Most troubling for educators are the sluggish reading skills among middle-school students, which have remained virtually unchanged for 15 years, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which administers the federal test and bills itself as the "nation's report card."

Spending cuts put on hold, for now, as GOP lawmakers scramble for more votes. Washington Post:

Now, "everything is on the table," said Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.), one of the House leaders trying to save the steeper reductions. That means even defense and homeland security spending, which had been exempted, are subject to the ax -- a key addition that House leaders hope will attract enough votes to close the deal.

Looks like the poor and needy won't take all of the budget hit after all.

The New York Times reports on reductions in Medicaid:

The Florida program, likely to be a model for many other states, shifts from the traditional Medicaid "defined benefit" plan to a "defined contribution" plan, under which the state sets a ceiling on spending for each recipient.


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