Sunday, October 30, 2005

Morning copy 10.30.2005

Libby and Cheney

A flight on July 12, 2003 is recounted in the Washington Post, with a damning third paragraph:

Defending the war became the animating priority aboard Air Force Two that day. According to his indictment on Friday, Libby "discussed with other officials aboard the plane" how he should respond to "pending media inquiries" about the critic, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. Apart from Libby, only press aide Catherine Martin is known to have accompanied Cheney on that flight.

Matthew Cooper begins his next installment of "what I really said" in TIME on that same day:

I was wet, smelling of chlorine. It was July 12, 2003, in Washington, a beautiful summer day, and I had just come back from swimming. All morning I had been trying to reach I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby for a cover story about both President George W. Bush's claim that Iraq had sought uranium in Africa and former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's controversial Op-Ed. I had been invited to a fancy Washington country club by friends. Since the club didn't allow the use of cell phones, I kept running from pool to parking lot to try to reach Libby, who was traveling to Norfolk, Va., with Vice President Dick Cheney for the commissioning of the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan. Eventually I raced home without showering in order to take Libby's call. When he finally reached me at around 3 p.m., we spoke for a few minutes as I sprawled on my bed. I had no idea that that brief phone call, along with a conversation with Karl Rove the day before, would leave me embroiled in a federal investigation for more than two years and that Libby would end up facing a five-count indictment. I doubt it occurred to Libby either. That afternoon, we talked a bit on background and off the record, and he gave me an on-the-record quote distancing Cheney from Wilson's fact-finding trip to Africa for the CIA. In fact, he was so eager to distance his boss from Wilson that a few days later, he called to rebuke me for not having used the whole quote in the piece.

Evan Thomas in Newsweek has an amazing bio/analysis on "Scooter":

It is a good bet that Cheney and Libby did not think they were conspiring to trash a political foe by ruining his wife's career as an undercover agent. Given their view of themselves and their roles in the world, especially post 9/11, it is much more likely they believed that they were somehow safeguarding the republic. It's also a good bet that they did not foresee the disastrous consequences of their conversation, as well as a series of others between Libby and government officials and several reporters in the summer of 2003. Libby, as well as his boss, operated, at least in their own minds, on a higher plane.

The recovery

Can Team Bush recover?

Dan Balz's analysis in the Washington Post:

With its ability to command public attention and frame the national agenda, the presidency is a supremely resilient institution, and such recent occupants as Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton have bounced back from adversity. But Bush faces such a complex set of problems -- an unpopular war in Iraq, high energy prices, the costly challenge of rebuilding New Orleans, a fractured party, disaffected independent voters and little goodwill on Capitol Hill -- that his prospects are particularly daunting.

Beyond that is the question of whether Bush needs to make fundamental adjustments to a governing and political style that has given him electoral success but also left the country deeply polarized.

Thomas DeFrank in the New York Daily News:

"The truth is, Karl is irreplaceable," a senior Bush adviser said. "We have seen what this administration looks like absent Karl these last weeks. The rest of the group is simply not up to the task."

Now Rove will lead a battered White House's attempt to rebuild from the carnage, but that's a daunting mission.

Only nine months into a second term, Bush's presidency stands at its lowest point. His reputation as a take-charge, in-charge leader was breached by Katrina, his moral authority punctured by Fitzgerald's findings.

The Los Angeles Times sketches their plan for recovery:

For starters, it's time to retire "the architect." Karl Rove may have escaped indictment on Friday, but in a larger sense "Rovism" — the notion of governing from the far right to pander to the party's most active extremists — has been indicted, tried and convicted. Regardless of whether his top political advisor stays on the payroll, Bush needs to dust off his old claim of being "a uniter, not a divider" if he is to have any chance of regaining his political footing and building a positive legacy.

Vice President Dick Cheney's days as a leading voice in this administration should also be numbered. It would be a considerable favor to Bush if Cheney decided to step down from office now, but don't expect that to happen.

Still, Cheney should spend the bulk of his time at undisclosed locations and funerals for foreign dignitaries, at least when he is not testifying at his former chief of staff's trial, which would be an unseemly spectacle.

One more relationship to consider, according to an advisor in a TIME magazine piece:

"All relationships with the President, except for his relationship with Laura, have been damaged recently," the White House adviser says. The closest aide who is undamaged is Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice—who is off minding the rest of the world—and, of course, Bush himself. "The funny thing is everybody's failing now, in which case perhaps it's time to look at George Bush's relationship with George Bush."

Recovery: Miers

There is an uneasy calm in the conservative base. The Washington Times reports:

These conservatives say Mr. Bush's action on Miss Miers alone will not be enough to heal serious and long-developing rifts largely hidden from public view until the imbroglio over her high court nomination.

One such rift is between determined Bush loyalists on the right and those interest-group leaders who say the conservative movement is larger than either Mr. Bush or the Republican Party.

A new pick is expected this week, but it will be a tough one...

The New York Times:

"To the degree that Bush was enamored of a stealth strategy, I have got to believe he has learned there is a real downside," said William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard and one of the first conservative thinkers to call for withdrawal of the Miers nomination.

But if the next nominee provokes a fight with the left instead, Mr. Kristol added, "it is tougher having made a mistake with Miers."

Any pick will endure intense scrutiny from the left and the right because this nominee will succeed Justice O'Connor, the pivotal swing vote on abortion rights, among other issues.


Armor problems once again in Iraq, New York Times:

Even as American forces are relying more on Iraqis to fight the insurgency, the Iraqi Army is facing some of the same procurement problems that American troops have experienced in getting adequate armor and other equipment, according to interviews in Iraq with American and Iraqi military officials. But if the Americans have faced an uphill battle in getting vital gear - their shortfalls continue to this day - then their Iraqi counterparts are confronting a herculean task.

The U.S. has shifted policy and now lists Iraqi casualty estimates, New York Times.

The Los Angeles Times questions U.S. reconstruction spending in Iraq:

But today, international health experts and Iraqi doctors say, it's an emblem of the problems with U.S. efforts to rebuild Iraq's shattered healthcare system.

Nobody denies that Iraq needs new hospitals, but the experts questioned the priorities of Washington's $1-billion rebuilding plan, which has focused on construction instead of basic needs such as better training for doctors and public healthcare campaigns.

New Delhi

Dozens killed in blasts. Pakistan condemns the terrorist action. Washington Post.


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