Today, Karl Rove gave a media interview at an IHOP in Waco, Texas. During that interview, he says that now is not the “time for regrets.” The one instance he concedes was a mistake was when he said “something unkind” to a co-worker:
He was alternately emotional and nostalgic, clinical and unbowed, but rarely introspective, saying, “There will be time for regrets; there will be things that I didn’t do as well as I should have, there will be things that I’ve left undone.”
He only described one regret in particular: “I remember having a conversation with a colleague — I want to say not only a colleague, but a very close friend — and responding out of frustration at the end of a seemingly long, continuing dialogue that turned into an argument, and saying something unkind, and it was the worst I ever felt at the White House. I later apologized to him for it.”
Rove expressed a similar lack of introspection in a recent Wall Street Journal interview. When asked about his mistakes, he said, “I’ll put my feet up in September and think about that.”
According to the New York Times write-up of the interview, Rove never once mentions the Iraq war, which he promoted as a member of the White House Iraq Group. Nor does he address his role in leaking the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame. Regarding the U.S. attorney scandal — in which he helped draw up the list of fired prosecutors — he simply states, “Everything was handled appropriately.”
Disappointingly, the closest he comes to actually revealing any differences with President Bush is admitting that he thinks that Barney, the President’s Scottish terrier, “is a lump.”
Thursday night, three rescue workers died while trying to rescue six men trapped in the Crandall Canyon mine since a massive cave-in on Aug. 6. This second cave-in injured six other rescue workers. Many experts are now questioning why the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) allowed “anyone, including rescuers, into the still-dangerous mine.”
Yesterday, Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, and U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), the Chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, signaled that they will conduct hearings into the administration’s response to this recent mine tragedy:
The unfolding tragedy at the Crandall Canyon Mine has once again raised serious questions about mine safety and what we must do to improve it. The Education and Labor Committee intends to answer those questions by investigating and convening hearings at the appropriate time. Obviously, right now the only job that matters is the job of reaching the six trapped miners while limiting, as much as possible, the risk to rescuers.
At the center of this tragic recovery process is the head of MSHA, Richard Stickler. In 2006, President Bush recess-appointed Stickler, a former Murray Energy executive, whom the Senate had twice rejected because the mines he managed “incurred injury rates double the national average.” Stickler has also stated that he believes no new laws or regulations are needed for mine safety.
By law, MSHA is supposed to be in charge of managing the Utah mine tragedy. But Stickler has largely stepped aside and allowed the mine’s owner, Bob Murray, to control the disaster. It took MSHA at least two days to gain public control of the situation. On Aug. 7 press briefing, Murray used a media appearance to criticize global warming proponents, and only later “emphasized that his heart and his priorities are with the trapped miners and their families.”
Despite the Bush administration’s promises to improve mine safety after the Sago mine disaster in Jan. 2006, 40 miners were killed on the job last year, more than any year since 2001. Many of the reforms passed after Sago will not go into effect until 2009.
Alternet’s Joshua Holland reported recently, “If passed, the Bush administration’s long-sought ‘hydrocarbons framework’ law would give Big Oil access to Iraq’s vast energy reserves on the most advantageous terms and with virtually no regulation.” The framework law proposes to hand over effective control of as much as 80 percent of the country’s oil wealth.
A recent poll showed that all Iraqi ethnic and sectarian groups across the political spectrum oppose the principles enshrined in the oil law, and 419 Iraqi oil experts, economists and intellectuals recently signed their names to a statement expressing grave concern over the bill. The head of the Iraqi Federation of Union Councils said recently, “If the Iraqi Parliament approves this law, we will resort to mutiny.”
While the Bush administration has prodded the Iraqi government to pass the oil-sharing agreement, few members of Congress have voiced alarms over the details in the current bill. Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) recently told ThinkProgress that more attention needs to be paid to the oil legislation. “Who knows what’s in that,” he said. Sestak continued:
The indications from a draft of several months ago that the Kurds were using, is that…there is an undue ability of our oil companies to control the Iraqi profits by controlling the infrastructure and the wells that are there.
I mean they [U.S. oil companies] are going to get much more, if the draft is correct, of profits than we would under a normal oil sharing agreement, of these oil companies to a country like Saudi Arabia or others. Heaven forbid that at the end of this time, after all this, if we find out that there’s undue advantage given to our oil companies.
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In the interview, Sestak also distanced himself from the opinions of Michael O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack. “Even though I have great respect for Michael O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack and their article in the New York Times, I disagree,” said Sestak. He said the security improvements that are being made in Anbar actually pre-date the escalation. Moreover, he argued these improvements in one part of the country don’t mean much if political success can’t follow:
The political situation is the absolute end game. Because even though you might be able to have an improvement in the military security, how long do we have to be there to change the minds, to the change the hearts of the Iraqis?
Pointing his finger at members of Congress and dignitaries like Brookings’ analysts Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, who make brief sojourns to Iraq and then return with “bold pronouncements of ‘what I saw’ at the front,” former Washington Post Baghdad correspondent Jonathan Finer warns today that “those who pass quickly through the war zone should stop ascribing their epiphanies to what are largely ceremonial visits“:
As Washington anticipates a September report assessing the troop surge, there is good reason to be skeptical of such snapshot accounts.
A dizzying number of dignitaries have passed through Baghdad for high-level briefings. The Hill newspaper reported this month that 76 U.S. senators have traveled to Iraq during the war, 38 in the past 12 months. Most never left the Green Zone or other well-protected enclaves. Few, if any, changed the views they held before arriving. […]
Those who visit Iraq undertake significant risks, which are inherent in traveling to Baghdad, no matter who’s providing their security. Policymakers should be commended for refusing to blindly trust accounts from diplomats, soldiers or journalists. But it’s worth remembering what these visits are and what they are not. Prescient insights rarely emerge from a few days in-country behind the blast walls. […]
It goes without saying that everyone can, and in this country should, have an opinion about the war, no matter how much time the person has spent in Iraq, if any. But having left a year ago, I’ve stopped pretending to those who ask that I have a keen sense of what it’s like on the ground today. Similarly, those who pass quickly through the war zone should stop ascribing their epiphanies to what are largely ceremonial visits.
(HT: Kevin Drum.)
The White House plans “to outline a plan for gradual troop reductions [in Iraq] beginning next year that would fall far short of the drawdown” demanded by Congress. Administration officials said that the “goal of the planned announcement was to counter public pressure for a more rapid reduction,” while arguing “that the troop increase ordered by Mr. Bush had succeeded on several levels.”
Yesterday on CNN, host Kiran Chetry suggested to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) that he’s been unfairly “painted as being a huge supporter of the president’s Iraq strategy. Is that an accurate portrayal?” she asked.
McCain responded that “life isn’t fair” because, in reality, he’s been “the greatest critic of the initial four years” of war:
It’s entertaining, in that I was the greatest critic of the initial four years, three and a half years. I came back from my first trip to Iraq and said, This is going to fail. We’ve got to change the strategy to the one we’re using now. But life isn’t fair.
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The “greatest critic” who claimed the war would “fail”? Nobody heard that from McCain when he was busy campaigning for Bush’s reelection in 2004 and praising the President’s leadership. Here’s a sampling of what the “greatest critic” of the war was telling us in the months and years after the invasion:
“But I believe, Katie, that the Iraqi people will greet us as liberators.” [NBC, 3/20/03]
“It’s clear that the end is very much in sight.” [ABC, 4/9/03]
“There’s not a history of clashes that are violent between Sunnis and Shiahs. So I think they can probably get along.” [MSNBC, 4/23/03]
“This is a mission accomplished. They know how much influence Saddam Hussein had on the Iraqi people, how much more difficult it made to get their cooperation.” [This Week, ABC, 12/14/03]
“I’m confident we’re on the right course.” [ABC News, 3/7/04]
“I think the initial phases of it were so spectacularly successful that it took us all by surprise.” [CBS, 10/31/04]
“I do think that progress is being made in a lot of Iraq. Overall, I think a year from now, we will have made a fair amount of progress if we stay the course. If I thought we weren’t making progress, I’d be despondent.” [The Hill, 12/8/05]
UPDATE: Atrios writes, “Even before the war, ‘war critics’ were almost entirely limited to those who criticized the timing, or the degree to which the UN or international community generally was on board. That was the respectable position. Just saying ’stop!’ was not.”
Today, there was “less sea ice in the Arctic on Friday than ever before on record, and the melting is continuing, the National Snow and Ice Data Center reported.” Mark Serreze, a senior researcher at the center, said that there “is very strong evidence that we are starting to see an effect of greenhouse warming.”
“Troops training for and fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are firing more than 1 billion bullets a year, contributing to ammunition shortages hitting police departments nationwide and preventing some officers from training with the weapons they carry on patrol. … And the shortages are resulting in prices as much as double what departments were paying just a year ago.”
Last week, Korean War veteran Nyles Reed, 75, learned he had earned a Purple Heart for “injuries he sustained as a Marine on June 22, 1952.” But instead of a medal, he received a form that said the Purple Heart was “out of stock,” and he could either “wait 90 days and resubmit an application, or buy his own medal.” “I can imagine, of course, with what’s going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, there’s a big shortage,” Reed said.
“Abu Ghraib was reprehensible for its sexual roguery and gratuitous humiliation, but the real military problem of that prison has been the serial release, not American mistreatment, of Islamic murderers,” writes neoconservative Victor Davis Hanson in the National Review today.
Yesterday, ThinkProgress noted that White House Press Secretary Tony Snow revealed that he will not be “going the distance” and will resign before President Bush’s term is over. Today, CNN reports that it has “independently learned that it could be as early as September when he actually leaves his job.” Watch it:
The AP reports that beginning next week, Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show will be airing reports from Iraq:
“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” whose phony news coverage has long included phony “remotes” from war-torn Iraq, will be reporting from Iraq for real next week.
Giving its green screen a temporary rest, the Comedy Central series will air “Operation Silent Thunder: ‘The Daily Show’ in Iraq,” several onsite dispatches filed by Senior War Correspondent Rob Riggle.
Riggle will provide what the network calls “in-depth coverage and insights from the front lines.” Scheduled to be back in New York this weekend, he begins his reports as soon as Monday.
UPDATE: Riggle, who joined the cast in 2006, is a major in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve who served in Liberia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan.
Contradicting previous claims by the military that soldier’s personal blogs (milbogs) “needlessly place lives at risk,” a series of audits by the Army Web Risk Assessment Cell between January 2006 and January 2007 “suggests that official Defense Department websites post material far more potentially harmful than anything found on a individual’s blog.” The audits found “found at least 1,813 violations of operational security policy on 878 official military websites” compared to “28 breaches, at most, on 594 individual blogs during the same period.”
Earlier today, Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), who was formerly the longest-serving Republican Speaker of the House, officially announced that he will not seek re-election to Congress in 2008.
In an interview with the Daily Herald yesterday, Hastert also hinted that he may leave his seat before his term expires. “I haven’t ruled out anything,” he said.
While news of Hastert’s departure only broke this week, speculation that he would leave office began soon after the 2006 mid-term elections when Hastert was ousted from his leadership position. But in January 2007, Hastert denied those rumors, telling CBS’ Chicago affiliate “I’m going to stay“:
In an exclusive interview with CBS 2 Dennis Hastert said he can deal with the demotion, and that, contrary to many rumors, he will not quit Congress.
“I just think that was wishful thinking on the part of some people,” Hastert said. “Some even had me being an ambassador someplace, which had no founding at all.”
“I’ve made a commitment to run, and I’m going to stay here to get going here, and I can do some things on energy — I think energy is certainly important for Illinois,” he said.
Now that he’s in the minority as a rank-and-file congressman, Hastert — dubbed a “reliable ally” of Jack Abramoff’s — has been forced to change his lifestyle. Stricter ethics rules make many of the perks of his job harder to come by, such as the ability to turn a profit using federal earmarks. The former wrestling coach, seemingly not content to live by new rules, is throwing in the towel and heading home.
The Washington Post reports, “What really gets George W. Bush riled up? Calling him a fashion victim.” After Marques Harper of the Austin American- Statesman wrote a short style piece critiquing Bush’s choice of clothing when he’s down on the Crawford ranch, noting that lately “he’s opted to look more like ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’ than a sweaty, tough ranch hand.” Harper said after the article appeared, the White House called to express its disdain:
Harper received a phone call that morning from White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino, who, Harper told friends, said the president read the article and was unhappy about the way he was portrayed.
Our guest blogger is Jon Soltz, chairman of VoteVets.org and veteran of the Iraq war.
It’s no secret that some of the toughest battles our troops fight begin when they return from overseas. That’s why it didn’t surprise me a bit this week, when the Army announced that suicides were at their highest rate in 26 years.
There are immense pressures on our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. They’re being asked repeatedly to go back into the fight — first for 12-month deployments, and now for 15-month tours. During these tours, the troops are only allowed a single two-week break to return to their families. When we do this to them, with very little respite, the military starts to break down.
To get to the core of the issue, we have to look at the real reason for which combat troops and veterans would take their own lives. And that real issue — the larger issue — is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The numbers of troops diagnosed by the military and the VA with PTSD are disturbingly low — especially when viewed by one who’s been in combat. Early in the war, the number given was around 30 percent. So the question becomes then, how do we reconcile these two figures — the high suicide rate with the low PTSD rate?
Troops that enter the military go through an extensive physical and intense training prior to joining their assigned unit. The rigorous screening makes these new numbers even more shocking, because those who showed any tendency to commit suicide are people who would never have qualified for military service from the start. Clearly, these are tendencies that largely come about as a direct result of being deployed to war. If this administration can so wantonly send troops to war, why is it having such problems taking care of them when they get back? (more…)
Yesterday, White House spokesperson Gordon Johndroe claimed it “has always been our intention” to have Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker testify publicly about their September Iraq report. Today, Greg Sargent uncovers that the White House has been pushing for a private briefing for months. A statement from the House Foreign Affairs Committee explains:
Administration officials told senior Congressional staff in early July that they preferred to have Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus testify in closed session before the entire House of Representatives, rather than in open hearings.
The media will be tempted to pick “Bush’s brain” for his views on the political horserace, on everything from the Democratic presidential candidates to Iraq to Bush’s veto threats. But they shouldn’t forget that Rove has yet to personally account for much of his sordid record in the White House. Here are a few of the issues that Rove needs to be asked about:
– Promoting the war as a member of the White House Iraq Group
– Leaking Valerie Plame’s identity
– Compiling the list of fired U.S. attorneys
– Politicizing government agencies
– Dealing with Jack Abramoff
– Violating White House email record-keeping rules
And there are a variety of other misdeeds. Let us know in the comments section what you’d like to see Rove get grilled on. We’ll be watching this Sunday to see if Rove is tossed some softballs or zinged with hardballs.
Former New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, who was fired last year for refusing to bring indictments against Democrats before the 2006 election, signed a book deal recently. He will write about his “experiences as a U.S. attorney in the Bush administration and his role in the scandal, before and after the firing.” The book, which is due in April 2008, is expected to “spend some time discussing Iglesias’ handling of voter fraud cases — how the administration directed Iglesias’ focus on the issue, and how that direction made Iglesias uncomfortable.”
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman was one of the traditional media’s most vocal advocates for the invasion of Iraq. On Feb. 5, 2003, he said, “I think I get this war, and, on balance, I think it is a risk worth taking.” On March 9, 2003, he added, “Regime change in Iraq is the right choice for Iraq, for the Middle East and for the world. Mr. Bush is right about that.”
As Iraq has deteriorated, Friedman has criticized Bush’s execution of the war and has even called for “disengagement” himself. Yet, he remains steadfast in his initial war support. On the Charlie Rose show yesterday, Friedman stated, “I’m not going to apologize” for his lofty dreams of democratization in the Middle East, alleging that Iraqis “craved” regime change:
ROSE: You wanted to see something that could change the Middle East.
FRIEDMAN: Right, exactly. And I don’t apologize for that. I’m not going to apologize for thinking that if we could find a way to collaborate with people there to build a different future in the heart of that world, which is afflicted by so many pathologies, that that wouldn’t be a really good thing.
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Most liberal hawks are willing to admit only that they made a mistake in trusting the president and his team to administer the invasion and occupation competently. … The incompetence critique is, in short, a dodge — a way for liberal hawks to acknowledge the obviously grim reality of the war without rethinking any of the premises that led them to support it in the first place. […]
Left-of-center opinion neither will nor should follow a group of people who continue to insist that the march to Baghdad was, in principle, the height of moral policy thinking. If interventionism is to be saved, it must first be saved from the interventionists.
In the interview, Friedman applauds himself for “checking his politics at the door” and supporting Bush’s grand visions prior to the invasion. Friedman may have softened his criticisms of Bush, but he frequently blasted the judgments of war critics before and during the war.
On Jan. 22, 2003, he attacked liberals for failing to recognize that “regime change in Iraq is not some distraction from the war on al Qaeda.” For years following the invasion, he repeatedly called for undue “six months” of patience in Iraq, giving rise to the now-infamous “Friedman Unit.”