Recent polls show a “decline in the public’s embrace of the conservative social and economic values that have been the hallmark” of President Bush’s politics. A recent CBS/New York Times poll found nine out of 10 people want “either major repairs to the health care system or a complete overhaul.” The Pew Research Center “found a decline in the intensity of religious beliefs and more acceptances of homosexuals.”
“A federal judge in Montana has ordered the Bush administration’s top forestry official to explain why he should not be held in contempt of court for the U.S. Forest Service’s failure to analyze the environmental impact of dropping fish-killing fire retardant on wildfires. If found in contempt, Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, who oversees the U.S. Forest Service, could go to jail until the Forest Service complies with the court order to do the environmental review.” Liliana Segura at Alternet has more.
A new AP-Ipsos poll finds that liberals read more books than conservatives. Some highlights from the poll:
– 34 percent of conservatives have not read a book within the past year, compared with 22 percent of liberals and moderates.
– Among those who had read at least one book, conservatives “typically read eight” books in the past year. Liberals read nine, moderates five.
– “By slightly wider margins, Democrats tended to read more books than Republicans and independents. There were no differences by political party in the percentage of those who said they had not read at least one book.”
Pat Schroeder, president of the American Association of Publishers, attempted to explain the results: “The Karl Roves of the world have built a generation that just wants a couple slogans: ‘No, don’t raise my taxes, no new taxes. It’s pretty hard to write a book saying, ‘No new taxes, no new taxes, no new taxes’ on every page.”
Responding to the poll, White House spokesman Tony Fratto attacked liberals for being too “locquacious”:
Obfuscation usually requires a lot more words than if you simply focus on fundamental principles, so I’m not at all surprised by the loquaciousness of liberals.
A recent Pew Research Study survey also found that viewers of the conservative Fox News channel had the lowest knowledge of national and international affairs.
Former CIA Director George Tenet “failed to lead a strategic effort against al-Qaeda before the Sept. 11 attacks,” according to an inspector general report released today. The intelligence community’s understanding of al Qaeda “was hampered by insufficient analytic focus,” the report said, as “the CIA had made no comprehensive report on Osama bin Laden since 1993, had not examined the potential for terrorists to use aircraft as weapons, and had done only limited analysis on the potential of the United States as a target.” Tenet called the analysis “flat wrong.”
After taking the reigns of Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) presidential campaign earlier this summer, new campaign manager Rick Davis made a decision to get the senator’s spending in line. “Every $10,000 counts now,” Davis told New York magazine. This new commitment to frugal campaigning includes a downgrade of the “souped-up Straight Talk bus” he’s been riding. “The next time we roll it out, it’ll be much more like the original version,” said Davis. “A piece of sh*t.”
On Sunday, the Washington Post reported on Karl Rove’s politicization of the federal government. The article highlighted that Rove had organized “asset deployment teams” that allowed the White House “to coordinate the travel of Cabinet secretaries and senior agency officials” to secure GOP victories:
In practical terms, that meant Cabinet officials concentrated their official government travel on the media markets Rove’s team chose, rolling out grant decisions made by agencies with red-carpet fanfare in GOP congressional districts, and carefully crafted announcements highlighting the release of federal money in battleground states.
This morning, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) wrote to the heads of 18 federal agencies who attended the briefings, confirming the existence of the teams:
As part of our investigation, the Committee has received documents that confirm the existence of this “asset deployment team.” According to the documents, the White House invited 18 federal agencies, including yours, to asset deployment meetings in 2003.
Those efforts extended up to the 2006 midterm elections. In his letter, Waxman reveals an e-mail from the White House Surrogate Scheduler “asking 18 federal agencies to provide press clippings from events that the agency heads did at the suggestion of the White House Office of Political Affairs.” The text of the e-mail reads:
WH Liaisons -
If you could, please have your press shops send me any good clips from the media on surrogate events your principals have done (Secretary and Sub-Cabinet), especially if they were as a result of an OPA request.
Folks over here get very excited when they see the results of all the hard work you and your agencies do on these events.
The White House has already admitted that roughly 20 agencies received PowerPoint briefings created by Rove’s office “that included slides listing Democratic and Republican seats the White House viewed as vulnerable.”
Waxman requested that information from the agencies concerning the details of meetings and coordination with the White House be turned over by Sept. 7.
Salon’s Tim Grieve discusses recent media distortions of the statements made by members of Congress on the status of Iraq, seen in the reporting of recent comments of Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY). “We’ll admit it’s a fine distinction, but it shouldn’t be so hard to understand. Is the ’surge’ having some success, in some areas, in reducing the levels of violence in Iraq? Yes. Is the overall ’strategy’ working — that is, is the Iraqi government using the ‘breathing space’ it’s getting to do the things it needs to do? No,” Grieve writes.
In his New York Times op-ed, co-authored with Ken Pollack, Michael O’Hanlon wrote in support of the escalation:
Viewed from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.
This weekend, seven soldiers of the 82nd Airborne responded in kind:
Viewed from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. … As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day.
This morning, O’Hanlon appeared on The Diane Rehm Show to discuss the situation in Iraq. Asked to comment on the op-ed written by the soldiers, O’Hanlon said, “They may have even been taking a slight poke at us as we used a similar term in an op-ed three weeks earlier.” Indeed.
O’Hanlon went on to argue that, while he “read that op-ed very carefully” and has “great respect” for the soldiers, he had to “get a few simple facts on the table” that suggested the soldiers didn’t understand the full picture. O’Hanlon claimed “civilian fatalities are down by a third,” and “we’re on the tactical offensive.”
Listen to a portion of the interview here:var flvwamu3204015613 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/08/wamu.320.40.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvwamu3204015613', '320', '60', '6', '#ffffff'); flvwamu3204015613.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvwamu3204015613.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvwamu3204015613.write('flvwamu3204015613');
Here’s a “simple fact” O’Hanlon neglected. Statistics compiled by O’Hanlon’s Brookings Institution Iraq index (see p. 18) demonstrate this summer is the bloodiest summer of the entire Iraq war:
June-July-August 2003: 113 Americans killed
June-July-August 2004: 162 Americans killed
June-July-August 2005: 217 Americans killed
June-July-August 2006: 169 Americans killed
June-July-August 2007: 229 Americans killed so far
Center for American Progress military analyst Lawrence Korb — who also appeared on the Rehm show — cautioned O’Hanlon against dismissing the soldiers’ arguments. “Let me tell you something,” he said. “From my own days in the military, pay attention to the enlisted people. The officers — and I was an officer and I went through Vietnam — would always try to put out a rosy scenario to please the political masses. What these young people are saying is look, you can’t win no matter what you do.”
After being arrested, but not charged, on July 4, 2004 for wearing anti-Bush t-shirts at a rally for President Bush, Nicole and Jeffrey Rank of Corpus Christie, TX sued the federal government. Last week, they settled with the government for $80,000. The Ranks appeared on MSNBC’s Hardball last night, arguing that “civil liberties continue to be in jeopardy” and that they “didn’t realize it until it happened to us.” Crooks and Liars has the video here.
For the past several months, House and Senate committees have been investigating David Schwartz, the director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), which is a branch of NIH. They are examining whether Schwartz “disregarded conflict-of-interest guidelines,” broke government spending rules, and violated ethics rules. Since Schwartz’s arrival in 2005, three top institute officials have left. One NIEHS official stated, “Morale is just horrible” at the agency.
Under Schwartz, the agency is now requiring all of its employees to fill out a form to document all their contacts with Congress. The form, obtained by ThinkProgress, appears to be an attempt to discourage employees from cooperating with congressional investigators.
Yesterday, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) wrote to NIH head Dr. Elias Zerhouni and asked him to explain who approved the form’s distribution, which employees received it, and the rationale behind “having this type of form at all.” He also expressed concern at the chilling effect the interference may have on whistleblowers:
[T]his form looks more like something people in NIH congressional affairs would use to log requests for information from Congress. It doesn’t appear to be something that would be handed out to regular NIEHS employees or employees at any of the other NIH institutes. In fact, handing this form out to rank and file NIEHS employees during the course of a congressional investigation could cause these employees to feel that management is attempting to flush out whistleblowers or any other individual assisting me with my inquiry.
On July 11, Grassley also wrote a letter to Zerhouni stating that NIEHS employees had “discussions with management that left them with the impression that there would be retaliation if it was discovered that they had provided information to…congressional investigators.”
Such interference with congressional investigations is illegal, as is denying or interfering with “employees’ rights to furnish information to Congress.” Yet it is not the first example of whistleblower suppression by the Bush administration. President Bush’s former surgeon general Richard Carmona recently told Congress that during his term, political appointees were assigned to “vet his speeches.” He was also barred from speaking freely to reporters, as was James Hansen, NASA’s top climate scientist.
The Pentagon said it will shut down an anti-terror database, known as TALON, that has been criticized for improperly storing information on peace activists and others who posed no threat. “Anti-war groups and other organizations, including a Quaker group — the American Friends Service Committee — protested after it was revealed that the military had monitored anti-war activities, organizations and individuals who attended peace rallies.” The Pentagon said the database is being shut down because “the analytical value had declined,” but expressed it hopes that a new system will replace it in the near future.
Contractor Brent Wilkes, who was charged with “fraudulently obtaining millions of dollars in government contracts” in the Duke Cunningham scandal, “will have an attorney paid for by taxpayers.” Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office protested that Wilkes should not be allowed to have an attorney that represents the indigent, “noting that the defense contractor is believed to have greatly profited from his alleged crimes.”
On MSNBC’s Tucker yesterday, host Tucker Carlson attempted to refute a recent New York Times op-ed, entitled “The War As We Saw It,” authored by members of the 82nd Airborne Division finishing up a 15 month deployment to Iraq. They wrote that “recent press coverage” of Iraq has “neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day.”
Speaking with retired Col. Jack Jacobs, Carlson said he was “a little bit uncomfortable with” the op-ed because he says “weighing in on a political question such as this” may “squander the awesome moral authority that these guys have.” “I think there is some detriment to the moral authority,” agreed Jacobs.
While saying he “instinctively” respects “people who are serving in a war zone,” Carlson went on to attack the op-ed, saying that he also “instinctively distrust[s]” some of the assertions made by the soldiers, such as their argument that “a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force.”
While Carlson claims to have respect for people serving in a war zone, he appears to have no hesitations in calling out the credibility of soldiers when they present a viewpoint that doesn’t confirm his own. On MSNBC’s Countdown last night, Paul Rieckhoff — executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) — said soldiers are the “subject matter experts” when it comes to Iraq. “That’s why this op-ed is so important,” he explained. He added:
The soldiers who wrote this piece just completed a 15-month tour. One of them was actually shot in the head before this piece was published, and he’s recovering in the U.S. now. These guys know what they are talking about and they present a very nuanced understanding of the battlefield that the politicians and the policy wonks haven’t been able to provide.
Additionally, Carlson’s feigned skepticism of the soldier’s assertions about Iraqi views is contradicted by actual studies of Iraqi public opinion. A national survey of Iraq from June 2007 found an “ebbing hope in a landscape of loss“:
– 39 percent of Iraqis said they feel their lives are “going well,” compared to 71 percent in November 2005.”
– 26 percent of Iraqis said they feel “very safe” in their neighborhoods, compared to 63 percent in November 2005.
– 82 percent of Iraqis said they “lack confidence” in coalition forces.
– 69 percent of Iraqis said coalition forces make “the security situation worse.”
Faced with the sophisticated argument that the soldiers present, Carlson is resorting to simple-minded, ignorant views to discredit their op-ed.
Elizabeth Reyes, an “attorney fired from the Texas secretary of state’s office for talking publicly about presidential adviser Karl Rove,” has “filed a lawsuit, saying she is the victim of political pressure.” In 2005, Reyes spoke to a Washington Post reporter about voter residency in Texas. Her quotes then showed up in a story about whether Rove was still eligible to vote in the state. Reyes was dismissed after Rove called Secretary of State Roger Williams, a large GOP donor, about her quotes.
The Daily Show’s Rob Riggle filed his first report from Baghdad last night. “I’m in Iraq, you gotta believe me,” Riggle says. “I believe you, you’re clearly in Iraq. … What do you have to report about the war?” Jon Stewart asked. “The war?” Riggle responds. “I’m going to have to get back to you on that Jon.” Watch it:
The Bush administration has promulgated new standards that make it much more difficult for states to extend health insurance coverage to children in middle-income families. “Continuing its fight to stop states from expanding the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program,” the administration is thwarting states’ attempts to expand SCHIP beyond the poverty level.
“U.S. military officials are narrowing the range of Iraq strategy options and appear to be focusing on reducing the U.S. combat role in 2008 while increasing training of Iraqi forces.”
Members of the National Guard are just as likely as active duty soldiers to develop post-traumatic stress after leaving Iraq. Guard members who have had “deployment-linked money trouble,” which affects approximately 26 percent of the soldiers, are six times more likely to have mental-health problems.
“Americans earned a smaller average income in 2005 than in 2000, the fifth consecutive year” that the average income was less than pre-Bush levels. Incomes have been on the rise since 2002, but “the growth in total incomes was concentrated among those making more than $1 million” while “more people were dividing up the national income pie.”
Vice President Cheney’s office responded separately from the White House to a Senate subpoena for documents on warrantless wiretapping. “[T]he response from the vice president was more surprising, because the White House was believed to have abandoned the argument that Cheney is a hybrid entity with both executive and legislative powers.” (more…)
A study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism finds that right-wing radio hosts helped kill comprehensive immigration reform by repeatedly referring to it as an “amnesty bill.” “If media attention translates into political pressure, the argument that talk radio helped kill the immigration bill in Congress has some support in the data,” the study says. “Thanks to energetic opposition from Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage, immigration was the biggest topic, at 16%, on conservative talk radio in the second quarter.”
Progressive blogger Lane Hudson filed a complaint against Fred Thompson (R-TN) on Monday, accusing the former Senator of violating the Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) “testing the waters” clause. The complaint argues that Thompson is running a full-blown campaign and should be held to the same regulations as the other candidates. ABC’s Jake Tapper writes, “The rule is pretty simple. If you spend more than $5,000 on campaign activities, you’re a candidate, whether or not you’ve officially declared. The question is what constitutes ‘testing the waters’ activity, and what constitutes ‘candidate’ activity.” Within five days of receiving the complaint, the FEC must notify the Thompson exploratory committee and provide it with a copy of the complaint. You can contact the FEC at (800) 424-9530.
UPDATE: Jane Hamsher writes, “I guess we won’t call him ‘The Decider.’”
Karl Rove’s unprecedented use of federal assets for political gain meant relaxing federal regulations on big GOP supporters. Arianna Huffington writes that the fallout is predictable; in some cases, the public safety has suffered. “Coal mining interests have donated more than $12 million to federal candidates since the Bush-era began with the 2000 election cycle, with 88% of that money — $10.6 million — going to Republicans. And what did that largess buy the coal mining industry? Mine safety regulators far more interested in looking out for the financial well-being of mine owners than for the physical well-being of miners.”
“Internal MnDOT documents reviewed by the Star Tribune reveal that last year bridge officials talked openly about the possibility of the bridge collapsing — and worried that it might have to be condemned.” Plans to reinforce the bridge were well underway when the project came to a screeching halt in January amid concerns about safety and cost. (HT: Kos)