Friday, October 05, 2007
Scandal brewing at Oral Roberts U.
Oct. 5, 2007
By JUSTIN JUOZAPAVICIUS
Associated Press Writer
2007 The Associated Press
TULSA, Okla. — Twenty years ago, televangelist Oral Roberts said he was reading a spy novel when God appeared to him and told him to raise $8 million for Roberts' university, or else he would be "called home."
Now, his son, Oral Roberts University President Richard Roberts, says God is speaking again, telling him to deny lurid allegations in a lawsuit that threatens to engulf this 44-year-old Bible Belt college in scandal.
Richard Roberts is accused of illegal involvement in a local political campaign and lavish spending at donors' expense, including numerous home remodeling projects, use of the university jet for his daughter's senior trip to the Bahamas, and a red Mercedes convertible and a Lexus SUV for his wife, Lindsay.
She is accused of dropping tens of thousands of dollars on clothes, awarding nonacademic scholarships to friends of her children and sending scores of text messages on university-issued cell phones to people described in the lawsuit as "underage males."
At a chapel service this week on the 5,300-student campus known for its 60-foot-tall bronze sculpture of praying hands, Roberts said God told him: "We live in a litigious society. Anyone can get mad and file a lawsuit against another person whether they have a legitimate case or not. This lawsuit ... is about intimidation, blackmail and extortion."
San Antonio televangelist John Hagee, a member of the ORU board of regents, said the university's executive board "is conducting a full and thorough investigation."
Colleagues fear for the reputation of the university and the future of the Roberts' ministry, which grew from Southern tent revivals to one of the most successful evangelical empires in the country, hauling in tens of millions of dollars in contributions a year. The university reported nearly $76 million in revenue in 2005, according to the IRS.
Oral Roberts is 89 and lives in California. He holds the title of chancellor, but the university describes him as semi-retired, and his son presides over day-to-day operations on the campus, which had a modern, space-age design when it was built in the early 1960s but now looks dated, like Disney's Tomorrowland.
Cornell Cross II, a senior from Burlington, Vt., said he is looking to transfer to another school because the scandal has "severely devalued and hurt the reputation of my degree."
"We have asked and asked and asked to see the finances of our school and what they're doing with our money, and we've been told no," said, Cross who is majoring in government. "Now we know why. As a student, I'm not going to stand for it any longer."
The allegations are contained in a lawsuit filed Tuesday by three former professors. They sued ORU and Roberts, alleging they were wrongfully dismissed after reporting the school's involvement in a local political race.
Richard Roberts, according to the suit, asked a professor in 2005 to use his students and university resources to aid a county commissioner's bid for Tulsa mayor. Such involvement would violate state and federal law because of the university's nonprofit status. Up to 50 students are alleged to have worked on the campaign.
The professors also said their dismissals came after they turned over to the board of regents a copy of a report documenting moral and ethical lapses on the part of Roberts and his family. The internal document was prepared by Stephanie Cantese, Richard Roberts' sister-in-law, according to the lawsuit.
An ORU student repairing Cantese's laptop discovered the document and later provided a copy to one of the professors.
It details dozens of alleged instances of misconduct. Among them:
_ A longtime maintenance employee was fired so that an underage male friend of Mrs. Roberts could have his position.
_ Mrs. Roberts — who is a member of the board of regents and is referred to as ORU's "first lady" on the university's Web site — frequently had cell-phone bills of more than $800 per month, with hundreds of text messages sent between 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. to "underage males who had been provided phones at university expense."
_ The university jet was used to take one daughter and several friends on a senior trip to Orlando, Fla., and the Bahamas. The $29,411 trip was billed to the ministry as an "evangelistic function of the president."
_ Mrs. Roberts spent more than $39,000 at one Chico's clothing store alone in less than a year, and had other accounts in Texas and California. She also repeatedly said, "As long as I wear it once on TV, we can charge it off." The document cites inconsistencies in clothing purchases and actual usage on TV.
_ Mrs. Roberts was given a white Lexus SUV and a red Mercedes convertible by ministry donors.
_ University and ministry employees are regularly summoned to the Roberts' home to do the daughters' homework.
_ The university and ministry maintain a stable of horses for exclusive use by the Roberts' children.
_ The Roberts' home has been remodeled 11 times in the past 14 years.
Tim Brooker, one of the professors who sued, said he fears for the university's survival if certain changes aren't made.
"All over that campus, there are signs up that say, `And God said, build me a university, build it on my authority, and build it on the Holy Spirit,'" Brooker said. "Unfortunately, ownership has shifted."
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Dana Perino's Big Butt.
Jesus it's people like Dana that make me embarrassed to be an American.
Much outrage has been provoked by the generally excellent New York Times article this morning revealing the Bush administration's recent violations of legal restrictions on the use of torture and other "severe interrogation techniques." And, in one sense, the outrage is both understandable and appropriate. Today's revelations involve the now-familiar, defining attributes of this administration -- claims of limitless presidential power, operating in total secrecy and with no oversight, breaking of laws at will, serial misleading of the Congress and the country and, most of all, the shattering of every previous moral and legal constraint on our national behavior.
But in another, more important, sense, this story reveals nothing new. As a country, we've known undeniably for almost two years now that we have a lawless government and a President who routinely orders our laws to be violated. His top officials have been repeatedly caught lying outright to Congress on the most critical questions we face. They have argued out in the open that the "constitutional duty" to defend the country means that nothing -- including our "laws" -- can limit what the President does.
It has long been known that we are torturing, holding detainees in secret prisons beyond the reach of law and civilization, sending detainees to the worst human rights abusers to be tortured, and subjecting them ourselves to all sorts of treatment which both our own laws and the treaties to which we are a party plainly prohibit. None of this is new.
And we have decided, collectively as a country, to do nothing about that. Quite the contrary, with regard to most of the revelations of lawbreaking and abuse, our political elite almost in unison has declared that such behavior is understandable, if not justifiable. And our elected representatives have chosen to remain largely in the dark about what was done and, when forced by court rulings or media revelations to act at all, they have endorsed and legalized this behavior -- not investigated, outlawed or punished it.
A ruling by the Supreme Court in Hamdan that the President's interrogation and detention policies violated the law led Congress to enact the Military Commissions Act to legalize those policies. Revelations that the President and telecom companies were breaking our surveillance laws led to the legalization of much of that program and will soon lead to amnesty for the lawbreakers. With regard to all of the most severe acts of illegality, no criminal prosecutions have been commenced and no truly meaningful Congressional investigations have been pursued.
And the more that is revealed about the deep corruption of this administration, the more protective our political elite becomes of the administration, the more insistent their demands become that nothing be done (see Fred Hiatt's attack today on Pat Leahy for his "irresponsible" refusal to confirm Bush's Attorney General until the administration discloses information regarding their past lawbreaking and firings of prosecutors). And the more our political elite defends the administration and demands that nothing be done, the more our "opposition party" heeds those demands:
Backing away from a fight with the White House, Senate Democrats are suggesting that they will not hold up confirmation of President Bush's nominee for attorney general, Michael B. Mukasey, despite differences over Senate access to documents involving Justice Department actions.All of these subversive and grotesque policies -- the Yoo/Addington theories of the imperial presidency, torture, rendition, illegal surveillance, black sites -- began as secret, illegal Bush administration policies. But the more they are revealed, and the more we do nothing about them, the more they become our own.
In a letter to Mr. Mukasey made public Wednesday, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, said he would go forward with the confirmation hearings without the promise of the documents.
The committee had for months been pressing the White House for access to files and e-mail messages about last year's firing of several federal prosecutors for what Democrats maintain were political reasons, and about legal justifications for the domestic eavesdropping program run by the National Security Agency.
It is vital to emphasize here that these revelations are not obsolete matters of the distant past -- something we can all agree to leave behind in the spirit of harmoniously moving forward. The torture, detention and surveillance policies in question are still the formal and official position of our government -- and thus can be applied with far greater vigor not merely in the event of a new terrorist attack, but at any time.
The current policies of the U.S. Government still include, in undiluted form, the Bush administration's theories of unlimited presidential power; the lawless powers of indefinite, due-process-free imprisonment even of U.S. citizens (as applied to Jose Padilla); the use of black sites; the asserted right to spy on Americans with no warrants or legal constraints. None of that has gone away. We just decided to accept it. As the NYT article said about the administration's torture memos:
But the 2005 Justice Department opinions remain in effect, and their legal conclusions have been confirmed by several more recent memorandums, officials said. They show how the White House has succeeded in preserving the broadest possible legal latitude for harsh tactics.All of the solemn "debates" and hand-wringing and anti-torture laws that were passed have changed very little, because the administration knows that there is no political will ever to enforce any of that. They know that the political and media institutions intended to impose checks on their behavior will never take any meaningful stand against what they do, no matter how blatantly extreme or illegal.
In response to a post I wrote last month ago regarding the press's reverence for Karl Rove, NYU Journalism Professor (and excellent media critic) Jay Rosen argued that much of the Beltway's acquiescence to the administration's lawbreaking and radicalism is due to their sheer inability to comprehend and internalize just how extreme it all has been:
But I would recommend to Glenn some other factors that deserve consideration if we're trying to explain the collapse of the press under Bush, Cheney and Rove.Previously, that's what I believed, and I think that is what accounted for the meekness among our political and media class when these abuses first began to emerge: an inability to comprehend, really to believe, that our government had become this extreme, so blatantly indifferent to even the most minimal legal and moral constraints. One does not expect an administration to imprison U.S. citizens with no process, or to proclaim explicitly the right to break the law, or to systematically adopt policies of torture. For that reason, it is not surprising that it would take some time for the reaction to catch up to the full extent of the wrongdoing.
The most important of these is that journalists and their methods were overwhelmed by what the Bush White House did -- by its radicalism. There is simply nothing in the Beltway journalist's rule book about what to do, how to act, when a group of people comes to power willing to go as far as this group has in expanding executive power, eluding oversight, steamrolling critics (even when they are allies) politicizing the government, re-working the Constitution, rolling back the press, making secrecy and opacity standard operating procedure, and repealing the very principle of empiricism in matters of state.
The press tends to behave because it does not know how to act, in the sense of striking out in a new direction when confronted with a new fact pattern.
But we are now way past the point where that excuse is plausible. Anyone paying even minimal attention is well aware of exactly how radical and corrupt and lawless this administration is. We all know what has happened to our standing in the world, to our national character and our core political values, as a result of the previously unthinkable policies the Bush administration has relentlessly pursued. Ignorance or incredulity can no longer explain our acquiescence. Accommodating and protecting the lawbreaking of high Bush officials is widely seen by our Beltway elite as a duty of bipartisanship, a hallmark of Seriousness.
It isn't surprising or particularly revealing that there were not immediate consequences for these revelations. Our political system, by design, works slowly and methodically. The Founders purposely imposed significant hurdles to undertaking the most significant steps (such as criminal investigations of high Executive officials or impeachment) precisely to ensure that such actions were taken deliberatively, not impetuously. It took two-and-a-half years for the much simpler Watergate scandal to lead to what would have been the impeachment of Richard Nixon. The failure to impose immediate or even rapid consequences, while frustrating to many, would not really be a cause for legitimate complaint.
But when it comes to Bush's extremism and lawbreaking, we're not imposing consequences slowly. We're not imposing consequences at all. Quite the contrary, we're moving in the opposite direction -- when we're not affirmatively endorsing and providing protection for that conduct, we're choosing not to know about it, or simply allowing it to fester. And the more that happens, the less that behavior becomes the exclusive province of the Bush administration and the more it becomes our country's defining behavior.
This could still all be reversed. The NYT article today reveals new facts about the administration's lawbreaking, lying, and pursuit of torture policies which we had decided, with futility, to outlaw. The Congress could aggressively investigate. Criminal prosecutions could be commenced. Our opinion-making elite could sound the alarm. New laws could be passed, reversing the prior endorsements and imposing new restrictions, along with the will to enforce those laws. We still have the ability to vindicate the rule of law and enforce our basic constitutional framework.
But does anyone actually believe any of that will be the result of these new revelations? We always possess the choice -- still -- to take a stand for the rule of law and our basic national values, but with every new day that we choose not to, those Bush policies become increasingly normalized, increasingly the symbol not only of "Bushism" but of America.
WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 — When the Justice Department publicly declared torture “abhorrent” in a legal opinion in December 2004, the Bush administration appeared to have abandoned its assertion of nearly unlimited presidential authority to order brutal interrogations.
But soon after Alberto R. Gonzales’s arrival as attorney general in February 2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. It was a very different document, according to officials briefed on it, an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.
The new opinion, the officials said, for the first time provided explicit authorization to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.
Mr. Gonzales approved the legal memorandum on “combined effects” over the objections of James B. Comey, the deputy attorney general, who was leaving his job after bruising clashes with the White House. Disagreeing with what he viewed as the opinion’s overreaching legal reasoning, Mr. Comey told colleagues at the department that they would all be “ashamed” when the world eventually learned of it.
Later that year, as Congress moved toward outlawing “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment, the Justice Department issued another secret opinion, one most lawmakers did not know existed, current and former officials said. The Justice Department document declared that none of the C.I.A. interrogation methods violated that standard.
The classified opinions, never previously disclosed, are a hidden legacy of President Bush’s second term and Mr. Gonzales’s tenure at the Justice Department, where he moved quickly to align it with the White House after a 2004 rebellion by staff lawyers that had thrown policies on surveillance and detention into turmoil.
Congress and the Supreme Court have intervened repeatedly in the last two years to impose limits on interrogations, and the administration has responded as a policy matter by dropping the most extreme techniques. But the 2005 Justice Department opinions remain in effect, and their legal conclusions have been confirmed by several more recent memorandums, officials said. They show how the White House has succeeded in preserving the broadest possible legal latitude for harsh tactics.
A White House spokesman, Tony Fratto, said Wednesday that he would not comment on any legal opinion related to interrogations. Mr. Fratto added, “We have gone to great lengths, including statutory efforts and the recent executive order, to make it clear that the intelligence community and our practices fall within U.S. law” and international agreements.
More than two dozen current and former officials involved in counterterrorism were interviewed over the past three months about the opinions and the deliberations on interrogation policy. Most officials would speak only on the condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of the documents and the C.I.A. detention operations they govern.
When he stepped down as attorney general in September after widespread criticism of the firing of federal prosecutors and withering attacks on his credibility, Mr. Gonzales talked proudly in a farewell speech of how his department was “a place of inspiration” that had balanced the necessary flexibility to conduct the war on terrorism with the need to uphold the law.
Associates at the Justice Department said Mr. Gonzales seldom resisted pressure from Vice President Dick Cheney and David S. Addington, Mr. Cheney’s counsel, to endorse policies that they saw as effective in safeguarding Americans, even though the practices brought the condemnation of other governments, human rights groups and Democrats in Congress. Critics say Mr. Gonzales turned his agency into an arm of the Bush White House, undermining the department’s independence.
The interrogation opinions were signed by Steven G. Bradbury, who since 2005 has headed the elite Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department. He has become a frequent public defender of the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program and detention policies at Congressional hearings and press briefings, a role that some legal scholars say is at odds with the office’s tradition of avoiding political advocacy.
Mr. Bradbury defended the work of his office as the government’s most authoritative interpreter of the law. “In my experience, the White House has not told me how an opinion should come out,” he said in an interview. “The White House has accepted and respected our opinions, even when they didn’t like the advice being given.”
The debate over how terrorism suspects should be held and questioned began shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when the Bush administration adopted secret detention and coercive interrogation, both practices the United States had previously denounced when used by other countries. It adopted the new measures without public debate or Congressional vote, choosing to rely instead on the confidential legal advice of a handful of appointees.
The policies set off bruising internal battles, pitting administration moderates against hard-liners, military lawyers against Pentagon chiefs and, most surprising, a handful of conservative lawyers at the Justice Department against the White House in the stunning mutiny of 2004. But under Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Bradbury, the Justice Department was wrenched back into line with the White House.
After the Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the Geneva Conventions applied to prisoners who belonged to Al Qaeda, President Bush for the first time acknowledged the C.I.A.’s secret jails and ordered their inmates moved to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The C.I.A. halted its use of waterboarding, or pouring water over a bound prisoner’s cloth-covered face to induce fear of suffocation.
But in July, after a monthlong debate inside the administration, President Bush signed a new executive order authorizing the use of what the administration calls “enhanced” interrogation techniques — the details remain secret — and officials say the C.I.A. again is holding prisoners in “black sites” overseas. The executive order was reviewed and approved by Mr. Bradbury and the Office of Legal Counsel.
Douglas W. Kmiec, who headed that office under President Ronald Reagan and the first President George Bush and wrote a book about it, said he believed the intense pressures of the campaign against terrorism have warped the office’s proper role.
“The office was designed to insulate against any need to be an advocate,” said Mr. Kmiec, now a conservative scholar at Pepperdine University law school. But at times in recent years, Mr. Kmiec said, the office, headed by William H. Rehnquist and Antonin Scalia before they served on the Supreme Court, “lost its ability to say no.”
“The approach changed dramatically with opinions on the war on terror,” Mr. Kmiec said. “The office became an advocate for the president’s policies.”
From the secret sites in Afghanistan, Thailand and Eastern Europe where C.I.A. teams held Qaeda terrorists, questions for the lawyers at C.I.A. headquarters arrived daily. Nervous interrogators wanted to know: Are we breaking the laws against torture?
The Bush administration had entered uncharted legal territory beginning in 2002, holding prisoners outside the scrutiny of the International Red Cross and subjecting them to harrowing pressure tactics. They included slaps to the head; hours held naked in a frigid cell; days and nights without sleep while battered by thundering rock music; long periods manacled in stress positions; or the ultimate, waterboarding.
Never in history had the United States authorized such tactics. While President Bush and C.I.A. officials would later insist that the harsh measures produced crucial intelligence, many veteran interrogators, psychologists and other experts say that less coercive methods are equally or more effective.
With virtually no experience in interrogations, the C.I.A. had constructed its program in a few harried months by consulting Egyptian and Saudi intelligence officials and copying Soviet interrogation methods long used in training American servicemen to withstand capture. The agency officers questioning prisoners constantly sought advice from lawyers thousands of miles away.
“We were getting asked about combinations — ‘Can we do this and this at the same time?’” recalled Paul C. Kelbaugh, a veteran intelligence lawyer who was deputy legal counsel at the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorist Center from 2001 to 2003.
Interrogators were worried that even approved techniques had such a painful, multiplying effect when combined that they might cross the legal line, Mr. Kelbaugh said. He recalled agency officers asking: “These approved techniques, say, withholding food, and 50-degree temperature — can they be combined?” Or “Do I have to do the less extreme before the more extreme?”
The questions came more frequently, Mr. Kelbaugh said, as word spread about a C.I.A. inspector general inquiry unrelated to the war on terrorism. Some veteran C.I.A. officers came under scrutiny because they were advisers to Peruvian officers who in early 2001 shot down a missionary flight they had mistaken for a drug-running aircraft. The Americans were not charged with crimes, but they endured three years of investigation, saw their careers derailed and ran up big legal bills.
That experience shook the Qaeda interrogation team, Mr. Kelbaugh said. “You think you’re making a difference and maybe saving 3,000 American lives from the next attack. And someone tells you, ‘Well, that guidance was a little vague, and the inspector general wants to talk to you,’” he recalled. “We couldn’t tell them, ‘Do the best you can,’ because the people who did the best they could in Peru were looking at a grand jury.”
Mr. Kelbaugh said the questions were sometimes close calls that required consultation with the Justice Department. But in August 2002, the department provided a sweeping legal justification for even the harshest tactics.
That opinion, which would become infamous as “the torture memo” after it was leaked, was written largely by John Yoo, a young Berkeley law professor serving in the Office of Legal Counsel. His broad views of presidential power were shared by Mr. Addington, the vice president’s adviser. Their close alliance provoked John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, to refer privately to Mr. Yoo as Dr. Yes for his seeming eagerness to give the White House whatever legal justifications it desired, a Justice Department official recalled.
Mr. Yoo’s memorandum said no interrogation practices were illegal unless they produced pain equivalent to organ failure or “even death.” A second memo produced at the same time spelled out the approved practices and how often or how long they could be used.
Despite that guidance, in March 2003, when the C.I.A. caught Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, interrogators were again haunted by uncertainty. Former intelligence officials, for the first time, disclosed that a variety of tough interrogation tactics were used about 100 times over two weeks on Mr. Mohammed. Agency officials then ordered a halt, fearing the combined assault might have amounted to illegal torture. A C.I.A. spokesman, George Little, declined to discuss the handling of Mr. Mohammed. Mr. Little said the program “has been conducted lawfully, with great care and close review” and “has helped our country disrupt terrorist plots and save innocent lives.”
“The agency has always sought a clear legal framework, conducting the program in strict accord with U.S. law, and protecting the officers who go face-to-face with ruthless terrorists,” Mr. Little added.
Some intelligence officers say that many of Mr. Mohammed’s statements proved exaggerated or false. One problem, a former senior agency official said, was that the C.I.A.’s initial interrogators were not experts on Mr. Mohammed’s background or Al Qaeda, and it took about a month to get such an expert to the secret prison. The former official said many C.I.A. professionals now believe patient, repeated questioning by well-informed experts is more effective than harsh physical pressure.
Other intelligence officers, including Mr. Kelbaugh, insist that the harsh treatment produced invaluable insights into Al Qaeda’s structure and plans.
“We leaned in pretty hard on K.S.M.,” Mr. Kelbaugh said, referring to Mr. Mohammed. “We were getting good information, and then they were told: ‘Slow it down. It may not be correct. Wait for some legal clarification.’”
The doubts at the C.I.A. proved prophetic. In late 2003, after Mr. Yoo left the Justice Department, the new head of the Office of Legal Counsel, Jack Goldsmith, began reviewing his work, which he found deeply flawed. Mr. Goldsmith infuriated White House officials, first by rejecting part of the National Security Agency’s surveillance program, prompting the threat of mass resignations by top Justice Department officials, including Mr. Ashcroft and Mr. Comey, and a showdown at the attorney general’s hospital bedside.
Then, in June 2004, Mr. Goldsmith formally withdrew the August 2002 Yoo memorandum on interrogation, which he found overreaching and poorly reasoned. Mr. Goldsmith left the Justice Department soon afterward. He first spoke at length about his dissenting views to The New York Times last month, and testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
Six months later, the Justice Department quietly posted on its Web site a new legal opinion that appeared to end any flirtation with torture, starting with its clarionlike opening: “Torture is abhorrent both to American law and values and to international norms.”
A single footnote — added to reassure the C.I.A. — suggested that the Justice Department was not declaring the agency’s previous actions illegal. But the opinion was unmistakably a retreat. Some White House officials had opposed publicizing the document, but acquiesced to Justice Department officials who argued that doing so would help clear the way for Mr. Gonzales’s confirmation as attorney general.
If President Bush wanted to make sure the Justice Department did not rebel again, Mr. Gonzales was the ideal choice. As White House counsel, he had been a fierce protector of the president’s prerogatives. Deeply loyal to Mr. Bush for championing his career from their days in Texas, Mr. Gonzales would sometimes tell colleagues that he had just one regret about becoming attorney general: He did not see nearly as much of the president as he had in his previous post.
Among his first tasks at the Justice Department was to find a trusted chief for the Office of Legal Counsel. First he informed Daniel Levin, the acting head who had backed Mr. Goldsmith’s dissents and signed the new opinion renouncing torture, that he would not get the job. He encouraged Mr. Levin to take a position at the National Security Council, in effect sidelining him.
Mr. Bradbury soon emerged as the presumed favorite. But White House officials, still smarting from Mr. Goldsmith’s rebuffs, chose to delay his nomination. Harriet E. Miers, the new White House counsel, “decided to watch Bradbury for a month or two. He was sort of on trial,” one Justice Department official recalled.
Mr. Bradbury’s biography had a Horatio Alger element that appealed to a succession of bosses, including Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court and Mr. Gonzales, the son of poor immigrants. Mr. Bradbury’s father had died when he was an infant, and his mother took in laundry to support her children. The first in his family to go to college, he attended Stanford and the University of Michigan Law School. He joined the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis, where he came under the tutelage of Kenneth W. Starr, the Whitewater independent prosecutor.
Mr. Bradbury belonged to the same circle as his predecessors: young, conservative lawyers with sterling credentials, often with clerkships for prominent conservative judges and ties to the Federalist Society, a powerhouse of the legal right. Mr. Yoo, in fact, had proposed his old friend Mr. Goldsmith for the Office of Legal Counsel job; Mr. Goldsmith had hired Mr. Bradbury as his top deputy.
“We all grew up together,” said Viet D. Dinh, an assistant attorney general from 2001 to 2003 and very much a member of the club. “You start with a small universe of Supreme Court clerks, and you narrow it down from there.”
But what might have been subtle differences in quieter times now cleaved them into warring camps.
Justice Department colleagues say Mr. Gonzales was soon meeting frequently with Mr. Bradbury on national security issues, a White House priority. Admirers describe Mr. Bradbury as low-key but highly skilled, a conciliator who brought from 10 years of corporate practice a more pragmatic approach to the job than Mr. Yoo and Mr. Goldsmith, both from the academic world.
“As a practicing lawyer, you know how to address real problems,” said Noel J. Francisco, who worked at the Justice Department from 2003 to 2005. “At O.L.C., you’re not writing law review articles and you’re not theorizing. You’re giving a client practical advice on a real problem.”
As he had at the White House, Mr. Gonzales usually said little in meetings with other officials, often deferring to the hard-driving Mr. Addington. Mr. Bradbury also often appeared in accord with the vice president’s lawyer.
Mr. Bradbury appeared to be “fundamentally sympathetic to what the White House and the C.I.A. wanted to do,” recalled Philip Zelikow, a former top State Department official. At interagency meetings on detention and interrogation, Mr. Addington was at times “vituperative,” said Mr. Zelikow, but Mr. Bradbury, while taking similar positions, was “professional and collegial.”
While waiting to learn whether he would be nominated to head the Office of Legal Counsel, Mr. Bradbury was in an awkward position, knowing that a decision contrary to White House wishes could kill his chances.
Charles J. Cooper, who headed the Office of Legal Counsel under President Reagan, said he was “very troubled” at the notion of a probationary period.
“If the purpose of the delay was a tryout, I think they should have avoided it,” Mr. Cooper said. “You’re implying that the acting official is molding his or her legal analysis to win the job.”
Mr. Bradbury said he made no such concessions. “No one ever suggested to me that my nomination depended on how I ruled on any opinion,” he said. “Every opinion I’ve signed at the Office of Legal Counsel represents my best judgment of what the law requires.”
Scott Horton, an attorney affiliated with Human Rights First who has closely followed the interrogation debate, said any official offering legal advice on the campaign against terror was on treacherous ground.
“For government lawyers, the national security issues they were deciding were like working with nuclear waste — extremely hazardous to their health,” Mr. Horton said.
“If you give the administration what it wants, you’ll lose credibility in the academic community,” he said. “But if you hold back, you’ll be vilified by conservatives and the administration.”
In any case, the White House grew comfortable with Mr. Bradbury’s approach. He helped block the appointment of a liberal Ivy League law professor to a career post in the Office of Legal Counsel. And he signed the opinion approving combined interrogation techniques.
Mr. Comey strongly objected and told associates that he advised Mr. Gonzales not to endorse the opinion. But the attorney general made clear that the White House was adamant about it, and that he would do nothing to resist.
Under Mr. Ashcroft, Mr. Comey’s opposition might have killed the opinion. An imposing former prosecutor and self-described conservative who stands 6-foot-8, he was the rare administration official who was willing to confront Mr. Addington. At one testy 2004 White House meeting, when Mr. Comey stated that “no lawyer” would endorse Mr. Yoo’s justification for the N.S.A. program, Mr. Addington demurred, saying he was a lawyer and found it convincing. Mr. Comey shot back: “No good lawyer,” according to someone present.
But under Mr. Gonzales, and after the departure of Mr. Goldsmith and other allies, the deputy attorney general found himself isolated. His troublemaking on N.S.A. and on interrogation, and in appointing his friend Patrick J. Fitzgerald as special prosecutor in the C.I.A. leak case, which would lead to the perjury conviction of I. Lewis Libby, Mr. Cheney’s chief of staff, had irreparably offended the White House.
“On national security matters generally, there was a sense that Comey was a wimp and that Comey was disloyal,” said one Justice Department official who heard the White House talk, expressed with particular force by Mr. Addington.
Mr. Comey provided some hints of his thinking about interrogation and related issues in a speech that spring. Speaking at the N.S.A.’s Fort Meade campus on Law Day — a noteworthy setting for the man who had helped lead the dissent a year earlier that forced some changes in the N.S.A. program — Mr. Comey spoke of the “agonizing collisions” of the law and the desire to protect Americans.
“We are likely to hear the words: ‘If we don’t do this, people will die,’” Mr. Comey said. But he argued that government lawyers must uphold the principles of their great institutions.
“It takes far more than a sharp legal mind to say ‘no’ when it matters most,” he said. “It takes moral character. It takes an understanding that in the long run, intelligence under law is the only sustainable intelligence in this country.”
Mr. Gonzales’s aides were happy to see Mr. Comey depart in the summer of 2005. That June, President Bush nominated Mr. Bradbury to head the Office of Legal Counsel, which some colleagues viewed as a sign that he had passed a loyalty test.
Soon Mr. Bradbury applied his practical approach to a new challenge to the C.I.A.’s methods.
The administration had always asserted that the C.I.A.’s pressure tactics did not amount to torture, which is banned by federal law and international treaty. But officials had privately decided the agency did not have to comply with another provision in the Convention Against Torture — the prohibition on “cruel, inhuman, or degrading” treatment.
Now that loophole was about to be closed. First Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, and then Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who had been tortured as a prisoner in North Vietnam, proposed legislation to ban such treatment.
At the administration’s request, Mr. Bradbury assessed whether the proposed legislation would outlaw any C.I.A. methods, a legal question that had never before been answered by the Justice Department.
At least a few administration officials argued that no reasonable interpretation of “cruel, inhuman or degrading” would permit the most extreme C.I.A. methods, like waterboarding. Mr. Bradbury was placed in a tough spot, said Mr. Zelikow, the State Department counselor, who was working at the time to rein in interrogation policy.
“If Justice says some practices are in violation of the C.I.D. standard,” Mr. Zelikow said, referring to cruel, inhuman or degrading, “then they are now saying that officials broke current law.”
In the end, Mr. Bradbury’s opinion delivered what the White House wanted: a statement that the standard imposed by Mr. McCain’s Detainee Treatment Act would not force any change in the C.I.A.’s practices, according to officials familiar with the memo.
Relying on a Supreme Court finding that only conduct that “shocks the conscience” was unconstitutional, the opinion found that in some circumstances not even waterboarding was necessarily cruel, inhuman or degrading, if, for example, a suspect was believed to possess crucial intelligence about a planned terrorist attack, the officials familiar with the legal finding said.
In a frequent practice, Mr. Bush attached a statement to the new law when he signed it, declaring his authority to set aside the restrictions if they interfered with his constitutional powers. At the same time, though, the administration responded to pressure from Mr. McCain and other lawmakers by reviewing interrogation policy and giving up several C.I.A. techniques.
Since late 2005, Mr. Bradbury has become a linchpin of the administration’s defense of counterterrorism programs, helping to negotiate the Military Commissions Act last year and frequently testifying about the N.S.A. surveillance program. Once he answered questions about administration detention policies for an “Ask the White House” feature on a Web site.
Mr. Kmiec, the former Office of Legal Counsel head now at Pepperdine, called Mr. Bradbury’s public activities a departure for an office that traditionally has shunned any advocacy role.
A senior administration official called Mr. Bradbury’s active role in shaping legislation and speaking to Congress and the press “entirely appropriate” and consistent with past practice. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Mr. Bradbury “has played a critical role in achieving greater transparency” on the legal basis for detention and surveillance programs.
Though President Bush repeatedly nominated Mr. Bradbury as the Office of Legal Counsel’s assistant attorney general, Democratic senators have blocked the nomination. Senator Durbin said the Justice Department would not turn over copies of his opinions or other evidence of Mr. Bradbury’s role in interrogation policy.
“There are fundamental questions about whether Mr. Bradbury approved interrogation methods that are clearly unacceptable,” Mr. Durbin said.
John D. Hutson, who served as the Navy’s top lawyer from 1997 to 2000, said he believed that the existence of legal opinions justifying abusive treatment is pernicious, potentially blurring the rules for Americans handling prisoners.
“I know from the military that if you tell someone they can do a little of this for the country’s good, some people will do a lot of it for the country’s better,” Mr. Hutson said. Like other military lawyers, he also fears that official American acceptance of such treatment could endanger Americans in the future.
“The problem is, once you’ve got a legal opinion that says such a technique is O.K., what happens when one of our people is captured and they do it to him? How do we protest then?” he asked.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
American Conservative Magazine Calls General Betrayus the "Sycophant Savior." Who says liberals and conservatives can't agree?
Copyright © 2007 The American Conservative
General Petraeus wins a battle in Washington—if not in Baghdad.
by Andrew J. BacevichIn common parlance, the phrase “political general” is an epithet, the inverse of the warrior or frontline soldier. In any serious war, with big issues at stake, to assign command to a political general is to court disaster—so at least most Americans believe. But in fact, at the highest levels, successful command requires a sophisticated grasp of politics. At the summit, war and politics merge and become inextricably intertwined. A general in chief not fully attuned to the latter will not master the former.
George Washington, U.S. Grant, and Dwight D. Eisenhower were all “political generals” in the very best sense of the term. Their claims to immortality rest not on their battlefield exploits—Washington actually won few battles, and Grant achieved his victories through brute force rather than finesse, while Ike hardly qualifies as a field commander at all—but on the skill they demonstrated in translating military power into political advantage. Each of these three genuinely great soldiers possessed a sophisticated appreciation for war’s political dimension.
David Petraeus is a political general. Yet in presenting his recent assessment of the Iraq War and in describing the “way forward,” Petraeus demonstrated that he is a political general of the worst kind—one who indulges in the politics of accommodation that is Washington’s bread and butter but has thereby deferred a far more urgent political imperative, namely, bringing our military policies into harmony with our political purposes.
From the very beginning of the Iraq War, such harmony has been absent. The war’s military and political aspects have been badly out of synch. (In this regard, the hackneyed comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam are tragically apt.) The failure to plan for an occupation, the wildly inflated expectations of Iraq’s rapid transformation into a liberal democracy, Donald Rumsfeld’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge the insurgency’s existence until long after it had begun, the deeply flawed kick-down-the-door campaign that ensued once Rumsfeld could no longer deny reality: all of these meant that from the outset, the exertions of U.S. troops, however great, tended to be at odds with our stated political intentions. Our actions were counterproductive.
The Petraeus-Crocker hearings found Petraeus in a position to resolve that problem. Over the previous eight months, a discredited president had effectively abdicated responsibility for managing the war. “I trust David Petraeus” became George W. Bush’s mantra, suggesting an astonishing level of presidential deference. Sometime in early 2007, the task of formulating basic strategy for Iraq had effectively migrated from Washington to Baghdad, passing from the office of the commander in chief to the headquarters of the senior field commander. The president made it clear that he intended to takes his cues from his general. Military judgment would inform, even determine, political decisions.
The general has now made his call, and President Bush has endorsed it: the surge having succeeded (so at least we are assured), it will now be curtailed. The war will continue, albeit on a marginally smaller scale. As events develop, it just might become smaller still. Only time will tell.
Petraeus has chosen a middle course, carefully crafted to cause the least amount of consternation among various Washington constituencies he is eager to accommodate. This is the politics of give and take, of horse trading, of putting lipstick on a pig. Ultimately, it is the politics of avoidance.
A political general in the mold of Washington or Grant would have taken a different course, using his moment in the spotlight not to minimize consternation but to stir it up to the maximum extent. He would have capitalized on his status as man of the hour to oblige civilian leaders, both in Congress and in the executive branch, to do what they have not done since the Iraq War began—namely, their jobs. He would have insisted upon the president and the Congress making decisions that wartime summons them—and not military commanders—to make. Instead, Petraeus issued everyone a pass.
* * *
In testifying before House and Senate committees about the current situation in Iraq, Petraeus told no outright lies. He made no blustery promises about “victory,” a word notably absent from his testimony. The tone of the presentation was sober and measured. It contained the requisite references to complexity and challenge. Petraeus acknowledged miscalculation and disappointment. In contrast to his commander in chief, he did not claim that U.S. troops were “kicking ass.”
Yet the essence of his message was this: after four years of futile blundering, the United States has identified the makings of a successful strategy in Iraq. The new doctrine that Petraeus had devised and implemented—the concept of securing the population and thereby fostering conditions conducive to reconstruction and reconciliation—has produced limited but real progress. This gives Petraeus cause for hope that further efforts along these lines may yet enable the United States to create an Iraq that is stable, unified, and not a haven for terrorists. In so many words, Petraeus told Congress that senior U.S. commanders in Iraq had finally found the right roadmap. The way ahead may be long and difficult—indeed, it will be. But Petraeus and his key subordinates know where they are. They know where they need to go. And above all, at long last, they know how to get there.
Critics have questioned the data that Petraeus offered to substantiate his case. They charge him with relying on dubious statistics, with ignoring facts that he finds inconvenient, and with discovering trends where none exist. They question whether to credit the much-touted progress in Anbar province to American shrewdness or to the vagaries of Iraqi sectarian and tribal politics. They cite the pathetic performance of the corrupt and dysfunctional Iraqi government. They note the disparity between the Petraeus assessment and those offered by the intelligence community, by the Government Accountability Office, and by congressionally appointed blue-ribbon commissions. They point out that other highly qualified and well-informed senior military officers—notably, Gen. George Casey, the army chief of staff, and Adm. William Fallon, commander of United States Central Command—have publicly expressed views notably at odds with those of General Petraeus.
The critics make a good case. Yet let us ignore them. Let us assume instead that Petraeus genuinely believes that he has broken the code in Iraq and that things are improving. Let’s assume further that he is correct in that assessment.
What then should he have recommended to the Congress and the president? That is, if the commitment of a modest increment of additional forces —the 30,000 troops comprising the surge, now employed in accordance with sound counterinsurgency doctrine —has begun to turn things around, then what should the senior field commander be asking for next?
A single word suffices to answer that question: more. More time. More money. And above all, more troops.
It is one of the oldest principles of generalship: when you find an opportunity, exploit it. Where you gain success, reinforce it. When you have your opponent at a disadvantage, pile on. In a letter to the soldiers serving under his command, released just prior to the congressional hearings, Petraeus asserted that coalition forces had “achieved tactical momentum and wrestled the initiative from our enemies.” Does that reflect his actual view of the situation? If so, then surely the imperative of the moment is to redouble the current level of effort so as to preserve that initiative and to deny the enemy the slightest chance to adjust, adapt, or reconstitute.
Yet Petraeus has chosen to do just the opposite. Based on two or three months of (ostensibly) positive indicators, he has advised the president to ease the pressure, withdrawing the increment of troops that had (purportedly) enabled the coalition to seize the initiative in the first place.
This defies logic. It’s as if two weeks into the Wilderness Campaign, Grant had counseled Lincoln to reduce the size of the Army of the Potomac. Or as if once Allied forces had established the beachhead at Normandy, Eisenhower had started rotating divisions back stateside to ease the strain on the U.S. Army.
Petraeus likes to portray himself as a thinking soldier. Having devoted his
Ph.D. dissertation to the lessons of Vietnam, he qualifies as a serious student of counterinsurgencies. He knows that they require lots of troops—many more than the United States has in Iraq relative to the size of the population there. He knows, too, that they require lots of time—on average, nine or ten years by his own publicly expressed estimation. The counter-insurgency manual that Petraeus helped draft prior to taking up command in Baghdad makes these points explicitly.
If Petraeus actually believes that he can salvage something akin to success in Iraq and if he agrees with President Bush about the consequences of failure —genocidal violence, Iraq becoming a launching pad for terrorist attacks directed against the United States, the Middle East descending into chaos that consumes Israel, the oil-dependent global economy shattered beyond repair, all of this culminating in the emergence of a new Caliphate bent on destroying the West—then surely this moment of (supposed) promise is not a time for scrimping. Rather, now is the time to go all out—to insist upon a maximum effort.
* * *
There is only one plausible explanation for Petraeus’s terminating a surge that has (he says) enabled coalition forces, however tentatively, to gain the upper hand. That explanation is politics—of the wrong kind.
Given the current situation as Petraeus describes it, an incremental reduction in U.S. troop strength makes sense only in one regard: it serves to placate each of the various Washington constituencies that Petraeus has a political interest in pleasing.
A modest drawdown responds to the concerns of Petraeus’s fellow four stars, especially the Joint Chiefs, who view the stress being imposed on U.S. forces as intolerable. Ending the surge provides the Army and the Marine Corps with a modicum of relief.
A modest drawdown also comes as welcome news for moderate Republicans in Congress. Nervously eyeing the forthcoming elections, they have wanted to go before the electorate with something to offer other than being identified with Bush’s disastrous war. Now they can point to signs of change—indeed, Petraeus’s proposed withdrawal of one brigade before Christmas coincides precisely with a suggestion made just weeks ago by Sen. John Warner, the influential Republican from Virginia.
Although they won’t say so openly, a modest drawdown comes as good news to Democrats as well. Accused with considerable justification of having done nothing to end the war since taking control of the Congress in January, they can now point to the drawdown as evidence that they are making headway. As Newsweek’s Michael Hirsch observed, Petraeus “delivered an early Christmas present” to congressional Democrats.
Above all, a modest drawdown pleases President Bush. It gives him breathing room to continue the conflict in which he has so much invested. It all but guarantees that Iraq will be the principal gift that Bush bestows upon his successor when he leaves office in January 2009. Bush’s war will outlive Bush: for reasons difficult to fathom, this has become an important goal for the president and his dwindling band of loyalists.
Granted, no one is completely happy. Yet neither does anyone go away empty-handed. The Petraeus plan offers a little something for everyone, not least of all for Petraeus himself, who takes back to Baghdad a smidgen of additional time (his next report is not due for another six months), lots more money (at least $3 billion per week), and assurances that his tenure in command has been extended.
This outcome reflects the handiwork of someone skilled in the ways of Washington. Yet the ultimate result is to allow the contradiction between our military efforts in Iraq and our professed political purposes there to persist.
* * *
Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli is one officer keen to confront rather than ignore that contradiction. In an article appearing in the current issue of the journal Military Review, General Chiarelli writes:
The U.S. as a Nation—and indeed most of the U.S. Government—has not gone to war since 9/11. Instead the departments of Defense and State (as much as their modern capabilities allow) and the Central Intelligence Agency are at war while the American people and most the other institutions of national power have largely gone about their normal business.
Chiarelli is correct. His statement goes directly to the heart of the matter. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to sustained bipartisan applause, President Bush committed the United States to an open-ended global war on terror. Having made that fundamental decision, the president and Congress sent American soldiers off to fight that war while urging the American people to distract themselves with other pursuits. The American people have done as they were asked.
The result, six years later, is a massive and growing gap between the resources required to sustain that global war, in Iraq and elsewhere, and the resources actually available to do so. President Bush, with the Joint Chiefs of Staff serving as enablers, has papered over that gap by sending soldiers back for a third or fourth combat tour and, most recently, by extending the length of those tours. In a country with a population that exceeds 300 million, one-half of one percent of our fellow citizens bear the burden of this global war. The other 99.5 percent of us have decided to chill out.
The president has made no serious effort to mobilize the wherewithal that his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan require. The Congress, liberal Democrats voting aye, has made itself complicit in this shameful policy by obligingly appropriating whatever sums of money the president has requested, all, of course, in the name of “supporting the troops.”
Petraeus has now given this charade a further lease on life. In effect, he is allowing the president and the Congress to continue dodging the main issue, which comes down to this: if the civilian leadership wants to wage a global war on terror and if that war entails pacifying Iraq, then let’s get serious about providing what’s needed to complete the mission—starting with lots more soldiers. Rather than curtailing the ostensibly successful surge, Petraeus should broaden and deepen it. That means sending more troops to Iraq, not bringing them home. And that probably implies doubling or tripling the size of the United States Army on a crash basis.
If the civilian leadership is unwilling to provide what’s needed, then all of the talk about waging a global war on terror—talk heard not only from the president but from most of those jockeying to replace him—amounts to so much hot air. Critics who think the concept of the global war on terror is fundamentally flawed will see this as a positive development. Once we recognize the global war on terror for the fraudulent enterprise that it has become, then we can get serious about designing a strategy to address the threat that we actually face, which is not terrorism but violent Islamic radicalism. The antidote to Islamic radicalism, if there is one, won’t involve invading and occupying places like Iraq.
This defines Petraeus’s failure. Instead of obliging the president and the Congress to confront this fundamental contradiction—are we or are we not at war?—he chose instead to let them off the hook.
Of course, if he had done otherwise—if he had asked, say, to expand the surge by adding yet another 50,000 troops—he would have distressed just about everyone back in Washington. He might have paid a considerable price career-wise. Certainly, he would have angered the JCS, antiwar Democrats, and waffling Republicans who want the war to go away. Even the president, Petraeus’s number-one fan, would have been surprised and embarrassed by such a request.
Yet the anger and embarrassment would have been salutary. A great political general doesn’t tell his masters what they want to hear. He tells them what they need to hear, thereby nudging them to make decisions that must be made if the nation’s interests are to be served. In this instance, Petraeus provided cover for them to evade their responsibilities.
Politically, it qualifies as a brilliant maneuver. The general’s relationships with official Washington remain intact. Yet he has broken faith with the soldiers he commands and the Army to which he has devoted his life. He has failed his country. History will not judge him kindly.
Andrew J. Bacevich is professor of history and international relations at Boston University.
Molly would be called by some "the angry left" but compared to everybody I know she's the "angry middle." The "Angry Left" is Ready for Revolution.
AUSTIN, Texas (Creators Syndicate) -- I'd like to make it clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for president.
Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone This is not a Dick Morris election. Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her. Her failure to speak out on Terri Schiavo, not to mention that gross pandering on flag-burning, are just contemptible little dodges.
The recent death of Gene McCarthy reminded me of a lesson I spent a long, long time unlearning, so now I have to re-learn it. It's about political courage and heroes, and when a country is desperate for leadership. There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times. There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief.
If no one in conventional-wisdom politics has the courage to speak up and say what needs to be said, then you go out and find some obscure junior senator from Minnesota with the guts to do it. In 1968, Gene McCarthy was the little boy who said out loud, "Look, the emperor isn't wearing any clothes." Bobby Kennedy -- rough, tough Bobby Kennedy -- didn't do it. Just this quiet man trained by Benedictines who liked to quote poetry.
What kind of courage does it take, for mercy's sake? The majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out. The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more taxes to get it. The majority (86 percent) of the American people favor raising the minimum wage. The majority of the American people (60 percent) favor repealing Bush's tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich. The majority (66 percent) wants to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes.
The majority (77 percent) thinks we should do "whatever it takes" to protect the environment. The majority (87 percent) thinks big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax. That is the center, you fools. WHO ARE YOU AFRAID OF?
I listen to people like Rahm Emanuel superciliously explaining elementary politics to us clueless naifs outside the Beltway ("First, you have to win elections"). Can't you even read the damn polls?
Here's a prize example by someone named Barry Casselman, who writes, "There is an invisible civil war in the Democratic Party, and it is between those who are attempting to satisfy the defeatist and pacifist left base of the party and those who are attempting to prepare the party for successful elections in 2006 and 2008."
This supposedly pits Howard Dean, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, emboldened by "a string of bad new from the Middle East ... into calling for premature retreat from Iraq," versus those pragmatic folk like Steny Hoyer, Rahm Emmanuel, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Joe Lieberman.
Oh come on, people -- get a grip on the concept of leadership. Look at this war -- from the lies that led us into it, to the lies they continue to dump on us daily.
You sit there in Washington so frightened of the big, bad Republican machine you have no idea what people are thinking. I'm telling you right now, Tom DeLay is going to lose in his district. If Democrats in Washington haven't got enough sense to OWN the issue of political reform, I give up on them entirely.
Do it all, go long, go for public campaign financing for Congress. I'm serious as a stroke about this -- that is the only reform that will work, and you know it, as well as everyone else who's ever studied this. Do all the goo-goo stuff everybody has made fun of all these years: embrace redistricting reform, electoral reform, House rules changes, the whole package. Put up, or shut up. Own this issue, or let Jack Abramoff politics continue to run your town.
Bush, Cheney and Co. will continue to play the patriotic bully card just as long as you let them. I've said it before: War brings out the patriotic bullies. In World War I, they went around kicking dachshunds on the grounds that dachshunds were "German dogs." They did not, however, go around kicking German shepherds. The MINUTE someone impugns your patriotism for opposing this war, turn on them like a snarling dog and explain what loving your country really means. That, or you could just piss on them elegantly, as Rep. John Murtha did. Or eviscerate them with wit (look up Mark Twain on the war in the Philippines). Or point out the latest in the endless "string of bad news."
Do not sit there cowering and pretending the only way to win is as Republican-lite. If the Washington-based party can't get up and fight, we'll find someone who can.
By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 3, 2007; A05
No more than four Justice Department officials had access to details of the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program when the department deemed portions of it illegal, following a pattern of poor consultation that helped create a "legal mess," a former Justice official told Congress yesterday.
Jack L. Goldsmith, former head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the White House so tightly restricted access to the National Security Agency's program that even the attorney general and the NSA's general counsel were partly in the dark.
When the Justice Department began a formal review of the program's legal underpinnings in late 2003, the White House initially resisted allowing then-Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey to be briefed on it, Goldsmith said.
Goldsmith's testimony provided further details about the fierce legal debate and intense secrecy surrounding the NSA surveillance program within the Bush administration in early 2004. The fight culminated in a threat by Goldsmith, Comey and others to resign en masse if the program were allowed to continue without changes.
The handling of the surveillance program has become a major flashpoint between the administration and Senate Democrats, who allege that the government relied on dubious legal advice to run an illegal spying program that targeted innocent U.S. residents.
The full contours of the program have not been officially disclosed. In part, it allowed the NSA to monitor communications between the United States and overseas without court oversight if one of the parties was believed to be linked to al-Qaeda or a related group. That activity is now authorized under legislation passed by Congress earlier this year.
Goldsmith, who led an internal Justice Department review of the surveillance effort completed more than two years after the surveillance began, said he "could not find a legal basis for some aspects of the program."
"It was the biggest legal mess I had ever encountered," Goldsmith said.
His legal opinion declaring the program illegal in early 2004 was supported by Comey and then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft but drew strong resistance at the White House, which wanted to continue the program without change. Then-White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales and then-White House chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr. tried to bypass Comey and gain Ashcroft's approval while Ashcroft was in a hospital intensive care unit, recovering from gallbladder surgery.
Goldsmith, who rushed to Ashcroft's hospital room along with Comey the night of the Gonzales-Card visit, said it "seemed inappropriate and baffling." Goldsmith said Ashcroft told the two White House officials that "he didn't appreciate being visited in the hospital under these circumstances" and that Comey was acting in his stead.
"The attorney general looked terrible," Goldsmith said, recalling his assessment as he entered the hospital room that night. "He looked very weak, very tired and ashen."
Goldsmith testified that he believed Gonzales and Card had been sent by President Bush, but he was not certain.
Goldsmith's testimony follows the release of his book, "The Terror Presidency," which provides an unusual glimpse of the administration's internal debates about the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects. Now a professor at Harvard Law School, Goldsmith served as the head of the OLC from 2003 to 2004 and concluded that crucial Justice Department legal opinions on the NSA program, torture and other issues -- mostly written by an OLC attorney named John Yoo, who now teaches law at the University of California at Berkeley -- were fundamentally flawed.
Goldsmith also appeared to challenge previous testimony from Gonzales, who repeatedly told lawmakers that there had been no serious disagreement within the administration over the Terrorist Surveillance Program, the public name for the NSA's warrantless surveillance efforts. Gonzales left office last month.
"There were enormous disagreements" about the program, Goldsmith said. But he added that Gonzales's explanations could be seen as technically accurate given the varying terminology used for the program.
My Mock Outrage over Rush Limbaugh's "Phony Soldiers" Comments.
The amount of damage Rush Limbaugh has done to legitimate debate over public policy in America over the last 20 years is incalculable, and his latest comments are no different. Rush Limbaugh is a parasite who feeds on the ignorance of the populace. He feeds on their racism, their sexism, their homophobia, their fears, their stupidity. And he's profited from it nicely and is probably laughing all the way to the bank.
His goal is to dehumanize the opposition to his political agenda. He dehumanizes welfare moms, non-whites, homosexuals, illegal immigrants, those who are different. If he can dehumanize them then his pro-corporate pro-war pro-rich agenda can continue to chew up humanity and we won't feel a thing. We don't even notice.
I've said it before but I think there's a reason Rush calls his listener's "ditto heads" and I think he's smart enough to know that he's making fun of them, and they're too dumb to get the joke. (For those of you who don't understand - ditto means to copy or duplicate - so Rush understands that his audience isn't critical thinkers, they're just parrots.)
How else do you think he could get away with cutting two full minutes from his transcript of his "phony soldiers" comments and then tell his audience he was giving them the "entire" transcript? He did it because he knows that his audience doesn't bother to think for themselves.
Fox News understands this about it's audience as well, which is why they can utter Rush's Defense so blithely and uncritically, they know they can sell their audience whatever they spoon feed them. Rush's audience is Fox News Audience. They report and distort in the same manner because, as I've said, their target audience isn't critical thinkers.
My "outrage" over his comments is simply to mock the righteous indignation of the right wing, Rush included, over the MoveOn General Betrayus Ad.
The truth is that the U.S. Senate, by passing a resolution defending General Betrayus from public criticism has set a standard that is going to be impossible to maintain. It was stupid and pointless. My indignation is actually over the Senate condemning free speech. Rush Limbaugh is just the hammer I'm using to bludgeon that point home. As many of you who read our blog regularly know, I'm not trying to be subtle.
In the long line of stupid, racist, sexist, jackass things Rush Limbaugh has said his "phony soldiers" comments are just par for the course. He did it before, he'll do it again. All we can do is hope that someday he's either taken off the air or OD's and his poison will no longer be used to pit one human against another.
Maybe then we can have an intelligent debate that doesn't ignore our collective humanity.
Hugs and Kisses,
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Bush's Tax Cuts "Pay For Themselves"
U.S. $10 trillion in the red
Congress raised the limit once again as U.S. debt nears $10 trillion. That's about $30,000 for every American.
BY ROB HOTAKAINEN
McClatchy News Service
WASHINGTON -- As the national debt heads toward the $10-trillion mark, generous Americans are sending checks to the federal government.
Donations to the Bureau of the Public Debt have topped $2.5 million so far this year. That's the highest amount since at least 1996.
It's not making much of a dent, though.
For the fifth time since 2001, Congress is raising the debt limit, increasing it by $850 billion to $9.815 trillion. The Senate approved the plan on a 53-42 vote Thursday. That's $9,815,000,000,000.00.
The House of Representatives has already signed off on the plan, without a direct vote.
According to the folks who follow this stuff closely, the national debt has been rising by an average of $1.36 billion per day since September of last year.
And each citizen now has a share of nearly $30,000.
But Congress has an easy solution to deal with the rising tide of red ink. Instead of fretting over it, members simply allow the government to borrow more money, much to the consternation of some critics.
''American families don't have the luxury Congress has,'' said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who opposed the increase.
``They can't get a new loan or new credit cards after they have maxed out their capability to borrow. Yet, instead, every day in this body we do essentially that.''
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said Congress had to approve more borrowing by early October or the government wouldn't be able to pay its bills.
Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., who heads the Senate Budget Committee, said the national debt ''has exploded'' as a result of President Bush's tax cuts, forcing the federal government to borrow more money abroad.
Conrad said the United States is ''in hock'' to Japan, owing more than $600 billion, and China, owing more than $400 billion.
He said the rising debt comes at the worst possible time, right before a flood of baby boomers retires, but that Congress has no choice but to raise the debt ceiling.
''If we fail to act in a timely way on raising the debt limit, the creditworthiness of all United States instruments would be called into question,'' Conrad said. ``That could have a very severe effect on already shaky financial markets.''
If you would like to help reduce the national debt, make your check payable to the Bureau of the Public Debt. In the memo section, note that it's a gift to reduce the Debt Held by the Public. Mail your check to: Attn Dept G, Bureau of the Public Debt, P. O. Box 2188, Parkersburg, WV 26106-2188.
Rush Limbaugh - "I'll Say It And You'll Believe It." Jesus, anyone who listens to this turd should have a full lobotomy.
During the September 28 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, in response to Media Matters for America's documentation of his recent description of service members who advocate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as "phony soldiers," Rush Limbaugh claimed that he had not been talking "about the anti-war movement generally," but rather "about one soldier ... Jesse MacBeth." Limbaugh further asserted that "Media Matters had the transcript, but they selectively choose what they want to make their point." To support this claim, Limbaugh purported to air the "entire" segment in question from the September 26 broadcast of his show. In fact, the clip he then aired had been edited. Excised from the clip was a full 1 minute and 35 seconds of the 1 minute and 50 second discussion that occurred between Limbaugh's original "phony soldiers" comment and his reference to MacBeth, the full audio of which can be heard here .
Prior to airing the edited clip, Limbaugh said: "Here is, it runs about 3 minutes and 13 seconds, the entire transcript, in context, that led to this so-called controversy." After the clip ended, Limbaugh stated: "That was the transcript from yesterday's program, talking about one phony soldier. The truth for the left is fiction that serves their purpose, which is exactly the way the website Media Matters generated this story."
Blackwater bills $1,222 per day for a single security specialist. That's $445,891 a year. U.S. Enlisted Personell make $30-50K a year.
October 1st, 2007 8:03 pm
Blackwater portrayed as out of control
By Richard Lardner / Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Blackwater USA is an out-of-control outfit indifferent to Iraqi civilian casualties, according to a critical report released Monday by a key congressional committee.
Among the most serious charges against the prominent security firm is that Blackwater contractors sought to cover up a June 2005 shooting of an Iraqi man and the company paid, with State Department approval, the families of others inadvertently killed by its guards.
Blackwater has had to fire dozens of guards over the past three years for problems ranging from misuse of weapons, alcohol and drug violations, inappropriate conduct and violent behavior, says the 15-page report from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Just after the report was released, The Associated Press learned the Federal Bureau of Investigation is sending a team to Iraq to investigate an incident that has angered the Iraqi government.
On Sept. 16, 11 Iraqis were killed in a shoot-out involving Blackwater guards protecting a U.S. diplomatic convoy in Baghdad. Blackwater says its guards acted in self-defense after the convoy came under attack. Iraqi witnesses have said the shooting was unprovoked.
The FBI team was sent at the request of the State Department and its findings will be reviewed for possible criminal liability.
The 122 personnel terminated by Blackwater is roughly one-seventh of the work force that Blackwater has in Iraq, a ratio that raises questions about the quality of the people working for the company.
The only punishment for those dismissed was the termination of their contracts with Blackwater, says the report, which uses information from Blackwater's own files and State Department records.
The report, prepared by the majority staff of the committee, also says Blackwater has been involved in 195 shooting incidents since 2005, or roughly 1.4 per week.
In more than 80 percent of the incidents, called "escalation of force," Blackwater's guards fired the first shots even though the company's contract with the State Department calls for it to use defensive force only, it said.
"In the vast majority of instances in which Blackwater fired shots, Blackwater is firing from a moving vehicle and does not remain at the scene to determine if the shots resulted in casualties," according to the report.
The staff report says Blackwater has made huge sums of money despite its questionable performance in Iraq, where Blackwater guards provide protective services for U.S. diplomatic personnel.
Blackwater has earned more than $1 billion from federal contracts since 2001, when it had less than $1 million in government work. Overall, the State Department paid Blackwater more than $832 million between 2004 and 2006 for security work, according to the report.
Blackwater bills the U.S. government $1,222 per day for a single "protective security specialist," the report says. That works out to $445,891 on an annual basis, far higher than it would cost the military to provide the same service.
Blackwater, founded in 1997 and headquartered in Moyock, N.C., is the largest of the State Department's three private security contractors. The others are Dyncorp and Triple Canopy, both based in Washington's northern Virginia suburbs.
According to the report, Blackwater has had more shooting incidents than the other two companies combined.
The report is critical not only of Blackwater. In two cases, the State Department recommended Blackwater make payments to the families of Iraqis killed by its guards.
On Dec. 24, 2006, a drunken Blackwater employee shot and killed a bodyguard for Iraq's Shiite vice president, Adel Abdul-Mahdi.
The AP previously reported the contractor had gotten lost on the way back to his barracks in Baghdad's Green Zone and fired at least seven times when he was confronted by 30-year-old Raheem Khalaf Saadoun.
The guard was terminated by Blackwater. Within 36 hours of the shooting, the department allowed the 26-year-old contractor to be transported out of Iraq, according to the staff report.
An unnamed State Department official then recommended Blackwater pay the guard's family $250,000 as an "apology."
But the Diplomatic Security Service, the department's own law enforcement arm, said that was too much money and might prompt other Iraqis "to 'try to get killed'" in order to provide for their families, according to the report.
"In the end, the State Department and Blackwater agreed on a $15,000 payment," the report says.
The negative fallout from the event affected the relationship between the U.S. military and Iraqis, many of whom see little distinction between the private guards and American troops, the report states. Initial news coverage by Middle Eastern media of the killing said a "U.S. soldier" was responsible.
In a company e-mail obtained by the committee, a Blackwater employee said the mistake in the news "gets the heat off of us."
According to the report, the U.S. Justice Department is investigating.
In another instance, the department recommended Blackwater make a $5,000 payment after guards killed an "apparently innocent" Iraqi bystander, according to documents the committee examined. In this same case, the Blackwater personnel failed to report this shooting and "covered it up," the report states.
There is no evidence, the report says, "that the State Department sought to restrain Blackwater's actions, raised concerns about the number of shooting incidents involving Blackwater or the company's high rate of shooting first, or detained Blackwater contractors for investigation."
State Department spokesman Tom Casey said he has not read the report and could not comment.
The report was distributed to committee members on the eve of a hearing on private security contracting. Blackwater's 38-year-old founder and chairman, Erik Prince, will be one of the witnesses.
Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell had no comment on the specifics in the report.
"We look forward to setting the record straight on this issue and others tomorrow when Erik Prince testifies before the committee," she said.
In addition to Prince, the witnesses include David Satterfield, the department's Iraq coordinator; Richard Griffin, assistant secretary for diplomatic security; and William H. Moser, deputy assistant secretary for logistics management.
Sometimes Democratic Underground's Top Ten List is so good you gotta show the whole thing. Genius.
October 1, 2007
Phony Outrage Edition
Rush Limbaugh and The Petraeus Cheerleading Squad (1) displayed some remarkable hypocrisy last week - not that anyone really noticed, of course. Meanwhile, George W. Bush (4,5,9) needs some help PRO-NOUN-SING FO-RIN words, Rudy Giuliani (6) comes up with a new reason to mention 9/11, and John McCain (10) panders to the idiot base. Enjoy, and don't forget the key!
Rush Limbaugh and The Petraeus Cheerleading Squad
It was only a couple of weeks ago that conservatives went bananas over MoveOn's "General Betray Us" ad. The Petraeus Cheerleading Squad was hopping mad, and for about a week there was little room in the mainstream media for coverage of anything but General Hot Pants Petraeus and the conservatives whose feelings were hurt on his behalf.
Rush Limbaugh was so outraged about the "Betray Us" ad that he called it "contemptible" and "indecent," despite the fact that he wasn't quite so averse to the phrase previously...
But Rush wasn't done. So distressed was he by the fact that someone stole his pun, he decided last week to take his anger out on the troops.
Limbaugh told the second caller, whom he identified as "Mike, this one from Olympia, Washington," that "(t)here's a lot" that people who favor U.S. withdrawal "don't understand" and that when asked why the United States should pull out, their only answer is, "'Well, we just gotta bring the troops home.' ... 'Save the -- keeps the troops safe' or whatever," adding, "(I)t's not possible, intellectually, to follow these people."
"Mike" from Olympia replied, "No, it's not, and what's really funny is, they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media." Limbaugh interjected, "The phony soldiers." The caller, who had earlier said, "I am a serving American military, in the Army," agreed, replying, "The phony soldiers."
Bold talk from a guy who got out of Vietnam thanks to a boil on his asscrack, but there you go. So where is that loud and proud Petraeus Cheerleading Squad now, as the troops undergo a blistering attack on their patriotism from this drug-addled draft-dodger?
Never fear! After trashing MoveOn two weeks ago and calling their ad "disgusting," George W. Bush leaped to the troops' defense again last week. Not personally you understand - but surely it's the thought that counts. When asked about the "phony soldiers" comment, his spokeswoman Dana Perino brushed reporters off saying, "It's not what the President would have used."
Ouch! Take that, Limbaugh!
Still, if you think that's bad, check this out... Fox News has spent the better part of three weeks bashing MoveOn for it's horrible, terrible, ad. But what's this? An article on the Fox News website by one Col. David Hunt starts with the following sentence: "Our generals are betraying our soldiers … again." Wha?
The rules of engagement were once again being followed and once again our generals put their careers over their men's lives.
We should be putting these generals on trial, first for going along with Rummy and just as important for not trusting their soldiers.
These poor excuse for officers do not deserve the soldiers they dare claim they lead.
But you see, it's okay - Col. Hunt is complaining that the military is wasting its time investigating things like Abu Ghraib and the Pat Tillman shooting. And anyway, he's allowed to criticize the military because he's a Fox News military analyst. Allow me to demonstrate:
When Fox News military analyst says our generals are betraying us: Bold, patriotic statement made by a man who cares for the troops and the future of this country! These colors don't run! Bring 'em on! Let's roll!
When MoveOn says our generals are betraying us: Treasonous, seditious language used by unwashed terrorist-lovers! Crazy far-leftists want to lose the war and provide soft beds and fluffy pillows for rabid Islamic extremists!
See how it works?
Almost a year ago, the Associated Press reported the worrying news that the U.S. had lost thousands of weapons in Iraq:
The Pentagon cannot account for 14,030 weapons - almost 4% of the semiautomatic pistols, assault rifles, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and other weapons it began supplying to Iraq since the end of 2003.
Well you'll never guess who was in charge of distributing those weapons. That's right - it was General Love Me Love Me Say That You Love Me Petraeus. Here he is bragging about it in a Washington Post op-ed back in 2004:
And where's all that gear now? According to a report by the Associated Press last week:
In the rush to arm Iraqi forces against a violent insurgency, U.S. military officials did not keep good records. About 190,000 weapons weren't fully accounted for, according to one audit.
The accounting failures are at the heart of a broad inquiry by the Pentagon's inspector general, sharp questions from Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and complaints from officials in Turkey who claim that pistols used in violent crimes in their country came from U.S.-funded stocks.
Well done sir.
If you want some context on Gen. Petraeus's recent appearance before Congress go back and read that 2004 op-ed again, where you can learn all about the "tangible progress," "progress," "optimism," "progress," and, "considerable progress" that was going on. Yes, back in 2004 we were on the right track in Iraq - and three years later, we still are! Fantastic.
Oh - except for the fact that despite Petraeus's rosy testimony, this news item popped up last week:
But it's okay - that was just a "Ramadan surge." Go figure.
George W. Bush
The White House was livid last week when a rough draft of George W. Bush's speech to the U.N. was circulated to reporters. According to USA Today the speech contained phonetic spellings of the names of several countries and world leaders, among them:
• Mauritania (moor-EH-tain-ee-a)
• Harare (hah-RAR-ray)
• Mugabe (moo-GAH-bee)
• Sarkozy (sar-KO-zee)
• Caracas (kah-RAH-kus)
Don't laugh. If they forget to give him the phonetic spellings he's prone to do stuff like this:
"As I was telling the French president Nicolas Sarker-zye last week, it's time fer dictators like Robert Moo-gayb to step down. Cuz freedom is on the march in Moe-ree-tain-yer and Keer... Kur... Krij... ah, let's just say Asia. It's in Asia, right?"
Of course White House spokeswoman Dana Perino was quick to play down the embarrasing draft:
So the phonetic spellings were for the interpreters, eh? That's odd, because the phonetic spellings are for English pronunciations. For example, Kyrgyzstan has an extra syllable in French, Italian, Danish, German, and Norwegian, and is pronounced completely differently in various other languages. Likewise, Mauritania ends with an "n" in Danish, German, and Swedish, and an "e" in French.
So I guess Dana Perino is trying to tell us that the phonetic pronunciations were for the benefit of interpreters who were trying to translate Bush's speech into English.
But maybe she's right. I mean, after all, who really needs this cheat sheet? People trained to speak multiple languages who are employed by the United Nations, or George W. Bush? Gee, I wonder.
PERINO: That's not unusual. We do that for many speeches.
REPORTER: Does the president have a hard time pronouncing some of these countries's (sic) name?
PERINO: I think that's a offensive question. I'm going to just decline to comment on it.
Yes, what an offensive question. As if Our Great Leader has a hard time speaking the English language. For shame.
In other news: at an education event last week, George W. Bush announced that "Childrens do learn."
I'm not joking.
George W. Bush
Remember the "Coalition of the Willing?" Turns out they might not have been quite so willing after all. In fact, we should probably start calling them the "Coalition of the Coerced." According to AFP:
In the transcript of a meeting on February 22, 2003 -- a month before the US-led invasion of Iraq -- published in El Pais newspaper, Bush tells Aznar that nations such as Mexico, Angola, Chile and Cameroon must know that the security of the United States is at stake.
He says during the meeting on his ranch in Texas that Angola stood to lose financial aid while Chile could see a free trade agreement held up in the US Senate if they did not back the resolution, the left-wing paper said.
The confidential transcript was prepared by Spain's ambassador to the United States at the time, Javier Ruperez, the paper said.
The White House did not challenge the accuracy of the transcript, with national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe declining to comment.
But that's not all - according to Editor & Publisher:
So that all happened on February 22, 2003. Gosh, does this mean Bush lied two weeks later, on March 8, 2003? That was when he told the nation, "We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq."
Surely not! George W. Bush is a man of honor and integrity! The facts be damned!
Last week I noted that Rudy Giuliani interrupted a speech to the NRA to take a phone call from his wife. Which didn't go down too well.
"You mean you can't turn off your phone?" steamed Lacrecia Crowell, of Dardanelle, Ark. "I can't believe it!"
"It just seems to me like he didn't take the group that seriously," added her husband, Art.
Another NRA member muttered, "That was just weird."
It's okay though, because Rudy had a good reason for taking the call. Can you guess what it is? Go on, you'll never guess. Here's what he told reporters:
"Sometimes if I'm in the middle of a very, very sensitive meeting, I don't take the call right then; I wait. But I thought it would be kind of nice if I took it at that point, and I'd done that before in engagements, and I didn't realize it would create any kind of controversy," he said.
Incredible! Is there anything 9/11 can't do for this guy?
Mind you, even Rudy was smart enough to turn this offer down (only after some hemming and hawing mind you): Abraham Sofaer, who, according to the Associated Press, was "a State Department adviser under President Reagan and is a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution," announced last week that he was holding a fundraiser for the Giuliani campaign. The twist?
Abraham Sofaer is having a fundraiser at his Palo Alto, Calif., home on Wednesday, when Giuliani backers across the country are participating in the campaign's national house party night.
But not so fast! Despite throwing the party, Sofaer claims he had nothing to do with the idea of raising $9.11 per person.
Oh, those rascally random unnamed young people, always coming up with sick new ways to exploit a national tragedy. Tsk tsk.
The Bush Administration
Way back in the mists of time - that is, seven months ago - there was widespread outrage when it was revealed that outpatients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center were living in conditions like this:
Following the shocking report, George W. Bush visited Walter Reed and said this: "It is not right to have someone volunteer to wear our uniform and not get the best possible care. I apologize for what they went through, and we're going to fix the problem."
Well guess what? He hasn't. According to Paul Rieckhoff in the Huffington Post:
This latest report joins the increasing chorus of bipartisan commissions, independent review groups, and task forces which all confirm that the DoD and the VA are ill-prepared to meet the needs of returning servicemembers. Among its findings, the GAO concluded that there has been little progress in rectifying staffing shortfalls, facilitating VA/DoD data sharing, and streamlining disability evaluation systems. Processing disability payments still takes an average of 177 days. Furthermore, efforts to improve the care provided to servicemembers with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have also been largely unsuccessful: only 6 of the Army's 32 Warrior Transition Units had completed training for all staff. ...
The bottom line: the problems of Walter Reed have not been fixed. Not even close.
Don't tell me: it doesn't matter because they're "phony soldiers" anyway - right Rush?
George W. Bush
Speaking of Walter Reed, George W. Bush spent much of last week moaning about Congress's domestic funding bills. It turns out that Congress wants to spend $22 billion more than Bush, with the extra funding going towards infrastructure improvements, education, and - yes - veterans' health care.
But extra funding for veterans' health care is most certainly not in Our Great Leader's plan.
Gosh, $205 billion over five years for infrastructure, education and veterans? That's a lot of money that we can't possibly afford to spend. You see, we need that money for something else. According to the Los Angeles Times:
And that's not for five years - that's just to get us to the end of 2008.
The fact is, the $22 billion Bush is complaining about - money that could go towards fixing things like Walter Reed, just as he promised - is what the United States spends on the occupation of Iraq in less than two months.
What a disgrace.
And finally, John McCain may still be struggling in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, but never let it be said that the guy doesn't learn from his mistakes. McCain has realized that he really needs to get more ignorance, bigotry, and xenophobia into his campaign if he's going to appeal to Republican primary voters and win the nod.
And so it was that John McCain last week said this:
"I admire the Islam. There's a lot of good principles in it," he said. "But I just have to say in all candor that since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles, personally, I prefer someone who I know who has a solid grounding in my faith."
In a wide-ranging interview about religion and faith with the Web site Beliefnet, McCain said he wouldn't "rule out under any circumstance" someone who wasn't Christian, but said, "I just feel that that's an important part of our qualifications to lead."
So there you have it - America was founded on Christian principles. Now, it's true that the Constitution never actually uses the words "God" or "Jesus" or "Christ," and sure, the very first words in the Bill of Rights are, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." And yes, Article VI, section 3 of the Constitution does say, "...no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." But never mind that.
Let's follow McCain's logic and see if we can narrow this down a little further. As well as being Christian, the president should obviously have to be male, because - duh - the Founding Fathers were men! (Founding Mothers? Please!) We didn't even amend the Constitution so that women could vote until 1920, so a female president is right out. America was founded on men's principles!
Also, the president will have to be white, since the Founding Fathers were all white. For goodness sake, slavery wasn't abolished until 1865, and the Constitution clearly states that slaves should be counted as three-fifths of a person. So I think it's safe to say that America was also founded on white principles.
And last of all, the president should have to wear a powdered wig, just like the Founding Fathers famously did. Because America was founded on, er, wig-wearing principles.
Case closed. Can't wait to see the new campaign literature...
See you next week!