Daniel Schulman

Senior Editor

Based in DC, Dan covers politics and national security. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe Magazine, the Village Voice, the Columbia Journalism Review, and other publications. He is the author of the new Koch brothers biography, Sons of Wichita (Grand Central Publishing). Email him at dschulman (at) motherjones.com.

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The Fog of Robert McNamara

| Mon Jul. 6, 2009 11:57 AM EDT

Robert McNamara's middle name was Strange—and the former defense secretary, World Bank president, and Ford executive certainly leaves behind an unusual and complicated legacy. Most of all, McNamara, who died this morning at the age of 93, will be remembered as one of the chief architects of the Vietnam War, a conflict—known to many as "McNamara's War"—with which he became synonymous. An intensely private man, he refused to address the war and his own doubts about its prosecution for decades, though he eventually ruminated on his misgivings and mistakes in his 1995 memoir, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. Years later, it was a haunted McNamara who appeared in Errol Morris' acclaimed documentary, The Fog of War. His apparent contrition never silenced his critics, though, who considered him a war criminal whose mea culpa was too little too late.

In 1984, Mother Jones ran a cover story [PDF] by David Talbot, who would later found Salon.com, on the transformation of McNamara, former National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy, and ex-CIA chief William Colby from Vietnam-era hawks to advocates of a nuclear weapons freeze. Talbot described McNamara as "the cost-control wizard who thought the war could be run like a Ford assembly line: body counts, kill ratios, bombing raids. And when he saw that it wasn't adding up, that it did not compute, he repeatedly lied—to Congress, to the press, to the American public."

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Friends of Angelo are No Friends of Issa

| Wed Jun. 24, 2009 1:55 PM EDT

If things get a bit uncomfortable for members of Congress and Obama administration officials, they'll have Darrell Issa to blame for that. Since news broke last June that federal lawmakers and other VIPs had received sweetheart loans through what Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo dubbed his "Friends of Angelo" program, the California Republican and ranking member of the House oversight committee has been leading the charge to investigate the matter. He says his investigation has "uncovered evidence that only a fraction of those who participated in Countrywide’s VIP program have come to light," and Issa has every intention of flipping on the floodlights of accountability.

But there's a hitch. While Bank of America, which acquired Countrywide in 2008, has agreed to provide Issa with documents that he's requested, it will only do so under subpoena. Obtaining that subpoena will require a full committee vote and the cooperation of oversight committee chariman Edolphus Towns, who has been seemingly reluctant to open this can of worms. In fact, Towns declined to sign his name to the letter [PDF] Issa sent to BofA CEO Ken Lewis in early June requesting the "Friends of Angelo"-related documents. Why? According to the Wall Street Journal:

A spokeswoman for Mr. Towns said the Friends of Angelo program wasn't on the chairman's priority list, which includes oversight of the nation's financial crisis, the financial bailout of banks and the giant federal financial stimulus package.

Solved: One WH Emails Mystery

| Thu Jun. 18, 2009 10:32 AM EDT

Well, I think I've solved one mystery related to the Bush administration's White House email scandal. It's a rather small one considering some of the larger questions hanging out there—the suspicious gap in the OVP emails being one of them—but it certainly did seem curious. I'm referring to the fact that, in 2003, contracting related a new White House email archiving system (a project that was abandoned just as it reached completion) was handled by the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service. You may recall that this particular division, which collects (or fails to) oil and gas royalties, was the subject of a series of scathing reports by the agency's inspector general. Beyond run-of-the-mill corruption and graft, the IG reported “a culture of substance abuse and promiscuity.” (One MMS official slept with oil company employees.) 

Blackwater's Fired Up by Audit Coverage

| Tue Jun. 16, 2009 12:09 PM EDT

Bruce Falconer and I reported yesterday that a federal audit [PDF] of Blackwater's security contracts in Iraq concluded, among other things, that the firm had regularly failed to meet staffing requirements on two of its State Department task orders and could owe the government $55 million. Blackwater's spokeswoman, Anne Tyrrell, just emailed an "amended statement" on the audit, disputing how its conclusions were characterized in some media reports. I saw this one coming when I read the Wall Street Journal's coverage this morning, which carried the headline, "Audit Finds That U.S. Overpaid Blackwater." (Similarly, ABC is now reporting: "There is no assurance that personnel staffing data was accurate or complete and that correct labor rates were paid.")

Here's what Tyrrell had to say:

The joint audit by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction and the United State Department of State Inspector General released yesterday does not, as some press reports have suggested, allege that Blackwater was ever complicit in overbilling the United States government for work it performed in Iraq in 2006 and 2007. The audit does not even state that the government overpaid Blackwater for staffing issues.  All it suggests is that invoices spanning a period of time are reviewed. A $55 million penalty has in no way been determined. 

In fact, the government contracting officer determined that Blackwater was compliant with the terms of the contract at the time for which they were reviewing and the therefore did not apply any deductions or penalties. Blackwater only billed for services provided. 

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