Monday, October 31, 2005

Journalism and Red Sox baseball

Red Sox wunderkind Theo Epstein has resigned from the Boston Red Sox, contrary to reports this morning in the Boston Globe that his contract would be extended.

Theo, as he is known in the Boston area and throughout the diaspora of Red Sox Nation, left with a classy statement.

The Boston Globe is owned by the New York Times, which has a 17 percent ownership of the Boston Red Sox -- another reason to doubt journalistic integrity in this day and age. The Boston Herald, which did not get the antiscoop of Theo resigning a contract for three more years (not resigning his contract and leaving the team) has the massive scoop this evening. Theo, the Herald reported, is unhappy with the Globe's coverage on Sunday.

Michael Silverman of the Herald broke this one, and no doubt the dynamics between the two Boston dailies are fairly obvious (emphasis added):

Money and length of the contract were not issues in the past few days for Epstein, who had lobbied hard for an annual salary of more than $1 million a year.

Epstein had come close to agreeing to a deal Saturday evening but had not officially conveyed acceptance of it. On Sunday, he began having serious misgivings about staying on. A leading contributing factor, according to sources close to the situation, was a column in Sunday’s Boston Globe in which too much inside information about the relationship between Epstein and his mentor, team president and CEO Larry Lucchino, was revealed -- in a manner slanted too much in Lucchino’s favor. Epstein, according to these sources, had several reasons to believe Lucchino was a primary source behind the column and came to the realization that if this information were leaked hours before Epstein was going to agree to a new long-term deal, it signaled excessive bad faith between him and Lucchino.

That column, of course, needs to be read with a careful eye. It is, simply put, a journalistic embarrassment -- even for a Sport's writer. The headline calls for dirty laundry to get aired out, but Dan Shaughnessy's column is written from one person's waste basket alone.

Some of the excerpts I imagine set off the World Series winning GM:

Larry taught Theo too well and now he is looking in the mirror as he tries to hammer out a deal with the GM he made in his own image. Both are merely doing what they are trained to do. In Theo's case, he's doing what Larry trained him to do.

Lucchino and Dr. Charles Steinberg are a pair of Red Sox executives who ''discovered" Theo when he was a student at Yale. They picked him out of thousands of wannabe interns.

Let's start with Theo being a ''baseball guy" while Larry is a lawyer with a lofty title (CEO). Granted, Epstein is a student of the game, but it's a mistake to say he knows more about baseball than Lucchino or anyone else in the Red Sox baseball operation. Theo is 31 years old and did not play baseball past high school. He spent four years at Yale and three years at law school. That hardly leaves time for much more than rotisserie league scouting. He can read the data and has a horde of trusty, like-minded minions, but we're not talking about a lifetime of beating the bushes and scouting prospects. Lucchino was a good high school baseball player and made it to the NCAA Final Four with Princeton's basketball team. He came to baseball as an executive in 1979, when Theo was 5 years old. That doesn't make him George Digby or Ray Boone, but he's not Les Otten, either.

The offenses: Larry trained Theo. Theo was one among a legion of wannabe interns. Making the NCAAs at Princeton makes you a baseball maestro.

We do not even need to get into the fact that Shaughnessy was writing his column to defend the executives of a sister company.

Good luck, Boston's Olde Towne Team. I have been a fan for life but I am done with you now. Besides, I've got a sweet offer from a Mets' partisan to cheer on Pedro and await their new stadium.

Reid and Frist may or may not be in the loop

According to the MSM stories I heard/read today, Senate Leaders Bill Frist and Harry Reid were notified about the nomination of Samuel Alito around 700 Eastern. and the Washington Prowler both knew the nominee, or had a real good idea, last night.

RedState's account:

The Washington Prowler is hearing what I'm hearing. It's more likely than not going to be Alito. Luttig is a possibility, but there is some concern that Luttig could "grow" in office.

Some of you will scream about that, but let me say that I have heard that about Luttig since before O'Connor resigned and have heard that from some of Luttig's friends. It may not be accurate, but that is a concern and has been since before the summer.


According to sources in both the White House and Senate leadership, the President is poised to nominate Federal Appeals Court Judge Samuel Alito on Monday morning.

No official phone calls have been made to those Republicans who need to be in the know: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Deputy Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, but ongoing conversations among senior staff at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue lead our sources to believe Alito is it.

The two big blog stories for the next few days.


In this era of soundbits and blogging, this moniker is going to get a lot of ink, well, bytes.

Crooks and Liars has some of the early sourcing for bloggers and politicos to pour over:

The Moderate Voice has one. PFAW has a fact sheet. Think Progress has some notes. Acsblog has some information. Duncan is all over the nomination. Jeff Goldstein on the right defends Alito. Nobody cares what Hugh Hewitt thinks and the information will be pouring in all day.

Cheney's office

The National Journal notes that the likely successor to "Scooter" Libby was not uninvolved in the CIA Leak escapade:

Moreover, as a pivotal member of the vice president's office, Addington also attended strategy sessions in 2003 on how to discredit Wilson when the former ambassador publicly charged that the Bush administration misled the country in pushing its case for war, according to attorneys in the CIA leak probe.

Further, Addington played a leading role in 2004 on behalf of the Bush administration when it refused to give the Senate Intelligence Committee documents from Libby's office on the alleged misuse of intelligence information regarding Iraq. Because Addington may be in line to succeed Libby, the Intelligence Committee-White House battle over the documents has sparked new interest on Capitol Hill.

The Journal also advances their crucial story on Cheney's office withholding some documents from the Senate Intelligence committee.

SCOTUS nominee Alito.

The Note does not esteem the Democrats well:

Democrats/liberals: will be divided, with some saying "wait and see" for real, some saying "wait and see" as a strategy, some saying "we have reservations," some saying "oppose," and some saying "filibuster"; by the time the liberal groups are done with their research (yes, amazingly, even regarding someone who should be totally oppo vetted, we predict they have work to do on Alito), the right will be completely united and geared up; only a minority of the minority "learned" the lesson from the Roberts experience that if you don't oppose immediately, you get overwhelmed; if there is an up-or-down vote, we predict at least one "Nelson" will vote "yes" and maybe more.

The Note also says that the opposition does not have all their homework done on Scalito. That is pretty pathetic, if true.

Reax coming in already:

Planned Parenthood opposes the nomination and Family Research Council is supportive, only helping the news media narrative of a battle royale, which we still believe will be relentlessly overstated by the media. Our guess: the country ain't in the mood for a big fight, and the left is too disorganized and divided to mount one effectively.

Sam Brownback is already heaping praise, as is Bill Kristol, so this nomination is already off to a better start than Miers.

Majority Leader Sen. Frist (R-TN) will greet Judge Alito at 9:30 am ET at the Senate. In a heart-felt and Deaveresque move, the pair will then view the casket of Rosa Parks in the Rotunda.

Sens. Frist and McConnell will have a 10:15 am ET photo opportunity with the nominee.

Senators Schumer (11 am ET) and Specter (11:45 am ET) are expected in the Senate Radio-TV Gallery to tell the world what they think.

Samuel Alito, sans quotation marks because of his middle initial, garners more than 2500 blog entries at 1100 EST. Scalito garners 655 entries.

A few bloggers have taken "Harriet's" witty effort to heart. The Right Honorable. News and Views. And nothing in particular.

Morning copy 10.31.2005

Blogger likes to sometimes forget your posts, save frequently.

How to rebuild a presidency, by George W. Bush

1. Go on a weekend vacation. Come back acting like a president.
2. Name a new nominee FAST. Stick with the base. Pick a dude.
3. Shake up the staff but do not apologize. Or, apologize, but do not shake up the staff.

Scalito or Samuel Alito or both

Numerous news sources are reporting Judge Samuel Alito will be George W. Bush's pick to replace Sandra Day O'Connor.

There are 932 blog entried with "Samuel Alito" in a Google Blog search as of 7:45 a.m. Eastern

Dana Bash on CNN reported some push-back from Bush officials with the nickname "Scalito". That nickname nets 302 blog entries this morning.

Many nominee stories (NY Times, Washington Post) are kind of irrelevant now that a nominee is named. But, Robert Novak's column remains worth a read:

The question is whether the president will take this reasonable approach toward a high court vacancy that is considered vital to his core constituency. Considering the fact that he could have embarked on such a course in the first place and avoided the further loss of public confidence caused by the Miers nomination, nobody can be absolutely sure he will not again blunder. That could mean another Miers-like stealth nominee or, at the opposite extreme, an antagonistic nominee who incites the left.

The Wikipedia entry for Mr. Alito.

POTUS and the staff

The New York Daily News recounts the talkies:

"This is not anything that can't be overcome" to save Bush's second term, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) told CBS' "Face the Nation," but he agreed with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) that a probe of Cheney's office by a "nonpolitical person" could help clear the air.


The continuing investigation raises the possibility that Bush, already politically weakened, will be forced to overhaul his staff and that Cheney, 64, the administration's most powerful figure, is irreparably damaged by the scandal. The investigation hasn't resolved who in the administration provided Plame's name to columnist Robert Novak, who first published it.

Some of the answers may be clearer once Rove's status is settled. Rove, 54, testified to the grand jury for a fourth time on Oct. 14 as Fitzgerald was bringing his probe toward conclusion and seeking to deal with inconsistencies between Rove's accounts and those of reporters. Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, continued talking with the special counsel as late as last week.

Valerie Plame

60 Minutes last night detailed the damage done to CIA operations by the outing of Valerie Plame:

Former CIA colleagues say that by revealing her identity, harm could be caused to the CIA’s agents and operations. "If a CIA agent is exposed, then everyone coming in contact with that agent is exposed," says Jim Marcinkowski, a former CIA agent who trained with Plame at the top-secret Virginia facility known as "the Farm." "There is a possibility that there were other agents that would use that same kind of a cover. So they may have been using Brewster-Jennings just like her," said Marcinkowski, referring to the fictional firm the CIA set up as her cover that also came out when journalists, including Robert Novak, disclosed it.

Marcinkowski points out another problem. "[Plame] is the wife of an ambassador, for example. Now, since this happened, they’ll know there’s a possibility that the wife of a U.S. ambassador is a CIA agent."

The outing of a spy by White House officials is the very definition of unconscionable. A full and honest accounting from this administration is necessary, but not likely to happen.

And but however!

Christopher Hitchens in the Wall Street Journal wonders what the fuss is all about. But he ends up showing the silliness of a (verbose) columnist reading an indictment:

As to the critical question of whether Mr. Plame had any cover to blow, Mr. Fitzgerald was equally insouciant: "I am not speaking to whether or not Valerie Wilson was covert."

In the absence of any such assertion or allegation, one must be forgiven for wondering what any of this gigantic fuss can possibly be about.

Hitch, this was an indictment for perjury and obstruction of justice. I hope you weren't looking for a fall fashion review from the Special Counsel.

Donald Rumsfeld and torture

This from Newsweek:

Fishback has also won a devoted and powerful ally in Sen. John McCain, who says that the captain's tale "is what I view as the tip of the iceberg in the military today." Fishback's account has proved to be a prime exhibit in McCain's long-running feud with Rumsfeld over conduct of the Iraq war. In a long letter to Congress obtained by NEWSWEEK, Fishback told McCain and others in Congress that when the Defense secretary testified before Congress in the aftermath of the 2004 Abu Ghraib abuse scandal, Rumsfeld did not accurately represent what was occurring in Iraq.

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.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Morning copy 10.29.2005

Libby indicted

The spin is just starting to wind up, though President George W. Bush seems to be above the fray. One interesting question will be: does "Scooter" Libby seek a plea deal to save face for the White House? It is going to be the trial of the century, or at least a few decades. The Washington Times has the early list of witnesses:

The indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby Jr. sets the stage for an extraordinary Washington drama in which some of the city's best-known journalists, including NBC's Tim Russert, would be prosecution witnesses at a public trial against a one-time powerful White House official.

Dana Milbank in the Washington Post covers the press conference from Patrick Fitzgerald with a great quote:

Asked about criticism that he was a partisan on a witch hunt, the man who indicted a sitting White House official for the first time since the 19th century shot back: "One day I read that I was a Republican hack, another day I read that I was a Democratic hack -- and the only thing I did between those two nights was sleep."


But his appearance was as much about answering the charge that will inevitably be lodged against Fitzgerald himself: that he exceeded his charter and brought charges on "technicalities" rather than major crimes.

The prosecutor had prepared his defense well. "That talking point won't fly," he said when a questioner raised the anticipated criticism. "If it is proven that the chief of staff to the vice president went before a federal grand jury and lied under oath repeatedly and fabricated a story . . . that is a very, very serious matter," said Fitzgerald, 44, licking his lips frequently and moving his eyes back and forth across the line of eight cameras. "The truth is the engine of our judicial system, and if you compromise the truth, the whole process is lost."

This petty drivel from the Opinion Journal:

If this is a conspiracy to silence Administration critics, it was more daft than deft. The indictment itself contains no evidence of a conspiracy, and Mr. Libby has not been accused of trying to cover up some high crime or misdemeanor by the Bush Administration. The indictment amounts to an allegation that one official lied about what he knew about an underlying "crime" that wasn't committed. And we still don't know who did tell Mr. Novak--presumably, it was the soon-to-be-infamous "Official A" from paragraph 21 of the indictment, although we don't know whether Official A was Mr. Novak's primary source or merely a corroborating one.

What kind of a specious intellectual exercise is this? The man lied to a grand jury about several conversations. It can and will be demonstrated by both journalists and governmental officials, apparently by Libby's own notes as well. Further, it is hard to prove a conspiracy when the central figure -- perhaps The Architect -- lies to a grand jury repeatedly. I hope to never see such a pathetic counter argument to this grave crime, but I am certain that my hopes will be dashed.

Now, this headling in the Los Angeles Times: "Prosecutor Has Built a Strong Case, Experts Say".

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, however, is accused of something far more elaborate. Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald alleges that Libby made up a false story to deceive investigators and then told the lie under oath to the grand jury.

Telling a false story to a federal prosecutor who knows the facts is a sure ticket to an indictment, legal experts said Friday. And, they said, Fitzgerald appears to have built a strong case.

"That's unacceptable. You can't lie, make up conversations that didn't happen and expect you are not going to be charged with a crime," said George Washington University law professor Stephen A. Saltzburg.


Little cautioned it was possible that Russert gave an inaccurate account and that Libby would be vindicated. However, if the allegations are true and Libby made up his story "out of whole cloth," he added, "it is the hubris of a high-ranking government official who doesn't believe it will come out, and if it does, there is deniability. If you want to spread this around, you talk to one reporter and then call another reporter and say this is what I heard. The allegation reads as a vicious, cynical use of the media."


The indictment "is very well wrought," said Stanford University criminal law professor Robert Weisberg. "Fitzgerald made sure that he could establish such a consistent discrepancy between what is now known to be true and what Libby repeatedly said."

The New York Daily News has the best analysts quote:

"Fitzgerald has Scooter's ass in a sling," said Solomon Wisenberg, a former deputy to independent counsel Ken Starr, who investigated former President Bill Clinton. "He'd be remiss if he didn't squeeze Libby to get higher-ups involved. Potentially there is more, clearly."

This is another reason why Scooter may plea out of this. Cheney will be under oath en face du Special Counsel.

An overview in the Washington Post about Libby's role in U.S. policy.

The New York Times has a story on Libby's advice to fellow staffers:

So cautious is Mr. Libby, a lawyer trained at Columbia University, that he counseled other staff members not to take notes or speak to reporters, two former aides said Friday. But he met periodically with journalists and regularly jotted notes that he kept in a three-ring binder, giving himself the option of tearing out stuff he did not want to keep.

These exceptions to his own meticulous rules of discretion may ultimately come back to haunt Mr. Libby, who resigned Friday after being formally accused of repeatedly lying and obstructing justice during an inquiry into the unmasking of a Central Intelligence Agency officer.

The Washington Post notes the severity of what occurred when Valerie Plame's identity as a covert agent was made known:

There is no indication, according to current and former intelligence officials, that the most dire of consequences -- the risk of anyone's life -- resulted from her outing.

But after Plame's name appeared in Robert D. Novak's column, the CIA informed the Justice Department in a simple questionnaire that the damage was serious enough to warrant an investigation, officials said.

Karl Rove is not out of the woods, yet. His 11th hour dealing is one of the many mysteries still in the case. The Los Angeles Times:

WASHINGTON — As it came down to judgment day this week in the investigation into the exposure of a covert CIA operative, White House advisor Karl Rove braced for a possible indictment. But at the last minute, new information, reevaluation of older evidence and negotiations with Rove's lawyers combined to spare the top White House aide for now, according to sources close to Rove and familiar with the inquiry.

The Right does not have a united front in response to this. Salon's recap:

Anchor Rick Folbaum opened an interview with Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, by playing up the news that Karl Rove wasn't indicted. "How much of a victory is this for the president?" he asked.

"Well, we shouldn't kid ourselves," Kristol responded. "It's not a victory ... [This is] awfully bad for the White House."

Paul Mirengoff, of the conservative blog Powerline, acknowledged the indictment "looks strong on its face" and that the charges against Libby "are serious," though he predicted that the political fallout "is likely to be almost nonexistent." Fellow Powerline blogger and Weekly Standard contributor John Hinderaker added that the Plame affair has proved to be "the anti-Watergate." "It is evident from the indictment itself," he argued, "that administration officials, including Dick Cheney, Ari Fleischer and others, followed President Bush's order to cooperate fully with the Plame investigation. But it's premature to conclude that the administration is out of the woods until we find out what, if anything, happens to Rove."

AND (gotta like the slight dig in this one)

"This is not Watergate or Iran-Contra, but neither is it a trifle," wrote the editors of the National Review Online. "Please spare us the excuses warmed over from Democratic talking points in the 1990s: the prosecutor is out-of-control, there was no underlying crime, etc., etc. It is the responsibility of anyone, especially a public official, to tell the truth to FBI agents and grand juries. If Libby didn't, he should face the consequences."

If Lyndon Johnson were alive, what would he be doing right now to convince Cheney to testify (on national television).


Hamza Hendawi of the AP has this major story from Iraq:

NAJAF, Iraq - Iraq's top Shiite cleric is considering demanding a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. and foreign troops after a democratically elected government takes office next year, according to associates of the Iranian-born cleric.

If the Americans and their coalition partners do not comply, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani would use peaceful means such as mass street protests to step up pressure for a pullout schedule, according to two associates of the cleric.

The Los Angeles Times:

TIKRIT, Iraq — Seeking to lower the visibility of U.S. troops and grant more authority to Iraqi government forces, the American military has now ceded control of 27 of the nation's 109 bases, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.

Thousands of U.S. troops have been redeployed in recent months from bases in Najaf, Karbala, Tikrit and other cities, and Iraqis are now in charge of patrol areas that include four districts of Baghdad and the town of Taiji, northeast of the capital.

The South East Asian quake

Not enough has been done for these people. Is it relief fatigue? Americans gave about 50 times the amount of donations to the Tsunami victims, 100 times as much to the Katrina victims. The Los Angeles Times:

The relief operation is short about $120 million for the next five months, Hollingworth said.

The United States and 59 other countries pledged $580 million for additional earthquake relief at a conference in Geneva on Wednesday, but the U.N. has received only 20% of the money it needs immediately to provide emergency shelter, food and other relief before the brutal Himalayan winter isolates hundreds of devastated mountain villages.

And countries often pledge aid that is never delivered, officials pointed out.

Friday, October 28, 2005

The indictment of "Scooter" Libby

It's a great read, full of the narrative detail that ABC's The Note anticipated. The important paragraphs show up in Count 1 beginning on page 4.

Here we see that Scooter Libby sought out the information about the Niger/uranium probe, that he was well versed in it from State and CIA and that he knew it well before the story broke in the press. These allegations are crucial to most if not all of the charges he now faces.

4. On or about May 29, 2003, in the White House, LIBBY asked an Under Secretary of State (“Under Secretary”) for information concerning the unnamed ambassador’s travel to Niger to investigate claims about Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium yellowcake. The Under Secretary thereafter directed the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research to prepare a report concerning the ambassador and his trip. The Under Secretary provided LIBBY with interim oral reports in late May and early June 2003, and advised LIBBY that Wilson was the former ambassador who took the trip.

5. On or about June 9, 2003, a number of classified documents from the CIA were faxed to the Office of the Vice President to the personal attention of LIBBY and another person in the Office of the Vice President. The faxed documents, which were marked as classified, discussed, among other things, Wilson and his trip to Niger, but did not mention Wilson by name. After receiving these documents, LIBBY and one or more other persons in the Office of the Vice President handwrote the names “Wilson” and “Joe Wilson” on the documents.

What I found very interesting were the following discussions. Insofar as the Vice President is concerned:

8. Prior to June 12, 2003, Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus contacted the Office of the Vice President in connection with a story he was writing about Wilson’s trip. LIBBY participated in discussions in the Office of the Vice President concerning how to respond to Pincus.

9. On or about June 12, 2003, LIBBY was advised by the Vice President of the United States that Wilson’s wife worked at the Central Intelligence Agency in the Counterproliferation Division. LIBBY understood that the Vice President had learned this information from the CIA.

Yes, these are tea leaves... but they are tea leaves in an indictment. More machinations and Robert Novak's "no partisan gunslinger":

21. On or about July 10 or July 11, 2003, LIBBY spoke to a senior official in the White House (“Official A”) who advised LIBBY of a conversation Official A had earlier that week with columnist Robert Novak in which Wilson’s wife was discussed as a CIA employee involved in Wilson’s trip. LIBBY was advised by Official A that Novak would be writing a story about Wilson’s wife.

22. On or about July 12, 2003, LIBBY flew with the Vice President and others to and from Norfolk, Virginia, on Air Force Two. On his return trip, LIBBY discussed with other officials aboard the plane what LIBBY should say in response to certain pending media inquiries, including questions from Time reporter Matthew Cooper.

Placing all of this into context -- including what the National Journal broke yesterday about Libby and Cheney withholding documents from a Senate investigation, a potential firestorm in and of itself -- will be a long task. Many better suited than I are no doubt hard at work on it. I will do my best over the coming days to write more.

If you want to track the latest on the indictment in the blogosphere, here is the link for the Technorati of the .pdf link.

One GOP reax I can find now is from Congressman Jack Kingston via his diary:

WARNER ROBINS, GA--U.S. Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA), the vice-chairman of the House Republican Conference, released the following statement while aboard Air Force II with Vice President Dick Cheney in Warner Robins, GA:

"Mr. Libby's resignation is appropriate. The court can now decide the facts of the case. An indictment is not a statement of guilt, but simply outlines the case for the prosecutor. Keep in mind that we have not heard Mr. Libby's side of this story.

"Furthermore, the Vice President and the White House can now move forward. The Vice President has a capable staff of professionals that will step up to the plate.

"It's significant that the indictment does not mention the outing of Valerie Plame. It appears that after two years of investigation, Mr. Fitzgerald does not agree with the administration's critics that her situation is what this is all about."

Five counts and this is the response? It will be interesting to see how this counter to Fitzgerald plays out with the public. One hunch I am willing to launch into cyberspace is that Scooter's quick resignation was conducted after a White House lawyer read the indictment and thought it strong enough to potentially sway a jury.

The indictment

Scooter scoots

MSNBC reports that Libby has resigned.

Scooter indicted

Scooter Libby, the chief of staff for VP Cheney, has been indicted on multiple counts. CNN:

> BREAKING NEWS Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, indicted by grand jury on charges of obstruction of justice, making false statements and perjury in CIA leak probe.

I'd expect .pdfs of the indictment to be available soon on Fitzgerald's DOJ site.

Cheney and Libby are perhaps the most powerful members to serve in the Vice President's office in the history of the country.

Reports state that Rove is not in the clear.

Morning copy 10.28.2005

Scooter and Karl

David Johnston and Richard Stevenson have their second big scoop of the week in the New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27 - Lawyers in the C.I.A. leak case said Thursday that they expected I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, to be indicted on Friday, charged with making false statements to the grand jury.

Karl Rove, President Bush's senior adviser and deputy chief of staff, will not be charged on Friday, but will remain under investigation, people briefed officially about the case said. As a result, they said, the special counsel in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, was likely to extend the term of the federal grand jury beyond its scheduled expiration on Friday.

Jim VandeHei and Carol D. Leonnig in the Washington Post have this:

Two sources said I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, was shopping for a white-collar criminal lawyer amid expectations of those close to the case that he might be indicted for providing false statements or other charges.

Miers withdraws

The Los Angeles Times has an array of articles about Miers.

Analysis by Ronald Brownstein:

The selection of a nominee with a clear conservative record — such as federal appellate court judges J. Michael Luttig, Priscilla R. Owen or Edith H. Jones — would meet the right's demand for a confirmation fight with Democrats that would energize the conservative grass roots.

But at a time when Bush's approval ratings among independents have fallen to the lowest point of his presidency, a polarizing fight to fill the seat of moderate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor could further narrow the president's appeal.

News report by Maura Reynolds:

But a source close to the White House said that when Miers learned that her nomination was not being received favorably by senators, she offered to step aside.

"Harriet, being a good soldier, knows the president would never ask her on his own to withdraw," the source said. "So she saluted and fell on her sword."

More news by Janet Hook and Peter Wallsten:

The broad conservative movement, which includes evangelicals and economic and intellectual conservatives, is "only going to be emboldened by getting Harriet Miers' scalp," said Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster. "They stared down the White House and won."

The message was clear to ambitious Republicans who wish to succeed Bush in the White House: With the exception of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), senators aspiring to run for president were among those asking the most skeptical questions about Miers.

Conservatives also sent a message to the White House to be more attentive to the party's right flank during Bush's three remaining years in office, said David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union. "If they want the conservatives to play on their team, they have to treat them like members of the team rather than outsiders," Keene said.

The editorial page:

The day after Miers' nomination was announced, we wrote that presidents should deviate from the norm of picking sitting judges for Supreme Court openings only in extraordinary circumstances — for a leading legal scholar, say, or a thoughtful politician. Bush deviated from the norm to pick a buddy from Texas, a corporate lawyer and White House insider with a thin resume. The last few weeks made it painfully clear that her resume wasn't lying.

Bush's stance on Miers' withdrawal is a sack of lies, as the Cunning Realist notes. In the Christian Science Monitor we see the real reason for the defeat of this nominee (besides Bush's incompetence):

But the fierce opposition from some of Bush's usually loyal conservative supporters - opening up a rare fissure in the Republican coalition - was just as central to Miers's withdrawal, analysts say.

"It was the intellectual elite of the conservative movement that expressed the most concern, not the religious conservatives or the business conservatives," says Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, in Virginia.

"It may give them more power to dictate the next nominee. Do they get a veto? Or does it mean you do a better sell job, like they did on Roberts," he adds, referring to the new chief justice, John Roberts. "But [the selling of Roberts] took them a year."

Opinion Journal on Miers:

The best way Mr. Bush can counter the "capitulation" charges is to show that he's not afraid of a political fight. He said yesterday that he will act quickly to name a new nominee, and we hope he'll select someone who can't be challenged on grounds of credentials--even if it means a Senate battle over judicial philosophy. There is a long list of candidates who, like John Roberts, fit that description. No one should get an automatic veto because he or she once said or wrote something potentially controversial on abortion or some other subject.

The Hill highlights some brief reactions from Senators:

"She seemed like a decent, honorable woman who got put in a horrible spot and got whipsawed by the religious right," said Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), a former Judiciary Committee chairman who sits on the panel.

The miscalculations in the Washington Post:

By nearly all accounts, the 24 days of the Miers nomination was hobbled by a succession of miscalculations. President Bush bypassed his own selection process to pick Miers, his onetime personal lawyer and White House counsel since February. His aides ignored warnings by some of the administration's closest conservative allies that she would prove difficult to confirm, and took for granted that its base would ultimately stick with the president.

Looks like another bubble to me.

The Presidency

Thomas DeFrank in the New York Daily News has a bunch of interesting, blind quotes today:

At the very least, several Bush sources said, that means a dramatic White House staff shakeup, not just a shuffling of his current cast of burned-out handlers, some of whom are more loyal than capable.

Asked what Bush's first personnel move should be, a GOP strategist with close ties to the White House shot back:

"Make Colin Powell chief of staff. He's enough of a soldier to say yes."

Just making such a gesture to the popular general who tired of sparring with Vice President Cheney and the neocons would send an unmistakable message that the President understands just how difficult a rebuilding task he faces.

I am inclined to think that Bush will just reshuffle the deck. Bringing Powell in would be a masterstroke, but this president does not have it in him.

More prominent GOPers are calling for a staff shake up, in the New York Times:

Some scholars and Republican elders say it is now time for Mr. Bush to do what Ronald Reagan did when the Iran-contra scandal threatened to derail his second term: shake up the White House staff, retool his domestic and foreign policy agenda and move on. But most say they see few signs that Mr. Bush intends to do so.

"Assume there are several indictments," said Richard Norton Smith, the head of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Ill., and a biographer of several prominent Republicans.

"The question becomes: Is there a Howard Baker moment?" Mr. Smith added, referring to the former Tennessee senator whom Mr. Reagan tapped as chief of staff to clean house. "And if there's a Howard Baker moment, who's Howard Baker? There aren't as many 'wise men' around Washington as there were 20 years ago."

Dan Balz and Juliet Eilperin examine the weakened presidency in the Washington Post:

Twenty-four excruciating days later, the supposed safe choice crashed, exposing the president as even weaker than before.

Bush now has an opportunity to recover from one of the biggest political miscalculations of his term, the failure to anticipate the backlash Miers would cause with his own conservative base. But in repairing that breach, he risks a new confrontation with Democrats and further estrangement from the political center -- precisely the situation he hoped to avoid when he tapped his loyal and unassuming personal lawyer in the first place.

I guess you could argue that Miers was a "weakness" choice, but I think it had more to do with Bush going with his gut. Further, some GOPer warned that Miers would be a tough pick to confirm. Staff shake up is necessary, for the good of the country. Add that to Bush's full plate.


23,000 more U.S. troops are in Iraq, Los Angeles Times.

Sunnis are forming a political alliance and now so are the Shiite. Washington Post:

The agreement was reached after the Shiite alliance reportedly had been on the verge of splintering in recent days. The two parties that control Iraq's transitional government -- Dawa, led by Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari, and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq -- will now work with political affiliates of Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr. Sadr has a strong following among young, poor Shiites, but until recently he had rejected politics and referred to the last elections as illegitimate because of the U.S. occupation.

Dawa, Sadr and SCIRI. If you have the time, read Rory Stewart's history of these three movements. They once splintered and have now reformed albeit tentatively.

The Sunnis are turning to Iyad Allawi, according to the Los Angeles Times:

But Ahmed Hussein, a Falloujan businessman whose family was among the displaced, didn't take the siege personally because Allawi, who is a secular Shiite Muslim, also approved an assault on the predominantly Shiite holy city of Najaf to put down a rebellion there.

"After seeing the current government, I think Iyad Allawi is much better," Hussein said. "He never distinguished between Sunnis and Shiites. He just cared about security."

That could be an appealing message.

Juan Cole in Salon writes about the cabal who brought us to war:

"Cheney Assembles Formidable Team," marveled a Page One article in the Feb. 3, 2001, edition of the New York Times. It turns out that Cheney had 15 military and political advisors on foreign affairs, at a time when the president's own National Security Council was being downsized. The number of aides who counseled Cheney on domestic issues was much smaller. In contrast, Al Gore had been advised by a single staffer on security affairs.

The leader of the team was Libby, Cheney's chief of staff. Libby had studied at Yale with Paul Wolfowitz, who brought him to Washington. He co-authored a hawkish policy document with Wolfowitz in the Department of Defense for its head, Dick Cheney, after the Gulf War in 1992. When it was leaked, it embarrassed the first President Bush. Libby was a founding member of the Project for a New American Century in 1997 during the Clinton years, when many neoconservatives were out of office. The PNAC attempted to use the Republican-dominated Congress to pressure Clinton to take a more belligerent stance toward Iraq, and it advocated significantly expanding military spending and using U.S. troops as "gendarmes" in the aftermath of wars to "shape" the international security environment.

That cabal is just starting to crack. The National Journal reported online yesterday that Libby and Cheney withheld documents from the Senate about pre-war intelligence.

Volcker's report

The distinguished former FEC chairman has released his report on the oil-for-food scandal. In the present climate, anything about Saddam, Iraq, the U.N., Russia, France and MP Galloway is certain to get a dose of spin. The Times of London:

Saddam Hussein received $1.8 billion in bribes from more than 2,200 companies in the scramble for lucrative contracts under the United Nation's Oil-for-Food programme, investigators claimed today.

Russia harboured the most companies involved in the programme, followed by France, according to the inquiry led by Paul Volcker, a former chairman of the US Federal Reserve Board.

Many of the firms which benefited were obscure front companies which had been set up specifically to manipulate the UN programme. But the report also includes major names, including Volvo, Siemens and DaimlerChrysler.

Mr Volcker emphasised that because of the complex nature of Oil-for-Food, these may not have known that they were involved in a corrupt scheme.

George Galloway MP is named among four "political beneficiaries". The report says he directly and indirectly received allocations of 18 million barrels in total. He denies the allegation.

Hurricane relief

The American Red Cross has to take out large loans, the first time in its history, New York Times.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Los Angeles Times:

With a new poll showing his ballot agenda in jeopardy, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday made a sharp strategic shift just 12 days before the election, releasing a new television ad in which he concedes shortcomings on the job.

"I've had a lot to learn, and sometimes I learned the hard way," he says in the 30-second spot, which features the governor speaking directly to the camera. "But my heart is in this, and I want to do right by you."

Bush fundraising indictments


TOLEDO, Ohio — A coin dealer and major GOP donor at the center of a scandal in Ohio state government was charged Thursday with illegally funneling $45,400 in contributions to President Bush's reelection.

Tom Noe was accused in a federal indictment of giving money directly or indirectly to 24 friends and associates, who then made the campaign contributions in their own names. In that way, he skirted the $2,000 limit on individual contributions, prosecutors said.

Georgia ID cards for voters

A controversial (read: horrible, wrong, stupid) law requiring voters in Georgia to have an ID before they can vote (read: polltax) from the Los Angeles Times:

Under the law, voters would have to show either a driver's license or a state-issued photo ID, which can cost as much as $35.

Budget cuts

Fiscal conservative pull shows its strength in the latest cuts from the Congress. CNN/AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Republicans voted to cut student loan subsidies, child support enforcement and aid to firms hurt by unfair trade practices as various committees scrambled to piece together $50 billion in budget cuts.

More politically difficult votes -- to cut Medicaid, food stamps and farm subsidies -- are on tap Thursday as more panels weigh in on the bill.

Film industry

Los Angeles Times: M. Night Shyamalan warns that the end of the movie theater is nigh. But a sudden and predictable plot twist will save the day.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Cheney and Libby withheld documents from Senate probe

The National Journal in an online exclusive tonight:

The new information that Cheney and Libby blocked information to the Senate Intelligence Committee further underscores the central role played by the vice president's office in trying to blunt criticism that the Bush administration exaggerated intelligence data to make the case to go to war.

This does not appear to be linked to the investigation by Patrick Fitzgerald (though I had to skim this story to get it up before I leave for the evening). More:

Had the withheld information been turned over, according to administration and congressional sources, it likely would have shifted a portion of the blame away from the intelligence agencies to the Bush administration as to who was responsible for the erroneous information being presented to the American public, Congress, and the international community.

In April 2004, the Intelligence Committee released a report that concluded that "much of the information provided or cleared by the Central Intelligence Agency for inclusion in Secretary Powell's [United Nation's] speech was overstated, misleading, or incorrect."

This is what we get with an administration on permanent campaign mode. They will get something too, don't worry...

How to take back the news cycle, by Harriet Miers

Statement by the president.

Letter by Miers.

Fred Barbash in the Washington Post:

In announcing the decision, Miers and President Bush cited their concern with the requests of members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for documents dealing with her work as White House Counsel that the administration has chosen to withhold as privileged.

But the Miers nomination to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was in deep trouble, with little support in the Senate, open criticism from many Senators of both parties, and an outpouring of opposition from conservative activists and intellectuals.

Miers told the president in a letter of withdrawal that she was "concerned that the confirmation process presents a burden for the White House and our staff that is not in the best interests of the country."

The truth is this was a profound miscalculation by the president -- and a stern warning to anyone with '08 ambitions an an inclination to hoodwink their GOP bases, both of them.

Miers' withdrawal should have been conducted earlier, from the president's perspective, because the longer it takes to get a nominee in O'Connor's seat the more time Sandra Day has to adjudicate.

Nothing from David Frum, yet.

Morning Copy 10.27.2005

CIA Leak investigation

Friday. (???)

The Washington Post's Carol D. Leonnig and Jim VandeHei lede with:

The prosecutor in the CIA leak investigation presented a summary of his case to a federal grand jury yesterday and is expected to announce a final decision on charges in the two-year-long probe tomorrow, according to people familiar with the case.

"People". Plural. Not "Lawyers familiar".

But after grand jurors left the federal courthouse before noon yesterday, it was unclear whether Fitzgerald had spelled out the criminal charges he might ask them to consider, or whether he had asked them to vote on any proposed indictments. Fitzgerald's legal team did not present the results of a grand jury vote to the court yesterday, which he is required to do within days of such a vote.

The New York Times' David Johnston and Richard Stevenson:

The grand jury deliberations and the special prosecutor's meeting with the judge ratcheted up fears among officials that Mr. Fitzgerald might have obtained an indictment from the grand jury, and was requesting that it be sealed. He could also seek an extension of the grand jury's term, which expires on Friday. Randall Samborn, a spokesman for Mr. Fitzgerald, would not comment on the case.

But the Washington Post story above says that the panel cannot be extended.

Mark Leibovich in the Washington Post has my favorite paragraphs:

You know it's a screwy week in Washington when presidential spokesman Scott McClellan so perfectly sums up the gestalt of the town -- albeit in that banal, totally unrevealing way of his:

"There's a lot of speculation going around," McClellan said in his White House briefing yesterday. "And I think there are a lot of facts that are not known at this point."

The Los Angeles Times on the above Tea Leaves:

The sealing of indictments is an action generally confined to cases where defendants are considered flight risks, or where the government is seeking to use them as leverage to gain the cooperation of defendants — especially in violent crime and drug cases.

But lawyers close to the CIA leak case said that it would not be unusual for Fitzgerald to seal an indictment for a brief period to give notice to the people indicted, and to make arrangements for their surrender to authorities. It also would give the prosecutor the opportunity to simultaneously announce a series of indictments obtained at different times, they pointed out.

The Los Angeles Times on the White House's post-indictment plans (if):

The basic plan is familiar to anyone who has watched earlier presidents contend with scandal: Keep the problem at arm's length, let allies outside the White House do the talking, and try to change the subject to something — anything — else.

The White House doesn't plan to attack Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the CIA leak investigation — at least not directly, several GOP officials said. Instead, expect Bush to unveil a flurry of proposals on subjects from immigration and tax reform to Arab-Israeli peace talks.

The Boston Globe covers the neighbors:

WASHINGTON -- David and Victoria Tillotson knew Valerie Plame as a neighbor and friend for more than five years. Plame was, the Tillotsons believed, an international economic consultant, taking occasional trips abroad while looking after her young children in an upper-class enclave of Northwest Washington.

Harriet Miers

The Washington Times:

The nation's largest conservative women's group yesterday called for the withdrawal of the Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination as The Washington Times learned that a key promoter of the nomination had suddenly quit the White House lobbying effort.

Leonard A. Leo, who had been on leave from the Federalist Society to be chief conduit between the White House and conservatives, said last night that he has returned to his full-time job as executive vice president of the conservative legal group.

The move, which surprised even Republicans working closely with Mr. Leo, came as the Concerned Women for America called for the nomination to be withdrawn in part because of reports of a 1993 speech in which Miss Miers appeared to agree with some of the grounds for the legal right to abortion.

A "notable edge" to Arlen Specter's letter in the Los Angeles Times:

The nomination process has also been hampered by a lack of enthusiasm even from White House allies. One of them, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, sent Miers a letter Wednesday listing 10 questions he planned to ask during the confirmation hearing, most of which concerned treatment of terrorist detainees and limits on executive branch authority.

"What assurances can you give the Senate and the American people that you will be independent, if confirmed, and not give President Bush any special deference on any matter involving him which might come before the court?" Specter asked in the letter.

A lot of these stories are basically the same. The Washington Post has:

Tony Perkins, the head of the influential Family Research Council, stopped short of opposing Miers's nomination outright but made clear his doubts were rising. The speeches "certainly tend to lean toward judicial activism," Perkins said.

In 1993, while she was president of the Texas Bar, Miers gave a speech titled "Women and Courage" during confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Miers praised both the nominee's courage and her selection by President Bill Clinton.

Jonathan Allen in the Hill notes this:

Whatever Specter’s intention, the letter served to deflect some attention temporarily away from intensifying efforts among conservatives, who regard Miers as unqualified, to persuade President Bush to withdraw her name from consideration or to persuade the nominee herself to back out.


I wonder if Senator Russ Feingold is upset that Senator John Kerry has taken his line: out by 2006. Both harbor political ambitions in 2008. I can't stand the latter.

The New Sunni Jihad: 'A Time for Politics'

That is the headline from the Washington Post:

"It is a new jihad," said Abu Theeb, a nom de guerre that means "Father of the Wolf," addressing a young nephew one night before the vote. "There is a time for fighting, and a time for politics."

For Abu Theeb and many other Iraqi insurgents, this canvassing marked a fundamental shift in strategy, and one that would separate them from foreign-born fighters such as Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Jordanian who leads the group al Qaeda in Iraq.

This entire article is amust-read, but here is another excerpt (an imperfect excerpt):

But many fundamentalist Sunnis object to al Qaeda's rigid interpretation of Islamic law. Taliban-style Islamic justice already is being enforced in the western Iraqi cities and towns under Zarqawi's control.

"Al Qaeda believes that anyone who doesn't follow the Koran literally is a kafir and should be killed," explained Abu Theeb, using a term for apostate, or a believer who abandons the faith. "This is wrong. We can't take Islamic theory from the time of the prophet and implement the same rules in the 21st century."

Abu Theeb argues that al Qaeda in Iraq's religious views stand to alienate not only Iraqi nationalists but supporters in Syria and other Persian Gulf countries.

More importantly, al Qaeda's war on Shiite civilians-- it has bombed mosques, buses and other places where Shiites gather -- is drawing the wrath of Iraqi government security forces and Shiite militias.

I have asked this before: How will Moqtada al Sadr fit into this?

The Christian Science Monitor on a similar story:

Still, the coalition is engaging in a political high-wire act. They have to rally Sunnis to vote - but gain their support without appearing to bow to pressure from the Shiite-led Iraqi government or the US that has encouraged Sunni participation.

"Any Sunni participation is better than boycotting, to say nothing of intimidating people" away from participating, says Phebe Marr, an Iraq expert at the US Institute of Peace. But "this process seems to be increasingly based on ethnic and sectarian identity. One of the things we should be encouraging is parties of interest, parties that can work across ethnic and sectarian lines."


John Kifner's lede in the New York Times:

Lebanon is facing an "increasing influx of weaponry and personnel from Syria" to Palestinian militia groups, a United Nations report said yesterday.


The situation remains "volatile," the report warned, citing "a number of worrying developments affecting the stability of Lebanon, particularly in the form of terrorist acts and the illegal transfer of arms and people across the borders into Lebanon."

While couched in diplomatic language, the report's clear implication that the Palestinian groups were acting at the behest of Syria appeared certain to increase pressure building against Damascus in the Security Council. The Council's special investigator issued a report last week saying the slaying of Mr. Hariri had been plotted by top-ranking Syrian and Lebanese intelligence officers, including the powerful brother-in-law of President Bashar al-Assad.

But the Los Angeles Times has:

DAMASCUS, Syria — A top legal advisor to the Syrian government signaled Wednesday that his nation would cooperate with an inquiry into the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister, though he harshly criticized a United Nations investigator for bringing Syria to the brink of international sanctions.

Disaster relief

There is a lot of news today but we cannot forget Katrina's victims. The Los Angeles Times:

"I said to the FEMA guy, if you can't bring me my trailer, just bring me a .38 and a bullet," she said.

Nearly two months after Hurricane Katrina passed over the Gulf Coast, stretches of east Biloxi resemble shantytowns.

In the Point Cadet neighborhood, known as "the Point," hundreds of people are sleeping on the ground beside the rubble of their homes, living in tents that poke out from piles of debris.

The Miami Herald on the problems in Florida:

In the absence of power, many residents focused on other precious commodities: water, ice and gas.

After a day of frustration over late-arriving ice deliveries, emergency officials reported slow but steady distribution around the region Wednesday.

Governor Jeb Bush:

"We did not perform to where we want to be," the governor said at a news conference Wednesday in Tallahassee, adding that criticism of the federal response was misdirected. "This is our responsibility."

Winter 2005-2006

How cold will this winter be? How much will it cost to heat a house? How will it affect the poor? The Boston Globe:

MANCHESTER, N.H. --With home heating costs on the rise, two programs that help the poor pay their gas and electric bills in New Hampshire have run out of money.

Meanwhile, the Senate on Wednesday voted agaisnt increased spending for the federal home heating program, saying the money wasn't there.

U.S. agribusinesses and famine

The one Bush policy I support is also supported by Christopher B. Barrett and Daniel G. Maxwell in the Los Angeles Times:

The international humanitarian community has internalized the principle of the golden hour: Rapid response is essential.

Government policy nonetheless stands in the way. In 2000, the average delay in delivering emergency food aid — the time between a formal, bureaucratic request and port delivery in the affected country — was nearly five months, because current rules require all U.S. food aid to be grown in and shipped from the United States. Meanwhile, a child dies every five seconds from hunger-related causes.

Blogospheres of influence

The Christian Science Monitor:

WASHINGTON – Beltway politicos, famously slow to adopt technology, are wooing blogs - all but Trent Lott.

"Bloggers claim I was their first pelt, and I believe that. I'll never read a blog," says the former Senate majority leader, who forfeited that title after bloggers Joshua Micah Marshall and Glenn Reynolds picked up a racially charged remark, drawing the attention of mainstream media (MSM) and his Senate colleagues.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The White House and The Onion

Image hosted by

This is a wonderful battle to pick right now. CNN/Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The White House is not amused by The Onion, a newspaper that often spoofs the Bush administration, and has asked it to stop using the presidential seal on its Web site.

The seal was still on the Web site on Tuesday at the spot where President George W. Bush's weekly radio address is parodied.

To seal or not to seal

UPDATE (1930 Eastern): this was posted on TWN last evening. So, this source has been debunked. Why? No indictments were filed today ("sealed ... filed tomorrow"). David Shuster says an NBC producer was in the magistrate's office all day to look for even a sealed indictment. Didn't happen.

BUT: Fitzgerald met with a judge, CNN:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The federal grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA operative's identity adjourned Wednesday afternoon and Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald made no public announcement of any action.

But Fitzgerald met with U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan, the chief judge of the District of Columbia, for about 45 minutes after the grand jury met, a court official told CNN.

"I can confirm a meeting took place in the chief judge's chambers after the grand jury met today," court spokesman Sheldon Snook said. He declined to say what they talked about.

Shuster offered three reasons to visit that judge. 1. Extend the grand jury. 2. Ask permission to indict under seal (which could bring TWN's uber-source back to life) or 3. Ask for a meeting day not scheduled (Thursday).

The above is in reference to what I published at 1800 Eastern. Please continue reading for that post.

Here's what The Washington Note says:

An uber-insider source has just reported the following to TWN (since confirmed by another independent source):

1. 1-5 indictments are being issued. The source feels that it will be towards the higher end.

2. The targets of indictment have already received their letters.

3. The indictments will be sealed indictments and "filed" tomorrow.

4. A press conference is being scheduled for Thursday.

The shoe is dropping.

More soon.

-- Steve Clemons

The attribution "uber-insider" is hardly a great sourcing for this story. There are a few reasons to doubt this source. But a few reasons to think it plausible.

DOUBT: Why the massive range of possible indictments? It would be one thing to report a plural (2+) indictments, but a range is suspicious.

DOUBT: I mean, this isn't exactly the Drudge Report, you know? On a matter like this, we must be weary of speculation -- even honest speculation from a decent source -- conveyed as certainty.

PLAUSIBLE: If Fitzgerald had indicted someone who had not received a target letter, the sealing process could afford that person a day to prepare for their public reaction and to level the playing field among the indicted (all receiving target letters). But statement number 2 leads one to believe that they all had their letters, so why the delay?

Does Fitzgerald want to cool the press for a day? Is statement 2 poorly written? Have indicted members requested a delay for the sake of the country?

Or is this report just bull?

PLAUSIBLE: (The indictments happened, nothing about The Washington Note) there were a lot of reports about details gathered by FBI agents. Those neighbors quoted in the press have provided details conducive to an indictment.

We'll know about this uber source tomorrow. One thing to ask yourself about the first point (1-5) is who would receive only an estimate? Maybe a webdesigner.

A LOT more people know what is going on today insofar as indictments than at the beginning of the day. There are a whole new set of Tea Leaves out there.

Who was the source(s?) who told ABC, CNN, AP etc. etc. that there would be no announcement from Fitzgerald today. The AP reported the source as someone in the Justice department:

A Justice Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of the grand jury probe, said no announcement was expected Wednesday by Fitzgerald.

That's no "lawyer familiar with the case" my friends. That could very well be a link to Fitzgerald trying to blow the media back for a day (or more).

How well does Fitzgerald make .pdfs, web pages and all that?

Tom DeLay (and Rick Gervais)

Former GOP Majority Leader Tom DeLay announced that thousands of dollars in donations to his legal defense fund were not reported or were understated. CNN:

He wrote officials that $20,850 contributed in 2000 and 2001 was not reported anywhere. Another $17,300 was included in the defense fund's quarterly report but not in DeLay's 2000 annual financial disclosure report -- a separate requirement.

Other donations were understated as totaling $2,800, when the figure should have been $4,450.

It was during that period that DeLay was the subject of several House ethics investigations.

I think it is now appropriate for me to announce my casting choice in an opera about Tom DeLay's legal woes. Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Rick Gervais as Tom DeLay!

Yes, this news deserved caps lock

ABC's The Note had this, and CNN has since confirmed:

ABC News' Jason Ryan has this guidance from a Justice Department official: NO ANNOUNCEMENT FROM FITZGERALD IS EXPECTED TODAY. (Though, it should be Noted, that it is possible that the grand jury could return an indictment today placed under seal — or there could be a myriad of non-announcement developments.)

CNN's report:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The federal grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA operative's identity could hand up charges as early as today, but Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is not expected to make any public announcements Wednesday, one source with knowledge of the probe told CNN.

Morning copy 10.26.2005

CIA Leak investigation

Whatever may happen today (or Friday) cannot be known by we bloggers. But, this is the environment within which whatever will happen will happen. CNN:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Only one in 10 Americans said they believe Bush administration officials did nothing illegal or unethical in connection with the leaking of a CIA operative's identity, according to a national poll released Tuesday.

Once again, Patrick Fitzgerald uses websites to post important documents and indictments.

All those FBI guys knocking on doors, in the Washington Post:

In a possible sign that Fitzgerald may seek to charge one or more officials with illegally disclosing Valerie Plame's CIA affiliation, FBI agents as recently as Monday night interviewed at least two people in her D.C. neighborhood. The agents were attempting to determine whether the neighbors knew that Plame worked for the CIA before she was unmasked with the help of senior Bush administration officials. Two neighbors said they told the FBI they had been surprised to learn she was a CIA operative.

The FBI interviews suggested the prosecutor wanted to show that Plame's status was covert, and that there was damage from the revelation that she worked at the CIA.

"Lawyers and others involved" tell the New York Times that the special counsel was looking into Karl Rove yesterday. Fitzgerald was in Washington -- where he said he would be for any announcements in this case.

The Los Angeles Times has a blind, but close, quote about these interesting machinations:

"It appeared to me the prosecutor was trying to button up any holes that were remaining," a lawyer familiar with the case said. The lawyer asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the ongoing inquiry.

Harriet Miers

David D. Kirkpatrick has a lede sure to raise editor's eyebrows:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25 - The drumbeat of doubt from Republican senators over the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet E. Miers grew louder Tuesday as several lawmakers, including a pivotal conservative on the Judiciary Committee, joined those expressing concerns about her selection.

THAT from the Grey Lady about a SCOTUS nominee? More:

"I am uneasy about where we are," said Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican on the Judiciary Committee who had so far expressed only support for the president's choice. "Some conservative people are concerned. That is pretty obvious."

Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, called Republican sentiment toward Ms. Miers's nomination "a question mark."

"There is an awful lot of Republican senators who are saying we are going to wait and see," he said.

Senator Norm Coleman, a Minnesota Republican in the political middle of his party, said he needed "to get a better feel for her intellectual capacity and judicial philosophy, core competence issues."

"I certainly go into this with concerns," Mr. Coleman said.

The Washington Post on the administration's attempt to boost Miers:

But the fact that presidential aides are considering the unorthodox tactic of having a court nominee speak publicly in advance of a Senate confirmation hearing is a sign of the concern surrounding the appointment, the sources said.

Miers' poll numbers are dropping, Bloomberg reports:

Americans oppose her confirmation by a margin of 43 percent to 42 percent.

Support for Miers has slipped since an earlier survey taken Oct. 13-16 when 44 percent said they favored confirmation and 36 percent opposed it. Both polls were conducted by the Gallup Organization for Cable News Network and USA Today.

The Grey Lady's lede was excessive. That doubt is mostly smart Senators not committing to a nomination that is shaky, at best. But, that doubt can reinforce itself. Miers is also unqualified, and the administration's errors with this nomination have an impact.

While all this is going on, Bush has ceded another Supreme Court term to Sandra Day O'Connor. Thanks, George! You are the Best.President.Ever.


The New York Times has an internal memo from the retail giant. The memo discusses ideas for lowering health care costs by hiring younger workers. Less money for 401ks is also mentioned. Wal-Mart closed yesterday at 45.39. Where will it go today?

President Bush gets some good news

The Hill:

For much of 2004 and 2005, Santorum was one of the president’s biggest boosters in the Keystone State, campaigning for him last year and spearheading his Social Security drive this year even as GOP aides were warning him to not to get involved.

No longer.

The senator publicly disagreed with the president’s handling of Social Security reform. Then he took a wait-and-see approach to Harriet Miers, Bush’s Supreme Court nominee.

Santorum, who is facing a tough reelection campaign in a state that has twice voted against Bush, dismisses talk that he’s running against the president.


The New York Times about U.S., France and Britain in the U.N.:

Under the terms of the resolution, Syria must take into custody and make available to the United Nations investigators officials and others whom they suspect of involvement in the killing. Failure to do so could make Syria liable to economic and diplomatic sanctions, the resolution said.

The torture question

The New York Times editorial:

President Bush's threat to veto the entire military budget over this issue was bizarre enough by itself, considering that the amendment has the support of more than two dozen former military leaders, including Colin Powell. They know that torture doesn't produce reliable intelligence and endangers Americans' lives.

But Mr. Cheney's proposal was even more ludicrous. It would give the president the power to allow government agencies outside the Defense Department (the administration has in mind the C.I.A.) to mistreat and torture prisoners as long as that behavior was part of "counterterrorism operations conducted abroad" and they were not American citizens. That would neatly legalize the illegal prisons the C.I.A. is said to be operating around the world and obviate the need for the torture outsourcing known as extraordinary rendition. It also raises disturbing questions about Iraq, which the Bush administration has falsely labeled a counterterrorism operation.

Mr. McCain was right to reject this absurd proposal. The House should reject it as well.

The tax man

The Hill:

The Hill identified at least eight lawmakers from the 41-member Ways and Means Committee — some 20 percent of the panel — who have been wrongly receiving the homestead exemption and a related tax cap. Those members are Johnson, Shaw, Foley and Doggett, as well as Reps. John Linder (R-Ga.), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), John Tanner (D-Tenn.) and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.). The Ways and Means Committee is responsible for writing federal tax laws.

After The Hill contacted the members in September, all but Tanner have changed their status and are paying tax adjustments as far back as 2000, depositing nearly $34,000 in the District’s coffers. A spokesman for Tanner said he too is planning to take steps to eliminate the credit.

A cursory review of the rest of the House’s tax records suggested that dozens of other lawmakers also could be receiving the tax break.


This is a very important story. The Christian Science Monitor reports on Russian and Chinese efforts to curtail U.S. influence in Asia. Excerpt:

An SCO summit last June demanded that the US set a timetable to remove the bases it put in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan with Moscow's acquiescence in the wake of 9/11. In July, Uzbek leader Islam Karimov ordered the US base at Karshi-Khanabad to evacuate by year's end.

But two recent visits to Kyrgyzstan by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appear to have secured the US lease on that country's Manas airbase indefinitely - albeit with a sharp rent increase.

"There is nothing to cheer about," says Mr. Cohen. "Washington has signaled to the Russians that we won't be seeking any new bases in Central Asia. Basically, we are doing nothing to counter the moves against us."

In joint maneuvers last August, Russian strategic bombers, submarines, and paratroopers staged a mock invasion of a "destabilized" far eastern region with Chinese troops. This month, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov proposed holding the first Indian-Chinese-Russian war games under SCO sponsorship. "In principle, this is possible," he said. "The SCO was formed as an organization to deal with security issues."

Should states like India and Iran join, the SCO's sway could spread into South Asia and the Middle East. "India sees observer status [in the SCO] as a steppingstone to full membership," says a Moscow-based Indian diplomat who asked not to be named. But he added that India, which has recently improved its relations with the US, does not want to send an anti-US message. "We would hope the Americans would understand our desire to be inside the SCO, rather than outside," he says.