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, October 06, 2006

The New York Times | Deeper and Deeper

Deeper and Deeper
The New York Times | Editorial

Thursday 05 October 2006

There is fresh evidence, if any more were needed, that excessive borrowing during the Bush years will make the nation poorer.

For most of the past five and a half years, interest rates have been low, allowing the government to borrow more and more - to cut taxes while fighting two expensive wars - without having to shoulder higher interest payments.

That's over now. For the first time during President Bush's tenure, the government's interest bill is expected to rise in 2006, from $184 billion in 2005 to $220 billion this year, up nearly 20 percent. That increase - $36 billion - makes interest the fastest-growing component of federal spending, and continued brisk growth is likely. According to projections by Congress's budget office, the interest bill will grow to $249 billion in 2007, and $270 billion in 2008.

All of that is money the government won't have available to spend on other needs and priorities. And much of it won't even be recycled back into the United States economy. That's because borrowing from foreign countries has exploded during the Bush years. In 2005, the government paid about $77 billion in interest to foreign creditors in China, Japan and elsewhere.

And that's not the worst of it. While foreign investors were putting up most of the $1.5 trillion the federal government has borrowed since 2001, they were also snapping up hundreds of billions of dollars in private sector securities, transactions that have been a big source of the easy money that allowed Americans to borrow heavily against their homes.

The result, as The Wall Street Journal reported last week, is that for the first time in at least 90 years, the United States is now paying noticeably more to foreign creditors than it receives from its investments abroad. That is a momentous shift. It means that a growing share of America's future collective income will flow abroad, leading to a lower standard of living in the United States than would otherwise have been achieved. Americans deserve better than this financial mess.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Bush says he can edit security reports on Yahoo! News

Bush says he can edit security reports

By LESLIE MILLER, Associated Press WriterThu Oct 5, 4:06 PM ET

President Bush, again defying Congress, says he has the power to edit the Homeland Security Department's reports about whether it obeys privacy rules while handling background checks, ID cards and watchlists.

In the law Bush signed Wednesday, Congress stated no one but the privacy officer could alter, delay or prohibit the mandatory annual report on Homeland Security department activities that affect privacy, including complaints.

But Bush, in a signing statement attached to the agency's 2007 spending bill, said he will interpret that section "in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch."

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said it's appropriate for the administration to know what reports go to Congress and to review them beforehand.

"There can be a discussion on whether to accept a change or a nuance," she said. "It could be any number of things."

The American Bar Association and members of Congress have said Bush uses signing statements excessively as a way to expand his power.

The Senate held hearings on the issue in June. At the time, 110 statements challenged about 750 statutes passed by Congress, according to numbers combined from the White House and the Senate committee. They include documents revising or disregarding parts of legislation to ban torture of detainees and to renew the Patriot Act.

Privacy advocate Marc Rotenberg said Bush is trying to subvert lawmakers' ability to accurately monitor activities of the executive branch of government.

"The Homeland Security Department has been setting up watch lists to determine who gets on planes, who gets government jobs, who gets employed," said Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

He said the Homeland Security Department has the most significant impact on citizens' privacy of any agency in the federal government.

Homeland Security agencies check airline passengers' names against terrorist watch lists and detain them if there's a match. They make sure transportation workers' backgrounds are investigated. They are working on several kinds of biometric ID cards that millions of people would have to carry.

The department's privacy office has put the brakes on some initiatives, such as using insecure radio-frequency identification technology, or RFID, in travel documents. It also developed privacy policies after an uproar over the disclosure that airlines turned over their passengers' personal information to the government.

The last privacy report was submitted in February 2005.

Bush's signing statement Wednesday challenges several other provisions in the Homeland Security spending bill.

Bush, for example, said he'd disregard a requirement that the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency must have at least five years experience and "demonstrated ability in and knowledge of emergency management and homeland security."

His rationale was that it "rules out a large portion of those persons best qualified by experience and knowledge to fill the office.";_ylt=AriewX_QWWCpMJzdUeuQdGQGw_IE;_ylu=X3oDMTA3MXN1bHE0BHNlYwN0bWE-

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

LRB | Tony Judt : Bush’s Useful Idiots

LRB | Tony Judt : Bush’s Useful Idiots: "Bush’s Useful Idiots
Tony Judt on the Strange Death of Liberal America

Why have American liberals acquiesced in President Bush’s catastrophic foreign policy? Why have they so little to say about Iraq, about Lebanon, or about reports of a planned attack on Iran? Why has the administration’s sustained attack on civil liberties and international law aroused so little opposition or anger from those who used to care most about these things? Why, in short, has the liberal intelligentsia of the United States in recent years kept its head safely below the parapet?

It wasn’t always so. On 26 October 1988, the New York Times carried a full-page advertisement for liberalism. Headed ‘A Reaffirmation of Principle’, it openly rebuked Ronald Reagan for deriding ‘the dreaded L-word’ and treating ‘liberals’ and ‘liberalism’ as terms of opprobrium. Liberal principles, the text affirmed, are ‘timeless. Extremists of the right and of the left have long attacked liberalism as their greatest enemy. In our own time liberal democracies have been crushed by such extremists. Against any encouragement of this tendency in our own country, intentional or not, we feel obliged to speak out.’

The advertisement was signed by 63 prominent intellectuals, writers and businessmen: among them Daniel Bell, J.K. Galbraith, Felix Rohatyn, Arthur Schlesinger Jr, Irving Howe and Eudora Welty. These and other signatories – the economist Kenneth Arrow, the poet Robert Penn Warren – were the critical intellectual core, the steady moral centre of American public life. But who, now, would sign such a protest? Liberalism in the United States today is the politics that dares not speak its name. And those who style themselves ‘liberal intellectuals’ are otherwise engaged. As befits the new Gilded Age, in which the pay ratio of an American CEO to that of a skilled worker is 412:1 and a corrupted Congress is awash in lobbies and favours, the place of the liberal intellectual ha"

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Billmon - The Way of the Whigs

The Way of the Whigs

Howard Fineman is an asshole, but if a blind pig can find an acorn every once in a while I guess an asshole can pass a chestnut from time to time:

Can Democrats blow it even now? Sure. They don’t have the money and the machinery Republicans do.

More important, the Democrats’ message is murky. In the Senate, they decry the Mexican fence, then more than half of them vote for it. They label the Iraq war as a mistake, then vote $70 billion more for it. They object to Bush’s torture bill, yet flinch at a chance to block it in the Senate.

It was that kind of profound indecision on a moral issue (slavery) that led to the demise of the Whigs before the Civil War. The Foley Scandal means that Democrats might be able to succeed with a campaign slogan that says, simply, “Had Enough?” But if they take control of Congress, they’ll still have to do what the Whigs could not, which is explain what they are for, not just what we all are against.

The comparison with the Whigs is spot on, in fact I've made it myself. The rise of slavery as the great, polarizing issue in American life and politics did them in. The Democrats (oh, the irony) where superbly successful at demagoguing them down South, while their wishy-washy, kinda sorta anti-slavery positions were never hard enough to satisify Northern abolitionists.

The party never really stood a chance -- not as long as the farmers of the Old Northwest (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois) were enthusiastic members of the cheerfully racist, bellicose, expansionist coalition that Old Hickory had forged.

The Whigs tottered on for a time by recruiting a succession of war heroes as candidates (sound familiar?) but by the 1852 election the jig was up. The abolitionist wing -- the wild-eyed lefty bloggers of the 19th century -- grabbed control of the party, dumped their own president (the blandly moderate Millard "Lieberman" Fillmore) and nominated a slightly less moderate anti-slavery general named Winfield "Lamont" Scott. And got their heads handed to them.

After that the party fell apart as Southern "Bidens" and "Nelsons" bolted to the Democrats and the radicals formed their own splinter parties. For the next eight years the United States was, in effect, a one-party state.

There remained, however, a core of old Whigs -- including an obscure ex-congressman who had made something of a name for himself as a railroad lawyer in Illinois -- and they gradually gravitated to the one of the splinters, which merged with the leading radical abolitionist splinter to create the Republican Party.

The rest, as they say, is history -- a rather bloody history, but also glorious and revolutionary: leading to probably the greatest single blow for human progress ever struck on this continent.

If that was the way of the Whigs, then I could definitely go for it (not the blood, but the reborn, revolutionary party). And if the price that had to be paid was the destruction of the pathetic remnants of the Democratic Party, why the hell should anyone cry over that? It's practically a corpse. Let it rest in peace.

Unfortunately, the Flight of the Phoenix is probably not the most likely ending for this story -- and Fineman explains why, although I don't think he understands that that's what he's doing:

They [the Democrats] don’t have the money and the machinery Republicans do.

This is actually one of the most curious of the many curious attitudes I see among pseudo-liberal punditcrats like Fineman (or, worse still, the Post's Sebastian Mallaby): They slam the Democrats for being weak, wishy washy, devoid of principles, etc., but say virtually nothing about the economic realities that help keep them that way.

I mean, what exactly do they expect from a party that most of the time literally doesn't have the strength to put up its fists and fight back -- or doesn't have fists on the ends of its arms to fight with? They really expect a party that has one foot in the grave already (with the most ruthless political machine this side of Boss Tweed pushing on its back with a pitchfork) to take on entrenched interests, question hyperpatriotic hysteria and stand up for the Geneva Conventions in a time of permanent, amorphous war?

And if the Dems did take on those suicide missions, would the Howard Finemans and the Sebastian Mallabys of the world be standing on the sidelines, cheering them on? Oh no. They'd be writing contemptuous columns about how the Democrats have lost their minds and marched in lockstep into the fever swamps of the radical left. Hell, they're writing them now.

The point, I guess, is that the structural advantages enjoyed by the Republicans (the party of capital in a capitalist system) are taken for granted -- just as the power realities of the system itself are taken for granted. The Democrats literally can't buy a break. So if I despair at the ability of the party to resist the trance-like drift to war with Iran, it's not because I think most Democratic politicos don't want to stop it, but because I realize they can't stop it -- not without breaking the party politically and financially.

If that were to happen, I seriously doubt the Dems would go the way of the Whigs, more the pity. The Whigs could die and be born again because many of the institutionalized advantages enjoyed by today's Republicans -- the kind they're counting on to pull them through this election -- either didn't exist or were in their infancy. The giant corporations, the PACs, the 30-second TV ads, the vacuum cleaner-like fundraising operations, the computer-generated redistricting maps -- even Jules Verne hadn't imagined those things yet. Politics, even machine politics, was still a retail business. Voters still selected their politicians, instead of politicians selecting their voters.

The Democratic hegemony of the 1850s collapsed because the country changed -- it was in a constant process of change, with the industrial revolution in full swing and the frontier moving west at a couple hundred miles per year. Hungry for free soil to homestead, the Old Northwest bolted from its alliance with the slaveholding South and cast its lot with the Republicans and Lincoln. War came, and when the smoke cleared the political balance of power -- and the country -- had been completely transformed.

Can the same thing happen again? Maybe. Maybe the immigrants or the information revolution or economic distress or some other irresistable force will push the wheel around again and leave the Dems on top, or bring a new party to power -- instead of leaving us with a hapless bunch of windbags who have to rely on the mother of all sex scandals to overcome their own handicaps.

But there's a strong smell of fustiness and decay to the system -- almost like the sour, medicinal odor of a nursing home. The instruments of top-down manipulation and control, and the enormous quantities of cash available to power them, may be too strong for economic change and social evolution (the godparents of political realignment) to overcome.

America isn't a spring chicken any more. We're getting pretty set in our ways. Soon we we may need bifocals (some of us already do). At times (like now) you can almost hear the arteries hardening, even if you're not standing next to Dick Cheney. Political change -- much less fundamental change, the kind that frees the slaves or brings malefactors of great wealth to heel -- may no longer be possible in American politics.

The Republicans may lose this election. They're certainly trying hard. They may even lose the next one. But it's going to take more than one or two scandal-boosted victories to persuade me the Dems have a future that doesn't involve being the ornamental decoration on a functionally one-party state.

But of course, if the Dems lose next month, despite the GOP's best efforts to hand them the House and quite possibly the Senate, then I guess we'll know that's where they're heading. And unlike the Whigs, I don't think they'll be coming back.

Patrick Buchanan - American Dien Bien Phu?

American Dien Bien Phu?
By Patrick Buchanan

What a spectacle America at war presents to the world.

A former president, red-faced, bawls his rage at Fox News' Chris Wallace, who had asked why he had not shut down bin Laden and Co. in the seven years he had to do it. The president of the United States declaims to a partisan audience in Alabama, "The Party of FDR and Harry Truman has become the party of cut and run."

Is this how the great republic fights and wins its wars?

America has taken on the aspect of France's Fourth Republic after the fall of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Case in point: "State of Denial," by Bob Woodward of Watergate fame.

As White House press secretary Tony Snow said, the book is cotton candy. It melts in one's mouth. There seems to be little here that is new, shocking or significant. That confidential memos at State and the National Security Council conflicted with the rosier rhetoric of President Bush is hardly news to a nation, a majority of whose people now believe Iraq was a mistake. All it means is that our commander in chief has tried to maintain the morale of the home front.

Among other revelations, we learn that Robert Blackwill of the NSC sent a memo to Condi Rice arguing that 40,000 more troops were needed in Iraq, that George Tenet and J. Cofer Black of the CIA went to see Condi to warn her something big was up, two months before 9-11, that Chief of Staff Andy Card pushed to have Donald Rumsfeld replaced, that Kissinger met often with President Bush to insist that victory is the only real exit strategy. But Henry has been writing that in The Washington Post.

What is going on here?

People recently removed from power are leaking to Woodward to ensure that the first draft of history shows that their sage counsel had been ignored. They are scoring points off their own president, who once entrusted them with high office.

Among the more important revelations, however, is an unstated one. So badly are things going in Iraq that men who once had influence over U.S. war policy feel compelled to cut loose of that policy and of the policymakers: Bush, Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice. This book exposes their fear that America may be losing the war -- and their determination to swim clear of culpability before the ship goes down.

Of significant interest is the comment of Gen. Abizaid, Centcom commander, to two friends from Vietnam days: "We've got to get the (expletive) out of here," meaning out of Iraq.

Asked by his friends about his victory strategy, Abizaid replied, "That's not my job." A jolting comment indeed from the general who is to lead us to victory.

Unlike history, Woodward's books are fast-paced, frothy reads that reward his sources by heroizing them and paint those who decline to confess to Bob as obtuse, oblivious to what's going on. In earlier books, when things appeared to be going well in Iraq and Afghanistan, this White House collaborated, and was rewarded. Almost all emerged as sagacious and strong. This time, Woodward met with closed doors.

Understandably, for things are not going well in Afghanistan or Iraq, though we do not need another book to tell us that. The question that needs answering is: What do we do now?

According to the National Intelligence Estimate, leaked to The New York Times and partially declassified last week, our intel agencies believe the U.S. invasion of Iraq has so inflamed the Arab and Muslim world it has spawned terrorism. Yet, the same NIE argues that a too-rapid withdrawal could mean collapse of the Iraqi regime, triumph for the jihadists and a calamity for the United States.

But, then, we did not need the NIE to tell us that, either. For the American public, 60 percent of whom believe Iraq was a mistake, also opposes immediate withdrawal, fearing the disaster of which the NIE warns.

Still, the Woodward book, the NIE and the savagery of this campaign seem certain to create a crisis for Bush after November.

How, after all, when one's former aides are telling Woodward the White House and the Pentagon blundered in their management of the war, does one convince the American people they did not?

How, after Bush has called the Democratic Party a cut-and-run crowd, and Democrats have accused the White House and Pentagon of being incompetents in fighting the war in Iraq, does one ask for and receive bipartisan support to stay the course?

What do our troops in Iraq, who risk their lives every day, think when they read that their commanding general believes, "We've got to get the (expletive) out of here," and that a victory strategy is "not my job."

France's defeat at Dien Bien Phu in Indochina lead to a second war of national liberation in Algeria, the fall of the Fourth Republic and the call for Gen. de Gaulle to assume power. The general did, and he rang down the curtain on the French Empire.

Are we facing an American Dien Bien Phu?

Copyright 2006 Creators Syndicate
Page Printed from: at October 03, 2006 - 11:07:38 PM CDT

The century of drought

The century of drought

One third of the planet will be desert by the year 2100, say climate experts in the most dire warning yet of the effects of global warming

By Michael McCarthy, Environmental Editor
The Independent (UK)
Published: 04 October 2006

Drought threatening the lives of millions will spread across half the land surface of the Earth in the coming century because of global warming, according to new predictions from Britain's leading climate scientists.

Extreme drought, in which agriculture is in effect impossible, will affect about a third of the planet, according to the study from the Met Office's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research.

It is one of the most dire forecasts so far of the potential effects of rising temperatures around the world - yet it may be an underestimation, the scientists involved said yesterday.

The findings, released at the Climate Clinic at the Conservative Party conference in Bournemouth, drew astonished and dismayed reactions from aid agencies and development specialists, who fear that the poor of developing countries will be worst hit.

"This is genuinely terrifying," said Andrew Pendleton of Christian Aid. "It is a death sentence for many millions of people. It will mean migration off the land at levels we have not seen before, and at levels poor countries cannot cope with."

One of Britain's leading experts on the effects of climate change on the developing countries, Andrew Simms from the New Economics Foundation, said: "There's almost no aspect of life in the developing countries that these predictions don't undermine - the ability to grow food, the ability to have a safe sanitation system, the availability of water. For hundreds of millions of people for whom getting through the day is already a struggle, this is going to push them over the precipice."

The findings represent the first time that the threat of increased drought from climate change has been quantified with a supercomputer climate model such as the one operated by the Hadley Centre.

Their impact is likely to even greater because the findings may be an underestimate. The study did not include potential effects on drought from global-warming-induced changes to the Earth's carbon cycle.

In one unpublished Met Office study, when the carbon cycle effects are included, future drought is even worse.

The results are regarded as most valid at the global level, but the clear implication is that the parts of the world already stricken by drought, such as Africa, will be the places where the projected increase will have the most severe effects.

The study, by Eleanor Burke and two Hadley Centre colleagues, models how a measure of drought known as the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) is likely to increase globally during the coming century with predicted changes in rainfall and heat around the world because of climate change. It shows the PDSI figure for moderate drought, currently at 25 per cent of the Earth's surface, rising to 50 per cent by 2100, the figure for severe drought, currently at about 8 per cent, rising to 40 cent, and the figure for extreme drought, currently 3 per cent, rising to 30 per cent.

Senior Met Office scientists are sensitive about the study, funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, stressing it contains uncertainties: there is only one climate model involved, one future scenario for emissions of greenhouse gases (a moderate-to-high one) and one drought index. Nevertheless, the result is "significant", according to Vicky Pope, the head of the Hadley Centre's climate programme. Further work would now be taking place to try to assess the potential risk of different levels of drought in different places, she said.

The full study - Modelling the Recent Evolution of Global Drought and Projections for the 21st Century with the Hadley Centre Climate Model - will be published later this month in The Journal of Hydrometeorology .

It will be widely publicised by the British Government at the negotiations in Nairobi in November on a successor to the Kyoto climate treaty. But a preview of it was given by Dr Burke in a presentation to the Climate Clinic, which was formed by environmental groups, with The Independent as media partner, to press politicians for tougher action on climate change. The Climate Clinic has been in operation at all the party conferences.

While the study will be seen as a cause for great concern, it is the figure for the increase in extreme drought that some observers find most frightening.

"We're talking about 30 per cent of the world's land surface becoming essentially uninhabitable in terms of agricultural production in the space of a few decades," Mark Lynas, the author of High Tide, the first major account of the visible effects of global warming around the world, said. "These are parts of the world where hundreds of millions of people will no longer be able to feed themselves."

Mr Pendleton said: "This means you're talking about any form of development going straight out of the window. The vast majority of poor people in the developing world are small-scale farmers who... rely on rain."

A glimpse of what lies ahead

The sun beats down across northern Kenya's Rift Valley, turning brown what was once green. Farmers and nomadic herders are waiting with bated breath for the arrival of the "short" rains - a few weeks of intense rainfall that will ensure their crops grow and their cattle can eat.

The short rains are due in the next month. Last year they never came; large swaths of the Horn of Africa stayed brown. From Ethiopia and Eritrea, through Somalia and down into Tanzania, 11 million people were at risk of hunger.

This devastating image of a drought-ravaged region offers a glimpse of what lies ahead for large parts of the planet as global warming takes hold.

In Kenya, the animals died first. The nomadic herders' one source of sustenance and income - their cattle - perished with nothing to eat and nothing to drink. Bleached skeletons of cows and goats littered the barren landscape.

The number of food emergencies in Africa each year has almost tripled since the 1980s. Across sub-Saharan Africa, one in three people is under-nourished. Poor governance has played a part.

Pastoralist communities suffer most, rather than farmers and urban dwellers. Nomadic herders will walk for weeks to find a water hole or riverbed. As resources dwindle, fighting between tribes over scarce resources becomes common.

One of the most critical issues is under-investment in pastoralist areas. Here, roads are rare, schools and hospitals almost non-existent.

Nomadic herders in Turkana, northern Kenya, who saw their cattle die last year, are making adjustments to their way of life. When charities offerednew cattle, they said no. Instead, they asked for donkeys and camels - animals more likely to survive hard times.

Pastoralists have little other than their animals to rely on. But projects which provide them with money to buy food elsewhere have proved effective, in the short term at least.

Steve Bloomfield

Some Say They Felt Uneasy About Representative's Attention -

Some Say They Felt Uneasy About Representative's Attention

By James V. Grimaldi, Juliet Eilperin and Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, October 4, 2006; A01

In 1995, male House pages were warned to steer clear of a freshman Republican from Florida, who was already learning the names of the teenagers, dashing off notes, letters and e-mails to them, and asking them to join him for ice cream, according to a former page.

Mark Beck-Heyman, now a graduate student in clinical psychology at George Washington University, and more than a dozen other former House pages said in interviews and via e-mail that Rep. Mark Foley was known to be extraordinarily friendly in a way that made some of them uncomfortable.

Beck-Heyman said the attention was "weird" and he provided a handwritten letter that Foley had sent him after the page left Washington to return home to California, suggesting that they get together during the Republican National Convention in San Diego in 1996.

The e-mail exchanges that have become public in recent days are between Foley and male former pages. None of those interviewed said they had received a sexual or suggestive overture from him during their time on Capitol Hill. Yet many of them said they were uneasy about Foley's actions and felt awkward complaining to anyone about them.

"Mark Foley knew that he could get away with this type of behavior with male pages because he was a congressman," Beck-Heyman said. "But many people on Capitol Hill, including many high-level Republican staffers and members, have known for over 11 years about what was going on and chose to do nothing."

The six-term lawmaker resigned Friday after ABC News questioned him about sexually explicit electronic messages he had sent to a former page.

Yesterday, his attorney said Foley has never had sexual contact with a minor.

Also yesterday, ABC reported that Foley had a sexual conversation via instant message with a former page during a House vote in 2003.

Foley was popular with many of the pages. The teenagers come from all over the nation to serve at the Capitol, taking school classes and living in dormitories.

Their schedules are tightly controlled. They travel with adult chaperones and their computers are monitored. They attend social functions and sometimes spend time alone with House members. So when they do receive rare one-on-one attention, it is a big deal.

The pages did, however, receive a lot of attention from Foley. He attended one of their parties in a tuxedo. He donated to the fundraiser that helps pay for their prom and spoke admiringly about them in floor speeches. He learned their names and asked them about themselves. For many, it was welcome attention.

"He was consistently kind," said Bryce Chitwood, president of the 2002 page class. "He was just a very friendly man and was always willing to befriend a page. It was something we appreciated. You find yourself very low on the totem pole of the congressional power scale. For a congressman to act like he was interested in a person and cared about us was something pretty special and pretty important."

Foley spoke about his attachment to the program occasionally as part of the farewell address lawmakers delivered to House pages each summer. In 2002, he discussed how he was tempted "to put some money" in a card he gave to one page who had sent him a graduation notice.

"Then I realized he would tell all of you, and then I would get hundreds of graduation announcements," Foley said, according to the Congressional Record. "So I chose not to."

Another page had won a lunch with the congressman that year at the annual page auction. When he asked to go to Morton's steakhouse, Foley said on the House floor that the two of them "proceeded to cruise down in my BMW to Morton's. And all of this story is meant to make you all feel jealous that you were not the high bidders."

In a separate floor speech two years later, Foley praised the teenagers for their maturity. "Now, I know you have one more year of high school to conclude and that probably is some degree of relief or maybe, to those you feel like you are probably well equipped to enter your first year of college," he said. "Some of you, I think, in conversing with you, some are actually mature enough to enter college right away."

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), who served as a Senate page between 1963 and 1967, said Foley's attempts to socialize with pages went beyond the ordinary. Davis and other lawmakers may have taken their own pages to lunch at the Members' Dining Room at the end of the year, Davis said, but anything else was considered inappropriate.

As a page, Davis recalled, "if a member of Congress, a House member or a senator, took the time to talk to you, that was a big deal. That was a huge deal."

Anna Fry, a former House page who said she had never heard about Foley's advances, said some of her classmates may have been tempted to correspond with the congressman after they left because they were eager to land future jobs on Capitol Hill.

"After we graduated, everyone wanted to come back. Everyone was looking for an opportunity to stay in Washington," Fry said. "I can see how a 16-year-old would be vulnerable to that."

Matt Schmitz, a former page whose younger brother also was a page, said: "I certainly warned my little brother, who was a page last year. A few of the members are a little friendlier to the pages."

Beck-Heyman, who contacted The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, joined the page program in the summer of 1995. He said that a departing page told him to be "very careful" of Foley. Within weeks, Beck-Heyman said, Foley had learned his name and asked at least twice to take him to get ice cream. He declined. After one all-night work session, Beck-Heyman's girlfriend -- another page -- offered to bring him breakfast. Foley asked disapprovingly if she was his girlfriend.

"It was an odd conversation," Beck-Heyman said.

After he completed the page program, Beck-Heyman wrote thank you notes to 10 House members. He received a reply from Foley almost immediately, suggesting that the two meet up during the Republican convention in San Diego.

Staff researcher Madonna Lebling and research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.

In Bill’s Fine Print, Millions to Celebrate Victory - New York Times

n Bill’s Fine Print, Millions to Celebrate Victory

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 — As the Bush administration urges Americans to stay the course in Iraq, Republicans in Congress have put down a quiet marker in the apparent hope that V-I Day might be only months away.

Tucked away in fine print in the military spending bill for this past year was a lump sum of $20 million to pay for a celebration in the nation’s capital “for commemoration of success” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Not surprisingly, the money was not spent.

Now Congressional Republicans are saying, in effect, maybe next year. A paragraph written into spending legislation and approved by the Senate and House allows the $20 million to be rolled over into 2007.

The original legislation empowered the president to designate “a day of celebration” to commemorate the success of the armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to “issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe that day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

The celebration would honor the soldiers, sailors, air crews and marines who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it would be held in Washington, with the $20 million to cover the costs of military participation.

Democrats called attention to the measure, an act that Republicans are likely to portray as an effort to embarrass them five weeks before the midterm election. The Democrats said both the original language and the extension were pushed by Senate Republicans. A spokesman for the Republican-controlled Senate Armed Services Committee said it was protocol not to identify sponsors of such specific legislation.

The overall legislation was approved in the Senate by unanimous consent and overwhelmingly in the House after a short debate.

Democrats nevertheless said they were not pleased.

“If the Bush administration had spent more time planning for the postwar occupation of Iraq, and less time planning ‘mission accomplished’ victory celebrations, America would be closer to finishing the job in Iraq,” said Rebecca M. Kirszner, communications director for Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader.

Lt. Col. Brian Maka, a Pentagon spokesman, said late Tuesday that the event was envisioned as an opportunity for “honoring returning U.S. forces at the conclusion” of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. “As the funds were not used in F.Y. 2006,” the official said, using the initials for fiscal year, “the authorization was rolled over into F.Y. 2007.”

Rice was told of terrorist threat | The World | The Australian

Rice was told of terrorist threat
Correspondents in Washington
October 04, 2006
A REVIEW of White House records has shown that then CIA director George Tenet briefed Condoleezza Rice about the looming threat from al-Qa'ida on July 10, 2001, despite Dr Rice yesterday saying she did not recall the meeting.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said records showed the September 11 Commission had also been informed about the meeting, details of which emerged last week in a new book by investigative reporter Bob Woodward.

Following the disclosure of the meeting in the book State of Denial, Bush administration officials questioned Woodward's reporting. But The New York Times reported yesterday that current and former Bush administration officials have now confirmed parts of his account.

Officials agree that on July 10, 2001, Mr Tenet and his counter-terrorism deputy, J. Cofer Black, were so alarmed about intelligence pointing to an impending attack by al-Qa'ida that they demanded an emergency meeting at the White House with Dr Rice and her National Security Council staff, the paper said.

But Dr Rice said yesterday she could not recall the warning from Mr Tenet. "What I am quite certain of is that I would remember if I was told, as this account apparently says, that there was about to be an attack in the United States, and the idea that I would somehow have ignored that I find incomprehensible," said Dr Rice, who was then George W. Bush's national security adviser.

"I don't know that this meeting took place, but ... what I'm quite certain of, is that it was not a meeting in which I was told there was an impending attack and I refused to respond."

Speaking to reporters en route to Saudi Arabia and other stops in the Middle East, Dr Rice said she met Mr Tenet daily at that point, and has no memory of the wake-up call from him described in the book.

Mr McCormack said the records in fact showed that, far from ignoring Mr Tenet's warnings, Dr Rice acted on the intelligence and requested that Mr Tenet make the same presentation to Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and then attorney-general John Ashcroft.

But Mr Ashcroft said yesterday he had received no briefing at that time from Mr Tenet.

According to the September 11 Commission, Mr Ashcroft was briefed on July 5, 2001, with "warning that a significant terrorist attack was imminent". The report noted that the briefing addressed only threats outside the US.

Woodward wrote that the meeting between Mr Tenet, Dr Rice and Mr Black stood out in the minds of Mr Tenet and Mr Black as the "starkest warning they had given the White House" on Osama bin Laden and his al-Qa'ida network.

Mr Tenet asked for the meeting after receiving a disturbing briefing from Mr Black, according to the book.

But though Mr Tenet and Mr Black warned Dr Rice in the starkest terms of the prospects for attack, she brushed them off, Woodward reiterated yesterday.

He told NBC that Mr Black told him the two men were so emphatic, it amounted to "holding a gun to her head" and doing everything except pulling the trigger.

Mr Black reportedly laid out secret intercepts and other data "showing the increasing likelihood that al-Qa'ida would soon attack the United States".

"Tenet and Black felt they were not getting through to Rice," Woodward wrote of the session. "She was polite, but they felt the brush-off."


NYTimes - The Foley Matter

The Foley Matter

History suggests that once a political party achieves sweeping power, it will only be a matter of time before the power becomes the entire point. Policy, ideology, ethics all gradually fall away, replaced by a political machine that exists to win elections and dispense the goodies that come as a result. The only surprise in Washington now is that the Congressional Republicans managed to reach that point of decayed purpose so thoroughly, so fast.

That House leaders knew Representative Mark Foley had been sending inappropriate e-mail to Capitol pages and did little about it is terrible. It is also the latest in a long, depressing pattern: When there is a choice between the right thing to do and the easiest route to perpetuation of power, top Republicans always pick wrong.

The news about Mr. Foley should have set off alarm bells instantly, even if the messages the leaders saw were of the “inappropriate” variety rather than the flat-out salacious versions that surfaced last week. But there was certainly no sense of urgency in their response, which seemed directed at sweeping the matter under the rug rather than finding out precisely what was going on.

The obvious first step — notifying the bipartisan committee that oversees the page program — was never taken, presumably because that would have meant bringing a Democrat into the discussions. After Mr. Foley assured everyone that he was simply engaged in mentoring, whatever leadership inquiry there was ended with telling him to stop e-mailing the youth who got the inappropriate letter.

It’s astonishing behavior for a party that sold itself as the champion of conservative social values. But then so was the fact that a party that prides itself on fiscal conservatism managed to roll up record-breaking deficits, featuring large amounts of wasteful pork earmarked to the districts of powerful legislators or the profit sheets of generous campaign contributors. So was the speed with which the party that billed itself as the voice of grass-roots exurban and suburban America turned itself into the partner of every special-interest lobbyist with a checkbook.

The good news is that American democracy, so flawed in many ways, is often fairly efficient at punishing parties that become addicted to self-perpetuation. This November may not force Congress to come up with a plan for Iraq, or even immigration. But if it reminds elected officials that there’s a punishment waiting for those who fall in love with their own sense of entitlement, it will have done its job.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Greg Saunders: "Playing Politics" With Predatorgate on Yahoo! News

Greg Saunders: "Playing Politics" With Predatorgate

Greg SaundersMon Oct 2, 11:51 AM ET

Andrew Sullivan is resorting to his usual "both sides are awful, but I'm above the fray" act with the GOP cover-up scandal.Here's Mark Levin with the Foley talking points from the RNC. Here's another Republican argument that this is all about Democrat-MSM dirty tricks. Meanwhile, there's some O-Reilly-esque harrumphing from partisan Democrats. Both sides' eagerness to exploit this for political point-scoring make me a litte queasy.The original post has two links, both to Republican defenses. I'd think if this was such a balanced situation ("both sides' eagerness"), Andy could have provided at least one link to the "harrumphing" that's making him so queasy. On the left, I've seen bloggers careful to point out that the age of consent in DC is 16, that Foley's conduct may not be criminal, and that his sexual misconduct doesn't fit the textbook definition of "pedophilia". Is playing the devil's advocate the sort of thing that Sully considers "O-Reilly-esque"?

But let's go back and look at the record here. GOP leaders have known about Mark Foley's specific misbehavior for almost a year, but made a point of informing only their fellow Republicans. That's just in regards to the emails and IMs we've seen, but there are reports that they've been warning Congressional pages for at least five years and that the list of victims includes at least 3-5 other teenage boys so far. Through all of this, Democrats have been kept completely out of the loop, lest this be used to hurt Republicans politically. Yes, this situation has become "politicized", but it was being exploited for political gain long before Democrats even heard about it.

And let's not fall into the trap of thinking the GOP leadership's new-found conscience is based on anything more than covering their asses before the election. Just as they've done in the Jack Abramoff scandal, the GOP is desperate to turn this into a "both sides are equally guilty" situation, which explains why Hastert, who desperately tried to sweep Foley's sexual misconduct under the rug, is suddenly eager to cast such a wide net.Therefore, I also request that the Department undertake an investigation into who had specific knowledge of the content of any sexually explicit communications between Mr. Foley and any former or current House pages and what actions such individuals took, if any, to provide them to law enforcement. I request that the scope of your investigation include any and all individuals who may have been aware of this matter-be they Members of Congress, employees of the House of Representatives, or anyone outside the Congress.If Hastert was so desperate to get to the bottom of this mess, he would have done something last year. This isn't an attempt to find the truth, it's a fishing expedition. The GOP is desperate to find Democratic complicity and they'll use all the means at their disposal until they can find a Democrat who's heard the rumors about Foley's harassment and is willing to say so on the record. A statement as vague as "Yeah, I heard that guy's a little creepy" would do. At that point they can unveil Talking Point 2.0, "the Democrats didn't tell anyone either".

If that doesn't work, then they'll settle for a variation of the "find the leakers" ploy by harassing the press to reveal their sources. They'll insist that the "leakers" were Democrats who must have known something and were sitting on the information to use as an October surprise. That snipe-hunt just might work if it weren't for the fact that releasing a politically-convenient bombshell isn't morally-equivalent to hiding a sexual predator in your midst and doing nothing to keep them away from children. Even if both are intended to influence an election, there's very little that can compare with the moral swamp that would see a group of powerful men protecting a man who, as we're starting to learn, has a history of sexually harassing underage boys. It doesn't matter how they spin it, what the GOP leadership has done to look after their own interests to the detriment of childrens' safety is despicable.

Going back to Andrew Sullivan's upset stomach, that someone would confuse outrage over this situation for political posturing is just a sad example of how far our country has sunk. There was a time when the right and left could find common ground on basic issues such as..y'know, protecting young people, but the anger on the left (and to be fair, parts of the right) isn't an indicator of partisan hackery (even if it does bode well politically for some of the people expressing their dismay). The troubling signs are in the segments of the right that have instinctively defended Hastert et. al. for their indefensible behavior. Andrew Sullivan and others shouldn't be asking why the lefties are acting with such righteous indignation, but why their outrage isn't mirrored by many "pro-family" conservatives.

Regardless of party, this whole scandal is a sickening example of callous politicians valuing politics over people. Pointing out the depths to which the GOP leadership has sunk isn't an election-year ploy, it's a reiteration of basic human decency. This isn't a "left vs. right" issue, it's a "right vs. wrong" issue. What Denny Hastert and his fellow House members have done to protect Mark Foley is wrong. People should be able to point that out without having their sincerity questioned.;_ylt=Ahc_VkBNkSdvhehLGPaKagAe6sgF;_ylu=X3oDMTA3MXN1bHE0BHNlYwN0bWE-

Sexual abuse in Congress? Not on leaders' agenda on Yahoo! News

Sexual abuse in Congress? Not on leaders' agenda

Mon Oct 2, 6:41 AM ET

You have to wonder what leaders of the House think is important. Whatever it is, sexual exploitation of teenagers by congressmen apparently is not high on the list.

How else can one explain the leadership's failure to even investigate the advances Rep. Mark Foley (news, bio, voting record), R-Fla., made to a 16-year-old male House page? Foley resigned Friday after ABC News published sexually explicit e-mail exchanges he had had with the page.

Several House leaders had known about the matter at least since spring but failed to take appropriate action. Even accepting their insistence that they knew only of ambiguously "overfriendly" e-mail, rather than the unmistakable obscenities that have recently come to light, their reaction is disturbing.

The slightest hint of a member of Congress making advances toward an underage page is a serious matter. More so because it has happened before, disgracing two congressmen in the 1980s. It speaks directly to the integrity of the institution and the safety of the teens who work for it. For that reason, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., had every obligation to investigate this matter fully.

Instead he and other Republican leaders maintained what could at best be termed a posture of willful ignorance. Hastert asserts that he only recently was apprised of the matter. Members of his staff and other leaders make no such claim.

Unless a better explanation appears, the one most likely to be accepted is of an effort to sweep an embarrassment under the rug.

Foley was co-chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children Caucus. He had positioned himself as one of the biggest defenders of children on Capitol Hill. His party presents itself as the one more in tune with family values. From a purely political standpoint, Republicans had little incentive to pry into his behavior during a tough election year.

But at least once in a while, integrity should trump politics.

When Rep. Rodney Alexander (news, bio, voting record), R-La., the former employer of the page, came forward with his concerns about some e-mail he had seen, his actions should have prompted an investigation by the House Ethics Committee, or even the Capitol Police.

Instead, Hastert's aides merely referred Alexander to the clerk of the House, who notified Rep. John Shimkus (news, bio, voting record), R-Ill., chairman of the House Page Board. The two apparently spoke to Foley, who insisted that the e-mails were harmless.

That's not good enough, Hastert's belated call Sunday for an investigation aside. Unfortunately, placing politics over principle is what we have come to expect from Congress. From soaring budget deficits to outlays for bridges to nowhere, no other incident quite so vividly explains why.

Paul Krugman - Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart


Right after the 2004 election, it seemed as if Thomas Frank had been completely vindicated. In his book “What’s the Matter With Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America,” Mr. Frank argued that America’s right wing had developed a permanent winning strategy based on the use of “values” issues to mobilize white working-class voters against a largely mythical cultural elite, while actually pursuing policies designed to benefit a small economic elite.

It was and is a brilliant analysis. But the political strategy Mr. Frank described may have less staying power than he feared. In fact, the right-wing coalition that has spent 40 years climbing to its current position of political dominance may be cracking up.

At its core, the political axis that currently controls Congress and the White House is an alliance between the preachers and the plutocrats — between the religious right, which hates gays, abortion and the theory of evolution, and the economic right, which hates Social Security, Medicare and taxes on rich people. Surrounding this core is a large periphery of politicians and lobbyists who joined the movement not out of conviction, but to share in the spoils.

Together, these groups formed a seemingly invincible political coalition, in which the religious right supplied the passion and the economic right supplied the money.

The coalition has, however, always been more vulnerable than it seemed, because it was an alliance based not on shared goals, but on each group’s belief that it could use the other to get what it wants. Bring that belief into question, and the whole thing falls apart.

Future historians may date the beginning of the right-wing crackup to the days immediately following the 2004 election, when President Bush tried to convert a victory won by portraying John Kerry as weak on defense into a mandate for Social Security privatization. The attempted bait-and-switch failed in the face of overwhelming public opposition. If anything, the Bush plan was even less popular in deep-red states like Montana than in states that voted for Mr. Kerry.

And the religious and cultural right, which boasted of having supplied the Bush campaign with its “shock troops” and expected a right-wing cultural agenda in return — starting with a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage — was dismayed when the administration put its energy into attacking the welfare state instead. James Dobson, the founder and chairman of Focus on the Family, accused Republicans of “just ignoring those that put them in office.”

It will be interesting, by the way, to see how Dr. Dobson, who declared of Bill Clinton that “no man has ever done more to debase the presidency,” responds to the Foley scandal. Does the failure of Republican leaders to do anything about a sexual predator in their midst outrage him as much as a Democratic president’s consensual affair?

In any case, just as the religious right was feeling betrayed by Mr. Bush’s focus on the goals of the economic right, the economic right suddenly seemed to become aware of the nature of its political allies. “Where in the hell did this Terri Schiavo thing come from?” asked Dick Armey, the former House majority leader, in an interview with Ryan Sager, the author of “The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians and the Battle to Control the Republican Party.” The answer, he said, was “blatant pandering to James Dobson.” He went on, “Dobson and his gang of thugs are real nasty bullies.”

Some Republicans are switching parties. James Webb, who may pull off a macaca-fueled upset against Senator George Allen of Virginia, was secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan. Charles Barkley, a former N.B.A. star who used to be mentioned as a possible future Republican candidate, recently declared, “I was a Republican until they lost their minds.”

So the right-wing coalition is showing signs of coming apart. It seems that we’re not in Kansas anymore. In fact, Kansas itself doesn’t seem to be in Kansas anymore. Kathleen Sebelius, the state’s Democratic governor, has achieved a sky-high favorability rating by focusing on good governance rather than culture wars, and her party believes it will win big this year.

And nine former Kansas Republicans, including Mark Parkinson, the former state G.O.P. chairman, are now running for state office as Democrats. Why did Mr. Parkinson change parties? Because he “got tired of the theological debate over whether Charles Darwin was right.”

Frank Rich - So You Call This Breaking News?

So You Call This Breaking News?
By Frank Rich
The New York Times

Sunday 01 October 2006

IF your head hurts from listening to the Washington furor over the latest National Intelligence Estimate, by all means tune it out. The entire debate is meaningless except as a damning election-year indicator of just how madly our leaders are fiddling while Iraq burns.

The supposedly shocking key finding in the N.I.E. - that the Iraq war is a boon to terrorism - isn't remotely news. It first turned up in a classified C.I.A. report leaked to the press in June 2005. It's also long been visible to the naked eye. The latest New York Times/CBS News poll, conducted before any revelations from the N.I.E., found that nearly half the country believes that the Iraq war is increasing the terrorist threat against America and only 12 percent thinks the war is decreasing that threat. Americans don't have to pore over leaked intelligence documents to learn this. They just have to turn on the television.

Tonight on "60 Minutes," Bob Woodward will spill another supposedly shocking intelligence finding revealed in his new book: a secret government prediction that the insurgency will grow worse next year. Who'd have thunk it? Given that the insurgency is growing worse every day right now - last week suicide bombings hit a record high in Baghdad - the real surprise would be if the government predicted an armistice. A poll released last week by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland found that about 6 in 10 Iraqis approved of attacks on American forces. Tardy investigative reporting is hardly needed to figure out that the insurgency is thriving.

"The insurgents know what they are doing," Mr. Woodward is to say on CBS, according to an advance excerpt. "They know the level of violence and how effective they are. Who doesn't know? The American public." He accuses the administration of keeping such information out of sight by stamping it "secret." All this, too, apparently comes as eye-opening news to Mr. Woodward three and a half years into the war; his new book's title, "State of Denial," has a self-referential ring to it. But the American public does know the level of violence all too well, and it also knows how the administration tries to cover up its failures.

That's why long ago a majority of that public judged the war a mistake and Mr. Bush a dissembler. It's only the variations on the theme that change. When the president declared last month that "the Iraqi government and the Iraqi military is committed to keeping this country together," reality was once more busily contradicting him. The Los Angeles Times reported that a third of that government wasn't showing up to parliamentary sessions and that only 1,000 Iraqi soldiers answered the American call for 4,000 reinforcements in the do-or-die battle to secure Baghdad.

Against this ominous reality, the debate over the N.I.E. is but a sideshow: politics as usual on both sides. The president reluctantly declassified what had already been leaked, somehow hoping he could override the bad headlines with Pavlovian repetition of shopworn slogans. (He said America must "stay on the offense" four times in one speech on Friday alone.) Democrats are huffily demanding that the White House release more than a few scraps of the 30-page-plus N.I.E., a debating point with no payoff. The N.I.E. is already six months out of date, and Americans can guess most of it, classified or not. In this war at this late stage, the devil can be found everywhere, not merely in the details.

The facts of Iraq are not in dispute. But the truth is that facts don't matter anyway to this administration, and that's what makes this whole N.I.E. debate beside the point. From the start, honest information has never figured into the prosecution of this war. The White House doesn't care about intelligence, good or bad, classified or unclassified, because it believes it knows best, regardless of what anyone else has to say. The debate over the latest N.I.E. or any yet to leak will not alter that fundamental and self-destructive operating principle. That's the truly bad news.

This war has now gone on so long that we tend to forget the early history that foretold the present. Yet this is the history we must remember now more than ever, because it keeps repeating itself, with ever more tragic results. In the run-up to the war, it should be recalled, the administration did not even bother to commission an N.I.E., a summary of the latest findings from every American intelligence agency, on Iraq's weapons.

Why not? The answer can be found in what remains the most revealing Iraq war document leaked to date: the Downing Street memo of July 23, 2002, written eight months before the invasion. In that secret report to the Blair government, the head of British intelligence reported on a trip to Washington, where he learned that the Bush administration was fixing the "intelligence and facts" around the predetermined policy of going to war in Iraq. If we were going to fix the intelligence anyway, there was no need for an N.I.E., except as window dressing, since it might expose the thinness of the administration's case.

A prewar N.I.E. was hastily (and sloppily) assembled only because Congress demanded it. By the time it was delivered to the Capitol after much stalling, on Oct. 1, 2002, less than two weeks remained before the House and Senate would vote on the Iraq war resolution. "No more than six senators and only a handful of House members got beyond the five-page executive summary," according to an article last spring in Foreign Affairs by Paul Pillar, the C.I.A. senior analyst for the Middle East from 2000 to 2005. In a White House press briefing after the war started, an official said Condi Rice hadn't read it at all, leaving that menial duty to her retinue of "experts."

When one senator who did read the whole N.I.E., the now retired Democrat Bob Graham of Florida, asked that a declassified version be made public so that Americans could reach their own verdicts on the war's viability, he was rebuffed. Instead the administration released a glossy white paper that trumpeted the N.I.E.'s fictions ("All intelligence experts agree that Iraq is seeking nuclear weapons") but not its doubts about much-hyped evidence like aluminum tubes and uranium from Africa. The only time the president cared about the N.I.E., a document he never wanted, was when he thought it would be politically useful in fighting growing criticism in 2003 that he had manipulated prewar intelligence. Then he authorized his own cherry-picked leaks, which Scooter Libby fed to Mr. Woodward and Judith Miller of The Times. (Neither wrote about it at the time.)

As the insurgency continued to grow in the fall of 2003, the White House again showed scant interest in reality. The American military's Central Command called for an N.I.E. instead. The existence of this second N.I.E. was only discovered in February of this year by Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay of Knight Ridder Newspapers. It found that the growing violence in Iraq was "fueled by local conditions - not foreign terrorists - and drew strength from deep grievances, including the presence of U.S. troops." Yet the president ignored that accurate intelligence, refusing to raise troop levels and continuing to argue erroneously that the insurgency was mainly linked to Saddam and Al Qaeda. Three years later, he still makes that case rather than acknowledge that our troops are caught in the cross-fire of a civil war.

Having ignored the facts through each avoidable disaster, the White House won't change its game plan now. Quite the contrary. Its main ambition seems to be to prop up its artificial reality no matter what the evidence to the contrary. Nowhere could this be better seen than in Ms. Rice's bizarre behavior after the Bill Clinton-Chris Wallace slapdown on Fox News. Stung by the former president's charge that the Bush administration did nothing about Al Qaeda in the eight months before 9/11, she couldn't resist telling The New York Post that his statement was "flatly false."

But proof of Ms. Rice's assertion is as nonexistent as Saddam's W.M.D. As 9/11 approached, both she and Mr. Bush blew off harbingers of the attacks (including a panicked C.I.A. briefer in Crawford, according to Ron Suskind's "One Percent Doctrine"). The 9/11 commission report, which Ms. Rice cited as a corroborating source for her claims to The Post, in reality "found no indication of any further discussion" about the Qaeda threat among the president and his top aides between the arrival of that fateful Aug. 6 brief ("Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.") and Sept. 10.

That the secretary of state would rush to defend the indefensible shows where this administration's priorities are: it's now every man and woman in the White House for himself and herself in defending the fictions, even four-year-old fictions, that took us into the war and botched its execution. When they talk about staying the course, what they are really talking about is protecting their spin and their reputations. They'll leave it to the 140,000-plus American troops staying the course in a quagmire to face the facts.