2007 - %3, May

Gonzales Can't Make Up His Mind on How Much to Blame His Deputy

| Fri May 18, 2007 1:53 PM EDT

Hey, remember when Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty resigned a couple days ago and Alberto Gonzales tried to blame him for the entire U.S. Attorneys scandal? Specifically, Gonzo said:

"You have to remember, at the end of the day, the recommendations reflected the views of the deputy attorney general. He signed off on the names... And he would know better than anyone else, anyone in this room, anyone — again, the deputy attorney general would know best about the qualifications and the experiences of the United States attorneys community, and he signed off on the names."

That was basically all made up. Well, either that was made up or Gonzales was lying to Congress when he testified in April:

"Looking back, things that I would have done differently? I think I would have had the Deputy Attorney General more involved, directly involved."

Sometimes, these guys make this job way too easy. Spotted on ThinkProgress, who spotted this on the Daily Show.

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Cheney Distorts Views of Arab Leaders, Version 2.0

| Fri May 18, 2007 1:32 PM EDT

When Dick Cheney was trying to drum up support for the Iraq War in 2002, he visited capitals in the Arab world and spoke with various heads of state. The message he got from them, he said upon his return, was that they all "shared our concern" about Iraq.

That was a lie. Arab leaders both publicly and privately opposed the war, and even warned about the disastrous after-effects that we are seeing now.

Well, Cheney just got back from another trip around the Arab world, and he's saying that leaders there agree that Iran is a "major source of concern." While that's closer to the truth than his statements about Iraq, it's still overselling their position. In private interviews, Arab leaders urge the United States to find a diplomatic solution to Iran's belligerence and nuclear ambitions. They do not advocate the hard line Cheney and his pals are taking.

One gets the sense that the real danger in the White House is Cheney, not Bush, because Cheney refuses to be humbled by the administration's spectacular failures. Read more about this situation from Time's bureau chief in Cairo.

War Czar as Figurehead? Errand Boy? Bush's Messenger?

| Fri May 18, 2007 12:56 PM EDT

Michael Hirsh writes in Newsweek that new war czar Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute faces almost insurmountable problems in his new job, problems that will essentially reduce him to being a high profile mouthpiece for the White House. He'll be the public face of the war effort, and he'll ferry the president's orders to various departments around Washington, but he won't be coordinating any fighting. Or giving orders to anyone, really.

Says Hirsh:

[Lute is] just a three-star general, and he's still on active duty. What this means is that while nominally he's the president's man—his title puts him on par with national-security adviser Steven Hadley—militarily he's still inferior in rank to four-star Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the multinational forces in Iraq. Neither will he be in a position to tell Defense Secretary Robert Gates or Rice what to do. "The term 'war czar' is terribly misguided," says [retired Gen. Barry] McCaffrey. "I do think he'll be an extremely able White House operative."

Hirsh also notes that Bush is setting the poor guy up to fail. After all, if you're a messenger for an inattentive president who has no substantive messages to deliver, how can you possibly hope to improve things?

The only way for Lute to be even marginally effective is if a president who has been consistently uninterested in the details of the Iraq conflict for the past four years—and in the nitty-gritty of Afghanistan for most of the last five years—starts obsessing over those details with just 18 months to go in his term. And that's unlikely to happen.

We wrote at the onset of the surge that assigning the smart-as-a-whip General Petraeus to lead the fighting in Iraq was like throwing good money after bad -- we were wasting a huge portion of the Army's talent on a lost cause. And when that talent inevitably goes down swinging in September 2007 or February 2008 or whenever, the Bushies can say they did all they could. The situation with Lute feels very much the same. Perhaps that's why the White House had so much trouble finding someone to fill the post.

Should have hired this guy.

The Numbers Add Up on U.S. Attorneys Firing Scandal

| Fri May 18, 2007 11:56 AM EDT

Let's review the numbers on the U.S. Attorneys scandal.

26 - The number of U.S. Attorneys that the DOJ targeted for dismissal, according to yesterday's reports. (That's roughly one in every four USA nationwide.)

9 - The number of U.S. Attorneys we previously knew had been targeted, and were either fired or resigned under pressure.

8 - The number of USAs Alberto Gonzales claimed in testimony to Congress composed the whole of the scandal.

6 - The number of Senate Republicans who have called for Gonzo's resignation.

And today you can add a new number to the list:

4 - The number of additional USAs the Washington Post reports this morning were also on the DOJ's hit list, bringing the total number of USAs targeted for firing to 30, roughly one-third of the entire U.S. Attorney team across the country.

Oh, and might as well add these, too:

1 - The number of no-confidence votes Senate Democrats will offer against Gonzales as early as next week.

0 - The amount of shame/credibility/integrity/respectability Alberto Gonzales has left.

Bay Buchanan: The Doctor Is In

| Thu May 17, 2007 10:58 PM EDT

A few years ago, when Bush on the Couch was published by psychiatrist Justin A. Frank, his publicist invited me to review it. I declined on ethical grounds. Frank, having never met George W. Bush, is not qualified to diagnose him, despite his using the technique of "applied psychoanalysis" which permits the psychological analysis of a public figure, but which--in my opinion--shoud be limited to analysis of the dead. (I am a psychotherapist, and I know that if I did such a thing, my board would come down hard on me.)

Enter Bay Buchanan, who is most definitely not a mental health practitioner of any kind, but who has provided us with a casual diagnosis of Sen. Clinton. In her book, The Extreme Makeover of Hillary (Rodham) Clinton, Buchanan hints that Clinton may have narcissistic personality disorder. (Buchanan calls it "narcissistic personality style," a term which does not exist in the mental health repretoire.)

In describing how she reached that conclusion, Buchanan refers to an endnote in the book that does not exist. All the same, Buchanan says that "[W]e are talking about a clinical condition that could make her [Clinton] dangerously ill-suited to become President and Commander-in-Chief." She then covers herself by saying "I pass no judgment as to whether this shoe fits the Lady Hillary."

Diagnosing someone from afar, especially if you are not a mental health expert, is wildly irresponsible, even if you say "I don't really mean it, I'm just saying...." There are plenty of former presidents who weren't quite right, like Kennedy (drug addiction and sexual compulsion) and Nixon (alcoholism and violence), and Buchanan's colleagues are ga-ga about at least one of them, and sometimes both of them. It wouldn't be too difficult apply phony mental health language to other candidates, but I could have guessed that an armchair psychotherapist would go after Clinton. She is an "ambitious" woman, and she is married to Bill. Who needs more information than that?

Breaking: Wolfowitz Is Out

| Thu May 17, 2007 8:35 PM EDT

The World Bank and its president, Paul Wolfowitz, announced today that Mr. Wolfowitz will step down in June. The statement reveals that Bush won the terms he wanted for the neocon's departure. The bank's board suggested that its ethics policies "did not prove robust to the strain under which they were placed." Which is really just fancy language for "Wolfie almost got away with it," but manages to convey that the fault was somehow institutional, as Bush wanted. The board's statement also included this hard-to-swallow gem: Wolfowitz "assured us that he acted ethically and in good faith in what he believed were the best interests of the institution and we accept that." Obviously, he also acted in the best interests of his girlfriend, whose salary skyrocketed under the arrangement Wolfie brokered, even as he presented himself as a veritable crusader (there's that word again) against government corruption. But there you have it: Bush and Wolfie took a parting shot at the institution that fights world hunger. You gotta love these guys.

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Bush Opposes Pay Raises for Troops and Survivors

| Thu May 17, 2007 7:57 PM EDT

Last month, President Bush attacked congressional Democrats for depriving troops on the ground of funding by insisting on passing conditional funding bills they knew he would veto. Although Bush's claims were proven to be false—the war had already been funded through June, and even a long delay in reaching an agreement would only have caused the government a minor financial inconvenience—he continued to reiterate them, in the fashion of his Tourettes-inflicted vice president who could not stop saying that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11.

Now the Democrats have proposed a boost in survivor's benefits and a pay increase for the troops, who are facing increased danger since Bush's congressionally opposed surge began. Bush is threatening to veto the gesture of mercy. The president says military pay and benefits are already adequate. But that's not what Mother Jones found (and documented) in our Iraq 101 package. A widow with 3 children receives just $40,000 a year. And soldier's pay is so low that a quarter of military spouses applied for food stamps in 2004.

MySpace Outrage Was a Bit off Base

| Thu May 17, 2007 7:14 PM EDT

Mother Jones blogged earlier this week about the Pentagon's decision to prohibit soldiers from using MySpace or YouTube on DOD computers. There was a lot of outrage, but I think a clarification is in order: Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have never been allowed to use these sites on DOD-issue computers. They have been—and will continue to be—permitted to access them on privately issued computers available in internet "cafés" on base. In fact, soldiers, like the rest of us, are theoretically prohibited from conducting any personal business on company-issue computers. But up until now, troops deployed outside of war theatres have not been specifically blocked from using the bandwidth-consuming social networking sites. They and their families are the ones the ban will affect (although they, too, usually have some access to non-governmental computers).

Obama Won't Demote Oprah to VP

| Thu May 17, 2007 6:02 PM EDT

Via Taegan Goodard:

"I think Oprah is far more powerful than a vice president. I think that would be a demotion for her."

-- Sen. Barack Obama, interviewed on MSNBC this morning, on whether he would consider Oprah Winfrey as his running mate.

Afghanistan's "Staggering" Economic Growth Doesn't Stem Poverty

| Thu May 17, 2007 5:30 PM EDT

Recently, Alastair McKechnie, the World Bank director for Afghanistan, called the changes in Afghanistan "staggering." According to McKechnie, the Afghan economy has grown at a 10% rate, and though he concedes that there is no available data on unemployment, "people even in rural areas look more prosperous," and are "generally much better off."

Now the Bush administration has requested an additional $11.8 billion from Congress "to accelerate Afghan reconstruction projects and security forces training in 2007-2008," and to "help President Karzai defeat our common enemies." This, they claim, is to demonstrate a "commitment to the Afghan people."

Hopefully, the average Afghan, including the Afghan government, will reap some benefits, but so far it's not looking good. IRIN reports that since the 2001, about 60 donors have spent $13 billion in reconstruction and development activities; yet "out of every US dollar spent by donors in Afghanistan's reconstruction 80 cents finds its way out of the country." The "rest has been spent by donors themselves," with some Afghan officials stating that the money has been allocated through foreign subcontractors, leaving little accountability of where all the aid money is going.

In February, 64 countries and 11 international organizations met in London, pledging $10.5 billion to Afghanistan by 2010 for "security, governance and economic development." Not for the basic needs of the citizens, 6.5 million of whom are starving, most having no access to potable water, sanitation, and heath and social services, and more than half of Afghans living below the poverty line.

Further, the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out that perhaps 40% of promised aid is actually delivered, and,

"70% of U.S. aid is contingent upon the recipient spending it on American stuff, including especially American-made armaments. The upshot is that 86 cents of every dollar of U.S. aid is phantom aid."

Why has pouring billions of dollars into Afghanistan been important? It's for "reconstruction," but reconstructing Afghanistan for the purposes of the "Great Game"-- a game that's about energy exports and ensuring US hegemony in South Asia.

—Neha Inamdar