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FEMA fake ‘journalists’ get promotion.

Fri, 2007-11-30 09:23

In October, while the California wildfires raged, FEMA staged a notorious “fake” press conference where FEMA employees posed as journalists and lobbed “softball” questions to a FEMA administrator. Today, Al Kamen reports that two of those fake “journalistshave been promoted:

On Oct. 23, the day of FEMA’s now infamous phony news conference, the agency’s former external affairs chief, Pat Philbin, announced plans to promote a number of people in the shop as part of an effort to build a “new FEMA.”

Cindy Taylor, deputy director of public affairs, was to become head of a new Private Sector Office, Philbin said in his e-mail to staff members. And Mike Widomski would move up to replace Taylor as deputy director of public affairs. […]

They’ve received the promotions they were in line to get.

Doolittle aide leaves for prison job.

Fri, 2007-11-30 09:03

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has appointed Gordon Hinkle, a top communications aide to Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) as deputy press secretary for the state prison system. In September, Hinkle received a subpoena “from a Washington grand jury investigating Doolittle for his ties to jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He was asked to turn over documents but was not required to testify.” TPMmuckraker’s Paul Kiel notes:

For those curious at home, if Doolittle, who is under investigation for his ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, were in fact convicted of bribery charges, he’d end up in a federal penitentiary, not one in the California state system, so the two aren’t likely to be reunited. Oh, well.

Chris Rock: Bush put out CA fires ‘with Katrina water.’

Fri, 2007-11-30 08:15

At the Apollo in Harlem last night, comedian Chris Rock “compared the way the federal government handled its response to the wild fires in California to the emergency response in Katrina“:

“This is how [Bush] dealt with catastrophe. The fires in LA he was there the next day,” Rock said. “White people burning he was there. Black people drowning he don’t care… He was putting out the fires with Katrina water!”

Watch it:

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ThinkFast: November 30, 2007

Fri, 2007-11-30 07:30

The social networking site Facebook has “modified a controversial service that broadcast details of its users’ online activities outside the site to their friends, following complaints about its privacy implications.” Facebook will now give greater control to users over what information they want advertised. MoveOn, which had mounted an online campaign to pressure Facebook to change its policy, said the policy could be a “huge step in the right direction.”

Marking the 14th anniversary of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” program, “28 retired generals and admirals plan to release a letter” today “urging Congress to repeal the law.” The letter will include “data showing that 65,000 gay men and lesbians” are currently serving in the military.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee’s (R-AR) moderate position on immigration compared to the stances of his rivals is causing anger in right-wing circles. “He was an absolute disaster on immigration as governor,” said Roy Beck, president of the conservative group NumbersUSA.

“Without a serious effort at national conciliation, American troops are just holding down the lid on a pressure cooker. Iraq’s rival militias, the insurgents, the bitter sectarian resentments and the meddling neighbors haven’t gone anywhere,” writes The New York Times in an editorial today.

51 percent: College students who say “where a candidate stands on the environment would be very important to their vote,” according to a survey conducted by American University students. (more…)

Card Rejects Rove’s Claim That Congress Pushed Bush To War: ‘His Mouth Gets Ahead Of His Brain’

Fri, 2007-11-30 06:05

Karl Rove asserted on the Charlie Rose show recently that it was Congress that pushed the Bush administration into war with Iraq. “The administration was opposed” to voting for a war resolution in the fall of 2002, Rove claimed. “It seemed it make things move too fast,” he argued.

As ThinkProgress documented, key leaders in both the House and the Senate — including then-Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) — were asking Bush in 2002 to delay the Iraq war vote. But as Daschle recalled, when he asked Bush to delay the vote, Bush “looked at Cheney and he looked at me, and there was a half-smile on his face. And he said: ‘We just have to do this now.’”

This morning, former White House chief of staff at the time, Andrew Card, appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and completely discredited Rove’s argument:

SCARBOROUGH: We have to start with something that we all are talking about a couple of days ago where Karl Rove went on Charlie Rose and he blamed the Democrats for pushing him and the president into war. Is that how it worked?

CARD: No, that’s not the way it worked.

Card went on to explain that sometimes Rove’s “mouth gets ahead of his brain”:

SCARBOROUGH: Is that just Karl spinning beyond the White House? …

CARD: Well, Karl is very smart. He’s — sometimes his brain gets ahead of his mouth. And sometimes his mouth gets ahead of his brain.

Watch it:

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UPDATE: The Politico’s John Bresnahan adds:

As someone who covered the 2002 vote on Iraq for Roll Call, Rove’s assertion that Congress was pushing for a quick vote on the use-of-force resolution is just not credible at all.

The White House pushed to hold that vote in October, just a month before the mid-term elections, and Democrats were forced to support it or risk losing their re-election campaigns.

It was a bare-knuckled political power play by President Bush and GOP leaders in Congress, and it worked very, very well. Republicans ended up winning back the Senate that fall, and the GOP picked up more House seats.

Transcript: (more…)


Thu, 2007-11-29 19:45

Total number of times the Republican candidates said President Bush’s name during last night’s two-hour CNN/YouTube debate.

Clarence Thomas: ‘My colleagues should shut up!’

Thu, 2007-11-29 18:46

In a “rare scolding of his fellow judges,” Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas defended his silence on the bench. “My colleagues should shut up!” he said. “I think that they should ask questions, but I don’t think that for judging, and for what we are doing, all those questions are necessary.”

Buchanan Attacks Gay General For Not Having ‘The Courage’ To ‘Come Out’ While Still Serving

Thu, 2007-11-29 17:25

During last night’s Republican presidential debate, Retired Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr, an openly gay man, asked the candidates why they “think that American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians.” Soon after the debate, controversy erupted around Kerr’s question when it was revealed that the general is actually a co-chair of “Veterans and Military Retirees for Hillary Committee” and a steering member of “LGBT Americans for Hillary.”

Since the debate, CNN has rightly been criticized for its “huge mistake” in not properly vetting the question. But, despite CNN’s labeling mistake, the solid, non-partisan question asked by Kerr is one that presidential candidates should address.

On Fox News today, however, conservative pundit Pat Buchanan personally attacked for Kerr for merely asking the question, saying that he “obviously did not have the courage” to “come out of the closet” while he was still serving in the military:

There’s an element of fraud here. When the general did not identify himself as a fierce partisan of Hillary Rodham Clinton and presented himself simply as a military man who had served and was gay. And who obviously did not have the courage, frankly, when he was in the military to come out of the closet and say I’m gay. And to attack the Republicans for lacking the courage to take a position he was unable to take, I think makes him look rather bad.

Watch it:

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Considering that just last week Buchanan penned a column lamenting that “homosexual sodomy” is no longer “a crime” but “a lifestyle,” it’s not surprising to see him focus his attack on Kerr’s experience as a gay soldier. Regardless of the homophobia involved, however, Buchanan’s point is non-sensical.

What Buchanan neglects to note is that unlike the lawmakers, Kerr would have faced real consequences for speaking out against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” If Kerr were to “tell” about his sexual identity while serving, he would have joined the roughly 11,000 servicemembers that have been forced out of service since the policy was implemented in 1993.

So, while the right wing attacks Hillary Clinton (even though the Clinton campaign had nothing to do with Kerr’s question), and everybody criticizes CNN, only Pat Buchanan attacks the retired general who served his country for 43 years.

UPDATE: Over at TAPPED, Adele M. Stan notes how at the debate Gen. Kerr was “booed by an audience of Republicans” when he stood up to re-ask his question.

CNN’s Brown calls ‘American insurgents.’

Thu, 2007-11-29 16:49

Media Matters reports that during last night’s CNN special Campaign Killers: Why Do Negative Ads Work?, anchor Campbell Brown said: “General David Petraeus made his reputation taking on insurgents in Iraq. But when he came to Capitol Hill in September, he was confronted by American insurgents, a liberal anti-war group called”

CNN’s Irresponsible Debate Coverage Undermines Its Claim As The ‘Most Trusted Name In News’

Thu, 2007-11-29 15:25

CNN bills itself as the “Most Trusted Name in News.” It has already hosted five presidential debates in the 2008 primary season, with another four scheduled.

While many in the media credited the network with bringing “originality and spontaneity” to the debate process by partnering with YouTube, its debates have more often been characterized by sloppy preparation, a lack of transparency, and theatrics that undermine the intelligence of the American public. Some lowlights:

– CNN planted a softball question with an audience member. During the recent Democratic debate, CNN stopped UNLV student Maria Luisa from asking a question about Yucca Mountain, instead telling her to ask Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY): “Do you prefer diamonds or pearls?

– CNN failed to disclose a questioner’s support for Clinton. Last night, CNN failed to disclose during the debate that ret. Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr, who asked about gays and lesbians serving in the military, is actually a co-chair of “Veterans and Military Retirees for Hillary Committee” and a steering member of “LGBT Americans for Hillary.”

– CNN failed to disclose Carville’s ties to the Clinton campaign. In its post-debate roundtable after the Democratic debate earlier this month, CNN featured commentator James Carville. Yet CNN failed to disclose up front that Carville has raised money for Clinton.

– CNN gave airtime to a question from a right-wing activist. CNN and YouTube billed last night’s GOP debate as one in which “YOU ask the questions of the candidates through videos you submit on YouTube.” The network rejected a question by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R), arguing that he “has regular access to politicians.” Instead, one of the 34 videos it chose (out of 5,000 submissions) was from right-wing Washington insider Grover Norquist.

– CNN claimed American public can’t be trusted to choose questions. CNN senior vice president David Bohrman claimed that if allowed, the public would likely choose questions about “whether Arnold Schwarzenegger was a cyborg” or UFOs. He failed to remember that at the Oct. 31 Democratic debate, moderator Tim Russert also asked Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) about whether he had ever seen a UFO.

– CNN took sponsorship funding from the “clean coal” industry. The coal industry sponsored both last night’s Republican debate in Florida and the Democratic one in Nevada earlier this month. The sponsorships appeared to be aimed at pressuring anti-coal lawmakers in the states. In both debates, no questions were asked about climate change or the negative impact of the coal industry.

– CNN’s post-debate analysis focused on the trivial, inconsequential. After July’s Democratic YouTube debate, CNN ran a segment critiquing the candidates on their body language and dress. Wolf Blitzer: “Candidates also sighed, they rolled their eyes, they looked at their watches during the debate.” CNN’s Carol Costello commented, “Look at how the candidates were dressed. The men wore dark suits, but Hillary Clinton wore a brightly-colored jacket.”

Following CNN’s Democratic debate two weeks ago, the New York Observer’s Steve Kornacki even went so far as to suggest that CNN, once the “gold standard for all-news television,” should “never again be entrusted with a presidential debate.”

Rove refuses to answer McClellan’s claims on Plame.

Thu, 2007-11-29 15:01

Following a speech in South Texas yesterday, Karl Rove responded to former White House press secretary Scott McClellan’s claim that Rove, along with “Libby, the vice President, the President’s chief of staff, and the president himself” were responsible for McClellan “unknowingly” passing “along false information” about the outing of Valerie Plame. Rove dodged the question, stating that McClellan said it “had all gotten carried out of proportion“:

Away from the podium today, Rove took time to respond to a new book by former White House spokesman Scott McClellan. In it, McClellan reportedly says Rove gave him false information to pass along to the news media. “He sent me a couple of emails saying that this had all gotten carried out of proportion and that he was surprised they’d done it and said he’d give me a fair explanation in the thing and he’s a friend and he’s a good guy and we’ll see what the book actually says.”

Though Rove had been a confirming source for Robert Novak’s column that blew Valerie Plame’s undercover CIA status, McClellan had told the press in 2003 that Rove and “Scooter” Libby were “not involved.” Libby was later convicted for lying about his involvement.

UPDATE: Today at a speech in Dallas, Rove was asked, “Who is Valerie Plame?” Rove responded, “Somebody whose name I wished I’d never knew.”

Rep. Hoekstra Was Source Of Joe Klein’s FISA Lies, Decries ‘Paranoid,’ ‘Self-Absorbed’ ‘Far-Left Critics’

Thu, 2007-11-29 13:53

In Time Magazine last week, columnist Joe Klein baselessly claimed that Democrats’ proposed fix to FISA would require “every foreign-terrorist target’s calls to be approved by the FISA court.”

Today, House Intelligence Committee member and “Bush loyalist” Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) revealed that he was a “source” for Klein’s error-filled column, and proudly defends Klein in a column titled “Klein Kerfluffle” in the National Review.

In his original column, Klein insisted that Democrats’ legislation to provide constitutional protections for government surveillance of Americans, or the RESTORE Act, would require a court order to spy on foreign terrorists (Klein has since recanted these statements). In the column, Hoekstra insists that “Klein was correct in his original contention.” In reality, as the legislation clearly states:

A court order is not required for electronic surveillance directed at the acquisition of the contents of any communication between persons that are not known to be United States persons .

Klein ignorantly claimed the RESTORE Act “would give terrorists the same legal protections as Americans.” Hoekstra adds that Klein’s assertions are a “demonstratable fact.” Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), a chief author of the RESTORE Act, countered that the legislation does exactly the opposite:

This bill provides exactly what the Director of National Intelligence asked for earlier this year: it explicitly states that no court order is required to listen to the conversations of foreigners that happen to pass through the U.S. telecommunications system. It does not grant Constitutional rights to foreign terrorists.

In his National Review piece, Hoekstra attacks progressive bloggers as “civil liberties extremists,” stating that a “belief that efforts to target al-Qaeda operatives in foreign countries” may involve U.S. citizens is evidence of “self-absorption” and “paranoia.” “The issue is not nor has it ever been about surveillance of Americans,” he alleges.

But under the hastily-passed Protect America Act, there are “virtually no protections” for U.S. callers in international communications, leaving surveillance authority to the administration. In fact, 61 percent of voters favor court protections for surveillance of Americans.

Marcy Wheeler notes that Hoekstra “is nuts, and very much in the business of creating propaganda.” And Joe Klein is willing to blindly publish whatever lies Hoekstra spews to him.

UPDATE: FDL posts the 4th amendment, stating, “Reporting skillz 101: read the original material.”

: Greenwald responds: “Hoekstra’s assurances of the Government’s good faith is identical to the assurances issued by Richard Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell, at exactly the time the Nixon administration was abusing their eavesdropping powers.”

Iraqi lawmakers protest ‘humiliating’ treatment by U.S.

Thu, 2007-11-29 13:32

The LA Times reports that “[d]ozens of Iraqi lawmakers walked out of parliament Wednesday to protest what they view as overly aggressive and humiliating treatment by U.S. soldiers when representatives enter Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, where the legislature is located:

“I and many of my colleagues who live outside the Green Zone face a lot of problems,” said Feryad Rawandozi, a high-ranking official with the Kurdish parliamentary bloc. U.S. soldiers “are very arrogant and impolite when they talk to us, especially with those who don’t speak English.”

Legislators, like everyone else entering the Green Zone, must submit to a gauntlet of physical searches, and allow their vehicles to be inspected by bomb-sniffing dogs. They must line up with the throngs of other residents and employees seeking to enter the area, which is also headquarters to U.S. operations in Iraq. The process can take up to two hours.

“If we come off as aggressive, it might be a cultural thing,” claimed Army Maj. Anton Alston, a spokesman for Multi-National Force-Iraq.

FLASHBACK: Mike Huckabee’s Phone Call From God

Thu, 2007-11-29 12:16

Last night at the CNN/YouTube debate, a questioner asked the candidates — “who would call yourselves Christian conservatives” — to answer what would Jesus do about the death penalty. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee jokingly responded, “Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office. That’s what Jesus would do.”

It was fitting that Huckabee be asked what Jesus thinks because, in the past, the former Baptist minister has asserted an ability to talk directly to God.

At a Republican Governors Association Dinner in 2004, Huckabee took the stage and began to deliver remarks when his cell phone rang. He took the phone out of his pocket and proceeded to have a conversation with God about President Bush’s reelection:

HUCKABEE: Hello? I’m sorry. I’m right in the middle of an event. It’s who? It’s God? On the phone for me? How did he get my number? Oh, God has everybody’s number. OK? Yes, I’ll hold.

Huckabee then engaged in a 3-minute back-and-forth exchange with God, in which Huckabee asserted that God was with the Republicans and President Bush:

We’re behind [Bush], yes, sir, we sure are. Yes, sir, we know you don’t take sides in the election. But, if you did, we kind of think you’d hang in there with us, Lord, we really do.

Huckabee then ended his conversation and walked off the stage to roaring applause. ThinkProgress has obtained the video from this 2004 GOP fundraiser. Watch it:

As Matt Taibbi wrote in Rolling Stone, Huckabee’s religious zealotry has potentially serious consequences:

This God stuff isn’t just talk with Huck. One of his first acts as governor was to block Medicaid from funding an abortion for a mentally retarded teen-ager who had been raped by her stepfather — an act in direct violation of federal law, which requires states to pay for abortions in cases of rape. “The state didn’t fund a single such abortion while Huckabee was governor,” says Dr. William Harrison of the Fayetteville Women’s Clinic. “Zero.”

As president, Huck would support a constitutional amendment banning abortion and would give science a back seat to religion. “Science changes with every generation and with new discoveries, and God doesn’t,” he says. “So I’ll stick with God if the two are in conflict.” Huckabee’s well-documented disdain for science was reflected in the performance of the Arkansas school system when he was governor; one independent survey gave the state an F for its science standards in schools, a grade that among other things reflected Huckabee’s hostility toward the teaching of evolution.

Well before Rudy was taking calls from his wife, Huckabee was answering direct dials from God.

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Transcript: (more…)

Leahy moves forward with White House contempt.

Thu, 2007-11-29 11:52

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) today said that several current and former White House officials, including Karl Rove and Josh Bolten, “must comply with committee subpoenas to testify” about the U.S. attorney scandal. He declared that President Bush had no role in the firings, therefore their excuses of “executive privilege” were “not legally valid.” This ruling “clears the way for Leahy’s panel to vote on whether to advance the citations to the full Senate.”

Romney’s Tough Immigration Stance Excludes Cubans: ‘The More The Merrier’

Thu, 2007-11-29 10:47

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has tried to portray himself as a hard-liner on immigration. During last night’s debate, Romney aggressively went after former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani for presiding over such a “sanctuary city.” “[W]e should say if you’re here illegally, you should not be here,” he said.

In a recent campaign ad, Romney also promised that if elected president, he would “oppose amnesty,” “cut funding for sanctuary cities,” and “secure our borders.” Watch it:

Yet in an interview on Tuesday with the Tampa Tribune editorial board, Romney undermined all his tough talk by revealing that he actually wants America’s borders loosened for one constituency: Cubans. From the interview:

I can tell you my inclination would be to say as many Cubans as want to come here should come in,” Romney said in an interview Tuesday with The Tampa Tribune editorial board. […]

Romney replied that Cuban Americans are exemplary citizens who have brought “great vitality, skills and energy to the American experience.”

“In my opinion, the more the merrier,” he said.

Romney’s embrace of all Cubans seems to be a pander to Florida’s strong Cuban-American community, “a coveted voting bloc in past presidential elections.” In 2000, President Bush “won Florida by a mere 537 votes, but his advantage among Cubans was about 4-to-1.” In a poll right before the 2004 election, Bush drew 81 percent of the Cuban vote.

Romney added that on matters dealing with Cuba, he “depends on advice from prominent members of Florida’s Cuban American community, such as U.S. Reps. Lleana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart.” Time’s Ana Marie Cox spoke with Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Barlar, both supporters of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who denied that they have ever advised Romney.

Unclear if Romney’s open arms would welcome Fidel Castro as well.

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Court orders Bush administration to disclose telecom ties.

Thu, 2007-11-29 10:34

Glenn Greenwald reports:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has won another significant legal battle, as a federal judge in California yesterday ordered the Bush administration (.pdf) to comply with EFF’s FOIA demand and disclose documents revealing its “communications with telecommunications carriers and members of Congress” regarding efforts to amend FISA and provide amnesty to telecoms. Better still, the court imposed an extremely quick deadline for release of these documents — December 10 — so that “the public may participate in the debate over the pending legislation on an informed basis.”

Richard Perle Grooming Future Ahmad Chalabis For Syria And Iran

Thu, 2007-11-29 09:58

In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, Alan Weisman — the author of a biography on Richard Perle — writes that the neoconservative architect of the Iraq war “is again propping up regime-toppling Mideast dissidents who lack credibility.” Prior to the Iraq war, “Perle used his Pentagon position to lobby both for war and for turning postwar power in Iraq over to Ahmad Chalabi, the long-time Iraqi exile.”

Now he’s at it again, lending his political assistance to exiled regime change advocates from Syria and Iran.

With Perle’s help, Farid Ghadry, an exiled Syrian dissident who heads up the Syrian Reform Party, “hopes to be the man in charge one day in Damascus.” Weisman writes there are reasons to be concerned about Ghadry’s credibility:

Unfortunately for Perle, Ghadry is seen in many quarters as a front man for Israel. Not only is he a dues-paying member of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful Israeli lobby in Washington, but a recent column on his website, titled “Why I Admire Israel,” seems to play right into the hands of those who believe the Bush administration’s obsession with regime change in the Middle East is really all about protecting Israel. Did Perle, the savviest of Washington power players, believe that Ghadry’s tub-thumping for Tel Aviv would make him more popular in Syria?

“No,” Perle replied. “I don’t. But he’s his own man. I don’t always understand what he’s doing and why he’s doing it.

Perle is also aiding Amir Abbas Fakhravar, and Iranian dissident who heads the Iran Enterprise Institute, “which takes its name and some of its financial support from the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute.” In Fakhravar, “Perle had an exile leader he wanted America to know about: Amir Abbas Fakhravar, ‘an Iranian dissident student leader who escaped first from Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, then, after months in hiding, from Iran.’” But as Laura Rozen reported in Mother Jones, there are reasons to be skeptical of that story:

Fakhravar may be a false messiah. In interviews with more than a dozen Iranian opposition figures, some of them former political prisoners, a different picture emerged–one of an opportunist being pushed to the fore by Iran hawks, a reputed jailhouse snitch who was locked up for nonpolitical offenses but reinvented himself as a student activist and political prisoner once behind bars.

Weisman writes, “In his quest for idealistic dissidents to do in the Middle East what the Walesas and Havels achieved in Eastern Europe, Perle and his acolytes have tapped the discredited Ahmad Chalabi for Iraq, the suspect Amir Abbas Fakhravar for Iran and the allegiance-challenged Fahrid Ghadry for Syria. They’re just not making heroes like they used to.”

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Breaux ‘would love’ to have Lott lobby with him.

Thu, 2007-11-29 09:21

Yesterday, ThinkProgress noted former Sen. John Breaux (D-LA) was leaving his current position at lobbying powerhouse Patton Boggs to open up his own lobbying shop. The move fueled speculation that Breaux and his good friend, retiring Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), may be going into business together, which may have been one of the motivations for Lott’s early retirement. Speaking to The New York Times today, Breaux confirmed that he is “going to open up” his “own shop” and that he “would love to have Trent involved.”

Hagel on Bush WH: ‘most arrogant, incompetent’ ever.

Thu, 2007-11-29 08:15

Yesterday in an address to the Council on Foreign Relations, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) stepped up his rhetoric against the Bush administration, calling it one of the most “incompetent” in history:

Hagel, who considered running for the GOP presidential nomination as an antiwar candidate, told the foreign policy experts that he would give the Bush administration “the lowest grade of any I’ve known.”

“I have to say this is one of the most arrogant, incompetent administrations I’ve ever seen or ever read about,” Hagel said, according to our colleague Robert Kaiser, who attended the speech. In case his audience didn’t get the point, Hagel also said: “They have failed the country.”

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