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‘I would not have said what he said.’

Mon, 2007-07-30 08:12

A former administration official says that while the 2004 dispute over the NSA program focused on data-mining, not eavesdropping, the distinction is not sufficient to justify Gonzales’ statements to the Senate Judiciary Committee:

“The attorney general may have been splitting hairs here,” the former government official said. “He may be able to say ‘the dispute’ was not about the NSA monitoring program per se. But I would not have said what he said.”

Ken Pollack And Michael O’Hanlon: Often Wrong, But Never In Doubt

Mon, 2007-07-30 07:21

After a recent trip to Iraq, Brookings analysts Michael O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack report today in the New York Times 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.” The op-ed contains “no mention anywhere of the fact that both men very prominently backed the initial invasion and the ’surge.’” Pollack, who authored a pre-war book he described as “the case for invading Iraq,” appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show in Oct. 2002 uncritically touting the false intelligence about Iraq:

POLLACK: What we know for a fact from a number of defectors who’ve come out of Iraq over the years is that Saddam Hussein is absolutely determined to acquire nuclear weapons and is building them as fast as he can.

O’Hanlon has shared Pollack’s euphoria over attacking Iraq. Prior to the invasion, he predicted a “a rapid and decisive” victory. He has sought to convince war critics to get behind the escalation. And now he is pushing a plan for Iraq that envisions a long-term occupation.

Now that Pollack and O’Hanlon have returned from Iraq, they are embarking on a public relations tour calling for stay the course in Iraq. During an appearance this weekend on CNN, O’Hanlon claimed that war “is going brilliantly at this point.” Asked to respond to O’Hanlon’s assertion, CNN Baghdad corespondent Arwa Damon said the sentiment on the ground in Iraq is completely the opposite:

FOREMAN: Arwa, is there a sense in Baghdad on the ground that that’s exactly what’s happening?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tom, actually not when you speak to the Iraqi people. In fact, most of those that I’ve spoken to will not really say that they feel that the situation is getting better. Remember, they’re not measuring their own security in terms of numbers of U.S. casualties or numbers of bodies that were found unidentified throughout the entire capital. They are measuring their sense of whether or not things are getting better by the level of comfort with which they can leave their homes. For most Iraqis, they are still just as petrified of falling victim of sectarian violence or any other sort of attack that could take place in the capital today as they were before the surge began.

Watch it:

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Pollack and O’Hanlon applaud the administration’s military strategy for providing “basic services — electricity, fuel, clean water and sanitation — to the people,” praise the ‘reliability‘ of Iraqi security forces, and express genuine surprise over “how well the coalition’s new Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams are working.” O’Hanlon’s metrics of success have no grounding in reality:

– Residents of Baghdad are now receiving just one or two hours of electricity each day
– Iraqi security forces are deserting in large numbers
– A new report released last week found that reconstruction has stalled

Ken Pollack and Michael O’Hanlon: often wrong, but never in doubt.

UPDATE: O’Hanlon’s dispatch from a previous trip to Iraq, 10/5/03:

The U.S.-led mission in Iraq is still quite likely to succeed over a time period of roughly three to five years. The lack of any unifying ideology for the resistance there makes it unlikely we will face a snowballing mass insurgency. Moreover, most of the difficult attributes of the effort are not the result of administration mistakes so much as the inherent challenge of the job.

Atrios notes that O’Hanlon and Pollack parrot an old conservative line.

More from Jonathan Schwarz.

UPDATE II: Joe Klein offers a muddled reaction:

I agree with many, but not all, of the conclusions Ken Pollack and Michael O’Hanlon reach in this NY Times column, but you really can’t write a piece about the wa[r] in Iraq and devote only two sentences to the political situation, which is disastrous and, as Petraeus has said, will determine the success or failure of the overall effort.

Transcript: (more…)

ThinkFast: July 30, 2007

Mon, 2007-07-30 06:08

After the Iraq soccer team’s 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in the prestigious 2007 Asian Cup, the Iraqi people temporarily allowed ethnic atrocities to fade. “Rich and poor, Shiites and Sunnis and Kurds, they swarmed out of Baghdad’s swank villas and adobe hovels unified by a sports team — if only briefly.” Within a few hours, a minibus exploded in a Baghdad market, killing at least six people. In all, 58 people nationwide were killed by bombings and attacks.

Eight million: Number of Iraqis — nearly a third of the population — who are “in need of immediate emergency aid.” According to the new report by Oxfam and a coalition of Iraqi NGOs, the Iraqi government is “failing to provide basics such as food and shelter.”

Some scientists who wish to “test their alternatively derived cells have found themselves stymied by an unexpected barrier: President Bush’s stem cell policy. … As a result, the National Institutes of Health recently refused to consider a grant application for what would have been the first federal study to compare several of the new, less politically contentious stem cell lines.”

“After raising the minimum wage by 70 cents an hour this week, many members of Congress are ready to give themselves a pay increase of roughly $4,400 per year. That would take their annual salaries to nearly $170,000.”

“Controversy over Gonzales’s candor about Bush’s conduct or policies has actually dogged him for more than a decade, since he worked for Bush in Texas.” The Washington Post recalls Gonzales meeting with a Texas judge get Bush out of jury service and avoid disclosing a prior DUI conviction. Gonzales, however, “made no mention of meeting with the judge in a written statement submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee.” (more…)

Climate change doubles hurricane numbers.

Sun, 2007-07-29 18:38

New study released today finds that the “number of Atlantic hurricanes in an average season has doubled in the last century due in part to warmer seas and changing wind patterns caused by global warming.” Similarly, a recent assessment by the IPCC said it was “‘more likely than not’ that people also contribute to a trend of increasingly intense hurricanes.”

Rangel speaks against impeachment, fears Cheney presidency.

Sun, 2007-07-29 16:07

“In spite of what he said was pervasive corruption in the White House, Charlie Rangel, the dean of New York’s congressional delegation, said today he wouldn’t want President Bush impeached. ‘God forbid!‘ he said.” The reason?

“I would vote against impeachment of Bush too because the corruption of the Vice President Cheney would even be worse,” Rangel said.

Fein argues for Bush and Cheney impeachment.

Sun, 2007-07-29 14:34

Former Reagan administration lawyer Bruce Fein recently sat down with the editors of the San Francisco Chronicle to discuss how “George W. Bush’s foreign policies are making Americans less safe, and why the president and Vice President Dick Cheney should be impeached.” You can listen to the audio here.

Barry Bonds’ Homerun Race Puts Bush’s Steroids Record In The Spotlight

Sun, 2007-07-29 13:15

With 754 career home runs, San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds is one shy of tying the revered home run record set by Hall of Famer Hank Aaron. Bonds’ record will be “tainted by allegations he used steroids.”

In an interview with ESPN’s Karl Ravech earlier this month, President Bush was asked for his take on the Bonds situation. “You know, it’s hard for me to tell,” Bush said. Echoing a line he uttered in the early stages of the CIA leak scandal, Bush said he was waiting for the facts. “I know there’s a lot of implications, my advice is for people just to wait and see what the facts are,” he said.

An avid baseball fan who watches games in the Oval Office to relax, Bush refused to say whether he would watch Bonds’ record-setting homerun if he were the baseball commissioner. “You know, I don’t know, I have my mind elsewhere these days,” he said.

Sports columnist Skip Bayless — who was previously a sports journalist in Dallas — said on ESPN that the Bonds situation is difficult for Bush to discuss because he looked the other way on steroids use as manager of the Rangers:

I was there in Texas during those years, and I knew the President when he was owner of the Rangers. And I heard all the whispers around the locker room and the clubhouse. … I think he looked the other way. I’m sure George heard them also and looked the other way. … I think they [baseball commissioner Bud Selig and Bush] believe that Barry Bonds used steroids.

Watch a compilation:

President Bush was managing general partner of the Texas Rangers from 1989 until he was elected Texas governor in 1994. Several former Rangers — Ivan Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmiero, and Jose Canseco — are all alleged to have used, or have admitted to using, steroids while playing for Bush.

Canseco authored a book about the prevalence of steroids in baseball during the early 90s and argued the Bush must have known about the drug use in the clubhouse. Bush has denied that he was aware of the steroid problem.

Should Bonds break the home run record sometime this week, Bush will face the question of whether or not he should call to congratulate the new all-time home run king and give legitimacy to a tainted record. It should be noted, however, that his hands are hardly clean on the issue.

Voter caging and how it works.

Sun, 2007-07-29 12:21

PBS’s NOW examined documents and evidence that point to a “Republican Party plan [in 2004] designed to keep Democrats from voting, allegedly by targeting people based on their race and ethnicity with key battleground states like Ohio and Florida of particular interest.” NOW revealed “e-mails between National Republican Party headquarters and Ohio State Republican Party officials” that talked about plans to compile voter caging lists. Watch the video of the program here.

Amputations fuel Iraq’s health care crisis.

Sun, 2007-07-29 11:20

The Guardian reports, “Iraq is facing a hidden healthcare and social crisis over the soaring number of amputations, largely of lower limbs, necessitated by the daily explosions and violence gripping the country.” Similarly, the level of amputations “performed by military surgeons on US troops in Iraq are twice as high as those recorded in previous wars.”

Data mining prompted fight over spying.

Sun, 2007-07-29 08:49

The New York Times reports today, “A 2004 dispute over the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance program that led top Justice Department officials to threaten resignation involved computer searches through massive electronic databases.” While President Bush has acknowledged eavesdropping without warrants, he has never disclosed that the administration may have “records of the phone calls and e-mail messages of millions of Americans.”

Conservatives Refuse To Appear On Fox News To Publicly Defend Gonzales

Sun, 2007-07-29 07:56

On Fox News Sunday this morning, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) refused to defend Attorney General Alberto Gonzales against accusations that he may have perjured himself before Congress. “It’s very damaging…we badly need an attorney general who is above any question,” said Gingrich. He continued:

Both the president and country are better served if the attorney general is a figure of competence. Sadly, the current attorney general is not seen as any of those things. I think it’s a liability for the president. More importantly, it’s a liability for the United States of America.

Later in the show, host Chris Wallace revealed that no conservative would willingly defend Gonzales on Fox. “By the way, we invited White House officials and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee to defend Attorney General Gonzales,” said Wallace. “We had no takers.” Watch it:

The efforts of right-wingers to distance themselves from Gonzales have reached a fever pitch in the wake of his disastrous Senate testimony last week.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), appearing on ABC’s This Week, said “of course” Gonzales has a credibility problem. On MSNBC’s Hardball on Friday, Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT), the ranking member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, squirmed when asked by host Chris Matthews if he thought Gonzales “is a good attorney general?” Cannon refused to answer the question, offering instead, “He’s a good guy.”

National Review Online’s Jonah Goldberg, a reliable partisan defender of the Bush administration, admitted on Thursday that the evidence against Gonzales is compelling. “I think Gonzales has long, long, long outserved whatever usefulness he might once have had,” wrote Goldberg. “And — hey — maybe he actually did perjure himself.”

If Solicitor General Paul Clement fails to appoint a special counsel to look into Gonzales’ “words and deeds,” the New York Times writes today, “Congress should impeach Mr. Gonzales.”

Bush appointee politicized public health.

Sun, 2007-07-29 06:52

The Washington Post reports that William R. Steiger, a Bush appointee, blocked a 2006 surgeon general’s report that “described the link between poverty and poor health” because “the report did not promote the administration’s policy accomplishments.” Steiger — who has no “background or expertise in medicine or public health” — is “a specialist in education and scholar of Latin American history whose family has long ties President Bush and Vice President Cheney.”

Gorbachev: U.S. as superpower has caused ‘disorder.’

Sat, 2007-07-28 21:14

“Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev criticized the United States, and President Bush in particular, on Friday for sowing disorder across the world by seeking to build an empire.”

“The Americans then gave birth to the idea of a new empire, world leadership by a single power, and what followed?” Gorbachev asked reporters at a news conference in Moscow.

“What has followed are unilateral actions, what has followed are wars, what has followed is ignoring the U.N. Security Council, ignoring international law and ignoring the will of the people, even the American people,” he said.

CNN Calls Republicans’ Bluff, Reschedules YouTube Debate

Sat, 2007-07-28 18:26

On July 23, all eight Democratic presidential candidates participated in the CNN/YouTube debate. By uploading a 30-second video to YouTube, “voters could directly question a presidential candidate during the debate.” Steve Grove, YouTube’s news and politics editor, called this new debate format “more democratic than ever.”

Yet so far, just three Republican presidential candidates — Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and as of yesterday, Tommy Thompson — have confirmed that they will participate in the Sept. 17 debate.

Both former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney have said that they have scheduling conflicts. CNN has called their bluff. The website for Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) reports today that CNN has postponed the September debate:

We received word yesterday that the CNN/YouTube/Florida GOP presidential candidates debate scheduled for September 17 has been postponed. A new date has yet to be determined.

ThinkProgress spoke with the Paul campaign today, who confirmed that CNN contacted them and said that it is rescheduling the debate. The campaign said that it believes it was done to accommodate the schedules of the other candidates. Earlier today, the New York Times reported that CNN “said it would work with the campaigns to find a new date.”

It’s unclear whether the other candidates will actually participate in the rescheduled debate. Romney recently mocked the debate, stating, “I think the presidency ought to be held at a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman,” referring to a citizen dressed as a snowman who submitted a question about global warming.

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Increasing Number Of Americans View Supreme Court As ‘Too Conservative’

Sat, 2007-07-28 15:20

During the full first term of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, the court has taken a sharp turn to the right. In June, the court ruled that local school authorities “cannot take modest steps to bring public school students of different races together.” It also upheld a ban on the so-called “partial birth” abortion procedure and repeatedly sided with big business in decisions.

According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, an increasing percentage of the American public is unhappy with this shift:

The percentage who said the court is “too conservative” grew from 19 percent to 31 percent in the past two years, while those who said it is “generally balanced in its decisions” declined from 55 percent to 47 percent. […]

[A] majority disagreed with the court’s decision that sharply restricted the ability of local school boards to use race when making school assignments to achieve diverse student bodies. Fifty-six percent of those polled disapproved of the decision; 40 percent approved.

During their nomination hearings, Roberts said he had “no agenda.” Alito said he would rule in a “neutral fashion.” Yet the two Bush nominees have sided with one another approximately 90 percent of the time.

The Senate is frustrated that the two justices have not lived up to their promises. Yesterday, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said that the Senate “should not confirm another U.S. Supreme Court nominee under President Bush ‘except in extraordinary circumstances.’” Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), who championed the nominations of Alito and Roberts, plans to review their Senate testimony to “determine if their reversal of several long-standing opinions conflicts with promises they made to senators to win confirmation.”

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Sat, 2007-07-28 14:18

Number of U.S. troop suicides in Iraq, which “does not include several dozen still under investigation, nor any of the many cases back in the U.S.” Editor and Publisher notes that the “rising toll of suicides” is “[o]ne of the least covered aspects of the fallout from the Iraq war.”

Romney mocks YouTube debates.

Sat, 2007-07-28 12:45

So far, only Sen. John McCain (AZ) and Rep. Ron Paul (TX) have agreed to participate in the Sept. 17 CNN/YouTube Republican presidential debate. Earlier in the week, Romney confused YouTube with Myspace. Yesterday, Romney’s spokesperson mocked the debate — where citizens nationwide submit video questions — stating that “a lot of Americans would wonder whether we should be answering questions from a cartoon.”

CNN: Dog fighting worse than raping a woman.

Sat, 2007-07-28 12:00

On Thursday, CNN sports anchor Larry Smith commented on Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback Michael Vick’s recent arrest for running a dogfighting ring:

SMITH: Yes, well, that’s — he’s been in a lot of trouble lately, when you think about all the other incidents, and this is just the worst one of all. Keep in mind, too, that while Kobe Bryant is a situation we can sort of compare this to, this really is much worse. Not only can you argue that the crimes are much worse in terms of, you know, killing dogs and that kind of thing, but as an NFL starting quarterback, you are the most visible face in that city. I’ve said all along, in fact, you know, if you go through and, you know, very quickly name 10 mayors of major cities in the country…

GRACE: Larry Smith, did I just hear you say…

SMITH: … you could have a harder time doing that…

GRACE: … mistreatment of…

SMITH: … than naming 10 NFL starting quarterbacks.

GRACE: Did I just hear Larry Smith, CNN sports correspondent and anchor, state that crimes on a dog are much worse than crimes on a woman? Did I hear that?

Soltz: Bush Needs To Resolve Whether Pat Tillman Was Killed For His Political Views

Sat, 2007-07-28 11:00

Yesterday, Iraq war veteran Jon Soltz wrote on ThinkProgress about Pat Tillman: “Was the man the White House used to promote the war ordered to be killed because he was becoming increasingly critical of the war in Iraq?”

Last night on MSNBC’s Countdown, host Keith Olbermann noted that “Corporal Tillman held a number of personal views that were unpopular within the context of the Bush administration, perhaps also within the Army.” Tillman reportedly favored John Kerry in the presidential election, opposed the invasion of Iraq, and had plans to meet with Noam Chomsky.

The Associated Press reported that in the last moments before Tillman died, another soldier was hugging the ground at Tillman’s side, and Tillman said, “Would you shut your [expletive] mouth? God’s not going to help you; you need to do something for yourself, you sniveling –”

The question of whether Tillman was killed for his political views lingers greater than ever. Appearing on MSNBC’s Countdown, Soltz said:

We know he was a free thinker. But it leads you to think was this guy killed possibly by people that didn’t like his political views or was he killed accidentally? We had a time in the war when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke in April 2004 in Iraq; we had basically the Iraqi Tet offensive where the Shiite militias rose up and the contractors were burned at the stake; the President was facing the election and he decided not to go into Fallujah for six months. Did they use him to justify, politically, bad policy in Iraq?

Watch it:

The confluence of these factors intensify the need for openness. Despite being warned that Tillman may have died by friendly fire, Bush referenced Tillman in a 2004 speech but made no reference to how he died. The White house has cited executive privilege in refusing to turn over records that would verify how much Bush knew.

Soltz wrote on ThinkProgress that the longer this case lingers, the more damaging it will be to the military: “Those already in the military will lose faith that the leadership actually gives a damn about them, as the Tillman case becomes a hot topic in chow halls. Morale and confidence in the institution will crumble.”

UPDATE: Some commenters incorrectly understand Soltz’s argument to be that the White House had some involvement in or prior knowledge about the death. That is not what is being alleged. Rather, the question is whether Tillman’s political views played any role in motivating the person who shot him. And did the administration subsequently cover up the motive for Tillman’s death?

Lowe’s drops advertising on O’Reilly.

Sat, 2007-07-28 10:00

Earlier this month, Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Films released “Fox Attacks: The Environment.” The short film documented Fox News’ assault on global warming science and called for one of Fox’s major advertisers, Home Depot, to stop supporting the network’s lies. Home Depot claims to support eco-friendly policies but still gives advertising dollars to Fox.

Watch it:

While Home Depot is still sticking with Fox, its major competitor — Lowe’s — announced “the company’s advertising will no longer appear” on the The O’Reilly Factor. Keep the heat on Home Depot. Sign the Sierra Club’s petition.