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)

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Ex-Aide Details a Loss of Faith in the President

Ex-Aide Details a Loss of Faith in the President

AUSTIN, Tex., March 29 — In 1999, Matthew Dowd became a symbol of George W. Bush’s early success at positioning himself as a Republican with Democratic appeal.

A top strategist for the Texas Democrats who was disappointed by the Bill Clinton years, Mr. Dowd was impressed by the pledge of Mr. Bush, then governor of Texas, to bring a spirit of cooperation to Washington. He switched parties, joined Mr. Bush’s political brain trust and dedicated the next six years to getting him to the Oval Office and keeping him there. In 2004, he was appointed the president’s chief campaign strategist.

Looking back, Mr. Dowd now says his faith in Mr. Bush was misplaced.

In a wide-ranging interview here, Mr. Dowd called for a withdrawal from Iraq and expressed his disappointment in Mr. Bush’s leadership.

He criticized the president as failing to call the nation to a shared sense of sacrifice at a time of war, failing to reach across the political divide to build consensus and ignoring the will of the people on Iraq. He said he believed the president had not moved aggressively enough to hold anyone accountable for the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and that Mr. Bush still approached governing with a “my way or the highway” mentality reinforced by a shrinking circle of trusted aides.

“I really like him, which is probably why I’m so disappointed in things,” he said. He added, “I think he’s become more, in my view, secluded and bubbled in.”

In speaking out, Mr. Dowd became the first member of Mr. Bush’s inner circle to break so publicly with him.

He said his decision to step forward had not come easily. But, he said, his disappointment in Mr. Bush’s presidency is so great that he feels a sense of duty to go public given his role in helping Mr. Bush gain and keep power.

Mr. Dowd, a crucial part of a team that cast Senator John Kerry as a flip-flopper who could not be trusted with national security during wartime, said he had even written but never submitted an op-ed article titled “Kerry Was Right,” arguing that Mr. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and 2004 presidential candidate, was correct in calling last year for a withdrawal from Iraq.

“I’m a big believer that in part what we’re called to do — to me, by God; other people call it karma — is to restore balance when things didn’t turn out the way they should have,” Mr. Dowd said. “Just being quiet is not an option when I was so publicly advocating an election.”

Mr. Dowd’s journey from true believer to critic in some ways tracks the public arc of Mr. Bush’s political fortunes. But it is also an intensely personal story of a political operative who at times, by his account, suppressed his doubts about his professional role but then confronted them as he dealt with loss and sorrow in his own life.

In the last several years, as he has gradually broken his ties with the Bush camp, one of Mr. Dowd’s premature twin daughters died, he was divorced, and he watched his oldest son prepare for deployment to Iraq as an Army intelligence specialist fluent in Arabic. Mr. Dowd said he had become so disillusioned with the war that he had considered joining street demonstrations against it, but that his continued personal affection for the president had kept him from joining protests whose anti-Bush fervor is so central.

Mr. Dowd, 45, said he hoped in part that by coming forward he would be able to get a message through to a presidential inner sanctum that he views as increasingly isolated. But, he said, he holds out no great hope. He acknowledges that he has not had a conversation with the president.

Dan Bartlett, the White House counselor, said Mr. Dowd’s criticism is reflective of the national debate over the war.

“It’s an issue that divides people,” Mr. Bartlett said. “Even people that supported the president aren’t immune from having their own feelings and emotions.”

He said he disagreed with Mr. Dowd’s description of the president as isolated and with his position on withdrawal. But he said he was not surprised. Mr. Dowd has relayed the same sentiments to Mr. Bartlett in private conversations; they are friends.

During the interview with Mr. Dowd on a slightly overcast afternoon in downtown Austin, he was a far quieter man than the cigar-chomping general that he was during Mr. Bush’s 2004 campaign.

Soft-spoken and somewhat melancholy, he wore jeans, a T-shirt and sandals in an office devoid of Bush memorabilia save for a campaign coffee mug and a photograph of the first couple with his oldest son, Daniel. The photograph was taken one week before the 2004 election, and one day before Daniel was to go to boot camp.

Over Mexican food at a restaurant that was only feet from the 2000 campaign headquarters, and later at his office just up the street, Mr. Dowd recounted his political and personal journey. “It’s amazing,” he said. “In five years, I’ve only traveled 300 feet, but it feels like I’ve gone around the world, where my head is.”

Mr. Dowd said he decided to become a Republican in 1999 and joined Mr. Bush after watching him work closely with Bob Bullock, the Democratic lieutenant governor of Texas, who was a political client of Mr. Dowd and a mentor to Mr. Bush.

“It’s almost like you fall in love,” he said. “I was frustrated about Washington, the inability for people to get stuff done and bridge divides. And this guy’s personality — he cared about education and taking a different stand on immigration.”

Mr. Dowd established himself as an expert at interpreting polls, giving Karl Rove, the president’s closest political adviser, and the rest of the Bush team guidance as they set out to woo voters, slash opponents and exploit divisions between Democratic-leaning states and Republican-leaning ones.

In television interviews in 2004, Mr. Dowd said that Mr. Kerry’s campaign was proposing “a weak defense,” and that the voters “trust this president more than they trust Senator Kerry on Iraq.”

But he was starting to have his own doubts by then, he said.

He said he thought Mr. Bush handled the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks well but “missed a real opportunity to call the country to a shared sense of sacrifice.”

He was dumbfounded when Mr. Bush did not fire Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld after revelations that American soldiers had tortured prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

Several associates said Mr. Dowd chafed under Mr. Rove’s leadership. Mr. Dowd said he had not spoken to Mr. Rove in months but would not discuss their relationship in detail.

Mr. Dowd said, in retrospect, he was in denial.

“When you fall in love like that,” he said, “and then you notice some things that don’t exactly go the way you thought, what do you do? Like in a relationship, you say ‘No no, no, it’ll be different.’ ”

He said he clung to the hope that Mr. Bush would get back to his Texas style of governing if he won. But he saw no change after the 2004 victory.

He describes as further cause for doubt two events in the summer of 2005: the administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina and the president’s refusal, around the same time that he was entertaining the bicyclist Lance Armstrong at his Crawford ranch, to meet with the war protester Cindy Sheehan, whose son died in Iraq.

“I had finally come to the conclusion that maybe all these things along do add up,” he said. “That it’s not the same, it’s not the person I thought.”

He said that during his work on the 2006 re-election campaign of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, which had a bipartisan appeal, he began to rethink his approach to elections.

“I think we should design campaigns that appeal not to 51 percent of the people,” he said, “but bring the country together as a whole.”

He said that he still believed campaigns must do what it takes to win, but that he was never comfortable with the most hard-charging tactics. He is now calling for “gentleness” in politics. He said that while he tried to keep his own conduct respectful during political combat, he wanted to “do my part in fixing fissures that I may have been part of.”

His views against the war began to harden last spring when, in a personal exercise, he wrote a draft opinion article and found himself agreeing with Mr. Kerry’s call for withdrawal from Iraq. He acknowledged that the expected deployment of his son Daniel was an important factor.

He said the president’s announcement last fall that he was re-nominating the former United Nations ambassador John R. Bolton, whose confirmation Democrats had already refused, was further proof to him that Mr. Bush was not seeking consensus with Democrats.

He said he came to believe Mr. Bush’s views were hardening, with the reinforcement of his inner circle. But, he said, the person “who is ultimately responsible is the president.” And he gradually ventured out with criticism, going so far as declaring last month in a short essay in Texas Monthly magazine that Mr. Bush was losing “his gut-level bond with the American people,” and breaking more fully in this week’s interview.

“If the American public says they’re done with something, our leaders have to understand what they want,” Mr. Dowd said. “They’re saying, ‘Get out of Iraq.’ ”

Mr. Dowd’s friends from Mr. Bush’s orbit said they understood his need to speak out. “Everyone is going to reflect on the good and the bad, and everything in between, in their own way,” said Nicolle Wallace, communications director of Mr. Bush’s 2004 campaign, a post she also held at the White House until last summer. “And I certainly respect the way he’s doing it — these are his true thoughts from a deeply personal place.” Ms. Wallace said she continued to have “enormous gratitude” for her years with Mr. Bush.

Mr. Bartlett, the White House counselor, said he understood, too, though he said he strongly disagreed with Mr. Dowd’s assessment. “Do we know our critics will try to use this to their advantage? Yes,” he said. “Is that perfect? No. But you can respectfully disagree with someone who has been supportive of you.”

Mr. Dowd does not seem prepared to put his views to work in 2008. The only candidate who appeals to him, he said, is Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, because of what Mr. Dowd called his message of unity. But, he said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if I wasn’t walking around in Africa or South America doing something that was like mission work.”

He added, “I do feel a calling of trying to re-establish a level of gentleness in the world.”



http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/01/washington/01adviser.html?_r=1&hp=&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1175368218-cyyjPeRPtD7iIVo8lP6hOw&oref=slogin

Rise of a Very "Loyal Bushie"

Rise of a Very "Loyal Bushie"
By Richard L. Fricker
Consortium News

Wednesday 28 March 2007

If you want to know what the career path of a "loyal Bushie" looks like, let me introduce you to J. Timothy Griffin, a Karl Rove protégé who was slipped into the post of U.S. Attorney in Little Rock, Arkansas, and now is at the center of the controversy over whether the Bush administration has sought to politicize federal prosecutions.

Since college, the 38-year-old Griffin has been following the stations of the cross for a Republican legal/political operative with ambitions to rise to a position of power and influence in a government like the one headed by George W. Bush.

Griffin has pretty much touched them all - the Federalist Society, work for a Clinton-era special prosecutor, the Florida recount battle in 2000, opposition research and voter security duties for the Republican National Committee in Campaign 2004, a brief tour as a military lawyer in Iraq, a deputy in Karl Rove's political shop at the White House.

But now this carefully groomed Republican operative stands out as Exhibit A for Democrats as they contend that the Bush administration imposed political litmus tests on federal prosecutors who wield enormous power over the lives of those they investigate. A U.S. Attorney not only has wide discretion over normal prosecutions but can tip a political race by either shutting down or starting up a criminal probe.

Beyond being the personification of proof that Bush put political loyalty over legal competence, Griffin has become the test case for the use of new emergency powers in the Patriot Act to circumvent Senate confirmation for U.S. Attorneys.

The administration's gamble on Griffin was underscored by an e-mail in which Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's chief of staff Kyle Sampson warned that "there is some risk that we'll lose the [Patriot Act] authority, but if we don't ever exercise it then what's the point of having it?"

Sampson's e-mail added, "I'm not 100 percent sure that Tim was the guy on which to test drive this authority, but know that getting him appointed was important to Harriet, Karl, etc." references to White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove and then-White House counsel Harriet Miers.

Sampson also mapped out plans for frustrating any congressional objections to Griffin's interim appointment.

"We should gum this to death," Sampson wrote in a Dec. 19, 2006, e-mail to a White House aide. "Ask the senators to give Tim a chance ... then we can tell them we'll look for other candidates, ask them for recommendations, evaluate the recommendations, interview their candidates, and otherwise run out the clock. All of this should be done in 'good faith,' of course."

The Mystery

Yet, while it's clear that the White House was prepared to play political games and possibly pay a political price to install Griffin in Little Rock, the mystery is why?

Why, given the political risks, did the administration remove the well-regarded U.S. Attorney H.E. "Bud" Cummins III to make way for Griffin? Though a staunch Republican, Cummins may not have been staunch enough.

When I checked on Cummins's reputation in the legal circles of Arkansas, I found that he was praised by both Republicans and Democrats as a by-the-book prosecutor. One Democratic defense lawyer told me that Cummins was a prosecutor who "dealt from the top of the deck."

But the White House pushed Cummins out in 2006 along with seven other U.S. Attorneys who did not measure up as "loyal Bushies," according to another Kyle Sampson e-mail. Given Griffin's history more as a political operative than an experienced prosecutor, he surely got higher grades on the "loyal Bushie" test.

Some political analysts see Rove's dream of creating a permanent Republican majority as the motive behind the firings and Griffin's appointment. In April 2006, Rove told the Republican National Lawyers Association that there were 11 states "pivotal" to the 2008 election, Arkansas among them, according to a report by the McClatchy newspapers.

With Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor expected to face a tough reelection fight, Arkansas could be a possible Republican senatorial pickup in 2008. Arkansas also has a large African-American population, and Griffin has had experience in "voter fraud" investigations that have targeted the registrations of black voters.

Other observers of the rough-and-tumble world of Arkansas politics recall the scorched-earth investigations into the personal lives of Bill and Hillary Clinton during the 1990s and wonder if the Republicans might be hoping to unearth some more dirt about the Democratic frontrunner and her husband.

There's also speculation that Rove might be lining up his protégé as a possible future governor of Arkansas. Serving as U.S. Attorney, handling high-profile criminal cases, is a natural stepping stone to state and federal political office.

Career Path

The reason so many people suspect that Griffin has been pre-positioned for political reasons can best be explained by looking at Griffin's career path and the powerful contacts he has made along the way.

After graduating as an economics major from Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, in 1990, Griffin entered Tulane Law School. While at the New Orleans university, Griffin became a leader of the Tulane chapter of the Federalist Society, a powerful conservative legal organization and the chief training ground for right-wing lawyers dedicated to rolling back the liberal gains of the Warren Court and supportive of unrestrained presidential powers.

After graduating in 1994, Griffin parlayed the Federalist connection to land his first and only legal job in the private sector, at Jones Walker Waechter Pointevent Carrere & Denegre, a New Orleans law firm where two members of the firm sat on the local board of the Federalist Society.

In 1995, Griffin headed to Washington to work as an associate independent counsel under David M. Barrett, a Republican lawyer selected by a conservative-dominated three-judge panel to investigate Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry G. Cisneros.

Barrett was one of several hard-line conservative lawyers picked by U.S. Appeals Court Judge David Sentelle, a protégé of Sen. Jesse Helms, to mount aggressive investigations into alleged wrongdoing by President Clinton and his administration.

Then one of the nation's leading Hispanic politicians, Cisneros was accused of misreporting sums of money that he had paid to a mistress. During an investigation that lasted 10 years and cost $21 million, Barrett managed to secure from Cisneros a guilty plea on a misdemeanor charge of lying to the FBI about the payments, effectively destroying his promising political career.

In a final report, Barrett thanked Griffin "for helping in the early stages of the investigation." Griffin's résumé paints a more substantial picture, however, saying he "interviewed numerous witnesses with the FBI and supervised the execution of a search warrant, drafted subpoenas and pleadings and questioned witnesses before a federal grand jury."

After leaving Barrett's staff, Griffin took a job as senior investigative counsel to the Republican-controlled House Committee on Government Reform, which was looking into other alleged offenses by Democrats, including improper campaign contributions.

Griffin next went home to Arkansas to manage the Attorney General campaign of Betty Dickey, a Republican who lost to Democrat Mark Pryor, the future U.S. senator.

Griffin returned to the House committee where he remained until September 1999 when he joined the Bush-Cheney campaign as deputy research director working for the Republican National Committee, what's known in the Washington political world as "oppo" or opposition research.

Griffin's résumé describes his job as "the primary research resource for Bush-Cheney 2000 (BC00), with over 30 staff."

During the bitter Florida recount battle, Griffin served as legal adviser in Volusia and Brevard counties.

After shutting down the recount and claiming the White House, Bush rewarded Griffin in March 2001 with the job of special assistant to Michael Chertoff, assistant attorney general at the criminal division. On his résumé, Griffin says he, "tracked" issues for Chertoff, such as extradition, provisional arrest and mutual legal assistance.

Up the Ladder

Five months later, Griffin left Chertoff to become a special assistant U.S. Attorney in the Little Rock office where he worked for "Bud" Cummins.

After nine months in Little Rock, Griffin was named research director and deputy communication director for the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign. In other words, Griffin was back in the land of "oppo" digging up dirt on Democrats and dishing it to reporters.

During this period, Griffin also oversaw efforts to catch Democratic voters who might be improperly registered, especially in Florida, a key swing state. Through a process known as "caging," Griffin's team sent letters to newly registered voters in envelopes barring any forwarding, so they would be returned if a voter wasn't at that address.

BBC's investigative reporter Greg Palast uncovered Griffin's role in this practice that proved especially effective in "caging" African-Americans who lived in low-income areas or who were serving in the U.S. military. The "caged" voters would then be challenged by Republican lawyers when they arrived at the polls.

According to Palast and his BBC report, Griffin "was the hidden hand behind a scheme to wipe out the voting rights of 70,000 citizens prior to the 2004 election. Key voters on Griffin's hit list: Black soldiers and homeless men and women."

Palast noted that "targeting voters where race is a factor is a felony crime under the Voting Rights Act of 1965." Palast said he attempted to interview Griffin, but the Republican operative hid from the cameras.

After Bush secured a second term, Griffin joined the White House staff as deputy director for political affairs under Karl Rove. Griffin's résumé said that starting in April 2005, he "advised President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney on political matters, organized and coordinated political support for the President's agenda, including the nomination of Judge John Roberts to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court."

Meanwhile, the White House began contemplating the removal of U.S. Attorneys, who "chafed against administration initiatives" and who weren't "loyal Bushies."

Cummins was soon on the removal list along with San Diego U.S. Attorney Carol Lam, who was spearheading the bribery investigation of Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-California, which led to his resignation and to the discovery of other high-level administration corruption.

In September 2005, Griffin's résumé shows that he reported for active duty as an attorney at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. He was deployed for a brief tour in Iraq in spring 2006 and returned home to news that he would be given the job of U.S. Attorney in Little Rock.

Changed Landscape

But the political landscape changed in November when Democrats won control of the Senate and promised much tougher oversight than had been the practice with the Republicans in charge. Griffin faced the possibility of a difficult confirmation hearing.

However, a change had been made in the Patriot Act, allowing the Attorney General to make emergency U.S. Attorney appointments without Senate approval. Though Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had vowed that all nominees would still go before the Senate, Gonzales appointed Griffin under that special authority.

When the furor about the firings of eight U.S. Attorneys, including Cummins and Lam, began in December 2006, Gonzales also stated that he was not involved in "any discussions" about the ousters and that the dismissals were not politically motivated.

When the released e-mails demonstrated that politics was a factor and that the White House had played a direct role in the dismissals, Kyle Sampson - Gonzales chief of staff - resigned. A growing chorus of senators also sought Gonzales's resignation, especially after more records showed that the Attorney General took part in a Nov. 27, 2006, meeting to discuss the firings.

There was more Senate anger over the fact that the Patriot Act change had been exploited to avoid the confirmation process. The Senate voted overwhelmingly to rescind the Attorney General's special appointment power, with the bill now going to the House.

On March 22, Griffin told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette that he will not go through a Senate confirmation hearing if one is required.

"I have made the decision not to let my name go forward to the Senate." Griffin said. "I don't want to be part of that partisan circus."

So, it may never be fully known what Karl Rove had in mind for his political protégé if the "loyal Bushie" plan had succeeded. Nor is it clear what else the White House may have had to hide that would explain why it concocted the scheme in the first place.

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/032907F.shtml

Bush's long history of tilting Justice

Bush's long history of tilting Justice

The administration began skewing federal law enforcement before the current U.S. attorney scandal, says a former Department of Justice lawyer.


By Joseph D. Rich, JOSEPH D. RICH was chief of the voting section in the Justice Department's civil right division from 1999 to 2005. He now works for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
March 29, 2007

THE SCANDAL unfolding around the firing of eight U.S. attorneys compels the conclusion that the Bush administration has rewarded loyalty over all else. A destructive pattern of partisan political actions at the Justice Department started long before this incident, however, as those of us who worked in its civil rights division can attest.

I spent more than 35 years in the department enforcing federal civil rights laws — particularly voting rights. Before leaving in 2005, I worked for attorneys general with dramatically different political philosophies — from John Mitchell to Ed Meese to Janet Reno. Regardless of the administration, the political appointees had respect for the experience and judgment of longtime civil servants.

Under the Bush administration, however, all that changed. Over the last six years, this Justice Department has ignored the advice of its staff and skewed aspects of law enforcement in ways that clearly were intended to influence the outcome of elections.

It has notably shirked its legal responsibility to protect voting rights. From 2001 to 2006, no voting discrimination cases were brought on behalf of African American or Native American voters. U.S. attorneys were told instead to give priority to voter fraud cases, which, when coupled with the strong support for voter ID laws, indicated an intent to depress voter turnout in minority and poor communities.

At least two of the recently fired U.S. attorneys, John McKay in Seattle and David C. Iglesias in New Mexico, were targeted largely because they refused to prosecute voting fraud cases that implicated Democrats or voters likely to vote for Democrats.

This pattern also extended to hiring. In March 2006, Bradley Schlozman was appointed interim U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo. Two weeks earlier, the administration was granted the authority to make such indefinite appointments without Senate confirmation. That was too bad: A Senate hearing might have uncovered Schlozman's central role in politicizing the civil rights division during his three-year tenure.

Schlozman, for instance, was part of the team of political appointees that approved then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's plan to redraw congressional districts in Texas, which in 2004 increased the number of Republicans elected to the House. Similarly, Schlozman was acting assistant attorney general in charge of the division when the Justice Department OKd a Georgia law requiring voters to show photo IDs at the polls. These decisions went against the recommendations of career staff, who asserted that such rulings discriminated against minority voters. The warnings were prescient: Both proposals were struck down by federal courts.

Schlozman continued to influence elections as an interim U.S. attorney. Missouri had one of the closest Senate races in the country last November, and a week before the election, Schlozman brought four voter fraud indictments against members of an organization representing poor and minority people. This blatantly contradicted the department's long-standing policy to wait until after an election to bring such indictments because a federal criminal investigation might affect the outcome of the vote. The timing of the Missouri indictments could not have made the administration's aims more transparent.

This administration is also politicizing the career staff of the Justice Department. Outright hostility to career employees who disagreed with the political appointees was evident early on. Seven career managers were removed in the civil rights division. I personally was ordered to change performance evaluations of several attorneys under my supervision. I was told to include critical comments about those whose recommendations ran counter to the political will of the administration and to improve evaluations of those who were politically favored.

Morale plummeted, resulting in an alarming exodus of career attorneys. In the last two years, 55% to 60% of attorneys in the voting section have transferred to other departments or left the Justice Department entirely.

At the same time, career staff were nearly cut out of the process of hiring lawyers. Control of hiring went to political appointees, so an applicant's fidelity to GOP interests replaced civil rights experience as the most important factor in hiring decisions.

For decades prior to this administration, the Justice Department had successfully kept politics out of its law enforcement decisions. Hopefully, the spotlight on this misconduct will begin the process of restoring dignity and nonpartisanship to federal law enforcement. As the 2008 elections approach, it is critical to have a Justice Department that approaches its responsibility to all eligible voters without favor.

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-rich29mar29,0,3371050.story?coll=la-opinion-rightrail

How the Hell Did The Democrats win in 2006 again?

How the Hell Did The Democrats win in 2006 again?

Sat Mar 31, 2007

I think it's time to pause and reflect on two major events, and how they relate: First is the Democratic victory in November 2006, and second is the Purgegate scandal. Put those two together and my question might start to dawn on you: How did this victory ever happen? Every day we turn up another card in the deck stacked against the Dems. I'm simply staggered to think of the institutional and illegal obstacles that were overcome to put Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid in those chairs.

If you haven't been following this closely, it's really time to start. I know Iraq, health care, choice, education, signing statements, warrantless wiretapping, Hillary vs Obama vs Edwards and a host of other issues are hugely important, but progress in none of them is possible if progressive politicians can't obtain power, and that's exactly what this Purgegate scandal has been about. This is the whole ballgame. The purge was really only our entry point into this sordid world of despicable abuse of the public trust. Now that the glare has been shining on the Department of Justice, a lot of other insipid behaviour has come to our attention, and all of it designed to do only one thing: Keep Republicans in power.

How They Have Been Rigging the Game

I'm going to start with what should bring it all home, the key indictment of Bush's Department of Justice through two Attorneys-General. The Bush DoJ has been investigating Democrats seven times more often than Republicans since 2001. 7 to 1. The link takes you to the study which explains how they've been getting away with this enormous, gaping and insidious discrepancy for so long:

By keeping political profiling at the local level -- in this way the story is most likely not to be viewed nationally -- it makes it harder for reporters to connect the dots between corruption investigations in say Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas, or Philadelphia let alone towns like Carson, Colton, East Point, or Escambia, or counties like Cherokee, Harrison, Hudson, or Lake. Each local report of a corruption investigation appears as only an isolated incident rather than as a central example of a broader pattern created by the Bush Justice Department's unethical practice of political profiling.

So they have been going after local ordinary city and county Democrats at a baffling rate: 85% Democrats, 12% Republicans. To hide this, they go after politicians at the Statewide and National level about the proportional amount their overall numbers. Overall, this leaves them investigating 80% Democrats, 18% Republicans. Pretty clever huh? Almost Rovian one might speculate? If you won't, I certainly will. The disparity of the local prosecutions is really bad, but could just be the natural consequence of appointing a bunch of neo-conservative and high Right-Wing-Authoritarian fundamentalist "Liberty U" grads to all the key DoJ positions. Those people might just be so biased against anyone with a (D) after their name, that they can't help themselves. But then you get to the prominent figures; the national and statewide politicians: Governors, US Senators and so forth. For those Democrats, suddenly the Bush DoJ is a model of proportional investigation. That's the part that convinces me none of this is an accident. It's a policy. Where anyone was likely to notice their bias, they played fair.

I want to dwell on the significance of this for a second. The United States Department of Justice has been engaging in a multi-year campaign to profile Democrats for federal criminal investigation far worse than even your average racist cop might profile blacks. Ever hear someone complain of being pulled over for "DWB"? It means "Driving while Black" - well here we have a nation full of politicians who were investigated for being Democrats.

Now, I've mentioned this study in a few fora, and the typical sceptic's response is a couple things:

  1. The study is counting investigations that were announced via a press release by the prosecutors. Not indictments, not convictions. Just the US Prosecutors announcing they were investigating Mayor Crumblebum (D) or Alderman Sixpack (R).
  1. The local disparity is better explained by the fact that there are more Democrats at local levels, because city slickers like their Dems, and elect lots of them.
  1. (For comedy I'll deal with this one) Well maybe Democrats are just a lot more corrupt!

The answers:

  1. Yes, it's only counting announced investigations. That means it is possible these prosecutors have been investigating lots of other Republicans but just never put out press releases about it. Even if true, that would be still tremendously biased and an egregious abuse of power. Simply the announcement of an investigation by the Feds is devastating to any but the most popular and well-funded politician. For your average medium town Mayor or county official - it's generally going to end their political careers. People trust the DoJ and if they're investigating you, most people will assume you did something wrong. Go figure, after a couple hundred years of being run fairly and scrupulously, that people would get the impression that Bush might run DoJ the same way!
  1. Yes there are more Dems at the local level. Overall throughout the nation, 50% of elected officials were Dems and 41% were GOP through the study. And yet they end up with 80% of their investigations of elected officials overall being Democrats? I'm not a statistician, but that just stinks.
  1. Well if that were true we should expect to see that investigation dispartity continue to the statewide and national level. After all, the statewide and national Democratic office holders are drawn from the ranks of these supposedly so corrupt local Democrats.

Why this Really Hurts

If you've ever read MyDD or read a few of Kos' posts on House and Senate recruitment you know that these great candidates like Tester, McCaskill, Shea-Porter and all the rest do not fall down from the sky with a big blue D on their foreheads. They're groomed by serving in lower offices. If you check the biographies of congress, you're going to find a lot of former Mayors and state house Reps and Senators. That's where you cut your teeth and learn how to be a successful politican. Rookies just don't do very well in the big leagues most often (John Edwards going straight to the US Senate from obscurity being a huge exception).

So they've been slaughtering the Democratic minor leagues. There's nothing in the data to show it, but I have no doubt that more than a few ultra-talented and dynamic personalities were targetted for a well-timed "investigation" announcement to prevent them from going any further. Probably the reason there are so few dynamic Democrats at the national level is that most of them have been smeared courtesy of the Bush DoJ long before they even entered our radar screens.

What's more, all these Democrats being investigated far out of proportion has created a 6 year low-level constant hum of Democratic "corruption" in voter minds. This will impact both low and high information voters, since up until this study no one was generally aware of this issue. So whether you lived in Chicago or Alabama you would have seen a steady stream of low level Democrats being federally investigated, besmirching the brand of the Democratic party in subtle and not so subtle ways. Ever wonder why the Culture of Corruption idea didn't catch on better, and that polling seemed to show voters didn't think Democrats were all that less likely to be corrupt, even after Abramoff and Cunningham? I wonder if this was why.

How this ironically has helped (a little)

I think they shot themselves in the foot with this scheme. See, because of this, a ton of deeply corrupt Republicans have not been investigated. Instead of being nabbed when they were just running their small towns into the ground, they survived to reach the national scene, where they have become Pombo and Cunningham and Inhofe and other travesties of democracy. Remember Bob Corker's inability to even run a 911 service? Multiply that ineptitude and throw in criminality and that's the kind of politican the Bush DoJ has been fostering. Worse for them, at the National level they can't ignore the criminality very well - there are too many eyes watching.

On the other hand, for the Democrats only the very cleanest and smartest have been surviving to make it to the national scene. Partly though this is still bad, because I think the kinds of Democrats who escape this net are also the most mild and invisible kind. It would be easy to target the Obamas and Edwards types, while soft-spoken or even quisling Democrats get passed over for better targets. In any case, after this, the Democratic party is a lot cleaner than the Republicans and whatever criminals might be left in its ranks are apt to be a lot smarter and harder to catch (not that this is a good thing, but it's true: The smartest crook is the one you never catch on to).

And then, the purge...

So with that study firmly in mind the purge makes a lot more sense. These were the prosecutors not playing ball. They had the temerity to actually investigate and (gasp) prosecute corrupt Republicans! Worse, they refused to raise nonsense indictments over bogus voter fraud allegations. They had to go.

Make no mistake, consider where the fired were from: New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Arkansas. Hmm. Which former First Lady and likely Democratic nominee spent a number of years there? Also Pryor is up for re-election in this ordinarily red-state. Worst, the fired Prosecutor there is the only one who was told he had no reason to be fired other than that they just wanted to open his job for someone else. Now why would they need to do that if they were already firing seven other prosecutors anyway? Of all the gin joints in the world, where does Rove's buddy go? Oh, look, no Senate confirmation, how very coincidental!

Now you might point out there are 12 Democratic senators up in 2008, and not all their prosecutors got canned. Yeah, well they were "loyal Bushies" so they're already prepping their ratfucking for us. These were the prosecutors without a good track record of politicizing Justice.

And Don't Forget, the Voter Suppression

As if targeting Democrats, ignoring Republicans and firing even loyal Republican prosecutors who didn't play ball to Rove's satisfaction wasn't enough, we have recently learned that the Bush DoJ has been engaging in a dedicated program to destroy the Department's stellar record of advancing civil rights.

This has Rove's fingerprints all over it. Never satisfied to just try convincing voters, or bring out more Republican supporters, Rove has long been a consummate believer in preventing your opponents from voting too.

But don't take my word, let's see what a couple long time ex-DoJ civil rights experts have to say about it:

I spent more than 35 years in the department enforcing federal civil rights laws — particularly voting rights. Before leaving in 2005, I worked for attorneys general with dramatically different political philosophies — from John Mitchell to Ed Meese to Janet Reno. Regardless of the administration, the political appointees had respect for the experience and judgment of longtime civil servants.

Under the Bush administration, however, all that changed. Over the last six years, this Justice Department has ignored the advice of its staff and skewed aspects of law enforcement in ways that clearly were intended to influence the outcome of elections.

Joseph D. Rich in the LA Times

Recently in Salon.com, another:

Since George Bush took office, his administration has been not so quietly dismantling the DOJ's Civil Rights Division, which is responsible for enforcing the nation's civil rights laws, and doing it for the same reason the eight federal prosecutors were fired: to use the enforcement power of the federal government for Republican gain. Instead of attending to the Civil Rights Division's historic mission, addressing the legacy of slavery by enforcing anti-discrimination laws, the Bush administration has employed the division to advance the political agenda of a key GOP constituency, the Christian right and also, quite literally, to get Republicans elected.

Alia Malek in Salon.com

Go read both articles if you haven't already. Back? Outraged? It is with all this in mind that I now look back on November 2006, simply astonished that the Democrats won. This is Karl Rove's "The Math" (Hell it could be Diebold stuff too, but this is already far too much). The scrappy, underfunded big tent party of the filthy proletarian masses took on the corrupt money machine which was frantically pulling the very fundamental levers of justice itself against them, and won. Somewhere David is whistling through his teeth thinking "Goliath was a wimp next to this!"

And yet, Truman beat Dewey again...

I recall being a tad disappointed at the seat totals. I had hoped for 50+ seats. The Democrats actually came very close to that, with a mere 70,000 more votes, another 18 seats would now have Democrats in them. Now, I am no longer disappointed. I sincerely believe 5-10 of those seats should have gone Democratic and would have had Bush's DoJ not been warped into the beast it has become, but I will not cry over the bridge too far, when the party had already succeeded beyond what should have been at all possible. I am simply amazed at the victory.

So that's what this scandal is all about. Rove was taken aside by Bush, and told to redouble his efforts and ensure his "math" wasn't wrong for 2008. This silly purge plan had been kicking around since 2005, with no one having the guts to pull the trigger. Why bother? Republicans had congress. There was no need to risk it. It is no coincidence the Administration suddenly found the nerve for their purge in the weeks after their election rout. They were rocked and in panic mode, and alongside the GSA scandal, Rove's shop has been busy subverting the might of the Big Federal government conservatives claim to hate so much into a machine that elects Republicans.

This is what we face for 2008. An administration that will stop at nothing. They didn't have scruples before 2006, but back then their other tricks were still working. Now, they're reeling and they're screwing up very publicly. They are desperate.

The wave was as big as we hoped. Some of it was dashed on the rocks of voter suppression, and some it was wasted in a false impression of equivalent bi-partisan corruption. We probably won't have a wave working in our favour for 2008, so we'll need to ensure a level playing field by then. So, look out for Leahy and Conyers and Waxman because the very nature of US Democracy itself is what they are defending.

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/3/31/1749/88209

Friday, March 30, 2007

Democrats Vow to Bring the Oil Back Home

Democrats Vow to Bring the Oil Back Home

The war in Iraq was never “all about oil,” but the planners of the war obviously factored that Iraq sits atop huge amounts of petroleum into their equations; after all, one of their deeply held ambitions was to open up Iraq's nationalized energy sector to foreign investment after the fighting stopped. American energy companies held similar ambitions. “Iraq,” said Chevron's then-CEO Kenneth Derr all the way back in 1998, “possesses huge reserves of oil and gas—reserves I'd love Chevron to have access to.” Now the Democrats are about to help the Bush Administration and international oil companies achieve that access.

The House will vote as early as today on the Democratic leadership's $124 billion supplemental appropriations bill. The bill funds the war in Iraq but calls for withdrawal of U.S. troops by September 2008. Democrats are arguing that while they don't have the votes to actually cut off war funding, by passing the bill they will effectively shut it down 18 months from now.

That's a dubious proposition given that President Bush has promised to veto the bill if it passes. Meanwhile, about halfway through the 80-page supplemental bill is a section that demands that the Iraqi government enact “a broadly accepted hydro-carbon law that equitably shares oil revenues among all Iraqis” by this fall. That sounds perfectly fine, but the law in question turns out to be one that the Bush Administration and American energy firms have been pushing for years and that, as Antonia Juhasz of Oil Change International explained last week in a New York Times op-ed, would allow international companies to take control of much of Iraq's oil “for a generation or more,” with no requirements to reinvest earnings in the country. Juhasz noted elsewhere that the Bush Administration dismissed nearly all of the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group Report—save for the recommendation that called for the United States to “assist Iraqi leaders to reorganize the national oil industry as a commercial enterprise” and to “encourage investment in Iraq's oil sector by the international community and by international energy companies.”

Congressman Dennis Kucinich has been circulating a “Dear Colleague” letter that asks, so far to no avail, that the call for passage of the oil law be stripped from the measure. “We cannot . . . support this law and continue to claim our actions are in the best interest of the Iraqi people,” he wrote.

Members of the Democratic leadership are still chasing the votes they need to try to pass the bill. If they get the votes, says Kucinich, he'll seek to offer an amendment to remove the oil law benchmark. But it looks like the House leadership plans to rule Kucinich out of order and not accept any amendments to the bill. “The Democrats say they're determined to not “let the perfect be the enemy of the good” with this bill,” said Steve Kretzmann, Executive Director of Oil Change International. “But we're unclear as to how giving the Bush Administration and Big Oil exactly what they want most in Iraq, at the expense of Iraq's future, can be seen as good.”

http://www.harpers.org/sb-democrats-oil-1174575083.html

George Bush’s Land Mine

George Bush’s Land Mine:
If the Iraqi People Get Revenue Sharing, They Lose Their Oil to Exxon

by Richard Behan

George Bush has a land mine planted in the supplemental appropriation legislation working its way through Congress.

The Iraq Accountability Act passed by the House and the companion bill passed in the Senate contain deadlines for withdrawing our troops from Iraq, in open defiance of the President’s repeated objections.

He threatens a veto, but he might well be bluffing. Buried deep in the legislation and intentionally obscured is a near-guarantee of success for the Bush Administration’s true objective of the war-capturing Iraq’s oil-and George Bush will not casually forego that.

This bizarre circumstance is the end-game of the brilliant, ever-deceitful maneuvering by the Bush Administration in conducting the entire scenario of the “global war on terror.”

The supplemental appropriation package requires the Iraqi government to meet a series of “benchmarks” President Bush established in his speech to the nation on January 10 (in which he made his case for the “surge”). Most of Mr. Bush’s benchmarks are designed to blame the victim, forcing the Iraqis to solve the problems George Bush himself created.

One of the President’s benchmarks, however, stands apart. This is how the President described it: “To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country’s economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis.” A seemingly decent, even noble concession. That’s all Mr. Bush said about that benchmark, but his brevity was gravely misleading, and it had to be intentional.

The Iraqi Parliament has before it today, in fact, a bill called the hydrocarbon law, and it does call for revenue sharing among Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. For President Bush, this is a must-have law, and it is the only “benchmark” that truly matters to his Administration.

Yes, revenue sharing is there-essentially in fine print, essentially trivial. The bill is long and complex, it has been years in the making, and its primary purpose is transformational in scope: a radical and wholesale reconstruction-virtual privatization-of the currently nationalized Iraqi oil industry.

If passed, the law will make available to Exxon/Mobil, Chevron/Texaco, BP/Amoco, and Royal Dutch/Shell about 4/5’s of the stupendous petroleum reserves in Iraq. That is the wretched goal of the Bush Administration, and in his speech setting the revenue-sharing “benchmark” Mr. Bush consciously avoided any hint of it.

The legislation pending now in Washington requires the President to certify to Congress by next October that the benchmarks have been met-specifically that the Iraqi hydrocarbon law has been passed. That’s the land mine: he will certify the American and British oil companies have access to Iraqi oil. This is not likely what Congress intended, but it is precisely what Mr. Bush has sought for the better part of six years.

It is why we went to war.

For years President Bush has cloaked his intentions behind the fabricated “Global War on Terrorism.” It has long been suspected that oil drove the wars, but dozens of skilled and determined writers have documented it. It is no longer a matter of suspicion, nor is it speculation now: it is sordid fact. (See a brief summary of the story at http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/47489/ . )

Planning for the two wars was underway almost immediately upon the Bush Administration taking office–at least six months before September 11, 2001. The wars had nothing to do with terrorism. Terrorism was initially rejected by the new Administration as unworthy of national concern and public policy, but 9/11 gave them a conveniently timed and spectacular alibi to undertake the wars. Quickly inventing a catchy “global war on terror” theme, the Administration disguised the true nature of the wars very cleverly, and with enduring success.

The “global war on terror” is bogus. The prime terrorist in Afghanistan and the architect of 9/11, Osama bin Laden, was never apprehended, and the President’s subsequent indifference is a matter of record. And Iraq harbored no terrorists at all. But both countries were invaded, both countries suffer military occupation today, both are dotted with permanent U.S. military bases protecting the hydrocarbon assets, and both have been provided with puppet governments.

And a billion dollar embassy in Baghdad is under construction now. It will be the largest U.S. embassy in the world by a factor of ten. (To see it, go to http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=20070124&articleId=4579 .) It consists of 21 buildings on 104 acres, six times larger than the United Nations compound in New York city, larger than Vatican City. It will house a delegation of more than five thousand people. It will have its own water, electric, and sewage systems, and it is surrounded by a fortress wall of concrete fifteen feet thick. For an Administration committed to fighting terrorism with armies and bombs, that’s far more anti-terror diplomacy than a tiny country needs. There must be another purpose for it.

In the first two months of the Bush Administration two significant events took place that preordained the Iraqi war. Vice President Cheney’s Energy Task Force was created, composed of federal officials and oil industry people. By March of 2001, half a year before 9/11, the Task Force was poring secretly over maps of the Iraqi oil fields, pipe lines, and tanker terminals. It studied a listing of foreign oil company “suitors” for exploration and development contracts, to be executed with Saddam Hussein’s oil ministry. There was not a single American or British oil company included, and to Mr. Cheney and his cohorts that was intolerable. The final report of the Task Force was candid: “… Middle East oil producers will remain central to world security. The Gulf will be a primary focus of U.S. international energy policy.” The detailed meaning of “focus” was left blank.

The other event was the first meeting of President Bush’s National Security Council, and it filled in the blank. The Council abandoned abruptly the decades-long attempt to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and set a new priority for Middle East foreign policy instead: the invasion of Iraq. This, too, was six months before 9/11. “Focus” would mean war.

By the fall of 2002, the White House Iraq Group-a collection not of foreign policy experts but of media and public relations people-was cranking up the marketing campaign for the war. A contract was signed with the Halliburton Corporation-even before military force in Iraq had been authorized by Congress-to organize the suppression of oil well fires, should Saddam torch the fields as he had done in the first Gulf War. Little was left to chance.

The oil industry is the primary client and top-ranked beneficiary of the Bush Administration. There can be no question the Administration intended to secure for American oil corporations the rich petroleum resources of Iraq: 115 billion barrels of proven reserves, twice that in probable and possible resources, potentially far more than Saudi Arabia. The Energy Task Force spoke to this and the National Security Council answered.

A secret NSC memorandum in 2001 spoke candidly of “actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields” in Iraq. In 2002 Paul Wolfowitz suggested simply seizing the oil fields. These words and suggestions were draconian, overt, and reprehensible-morally, historically, politically and diplomatically. The seizure of the oil would have to be oblique and far more sophisticated.

A year before the war the State Department undertook the “Future of Iraq” project, expressly to design the institutional contours of the postwar country. The ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­”Oil and Energy Working Group” looked with dismay at the National Iraqi Oil Company, the government agency that owned and operated the Iraqi oil fields and marketed the products. 100% of the revenues went directly to the central government, and constituted about 90% of its income. Saddam Hussein benefited, certainly-his lavish palaces-but the Iraqi people did so to a far greater extent, in terms of the nation’s public services and physical infrastructure. For this reason nationalized oil industries are the norm throughout the world.

The Oil and Energy Working Group designed a scheme that was oblique and sophisticated, indeed. The oil seizure would be less than total. It would be obscured in complexity. The apparent responsibility for it would be shifted, and it would be disguised as benefiting, even necessary to Iraq’s well being. Their work was supremely ingenious, undeniably brilliant.

The plan would keep the National Iraqi Oil Company in place, to continue overseeing the currently producing fields. But those fields represent only 19% of Iraq’s petroleum reserves. The other 81% would be flung open to “investment” by foreign oil interests, and the companies in favored positions today-because of the war and their political connections-are Exxon/Mobil, Chevron/Texaco, BP/Amoco, and Royal Dutch/Shell.

The nationalized industry would be 80% privatized.

The investment vehicle would be the “production sharing agreement,” a long-term contract-up to 40 years-that grants to the company a share of the oil produced; in exchange, the company underwrites the development costs and oilfield infrastructure. Such “investment” is touted by the Bush Administration and its puppets in Iraq as necessary to the country’s recovery, and a huge benefit, accordingly. But it is not unusual for these contracts to grant the companies more than half the profits for the first 15-30 years, and to deny the host country any revenue at all until the investment costs have been recovered.

The Iraqi oil industry does very much need a great deal of investment capital, to repair, replace, and upgrade its infrastructure. But it does not need Exxon/Mobil or any other foreign company to provide it. At a reduced level, Iraq is still producing oil and hence revenue, and no country in the world, perhaps, has better collateral against which to float bond issues for public investment. Privatization of any sort and in any degree is utterly unnecessary in Iraq today.

The features of the State Department plan were inserted by Paul Bremer’s Provisional Coalition Authority into the developing structures of Iraqi governance. American oil companies were omnipresent in Baghdad then and have been since, shaping and shepherding the plan through the several iterations of puppet governments-the “democracy” said to be taking hold in Iraq.

The package today is in the form of draft legislation, the hydrocarbon law. Only a handful of Iraqi officials know its details. Virtually none of them had a hand in its construction. (It was first written in English.) And its exclusive beneficiaries are the American and British oil companies, whose profits will come directly from the pockets of the Iraqi people.

The Iraqi people do, however, benefit to some degree. The seizure is not total. The hydrocarbon law specifies the oil revenues-the residue accruing to Iraq-will be shared equally among the Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish regions, on a basis of population. This is the feature President Bush relies upon exclusively to justify, to insist on the passage of the hydrocarbon law. His real reasons are Exxon/Mobil, Chevron/Texaco, BP/Amoco, and Royal Dutch/Shell.

No one can say at the moment how much the hydrocarbon law will cost the Iraqi people, but it will be in the hundreds of billions. The circumstances of its passage are mired in the country’s chaos, and its final details are not yet settled. If and when it passes, however, Iraq will orchestrate the foreign capture of its own oil. The ingenious, brilliant seizure of Iraqi oil will be assured.

That outcome has been on the Bush Administration’s agenda since early in 2001, long before terrorism struck in New York and Washington. The Iraqi war has never been about terrorism.

It is blood for oil.

The blood has been spilled already, hugely, criminally. More than 3,200 American military men and women have died in Iraq. 26,500 more have been wounded. But the oil remains in play.

The game will end if the revenue-sharing “benchmark” is fully enforced. The land mine will detonate.

Mission almost accomplished, Mr. President.

Author’s endnote:

This article was written assuming the members of Congress were ignorant, when they passed the supplemental appropriation bills, of the clever origin, the details, and the true beneficiaries of the Iraqi hydrocarbon law. It was written assuming they did not know President Bush’s stated “benchmark” of revenue-sharing was fraudulently incomplete, intentionally obscuring the fully intended seizure, by military force, of Iraqi oil assets.

The Bush Administration made every effort to mislead deliberately both the Congress and the American people. Ignorance of the circumstances was imposed.

If any members of Congress acted with full and complete knowledge, however, then they have become complicit in a criminal war.

Richard W. Behan lives and writes on Lopez Island, off the northwest
coast of Washington state. He is working on his next book, To Provide
Against Invasions: Corporate Dominion and America’s Derelict
Democracy. He can be reached at rwbehan@rockisland.com (This essay
is deliberately not copyrighted: it may be reproduced without restriction.)

http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/03/30/201/

Panel Asks Rove for Information on '08 Election Presentation

Panel Asks Rove for Information on '08 Election Presentation

By Scott Higham and Robert O'Harrow Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, March 30, 2007; A05

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee sought more information yesterday about a presentation by a White House aide given to political appointees at the General Services Administration that discussed targeting 20 Democratic congressional candidates in the next election.

In a letter to White House political affairs director Karl Rove, the committee chairman, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), asked about the Jan. 26 videoconference by Rove deputy J. Scott Jennings, which was directed to the chief of the GSA and as many as 40 agency officials stationed around the country.

Jennings's 28-page presentation included 2006 election results and listed the names of Democratic candidates considered beatable and Republican lawmakers thought to need help. At a hearing Wednesday about the GSA, Waxman said the presentation and follow-up remarks allegedly made by agency chief Lurita Alexis Doan may have violated the Hatch Act, a law that restricts federal agencies and employees from using their positions for political purposes.

In yesterday's letter, Waxman asked Rove who prepared the presentation and whether Rove or Jennings consulted with anyone about whether it might be in violation of the Hatch Act. Waxman also asked whether Rove or any members of his staff have given the same or similar PowerPoint presentations to political appointees at other government agencies.

The PowerPoint presentation was a focus of Waxman's hearing Wednesday into Doan's 10-month tenure and into allegations that she has acted inappropriately. Doan denied the allegations at the hearing.

Six political appointees at the GSA who participated in the videoconference said Doan asked at the conclusion how the agency could help GOP candidates win in the next elections, according to a letter Waxman sent to Doan.

During the hearing, Doan said at least 10 times that she does not recall asking employees to help the GOP or does not recall details about the presentation.

The matter is being investigated by the independent Office of Special Counsel.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said the presentation was not out of the ordinary.

"There is regular communication from the White House to political appointees throughout the administration," he said.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/29/AR2007032901962_pf.html

Story Time in the Senate

NY Times Editorial
Story Time in the Senate

In his Senate testimony yesterday, Kyle Sampson, the former chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, tried to be a “loyal Bushie,” a term Mr. Sampson used in his infamous e-mail message to describe what he was looking for in United States attorneys. But if Mr. Sampson was trying to fall on his sword, he had horrible aim. In testimony that got so embarrassing for the White House that the Republicans tried to cut it off, Mr. Sampson simply ended up making it clearer than ever that the eight prosecutors were fired for political reasons.

He provided more evidence, also, that the attorney general and other top Justice Department officials were dishonest in their initial statements about the firings.

Mr. Sampson flatly contradicted the attorney general’s claim that he did not participate in the selection of the prosecutors to be fired and never had a conversation about “where things stood.” Mr. Sampson testified that Mr. Gonzales was “aware of this process from the beginning,” and that the two men regularly discussed where things stood. Mr. Sampson also confirmed that Mr. Gonzales was at the Nov. 27 meeting where the selected prosecutors’ fates were sealed.

The hearing brought out evidence that Mr. Sampson also may have made false statements. A Feb. 23 letter to Congress based on information from Mr. Sampson stated that Karl Rove was not involved in replacing the United States attorney in Arkansas with Timothy Griffin, Mr. Rove’s former aide. Mr. Sampson could not convincingly explain why he wrote that, when he had said in an e-mail message two months earlier that getting Mr. Griffin appointed was “important” to Mr. Rove. He finally acknowledged that he had discussed the appointment with Mr. Rove’s two top aides.

The senators questioning Mr. Sampson pointed to a troubling pattern: many of the fired prosecutors were investigating high-ranking Republicans. He was asked if he was aware that the fired United States attorney in Nevada was investigating a Republican governor, that the fired prosecutor in Arkansas was investigating the Republican governor of Missouri, or that the prosecutor in Arizona was investigating two Republican members of Congress.

Mr. Sampson’s claim that he had only casual knowledge of these highly sensitive investigations was implausible, unless we are to believe that Mr. Gonzales runs a department in which the chief of staff is merely a political hack who has no hand in its substantive work. He added to the suspicions that partisan politics were involved when he made the alarming admission that in the middle of the Scooter Libby investigation, he suggested firing Patrick Fitzgerald, the United States attorney in Chicago who was the special prosecutor in the case.

The administration insists that purge was not about partisan politics. But Mr. Sampson’s alternative explanation was not very credible — that the decision about which of these distinguished prosecutors should be fired was left in the hands of someone as young and inept as Mr. Sampson. If this were an aboveboard, professional process, it strains credulity that virtually no documents were produced when decisions were made, and that none of his recommendations to Mr. Gonzales were in writing.

It is no wonder that the White House is trying to stop Congress from questioning Mr. Rove, Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, and other top officials in public, under oath and with a transcript. The more the administration tries to spin the prosecutor purge, the worse it looks.

David Sirota - Protesting and legislating to end the war

Protesting and legislating to end the war


By David Sirota

March 30, 2007

To understand the passionate debate about the Iraq war spending bills over the last two weeks in Congress, and why so many committed anti-war Democrats support the House and Senate bills in their current form, we must understand the difference between protesting and legislating. Lawmakers who know how to use both are often movements' most essential actors.

Protesting is a critical part of American democracy. At its core, it is designed to put pressure on government in the lead-up to legislative decisions. President Bush is requesting a supplemental spending bill for ongoing operations in Iraq. In the opening congressional negotiations about this supplemental bill, anti-war Democrats joined with courageous anti-war organizations to protest the request, and some in the House last week threatened to vote against the bill and defeat it.

That principled stance compelled Democratic leaders to add binding language into the House bill that would force the president to begin a withdrawal of troops from Iraq in spring 2008, with the goal of full withdrawal by September.

Many anti-war progressives in the House continued to threaten to vote against the supplemental bill - a positive move because it made sure Democratic leaders rebuffed attempts by Republicans to strip out the binding language. The protest brinksmanship worked.

Unfortunately, the legislative process demands compromises and does not tend to create perfect outcomes. In this case, the imperfection for war opponents is obvious: The House's Iraq war supplemental bill still includes funding for military operations in Iraq for the next 17 months - a demand of conservative Democrats whose votes were needed to pass the measure.

How does a principled legislator who wants to end the war decide what to do? By gaming out the possible outcomes.

Had these anti-war lawmakers in the House joined with pro-war Republicans in voting the bill down, some imagine that Democrats would have refused to bring up another version of the bill - thus cutting off all funding for the war. But that outcome is impossible in a Congress whose majority right now may be Democratic but - unfortunately - is not anti-war.

It is far more likely that House Democratic leaders would have come back to write a "clean" supplemental bill - one that funds the war but does not include the binding legislation to end it. Under enormous White House pressure not to "leave the troops in the lurch," the Democratic leadership would have had more than 200 pro-war Republican votes to help pass a clean, pro-war bill had the current bill been killed. Put another way, had anti-war House lawmakers followed through on their protest threats and defeated the bill, they most likely would have ended up with a bill that enormously set back the anti-war cause.

By contrast, Democrats in the House who voted "yes" and successfully passed the existing Iraq supplemental took the most effective step at that moment toward ending the war. Their votes compelled the Senate to act accordingly. In its version of the bill, the upper chamber included language ordering the president to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq within 120 days.

The net result is that some form of binding legislation to start withdrawing from Iraq will now likely go to the president's desk - forcing him to choose between an embarrassing veto that cuts off funds for the troops or signing the bill and agreeing to end the war.

Honest people can disagree with the tactics in this situation, but they cannot attack progressive Democrats for "selling out" the anti-war cause in voting for the House bill. Outside protest was absolutely critical in shaping this debate, and it will be critical in making sure binding legislation to end the war ultimately makes it through House-Senate negotiations and to the president's desk intact.

However, when it's time to vote, legislators are not protesters. As long as binding language ending the war was in these bills, voting "yes" was clearly the way to bring the country closer to achieving the anti-war movement's goal.

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bal-op.warvote30mar30,0,7490955.story?coll=bal-oped-headlines

End-game of a tormented presidency has begun

End-game of a tormented presidency has begun

BY JOSEPH L. GALLOWAY
McClatchy Newspapers

Not since the latter days of Richard M. Nixon have we had so clear a spectacle of arrogant politicians bumbling into fatal mistakes and poorly planned and executed cover-ups as George W. Bush administration is now providing, day by day.

How strange that an administration that took such pride in putting up a seamless wall around the White House and marching in lock-step, all reading from the same script and spinning in one direction, has come to this.

What should have been a simple matter of replacing a handful of U.S. attorneys - seven of 93 political appointees - now threatens to devour a presidential buddy of long standing, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

So far it is not so much about what was done but what was said by Gonzales and others in an attempt to hide the real political reasons for firing the prosecutors.

Gonzales, who has lawyered for Bush since he was governor of Texas, seems unlikely to survive long enough to keep his mid-April date with the congressional committees to explain his actions and his Justice Department aides' misstatements, misinformation, denials and flat-out lies on the issue of the dismissal of those prosecutors.

One of those aides has hired a veteran Watergate lawyer to defend her and promptly announced that she'll be hiding behind the 5th Amendment to avoid self-incrimination when she returns to Capitol Hill.

Gonzales' own chief of staff resigned when the scandal began brewing and will testify Thursday before Congress, perhaps to the sorrow of his former boss and former colleagues at both Justice and the White House.

Justice has released three batches of e-mails on the discussions leading up to firing the prosecutors, but, in another Nixonian coincidence, there is an unexplained 16-day gap in the e-mail traffic. Nixon, by contrast, left only an 18-minute gap in his secret tapes.

The Democrats who control Senate and House Judiciary Committees have voted authority to their chairmen to subpoena key White House aides including political wizard Karl Rove to testify under oath about the prosecutor firings and the reasons for the action. President Bush offered them up for private, closed-door "conversations" with the nosy Democrats. No transcript and no one sworn to tell the truth.

The president threatens a court fight over executive privilege while telling the country that no administration has ever allowed White House aides to testify under oath before congressional investigators, which is, itself, another large misstatement.

The wheels began falling off the Republican wagon with the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, which put one GOP congressman and a high-ranking Interior Department political appointee behind bars.

Then came the bribery case of Republican Congressman Duke Cunningham and his resignation and imprisonment. One of the fired prosecutors was pursuing an indictment of a high-ranking Central Intelligence Agency official in that case.

Then there was the trial of Scooter Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, and his conviction on perjury charges arising from sworn testimony before a grand jury investigating the Valerie Plame CIA leak case. Libby's appealing his conviction and praying for a presidential pardon.

All of this is a token of much more still to come as President Bush and his closest aides endure the death of a thousand cuts in their final 21 months in power.

For six long years the Republicans had it all their way, with control of the White House and both houses of Congress. There was no oversight to speak of; no one asking pesky questions about the routine incompetence and breath-taking mismanagement of everything from the war in Iraq to the rebuilding of New Orleans.

Now, with the Democrats in control of Congress and the president's approval ratings down around his shoe tops, the end-game of a tormented presidency has begun.

George Bush can draw lines in the sand, make imperious declarations of defiance and issue orders to Congress but he better be buying Band-Aids by the carload.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Follow the e-mails

Follow the e-mails

The discovery of a previously unknown treasure chest of e-mails buried by the Bush administration may prove to be as informative as Nixon's secret White House tapes.

By Sidney Blumenthal

Mar. 29, 2007 | The rise and fall of the Bush presidency has had four phases: the befuddled period of steady political decline during the president's first nine months; the high tide of hubris from Sept. 11, 2001, through the 2004 election; the self-destructive overreaching to consolidate a one-party state from 2005 to 2006, culminating in the repudiation of the Republican Congress; and, now, the terminal stage, the great unraveling, as the Democratic Congress works to uncover the abuses of the previous six years.

Richard Nixon and George W. Bush both invoked secrecy for national security. Both insisted war -- the war in Vietnam, the war on terror -- justified impunity. And both offered the reason of secrecy to cover political power grabs.

In Watergate, "Deep Throat" counseled that the royal road to the scandal's source was to "follow the money." In the proliferating scandals of the Bush presidency, Congress is searching down a trail of records that did not exist in the time of Nixon: Follow the e-mails.

The discovery of a hitherto unknown treasure-trove of e-mails buried by the Bush White House may prove to be as informative as Nixon's secret White House tapes. Last week the National Journal disclosed that Karl Rove does "about 95 percent" of his e-mails outside the White House system, instead using a Republican National Committee account. What's more, Rove doesn't tap most of his messages on a White House computer, but rather on a BlackBerry provided by the RNC. By this method, Rove and other White House aides evade the legally required archiving of official e-mails. The first glimmer of this dodge appeared in a small item buried in a January 2004 issue of U.S. News & World Report: "'I don't want my E-mail made public,' said one insider. As a result, many aides have shifted to Internet E-mail instead of the White House system. 'It's Yahoo!, baby,' says a Bushie."

The offshoring of White House records via RNC e-mails became apparent when an RNC domain, gwb43.com (referring to George W. Bush, 43rd president), turned up in a batch of e-mails the White House gave to House and Senate committees earlier this month. Rove's deputy, Scott Jennings, former Bush legal counsel Harriet Miers and her deputies strangely had used gwb43.com as an e-mail domain.

The production of these e-mails to Congress was a kind of slip. In its tense negotiations with lawmakers, the White House has steadfastly refused to give Congress e-mails other than those between the White House and the Justice Department or the White House and Congress. E-mails among presidential aides have been withheld under the claim of executive privilege.

When I worked in the Clinton White House, people brought in their personal computers if they were engaged in any campaign work, but all official transactions had to be done within the White House system as stipulated by the Presidential Records Act of 1978. (The PRA requires that "the President shall take all such steps as may be necessary to assure that the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of his constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties are adequately documented and that such records are maintained as Presidential records.") Having forsaken the use of Executive Office of the President e-mail, executive privilege has been sacrificed. Moreover, Rove's and the others' practice may not be legal.

The revelation of the gwb43 e-mails illuminates the widespread exploitation of nongovernmental e-mail by Bush White House officials, which initially surfaced in the investigations and trial of convicted Republican super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Susan Ralston, Abramoff's former personal assistant and then executive assistant to Rove, who served as the liaison between the two men in their constant dealings, used "georgewbush.com" and "rnchq.org" e-mail accounts to communicate with Abramoff between 2001 and 2003. In one of her e-mails, Ralston cautioned that "it is better to not put this stuff in writing in [the White House] ... email system because it might actually limit what they can do to help us, especially since there could be lawsuits, etc." Abramoff replied: "Dammit. It was sent to Susan on her rnc pager and was not supposed to go into the WH system."

The Ralston e-mails were not fully appreciated as a clue to the vast cache of hidden e-mails at the time the Justice Department's inspector general conducted a probe into whether Abramoff had been involved in the firing of the U.S. attorney in Guam in 2002. That prosecutor, Frederick Black, who had been appointed by George H.W. Bush and served for 10 years, had opened an investigation into the $324,000 in secret payments Abramoff received from the Guam Superior Court to lobby in Washington against court reform. The day after Black subpoenaed Abramoff's contract, he was fired. In a 2006 report, the I.G. found no criminal wrongdoing -- but he did not have access to the nongovernmental e-mails (i.e., those sent outside the official White House system). Now, the I.G. may have cause to reopen his case.

Under the RNC's gwb43.com domain a myriad of e-mail accounts flourish, including the ones used by Rove's office to conduct his business with Abramoff. Among these accounts are ones for Republican Senate campaigns, for RepublicanVictoryTeam.com and the like, and, curiously, for ScooterLibby.com. The latter e-mail account serves the Web site of the defense fund of Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice. ScooterLibby.com amounts to an in-kind contribution from the RNC.

On Monday, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent letters to RNC officials demanding that they preserve the White House e-mails sent on RNC accounts. "The e-mail exchanges reviewed by the Committee provide evidence that in some instances, White House officials were using the nongovernmental accounts specifically to avoid creating a record of the communications," he wrote. "What assurance can the RNC provide the Committee," he asked, "that no e-mails involving official White House business have been destroyed or altered?"

Even as the Bush administration withholds evidence that would allow Congress to fulfill its obligation of oversight, administration officials are having difficulty keeping their stories straight. The release of each new batch of e-mails forces them to scramble for new alibis.

On March 12, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he had nothing to do with the dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys late last year. How they happened to be removed remained a mystery to him. "I was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on," he said. But e-mails released last week show that he was informed of the plan twice in late 2006. In fact, on Nov. 27, 2006, he met with at least five senior Justice Department officials to finalize a "five-step plan for carrying out the firings of the prosecutors." With the appearance of the incriminating e-mails, Gonzales' spokespeople have been sent out to tell the press that there is "no inconsistency," a brazen assertion of the Groucho Marx defense: Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?

Despite the resignation of Gonzales' chief of staff and counselor, Kyle Sampson, on March 12, another fall guy has emerged, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty. On Jan. 18, Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, presenting a public explanation that politics had nothing to do with the U.S. attorney firings -- "we would never, ever make a change in the U.S. attorney position for political reasons" -- and private assurances to Republican senators that they were dismissed for disagreements over policy.

Three weeks later, McNulty appeared before the committee, contradicting his boss, explaining that the U.S. attorneys were fired for "performance-related" reasons. Then he admitted that the U.S. attorney for Arkansas, H.E. "Bud" Cummins, was being replaced by a Rove protégé, Tim Griffin. McNulty's testimony incited the U.S. attorneys to defend their reputations, agitated the Democrats to ferret out the underlying political motives and forced the administration to react with a spray of excuses.

On Monday, the administration leaked an e-mail to ABC News in an attempt to blame the entire scandal on McNulty. "McNulty's testimony directly conflicted with the approach Miers advised, according to an unreleased internal White House e-mail described to ABC News," it reported. "According to that e-mail, sources said, Miers said the administration should take the firm position that it would not comment on personnel issues." The leak fit the administration scenario that the U.S. attorneys scandal was nothing but a P.R. mistake -- and now McNulty was the one fingered as the culprit. But in trying to shift blame the leaking of the e-mail would seem to undercut the White House's claim of executive privilege that it cannot give internal communications to Congress.

Also on Monday Gonzales' senior counselor and White House liaison, Monica Goodling, invoked the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in her refusal to testify before the Senate. (Goodling, who graduated from law school in 1999, is one of the highest-ranking officials in the Department of Justice. Her doctor of jurisprudence degree comes from Regent University, founded by the Rev. Pat Robertson. Its Web site boasts that it has "150 graduates serving in the Bush Administration." Perhaps not coincidentally, Kay Coles James, a former Regent University dean, was director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management from 2001 to 2005.)

Goodling's lawyer's extraordinarily argumentative letter explaining her silence accused "certain members" of the committee of "already" having "reached conclusions about the affair"; stated that the inquiry is "being used to promote a political party" and that it lacks a "legitimate reason ... basic fairness ... objectivity"; and stated that an unnamed "senior Department of Justice official" had told Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., that he was "not entirely candid" to the committee because "our client did not inform him of certain pertinent facts."

McNulty, of course, is that official. As Goodling's lawyer's letter reveals, he is refusing to go gently into that good night and declining to cooperate with the latest cover story. Hence, she is taking the Fifth, perhaps more because she doesn't know what story to tell than because she might face a perjury trap before the committee. So the fall gal blames the fall guy.

As Congress extends its oversight, President Bush stiffens his resistance. He treats the Democratic Congress as basically illegitimate. He reacts to every assertion of oversight as an invasion of presidential prerogative. Not only does he reject compromise and negotiation, but he also transforms every point of difference into a conflict over first principles, even as every new disclosure reveals his purely political motivation.

Bush's radicalism becomes more fervent as he becomes more embattled, and separates him from presidents past. Richard Nixon compromised regularly with a Democratic Congress, even as he secretly laid the foundation of an imperial presidency, his unfinished project left in ruins after the Watergate scandal. Ronald Reagan, the old union leader, president of the Screen Actors Guild, stood resolutely on his convictions until the better part of political valor led him to cut a deal, as he did when he abandoned his long-held belief in privatizing Social Security, conceding his supposedly inviolate ground to Speaker Tip O'Neill, and happily proclaiming the pact afterward. George H.W. Bush, a former congressman with many friends across the aisle, famously jettisoned his tenuous conservative bona fides as Reagan's heir, a credo he embraced in his 1988 acceptance speech before the Republican National Convention -- "Read my lips: no new taxes" -- when, anxious about the expanding deficit, he cut a deal with the Democratic leadership to lower it through tax increases.

The Republican right's excoriation of the elder Bush's betrayal, rather than his overriding sense of responsibility, was the lesson learned by the son. His imperative to avoid making enemies on the right is compounded into his larger notion of an unfettered presidency.

For six years, Bush had a Republican Congress whipped into obedience -- and it provided him his only experience in legislative affairs. The rise of the Democratic Congress, reviving the powers of oversight and investigation, is a shock to his system. But he is not without an understanding of his changed circumstances. Bush sees the new Congress as the same beast that ensnared his father in fatal compromise and as a monstrous threat to the imperial presidency he has spent six years carefully building.

As the return of oversight suddenly exposes pervasive corruption throughout the executive branch, Bush struggles against Congress as though it were an alien force. Bush has no sense that the Framers, wary of the concentration of power in the executive, deliberately established the powers of the Congress in Article I of the Constitution and those of the president in Article II. Once again he straps on his armor and clasps his shield. His defense of secrecy, executive fiat and one-party rule has become his battle of Thermopylae.

http://www.salon.com/opinion/blumenthal/2007/03/29/attorney_firings/print.html