Monthly Archives: March 2004

Frist Attacks Clarke’s Apology

Sen Bill Frist, Majority Leader and erstwhile doctor (some say “pretend doctor”, but I won’t go that far) who was nowhere near the inner councils of the Bush Admin in the lead-up to Iraq and only knows what he’s told by them about what went on, has decided that he is just the guy to explain to the country why Richard Clarke is a scum-sucking pig. In a long speech on the floor of the Senate, Frist is “outraged”. “I am troubled by these charges,” he says. Because they might be true? Well, no, not exactly.

I am equally troubled that someone would sell a book, trading on their former service as a government insider with access to our nation s most valuable intelligence, in order to profit from the suffering that this nation endured on September 11, 2001. I am troubled that Senators on the other side are so quick to accept such claims. I am troubled that Mr. Clarke has a hard time keeping his own story straight.I do not know Mr. Clarke….

Well, don’t let that stop you, Bill. Bushies don’t have to know anything to brag about how much they know, that’s been proved time and again. So don’t beat around the Bush. Tell us what you really think.

There is not a single public record of Mr. Clarke making any objection whatsoever in the period leading up to or following the 9-11 attacks. No threat to resign. No public protest. No plea to the President, the Congress, or the public, to heed the advice he now says was ignored. Mr. President, if Mr. Clarke held his tongue because he was loyal , then shame on him for putting politics above principle. But if he has manufactured these charges for profit and political gain, he is a shame to this government.I myself have fortunately not had the opportunity to work with such an individual who could write solicitous and self-defending emails to his supervisor, the National Security Advisor, and then by his own admission lie to the press out of a self conceived notion of loyalty only to reverse himself on all accounts for the sale of a book.

This obviously isn’t about truth, this is about saving Junior’s ass. Excuse me–Our Great Leader’s ass.

Frist then goes through the litany of personal attacks, historical revisions, lies and innuendo that every BA flack from Cheney on down has repeated, sometimes in identical words (prepared scripts courtesy of Rove/Bartlett Communications–“We Sink This Low So You Don’t Have To”), to every newspaper and tv station that would that would listen. By this point, you could repeat it as well as them, probably, and dissect it all better than I could, so I’m not going to go through it all again. Fuck ‘im.

See, they don’t need Frist to say it all again, that’s not why he does it. He does it because Clarke’s heartfelt apology was getting too much favorable press and somebody had to take it down. The repetition is just set-up to make the attack on the apology look like justifiable “outrage” on the part of an honorable man. Read it for yourself, and if you don’t throw up, my hat’s off to you.

In his appearance before the 9-11 Commission, Mr. Clarke’s theatrical apology on behalf of the nation was not his right, his privilege or his responsibility. In my view it was not an act of humility, but an act of supreme arrogance and manipulation. Mr Clarke can and will answer for his own conduct but that is all.

Uh-huh, that’s the way to treat the only person in the Bush Administration to admit a mistake that led to 3000 deaths, Bill–call it “theatrical”, arrogant and manipulative. That’s how radcon Publicans think.


Frist Attack 2–The GenesisI bet they handed this hot potato around the WH like there was some ticking coming from inside it.

“Condi! You wanna take this one? You’re playing point on Clarke.”

“Uh, no, no thanks. I gotta go christen Chevron’s new ‘Condi Rice–The Sequel’ tanker. Bye.”

“I could ask Dick–”

“Cheney? God, no, what’s wrong with you? Nobody believes anything he says any more.”

“So that would mean the president–”

“–is out. Definitely. Anyway, he’s in Utah signing up the Militias to be election officials in Florida. He won’t be available until after the cross-burning on Tuesday Try Powell.”

“Uh-uh, no good. Powell’s at the UN trying to explain why we threatened to invade Haiti if Aristide didn’t leave.”

“Shit… Did we do that?”

“Oh, yeah. Paid the generals who formed the opposition $3 Mil to run around shooting guns in the hills.”

“Bad timing then. How about Scooter?”

“Not a good idea. He’s up to his eyeballs with Justice over that Plame thing. Him and Hannah are both out–about to be indicted.”

“Christ, who’s left? Look, there’s Wolfie! Hey, Paul, over here! About Clarke–”

“Lemme at ‘im, that sonuvabitch! Just ’cause he thinks Laurie’s a fruitcake, he makes me look bad. I’ll get ‘im. On page 226 of Laurie’s book she proves–”

“No, no, it’s not about Iraq, Paul. We need to damage the credibility of the apology–”

“Oh, damn, I’m sorry. I forgot–I promised my wife I’d wax her knees and I’m late. Catch you next time, fellas.”

“I never seen him run like that before.”

“I did. Once. When they fired a missile at him in Baghdad.”

“We’re running out of sycophants, Chief–”

“‘Team Players’. I told you to call them ‘Team Players.'”

“Well, we’re running out of TP’s. Perle resigned and anyway his credibility’s in the toilet, Bartlett’s already been out there and got shot down, Rummy locked himself in the DoD john about halfway through Clarke’s testimony and won’t come out, and Doug Feith went to Bagdad with Chalabi–something about a coronation–”

“No. no, that’s in June. He bailed out, that’s what. Jesus, it’s like rats from a sinking ship.”

“You know, Boss, maybe we’re going about this all wrong.”

“What do you mean?”

“Maybe we should get out of the White House altogether. I mean, let’s face it, right about now everybody in the West Wing’s got about as much believability as WC Fields giving a Temperance lecture. Maybe we need new blood.”

“You might be onto something there. Feed the illusion that we aren’t the only ones who think we’re doing a great job with terror…. On terror…. Well, you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, but who? Who’s around on the outside who’s that gullible? that dishonest? that ambitious? that free of conscience? I thought we moved all those guys up here.”

“Not DeLay.”

“No, but we can’t use him. He shot himself in the foot when he used a children’s charity to front his fund-raising gig.”

“I know that, he was just an example.”

“Oh, I get it–you mean Congress. Boss, that’s brilliant!”

“Now you know why I’m in charge. But we got to find the right guy. We need a fresh face, somebody the public doesn’t know, somebody whose reputation we haven’t destroyed yet, somebody who looks good on the surface but underneath is a Grade-A, Number One, World Class asshole without a shred of dignity or a hint of integrity who’s so ambitious–

“And servile.”

“–and servile that he’ll do anything we tell him to do without questions or qualms.”

(A pause while they consider. Then light dawns on Marblehead. Simultaneously:) Frist!

Scary Scalia

I missed this, but on Monday Justice Antonin Scalia banned the press from an appearance to accept a Free Speech Award! Get that concept? From ABC News:

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia banned broadcast media from an appearance Wednesday where he will receive an award for supporting free speech.The City Club usually tapes speakers for later broadcast on public television, but Scalia insisted on banning television and radio coverage, the club said. Scalia is being given the organization’s Citadel of Free Speech Award.

“I might wish it were otherwise, but that was one of the criteria that he had for acceptance,” said James Foster, the club’s executive director.

Well, then, maybe, James, you should have rescinded the award! There was some reaction.

The ban on broadcast media, “begs disbelief and seems to be in conflict with the award itself,” C-SPAN vice president and executive producer Terry Murphy wrote in a letter last week to the City Club. “How free is speech if there are limits to its distribution?”

I don’t know, I don’t know. No matter how hypocritical you think these people are, they can always go another step.

Thanks to Mike Hersh for the link, and here’s a taste of what he has to say about it.

According to the Associated Press, “Supreme Court Justice [sic] Antonin Scalia banned broadcast media from an appearance Wednesday where he will receive an award for supporting free speech.” This is typical 1984 Orwellian lunacy. Honoring someone who is calling for severe limits on free expression as a champion of free speech!The same article reports that the man who unconstitutionally ordered a halt to the fair, full vote count in Florida says we have too many freedoms and denies the Constitution prevents government from cracking down on dissent. As Bush drags us into war, Scalia seems overly eager to finish off what’s left of our Constitutional rights.

Scalia’s view of the Constitution is extremist, frightening and wrong: “The Constitution just sets minimums,'” Scalia said, according to the AP. “Most of the rights that you enjoy go way beyond what the Constitution requires.” This is fascistic nonsense, typical of Scalia and the extremist “Federal Society” right wingers he represents

Minimums. Oh. Um, what’s the minimum “free speech” we’re allowed, again, Tony?

"Under God"–Or Not?

In a post called “Parsing the Pledge”, Phaedrus argues that that the phrase “under god” which is currently being challenged in the Supreme Court is obviously unConstitutional, what he calls “a slam dunk.”

The “under God” part of the Pledge of Allegiance is not merely unconstitutional, it is stunningly obvious that this is so. It’s an open and shut case, a slam dunk, shootin’ lunkers in a teacup. It’s been really amusing to hear the majority of both Democrats and Republicans argue that it’s not only no way in hell unconstitutional, but also that this is self-evident any sane person. Yet their arguments pretty much amount to “because we don’t want it to be, that’s why.”

I haven’t heard all the arguments Phaedrus is referring to so I’ll reserve judgment on the accuracy of that statement, but he does refer to Solicitor General Ted Olsen’s defense (from the NYT):

Solicitor General Olson told the justices that the appeals court misunderstood the pledge. The phrase “under God” did not place the pledge in the category of religious expressions that the Supreme Court has found unconstitutional, he said, for example “state-sponsored prayers, religious rituals or ceremonies, or the requirement of teaching or not teaching a religious doctrine.”Rather, Mr. Olson said, “under God” was one of various “civic and ceremonial acknowledgments of the indisputable historical fact that caused the framers of our Constitution and the signers of the Declaration of Independence to say that they had the right to revolt and start a new country.” He said the framers believed “that God gave them the right to declare their independence when the king has not been living up to the unalienable principles given to them by God.”

Phaedrus responds, “See? They ain’t a thing r’ligious ’bout it. Ya know, ‘cept for the God part an’ all. Does language mean anything to Repukelicans?”

But Olson is quite right. If you doubt it, read the Declaration. Jefferson and the other Framers considered that the rights of human beings derived from God.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…. (emphasis added)

That is perhaps the clearest statement ever written of the intent behind both the Revolution and the Constitution itself. Basically it says that the rights of human beings are given by god and no mortal agency, not government or church or law or mighty army has the right to remove them, and that the entire purpose of governments is to protect and defend those rights on Earth. That statement is what makes this country different from every other: its fundamental belief that government ultimately belongs to the people it governs, not the people to the govt as it was in the rest of the world. In its day it was a revolutionary concept in every sense of the word, and it shook the Western world. No country had tried it since Ancient Greece, and only once since had it been put into operation on a fairly large scale (something over a tribe or a few small tribes)–the laws of the Iriquois Confederation.

In other words, If the Pledge is unConstitutional with “under god” in it, then so is the Declaration of Independence, and the underpinnings of the Philosophy that justified the Revolution, brought about the creation of the United States as a political entity apart from Britain, and mandated the Constitution itself are destroyed.

Many of the Framers were Deists, including a majority of the most influential of them–Franklin, Adams, Washington, Madison, Paine, and of course Jefferson. They were a strange combination of students of Hume and children of Rousseau. They believed that there was a single god–a “deity”–that didn’t belong to any one religion but to all religions, and that couldn’t be defined except as “Nature”. They were roughly aligned with the Christian church of the time, but it was very rough–Jefferson once said that Jesus was “the first and best deistic moral teacher”–and much of mainstream Christianity considered the Deists a radical splinter group, what we would probably call a cult. The god in which they believed was amorphous and undefinable; it couldn’t be categorized or collated or catalogued, and it certainly couldn’t be owned by any sect or limited by any set of rituals or belief structures proselytized by a single dogma. It expressed itself, they believed (with Rousseau and Voltaire), most consummately in Nature, and to a very important degree Nature was god to them. In short, they probably would have been right at home with the concept of Gaia.

“Under god” in the Pledge must be taken to mean their god, the Deist god, the god from whom our rights flow, not as a gift but as part of our nature, as much a part as our limbs, our eyes, our voices or our minds–the god of the Declaration. You don’t have to believe in that god–or any god–because that is your right, too, as a human being. But the men who wrote the Constitution did, and that is the “god” that’s in the Pledge. A god that tolerant, I don’t have a problem with.

Having said that, I see no particular reason that it should be in the Pledge. If you are pledging allegiance to the country, then you are pledging allegiance to the law on which it’s based, and if you are doing that, then you are pledging allegiance to the Constitution. A belief in god–any god–isn’t necessary and maybe it shouldn’t be required. But Phaedrus, my friend, it is NOT a “slam dunk”. There’s a legitimate reason for those words to be there. It may not be the reason intended when the words were inserted in 1954, but it exists nonetheless, and it should not be ignored. Those words are a recognition of the reason the people who risked their lives and property took those risks. It is a recognition of the forces and convictions that created us and without which we wouldn’t exist. Our National Pledge of Allegiance seems like a good place to honor that recognition, and whether or not we share the Founders’ belief in Deism is irrelevant. We honor their belief and the courage it gave them, not our own. How can mentioning the belief that required a Constitution so that everyone’s beliefs could be protected be unConstitutional?

Clarke Bar 3: Discrepancy

There’s a discrepancy in the stories Dick Cheney and Condi Rice are using to discredit Clarke. Cheney says he was “out of the loop” and Rice says he was very involved: “I would not use the word ‘out of the loop,’ ” When asked to explain the discrepancy, Condi replied, “Perhaps Dick felt that he had, you know, less — he didn’t sit with Powell and Rumsfeld and so forth. It’s just not the way we operate. I did sit with Powell and Rumsfeld and Tenet.”

IOW, Condi, the Veep was *ahem* “out of the loop”?

Clarke Bar 2: Kids say the Darndest things

 If you’ve been following Clarke’s testimony and the BA reaction to it, you might want to check out its effect on kids as reported by pandagon.

(Thanks to Eric at The Hedgehog Times who notes, “Satire shouldn’t be so easy.”)

Clarke re: Mylroie

Tim Dunlop, god bless him, is still scanning excerpts from Richard Clarke’s book. In Chapter 10, Clarke writes that he was having a hell of a time getting anybody in the Bush Admin to take his AQ warnings seriously. In fact, in the first days of the new Admin, Condi wanted him to move his CT operations team out of the NSC.

…I realized that Rice and her deputy, Steve Hadley, were still operating with the old Cold War paradigm from when they worked on the NSC….I tried to explain: “This office is new, you’re right. It’s post-Cold War security, not focused just on nation-state threats. The boundaries between domestic and foreign have blurred. Threats to the U.S. now are not Soviet ballistic missiles carrying bombs, they’re terrorists carrying bombs.”…….I did not succeed entirely in making the case. Over the next several months, they suggested, I should figure out how to move some of these issues out to some other organization.

Just as Digby surmised, the Bush team was so focused on state-sponsored terrorism, just as in the Cold War days, that they were blowing off his concern about renegades. Clarke seems to have thought this was a communications problem, so he kept trying to communicate.

Within a week of the Inauguration I wrote to Rice and Hadley asking “urgently” for a Principals, or Cabinet-level, meeting to review the imminent al Qaeda threat. Rice told me that the Principals Committee…would not address the issue until it had been “framed” by the Deputies. [This] meant months of delay.

Their lack of interest baffled him until finally, in April, he got to meet with some key defense officials and an exchange with Wolfowitz finally clued him into the real problem. As Tim put it, Wolfowitz began by attacking Clarke “for even mentioning Al Qaeda.”

Finally, Wolfowitz turned to me. “You give bin Laden too much credit. He could not do all these things like the 1993 attack on New York, not without a state sponsor. Just because FBI and CIA have failed to find linkages does not mean they don’t exist.” I could hardly believe it but Wolfowitz was actually spouting the totally discredited Laurie Mylroie theory that Iraq was behind the 1993 truck bomb at the World Trade Center, a theory that had been investigated for years and found to be totally untrue.

Why were they clinging to a “totally discredited” theory? Clarke thinks the answer is at the top, starting with Junior and his C-average, SAS mind.

When he focused, he asked the kinds of questions that revealed a results-oriented mind, but he looked for the simple solution, the bumper-sticker description of the problem. Once he had that, he could put energy behind a drive to achieve his goal. The problem was that many of the important issues, like terrorism, like Iraq, were laced with important subtlety and nuance. These issues needed real analysis and Bush and his inner circle had no real interest in the complicated analyses; on the issues that they cared about, they already knew the answers, it was received wisdom.

There you go. The same story everybody is telling, the picture we all put together from the outside since the invasion: they believe what they want to believe, damn the facts. Global warming, evolution, Iraq, AQ, the environment. the economy–they decide what they believe first and then they invent facts to back up what they’ve already decided.

The Scales of Scalia

Antonin Scalia has a reputation as a brilliant conservative jurist, but every time I delve into one of his decisions I emerge from the gloom wondering how he came by it. His decisions seem to me riddled with puerile, self-indulgent justifications and facile, even superficial argumentation based more on ideology than law. Even if his reputation was for brilliant legal twists and turns to get the law to mean what it doesn’t mean, he wouldn’t deserve it. For the most part, his wordy interpretations are little more than high-blown legal rhetoric, thin on law and thick with presumption. He’s tricky and manipulative, clever but not “brilliant” by a long shot.All these qualities are on display in a 21-page memo (pdf file) defending his refusal to recuse himself from sitting in judgment on his friend Dick Cheney’s refusal to release the records of his Energy Commission. In summary, his arguments amount to:

1. He’s been going duck hunting for a long time.
2. He was never alone with Cheney and they never talked about the case.
3. Everybody does it, so strict recusal policies would cripple the Court.
4. The SCOTUS Recusal Policy of 1993 says he doesn’t have to.
5. Tradition says he doesn’t have to.
6. It’s a “run-of-the-mill” legal case, so he doesn’t have to.
7. Cheney isn’t singled out in the complaint as the party responsible for “caus[ing] the involvement of energy executives.”
8. And anyway he ended up buying round-trip tickets to get back so the trip cost exactly what it would have cost if he hadn’t gone down with the Veep.
9. Besides, he knows the rules and we just have to trust him.

When I was a kid we used the same kind of excuses–“I wasn’t there, and even if I was there I didn’t do it, and even if I did it I didn’t mean to, and even if I meant to I wouldn’t have if somebody else hadn’t made me, and anyway it was an accident.” Yeah, right.

I’m not going to debunk all eight excuses reasons point-by-point–that would try your patience and my low tolerance for BS–but I want to take a couple of the most egregious rationalizations for a spin so we can see how the mind of the most “brilliant” jurist on the SCOTUS actually works. I think when we’re done, the 2000 Florida outcome will no longer be a mystery.

1. He’s been going duck hunting for a long time.

It was, of course, all perfectly innocent.

“For five years or so, I have been going to Louisiana during the Court ’s long December-January recess, to the duck-hunting camp of a friend…”

No biggie. It’s not like he went there specially to talk to Dick or something. By-the-by, how did Cheney wind up going along this year? Why, Tony invited him.

“I learned that Mr. Carline was an admirer of Vice President Cheney. Knowing that the Vice President, with whom I am well acquainted (from our years serving together in the Ford administration), is an enthusiastic duck-hunter, I asked whether Mr.Carline would like to invite him…” (emphasis added)

Just a couple of buddies out to bag a few birds.

2. He was never alone with Cheney and they never talked about the case.

Of course the unfortunate Veep has to fly Air Force Two on this little junket “[b]ecause of national security requirements”, so being a good buddy and all he invited Tony to fly down with him. Curiously, though Scalia makes a big point of swearing that he never talked to Cheney on the hunt itself, he says nothing about what they might or might not have talked about on the plane down. Since this is a legal mind we’re talking about, one has the right to draw a conclusion from this deliberate omission: he must have talked to Dickie during the flight. A prosecuting attorney would not only be justified in drawing that conclusion from Scalia’s deliberate lack of comment, he would be justified in going further and assuming that they talked about Cheney’s case, else why would Tony be so adamant about the hunt and so silent about the flight?

In a cross-examination, a prosecutor could run a freight-train through a gap like that, making mince-meat out of him just for leaving it out, never mind what might have been said. For a “brilliant legal mind”–hell, for a sub-par legal mind–it’s a childish mistake.

As for their host, Mr. Carline, being an “energy executive”, why that’s just nonsense.

“He is not, as some reports have described him, an ‘energy industry executive…’”

No? Then what is he?

“He runs his own company that provides services and equipment rental to oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Ah. I see. Not an “Energy Industry Executive” but an “energy industry executive.” It’s a distinction I hadn’t thought to make. See how Scalia’s mind works? If the guy isn’t CEO of Shell, he’s hardly even in the business.

3. Everybody does it, so strict recusal policies would cripple the Court.

I’ll let La Dowd take this one. Her talent for snark is perfectly suited to the arrogance of Scalia’s point.

Res ipsa loquitur, baby. Why should the justice who put Dick Cheney in the White House stop helping him now? It’s the logrolling, stupid!”Many justices have reached this court precisely because they were friends of the incumbent president or other senior officials,” the justice sniffs.

That elite old boy network can really help in those dicey moments when you need to stop the wrong sort, like Al Gore, from getting ahead.

You don’t stop ingratiating yourself with your powerful friends and accepting “social courtesies” from them just because you get on the court. Ingratitude is a terrible vice.

Anyway, what’s the point of being in the ultimate insiders’ club if you have to fly coach, eat at IHOP and follow silly rules on conflict of interest?

Yeah, really. The one thing that comes through most clearly in this memo is the sense that Tony just doesn’t get that whole “appearance of conflict of interest” thing. What’s the big deal? he seems to be asking all the way through. So we shot some ducks, so what? We’re buddies. Buddies do stuff like shoot ducks together.

Yeah, Tony, that’s the fucking point, you bonehead! Cheney’s a buddy of yours and you’re sitting in judgment of his reputation and behaviour. Don’t you see how a buddy-buddy trip on the Veep’s private plane to a private hunting ground as guests of an “energy industry exec” looks when the case you’re going to judge examines the same Veep’s cozy relationships with “energy industry execs”? Can you, brilliant legal mind that you are, really not see that? Some actually great legal mind (Holmes? Brandeis? I forget) said that for the SCOTUS to function credibly it must be above “even the appearance” of justifiable reproach. Tony just can’t fathom that. His typical-5-year-old muling, waspish, “But I didn’t do anything!” doesn’t just miss the point entirely, it assumes that we should know he didn’t do anything.

Justice Scalia says, “The people must have confidence in the integrity of the justices, and that cannot exist in a system that assumes them to be corruptible by the slightest friendship or favor, in an atmosphere where the press will be eager to find foot-faults.” He observes that it would be nonsensical for him to recuse himself simply because the press has the effrontery to point out when someone has done something wrong.We, the press, are supposed to be the handmaidens and the manservants of our rulers. If we fulfilled our duties properly, our reports would go something like this:

In an admirable spirit of uncommon objectivity, in the pursuit of truth, justice and the American way, Associate Justice Scalia made time to poke around in the marshes of Louisiana with the equally scrupulous Dick Cheney, and then, refreshed by a well-deserved plane trip at our expense, he continued to transmit his enlightenment to a grateful nation.

Yup, that’s the tone of the memo, alright: “Who do you think you are, anyway? You peasants should be grateful a brilliant legal mind such as moi‘s would deign to serve at all, and yet you dare question my motives? my purity? my incandescent genius? Shame on you!” This is the guy who parks right in the middle of the fire lane at the mall because he’s special. This is the kid who thinks he should have your seat at lunch because his Dad drives a Beemer and your Dad drives a Chevy. Rules for the rest of us don’t apply to him because, well, because they don’t, and who are you to question the way things are or deny the privileges of the privileged? Nobody, that’s who. And just to prove it:

8. And anyway he ended up buying round-trip tickets to get back so the trip cost exactly what it would have cost if he hadn’t gone down with the Veep.

Wait a minute…? Round-trip tickets? For a one-way flight? Isn’t that…illegal? Well, yeah, sort of.

Justice Scalia did not say how much he paid for his round-trip ticket, but it seems fair to assume that he bought what is known as a “throw-away ticket” — something the airlines expressly prohibit. US Airways, for example, does not allow the “use of round-trip excursion fares for one-way travel,” and reserves the right to refuse to board those who try to use them and to charge them the difference between the round-trip and one-way fare.*******************

Of course, maybe Justice Scalia plans to use the return half of his ticket later. If he does not, however, he in essence has admitted to buying a ticket under false pretenses. He made a promise without any intention of fulfilling it. Justice Scalia is no doubt familiar with the legal term for such an act: it’s called promissory fraud.

The airlines’ policy may be annoying, inconvenient and customer-unfriendly. But they can legally insist that their passengers abide by it.

Unless that passenger is very very special.

And this is “our most brilliant legal mind”? Oy, are we ever sunk.

But sophistry and adolescent rationalizations aren’t the worst of it. The worst of it is that a chunk of the memo comes within legal millimeters of an admission that Scalia has already decided Cheney is innocent. I want to quote it directly so you can see for yourself just how close it is.

Richard Cheney ’s name appears in this suit only because he was the head of a Government committee that allegedly did not comply with the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), 5 U.S.C. App.§2,p.1, and because he may, by reason of his office, have custody of some or all of the Government documents that the plaintiffs seek. If some other person were to become head of that committee or to obtain custody of those documents,the plaintiffs would name that person and Cheney would be dismissed. (emphasis added)

The Sierra Club suit claims that it was Cheney, personally, who made the decisions about who his Energy Committee would listen to, and Cheney, personally, who decided not to release the documents the Appeals Court told him to release. It isn’t, as Scalia notes, just about getting the release of those documents; it’s about Cheney’s refusal to comply with the law–FACA–when ordered to do so. In the graf above, Scalia is essentially committing himself to the view that anyone who was Head of that Committee would have done the same thing–which is precisely what the case is supposed to decide. The Sierra Club is saying Cheney broke the law by doing something no other official in his position would have done, and Scalia has already decided that they’re wrong. In a self-serving attempt to justify his own questionable actions, he has let slip a strong hint that his mind is already made up even as the case is months away from being heard. His own summary of the case as he understands it admits this:

I am asked to determine what powers the District Court possessed under FACA,and whether the Court of Appeals should have asserted mandamus or appellate jurisdiction over the District Court.

So for him the question is shaded heavily in Cheney’s direction. Instead of asking, “Is VP Cheney guilty of defying a lawful order of the Appeals Court?”, Scalia is asking, “Is the Court of Appeals guilty of writing an unlawful order?” The difference may seem minor, but in fact that shading suggests quite strongly that Scalia is, at a minimum, already in Cheney’s corner and at a maximum has made up his mind that Cheney may have been the victim of an “activist” Appeals Court. This is hardly the sort of neutral language one should expect of a judge, especially a Supreme Court Justice. Re-stating the case so it favors one side over the other isn’t exactly “objective”.

Of course, any judge is allowed to approach a case from whatever angle he wishes–after the case has been heard. But before? He has as much as told the Sirra Club’s lawyers that as far as he’s concerned, they’re wasting their time.

Scalia shouldn’t recuse himself. He should be removed from the case for prejudice.

Quotes of the Day

Then it don’t matter. Then I’ll be all aroun’ in the dark. I’ll be ever’where–wherever you look. Wherever there’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad–an’ I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry an’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when our people eat the stuff they raise, an’ live in the houses they build, why, I’ll be there, too.–Tom JoadWho cares what you think?–George W Bush

Clarke Bar

The reaction to Clarke’s 60 Minutes interview has been fierce and all over the map. As Neologic traces the press response yesterday, he notices that the ledes in the majors aren’t Clarke’s charges, as they would be normally, but are instead about the Bush Admin’s reaction to those charges. The charges themselves are buried in stories that are basically about the govt response. By any legitimate journalistic policy you can measure, this is bass-ackwards. Only during the Bush Administration do we print the BA’s response to charges before we print the charges themselves. This is like when the Supreme Court reversed twenty years of conservative upholding of states’ rights so they could interfere in Florida and give the Presidency to friend Bush–it has to be deliberate; no way all these major newspapers with long traditions could accidentally throw out 100 years of established press procedure at the same time.

As for the BA’s response, well, it’s a mess, and a nasty mess at that. Cheney says Clarke was “out of the loop”, then Jim Wilkinson, Dir Comm Dan Bartlett’s go-to PR hack, says 9/11 was Clarke’s fault because he was in charge.

I would say that, since this president’s been here, two-thirds of al Qaeda have been captured or killed. I would say, I would remind you that Dick Clarke was in charge of counterterrorism policy when the African embassies were bombed. Dick Clarke was in charge of counterterrorism policy when the USS Cole was bombed. Dick Clarke was in charge of counterterrorism policy in the time preceding 9/11 when the threat was growing

Come on, guys, get your stories straight. Marshall tears Wilkinson’s sorry ass into tiny pieces and leaves them wriggling on the floor. Where they belong, I might add.

But that’s just the beginning. The Center for American Progress has a rap sheet on the statements being made by the various BA mouthpieces and compares them with the actual facts. The BA don’t come out lookin’ so good. Here’s just a couple of the points they made:

CLAIM #5: “The president launched an aggressive response after 9/11.”
– National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, 3/22/04FACT: “In the early days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Bush White House cut by nearly two-thirds an emergency request for counterterrorism funds by the FBI, an internal administration budget document shows. The papers show that Ashcroft ranked counterterrorism efforts as a lower priority than his predecessor did, and that he resisted FBI requests for more counterterrorism funding before and immediately after the attacks.”
– Washington Post, 3/22/04

CLAIM #6: “Well, [Clarke] wasn’t in the loop, frankly, on a lot of this stuff…”
– Vice President Dick Cheney, 3/22/04

FACT: “The Government’s interagency counterterrorism crisis management forum (the Counterterrorism Security Group, or “CSG”) chaired by Dick Clarke met regularly, often daily, during the high threat period.”
– White House Press Release, 3/21/04

They’re not just contradicting each other, they’re contradicting themselves. Matt Yglesias in The American Prospect notes that right-wing pundits have yet another take–Clarke, like O’Neill and DiIulio before him, are pissed off, and anyway 9/11 was Clinton’s fault.

The right’s reaction so far has been dismissive. Speaking on ABC’s This Week, George Will characterized Clarke’s revelations as “a seriously angry book by a seriously angry man,” a reaction reminiscent of the theory that Paul O’Neill’s exposure of the administration’s deeply flawed domestic policies is “sour grapes.” The official White House line, aside from dark warnings that Clarke is now fair game for personal attacks, is that this business about meetings isn’t important. Spokesman Scott McCormack told The New York Times’s Philip Shenon that “we actively pursued the Clinton administration’s policies on al-Qaeda until we could get into place a more comprehensive policy,” seemingly conceding that Clinton had an appropriate strategy. Last week National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice took a slightly different line, telling CNN that Clinton’s policies are “what led to September 11.”

But Yglesias pulls out an article that Condi wrote for Foreign Affairs back in the winter of 2000 and notes that her list of National Security concerns doesn’t include terrorism.

Rice proposed eliminating Clinton’s confusion with the following priorities: First, ending the overstretch of the American military; second, promoting free trade, particularly with Latin America; third, encouraging Europe to develop a more robust military capacity within the NATO context; fourth, improving relations with Russia and China; and fifth, dealing “decisively” with rogue states.Al-Qaeda was not on the list, nor did the organization appear anywhere in Rice’s 6,900-word discussion of the threats facing the United States. Terrorism was discussed, only briefly, as problematic because rogue states — specifically Iran, presumably working through Hezbollah — might seek to use it as an instrument of policy. Because the main thesis of the article was the need to bring about a more disciplined approach, it seems safe to conclude that Rice favored not continuing the Clinton administration’s al-Qaeda policies but rather abandoning them in favor of doing, well, nothing — so as to leave more time to pursue other priorities. After the election, outgoing National Security Adviser Sandy Berger agreed that more focus was needed and told his successor that she should make al-Qaeda her top priority. As Clarke tells us, she did not. (emphasis added)

Condi was not alone. According to a memo Rumsfeld wrote in the first weeks of the BA, Rumsfeld’s only concern with what he called “asymmetric responses” (terrorist acts) was with those sponsored by “small or medium sized states.” Rogue terrorists are never mentioned, nor, once again, is AQ. Those phrases come from para#3 in a document labeled “Post Cold War Threats”. Para#1, the set-up graf, makes it pretty clear that Rumsfeld intends to focus on finding an enemy-state successor to the Soviet Union.

1. The collapse of the Soviet Union has produced centrifugal forces in the world that have created new regional powers. Several of these are intensely hostile to the United States and are arming to deter us from bringing our conventional or nuclear power to bear in a regional crisis.

He knows there’s a ripe replacement enemy out there somewhere, and by God, he’s going to find it! Actually, reading between the lines, one can figure out what “region” he means fairly easily.

Add to this focus on states the fact that everybody in the BA from Rumsfeld to Ashcroft was cutting anti-terrorism funds from the bidget prior to 9/11 and even after

Post 9/11 – Budget Document Detailing OMB Rejection of FBI Counter-Terror Request: Internal document showing that FBI requested $1.499 billion for counterterrorism for the post-September 11 emergency supplemental but received just $530 million from the White House, despite serious counterterrorism needs.

–and you’ve got a documented disinterest in fighting terrorism. Why is the Bush Admin gooid at fighting terrorism? Because they say they are.

Bush ’04 Campaign Motto: “Don’t look at what we do, listen to what we say we did. It sounds better.”

(Thanks to Phaedrus for the Neologic and CAP links)

Quotes of the Day: Democracy

Democracy is when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers.–AristotleRecession means that people’s incomes, at the employer level, are going down, basically, relative to costs, people are getting laid off.–George W Bush

If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.–Dorothy Parker

This is the Voice of Doom calling. Your days are numbered, to the seventh son of the seventh son!–Macaulay Connor

With the rich and mighty, always a little patience.–Arabic Proverb

The light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off due to budget cuts.–Steven Wright

Clarke’s Book

Tim Dunlop (The Road to Surfdom) has an early copy of Clarke’s Against All Enemies and is generously copying out long sections of it on his website. Three long posts and he’s not even through the first chapter–I told you he was generous. If you want to find out what the fuss is all about until you can get your hands on a copy of your own, head on over there.

Bush Refuses Kerry Debates

From MoveOn.org:

In the face of an extremely negative campaign, Senator Kerry has asked President Bush to engage in a series of monthly debates on the country’s future — debates on the real substance of the issues that face us. It’s a simple proposal that could elevate the campaign and truly educate the country about the positions and records of each candidate. But President Bush’s campaign brushed off the suggestion with a snide remark. That’s why we’re asking:”President Bush, please stand up to real debates on the issues that face our country.”

Don’t hold your breath but go send a message anyway. Maybe if enough of us sign up, he won’t dare skip debates altogether.

(Via No Fear of Freedom)

Bush the Uniter

Well, what d’ya know? Bush is a uniter after all.

Al-Qaeda, Iraq, and Laurie Mylroie

Last night’s 60 Minutes interview with Richard Clarke is raising temperatures all over the country. The Bush Admin already has its flack-attack in high gear with NSA whipping-boy Stephen Hadley insisting that everything Clarke said is untrue and Communications Director (read: Public Relations Hack) Dan Bartlett in full denial mode, calling Clarke’s charges “political”:

“We believe the timing is questionable,” he said. “When (Clarke) left office, he had every opportunity” to make any grievances known.

Hadley I understand–he was the junior goat who took the rap for Condi Rice when she claimed she’d never seen Tenet’s memo debunking the Niger document–but what’s Bartlett doing out there? Couldn’t the BA find an actual official other than Hadley with some responsibility for National Security matters to rebut Clarke’s charges? After all, they’re pretty serious. I suppose I’d be wasting my breath pointing out to this group of illusionists that National Security is NOT a matter of image.

Nevertheless, there is a legitimate question of credibility here. Clarke’s charges are severe, suggesting a level of incompetence in the BA that the mainstream press hasn’t reported hardly at all in the 3 years Junior’s been in office. If what he says is true, why wasn’t it reported before? Regular readers will know what I think the answer to that one is. The more important question is: Where did this certainty that Iraq was involved in 9/11 come from if the IC was insisting the connection didn’t exist?

Let’s take the credibility issue first.

Tim Dunlop at The Road to Surfdom helpfully supplies in two posts generous quotes from The Age of Sacred Terror by ex-NSC directors Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon that help support Clarke’s statements and put them in perspective. The book, published in 2002, was largely ignored, but it paints a similar picture of both the WH and Clarke’s role.

Military leaders who remained in office in the Bush administration saw terrorism moving “farther to the back burner,” as Hugh Shelton (chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff) put it. “The squeaky wheel was Dick Clarke, but he wasn’t at the the top of their priority list, so the lights went out for a few months. Dick did a pretty good job because he’s abrasive as hell, but given the level he was at” there no breaking through into the new team’s field of vision.************************************

General Don Kerrick, the outgoing deputy nation security adviser, spent the first four months of the new administration–and his final ones in uniform–in the Old Executive Office Building. He worried that the new crew had the “same strategic perpsective as the folks in the eighties.” They did not appreciate new threats such as terrorism that had arisen in the 1990s, and they fixated on a missile defense system that he, like much of the uniformed military, considered unworkable and unnecessary. As a courtesy, he sent a memo to the NSC front office on “things you need to pay attention to.” About the al-Qaeda terrorist threat he wrote bluntly, “We are going to be struck again.” He never heard back. “I don’t think it was above the waterline,” he says. “They were gambling nothing would happen.” That remained the new administration’s posture even after February 9, when intelligence briefers told Vice President Dick Cheney that the CIA had concluded that al-Qaeda was responsible for bombing the Cole.

Clarke is clearly not the only terrorist expert who had trouble getting through the BA reality-filters. As Digby wrote yesterday, too many ultra-conservative members of the BA came in with their Cold War attitudes intact and were unwilling to shift them to accommodate the new realities. The treatment Clarke complains of exactly mirrors the treatment others describe when they tried to get the BA off the stick–they were ignored, shuffled to the side, downgraded or denigrated. The BA simply didn’t want to hear it.

What did they want to hear? That Iraq was behind AQ. They came into power already believing that, and they insisted on believing it despite all evidence to the contrary provided by the IC. Why? I can answer that question in 2 words: Laurie Mylroie. And just who, you may be asking yourself, is Laurie Mylroie?

Let’s start with a quote from Clarke:

He said that within one week of Bush’s inauguration he “urgently” sought a meeting of senior Cabinet leaders to discuss “the imminent al-Qaida threat.”Three months later, in April 2001, Clarke met with deputy secretaries. During that meeting, he wrote, the Defense Department’s Paul Wolfowitz told Clarke, “You give bin Laden too much credit,” and he said Wolfowitz sought to steer the discussion to Iraq.

Why would Wolfowitz react that way? Because he was a devoted follower of Laurie Mylroie, that’s why, and Laurie believed that Saddam Hussein was behind all the Islamic terror in the Middle East. All of it.

A Little Background

Mylroie fancies herself an expert on the Middle East and has the resume to prove it. Among other positions, she’s been on the faculty of Harvard and the Naval War College and worked at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Joel Beinin, Prof of History at Stanford Univ, characterized WINEP as a pro-Israeli lobby.

Its first major success was the publication of the report Building for Peace: An American Strategy for the Middle East on the eve of the 1988 presidential elections. The report urged the incoming administration to “resist pressures for a procedural breakthrough [on Palestinian-Israeli peace issues] until conditions have ripened”.Six members of the study group that produced the report joined the administration of President Bush Sr, which adopted this recipe: Not to change until change was unavoidable. So the US acceded to Israel’s refusal to negotiate directly with the Palestine Liberation Organisation during and after the 1991 Madrid conference despite the PLO’s recognition of Israel at the November 1988 session of the Palestine National Council.

Nothing wrong with that, and in fact there appears to be nothing unusual in the first half of Mylroie’s career. As a Reagan conservative, she supported Saddam right up until he invaded Kuwait, ignoring his war against the Kurds and rationalizing his war with Iran. With the Kuwait war, though, she turned against him with a vengeance, accusing him of being behind or at least connected with nearly every terrorist act of the 90’s, including the bombings in Beirut, the bombing of the Cole, and the Oklahoma City bombing even though no one else in the whole world could find any such connection. Her reasoning was simplicity itself: terrorist cells could not have planned such complicated and co-ordinated attacks; they didn’t have “the resources”. Therefore, a state must have been directing them, and on the flimsiest of pretexts, like a jilted lover, she blamed everything on her ex.

The “evidence” for her conclusion that Saddam was the Professor Moriarty of islamic terror, the Mastermind behind the scenes, boils down to a file in Kuwait on Ramzi Yousef, convicted would-be bomber of the WTC in 1993. She asserts, without actual evidence, first that the file was tampered with and second that the tampering was done by Iraqi Intelligence. Why? Because she says so. From an interview with her done by PBS’ Frontline in October, 2001:

That [the] file in Kuwait was tampered with leads me to believe that Iraqi intelligence tampered with that file to create a false identity for Ramzi Yousef. Only Iraqi intelligence, reasonably, could have tampered with the Kuwaiti Interior Ministry files.

Evidence of tampering? None. Evidence that “only” Iraqi Intelligence could have tampered with it? None. On this slim reed hangs her whole theory: Yousef was NOT a member of AQ, he was a secret agent in the employ of Saddam Hussein and Iraqi Intelligence, therefore the attempted bombing in ’93 was not an AQ plot but a plot of Saddam’s. From there she goes on to scale heights of conspiracy theory undreamed of by the most rabid One Worlder. Here’s Peter Bergen of the Washington Monthly, December 2003:

Mylroie became enamored of her theory that Saddam was the mastermind of a vast anti-U.S. terrorist conspiracy in the face of virtually all evidence and expert opinion to the contrary. In what amounts to the discovery of a unified field theory of terrorism, Mylroie believes that Saddam was not only behind the ’93 Trade Center attack, but also every anti-American terrorist incident of the past decade, from the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania to the leveling of the federal building in Oklahoma City to September 11 itself. She is, in short, a crackpot, which would not be significant if she were merely advising say, Lyndon LaRouche. But her neocon friends who went on to run the war in Iraq believed her theories, bringing her on as a consultant at the Pentagon, and they seem to continue to entertain her eccentric belief that Saddam is the fount of the entire shadow war against America.

And her friends are legion in the highest levels of the BA.

She laid out her case in Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein’s Unfinished War Against America, a book published by AEI in 2000 which makes it clear that Mylroie and the neocon hawks worked hand in glove to push her theory that Iraq was behind the ’93 Trade Center bombing. Its acknowledgements fulsomely thanked John Bolton and the staff of AEI for their assistance, while Richard Perle glowingly blurbed the book as “splendid and wholly convincing.” Lewis “Scooter” Libby, now Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, is thanked for his “generous and timely assistance.” And it appears that Paul Wolfowitz himself was instrumental in the genesis of Study of Revenge: His then-wife is credited with having “fundamentally shaped the book,” while of Wolfowitz, she says: “At critical times, he provided crucial support for a project that is inherently difficult.”

Wolfowitz tried to steer Clarke away from AQ and onto Iraq because Laurie Mylroie had convinced him that Saddam was the brains behind and the moving force of AQ. Like Chalabi, she had no evidence for her claims. Like Chalabi, she made it up as she went along. Like Chalabi, she knew what her patrons wanted to hear–a reason to invade Iraq–and she gave it to them. Unlike Chalabi, she appears to be unhinged enough to have actually believed what she was saying.

Mylroie and Chalabi. The incompetent neocon fantasists of the BA managed to latch onto both the Biggest Con-Artist and the Biggest Fringe Conspiracy Theorist in the Middle East and hand them money, prestige, and influence. James Angleton managed single-handedly to all-but-destroy our intelligence capability in the 60’s and 70’s by directing a paranoid and fruitless witch-hunt for a mythical mole supposedly located at “the highest level”. Allen Dulles convinced himself that the mole was John Kennedy. Both were reacting to paper-thin “signals” from a Soviet defector whose bona fides were extremely shaky and whose information rarely panned out. Mylroie has just done the same kind of damage to our Mid-East policies. Thirty years later, our intelligence services still haven’t fully recovered from the effects of Angleton’s insane mole-hunt, and it looks like it’s going to be a good long time before we recover from the effects of Myroie’s paranoia.

Meanwhile, as the bombing in Madrid proved fairly conclusively, AQ terrorism continues even though Saddam is no longer around. Sort of like identifying a murderer and throwing him in jail only to discover that the murders continue. And yet Mylroie, despite spectacularly being proved totally wrong, still has influence in the Bush govt. None of her fans–Perle, Wolfowitz, Libby, “WWIV” Woolsey, Cheney, Bolton, Rumsfeld–none of them has disowned her theories and in fact most of them continue to defend and repeat them.

What does it take to make these guys give up on a fantasy?

Quotes of the Day: Tom DeLay

Tom DeLayTom DeLay knows who started the first Gulf War. Do you?

“The greenies have led us into the crisis in the Middle East… The rabid environmentalists felt it was more important to jeopardize the lives of our brave American servicemen than risk the death of a single snail darter.”

Washington Post, November 4, 1990

DeLay’s staff lays out his moral position

“This whole thing about not kicking someone when they are down is BS — Not only do you kick him — you kick him until he passes out — then beat him over the head with a baseball bat — then roll him up in an old rug — and throw him off a cliff into the pound[ing] surf below!!!!!”

– DeLay office staff discussing the legal nuances of impeachment via e-mail that got leaked. Washington Post, 5/13/01

Tom DeLay fingers the culprit behind the murders at Columbine: Daycare!

“It couldn’t have been because we place our children in day care centers where they learn their socialization skills among their peers under the law of the jungle, while employees who have no vested interest in the children look on and make sure that no blood is spilled.”

House floor, June 1999

Tom DeLay on honesty

“I am a firm believer in this program [Head Start] and the opportunities it provides for disadvantaged children.”
–Letter to a Constituent 8-20-91.

From April 1986, to November1991, Congressman Tom repeatedly voted against funding for Head Start.

Tom DeLay offers a few words about budget deficits?

“[Democrats] completely ignore the desperate need for deficit reduction which in itself would be a major step forward toward enhancing our Nation’s competitiveness.”

-House floor, September 22, 1992

Tom DeLay offers a modest view of American federalism.

“I am the federal government.”

(Responding to a security guard who told him to extinguish his cigar in accordance with the law of the federal government.)

Washington Post, May 15, 2003