Pelosi told her colleagues that if it appears likely that Bush wants to take the country to war against Iran, the House would take up a bill to deny him the authority to do so, according to Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly.
BA: The president has to get another authorization for a war against Iran. It isn’t up to Nancy Pelosi or the House to prevent him; he doesn’t have the constitutional authority to just expand the war.
FP: What about actions short of invasion: air strikes or hot pursuit?
BA: Air strikes would be an invasion .... I think that the burden is very much on the president of the United States to ask for explicit authorization for an act of war against Iran. On every major military incursion, there is an elaborate ballet where the president says he has the power to do it and the Congress says, “You don’t have the power to do it.”
On a major incursion into another large Middle Eastern country ... the president will once again request the explicit authorization of Congress. When he was contemplating the invasion of Iraq, he was in a much stronger position politically—and he was still obliged to request authorization. And the same thing would happen again.
Ackerman may be optimistic here, given what we know about the Bush administration, and given Ayatollah Khamenei's repeated threat that Iran will retaliate if attacked. Matthew Yglesias outlines one scenario that could lead to war without Congressional authorization:
Say Israel bombs Natanz and Bush supports the Israelis diplomatically and warns Iran against retaliating. Then in Iraq there's some dramatic attack against US forces. In response, the President proclaims that the attacks were organized by Iran and orders, without first asking congress, a retaliatory bombing of Revolutionary Guard facilities. The military is going to obey that order, right? And congress isn't going to impeach and convict Bush, thus removing him from office, replacing him with Dick Cheney, right?
Senator Chuck Hagel is a true Republican maverick, often out of sync with the base of his party on foreign policy. But they keep electing the guy in Nebraska, in part because he makes gestures like this:
Chuck Hagel, the most outspoken dissident among the Republicans, sent his apologies to Mr Kissinger, explaining that his absence from the committee hearing was because he wanted to attend the funeral of a US lieutenant killed in Iraq.
Forgoing the paneled confines of Capitol Hill for a trip to tiny Falls City, Nebraska, for the slain soldier's funeral was a subtle, but nonetheless pointed statement on Kissinger's attempt to buck up Republican sentiment on Iraq.
I'm surprised there hasn't been more media hype of James Baker's upcoming visit to the Hill today:
James A. Baker III, the co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, has ended weeks of resistance and today will testify before Congress on the war, avoiding a split with his fellow co-chairman, former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.).
Sources familiar with the efforts to persuade Baker to testify said he did not want to appear to be lobbying against President Bush at the height of his push for 21,500 additional troops in Iraq.
Baker will answer senators’ questions today during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which includes three Democratic presidential hopefuls and Sen. Chuck Hagel (Neb.), the chamber’s most forceful Republican critic of the war, who also is mulling a White House bid.
I suppose a combination of Baker's desire to keep a low profile and the general understanding that the surge is a foregone conclusion explains the lack of coverage. Baker knows he got outmaneuvered. The hearing will be this afternoon at 1 p.m. My only question is whether Baker will push back on National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley's attempt to claim that the surge is, in fact, what the Iraq Study Group recommended.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee just approved S.Con.Res 2, the non-binding resolution drafted by Sens. Biden, Levin, and Hagel expressing disapproval over the White House plan to "surge" 21,500 more U.S. troops into Iraq. Vice President Dick Cheney reportedly had this to say before the vote:
It won't stop us, and it would be, I think, detrimental from the standpoint of the troops."
Was it just us, or was Dick Cheney texting during the big speech? What was so important?
Cheney: U R soooo lucky.
Gonzalez: Tell me about it.
Cheney: I 4got, no red wine. Furniture @ [undisclosed location] isn't scotch-guarded.
Gonzalez: n/p. btw, I tried on your power ties... So where do you keep the launch codes?
Cheney: Check next to the Wii.
Gonzalez: I still haven't spotted Hastert.
Cheney: Denny, where R U?
HouseSpeaker4Eva: I can't see. I'm sitting behind Dikembe Mutombo.
Cheney: Yo, we miss U up here big guy.
Thanks for joining us tonight.
A lot of the talking heads will be saying when this speech is over that the President didn't say much new tonight. But, like everything in politics, the interesting bits will be in the nuance. And there are a few fronts on which we should all listen carefully:
Bipartisanship: The one word "bipartisanship" has hardly been a hallmark of Bush’s administration, to say nothing of the two words "Congressional oversight." Watch for that to change tonight. If this speech will be about one thing, it will be bipartisanship.
Iran: We'll have a pretty good idea of whether Bush is readying plans to attack Iran when we see how many times he mentions the Islamic Republic tonight. In Bush's speech announcing the surge, I think he mentioned Iran something like six or seven times. And that was a speech about Iraq. I think a reasonable over-under on the number tonight is six. Beers on me if it's more than that.
Iraq: Bush's guns will be fully loaded on this front tonight. He'll accuse members like Chuck Hagel and John Warner of wanting to lose Iraq by saying that those who support the surge understand the consequences of failure. Watch also for Bush to talk about how he's consulted the "generals" on the surge. I don't know of any who support it. Bush might say otherwise.
Climate change: Keep an eye out for any talk about emissions caps coming out of the President’s mouth. Back in 2001, Bush said that the emission caps called for the Kyoto Protocol were "not based on science." Has he changed his mind? Or, like most people who just wish climate change would go away, will he put his faith in yet to be discovered "technology."
Immigration – It's all about "temporary worker" programs. Bush must get this accomplished before he leaves. A Democratic Congress will help. Watch for the applause-o-meter for the Republican reaction, particularly from House members.
Here we go … (below the fold)
Log on to Passport tonight at 9:00 p.m. EST, as we live-blog President Bush's State of the Union address and the Democratic response.
While debuting a new Washington sensation called State of the Union Bingo, we'll be watching to see whether Bush gives Nancy Pelosi a peck on the cheek after the House Sergeant at Arms calls out "Madame Speaker" for the first time in history.
More seriously, despite reports to the contrary, we're expecting a speech that will seriously engage foreign policy issues, not least of all Iraq and Iran. Bush and his speech writers know that Iraq—and only Iraq—will define his legacy. Now is the time to start spinning history. Only two presidents, Harry Truman and Richard Nixon, have had lower approval ratings before a State of the Union address. Iraq is the proverbial elephant in the room; ignoring it to focus solely on "domestic" issues will only drive those abysmal numbers lower. With Congressional Republicans bailing ship over the "surge," we're looking for Bush to be typically unrepentant.
We'll also be watching the applause-o-meter more closely tonight than at any time in the last six years. Pay attention to how the Dems respond on two key issues that aren't "domestic" at all: immigration and climate change. The new leadership in Congress has opened up new opportunities for Bush on both fronts. We should be able to gauge almost immediately where those issues are headed.
Please join us tonight.
Wonkette previews tonight's State of the Union address with a snippet from Tony Snow's press briefing yesterday:
Q Have you seen [the speech]?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Is it any good?
MR. SNOW: Yes, of course it's good. (Laughter.)
Q Does it have anything new in it?
MR. SNOW: Yes, it does.
Q What's the best part?
Q Really? I mean —
MR. SNOW: You know, it's difficult to say. It's like looking in a drawer full of diamonds.
Unfortunately, they're blood diamonds.
While questioning Condoleezza Rice at yesterday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Sen. Barbara Boxer implied that Condi isn't going to pay a personal price for sending more troops to Iraq because she is a single female:
Now, the issue is who pays the price. Who pays the price? I'm not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old and my grandchild is too young. You're not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with an immediate family. So who pays the price? The American military and their families."
Not-so-subtle dig alert. According to Political Punch, Boxer's office insists she was just trying to draw attention to the fact that few policymakers' families are affected by the war in Iraq. But here's my question: Would Sen. Boxer dare make this point to a single general without kids? Or another administration official, say, like Stephen Hadley (who has two teenage daughters) in a hearing? Aside from being in bad taste, it's just egregiously petty politics. The insinuation here, whether intended by Sen. Boxer or not, is two-fold: 1) There must be something wrong with a woman who chooses not to have a family and 2) that such a decision brings into question the woman's judgment.
There's also some ugly foreshadowing here. Condi is going to increasingly face this question in the next few years if she has political ambitions. The fact that she isn't married and has no children is a liability in American politics. It shouldn't be, but it is. The second is Boxer's insinuation that people without family members in the military may be less capable of critically judging a situation or more easily convinced to place troops in harm's way. I'm no fan of the surge plan. But implying that because Condi doesn't have a child of military age, she's less qualified or incapable of comprehending the gravity of decisions is just hitting below the belt.
In case you're wondering who on Capitol Hill stands where on the "surge," here's a select round-up of rebuttals and prebuttals to Bush's plan:
U.S. Sen. Orin Hatch (R-Nev.):
The President has articulated a fundamental change in strategy designed to win the war in Iraq ... and I believe it is an intelligent approach."
U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.):
[A] dangerously wrong-headed strategy that will drive America deeper into an unwinnable swamp...."
U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WVa.):
The escalation of forces into Baghdad has been tried.... The President has unveiled a plan that continues to chase his Iraq fantasy...."
U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY):
The President has not offered a new direction, instead he will continue to take us down the wrong road – only faster."
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC):
I was pleased to hear that the president plans to assign additional troops to provide on-the-ground security...."
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC):
President Bush makes a very persuasive case for strategy change."
U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I/D-CT):
I applaud the President for ... pursuing a new course to achieve success in Iraq.... [T]he President has offered a comprehensive program to chart a new course in ... winning."
U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA):
I oppose the so-called surge.... Our efforts in Iraq are a mess, and throwing in more troops will not improve it."
U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH):
This Administration is preparing to escalate the conflict."
U.S. Rep. John Boehner (R-OH):
I commend the President for recognizing that recent strategies have often failed to meet our expectations."
What's your reaction? Readers, email Passport with your thoughts on the surge.
About a month ago, I wrote about how CNN can't decide whether Rep.-Elect Keith Ellison is an icon or an enemy. Turns out, some of his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives can't decide either.
In case you've missed the news, Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota, also happens to be a Muslim. But it seems that people are having a hard time figuring out that one can be Muslim and American at the same time. Ellison, for example, was born in Detroit, one of the most American cities I know.
But in a letter being mailed out to constituents, U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode, a Republican from Virginia, is taking exception with Ellison's decision to have one hand on the Koran as he swears in his oath of office to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. In his letter, he says he can "not subscribe to using the Koran in any way." Then he goes on:
The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by voters of that district and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration, there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran."
Grasp the irony? Ellison will be taking an oath to defend the Constitution, the very document that guarantees his freedom to practice any religion he chooses, or none at all. The really sad irony here is that Virgil Goode represents a state that helped enshrine religious freedom into our national fabric. Here's another Virginian, Thomas Jefferson, writing in reference to the creation of the Virginia Act of Religious Freedom:
Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting 'Jesus Christ,' so that it would read 'A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;' the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.
My how times have changed.
That's a headline you don't see every day, but then again, there's no lack of irony in the way Democratics are handling their new budget power on Capital Hill. Is the incoming Senate appropriations czar, Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, really vowing to do away with earmarks? Give me a break. In the last 15 years, a fraction of his 47-year Senate career, Byrd has secured some $3 billion in earmarks for his home state. They don't call him the "king of pork" because he likes ham sandwiches.
Unless something changes, bridges and research labs in West Virginia won't be the only victims of the democrats impending reign. Also at risk is the $1 billion in planned 2007 federal funding for the fight against global poverty, AIDS, and malaria.
Rocker-activist Bono was on the Hill last week trying to get assurances from soon-to-be- Majority Leader Harry Reid that the funding would stay in place regardless of how the silly politics of budgeting plays out. Apparently, the meeting did not go so well. Bono had this to say:
I'm alarmed we could not get a commitment from the Democratic leadership to prevent the loss of $1 billion in the continuing resolution to fight AIDS, malaria and extreme poverty.... I don't know who's to blame. Democrats are blaming Republicans, Republicans are blaming Democrats. But the million people who were expecting bed nets don't care who's to blame. They just know that a promise made by the United States to keep their families safe is in danger of being broken next year.
One of the few positive foreign policy legacies of the Bush Administration will be its committment of tens of billions of dollars to the global fight against AIDS and poverty. It's a sad comment on the state of Congress that, under the leadership of the "liberal" democrats, this funding could fall victim to petty politics.
All of you out there obsessed with 2008 know that there's been some rampant speculation about when Barack Obama's first major political gaffe is going to hit the wires and take a little bit of the freshman senator's sheen away. Well, it may have just happened. Here's the story:
Tony Rezko, a Chicago political insider indicted this year on influence-peddling (charges unrelated to Obama), sold the senator a sliver of yard adjacent to his South Side home in June 2005.
After news of the deal broke last month in the Chicago Tribune, Obama said he had erred by creating the appearance that Rezko had done him a favor by selling him a portion of the lot....
"There's no doubt that this was a mistake on my part. 'Boneheaded' would be accurate," Obama said in a telephone interview Friday. "There's no doubt I should have seen some red flags in terms of me purchasing a piece of property from him."
Obama recently donated to charity $11,500 that Rezko had contributed to his federal campaign account.
I will say this: If this minor hiccup is the worst the senator has to offer, get those Obama '08 shirts ready.
If anyone is aghast that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert let slip the worst kept secret in international affairs - that Israel is a nuclear state - perhaps they should turn their sights on another blabbermouth: Bob Gates. During Gates's Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing last Tuesday, the nominee to replace Donald Rumsfeld as SecDef also let the "secret" slip:
SEN. GRAHAM: The president of Iran has publicly disavowed the existence of the Holocaust, he has publicly stated that he would like to wipe Israel off the map. Do you think he's kidding?
MR. GATES: No, I don't think he's kidding. And -- but I think that there are, in fact, higher powers in Iran than he, than the president. And I think that while they are certainly pressing, in my opinion, for a nuclear capability, I think that they would see it in the first instance as a deterrent. They are surrounded by powers with nuclear weapons -- Pakistan to their east, the Russians to the north, the Israelis to the west, and us in the Persian Gulf --
From Bob Gates's 1991 10-day confirmation hearing for CIA director:
SEN. METZENBAUM: You weren't at all concerned in your role as to the integrity of the agency, knowing that the impropriety of this act, knowing it violated American laws.
MR. GATES: Well, sir, I didn't have any indication that the action was a violation of the law.
SEN METZENBAUM:[...] The question we have to decide in our own mind is if he didn't see the wrong in yesteryear, if he didn't protest when he was in a position to protest, if he didn't raise issues when he could have raised issues, if he didn't report to the Congress when he should have reported to the Congress, what is the magical transformation that has taken place in Robert Gates when he comes before us today, yesterday, and the next several days for confirmation that makes that Robert Gates a different person than the one who didn't meet those same responsibilities in yesteryear? [...] It's a difficult question for us to decide.
From Bob Gates's 2006 confirmation hearing for secretary of defense:
Alex Wong/Getty Images
SEN. THUNE: Dr. Gates, I want to congratulate you on a very successful tenure as president of Texas A&M, culminating with the win over Texas in the football game this year. I'm sure your performance in that job is probably measured more by the battle for football supremacy in Texas than just about anything else, and something that my colleagues from Texas no doubt will want to stay out of, I'm quite guessing.
At Gates's Senate confirmation hearing today:
We are not winning the war in Iraq, is that correct?" Mr. McCain asked.
"That is my view, yes, senator," Mr. Gates replied, adding shortly afterward that the United States is not losing the war either.
A few days ago, the U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to urge America to end its nearly 50-year economic embargo of Cuba. Naysayers can be forgiven for pooh-poohing the vote. After all, the resolution was non-binding and it was the 15th straight year that it had been passed.
The U.S. mission at the United Nations responded with Foggy Bottom's usual Cuba rhetoric:
We maintain this embargo to demonstrate our continuing call for economic and political freedom for all Cubans," U.S. envoy Ronald Godard said.
But word is floating around Capitol Hill that, when the Democrats take charge in January, the Cuban embargo may be on the chopping block. Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), the incoming chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has said the embargo is a "total failure." In the House, Charlie Rangel (D-NY), who is set to become chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, has in the past sponsored legislation to end the embargo.
Any change in Cuba policy, of course, would require the signature of President Bush. That's hardly a guarantee. But embargo foes must be taking comfort in the fact that Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is stepping down in January. That may give his brother a little more wiggle room, should he desire it.
When it comes to Rep.-elect Keith Ellison of Minnesota, CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck just isn't sure. That's because Ellison is Muslim, which Beck said made him "nervous." Interviewing Ellison on Tuesday, Beck said he felt like questioning Ellison's loyalty to America. Then he said Ellison "could be" a shining example to European countries that are struggling with multiculturalism.
Seriously, this is why I refuse to watch CNN Headline News, which has the most thoughtless programming of any 24-hour news network. Here's a news flash for Glenn Beck and CNN producers: Not all Midwesterners are white. And they're not all Christian, either. Also, you might try learning a thing or two about a congressman-elect before you interview him. Ellison was born in Detroit, not Mogadishu. He hasn't "integrated" into America -- he was born here.
Here's the exchange:
BECK: [M]ay we have five minutes here where we're just politically incorrect and I play the cards face up on the table?
ELLISON: Go there.
BECK: OK. No offense, and I know Muslims. I like Muslims. I've been to mosques. I really don't believe that Islam is a religion of evil.... With that being said, you are a Democrat ... what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.' And I know you're not. I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way.
ELLISON: Well, let me tell you, the people of the Fifth Congressional District know that I have a deep love and affection for my country. There's no one who is more patriotic than I am. And so, you know, I don't need to -- need to prove my patriotic stripes.
BECK: I understand that. And I'm not asking you to.... And I think it's wonderful, honestly, I think it is really a good sign that you are a -- you could be an icon to show Europe, this is the way you integrate into a country.
Hat tip: Media Matters
Jai rightly flagged this story in the Morning Brief today as perhaps the most significant news of the day. Just a day after sitting down for an interview with the Iraq Study Group, the bipartisan commission tasked with charting a new course for the U.S. in Iraq, President Bush has announced his own, hastily-thrown-together review. The new internal review is set to present its findings at just about the same time the Iraq Study Group plans to reveal its recommendations next month. Money quote:
[T]he administration is basically trying to do in one month what the ISG has done over eight months.
In other words, Bush needs some recommendations that he wants to hear.
In the Weekly Standard, military historian Frederick Kagan punches some holes in the notion that America could move its forces to Kurdistan or Kuwait and still play an effective role in Iraq.
Over-the-horizon quick-reaction forces are simply a fantasy. We will not end up using them for all of the reasons given above and for one more: They will put our soldiers at far greater risk than they now face.
The piece is worth a close read; it's part of the nuts-and-bolts debate we need now. The election is over, so we can get beyond tired catch phrases and code words.
Yesterday, after it had released its official list of meetings, the Iraq Study Group did finally seek the opinions of Bill Clinton, Warren Christopher, Richard Holbrooke, and other foreign-policy hands whom I criticized them for ignoring. The group included Madeleine Albright, who apparently phoned in for five minutes or so from Minneapolis where she was giving a no doubt high-dollar speech. (No worries Madame Secretary, there are only thousands of lives at stake.) Yet, glaring omissions remain. Why, for instance, would the group not meet with Bush 41, a former president who not only ran the CIA but also won a war in the Middle East?
A quick look at the list seems, sadly, to validate the conclusion reached by Michael Kinsley in today's WaPo that those hoping that the commission will come up with some creative, miracle solution to the mess in Iraq are likely to be severely disappointed. In fact, aside from a few Iraqi government officials and Pentagon generals, it doesn't appear that the commission has spoken with anyone whose views are not widely available in the op-ed pages of the New York Times and Washington Post.
The list is notable for its exceptions. Here's who you will NOT find on the list:
1. Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad, perhaps the one U.S. official who has addressed the Iraq debacle with some candor and foresight -- and certainly the one official history will look kindly upon.
2. John McCain, Chuck Hagel, and John Kerry, three of the U.S. Senate's most notable veterans of combat. This one is mind blowing.
3. Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, two key architects of the war, one a former dean of one of the most prestigious IR schools in the country.
4. Madeleine Albright and Warren Christopher. The views of Team Clinton don't appear very welcome.
5. Henry Kissinger, the dean of the foreign-policy establishment.
6. George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. The former commanders in chief (one of whom actually won a war and flew 58 combat missions in WWII) remain on the sidelines.
7. Fouad Ajami,
Shibley Telhami, Bernard Lewis, Ray Takeyh, Kanan Makiya, and other notable scholars on the Middle East. This commission appears as isolated from the academy as the Bush administration is. [Thanks to a Passport reader for pointing out that Telhami is, in fact, a member of one of the ISG's working groups.]
Three people who did make the list: Bill Kristol, George Will, and Thomas Friedman.
From President Bush's radio address this weekend:
One freedom that defines our way of life is the freedom to choose our leaders at the ballot box. We saw that freedom earlier this week, when millions of Americans went to the polls to cast their votes for a new Congress. Whatever your opinion of the outcome, all Americans can take pride in the example our democracy sets for the world by holding elections even in a time of war.
Hat tip: Huffington Post
Now that the Democrats control both the Senate and the House, they're set to take over powerful congressional committees - and that has the Bush administration nervous about investigations into the management of the Iraq war, intelligence failures, and the fiasco that was Hurricane Katrina. So, who are a few of the new chairmen and what will be at the top of their agenda? The WSJ has a nice write-up, as does the BBC, and the WaPo devoted a spread today. Here's a brief breakdown of a few of the changes.
Senate Intelligence Committee: Jay Rockefeller (WV) wants to investigate the White House's case for invading Iraq.
Senate Subcommittee on Investigations: Carl Levin (MI) promises to look into no-bid contracts in Iraq, and as likely chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, may call for a reduction of U.S. troops there.
Senate Appropriations Committee: Expect Robert Byrd (WV) to balk at more emergency spending bills for the military.
House Foreign Relations Committee: Tom Lantos (CA) wants to push for talks with North Korea and Iran.
House Ways and Means Committee: Charles Rangel (NY) wants more labor and environmental standards in trade agreements and fewer tax incentives for companies that send jobs overseas.
House Committee on Homeland Security: Bennie Thompson (MS) wants to question Michael Chertoff about the lack of reconstruction progress since Hurricane Katrina.
House Government Reform Committee: Henry Waxman (CA) wants to investigate Halliburton's work in Iraq and oil-company profits.
House Judiciary Committee: John Conyers (MI) may reopen debate over military tribunals and warrantless wiretapping.
Democrats: Eager to bring accountability back into government? Here's a suggestion. Find out what happened to the nearly $9 billion dollars of Iraqi oil funds and reconstruction cash missing in action since the beginning of the war.
In the aftermath of the invasion, planes filled with shrink-wrapped bundles of $100 bills were flown into Baghdad. Wondering how much money fits into a plane? "It was $2 billion a flight, and I know of at least six flights," Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, told the BBC. Waiting at the airport for the planeloads of greenbacks was David Oliver. Head of the CPA's finance department, he handed much of this money over to the Iraqi provisional government. After that the paper trail grows colder. According to Mr. Bowen, some it found its way into the pockets of Iraqi politicians.
When asked by a reporter where the money went, Oliver replied he didn't know and didn't care. "Billions of dollars of their money disappeared, yes I understand, I'm saying what difference does it make?" In his defense, Oliver insists there were unexpected and pressing emergencies in the war's aftermath, with little time for accounting procedures. But early warnings had been issued by groups like Iraq Revenue Watch about the potential for mismangement and corruption. These were ignored.
For more on the incompetence and mismanagement of postwar Iraq, check out Rajiv Chandrasekaran's must-read "Who Killed Iraq?" in the last issue of FP.
If you're anything like us, you've been glued to your computer and television for poll results, press conferences, and high-level resignations for several days now. What a convenient time to release bad news or sweep unfortunate events under the rug. Here's some of what you missed when you were watching Anderson Cooper and Chris Matthews:
-Russia decided to weaken proposed sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program.
-Israeli bombs kill 20 in the Gaza town of Beit Hanun. Israel defends the action, calling it "preventative." Hamas calls off the cease-fire.
-The European Union puts Turkey on notice for human rights issues and its role in Cyprus or risk ending accession talks.
-The UN adopted a resolution condemning the U.S. embargo of Cuba.
Ok, there's no evidence whatsoever that any of this is tied to midterm elections in America. In fact, it's probably not. But with campaign season finally over on the Hill and issues from Iranian nukes to Iraqi security on the agenda, it's time for congress to get back to work.
It may not be popular with the public. It doesn't matter...."
That was Vice President Dick Cheney speaking about the Iraq war on Sunday. Everyone is interpreting the Rumsfeld firing as a sign that the Bush administration has - overnight - come to the realization that its policy in Iraq has failed and that, all of the sudden, public opinion matters.
Don't count on it. Despite last night's returns, there's no evidence that suggests the Bush administration is not still hopelessly isolated on Iraq. All one had to do was listen the Bush-Rumsfeld-Gates presser minutes ago when Rummy described Iraq as a "little understood" war that is "not well known" and "not well understood." Translation: The American people are dumb.
That's been a guiding principle of Bush's Iraq strategy all along. Relax, the American public has been told, we know what we are doing. They may have offered up Rummy as a sacrificial lamb, but something makes me doubt that the president and vice president woke up this morning suddenly believing the American people are more wise than they.
We'll know just how "changed" the Bush administration now is when Gates's confirmation hearings begin. Like Condi, Gates is an old-school cold warrior and a Soviet specialist. The question is whether he still believes in proven bedrocks of American foreign policy such as containment, or whether, like Condi, he believes that 9/11 was a paradigm shift that has rendered those bedrock principles obsolete. Stay tuned.
The President today declared a major disaster exists in the State of Missouri and ordered Federal aid to supplement State and local recovery efforts in the area struck by severe storms during the period of July 19-21, 2006.”
As The Note notes its, "Interesting timing to declare federal aid on its way to the Show-Me State just as the President plans a day of campaigning there." Don't rule out federal assistance for the New Madrid earthquake before Tuesday. That happened in 1812, but, hey, better late than never.
If the Democrats take control of Congress in November, do you think the threat of terrorism against the United States would increase, decrease, or stay about the same?
Increase Decrease Same DK/NA 22 18 57 2
If the Republicans keep control of Congress in November, do you think the threat of terrorism against the United States would increase, decrease, or stay about the same?
Increase Decrease Same DK/NA 27 14 57 2
If the Rove and Mehlman machine can make the Republicans survive this election, it really does deserve its status as Washington's favorite caveat.
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