The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Friday, September 15, 2006

Paul Krugman - Progress or Regress?

Progress or Regress?


Is the typical American family better off than it was a generation ago? That’s the subject of an intense debate these days, as commentators try to understand the sour mood of the American public.

But it’s the wrong debate. For one thing, there probably isn’t a right answer. Most Americans are better off in some ways, worse off in others, than they were in the early 1970’s. It’s a subjective judgment whether the good outweighs the bad. And as I’ll explain, that ambiguity is actually the real message.

Here’s what the numbers say. From the end of World War II until 1973, when the first oil crisis brought an end to the postwar boom, the U.S. economy delivered a huge, broad-based rise in living standards: family income adjusted for inflation roughly doubled for the poor, the middle class, and the elite alike. Nobody debated whether families were better off than they had been a generation ago; it was obvious that they were, by any measure.

Since 1973, however, the picture has been mixed. Real median household income — the income of the household in the middle of the income distribution, adjusted for inflation — rose a modest 16 percent between 1973 and 2005. But even this small rise didn’t reflect clear gains across the board. The typical full-time male worker saw his wages, adjusted for inflation, actually fall; the typical household’s real income was up only because women’s wages rose (although by far less than everyone’s wages rose during the postwar boom) and because more women were working.

The debate over the state of the middle class, for the most part, is about whether these numbers understate or overstate the true progress achieved by typical families. The optimists point to technological advances that, they argue, don’t get reflected in official estimates of the standard of living. In 1973, you couldn’t chat on a cellphone, watch a video or surf the Internet; many medical conditions that are now easily managed with drugs were untreatable; and so on.

The pessimists point to ways in which life has deteriorated, things that also aren’t counted by the official statistics. Traffic has gotten far worse, and commutes have gotten longer. The economic riskiness of life has increased: year-to-year fluctuations in family income have grown much larger. The rat race has intensified, as families, no longer confident in the quality of public education, stretch to buy houses in good school districts — and often go bankrupt when misfortune strikes in the form of a layoff for either spouse or high medical bills.

Does the good outweigh the bad? Never mind. As I said, the ambiguity is the message.

Consider this: The United States economy is far richer and more productive than it was a generation ago. Statistics on economic growth aside, think of all the technological advances that have made workers more productive over the past generation. In 1973, there were no personal computers, let alone the Internet. Even fax machines were rare, expensive items, and there were no bar-code scanners at checkout counters. Freight containerization was still uncommon. The list goes on and on.

Yet in spite of all this technological progress, which has allowed the average American worker to produce much more, we’re not sure whether there was any rise in the typical worker’s pay. Only those at the upper end of the income distribution saw clear gains — gains that were enormous for the lucky few at the very top.

That’s why the debate over whether the middle class is a bit better off or a bit worse off now than a generation ago misses the point. What we should be debating is why technological and economic progress has done so little for most Americans, and what changes in government policies would spread the benefits of progress more widely. An effort to shore up middle-class health insurance, paid for by a rollback of recent tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans — something like the plan proposed by John Kerry two years ago, but more ambitious — would be a good place to start.

Instead, the people running our government are fixated on cutting tax rates for the wealthy even further. And their solution to Americans’ justified economic anxiety is a public relations campaign, an effort to convince middle-class families that their problems are a figment of their imagination.

Lawyer Says FCC Ordered Study Destroyed

Published on Friday, September 15, 2006 by the Associated Press
Lawyer Says FCC Ordered Study Destroyed
by John Dunbar

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission ordered its staff to destroy all copies of a draft study that suggested greater concentration of media ownership would hurt local TV news coverage, a former lawyer at the agency says.

The report, written in 2004, came to light during the Senate confirmation hearing for FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. received a copy of the report "indirectly from someone within the FCC who believed the information should be made public," according to Boxer spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz.

Adam Candeub, now a law professor at Michigan State University, said senior managers at the agency ordered that "every last piece" of the report be destroyed. "The whole project was just stopped — end of discussion," he said. Candeub was a lawyer in the FCC's Media Bureau at the time the report was written and communicated frequently with its authors, he said.

In a letter sent to Martin Wednesday, Boxer said she was "dismayed that this report, which was done at taxpayer expense more than two years ago, and which concluded that localism is beneficial to the public, was shoved in a drawer."

Martin said he was not aware of the existence of the report, nor was his staff. His office indicated it had not received Boxer's letter as of midafternoon Thursday.

In the letter, Boxer asked whether any other commissioners "past or present" knew of the report's existence and why it was never made public. She also asked whether it was "shelved because the outcome was not to the liking of some of the commissioners and/or any outside powerful interests?"

The report, written by two economists in the FCC's Media Bureau, analyzed a database of 4,078 individual news stories broadcast in 1998. The broadcasts were obtained from Danilo Yanich, a professor and researcher at the University of Delaware, and were originally gathered by the Pew Foundation's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The analysis showed local ownership of television stations adds almost five and one-half minutes of total news to broadcasts and more than three minutes of "on-location" news. The conclusion is at odds with FCC arguments made when it voted in 2003 to increase the number of television stations a company could own in a single market. It was part of a broader decision liberalizing ownership rules.

At that time, the agency pointed to evidence that "commonly owned television stations are more likely to carry local news than other stations."

When considering whether to loosen rules on media ownership, the agency is required to examine the impact on localism, competition and diversity. The FCC generally defines localism as the level of responsiveness of a station to the needs of its community.

The 2003 action sparked a backlash among the public and within Congress. In June 2004, a federal appeals court rejected the agency's reasoning on most of the rules and ordered it to try again. The debate has since been reopened, and the FCC has scheduled a public hearing on the matter in Los Angeles on Oct. 3.

The report was begun after then-Chairman Michael Powell ordered the creation of a task force to study localism in broadcasting in August of 2003. Powell stepped down from the commission and was replaced by Martin in March 2005. Powell did not return a call seeking comment.

The authors of the report, Keith Brown and Peter Alexander, both declined to comment. Brown has left public service while Alexander is still at the FCC. Yanich confirmed the two men were the authors. Both have written extensively on media and telecommunications policy.

Yanich said the report was "extremely well done. It should have helped to inform policy."

Boxer's office said if she does not receive adequate answers to her questions, she will push for an investigation by the FCC inspector general.

© Copyright 2006 Associated Press


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Tristero - The New New Product

The New New Product

by tristero

Hey! Remember
Andy Card back in 2002, about selling the country on the idea of invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11?
From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August.
A line that ranks as one of the ugliest lines ever in American politics. I wonder how the mothers of all those Americans who died in Iraq since Card said this feel about having their children's sacrifice characterized as a new product. I wonder what the mothers of all those Iraqis who died - their deaths being in fact one of the main ingredients of the new product - would feel about Card if they were told about what he said.

But I digress. Because we now have a NEW new product for the fall of 2006. And it's being marketed the most effective way possible, word of fucking mouth;
On the September 12 edition of his CNN Headline News program, Glenn Beck said that "[t]he Middle East is being overrun by 10th-century barbarians" and "[i]f they take over ... we're going to have to nuke the whole place."
CNN, ladies, gentlemen, and Republicans. This was said on the Communist News Network, not Fox. Not the Washington Times.

And you thought I was joking. Let's make this very, very clear:

The world will not tolerate the use of nuclear weapons by George W. Bush (or anyone else for that matter, but it's Bush who is wagging the nuclear cock most often these days, and yes, Beck is reading from a White House script). The consequences for this country will not be nuclear retaliation, of course, not in the short term at least. There are plenty of other ways to attack America. And if Bush does drop even one itty bitty "tactical" nuke, this country will be at war. For real. Not with some neocon delusion, but with nearly everyone on the planet. Trust me on this: it won't be pretty.

Adults are needed to tell Bush and Rove to zip it. Fast. They are in way over their heads. The White House isn't a frat house and nuclear saber-rattling is no joke. This is one New Product that should be pulled from the market before it's ever released.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Another Conservative Turns on Bush

Let’s quit while we’re behind

By Christopher Buckley

“The trouble with our times,” Paul Valéry said, “is that the future is not what it used to be.”

This glum aperçu has been much with me as we move into the home stretch of the 2006 mid-term elections and shimmy into the starting gates of the 2008 presidential campaign. With heavy heart, as a once-proud—indeed, staunch— Republican, I here admit, behind enemy lines, to the guilty hope that my party loses; on both occasions.

I voted for George W. Bush in 2000. In 2004, I could not bring myself to pull the same lever again. Neither could I bring myself to vote for John Kerry, who, for all his strengths, credentials, and talent, seems very much less than the sum of his parts. So, I wrote in a vote for George Herbert Walker Bush, for whom I worked as a speechwriter from 1981 to ’83. I wish he’d won.

Bob Woodward asked Bush 43 if he had consulted his father before invading Iraq. The son replied that he had consulted “a higher father.” That frisson you feel going up your spine is the realization that he meant it. And apparently the higher father said, “Go for it!” There are those of us who wish he had consulted his terrestrial one; or, if he couldn’t get him on the line, Brent Scowcroft. Or Jim Baker. Or Henry Kissinger. Or, for that matter, anyone who has read a book about the British experience in Iraq. (18,000 dead.)

Anyone who has even a passing personal acquaintance of Bush 41 knows him to be, roughly speaking, the most decent, considerate, humble, and cautious man on the planet. Also, the most loving parent on earth. What a wrench it must be for him to pick up his paper every morning and read the now-daily debate about whether his son is officially the worst president in U.S. history. (That chuckling you hear is the ghost of James Buchanan.) To paraphrase another president, I feel 41’s pain. Does 43 feel 41’s? Does he, I wonder, feel ours?

There were some of us who scratched our heads in 2000 when we first heard the phrase “compassionate conservative.” It had a cobbled-together, tautological, dare I say, Rovian aroma to it. But OK, we thought, let’s give it a chance. It sounded more fun than Gore’s “Prosperity for America’s Families.” (Bo-ring.)

Six years later, the White House uses the phrase about as much as it does “Mission Accomplished.” Six years of record deficits and profligate expansion of entitlement programs. Incompetent expansion, at that: The actual cost of the President’s Medicare drug benefit turned out, within months of being enacted, to be roughly one-third more than the stated price. Weren’t Republicans supposed to be the ones who were good at accounting? All those years on Wall Street calculating CEO compensation....

Who knew, in 2000, that “compassionate conservatism” meant bigger government, unrestricted government spending, government intrusion in personal matters, government ineptitude, and cronyism in disaster relief? Who knew, in 2000, that the only bill the president would veto, six years later, would be one on funding stem-cell research?

A more accurate term for Mr. Bush’s political philosophy might be incontinent conservatism.

On Capitol Hill, a Republican Senate and House are now distinguished by—or perhaps even synonymous with—earmarks, the K Street Project, Randy Cunningham (bandit, 12 o’clock high!), Sen. Ted Stevens’s $250-million Bridge to Nowhere, Jack Abramoff (Who? Never heard of him), and a Senate Majority Leader who declared, after conducting his own medical evaluation via videotape, that he knew every bit as much about the medical condition of Terry Schiavo as her own doctors and husband. Who knew that conservatism means barging into someone’s hospital room like Dr. Frankenstein with defibrillator paddles? In what chapter of Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom or Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind is that principle enunciated?

The Republican Party I grew up into—Dwight D. Eisenhower, William F. Buckley Jr., Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon (sigh), Ronald Reagan—stood for certain things. It did not always live up to its ideals. Au contraire, as we Republicans said in the pre-Dominique de Villepin era—often, it fell flat on its face. A self-proclaimed “conservative,” Nixon kept the Great Society entitlement beast fat and happy and brought in wage and price controls. Reagan funked Social Security reform in 1983 and raised (lesser) taxes three times. He vowed to balance the budget, and drove the deficit to historic highs by failing to rein in government spending. Someone called it “Voodoo economics.” You could Google it.

There were foreign misadventures, terrible ones: Vietnam (the ’69-’75 chapters), Beirut, Iran-Contra, the Saddam Hussein tilt. But there were compensating triumphs: Eisenhower’s refusal to bail out France in Indochina in 1954, Nixon’s China opening, the Cold War victory.

Despite the failures, one had the sense that the party at least knew in its heart of hearts that these were failures, either of principle or execution. Today one has no sense, aside from a slight lowering of the swagger-mometer, that the president or the Republican Congress is in the least bit chastened by their debacles.

George Tenet’s WMD “slam-dunk,” Vice President Cheney’s “we will be greeted as liberators,” Don Rumsfeld’s avidity to promulgate a minimalist military doctrine, together with the tidy theories of a group who call themselves “neo-conservative” (not one of whom, to my knowledge, has ever worn a military uniform), have thus far: de-stabilized the Middle East; alienated the world community from the United States; empowered North Korea, Iran, and Syria; unleashed sectarian carnage in Iraq among tribes who have been cutting each others’ throats for over a thousand years; cost the lives of 2,600 Americans, and the limbs, eyes, organs, spinal cords of another 15,000—with no end in sight. But not to worry: Democracy is on the march in the Middle East. Just ask Hamas. And the neocons—bright people, all—are now clamoring, “On to Tehran!”

What have they done to my party? Where does one go to get it back?

One place comes to mind: the back benches. It’s time for a time-out. Time to hand over this sorry enchilada to Hillary and Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden and Charlie Rangel and Harry Reid, who has the gift of being able to induce sleep in 30 seconds. Or, with any luck, to Mark Warner or, what the heck, Al Gore. I’m not much into polar bears, but this heat wave has me thinking the man might be on to something.

My fellow Republicans, it is time, as Madison said in Federalist 76, to “Hand over the tiller of governance, that others may fuck things up for a change.”

(Or was it Federalist 78?)

Phase II of Senate Investigation into Iraq War Intelligence

Hat tip to my old college buddy John:

Here are the findings of Phase II of the bipartisan Senatorial
investigation into:

1) the use of false information provided by members of the Iraqi National
Congress during the buildup to the war:


2) the failure to find the WMD programs that were asserted by the Bush
Administration and the failure to find any evidence for the links that the Bush
Administration asserted existed between Saddam Hussein and Al Queda.

My understanding is that Phase III of the investigation is underway, and that
it is intended to deal with the politically explosive question of whether the
Bush Administration knowingly distorted available intelligence or influenced
the collection of intelligence in order to build support for the invasion of

Joe Conason - Don't Blame Clinton

[From way back in 2002]

Don't blame Clinton

Conservatives who once ridiculed and obstructed the former president's aggressive efforts to fight terrorism are now trying to pin Sept. 11 on him. They have a lot of nerve. Part 2 of a debate.

By Joe Conason

January 15, 2002 | When terrorists first tried to take down the World Trade Center with a truck bomb in February 1993, there was no organized outcry of recrimination against George Herbert Walker Bush, who had left the Oval Office a scant six weeks earlier. Nobody sought political advantage by blaming Bush for the intelligence failures that had allowed the terrorist perpetrators to conspire undetected for more than three years.

And no liberal commentator attempted to pronounce that former president guilty of "criminal negligence" based on the sort of fabrications and falsehoods deployed since Sept. 11, here and elsewhere, against Bill Clinton. Yet recently, opportunistic critics have mounted a false indictment of Clinton, attempted to erase his administration's extensive record of action against terrorism and smeared him by suggesting he should have prevented the tragedy of Sept. 11.

To expect fairness and forbearance from these critics would be foolish at this late date. For them, indicting Clinton remains the most compelling obsession of all. As Mark Steyn warned (surely only half-jokingly) in the National Review: "If we members of the Vast Right-wing Conspiracy don't get back to our daily routine of obsessive Clinton-bashing, then the terrorists will have won."

Not to worry, as Andrew Sullivan's readers can attest. Nearly every day he eagerly promotes the slurring and sliming of Clinton, shooting first and checking later. Sullivan's Salon essay ( "While Clinton Diddled" ) arraigning Clinton, in which he pugnaciously introduces himself as presenting "the facts" and challenges the rest of us to "deal with them," continues this sorry pattern. He distorts and misuses the few facts he selects for his polemic. He presumes that his readers are too ignorant and lazy to check for themselves.

Sullivan's favorite method is to attach his wacky accusations to reporting and quotes from reputable sources, appropriating their authority for his false interpretations. Supposedly citing the New York Times and the Washington Post, Sullivan asserts that Clinton "got his warning about Islamist terrorism very early on" in the first World Trade Center bombing, because "the investigation found links to Osama bin Laden." He adds that "the State Department confirmed" bin Laden's complicity in the killing of American soldiers in Somalia.

Sullivan thereby implies that Clinton should have acted against bin Laden immediately, when in fact nobody knew about the Saudi millionaire's alleged involvement with the WTC bombing or the Mogadishu murders until at least three years later. In 1993, U.S. authorities were scarcely aware of bin Laden's existence, and al-Qaida had not yet been formed. Conservative journalists, such as the New Republic's Fred Barnes, were then suggesting that the likeliest perpetrator of the World Trade Center bombing was Iran. Even now, hard evidence linking bin Laden to those earlier events remains scarce.

Perhaps the most sensational charge against Clinton to emerge in the months since Sept. 11 is the dubious claim that he somehow let an offer from Sudan to turn over bin Laden slip through his fingers. Sullivan blatantly misrepresents a definitive article that appeared in the Washington Post on Oct. 3, 2001, on this topic. "The Sudanese government offered to hand over bin Laden to the United States," Sullivan writes. "Astonishingly, the Clinton administration turned the offer down." But that phony accusation is exploded by the very first sentence of the Post article, which says only that Sudan offered to "arrest Osama bin Laden and place him in Saudi custody."

Specifically, the Post reported that during secret negotiations in 1996 between American officials and Sudan defense minister Elfatih Erwa, "The [Khartoum] government was prepared to place [bin Laden] in custody and hand him over, though to whom was ambiguous. In one formulation, Erwa said Sudan would consider any legitimate proffer of criminal charges against the accused terrorist. Saudi Arabia, he said, was the most logical destination." The Post then detailed efforts by the White House and the State Department to induce the Saudis to accept custody of bin Laden, which the authorities in Riyadh adamantly refused.

Nowhere does the Post's carefully worded story state that Sudan agreed to "hand bin Laden over to the United States" -- because that never happened, except perhaps in Sullivan's imagination.

Still referring to the same Post article, Sullivan complains that the Clinton administration "didn't even use the negotiations with the Sudanese to disable bin Laden's financial assets in the Sudan." But as the Post reported, the U.S. ambassador to Sudan pointedly inquired whether those assets would remain under bin Laden's control after his expulsion. He got no reply from Sudan's foreign minister, and within a few days after his query, the Saudi terror chief departed for Afghanistan.

The Sudanese have always had their own agenda, by the way, which Sullivan doesn't think worth mentioning. They promised to cooperate against terrorism only if the United States ended economic sanctions imposed to punish their genocidal campaign of murder and enslavement against black Christians.

"There were meetings between U.S. and Sudanese officials, including in New York, involving senior counter-terrorism officials, where [Sudanese envoys] would hint that they had great stuff if we lifted sanctions," says a former NSC official with direct knowledge of those events. Other former administration officials have publicly confirmed this account. (And imagine the howling protest from pundits like Sullivan if the Clinton White House had suddenly turned "soft" on Sudan.) But neither the FBI nor the CIA believed that Khartoum was providing anything valuable on bin Laden or al-Qaida.

Sullivan refers to other alleged foreign "offers" to arrest or track bin Laden, but there appears to be little substance to those stories beyond mere speculation. As if he knows what he's talking about, he complains that "it is astonishing that more effort wasn't made to clinch the deals." But of course he knows nothing more than what he read in the London Sunday Times's murky account. What's truly astonishing is that he plays the useful idiot in a Sudanese disinformation gambit, with which Khartoum hopes to win friends in the Bush White House.

While Clinton never got bin Laden, Sullivan cannot honestly fault him for lack of zeal. In 1998, he authorized an intensive, ongoing campaign to destroy al-Qaida and seize or assassinate bin Laden by signing a secret National Security Decision Directive to that effect.

Several attempts were made on bin Laden's life, aside from the famous cruise missile launches that summer, which Sullivan and other Republicans reflexively denounced as an attempt to deflect attention from the Lewinsky scandal.

(It never seems to occur to them that they are smearing not only Clinton, but also ranking intelligence and military officers, such as Gen. Anthony Zinni, now President Bush's Mideast envoy, who encouraged the president to take that shot in the dark.)

In 1999, the CIA organized a Pakistani commando unit to enter Afghanistan on a mission to capture or kill bin Laden. That operation was aborted when Gen. Pervez Musharraf seized the Pakistani government from Nawaz Sharif, the more cooperative civilian prime minister. A year later, the Saudi terrorist leader was reportedly almost killed in a rocket-grenade attack on his convoy; the missiles hit the wrong truck.

Simultaneously, the White House tried to persuade or coerce the Taliban regime into expelling bin Laden from their country. Clinton signed an executive order freezing $254 million in Taliban assets in the United States, while the State Department kept the Taliban internationally isolated. But as we have learned since last September, there was nothing the United States could have done, short of full-scale military action, to separate al-Qaida from the Taliban. And there was no guarantee that such action would lead to the apprehension of bin Laden, as we have also discovered lately.

Sullivan charges that "Clinton did little that was effective" and "simply refused to do anything serious about the threat." But his bogus "chronology" ignores nearly everything that the Clinton administration did or tried to do.

Following the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the new president sent stringent anti-terrorism legislation to Congress as part of his first crime bill, including new deportation powers and a federal death penalty for terrorists. The passage of portions of that legislation many months later was the last time he would enjoy real cooperation against terrorism from congressional conservatives. When he sought to expand those protections in 1995 after the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, he was frustrated by a coalition of civil libertarians and anti-government conservatives, who argued that his "overreaction" posed a threat to constitutional rights.

No anti-terrorism legislation reached Clinton's desk until more than a year later. Thanks to an increasingly obstreperous Republican majority on both sides of the Capitol, law enforcement officials were denied new authority for roving wiretaps and new powers to monitor money laundering that Clinton had requested. All that would have to wait until after Sept. 11.

Back then, Sullivan was among those who accused Clinton of having "shredded civil liberties in the war on terrorism," a concern that no longer seems to disturb him. His memory of the actual legislation is pretty dim, anyway. He wrongly claims that the administration's 1996 bill "focused on domestic terrorism" rather than "dealing with the real threat" from al-Qaida. Among that bill's most controversial provisions were new powers to turn away suspect immigrants, swifter deportation procedures and a new deportation court that can view secret evidence.

Recalcitrant Republicans, led by then-Senator John Ashcroft, later defeated another potentially crucial White House initiative. Along with computer-industry lobbyists, they rejected proposals to tighten controls on encryption software and to ensure that law enforcement officials could crack the kind of coded messages found on the laptop owned by Ramzi Yusef, the man who planned the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Intelligence experts believe that encrypted computer links were probably used by the Sept. 11 plotters and their masters in al-Qaida. Some Democrats, no doubt swayed like their GOP colleagues by the generosity of industry lobbyists, joined the Republicans to deny this important tool to law enforcement.

The Clinton administration's attempts to improve airport security were similarly obstructed in Congress. The Gore commission urged U.S. air carriers to screen all passengers with computerized profiling systems, to upgrade poorly trained private security personnel and to install high-tech baggage-screening equipment. But action on key measures was stalled by lawmakers at the behest of airline lobbyists, and ultimately by the sluggish bureaucracy at the Federal Aviation Administration. Key senators on the Senate Aviation Subcommittee shot down mandated changes recommended by the White House and instead urged "further study." (Eight of the nine Republicans on the subcommittee had received contributions from the major airlines.)

While Clinton and Gore certainly share responsibility for failing to push Congress and their own bureaucrats harder, the aviation industry could rely on conservative ideologues and PAC contributions to stymie burdensome reforms.

Among those attacking the Gore Commission recommendations, incidentally, was the New Republic, which noted that "two billion dollars a year to guard against terrorism and sabotage" would amount to "a cost per life saved of well over $300 million." The cost of such libertarian dogma must now be measured in thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.

Even before the Gore Commission report, the Clinton administration had moved to place bomb-detection equipment in major airports and to upgrade background checks on airport personnel. Unfortunately, as Samuel Skinner, former transportation secretary in the first Bush administration, told an interviewer in 1996: "[T]he airlines decided it was not in their short-term best interest to pay for these services from their own pocket, so they made a concerted effort to make sure that [they] didn't have to pay for this and didn't have to charge passengers for it." Also unfortunately, congressional Republicans had repealed a tax on airline tickets that would have financed high-tech improvements in baggage screening and passenger security.

If corporate lobbyists pursued their own narrow interests at the expense of national security, so did Clinton's adversaries on Capitol Hill.

Among the most egregious was Senator Phil Gramm, who blocked an administration bill to close loopholes that let terrorist groups launder money through offshore banks. The Texas Republican denounced that legislation, now belatedly endorsed by the Bush White House as necessary to dismantle al-Qaida, as "totalitarian."

The typical partisan reaction to Clinton's counterterror proposals was enunciated in 1996 by Rep. David McIntosh, who insisted on steering the debate back to a phony White House scandal. "We find it very troubling that you're asking us for additional authority to wiretap innocent Americans," declared McIntosh, "when you have failed to explain to the American people why you abuse their civil liberties by having FBI files brought into the White House."

Harassing the White House was the overriding aim of congressional Republicans throughout the Clinton era, and not only after January 1998 as Sullivan implies. Terrorism and other serious national problems were of relatively little concern to the national GOP leadership. Looking back now, knowing what we know, the greatest scandal of that naive period was its pointlessly destructive scandal-mongering.

Nevertheless, while politicians and pundits fanned the scandal frenzy, Clinton and his appointees tried to prepare for the serious threats they anticipated. After Oklahoma City, they began a nationwide initiative to improve home-front security that continued to grow until Clinton left the White House.

Between 1996 and 2001, federal spending on counterterrorism increased dramatically to more than $12 billion annually. The FBI's counterterrorism budget rose even more sharply, from $78 million in 1996 to $609 million in 2000, tripling the number of agents assigned to such activities and creating a new counterterrorism center at the bureau's Washington headquarters. Whether that gusher of funding was properly used by FBI director Louis Freeh (who has somehow escaped criticism in the aftermath of Sept. 11) is a separate question.

But as Sullivan surely knows, it would hardly be fair to blame Freeh's shortcomings on Clinton alone. As FBI director, Freeh didn't conceal his contempt for the president who had appointed him. He eventually aligned himself with Clinton's adversaries in Congress and in the media. The president had no real power to remove him, and in any case the degree of the bureau's deterioration didn't become clear until near the end of Clinton's second term. But his agency received abundant resources from the White House that Freeh continuously tried to undermine.

Besides strengthening law enforcement, the Clinton administration sponsored a series of wide-ranging simulations that brought together local, state and federal officials to determine how government would respond if terrorists attacked with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Clinton himself was reportedly obsessed with the potential threat of anthrax and other bio-weapons.

That is why, by the time he left office, scores of those planning exercises were taking place annually across the country. Spending on "domestic preparedness" programs rose from $42.6 million in 1997 to more than $1.2 billion in 2000. The foresight represented by those appropriations has given his administration's successors an important head start.

Several months before Clinton left office, the federal Centers for Disease Control issued a $343 million contract for 40 million doses of smallpox vaccine, as part of a wide-ranging research and development program of defense against biological weapons. The Clinton administration also established a new stockpile of drugs, vaccines and medical supplies for use solely in national emergencies. On Sept. 11, the first shipments from those warehouses went out in trucks headed for New York City, under orders from Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson. How fortunate for Thompson and the rest of us that someone had thought ahead.

None of this means that Clinton's record is free of blemish. Could he have done more to reform the intelligence and law enforcement bureaucracy? Should he have spent even more money, with greater wisdom, on homeland security? Was he distracted by domestic concerns and scandals, including the Lewinsky affair he so stupidly brought on himself?

Yes, but such observations are only of historical interest at this point. And meanwhile, that history should also include successes Clinton had in fighting terrorism, which his critics never mention.

On Clinton's watch, the CIA instituted a special al-Qaida unit that thwarted several deadly conspiracies, including a scheme to blow up Los Angeles International Airport on Millennium Eve, and plots to bomb the Holland and Lincoln tunnels in New York as well as the United Nations building. Timely intelligence also prevented a deadly assault on the Israeli embassy in Washington. As early as 1996 -- as reported by the Post and other publications -- the State Department and the CIA began to neutralize dozens of terrorist cells overseas through prosecutions, extraditions and executions quietly undertaken by allies on every continent, from Albania to the Philippines.
SmarterTravel Deal Alert!

A month before Clinton left office -- and nine months before the planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon -- those successful operations were praised by the nation's most experienced diplomats in this field, including conservatives. "Overall, I give them very high marks," said Robert Oakley, who served as ambassador for counterterrorism in the Reagan State Department, to a reporter for the Washington Post. "The only major criticism I have is the obsession with Osama, which has made him stronger." Paul Bremer, who also held the same post under Reagan and later was chosen by congressional leaders to chair the National Commission on Terrorism, disagreed slightly with his colleague. Bremer told the Post he believed that the Clinton administration had "correctly focused on bin Laden."

But to give Clinton any credit would scarcely serve his critics, who have more sinister and explicitly political aims.

Their rhetoric is redolent of the old "stab-in-the-back" theories used by right-wing extremists to discredit FDR after Pearl Harbor and JFK following the Bay of Pigs. This brand of demagogy dates back to Germany after WWI, when the nascent Nazi movement insisted that social democrats, capitalists and Jews had betrayed the nation and the people. With that pedigree, such ugly and divisive arguments ought to be repugnant to every responsible citizen.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Bush is a More Colossal Failure than you Know

Bush is a More Colossal Failure than you Know
by thereisnospoon (dailykos)
Tue Sep 12, 2006

I have to tell you: I do get discouraged. I look at the horrible, monumental crimes and fuck-ups of this so-called Administration--from Iraq to Katrina to Abramoff to torture to everything else--and I cringe in horror at how we are fighting and scraping for every inch of our lives just to try to pick up a measly 20 House seats and 6 Senate seats. This shouldn't be so hard, I say to myself.

Indeed, sometimes I become apoplectic with an almost violent rage. We should be picking up 50, 60 House Seats and 15 Senate seats, I tell myself. After all, historians have already concluded that this is the worst administration in history--and we still have years left to go.

But then, history itself cheers me up again. And on this day--five years and a day after the attacks of 9/11--it is to history that I would like you to turn for inspiration and a renewed sense of purpose.

It is not just that, all told, Bush is the worst president in the history of the United States. That much is clear enough--even to some on the right wing. No--Bush is, in historical terms, a failure of a truly epic and colossal magnitude. Bush is sui generis--a creature all his own. There never has been, and never will be in American history, anything like him again.

Now, an astute person might respond, "But Spoon--that should make our major struggles for comparatively minor gains even MORE infuriating and depressing, no?"

From one perspective, it might--if it's the Administration failures you concentrate on.

But what I want to focus your attention on today is this Administration's ADVANTAGES. Yes, its advantages. For it is in the inherent advantages that Bush was given--and squandered--that the truly extraordinary story lies, and the source of my renewed focus and inspiration.


Great men are made, not born.

Attribution unknown

This statement is truer that most people know. Without the Civil War, would Abraham Lincoln be on Mount Rushmore? Without WWII and the Great Depression, would FDR have won a third term? Would we know the name Martin Luther King, Jr., had he been born a slave 150 years earlier?

The truth is that sometimes history creates opportunities for men and women to achieve a greatness that they could never have achieved themselves. Sometimes they achieve it in the face of monumental odds; sometimes the odds are not so difficult.

Bush has squandered an extraordinary opportunity to achieve an almost unparalleled greatness--with virtually every advantage a person could have, and little to no opposition.

Let's look at some presidential comparisons, shall we? Abraham Lincoln (a success) was given the Civil War; FDR (a success) was given the Great Depression and WWII; Nixon (a mixed bag, but largely a failure) was given Vietnam and a nation in the midst of social revolution. Let's see what advantages and disadvantages they had.

The Press:

Abraham Lincoln: Inherited a divided country, and a viciously brutal press both in the South and the North.

FDR: Had to contend with William Randolph Hearst as the primary journalist of his day--and no friend of FDR, by a long shot.

Nixon: Had to contend with Walter Cronkite and the intrepid reporters of the Washington Post.

Bush: The leading opinion and newsman of Bush's day was Bill O'Reilly, Bush's own propagandist.

The political opposition:

Lincoln: Lincoln had a hostile Northern Congress, in large part; and the Southern Delegates seceded from the Union, so badly did they despise Lincoln.

FDR: FDR's grand plans won him the enmity of much of Congress, who didn't like him upsetting the status quo.

Nixon: Had to deal with a truly hostile Democratic congress.

Bush: Republican House, Republican Senate. Pathetic Opposition (Joe Lieberman, anyone?)

The Electoral Opposition:

Lincoln: Divided between the Hawks and the Copperheads, Lincoln easily trounced his divided opposition.

FDR: Easily trounced his presidential opponent in every election.

Nixon: Won in a landslide over George McGovern.

Bush: Went up against the DLC and John Freaking Kerry--and only won 51% of the vote--if that.

The Wartime Enemy:

Lincoln: Had to face the entire South, with Robert E. Lee at its head. The North won.

FDR: Hirohito and Hitler. Need I say more? Destroyed both.

Nixon: The Vietcong, with the full backing of Red China, in the context of the possible nuclear annihilation of the Cold War. Lost--but "winning" was really never an option.

Bush: a ragtag band of terrorists, with a 6'5" man on a dialysis machine, hiding in caves, for their leader. In Iraq, a crazed but impotent despot with no weapons and an army that rolled over in less than a week. Bin Laden remains at large, and Iraq is a disaster.

Domestic situation and economy:

Lincoln: The economy was shattered--and there was a freaking Civil War!

FDR: The Great Depression. 'Nuff said.

Nixon: Good economy, but a nation in the midst of extraordinary social upheaval.

Bush: Inherited from Clinton record surplusses, and one of the greatest economies in American history.


So let's put this into perspective, shall we?

Before 9/11, Bush was a mediocre and almost laughable president. Stem Cells were the biggest issue of the day.

When 9/11 happened, the nation cried out desperately for a leader. Almost all of us put ourselves in Bush's hands and tabled our partisanship, and were willing to do almost anything that Bush asked. Bush was given an extraordinary opportunity at greatness.

What's more, he had EVERY ADVANTAGE IN THE WORLD: A favorable and kowtowing press. Pathetic or nonexistent political opposition. A pathetically easy enemy to fight. And a great economy.

And he blew it all.

And he STILL holds most of those same advantages.

What is truly incredible is not that we aren't making bigger gains; it that only FIVE YEARS AFTER ONE OF THE GREATEST SHOCKS IN AMERICAN HISTORY, and with every possible advantage handed to him on a silver platter, this president has a 35% approval rating, and 36% of the country wants to impeach him.

And he hasn't even been blamed for letting it happen or failing to prevent it, he's been treated with such kid gloves.

Historically speaking, given his opportunities for greatness and the advantages he was given, Bush is a failure of truly cataclysmic porportions that will become obvious with the advantage of historical distance.


So do not despair, folks. Take heart.

It may be frustrating at times to watch the public apathy in the face of monumental failure, but you must remember that we are up against extraordinary odds: a president given EVERY shot at greatness, with a public that WANTS him to be great--and virtually no opposition to speak of until recently.

And he's STILL going to lose the House, and maybe the Senate--and impeachment may just be around the corner.

That's because he has created a governmental failure of such epic proportions that, when we look back on it 20 or 30 years from now, will practically need its own monument.

So get to work with renewed hope. Let's start chiseling that monument now, and send these criminals packing.

Unclaimed Territory - by Glenn Greenwald: Rich Lowry, Serious Foreign Policy Expert, announces his serious plan for victory in Iraq

Rich Lowry, Serious Foreign Policy Expert, announces his serious plan for victory in Iraq

by Glenn Greenwald

(updated below)

One of the most depressing aspects of the Iraq debate is to watch the self-styled "experts" who advocated this war, such as National Review Editor (and Sean Hannity substitute) Rich Lowry, thrashing around, constantly grasping for new excuses as to why their war is failing, desperate to embrace any explanation at all other than the only true one sitting right in front of their faces -- that the invasion was a bad idea from the beginning, that it was premised on false assumptions, that war advocates were wrong about everything they predicted would happen, and the ongoing occupation has produced incalculable disaster along with virtually no good.

Today, Lowry was given a platform on the Op-Ed page of The Washington Post to outline for us (along with co-author Bill Kristol) the easy, obvious way we can win the war in Iraq -- and, in doing so, said the opposite of everything he has been saying for the last three years:

Rich Lowry (with Bill Kristol), today in The Washington Post:

We are at a crucial moment in Iraq. Supporters of the war, like us, have in the past differed over tactics. But at this urgent pass, there can be no doubt that we need to stop the downward slide in Iraq by securing Baghdad.

There is no mystery as to what can make the crucial difference in the battle of Baghdad: American troops. . . . The bottom line is this: More U.S. troops in Iraq would improve our chances of winning a decisive battle at a decisive moment. This means the ability to succeed in Iraq is, to some significant degree, within our control. The president should therefore order a substantial surge in overall troop levels in Iraq, with the additional forces focused on securing Baghdad.

Rich Lowry, National Review, April 14, 2006 -- just 5 months ago:

You hardly qualify as a retired general these days unless you have written an op-ed piece demanding Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's resignation. One of Rummy's alleged sins was not providing enough troops to secure postwar Iraq. The debate over troop levels will rage for years; it is both characteristically American and somewhat beside the point.

Obviously, if we had it to do over again, we would send more troops in the hopes that sheer numbers would head off our problems. But to think that higher troop levels would have been a magic bullet is to indulge a very American faith in the power of mass to overcome anything. In Iraq, we have faced a delicate political and cultural problem that requires finesse above all — finesse dependent on a fine-tuned understanding of an alien society.

So, in just five short months in Rich Lowry World, we went from "The debate over troop levels" is "somewhat beside the point" and "to think that higher troop levels would have been a magic bullet is to indulge a very American faith in the power of mass to overcome anything" to "There is no mystery as to what can make the crucial difference in the battle of Baghdad: American troops" and "The bottom line is this: More U.S. troops in Iraq would improve our chances of winning a decisive battle at a decisive moment." It's not just profoundly wrong; it's worse than that. It's ludicrous.

All along, over the past several years, Lowry has been insisting that troop levels don't matter, that we have a sufficient force to get the job done in Iraq, and that we are winning, winning, winning. This is the same Foreign Policy Expert Rich Lowry who, following the example of the Commander-in-Chief's aircraft career victory dance, boldly announced in the May 9, 2005 issue of National Review: "It is time to say it unequivocally: We are winning in Iraq" -- an article which prompted this embarrassing NR cover (a cover which, as TBogg notes, competes with "Dewey Wins" for humiliating headlines of historic proportions). In that same article, Lowry announced:

If current trends continue, our counter-insurgent campaign in Iraq will be fit to be mentioned in the same breath as the British victory over a Communist insurgency in Malaysia in the 1950s, a textbook example of this form of war. . . . The basic approach of the Pentagon to the insurgency was right from the beginning.

"The strategy was always political as well as military," says a Pentagon official. A counterinsurgency is never about simply killing enemy fighters the way it is — or at least seems — on a conventional battlefield. Insurgents have an endless capacity to replicate themselves, unless political conditions are creat
ed that drain them of support.

Back then -- just a year ago -- we were "winning" because the Pentagon brilliantly realized that you can't defeat an insurgency by increasing troop levels. Today, we would be "winning" if only we would increase our troop levels. It's like an Abbott and Costello routine, but that is what passes for serious foreign policy analysis in our national dialogue.

As always, abject, endless error is accompanied in people like Lowry with a grotesque mix of smugness and bravado. Just last week, Lowry donned his tough-guy warrior mask and trotted out all of the cliches: "On Iraq, the Democrats are the party of defeat." He complained that "The Democrats don’t offer stirring rhetoric about the need for victory and for stalwartness in the face of setbacks, but instead a dreary recitation of mistakes in the war leavened with little hope or positive policy proposals."

Those dreary, un-fun Democrats. They keep pointing out the deceit and errors which brought us into this unparalleled strategic disaster in Iraq -- so that we don't make the same mistakes by listening to the same people -- when they should instead just "offer stirring rhetoric about the need for victory and for stalwartness in the face of setbacks." But all Lowry ever does is "offer stirring rhetoric about the need for victory and for stalwartness in the face of setbacks," and, in case he hasn't noticed, it doesn't help. It's equally meaningless and misleading. Here is what Lowry said on December 16, 2005:

This is why Democratic calls for retreat are so politically perilous, and so senseless, when Iraq might be on the cusp of a turning. What a fine irony it would be if after denouncing President Bush for being out of touch with Iraqi reality, Democrats were even more so, right at the moment they began to be true to themselves.

To Lowry, we're always on the cusp of winning. It's always -- as he announced today -- the "crucial moment." The "decisive battle at a decisive moment." Everything is always going really swell in Iraq. And all we need for it to get even better, to get to the finish line, is some more Churchillian "stirring rhetoric about the need for victory and for stalwartness in the face of setbacks." Anyone serious can see that that's all we need.

And war critics have been so annoying, so unfair -- above all, so unserious -- because they have been drearily pointing out the reality that things actually aren't going very well in Iraq and that more "stirring rhetoric" is unlikely to change that. That's what leads Lowry to say things like this:

What is legitimately in question is whether Democrats can be trusted on national security.

Just go read a few Rich Lowry columns about Iraq over the last few years -- just pick some randomly -- and then ask yourself if there is anyone you would trust less on national security; ask whether, short of being Bill Kristol, it would be possible to have been more wrong about everything. Virtually every one of his Iraq columns are filled with bitter mockery of those who were right, along with pompous predictions about what would happen which were plainly grounded in a world composed in equal parts of adolescent fantasy and rank ignorance.

But as always with Iraq and terrorism debates, being endlessly wrong is a sign of profound seriousness, and cheering on wars -- no matter how misguided and misinformed the cheering is -- renders one a serious foreign policy expert who recognizes the serious threats we face in these very serious times. That's why, when The Washington Post wants to find someone to counsel us on its Op-Ed page as to what to do in Iraq, it turns to two of the Wrongest People in America.

If we had determined our Iraq policy over the last three years by picking proposals out of a hat, we would have been way more right than we were by listening to Bill Kristol and Rich Lowry. But they favor wars and more wars and put on a grave, serious face when they talk about The Terrorists, so they are Serious Foreign Policy Experts and need to be listened to.

UPDATE: As A.L. notes, there is a real question -- at least according to Gen. Barry McCaffrey -- as to whether we would even have the troops available to increase our troop levels by any meaningful amount in Iraq. Gen. McCaffrey flatly says that "they're not available."

As I've explained before, I do not agree that someone who advocates a war has an obligation to fight in that war, nor do I think there is anything per se improper about advocating a war without having served (most Americans favored the war in Afghanistan and the first Iraq war). But if one advocates, as Lowry does, sending more troops to a war where there is a troop shortage, and if, as is true for Lowry, one is of an age eligible to fight in combat, doesn't that at least give rise to an obligation for the increased-troop advocate to explain why he won't make the sacrifices for his own policy by becoming one of the reinforcing troops?

More generally, is it ever legitimate to ask what sacrifices war advocates are making on behalf of the wars they advocate? Scott Lemieux asks a related question about Lowry.

In Unpredictable District, Some Say Bush Is Politicizing Terrorism - New York Times

In Unpredictable District, Some Say Bush Is Politicizing Terrorism

ARVADA, Colo., Sept. 11 — Leaving services Sunday morning at Faith Bible Chapel, an evangelical megachurch, Jim McBride, a pilot who served in Vietnam, said he was not happy with President Bush’s handling of Iraq. And he displayed little inclination to rethink his position despite the White House’s new push to focus this year’s Congressional elections on which party will keep the nation safer.

“I do have a bit of mistrust,” said Mr. McBride, who said that he twice voted for Mr. Bush but that he is now disappointed — a sentiment he said is shared by many in his Bible study group. “The whole thing about W.M.D. and that Iraq is somehow tied to 9/11, I just don’t believe it.”

Mr. Bush has plenty of supporters in this Denver suburb and the surrounding cities, an evenly divided swing district that is a bellwether in the battle for control of the House. But interviews over the last three days here found Republicans, Democrats and independents all expressing degrees of skepticism about Mr. Bush’s motives in delivering a set of high-profile speeches on terrorism and the war in Iraq two months before Election Day.

While it is too early to know whether the White House will succeed in winning over enough voters to make a difference in what is shaping up as a tight race, the interviews suggested that Mr. Bush’s newest efforts to cast his party as better suited than Democrats to defend the country had yet to overcome concern and anger among many voters about Iraq and a more generalized sense of discontent with the administration.

“I have been a Republican all my life, but we have just gotten to the point where we may need a change,” said Shannon Abote, an Arvada resident who was stopping at Starbucks for a coffee on Monday morning.

Many residents said they were aware only in general terms of Mr. Bush’s recent speeches and his decision to bring high-level terrorism suspects to trial before military tribunals. They acknowledged that the terrorist threat often seemed distant, far removed from their busy lives in the shelter of the Rocky Mountains. Fewer than 20 people turned out Monday morning outside the Elks Club in Arvada to mark the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

“Living in the central part of the country has probably kept terrorism from the forefront of our minds,” said Peter Strecker as he and his wife, Robin, strolled through downtown Golden on Saturday with their 13-month-old daughter, Paige, after a sudden downpour.

Still, even strong Bush supporters said they doubted the presidential drumbeat on terrorism would alter the political landscape here. “I think people already have their minds made up,” said Michael Mason, an engineer and Golden native. “The whole thing could end tomorrow, and they would still hate his guts. The damage has been done.”

The random interviews with dozens of residents across the Seventh Congressional District were not scientific. But they do suggest that Mr. Bush’s public standing could be problematic for the Republican candidate in the race for the open House seat, Rick O’Donnell, and that the Republican push on terrorism will not necessarily pack the same political punch it did in 2002 and 2004.

“I think it is the only card they have got,” said Floyd Ciruli, a longtime Denver pollster, referring to the national Republican focus on terrorism. “Will it make a difference in Colorado? Absolutely not.”

If so, that would be bad news for Congressional Republican leaders. They are counting on Mr. Bush’s concerted efforts to both raise his own public approval and to simultaneously help give Republican House and Senate candidates an edge on the security issues that have dominated the last two national elections. But polls indicate that the climate is different this year, with fewer Americans confident that the fight against terrorism is going well, and Democrats, including Mr. O’Donnell’s opponent, Ed Perlmutter, are vigorously trying to counter Mr. Bush.

“My job is to make sure that people remember that all this was brought out in ’04 and ’02,” said Mr. Perlmutter. Republicans are resurrecting the “same old plays from the same old playbook,” he said. “The war on terror is clearly an important subject, but they have made a mess of it.”

Mr. O’Donnell said terrorism and the war in Iraq continued to be secondary issues in a race he described as being driven more by immigration and economic issues. “Having the president talk about the threat to the country reminds people that we live in a dangerous world, but it is not the No. 1 issue on their minds,” he said.

Mr. O’Donnell, who was the beneficiary of a fund-raising visit by the president this year, has good reason to put a little distance now between himself and the president: Senator John Kerry carried the district in the 2004 presidential race.

But Mr. Bush retains his strong backers.

At the Sept. 11 ceremony on Monday in Arvada, Nancy Goodman, whose 21-year-old son is finishing a tour as a marine in Iraq, expressed full confidence in Mr. Bush’s antiterrorism strategy.

“I agree with what he is doing,” said Ms. Goodman, a Republican, who said the public could not always know the reasoning behind the administration’s actions. “We have to trust our leadership, and we have to trust our military, and we have to trust that they want to protect us.”

Blaine Engdahl, an off-duty police officer who was waving the flag Saturday as he watched Arvada’s annual harvest festival parade from the back of a pickup, said: “I think he has made his mistakes, but he is trying. If we don’t fight them there, we are going to be fighting them over here.”

Dale Burkhart, another Bush supporter, urged the president to step up the effort to get his message across. “Everybody has forgotten why we got hit,” Mr. Burkhart said. “Americans need to be continually reminded because of the way we live. We are blessed, and we take it for granted.”

But independents and Democrats repeatedly characterized Mr. Bush’s recent spree of speeches and actions on terrorism as a cynical effort to thrust the issue into the Congressional campaign season.

“I think it is a calculated attempt on the part of the president and Karl Rove to push terrorism before the election,” said Patrick Bassett, a Democrat and software developer from Golden who was visiting a mall in Aurora. “All these issues could have been brought up at an earlier time.”

Robin Dodich, a retired teacher and self-described independent who was part of a small group of antiwar protesters along the Aurora parade route, called Mr. Bush’s recent actions disgusting.

“Republicans believe their party is in trouble and they want to help their campaigns,” Ms. Dodich said. “It is almost like Bush is frantic.”

Mindy Sink and Katie Kelly contributed reporting.

John Yoo summarizes the last 5 years in two short sentences

John Yoo summarizes the last 5 years in two short sentences

By Glenn Greenwald

Bob Egelko has an interesting article in The San Francisco Chronicle today examining how U.S. law has changed over the last five years as a result of the 9/11 attack. He includes this truly revealing quote from John Yoo:

UC Berkeley law Professor John Yoo, who as a Justice Department lawyer was one of the Bush administration's chief legal theorists, summarized its view in his forthcoming book, "War by Other Means":

"We are used to a peacetime system in which Congress enacts the laws, the president enforces them, and the courts interpret them. In wartime, the gravity shifts to the executive branch.''

Actually, I'm pretty sure that it's always the case in America (or at least it used to be) that "Congress enacts the laws, the president enforces them, and the courts interpret them." That's pretty fundamental to how our country works. In fact, the whole structure of the Constitution is based on that system -- not just the "Peacetime Constitution" we have, but the actual Constitution itself.

The Constitution is actually pretty clear on that score. Article I says "All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States" -- Article II says the President "shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed" -- Article III says "the judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in . . . inferior Courts." That arrangement isn't really a side detail or something that shifts based on circumstance. It's pretty fundamental to the whole system. In fact, if you change that formula, it isn't really the American system of government anymore.

Someone who says that it's only sometimes true in America that "Congress enacts the laws, the president enforces them, and the courts interpret them" is someone who doesn't understand how the country works. There is really no other way to put it. But Yoo -- as he candidly admits -- doesn't think that's how it should work, and, thanks in no small part to him, that isn't how it has been working ever since 9/11. To use Yoo's formulation, if we were to simply return to a "system in which Congress enacts the laws, the president enforces them, and the courts interpret them," that would go a long way to alleviating many of this country's most pressing political problems.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Kevin Drum - Bush and 911

Bush AND 911

By Kevin Drum

BUSH AND 9/11....James Joyner, noting the harsh tone evident in many of the lefty blogosphere's 9/11 posts today, says that "the stridency of these posts, even from bloggers and publications on the moderate side of the lefty blogosphere is surprising."

Speaking only for myself, I'm not sure this should come as a surprise to anyone. My biggest disappointment of the past five years — the biggest by a very long way — has been the way that George Bush transformed 9/11 from an opportunity to bring the country together into a cynical and partisan cudgel useful primarily for winning a few more votes in national elections.

Compare and contrast: FDR was surely one of the most partisan presidents of the 20th century, but after Pearl Harbor he announced that "Dr. New Deal has been replaced by Dr. Win the War." And he made good on that. World War II was largely a bipartisan war and FDR largely governed as a bipartisan commander-in-chief.

And Bush? Within a few months of 9/11 Karl Rove was telling party members what a great issue terrorism would be for Republicans. Andy Card was busily working on the marketing campaign for Iraq, timed for maximum impact on the midterm elections in 2002. Joe Lieberman's DHS bill was hijacked and deliberately loaded with anti-union features in order to draw Democratic complaints and hand Bush a campaign issue. The UN resolution on WMD inspections in Iraq was kept on fire until literally the day after the midterms, at which point the version acceptable to the rest of the world was suddenly agreeable to Bush as well. Democrats who supported Bush on the war were treated to the same scorched-earth campaigning as everyone else. Bipartisanship bought them nothing.

What else? Bush never engaged with Democrats in any way. Bill Clinton and Al Gore were both hawkish Dems who could have been co-opted early if Bush had had any intention of treating the war seriously. He didn't even try. He continued pushing divisive domestic issues like tax cuts and culture war amendments. ("Dr. Tax Cuts has been replaced by Dr. Win the War" would have been more appropriate.) He showed little interest in funding anti-proliferation efforts or working with serious Democratic proposals to improve domestic security at ports and chemical plants. The national security rhetoric from Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest of the administration was relentlessly inflammatory and divisive.

I think this is a complaint that most conservatives don't accept — even conservatives who have soured on Bush over the past couple of years. But believe me: on the Democratic side of the aisle, Bush's intensely and gratuitously partisan approach to 9/11 and the war on terror is keenly felt. Sunday's Republican Party photo-op at Ground Zero was just more of the same.

UPDATE: Spencer Ackerman puts it this way: "By using September 11 to aggregate power for himself, and to make his opponents — you, me, and every other liberal who needed to feel like we could trust our leaders after we were attacked — feel disloyal to their country, he prevented us from healing."

Eric Alterman's Last Column for MSNBC

It would be impossible to do justice here to the legacy of 9/11 at year five and I’m not going to try. This nation was doubly cursed on this day five years ago; first by the attack itself, and second by the reaction of our dishonest, incompetent and corrupt leadership’s exploitation of it for their own naked political and ideological purposes. As every single global poll during the past four years indicates, we are a less admirable nation than we were five years ago. We are more warlike, more arrogant, more ignorant, less compassionate, less generous, less free, and thanks to the Bush administration’s catastrophic invasion of Iraq, far less safe.

Think back five years and it’s all but unimaginable.

I took a look at the column I did for five years ago today. I was writing in a state of shock, literally smelling death from downtown, not knowing if I had lost anyone close to me, trying to make sense of my thoughts and emotions. Here’s some of it:
The first commandment of any crisis is to be cool. Don’t panic. Don’t do anything to make it worse. There is plenty of time to assess blame and figure out how to respond in a manner and moment of our own choosing. Nothing could dishonor the dead quite as profoundly than to kill more innocents in the name of vengeance and let the true perpetrators get away with their crimes.
The politicians and pundits who conducted their dreamworld debate about missile defense and space weaponry against as yet imaginary opponents showed precious little interest in these more arcane threats that any number of nations and terrorist groups already possessed. Now we are paying the price for the unreality of our political debate.
Everything about American politics needs to come down to earth. Face it, it does not really matter much what happened to Chandra Levy. It’s too bad such a nice looking girl was missing, but she is only one person. Tuesday’s attacks demonstrate how much we need to grow up as a nation politics can be even if we prefer not to pay attention. It’s time to have a serious debate about the nation’s priorities and to make tough decisions involving difficult trade-offs. There is no way to wish away our many vulnerabilities as a society. But we can address them sensibly and democratically, if only we face up to the fact that we never had any innocence to lose. We merely acted as if we did.

Eight days later, to my eternal shame, I suspended my previous judgments about George W. Bush, and allowed myself to be sucked into the vortex of national unity that he would soon exploit to the detriment of this nation and the world. While I did criticize Bush’s “foolish” use of “for or against us rhetoric,” as well as the speech’s lack of specifics about what, exactly he had in mind, nevertheless, following Bush’s address to the nation, I wrote:

Whether you voted for him or felt he stole the election, it was hard not to be moved by the president’s ability to represent America in all its diversity, imagination and determination before the world in the face of our greatest collective tragedy in more than a generation. The President appeared to hit virtually every note just right. He was not overly belligerent, and did not play up to jingoist sentiments. He paid tribute to the real heroes of the crisis—the cops and firemen and rescue workers--and made frequent reference to the fact that the struggle we now face will require both cooperation and patience.

I look back on that moment when so many of us wanted to trust our president and I wonder:

Who would have imagined in their worst nightmares that these political usurpers would employ the human catastrophe of 9/11 to continue the terrorists work for them? Who would have imagined that they would embark on a course that would eventually kill more Americans than died on 9/11 in wars that do nothing to ensure the nation’s security but much to inspire more Arabs to hate us and wish to attack us? Who would have imagined they would dissipate the global solidarity and support the world had offered us? Who would have imagined that, having ignored all of the signs of a certain attack, they would continue to ignore the most obvious steps to protect us against future catastrophe, leaving our ports, our nuclear facilities, our chemical facilities invitingly unguarded? Who would have imagined that they would willingly allow bin-Laden to escape? Who would have imagined they would lie to the rescue workers about the health effects of the air they were breathing. Who would have imagined that they would put the fate of the nation in the hands of a group of lying, conniving, rats like “curveball,” Ahmad Chalabi and the INC? Who would have imagined a political campaign in which a man like Max Cleland, a man who lost three limbs in Vietnam, would be branded as insufficiently patriotic by right-wing politicians and pundits who never sacrificed so much as a chicken dinner for their country? Who would have imagined they would use homeland security as pure pork money, doling out millions for Red State fire houses while leaving tens of millions who live near obvious targets—and were attacked last time—unprotected? Who would have imagined they would emulate our enemies, employing methods of torture and massacre? Who would imagine they would force our brave soldiers to die fighting phantoms, without even proper body armor? Who would have imagined they would outlaw photographs of military funerals, or that the president could not find time to attend a single one of them? Who would have imagined they would use the attacks to create a domestic spying regime, a series of secret prisons and tribunals, and the declare the right to abrogate any and all American civil liberties whenever it struck their fancy? Who would have imagined, in other words, that they would exploit these tragic deaths to seek to undermine our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, indeed the very foundations of the same “freedom” that allegedly inspired the terrorists in the first place? And finally, who would have imagined that our vaunted “liberal media” and nonpartisan political establishment would cheer them along the way, failing to ask the difficult questions and attacking the patriotism and even sanity of those with the courage and foresight to do so?

9/11 could have been a rebirth of our nation’s civic and political culture, together with a recommitment to use our power to ensure the security and prosperity of a world community that looked to us with sympathy and admiration. “We are All Americans,” said Le Monde. Today most of the world is anti-American and understandably so. We have failed the Afghans. We have failed the Iraqis. We have failed our long-time allies, indeed, virtually everyone who trusted us. We will survive, of course, and someday, a more enlightened leadership will be able to undo some of the damage these two curses have inflicted upon us and return us to the values that helped build this great nation. But the opportunity offered by a world united in solidarity with America and its values is almost certainly dead for good. Let the coroner’s certificate read: “Cause of Death: Lies, Extremism, Incompetence, Corruption, Murder, Torture, and Hypocrisy, Stupidity, and Even More Lies.”


[. . . .]

Quote of the Day, “The great red zone that voted for Bush--is clearly ready for war. The decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead--and may well mount a fifth column." —Andrew Sullivan, 9/16/01

P.S., I’m Fired… [permalink]

First, the bad news: I’m fired. has decided to end its support of “Altercation,” and indeed, all of its association with yours truly as of this Friday.

Ok, now, the good news: My friends at Media Matters for America have decided that the cause of continuing “Altercation” in its current, politically independent form to be worthy of their support. So we’re not dying, just moving. Our new URL will be and I will also become a MM Senior Fellow.

I am genuinely saddened to leave I was hired before the 1996 launch by both the Web site and the cable station, and while the latter association ended in 1998, I have been here at for ten straight years, writing a column until 2002 and “Altercation” every day, ever since. Permit me to point out that with the help of my contributors and co-Altercators, I’ve probably contributed more words to this site than any other person, including full-time staff. Well, ten years is a good run at anything. It was the philosophical Beatles who said “all things must pass.” I’m profoundly proud of what we’ve accomplished here, particularly the creation of a community of writers and readers who share a sense of commitment, conscience, and one hopes, consciousness. We’ve kept to the standards I outlined here four and a quarter years ago—in sadly, the only thing I’ve ever written that has ever been compared to Proust and I don’t think it was a compliment. In any case, I like to think we —the Altercation community— set a standard of discourse that requires no apologies, explanations nor caveats, which is something, dare I say it, rare and beautiful in the mainstream media. As for, I want to say that my experience working with my editors, past and present, has been an unbroken and unblemished blessing. When asked me to start a blog, I had no perfect precedents to guide me. Josh and Mickey, and yes, Andy, had struck out bravely on their own, but no mainstream news organization had its own blogger and let’s face it, MSNBC made a less than perfectly safe choice in picking me. I was able to create Altercation with plenty of support but no interference, personal, political, commercial or otherwise. It may sound amazing in the context of the online world for the entire time I did Altercation, I had no idea whatever how many hits this site received. Nobody ever asked me to deal with a topic, much less to stay away from one. And of course, all mistakes were my own.

Whether my termination is, in fact, a product of a political decision at GE/NBC, which according to reports I read and gossip I hear, has lately taken a much firmer hand in guiding the content of both MSNBC and, I have no way of knowing. I have never even spoken with the Web site’s current editor-in-chief, nor has anyone communicated with me beyond my immediate circle of editors. Outspoken liberals in the MSM have long been an endangered species. (From the beginning, a Wall Street Journal editorial page writer attacked the site for "conferring mainstream legitimacy on Eric Alterman.”) Even less common, I suppose, are Web sites that feel free to criticize their corporate parents, the pollution they cause, the lying, incompetent, ideologically extremist and corrupt presidents they coddle, and perhaps most especially, the all-but incomprehensible choices they make when doling out cable TV news programs. It would surprise no one if this site caused some discomfort at 30 Rock, if and when they happen to notice it. But speculation is not the same thing as evidence, and the good folks at and GE/NBC can, I’m sure, give you good reasons why dumping Altercation is the right thing to do from a business standpoint —though the natural speculation that arises is a damn good argument against the kind of media concentration that allows a company like GE to own NBC in the first place. And few decisions in life have only one inspiration, alas. All I can say for sure is that I remain profoundly grateful for the opportunity they gave me and depart with nothing but feelings of warmth and gratitude for my colleagues who made it possible.

Again, beginning a week from today, we can be found at (Bookmarkers, permalinkers, please note.) As far as I’m concerned, nothing at all will change insofar as the site’s content is concerned, and I’m hoping my fellow Altercators will feel the same way. (Maybe Pierce will even come back…) Right or wrong, left or center, Altercation will always be the right room for an argument. Come up and see us sometime.

Lewinsky Was a Distraction -- But Not to Clinton

From Media

Lewinsky was a distraction from issues that matter -- but it was the media, not Clinton administration, that took their eye off the ball

The ABC film's most vicious smear is its reported depiction of the Clinton administration as unwilling and unable to take Osama bin Laden seriously because it was distracted by the Monica Lewinsky matter. According to Editor & Publisher, the film "explores the terrorist threat starting with the 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center, and there is little question that President Clinton is dealt with severely, almost mockingly, with the Lewinsky scandal closely tied to his failure to cripple al-Qaeda." E&P went on to describe one scene in which former White House counterterrorism adviser Richard A. Clarke is depicted telling then-FBI special agent John O'Neill, who died on 9-11, that Clinton won't order a strike against bin Laden because of the Lewinsky investigation:

Clarke explains to O'Neill afterward that "they are worried about political fallout" and "legalities." O'Neill complains that terrorism is "perceived by this administration as a law and order problem." A CIA planner angrily declares, "It's not about sitting around a conference room covering your ass."

Right away comes a quick cut to Clinton making his famous statement about not having "sexual relations" with Lewinsky. Clarke tells O'Neill that Clinton won't give the order to get bin Laden in this climate, with Republicans calling for his impeachment. O'Neill says that Clinton wants bin Laden dead -- but not if he has to order it. "It's pathetic," he declares.

In a review of the film, The New York Times endorsed the lie that Lewinsky distracted the Clinton administration from pursuing bin Laden. The Times reported that "[t]he Sept. 11 commission concluded that the sex scandal distracted the Clinton administration from the terrorist threat."

But, as Think Progress has noted, that is absolutely not what the 9-11 Commission concluded. Page 118 of the 9-11 Commission report reads:

Everyone involved in the decision had, of course, been aware of President Clinton's problems. He told them to ignore them. Berger recalled the President saying to him "that they are going to get crap either way, so they should do the right thing." All his aides testified to us that they based their advice solely on national security considerations. We have found no reason to question their statements.

Former National Security Council senior director for counterterrorism Roger Cressey has previously debunked claims that Clinton was not fully engaged in pursuing bin Laden in 1998. In a 2003 op-ed in The Washington Times, co-written with special assistant to the president for African affairs Gayle Smith, Cressey and Smith wrote:

Mr. Clinton was, in fact, ready and willing to undertake a special forces or other paramilitary assault on bin Laden, particularly after our missile attacks on bin Laden in the summer of 1998, and often pressed his senior military advisers for options. But Mr. Clinton's top military and intelligence advisers concluded that a commando raid was likely to be a failure, given the potential for detection, in the absence of reliable, predictive intelligence on bin Laden's whereabouts.

Mr. Clinton approved every request made of him by the CIA and the U.S. military involving using force against bin Laden and al Qaeda.

To be sure, some people were distracted by the Lewinsky matter and did their nation a grave disservice by obsessing over it rather than on dealing with serious matters, like bin Laden.

Foremost among those people are the congressional Republicans who tried to impeach the president for having lied about an affair. Then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) illustrated his party's obsession with investigations of the president's personal life when he declared in April 1998 that "I will never again, as long as I am speaker, make a speech without commenting on this topic." Fortunately, the American people showed better judgment and rejected the GOP during that year's midterm elections, bringing Gingrich's tenure as speaker to an end much sooner than he must have expected.

Former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE), a member of the 9-11 Commission, "criticized the film for appearing to omit the role the GOP Congress played in neglecting the growing threat," according to journalist and blogger Greg Sargent. Kerrey told Sargent: "If you say Clinton was distracted by impeachment, I promise you the Congress was distracted by impeachment. ... Members of Congress who focused on impeachment bear some significant responsibility. Apparently the [film] doesn't show that. It's incomplete, then."

While Kerrey is a Democrat, he cannot be dismissed as a knee-jerk Clinton defender: His most famous public comment may be his 1996 statement that Clinton is "an unusually good liar."

But congressional Republicans weren't the only ones who put the nation's most important business on hold while focusing on affairs and blue dresses. Our nation's most respected news organizations embraced their inner Enquirer, devoting non-stop, round-the-clock coverage to the Lewinsky controversy at the expense of far more serious matters.

Take ABC, the network that now wants you to think that Bill Clinton was too focused on Monica Lewinsky to deal with Osama bin Laden. In the ABC News file in the Nexis database, there are 137 transcripts from 1998 that mention the words "bin Laden." Most of those are passing mentions: Only 58 transcripts use bin Laden's name four times or more. And remember: 1998 is the year in which the United States launched military strikes against bin Laden. So, what was ABC spending its time and resources on? Monica Lewinsky. Lewinsky's name appears in 1,738 ABC transcripts in 1998 alone; 629 of them used the word "Lewinsky" four times or more.

It is little wonder, then, that, in 2005, the Project for Excellence in Journalism of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press "found that 75% of Americans believed that news organizations were more concerned with 'attracting the biggest audience,' while only 19% thought they cared more about 'informing the public.' "

There is little doubt that the Lewinsky investigation distracted some people from far more important matters -- matters of life and death. But it was not the Clinton administration, as ABC alleges, that took its eye off the ball. It was Congress -- and ABC and most of the rest of the nation's news organizations.

ABC's attempt to smear Clinton administration officials appears to be a classic case of projection.

Speaking of "ABC" and "projection," ABC News senior national correspondent Jake Tapper used his weblog to lecture critics of ABC's The Path to 9/11. Tapper wrote:

If you're a fan of the 9/11 Commission, I might suggest that your energy could perhaps be well channeled by trying to get our political leaders to carry out the recommendations of that Commission, which have not been fully implemented.

That, it would seem to me, might be a more constructive (at least in the long-term) use of time as opposed to focusing on one TV show -- either in trying to get scenes edited, or in insisting that they remain untouched. I understand both sides of the debate, and I don't take either lightly, but I wonder -- what would bin Laden prefer us to focus on? A TV show, or improving this country's defenses? It need not be an either/or, but there are in fact only so many minutes in the day.

This from a guy who, just two days earlier, had devoted a post to Dancing With the Stars appearances by country music singer Sara Evans and Carlson, whom Tapper described as "[m]y personal favorite contestant" and "my pal." So, Mr. Tapper, we'll toss your question right back at you: "[W]hat would bin Laden prefer us to focus on? A TV show, or improving this country's defenses?"

There is another obvious -- and more substantive -- flaw with Tapper's logic: Some of the most pointed and credible critics of The Path to 9/11 are the very same 9-11 Commission members whose recommendations have not been fully implemented.

Maybe Tapper can explore why those recommendations haven't been implemented, on an upcoming Nightline broadcast. Surely, that would be a better use of his time -- and ours -- than another report, like the one he offered on August 25, about "this year's Emmy swag." Wonder what bin Laden thought of that?

Al Franken - Operation Ignore

Here's the real story of how the Clinton administration was focused on terrorism and the Bush administration dropped the ball. Don't trust Franken? By all means, check the sources he cites here!

Excerpt from:
Al Franken's book: Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

Chapter Operation Ignore

Bill Clinton's far-reaching plan to eliminate al Qaeda root and branch was completed only a few weeks before the inauguration of George W. Bush. If it had been implemented then, a former senior Clinton aide told Time, we would be handing [the Bush Administration] a war when they took office." Instead, Clinton and company decided to turn over the plan to the Bush administration to carry out. Clinton trusted Bush to protect America. This proved, nine months later, to be a disastrous mistake - perhaps the biggest one Clinton ever made.

Clinton's National Security Advisor Sandy Berger remembered how little help the previous Bush administration had provided to his team. Believing that the nation's security should transcend political bitterness, Berger arranged ten briefings for his successor, Condoleezza Rice, and her deputy, Stephen Hadley. Berger made a special point of attending the briefing on terrorism. He told Dr. Rice, “I believe that the Bush administration will spend more time on terrorism in general, and on al Qaeda specifically, than any other subject.''

Which brings me to a lie. When Time asked about the conversation, Rice declined to comment, but through a spokeswoman said she recalled no briefing at which Berger was present" Perhaps so, Dr. Rice. But might I direct our mutual friends, my readers, to a certain December 30, 2001, New York Times article? Perhaps you know the one, Condi? Shall I quote it? "As he prepared to leave office last January, Mr. Berger met with his successor, Condoleezza Rice, and gave her a warning. According to both of them, he said that terrorism-and particularly Mr. bin Laden's brand of it-would consume far more of her time than she had ever imagined.'' (Italics mine.)

When I read this, my instinct was to shout for joy and dance around the room, naked, celebrating the finding of a lie. And I did. "Badda Bing!" I cried, as I ran around the house, my genitals flopping wildly, embarrassing my wife and her bridge group.

After the dressing down from my wife, who really read me the riot act, it occurred to me that all I had really found was a contradiction between Time and the Times. Maybe The New York Times had it wrong. Maybe Dr. Rice, considered a paragon of integrity, had told Time magazine the truth-that her predecessor had never warned her about the impending threat from al Qaeda and its evil mastermind. It was time for the Franken investigative juggernaut to assert itself. I called Dr. Rice's office, prepared to pierce the infamous White House veil of secrecy with a lance of white-hot journalistic enterprise. I left a message, and they called me right back with the answer. A White House official told me that Dr. Rice had met with Berger at a briefing, and he had told her about the seriousness of the al Qaeda threat. Condi lied to Times! Badda Bing!

Anyway. After Berger left, Rice stayed around to listen to counterterrorism bulldog Richard Clarke, who laid out the whole anti-al Qaeda plan. Rice was so impressed with Clarke that she immediately asked him to stay on as head of counterterrorism. In early February, Clarke repeated the briefing for Vice President Dick Cheney. But, according to Time, there was some question about how seriously the Bush team took Clarke's warnings. Outgoing Clinton officials felt that "the Bush team thought the Clintonites had become obsessed with terrorism."

The Bushies had an entirely different set of obsessions. Missile defense, for example. The missile defense obsession proved prescient when terrorists fired a slow-moving intercontinental ballistic missile into the World Trade Center. If only Clarke had put his focus on missile defense instead of obsessing on Osama bin Laden.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was obsessed with a review of the military's force structure, which had the potential of yielding tremendous national security dividends ten or fifteen years down the road. I, personally, am a longtime proponent of force structure review, as anyone who has had the misfortune to spend any time around me when I am drunk can attest. But I don't think it should be to the exclusion of everything else. Let me give you one little example: I also believe in FIGHTING TERRORISM.

While all the Bushies focused on their pet projects, Clarke was blowing a gasket. He had a plan, and no one was paying attention. It didn't help that the plan had been hatched under Clinton. Clinton-hating was to the Bush White House what terrorism- fighting was to the Clinton White House.

Meanwhile, on February 15, 2001, a commission led by former senators Gary Hart and Warren Rudman issued its third and final report on national security. The Hart-Rudman report warned that "mass-casualty terrorism directed against the U.S. homeland was of serious and growing concern'' and said that America was woefully unprepared for a "catastrophic'' domestic terrorist attack and urged the creation of a new federal agency: "A National Homeland Security Agency with responsibility for planning, coordinating, and integrating various U.S. government activities involved in homeland security” that would include the Customs Service, the Border Patrol, the Coast Guard, and more than a dozen other government departments and agencies.

The Hart-Rudman Commission had studied every aspect of national security over a period of years and had come to a unanimous conclusion: "This commission believes that the security of the American homeland from the threats of the new century should be the primary national security mission of the U.S. government."

The report generated a great deal of media attention and even a bill in Congress to establish a National Homeland Security Agency. But over at the White House, the Justice Department, and the Pentagon, President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Attorney General Ashcroft, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld decided that the best course of action was not to implement the recommendations of the Hart-Rudman report, but instead to launch a sweeping initiative dubbed "Operation Ignore."

The public face of Operation Ignore would be an antiterrorism task force led by Vice President Cheney. Its mandate: to pretend to develop a plan to counter domestic terrorist attacks. Bush announced the task force on May 8, 2001, and said that he himself would "periodically chair a meeting of the National Security Council to review these efforts." Bush never chaired such a meeting, though. Probably because Cheney's task force never actually met. Operation Ignore was in full swing.

Unbeknownst to Bush and Cheney, Richard Clarke was doggedly pushing his plan to put boots on the ground in Afghanistan and kill Osama bin Laden. Thanks to Clarke's relentless efforts, the plan was working its way back up the food chain, after having been moved to the bottom of the priority list, right below protecting the public from giant meteors.

On April 30, Clarke presented a new version of the plan to the deputies of the major national security principals: Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis Libby; the State Department's Richard Armitage; DOD's Paul Wolfowitz; and the CIA's John McLaughlin. They were so impressed, they decided to have three more meetings: one on al Qaeda, one on Pakistan, and a third on Indo-Pakistani relations. And then a fourth meeting to integrate the three meetings. Sure, scheduling these meetings would take months, and would delay the possibility of actually acting on the plan and eliminating al Qaeda, but, according to a senior White House official, the deputies wanted to review the issues "holistically'' which as far as I can tell means ''slowly.''

On July 10, 2001, nearly five months after the Hart-Rudman report had warned of catastrophic, mass-casualty attacks on America's homeland and called for better information sharing among all federal intelligence agencies, Operation Ignore faced a critical test. Phoenix FBI agent Kenneth Williams sent a memo to headquarters regarding concerns over some Middle Eastern students at an Arizona flight school. Al Qaeda operatives, Williams suggested, might be trying to infiltrate the U.S. civil aviation system. He urged FBI Headquarters to contact the other intelligence agencies to see if they had information relevant to his suspicions. Had Williams's memo been acted upon, perhaps the CIA and FBI would have connected the dots. And had Hart-Rudman been acted upon, perhaps the memo would not have been dismissed. Operation Ignore, now in its 146th day, had proved its effectiveness once more.

The holdovers from the Clinton era - Clarke and CIA Director George Tenet-were going nuts. Bush administration insiders would later say they never felt that the two men had been fully on board with Operation Ignore. Tenet was getting reports of more and more chatter about possible terrorist activity. Through June and July, according to one source quoted in the Washington Post, Tenet worked himself nearly frantic'' with concern. In mid-July, "George briefed Condi that there was going to be a major attack," an official told Time.

Only Time would tell what happened next.

On July 16, the deputies finally held their long-overdue holistic integration meeting and approved Clarke's plan. Next it would move to the Principals Committee, composed of Cheney, Rice, Tenet, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Rumsfeld--the last hurdle before the plan could reach the President. They tried to schedule the meeting for August, but too many of the principals were out of town. They had taken their cue from the President. August was a time to recharge the batteries, to take a well-deserved break from the pressures of protecting America. The meeting would have to wait till September 4.

No one understood better the importance of taking a break to spend a little special time with the wife and dog than President George W. Bush. Bush spent 42 percent of his first seven months in office either at Camp David, at the Bush compound in Kennebunkport, or at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. As he told a $1,000-a-plate crowd at a fund-raiser in June, Washington, D.C., is a great place to work, but Texas is a great place to relax." That's why on August 3, after signing off on a plan to cut funding for programs guarding unsecured or "loose” nukes in the former Soviet Union, he bade farewell to the Washington grind and headed to Crawford for the longest presidential vacation in thirty-two years.

On its 172nd day, Operation Ignore suffered a major blow. Already, the operation was becoming more and more difficult to sustain as the intensity of terror warnings crescendoed. Now, on August 6, CIA Director Tenet delivered a report to President Bush entitled, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.'' The report warned that al Qaeda might be planning to hijack airplanes. But the President was resolute: Operation Ignore must proceed as planned. He did nothing to follow up on the memo.

Actually, that's not entirely fair. The President did follow up, a little bit. Sitting in his golf cart the next day, Bush told some reporters, "I'm working on a lot of issues, national security matters.'' Then, Bush rode off to hit the links, before dealing with a stubborn landscaping issue by clearing some brush on his property. The next day, he followed up again, telling the press, I've got a lot of national security concerns that we're working on Iraq, Macedonia, very worrisome right now."

But Iraq and Macedonia weren't the only things on Bush's mind. "One of the interesting things to do is drink coffee and watch Barney chase armadillos," he told reporters on a tour of the ranch later in his vacation. "The armadillos are out, and they love to root in our flower bed. It's good that Barney routs them out of their rooting.''

On August 16, the INS arrested Zacharias Moussaoui, a flight school student who seemed to have little interest in learning to take off or land a plane. The arresting agent wrote that Moussaoui seemed like "the type of person who could fly something into the World Trade Center." Trying to pique the interest of FBI Headquarters in Washington, a Minneapolis FBI agent wrote that a 747 loaded with fuel could be used as a weapon. lf this information had been shared and analyzed, for example by a newly founded Homeland Security Agency, it might have sparked memories of the Clinton-thwarted 1996 al Qaeda plot to hijack an American commercial plane and crash it into CIA Headquarters.

On August 25, still on the ranch, Bush discussed with reporters the differences between his two dogs. "Spot's a good runner. You know, Barney-terriers are bred to go into holes and pull out varmint. And Spotty chases birds. Spotty's a great water dog. I'll go fly-fishing this afternoon on my lake." And you know something? He did just that.

Among those left to swelter in the D.C. heat that August was one Thomas J. Pickard. No fly-fishing for him. In his role as acting FBI director, Pickard had been privy to a top-secret, comprehensive review of counterterrorism programs in the FBI. The assessment called for a dramatic increase in funding. Alarmed by the report and by the mounting terrorist threat, Pickard met with Attorney General John Ashcroft to request $58 million from the Justice Department to hire hundreds of new field agents, translators, and intelligence analysts to improve the Bureau's capacity to detect foreign terror threats. On September 10, he received the final Operation Ignore communique: an official letter from Ashcroft turning him down flat. (To give Pickard credit for adopting a professional attitude, he did not call Ashcroft the next day to say, "I told you so.'')

Clarke's plan to take the fight to al Qaeda lurched forward once more on September 4, 2001. Eight months after he had first briefed Condi Rice about it, and nearly eleven months after Clinton had told him to create it, Clarke's plan finally reached the Principals Committee that served as gatekeeper to the commander in chief. Bush was back from his trip, rested up, and ready for anything.

Cheney, Powell, Rice, Rumsfeld, and the other Principals debated the plan and decided to advise Bush to adopt it with a phased-in approach. Phase One, to demand cooperation from the Taliban and make fresh overtures to al Qaeda opponents such as the Northern Alliance, would begin the moment the President signed off on the plan. Phase Zero, however, came first: wait several days as the proposal made its way to the Bush's desk.

On September 9, as the plan cooled its heels, Congress proposed a boost of $600 million for antiterror programs. The money was to come from Rumsfeld's beloved missile defense program, the eventual price tag of which was estimated by the Congressional Budget Office at between $158 billion and $238 billion. Congress's proposal to shift $0.6 billion over to counterterror programs incurred Rummy's ire, and he threatened a presidential veto. Operation Ignore was in its 207th day.

On Operation Ignore Day 208, Ashcroft sent his Justice Department budget request to Bush. It included spending increases in sixty-eight different programs. Out of these sixty-eight programs, less than half dealt with terrorism. Way less than half. In fact, none of them dealt with terrorism. Ashcroft passed around a memo listing his seven top priorities. Again, terrorism didn't make the list.

On that day, I left for Minneapolis to visit my mom and play some charity golf.

On the next day, the world shook.

The day after that, they started blaming Clinton, covering their tracks, and accusing liberals of blaming America.

Hart-Rudman Report - February 15, 2001