On CSPAN’s Q & A last night, conservative pundit Robert Novak revealed that he tries to never criticize sources in his column. “That’s the way the world works. Very few reporters will admit that,” said Novak. “That’s one of the unusual things about this book.”
Throughout the interview with CSPAN president Brian Lamb, Novak also discussed who some of his most consistent high-level sources have been over the years, including senior Bush aide Karl Rove, of whom Novak said he “never enjoyed such a good source inside the White House.”
“Karl Rove has been a source since he was a young fellow as a consultant in Austin, Texas, in I guess the 1970s,” said Novak. Watch it:var flvNovakSources32024014787 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/07/NovakSources.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvNovakSources32024014787', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvNovakSources32024014787.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvNovakSources32024014787.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvNovakSources32024014787.write('flvNovakSources32024014787');
During the interview, Lamb asked Novak to describe his relationship with a number of his top sources, including Weekly Standard editor William Kristol. “I thought I was a personal friend of Bill Kristol and he was a super source. I never would have revealed it,” he said. Novak and Kristol had a falling out recently and Kristol has since become a target of Novak’s poison pen.
While Novak’s “super” sources such as Rove have come under little or no criticism from him over the years, Novak noted that he has made a point of criticizing officials, including Henry Kissinger and former Nixon chief of staff Bob Haldeman, who have refused to be his sources. “You said that Bob Haldeman…was treated more harshly because he refused to contact you,” queried Lamb. “I think so. … I think he deserved it,” replied Novak.
UPDATE: John Amato notes that Rove was fired by Bush 41 in 1992 over a leak to Novak.
Prior to the invasion of Iraq, Brookings Institution senior fellow Michael O’Hanlon predicted, “The United States and coalition partners would win any future war to overthrow Saddam Hussein in a rapid and decisive fashion. This will not be another Vietnam or another Korea.”
Since that time, O’Hanlon has remained a steady supporter of the occupation of Iraq. In January 2007, in a piece entitled “A Skeptic’s Case For the Surge,” he wrote of the escalation, “It is still the right thing to try — as long as we do not count on it succeeding.” In March, O’Hanlon urged Congress to “give [Bush’s] surge strategy a chance.”
With Bush’s escalation policy on the ropes, O’Hanlon earlier this month introduced a new plan to delay redeployment and maintain the U.S. occupation. He called for the “soft partition” of Iraq into three main regions. At a press conference, O’Hanlon explained the impact of his plan:
We do not think this will lead to an immediate troop reduction for the United States, at least not a major one. … So notionally, 155,000 U.S. forces now. If this plan were adopted in the course of the fall, you’re probably over a 100,000 U.S. forces throughout all of 2008, maybe even into 2009. And perhaps you settle into a range of perhaps 50,000 U.S. forces for perhaps several years thereafter.
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With Congress mulling over a host of legislative proposals to deal with the future of Iraq, O’Hanlon is clamoring to get attention for his “soft partition” plan. Today, he appears on a panel in the Capitol building to discuss his proposal, along with the authors of the Center for American Progress’ Strategic Reset plan.
In a region torn by sectarian strife and civil war as a result of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, O’Hanlon believes the proper role for 100,000 American troops is to oversee the mass relocations of Sunnis and Shiites to different regions of the country. Clearly, O’Hanlon has learned nothing from the past four years.
Last week on the Young Turks, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) said a Republican colleague of his told him that a strategy has been adopted by the minority to “prevent any accomplishment” by the new Congress:
I think that we could do a better job making our points, and one part of that is to let the American people see just how obstructionist this Republican minority is being. The leader has had to file cloture now over 40 times already this year. And cloture, as you know, is a special procedure to stop debate, to stop filibusters, in order to reach conclusion on legislation. I had a Republican colleague tell me it is the Republican strategy to try to prevent any accomplishment of the Democratic Congress. That is set in their caucus openly and directly that they don’t intend to allow Democrats to have any legislative successes, and they intend to do it by repeated filibuster.
President Bush has mentioned Gen. David Petraeus “at least 150 times this year in his speeches, interviews and news conferences.” But some in the military worry that “the general is being set up by the Bush administration as a scapegoat if conditions in Iraq fail to improve. ‘The danger is that Petraeus will now be painted as failing to live up to expectations and become the fall guy for the administration,’ one retired four-star officer said.”
Roll Call writes, “Just a year ago, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) was disregarded, even by some in his own party, as a bleeding-heart liberal defeatist for his stance on the Iraq War.” When Feingold first floated the idea of setting a withdrawal date two years ago, few of his colleagues supported him. This week, Senate will take up the Levin-Reed redeployment bill, which is “nearly identical in scope to the amendment Feingold” last June.
“Two suicide bombers struck the volatile northern city of Kirkuk this morning, killing 73 people and wounding 178 more. … The death toll is expected to rise as rescuers frantically dig through concrete and rubble in hopes of finding survivors.”
“Years before the war began,” Pentagon officials knew that armored MRAP vehicles better shielded troops from roadside bombs than Humvees. “But military officials repeatedly balked at appeals — from commanders on the battlefield and from the Pentagon’s own staff” — dating back to Dec. 2003, to provide the MRAPs, a USA Today investigation found.
“An internal investigation that the House Intelligence Committee has refused to make public portrays the panel as embarrassingly entangled in the Randy ‘Duke’ Cunningham bribery scandal.” The report “describes the committee as a dysfunctional entity that served as a crossroads for almost every major figure in the ongoing criminal probe by the Justice Department.”
“Barring an unlikely confirmation of Leslie Southwick to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by the Judiciary Committee this week, Senate GOP leaders have privately mapped out a retaliatory plan that involves blocking passage of Democratic legislation from now until the August recess.” (more…)
Today on The Chris Matthews Show, BBC correspondent Katty Kay reported:
Hawks have been calling the White House all week saying: “We hope you’re not going to wobble on Iraq.” And I understand they’ve been getting reassurance from the White House: “No, the policy is not changing.” Bill Kristol wrote a very condemning article saying that the White House must not change policy, must stick with the surge. The White House called back, said: “Why are you giving us such a hit; we’re staying with the surge.”
In a story entitled “Cheney pushes Bush to act on Iran,” The Guardian writes that Cheney may be winning the debate inside the White House over how to confront Iran:
The balance in the internal White House debate over Iran has shifted back in favour of military action before President George Bush leaves office in 18 months, the Guardian has learned.
The shift follows an internal review involving the White House, the Pentagon and the state department over the last month. Although the Bush administration is in deep trouble over Iraq, it remains focused on Iran. A well-placed source in Washington said: “Bush is not going to leave office with Iran still in limbo.”
On Wednesday, the Senate voted 97-0 to pass a resolution sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) to censure Iran “for what it said was complicity in the killing of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.” The resolution required the Bush administration to regularly report to Congress on Iran’s role in Iraq.
While the resolution explicitly rejected authorization for immediate military action, the gist of the resolution declared Iran is participating in acts of war against the United States, thereby laying the foundation for a confrontation with Iran. Newshoggers wrote that the resolution may provide the “political cover for launching a war.”
Validating the concern many felt, Sen. Sam Brownback appeared on Fox News shortly after the vote and declared he was ready to preemptively strike Iran. Host Sean Hannity asked Brownback, “There’s probably going to come a point for the next president that they’re going to have to determine whether to go out and have that preemptive strike. And you’re ready and would be ready to do that?”
“Yes, I am, and I think we have to be,” Brownback answered. “Sean, if we’re going to be serious about this fight, and we’re in this fight, and probably for a generation. We’re probably in this fight for a generation.” Watch it:
When the Congress vote to authorize force against Iraq in 2002, it cited as justification the fact that Congress had passed a law in 1998 sponsored by Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) and co-sponsored by Lieberman that concluded Iraq posed a serious threat. From the 2002 resolution:
Whereas in Public Law 105-235 (August 14, 1998), Congress concluded that Iraq’s continuing weapons of mass destruction programs threatened vital United States interests and international peace and security, declared Iraq to be in ‘material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations’ and urged the President ‘to take appropriate action, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations’
UPDATE: Hullabaloo has more.
UPDATE II: The LA Times reports the greatest number of foreign militants come from Saudi Arabia.
“An independent oversight board created to identify intelligence abuses after the CIA scandals of the 1970s did not send any reports to the attorney general of legal violations during the first 5 1/2 years of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism effort,” and was vacant for the first two years of the administration. “Although the FBI told the board of a few hundred legal or rules violations by its agents after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the board did not identify which of them were indeed legal violations.”
This morning on Meet the Press, Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) took Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to task for spouting “support the troops” rhetoric while failing to take action to safeguard the long-term health of the military.
This week, Graham was among a handful of right-wing Senators who prevented the passage of an amendment sponsored by Webb that would have required soldiers to be given more rest at home after being deployed overseas. During the vote, Graham disingenuously claimed that if Webb’s bill passed, it would be “the greatest politicization of military action in the history of the country.”
This morning, Webb fought back. “The traditional operational policy has been if you’re gone for a year, you get two years back. We’re now in a situation where the soldiers and the Marines are having less than a 1 to 1 ratio.” Webb said. Turning to Graham, he added, “And somebody needs to speak up for them rather than defending what this President has been doing.”
“May I speak!” Webb said, as Graham tried to interrupt him. “This is one thing I really take objection to,” he said, “is politicians who try to put their political views into the mouths of soldiers.” Watch it:
Webb’s amendment would have required the Bush administration to provide at least a year of rest for every year that a member of the Armed Forces was deployed overseas. The amendment provided three years of rest for National Guard soldiers. In the vote to end the filibuster, 56 bipartisan members supported Webb’s amendment, less than the 60 needed to end debate.
This morning, when Graham tried to claim that he’s a qualified voice to speak on behalf of all soldiers because he has been to Iraq, Webb countered, “You go and see the dog-and-pony shows.” Webb scolded Graham, “Don’t put political words into [the soldier’s] mouth.”
Approximately one year ago — in an August 2006 appearance on the Charlie Rose show — Bill Kristol acknowledged that Iraq was teetering on the edge of civil war, stating: “It is true that we are at risk of a sectarian civil war there, and I’m extremely worried about that. I don’t quarrel about that.”
Since Bush adopted his escalation strategy earlier this year, Kristol has turned to defying the reality of the situation on the ground in Iraq in order to justify the troop increase. Today, on Fox News Sunday, Kristol argued that the violence in Iraq does not constitute a civil war:
We’re not in a civil war. This is just not true. American troops are attacking al Qaeda. They’re attacking some elements of the Shi’a militias. They’re doing other things, helping with reconciliation. They are not in the middle of a civil war. It’s not true.
As sectarian violence has increased, multiple U.S. intelligence sources have acknowledged the civil war. In January, the National Intelligence Estimate said, “the term ‘civil war’ accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict, including the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities, a sea change in the character of the violence, ethno-sectarian mobilization, and population displacements.” In March, the Pentagon for the first time said the violence in Iraq constituted a civil war.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell explained, “I have characterized it as a civil war even though the administration does not call it that. And the reason I call it a civil war is I think that allows you to see clearly what we’re facing. We’re facing groups that are now fighting each other: Sunnis vs. Shias, Shias vs. Shias, Sunni vs. al-Qaeda. And it is a civil war.”
UPDATE: More Bill Kristol delusions. In an op-ed in the Washington Post, he writes “Why Bush Will Be A Winner.”
UPDATE II: Atrios has more.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said on Saturday, “We say in full confidence that we are able, God willing, to take the responsibility completely in running the security file if the international forces withdraw at any time they want.” One of al-Maliki’s close advisers, Shiite lawmaker Hassan al-Suneid, bristled over the American pressure, telling The Associated Press that “the situation looks as if it is an experiment in an American laboratory (judging) whether we succeed or fail.”
“The White House said on Saturday that President Bush would veto a bipartisan plan to expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program,” which is set to expire Sept. 30. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bipartisan plan “would reduce the number of uninsured children by 4.1 million.”
On Friday, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow dismissed concerns of the Iraqi parliament’s August recess, even though President Bush promised in May that Vice President Cheney would persuade them to skip it. Steve Benen notes that several conservative senators, who initially criticized the Iraqi lawmakers, are now silent: “Are the stay-the-course Republicans going to do anything about it? If the past week is any indication, they’ll bluster a bit before doing what they always do — acceding to the president’s demands.”
Number of Americans who consider President Bush’s escalation in Iraq a “failure.” Additionally 68 percent “disapprove of the way the president is handling the war in Iraq,” according to the latest Newsweek poll.
President Bush attempted to convince the nation that Saddam Hussein had WMD as justification for invading Iraq in 2003. In Oct. 2002, for example, he stated, “If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today — and we do — does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?”
But today on the progressive radio program The Cappy McGarr Show, host Cappy McGarr reveals through a conversation with former Sen. Majority Leader Tom Daschle that in private, Bush’s real motivation was a personal vendetta:
Of all the reasons used to justify this awful war, the one that stunned me the most…and will shock you…was the one I heard from a close friend of mine former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Senator Daschle was Majority Leader at the time.
The Senate and The House Leadership were meeting with President Bush for a weekly breakfast back then, and as our country was leading up to the Iraq war. … Bush got to talking about why we needed this war, and here’s what he said to Senator Daschle “We need to get Saddam Hussein…that Mother _______ tried to take out my Dad.”
Listen to the audio:CLICK HERE TO LISTEN
Bush’s feelings for Saddam have long been intensely personal. In 2002, he said to CNN, “Oh, yes, I hate Saddam Hussein. I don’t hate a lot of people. I don’t hate easily.” Six days later at a fundraiser in Texas, Bush said, “There’s no doubt he [Saddam] can’t stand us. After all, this is the guy that tried to kill my dad at one time.” Bush was referring to an “alleged plot by Iraqi intelligence to assassinate Bush’s father.”
It’s troubling that Bush believed he could use U.S. troops as personal hitmen to avenge a grudge.
A hallmark of President Bush’s Iraq policy is “as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down,” referring to the training of Iraqi security forces. But a progress report on Iraq earlier this week showed that “despite stepped-up training, the readiness of the Iraqi military to operate independently of U.S. forces has decreased” since the escalation began.
Nevertheless, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appeared on NBC’s Today Show yesterday and attempted to deny these reports, giving false portrayals of progress in training the Iraqi security forces:
[I]f you look at the way that they are fighting now, in a less sectarian fashion…I think they’re fighting on behalf of all Iraqis, where they showed up in the numbers that they are supposed to.
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In fact, sectarianism is as strong as ever in the security forces. Just last month, Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, in charge of transitioning the Iraqi forces, observed that the military is “riddled with sectarianism and corruption.” For example, Shiite militias allied with the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, have extensively infiltrated the National Police, units of which are perpetrating violence and forming death squads against Sunnis. Many ally with insurgents to kill U.S. soldiers.
Furthermore, at least one-third of the Iraqi Army is on leave at any one time. Desertion and other problems bring the total to over half in some units. Dempsey reported an annual attrition rate of 15 to 18 percent; in many cases, he said, Iraqi army commanders overreport attendance “so that he gets a payroll share more than he deserves and thereby pocket it.”
Ultimately, “the United States is arming different sides in multiple civil wars that could turn even more vicious in the coming years,” observes Center for American Progress fellows Brian Katulis and Lawrence Korb, who advocate a redeployment for U.S. troops and an end to the unconditional training of Iraqi security forces.
In June 2005, ThinkProgress noted the Bush was constantly revising the definition of our “mission” in Iraq.
Reporting on his escalation strategy this week, President Bush claimed “satisfactory” progress in many areas of the “new mission” in Iraq. Bush has changed the definition of our “mission” in Iraq so many times, he has made it impossible for the American public, U.S. forces, and the Iraqi population to have any confidence that the mission will be ever completed.
THE PRE-WAR MISSION WAS TO RID IRAQ OF WMD
Bush: “Our mission is clear in Iraq. Should we have to go in, our mission is very clear: disarmament.” [3/6/03]
AFTER THE WAR BEGAN, THE MISSION EXPANDED
Bush: “Our cause is just, the security of the nations we serve and the peace of the world. And our mission is clear, to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.” [3/22/03]
Bush: “Our forces have been given a clear mission: to end a regime that threatened its neighbors and the world with weapons of mass destruction and to free a people that had suffered far too long.” [4/14/03]
THEN THE MISSION WAS COMPLETE
Bush: “On Thursday, I visited the USS Abraham Lincoln, now headed home after the longest carrier deployment in recent history. I delivered good news to the men and women who fought in the cause of freedom: Their mission is complete, and major combat operations in Iraq have ended.” [5/3/03]
BUT THEN IT CONTINUED AGAIN
Bush: “The United States and our allies will complete our mission in Iraq.” [7/30/03]
THEN THE MISSION WAS TO DEVELOP A FREE IRAQ
Bush: “That has been our mission all along, to develop the conditions such that a free Iraq will emerge, run by the Iraqi citizens.” [11/4/03]
Bush: “We will see that Iraq is free and self-governing and democratic. We will accomplish our mission.” [5/4/04]
AND TO TRAIN THE IRAQI TROOPS
Bush: “And our mission is clear there, as well, and that is to train the Iraqis so they can do the fighting; make sure they can stand up to defend their freedoms, which they want to do.” [6/2/05]
Bush: “We’re making progress toward the goal, which is, on the one hand, a political process moving forward in Iraq, and on the other hand, the Iraqis capable of defending themselves. And we will — we will complete this mission for the sake of world peace.” [6/20/05]
THEN IT SHIFTED TO ADVANCING DEMOCRACY
Bush: “We will stay as long as necessary to complete the mission. … Advancing the ideal of democracy and self-government is the mission that created our nation — and now it is the calling of a new generation of Americans.” [11/30/05]
AND PROTECTING AMERICA FROM TERRORISTS
Bush: “In the coming days, there will be considerable reflection on the removal of Saddam Hussein from power and our remaining mission in Iraq…By helping the Iraqi people build a free and representative government, we will deny the terrorists a safe haven to plan attacks against America.” [3/11/06]
Bush: “We will finish the mission. By defeating the terrorists in Iraq, we will bring greater security to our own country. And when victory is achieved, our troops will return home with the honor they have earned.” [3/18/06]
THEN THE MISSION WAS PROVIDING SECURITY FOR THE IRAQI POPULATION
Bush: “In fact, we have a new strategy with a new mission: helping secure the population, especially in Baghdad. Our plan puts Iraqis in the lead.” [1/13/07]
Bush: “[I]t’s the combination of providing security in neighborhoods through these joint security stations, and training that is the current mission we’re going through, with a heavy emphasis on security in Baghdad.” [4/10/07]
Bush: “It’s a new mission. And David Petraeus is in Iraq carrying it out. Its goal is to help the Iraqis make progress toward reconciliation — to build a free nation that respects the rights of its people, upholds the rule of law, and is an ally against the extremists in this war.” [6/28/07]
Sens. Richard Lugar (R-IN) and John Warner (R-VA) “said today that President Bush should seek a new war authorization and present a plan to Congress by Oct. 16 outlining contingency plans in Iraq. Those plans, which would include reducing American forces, should begin by the end of the year.” Their measure will be “considered next week when the Iraq war debate resumes.”
In a 15-14 vote yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed an amendment introduced by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) “to strike language in the Financial Services Appropriations bill that would have barred funding for [Vice President Dick] Cheney’s office until he complies with an executive order Democrats argue compels him to provide information on classified data.”