After Brookings analysts Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack published a report in the New York Times yesterday arguing that “we are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms,” National Review convened a symposium of pro-war cheerleaders to praise the op-ed.
Of the eight war backers in the symposium, the most distinguished contributor is Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who — like the Brookings analysts — has previously exploited Baghdad trips to portray a rosy vision of Iraq. McCain used the op-ed to bash war critics:
Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack have uncovered a truth that seems to escape congressional Democrats: General Petraeus’s new strategy has shown remarkable progress. […]
I cannot guarantee success. But I do guarantee that, should Congress fail to sustain the effort, and should it pay no heed to the lessons drawn by Mr. Pollack and Mr. O’Hanlon, then America will face a historic and terrible defeat. Such a defeat, with its enormous human and strategic costs, will unfold unless we do all in our power to prevent it. I, for one, will continue to do just that.
In his interview with Larry King, Vice President Cheney said “don’t take it from me” that the escalation is working, but rather he cited O’Hanlon and Pollack, individuals whom he called “strong critics of the war”:
Look at the piece that appeared yesterday in The New York Times — not exactly a friendly publication — but a piece by Mr. O’Hanlon and Mr. Pollack on the situation in Iraq. They’re just back from visiting over there. They both have been strong critics of the war, both worked in the prior administration; but now saying that they think there’s a possibility, indeed, that we could be successful.
The enthusiastic parroting of the Times’ op-ed by pro-war dead-enders such as McCain and Cheney is a quintessential example of how left-of-center experts like O’Hanlon and Pollack provide political cover for the president’s failing Iraq policy. The supposedly reasonable assessments of these two analysts have been enabling the right-wing since before the invasion of Iraq.
Reuters reports, “Rupert Murdoch was one step closer to fulfilling a decades-long dream of running the venerable Wall Street Journal on Tuesday after the News Corp board approved his $5 billion bid for Dow Jones & Co Inc.”
The House Oversight Committee reports that in a late breaking development, Donald Rumsfeld will appear tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. for a hearing entitled “The Tillman Fratricide: What the Leadership of the Defense Department Knew.” The following witnesses will testify:
The Honorable Donald Rumsfeld
Former Secretary of Defense
Gen. Richard B. Myers (Retired)
Former Chair, Joint Chiefs of Staff
Gen. John P. Abizaid (Retired)
Former Commander, U.S. Central Command
Gen. Bryan Douglas Brown (Retired)
Former Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command
Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger, Jr. (Retired)*
(supboena issued/not confirmed)
Former Commander, U.S. Army Special Operations Command
A previous witness list had suggested Rumsfeld would not attend.
TV Newser reports CNN has offered conservative radio host Laura Ingraham a one-week guest-host gig for the 8pm ET slot vacated by Paula Zahn. Atrios says contact CNN and “Ask them if someone who told her listeners to jam a voter hotline is really someone appropriate for ‘The most trusted name in news.’”
Yesterday, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, gave the Bush administration until noon today “to resolve the controversy over apparent contradictions in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s congressional testimony.”
Missing the noon deadline, the White House released a letter this afternoon from Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, which stated “one particular aspect” of the NSA’s domestic spying program, “and nothing more, was publicly acknowledged by the President and described in December of 2005.” Gonzales was also supposed to provide a letter of clarification to Specter by noon, but it has not been sent.
On CNN’s The Situation Room this evening, Specter briefly responded to McConnell’s letter, saying “I am not prepared to say” Gonzales didn’t lie “until we get Attorney General Gonzales’ letter.” Watch it:var flvspecter_did_letter32024015198 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/07/specter_did_letter.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvspecter_did_letter32024015198', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvspecter_did_letter32024015198.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvspecter_did_letter32024015198.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvspecter_did_letter32024015198.write('flvspecter_did_letter32024015198');
Host Wolf Blitzer asked Specter how he would respond to an unsatisfactory letter from Gonzales. “If you’re not satisfied with that letter, I assume your conclusion will be like other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he did lie,” said Blitzer.
“Well, if he doesn’t have a plausible explanation then he hasn’t leveled with the Committee, that’s right,” responded Specter.
The White House refuses to release documents about Army Ranger Pat Tillman’s death, citing executive privilege. VoteVets asks that you sign a letter informing the President that this is not acceptable.
CNN reporter Dana Bash confronts Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) in the hallway with a microphone. Bash reported that Stevens had been attempting to escape reporters all day. When she finally caught up to him, he refused to answer Bash’s questions, saying “Can you understand English? That’s the only statement I’m going to make.” Watch it:
SEN. TED STEVENS (R-AK): I put out a statement and I’m not saying anything to anybody beyond that statement.
BASH: Can you say, sir, why the federal agents went to your House or what they took?
STEVENS: Can you understand English? That’s the only statement I’m going to make.
BASH: I do understand that sir, but obviously this is a very important issue, when federal agents and IRS agents come to the home of a U.S. senator.
STEVENS: I understand you’re recording this, but I told you again I made the statement. It’s issued, that’s what my lawyers told me to say, and that’s all I’m going to say.
Watch it:var flvdanaonhulk32024015199 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/07/danaonhulk.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvdanaonhulk32024015199', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvdanaonhulk32024015199.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvdanaonhulk32024015199.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvdanaonhulk32024015199.write('flvdanaonhulk32024015199');
Atrios notes that Stevens’ legally parsed statement suggests he only paid home reconstruction bills “that were presented to him.” The statement discounts bills that may have been paid by others that never reached Stevens.
UPDATE: Stevens has threatened to place a hold on the “Democratic-drafted ethics legislation just passed by the House and expected on the Senate floor by week’s end. The senator told a closed session of fellow Republicans today, including Vice President Dick Cheney, that he was upset that the measure would interfere with his travel to and from Alaska — and vowed to block it.”
Earlier this month, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) received a letter from Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman, who told her that her request for briefings from the Pentagon on the administration’s redeployment plans from Iraq was inappropriate:
Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia. … [S]uch talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates then wrote an apology letter to Clinton, stating, “I truly regret that this important discussion went astray and I also regret any misunderstanding of intention. … I emphatically assure you that [the Defense Department does] not claim, suggest, or otherwise believe that congressional oversight emboldens our enemies, nor do we question anyone’s motives in this regard.”
Today, CNN aired a preview of Larry King’s interview tonight with the Vice President, in which Cheney contradicts his Secretary of Defense and states that he agrees with Edelman. “I agreed with the letter Eric Edelman wrote. I thought it was a good letter,” said Cheney. Watch it:var flvcheney_clinton_good_letter32024015196 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/07/cheney_clinton_good_letter.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvcheney_clinton_good_letter32024015196', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvcheney_clinton_good_letter32024015196.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvcheney_clinton_good_letter32024015196.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvcheney_clinton_good_letter32024015196.write('flvcheney_clinton_good_letter32024015196');
Perhaps not surprisingly, Edelman has close ties to Cheney. He served under Cheney, then Secretary of Defense, in the first Bush administration. At that time, Cheney set up a “shop” to “think about American foreign policy after the Cold War, at the grand strategic level.” The project also included Paul Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby. From 2001-2003, Edelman served as a national security adviser to Cheney.
After missing the noon deadline imposed by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), the White House has released a statement seeking to resolve the discrepancies in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ contradictory statements about the NSA warrantless wiretapping program. According to CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux, the letter from Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell says that “a number of these intelligence activities were authorized in order.”
UPDATE: More from the letter: It states, “One particular aspect of these activities and nothing more, was publicly acknowledged by the President and described in December 2005.” Malveaux reported:
The key line in this letter says one particular aspect of these activities, and nothing more, was publicly acknowledged by the President and described in December of 2005. That is what Gonzales says was the Terrorist Surveillance Program. So what other program are they talking about? Again, they say it’s classified. It’s top secret. The third line in the letter is key: This is the only aspect of the NSA activities that can be discussed publicly. So what they’re saying is everything else is secret but what he was talking about specifically was the Terrorist Surveillance Program.
UPDATE II: Here’s the video:var flvSpecterLetter32024015197 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/07/SpecterLetter.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvSpecterLetter32024015197', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvSpecterLetter32024015197.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvSpecterLetter32024015197.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvSpecterLetter32024015197.write('flvSpecterLetter32024015197');
On Sunday, Josh Marshall pointed out that the New York Times editorial on the potential need to impeach Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said that “Vice President Dick Cheney sent Mr. Gonzales and another official to Mr. Ashcroft’s hospital room to get him to approve the wiretapping.” As Marshall noted, before the editorial, Cheney’s involvement in the incident had never been established.
Today on CNN, in a preview of his interview with the Vice President tonight, Larry King said he asked Cheney about the allegation. “I asked the Vice President about that and the story that he was the one that asked him to go,” said King. “And he said he had no recollection.”
“He did not want to deal with specifics, which tells me, they’re looking at trouble,” King added. “If you don’t want to deal with specifics…I think you’re looking at trouble and you’re looking the other way if you’re denying it.” Watch it:var flvKingCheney32024015193 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/07/KingCheney.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvKingCheney32024015193', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvKingCheney32024015193.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvKingCheney32024015193.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvKingCheney32024015193.write('flvKingCheney32024015193');
Gonzales’ late night trip to Ashcroft’s hospital room is central to the perjury allegations swirling around him. When Gonzales was asked during his Senate testimony last week who sent him that night, he refused to say it was President Bush, instead asserting “we were there on behalf of the president of the United States.”
That Cheney may in fact be the administration official who sent Gonzales should come as no surprise. In May 2006, the New York Times reported that in the wake of 9/11, Cheney pushed for a much more expansive version of the NSA surveillance program, but was rebuffed by NSA lawyers.
UPDATE: Here’s the transcript of King and Cheney’s exchange:
Q In that regard, The New York Times — which, as you said, is not your favorite — reports it was you who dispatched Gonzales and Andy Card to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft’s hospital in 2004 to push Ashcroft to certify the President’s intelligence-gathering program. Was it you?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don’t recall — first of all, I haven’t seen the story. And I don’t recall that I gave instructions to that effect.
Q That would be something you would recall.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I would think so. But certainly I was involved because I was a big advocate of the Terrorist Surveillance Program, and had been responsible and working with General Hayden and George Tenet to get it to the President for approval. By the time this occurred, it had already been approved about 12 times by the Department of Justice. There was nothing new about it.
Q So you didn’t send them to get permission.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don’t recall that I was the one who sent them to the hospital.
Yesterday, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) gave the “Bush administration 18 hours to resolve the controversy over apparent contradictions in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s congressional testimony” about domestic spying programs. Specter stated:
Given the difficulty of discussing classified matters in public, I think it is preferable to have a letter addressing that question [of Gonzales’ veracity] from the administration…by noon tomorrow, which will be made available to the news media. The administration has committed to producing such a letter.
But in today’s White House press briefing, spokesman Tony Snow said that while the administration plans to submit a letter, it “will be a little bit later. It’s not quite meeting the noon deadline. But he will in fact get a response today.” Watch it:var flvspecter_letter_later_07310732024015191 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/07/specter_letter_later_073107.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvspecter_letter_later_07310732024015191', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvspecter_letter_later_07310732024015191.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvspecter_letter_later_07310732024015191.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvspecter_letter_later_07310732024015191.write('flvspecter_letter_later_07310732024015191');
Later in the briefing, Snow hinted that the response may not be coming from the White House, but instead from the Justice Department.
During his Senate confirmation hearing today, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs nominee Navy Adm. Michael Mullen argued that without political and economic progress, “no amount of troops and no amount of time will make much of a difference” in the war in Iraq. “[P]rudence dictates that we plan for an eventual drawdown and the transition of responsibilities to Iraqi security forces,” he said. In questioning later, he conceded, “there does not appear to be much political progress” in Iraq.
Watch it:var flvCSPAN3_07312007_0932024015188 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/07/CSPAN3_07-31-2007_09.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvCSPAN3_07312007_0932024015188', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvCSPAN3_07312007_0932024015188.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvCSPAN3_07312007_0932024015188.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvCSPAN3_07312007_0932024015188.write('flvCSPAN3_07312007_0932024015188');
Mullen also said, “A protracted deployment of U.S. troops to Iraq…risks further emboldening Iranian hegemonic ambitions and encourages their continued support to Shia insurgents in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan.”
In the end, however, Mullen qualified his skepticism over the current course in Iraq by endorsing a long-term occupation. “U.S. military forces will be needed in Iraq for ‘years not months,” he said.
UPDATE: Asked whether or not U.S. forces were “winning” in Iraq, Mullen said, “[b]ased on the…lack of political reconciliation…I would be concerned about whether we’d be winning or not,” Tim Grieve notes.
Today, the Politico covers the reaction to the “optimistic” New York Times op-ed by Brookings analysts Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, calling it “a more furious ideological shootout than has been sparked by any recent development on the battleground or action by the Bush administration.” From the article:
“Often Wrong, But Never In Doubt” was the headline on the progressive Think Progress blog of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. The posting, which asserted O’Hanlon and Pollack were “embarking on a public relations tour calling for stay the course,” drew 228 comments. A printout runs 56 pages. Elsewhere, the site accused the two of “shilling.”
O’Hanlon is the brother-in-law of Politico editor-in-chief John F. Harris.
The DC Examiner notes that the menu for the Camp David meeting between President Bush and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown was “not so heart-healthy.” Yesterday’s lunch included: “Cheeseburgers, French fries, onion rings and banana pudding.” That meal followed Sunday night’s dinner, which included “roast beef, mashed potatoes, peas with smoked bacon, and brownies with caramel and vanilla sauce.”
Bush has repeatedly touted healthy eating habits, stating that “a health care plan that makes a lot of sense” is to “exercise on a regular basis, and to eat good foods.”
On CNN’s American Morning, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) ripped Michael O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack’s pro-escalation propaganda. “I dismiss it as rhetoric,” he said.
Murtha continued, “In my estimation, the things I measure — oil production, electricity production, water — only 2 hours of electricity! I don’t know where they were staying, I don’t know what they saw.”
“It’s not getting better. It’s rhetorical, is what’s getting better,” Murtha said. “It’s an illusion.” Watch it:var flvmurthaohanlon32024015184 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/07/murthaohanlon.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvmurthaohanlon32024015184', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvmurthaohanlon32024015184.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvmurthaohanlon32024015184.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvmurthaohanlon32024015184.write('flvmurthaohanlon32024015184');
“They were there for seven days,” Murtha said. In order to sustain the escalation, troops would see their tours extended from 15 months to 18 months, he added.
Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington called on embattled Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) to “immediately step down from his position on the Appropriations subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies,” which funds the Department of Justice. Yesterday, Roll Call reported that Taxpayers for Common Sense will make a similar request.
Yesterday, the mainstream media warmly embraced Brookings analysts Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack’s New York Times op-ed praising the escalation.
In the op-ed, O’Hanlon and Pollack call themselves “two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq.” The major cable TV networks uncritically referred to the analysts as “vocal critics” of the war, a statement that runs contrary to the analysts’ enthusiastic backing of the war since 2002.
Pollack and O’Hanlon have lept into the open arms of the mainstream media and have been given a forum to present their views largely without opposition. Together, they appeared on at least nine major mainstream media outlets in the past 24 hours.
A list of their media appearances:Network Program Pollack CBS Evening News CNN Newsroom CNN Situation Room MSNBC Tucker NPR Talk of the Nation O’Hanlon CBS Early Show CBS Evening News Fox News Special Report MSNBC Hardball
Of the stations mentioned above, only MSNBC’s Hardball forced the analysts to debate an opposing viewpoint. On Hardball, Center for American Progress fellow Brian Katulis called out O’Hanlon for writing a “propaganda piece” and “cherry-picking the facts on Iraq.”
At the same time, the FBI and the Department of the Interior are investigating a series of earmarks pushed through Congress over the past several years by Stevens for an Alaska nonprofit tied to Trevor McCabe, a former Stevens aide and a business partner of his son, Ben, sources familiar with the investigation said.
According to the sources, the investigation is focused on how millions in federal funds earmarked for the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, Alaska, were used and how more than $500,000 made it to McCabe.
The nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense will today call on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to “ask Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) to step down temporarily from his positions on the Commerce, Science and Transportation and Appropriations committees until a federal investigation of his activities is completed.”
UPDATE: The Anchorage Daily News reported that the FBI carted off “undisclosed items from inside” the house and took “extensive pictures and video.”