Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Bush's latest major speech on Iraq

President George W. Bush's speech and strategy are both available on the White House's website.

The president's tone was confident and purposeful. His plan states a number of specifics. It remains overly idealistic and ignores the dangerous sectarian conflagration that may pit police against Sunnis in Iraq.

Issue: duration and nature of the conflict.
In the years ahead, you'll join them in the fight. Your service is needed, because our nation is engaged in a war that is being fought on many fronts -- from the streets of Western cities, to the mountains of Afghanistan, the islands of Southeast Asia and the Horn of Africa. This war is going to take many turns, and the enemy must be defeated on every battlefield. Yet the terrorists have made it clear that Iraq is the central front in their war against humanity, and so we must recognize Iraq as the central front in the war on terror.'
Issue: the combatants involved.
The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists and terrorists. The rejectionists are by far the largest group. These are ordinary Iraqis, mostly Sunni Arabs, who miss the privileged status they had under the regime of Saddam Hussein -- and they reject an Iraq in which they are no longer the dominant group.
Issue: the president's route to victory.
To achieve victory over such enemies, we are pursuing a comprehensive strategy in Iraq. Americans should have a clear understanding of this strategy -- how we look at the war, how we see the enemy, how we define victory, and what we're doing to achieve it. So today, we're releasing a document called the "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq." This is an unclassified version of the strategy we've been pursuing in Iraq, and it is posted on the White House website -- I urge all Americans to read it.

Reactions from Senators.

Russ Feingold:
In fact the booklet the administration released to accompany the President’s speech is described as a “…document [that] articulates the broad strategy the President set forth in 2003…” That alone makes it clear that the President seems more dug in than ever to the same old “stay the course” way of thinking. This is not a strategy, and it certainly is not a plan to complete the military mission in Iraq.
Bill Frist:
Some Democrats have been playing politics with the war in Iraq for partisan political gain. Today we saw real leadership. In his speech the president clearly and concisely laid out a plan for success in Iraq. He also highlighted the steady progress we are making in concert with the Iraqi people.
Carl Levin:
The President has thankfully dropped his "we-will-stay-the-course-as-long-as-we-are-needed" rhetoric, but he has replaced it with "we will stay as long as necessary to complete the mission." The mission is so broadly defined in his Strategy Paper – "Our mission in Iraq is to win the war" – that it will be hard to tell when we have achieved it.
Joe Biden:
This speech was a positive step. I hope it signifies new candor by the President on Iraq. He has a lot of work to do to regain the support of the American people.

The President did a better job laying out where we are and where we’re trying to go in Iraq, but failed to tell us how or when we’re going to get there.

And Howard Fineman.
With his new “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq,” the president isn’t really aiming for “victory” in the conventional sense. Nothing is “conventional” in a war against Islamist terrorists, and Iraq will remain a breeding ground for them regardless. Rather, Bush’s goal is to begin a draw down of our troops before next year’s Congressional elections. To do that, he needs the Dec. 15 election in Iraq to go well, with Sunni participation. Then the troop reductions can begin.

The weak “cut and run.” This president, nudged by Karl Rove, will trim and tiptoe. That way, White House advisors hope Bush can pay homage to the Cheney neocon vision and save his presidency at the same time.

Morning copy 11.30.2005

The war over the war in Iraq

Mark Mazzetti and Borzou Daragahi, in the Los Angeles Times, report that U.S. troops have authored news stories that are then placed in the Iraqi press:
Many of the articles are presented in the Iraqi press as unbiased news accounts written and reported by independent journalists. The stories trumpet the work of U.S. and Iraqi troops, denounce insurgents and tout U.S.-led efforts to rebuild the country.
This morning President George W. Bush will detail a document described as declassified and entitled the "National Security Strategy for Victory in Iraq".

The New York Times' report notes that "strategy for victory" was a catchphrase used by Don Rumsfeld recently and that the plan will look like:
The Pentagon now spends $6 billion a month to sustain the American military presence in Iraq. A senior administration official said Mr. Bush's ultimate goal, to which he assigned no schedule, is to move to a "smaller, more lethal" American force that "can be just as successful."
Two components of that smaller, more lethal force are the use of airpower, as reported this week in the New Yorker by Seymour Hersh, and military advisors working with Iraqi troops.

Note this nontimetable-timetable in Bloomberg News:
The reductions may begin as soon as April if there is improvement on the political and military fronts, said one administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity. Bush won't mention any starting point, and no administration official would speak on the record about expectations for when troops may be redeployed.
Los Angeles Times via the Seattle Times: Bush is taking a risk by relying on the Iraqi military:
But the experts also see a calculated risk being taken by the White House — that the highly suspect Iraqi military now can become the main protective force for the nascent government in Baghdad. That assessment is widely disputed by military specialists inside and outside the administration.
Howard LaFranchi, in the Christian Science Monitor, details the positive and negative aspects of the still reforming Iraqi force. On the positive side, the troops stand their ground and fight more efficiently than last year. However, there are concerns about their equipment, training and commitment to human rights.

My great fear is a Shiite controlled military and/or police creating a reactionary anti-government movement in al Anbar similar to the I.R.A. in Northern Ireland. One major component in "standing up" Iraqi units is that these units must be Iraqi in composition and in practice. Sectarian allied units will do the country more harm than good.

Dana Milbank, in the Washington Post, on Don Rumsfeld:
Last weekend, while other Americans were watching football and eating leftover turkey, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld ended the Iraqi insurgency.

It was easy, really: He declared that the insurgents would, henceforth, no longer be called insurgents.
The New York Daily News notes a slightly more concillatory tone from Hillary Clinton on her war vote:
"I take responsibility for my vote," she said, "and I, along with a majority of Americans, expect the President and his administration to take responsibility for the false assurances, faulty evidence and mismanagement of the war."
The media went overboard on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in declaring George W. Bush a deceased political animal. Republicans like Jon Kyl in Arizona and Marilyn Musgrave in Colorado are more than willing to have the president at a fundraiser and hitch their wagon to his star, Denver Post.

The Tennessean: A mounting toll in Iraq has some in Clarksville, Tennessee calling for a withdrawal:
With confirmation this week of the two most recent deaths, some residents of this superpatriotic town yesterday said enough is enough.

"Don't let any more of them young boys die. I say bring them home, bring them all home," said Sandy Meriwether, 64, chowing down on a favorite meal of white beans and cornbread at Frank's Hamburgers on North Second Street.
The Washington Post reports on the notion of withdrawal affecting Iraqis and troops:
"We all want the withdrawal," Nasir Abdul Karim, leader of Anbar province's Albu Rahad tribe, told scores of the armed Marines and Sunni sheiks, clerical leaders and other elders at the gathering Monday in Ramadi, 60 miles west of Baghdad. "We all believe it is an illegitimate occupation, and it is a legitimate resistance."

"We're committed to withdrawing," responded Brig. Gen. James L. Williams of the 2nd Marine Division, "as soon as we have strong units" in the Iraqi army to replace U.S.-led forces. "I understand the resistance," Williams added, commenting later that he was referring to the peaceful opposition to the U.S. presence in Iraq. "But you must understand we're military people. People who are shot at will shoot back."
More news...

In the interest of time (and me not being late for work) ledes.

Los Angeles Times:
SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, launching an overhaul of his administration, is poised to hire a former Democratic Party activist and high-ranking aide to Gray Davis as his new chief of staff, sources familiar with the negotiations said Tuesday.
The Hill:
Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) will soon relinquish many of his properties and his freedom after pleading guilty to charges of fraud and conspiracy, but he will keep his government pension and could retain the privileges enjoyed by other former members of Congress.
The Boston Globe:
WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice promised Germany's foreign minister yesterday that the United States would respond to a European Union inquiry into secret CIA prisons allegedly operating in Eastern Europe.
Corruption and the Congress

Bruce Bartlett in the Washington Times:
When Republicans no longer stand for any sort of principle, it becomes a simple matter to use power just to reward your friends or those with connections. Things like the Abramoff scandal are the logical consequences. A renewed commitment to principle is the best antidote.

In the words of conservative New York Post columnist John Podhoretz: "As is often the case when reformers take the reins of power, they've become mirror images of those they replaced. They've grown especially interested in rewarding their friends, punishing their enemies and using government power for their own narrow partisan ends."

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Dominique de Villepin and the Mid East

In an exclusive interview with CNN, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin may surprise you with what he has to say:
Asked if is true that Europe is ready to reopen negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, de Villepin said, "No. We have made an offer. And Iran has decided to resume the enrichment of uranium, the conversion of uranium, and I think it is very important now today to put pressure on Iran to make sure that they accept this offer. If they don't accept -- then we will have to go then to the Security Council."
And with Iraq:

As to whether the United States should withdraw its troops, the French prime minister said any withdrawal would have to be coordinated, taking into account "the situation on the ground" in Iraq.
Also, this from the AP this afternoon:
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's space agency is trying to snap up technology from abroad as fast as possible for its satellite program, fearing the West will seek to impose restrictions like those put on the Iranian nuclear program.

Iran has major ambitions in space, looking to show off its technological abilities, monitor its neighborhood -- where the United States has hundreds of thousands of troops -- and establish itself as a regional superpower.

Morning copy 11.29.2005

President George W. Bush wanted to shift the focus from Iraq to...

Illegal Immigration

So, Bush presented his immigration plan as a twofold strategy: a guest worker program and more border enforcement.

He may wish to shift the focus back to Iraq.

The conservative base is a bit upset, once again. The Washington Times has the following as the FIRST reaction quote to yesterday's speech:
The program would allow illegal aliens to remain in the United States for up to six years, which is anathema to conservatives.

"The president's plan is nothing more than a massive illegal alien amnesty on a six-year time delay," said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. "His temporary-worker program, which will be anything but temporary, is the death knell for America's middle class."
"President highlights reforms that his budget underfunded" headlines another Washington Times story on Bush's plan and features this reaction:
"Why now? We've had five years," said Steven A. Camarota, research director for the Center for Immigration Studies. "Why has it taken so long to get to an issue like this? And when he addresses it, he talks about things he himself doesn't support. He talks in vague generalities."
The Los Angeles Times:
Bush devoted the bulk of his 27-minute address to the law-and-order elements of his immigration reform agenda, and spent considerably less time discussing its guest worker provisions.

His tough talk on border security reflected a new push by his administration to respond to increasing public anxiety about the effects of illegal immigration and growing pressure within his own party to crack down on border crossings now and wrangle over guest workers later.
The AP story (via Chicago's Sun Times) has Harry Reid as the kicker:
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Bush should ''stand up to the right wing of your party and stand up for what is right'' by taking more than an enforcement-only approach to illegal immigration.

''Enforcement alone does not work,'' Reid said. ''Unless we address the gap between our immigration laws and reality, illegal immigration will not stop and the situation on the border will continue to be chaotic.''
The New York Times notes two interesting audience members:
In the audience were the two Arizona senators, both Republicans: John McCain, who has co-sponsored a plan to give participants in the guest worker program a path to citizenship, and Jon Kyl, who has co-sponsored a bill to deny temporary workers a path to citizenship.
Mark Krikorian gets the quote of the day in this New York Times story:
From opposite ends of the spectrum, Frank Sharry, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, which has supported amnesty for illegal immigrants, and Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates restricting immigration, said Mr. Bush's speech was more spin than substance.

"Instead of leading the country to bipartisan comprehensive reform," Mr. Sharry said, "he runs more of a danger of putting gasoline on the fire."

Mr. Krikorian, who opposes any temporary guest worker program, suggested that the speech would do nothing to placate the grass-roots backlash in Mr. Bush's party.

"The gimmicky nature of this is clear from the fact that they're kicking off next month as Border Security Month," he said. "It's frankly like National Pickle Week."

The Arizona Republic's editorial says that Bush tried to "walk the line" between business interests that benefit from cheap immigrant labor and the law enforcement faction of the GOP. The editorial says that the balance was good politics, and that the president did not side with one faction or the other -- though he did lean to the law and order crowd. However, the editorial's tone is not positive for the president:
Bush closed by pointing out how fortunate it is that Arizona's two senators are working on this issue.

Yes, it is good news that John McCain and Jon Kyl, for whom Bush hosted a fund-raising dinner Monday night, have immigration bills. They've shown leadership with two very different approaches. The president did not take a side.

That may be a good strategy for a politician, although immediate reaction to the speech suggests Bush failed to mollify the "enforcement only" faction of the party.

Nor did Bush satisfy the need for a leader to push for a real solution to the crisis along the border.
There is every reason to believe that Bush's policy -- if he could draft, pass and sign it into law -- would favor the business interests. Me thinks the president doth protest too much.

This plan has already generated more than 12,000 results in a Google Blog Search for Bush amnesty. Tammy Bruce says:
I have to stop there. The president is proposing amnesty no matter how much he denies it. Now, with the remarkable bald-faced pandering here, he thinks you're an empty headed red-neck who supports "vigilantes." This while he borows rhetoric from leftist pond-scum to make his point. This is lovely.
Another immigration debate centers on what it takes to be a citizen. The Investor's Business Daily agrees with Rep. Nathan Deal of Georgia:
The current interpretation of birthright citizenship may have been a huge mistake. And, given the burden illegal aliens have imposed on our welfare, educational, health care and legal systems, it may have been a very costly one.

Becoming a U.S. citizen should require more than your mother successfully sneaking past the U.S. Border Patrol.
Today, it is hard to see the GOP base agreeing on an immigration policy. It appears Bush will have to work hard to convince the right wing about this plan, or he can move to the center.

There is a great deal at stake with this immigration issue. Will it pass? Hard to say. Red state Republicans will have to face the elections in 2006 with this issue hotly contested. That will cost GOP votes. However, in the long term demographics of the United States, Latino votes can be swayed depending on which party provides the best policy in their eyes, so safe seat GOP members may be amicable to something close to amnesty.

The war over the war in Iraq

Two similar stories of import this morning. First, Solomon Moore in the Los Angeles Times:
In recent months, hundreds of bodies have been discovered in rivers, garbage dumps, sewage treatment facilities and alongside roads and in desert ravines. Many of them are thought to be victims of Sunni insurgents, who are known to target Shiite civilians and Iraqi security forces, and even Sunni Arabs believed to be collaborating with U.S. forces or the Iraqi government. But increasingly, the Shiite militias operating within the national police force are also suspected of committing atrocities.
And Dexter Filkins in the New York Times ledes with an ominous insinuation:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Nov. 28 - As the American military pushes the largely Shiite Iraqi security services into a larger role in combating the insurgency, evidence has begun to mount suggesting that the Iraqi forces are carrying out executions in predominantly Sunni neighborhoods.
Senator Joe Lieberman (D., Conn.) in the Wall Street Journal:
More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood--unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn.
The Hartford Courant on Senator Lieberman's optimistic tour of Iraq:
"We do have a strategy," he said. "We do have a plan. I saw a strategy that's being implemented."

Lieberman, who is one of Bush's strongest war supporters in the Senate, cited the remarks of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who last month told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the strategy in Iraq was to "clear, hold and build: to clear areas from insurgent control, to hold them securely and to build durable, national Iraqi institutions."
The Manchester Union Leader reports on a Londonderry, New Hampshire based Marine reserve company heading to Iraq.

Money in politics

Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R., Ca.) has plead guilty to bribery charges, Los Angeles Times. Arnold Schwarzenegger will have to announce a special election to replace Cunningham, he cannot appoint a replacement, Los Angeles Times.

Jeffrey H. Birnbaum has the following analysis in the Washington Post:
"I've been in town for 30 years, and it seems that every 10 years or so there is an episode of this type," said Jan W. Baran, a Republican ethics lawyer at Wiley Rein & Fielding. "We clearly are at that period now."

"It's gotten to a level that it can't be ignored anymore," agreed Stanley M. Brand, a criminal defense lawyer at Brand & Frulla who used to work for Democrats in Congress.
The issue has a bipartisan tone, according to the AP:
WASHINGTON Nov 29, 2005 — New evidence is emerging that the top Democrat on the Senate committee currently investigating Jack Abramoff got political money arranged by the lobbyist back in 2002 shortly after the lawmaker took action favorable to Abramoff's tribal clients.

A lawyer for the Louisiana Coushatta Indians told The Associated Press that Abramoff instructed the tribe to send $5,000 to Sen. Byron Dorgan's political group just three weeks after the North Dakota Democrat urged fellow senators to fund a tribal school program Abramoff's clients wanted to use.

Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation

"Diamond" Jim VandeHei in the Washington Post reports that Karl Rove's attorney believes testimony from TIME reporter Viveca Novak will help his client.


AP via ABC News:
TORONTO Nov 29, 2005 — Canadian politicians will hit the campaign trail this holiday season after opposition parties seized upon a corruption scandal to bring down the minority government of Prime Minister Paul Martin in a vote of no confidence.
CBC News reports that Martin will ask parliament to dissolve today.

Campaign 2006

President Bush continues to help Republicans raise money, AP via ABC News.

McCain-Romney in 2008?

Peter Canellos in the Boston Globe writes about "maverick" Senator McCain bucking the trend in GOP presidential politics. Canellos notes that the GOP usually nominates its presidential hopeful like a Moose Lodge would, with number two performing dutifully. However, McCain is no such animal. The conclusion:
McCain has also taken on some leaders of the religious right. But his positions on abortion and other social issues are acceptable enough to most conservatives.

And he is the next in line. Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, who shares McCain's campaign strategist, Michael Murphy, might be able to look forward to a McCain-Romney ticket. The two match up very well politically and geographically.

And most importantly, Romney would be first in line when the nomination comes open again.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Morning copy 11.28.2005

The war over the war in Iraq

The tense, high stakes trial of Saddam Hussein resumes today, New York Times. And will be delayed for a week.

Congressmen Tim Murphy and Jim Marshall were injured in a motorvehicle accident in Iraq, AP via NY Times.

The New York Daily News recaps a story in this week's New Yorker on George W. Bush's belief in the mission in Iraq. The president is impervious to bad news, reports the New Yorker. Seymour Hersch breaks a few stories in this report. Where is the war going?
A key element of the drawdown plans, not mentioned in the President’s public statements, is that the departing American troops will be replaced by American airpower. Quick, deadly strikes by U.S. warplanes are seen as a way to improve dramatically the combat capability of even the weakest Iraqi combat units. The danger, military experts have told me, is that, while the number of American casualties would decrease as ground troops are withdrawn, the over-all level of violence and the number of Iraqi fatalities would increase unless there are stringent controls over who bombs what.

And as for the NY Daily News story:
The former senior official said that after the election he made a lengthy inspection visit to Iraq and reported his findings to Bush in the White House: “I said to the President, ‘We’re not winning the war.’ And he asked, ‘Are we losing?’ I said, ‘Not yet.’ ” The President, he said, “appeared displeased” with that answer.

“I tried to tell him,” the former senior official said. “And he couldn’t hear it.”

On Meet the Press, Senator John Warner (R., Va.) suggested that President Bush should issue "fireside chats" about the status in Iraq, AP via ABC News.

Iraq war vet Maj. Ladda "Tammy" Duckworth may run for a hotly contested seat in the Illinois delegation to the U.S. Congress, Chicago Sun Times. Her views on the war are not known. She was wounded severely and is a Democrat.

The use of white phosphorus in Fallujah is detailed in the Los Angeles Times:
The Pentagon and other U.S. officials at first denied, and later admitted, that troops had used white phosphorus as a weapon against insurgents in Fallouja during that fiercely fought campaign. Its use became public because of questions raised by an Italian television documentary Nov. 8, which alleged that civilians had been targeted "indiscriminately" and that hundreds had died.

But even though U.S. officials have admitted using the substance against enemy fighters, they have denied the allegations of Fallouja residents such as Abdullah that its use was widespread and civilians were among those killed.

The curious case of Ramsey Clark joining Saddam's defense, the Washington Times.

Philip Dine of the St. Louis Post Dispatch dug up an interesting quote about the Iraq war debate:
"It's silly to tell the American people what they can debate. They are going to debate whatever they want," said James Carafano, military expert at the Heritage Foundation. "That's how democracies go to war, how they fight. We're still debating the Civil War."

Carafano, a 25-year Army veteran, also dismisses the administration's claim that such talk hurts troop morale.

"I think the notion that it undercuts the American will to fight is clearly overblown. That's a myth that comes from Vietnam," he said.

At the same time, Carafano agrees with Cheney that the administration is "being picked on unfairly" by its critics over the issue of prewar intelligence.

Two Canadian aid workers are held hostage in Iraq, Globe and Mail.

Hillary Clinton will have a minor challenger for the party nomination for U.S. Senator of New York. Her rival advocates an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, AP via the Boston Globe.

Marines from a battle weary Ohio battalion see signs of progress amid their losses in Iraq, the Chrsitian Science Monitor.

Border security

The president will try to augment the support he has from his base by pushing for border security. No doubt this is an effort to appear presidential and salvage some better poll numbers during the holiday season.

TIME magazine has the best political pun of the day: "Playing Both Sides of the Fence".

The Washington Times details how this will be a difficult balance:
President Bush today will call for a crackdown on illegal immigration, a move aimed at further rallying conservatives who recently cheered Mr. Bush's tough talk on Iraq and the Supreme Court.

But the president will also renew his call for a program to allow Mexicans who have already entered the U.S. illegally to remain here for up to six years. That initiative has long angered conservatives who equate it with amnesty.

The Los Angeles Times yesterday approached the issue of illegal immigration as a potential means to excite the GOP electorate but also one that could do harm:
WASHINGTON — Illegal immigration has emerged as a major issue in political campaigns around the country, adding an element of emotional intensity that Republicans hope will excite their conservative supporters — but that also threatens to split the party.

"In Russia we trust"

The Wall Street Journal is right to be skeptical of what Russo - Iranian negotiations may yield.

The auto industry

Ronald Brownstein in the Los Angeles Times says that the U.S government needs to jump start the American auto industry. Senator Barack Obama, (D., Ill.) has advanced a proposal that the government would help with worker healthcare if the auto makers were to produce more fuel efficient vehicles.

Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation

Another TIME reporter is to testify in the CIA Leak case. This is seen in the MSM as an indication that Karl Rove remains in legal trouble, as the upcoming testimony will involve what Rove's attorney was saying in 2004, AP via Washington Post.

Samuel Alito

Note these two grafs from Bloomberg News:
The risk for Democrats is that they may appear overzealous -- and politically impotent -- should Alito perform well at confirmation hearings scheduled to start Jan. 9, presenting himself as an open-minded and careful jurist who forthrightly explains his decisions.

``I don't think the public has been told anything about Alito that troubles them,'' says Jennifer Duffy, an analyst for the Washington-based, non-partisan Cook Political Report. If Democrats ``look like they're badgering him, if they look like they are trying to misrepresent him, I think that could be problematic,'' she says.


The Muslim Brotherhood has gained 29 seats in Egypt's parliament, AP via Post and Courier.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Sunday news

The war over the war in Iraq

Today featured a great interview of Senators Biden and Warner on Meet The Press. That link will take you to the transcript, which is a must read. What you cannot see in the transcript is Biden's wide eyed reaction to this comment:
SEN. WARNER: Joe, when I talked to Pace yesterday, he said one of the means with which we're going to maintain those force levels is what we call cross-training, taking certain segments of the Army and retraining them in 30 to 60 days to perform the basic fighting we see against the insurgents, take elements of the Guard, which might take a little longer. You know, artillery men can become infantry men, artillery men can become policemen.

SEN. BIDEN: Fundamental change.

SEN. WARNER: No, well, it may be a fundamental change. We certainly did it in World War II. We did it...

SEN. BIDEN: It's possible.

I also detected an audible sigh from Biden, I believe, when Warner refused to acknowledge that battalion commanders had asked for more troops repeatedly:
MR. RUSSERT: But, Senator, let me stop you there...


MR. RUSSERT: ...'cause this is an important point.


MR. RUSSERT: We have heard Secretary Rumsfeld say over and over and over again that he will give the men on the ground exactly what they ask for and he has never, never turned them down. It appears that your meeting with military officers indicates something much different. Is Secretary Rumsfeld being candid when he says that he has provided all the troops that his commanders on the ground have requested?

SEN. WARNER: The answer is yes. Again, I cannot comment on that meeting because I cannot continue to function with this committee if we don't have a measure of confidentiality. I told each of those officers when they came in there, "This is an off-the-record meeting." All senators present understood that, all staff, but it came out as a leak but I will not confirm it.

Back to Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld when asked this question I think gave a proper answer. And I've been associated with the men and women of the uniform of this country for many years as you well know. There isn't a young company commander, there isn't a lieutenant, there isn't a battalion commander who at times wishes he didn't have more people. But those requests go up, and in this instance, those requests were reviewed by senior officers. And Rumsfeld has to rely on the--General Abizaid, General Casey to make those evaluations. Each time they've asked for more individuals, he has sent them. The best example, we're up to 158,000, an increment of 20,000, to make sure the referendum was done under the best controlled circumstances.

Newsweek analyzes the shift in U.S. policy in Iraq:
Piece by painful piece, this is the new American plan for succeeding in Iraq—and, just as important, for getting out of Iraq. Move in, clear the area of insurgents, and then hold it with an increasing proportion of better-quality Iraqi troops. That will allow the benefits of peace and reconstruction to flow in. Military commanders say their old "whack-a-mole" approach—hitting towns to scatter insurgents, then moving on—will continue through the all-important Dec. 15 election for the first permanent Iraqi government. But a dramatic shift will take place in the new year, with U.S. forces trying to give more responsibility to their Iraqi counterparts.

Newsweek and the Boston Globe have stories on Iraqi war vets running as Democrats in 2006. The Fighting Dems.

The Los Angeles Times has a measured and thoughtful editorial:
Americans need to understand that we need help from other nations and are more likely to get it if we offer assistance as well. The longer suicide bombers devastate Iraq and U.S. troops die with little signs of progress, the greater will be the cry to withdraw no matter the result. The U.S. needs to tell Iraqis we will be gone before too much longer, although we won't yet say just when. And the administration needs to shore up its own credibility with Americans to maintain their support for this nation's engagement in world affairs.

The New York Times on the ascendancy of Moktada al-Sadr:
Even as that battle raged on Oct. 27, Mr. Sadr's aides in Baghdad were quietly closing a deal that would signal his official debut as a kingmaker in Iraqi politics, placing his handpicked candidates on the same slate - and on equal footing - with the Shiite governing parties in the December parliamentary elections. The country's rulers had come courting him, and he had forced them to meet his terms.

Wielding violence and political popularity as tools of his authority, Mr. Sadr, the Shiite cleric who has defied the American authorities here since the fall of Saddam Hussein, is cementing his role as one of Iraq's most powerful figures.

The Observer: Human rights abuses in Iraq have prompted a troubling comparison:
'People are doing the same as [in] Saddam's time and worse,' Ayad Allawi told The Observer. 'It is an appropriate comparison. People are remembering the days of Saddam. These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same things.'

The Observer on the Bush/Blair meeting last April:
The status of the now infamous five-page document concerning the meeting between Bush and Blair, on 16 April last year, has already reached mythic proportions among bloggers on the internet. It is the smoking gun to end all smoking guns, claim conspiracy theorists, who believe it details everything from an agreed date to pull the troops out, to plans to take the one-time rebel stronghold of Fallujah.

The one indisputable fact, though, is that part of the memo - 10 lines to be precise - concerns a conversation between Bush and Blair regarding Al Jazeera, the Arabic satellite television station that the US accuses of being a mouthpiece for al-Qaeda. According to those familiar with the memo's contents, Bush floated the idea of bombing the Qatar-based station. The Daily Mirror, which ran the story last Tuesday, claimed the Prime Minister talked Bush out of the plan.

As they attempted damage limitation last week, government officials suggested Bush's comments were nothing more than a joke. It was preposterous to suggest Bush would countenance such an idea, the officials said. The White House described the allegations as 'unfathomable' although according to those who have seen the memo 'there is no question Bush was serious.'

The Sunday Times of London has a story on the tracking of Arabic media up to Spring 2004:
In 2001, after the September 11 attacks, the Pentagon awarded the Rendon Group, a public affairs firm, a $16.7m contract to monitor media in the Islamic world. It was assigned to track “the location and use of Al-Jazeera news bureaux, reporters and stringers”, and was asked to “identify the biases of specific journalists and potentially obtain an understanding of their allegiances”.

The firm says that it did not go on to monitor Al-Jazeera. But the original contract suggests the Pentagon was interested in targeting the station and its journalists.

Katrina fatigue

The Houston Chronicle reports on the terrible suffering endured by the sick and elderly during and after Katrina.

The Boston Globe shows us that the tardy yet bold promises of our Commander in chief will not do much to change injustices that Katrina brought so clearly into view:
WASHINGTON -- Two months after President Bush promised to confront Gulf Coast poverty with ''bold action," the US government is moving on a far more narrow track to aid the hurricane-devastated region, focusing on pouring concrete rather than confronting the underlying race and poverty issues through Bush's ambitious proposals.

Republican Senate leader

The New York Times on Trent Lott's possible bid to take back party leadership in the Senate:
As he considers whether to run for re-election next year, Mr. Lott, Republican of Mississippi, is also dropping hints about a possible bid for a return to the Senate leadership. Democrats are enjoying the show. Some Republicans are cringing, but others are eyeing Mr. Lott with some appreciation.

Ohio Republicans

Robert Novak in the Sun Times reports that Tom DeLay's former job may soon have a permanent occupant:
There is no doubt Rep. John Boehner of Ohio is quietly enlisting support from fellow House Republicans to elect him as majority leader in January. The question is whether Rep. Tom Reynolds of New York is campaigning to be majority whip.

Newsweek and the Washington Post have stories on GOP ethics cases influencing 2006.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Saturday news

The war over the war in Iraq

Senator Joe Biden has an Op-Ed in the Washington Post calling for a timetable to withdraw from Iraq. He details a step by step political process as well.

Bryan Bender in the Boston Globe reports that "US and Iraqi leaders are pressing their military allies in Iraq to postpone withdrawing troops, warning against a pullout until the new government is capable of securing the country on its own."

Paul Richter and Tyler Marshall in the Los Angeles Times recap the week of withdrawal news:
"You've got the convergence of domestic pressures, Iraqi pressures and Pentagon [withdrawal] plans that have been in the works for a while," said the former official, who requested anonymity. "This is serious."

A senior U.S. official said that in signaling hopes for a large drawdown next year, Rice was only "stating the obvious" this week.

Abramoff, (Sc)Alito, Aliens

Susan Schmidt and James V. Grimaldi in the Washington Post:
The Justice Department's wide-ranging investigation of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff has entered a highly active phase as prosecutors are beginning to move on evidence pointing to possible corruption in Congress and executive branch agencies, lawyers involved in the case said.

David G. Savage in the Los Angeles Times:
During his 15 years as an appellate judge, President Bush's Supreme Court nominee has written decisions in favor of Muslim police officers in Newark, N.J., who wore beards; a Native American from Pennsylvania who raised sacred black bears; and a Jewish professor who said she was pushed out of her job for refusing to attend faculty events on Friday evenings and Saturdays, her Sabbath.

Stephen Dinan in the Washington Times:
A draft immigration bill from Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter calls for dramatic increases in legal immigration, far beyond any of the other major proposals now before Congress.

Friday, November 25, 2005

What they said and what they knew

Senators Levin and Reed have assembled some quotes from George W. Bush and members of his administration. One juxtaposition:

President Bush: “[Y]ou can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror.” - September 25, 2002, Photo Opportunity with President Uribe of Colombia
However, as early as 9/21/2001, the president was told in a PDB, recounted in the National Journal:

Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda, according to government records and current and former officials with firsthand knowledge of the matter.

Morning copy 11.25.2005

The war over the war in Iraq

Col. Mat Moten at West Point tells his cadets that they may be charged with rebuilding the army. The woes in men and materiel are explored in the USA Today:
A series of Pentagon and congressional reports show the bill for worn-out equipment is climbing, recruiting is suffering and stress has become a serious occupational hazard for U.S. troops.

In case you were under a rock last week, you can read about John Murtha on page 2 of today's Washington Post:
Last week, as Murtha prepared for his speech, he spoke to Pelosi, to whom he is close. According to aides who were privy to the conversation, she warned Murtha that "this is going to be a huge deal" and that people would "come after him." His reply: "I can handle it. I'm ready for anything."

In case you were under a rock for the last few months, page 1 of the Post outlines the two challenges George W. Bush faces:
That leads to the White House's most daunting political problem. Even if Iraq is someday viewed as a success -- and Bush's decision to try to make that country a democratic beacon in the Middle East seen as visionary -- it is an open question whether this proof can arrive during his presidency. Most military appraisals of Iraq foresee a long road of violence and instability ahead, as well as a substantial U.S. troop presence for the indefinite future.

The New York Times on Iraqi run prisons:
But the influx of new prisoners - the population of the four American-run prisons here has doubled over the past year, and Iraqi jails are packed - has overwhelmed the Iraqi authorities, rights groups say. And while the scandal in Abu Ghraib prison ushered in new reforms in American-run jails, the mushrooming Iraqi detention facilities operate virtually unchecked.

Iraq's Red Crescent relief organization has donated $1 million for Katrina relief, Washington Times.

Iran, Iran, Iran!!!

The Washington Times has two stories on Iran's nuclear program. The first is about U.S. intelligence agencies that are convinced Iran is pursuing nukes. The second story is about the European Union accusing Iran of the same.

Andrew Stuttaford at NRO's The Corner quotes liberally, ironic pun intended, from a Guardian op-ed on Iran. That op-ed concludes:
For every step we take to slow down the nuclearisation of Iran, we need another to speed up the democratisation of Iran. At every stage, we need to explain to the Iranian people, through satellite television, radio and the internet, what we are doing and why. Isfahan is not just the increasingly notorious location of a nuclear processing plant; it's also a beautiful city where many critical citizens live. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a reckless leader, but there are many other Mahmouds in Iran. We must listen to them. In the end, it's they, not we, who will change their country for the better.

Samuel "Scalito" Alito

The Washington Post on "reapportionment":
Those 20-year-old words are highly inflammatory to civil rights groups marshaling forces against President Bush's choice to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. But the White House and a key Republican ally this week were spreading the word that Alito has privately assured senators he has no intention of overturning the Warren Court's reapportionment precedents. Democrats, for their part, refuse to say what, if anything, Alito has told them on the subject.


The Los Angeles Times on the impact GOP buget cuts will have:
The bill includes provisions that, in California, would make it tougher to get child support from tens of thousands of deadbeat parents, would strip food stamps from legal immigrants, and would make less money available to doctors who treat low-income patients.

Amid pressure from Democrats in the Legislature, Schwarzenegger had sent an extensive letter to California's congressional delegation earlier this month, expressing concern about the proposal's impact on the state. Every California Republican in Congress voted for it nonetheless.


The first Thanksgiving was in Massachusetts, after all. The Boston Globe:
Blue laws? Huh?

That was the reaction at the Super 88 Market chain, whose six Boston-area supermarkets were open yesterday despite 17th-century legislation that prohibits large retail stores from operating on Thanksgiving.

Managers and employees contacted at five of the Super 88 stores said they knew nothing about the warnings issued by Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly last week telling retailers to stay closed on turkey day or face criminal charges. At the Quincy location on Hancock Street, they found out at 11:30 a.m. yesterday, when police, acting on a tip that the store was abuzz with customers, ordered it to close.

Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico, was never drafted by the Kansas City Athletics, AP.

Michael "Brownie" Brown -- who did a heck of a job with Katrina -- "is starting a disaster preparedness consulting firm to help clients avoid the sort of errors that cost him his job," AP.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Morning copy 11.24.2005

Happy Thanksgiving


A suicide bomber has killed 30 in Iraq, Washington Post.

Saddam's defense team has resumed work, under a U.S. brokered security deal, Los Angeles Times.

The assassination of prominent Sunni tribal leader, Sheik Kadhim Sarhid Hemaiyem, in the Los Angeles Times.

Mark Silva and Stephen J. Hedges in the Chicago Tribune on the hazards of V.P. Dick Cheney advocating policy:
Among Republicans, 80 percent in a Nov. 11-13 Gallup survey said they approved of Bush's job performance, while 68 percent approved of Cheney's. And a majority of all 1,006 voters surveyed rated Cheney's advice to the president as "bad."

Ethics and war in the Christian Science Monitor:
"What all of us can agree on here in the US is that we have an ethical obligation regarding the notion of doing more good than harm and not to leave before the society is restored to at least some kind of peace and order," says John Arquilla, a professor of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.

The Chicago Tribune on a British memo purporting to say that Bush wanted to bomb al Jazeera:
Initially, British government officials brushed off the suggestion of an attack on the television network as a jest by Bush, and White House spokesman Scott McClellan on Tuesday told The Associated Press that, "We are not interested in dignifying something so outlandish and inconceivable with a response."

Kevin McGuire, The Daily Mirror's associate editor, said government officials gave no indication of any problem with the memo when they were first contacted for comment.

"We were astonished 24 hours later to be threatened with the Official Secrets Act," McGuire told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.
The Guardian reports that the invocation of the Secrets Act was motivated by:
Fears that fresh revelations about disputes between Tony Blair and George Bush on the Iraq conflict could damage Downing Street's intimate relationship with the White House prompted this week's unprecedented threat by the attorney general to use the Official Secrets Act against national newspapers.


Jonah Goldberg writes in the Los Angeles Times that Dinos and Rinos are heading to the center. Yeah.

Bob Novak has chastised the GOP for not cutting more taxes.


VIENNA (AP) — The European Union is accusing Iran of possessing documents used solely for the production of nuclear arms and is warning of possible referral to the U.N. Security Council, according to a statement made available to The Associated Press on Thursday.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Morning copy 11.23.2005

The war over the war in Iraq

First, some national stories.

A major story from the National Journal on what George W. Bush knew and when he knew it. In a PDB, Bush was told Saddam Hussein viewed al Qaeda as a threat. Murray Waas' lede:

Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda, according to government records and current and former officials with firsthand knowledge of the matter.

A U.S. general says that training the Iraqi army cannot be rushed. Note what Secretary Rice said in this story, CNN:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday the number of U.S. troops "is clearly going to come down" as Iraqi capabilities increase, but she stopped short of saying how many might leave or when they might come home.

"I suspect that the American forces are not going to be needed in the numbers that they are there for that much longer," Rice told CNN.

Bradley Graham and Robin Wright lede the Washington Post with:

Barring any major surprises in Iraq, the Pentagon tentatively plans to reduce the number of U.S. forces there early next year by as many as three combat brigades, from 18 now, but to keep at least one brigade "on call" in Kuwait in case more troops are needed quickly, several senior military officers said.

Hey, that's a QRF in the region! Could that be a leftover from Murtha's plan or someone who talked to Murtha before his bombshell?

General John Vines is quoted in the Washington Times. The general says that a quick withdrawal from Iraq would destabilize the region. He also says that the political debate in D.C. is "disturbing", yet part of democracy. Note that I had to rewrite the lede to tone down the Times', uh, journalism.

The New York Times has a story on the upcoming elections in Iraq:

Such is the state of Iraqi politics just three weeks before the Dec. 15 elections for a full, four-year government. With officials like Mr. Muhammadi unable to travel anywhere unless accompanied by enough firepower to level a village, and with even the politicians expressing distrust of the electoral system, this vote is fraught with as much peril as the last one, in January.

The Daily Mirror reported that Bush wanted to bomb al Jazeera, but Tony Blair persuaded him not to do so. The AP followup on the story:

LONDON (AP) — A civil servant has been charged under Britain's Official Secrets Act for allegedly leaking a government memo that a newspaper said Tuesday suggested that Prime Minister Tony Blair persuaded President Bush not to bomb the Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera.

Gunmen wearing uniforms of the Iraqi military have killed a senior Sunni leader, AP.

Scott Peterson -- who ought to write a book/memoir -- details the new U.S. strategy in Iraq: stay in the hot spots after the martial push, Christian Science Monitor.

The Washington Times on Iraq/Iran:

TEHRAN -- Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, urged visiting Iraqi officials yesterday to ask U.S.-led forces to leave their country and pledged Tehran's cooperation in restoring security to Iraq.

Peggy Noonan about John Paul the Second:

Democrats who are thoughtful and not just in it for the game should come forward and explain why they backed the Iraq invasion, and what has changed, what they feel is at stake, and what they feel will be the repercussions of unsteadiness or ambivalence or withdrawal, or what will potentially be gained by a declaration of mistake. Republicans should stop with the "How dare you question us at such a dramatic moment, what's wrong with you?"

Connecticut's two senators contrasted

David Lightman has had two stories in the Hartford Courant in the past two days. Here is his story from Tuesday on Senator Chris Dodd:

The Connecticut Democrat lists the changes he wants, point by point: Consider pulling troops out soon after the Dec. 15 elections. Get surrounding countries, particularly Arab League nations, to do more to help broker peace between Iraq's warring factions. Get NATO more involved in training troops and providing security. And require the president to set up "estimated dates" for pulling out troops.

Dodd has shifted from his support of the president three years ago. Further, the mention of Arab League nations is a hallmark of General Wesley Clark's message on Iraq. That is interesting to Note.

Today's story on Senator Joe Lieberman:

"If we do not act," the senator said in April 1991, "if we neglect our duty to humanity, we would, as Dwight Eisenhower once said in speaking about a failure to confront evil in the world, `outrage our own conscience. In the eyes of those who suffer injustice, we would become partners with their oppressors.'"

Lieberman's stance has become an increasingly lonely one in his own party. Fellow Democrats took aim at him throughout his 2004 presidential campaign. Then and now, his allies have usually been Republicans.

"Fine Democrats like Sen. Joe Lieberman share the view that we must prevail in Iraq," the president said Sunday, and on the Senate floor last week, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner, R-Va., had similar praise.

Ohio's fiery freshman Rep.

Ohio 2nd Blog has a lot of recent posts on Jean Schmidt and local reactions. Included is one post with her office number, if you care to drop a line.

The Cincinnati Enquirer has a story on Schmidt "backtracking":

Rep. Jean Schmidt said Tuesday that she had "no idea" when she created an uproar on the House floor by saying "cowards cut and run, Marines never do" that she was addressing the remark to a fellow House member who is a much-decorated Marine veteran of Vietnam.

"I did not know he was a Marine or I would not have said it," the newly elected Republican congresswoman told The Enquirer Tuesday in an interview at her Kenwood district office.

This was advanced by unnamed GOP lawmakers on Sunday, see the New York Times. I did not believe it then, I do not believe it now. In her remarks, Schmidt said she had a message for Murtha, cowards cut and run, Marines do not. Though it is not explicit, it is as close to a direct reference to Jack Murtha as one can get -- and I believe it shows knowledge of his service to our country.

Moreover, Schmidt has compounded her political sins. She lashed out at a popular, respected colleague and is now backtracking in a Clintonesque manner.

Charles Babington in the Washington Post covers the rookie lawmaker:

Judging by her words yesterday -- the first after avoiding the public for three days -- Schmidt doesn't understand what the fuss is about, and sees herself more as victim than villain. "I am amazed at what a national story this has become," she said in a statement. "I have been attacked very personally, continuously since Friday evening."

Many people are unsympathetic. NBC's "Saturday Night Live" lampooned her, the Cincinnati Enquirer's editorial page -- which endorsed her congressional bid -- said she was "way out of line," and the friend she claimed to be quoting on the House floor last week declared yesterday that he had said no such thing.

There are some letters to the editor available today from the Enquirer.

Barack Obama

Media darling (Page A 03 with a CHICAGO dateline) Barack Obama has called on Bush to admit mistakes concerning Iraq, Washington Post.

Jeff Zeleny in the Chicago Tribune has the story on Obama's remarks yesterday:

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) injected himself Tuesday into the forefront of a growing bipartisan call to reappraise American foreign policy in Iraq, saying the U.S. should begin a gradual withdrawal of its troops next year so Iraqis become empowered to take charge of their country's fate.

As he scolded the White House for what he called "shameful" attempts to silence dissent about the war, Obama urged President Bush to look beyond politics and admit that mistakes were made in Iraq. He said the U.S. should seek to accelerate its training of Iraqi troops and seek political solutions that are more practical than striving to create a "Jeffersonian democracy" in Iraq.

Obama's speech can be read here, Tribune. The paper also offers a page devoted to the Senator's first year.

Other news...

AP: Citing factual inaccuracies, FOX NEWS refuses to air an anti- Alito ad. Note to MSM: find factually inaccurate ads that they have aired.

Jose Padilla's indictment yesterday has lead the New York Times to lede a news analysis with:

Four years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, the government has yet to settle on a consistent strategy for holding and punishing people it says are terrorists. Its efforts remain a work in progress, notable for false starts and a reluctance to have the executive branch's broadest claims tested in the courts.

A good news cycle for Boston. The Red Sox acquire World Series proven ace Josh Beckett and President Hugo Chavez will help the Baystaters with Home Heating oil. Read Mike Lupica in the New York Daily News about the former:

I said to Brian Cashman one time, "You guys still haven't ever had a Beckett." He said, "We don't draft high enough to get one. Then by the time they've turned into a Beckett, they're not available."

Josh Beckett finally became available the past couple of weeks. The Red Sox grabbed him.

And if you want to read about the wheelings and dealings that now results in Joe Kennedy handing out cheap home heating oil from Hugo Chavez (like that one, Bush?) check out yesterday's Boston Globe.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Classless display continues to haunt Mean Jean

UPDATE 1400:

This all got so much more interesting (at least inside the beltway and blogosphere).

Kos points out that Colonel Bubp is now denying some of his comments to Mean Jean.

From the Enquirer:

Danny Bubp, a freshman state representative who is a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve, told The Enquirer that he never mentioned Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., by name when talking with Schmidt, and he would never call a fellow Marine a coward.

"The unfortunate thing about all of that is that her choice of words on the floor of the House - I don't know, she's a freshman, she had one minute.

"Unfortunately, they came out wrong," said Bubp, R-West Union.


"I could just imagine how nervous she must have been on the floor with everyone watching," Bubp said. "I don't want to be interjected into this. I wish she never used my name."

Methinks the lady's surrogates doth protest too much...

Remember this from Sunday in the New York Times:

Several Republicans who were on the House floor said afterward that Ms. Schmidt did not appear to know she was referring to a much-decorated veteran.

"The poor lady didn't know Jack Murtha was a Marine - she really just ran into a hornet's nest," said Representative Jack Kingston of Georgia.

Representative David Dreier of California said, "Very clearly, she did not know that Jack Murtha was a Marine."

This has "rookie mistake" written all over it. Schmidt probably thought she had something very effective to make a name for herself in the chamber.

My read is Bubp's now backing away from Schmidt. I don't believe that she was unaware of what she was doing, though -- everyone knew by Friday afternoon that Murtha was an ex-Marine.


FROM 1300:

Via Howard Kurtz's Media Notes.

"Mean" Jean's (Schmidt) Marine is now fully involved in the dust up. Max Blumenthal at the Huffington Post looks into the background of Danny Bubp, who apparently was more than willing to be fodder in partisan, classless bickering:

"A few minutes ago I received a call from Colonel Danny Bubp, Ohio Representative from the 88th district in the House of Representatives. He asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course," Schmidt declared from her lectern. "He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message, that cowards cut and run, Marines never do."

Blumenthal's overview about Bubp:

A quick glance at Bubp's background reveals him to be a low-level right-wing operative who has spent more time in the past ten years engaged in symbolic Christian right crusades than he has battling terrorist evil-doers. And throughout his career, Bubp's destiny has been inextricably linked with Schmidt's. Bubp may be a Marine, but his view of Murtha as a "coward" is colored by naked political ambition. He is nothing more than cheap camouflage cover for the GOP's latest Swift-Boat campaign.

A partisan hack? No kidding.

Ohio - 2 is going to be a very interesting race in 2006. The Ohio2 Blog should be equally interesting.

Morning copy 11.22.2005

The war (and peace) over the Iraq war (and peace)

Vice President Dick Cheney's speech is the big story this morning. Here are the ledes from some major dailies:

The New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 - Vice President Dick Cheney stepped up the White House attacks on critics of the Iraq war on Monday, declaring that politicians who say Americans were sent into battle based on a lie are engaging in "revisionism of the most corrupt and shameless variety."

The Washington Times:

Vice President Dick Cheney yesterday accused Democrats of "corrupt and shameless" revisionism on the Iraq war and called their demands for a pullout "self-defeating pessimism."

Note the very different lede in the Los Angeles Times:

WASHINGTON — Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday sought to tamp down what has become a bitter and personal fight in Washington over the Iraq war, offering praise for a senior House Democrat who had called for the full withdrawal of troops and saying that an "energetic debate" over the war was part of a healthy society.

Dana Milbank in the Washington Post says this was the closest "the vice president gets to a retraction":

It was a delicate act: Celebrating debate and criticism while declaring that a key element of that debate -- whether the administration exaggerated prewar intelligence about Iraq -- is off-limits. But Cheney achieved it with matter-of-fact indignation.

For the most part, this was more of the same from the vice president. It was interesting, at times, to see a concilitory tone from Cheney.

Senator Joe Biden's speech on Iraq reported in the Washington Post. Biden says that there needs to be a policy change in Iraq, but does not call for a withdrawal like John Murtha's proposal.

Fred Kaplan in Slate takes a closer look at John Murtha's plan:

He doesn't elaborate on any of these ideas, but it's clear they don't add up to "cut and run." True, his final line reads, "It is time to bring them home," but his plan suggests he wants to bring, at most, only some of them home. The others are to be "redeployed" in the quick-reaction forces hovering just offshore.

John Murtha says that the public wants a draw down plan, AP:

"The public turned against this war before I said it," Murtha said. "The public is emotionally tied into finding a solution to this thing, and that's what I hope this administration is going to find out."

Iraqi officials call for U.S. withdrawal, New York Times:

About 100 Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders, many of whom will run in the election on Dec. 15, signed a closing memorandum on Monday that "demands a withdrawal of foreign troops on a specified timetable, dependent on an immediate national program for rebuilding the security forces," the statement said.

General John Abizaid calls for patience in a Washington Times story:

The top U.S. commander for Iraq urged "patience" from "within the Beltway" on the war in Iraq and predicted that the tide of battle will improve next year once a permanent Iraqi government has been elected and put into place.

If you want an anonymous Marine's account of weaponry in Iraq, turn to the Washington Times.

Hugo Chavez and a Quincy Democrat

Susan Milligan of the Boston Globe has a fascinating story on home heating oil:

WASHINGTON -- While most of Congress was spending an August recess tending to local constituents, Representative William D. Delahunt was in Caracas, sitting down to a four-hour, one-on-one dinner conversation with President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, one of the Bush administration's most ardent critics.

That meeting -- unusual for a sitting member of Congress and a head of state so critical of the White House -- sparked negotiations that led to the official announcement scheduled for today: A US subsidiary of a Venezuelan-owned company will provide 12 million gallons of discounted home heating oil to Massachusetts consumers and organizations serving the poor.

Jack Abramoff

Michael Scanlon, an associate of Jack Abramoff, pleaded guilty "to conspiring to bribe a congressman and other public officials and agreed to pay back more than $19 million he fraudulently charged Indian tribal clients." Washington Post.

Bloomberg News has interesting analysis on this plea:

Nov. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Former lobbyist Michael Scanlon's cooperation with U.S. Justice Department lawyers in a conspiracy investigation may help them clear a constitutional hurdle that protects lawmakers from prosecution over official acts.

Scanlon's guilty plea yesterday gives prosecutors a witness who may be able to provide evidence that lawmakers worked to pass legislation in exchange for favors, said Jim Cole, a former attorney with the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section. The Justice unit is spearheading the federal probe of Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his former associate, Scanlon.

"No Child"

The Washington Post reports on a series of alterations to NCLB that could be an effort by the White House to prevent larger changes from the Congress:

The Bush administration has begun to ease some key rules for the controversial No Child Left Behind law, opening the door to a new way to rate schools, granting a few urban systems permission to provide federally subsidized tutoring and allowing certain states more time to meet teacher-quality requirements.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Nobel nominee

The Governator must decide on a pardon campaign for "Tookie" Williams, SF Gate. Williams is a former co-founder of the Crips gang, a multiple murderer and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee.

After a year of plummeting popularity and squabbles with Democrats and labor unions over sometimes-arcane ideas about ways to change government, Schwarzenegger now turns to a more basic and far more gut-wrenching task.

He must contemplate crime and punishment, redemption and race. Williams is asking that Schwarzenegger buck a strong national trend that has turned clemency based on atonement into a political third rail.

Soviet style tactics

Soviet style tactics reported by the New York Times:

Here in the northern Caucasus, and across all of Russia, Islamic faith is on the rise. So is Islamic militancy, and fear of such militancy, leading to tensions like those felt in Europe, where a flow of immigrants from the Muslim world is straining relations with liberal, secular societies.

And so the government has recreated the Soviet-era system of control over religion with the Muslim Spiritual Department, which oversees the appointment of Islamic leaders.

Lynn Swann for governor?


HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Former Pittsburgh Steeler Lynn Swann told a crowd of business leaders, lobbyists and journalists Monday that Pennsylvania would be a better place if he were governor, but said he has not yet declared his candidacy and eluded some questions the way he once dodged tacklers.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Iraq: read the speeches, not just spin

Vice President Dick Cheney was right to lament about headline writers in his speech to AEI today. The latest headline I see on CNN is that he continued the administration's "retreat" from criticizing Jack Murtha. Byron York over at NRO's the Corner noted something similar, so it's not a preposterous excerpt to draw from the speech. But, a speech of this import rerquires a lot more analysis.

The vice president said some aspects of the current Iraq debate were legitimate. He contrasted those aspects with what he does not appreciate. Note the careful, deliberate use of language as he structures his position:

What is not legitimate and what I will again say is dishonest and reprehensible is the suggestion by some U.S. senators that the president of the United States or any member of his administration purposely misled the American people on prewar intelligence.

These are elected officials who had access to the intelligence materials. They are known to have a high opinion of their own analytical capabilities.

"Misled" is accompanied by the adverb "purposely", which distinguishes misleading inadvertantly -- say, as with inexcuseable "group think" -- from something more sinister. Further, he references in the next paragraph elected officials who "had access" to intelligence materials. Many U.S. Senators did not take advantage of the fuller, classified NIE from October, 2002. Only a handful of senators went to a session to read that document, with some contradicting opinions from experts. Most relied upon the less conflicted executive summary.

This is an interesting allusion to make, because it may have resulted from a close reading of a Washington Post analysis last weekened. That story was headlined: "Asterisks Dot White House's Iraq Argument". The general tone of that article was not favorable for the Bush administration, but I believe Cheney uses one element to point back at Senators now raising questions about intelligence:

The lawmakers are partly to blame for their ignorance. Congress was entitled to view the 92-page National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq before the October 2002 vote. But, as The Washington Post reported last year, no more than six senators and a handful of House members read beyond the five-page executive summary.

Another interesting nuance in language is the coupling of "terror states" and "terrorists". This administration frequently estanlished at the least a tentative link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda before the war. I believe this paragraph is designed to label Saddam's regime as a "terror state" -- correctly, of course -- so as to reinforce an aspect of the linkage argument:

As the president has said, terrorists and terror states do not reveal threats with fair notice, in formal declarations. And responding to such enemies only after they have struck first is not self-defense, it is suicide.

As Tucker Carlson has pointed out, no one of real consequence bought the radical Islamist linkage before the Iraq war. However, it was repeated enough that the majority of Americans believed there was a connection -- many even believing that Iraqis were on the planes on 9/11. That may have been the most consequential as well as the target demographic.

More exacting language about potential morale problems that some in the Pentagon have claimed:

One might also argue that untruthful charges against the commander in chief have an insidious effect on the war effort itself. I'm unwilling to say that only because I know the character of the United States armed forces, men and women who are fighting the war on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan and many other fronts.

Cheney won't make the argument, but he certainly will bring it up. Further, this is a clear gesture to encourage pundits and bloggers on the right to claim that some of the questions raised about the Bush administration before the war are "insidious" in effect. "Insidious" is a very strong word, and the kind of word that will attract the attention of a well read person who articulates with skill. The "untruthful charges" have been established in this speech, stating that the president "pusposely mislead" the public with intelligence.

Only the radical fringe of the left has advanced that idea, as stated, with any fervor. More moderate voices say that the president and the White House were overly selective in what intelligence they used to build a case for going to war. I believe that this was a result of their fear that Saddam was a clear and present danger to the United States.

I also believe that they made a series of honest errors that are nonetheless terrible in their effect. The most honest evaluation on prewar intelligence I can muster must also include the aforementioned Senators, who did not read the full NIE. They share a great deal of blame for the hasty decision to go to war.

At least one excerpt from the acclaimed book "Plan of Attack", by Bob Woodward, does hint at the president misleading the public before Iraq -- though perhaps innocently, we cannot say for certain.

Before I cover what Woodward reported, I'd like to refer to a Newsweek campaign account from 2004:

In a brilliant jujitsu move, the Bush White House decided not to try to rebut the book, but rather to embrace it. An aide—possibly Nicolle Devenish, the campaign communications director, though others credited strategist Matthew Dowd—suggested they post the book on the campaign Web site under "Suggested Reading." The strategy, said adman Mark McKinnon with a laugh, was "love the book you're with." Or, as he put it, "Let's love it to death."

Woodward's analysis about a TV interview in April, 2002:

"So whether [Saddam] allows the inspectors in or not, he is on the list to be attacked?" McDonald asked. "He's the next target?"

"You keep trying to put --" Bush said, then restarted his sentence. "You're one of those clever reporters that keeps trying to put words in my mouth."

"Far from that, Mr. President."

"Well, I'm afraid you do, sir. But nevertheless, you've had my answer on this subject." The prodding took Bush into dangerous territory as he added, "And I have no plans to attack on my desk." Though technically true, it obscured the direct and personal nature of his involvement in the war planning.

At this point, I wish to further digress and add that the president's involvement in war planning also made the war more likely. But, back to V.P. Cheney.

Cheney moves from Iraq as a "terror state" under Saddam to a current haven for "terrorists", to which any reasonable observer will agree:

Their goal in that region is to gain control of a country so they have a base from which to launch attacks and to wage war against governments that do not meet their demands.

This has been a stated goal of al Qaeda since that group's inception. Al Qaeda wishes to control a state to build a Caliphate for Wahhabi Islam. Further, they wish that state to be Arabic and to include Mecca and Medina, currently cities of Saudi Arabia.

There were those (at State and CIA) who cautioned against an invasion in Iraq because it would make that nation a potential hotbed for al Qaeda. This argument is related in Cheney's own words:

Some have suggested that by liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein we simply stirred up a hornet's nest. They overlook a fundamental fact: We were not in Iraq on September 11th, 2001, and the terrorists hit us anyway.

Here we have one of the vice president's worst arguments from the entire speech. Distinguishing between the sun and moon may be no test of vision, seeing a hornet's nest in Iraq, today, is no leap of analytical brilliance. The vice president would argue, perhaps if he is willing to admit the hornet's nest, that the violence is a negative, but it was a necessary one. Why?

Whenever Bush or Cheney use 9/11, they are digging into raw, emotional support they still hope that they enjoy. However, this argument is absurd. We had not declared war on Canada and Mars before 9/11, and the terrorists hit us anyway. Instead of the added nuance the vice president added earlier, with "terror states" and "terrorists", September 11th, Iraq and "terrorists" find their way into one sentence.

The vice president blurs another line between Iraq and "terrorists" by not accepting the nationalistic element of the insurgency. The fact of ante bellum Iraq is that it was no hotbed for al Qaeda. Further, the very idea of a secularist though brutal dictator working with radical, religious terrorists raised doubt before the war. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi operated in regions of that country that Saddam did not control, but Zarqawi was not working with al Qaeda at that point:

Now they're making a stand in Iraq, testing our resolve, trying to intimidate the United States into abandoning our friends and permitting the overthrow of this new Middle Eastern democracy.

More of the same, so it seems, from the vice president near the conclusion of his speech. Blur the line between "terrorists" now and "terror states" then. Justify the continued war in Iraq by bringing up September 11th and al Qaeda -- though we all know the truth about that as a justification for the war in 2002 and 2003. These arguments derive from political calculus: they may work, they may not.

The battle we face now is the horror that Cheney and his band imagined in 2002. The White House continues with political calculus while our country may face a looming existential challenge.

In June of this year, both the New York Times and Newsweek reported:

A new classified assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency says Iraq may prove to be an even more effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was in Al Qaeda's early days, because it is serving as a real-world laboratory for urban combat.

There was one other major speech about Iraq today. It was delivered by Senator Joe Biden (D., Del.) Though the senator's remarks were prepared in advance of Cheney's speech, Biden clearly had an idea what the vice president would say and how he would argue against the V.P.

Joe Biden's remarks

Biden delivered his speech to the Council on Foreign Relations. His prepared remarks can be found on his website.

Withdrawal, at least of some troops, is in the air. There are military plans filed with numerous options for a major reduction of forces in the country. Biden appears to speak with some confidence that these plans will be realized:

Here is my conviction: in 2006, American troops will begin to leave Iraq in large numbers. By the end of the year, I believe we will have redeployed at least 50,000 troops. In 2007, a significant number of the remaining 100,000 American soldiers will follow.

Biden does not dwell on the lead up to Iraq -- perhaps for an obvious reason -- but he does say that we cannot withdraw en masse, as John Murtha suggested with notable scale and immediacy. The senator believes our national interests and security now require additional work in Iraq.

I still believe we can preserve our fundamental security interests in Iraq as we begin to redeploy our forces.

This is one argument that Biden and Cheney share. However, the senator is highly critical of the administration. Success requires:

As I have been urging for some time, that will require as many changes at home as on the ground. The gap between the Administration’s rhetoric and the reality of Iraq has opened a huge credibility chasm with the American people.

Joe Biden has been arguing that there was a credibility chasm between what Bush says and what is actually going on. He said that in June, 2005: Google: Biden, and "credibility chasm". He said that before Katrina, before the poll numbers jumped off the cliff.

He appears to have been prescient.

Now, juxtapose Cheney's remarks in general with Biden's. Compare the tense in general, if possible. Cheney's speech remained a justification for the past, present and future. Biden's remarks focused on the current and future conflict in much greater depth:

Instead, we need to refocus our mission on preserving America’s fundamental interests in Iraq.

There are two of them: We must ensure Iraq does not become what it wasn’t before the war: a haven for terrorists. And we must do what we can to prevent a full-blown civil war that turns into a regional war.

The senator then outlines the beginnings of his plan:

One, we must help forge a political settlement that gives all of Iraq’s major groups a stake in keeping the country together.

Two, we must strengthen the capabilities of Iraq’s government and revamp the reconstruction program to deliver real benefits.

Three, we must accelerate the training of Iraqi security forces and transfer control to them.

There is an ominous Catch 22 about Iraq that Biden also points out: more troops would help make Iraq more secure and more troops would fuel the insurgency. Also, we both need and do not have more troops for the job.

Two years ago, even one year ago, Iraqis were prepared to accept an even larger American presence if that’s what it took to bring security and real improvements to their lives.

Our failure to do just that has fueled growing Iraqi frustration. A liberation is increasingly felt as an occupation. And we risk creating a culture of dependency, especially among Iraqi security forces.

Even if more troops still made sense, we don’t have more to give. In fact, we cannot sustain what we have now beyond next spring unless we extend deployment times beyond 12 months, send soldiers back for third, fourth, and fifth tours or pull forces from other regions.

Contrast the conclusions that each leader arrived at. Cheney:

We understand the continuing dangers to civilization. And we have the resources, the strength and the moral courage to overcome those dangers and lay the foundations for a better world.

And Biden's remarks:

And the American people want us to succeed. They want it badly. If the Administration listens, if it levels, and if it leads, it can still redeem their faith.

The real question we now live with is: which sense outlined in either conclusion will influence policy? Rhetoric or a policy change?

The former will accomplish nothing and relies on some lucky breaks. The latter is inevitable -- yet undefined.