ABC News reports that White House is “in panic mode” over the recent defections of Republican senators on the President’s Iraq policy:
Senior Bush administration officials are deep in discussion about how to find a compromise that will “appease Democrats and keep wobbly Republicans on board,” a senior White House official tells ABC News.
The official said the White House “is in panic mode,” despite Monday’s on-the-record briefing by White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, who played down any concern over the recent spate of GOP senators who have spoken out publicly in support of changing course in Iraq.
The Republican defections are seen as “a crack in the dike,” according to the senior White House official, and National Security Adviser Steven Hadley is most concerned.
Today, the American Enterprise Institute, a neoconservative think tank, held a discussion entitled “Assessing the Surge in Iraq,” featuring prominent Iraq war proponents like Fred Kagan, Gen. Jack Keane, and James Miller of the Center for a New American Security.
Bush’s escalation was largely inspired by a October 2006 paper written by Kagan, who stated that the U.S. needed to “re-enter Iraq in large numbers.” In today’s conference, Kagan claimed there was a “general agreement” that “violence overall is down” but refused to provide any factual evidence for those arguments:
The worst that can be said of [the escalation] at this point is that the results have been mixed. I frankly think the results are less mixed…We can argue about statistics, but at the end of the day, that argument is not going to get us anywhere right now. … Whatever you can say about the current strategy, it has not failed.
Watch it:var flvkaganaei2832024014634 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/07/kaganaei28.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvkaganaei2832024014634', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvkaganaei2832024014634.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvkaganaei2832024014634.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvkaganaei2832024014634.write('flvkaganaei2832024014634');
Desperate to defend his failing strategy, Kagan refused to provide statistical backup for his broad assertions that escalation is showing progress. In April, he claimed “we are turning a corner in Iraq,” again without statistical backup, only to see May become deadliest month for American troops this year.
Looking at some key statistics, it is clear that the escalation has been a bloody failure. Even by simply looking at the past couple of months — when Kagan alleges the escalation officially began — the situation has deteriorated:
– The deadliest bomb killing over 150 in Baghdad was “one of the deadliest single bombings, if not the deadliest, since the 2003 invasion.”
– 108 coalition soldiers died in June, the third deadliest month this year. So far in July, 28 have died.
– Approximately 2,600 Iraqi civilians died in June and 3,000 in May, up from 2,500 in February, when the first troops of the escalation began to arrive.
UPDATE: Laura Rozen has more from the AEI event.
On July 5, hate radio host Michael Savage discussed a recent hunger strike organized by five students in the San Francisco area to show their support for the immigration bill:
Then there’s the story of college students who are fasting out here in the Bay Area. They’re illegal aliens and they want green cards simply because they’re students. … I would say, let them fast until they starve to death, then that solves the problem. Because then we won’t have a problem about giving them green cards because they’re illegal aliens; they don’t belong here to begin with. […]
We don’t need you as engineers. Go back to where you came from. Go back to where you came from and be an engineer. That’s all. Go give your talents to your home country. Go be an engineer there. You stole the education from us; now give it back to your home country. Go make a bomb where you came from. This is unbelievable.
Earlier today, President Bush invoked executive privilege to block former aides Sara Taylor and Harriet Miers from testifying to Congress. But, according to Senate Judiciary Committee spokesperson Tracy Schmaler, Taylor will still appear before the committee as scheduled on Wednesday.
During the press conference today, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow blindly defended the President’s “surge strategy” and inexplicably argued that Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) supports the policy. “If you look at what Senator Lugar has said about the surge so far, he says that it’s working,” said Snow. “His comments indicate that he thinks it’s working.” Watch it:var flvsnowlugarresponse32024014631 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/07/snowlugarresponse.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvsnowlugarresponse32024014631', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvsnowlugarresponse32024014631.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvsnowlugarresponse32024014631.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvsnowlugarresponse32024014631.write('flvsnowlugarresponse32024014631');
In reality, two weeks ago, Lugar issued a sharp rebuke of the President’s “surge strategy.” On the floor of the U.S. Senate he specifically stated that the Bush administration’s “surge” is failing:
In my judgment, the current surge strategy is not an effective means of protecting [U.S.] interests. Its prospects for success are too dependent on the actions of others who do not share our agenda. It relies on military power to achieve goals that it cannot achieve. It distances allies that we will need for any regional diplomatic effort. Its failure, without a careful transition to a back-up policy would intensify our loss of credibility. It uses tremendous amounts of resources that cannot be employed in other ways to secure our objectives. And it lacks domestic support that is necessary to sustain a policy of this type.
While Lugar has yet to agree to act on his rhetoric, it is laughable for the White House to suggest that Lugar’s comments — and the comments of several other prominent conservatives — are any sort of endorsement of the President’s policies in Iraq.
The FBI is currently questioning Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) as part of “a public corruption investigation that has led to charges against state lawmakers and contractors.” The AP reports today that Stevens, who is 83 years old, is worried that it may hamper his re-election efforts:
The worst thing about this investigation is that it does change your life in terms of employment potential. It doesn’t matter what anyone says, it does shake you up. If this is still hanging around a year from November, it could cause me some trouble.
National Hurricane Center director Bill Proenza stepped down today after roughly half of his staff signed a petition calling for his ouster last week. The staff claimed Proenza’s working environment “of closed doors and the public airing of dirty laundry” put the “effective functioning” of the organization at risk as the hurricane season heads towards its peak.
Bloomberg notes, “Four thousand U.S. service members have died in U.S. President George W. Bush’s ‘war on terror’ in Iraq and Afghanistan 5 1/2 years after American forces ousted the Taliban in December 2001.” AP adds, “All told, Congress has appropriated $610 billion in war-related money since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror assaults, roughly the same as the war in Vietnam. Iraq alone has cost $450 billion.” The wars cost approximately $12 billion a month, according to a new Congressional Research Service report.
An aide to Condoleezza Rice said that the Secretary of State has “got the bug” for golf. She “even carries her clubs on diplomatic trips to Asia so that she can get in a few holes during long layovers in Hawaii.” Her aide added that Rice “would very much like to do what she can to raise awareness of golf as a sport.”
This weekend at the Aspen Ideas Festival, President Bush’s political adviser Karl Rove seemed incapable of uttering a single honest statement.
Facing a chilly reception from the audience, who “shook their heads and groaned in unison” during the speech, Rove grossly distorted administration’s policies, on everything from Guantanamo to Iraq to the leak case:
“Our principal health problem down there is gain of weight, we feed them so well.” In fact, Guantanamo prisoners are facing a mental health crisis, with over 40 suicide attempts since its opening, including one suicide in May. Some have been so severely tortured that they were treated by “experts in treating torture victims.”
“80-90 percent of violence in Iraq is due to al Qaeda.” As former Secretary of State Colin Powell noted earlier in the conference, only 10 percent of violence in Iraq is due to al Qaeda. As the Carpetbagger noted, “by all indications, Powell was rounding up.” Now, the mainstream media is buying into the al Qaeda fearmongering, as Glenn Greenwald reported.
“We all thought [Saddam Hussein] had weapons of mass destruction. The whole world did.” U.N.weapons inspectors and prominent members of the international community strongly disagreed with this assessment before the invasion. One weapons inspector referred to pre-war U.S. intelligence as “garbage after garbage after garbage.”
On the CIA leak case:
“My contribution to this was to say to a reporter, which is a lesson about talking to reporters, the words ‘I heard that, too.’” Rove leaked Valerie Plame’s identity not only to Novak, but to Time’s Matthew Cooper. Cooper said his conversation with Rove was the first time he heard anything about Plame.
The Bush administration has repeatedly changed its excuses for why David Iglesias was ousted as U.S. attorney. Justice officials called him an “absentee landlord, even though his time away from the office was spent serving in the Navy Reserve. They also claimed that he didn’t pursue voter fraud investigations aggressively enough, even though he had been “heralded for his expertise in that area by the Justice Department.”
Yesterday on Fox News Sunday, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) pointed out that Iglesias, like many of the other prosecutors, exercised “independent judgment” and refused to follow the Bush administration’s political agenda. “And as a result, he was fired,” said Van Hollen. Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT) then shouted out his reason for why the Bush administration fired Iglesias: “No, no. He was fired because he’s an idiot.” Watch it:var flvcannoniglesiasidiot32024014603 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/07/cannoniglesiasidiot.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvcannoniglesiasidiot32024014603', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvcannoniglesiasidiot32024014603.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvcannoniglesiasidiot32024014603.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvcannoniglesiasidiot32024014603.write('flvcannoniglesiasidiot32024014603');
Today, ThinkProgress spoke with Cannon spokesman Fred Piccolo, who explained Cannon’s “off-the-cuff” remark referenced the fact that when Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) contacted Iglesias and pressured him to pursue a case against Democrats:
It was more in regards to the fact that Iglesias was initially contacted by [Sen. Pete] Domenici and [Rep. Heather] Wilson. Instead of informing main Justice, he decided to inform the public and Justice…by holding several press conferences and tantalizingly releasing those names to the press, and has subsequently been the only fired us attorney to beat this drum of ‘this is a Karl-Rovian plot to obstruct justice and the prosecution of Republicans’ — after all these hearings, to any impartial observers it doesn’t play out.
Iglesias has admitted that not reporting the calls from Domenici and Wilson was a mistake. But he publicly revealed those calls only after he was fired. Similarly, he began speaking out about Rove’s role after he was fired. Therefore, Cannon’s criticisms of Iglesias’s post-firing behavior still don’t explain why he was ousted in the first place. It also doesn’t make Iglesias an “idiot.”
UPDATE: Cannon’s office tells Raw Story’s Michael Roston that “Mr. Iglesias demonstrated, both during his time before the committee and his subsequent riding of the talk show circuit parroting outrageous assertions, that he did not possess the temperament for the position he held.”
UPDATE II: The Utah Daily Herald reports, “After the show, Cannon and Chief of Staff Joe Hunter discussed the quote. Cannon said that he was trying to figure out how to make sure that the ‘he was an idiot’ quote didn’t end up as the headline in the newspaper.”
The New York Times reported today that White House officials are heatedly debating whether President Bush “should try to prevent more defections” of Republican war supporters by announcing a “gradual withdrawal” of U.S. troops from certain areas of Iraq.
But in comments to reporters this morning, White House spokesman Tony Snow insisted that the administration is still committed to staying the course:
“There is no debate right now on withdrawing forces right now from Iraq,” Snow said.
“The president has said many times that as conditions require and merit that there will be in fact withdrawals and also pulling back from areas of Baghdad and so on,” the press secretary said. “But the idea of trying to make a political judgment rather than a military judgment about how to have forces in the field is simply not true.”
Indeed, according to Robert Novak, the administration is actively trying to reverse the trend among conservative senators, with National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley making visits to Capitol Hill to lay the groundwork for blaming a “depleted U.S. military” for the failure of Bush’s escalation strategy:
Hadley called his expedition a “scouting trip,” leading one senator to ask what he was seeking. It was not advice on how to escape from Iraq. Hadley appeared interested in how previous supporters had drifted from Bush’s course. In the process, he planted seeds of concern. Some senators were left with the impression the White House still does not recognize the scope of the Iraq dilemma. Worse yet, they see Bush running out the clock until April, when a depleted U.S. military will be blamed for the fiasco.
Novak adds that Hadley’s visit to the Hill “increased latent fears of the U.S. military being made the fall guy — a concern shared by many retired and some active senior officers, including a current infantry division commander.”
White House Counsel Fred Fielding sent a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) today, reiterating the White House’s refusal to comply with the subpoena for documents related to the U.S. attorneys controversy:
Democrats had set Monday morning as a deadline for Fielding to at least provide a log of what documents the White House is withholding and to provide further justification for why the White House is asserting executive privilege.
Snow said Fielding refused on both counts — he will not turn over a log of documents and will point out that the White House previously explained its justification for executive privilege by releasing letters on June 28 from Fielding and the solicitor general.
“We’ve shown an extraordinary amount of accommodation,” said a White House official. “It’s clear to us what the Democrats want is a confrontation.”
UPDATE: Leahy responds: “I have to wonder if the White House’s refusal to provide a detailed basis for this executive privilege claim has more to do with its inability to craft an effective one.”
Yesterday on NBC Nightly News, White House correspondent John Yang said that Bush’s senior political aide Karl Rove has apparently calculated that Iraq will not affect the 2008 elections. Rove, who spoke Sunday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, reportedly said “Iraq may not be a big issue in the next election because, he hopes, troops will be coming home by then.” Watch it:var flvRoveAspen32024014602 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/07/RoveAspen.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvRoveAspen32024014602', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvRoveAspen32024014602.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvRoveAspen32024014602.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvRoveAspen32024014602.write('flvRoveAspen32024014602');
The Atlantic’s Ross Douhat notes that “Rove talked fluently about the surge as a means to enable us to start drawing down our forces” while the Aspen Daily News provides a few more details on Rove’s speech:
Overall, Rove said the goal was to make the “U.S. combat footprint smaller,” but he also surmised later in the interview that when the next president is sworn in on Jan. 21, 2009, plenty of American troops would still be in Iraq.
Rove appears only to be interested in creating the impression that the troops will be coming home by election day 2008 rather than actually instituting a real redeployment policy. As today’s New York Times reports:
Mr. Rove had warned that if Mr. Bush went too far in announcing a redeployment, the result could include a further cascade of defections — and the passage of legislation that would force a withdrawal by a specific date, a step Mr. Bush has always said he would oppose.
Unfortunately, as Joe Sudbay notes, Rove is still a leading figure in crafting administration policy, which means we can only expect half measures and political rhetoric that appeals to the conservative base, instead of a responsible plan for the orderly withdrawal of American troops from the middle of a civil war.
UPDATE: Claiming sole access to “THE math,” Rove has a history of making political predictions that deny reality, especially in regards to Iraq:
ROVE: I’m looking at all of these Robert and adding them up. I add up to a Republican Senate and Republican House. You may end up with a different math but you are entitled to your math and I’m entitled to THE math.
UPDATE II: ABC News has some more of Rove’s exact quotes:
“I think Iraq may or may not be the big issue,” said Rove. “It depends on where Iraq is by March, or April, or May of next year. I think it’s likely not to be the dominant issue because I think, because of my assumptions about where it is — where it is likely to be.”
A group of family members of September 11 victims today called out Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for blocking legislation that would implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations. The bill has already passed the House and Senate; McConnell is refusing to let it move to be signed by the President. “It is long overdue for passage and as a consequence, American lives remain at risk,” they write.
Read their full letter below: (more…)
“Shuttered storefronts and eroding retail sales figures show tourism and the Bush memorabilia business are slumping” in Crawford, TX. “In 2004, gross retail sales in Crawford totaled $2.6 million. They fell to $2 million in 2006, down by more than 20 percent.” Residents say that “the president’s sagging popularity is at least partly to blame for the slump in visitors.”
In recent days, a host of Republican Senators have announced their intention to call for a drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq. With only 23 percent of Americans approving of Bush’s handling of Iraq, there are hopeful signs that political pressures are forming conservatives to break ranks with Bush’s Iraq policy. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, however, is catering to the 23-percenters.
This morning on NBC’s Today Show, host Matt Lauer asked Huckabee, if Bush delivers a more pessimistic assessment of the surge this week, “would you feel we owe it to the 150,000 or so Americans serving in Iraq to start pulling them out sooner than later?”
“We have to make a decision — do we either pull them out or do we put whatever is necessary to make sure we don’t leave it in a bigger mess than we started with,” Huckabee answered. “More troops?” Lauer asked. “It’s possible,” said Huckabee. Watch it:var flvhuckescalation32024014606 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/07/huckescalation.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvhuckescalation32024014606', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvhuckescalation32024014606.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvhuckescalation32024014606.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvhuckescalation32024014606.write('flvhuckescalation32024014606');
Huckabee dodged the issue completely when Lauer noted that the armed forces are stretched very thin and may not have more troops to provide.
Huckabee fails to grasp that the U.S. occupation is driving the violence on the ground. As war czar Gen. Doug Lute previously noted, in order to reach a political solution, “You have to undercut the perception of occupation in Iraq. It’s very difficult to do that when you have 150,000-plus, largely western, foreign troops occupying the country.” A recent poll found 82 percent of Iraqis said they “lack confidence” in coalition forces, and 69 percent of Iraqis said coalition forces make “the security situation worse.”
UPDATE: Previously, Rudy Giuliani expressed his support for a second escalation.
The President has invoked executive privilege to “defy Congress’s latest demand for information regarding the dismissal of nine U.S. attorneys.” AP reports:
President Bush invoked executive privilege Monday to deny requests by Congress for testimony from former White House aides Sara Taylor and Harriet Miers.
It offered once more to make the pair available for private, off-the-record interviews on any role the White House might have played in the firings of several U.S. attorneys.
In a letter to the heads of the House and Senate Judiciary panels, White House counsel Fred Fielding insisted that Bush was acting in good faith and refused lawmakers’ demand that the president explain the basis for invoking the privilege.
UPDATE: This is the third time Bush has invoked executive privilege. It marks the second time he has used the power in relation to the U.S. attorney scandal.
UPDATE II: House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) responds:
We are extremely disappointed with the White House letter. While we remain willing to negotiate with the White House, they adhere to their unacceptable all-or-nothing position, and now will not even seek to properly justify their privilege claims. Contrary what the White House may believe, it is the Congress and the Courts that will decide whether an invocation of Executive Privilege is valid, not the White House unilaterally
Read his full letter at The Gavel.
Robert Novak writes in today’s Washington Post:
National security adviser Stephen J. Hadley visited Capitol Hill just before Congress adjourned for the Fourth of July. Meetings with a half-dozen senior Republican senators were clearly intended to extinguish fires set by Sen. Richard Lugar’s unexpected break from President Bush’s Iraq policy. They failed. […]
Based on what Hadley said, one senator concluded that “they just do not recognize the depth of the difficulty they are in.”
With the “last pillars of political support among Senate Republicans for President Bush’s Iraq strategy…collapsing,” debate within the White House “is intensifying over whether Mr. Bush should try to prevent more defections by announcing his intention to begin a gradual withdrawal of American troops from the high-casualty neighborhoods of Baghdad and other cities.”
The Washington Post reports “the Iraqi government is unlikely to meet any of the political and security goals or timelines President Bush set for it in January when he announced a major shift in U.S. policy.” Defense Secretary Robert Gates today canceled a visit to Latin America so he can participate in policy meetings in advance of a report to Congress July 15 on the results of the escalation.
A New York Times source says the massive bombing in Amerli, Iraq, this weekend killed 155 people, making it now “the worst single bombing in the war (the March bombing in Tal Afar killed 152).” In Amerli, “almost everyone seemed to have lost relatives or friends, if not entire families.”
Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff reports that Bush’s decision to commute Libby’s sentence was done in part to avoid “a fracture with the vice president.” Also, Bush reportedly instructed his counsel Fred Fielding to see “if there was compelling evidence that might contradict the jury’s verdict that Libby had lied to a federal grand jury.”
“Attacks on supply convoys protected by private security companies in Iraq have more than tripled as the U.S. government depends more on armed civilian guards to secure reconstruction and other missions.” (more…)