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, August 04, 2007

Frank Rich - Patriots Who Love the Troops to Death

Patriots Who Love the Troops to Death

By FRANK RICH

GERALD FORD spoke the truth when he called Watergate “our long national nightmare,” but even a nightmare can have its interludes of rib-splitting farce.

None were zanier than the antics of Baruch Korff, a small-town New England rabbi who became a full-time Richard Nixon sycophant as the walls closed in. Korff was ubiquitous in the press and on television, where he would lambaste Democrats and the media “lynch mob” for vilifying “the greatest president of the century.” Despite Nixon’s reflexive anti-Semitism, he returned the favor by granting the rabbi audiences and an interview that allowed the embattled president to soliloquize about how his own faith and serenity reinforced his conviction “deep inside” that everything he did was right.

Clearly we’ve reached our own Korffian moment in our latest long national nightmare. The Nixon interviewed by the rabbi sounded uncannily like the resolute leader chronicled by the conservative columnists and talk-show jocks President Bush has lately welcomed into his bunker. For his part, William Kristol even published a Korffian manifesto, “Why Bush Will Be a Winner,” in The Washington Post. It reassured us that the Bush presidency would “probably be a successful one” and that “we now seem to be on course to a successful outcome” in Iraq. A Bush flack let it be known that the president liked this piece so much that he recommended it to his White House staff.

Are you laughing yet? Maybe not. No one died in Watergate. This time around, the White House lying and cover-ups have been not just in the service of political thuggery but to gin up a gratuitous war without end.

There is another significant difference as well. Washington never drank the Nixon Kool-Aid. It kept a skeptical bipartisan eye on Tricky Dick throughout his political career, long before the Watergate complex had even been built. The charmed Mr. Bush, by contrast, got a free pass; both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and both liberals and conservatives in the news media were credulous enablers of the Iraq fiasco. Now a reckoning awaits, and the denouement is getting ugly.

The ranks of unreconstructed Iraq hawks are thinner than they used to be. Some politicians in both parties (John Edwards, Chris Dodd, Gordon Smith) and truculent pundits (Peter Beinart, Andrew Sullivan) who cheered on the war recanted (sooner in some cases than others), learned from their errors and moved on. One particularly eloquent mea culpa can be found in today’s New York Times Magazine, where the former war supporter Michael Ignatieff acknowledges that those who “truly showed good judgment on Iraq” might have had no more information than those who got it wrong, but did not make the mistake of confusing “wishes for reality.”

But those who remain dug in are having none of that. Some of them are busily lashing out Korff-style. Some are melting down. Some are rewriting history. Most seem more interested in saving their own reputations than the American troops they ritualistically invoke to bludgeon the wars’ critics and to parade their own self-congratulatory patriotism.

It was a rewriting of history that made the blogosphere (and others) go berserk last week over an Op-Ed article in The Times, “A War We Just Might Win,” by Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack. The two Brookings Institution scholars, after a government-guided tour, pointed selectively to successes on the ground in Iraq in arguing that the surge should be continued “at least into 2008.”

The hole in their argument was gaping. As Adm. Michael Mullen, the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said honorably and bluntly in his Congressional confirmation hearings, “No amount of troops in no amount of time will make much of a difference” in Iraq if there’s no functioning Iraqi government. Opting for wishes over reality, Mr. O’Hanlon and Mr. Pollack buried their pro forma acknowledgment of that huge hurdle near the end of their piece.

But even more galling was the authors’ effort to elevate their credibility by describing themselves as “analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq.” That’s disingenuous. For all their late-in-the-game criticisms of the administration’s incompetence, Mr. Pollack proselytized vociferously for the war before it started, including in an appearance with Oprah, and both men have helped prolong the quagmire with mistakenly optimistic sightings of progress since the days of “Mission Accomplished.”

You can find a compendium of their past wisdom in Glenn Greenwald’s Salon column. That think-tank pundits with this track record would try to pass themselves off as harsh war critics in 2007 shows how desperate they are to preserve their status as Beltway “experts” now that the political winds have shifted. Such blatant careerism would be less offensive if they didn’t do so on the backs of the additional American troops they ask to be sacrificed to the doomed mission of providing security for an Iraqi government that is both on vacation and on the verge of collapse.

At least the more rabid and Korff-like of the war’s last defenders have the intellectual honesty not to deny what they’ve been saying all along. But their invective has gone over the top, with even mild recent critics of the war like John Warner and Richard Lugar being branded defeatist “pre- 9/11 Republicans” by Mr. Kristol.

It’s also the tic of Mr. Kristol’s magazine, The Weekly Standard (and its Murdoch sibling The New York Post), to claim that the war’s critics hate the troops. When The New Republic ran a less-than-jingoistic essay by a pseudonymous American soldier in Iraq, The Weekly Standard even accused it of fabrication — only to have its bluff called when the author’s identity was revealed and his controversial anecdotes were verified by other sources.

A similar over-the-top tirade erupted on “Meet the Press” last month, when another war defender in meltdown, Senator Lindsey Graham, repeatedly cut off his fellow guest by saying that soldiers he met on official Congressional visits to Iraq endorsed his own enthusiasm for the surge. Unfortunately for Mr. Graham, his sparring partner was Jim Webb, the take-no-prisoners Virginia Democrat who is a Vietnam veteran and the father of a soldier serving in the war. Senator Webb reduced Mr. Graham to a stammering heap of Jell-O when he chastised him for trying to put his political views “into the mouths of soldiers.” As Mr. Webb noted, the last New York Times-CBS News poll on the subject found that most members of the military and their immediate families have turned against the war, like other Americans.

As is becoming clearer than ever in this Korffian endgame, hiding behind the troops is the last refuge of this war’s sponsors. This too is a rewrite of history. It has been the war’s champions who have more often dishonored the troops than the war’s opponents.

Mr. Bush created the template by doing everything possible to keep the sacrifice of American armed forces in Iraq off-camera, forbidding photos of coffins and skipping military funerals. That set the stage for the ensuing demonization of Ted Koppel, whose decision to salute the fallen by reading a list of their names in the spotlight of “Nightline” was branded unpatriotic by the right’s vigilantes.

The same playbook was followed by the war’s champions when a soldier confronted Donald Rumsfeld about the woeful shortage of armor during a town-hall meeting in Kuwait in December 2004. Rather than campaign for the armor the troops so desperately needed, the right attacked the questioner for what Rush Limbaugh called his “near insubordination.” When The Washington Post some two years later exposed the indignities visited upon the grievously injured troops at Walter Reed Medical Center, The Weekly Standard and the equally hawkish Wall Street Journal editorial page took three weeks to notice, with The Standard giving the story all of two sentences. Protecting the White House from scandal, not the troops from squalor, was the higher priority.

One person who has had enough of this hypocrisy is the war critic Andrew J. Bacevich, a Boston University professor of international relations who is also a Vietnam veteran, a product of the United States Military Academy and a former teacher at West Point. After his 27-year-old son was killed in May while serving in Iraq, he said that Americans should not believe Memorial Day orators who talk about how priceless the troops’ lives are.

“I know what value the U.S. government assigns to a soldier’s life,” Professor Bacevich wrote in The Washington Post. “I’ve been handed the check.” The amount, he said, was “roughly what the Yankees will pay Roger Clemens per inning.”

Anyone who questions this bleak perspective need only have watched last week’s sad and ultimately pointless Congressional hearings into the 2004 friendly-fire death of Pat Tillman. Seven investigations later, we still don’t know who rewrote the witness statements of Tillman’s cohort so that Pentagon propagandists could trumpet a fictionalized battle death to the public and his family.

But it was nonetheless illuminating to watch Mr. Rumsfeld and his top brass sit there under oath and repeatedly go mentally AWOL about crucial events in the case. Their convenient mass amnesia about their army’s most famous and lied-about casualty is as good a definition as any of just what “supporting the troops” means to those who even now beat the drums for this war.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Rise of Kos

The Rise of Kos

By E. J. Dionne Jr.

Friday, August 3, 2007; A15

Perhaps you missed it, but Wednesday was the 19th anniversary of Rush Limbaugh's radio show. Limbaugh was celebrating his ripe old age, in media years, in the same week that liberal blog fans were trekking to Chicago for the YearlyKos convention. Therein lies one of the most important stories in American politics.

Make no mistake: From the beginning, Limbaugh was a revolutionary figure. He befuddled Democrats and the journalistic establishment because he was an up-to-date throwback. The large audience he won on the right marked the return in the United States of openly partisan mass media, a 19th-century phenomenon that had all but disappeared in the late 20th century.

Limbaugh is not primarily about information, though he freely uses even those bits that come his way courtesy of dreaded "liberal" media sources. His goal is mobilization, and he has been extremely good at it. He spawned conservative imitators in media markets all over the nation and aroused a faithful band of Dittoheads who despise all things liberal and Democratic.

The greatest gift to Limbaugh was Bill Clinton's election as president in 1992. Talk-show hosts are much better on offense than defense. Limbaugh was unusually hesitant about Pat Buchanan's challenge to the first President Bush during the 1992 Republican primaries because their fight split Limbaugh's base. With Bush dispatched that fall, Clinton brought conservatives together in rage, and Limbaugh stoked it. He deserves major credit for the Republicans' 1994 landslide.

Democrats and liberals realized they needed a mobilizing force of their own but could not match Limbaugh's reach on the radio. Enter the Internet, and Markos Moulitsas.

An Army veteran, a former Republican, and the son of a Salvadoran mother and a Greek father, Moulitsas, 35, created his Daily Kos Web site on May 26, 2002 -- "in those dark days," as his site puts it, "when an oppressive and war-crazed administration suppressed all dissent as unpatriotic and treasonous." Daily Kos took off because so many Democrats shared Moulitsas's view of the second President Bush.

Daily Kos is often described as liberal, but it is, more than anything, partisan. Its core assumption is that ideological conservatives made the Republican Party their vehicle and rallied in lock step against Democrats. The party of FDR and JFK needed to find the same discipline. The key litmus tests for Kos and his many allies in the blogosphere involve not long lists of issues developed by the American Civil Liberties Union or the AFL-CIO, but loyalty in standing up against Bush and doing what's necessary to build a Democratic majority.

And just as Limbaugh aroused passionate opposition on the left, so has Kos become the object of conservative rage. In the lead-up to Moulitsas's Chicago gathering, Fox News's Bill O'Reilly, a right-wing showman who knows a threat when he sees one, has gone after Kos. "There's no question that the most vile stuff imaginable is posted on this hate site and others like it," O'Reilly said Tuesday.

O'Reilly is irate that the leading Democratic presidential candidates are showing up this weekend. "The far left wants a quasi-socialistic economy and a one-world foreign policy, where national security decisions are made only with the approval of other countries," O'Reilly fumed. "So that's the soup the Democratic presidential candidates will be dining on when they show up at the Kos convention."

I'm not in the habit of giving advice to Bill O'Reilly, but there's always a first time: Liberal rage at Rush Limbaugh not only was useless, but it actually strengthened his credibility with the right. (I speak from experience.) Bill, I bet Markos loves what you're doing.

Personally, I dislike the use of obscenity on the Web, and many online posts are way too nasty. But the right wing, suddenly so concerned with the niceties of political discourse, did not worry much about what its militants said about Clinton, Al Gore or John Kerry. Limbaugh even blamed the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, on a president who had been out of office for eight months. I'm still waiting for his apology.

George Bush and Dick Cheney have heaped praise on Limbaugh ("Well, Rush, you've got a great show, as always," Cheney said during one of his many interviews) because he's an effective organizer for the right -- even if Limbaugh has, of late, become disenchanted with some of Bush's policies. Limbaugh desperately needs a Democratic president. Another Clinton would be perfect.

Democratic candidates know they owe a debt to Moulitsas. They're paying homage to him because he has started to beat Limbaugh and O'Reilly at their own game. No wonder O'Reilly is so annoyed.

Monday, July 30, 2007

An Immoral Philosophy

An Immoral Philosophy

By PAUL KRUGMAN

When a child is enrolled in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (Schip), the positive results can be dramatic. For example, after asthmatic children are enrolled in Schip, the frequency of their attacks declines on average by 60 percent, and their likelihood of being hospitalized for the condition declines more than 70 percent.

Regular care, in other words, makes a big difference. That’s why Congressional Democrats, with support from many Republicans, are trying to expand Schip, which already provides essential medical care to millions of children, to cover millions of additional children who would otherwise lack health insurance.

But President Bush says that access to care is no problem — “After all, you just go to an emergency room” — and, with the support of the Republican Congressional leadership, he’s declared that he’ll veto any Schip expansion on “philosophical” grounds.

It must be about philosophy, because it surely isn’t about cost. One of the plans Mr. Bush opposes, the one approved by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the Senate Finance Committee, would cost less over the next five years than we’ll spend in Iraq in the next four months. And it would be fully paid for by an increase in tobacco taxes.

The House plan, which would cover more children, is more expensive, but it offsets Schip costs by reducing subsidies to Medicare Advantage — a privatization scheme that pays insurance companies to provide coverage, and costs taxpayers 12 percent more per beneficiary than traditional Medicare.

Strange to say, however, the administration, although determined to prevent any expansion of children’s health care, is also dead set against any cut in Medicare Advantage payments.

So what kind of philosophy says that it’s O.K. to subsidize insurance companies, but not to provide health care to children?

Well, here’s what Mr. Bush said after explaining that emergency rooms provide all the health care you need: “They’re going to increase the number of folks eligible through Schip; some want to lower the age for Medicare. And then all of a sudden, you begin to see a — I wouldn’t call it a plot, just a strategy — to get more people to be a part of a federalization of health care.”

Now, why should Mr. Bush fear that insuring uninsured children would lead to a further “federalization” of health care, even though nothing like that is actually in either the Senate plan or the House plan? It’s not because he thinks the plans wouldn’t work. It’s because he’s afraid that they would. That is, he fears that voters, having seen how the government can help children, would ask why it can’t do the same for adults.

And there you have the core of Mr. Bush’s philosophy. He wants the public to believe that government is always the problem, never the solution. But it’s hard to convince people that government is always bad when they see it doing good things. So his philosophy says that the government must be prevented from solving problems, even if it can. In fact, the more good a proposed government program would do, the more fiercely it must be opposed.

This sounds like a caricature, but it isn’t. The truth is that this good-is-bad philosophy has always been at the core of Republican opposition to health care reform. Thus back in 1994, William Kristol warned against passage of the Clinton health care plan “in any form,” because “its success would signal the rebirth of centralized welfare-state policy at the very moment that such policy is being perceived as a failure in other areas.”

But it has taken the fight over children’s health insurance to bring the perversity of this philosophy fully into view.

There are arguments you can make against programs, like Social Security, that provide a safety net for adults. I can respect those arguments, even though I disagree. But denying basic health care to children whose parents lack the means to pay for it, simply because you’re afraid that success in insuring children might put big government in a good light, is just morally wrong.

And the public understands that. According to a recent Georgetown University poll, 9 in 10 Americans — including 83 percent of self-identified Republicans — support an expansion of the children’s health insurance program.

There is, it seems, more basic decency in the hearts of Americans than is dreamt of in Mr. Bush’s philosophy.

Gonzales's Truthfulness Long Disputed

Gonzales's Truthfulness Long Disputed
Claims of Misstatements to Shield Bush Stretch Back a Decade

By Dan Eggen and Amy Goldstein
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, July 30, 2007; A01

When Alberto R. Gonzales was asked during his January 2005 confirmation hearing whether the Bush administration would ever allow wiretapping of U.S. citizens without warrants, he initially dismissed the query as a "hypothetical situation."

But when Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) pressed him further, Gonzales declared: "It is not the policy or the agenda of this president to authorize actions that would be in contravention of our criminal statutes."

By then, however, the government had been conducting a secret wiretapping program for more than three years without court oversight, possibly in conflict with federal intelligence laws. Gonzales had personally defended the effort in fierce internal debates. Feingold later called his testimony that day "misleading and deeply troubling."

The accusation that Gonzales has been deceptive in his public remarks has erupted this summer into a full-blown political crisis for the Bush administration, as the beleaguered attorney general struggles repeatedly to explain to Congress the removal of a batch of U.S. attorneys, the wiretapping program and other actions.

In each case, Gonzales has appeared to lawmakers to be shielding uncomfortable facts about the Bush administration's conduct on sensitive matters. A series of misstatements and omissions has come to define his tenure at the helm of the Justice Department and is the central reason that lawmakers in both parties have been trying for months to push him out of his job.

Yet controversy over Gonzales's candor about George W. Bush's conduct or policies has actually dogged him for more than a decade, since he worked for Bush in Texas.

Whether Gonzales has deliberately told untruths or is merely hampered by his memory has been the subject of intense debate among members of Congress, legal scholars and others who have watched him over the years. Some regard his verbal difficulties as a strategic ploy on behalf of a president to whom he owes his career; others see a public official overwhelmed by the magnitude of his responsibilities.

Administration officials say Gonzales's enemies are distorting his words for political gain. The Justice Department has portrayed the criticism as unavoidable and a matter of routine misunderstanding, provoked by the attorney general's presence at a "friction point between the executive branch and Congress when it comes to national security policy," as spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said Friday.

Gonzales told senators earlier this year that allegations that he had been untruthful "have been personally very painful to me." But Gonzales's critics on and off Capitol Hill say he has had trouble with the truth for more than a decade, pointing to a controversy over Gonzales's account of why Bush was excused from jury duty in 1996 while serving as the governor of Texas.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), who joined other Democrats last week in calling for an inquiry into possible perjury by Gonzales, said Friday that "most public servants -- Democratic or Republican, conservative, moderate or liberal -- seem to want to try to tell the truth. . . . With Gonzales, whatever answer fits he will tell, whether it's true or not. It almost seems pathological."

Over the past 2 1/2 years, lawmakers have accused Gonzales of dissembling on many topics, including civil liberties abuses under the USA Patriot Act and his role in reviewing aggressive interrogation tactics. After a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in February 2006, Gonzales sent the panel a six-page, single-spaced letter to "clarify" six major points of testimony, including his erroneous claim that the Justice Department had never undertaken a legal analysis of domestic wiretapping.

But scrutiny of Gonzales increased dramatically this year as a result of Democrats' aggressive investigations into the Justice Department's firings of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006. Gonzales has particularly come under fire for his shifting explanations of his role in the dismissals and for his statements that he could not recall a host of details about the firings.

At a Senate hearing in April, for example, Gonzales said more than 60 times that he could not recall events or facts related to the firings, including a final, high-level meeting in his office at which the dismissal plan was formally approved.

Democrats and some experts on the use of language say that Gonzales's gaffes are too numerous and consistent to be chalked up to misunderstandings. In most instances, his answers, or his refusals to answer, have served to obscure events that would be damaging to the administration, Gonzales or Bush.

One example involves the Terrorist Surveillance Program, which allowed the National Security Agency to monitor telephone calls between the United States and overseas in which one party had been tied to al-Qaeda. Gonzales has testified repeatedly that there was never "serious disagreement" among administration officials about the program and that an unusual visit by Gonzales to the hospital bed of then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft was focused on "other intelligence activities."

But FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III testified last week that the NSA program was the subject of a fierce debate within the administration and was the issue under discussion during the hospital visit.

Gonzales and his aides say the differing accounts boil down to a dispute over terminology: Gonzales was referring only to the surveillance program in the precise form that was confirmed publicly by Bush.

A news account yesterday said that the legal wrangling was about an effort to mine databases for sensitive information, which was linked to the NSA program but not acknowledged by Bush. That suggests that Gonzales's description might have been technically accurate.

But others privy to details of the surveillance activities -- including several lawmakers and Mueller -- have suggested that they were all part of a single NSA program. Gonzales's critics say his distinction was a lawyerly one that stretched the bounds of the truth.

"He's a slippery fellow, and I think so intentionally," said Richard L. Schott, a professor at the University of Texas's Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. "He's trying to keep the president's secrets and to be a team player, even if it means prevaricating or forgetting convenient things."

"This almost subconscious bond of loyalty" between the attorney general and the president "may be driving a lot of this," said Schott, who has studied relations between the executive and legislative branches of government and the role of psychology in political behavior. "It's obvious that Gonzales owes Bush his career. Part of his behavior comes from this gratitude and extreme loyalty to Bush."

Bill Minutaglio, a University of Texas journalism professor and author of biographies of Gonzales and Bush, said Gonzales kept an "extremely, extremely low profile" in the three jobs Bush gave him in the Texas government -- general counsel, secretary of state and judge on the Supreme Court -- and had little practice before he came to Washington at responding publicly to stiff scrutiny. "The grilling he's enduring right now is beyond anything he had ever experienced in his life. He was ill prepared for it," Minutaglio said.

Gonzales has irritated congressional Democrats, and a few Republicans, by saying that he is responsible for decisions made within the Justice Department but distancing himself from the process that led to the prosecutor firings. At the April hearing, he said a dozen times that he accepted responsibility. But he also has told Congress that he did not know who placed the names of prosecutors on the firing list, and he has pinned much of the responsibility on his outgoing deputy, Paul J. McNulty, who has said he was only marginally involved.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) told Gonzales at the hearing that much of his testimony was "a stretch," and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said he was "taken aback" by Gonzales's memory lapses. Last week, Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), the Judiciary Committee's senior Republican, warned Gonzales to review his remarks, saying: "I do not find your testimony credible, candidly."

Deborah Tannen, a professor of linguistics at Georgetown University who has written about the confrontational character of dialogue in public life, said Gonzales's responses to grilling by lawmakers are an extreme example of a rhetorical style that many politicians adopt when they get into trouble. Although accepting responsibility, she said, they "very explicitly stop short of, 'I made a mistake. I'm at fault.' "

Stephen Gillers, a professor of legal ethics at the New York University School of Law, said that Gonzales's strengths "may lie elsewhere, but they are not in management."

"The idea that nine U.S. attorneys could be fired and the head of the department is only casually in the loop -- it is preposterous that a manager would let that happen." Gillers also said he thinks that Gonzales has exacerbated his problems because "when the inconsistencies are pointed out, he refuses to back down," adding: "He is digging himself deeper and deeper into a hole."

Questions about Gonzales's willingness to shade the truth on Bush's behalf came to prominence in the 1996 episode in which Bush was excused from Texas jury duty in a drunken-driving case. Bush was then the state's governor, and Gonzales was his general counsel. If Bush had served, he probably would have had to disclose his own drunken-driving conviction in Maine two decades earlier.

The judge, prosecutor and defense attorney involved in the case have said that Gonzales met with the judge and argued that jury service would pose a potential conflict of interest for Bush, who could be asked to pardon the defendant. Gonzales has disputed that account. He made no mention of meeting with the judge in a written statement submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/29/AR2007072901327_pf.html

Sunday, July 29, 2007

He’s Impeachable, You Know

He’s Impeachable, You Know
By FRANK BOWMAN

Columbia, Mo.

IF Alberto Gonzales will not resign, Congress should impeach him. Article II of the Constitution grants Congress the power to impeach “the president, the vice president and all civil officers of the United States.” The phrase “civil officers” includes the members of the cabinet (one of whom, Secretary of War William Belknap, was impeached in 1876).

Impeachment is in bad odor in these post-Clinton days. It needn’t be. Though provoked by individual misconduct, the power to impeach is at bottom a tool granted Congress to defend the constitutional order. Mr. Gonzales’s behavior in the United States attorney affair is of a piece with his role as facilitator of this administration’s claims of unreviewable executive power.

A cabinet officer, like a judge or a president, may be impeached only for commission of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” But as the Nixon and Clinton impeachment debates reminded us, that constitutional phrase embraces not only indictable crimes but “conduct ... grossly incompatible with the office held and subversive of that office and of our constitutional system of government.”

United States attorneys, though subject to confirmation by the Senate, serve at the pleasure of the president. As a constitutional matter, the president is at perfect liberty to fire all or some of them whenever it suits him. He can fire them for mismanagement, for failing to pursue administration priorities with sufficient vigor, or even because he would prefer to replace an incumbent with a political crony. Indeed, a president could, without exceeding his constitutional authority and (probably) without violating any statute, fire a United States attorney for pursuing officeholders of the president’s party too aggressively or for failing to prosecute officeholders of the other party aggressively enough.

That the president has the constitutional power to do these things does not mean he has the right to do them without explanation. Congress has the right to demand explanations for the president’s managerial choices, both to exercise its own oversight function and to inform the voters its members represent.

The right of Congress to demand explanations imposes on the president, and on inferior executive officers who speak for him, the obligation to be truthful. An attorney general called before Congress to discuss the workings of the Justice Department can claim the protection of “executive privilege” and, if challenged, can defend the (doubtful) legitimacy of such a claim in the courts. But having elected to testify, he has no right to lie, either by affirmatively misrepresenting facts or by falsely claiming not to remember events. Lying to Congress is a felony — actually three felonies: perjury, false statements and obstruction of justice.

A false claim not to remember is just as much a lie as a conscious misrepresentation of a fact one remembers well. Instances of phony forgetfulness seem to abound throughout Mr. Gonzales’s testimony, but his claim to have no memory of the November Justice department meeting at which he authorized the attorney firings left even Republican stalwarts like Jeff Sessions of Alabama gaping in incredulity. The truth is almost surely that Mr. Gonzales’s forgetfulness is feigned — a calculated ploy to block legitimate Congressional inquiry into questionable decisions made by the Department of Justice, White House officials and, quite possibly, the president himself.

Even if perjury were not a felony, lying to Congress has always been understood to be an impeachable offense. As James Iredell, later a Supreme Court justice, said in 1788 during the debate over the impeachment clause, “The president must certainly be punishable for giving false information to the Senate.” The same is true of the president’s appointees.

The president may yet yield and send Mr. Gonzales packing. If not, Democrats may decide that to impeach Alberto Gonzales would be politically unwise. But before dismissing the possibility of impeachment, Congress should recognize that the issue here goes deeper than the misbehavior of one man. The real question is whether Republicans and Democrats are prepared to defend the constitutional authority of Congress against the implicit claim of an administration that it can do what it pleases and, when called to account, send an attorney general of the United States to Capitol Hill to commit amnesia on its behalf.

Frank Bowman is a law professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/03/opinion/03bowman.html?ei=5124&en=0488aacc75444343&ex=1335844800&partner=digg&exprod=digg&pagewanted=print

Answering to No One

Answering to No One

By Walter F. Mondale
Sunday, July 29, 2007; B07

The Post's recent series on Dick Cheney's vice presidency certainly got my attention. Having held that office myself over a quarter-century ago, I have more than a passing interest in its evolution from the backwater of American politics to the second most powerful position in our government. Almost all of that evolution, under presidents and vice presidents of both parties, has been positive -- until now. Under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, it has gone seriously off track.

The Founders created the vice presidency as a constitutional afterthought, solely to provide a president-in-reserve should the need arise. The only duty they specified was that the vice president should preside over the Senate. The office languished in obscurity and irrelevance for more than 150 years until Richard Nixon saw it as a platform from which to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 1960. That worked, and the office has been an effective launching pad for aspiring candidates since.

But it wasn't until Jimmy Carter assumed the presidency that the vice presidency took on a substantive role. Carter saw the office as an underused asset and set out to make the most of it. He gave me an office in the West Wing, unimpeded access to him and to the flow of information, and specific assignments at home and abroad. He asked me, as the only other nationally elected official, to be his adviser and partner on a range of issues.

Our relationship depended on trust, mutual respect and an acknowledgement that there was only one agenda to be served -- the president's. Every Monday the two of us met privately for lunch; we could, and did, talk candidly about virtually anything. By the end of four years we had completed the "executivization" of the vice presidency, ending two centuries of confusion, derision and irrelevance surrounding the office.

Subsequent administrations followed this pattern. George H.W. Bush, Dan Quayle and Al Gore built their vice presidencies after this model, allowing for their different interests, experiences and capabilities as well as the needs of the presidents they served.

This all changed in 2001, and especially after Sept. 11, when Cheney set out to create a largely independent power center in the office of the vice president. His was an unprecedented attempt not only to shape administration policy but, alarmingly, to limit the policy options sent to the president. It is essential that a president know all the relevant facts and viable options before making decisions, yet Cheney has discarded the "honest broker" role he played as President Gerald Ford's chief of staff.

Through his vast government experience, through the friends he had been able to place in key positions and through his considerable political skills, he has been increasingly able to determine the answers to questions put to the president -- because he has been able to determine the questions. It was Cheney who persuaded President Bush to sign an order that denied access to any court by foreign terrorism suspects and Cheney who determined that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to enemy combatants captured in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Rather than subject his views to an established (and rational) vetting process, his practice has been to trust only his immediate staff before taking ideas directly to the president. Many of the ideas that Bush has subsequently bought into have proved offensive to the values of the Constitution and have been embarrassingly overturned by the courts.

The corollary to Cheney's zealous embrace of secrecy is his near total aversion to the notion of accountability. I've never seen a former member of the House of Representatives demonstrate such contempt for Congress -- even when it was controlled by his own party. His insistence on invoking executive privilege to block virtually every congressional request for information has been stupefying -- it's almost as if he denies the legitimacy of an equal branch of government. Nor does he exhibit much respect for public opinion, which amounts to indifference toward being held accountable by the people who elected him.

Whatever authority a vice president has is derived from the president under whom he serves. There are no powers inherent in the office; they must be delegated by the president. Somehow, not only has Cheney been given vast authority by President Bush -- including, apparently, the entire intelligence portfolio -- but he also pursues his own agenda. The real question is why the president allows this to happen.

Three decades ago we lived through another painful example of a White House exceeding its authority, lying to the American people, breaking the law and shrouding everything it did in secrecy. Watergate wrenched the country, and our constitutional system, like nothing before. We spent years trying to identify and absorb the lessons of this great excess. But here we are again.

Since the Carter administration left office, we have been criticized for many things. Yet I remain enormously proud of what we did in those four years, especially that we told the truth, obeyed the law and kept the peace.

The writer was vice president of the United States from 1977 to 1981.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/27/AR2007072702126_pf.html

Conflating all our enemies into one

Conflating all our enemies into one
07.28.07 -- 3:25PM
By Steve Benen

In reviewing Ian Shapiro's new book, Containment: Rebuilding a Strategy Against Global Terror, Samantha Powers emphasizes a point that has been completely lost on Republican presidential candidates (and the man they hope to replace):

Shapiro is at his most persuasive when he argues against lumping Islamic radical threats together. He points out that at the time of the cold war, George Kennan, the formulator of the containment policy, warned against treating Communism as a monolith. Policy makers, Kennan said, ought to emphasize the differences among and within Communist groups and "contribute to the widening of these rifts without assuming responsibility." The Bush administration, by contrast, has grouped together a hugely diverse band of violent actors as terrorists, failing to employ divide-and-conquer tactics.

Although it is tempting to feel overwhelmed by the diversity of the threats aligned against the United States, Shapiro says that very diversity presents us with opportunities, since it "creates tensions among our adversaries’ agendas, as well as openings for competition among them." To pry apart violent Islamic radicals, the United States has to become knowledgeable about internal cleavages and be patient in exploiting them. Arguably, this is what American forces in Iraq are doing belatedly -- and perilously -- as they undertake the high-risk approach of turning Sunni ex-Baathists against Qaeda forces.


Kevin Drum notes that this is "the serious side of dumb gaffes from people like Rudy Giuliani, who seem unable to distinguish between even simple divisions like Sunni and Shia." That's absolutely true, but it's not just Giuliani who's confused about the basics.

For example, in the first Republican presidential candidates' debate in May, Mitt Romney tried to explain how he perceives threats to the U.S. from the Middle East: "This is about Shi'a and Sunni. This is about Hezbollah and Hamas and al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. This is the worldwide jihadist effort to try and cause the collapse of all moderate Islamic governments and replace them with a caliphate. They also probably want to bring down the United States of America."

It seemed to impress the Republican faithful, but it didn't make a lot of sense. Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda, for example, have nothing to do with one another. The latter is a terrorist organization; the prior has renounced violent jihad and, in some countries, participated in elections.

At a subsequent debate, Wolf Blitzer asked Mike Huckabee whether he has confidence in Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Huckabee responded with a semi-coherent argument about the Taliban in Afghanistan. The connection to Maliki was unclear.

Giuliani, running on a foreign-policy platform, has been more confused than anyone, conflating every possible rival in the Middle East as one dangerous entity. At a recent debate, he connected Iran to the Fort Dix plot for no apparent reason. Around the same time, he gave up appreciating the nuances of Middle East politics altogether, concluding that the region is filled with those who "have a similar objective, in their anger at the modern world." In other words, Giuliani said, they all hate America.

Maybe we should chip in and buy a copy of Shapiro's book for the GOP candidates. It sounds like they could use a refresher.

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/015927.php

Frank Rich - Who Really Took Over During That Colonoscopy

Who Really Took Over During That Colonoscopy

By FRANK RICH

THERE was, of course, gallows humor galore when Dick Cheney briefly grabbed the wheel of our listing ship of state during the presidential colonoscopy last weekend. Enjoy it while it lasts. A once-durable staple of 21st-century American humor is in its last throes. We have a new surrogate president now. Sic transit Cheney. Long live David Petraeus!

It was The Washington Post that first quantified General Petraeus’s remarkable ascension. President Bush, who mentioned his new Iraq commander’s name only six times as the surge rolled out in January, has cited him more than 150 times in public utterances since, including 53 in May alone.

As always with this White House’s propaganda offensives, the message in Mr. Bush’s relentless repetitions never varies. General Petraeus is the “main man.” He is the man who gives “candid advice.” Come September, he will be the man who will give the president and the country their orders about the war.

And so another constitutional principle can be added to the long list of those junked by this administration: the quaint notion that our uniformed officers are supposed to report to civilian leadership. In a de facto military coup, the commander in chief is now reporting to the commander in Iraq. We must “wait to see what David has to say,” Mr. Bush says.

Actually, we don’t have to wait. We already know what David will say. He gave it away to The Times of London last month, when he said that September “is a deadline for a report, not a deadline for a change in policy.” In other words: Damn the report (and that irrelevant Congress that will read it) — full speed ahead. There will be no change in policy. As Michael Gordon reported in The New York Times last week, General Petraeus has collaborated on a classified strategy document that will keep American troops in Iraq well into 2009 as we wait for the miracles that will somehow bring that country security and a functioning government.

Though General Petraeus wrote his 1987 Princeton doctoral dissertation on “The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam,” he has an unshakable penchant for seeing light at the end of tunnels. It has been three Julys since he posed for the cover of Newsweek under the headline “Can This Man Save Iraq?” The magazine noted that the general’s pacification of Mosul was “a textbook case of doing counterinsurgency the right way.” Four months later, the police chief installed by General Petraeus defected to the insurgents, along with most of the Sunni members of the police force. Mosul, population 1.7 million, is now an insurgent stronghold, according to the Pentagon’s own June report.

By the time reality ambushed his textbook victory, the general had moved on to the mission of making Iraqi troops stand up so American troops could stand down. “Training is on track and increasing in capacity,” he wrote in The Washington Post in late September 2004, during the endgame of the American presidential election. He extolled the increased prowess of the Iraqi fighting forces and the rebuilding of their infrastructure.

The rest is tragic history. Were the Iraqi forces on the trajectory that General Petraeus asserted in his election-year pep talk, no “surge” would have been needed more than two years later. We would not be learning at this late date, as we did only when Gen. Peter Pace was pressed in a Pentagon briefing this month, that the number of Iraqi battalions operating independently is in fact falling — now standing at a mere six, down from 10 in March.

But even more revealing is what was happening at the time that General Petraeus disseminated his sunny 2004 prognosis. The best account is to be found in “The Occupation of Iraq,” the authoritative chronicle by Ali Allawi published this year by Yale University Press. Mr. Allawi is not some anti-American crank. He was the first civilian defense minister of postwar Iraq and has been an adviser to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki; his book was praised by none other than the Iraq war cheerleader Fouad Ajami as “magnificent.”

Mr. Allawi writes that the embezzlement of the Iraqi Army’s $1.2 billion arms procurement budget was happening “under the very noses” of the Security Transition Command run by General Petraeus: “The saga of the grand theft of the Ministry of Defense perfectly illustrated the huge gap between the harsh realities on the ground and the Panglossian spin that permeated official pronouncements.” Mr. Allawi contrasts the “lyrical” Petraeus pronouncements in The Post with the harsh realities of the Iraqi forces’ inoperable helicopters, flimsy bulletproof vests and toy helmets. The huge sums that might have helped the Iraqis stand up were instead “handed over to unscrupulous adventurers and former pizza parlor operators.”

Well, anyone can make a mistake. And when General Petraeus cited soccer games as an example of “the astonishing signs of normalcy” in Baghdad last month, he could not have anticipated that car bombs would kill at least 50 Iraqis after the Iraqi team’s poignant victory in the Asian Cup semifinals last week. This general may well be, as many say, the brightest and bravest we have. But that doesn’t account for why he has been invested by the White House and its last-ditch apologists with such singular power over the war.

On “Meet the Press,” Lindsey Graham, one of the Senate’s last gung-ho war defenders in either party, mentioned General Petraeus 10 times in one segment, saying he would “not vote for anything” unless “General Petraeus passes on it.” Desperate hawks on the nation’s op-ed pages not only idolize the commander daily but denounce any critics of his strategy as deserters, defeatists and enemies of the troops.

That’s because the Petraeus phenomenon is not about protecting the troops or American interests but about protecting the president. For all Mr. Bush’s claims of seeking “candid” advice, he wants nothing of the kind. He sent that message before the war, with the shunting aside of Eric Shinseki, the general who dared tell Congress the simple truth that hundreds of thousands of American troops would be needed to secure Iraq. The message was sent again when John Abizaid and George Casey were supplanted after they disagreed with the surge.

Two weeks ago, in his continuing quest for “candid” views, Mr. Bush invited a claque consisting exclusively of conservative pundits to the White House and inadvertently revealed the real motive for the Petraeus surrogate presidency. “The most credible person in the fight at this moment is Gen. David Petraeus,” he said, in National Review’s account.

To be the “most credible” person in this war team means about as much as being the most sober tabloid starlet in the Paris-Lindsay cohort. But never mind. What Mr. Bush meant is that General Petraeus is famous for minding his press coverage, even to the point of congratulating the ABC News anchor Charles Gibson for “kicking some butt” in the Nielsen ratings when Mr. Gibson interviewed him last month. The president, whose 65 percent disapproval rating is now just one point shy of Richard Nixon’s pre-resignation nadir, is counting on General Petraeus to be the un-Shinseki and bestow whatever credibility he has upon White House policies and pronouncements.

He is delivering, heaven knows. Like Mr. Bush, he has taken to comparing the utter stalemate in the Iraqi Parliament to “our own debates at the birth of our nation,” as if the Hamilton-Jefferson disputes were akin to the Shiite-Sunni bloodletting. He is also starting to echo the administration line that Al Qaeda is the principal villain in Iraq, a departure from the more nuanced and realistic picture of the civil-war-torn battlefront he presented to Senate questioners in his confirmation hearings in January.

Mr. Bush has become so reckless in his own denials of reality that he seems to think he can get away with saying anything as long as he has his “main man” to front for him. The president now hammers in the false litany of a “merger” between Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda and what he calls “Al Qaeda in Iraq” as if he were following the Madison Avenue script declaring that “Cingular is now the new AT&T.” He doesn’t seem to know that nearly 40 other groups besides Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia have adopted Al Qaeda’s name or pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden worldwide since 2003, by the count of the former C.I.A. counterterrorism official Michael Scheuer. They may follow us here well before any insurgents in Iraq do.

On Tuesday — a week after the National Intelligence Estimate warned of the resurgence of bin Laden’s Qaeda in Pakistan — Mr. Bush gave a speech in which he continued to claim that “Al Qaeda in Iraq” makes Iraq the central front in the war on terror. He mentioned Al Qaeda 95 times but Pakistan and Pervez Musharraf not once. Two days later, his own top intelligence officials refused to endorse his premise when appearing before Congress. They are all too familiar with the threats that are building to a shrill pitch this summer.

Should those threats become a reality while America continues to be bogged down in Iraq, this much is certain: It will all be the fault of President Petraeus.

Bush Aide Blocked Report

Bush Aide Blocked Report
Global Health Draft In 2006 Rejected for Not Being Political

By Christopher Lee and Marc Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, July 29, 2007; A01

A surgeon general's report in 2006 that called on Americans to help tackle global health problems has been kept from the public by a Bush political appointee without any background or expertise in medicine or public health, chiefly because the report did not promote the administration's policy accomplishments, according to current and former public health officials.

The report described the link between poverty and poor health, urged the U.S. government to help combat widespread diseases as a key aim of its foreign policy, and called on corporations to help improve health conditions in the countries where they operate. A copy of the report was obtained by The Washington Post.

Three people directly involved in its preparation said its publication was blocked by William R. Steiger, a specialist in education and a scholar of Latin American history whose family has long ties to President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Since 2001, Steiger has run the Office of Global Health Affairs in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Richard H. Carmona, who commissioned the "Call to Action on Global Health" while serving as surgeon general from 2002 to 2006, recently cited its suppression as an example of the Bush administration's frequent efforts during his tenure to give scientific documents a political twist. At a July 10 House committee hearing, Carmona did not cite Steiger by name or detail the report's contents and its implications for American public health.

Carmona told lawmakers that, as he fought to release the document, he was "called in and again admonished . . . via a senior official who said, 'You don't get it.' " He said a senior official told him that "this will be a political document, or it will not be released."

After a long struggle that pitted top scientific and medical experts inside and outside the government against Steiger and his political bosses, Carmona refused to make the requested changes, according to the officials. Carmona engaged in similar fights over other public health reports, including an unpublished report on prison health. A few days before the end of his term as the nation's senior medical officer, he was abruptly told he would not be reappointed.

Steiger did not return a phone call seeking his comment. But he said in a written statement released by an HHS spokesman Friday that the report contained information that was "often inaccurate or out-of-date and it lacked analysis and focus."

Steiger confirmed that he sharply disagreed with Carmona on the issue of how much the report should promote Bush administration policies. "A document meant to educate the American public about health as a global challenge and urge them to action should at least let Americans know what their generosity is already doing in helping to solve those challenges," Steiger said in the statement.

Steiger said that "political considerations" did not delay the report; "sloppy work, poor analysis, and lack of scientific rigor did." Asked about the report's handling, an HHS spokeswoman said Friday that it is still "under development."

The draft report itself, in language linking public health problems with violence and other social ills, says "we cannot overstate . . . that problems in remote parts of the globe can no longer be ignored. Diseases that Americans once read about as affecting people in regions . . . most of us would never visit are now capable of reaching us directly. The hunger, disease, and death resulting from poor food and nutrition create social and political instability . . . and that instability may spread to other nations as people migrate to survive."

In 65 pages, the report charts trends in infectious and chronic disease; reviews efforts to curb AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria; calls for the careful monitoring of public health to safeguard against bioterrorism; and explains the importance of proper nutrition, childhood immunizations and clean air and water, among other topics. Its underlying message is that disease and suffering do not respect political boundaries in an era of globalization and mass population movements.

The report was compiled by government and private public-health experts from various organizations, including the National Institutes of Health, the Catholic Medical Mission Board and several universities. Steiger's global health office provided the funding and staff to lead the effort because the surgeon general's office has no budget and few staff members of its own.

"It covered all of the contemporary issues of public health, from environmental health through infectious disease transmission," said Jerrold M. Michael, a former assistant surgeon general and a former longtime dean of the University of Hawaii School of Public Health, who worked on the report.

A few of the issues it focuses on, such as AIDS treatment and research, have been public health priorities for the Bush administration. But others -- including ratifying the international tobacco treaty and making global health an element of U.S. foreign policy -- are more politically sensitive. The report calls on the administration to consider spending more money on global health improvement, for instance. And it warns that "the environmental conditions that poison our water and contaminate our air are not contained within national boundaries. . . . The use of pesticides is also of concern to health officials, scientists and government leaders around the world."

Three people involved in the preparation of an initial draft in 2005 said it received largely positive reviews from global health experts both inside and outside the government, prompting wide optimism that the report would be publicly released that year. The Commissioned Officers Association, a nonprofit group representing more than 7,000 current and retired officers of the U.S. Public Health Service, organized a global health summit in June 2005 in Philadelphia where Carmona was expected to unveil the report in a keynote address -- but he was not cleared to release it there.

Richard Walling, a former career official in the HHS global health office who oversaw the draft, said Steiger was the official who blocked its release. "Steiger always had his political hat on," he said. "I don't think public health was what his vision was. As far as the international office was concerned, it was a political office of the secretary. . . . What he was looking for, and in general what he was always looking for, was, 'How do we promote the policies and the programs of the administration?' This report didn't focus on that."

On June 30, 2006, a Steiger aide sent an e-mail saying that the report should not be cleared for public distribution: "While we believe the subject matter of the draft is important, we disagree with the style, tone and messaging," wrote the aide, Mark A. Abdoo, according to a copy of the e-mail. "We believe this document should be focused tightly on the Administration's major priorities in global health so the American public can understand better why these issues should be important to them. As such, the draft should be a policy statement, albeit one that is evidence based and draws on the best available science."

Steiger, 37, is a godson of former president George H.W. Bush and the son of a moderate Republican who represented Wisconsin in the House and hired a young Dick Cheney as an intern. The elder Bush appointed Steiger's mother to the Federal Trade Commission in 1989. A biographical sketch of her on the American Bar Association's Web site states that Steiger's parents, now deceased, were "lifelong friends" of many members of the same congressional class, including the Rumsfelds and the Bushes.

According to a résumé Steiger supplied to Congress, he obtained a doctorate in Latin American history from the University of California at Los Angeles before teaching at a university in the Philippines and consulting in Angola for the International Republican Institute -- a nonprofit group that is associated with the party and promotes democracy around the world. He was an education adviser to then-Gov. Tommy G. Thompson (R) of Wisconsin and came to Washington when Thompson became HHS secretary. He is now awaiting a Senate vote on his nomination as Bush's ambassador to Mozambique.

Bill Hall, an HHS spokesman, said Steiger promoted interest in global health at the department while more than doubling the number of expert staff members overseas and participating in international negotiations on issues such as avian influenza. "You have to look at his skills as an executive leader in spite of the fact that he doesn't have a medical degree or a public health degree," Hall said.

Public health advocates have accused Steiger of political meddling before. He briefly attained notoriety in 2004 by demanding changes in the language of an international report on obesity. The report was opposed by some U.S. food manufacturers and the sugar industry.

According to Walling and three other public health officials familiar with the current dispute, Carmona at one point suggested that Steiger release the global health report in tandem with a separate report of the sort Steiger wanted, but Steiger rejected the idea. An appeal by Carmona to Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt and his staff produced no relief, a former HHS official said.

"I fought for my last year to try to get it out and couldn't get it past the initial vetting," Carmona testified earlier this month. "I refused to release it [with the requested changes] . . . because it would tarnish the office of the surgeon general when our colleagues saw us taking a political stand."

Thomas Novotny, a former assistant surgeon general who ran the global health office before Steiger, said, "It's embarrassing, just ridiculous that the report hasn't come out." Novotny, who served at HHS in the Clinton and in both Bush administrations, said that many nations have made health issues central to their foreign relations and trade policies, but that the United States has been reluctant to embrace that idea.

"It made perfect sense for the surgeon general to take up the issue because the U.S. used to be a leader in this field," Novotny said. "For the nation's top doctor to be unable to release the report shows that leadership is gone."

The global health document was one of several reports initiated by Carmona that top HHS officials suppressed because they disliked the reports' conclusions, according to a former administration official. Another was a "Call to Action on Corrections and Community Health." It says -- according to draft language obtained by The Post -- that the public has a large stake in the health of the 2 million men and women who are behind bars, and in the health care available to them in their communities after their release.

The report recommends enhanced health screenings for those arrested and their victims; better disease surveillance in prisons; and ready access to medical, mental health and substance abuse prevention services for those released.

But the report has been bottled up at HHS, said three public health experts who worked on it. John Miles, a consultant and former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official who helped draft it, said he suspects that the proposed health screenings and other recommendations are seen as a potentially burdensome cost. "Maybe they just don't feel it's a priority," Miles said.

Hall, the HHS spokesman, responded in a statement Friday that the Bush administration has always believed that public health policy should be rooted in science. "While we appreciate and respect Dr. Carmona's service as surgeon general, we disagree with his statements," Hall said.

Staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/28/AR2007072801420_pf.html