Thursday, March 29, 2007

Going, going, Gonzales

A friend who actually knows at least one actor in the DOJ telenovella emailed me about 10 days ago picking 3/21 as the day Gonzo would get thrown under the bus. I knew that was too soon -- Abu knows where far too many bodies are buried, and has the ability to make things very uncomfortable for his patron. So I was sure the Administration would try to ride it out as long as possible. But today Kyle Sampson opened Gonzo's jugular, and heroic measures will not stop him from bleeding out very, very soon.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was briefed regularly over two years on the firings of federal prosecutors, his former top aide said Thursday, disputing Gonzales' claims he was not closely involved with the dismissals.

The testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee by Kyle Sampson, the attorney general's former chief of staff, newly undercut Gonzales' already shaky credibility.

Gonzales and former White House counsel Harriet Miers made the final decision on whether to fire the U.S. attorneys last year, said Kyle Sampson, the attorney general's former chief of staff.

"I don't think the attorney general's statement that he was not involved in any discussions of U.S. attorney removals was accurate," Sampson told the committee as it inquired into whether the dismissals were politically motivated.

"I remember discussing with him this process of asking certain U.S. attorneys to resign," Sampson said.

Sampson's testimony for the first time put Gonzales at the heart of the firings amid ever-changing Justice Department accounts of how they were planned.

Gonzales has said repeatedly that he was not closely involved in the firings and largely depended on Sampson to orchestrate them.

Sampson resigned March 12. A day later, Gonzales said he "never saw documents. We never had a discussion about where things stood" in the firings.

The White House stepped back from defending Gonzales even before Sampson finished testifying.

For a day, perhaps a week, Gonzo is dead Attorney General walking, but his exit is no longer in doubt. The interesting question now is whether he can be bought off with a Medal of Freedom, or if he can be flipped. But if you insist on a prediction, I would take something between 5:00 PM eastern on Friday and 6:00PM Sunday. But he is this year's "cancer on the Presidency"-- the longer he stays, the worse the problem will get.

Gonzo turning state's evidence -- that would be a sight to see.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


If David Broder really is the "Dean" of the Washington press corpse, somebody needs to revoke their accreditation.

In today's column, he shares with his readers the recent Pew Research study that shows the major swing away from the Republicans and their values. But after 13 grafs of rather obvious logic, Broder goes into his own private Idaho of delusion:

"It seems doubtful that Democrats can help themselves a great deal just by tearing down an already discredited Republican administration with more investigations such as the current attack on the Justice Department and White House over the firings of eight U.S. attorneys."

This is perhaps the most absurd, unsubstantiated and offensive passage ever to appear in the Washington Post, with the obvious exception of everything Fred Hiatt has written 2/3rds of what Richard Cohen has written, and maybe half of Broder's own excretions.

We understand, Mr. Broder, that you identify so much with the Republican power elite (Clinton "trashed the place, and it's not his place" and all) that you "feel their pain" when their criminality is exposed. But the fact that you find it doubtful that there is value in exposing the truth about widespread illegality, wholesale lying and utter disregard for the Constitution does not make it so. It is in fact essential, and the idea that a Washington Post columnist cannot see that fact is just mind-boggling.

Dick Cheney was part of the Nixon cabal. So was a very young Karl Rove; so was Donald Rumsfeld. In the name of avoiding "tearing down an already discredited Republican administration," voices like yours urged that Nixon be pardoned and that we avoid a post-Watergate "witch hunt" -- and these pathology-rich miscreants lived to disgrace again. Numerous Bush henchmen had Iran-Contra blood on their hands, but voices like yours wanted us to all get along and cheered further outrageous pardons. And so here we are -- 1974 all over again.

No, sir, we must investigate. We must "tear down" the whole corrupt enterprise. The criminals you identify with must be exposed and punished. And, most important of all, we must make sure that none of them are allowed to ever endanger our country or the rest of the world from positions of power again.

It is rapidly becoming indisputable that we will not be able to accomplish that job with out cleaning out the Aegean stables you and your fellow journalists call home.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Armageddon clock advances

Greenwald points us to a former Bush official suggesting that the British naval personnel captured by Iran may have been in Iranian waters as part of a plan of deliberate provocation.

Now where have I heard such ideas before? Oh, yeah.

Friday, March 23, 2007


I am a terrible chess player (I wasn't bad in 5th grade, but probably played more games before I was 10 years old than I have after.) But my favorite chess move is any move that creates a fork -- that's when one of your pieces threatens two of your opponent's pieces, and his only choice is which piece to give up.

The US Attorney scandal may now be turning into a fork against the Bush Administration.

The drip, drip of revelations about the manifold ways in which the DOJ has been politicized is ensuring that pot never falls below a simmer. Subpoenas have been authorized -- Congress is locked and loaded. The Administration is signaling its willingness to claim Executive Privilege. All indications are that this is the Big One. So how will it play out?

TPM and many others are poring over the released documents. CREW extrapolates an interesting possibility -- that Bush himself authorized the purge. That would be inconsistent with the official version, according to which Gonzales "never saw documents" about the firings.

Now my very limited understanding of the law of Executive Privilege is that it only applies to conversations that directly involve the President. (John Dean confirmed this on Countdown last night.) No Presidential involvement, no privilege.

So here's the potential fork: if push comes to shove, Bush will have to choose -- does he abandon the Executive Privilege claim, and thus expose his two closest advisors to their own forks (commit perjury or admit their wrongdoing), or does he admit that he authorized the firings, and possibly implicate himself in what could turn out to be an impeachable offense?

Fischer-Spassky got nothin' on this.

Update: Marty Lederman sees it, too.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Wide Open

The elephant in the room in the U.S. Attorney scandal is this: the Bush team might well be choose to dig their heels in on principle -- they don't have many, but preservation of their absolute monarchy is one of them -- but it is also a pretty safe bet that if they are willing to go nukular to avoid telling the truth, the truth must be pretty damned bad. In other words, what we don't yet know is likely to be a lot worse than what we do know.

Thursday's WaPo gives us a taste of what is coming:

Prosecutor Says Bush Appointees Interfered With Tobacco Case
The leader of the Justice Department team that prosecuted a landmark lawsuit against tobacco companies said yesterday that Bush administration political appointees repeatedly ordered her to take steps that weakened the government's racketeering case.

Sharon Y. Eubanks said Bush loyalists in Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's office began micromanaging the team's strategy in the final weeks of the 2005 trial, to the detriment of the government's claim that the industry had conspired to lie to U.S. smokers.

"The political people were . . . ordering us to say what we said," lawyer Sharon Y. Eubanks said.

She said a supervisor demanded that she and her trial team drop recommendations that tobacco executives be removed from their corporate positions as a possible penalty. He and two others instructed her to tell key witnesses to change their testimony. And they ordered Eubanks to read verbatim a closing argument they had rewritten for her, she said.

"The political people were pushing the buttons and ordering us to say what we said," Eubanks said. "And because of that, we failed to zealously represent the interests of the American public."

This could well bust open the floodgates. There are probably dozens of similar stories of zampolit control of the DOJ (see, e.g., the aborted DOJ Abramoff investigation), and every time one of them goes public, the story's legs get longer.

Though I was perhaps a bit premature, I predicted this effect some time ago, and rather eloquently if I do say so myself:

Silence is not bought from the living; it is merely rented. As Congress grows restive, the Bush cabal will find they can no longer pay that rent, and Washington will start getting louder.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

How to boil a frog

via Crooks and Liars

I am as impatient as the rest of you about the lack of progress our newly Democratic Congress has made on ending our bloodletting in Iraq. But I have to say that I think they are doing a pretty good job so far with how they are approaching the investigative part of the their job.

Executive privilege is a legitimate if overused theory. I'd like to clip its wings, but it should not be made extinct. And I think everyone expects a showdown between Bush/Cheney and Congress at some point. But how we get from here to there matters.

If Waxman and Leahy and Conyers had gone in with guns blazing in January, the Administration would have manned the barricades and refused to turn over a single document or let anyone testify. I'm sure the new committee chairs knew that. So they followed a very smart approach -- they followed the favored apocryphal recipe for boiled frog: turn up the temperature so slowly the frog never figures out that it needs to jump out of the pot.

The US Attorney firings triggered the emails. The emails led us to the fired USAs. After the emails became public, the Administration could hardly prevent their testimony. The fired U.S. Attorneys only raised the thermometer enough to warrant (pun intended) the testimony of Gonzales and his chief of staff. The scandal has escalated to the point where he cannot really claim privilege. Gonzo's testimony will lead us to Rove. And when the Administration finally notices the steam, they will have a difficult time -- both legally and in terms of public opinion -- trying to use the privilege argument. Voila' -- boiled frog.

(And I am way into guesswork here, but I suspect that the liberal use of non-official email addresses and servers is going to come back to haunt the privilege argument as well.)


Update (3/20): Oops -- spoke too soon. Looks like somebody hit the fast-forward button, and I don't think anyone is going to blink yet. I think in hindsight it will look like they should have turned up the burner more slowly, but here we are.

And how do you claim exec privilege as a way of blocking sworn testimony you were happy to give unsworn?

One bit of nonsense I heard on the tube was a turnabout argument to the effect that "political appointees should not be compelled -- Clinton would never have let James Carville testify." Well, maybe, maybe not. But how involved do you think the Ragin' Cajun was in DOJ personnel decisions? I think the critical point here is that calling Rove a political appointee is a misdirection play -- he has been central to major policy initiatives. There is simply no distinction between policy and politics in this White House.

Pass the popcorn, would ya?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Fake news indeed

The right wing dismisses The Daily Show as fake news. We know otherwise. So do lots of folks in the mainstream media, if Tom Brokaw is any indication. But this is new, at least to me: a leading national politician acknowledging the heavy lifting done by "fake news."

Dr. James Knodell, director of the Office of Security at the White House, told a congresisonal committee today that he was aware of no internal investigation or report into the leak of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame.

The White House had first opposed Knodell testifying but after a threat of a subpoena from the committee yesterday he was allowed to appear today.

Knodell has testified that those who had participated in the leaking of classified information were required to attest to this and he was aware that no one, including Karl Rove, had done that.

Rep. Waxman recalled that President Bush had promised a full internal probe. Knodell repeated that no probe took place, as far as he knew, and was not happening today.

Knodell said he had "no" conversations whatsoever with the president, vice president, Karl Rove or anyone about the leak.

Asked by chairman Rep. Henry Waxman if he knew this was an issue of concern, he said "yes." Asked if he learned this from the White House or the press, he said, "through the press."


Democrats challenged his assertion that no probe was necessary since a criminal investigation was underway. They said that the criminal probe was narrowly focused, started well after the leak -- during which the White House apparently did nothing -- and that in any case, the White House was required to carry out its own probe and deny security clearances to anyone who had leaked classified information.

They demanded to know why Rove's security clearance had not been revoked.

Rep. Waxman at one point said that he regretted not being able to put up a video of the president promising a full probe but added, "I guess we will leave that to The Daily Show."

Thus has the Fourth Estate defaulted to Comedy Central. The second time around, it should come as no surprise that Vietnam/Watergate repeats as farce.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

That settles that

Senator Clinton: If elected president, we will stay in Iraq

"Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton foresees a “remaining military as well as political mission” in Iraq, and says that if elected president, she would keep a reduced but significant military force there to fight Al Qaeda, deter Iranian aggression, protect the Kurds and possibly support the Iraqi military," reports the New York Times.

The only interesting question now is this: who folks like me will vote for in November '08 if HRC is the Democratic nominee despite her rejection of the core position of her party? If she is the nominee, I can now actually imagine myself voting 3rd party.

I might have just been triangulated out of the Democratic Party.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Big Lobotmyski

Today Andrea "Stoneface" Mitchell concluded that, when it comes to favoring a pardon for Scooter, 18% equals a majority.

Lest you think that kind of denial of reality is a skill reserved for the elites, there's this from the Times:

Republicans See Divided Party and Trouble in ’08

Even as Republican voters continued to support President Bush and the war in Iraq, including the recent increase in the number of American troops deployed there, they said a candidate who backed Mr. Bush’s war policies would be at a decided disadvantage in 2008. And they suggested that they were open to supporting a candidate who broke with the president on a crucial aspect of his Iraq strategy.

Asked what was more important to them in a nominee, a commitment to stay in Iraq until the United States succeeds or flexibility about when to withdraw, 58 percent of self-identified Republican primary voters said flexibility versus 39 percent who said a commitment to stay. The three leading Republican candidates are strong supporters of the war and the increase in American troops there.

Got that? A majority of Republicans simultaneously acknowledges the reality that we are going to have to admit failure in Iraq AND steadfastly supports Bush's utter rejection of that same reality.

I guess I am going to have to stop dismissing the possibility that the far right will support an adulterous once-liberal presidential candidate like (take your pick).

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The other inconvenient truth

From an important piece in Rolling Stone, which may or may not be relevant to whatever counterculture may or may not still exist, but has had a bunch of these kinds of truth-to-power pieces over the last couple of years:
No matter what happens now, the Islamists will have beaten both of the superpowers -- first the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and now the United States in the heart of Islam. The impact of that in Islamic civilization is going to be enormous. We have made bin Laden a prophet: His organizing concept for Al Qaeda was "The Russians are a lot tougher than the Americans. If we can beat the Russians, then we can eventually beat the Americans.

Sadly, it sounds more impressive than it really is.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The World According to GOP

1. Bill Clinton brought dishonor to his office by cheating on his wife.

(Rudy Giuliani. Newt Gingrich. John McCain.)

2. Oh, yeah, I forgot... it wasn't the sex, it was the lying -- he was convicted of perjury.

(Scooter Pie.)

3. I mean... perjury is not a real crime -- Libby should be pardoned immediately.

(Marc Rich.)

Rinse, lather and repeat.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

And how was your day?

Scooter convicted.

Administration shill John Cornyn is unavailable to obstruct the U.S. Attorney hearings because he is tied up obstructing the Walter Reed hearings.

Another river of blood in Iraq.

Tough day to be Tony Snow.


Update: Will Bush pardon Libby? My guess is no, not unless somebody starts nosing around a lot closer to him. Fitz announced that his investigation is over. So further criminal indictments on the Plame leak are very unlikely. Bush is not going to lose sleep feeling Scooter's pain. My guess is that (i) Bush will tell Scooter in private that it is still a possibility at the end of his term, so (ii) Scoots will keep his yap shut and play four corners with appeals, etc., and (iii) Bush will never actually pull the trigger, so (iv) in 2009 Scooter heads for the big house.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Heh. Indeed.

Republican Candidates Criticize Slur by a Conservative Author - New York Times

Three of the leading Republican presidential candidates on Saturday denounced one of their party’s best-known conservative commentators for using an antigay epithet when discussing a Democratic presidential contender at a gathering of conservatives here.

The remarks by Ann Coulter, an author who regularly speaks at conservative events, were sharply denounced by the candidates, Senator John McCain of Arizona, Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. Their statements came after Democrats, gay rights groups and bloggers raised a storm of protest over the remarks.

Her remarks drew some cheers that could be heard on a videotape of the event.

The criticisms by the Republican candidates put them in a difficult position because the Conservative Political Action Conference has been an important gathering for conservative and Republican leaders for more than 25 years.

The speakers this year included Vice President Dick Cheney and most of the presidential candidates, whose presence suggested the political influence the group holds in the party’s nominating process. Mr. Cheney was not at the event on Friday.

Of the major Republican candidates, only Mr. McCain did not attend, but he denounced her remarks on Saturday morning. “The comments were wildly inappropriate,” said his spokesman, Brian Jones.

Mr. Giuliani said, “The comments were completely inappropriate and there should be no place for such name-calling in political debate.”

Kevin Madden, a spokesman for Mr. Romney, said: “It was an offensive remark. Governor Romney believes all people should be treated with dignity and respect.”

Can I say I told you so now?

Update: Even Sully understands what I've been on about:

I just got an email from the American Conservative Union. They won't say if they'll disinvite Coulter from CPAC next year. They won't actually condemn Coulter's speech. Money quote:

ACU and CPAC leave it to our audience to determine whether comments are appropriate or not. "Ann Coulter is known for comments that can be both provocative and outrageous. That was certainly the case in her 2007 CPAC appearance and previous ones as well. But as a point of clarification, let me make it clear that ACU and CPAC do not condone or endorse the use of hate speech," said David A. Keene, ACU Chairman.

Does that mean he believes her speech was "hate-speech"? Why can he not just say so and disinvite her in the future? The answer: because the base would explode. Coulter is central to a core element of the conservative movement today. And Keene can't risk taking her on.

That's exactly the pickle the small group of sentient Republicans find themselves in. Think of them as the political equivalents of Sigfried & Roy: they've been bloodied by the claws of one of their wild animals, but if they dump the uncontrollable feline, the audience disappears.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc, post hoc ergo...

The readership of this blog is very small. So when I say "X should happen" and then X happens, I have to resist the temptation to allow myself to think that I had anything to do with it.


Yesterday I talked about what the Dems should do in response to the childish but deeply offensive name-calling from Little Offend Annie -- force big name Repugs to embrace or disavow her. Today there's this:

At a statement by former Vermont Governor Howard Dean calls on GOP presidential candidates to "denounce her hateful remarks."

Dean's statement read, "There is no place in political discourse for this kind of hate-filled and bigoted comments. While Democrats and Republicans may disagree on the issues, we should all be able to agree that this kind of vile rhetoric is out of bounds. The American people want a serious, thoughtful debate of the issues. Republicans -- including the Republican presidential candidates who shared the podium with Ann Coulter today -- should denounce her hateful remarks."

At Edwards' campaign website, a plea for "Coulter Cash" has been front-paged.

"Friday afternoon, Republican mouthpiece Ann Coulter brought hate-speech politics to a new low," the Edwards website states, alongside a video clip of Coulter's speech. "We must show that inflaming prejudice to attack progressive leaders will only backfire."

"Can you help us raise $100,000 in 'Coulter Cash' this week to keep this campaign charging ahead and fight back against the politics of bigotry?" Edwards' campaign websites asks.

In addition, a fund-raising email was sent out by the Edwards campaign which was attributed to the former North Carolina senator's campaign manager, David Bonior, who notes that former Republican Governor Mitt Romney "introduced her."

Think Progress reported that before Coulter's speech Romney (R-MA) said, "I am happy to hear that after you hear from me, you will hear from Ann Coulter. That is a good thing. Oh yeah!"

"John was singled out for a personal attack because the Republican establishment knows he poses the greatest threat to their power," the Edwards fund-raising email reads. "Since they have nothing real to use against him, Coulter's resorting to the classic right-wing strategy of riling up hate to smear a progressive champion. And the Republican attack dogs will keep playing this despicable trick as long as they think it works."
Via Think Progress, there's also this:

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese issues the following statement:

“We demand that every single Presidential candidate in attendance at this conference, along with Vice President Cheney stand up and publicly condemn this type of gutter-style politics,” continued Solmonese. “If not, then their silence will be deafening to the vast majority of Americans who believe this type of language belongs no where near the discussions about the future of our country.”


And earlier in the week I speculated that the channeling of American money to radical Sunnis revealed by Sy Hersh might be tied to the lost billions of cash shipped in palletloads to Iraq.

Last night Sy appeared on Bill Maher's show and suggested exactly the same thing.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc, post hoc ergo propter hoc....

Update: OK, not so post, actually. Here is Hersh on CNN on 2/25 voicing his suspicions. Ace reporter that he is, he left it out of the story because he couldn't nail it down.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Return of the Ann Coulter Republicans

Long-time readers may recall my column from last year, "Ann Coulter Republicans," in which I reviewed Coulter's toxic emanations, and suggested:

The question, "Are you an Ann Coulter Republican?" should confront every Republican running for every office in the land, from President to dog catcher. Every Democratic candidate should accuse his or her opponent of being in favor of poisoning Supreme Court Justices and killing Congressmen. At every opportunity, every Republican should be made to answer: "Do you agree with Ann Coulter that the 9/11 widows are witches and harpies?" And George W. Bush, Tony Snow, Dick Cheney, Laura Bush and Barney (the only lapdog with a good excuse) should be confronted with these questions as well.

Republicans have been able to maintain a Kabuki symbiosis with all manner of cave-dwellers by speaking in an elaborate, dog whistle-like code. They hold racists, homophobes and rapture acolytes close enough to keep their votes without ever having to either publicly embrace or disavow such extreme viewpoints. That relationship with white-sheet America has been essential to their electoral strategy for decades.

But Ann Coulter has furnished us with a turn-key solution. We can now easily put them in the logical fork they should have been forced into years ago: disavow Coulter's vile, sub-human ravings, or embrace them. If they distance themselves from her, they risk alienating the mouth-breathers who demand such red meat as the price of their loyalty. If they embrace her, they lose significant swaths of the middle - the decent folks who are the reason Republicans talk about Dred Scott and "state's rights" rather than criminalizing abortion and gutting civil rights laws.

The piece stirred up a bit of controversy, and a record number of comments (407 at last count, though most of those are actually an utterly pointless flame war). Surprisingly, Coulter seemed to crawl back into her cave for a while afterwards, though I highly doubt there is a cause and effect relationship.

But the strategy is relevant again, because Little Offend Annie was featured at the 34th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) today, and she is at it again:

"What's Al Gore up to these days?" Coulter rhetorically asked, before answering, "Four hundred pounds."

Coulter asked, "Did Al Gore actually swallow Michael Moore?"

"Obama is half-white and half-black," Coulter said, before comparing the Illinois senator to former President Bill Clinton. "Clinton was half-white, half-trash."

Before concluding her speech in order to take questions from audience members, Coulter took a final shot at Edwards.

"I was going to have a few comments about John Edwards but you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot,'" Coulter said.

Hello, Mr. Edwards? Think you can take a break from milquetoasting your bloggers to grab some obvious points, and wound the whole Republican roster?

Coulter's outburst at a major conservative confab makes the strategy a no-brainer. And most of the potential problems for Republicans that I pointed out last June are still dead-on today:
Which chess piece will Republicans sacrifice? I suspect it will vary. New York Governor George Pataki is one of the few Republicans to come out against Coulter, but that's a freebee - 9/11 happened in his state, and he appears to have no higher ambitions. Deep southerners in local races will probably embrace her. But what will John McCain do? I don't see how he can answer that question and still become President. Rudy Giuliani? He has already shown he'd rather run into a burning building. Bill Frist would prefer to declare himself to be in a persistent vegetative state. The list of high-profile Republicans desperate not to confront the Coulter question is very long.

This one is a mulligan, folks, and they don't come along every day.

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