Syndicate content
Updated: 1 hour 41 min ago

ThinkFast: July 31, 2007

Tue, 2007-07-31 06:02

I’m a big fan of Al’s,” Vice President Cheney said yesterday, referring to Alberto Gonzales. He dismissed Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy’s lack of trust in Gonzales as irrelevant. “I’ve had my differences with Pat Leahy,” Cheney said.

The Iraqi parliament adjourned yesterday for a month-long recess without passing key laws “concerning oil investment and revenue-sharing among regions, the re-integration of former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime into government, and provincial elections.”

65 percent: Number of people under the age of 30 who are “paying at least some attention to the 2008 presidential campaign,” according to a New York Times/CBS News poll. That number is up considerably from July 2003, when just “36 percent of those under age 30 were paying attention to the election.”

Federal prosecutors may have differed with their political bosses at the Justice Department over how aggressively to pursue fraud charges against the maker of the narcotic painkiller OxyContin. The NYT reports “higher-ups within the Justice Department appeared initially to favor a less aggressive approach to the case against OxyContin’s producer.”

The House yesterday passed four bills to “to improve counseling and care for the tens of thousands of military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.” One “requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to provideoutreach and mental health services to those who served in either campaign.” (more…)

Specter gives WH one day to clarify Gonzales testimony.

Mon, 2007-07-30 20:42

Following a classified briefing with the White House today, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, “gave the Bush administration 18 hours to resolve the controversy over apparent contradictions in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s congressional testimony”:

Specter aides released a statement late Monday that suggested a bombshell to come on Tuesday afternoon.

“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,” Specter wrote in the statement. “The administration has committed to producing such a letter.”

Specter expects the letter clarifying the attorney general’s testimony to be addressed to himself and Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who declined to comment on the matter.

Specter was equally cagey, telling reporters to wait until Tuesday for any further comment from him.

HT: Crooks and Liars.

Cheney Says He Is A ‘Unique Creature,’ Refuses To Say He Is Part Of Executive Branch

Mon, 2007-07-30 18:00

In June, House investigators revealed that Vice President Dick Cheney had exempted his office from an executive order order designed to safeguard classified national security information by claiming that the Office of the Vice President is not an “entity within the executive branch.”

After Congressional Democrats called his bluff by threatening to withhold funding from his office, the White House was forced to roll back their rhetoric, claiming “that the rationale had been the view of the vice president’s lawyers, not Cheney himself.”

But in an interview with CBS News’ Mark Knoller today, Cheney refused to say he was a member of the executive branch:

Mark Knoller: Are you part of the executive branch, sir?

Vice President Cheney: Well, the job of Vice President is an interesting one, because you have a foot in both the executive and the legislative branch. Obviously, I have an office in the West Wing of the White House, I am an adviser to the president, I sit as a member of the National Security Council. At the same time, under the constitution, I have legislative responsibilities. I’m actually paid by the Senate, not by the executive. […]

KNOLLER: But you are principally a part of the executive branch, are you not?

CHENEY: Well, I suppose you could argue it either way. The fact is I do work in both branches.


Cheney conceded that he was part of the executive branch during the two hours and five minutes he served as acting President two weeks ago while Bush was in surgery. Throughout the entire interview, however, he refused to say whether or not the Office of the Vice President itself was classified as part of the executive branch.

Cheney has been happy to treat the Office of the Vice President as part of the executive branch when it suits his political purposes:

- In 2001, the White House argued that a probe into Cheney’s energy task force “would unconstitutionally interfere with the functioning of the executive branch.”

- Cheney himself said that the probe concerned “meetings in the Executive Branch between the Vice President and other individuals.”

- On April 9, 2003, Cheney lauded a recent court ruling, stating, “I think it restored some of the legitimate authority of the executive branch, the president and the vice president, to be able to conduct their business.”

Now that the political tempest over Cheney’s exemption of his office has subsided a bit, the Vice President is back to claiming he is a branch of government all to himself — or as he says it, “a unique creature” in constitutional government.

The full interview can be heard here.

Digg It!

Transcript: (more…)

Politicizing health 101.

Mon, 2007-07-30 17:30

The Washington Post revealed this weekend that William Steiger — a Bush family friend with no experience in public health — blocked a surgeon general’s report because it did not trumpet the administration’s accomplishments. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) obtained a copy of Steiger’s edits and compared them to the original version. Here’s a slice of what he found:

A comparison of the two drafts reveals striking differences. Dr. Carmona’s draft includes extended discussions of the impacts of women’s rights, poverty, climate change, tobacco, and obesity on global health. Mr. Steiger’s draft omits or barely mentions these topics. Dr. Carmona’s draft describes a U.N. declaration that establishes health as a human right. Mr. Steiger’s draft omits this language. Dr. Carmona’s draft contains references to condoms. Mr. Steiger’s draft does not mention condoms.

Mr. Steiger’s draft is considerably shorter than Dr. Carmona’s draft: 11,400 words compared to 17,000. Despite the shorter length of Mr. Steiger’s draft, it contains many more references to President Bush (ten references) than does Dr. Carmona’s draft (two references). Mr. Steiger’s draft also contains extended discussions of U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dr. Carmona’s draft does not.

Tucker defends Pollack, attacks ‘hysterical’ bloggers.

Mon, 2007-07-30 16:45

This afternoon on MSNBC, Tucker Carlson expressed sympathy for Brookings analyst Kenneth Pollack, who has been “slammed by the left” all day. “It’s worth pointing out that you were not an apologist for the administration,” said Carlson. “You’ve been really tough on them.” Carlson said that the response to the New York Times op-ed by Pollack and Michael O’Hanlon has been “over the top” by the blogosphere, which is “a pretty hysterical place anyway.” He went on to criticize a post by Glenn Greenwald, whose name he repeatedly mispronounced. Watch it:

var flvtuckerpollackblog32024015165 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=', 'em-flvtuckerpollackblog32024015165', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvtuckerpollackblog32024015165.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvtuckerpollackblog32024015165.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvtuckerpollackblog32024015165.write('flvtuckerpollackblog32024015165');

ThinkProgress has compiled a list of O’Hanlon and Pollack’s “tough” comments HERE.

Transcript: (more…)

Chief Justice John Roberts

Mon, 2007-07-30 16:44

suffered a seizure this afternoon. “Roberts, 52, was taken by ambulance to the Penobscot Bay Medical Center, where he underwent a ‘thorough neurological evaluation, which revealed no cause for concern.’”

Breaking: FBI raids Sen. Stevens’ house.

Mon, 2007-07-30 15:51

“Federal law enforcement agents are currently searching the Girdwood home of Alaska U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, an FBI agent said. ‘All I can say is that agents from the FBI and IRS are currently conducting a search at that residence,’ said Dave Heller, the assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Anchorage office. The search began this afternoon, he said. It’s the only such search warrant currently being served, he said.”

Novak On YouTube Debate: ‘It Was Really Disgusting’

Mon, 2007-07-30 15:23

The criticism over the people-powered YouTube Democratic presidential debate has been pouring in from the right. First, the White House announced President Bush wasn’t really big on the debates. Then, leading conservative candidates Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani begged out of the Republican forum. Now, Robert Novak is adding his gripes.

Appearing on Bloomberg Television this weekend, Novak said of the YouTube debate, “I thought it was really disgusting. … The reporters were terrible but this was ludicrous.” Novak argued, “You know when we did away with the monarchy and went through democracy, there was a lot of fear that this sort of thing would happen. It took 200 years but we got there.”

Watch it:

var flvnovakyoutube32024015161 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=', 'em-flvnovakyoutube32024015161', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvnovakyoutube32024015161.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvnovakyoutube32024015161.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvnovakyoutube32024015161.write('flvnovakyoutube32024015161');

Something about power in the hands of the masses appears to trouble Novak deeply. Recently, he suggested heaven would be a “place where there are no blogs.” He previously explained that bloggers “bloviate. They give their opinions. They don’t try to find things out.”

Bloviating has no place when it does not come from Novak’s mouth.

Transcript: (more…)

Media Falsely Labels O’Hanlon And Pollack ‘Vocal Critics’ Of Bush Administration

Mon, 2007-07-30 14:10

In today’s New York Times, Brookings analysts Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack praise the Bush administration’s progress in Iraq, writing that “we are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms.” O’Hanlon and Pollack bill themselves “as two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq.”

Today, the media parroted the O’Hanlon and Pollack’s inaccurate self-characterization. Fox News called O’Hanlon a “guy who’s been quite critical of this administration’s handling of the Iraq.” CNN called Pollack a “a vocal critic of the administration’s handling of the war.” Watch it:

var flvohanlonpollackfoxcnn32024015156 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=', 'em-flvohanlonpollackfoxcnn32024015156', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvohanlonpollackfoxcnn32024015156.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvohanlonpollackfoxcnn32024015156.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvohanlonpollackfoxcnn32024015156.write('flvohanlonpollackfoxcnn32024015156');

The media are ignoring the two men’s records. Pollack authored a pre-war book, which he described as “the case for invading Iraq.” Similarly, prior to the invasion, O’Hanlon predicted “a rapid and decisive” victory.

ThinkProgress has put together a sampling of O’Hanlon and Pollack’s “vocal criticisms” of Bush: (more…)

Mueller’s testimony ‘chills’ FBI and DoJ relations.

Mon, 2007-07-30 13:56

Since FBI director Robert S. Mueller contradicted Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ sworn Senate testimony last week, relations between their respective agencies have chilled. “You could open an ice rink between the buildings,” one Mueller aide told the New York Daily News. Another FBI official criticized the Department’s defense of Gonzales:

Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said “confusion is inevitable” when officials discuss classified activities in public.

FBI officials bristled at that.

“If you read the [FBI] director’s testimony, it is anything but confusing,” said a top Mueller ally at the FBI.

Inslee to introduce Gonzales impeachment tomorrow.

Mon, 2007-07-30 13:11

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) is introducing legislation that would require the House Judiciary Committee and the House of Representatives to begin an impeachment investigation into Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, in the wake of his damaging testimony last week. The legislation reads:

Resolved: That the Committee on the Judiciary shall investigate fully whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to impeach Alberto Gonzales for high crimes and misdemeanors.

Watch it:

var flvgonzales82732024015160 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=', 'em-flvgonzales82732024015160', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvgonzales82732024015160.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvgonzales82732024015160.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvgonzales82732024015160.write('flvgonzales82732024015160');

Digg It!

O’Hanlon Contradicts His Own Research To Portray Surge As Successful

Mon, 2007-07-30 12:22

In today’s New York Times, Brookings analysts Michael O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack argue that “the administration’s critics seem unaware of the significant changes taking place” as a result of the President’s surge strategy in Iraq.

Just last week — on July 26 — O’Hanlon published a starkly different assessment of the conditions in Iraq. In an updated edition of the Brookings Institute Iraq Index, he wrote:

With what promised to be a pivotal summer now more than half over, the situation in Iraq remains tenuous at best. …

[V]iolence nationwide has failed to improve measurably over the past 2-plus months, with a resilient enemy increasingly turning its focus to softer targets outside the scope of the surge. …

In assessing the overall sentiment of the Iraqi people recently, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker summed it up in one word: fear. …

Politically, there has yet to be significant progress in the legislation of any of the critical benchmark laws. …[I]t is difficult to see how any measurable political progress will take place before the all-important September update from Ambassador Crocker and commanding General David Petraeus.

Economically, “stagnation” continues to be the key word.

O’Hanlon’s most recent Iraq Index update conflicts with today’s op-ed in several other key areas:


O’Hanlon: “Civilian fatality rates are down roughly a third since the surge began.”

Brookings Iraq Index, 7/26/2007:


O’Hanlon: “[A]nother critical effect: no more whack-a-mole, with insurgents popping back up after the Americans leave.”

Brookings Iraq Index, 7/26/2007:


No attack on Iran ‘this year.’

Mon, 2007-07-30 12:14

“A well-informed source tells United Press International that according to senior U.S. intelligence officials, President Bush has definitely decided not to strike any of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons production facilities this year. The sources say the officials stressed the words ‘this year,’ meaning in 2007. That, however, does not rule out the possibility of military intervention in 2008, right until January 2009, when Bush’s term in the White House comes to an end.”

Bye Bye Nico!

Mon, 2007-07-30 11:38

ThinkProgress would like to bid a fond farewell to our dear friend and colleague, Nico Pitney. Nico has accepted a position with The Huffington Post, where he will serve as a politics editor.

Nico helped launch ThinkProgress in January 2005, and has been a dynamic, eloquent, and thoughtful contributor ever since. He inspired and taught us to become better bloggers, and the success of this site has reflected his tremendous guidance and leadership.

Please send your goodbye wishes to [email protected]. He’’d love to hear from you.

As a token of our appreciation, we’ve compiled some of our favorite blog posts authored by Nico over the years. Enjoy the trip down memory lane:

Report: In Meeting, ‘Wild-Eyed’ Bush’ Thumped Chest While Repeating ‘’I Am The President!’’ [Link]

Party Over Country: 25 Members Of Congress Who Criticized Escalation But Voted For It Anyway [Link]

Do We Really Need An Emperor Bush? [Link]

VIDEO COMPILATION: Fox News Devoted 12 Times More Coverage To Anna Nicole Than Walter Reed [Link]

Rep. Rohrabacher: Global Warming May Have Been Caused By ‘‘Dinosaur Flatulence’’ [Link]

REPORT: Bush Family Compound At Kennebunkport Could Be Submerged By Global Warming [Link]

Senate Multimillionares Vote To Block Minimum Wage Hike [Link]

The Katrina Timeline [Link]

Smears, Lies and Videotape: A Leak Scandal Documentary [Link]

Media Misleading Americans By Using ‘’Surge’’ To Describe Bush Policy [Link]

Congressman: ‘I Fear…We Will Have Many More Muslims In The United States’ [Link]

Malkin Doesn’’t Understand How Congress Works [Link]

““Bush Was Right!” –— The New Hit Single Ready to Rock a Generation [Link]

Fox News Pushing “Criminalization of Politics” Talking Point [Link]

Protest Turnout: A Picture’’s Worth a Thousand Lies [Link]

O’’Reilly: Easter Bunny Under Attack! [Link]

O’’Reilly Revives The War On Christmas [Link]

Engaging Iran [Link]

We’ll miss you Nico — you’ll always be a part of our team!

– Faiz, Amanda, Satyam, and Matt

Digg It!

Iraq soccer captain: ‘I want America to go out.’

Mon, 2007-07-30 11:09

Yesterday’s win of the Asian Cup for Iraq’s national soccer team was an “inspirational triumph for a team whose players straddle bitter and violent ethnic divides.” After the game yesterday, team captain Younis Mahmoud called for the United States to withdraw its troops:

I want America to go out,” he said. “Today, tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, but out. I wish the American people didn’t invade Iraq and, hopefully, it will be over soon.

Mahmoud also said he will not return to Iraq to celebrate.

“I don’t want the Iraqi people to be angry with me,” he said. “If I go back with the team, anybody could kill me or try to hurt me.”

Iraqi sheiks convey message to Ellison.

Mon, 2007-07-30 10:46

On a recent visit to Iraq, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) — the sole Muslim member of Congress — said he was given a message to convey by two sheiks he met in Ramadi:

“They were very upset and concerned that al-Qaida is misrepresenting Islam,” Ellison told reporters Monday during a conference call from Germany on his way back to the U.S. “And they were talking to me about what I can possibly do to work with them to give a clearer, more accurate picture of what Islam is all about.”

Bush’s approval rating plummets in Alabama.

Mon, 2007-07-30 10:26

A new poll finds that “a slight majority of Alabamians feel President Bush is doing only a fair or poor job overall and a large majority view his handling of the Iraq war as only fair or poor. The survey by the Press-Register and University of South Alabama marked the first time that the poll has found more than half rating Bush only fair or poor: 29 percent rated his job as poor, 23 percent only fair, 38 percent good and 8 percent excellent.”

Cheney To Make First Larry King Live Appearance Tomorrow Since ‘Last Throes’ Comment

Mon, 2007-07-30 09:24

Tomorrow night at 9 pm EST, Vice President Dick Cheney will make his first appearance on CNN’s Larry King Live since May 30, 2005, when he infamously declared that the insurgency in Iraq was in its “last throes” and predicted that “the level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline.”

Despite increasing violence in Iraq, the vice president continually defended his “last throes” comment. In March 2006, Cheney said that his prediction was “basically accurate” and “reflect[ed] reality.” He defended the comment again in June 2006 during an appearance at the National Press Club.

Only recently, in Stephen Hayes’ biography of him, has Cheney finally conceded that “it was obviously wrong” to claim the insurgency was in its “last throes.”

On the second anniversary of “last throes,” ThinkProgress assembled a compilation of Bush administration officials defending and parroting the comment. Watch it:

var flvlastthroes2years32024015136 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=', 'em-flvlastthroes2years32024015136', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvlastthroes2years32024015136.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvlastthroes2years32024015136.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvlastthroes2years32024015136.write('flvlastthroes2years32024015136');

With the Bush administration and pro-war advocates again seeking to cast the president’s escalation as a success, here’s a question King should ask Cheney: Why should anyone believe anything you have to say about Iraq?

UPDATE: You can send questions and comments to Larry King Live here and video questions for the show here.

Digg It!

‘Two Americas’ reflected in White House pay.

Mon, 2007-07-30 09:08

The National Journal reports that Karl Rove and other senior Bush aides received a $2,800 cost-of-living wage hike in the past year to earn a top pay rate of $168,000. Meanwhile, the lower-income staffers have experienced a salary decline:

Those at the bottom of the White House staff pay scale — the young people answering phones and responding to the president’s mail, for example — are experiencing a pay cut for the same duties because of inflation as they remain stuck at a $30,000 pay floor, which has been the pay basement for at least the past three years.

The Economic Policy Institute writes, “Due to higher inflation and slightly slower wage growth, both the real (i.e., inflation-adjusted) hourly and weekly earnings of most workers have been falling for the past few months. … [H]ourly and weekly wages for the 80% of the workforce holding non-managerial jobs are trending down so far this year.”

Karl Rove gets a pay raise.

Mon, 2007-07-30 09:00

The President’s “senior-most aides…received a $2,800 cost-of-living wage hike in the past year to earn a top pay rate of $168,000.” Some, including Laura Bush’s chief of staff Anita McBride, received a $19,000 pay raise from last year. In contrast, the young people answering phones and responding to the president’s mail “are experiencing a pay cut for the same duties because of inflation as they remain stuck at a $30,000 pay floor, which has been the pay basement for at least the past three years.”