Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Returning to marvel once again at the deceitful Brookings Institution media spectacle

By Glenn Greenwald

By Matthew Rothschild

Sure, Gonzales should be canned, prosecuted, or impeached—or any combination thereof. But he’s just been serving a criminal President. And we need to devote our attention to that criminal: not his hired and hapless stooge.

Controversial First Ladies are nothing new, but Judi Giuliani seems prepared to raise the bar, alarming her husband's campaign staff and delighting the gossip pages with her diva demands, Judy Bachrach reports.

Remembering Bergman

Ingmar Bergman changed the face of filmmaking -- and may have been the 20th century's greatest artist.

By Andrew O'Hehir

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Rapture Ready: The Christians United For Israel Tour . . . Oy Vey!

by Max Blumenthal

On July 16, I attended Christians United for Israel's annual Washington-Israel Summit. Founded by San Antonio-based megachurch pastor John Hagee, CUFI has added the grassroots muscle of the Christian right to the already potent Israel lobby. Hagee and his minions have forged close ties with the Bush White House and members of Congress from Sen. Joseph Lieberman to Sen. John McCain. In its call for a unilateral military attack on Iran and the expansion of Israeli territory, CUFI has found unwavering encouragement from traditional pro-Israel groups like AIPAC and elements of the Israeli government.

But CUFI has an ulterior agenda: its support for Israel derives from the belief of Hagee and his flock that Jesus will return to Jerusalem after the battle of Armageddon and cleanse the earth of evil. In the end, all the non-believers - Jews, Muslims, Hindus, mainline Christians, etc. - must convert or suffer the torture of eternal damnation. Over a dozen CUFI members eagerly revealed to me their excitement at the prospect of Armageddon occurring tomorrow. Among the rapture ready was Republican Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. None of this seemed to matter to Lieberman, who delivered a long sermon hailing Hagee as nothing less than a modern-day Moses. Lieberman went on to describe Hagee's flock as "even greater than the multitude Moses commanded."

Throughout CUFI's Israel Summit, videographer Thomas Shomaker and I were hounded by PR agents seeking to prevent us from interviewing attendees about the End Times. The conference, we were told, was about "one message" - evangelical Christians supporting Israel. We were instructed to only interview CUFI leaders capable of sticking to the talking point that their support for Israel has, as Hagee declared, "nothing to do with the End Times." But I was forbidden from asking Hagee about statements he made in his book, "Jerusalem Countdown," that appeared to blame Jews for their own persecution. After doing just that during a press conference, I was removed from the conference by off-duty DC cops summoned by members of Hagee's family.

I have covered the Christian right intensely for over four years. During this time, I attended dozens of Christian right conferences, regularly monitored movement publications and radio shows, and interviewed scores of its key leaders. I have never witnessed any spectacle as politically extreme, outrageous, or bizarre as the one Christians United for Israel produced last week in Washington. See for yourself.


Why Republicans don't like their candidates
By Thomas F. Schaller

Plot foiled by George and Al

Subject: Fwd: Teacher Arrested
NEW YORK -- Teacher arrested

A public school teacher was arrested today at John F. Kennedy
International Airport as he attempted to board a flight while in
possession of a ruler, a protractor, a set square, a slide rule and
a calculator.

At a morning press conference, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez
said he believes the man is a member of the notorious Al-gebra
movement. He did not identify the man, who has been charged by the
FBI with carrying weapons of math instruction.

"Al-gebra is a problem for us," Gonzalez said. They desire
solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off on tangents
in a search of absolute value.

They use secret code names like 'x' and 'y' and refer to themselves
as 'unknowns', but we have determined they belong to a common
denominator of the axis of medieval with coordinates in every
country. As the Greek philanderer Isosceles used to say, 'There
are 3 sides to every triangle'."

When asked to comment on the arrest, President Bush said, "If God
had wanted us to have better weapons of math instruction, He would
have given us more fingers and toes."

Saturday, July 28, 2007

By E.J. Dionne —

The spat between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that emerged from the CNN/YouTube debate may seem petty, but it could go down as the moment that turned the race for the presidency.

by Rob Kall

It's said Cheney's personality changed when he had his last pacemaker implant in 2001-- that it affected his brain. ...
Unclassified Media Project #2

Thursday, July 26, 2007

By Joe Conason —

Right-wing ideologues Bill O’Reilly and William Kristol are on a campaign to marginalize the “netroots,” but on issues such as the war, Rupert Murdoch’s pet pundits are the ones barking from the fringe.

White House plays blame game on Iraq
By Sidney Blumenthal

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Expert Tease

By Robert Scheer —

As President Bush’s poll numbers plummet to new lows and public support for Congress to end the war in Iraq continues to build, Robert Scheer wonders when Bush will finally turn on the neo-conservatives who betrayed his presidential legacy.

Can We Please Impeach Gonzales Now?

by Joseph A. Palermo

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is given a free ride to cover up the fact that the Department of Justice under his leadership became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Big Box Mart


By Matthew Rothschild

The document does contain a warning in bold, however: "Remember—avoid physical contact with demonstrators." It also advises to make sure that whatever action is taken to drown out the demonstrators does not "cause more negative publicity than if the demonstrators were simply left alone."

Mitt Catches S**t Over Hillary-Bashing Sign
Posted Jul 21st 2007 8:02AM by TMZ Staff

Filed under: Wacky and Weird
Not everyone is a fan of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but comparing them to one of the most dastardly pieces of human excrement of all time -- that might be bit much. Especially for a presidential candidate.TMZ obtained photos of presidential candidate Mitt Romney trying to win over grammatically challenged South Carolinians Thursday by holding a sign that said, "No to Obama, Osama and Chelsea's Moma."

Maybe he just doesn't like modern art?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Michael Moore on the Colbert Report

Dems blast Bush's handling of Iraq oil crisis

WASHINGTON - Two senior Democratic congressmen charged yesterday that the Bush administration is pushing legislation in Baghdad that would give Western oil companies undue control over Iraqi oil and lead to even more extensive corruption.

By Joe Conason

Thursday, July 19, 2007

By Robert Scheer —

In 1795, James Madison wrote of war’s far-reaching and corrosive effect on public liberty. He could well have been warning us about our own King George, just the sort of imperial president that Madison and other founders of our nation feared most.

by Margaret Carlson

If I were running for U.S. president, in every debate I'd crib a question from the Ronald Reagan playbook: Are you safer today than you were six years ago?
Pentagon Attacks Sen. Clinton
by mcjoan

This is one of the most outrageous outgrowths of the extreme politicization of government under the Bush-Cheney regime.

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon told Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton that her questions about how the U.S. plans to eventually withdraw from Iraq boosts enemy propaganda....

"Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia," [Undersecretary of Defense Eric] Edelman wrote.
He added that "such talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks."

Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines called Edelman's answer "at once outrageous and dangerous," and said the senator would respond to his boss, Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Edelman apparently got his diplomatic skills from the Dick Cheney school of governance. Since he's a former aide to Cheney, that seems likely.

That some lackey apparatchik in the Pentagon would dare to accuse a United States Senator of "boosting enemy propaganda" is an outrage. Not to mention a really stupid way to respond to one of the people who gets to decide your department's budget.

Considering that the Pentagon clearly went into Iraq with no real plan, it's safe to assume that they would also have no plan for a safe withdrawal of troops from Iraq. The lack of any kind of plan has been the hallmark of the Pentagon under Bush/Cheney, and given that track record, Clinton's question was more than appropriate.

By Sidney Blumenthal

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Read It And Weep

Fred Kaplan at Slate points out that it does not take much reading between the lines to conclude that the new National Intelligence Estimate indicates that Bush`s Iraq War has generated a new and deadly threat against the US. In other words, the US had al-Qaeda on the run and would be safer now if it hadn`t invaded Iraq.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Other War: Iraq Veterans Bear Witness

Investigating the impact of the war on Iraqi civilians, Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian reveal disturbing patterns of behavior by US troops in Iraq--brutal acts that often go unreported and almost always go unpunished.

NeoCons Exposed: Voyeurs Listen in to the "Real Stuff" on Trains and Ships

by Steve Clemons

And for those who think that the neocons are out and gone -- think again. They continue to embed most corners of America's policy establishment.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Cutting Corners on Domestic Spending

War in Iraq Cuts into Budget at Home. Scott Lily talks on camera about how domestic spending cuts are effecting the everyday lives of Americans.
Michael Moore on 9/11

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Not Wanted? - Dead or Alive

While Bush rests, bin Laden plots
Les Payne

July 15, 2007

Does the specter of a live and plotting Osama bin Laden keep President George W. Bush awake nights? Probably not. Yet, it might reassure the country if it had a president who could accept the reality that Bush has become so adept at finessing.

It was bin Laden and al-Qaida, stupid.

This president seems to have been given a pass on the turbaned terrorist who collapsed the Twin Towers. Another of bin Laden's commandeered death jets - lest we forget - crashed into the Pennsylvania countryside and a fourth scored a direct hit on the Pentagon, incinerating, all told, some 2,973 lives.

Initially, Bush swore revenge. It has been 2,130 days, however, since the president declared on Sept. 13, 2001, that "The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our No. 1 priority and we will not rest until we find him." Our well-rested president has not found bin Laden. U.S. intelligence officials informed us last week that the chief executive of a stronger- than-ever al-Qaida is plotting global attacks from his mountain redoubt in Pakistan.

This resurgence mocks U.S. efforts to smash the al-Qaida threat. Bush is as immune to mockery as Bill Clinton is to shame. It was the 43rd president, after all, who shortly after 9/11 deputized himself as U.S. marshal duty-bound to hunt down bin Laden.

"I want justice," Bush said back then. "There's an old poster out West, as I recall, that said, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive.'"

Someone, the record will show, painted the face of Saddam Hussein on Bush's wanted poster and threw the marshal off the trail. "I don't know where bin Laden is," he said a year after deputizing himself. "I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority." Even as bin Laden harassed him with videotaped taunts, Bush declared himself "truly not that concerned about him," turning his beady eyes toward Baghdad.

With the nation in tow, Marshal Bush rode down out of the hills with his posse against Iraq. They lynched Hussein, murdered his two sons and tried mightily - without success - to link the dictator to bin Laden and the attack against the United States. Bush tried to make this connection again last week. But he's neck-deep in the conduct of the Iraq war that offers a clinic on incompetent leadership. Arrogance, avarice and oil greed inspired the Bush-Cheney administration's attempts to dupe the citizenry of a superpower into getting bogged down in a quagmire.

What's new and troubling here is word that while the United States fiddles in Iraq's civil war, bin Laden and his al-Qaida cohorts are posing a global threat of 9/11 proportions. With no facts to drive home, Bush pounded the podium Thursday and demanded that he, and not Congress, should dictate war policy. The House voted to spare the next president the Iraq mess by pulling out U.S. troops by April Fool's Day '08.

Earlier, Bush dug in his spurs, insisting that the generals - and apparently not civilian leadership as the U.S. Constitution arranges - be allowed to determine how the war should end. Even the generals are begging for mercy under the harebrained leadership of Bush-Cheney. Even they sense that the jig is up save for determining who will be the last to die for the Iraq lie.

During the more than 1,500 days of the Iraq war, U.S. soldiers have died at the rate of more than two each day. This may not seem like a high body count for oil companies, emergency service workers or noncombatants like Bush and Cheney. For war veterans who feel the senselessness of such horror, it is a ghastly toll that must be brought to an end.

It must have been encouraging to some that The New York Times, whose news pages (chiefly through one reporter) abetted the Iraq war deception, used its editorial page last week to call for a withdrawal. "It is time for the United States to leave Iraq without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit."

Earlier would have been better.

Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.

Fuck the children

July 15, 2007
Bush Is Prepared to Veto Bill to Expand Child Insurance

WASHINGTON, July 14 — The White House said on Saturday that President Bush would veto a bipartisan plan to expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program, drafted over the last six months by senior members of the Senate Finance Committee.

The vow puts Mr. Bush at odds with the Democratic majority in Congress, with a substantial number of Republican lawmakers and with many governors of both parties, who want to expand the popular program to cover some of the nation’s eight million uninsured children.

Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, said: “The president’s senior advisers will certainly recommend a veto of this proposal. And there is no question that the president would veto it.”

The program, which insured 7.4 million people at some time in the last year, is set to expire Sept. 30.

The Finance Committee is expected to approve the Senate plan next week, sending it to the full Senate for action later this month.

Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who is chairman of the committee, said he would move ahead despite the veto threat.

“The Senate will not be deterred from helping more kids in need,” Mr. Baucus said. “The president should stop playing politics and start working with Congress to help kids, through renewal of this program.”

The proposal would increase current levels of spending by $35 billion over the next five years, bringing the total to $60 billion. The Congressional Budget Office says the plan would reduce the number of uninsured children by 4.1 million.

The new spending would be financed by an increase in the federal excise tax on tobacco products. The tax on cigarettes would rise to $1 a pack, from the current 39 cents.

Mr. Fratto, the White House spokesman, said, “Tax increases are neither necessary nor advisable to fund the program appropriately.”

Democrats in the House would go much further than the bipartisan Senate plan. They would add $50 billion to the program over five years, bringing the total to $75 billion. By contrast, in his latest budget request, Mr. Bush proposed an increase of $5 billion over five years, which would bring the total to $30 billion.

White House officials said the president had several other reasons to veto the bipartisan Senate plan.

“The proposal would dramatically expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program, adding nonpoor children to the program, and more than doubling the level of spending,” Mr. Fratto said. “This will have the effect of encouraging many to drop private coverage, to go on the government-subsidized program.”

In addition, Mr. Fratto said, the Senate plan does not include any of Mr. Bush’s proposals to change the tax treatment of health insurance, in an effort to make it more affordable for millions of Americans.

Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Finance Committee, said he would like to consider such tax proposals. But, he said, “it’s not realistic — given the lack of bipartisan support for the president’s plan — to think that can be accomplished before the current children’s health care program runs out in September.”

Saturday, July 14, 2007

George Orwell was a pussy...

Peggy Noonan: Bush is "Extremely Irritating," "Unnatural," and "Weird"

By Joe Conason —

One of the most durable myths of American public life is that conservatives are more authentic in their religious faith than liberals and progressives. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) is just the most recent in a long line of fallen conservative Christian moralists to explode the myth.


Friday, July 13, 2007

CNN gets "blitzed" by Michael Moore

by Bob Cesca

There's no other way to spin this news. The president has unequivocally failed at the one thing he's supposed to be good at: fighting those folks -- the terrorists.

By Joe Conason

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Rudy Adopts New Shtick

Records put the lie to Giuliani's new claims that he used adoption to cut down on abortions.
by Hunter

Firefighters Launch Website Exposing Rudy Giuliani
by PaulVA
Bush calls Libby commutation "fair and balanced"

Though most of the questions at President Bush's press conference this morning focused on Iraq, one, notably, did not:

"If I could just switch subjects for a second to another big decision you made recently, which was in the Scooter Libby case," said one reporter, "one issue that you did not address was the issue of the morality of your most senior advisers, you know, leaking the name of a confidential intelligence operator. Now that the case is over -- it's not something you've ever spoken to -- can you say whether you're at all disappointed in the behavior of those senior advisers? And have you communicated your disappointment to them in any way?"

Bush's response was, well, half candid, half tango.

"First of all, the Scooter Libby decision was, I thought, a fair and balanced decision," the president said. "I'm aware of the fact that perhaps somebody in the administration did disclose the name of that person."

Just a minute: Did the president just concede the possibility that someone -- though, interestingly, he wouldn't say who, even though the sources of the leak, including Libby, Bush's top aide Karl Rove and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, are well known -- in the White House committed a breach of national security? That kind of answer simply begs for a follow-up. But, as if to avoid such a thing, Bush next called on a friendly face (ironically from the "Fair and Balanced" network), Fox News' Wendell Goler, who obligingly turned the talk back to the war.

-- Julia Dahl

Sunday, July 08, 2007



As governor, President Bush applied a consistent, narrow standard when issuing pardons and commutations.
Spinal Tap Reunites for Live Earth!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Dead or Alive, huh

The New York Times
Printer Friendly Format Sponsored By

July 8, 2007
U.S. Aborted Raid on Qaeda Chiefs in Pakistan in ’05

WASHINGTON, July 7 — A secret military operation in early 2005 to capture senior members of Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas was aborted at the last minute after top Bush administration officials decided it was too risky and could jeopardize relations with Pakistan, according to intelligence and military officials.

The target was a meeting of Qaeda leaders that intelligence officials thought included Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden’s top deputy and the man believed to run the terrorist group’s operations.

But the mission was called off after Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, rejected an 11th-hour appeal by Porter J. Goss, then the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, officials said. Members of a Navy Seals unit in parachute gear had already boarded C-130 cargo planes in Afghanistan when the mission was canceled, said a former senior intelligence official involved in the planning.

Mr. Rumsfeld decided that the operation, which had ballooned from a small number of military personnel and C.I.A. operatives to several hundred, was cumbersome and put too many American lives at risk, the current and former officials said. He was also concerned that it could cause a rift with Pakistan, an often reluctant ally that has barred the American military from operating in its tribal areas, the officials said.

The decision to halt the planned “snatch and grab” operation frustrated some top intelligence officials and members of the military’s secret Special Operations units, who say the United States missed a significant opportunity to try to capture senior members of Al Qaeda.

Their frustration has only grown over the past two years, they said, as Al Qaeda has improved its abilities to plan global attacks and build new training compounds in Pakistan’s tribal areas, which have become virtual havens for the terrorist network.

In recent months, the White House has become increasingly irritated with Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, for his inaction on the growing threat of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

About a dozen current and former military and intelligence officials were interviewed for this article, all of whom requested anonymity because the planned 2005 mission remained classified.

Spokesmen for the Pentagon, the C.I.A. and the White House declined to comment. It is unclear whether President Bush was informed about the planned operation.

The officials acknowledge that they are not certain that Mr. Zawahri attended the 2005 meeting in North Waziristan, a mountainous province just miles from the Afghan border. But they said that the United States had communications intercepts that tipped them off to the meeting, and that intelligence officials had unusually high confidence that Mr. Zawahri was there.

Months later, in early May 2005, the C.I.A. launched a missile from a remotely piloted Predator drone, killing Haitham al-Yemeni, a senior Qaeda figure whom the C.I.A. had tracked since the meeting.

It has long been known that C.I.A. operatives conduct counterterrorism missions in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Details of the aborted 2005 operation provide a glimpse into the Bush administration’s internal negotiations over whether to take unilateral military action in Pakistan, where General Musharraf’s fragile government is under pressure from dissidents who object to any cooperation with the United States.

Pentagon officials familiar with covert operations said that planners had to consider the political and human risks of undertaking a military campaign in a sovereign country, even in an area like Pakistan’s tribal lands, where the government has only tenuous control. Even with its shortcomings, Pakistan has been a vital American ally since the Sept. 11 attacks, and the militaries of the two countries have close ties.

The Pentagon officials said tension was inherent in any decision to approve such a mission: a smaller military footprint allows a better chance of a mission going undetected, but it also exposes the units to greater risk of being killed or captured.

Officials said one reason Mr. Rumsfeld called off the 2005 operation was that the number of troops involved in the mission had grown to several hundred, including Army Rangers, members of the Navy Seals and C.I.A. operatives, and he determined that the United States could no longer carry out the mission without General Musharraf’s permission. It is unlikely that the Pakistani president would have approved an operation of that size, officials said.

Some outside experts said American counterterrorism operations had been hamstrung because of concerns about General Musharraf’s shaky government.

“The reluctance to take risk or jeopardize our political relationship with Musharraf may well account for the fact that five and half years after 9/11 we are still trying to run bin Laden and Zawahri to ground,” said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University.

Those political considerations have created resentment among some members of the military’s Special Operations forces.

“The Special Operations guys are tearing their hair out at the highest levels,” said a former Bush administration official with close ties to those troops. While they have not received good intelligence on the whereabouts of top Qaeda members recently, he said, they say they believe they have sometimes had useful information on lower-level figures.

“There is a degree of frustration that is off the charts, because they are looking at targets on a daily basis and can’t move against them,” he said.

In early 2005, after learning about the Qaeda meeting, the military developed a plan for a small Navy Seals unit to parachute into Pakistan to carry out a quick operation, former officials said.

But as the operation moved up the military chain of command, officials said, various planners bulked up the force’s size to provide security for the Special Operations forces.

“The whole thing turned into the invasion of Pakistan,” said the former senior intelligence official involved in the planning. Still, he said he thought the mission was worth the risk. “We were frustrated because we wanted to take a shot,” he said.

Several former officials interviewed said the operation was not the only occasion since the Sept. 11 attacks that plans were developed to use a large American military force in Pakistan. It is unclear whether any of those missions have been executed.

Some of the military and intelligence officials familiar with the 2005 events say it showed a rift between operators in the field and a military bureaucracy that has still not effectively adapted to hunt for global terrorists, moving too cautiously to use Special Operations troops against terrorist targets.

That criticism has echoes of the risk aversion that the officials said pervaded efforts against Al Qaeda during the Clinton administration, when missions to use American troops to capture or kill Mr. bin Laden in Afghanistan were never executed because they were considered too perilous, risked killing civilians or were based on inadequate intelligence. Rather than sending in ground troops, the Clinton White House instead chose to fire cruise missiles in what became failed attempts to kill Mr. bin Laden and his deputies — a tactic Mr. Bush criticized shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Since then, the C.I.A. has launched missiles from Predator aircraft in the tribal areas several times, with varying degrees of success. Intelligence officials say they believe that in January 2006, an airstrike narrowly missed killing Mr. Zawahri, who hours earlier had attended a dinner in Damadola, a Pakistani village.

General Musharraf cast his lot with the Bush administration in the hunt for Al Qaeda after the 2001 attacks, and he has periodically ordered Pakistan’s military to conduct counterterrorism missions in the tribal areas, provoking fierce resistance there. But in recent months he has pulled back, prompting Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to issue stern warnings in private that he risked losing American aid if he did not step up efforts against Al Qaeda, senior administration officials have said.

Officials said that mid-2005 was a period when they were gathering good intelligence about Al Qaeda’s leaders in Pakistan’s tribal areas. By the next year, however, the White House had become frustrated by the lack of progress in the hunt for Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Zawahri.

In early 2006, President Bush ordered a “surge” of dozens of C.I.A. agents to Pakistan, hoping that an influx of intelligence operatives would lead to better information, officials said. But that has brought the United States no closer to locating Al Qaeda’s top two leaders. The latest message from them came this week, in a new tape in which Mr. Zawahri urged Iraqis and Muslims around the world to show more support for Islamist insurgents in Iraq.

In his recently published memoir, George J. Tenet, the former C.I.A. director, said the intelligence about Mr. bin Laden’s whereabouts during the Clinton years was similarly sparse. The information was usually only at the “50-60% confidence level,” he wrote, not sufficient to justify American military action.

“As much as we all wanted Bin Ladin dead, the use of force by a superpower requires information, discipline, and time,” Mr. Tenet wrote. “We rarely had the information in sufficient quantities or the time to evaluate and act on it.”

Manchurian Candidate

The Boston Globe
Not all would put a heroic sheen on Thompson's Watergate role

By Michael Kranish, Globe Staff | July 4, 2007

WASHINGTON -- The day before Senate Watergate Committee minority counsel Fred Thompson made the inquiry that launched him into the national spotlight -- asking an aide to President Nixon whether there was a White House taping system -- he telephoned Nixon's lawyer.

Thompson tipped off the White House that the committee knew about the taping system and would be making the information public. In his all-but-forgotten Watergate memoir, "At That Point in Time," Thompson said he acted with "no authority" in divulging the committee's knowledge of the tapes, which provided the evidence that led to Nixon's resignation. It was one of many Thompson leaks to the Nixon team, according to a former investigator for Democrats on the committee, Scott Armstrong , who remains upset at Thompson's actions.

"Thompson was a mole for the White House," Armstrong said in an interview. "Fred was working hammer and tong to defeat the investigation of finding out what happened to authorize Watergate and find out what the role of the president was."

Asked about the matter this week, Thompson -- who is preparing to run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination -- responded via e-mail without addressing the specific charge of being a Nixon mole: "I'm glad all of this has finally caused someone to read my Watergate book, even though it's taken them over thirty years."

The view of Thompson as a Nixon mole is strikingly at odds with the former Tennessee senator's longtime image as an independent-minded prosecutor who helped bring down the president he admired. Indeed, the website of Thompson's presidential exploratory committee boasts that he "gained national attention for leading the line of inquiry that revealed the audio-taping system in the White House Oval Office." It is an image that has been solidified by Thompson's portrayal of a tough-talking prosecutor in the television series "Law and Order."

But the story of his role in the Nixon case helps put in perspective Thompson's recent stance as one of the most outspoken proponents of pardoning I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. Just as Thompson once staunchly defended Nixon, Thompson urged a pardon for Libby, who was convicted in March of obstructing justice in the investigation into who leaked a CIA operative's name.

Thompson declared in a June 6 radio commentary that Libby's conviction was a "shocking injustice . . . created and enabled by federal officials." Bush on Monday commuted Libby's 30-month sentence, stopping short of a pardon.

The intensity of Thompson's remarks about Libby is reminiscent of how he initially felt about Nixon. Few Republicans were stronger believers in Nixon during the early days of Watergate.

Thompson, in his 1975 memoir, wrote that he believed "there would be nothing incriminating" about Nixon on the tapes, a theory he said "proved totally wrong."

"In retrospect it is apparent that I was subconsciously looking for a way to justify my faith in the leader of my country and my party, a man who was undergoing a violent attack from the news media, which I thought had never given him fair treatment in the past," Thompson wrote. "I was looking for a reason to believe that Richard M. Nixon, President of the United States, was not a crook."

Thompson was a little-known assistant US attorney in Tennessee when the Watergate investigation in Congress got underway. He had served as campaign manager for the successful 1972 reelection of Senator Howard Baker, a powerful Tennessee Republican.

When the Senate Watergate Committee was established in 1973, Baker became the ranking Republican member and brought Thompson to Washington to serve as minority counsel. Baker, who has been among those now urging Thompson to seek the presidency, did not return a call seeking comment.

John Dean , Nixon's former White House counsel, who was a central witness at the hearings, said he believed that Baker and Thompson were anything but impartial players. "I knew that Thompson would be Baker's man, trying to protect Nixon," Dean said in an interview.

The website of Thompson's presidential exploratory committee, imwithfred.com, suggests that Thompson helped reveal the taping system and expose Nixon's role in the Watergate coverup. And while Thompson's question to presidential aide Alexander Butterfield during a Watergate hearing unveiled the existence of the taping system to the outside world, it wasn't Thompson who discovered that Nixon was taping conversations. Nor was Thompson the first to question Butterfield about the possibility.

On July 13, 1973, Armstrong, the Democratic staffer, asked Butterfield a series of questions during a private session that led up to the revelation. He then turned the questioning over to a Republican staffer, Don Sanders, who asked Butterfield the question that led to the mention of the taping system.

To the astonishment of everyone in the room, Butterfield admitted the taping system existed.

When Thompson learned of Butterfield's admission, he leaked the revelation to Nixon's counsel, J. Fred Buzhardt .

"Even though I had no authority to act for the committee, I decided to call Fred Buzhardt at home" to tell him that the committee had learned about the taping system, Thompson wrote. "I wanted to be sure that the White House was fully aware of what was to be disclosed so that it could take appropriate action."

Armstrong said he and other Democratic staffers had long been convinced that Thompson was leaking information about the investigation to the White House. The committee, for example, had obtained a memo written by Buzhardt that Democratic staffers believed was based on information leaked by Thompson.

Armstrong said he thought the leaks would lead to Thompson's firing. "Any prosecutor would be upset if another member of the prosecution team was orchestrating a defense for Nixon," said Armstrong, who later became a Washington Post reporter and currently is executive director of Information Trust, a nonprofit organization specializing in open government issues.

Baker, meanwhile, insisted that Thompson be allowed to ask Butterfield the question about the taping system in a public session on July 16, 1973, three days after the committee had learned about the system.

The choice of Thompson irked Samuel Dash , the Democratic chief counsel on the committee, who preferred that a Democrat be allowed to ask the question. "I personally resented it and felt cheated," Dash wrote in his memoirs. But he said he felt he had "no choice but to let Fred Thompson develop the Butterfield material" because the question initially had been posed by Sanders, a Republican staffer.

When Dash told Thompson on the day of the hearing that he had agreed to let Thompson ask the question that would change US history, Thompson replied: "That's right generous of you, Sam."

So it was, at the hearing, that Thompson leapt into the national spotlight:

"Are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the president?" he asked Butterfield during the national televised hearings.

"I was aware of listening devices, yes, sir," Butterfield responded.

Even as he quizzed Butterfield during the hearing, Thompson said later, he believed the tapes would exonerate Nixon, so he saw no problem in pressing for their release. It was after Thompson heard Nixon incriminate himself on the tapes that Thompson finally decided that Nixon was a crook -- and stopped be ing a Nixon apologist.

"Looking back, I wonder how I could have failed to realize at once . . . the significance of the tapes," Thompson wrote. "I realized that I would probably be thinking about the implications of Watergate for the rest of my life."

Michael Kranish can be reached at kranish@globe.com
© Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Friday, July 06, 2007

Scooter Libby, Ordered to Jail by a Republican System

Over at TPM, Josh Marshall has an excellent rebuttal to the people who say Scooter Libby's trial, conviction, and sentencing were all politically motivated. He goes down the list of the major players in this sordid drama and identifies them all as conservatives or leaners in that direction.

1. Attorney General John Ashcroft. Decided a special prosecutor was needed and then recused himself from the decision because of his proximity to the probable targets of the investigation.

2. James Comey. Yes, he's the darling of the Dems now because he spilled the beans about the hospital stand-off. But Comey is, dare we say it, a REPUBLICAN. And not just any Republican but a pretty tough law-and-order type who only months earlier had been appointed Deputy Attorney General by President Bush. He had it in for Scooter? He let his partisanship get in the way?

3. Patrick Fitzgerald. Again, a darling of the Dems now for obvious reasons. But anyone who knows the guy's history knows that while this registered independent may not lean ideologically right (in the way movement whacks might recognize) he certainly doesn't lean to the left. It's no accident that his appointments have come under Republicans.

4. Judge Reggie Walton. Let's start with this: He was appointed by George W. Bush. And if that doesn't do it for you, he was appointed to previous judicial appointments by Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

There's bonus material in there as well: some bashing of Marty Peretz and Josh's take on why a pardon might have been acceptable but a commutation is just ridiculous. Check it out.

- Jonathan Stein

What happens when America's Mayor loses his speech.

By Tim Grieve

Thursday, July 05, 2007

By Matthew Rothschild

When the President wields the vestigial powers of a king, which is what the pardon and clemency authority actually is, and does so to free one of his own thugs, then we don’t have the rule of law here. We have the rule of one.

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