In a tone of sadness and self-reproach, Clinton said of the affair: "I think I did something for the worst possible reason -- just because I could. I think that's just about the most morally indefensible reason that anybody could have for doing anything. There are lots of sophisticated explanations, more complicated psychological explanations, but none of them are an excuse." Those comments were aired on last night's "CBS Evening News."
Keeping secret prisoners creates conditions for abuses such as the humiliations and beatings suffered by some Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the group argues.
"The official secrecy surrounding U.S. practices has made conditions ripe for illegality and abuse," said the report from Human Rights First, formerly called the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights.
There is obviously no moral equivalence here, but the logic is the same. Clinton got a blow job because he could. Bush passed a tax package and ruined our fiscal situation for little benefit, because he could. He invaded Iraq because he could. He has lied and misled because he could. Secrecy and obsequiousness are threats.
The House bill includes measures tailored to help restaurant owners, makers of private jets, bank directors, timberland owners, liquor distillers, Native American whalers, commodity traders and shipping conglomerates, to name a few. One last-minute provision, pushed in part by Home Depot, temporarily lifts customs duties on Chinese-made ceiling fans.
Let's hope the conference committee isn't corrupt, like with Medicare.
Terry Neal, in a Friday Washington Post online article, gives another example of poor journalism. He notes that Bush is responding to criticism of his economic stewardship by labeling the critics "pessimists." He then banally observes that if people think the economy improves, Bush will be better able to argue that he improved the economy. Look at how he says it though:
While polls show a generally negative attitude about the economy, consumer confidence is quite strong. The index has made a 12.6-point recovery from its low of 77.6 in March of 2003. This strong consumer rating comes even in spite of gasoline prices that have been on an unusually steep increase since the end of last year.
If these trends continue through November, the president will be in a strong position to make the case that his economic policies have revitalized the stagnant economy. [emphasis added] But the trend must continue. Here's why: Even as the unemployment rate is down from a high of 6.4 percent in June 2003 to about 5.6 percent now, the rate is still up significantly over the 4.2 percent rate when Bush took office.
Although the economy shows signs of improvement, the public perception doesn't reflect it. A new ABC News/Money magazine poll this week suggested that only one-third of the public thinks the economy is excellent or good compared to two-thirds who believe it to be not good or poor. And almost every major poll shows strong majorities disapproving of the president's handling of the economy.
The only other mention, anywhere in the article, about Bush's policies having a positive impact on the economy is in a reader e-mail: "What does the economy have to do to convince you liberals that Bush's policies work?"
That the economy is finally rebounding, even if workers haven't yet enjoyed any benefits, doesn't mean that Bush should get the credit. Everyone, and I mean everyone, believes that the American economy is strong enough to eventually recover from just about any recession, especially one driven by an investment bubble.
The question is how much pain Americans have to endure while waiting for the benefits of the recovery. George Bush cynically pushed through a set of policies - incentives for more investment - that were exactly the opposite of what would have accelerated the recovery. He bet that the recession would be shallow enough that exploiting the opportunity it presented to push through regressive tax policies would have little political cost. He lost that bet, as workers continue to feel the sting of weak wage growth and accelerating inflation.
Bush may be in a stronger "position to make the case that his economic policies have revitalized the stagnant economy" but it would still be a lie.
For more information on just how poorly designed Bush's policies were, look at this pdf from the Democratic Policy Committee or this collection of papers at EPI.
My favorite quote is the Ralph "Big Brother" Reed:
Asked about the potential benefits to the Bush campaign from his personal endorsement as an individual and from the Southern Baptists' voter registration efforts, Mr. Graham said: "You can connect the dots. I don't mind if you connect the dots. You can't separate what you believe from the political process."
Mr. Reed, for his part, appeared to relish any criticism of the campaign for cultivating churches, since it served to reinforce the campaign's connection to the faith. In his speech at the reception, he brought up recent criticism of the campaign over an e-mail message from Pennsylvania suggesting that supporters distribute campaign information inside the places of worship of "friendly congregations," something specialists in election law say might jeopardize their tax status.
"I, for one, believe people of faith have the same rights to participate in the political process as any other citizens," he said. "Christians should not be treated as second-class citizens."
Last I heard, second class citizens weren't tax exempt. But he may be right about the criticism of the outreach - there could easily be an O'Reilly-Franken effect [the criticism could help the original effort].
Regardless of what one thinks of the faith based initiatives, there is a serious problem in the NYT's reporting:
President Bush announced the religion-based initiative early in his presidency but has been unable to persuade Congress to approve some of his proposals. He has instead sidestepped lawmakers with executive orders and regulations to give religious organizations equal footing in competing for federal contracts.
The White House says the goal is to level the playing field for religious groups and ease bureaucratic barriers.
"They're not leveling the playing field," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. "They're cajoling religious organizations to come to them and telling them how to fill out the forms and giving untried groups money. We think it's about promoting religions."
The italicized portion of the excerpt assumes that Bush's take on the controversy is correct, when that question is at the heart of the lawsuit.
Yahoo! News - Bush Seeks to Depict Kerry as Economic Pessimist: "'The economy has shifted into a higher gear,' Bush told a small business summit. He said companies were churning out new jobs at a fast clip, factories were busy and households were earning more money.
But, in a clear reference to Kerry, a Massachusetts senator who is certain to be his Democratic opponent in the November election, Bush said there were some in Washington who are ignoring the good news and who would offer 'familiar' solutions of increasing the size of government.
'There are modern day economic pessimists around who are quick to offer dire predictions and complaints,' Bush told the gathering of the National Federation of Independent Business."
Optimism doesn't mean sugarcoating the present. It means believing in a better future. The stampede of unicorns continues.
About 10 demonstrators attended a rally outside St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City organized by the Society for Truth and Justice, a conservative, Houston-based religious group that also opposes gay marriage.
"We're here to send a message to American bishops to please end the scandal of pro-abortion Catholic politicians like John Kerry, who say it is OK to promote abortion as a moral good, a moral right for women, while also professing allegiance to and their communion with the Roman Catholic Church," said one of the protesters, Chris Slattery.
"They are hypocrites," he said. "They are not true Catholics."
I want Reuters to cover it the next time I get together with ten of my buddies to bitch about Bush.
Most every blogger has already commented on this extensively, but Rumsfeld's personal involvement in the "ghosting" of detainees has enormous implications. There is no question that the detainee was operating in the Iraqi theater and Bush has explicitly stated that the Geneva Conventions apply there, though the "exception" to the convention for unlawful combatants may have been viewed as controlling. Nonetheless, ghosting is an entirely different matter than torture, and there is no conceivable rationale, even a morally abominable one, that can be used to justify it. The White House's real war is on accountability.
We may be hearing much more about Camp Cropper and ghosting in the near future.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush voiced support for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Thursday after the Pentagon said Rumsfeld ordered the detention of a terrorist suspect in Iraq who was held for more than seven months without notifying the Red Cross.
"I'm never disappointed in my secretary of defense. He's doing a fabulous job and America's lucky to have him in the position he's in," Bush told reporters at the White House when asked if he was disappointed at Rumsfeld's move.
"The secretary and I discussed that for the first time this morning," added Bush, sitting next to Rumsfeld. He noted that the secretary had called a news conference later in the day and would address the issue.
Senior Pentagon and intelligence officials, have confirmed that the prisoner, suspected of being a "terrorist", was hidden along with other "ghost detainees", largely to prevent the International Committee of the Red Cross from monitoring their treatment and conditions.
Rumsfeld's order last November came at the request of George Tenet, the CIA director who resigned this month, according Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.
Both assigning a prisoner number and notifying the Red Cross are required under the Geneva Conventions and other international humanitarian laws.
"I will acknowledge that the ICRC should have been notified about this prisoner earlier," Whitman said. "He will be assigned an identification number and, if appropriate, moved into the general prison population."
The US military has been secretly holding a suspected terrorist in Iraq on the orders of the Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
The Iraq man has been held since last November at a high-risk prison near Baghdad, without being listed on any roll or assigned a prisoner number.
Both conditions violate the Geneva Convention on treatment of prisoners.
A Pentagon spokesman said the US would end the shadowy status of the prisoner and allow the Red Cross to visit him.
The spokesman confirmed a report in the New York Times that CIA chief George Tenet - who steps down from the post next month - had asked Mr Rumsfeld to have the prisoner secretly detained.
The treatment in effect made him a 'ghost detainee'.
The secret detention of the prisoner was first reported in the June 21 issue of U.S. News & World Report, and Rumsfeld's involvement was reported Wednesday by NBC News.
CIA officials captured the man in July and spirited him out of Iraq. He was returned in October after the Justice Department issued a legal opinion stating that the international law embodied in the Geneva Convention forbade removing a prisoner of war from the nation in which he was captured, U.S. and intelligence officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
At Tenet's request, Rumsfeld wrote a memo ordering Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the ground commander in Iraq, not to assign the detainee a serial number and added words to the effect, an unidentified U.S. official said, of "do not acknowledge that we are detaining him to any international organization" — an apparent reference to the Red Cross.
Sanchez, head of Joint Task Force 7, the military command in Baghdad directing the war, complied with Rumsfeld's order "in violation of international law," the official added.
U.S. officials disputed any accusations that the military's handling of "XXX" was illegal, stating that a detainee who represents a direct threat to coalition forces does not have to be registered with the ICRC "right away."
"The Geneva Convention does not require that someone like this be immediately registered," one official said. "This guy was involved in terrorist activity in Iraq, and was involved in planning attacks on coalition forces."
I am surprised that the CIA is refusing to declassify significant portions of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq. Why suprised? Because I think the administration's strategy from this point on will be to lay as much blame as possible on the CIA. Without Tenet, the Agency is a scapegoat, something the White House can point a finger toward without having obvious blowback [read: their initial allocation of blame won't be laughable].
That is, of course, unless the Agency has already decided to blow back on its own. Given the rash of leaks confronting the administration at every turn, it may be that Tenet wanted to get out before the Agency fully revolted.
WASHINGTON — Halliburton Inc. was hit Monday with some of the sharpest criticism yet of its work in Iraq and Kuwait, as government auditors faulted its control over subcontractors and whistle-blowers alleged massive overspending.
The Pentagon's Defense Contract Audit Agency found that Halliburton's system of billing the government for billions of dollars in contracts was "inadequate in part," failing to follow the company's internal procedures or even to determine whether subcontractors had performed work.
At the same time, four former Halliburton employees issued signed statements charging that the company had routinely wasted money. Among other things, they said the company had paid $45 apiece for cases of soda and $100 per bag of laundry, and had abandoned nearly new, $85,000 trucks in the desert for lack of spare parts.
"There was this whole thought process that we can spend whatever we want to because the government won't crack down in the first year of a war," said Marie deYoung, a former logistics officer with the company.
From the days after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, until very recently, Bush and his surrogates emphasized how much tougher Bush was than his opponents. Unlike the Democrats, Bush was willing to "go it alone" to battle terror. He was not prepared to wait for support from the United Nations and recalcitrant allies -- "to wait," as Bush himself once put it, "for somebody else to act."
Bush has now reversed both the public emphasis of his policy and the rhetoric of his campaign. A new phrase has entered the lexicon of Bush surrogates: Where Kerry was once denounced primarily as a wildly liberal senator from Massachusetts and a flip-flopper to boot, he is now accused of "me-tooism" on Iraq.
The Bush campaign Web site, for example, touts a statement made earlier this month by Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.), who accused Kerry of "political 'me-tooism' " and insisted that Kerry has "largely embraced the goals that the president has already laid to make the world a safer place."
Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican and a White House loyalist, also accused Kerry of "a striking amount of me-tooism" on foreign policy, while Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman has said that Kerry's "only real strategy on Iraq is: 'I wish I was doing it.' "
The Kerry camp makes the opposite point: that in seeking and winning a United Nations resolution supporting the new Iraqi government and in trying unsuccessfully at last week's Group of Eight summit to win a NATO troop commitment to Iraq, Bush is himself flip-flopping and following Kerry's lead.
This is a crucial argument to publicize - it undercuts the Bush flip-flop slur at the same time that it undercuts the "strong leadership in times of change" argument.
More Public Money for Partisan Medicare Propaganda
Bush is still shilling for his Medicare program, this time in battle-ground state Missouri, and again at public expense. He is using our tax money for partisan disinformation.
With fewer than expected older Americans signing up for the cards and Democrats working to fan opposition to the law, Bush said that some Medicare patients are shying away because they consider it too complicated to get a card. Still, he delivered a strong defense -- and accompanied a 74-year-old woman to a local pharmacy where she used her new card to save $17 on her blood-pressure medicine.
"This discount card is going to save our seniors a lot of money," Bush said.
Monday's visit was classified by the White House as an official presidential trip, not a campaign event, so it was paid for with public funds. But, like most of the president's travels across the country in this election year, the destination had political overtones. Bush carried Missouri by 3 percentage points in 2000, and recent polls suggest that he and Kerry are closely matched here.
As I noted earlier, the GOP Party line is that the problems with the program are attributable to lies from its opponents. AARP, a supporter of the program, disagrees:
Since Bush signed the Medicare law six months ago, a variety of surveys have found widespread public dissatisfaction with it, including the discount cards. A spokesman for AARP, the nation's largest organization of older Americans, said enrollment in the card that group is sponsoring is running lower than expected. As of late last week, nearly 49,000 people had contacted AARP to request information about the card, but just 5,900 had signed up. "People are having a tough time" understanding the program, said the spokesman, Steve Hahn. "They are a bit confused, and they are getting overwhelmed with information." [WaPo article linked above]
Even before Mr. Reagan died, Nancy Reagan and her daughter, Patti Davis, made their opposition to Mr. Bush's policy on stem-cell research well known. But on Friday, at the culmination of an emotional week of mourning for the former president, his son Ron Reagan delivered a eulogy that castigated politicians who use religion "to gain political advantage," a comment that was being interpreted in Washington as a not-so-subtle slap at Mr. Bush.
The remark has provoked intense debate among Republicans about precisely what the younger Mr. Reagan meant. Some saw the reference to religion as a message to the administration on stem-cell research. Others saw it as a possible critique of the war in Iraq. Still others insist there was no deeper message at all.
But a friend of the Reagan family, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mr. Reagan, who did not return a call seeking comment on Monday, was deeply uncomfortable with the way the Bush administration intertwined religion and politics and felt compelled to say so at the burial of his father, a ceremony watched by millions.
"I think he was making a more profound statement about style," this friend said, "and the danger of religion in politics."
First families often cause trouble for presidents. Jimmy Carter, Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton each had brothers who made them uncomfortable from time to time. But rarely does the family of one president step on the toes of another. The Reagans and Bushes, who have had famously strained relations throughout the years, may be an exception, as Nancy Reagan and her children guard Ronald Reagan's legacy, fending off efforts by both the right and left to trade on it for political gain.
"I think Nancy would not want that," said Barbara Kellerman, a Harvard expert on leadership who has written a book on first families. "She is not mad about the Bush family, and the last thing she intends is for W. to inherit her beloved and sanctified husband's mantle."
Two things. First, the idea that Reagan was talking only about stem-cells is absurd on its face. It demonstrates ignorance about Ron Reagan and rose-tinted glasses about everything Bush has ever done. Second, I can think of another former first-family member that is a thorn in Bush's side: Hillary Rodham Clinton.
In the wake of Reagan, the Bush-Cheney campaign has increased its mendacious effort to claim the mantle of optimism as exclusive Republican property. On June 1st, John Kerry put out an advertisement titled "Optimists" [Press Release], Bush-Cheney countered with a negative ad titled "Pessimism" [Press Release; "Facts"].
But it has been difficult to detect George W. Bush's optimism. He has run on fear, constantly evoking the threat of catastrophic terrorism, mushroom clouds in American cities, the ruination of the economy without his tax cuts.
Luckily, Dana Milbank clarifies: "All News is Good News." Their "optimism" is simply trampling truth in a stampede of unicorns. Simply deny the problem, have faith that God's plan is for the best.
Today's press is brutal for Bush, and it's a brutality his administration has earned through 3.5 years of bad politics and worse policy.
First, Elizabeth Bumiller in today's New York Times notes some of the more obvious distinctions between Ronald Reagan and George W.- Bush is worse on film, meaner in politics, more elitist:
Of course, Mr. Bush's effort to wrap himself in the Reagan legacy drew plenty of skeptics, including a number of top Reagan officials, who said, all anonymously, that the presidencies could not have been more different. Mr. Reagan was pragmatic, they said, but Mr. Bush is ideological. Mr. Reagan was a unifier, they argued, while Mr. Bush has polarized.
Second, 26 "retired U.S. diplomats and military officers" came out against George W. Bush's re-election. They didn't explicitly endorse Kerry, but that only means they think Nader would do a better job than Bush.
"We agreed that we had just lost confidence in the ability of the Bush administration to advocate for American interests or to provide the kind of leadership that we think is essential," said William C. Harrop, the first President Bush's ambassador to Israel, and earlier to four African countries. [See also: LA Times]
Third, the New York Times reports new evidence of unsavory ties between Halliburton the White House and the Office of the Vice President:
In the fall of 2002, in the preparations for possible war with Iraq, the Pentagon sought and received the assent of senior Bush administration officials, including the vice president's chief of staff, before hiring the Halliburton Company to develop secret plans for restoring Iraq's oil facilities, Pentagon officials have told Congressional investigators.
The newly disclosed details about Pentagon contracting do not suggest improper political pressures to direct business to Halliburton, the Houston-based company that Vice President Dick Cheney once led.
But they raise questions about assertions by Mr. Cheney and other administration officials that he knew nothing in advance of the Halliburton contracts and that the decisions were made by career procurement specialists, without involvement by senior political appointees.
Fourth, Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN Special Envoy to Iraq, has resigned. On the heels of Bush's reputed outreach to the UN, this can't be good news. How soon before Brahimi spills the beans on the administrations obstruction? He's already called Bremer the "dictator of Iraq."
Eighth, the CIA has gotten itself into trouble by delaying declassification of a Senate Intelligence Committee Report on the agency's failures in the lead up to Iraq. With Tenet's resignation, Bush may think CIA problems are off his back, but anytime the press mentions "intelligence" in the same sentence as "Iraq," things are rough for Bush-Cheney.
War has usually been good for the economy in the short run, and this one appears no different. In the first three months of this year, defense work accounted for nearly 16 percent of the nation's economic growth, according to the Commerce Department. [Washington Post 6/10/04]
Victoria Toensing had a relatively bizarre op-ed in yesterday's post, criticizing the 9-11 commission for not getting investigating members of Congress for their contributions to the failures of September 11th. Why is this op-ed bizarre? First, because Toensing is a proud, outspoken, partisan Republican. For the seven years preceding 9-11, Congress was run by the Republicans. If Toensing thinks the Republicans need to be investigated for their mismanagement of intelligence policy, more power to her.
Second, because the op-ed seems to undermine itself with every argument it makes. Toensing says "investigate Congressional failures," then follows up with
A major problem is that congressional intelligence oversight tends to be passive. The committees hear what the agencies tell them. Rarely do they act aggressively on this volunteered information. According to The Post, each year since he became director of central intelligence in 1997, Tenet had listed Osama bin Laden as one of the "top three threats facing the United States," and had briefed the intelligence committees on that threat in detail in closed sessions. Congress did not take the issue to the next step, for example, demanding to know whether bin Laden could attack in the United States, and if so, how.
Congressional oversight of intelligence is passive, but, by and large, that is a good thing. Anyone not convinced of this should look at the "active" oversight offered by the White House and the Department of Defense.
Third, Toensing's real motive in writing appears to be to undermine the 9-11 Commission. She slurs Congress for not being more attentive to intelligence matters:
"When I was chief counsel [of the Intelligence Committee under Goldwater], I was privy to the fact that some of the senators who complained the loudest about executive branch conduct were the ones who had not come to the briefings or bothered to read the materials. There was a docket sheet. We knew who had entered the secure space to review documents. Times have not changed."
She goes on to state: "Four of the 10 commissioners have served in Congress. They should not use that relationship to shield former colleagues." This sort of attack seems more designed to limit the impact of the Inquiry's findings on the White House and the Agencies, providing a bit of pre-emptive scapegoating.
[W]hat started as an effort to repeal a $5 billion-a-year subsidy has grown into one of the most significant corporate tax measures in years. The Senate bill, 980 pages long, includes more than $167 billion in business tax cuts over 10 years, handing out favors to NASCAR racetracks, foreign dog-race gamblers, Oldsmobile dealers and bow-and-arrow makers, to name a few. The centerpiece is a tax credit to effectively lower the tax rate on domestic manufacturing from 35 percent to 32 percent.
The "special interest bonanza" is bad enough, but the real problem with the legislation is its reduction of taxes for "domestic manufacturing." The article quotes the Economic Report of the President: "[F]irms would have an incentive to characterize themselves as in manufacturing. Administering the tax relief could be difficult, and the tax relief may not extend to the firms for which it was enacted." [That could] "inadvertently distort production and have unintended and harmful results." For example, "mixing water and concentrate to make a soft drink is classified as a manufacturing activity by the Census Bureau." A tax lawyer at Skadden says her " biggest concern with the proposals that would just penalize certain companies is that we believe that people would quickly find a way around them."
In the face of this abominable legislation – which not only puts another hole in the leaky treasury, but, again, does it in the most destructive manner possible – the administration has remained silent.
But recently, the administration has fallen silent. White House officials refused to discuss the legislation, saying the House bill is a work in progress. N. Gregory Mankiw, the current chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, did not repudiate his passage on the matter in the Economic Report of the President--but he would not discuss it either. Treasury, which holds the core of tax policy expertise in the government, also declined to comment at length.
Yesterday's Washington Post had an editorial on the legislation: Fix this Bill:
"Both bills would do more damage to the economy than the damage that would result from European trade sanctions. Both would squander an opportunity to do needed tax reform and encourage even more brazen special-interest lobbying next time a tax bill comes up in Congress."
The only good thing in this legislation is that it benefits Bourbon distillers.