Fly Trap

11.21.04

Farewell, the Powell Doctrine
Laura Rozen (2:56PM)

Highly recommended Mark Danner opinion piece in the New York Times eulogizing the Powell doctrine.

Copyright © Laura Rozen. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Porter Goss's "Astounding" Memo to the CIA
Laura Rozen (11:37AM)

Writing in the LA Times, intelligence historian David Vise calls Porter Goss's memo to CIA employees last week "astounding" in its open ordering of agency staff to provide the intelligence the President wants to hear:

This marks the first time -- as far as the public knows at least -- that a CIA director, in writing, has ordered the agency's spies and analysts to back the president. Why does it matter? Because a president, in theory, relies on the CIA to present facts neutrally, honestly and objectively so that he can base his policies on accurate information. The CIA's analysts are not supposed to be cheerleaders.

Yet the Goss memo, leaked to the New York Times last week, tells the CIA's employees that their job is to "support the administration and its policies in our work," adding: "As agency employees we do not identify with, support or champion opposition to the administration or its policies."

Kremlinology indeed. Such politicization of intelligence, silencing of dissent, and attempt to impose a lock grip on agencies to silence opposing views is why authoritarian regimes ultimately fall apart. Of course there's a difference in degree between the Bush administration and say - Vladimir Putin -- but the same impulses, the same motivation for total control and intolerance for diverging views is certainly evident as never before in an American president. Update: And Newsweek profiles Goss's "impossible" deputy, Patrick Murray. [hat tip, Dave Meyer.]

Copyright © Laura Rozen. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Short Takes
Laura Rozen (12:20AM)

Iranian students urge boycott of May presidential elections, the WaPo's Robin Wright reports. And on the topic of Iran, a Knight Ridder story of four Iranian brothers who attended an MEK rally in Denver imprisoned in the US against US court orders. The Department of Homeland Security wants to deport the Mirmehdi brothers to Iran.


The CIA has raided four offices of the Iraqi National Congress, the INC spokesman reports in a press release:

The Iraqi National Congress today announced that the US Central Intelligence Agency led raids on four INC facilities recently. Three INC offices in Baghdad were attacked on Thursday and the INC office in Najaf was attacked last week by heavily armed US civilians accompanied by masked Iraqis. The offices were vandalized, a number of staff were assaulted, and equipment and documents were stolen. Staff members who requested to see search warrants were beaten and abused and no warrants were produced.

CIA operatives in Iraq are out of control and are operating outside the bounds of American and Iraqi law. The CIA is failing in its duty to protect US forces and the Iraqi people from terrorists and is attacking groups and individuals who point out its failures.

The INC will take action in the Iraqi legal system to force the CIA and its Iraqi agents to act within the law. The INC appeals to the US government to stop the
CIA from engaging in political vendettas and rededicate itself to fighting America's true enemies.


Just heard that the CIA is recommending that the Justice Department investigate who told the WaPo's Dafna Linzer about concerns surrounding Powell's recent comments on Iran's nuclear program. This seems an effort at intimidation -- against sources and journalists. Surely what's more worth investigating is if what Powell said is true.


Fascinating speculation on who will get deputy secretary of state, from the esteemable Chris Nelson, of The Nelson Report:

Bush names...latest "leading candidate" for Deputy Secretary of State...the staff director of the 9/11 Commission, Phil Zelikow, a University of Virginia professor, and a "good friend" of Secretary-designate Condi Rice. Zelikow thus moves ahead of earlier "favorites" like former Undersecretaries Arnie Kanter, Bob Kimmit...although sources warn not to count anyone out, or in, at this point...

Would be wonderful if Zelikow took it, but not sure that he would want the job, even were it to be offered to him. For what it's worth, I have heard that in the running are US ambassador to NATO Nick Burns, Arnold Kanter of the Scowcroft Group, and John Bolton [but it seems there is some panic setting in among neoconservative circles that Bolton won't get it]. More Kremlinology from Slate's Fred Kaplan.

Copyright © Laura Rozen. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Thomas F. Schaller

11.20.04

"Capably and With Honor"
Thomas F. Schaller (5:34PM)

I'm puzzled about the recent resignation of Air Force Secretary James Roche.

First, he supporting Boeing's overpriced leasing shenanigans, fleecing you of your hard-earned tax dollars.

So far, so good.

Then, when underlings tried to expose the truth, he moved to stifle them.

Check.

Finally, he showed loyalty in trying insulate Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld from any political damage. (Rummy says Roche has served the country "capably and with honor.")

Seems like everything is order here.

Sounds to me like a formula for a promotion -- not a resignation -- in this Administration, no?

Copyright © Thomas F. Schaller. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.



11.19.04

Condi Hearts George
Bart Acocella (4:09PM)

Yes. And for a more vile expression of Andrew Sullivan's point, check out Ann Coulter on Fox, courtesy of Media Matters.

Then there was this weird, uncomfortable profile in Wednesday's LA Times. It notes "Rice's ability to become an almost clone-like extension of the president." One anonymous source weighs in: "She is remarkably effective in being a very attractive mirror for whomever she is working with."

Remember when Rice was sold to us as a brilliant foreign policy scholar? Turns out she's a sycophantish cipher...and apparently proud of it.

The intimacy between the President and his presumptive Secretary of State is downright icky. She takes calls from the President while sitting on her couch, according to a friend. Cute, isn't it? Does she write his name in her notebook? Do they have slumber parties and paint each other's toenails?

And here's my favorite part. According to the Times, Rice and Bush get along so famously because of their shared adversity. You see, she grew up black in the Jim Crow South…and he was an underachieving rich kid -– boo-hoo! -- whose parents never thought he'd amount to much. I kid you not:

"Different as their backgrounds are, their personalities have been forged in similar fires.

"Both have experienced the pain of being looked down on by their peers. Growing up, even his parents never saw George W. as the son who would do great things. It was his brother Jeb, now governor of Florida, who was expected to become the second President Bush.

"As a mediocre student and failing businessman, George Bush got little respect. Even as president, he has been mocked for his occasionally mangled use of English and his reputed disdain for the details of policymaking.

"Rice grew up in a brutally segregated city, but made her way not only as a student but as an athlete -- a black figure skater in an almost purely white sport.

"And once in academia, many of her colleagues tended to dismiss her, pointing out that she had been trained not at one of the nation's elite institutions, but at the University of Denver."

Leaving aside how you feel about Rice, how about the chutzpah of turning the President's lazy mind and business impotence into a victimization narrative? We know why they'd spin such a yarn -- remember, they're the audacity party. What's beyond comprehension is how or why a respected national newspaper would fall for it.

Copyright © Bart Acocella. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Sarah Posner

Red Noise
Sarah Posner (2:26PM)

What lies behind conservative claims that President Bush has a "moral mandate" to appoint conservative judges to the federal bench? While Bob Jones might find a mandate in the bible, the right-wing media machine is hard at work trying to make the public believe that a majority of Americans support a conservative judiciary.

In a recent article in the conservative Human Events, Marc Levin, president of the Austin-based American Freedom Center, cited a September 2004 AP-Ipsos Public Affairs poll as evidence that "a clear majority of Americans believe that judges should strictly interpret the law and that legislation from the democratically elected branches of government, not from the bench, should be the engine of social change."

Before we take apart Levin's deceptive representation not only of the poll but of public opinion in general, let's just be clear: The American Freedom Center, according to its website, "supports lower taxes, smaller government, a strong national defense, judicial restraint, the elimination of racial discrimination and preferences, and policies that foster personal responsibility and strong families while minimizing dependency on government services." Its spokespeople, including Levin, write op-eds in major newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and appear on conservative talk shows like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. So Levin has an interest in misrepresenting public opinion in order to make the public believe that the misrepresentation is true. In other words, if people like Levin show up often enough on Hannity et al mouthing off about "judicial activists" versus "strict constructionists," people start to believe they represent a mainstream point of view. Especially if there isn't a countervailing point of view represented.

Here's the actual poll question: "When the next U.S. Supreme Court Justice retires, would you like the person nominated to fill that vacancy on the Supreme Court to have views that are . . ." The answer choices provided to poll respondents were (1) very conservative (20%), (2) somewhat conservative (36%), (3) somewhat liberal (28%), (4) very liberal (9%), and (5) not sure (4%). ("Moderate" or "middle of the road" was not an answer choice, but three percent of the respondents volunteered it anyway.) Using these figures, Levin adds up the "very conservative" and "somewhat conservative" respondents to make the outrageous leap that 56% of the American public favors "the appointment of conservative judges who recognize that judicial restraint is itself a moral value." (Watch out, that immoral umbrella is getting very, very big: not just big Hollywood producers, agnostics, atheists, non-Christians, gays, and pro-choice Americans. Now it's judges and people respect judicial decisions. If we start adding up all of these anti-moralists, they might just represent the majority of Americans.)

But let's take a closer look at the poll overall. The question about the Supreme Court was asked of all adults participating in the poll (not just "likely" or registered voters), and among that group of "all adults," 20% identified themselves as liberal, 36% as moderates, and 41% as conservatives. That would mean that, given that 56% of respondents wanted an either "very conservative" or "somewhat conservative" Supreme Court Justice, some of the people who identified themselves as "moderate" or "liberal" wanted a "very conservative" or "somewhat conservative" Supreme Court Justice. What explains that?

It could just be a flawed poll. It could mean that respondents didn't understand the question. It could also mean that the radical right and its media access have succeeded in implanting their notions of a proper judiciary in the American mind. (Even if they haven't succeeded, they'll use the poll to make people think they have.) In contrast, Democrats and progressives lag far, far behind in countering the right-wing noise. They'll continue to lag behind as long as Democrats fail to paint an effectively frightening picture of the socially destructive results of a Bush judiciary, and progressive groups continue to lack the funding and media access that the radical right has.

When Bush declared that he would appoint "strict constructionists" during the second presidential debate (when he bewildered us all with his coded reference to the Dred Scott case), Kerry responded: "A few years ago when he came to office, the president said -- these are his words -- 'What we need are some good conservative judges on the courts.' And he said also that his two favorite justices are Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas. So you get a pretty good sense of where he's heading if he were to appoint somebody."

You do? I would hazard a guess that most people wouldn't get a pretty good sense of anything from that answer. While plenty of political junkies know that "Thomas and Scalia" are code for a reactionary judiciary, a lot of people don't. So if you were looking for further spin on Kerry's answer, where would you turn after the debate? All those liberal cable networks and radio stations where they talk about how "strict constructionists" would let any gun-toting hothead carry his weapon in public? Or that they want to dismantle federal regulation as too restrictive on free enterprise (and that our future would be filled with more Vioxxes, flu, and Enrons)? Or that they believe that the First Amendment actually protects religious (meaning Christian) displays in public places rather than prohibit them as state-sponsored religious expression?

Bush, on the other hand, relied on countless political groups and their media alliances to keep repeating the "activist judge" and "strict constructionist" buzzwords to make bells ring in the heads of various constituencies, for example: Concerned Women for America, talking about gay marriage, Roe vs. Wade, or "religious freedom" (code for school prayer and public displays of the ten commandments); the NRA, talking about guns; or The American Center for Law and Justice, which inserts itself into "religious and constitutional freedom" issues as wide-ranging as school prayer, abortion, national security, and land use and zoning. Its Chief Counsel, Jay Sekulow, has a weekly 30 minute television program on Trinity Broadcast Network and a daily 30 minute radio program that is heard on 550 stations nationwide. Sekulow's group, a non-profit organization, had almost $16 million in revenues last year, several million dollars more than the combined revenue of the Alliance for Justice and the People for the American Way Foundation. And certainly no one from either of those liberal groups has his or her own radio or television show.

The Republicans have already embarked on their latest campaign against filibustering and "obstructionism" to threaten Senate Democrats into acquiescing to Bush's judicial nominees. While it may be too late to start a 500-station radio network or buy a cable television station, it's not too late to stand up to bullying and deception. If we don't, we'll have a lot of explaining to do to our kids.

Copyright © Sarah Posner. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Feith Speaks
Laura Rozen (11:10AM)

AEI's Tom Donnelly offers his view of what the recent Bush cabinet appointments mean:

The dog that hasn't barked in this transition--and by all "rumint" isn't going to bark any time soon--is the ousting of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Given that the Pentagon's management of the Iraq war was President Bush's greatest campaign liability, there's at least a paradox in Rumsfeld's retention.

On the other hand, the Pentagon's sins have been of omission and misjudgment, not of commission and obstructionism, as at State and the CIA. Moreover, the war in Iraq is perhaps at a decisive crossroads--if the campaign in the Sunni heartland continues after a successful start in Falluja, and elections happen more or less on schedule in January. It's a moment for continuity and certainty of command. Finally, Rumsfeld's greatest shortcoming--his failure to fully and rapidly adapt his program of transformation to post-September 11, post-Iraq realities--can only be fixed by the White House in the form of an expansion of U.S. ground forces and increasing the baseline defense budget. It's above the secretary's pay grade.

In sum, although Rumsfeld has been part of the problem, he can still be part of the solution in ways that Powell could not. If the Pentagon has been slow to reshape itself to new missions in the Middle East, it's in part because it's got a lot of other worries: like rogue nuclear states and China. Besides, it's a Washington tradition to reward failures with a larger budget.

Indeed about the "Washington tradition" part.

And sticking with the Pentagon for the moment, a reader who was able to see undersecretary of defense for policy Doug Feith speak this week offered highlights from Feith's comments:

...Q: Neocon influence on the rise for second term?
A: Neocon used to mean someone who believed (1) peace thru strength and (2) ideas matter; now is just used to mean "hawk, or Jew". [Said just like that.]

Q: Israel/Palestine two-state question.
A: Main problem in that conflict is the disastrous Palestinian
leadership over the last 80 years. If the Palestinians can pick
leaders now who are "untainted by terror" and not corrupt, then
prospects for a solution are quite bright. Israel will engage with
the right Palestinian leadership.

On topic of goals...3 overarching goals for war on terror:

(1) Homeland protection
(2) Attack & disrupt terroist organizations
(3) Counter the ideological support for terrorism

If all we do is (2), we're on a treadmill that will only accelerate from here. More terrorists will get created, etc. So ideological component of the war is the essence.

"We need to change the way millions of people think" about the acceptability of terror. "There have been examples in history" of successfully changing the way millions of people think, specifically fascism, communism, and his favorite analogy (which he returned to later), the 19th century British war on the slave trade, which took 50+ years.

The goal is to get people thinking that terrorism is unacceptable, much the same way that slavery, piracy, and genocide are unacceptable.

He really does want to eliminate the whole idea of targeting civilians with violence for political purposes, like the idea of slavery and the slave trade were eliminated by the British in the 19th century.

[I found this the most interesting part. People are wrong to think that when neocons say "war on terror" they are mistaking a tactic for an enemy or that they are simplifying the war on radical Islam for mass consumption. He really does mean "war on terror" in the sense of "war on terror as an idea that anyone sensible in any society will accept". He was very clear about that.]

[Left unaddressed was the possibility that US invasion of Iraq has been a huge setback in his pursuit of this goal.]

Q: Iraq
A: Goal is for Iraqis to run their own country. Most important part of this is building Iraqi security capability. Security and intimidation are a huge problem, which he attributes primarily to Iraqi peoples' fear that the Baathist regime will return. Our major problem in the country is fear of the Baathists.

Insurgency -- we're making progress -- Najaf, Samarra, and now hopefully Falluja are largely under the control of the Iraqi government.

Key is still political progress... Iraq "moving toward elections"; "we hope" there will be elections in January.

...

Q: Abu Ghraib
A: Dreadful; hurt us with many people; will hurt us for a long time. Terrorists clearly exploiting it.

Q: Geneva Convention applied to prisoners in war on terror and in Iraq.
A: "Glad you asked that question", have worked on the issue for a long time. [Check this out:] "I'm a very strong supporter" of the Geneva Convention. But -- it is in accordance with the GC that the US is not extending POW status to all detainees. GC has incentive system built in where POW status is only given to combatants who behave the right way in war -- wear uniform, display weapons openly; obey laws of war -- incentive system is there to protect the interests of
noncombatants. It's against the GC to grant POW status to detainees who disobey those rules, and doing so would weaken the incentive system and hence be against the interest of noncombatants.

Q: Iraq/WMD.
A: "Strategic rationale" for invading Iraq still correct despite lack of WMD.

Q: Iran strategy
A: Wouldn't say much. Did say that in Iran, the population is discontented with the "oppressive and corrupt" clerical leadership, and implied that would be the leverage point somehow.

Said that military action "not a sensible option" for Syria, Iran, or North Korea.

Feith's talk will apparently be broadcast on KQED in San Francisco. Immense thanks to the reader for the notes.



Copyright © Laura Rozen. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Cliff Schecter

Cash and Kerry
Cliff Schecter (10:32AM)

I have not been one to constantly criticize the presidential race run by Senator Kerry and staff (ok, a little bit here and there), but one does have to wonder about the story that $15 million is still parked in a bank account after the end of what many from the center to the left viewed as a defining American election.

Granted, he could have just become a self-appointed morality czar and then blown the whole wad at the Luxor like certain "conservatives," but looking good next to Bill Bennett is only something Bill O'Reilly is hoping for about now.

The point: Dan Mongiardo barely lost to Captain Teleprompter in the Kentucky senate race and Betty Castor may have been able to do a little something with with a cash infusion into her tight Florida race. And what about David Vitter? The new senator (R-White Citizens Council) must find some way to pay off those ladies of the night he cavorts with, under Louisiana full moons, before he morphs back into a "principled" conservative by day. I mean have a heart Senator Kerry.

Seriously though, could this money have helped in the GOTV/intimidation prevention efforts in Ohio, Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, etc.? Like many things in politics, such as the exact number of threats of imminent terrorist attack a National Security Advisor must ignore to get a promotion in the Bush Administration, we will never know.

Yet, like on many other fronts, it once again doesn't feel so good to know that Republican presidential campaigns do everything necessary (and beyond) to win, while Democratic nominees give great concession speeches about unity while sitting on fat bank accounts

Copyright © Cliff Schecter. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Paul Waldman

Meanwhile, Back In the Reality-Based Community...
Paul Waldman (10:31AM)

Gallup has some new numbers about American's beliefs on the origin of humanity, and if you're a member of the reality-based community, you might be a little unsettled.

First off, let's talk evolution. Here's the question Gallup asked:

"Just your opinion, do you think that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is: a scientific theory that has been well-supported by evidence, just one of many theories and one that has not been well-supported by evidence, or don't you know enough about it to say?"

Before we get to the answers, let's unpack the question. This question is asking people their opinion about a fact. Evolution is, indeed, well-supported by evidence, in the form of thousands of studies and mountains of data. This is not disputable. You could argue that there are flaws in the theory, or that there is evidence against it, but to say that it is "just one of many theories and one that has not been well-supported by evidence" is like asking people whether they believe that the square of the hypotenuse of a triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides, or if this is just a theory that hasn't been well supported.

Secondly, the question falls into the "theory" trap that creationists use to undermine evolution. The scientific term "theory" means a system of explanation that accurately explains and predicts observed phenomena. It takes a long time and lots of testing for something to become a "theory." Lots of things that we accept as true - like gravity - are, in scientific terms, theories. But in common parlance, we use the word "theory" the way scientists use the word "hypothesis" - a guess or a prediction for how things work, that might or might not be true because it hasn't been tested yet. So when people hear that evolution is a "theory," they think it's just a guess and scientists must not really have any evidence to back it up.

Here's how Americans answered the question:

A scientific theory well-supported by evidence: 35%
Just one of many theories and one that has not been well-supported by evidence: 35%
Don't know enough about it to say: 29%

So who believes what? Here are some demographic breakouts, with the percentage of each group believing that evolution is well-supported (obviously, many people are in more than one group):

Postgraduate education: 65%
Liberal: 56%
College graduate: 52%
West: 47%
Seldom, never attend church: 46%
Catholics: 46%
50- to 64-year-olds: 44%
Men: 42%
East: 42%
18- to 29-year-olds: 41%
Independent: 40%
Democrat: 38%
Moderate: 36%
Nearly weekly church attendance: 35%
30- to 49-year-olds: 34%
Some college: 32%
Women: 30%
Republican: 29%
Midwest: 29%
Protestant: 28%
South: 27%
Conservative: 26%
Weekly church attendance: 22%
Age 65+: 21%
High school or less: 20%

No real surprises there. On to creationism. Here's the Gallup question:

"Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of human beings -- 1) Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process, 2) Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process, 3) God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so?"

Note that the question assumes there is a God - if you are not a believer, the closest you can come to an answer that fits your beliefs is that God is up there, but he just isn't doing anything. That aside, here are the answers:

Humans developed, but God guided the process: 38%
Humans developed, God had no part: 13%
God created humans as they are 10,000 years ago: 45%

One way to look at it is that this shows a 51% majority - or, as Dick Cheney would say, a broad, nationwide victory - for evolution. On the other hand, 45% of Americans think that carbon-dating is some kind of elaborate hoax - like the fake Mars landing in Capricorn One.

On to the bible:

"Which of the following statements comes closest to describing your views about the Bible -- the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word, the Bible is the inspired word of God but not everything in it should be taken literally, or the Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by man]?"

Word of God: 34%
Inspired word: 48%
Fables: 15%

Gallup helpfully puts the two questions together to divide Americans into four groups. The first, comprising 25% of the population, is those who are both biblical literalists and believe that humans were created in their present form less than 10,000 years ago. They are more likely to be women, over 30, without a college degree, conservative, Republican, Protestant, and attend church at least weekly. The next group, coming in at 20%, are not biblical literalists, but are anti-evolutionists. They are more likely to be young. The third group, at 9%, is the opposite: they are biblical literalists, but believe we've been around more than 10,000 years. They are more likely to have less than a high school education.

And the final group, which are not biblical literalists and believe in some form of evolution, comes in at a whopping 46%. They are more likely to be men, live on the coasts, live in urban areas, be college graduates, have higher incomes, be liberal, be independents, seldom or never attend church, or be Catholic.

As we look all this over, it's important to keep in mind that the Radical Religious Right has undertaken a sustained, carefully planned, well-funded effort to attack evolution and indeed, the very idea of scientific inquiry. With a kind of post-modern perspective on the unknowability of all things and the equal validity of all ideas, they have pressed, in many cases successfully, to get the fraud of "intelligent design" taught in schools, or at the very least to convince kids (and adults) that evolution is bunk. If you want to read more about this, I recommend the work of Gadflyer contributor Chris Mooney, who has probably done more reporting on the Right's assault on science than anyone.

Copyright © Paul Waldman. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Bringing Honor and Dignity Back to the White House
Bart Acocella (10:16AM)

Hmmm...

We know that a president can be impeached for being less-than-forthcoming in a deposition about a private assignation. So could a man be disqualified from being the nation's top law enforcement officer if he misled a court about the drunk driving conviction of his boss, who happened to be the Governor of Texas?

Are the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee listening? Mr. Schumer? Mr. Biden? Mr. Leahy?

Copyright © Bart Acocella. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


David Lublin

Freedom is on the March
David Lublin (9:54AM)

President Bush likes to trumpet that the United States is bringing liberty, freedom and democracy to the people of Iraq. Maybe he thinks that his efforts to bring freedom to Iraq somehow makes up for limiting it at home. As NPR's Daniel Zwerdling reported this week, tens of thousands of legal immigrants are being administratively detained by order of the Department of Homeland Security. "Administratively detained" does not mean that the Metro is running late but is government-speak for throwing people in jail without charges.

The basis for administrative detention is the past criminal records of the immigrants. One might not oppose administrative detention and deportation if these offenses had been serious crimes. However, many detainees are being locked up for indeterminate periods and then deported for relatively minor past offenses, such as misdemeanor drug offenses or DUIs, for which they have already paid their dues to society. If Michael Phelps were an immigrant, he could be subject to administrative detention and deportation if he is convicted following his recent DUI arrest on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

After the Abu Ghraib scandal, I imagine that few are surprised to discover that these administrative detainees, who have not been accused of terrorist or other offenses, have been subject to abuse on American soil. Of course, as Alan Elsner details in his new book, Gates of Injustice, America's dirty little secret is that ordinary prisoners are regularly subject to physical abuse and rape.

While stories of prisoner abuse in the name of protecting America from terrorism are hardly news at this point, the missed news story of the recent presidential campaign is "Who Lost Russia?" At the same time as it is struggling with the "hard work" of bringing freedom to Iraq, the Bush Administration quietly allowed democracy to die in Russia.

President Bush celebrates his close friendship with "Vladimir", as he referred to Russian President Putin in the presidential debates. However, President Putin has steadily undermined Russia's fragile democratic institutions. The balance probably tipped decisively from democracy to dictatorship in the wake of the tragedy in Beslan. One might think that amateurish and botched nature of the rescue attempt that ended with the deaths of hundreds of children might make Putin's government look bad. The government did not have medical care available to handle even a fraction of the wounded. Amazingly, Putin successfully used his own government's incompetence in handling the Beslan tragedy to further concentrate power in his own hands by sacking Russia's democratically elected governors.

The Bush Administration seems unperturbed by any of Putin's actions. The Administration contends that our alliance with Russia is critical to the fight against terrorism. However, Russia cannot even subdue rebels in Chechnya who carry out terrorist acts on Russian territory with impunity so Russia's military value in confronting terror seems dubious. One suspects that the critical nature of our relationship with Russia lies more with its ability to cause trouble in the former Soviet Union and its status as a major oil producer than the effectiveness of its anti-terrorist measures. President Bush doesn't want his friend "Vladimir" to turn off the spigot of Russia's oil tap.

The demise of Russian democracy nevertheless represents a major foreign policy failure. Instilling democracy in the states formerly comprising the Soviet Union has been a major goal of the United States since the collapse of the USSR. I don't expect the Bush Administration to take responsibility for this momentous failure. Being accountable and taking responsibility are not exactly the Bush Administration's hallmark. In congressional hearings, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice eloquently refused to take even ritualistic responsibility for the collapse of the Twin Towers on the Bush Administration's watch. However, senators might nevertheless want to ask the current National Security Advisor some questions about the demise of Russian democracy during her confirmation hearings for the position of Secretary of State.

After all, Condoleezza Rice speaks Russian and claims to be an expert on Eastern Europe. What are her thoughts on the decline of Russia's democracy? Should America speak out strongly about the decline of freedom throughout most of the former Soviet Union? Did the Administration do anything to prevent the slide of Russia into dictatorship? If so, why was American policy so ineffective? And why should we trust her as Secretary of State to handle foreign policy towards areas of the world in which she does not claim expertise if she cannot even handle Russian issues well?

Copyright © David Lublin. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.



11.18.04

Housekeeping Notes
Laura Rozen (3:34PM)

As many Gadflyer readers know, I moonlight as a blogger but my day job is journalism. With some absorbing assignments right now, I will ask you to keep up with the site over the next couple days at War and Piece world headquarters. Many thanks.


Copyright © Laura Rozen. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Sean Aday

Truly Getting Past Race
Sean Aday (3:24PM)

Andrew Sullivan's latest attack on the alleged hypocrisy of the Left is downright dizzying. He writes:

I guess I should say that Condi Rice's race and gender are not the most important things about her career and abilities. But I'm still amazed at how little credit this president gets for promoting a black woman to such a position, and, more importantly, by his obvious respect and admiration for her. His management style is clearly post-racial, and his comfort with female peers is impressive. You know, Bill Clinton was celebrated for his progressiveness, and ease with African-Americans. But it's inconceivable that he would have given so much power and authority to a black female peer. Why does Bush get no respect on this score? I guess it reveals that much of the left's diversity mania is about the upholding of a certain political ideology, rather than ethnic or gender variety itself. Depressing.

Where to begin? It's inconceivable that Clinton would have made a competent (there is, of course, no peer to the President) black woman Secretary of State because…why exactly? Certainly not because he's threatened by strong women. After all, the door Rice walked through this week was opened by Clinton and Madeline Albright. Whatever issues Clinton still has to work through about respecting women, this isn't one of them.

So what does that leave us? Clinton's a racist? Please.

I'll grant Sullivan's point (here and elsewhere) that Bush has appointed a diverse cabinet, and that in the abstract it's a good thing for America and the world to have the head diplomat for the only remaining superpower be a woman and an African-American.

But the "post-racial" argument seems to rest on Bush allegedly not crowing about it the way Clinton supposedly did. Of course this is hogwash. Bush lets his acolytes doing the crowing for him, and they've been more than happy to oblige in the last four years.

But let's get to this nonsense about how the Left's interest in diversity is limited to supporting liberals, and that its lack of enthusiasm for Rice's appointment speaks to their hypocrisy and calls into question their professed commitment to civil rights.

Pardon me, but isn't the conservative case against affirmative action and assorted efforts to foster diversity based entirely on the argument that people should be judged on their ability, not their skin color?

Well in that case, what could possibly be more "post-racial" than taking issue with Rice on her merits, or lack thereof? The case against Rice from the Left isn't based on the fact that she's a Republican. It's based on the fact that "many experts consider her one of the weakest national security advisers in recent history in terms of managing interagency conflicts," as the Washington Post put it.

It's based on the fact that, as the New York Times wrote, she is "unlikely to have any agenda but Mr. Bush's." A strong critic of how Bush has waged the war in Iraq like Sullivan should realize how dangerous that is.

It's based on the fact that her pre-9/11 record in even recognizing, much less addressing, the increasing threat posed by al Qaeda was so negligent she should have resigned in disgrace.

It's based on the fact that she repeatedly and knowingly engaged in duplicitous fear-mongering about a "mushroom cloud" coming from Saddam Hussein's nonexistent nuclear weapons program.

And so on.

Perhaps Sullivan's problem is one of his own making. He and other conservatives, after all, are the ones who created the false dichotomy between race and competence. Liberals certainly aren't the ones that have been saying for 40 years that hiring minorities by definition means taking people who are unqualified. Our goal has been to open doors closed to qualified minorities, while at the same time breaking down educational barriers that artificially kept the qualified applicant pool lily white.

There is therefore nothing internally inconsistent, much less hypocritical, about liberals taking issue with Rice's appointment to State. That opposition is based on her merits, not her party affiliation. After all, many liberals may have been disappointed with Colin Powell's UN speech parroting the administration's bogus claims about WMD, but there's little question he's the most-respected member of the original Bush cabinet among Democrats.

To say that Rice is not only beyond reproach but furthermore that President "Bob Jones-'Quota'-Pickering-NAACP-Snub" deserves a Nobel Prize for appointing her despite her obvious failings hardly seems post-racial. Indeed, what could be more patronizing?

Copyright © Sean Aday. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Thomas F. Schaller

Paybacks are Heaven, Part 2
Thomas F. Schaller (12:42PM)

Memorandum

To: James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed
From: Tom Schaller
Re: Hellfire and damnation
Date: November 18, 2004

As you know, our fiscally-disciplined president and his GOP cohorts in Congress are seeking their third debt limit ceiling increase since Bush took office – this time to the tune of about $800 billion, thereby pushing the debt ceiling over $8T for the first time in history.

Meanwhile, in yet another example of Bush's thanks-for-your-values-votes-now-watch-me-ignore-you management approach, it appears that two of the handful of small priorities the miserly president is actually willing to reduce are: (1) overseas family planning programs; and (2) domestic abstinence education programs.

Opposing abortion, it seems, is just not fiscally responsible.

Whether held singly or jointly, sounds to me like press conferences are the first order of business. Also, I'm sure the cable shows would be happy to hear from you.

And remember out post-election meme: "Paybacks are heaven."

Copyright © Thomas F. Schaller. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Paul Waldman

The Audacity Party
Paul Waldman (10:29AM)

The move by Republicans to change House rules to allow Tom DeLay to retain his leadership position if he is indicted shows more than a lack of concern with principle, a devotion to raw power above all else, or a contempt for the law. What it shows, yet again, is that the GOP is the audacity party. DeLay has attempted to bribe a colleague on the floor of the House, used Department of Homeland Security resources to try to find Texas Democrats leaving the state in a redistricting dispute, and engaged in what appears to be money-laundering and fairly obvious violations of Texas campaign finance laws. The latter is what he is about to be indicted for.

Democrats huff and haw, amazed that DeLay gets away with this stuff. How can he withstand the fury of a page A-18 story in the Washington Post? How can he go on, after getting a "reprimand" - i.e., "We know you broke the law, and though we aren't actually going to do anything about it, we'll ask you firmly not to do it again" - from the House Ethics Committee?

How? I'll tell you how. DeLay just doesn't care. He does what he wants, and never pays a price. The Democrats who think that a bad two-day story is going to clip his wings are the same ones who thought two draft-dodgers would never attack the patriotism of a war hero. Again and again, Democrats approach political battles by saying, "Now old boy, let's discuss the rules under which we'll engage while I tie on my soft, padded gloves - wouldn't want to hit you too hard, you know. What are you doing with that knife?"

Year after year, Democrats are amazed that the public thinks they're a bunch of wimps and Republicans are strong and manly. Perhaps if we come out in favor of missile defense, they think, people will change their minds. Perhaps if we vote for this war we all know is going to be a disaster, they'll see how much we care about Americans' security. Perhaps if we go hunting, they'll see we're real men.

Well here's an idea: perhaps the American people wouldn't think you were a bunch of wimps if you weren't such a bunch of wimps. And it's not about how you vote on legislation or how often you go hunting. It's time for an audacity transplant.

Copyright © Paul Waldman. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.



11.17.04

Why You Want an Independent CIA
Laura Rozen (8:04PM)

Fred Kaplan makes a key point here:

President Bush's second-term Cabinet is shaping up to be not a collection of separate agencies but a political arm of the Oval Office . . . This is a legitimate, if narrowly confining, style of leadership. But the CIA is different: Its success depends above all on whether its director can provide the president with disinterested analysis. So far, Porter Goss does not seem to be such a director.


Copyright © Laura Rozen. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Short Takes
Laura Rozen (7:21PM)

For what it's worth, I hear Arnold Kanter is also being considered for Deputy Secretary of State.


Why is the Bush administration so soft on Pakistan and AQ Khan given this?

Iran obtained weapons-grade uranium and a nuclear bomb design from a Pakistani scientist who has admitted to selling nuclear secrets abroad, an exiled Iranian opposition group said on Wednesday.

The group, which has given accurate information before, also said Iran is secretly enriching uranium at a military site previously unknown to the United Nations (news - web sites), despite promising France, Britain and Germany that it would halt all such work.

"(Abdul Qadeer) Khan gave Iran a quantity of HEU (highly enriched uranium) in 2001, so they already have some," Farid Soleiman, a senior spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), told reporters.

"I would doubt it was given enough for a weapon," he added.

Soleiman said Khan, who ran a global nuclear black market until it was shut down earlier this year, also gave Iran a Chinese-developed warhead design sometime between 1994 and 1996.

So apparently, the IAEA [which no one can accuse of war mongering] thinks the NCRI/MEK's intelligence on Iran's nuclear program has been consistently reliable.


Jacob Heilbrunn gets this point exactly right, and proves those in the realist camp wrong:

There is only one problem with the critics' scenario: The opposite of what they predicted is actually occurring. Bush hasn't retreated an inch rhetorically and is stepping up the battle in Iraq. Vice President Dick Cheney is ensuring that the neocons are being promoted everywhere in the administration.

I've been arguing this for weeks.


So how come Halliburton gets to do business in Iran, while the Iranian 2003 Nobel Peace prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, cannot publish her memoirs in the United States? University of Virginia's Farzaneh Milani explores the absurdity in this CS Monitor piece.

Meantime, Ken Pollack has an opinion piece in the LA Times, arguing that the US should not outsource to the European troika negotiations on the fate of Iran's nuclear program:

What we need in Iran is something closer to what we had in Iraq: a much larger inspection regime that has a considerable presence on a regular basis. None of this is going to be easy. The Europeans have steadfastly refused to countenance even the threat of sanctions against Iran, despite the fact that their nothing-but-carrots approach has so consistently failed, while the mere whiff of multilateral sanctions has often caused Iran to reverse course immediately. Similarly, we should expect that the Iranians will fight any expansion of the IAEA inspection program. But none of this is impossible either. It ought to be the first challenge taken up by Condoleezza Rice's State Department.



Pentagon cheers CIA shakeup, the Washington Times' Rowan Scarborough reports:

Defense officials said that while Mr. Rumsfeld and former CIA director George J. Tenet maintained a good working relationship, contacts between Pentagon policy-makers and CIA rank-and-file analysts were often testy.

They say analysts expressed opposition to going to war with Iraq and filed overly pessimistic reports that seemed to always leak to the liberal press.

One senior official told The Washington Times last year of an Iraq station chief's dire predictions on Iraq. The station chief's report leaked to the press within days of its arrival in Washington. What seemed odd to this Pentagon official was that the dispatch contained a long list of "CCs" all the way down to Navy battle group commanders at sea, meaning tens of thousands saw the report.

"This report was designed to leak," the official charged.

No word on the fact that the findings in the report turned out to be true.


"Group Says Iran Has Secret Nuclear Program," the NYT reports:

An Iranian opposition group says it has new evidence that Iran is producing enriched uranium at a covert Defense Ministry facility in Tehran that has not been disclosed to United Nations inspectors.

The group, the National Council for Resistance in Iran, is planning to announce its finding in Paris on Wednesday. The group says that inspection of the site would demonstrate that Iran is secretly trying to produce nuclear weapons even while promising to freeze a critical part of its declared nuclear program, which it maintains is intended purely for civilian purposes.

A senior official of the group, Muhammad Mohaddessin, said in a telephone interview late on Tuesday that the group had shared the new information "very recently'' with the International Atomic Energy Agency. But he and other officials of the group said it had not discussed the matter with the United States government, and its claims could not be verified.

Iran's mission to the United Nations did not return messages seeking comment on the assertion.

The group, based in Paris, is the political arm of the People's Mujahedeen, which is listed by the United States government as a terrorist organization because of its involvement in attacks on Americans in the 1970's. But the group also has a successful track record in gathering intelligence on Iran, and was the first, in 2002, to disclose the existence of what was then the secret Iranian nuclear site at Natanz.

United Nations inspectors "should not be fooled or deceived by the Iranian regime,'' Mr. Mohaddessin said.

A spokesman in Washington for the National Council for Resistance in Iran provided a seven-page summary of the assertion to The New York Times.

It says that the previously undisclosed site, in northeastern Tehran, covers 60 acres and houses biological and chemical warfare projects as well as nuclear activity. It says that the site, known as the Modern Defensive Readiness and Technology Center, now houses operations previously carried out at another Defense Ministry site in Tehran that was destroyed by the Iranian government this year before international inspectors could visit it.

This is all so familiar, isn't it? But where the INC was lying, the NCRI [the political arm of the People's Mujaheden/Mujahedeen-e-Khalq/MEK] could be telling the truth -- or not. More background here and here.

Update: Kevin Drum echoes the sense that this seems like Groundhog Day. But the IAEA says the NCRI's Iran nuclear intel has been spot-on -- unlike the INC's garbage.

Copyright © Laura Rozen. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Sean Aday

Tent Envy
Sean Aday (3:58PM)

Paul Waldman's post below about the Bob Casey incident at the 1992 Democratic Convention is worth a follow-up.

As Paul points out, Republicans have waved the bloody flag of Bob Casey's allegedly censored speech ever since. But let's compare what happened in 1992 with more recent events.

In 2000, conservatives wanted to keep Colin Powell from speaking at the Republican Convention in Philadelphia because he planned on saying nice things about Affirmative Action, which he supports. Had Powell wanted to only sing the praises of a policy Bush and the GOP abhor, that would have been one thing, but instead he merely planned on including it along with several other issues.

Had Casey wanted to do that, and had supported Clinton, there would have been no reason to keep him from speaking.

More egregiously, at the same Philadelphia convention in 2000, members of the President's home state delegation had to be convinced to not walk out in the middle of a speech by gay Republican Congressman Jim Kolbe. And Kolbe was giving a speech on foreign policy, not anything related to gay rights (shudder the thought). The delegates simply thought someone who is gay shouldn't be allowed to speak at all. (They engaged in a silent but visible protest instead of leaving in a huff.)

This shouldn't be surprising. After all, this year Kolbe had to use time allotted to him by Democrats to speak out against the anti-gay marriage Hate Amendment when his fellow House Republicans refused to give him the floor.

But let's return to the whole issue of choice and tolerance. Clearly, Republicans are showing that their whole rending of clothes over the Casey speech is rank hypocrisy with the litmus test they are applying to Arlen Specter. To say nothing of letting a "practicing" (to use their word) bigot like James Dobson dictate the way they do business.

But which party truly is more diverse on the issue of abortion? Not surprisingly, it's the Democrats. Using data I looked at recently (but which may now be slightly out of date), there are far more pro-life Democrats in Congress than pro-choice Republicans.

I looked at the "scorecards" of the two major pro-choice interest groups, NARAL and Planned Parenthood (PPFA). NARAL's site is more current -- scoring from the last Congressional session. But since so many of the votes it scored (due to the legislative agenda last year) had to do with the "partial birth" (ahem) bill, I thought it would stacking the deck to not separate out scores for people who just voted for those bills.

In other words, conceivably a lot of otherwise dependably pro-choice members would have artifically lower scores last session because they kept having to vote on just that specific issue.

So for the NARAL data, I differentiated between members who were truly pro-life or pro-choice above and beyond the late term votes, and those that only had pro-life votes on the late term bills.

The PPFA data are worse in that they come from the 02 session, but much better in that (a) that session wasn't dominated by "partial birth" bills, and (b) they divide members up by "pro/anti" and "mixed", which is a more nuanced approach.

Finally, I broke it out by "extremes" (for want of a better word): Dems who got a 100% Pro-Choice rating from PPFA vs. GOPers who got a 100% Pro-Life rating from PPFA.

Results: It ain't even close. Numbers are totals across both House and Senate, though I should add that the differences are evident in both chambers.

1. NARAL Pro-Life Dems: 35; Pro-Choice GOP: 9
2. NARAL "Partial Birth" Only Dems: 42; "Partial Birth" only GOP: 16

So, there are 77 Dems who do not almost invariably vote straight Pro-Choice, and only 25 GOPers who don't almost invariably vote straight Pro-Life.

3. PPFA Pro-Life Dems: 37; Pro-Choice GOP: 5
4. PPFA Mixed Dems: 59; Mixed GOP: 24

In other words, there are 96 Dems who do not almost invariably vote straight Pro-Choice, and only 29 GOPers who don't almost invariably vote straight Pro-Life.

5. PPFA "Extreme" Pro-Life Dems: 20; Pro-Choice GOP: 6

That the GOP is the more intolerant party is not exactly man bites dog, but it's worth pointing out again and again and again, lest anyone (read: New York Times reporters) forget.

Copyright © Sean Aday. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Paul Waldman

Some Wise Words
Paul Waldman (3:55PM)

Today Jonathan Rauch offers some wise words about just how ridiculous all this "mandate" talk is. (And why are Republicans so interested in dating men? That's what I'd like to know.)

Keep in mind that Rauch is a true centrist, very tough to pin down - he wrote a couple of books criticizing big government, but his latest advocates gay marriage. Come to think of it, if the New York Times is looking for a replacement for William Safire who challenges liberals but is actually thoughtful and reasoned, Rauch might be just the ticket. Here's what he had to say today:

A new political era? A gale-force mandate for change? More like the breezeless, stagnant air of a Washington summer. Despite much higher turnouts than in 2000, only three states switched sides -- a startling stasis. Despite Bush's win, the House of Representatives barely budged. In fact, the Republicans might have lost seats in the House had they not gerrymandered Texas. The allocation of state legislative seats between Republicans and Democrats also barely budged, maintaining close parity. The balance of governorships will change by at most one (at this writing, Washington state's race was undecided). If that's not stability, what would be?...

Social conservatives and the media ballyhooed the National Election Pool survey's finding that "moral values" topped the public's list of voting issues, at 22 percent (narrowly edging out the economy and terrorism). In particular, the Religious Right spun the "moral values" answer as endorsing their agenda (against gay marriage, abortion, and stem-cell research). Actually, the concern with "moral values" is neither new nor, for most voters, specific. Bowman notes that the Los Angeles Times exit poll has regularly included "moral/ethical values" on its list of "most important issues," and that this choice emerged on top in 1996, 2000, and 2004. In 2004, the same proportion chose it as in 1996. Clearly, those 1996 voters were not up in arms against gay marriage and stem cells...

If anything structurally important happened in 2004, it was that the country moved to the right a little, but the Republican Party moved to the right a lot. John Kerry's Democrats aimed for the center and nearly got there, whereas Bush pulled right. He won, of course, but in doing so he painted his party a brighter shade of red -- especially on Capitol Hill, and above all in the Senate, some of whose new Republican members seem nothing short of extreme.

Copyright © Paul Waldman. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Paul Waldman

Kicking Him When He's Down
Paul Waldman (12:58PM)

According to the New York Times, upon his return to the Senate, John Kerry did the following:

- Attended a meeting of the Democratic caucus
- Spoke to his entire staff
- Met with aides
- Made phone calls, presumably with people on the other end of the line

So how does the Times sum up this busy day of meeting and greeting? Well it's John Kerry, so we get this ridiculous lede:

"John Kerry returned to the Senate on Tuesday for the first time since the election and spent much of the day there the same way he has spent much of the last 20 years - on his own."

What evidence do we have for this? He skipped a luncheon. No wonder the American people couldn't connect with such an aloof loner!

Copyright © Paul Waldman. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Sarah Posner

The Rule of Law, Redefined
Sarah Posner (12:45PM)

As reported in the Washington Post and elsewhere, the Republican Conference is meeting today to vote on a proposal to change its own rule (enacted ten years ago to demonstrate Republican ethical superiority) that would allow Tom DeLay to continue as majority leader should he be indicted by a Texas grand jury.

It's part of a pattern of changing the rules when they don't suit the Republicans' agenda. Don't like the Democrats filibustering judicial nominees? Why not change the filibuster rules, as proposed by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist last week?

It's also part of a pattern of Republicans showing contempt for the judiciary and the rule of law. DeLay made that contempt clear once again yesterday in his remarks thanking the Republican Conference for re-coronating him as Majority Leader, according to the Conservative News Service, which apparently had tickets to the meeting. In identifying the successes of the 108th Congress, DeLay enumerated four: tax relief, funding the war, protecting our children (from what, he didn't say, but we can assume gay people), and "standing up to the courts."

Yes, the double-take you did on those last five words was completely justified. No, you're not crazy for the way you remember the system of checks and balances from your elementary school civics class. No, we don't live in a banana republic. But maybe we will if the 109th Congress does what DeLay said he expects it to: "define our age and forge a new America."

Copyright © Sarah Posner. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Paul Waldman

Wrong Again
Paul Waldman (12:38PM)

It has become accepted that in 1992, then-Pennsylvania governor Bob Casey was denied a speaking slot at the Democratic convention because Casey was pro-life. This got repeated today in the New York Times, and is regularly offered by Republicans as evidence that their party is open-minded, while the Democratic party is in control of its pro-choice faction. The Times went so far as to say that "No prominent opponent of abortion has come anywhere near the podium of a Democratic convention since 1992, when abortion rights groups blocked a speech on the subject by Robert P. Casey, the governor of Pennsylvania and an observant Catholic."

Notice how reporter David Kirkpatrick makes it sound like a clear case of relilgious discrimination. Of course, he offers zero evidence that abortion rights groups blocked Casey's speech. Either someone told him this and he took it on faith without checking to see if it was true, or he just made it up.

Before we get to Casey, let's set the record straight: a number of pro-life Democrats have spoken at Democratic conventions in recent years, people like the new Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and the former House Democratic Whip David Bonior.

And the Bob Casey story is a myth. He was not denied a speaking slot at the 1992 convention because he was pro-life. He was denied a speaking slot for two reasons: First, Casey refused to endorse the Democratic Party's nominee for the presidency. I didn't see anyone speaking at the RNC convention in New York who opposed George W. Bush's re-election.

The second reason was that Casey wanted to make a speech whose topic was why abortion is wrong. This is far different from merely the fact of his being pro-life, which is how reporters characterize it. Let's imagine again a Republican who opposed the Iraq war (and there are more than a few) being given a slot in New York to give a speech on why the Iraq war was wrong. Not on your life.

No party is going to give anyone an opportunity, on national television, to assault its own nominee and attack his policies. That's why Bob Casey didn't speak in 1992.

Copyright © Paul Waldman. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.



11.16.04

Revenge at Langley
Laura Rozen (9:46PM)

Check out Spencer Ackerman's in-depth piece on Porter Goss's purge at the CIA, in Salon.

Copyright © Laura Rozen. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Paul Waldman

Don't You Get It?
Paul Waldman (5:12PM)

Today in the Boston Globe, Peter Canellos gets on the '08 speculation train (never too early!), but comes out with this piece of ridiculousness:

The main reason some pundits now insist that the only Democrat who could have beaten Bush this year was former House minority leader Richard Gephardt is that Gephardt was too well known to be portrayed as weak on defense. Voters had seen him in the Rose Garden handing Bush the authority to go to war.
First off, I have no idea which "pundits" he's talking about (and he doesn't tell us); maybe they're in the same category as the unnamed "experts" and "analysts" to which reporters are always referring (read: here's my opinion, but I'll just say it's something other people are saying).

Second, the reason nobody is actually saying Gephardt would have been the guy is because there is no one who, by this standard, would have been the guy. Gephardt was too well known to be portrayed as weak on defense? Please.

News flash: no matter who the Democrats nominate - this year, in 2008, or ever - he will be portrayed by the Republicans as weak on defense. That's what they do. If the Democrats raised George Patton from the dead and ran him, the Republicans would portray him as weak on defense. The only question is whether it will work.

The reason it didn't work with Clinton was mostly because the Cold War had ended and people felt relatively secure. So what should Democrats do in the future? Why not take a page from George Bush's book, and engage in a little pre-emptive action. What if Kerry had run a series of ads, backed up with stump speeches, on the theme "George Bush betrayed our troops." There was plenty of ammunition - cuts in veterans health care, cuts in combat pay, the backdoor draft, 1200 American soldiers dead for a lie. The key would have been to put this all under the theme that George Bush lied to the troops, betrayed the troops, screwed the troops eight ways to Sunday. Democrats can become the defender of the man and woman on the ground - let Republicans be the bureaucrats back in the Pentagon.

(Oh, but "betrayed" is such a harsh word. The press would have criticized us for being negative! It wouldn't have been nice! Enjoy the next four years, wimpy.)

Anyone who supported Bush's policies can be tarred with the same brush. Regardless, Democrats should never again make the mistake of believing that a chest full of medals makes one immune to Republican attacks on national security. Let me repeat: they will always, always, always attack Democrats as weak on national security, and they'll do it with lies if they have to. Believing that the right candidate will make them stand down is beyond naive. Democrats should start thinking now about what they want to do about it.

Copyright © Paul Waldman. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Brooks and Spooks
Bart Acocella (3:33PM)

Cliff largely beat me to it (and I can't hope to be as sassy as he), but David Brooks' weekend column is indeed a mind-blower.

The problem, you see, in the White House-CIA relationship is not that Scooter Libby and the Vice President himself were paying visits to Langley, leaning on intelligence professionals to make sure their product was slanted to justify the Administration's predetermined Iraq policy. The problem is not that Valerie Plame was illegally outed in retaliation for her husband's truth-telling about the bogus yellowcake from Niger claim. The problem is not that we were paying a charlatan like Ahmad Chalabi millions to tell us his self-serving version of the situation on the ground in Iraq.

No, the problem is that a bunch of meanies in the CIA are leaking stories designed to discredit the Iraq war -- "brazen insubordination," according to Brooks, "which violated all standards of honorable public service."

One gets Brooks' commendation for "honorable public service," presumably, by obfuscating, misleading and dissembling to justify the Iraq adventure. The poor midlevel saps whose dispassionate professional advice was ignored or distorted…their conduct is apparently borderline treasonous.

Might it be that CIA officials were not leaking for the sheer subversive thrill of it, but rather out of a sense of principle…because they felt that their political superiors were taking the nation on a reckless march to war?

Now, after having been marginalized, they have to put up with one of Porter Goss' henchmen throwing his weight around and demanding that they pass some kind of loyalty test to the Bush White House or else clean out their desks.

By the time they're done, will there be anyone left in the federal government who is of the reality-based community rather than the Bush hack stable?

Look, I've worked in a federal bureaucracy, though not one with an institutional culture quite as strong as the CIA. And believe me I understand that intransigent civil servants can be an obstacle to progress, an obstacle, really, to anything other than stasis and their own self-perpetuation. But as Josh Marshall explains, it's clear the CIA career experts, though not batting a thousand, provided sound advice while the political appointees on the Bush national security team have been disastrously wrong every step of the way.

Brooks strikes me as a by-the-book goody-goody, the type who, per his mother's orders, did all his homework before watching any TV. So he believes CIA officials should keep their mouths shut and go to their graves with their misgivings because you simply don't step out of line and publicly question your superiors.

Fine. I just wonder: was David Brooks one of the first to question Oliver North's "brazen insubordination" in continuing to do business with the Contras? And on the subject of improper leaks, when Brooks and his Weekly Standard colleagues were pouring their all into discrediting Bill Clinton, were they waxing indignant – were they even tut-tutting? – when Ken Starr was spilling grand jury deliberations to everyone with a notepad

Copyright © Bart Acocella. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Silencing Dissent
Laura Rozen (3:32PM)

Lawrence Kaplan:

With Condoleezza Rice at the helm--and, in all likelihood, with Undersecretary of State John Bolton as her deputy--the State Department will now be run by a team known for its rigid loyalty to the president. They, more than any other administration officials, represent authentic expressions of Bush's foreign policy--more realistic than the Bush team's neoconservatives but far more aggressive than its self-described "realists." Rice, to be sure, is neither a great thinker nor a great manager. But she is a great lieutenant--that is, someone who can be relied on to convey and translate the president's inclinations into official policy. For his part, Bolton is all of these things, plus a fierce conservative. Between the two of them, they could well transform Foggy Bottom into something that looks more like the Pentagon--only competently run. Even if the State Department doesn't become the center of foreign policy deliberations, it certainly won't stymie them.

As for the National Security Council, the very fact that Rice's former deputy will be running day to day operations at the NSC ensures that cooperation between Foggy Bottom and the White House will improve. If Stephen Hadley, like Rice, is essentially a technocrat, he is a loyal technocrat, known for his lawyerly-like implementation of orders from above. Moreover, with staunch realist and Powell ally Robert Blackwill out of the way as Hadley's competitor--and co-deputy national security adviser--philosophical objections to the direction of U.S. policy that often made their way from Foggy Bottom to the White House should effectively be silenced.

Nor will the expected departure of Rumsfeld and his lieutenants at the Defense Department dilute the president's robust foreign policy preferences...In contrast to the president's first term, personnel won't be policy in his second.


Copyright © Laura Rozen. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Out of Bounds
Laura Rozen (1:46PM)

David Rothkopf, via this Washington Post piece, identifies the real crux of the problem of design in Bush's national security team: Cheney and Rumsfeld operate to an extraordinary degree outside the bounds of the National Security Council, of inter-agency debate and collaboration at all, a set up the President has chosen and Rice and her deputy Stephen Hadley have facilitated.

David Rothkopf, who has written a forthcoming history of the National Security Council titled "Running the World," said that much of the success of a national security adviser is defined not by the adviser but by the president. He said Rice "could not be more effective" as a top staffer to Bush because of the closeness she has had with him.

But Rice's management of the interagency process has been lagging, according to Rothkopf and former and current officials. In part, this is because Rice not only had to manage two powerful Cabinet members with sharply different views -- Powell and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld -- but also to deal with a player distinctive to the Bush administration: Vice President Cheney, who weighs in on every major foreign policy question.

Rothkopf said Bush undercut Rice in her running of the interagency process because he has allowed Cheney and Rumsfeld to operate outside the control of the NSC. "The president has to put his foot down and say, 'This has to stop,' " Rothkopf said, but Bush never did.

There is every reason to believe given Hadley's past performance that this situation of Rumsfeld and Cheney in particular simply bypassing normal foreign policy making channels is set not only to continue, but to go even more haywire in the coming term.

Copyright © Laura Rozen. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


The Consummate Yes-Man Goes to State
Laura Rozen (1:09PM)

Greg Djerejian asks, "The big question is, will [Rice] really go to bat on policy issues where Cheney and Rummy are aligning on another side of the issue? Or will they all be operating in lockstep, as this Glenn Kessler piece suggests?"

I don't think there is any question that Rice will not go to bat on policy issues where Cheney and Rummy are aligning on the other side. Rice has had the president's ear for four years of foreign policy disaster and reactiveness. She appears the consummate yes-person for her bosses. When has she ever shown an iota of independence?

I saw her speak at the US Institute of Peace a couple months ago, a few months after I saw Powell speak there. She's smart, she's hyper-competent, she's articulate. But there was no energy in the room, no sense of a compelling vision, no twinge of inspiration as you get from Powell even as you're disappointed in him. It was just trying to do damage control, similar to her appearance at the 9/11 commission.

Does it matter? After all, the State Department hardly seemed to win many of the key inter-agency debates the past four years. Unfortunately, I am afraid it does. As this points out, Powell did win some important behind the scenes battle, particularly in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion. With the departure of a powerful, moderate voice of reason, and his replacement with the consummate practitioner of getting rolled over by hardline heavyweights, there is no powerful counter to the radical ideologues. Partly it's a matter that Rice has made it her job the past four years to subsume her views, so it's hard to know what she really thinks. But she seems uniquely adept at basically becoming the party line of who she's working for, in a way that has proved disastrous at the NSC the past four years.


Update: James Wolcott gets this just right:

Rice's face is the game face of the Bushies, bony with Unwavering Resolve, eyes fanatical, mouth tensed. She has shown herself to be not a listener but a dictation machine on playback. "The President believes..." "The President has always said..." "The President has very consistent in arguing that..." "The President has said all along..." And now the dictation machine is in a position to dictate to other nations how they can fight terror and help make America a bigger, better empire. It'll be the President wants this, the President wants that, the President is firm in his belief that...

But her incompetence precedes her, as does her presumptuous statement that for their failure to support the U.S. in Iraq, France should be punished, Germany ignored, and Russia forgiven. Punished, ignored, and forgiven for being right in the first place and refusing to take part in this debacle?--such nerve.

As America gets more militarized and messianic under Bush, it's being economically and diplomatically outmaneuvered by the rest of the world...


Copyright © Laura Rozen. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.



11.15.04

US Military Investigating Alleged War Crime
Laura Rozen (11:55PM)

Copyright © Laura Rozen. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Paul Waldman

The Wrath of Newt
Paul Waldman (8:25PM)

"The regional governors now have direct control over territories. Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this battle station." - Grand Moff Tarkin, Imperial governor of outland regions and Darth Vader's ally

"There are two keys here. The first is to...communicate unequivocally that people who don't mind their cities being destroyed can rebel, and their cities will be destroyed." - Armchair warrior Newt Gingrich, 11/14/04

In other words, we're going to keep bombing you until you come around to seeing things our way. It's a good thing Newt sits on the Defense Policy Board, where he can whisper his visionary military advice in Don Rumsfeld's ear. Those hearts and minds should be coming right along.

Copyright © Paul Waldman. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Bush Cabinet ScoreCard
Laura Rozen (7:50PM)

Second term national security team scorecard: Rice to State, Stephen Hadley to become national security advisor, Rumsfeld to stay put, Porter Goss to continue his massacre of some seemingly very qualified people at the CIA. Still in the gossip sphere: whether John Bolton will be promoted to become deputy secretary of state or deputy national security advisor, and whether Danielle Pletka will be appointed to head the Near East Bureau at State. Also unclear: whether Wolfowitz will be promoted or stay put at Defense, and whether Feith will stay. Interesting side note? one proposed candidate to head the CIA's clandestine service, Richard P. Lawless, a former business partner of Jeb Bush, is apparently also close with Richard Armitage, who is a major target of neocon animosity.

Update: Fred Kaplan's take. Reading it, it's even more clear that who has really won this appointment-shuffle? Dick Cheney.

Late Monday Update: Strobel & Landay: Powell was pushed out a bit earlier than he would have wished.

U.S. officials and foreign policy analysts said Monday that by agreeing to Powell's departure and approving a purge by new CIA chief Porter Goss, Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney appear to be eliminating the few independent centers of power in the U.S. national security apparatus and cementing the system under their personal control.

Powell and his State Department team - quietly backed by the intelligence community - argued often for a foreign policy that was more inclusive of allies and that relied on diplomacy and coercion rather than on force to deal with adversaries.

They lost more battles than they won.

Powell, who friends said had hoped to stay on a little longer, will be replaced at the State Department by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, said a senior administration official. Rice is far closer personally to Bush.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, a major architect of the Iraq war along with Bush and Cheney, appears to be staying for now, signaling that the White House believes its much-criticized Iraq policies are on the right track.

"Letting him go would be an admission of failure," said one senior administration official who, like others, requested anonymity because of the White House's distaste for dissent.

We know how successful are systems that punish dissent. These people could not bring democracy to a kindergarten.

Tuesday update: Pletka is not going into this administration, I am told very authoritatively. And Feith's days "are numbered."

Copyright © Laura Rozen. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


CIA Survivor's Tale
Laura Rozen (3:51PM)

George Tenet's confidential, but not classified, book proposal, not kind to the NSC advisor, the NY Daily News reports. With the Saturday night massacre occurring now at the CIA, Tenet's book will be especially interesting.

Copyright © Laura Rozen. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Iranian Dirty Tricks in Iraq
Laura Rozen (2:05PM)

Talk about leaks! [But not the kind opposed by administration hawks.] This is a superb piece on Iranian mucking around in Iraq. But at 10 pages long sourced at numerous points to US military intelligence documents, one wonders who finds it in their interest to leak such material? Subtle hint: those who want the US to get tough on Iran. One source is all but explicit: the MEK, which would like to rehabilitate its image in Washington and get off the State Department's designated terrorist group list, and which apparently has provided the US very useful intelligence on Iran's nuclear program. But that's not the only source. And it's interesting to me that Larry Franklin, for instance, was indeed running around this summer pushing some of this same information. For instance, the bit about the Iranians targeting Israelis alleged to be operating in northern Iraq, that Seymour Hersh originally reported. [Thx to reader JH.]

Copyright © Laura Rozen. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Sarah Posner

The Right vs. Our Rights
Sarah Posner (1:15PM)

In an op-ed in yesterday's Washington Post, Post magazine staff writer David von Drehle proved how even the "liberal" media has fallen prey to conservatives' indoctrination program about the role of the judiciary. Von Drehle claims that "courtroom addiction" has caused progressives to take their fingers off the pulse of the American public, which in turn has caused them to be relegated to minority status. That someone who is purporting to give advice to progressives has fallen for this argument demonstrates the reach of one of the conservatives' most insidious campaigns: to portray the civil justice system as anti-democratic in order to lay the groundwork for their agenda of dismantling citizens' ability to seek justice through the courts.

While I would not argue with von Drehle's assertion that the progressive movement has failed to effectively deliver its message about justice and equality to the people, it's because a centrist Democratic Party has been dampening the message, not because of "courtroom addiction." Von Drehle complains that progressives have relied too much on the civil justice system to advance the cause of civil rights, so much so that they have forgotten how to make their case outside the courtroom. Maybe so. Perhaps the passage of eleven anti-gay-marriage referenda this month demonstrates that conservatives were more effective in getting out their message of hate than progressives were in getting out their message of inclusion. And maybe von Drehle really is trying to give progressives well-intentioned advice that Democratic leaders should take a stronger policy stand, but it was difficult to discern that message through the rest of the piece, which reads like von Drehle might have spent too much time with the Federalist Society last week.

Von Drehle has accepted the conservative argument that because a judicial decision does not represent the will of the majority, it must be wrong. Conservatives want us to forget that the role of the judiciary is to protect the rights of all citizens, including those who represent a minority point of view (via the First Amendment), a minority race (via the Fourteenth Amendment), or even a majority that has been oppressed by a minority (via the Nineteenth Amendment). But von Drehle is so blinded by the argument that the judiciary fails when it reflects a minority viewpoint, he blames the justice system for Republican control of the White House and Congress: because progressives are "addicted" to litigation, he maintains, "voters suspect that you don't trust them to make the really tough decisions" and they are therefore "less likely to support your candidates." Von Drehle seems to think that the judiciary should reflect exit polls and that we should stop using the civil justice system to protect individual rights. He doesn't suggest another option: that progressives should orchestrate an equally (or more) effective public relations campaign to educate the public about the role of the judiciary in enforcing the law and protecting individual rights.

Von Drehle argues that progressives should back off of their reliance on litigation because the reforms that took place "when progressives knew how to take their case to the voters" came "via the ballot box." His examples? Trust-busting, workers' rights, and women's suffrage. But his suggestion that these reforms came as a result of emotionally-driven referenda like the anti-gay marriage ones on the ballot this year is just false. All three reforms were a result of legislative action and the first two represent the sorts of reforms we could never expect today while the party that is beholden to corporate interests maintains control of the White House and both houses of Congress. Moreover, his suggestion that such reforms could become possible after the courts become more conservative, because progressives would be forced out of court, overlooks generations of injustice that would occur if today's conservatives have their way with the judiciary.

In the end, Von Drehle puts the final cheap touch on his argument when he falls back on some false Abraham Lincoln iconography to prove his point. He says, "Abraham Lincoln was right when he called this 'a government of the people,' not one of lawyers and courts." Never mind that Lincoln wasn't talking about lawyers or judges in the Gettysburg Address. It sounds good, doesn't it?

And now that the Republicans have been so effective in making us believe judges are the enemy, they've moved on to their next method of undermining the judiciary system. They're not stopping at "tort reform" or denouncing "activist" judges while appointing "activists" of their own stripe who are hellbent on constricting civil rights laws and eliminating government regulation. The devotees of "strict constructionism" have now tossed the Constitution into the Fox News paper shredder. Yesterday, in a not-so-veiled threat to Republican Senator Arlen Specter, the would-be Judiciary Committee Chair, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist told Fox News Sunday that the Judiciary Committee Chair "has a clear obligation" to get all of the president's judicial nominees through committee. What about checks and balances, you ask? Advice and consent? Quaint, they are. All quaint.

Copyright © Sarah Posner. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Powell to Go
Laura Rozen (9:45AM)

Powell is starting to tell people at State that he is resigning. Update: Now it's appearing as "breaking news" at CNN that "Powell has submitted his resignation." More: Powell has resigned. My guess for successor? Danforth. Pleasing to religious conservatives who just lost Ashcroft. And I can't see Rice wanting to run State. And Rummy stays, at least a year or two and then Rice moves to Pentagon, perhaps.

P.S. Now they're saying the White House will announce four resignations at 4pm. Here they go: agriculture secretary, education secretary, energy secretary and secretary of state. One assumes, deputy secretary of state Armitage is leaving too.

P.P.S. Mark Goldberg and Matt Yglesias note that some Young Turks believe Powell can't clean out his desk fast enough.


Copyright © Laura Rozen. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


Goss's New Candidate to Run the CIA's Clandestine Service
Laura Rozen (9:43AM)

More on Porter Goss's new candidate to run the CIA's clandestine service, Richard Lawless, and his business ties to Jeb Bush. This from the St. Petersburg Times from September 20, 1998, sent by reader V:

In a 20-month stint as Florida Commerce Secretary in 1987 and 1988, Jeb Bush led trade missions from Latin America to Asia promoting economic development. Bush also made international contacts.

One key introduction was to Richard P. Lawless Jr. A former employee of the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. State Department, Lawless by the late 1980s was swapping an intelligence career in Asia for the more lucrative world of foreign business consultant in the nation's capital.

Bush and Lawless quickly established a relationship that from 1989 through 1993 would bring Bush more than $500,000 in fees from commercial real estate deals.

Under Bush, the state commerce department in 1987 put out for bid a $160,000 contract to promote Florida exports in Asia. Among seven competing companies, the contract was awarded to Lawless and U.S. Asia Development Corp., his newly formed consulting business in Washington, D.C.

In September 1988, Bush left the commerce department to help his father's presidential campaign. Lawless dropped out of the state contracts but stayed close to Bush. When Bush became head of the Beacon Council, Miami's influential pro-business organization, Lawless received two Beacon contracts worth $60,000 to set up trade missions to Asia for Dade County."

V writes, Mr. Lawless and Jeb did a few real estate deals too:

Lawless set up U.S. Asia Realty, which guided Asian buyers looking to invest in U.S. commercial property. Bush and his brokerage company handled the real estate for Lawless in South Florida.

As investment deals multiplied, Lawless formed a series of corporations with names like U.S. Asia Florida, U.S. Asia of South Florida and U.S. Asia Broward. Together, Bush and Lawless formed Hubic Partners, a real estate concern.

In 1993, one of Bush's last commissions on a deal with Lawless totaled $213,000. Bush says little more about Lawless, except that he is "a good friend and business partner." Bush once called him a "patriot."

Remember that Porter Goss is himself another former CIA operative who worked in business in Florida before entering politics and one begins to see some matters worth exploring further.

Copyright © Laura Rozen. Material presented on The Gadflyer is the opinion of the respective author and not that of The Gadflyer, the web host or any other entity.


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