Referencing a May 2006 memorandum that granted Vice President Cheney’s office increased powers to intercede in Justice Department affairs, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) asked Gonzales today, “What on earth business does the Office of the Vice President have in the internal workings of the Department of Justice with respect to criminal investigations, civil investigations, and ongoing matters?” Gonzales was stumped, “As a general matter, I would say that’s a good question.” TPM Muckraker has the video.
In an attempt to buy more time for his escalation, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker said recently that “Bush’s troop buildup in Iraq was just now hitting its stride and was showing some gains in tamping down sectarian violence in Baghdad.”
Most recently, some military officials alleged that “half of Baghdad is now under control” due to the escalation. “I see progress, a steady progress, in every neighborhood that we’ve cleared and then established a full-time presence,” said Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil, Jr., commander of Multi-National Division Baghdad.
But a new report from IraqSlogger reveals that the U.S. presence in Baghdad has shown virtually no progress in stemming the gruesome sectarian death squads pervading the capital. Between June 18 and July 18, “[u]p to 592 unidentified bodies were found dumped in different parts of Baghdad“:
Most of the bodies found by the police — an average of 20 a day — are bound, blindfolded and shot execution style, victims of sectarian violence carried out by both Sunni and Shi’ite death squads. Many also bear signs of torture or mutilation, according to medical sources in Baghdad. Despite official Iraqi and U.S. statements to the contrary, the reports indicate that the number of unidentified bodies in the capital has risen again to pre-surge levels over the last two months.
The report also gives credence to the futility of the escalation, reporting that U.S. troops have largely ignored these violent areas. “Media reports indicate that the U.S. military usually focuses on districts where they are attacked — such as the Sunni districts of Adhamiya, Jami’a and Khadhraa’ — rather than districts witnessing gruesome sectarian reprisal killings.”
Just this morning, the President claimed, “no enemy in Iraq is more ruthless than al Qaeda.” Actually, there are several.
Today in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) said that the political briefings given by Bush aides to high-ranking diplomats “were probably inappropriate.” The AP notes that Lugar’s statements “were in contrast to White House assertions that the private briefings were not unusual or improper.”
With an approval rating of 33 percent in a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, President Bush’s is now slightly less popular than Vice President Dick Cheney, who registered 34 percent approval. According to TPM’s Eric Kleefeld, “The last time…that a poll found Bush worse off than Cheney was back in January, when a Fox News poll put President Bush’s personal unfavorability at 58%, compared to Cheney’s 53%.”
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, challenged Gonzales on his statements regarding the administration’s wiretapping activities. “I’ve had the opportunity to review the classified matters at issue here,” said Feingold. “And I believe that your testimony was misleading, at best. … It’s hard to see anything but a pattern of intentionally misleading Congress again and again.” Watch it:var flvFeingoldIntelligence32024015009 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/07/FeingoldIntelligence.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvFeingoldIntelligence32024015009', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvFeingoldIntelligence32024015009.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvFeingoldIntelligence32024015009.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvFeingoldIntelligence32024015009.write('flvFeingoldIntelligence32024015009');
Last night’s Democratic presidential debate, hosted by CNN, allowed ordinary citizens around the country to be heard. By uploading a 30-second video to YouTube, “voters could directly question a presidential candidate during the debate.” Thirty-nine videos were chosen from the 2,989 submitted. CNN will hold a similar debate for the Republican candidates on Sept. 17.
Steve Grove, YouTube’s news and politics editor, noted that this new debate format “is more democratic than ever.” Carol Darr at George Washington University said that for the first time, “the filter that mainstream establishment media plays in presidential races — ‘we ask the questions, we are the exalted panel’ — that was broken down.”
This morning in a press briefing aboard Air Force One, a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Tony Snow whether the President’s remarks today about terrorism would address some of the criticisms from the Democratic presidential debate last night. When Snow said they wouldn’t, the reporter asked:
QUESTION: Did he watch the debate?
SNOW: I don’t think so. I don’t think he’s big on YouTube debates.
It’s not surprising that President Bush would dislike open, democratic debates. The Bush administration has banned Democrats from events in order to fabricate a sympathetic, supportive audience. During the campaign, “attendees to Bush rallies were turned away for wearing pro-John Kerry T-shirts and stickers.” They also were often encouraged to volunteer for the local Bush campaign, take pledges of support for the President, or answer questions about their loyalty to Bush in order to attend.
With gas prices at $3.00 per gallon and “energy consumption globally expected to rise by more than 50 percent over the next 25 years,” the U.S. needs a drastic shift in energy policies in order to aid families, combat global warming, and reduce reliance on oil.
Several efforts are underway to tackle some of these issues. At least 150 legislators have signed onto legislation proposed by Reps. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Todd Platts (R-PA) requiring a fuel economy average of 35 mpg by 2018, creating as many as 241,000 new jobs. With ethanol served at only one out of 170 gas stations, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) has proposed legislation “requiring carmakers to make nearly all vehicles capable of using E85 [ethanol] within 10 years.”
In light of this debate in Congress, the Center for American Progress Action Fund has launched Clean My Ride, a campaign featuring lighthearted “webisodes” of actors and activists urging the adoption of provisions increasing mileage requirements and mandating the availability of E85 ethanol for flexible-fuel cars that can run on cleaner energy.
Check out the videos to learn more and laugh at the lengths to which one man - Phin - will go to get the word out about clean energy. Joining him along the way in the short films are Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jason Biggs, Jennifer Garner, and Joshua Jackson.
Watch the fourth of six webisodes:
The Bush administration has repeatedly cited executive privilege claims to block Congress from investigating the U.S. attorney scandal. Most recently, the White House said that “the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege.”
Today, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) noted that under Bush’s broad claim of executive privilege, “the president’s word stands and the constitutional authority and responsibility for congressional oversight is gone.”
He added that one alternative he has been “exploring” is the appointment of a special prosecutor. “The attorney general has the authority to appoint a special prosecutor,” said Specter. “You’re recused, but somebody else could do it. You’re recused because you know all of the principals. You have a conflict of interest. But doesn’t the president have an identical conflict of interest?” Watch it:var flvspecterspprosecutor32024015003 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/07/specterspprosecutor.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvspecterspprosecutor32024015003', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvspecterspprosecutor32024015003.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvspecterspprosecutor32024015003.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvspecterspprosecutor32024015003.write('flvspecterspprosecutor32024015003');
Georgetown Law Professor Neal Katyal, who advocates appointing a special prosecutor in this case, writes that the Bush administration “of course, has everything to fear from independent investigations, as Lewis Libby discovered. But that, ultimately, is what our system is about.”
David Wurmser, “Cheney’s chief adviser on Middle East affairs and perhaps the Bush administration’s most radical hawk,” is reportedly leaving his position for the private sector, “where he will start a risk-consulting business.” In 1996, Wurmser, along with Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, wrote a plan for how to destroy Hezbollah by invading Iraq.
Under direct and strident questioning from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Alberto Gonzales was unable to fully resolve his contradictory statements regarding the administration’s spying activities. Gonzales said that he misspoke when he said at a press conference in June that he and former deputy attorney general James Comey were referring to the same warrantless wiretapping program.
“I clarified my statement two days later with the reporter,” Gonzales told Schumer. “What did you say to the reporter?” Schumer asked. “I did not speak directly to the reporter,” replied Gonzales.
“Ok,” Schumer continued, “what did your spokesperson say to the reporter?” “I don’t know,” Gonzales said. Schumer then summed up the exchange:
In all due respect, you’re just saying, well, it was clarified with the reporter and you don’t even know what he said. You don’t even know what the clarification is. Sir, how you can say that you should stay on as Attorney General when we go through exercises like this where you’re bobbing and weaving and ducking to avoid admitting that you deceived the Committee?
Watch it:var flvschumerpresses32024015004 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/07/schumerpresses.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvschumerpresses32024015004', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvschumerpresses32024015004.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvschumerpresses32024015004.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvschumerpresses32024015004.write('flvschumerpresses32024015004');
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) noted that Gonzales never sought to inform Congress to clarify the contradictions in his responses on the administration’s warrantless spying activities.
Leahy concluded the interrogation, saying, “I’m going to ask for a review both of what Mr. Comey said and what Mr. Gonzales said. If there’s a discrepancy here in sworn testimony, we’re going to have to ask who’s telling the truth.”
“Tired of the usual chicken dinner” fundraisers, conservatives in Manchester, NH, are “planning to arm supporters next month with Uzis, M-16 rifles and other automatic weapons for a day of target practice.” Participants will pay “$25, plus fees for ammunition and parking,” to attend. “It’s a way of expressing yourself, I guess,” said organizer Jerry Thibodeau. “We all have a little testosterone in us, right?”
In his testimony today before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was asked by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) to address inaccuracies in his 2006 testimony in relation to the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. “There has not been any serious disagreement about the program that the president has confirmed,” Gonzales said at the time.
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) recalled that former Deputy Attorney General James Comey testified to a much different version of events. Comey said he had refused to sign on to an extension of the program “amid concerns about its legality and oversight.”
Today, Gonzales said Comey was referring to “other intelligence activities,” appearing to confirm that the Bush administration is operating more than one warrantless domestic spying program. In a heated back and forth with Specter, Gonzales stated:
The disagreement that occurred was about other intelligence activities and the reason for the visit to the hospital was about other intelligence activities. It was not about the terrorist surveillance program that the president announced to the American people.
Watch it:var flvspecterraises32024014999 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/07/specterraises.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvspecterraises32024014999', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvspecterraises32024014999.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvspecterraises32024014999.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvspecterraises32024014999.write('flvspecterraises32024014999');
Today’s testimony contradicts what Gonzales had said previously. In June, Gonzales claimed that both he and Comey were referring to the same domestic spying program. “Mr. Comey’s testimony related to a highly classified program which the president confirmed to the American people sometime ago,” he said.
If Gonzales’ testimony is accurate today, then he is confirming the existence of a new administration spying program.
Last night, the Daily Show did a segment entitled “Expert Tease” reviewing comments by administration officials explaining what they know and don’t know. Watch it:
The Washington Post reports:
The entrepreneur who hosted President Bush last week for a roundtable discussion on health care and small business said yesterday that he could barely get a word in as Bush opined on children’s health insurance and other health topics.
If he had, Clifton Broumand would have told the president he disagreed with him on most of it, he said.
“He answered his own questions,” said Broumand, who gave Bush a tour of Man & Machine Inc., the Landover-based medical computer accessory company he founded 25 years ago. “I thought the whole concept was to ask us, so I was a little bit frustrated. I would have liked the opportunity to give him my viewpoint, rather than him knowing the answer.“
“The minimum wage rises 70 cents to $5.85 an hour today, the first increase in a decade. It ends the longest period without an increase since the federal minimum wage was enacted in 1938.”
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee today. “Armed with the president’s support, Gonzales has made clear that he does not intend to leave office before Bush does.” “This attorney general has a severe credibility problem,” said Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), adding that there is an “acute crisis of leadership that has gripped the department under his watch.”
Members of the Bancroft family, which “controls financial publisher Dow Jones & Co. is expected to decide within days whether it will relinquish its stake and let Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. get the company for $5 billion.” They assembled “for six hours Monday in Boston to hash out whether to accept Murdoch’s offer.”
“While Washington is mired in political debate over the future of Iraq,” Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker have “prepared a detailed plan that foresees a significant American role” through 2009.
“Huge, expensive and dogged by controversy,” the new U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad epitomizes to many Iraqis the worst of the U.S. tenure in Iraq. “It’s all for them, all of Iraq’s resources, water, electricity, security,” said one Iraqi man. “It’s as if it’s their country, and we are guests staying here.” (more…)
After tonight’s YouTube debate, CNN ran a segment critiquing the candidates on their body language and dress. Wolf Blitzer introduced it, stating, “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.” Watch it:
As a fervent supporter of the Bush administration and the Iraq war, Hewitt’s questions were, as one would expect, designed to enable Gen. Petraeus to make statements without any questioning or challenge.
As I am much more of a war skeptic than Hewitt, both the questions I would pose and the audience which would be exposed to the interview would be different than the one Gen. Petraeus conducted with Hewitt. It is my sincere hope that Gen. Petraeus, in order to facilitate as honest and robust a public discussion as possible, is willing to discuss the situation in Iraq and the merits of the current strategy with both supporters and critics of the initiative.
Speaking to fellow reporters this morning, conservative columnist Robert Novak said he was “disappointed in the journalism profession” for its reaction to his printing Valerie Plame’s identity. “I thought we stuck together in things like this. I guess that wasn’t the case.”
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) held the Senate open for an all-night debate on Iraq, calling the conservatives’ bluff on the filibuster and highlighting “Republican resistance to allowing a simple majority vote on a plan to withdraw troops from Iraq.”
The conservative leadership quickly blasted Reid’s move as a political stunt. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said, “Our enemies aren’t threatened by talk-a-thons, and our troops deserve better than publicity stunts.”
As Atrios pointed out, today, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) hit back against McConnell, declaring that the “only stunt” that’s going on is conservatives who are enabling the Iraq war to continue:
The only that is going on here is by Republicans in the Senate who have continued to fabricate excuses for this Iraq war, year after year. They have been enablers of this tragedy. They have not shown the guts in most cases and vote to end this war. They will use every excuse, every slogan, every political trick to not let us end this war, so I would call that the stunt, and that’s the stunt that’s killing Americans.
Watch it:var flvfeingoldrepubcnn32024014991 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/07/feingoldrepubcnn.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvfeingoldrepubcnn32024014991', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvfeingoldrepubcnn32024014991.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvfeingoldrepubcnn32024014991.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvfeingoldrepubcnn32024014991.write('flvfeingoldrepubcnn32024014991');
According to a new Washington Post poll, “Bush’s overall approval rating equals its all-time low…at 33 percent, with 65 percent disapproving. Fifty-two percent said they ’strongly’ disapprove of his job performance, the highest figure of his presidency and more than three times the 16 percent who strongly approve.”