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Updated: 1 hour 31 min ago

26 percent:

Thu, 2007-07-12 13:23

President Bush’s approval rating according to a new Harris poll, down from a high of 88 percent shortly after 9/11. Cheney’s approval rating is just 21 percent.

O’Reilly: ‘Clustering’ gays near children is ‘insane.’

Thu, 2007-07-12 12:50

Yesterday on The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly expressed outrage over a decision by the San Diego Padres to host a children’s hat giveaway promotion and a gay pride night during the same baseball game. “So thousands of gay adults showed up and commingled with straight families,” said O’Reilly. “[C]lear-thinking people understand it is completely out of context and inappropriate.”

Michigan AG: Libby commutation ‘was plain wrong.’

Thu, 2007-07-12 12:04

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, a Republican, “harshly criticized” President Bush yesterday for commuting the sentence of his former aide, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who was found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice. “It was plain wrong all the way around,” Cox said. “We can’t let people run from the obligation of telling the truth.”

Bush, Chertoff Seek To Discredit Their Own Intelligence, Claim al Qaeda Is ‘Weaker’

Thu, 2007-07-12 11:27

Today, the National Intelligence Council of the Bush administration will release a report entitled “Al Qaida Better Positioned to Strike the West,” concluding that the “network is gaining strength and has established a safe haven in remote tribal areas of western Pakistan for training and planning attacks…despite concerted U.S. attempts to smash the network.”

But this morning, both President Bush and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff attempted to play down the intelligence report. “I wouldn’t put it [the threat] at that level — in my own opinion,” said Chertoff. Bush claimed:

There is a perception in the coverage that al Qaeda may be as strong today as they were prior to September 11th. That’s simply not the case…because of the actions we’ve taken, al Qaeda is weaker today than they would have been.

Watch it:

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Bush’s attempts to downplay the administration’s own intelligence is nothing new. Intelligence reports warned both before and during the war that invading Iraq would serve as a rallying cry for terrorist and extremist organizations.

Chertoff’s attempts to spin the resurgence of al Qaeda is a quick reversal on his part, as just a few days ago, he reported a “gut feeling” that there would be an al Qaeda strike on the U.S. as soon as this summer.

Some Bush administration officials recently conceded that they overestimated the damage done to al Qaeda since 2001. Unfortunately, the President and his top advisers stubbornly refuse to do the same.

Mimikatz has more.

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Cummins Contradicts Taylor: ‘Tim Griffin Wanted My Job, They Decided To Give It Him’

Thu, 2007-07-12 10:37

During the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday on the U.S. attorney scandal, Sen. Arlen Specter asked former White House political director Sara Taylor “whether [former Arkansas U.S. attorney Bud] Cummins was forced out in order to make room for [Karl Rove protege Tim] Griffin.”

Taylor offered a contradictory response, arguing on the one hand Cummins “had been planning to leave” while on the other hand stating “he was, in fact, fired.”

Later in the hearing, Specter asked if “there was a political overtone to the replacement of Mr. Cummins by Mr. Griffin?” I don’t believe that’s the case at all,” Taylor responded. Watch it:

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In today’s Arkansas Times, Bud Cummins shot back, expressing his disagreement with Taylor’s assesment of how and why he was forced out of office:

Taylor said Wednesday it was her understanding that Cummins had stated as early as 2004 that he was planning to leave. Better communication would have made the transition easier, she added.

Cummins said he does not believe his status played a role in his ouster.

“Tim Griffin wanted my job, they decided to give it him, and because of the arrogance and inexperience of the staff-level folks that handled the execution of a poorly thought-out plan, my loyal and arguably successful service was not considered in any way,” Cummins said.

Despite what Taylor claims, there were “political overtones” to Griffin’s replacement of Cummins. Not only did the White House intentionally bypass Senate approval of Griffin, over the objections of Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), but in December 2006, Kyle Sampson, then-chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, wrote in an e-mail that getting Griffin appointed was “important to Harriet, Karl, etc” — Karl being Karl Rove.

UPDATE: Alex Koppelman at Salon spoke to Cummins last night about his reaction to Taylor’s testimony:

Cummins says he thinks the “thing about me announcing to the press an intention to leave is way overblown,” and that he “would like to know who was selling [Taylor] that line.”

Transcript: (more…)

Iraqi guards steal $282 million.

Thu, 2007-07-12 10:33

In an astonishing heist, guards at a Baghdad bank “made off with more than a quarter-billion dollars on Wednesday.”

The robbery, of $282 million from the Dar Es Salaam bank, a private financial institution, raised more questions than it answered, and officials were tight-lipped about the crime. The local police said two guards engineered the robbery, but an official at the Interior Ministry said three guards were involved. Both confirmed that the stolen money was in American dollars, not Iraqi dinars.

It was unclear why the bank had that much money on hand in dollars, or how the robbers managed to move such a large amount without being detected. Several officials speculated that the robbers had connections to the militias, because it would be difficult for them to move without being searched through many checkpoints in Baghdad.

Miers’s empty seat.

Thu, 2007-07-12 09:48

Former White House counsel Harriet Miers’s chair sits empty today on Capitol Hill during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the U.S. attorney purge. As the AP notes, Miers “obeyed President Bush” and skipped the hearing.

Today, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) “ruled out of order Bush’s executive privilege claim that his former advisers are immune from being summoned before Congress,” clearing the way for contempt proceedings. The charge was upheld by the panel 7-5 vote.

UPDATE: Video of Sanchez and Conyers at the hearing.

A decision worthy of Fox News.

Thu, 2007-07-12 09:24

“The Scooter Libby decision was, I thought, a fair and balanced decision,” Bush said.

Bush Dismisses Iraq Critics: ‘War Fatigue’ Is Affecting Their ‘Psychology’

Thu, 2007-07-12 08:41

Today in his press conference, a reporter asked President Bush why he is “so resistant” to a “change of course in Iraq,” even though that’s what the American public is “clamoring for.” Bush dismissed the reporter’s question, stating that he isn’t surprised “that there is deep concern amongst our people,” but ascribed it to “war fatigue.” “It’s affecting our psychology. I’ve said this before. I understand that.” Watch it:

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“War fatigue” is not the problem in Iraq. On every metric, the administration’s efforts in Iraq are failing. More than 3,600 Americans have been killed in Iraq, and Bush’s escalation still has not had any significant effect on reducing the violence. Additionally, al Qaeda has “rebuilt its operating capability to a level not seen since the summer of 2001.”

In January, Bush claimed that Americans “sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible image of violence on TV every night,” adding that “the psychology of the country…is somewhat down because of this war.” First Lady Laura Bush has also argued that “no one suffers more than their President and I do.”

Americans don’t need psychological counseling; they need an end to the war in Iraq.

Digg It!

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Top Intel Analyst Says Surge Is Failing, Kristol Counters It’s Going ‘Better Than Anyone Expected’

Thu, 2007-07-12 07:54

Yesterday, Thomas Fingar, the top intelligence analyst in the Office of the National Intelligence Director, stated that “the most optimistic” assessment of the increase in troop numbers in Iraq is that it has not had a “significant” effect in reducing the violence:

The surge that began a few months ago is having an effect, it has not yet had a sufficient effect on the violence, in my judgment, to move the country to a place that the serious obstacles to reconciliation can be overcome.

The most optimistic projection is that it will be difficult and time-consuming to bridge the political gulf when violence levels are reduced, and they have not yet been reduced significantly.

This morning on Fox and Friends, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol ignored the intelligence assessment, instead offering his unfounded view that the “military situation is better than anyone expected”:

The truth is if you look concretely on the ground in Iraq, the military situation is better than anyone expected. Better than David Petraeus expected. Better than those of us here at home who supported the surge expected six months ago. … And we’re going to win the war. I think we’re going to win this war if we just don’t lose our nerve here at home.

Watch a compilation:

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Kristol concluded that if Bush can hold off Congress, “I think Gen. David Petraeus could go down in American history with an amazing performance. … This could be a Ulysses S. Grant situation where Bush finally found the right general.”

Bush decides free press is not a ‘cornerstone’ of democracy.

Thu, 2007-07-12 07:50

A Reuters photographer yesterday took a picture of President Bush’s speech welcoming journalists to the new White House briefing room. As On Deadline notes, “As you can see, the speech has been marked up and includes a large ‘X’ through this section: ‘And there’s no truth to the rumor some of those new seats can be ejected by pressing a button at Tony’s podium.’”

Senate conservatives rush to Cheney’s defense.

Thu, 2007-07-12 07:12

Roll Call reports, “As the Senate Appropriations Committee prepares today to take up the financial services and general government spending bill, Republicans on and off the panel are expected to vigorously oppose a Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) provision that prohibits funding for the Office of the Vice President until Cheney complies with an executive order issued by former President Bill Clinton and renewed by President Bush.”

ThinkFast: July 12, 2007

Thu, 2007-07-12 06:03

Last November, CIA Director Michael Hayden told the Iraq Study Group in a private briefing that the “inability of the [Iraqi] government to govern seems irreversible.” In the eight months since, “neither Hayden nor any other high-ranking administration official has publicly described the Iraqi government in the uniformly negative terms that the CIA director used in his closed-door briefing.”

“A previously undisclosed Army investigation into an audacious January attack in Karbala that killed five U.S. soldiers concludes that Iraqi police working alongside American troops colluded with insurgents.”

“Undercover Congressional investigators set up a bogus company and obtained a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in March that would have allowed them to buy the radioactive materials needed for a so-called dirty bomb,” demonstrating once again that the security measures “to prevent radioactive materials from getting into the wrong hands are insufficient.”

If “current greenhouse gas emission patterns worldwide continue unabated,” summers in the Northeast could be six to 14 degrees warmer and “cities such as Boston, Atlantic City and New York would be regularly subject to disastrous flooding,” according to a new report.

Some conservatives are rallying behind a weak amendment offered by Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO) to implement the Iraq Study Group recommendations, rather than set a deadline for withdrawal. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) derided the proposal as having “less teeth than a toothless tiger. It won’t change one thing the president does.” (more…)

Huckabee takes personal shot at Michael Moore.

Wed, 2007-07-11 20:15

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee “sharply criticized Michael Moore” and his new documentary SiCKO, suggesting that the filmmaker adds to the nation’s health care crisis by being overweight:

“Frankly, Michael Moore is an example of why the health care system costs so much in this country. He clearly is one of the reasons that we have a very expensive system. I know that from my own personal experience,” said Huckabee, who lost more than 110 pounds and became an avid runner after he was diagnosed with diabetes. […]

No comment could be obtained from Moore, but Meghan O’Hara, producer of “Sicko,” questioned Huckabee’s motives in criticizing Moore.

“Looks like Mike Huckabee is auditioning for some insurance company dough, since he’s raised just about no money and sparked zero interest since jumping into the race,” O’Hara said in a response provided by Moore’s production office. “I wonder what the good governor would say to the French, who drink more, smoke more, eat more cheese and still live longer than us despite paying less for health care?”

House passes college financial aid bill.

Wed, 2007-07-11 19:11

In a 273-149 vote, House today passed the College Cost Reduction Act, which “would boost college financial aid by about $18 billion over the next five years and cut federal subsidies to lenders,” the “single largest increase in college aid since the GI bill in 1944.”

Fox Military Analyst: Chertoff’s ‘Gut Feeling’ Is More About ‘Politics Than Terrorism’

Wed, 2007-07-11 17:22

Yesterday, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said that the nation is “entering a period this summer of increased risk.” When asked for how he knows this information, he said his remarks were based on his “gut feeling.”

Today, Fox News military analyst Col. David Hunt swiftly attacked Chertoff’s remarks, stating, “I understand he’s got feelings. The problem is, the states and cities, who have to react to the Department of Homeland Security guidance, can’t do squat on his feelings. … It seems more politics, John, than terrorism.” Watch it:

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Chertoff’s comments have been widely criticized by both the right and left. Today, Homeland Security Chairman Bennie G. Thompson wrote to Chertoff and asked him to clarify his comments. “Words have power, Mr. Secretary. You must choose them wisely–especially when they relate to the lives and security of the American public. … What cities should be asking their law enforcement to work double shifts because of your ‘gut feeling?’”

Hunt is not a frequent critic of the Bush administration. Quite the opposite. He has repeatedly tried to link Saddam Hussein to terrorism and in 2003, attacked the media for not portraying a sufficiently positive picture of the fighting in Iraq. Also that year, he mocked Gen. Wesley Clark’s comment that the troops didn’t have enough armored vehicles: “Excuse me. There aren’t enough armored vehicles? Wah, wah, wah.”

Transcript: (more…)

American Public Health Assoc. opposes Holsinger.

Wed, 2007-07-11 16:44

Today, the American Public Health Association, the nation’s largest organization of public health professionals, announced its opposition to the nomination of Dr. James Holsinger to become the next Surgeon General. From its letter to Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Mike Enzi (R-WY):

APHA is very concerned with Dr. Holsinger’s past writings regarding his views of homosexuality, which put his political and religious ideology before established medical science. We have long opposed discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation. At a time when one of our association’s top priorities is to eliminate disparities in health, including disparities in the gay and lesbian community, we cannot support a nominee with discredited and non-evidence-based views on sexuality.

We are hopeful that the Senate will reject his nomination and urge the president to put forth another nominee.

Flynt tracking 20 congressional sex scandals leads.

Wed, 2007-07-11 16:05

“Larry Flynt, the porn-industry magnate who first linked Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) to the escort service of the ‘D.C. Madam,’ said Wednesday that his investigators are tracking more than 20 leads on alleged congressional sex scandals.”

As Vitter remained missing in action for two Senate votes on defense policy, Flynt insisted that he exposed the conservative lawmaker’s sexual indiscretions only because they contradicted Vitter’s longtime defense of the “sanctity of marriage.”

“If someone’s living a life contrary to the way they’re advocating … then they become fair game,” Flynt told reporters. “I don’t want a man like that legislating for me, especially in the area of morality.”

Report: Al-Qaeda regains summer 2001 strength.

Wed, 2007-07-11 15:52

A new government threat assessment, obtained by the Associated Press, “has concluded that Al-Qaeda has rebuilt its operating capability to a level not seen since the summer of 2001.” The report says the terrorist network “has been able to rebuild despite nearly six years of bombings, war and other tactics aimed at crippling it.”

UPDATE: A fuller AP article, with more details, can be found here.

Snow Lashes Out At White House Press Corps, Calls Them ‘Defeatists’

Wed, 2007-07-11 15:09

During today’s White House press conference, Press Secretary Tony Snow again tried to deny the fact that prominent conservative members of Congres are increasingly abandoning the President’s failing policies in Iraq. Sen. Dick Lugar’s sharp critiques of the President’s Iraq policies were merely pleas for “some bipartisan comity,” Snow said.

One reporter asked Snow if delusional characterizations of conservative defections would cause the American people to “perceive you and the White House as isolated and out of touch on this?” Snow responded, “No, no more than I think that they look at you and think that you guys are focused on defeat.” The press room erupted in groans.

“Wait a minute. That’s not my question,” the reporter shot back. Snow lashed out in his defense, “You just asked me if I’m clueless and I asked if you were defeatist.”

Watch it:

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The fact is that conservatives in Congress and the American people are abandoning the President’s Iraq strategy in record numbers. Just 19% of Americans see the surge as a success and in the Senate today seven Republican senators defied their leadership and voted in support of a measure that would have limited the number of troops available for deployment in Iraq.

Ryan Powers

Transcript: (more…)