Monday, October 24, 2005

Morning copy 10.24.2005

Thomas DeFrank has two "legacy" stories about George W. Bush in the New York Daily News today.

First a general story about Bush's mounting frustration and anger.

Bush is so dismayed that "the only person escaping blame is the President himself," said a sympathetic official, who delicately termed such self-exoneration "illogical."

Then an Iraq-heavy story:

"We need a lot fewer troops to be there," one 2006 GOP election planner said, "or we're going to get killed."

Bush officials have said a major U.S. pullout is in the works by next summer. But with a majority of Americans now believing the war was a mistake, Operation Iraqi Freedom likely will remain a drag on Bush's political standing.

All these stories are jumbled and intertwined.

Patrick Fitzgerald

Note the plural sourcing in Elisabeth Bumiller's story in the New York Times:

Lawyers involved in the case say that the prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, is focusing on whether Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby sought to conceal their actions and mislead prosecutors in the C.I.A. leak case. Among the charges he is considering, they say, are perjury and obstruction of justice - both peripheral to the issue Mr. Fitzgerald was appointed to investigate, which is whether anyone in the administration revealed the identity of a covert intelligence officer, a potential crime.

Newsweek has plural and vague sourcing in their recap-ish story:

Lawyers who have had dealings with Fitzgerald's office, who spoke anonymously because the investigation is ongoing, say the prosecutor appears to be exploring the option of bringing broad conspiracy charges against Libby, Rove and perhaps others, though it's still unclear whether Fitzgerald can prove an underlying crime.

Some lawyers close to the case are convinced Fitzgerald has a mysterious "Mr. X"—a yet unknown principal target or cooperating witness.

The New York Times scans the GOP tea leaves for a rebuttal strategy:

On Sunday, Republicans appeared to be preparing to blunt the impact of any charges. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas, speaking on the NBC news program "Meet the Press," compared the leak investigation with the case of Martha Stewart and her stock sale, "where they couldn't find a crime and they indict on something that she said about something that wasn't a crime."

But Walter Pincus' lede in the Washington Post has a different set of tea leaves:

Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) said yesterday that he expects White House officials will step down if they are indicted this week but stressed that speculation should cease until special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald announces the results of his investigation into the leak of the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Resigning or even leave-of-absence will send a guilty signal to the public. Sending Texas senators on talk shows won't go very far.

The Opinion Journal's lead editorial. This is how they see the Tea Leaves:

Our hope is that he also understands that the job of a prosecutor is not to settle what at bottom is a political and policy fight over the war in Iraq.

Let's stipulate that the law is the law, and if Bush Administration officials lied to a grand jury in the clear and obvious way that Bill Clinton did, they should be prosecuted. If Mr. Fitzgerald has evidence of a malicious attempt to expose a CIA undercover agent, as defined by the relevant statute, the same applies. But the fact that the prosecutor has waited as long as he has--until the last days of his grand jury--suggests that he considers this a less than obvious case. A close call deserves to be a no call.


Jack Abramoff

TIME Magazine links Abramoff to Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed and Karl Rove. The link comes from a number of emails.

As it happened, Abramoff had caught Reed at a ripe moment. "Am at a lunch with Rove at the [Republican National Committee] meeting and just talked to the AG [then Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, now a U.S. Senator]," he e-mailed Abramoff on his BlackBerry. "Will report the substance shortly." Reed agreed to give Rove materials arguing the Choctaws' case.

Did he? Or was Reed humoring his old friend? "Ralph receives unsolicited requests all the time for assistance on such matters," says his spokeswoman Lisa Baron, "but he does not recall following up on these matters." The cruise-ship scheme never came to fruition. The Choctaws got their jail, but so far, there's no evidence that the White House lifted a finger to make it happen. Abramoff declined to comment.

Harriet Miers

Note Mike Allen's sourcing in TIME about Arlen Specter's friend:

Specter had started to feel sorry for her and was trying to help. But the Senator, says an official who has talked to him, is now "very, very, very unhappy."

Miers' troubles with Specter began with her courtesy calls on other Senators. "All Specter is hearing from colleagues on both sides is that they're getting nothing from Harriet but vague generalities and how wonderful the President is," says a friend of the Senator's. "None of these people are interested in that." Then, after a meeting last week in which Specter tried to walk Miers through traps she might encounter at her hearing, he spoke well of her to reporters. But she later phoned him and contradicted his recollection that she had expressed support for Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 case establishing the right to privacy that is considered a key underpinning of abortion rights. Strike two was Miers' response to the Judiciary Committee's questionnaire, which led to an unusual request for elaboration on eight of her 28 answers. Even Republicans griped that her responses were so elliptical as to be disrespectful. "The alienation," says Specter's friend, "is very real."

The Washington Post on the Supreme Court, Christians and conference calls:

The Senate Judiciary Committee is likely to summon a leading conservative Christian to explain the private assurances he says he received from the White House about Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, the committee's chairman said yesterday.

Bipartisan support not likely to please the White House, Los Angeles Times lede:

WASHINGTON — Republican and Democratic senators called on President Bush on Sunday to release documents relating to Supreme Court nominee Harriet E. Miers' service as White House counsel, with some warning that she might not win confirmation otherwise.

John Fund's lede at Opinion Journal states that the president's weekend "retreat" was about Miers more than Fitzgerald. It doesn't sound pretty:

President Bush has returned from a weekend in Camp David, where much of the discussion centered on the beleaguered nomination of Harriet Miers. While the president is determined to press forward, the prognosis he received was grim. Her visits with senators have gone poorly. Her written answers to questions from the Senate were sent back as if they were incomplete homework. The nominee herself has stumbled frequently in the tutorials in which government lawyers are grilling her in preparation for her Nov. 7 hearings.


The much anticipated Brent Scowcroft interview in the New Yorker is not available online (come on!) but an interview with the reporter is:

Scowcroft is a consummate diplomat and a careful man. And yet, reading the quotes in your story, it seems that he almost had to force himself not to lash out at the current Administration—and he didn’t always succeed. Is Scowcroft an angry man these days?

He’s a man in control of his emotions, and so I’m not sure how angry he is, or how far he would be willing to go to show his anger. He is upset about the course of the war, of course, and I suppose he’s upset because his advice before the war was ignored. But I don’t think he takes these things personally. I think he doesn’t want to see America do damage to itself. And, according to what he told me, he thinks America has been damaged by the intervention in Iraq: he believes, he said, that the Iraq war has made our terrorism problem worse, not better.

A Los Angeles Police Detective teaches Marines about suicide bombers, Los Angeles Times.

The strength of IEDs is growing, USA Today:

BAQOUBA, Iraq — Roadside bombs are growing more powerful and sophisticated because insurgents throughout Iraq have grown adept at sharing information and using expert trainers.

"What we're seeing is an increase in the evolutionary pace of IED (improvised explosive device) design," said Ben Venzke, CEO of IntelCenter, a Washington counterterrorism firm contracted by the U.S. military to study insurgent tactics. "It's increasing at a pace we previously haven't seen."

Bill Frist

Remember that "blind trust" that Frist had? Well, Jeffrey H. Birnbaum in the Washington Post:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) was given considerable information about his stake in his family's hospital company, according to records that are at odds with his past statements that he did not know what was in his stock holdings.

Managers of the trusts that Frist once described as "totally blind," regularly informed him when they added new shares of HCA Inc. or other assets to his holdings, according to the documents.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Peter Nicholas in the Los Angeles Times:

SACRAMENTO — To pay for a coming trade mission to China, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's political allies are raising tens of thousands of dollars from businesses whose names are largely being concealed.

In addition, at least two of the three public relations firms playing a role in the visit have political ties to Schwarzenegger. One has a West Coast affiliate co-owned by the governor's chief fundraiser.


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