Archive for July, 2005

Marshall: Sen. Roberts a ‘Wholly-Owned Subsidiary of the White House Political Operation’

Sunday, July 24th, 2005

Having plowed through a lot of Senator Pat Roberts’ (R-KS) actions and statements in connection with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s Report on Iraqi WMD Intelligence, I have to agree wholeheartedly with Joshua Micah Marshall’s take on Robert’s latest act of political cover for Bush (scheduling hearings to discuss how the CIA has been lax in protecting the cover of agents like Valerie Plame/Wilson): What a sad state we’ve come to…

Sen. Roberts has turned the Intel Committee into an arm of Karl Rove’s political operation. In the truest sense of the word, Sen. Roberts is a hack, a shame to his office.


Rich on the Plame-Outing Elephant

Sunday, July 24th, 2005

Frank Rich’s latest op-ed in the New York Times talks some more about the Plame-outing elephant I was ranting about the other day: Eight days in July. Among other great observations, he suggests that Alberto Gonzales’ failure to be nominated to the Supreme Court is a result of the scandal:

But the scandal has metastasized so much at this point that the forgotten man Mr. Bush did not nominate to the Supreme Court is as much a window into the White House’s panic and stonewalling as its haste to put forward the man he did. When the president decided not to replace Sandra Day O’Connor with a woman, why did he pick a white guy and not nominate the first Hispanic justice, his friend Alberto Gonzales? Mr. Bush was surely not scared off by Gonzales critics on the right (who find him soft on abortion) or left (who find him soft on the Geneva Conventions). It’s Mr. Gonzales’s proximity to this scandal that inspires real fear.

As White House counsel, he was the one first notified that the Justice Department, at the request of the C.I.A., had opened an investigation into the outing of Joseph Wilson’s wife. That notification came at 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 29, 2003, but it took Mr. Gonzales 12 more hours to inform the White House staff that it must “preserve all materials” relevant to the investigation. This 12-hour delay, he has said, was sanctioned by the Justice Department, but since the department was then run by John Ashcroft, a Bush loyalist who refused to recuse himself from the Plame case, inquiring Senate Democrats would examine this 12-hour delay as closely as an 18½-minute tape gap. “Every good prosecutor knows that any delay could give a culprit time to destroy the evidence,” said Senator Charles Schumer, correctly, back when the missing 12 hours was first revealed almost two years ago. A new Gonzales confirmation process now would have quickly devolved into a neo-Watergate hearing. Mr. Gonzales was in the thick of the Plame investigation, all told, for 16 months.

Thus is Mr. Gonzales’s Supreme Court aspiration the first White House casualty of this affair. It won’t be the last.

Good followup, including links to video from the weekend talking-heads shows, at TalkLeft: Alberto Gonzales told Card immediately about preservation order.

Corn Quotes Marcinkowski on Plame/Rove

Friday, July 22nd, 2005

David Corn quotes former CIA case officer and prosecutor James Marcinkowski, who testified at one of those unofficial hearings Congressional Democrats have been forced to hold lately to try to publicize issues that the Republican leadership refuses to talk about: A CIA vet’s messge for the save-Rove spinners: “A true patriot would shut up”.

There is a very serious message here. Before you shine up your American flag lapel pin and affix your patriotism to your sleeve, think about what the impact your actions will have on the security of the American people. Think about whether your partisan obfuscation is creating confidence in the United States in general and the CIA in particular. If not, a true patriot would shut up.

The whole thing is very much worth reading.

Corn, Marshall on Rove/Plame. And I See an Elephant.

Friday, July 22nd, 2005

While the rest of the pack is off yammering on the trail of Justice-to-be John Roberts, David Corn continues to wonder about the possibility of a Karl Rove (and Scooter Libby) frogmarch: A conspiracy charge for the White House?

Meanwhile, Joshua Micah Marshall has this item: Ever wonder why… It covers some really interesting material in a recent New York Times article (For two aides in leak case, 2nd issue rises) that suggests that Rove and Libby basically wrote George Tenet’s falling-on-his-sword statement, when he took credit for Bush’s 16 words in the 2003 State of the Union address:

WASHINGTON, July 21 – At the same time in July 2003 that a C.I.A. operative’s identity was exposed, two key White House officials who talked to journalists about the officer were also working closely together on a related underlying issue: whether President Bush was correct in suggesting earlier that year that Iraq had been trying to acquire nuclear materials from Africa.

The two issues had become inextricably linked because Joseph C. Wilson IV, the husband of the unmasked C.I.A. officer, had questioned Mr. Bush’s assertion, prompting a damage-control effort by the White House that included challenging Mr. Wilson’s standing and his credentials. A federal grand jury investigation is under way by a special counsel to determine whether someone illegally leaked the officer’s identity and possibly into whether perjury or obstruction of justice occurred during the inquiry.

People who have been briefed on the case said the White House officials, Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby, were helping prepare what became the administration’s primary response to criticism that a flawed phrase about the nuclear materials in Africa had been in Mr. Bush’s State of the Union address six months earlier.

They had exchanged e-mail correspondence and drafts of a proposed statement by George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, to explain how the disputed wording had gotten into the address. Mr. Rove, the president’s political strategist, and Mr. Libby, the chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, coordinated their efforts with Stephen J. Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser, who was in turn consulting with Mr. Tenet.

You know, you see a writhing trunk snake by, feel the whisk of a tail brushing past you, lean up against a tree trunk of a leg, and at a certain point it stops being all those things, and becomes an elephant.

I know I talk a lot of trash about Bush. I was pretty much a hater from day one. But during all my complaining during the run-up to war, I didn’t really know what was going on. I had an ideological and philosophical perspective that screamed out at me that what was happening was wrong, and I talked about it, but there were big elements of faith in what I was saying. I was seeing the trunk and the tail and the rest, and going on and on about the elephant that I truly believed was there, but I didn’t see it.

Now I see it. And yeah, it’s an elephant.

Or let’s trot out another metaphor. It’s like when you free-fuse those 3D stereograms, and you’re squinting, and your head is hurting, and you’re catching little pieces of it; you can see that there’s something poking out here, and there’s something weird going on over there. And then bam, you’re staring at an F-16.

That’s me with the Bush administration in these last few days. I get it now. And yeah, it’s mostly what I’ve been saying it was all along, but now it’s not just me being paranoid. It’s right there, in the open.

Bush and Rove are of a piece. Their total focus is spinning reality. It’s about getting power, and keeping power, and lying isn’t just an occasional means to that end; it’s the thread they twist to make the yarn, the loom they use to weave it, and the finished fabric they drape over the real world to create the false world they’re selling. And yeah, all politicians do the same thing, but they’ve taken it further.

They operate in a zone of perpetual suspension of disbelief. They’re willing to tell any lie, violate any norm. For them, it’s basically a game of chicken, a contest to see who can be the most ruthless, the most audacious, and they’ve made it as far as they have by taking that to its logical conclusion.

You want to go to war? Whip up some evidence and go for it. You need to burn a CIA agent to neutralize an opponent? Do it. The Iraq war justification was their biggest piece of spin to date, and they totally pulled it off; they planned it and executed it with a coordination and attention to detail that’s really quite breathtaking. But it’s all bullshit, and it has become more and more frayed as time goes on. And now, with the Fitzgerald investigation, it’s threatening to come completely unraveled.

Rovebush (Bushrove?) operate in a realm where truth has no meaning, no power. They are the masters of that realm, the gods of that realm, and they have steadily amassed an army of fellow conspirators who will say whatever they tell them to say, as often as they need them to say it. I’m sure they believe they can convince pretty much anyone of anything.

But Fitzgerald doesn’t operate in that realm. He operates in the legal realm, which is all about truth. If this gets to court, the Rovebush side will spin, sure, but it won’t be the asymmetrical warfare they normally practice. There will be rules, and the other side will get equal time, and the truth, if sufficiently clear, will trump their spin.

I don’t know what’s going to happen to the elephant. It may end up standing out in the middle of the circus tent with the spotlight on it while the crowd gasps in shock. Or it may slip off through an opening in the tent and disappear from view. I still don’t know about that part.

But I know what I see. on the Iraq Body Count

Wednesday, July 20th, 2005

An occasional criticism of my monthly posting of US fatalities in the Iraq war is that the numbers belie the larger number of innocent Iraqis who also are dying. It’s a good point; my main defense is that it’s harder to get those numbers. But not impossible. See this item from, describing a new study from Iraq Body Count and the Oxford Research Group: Iraq body count.

The people at the Iraq Body Count project and the Oxford Research Group have released what appears to be a quite careful and judicious report counting and analyzing Iraqi civilian casualties since the beginning of the war. They count 24,865 civilians (just civilians, not soldiers or recruits or insurgents) killed in Iraq in the two years stretching from March 20, 2003 to March 19, 2005, and they estimate that there have been more than three injuries for every death. Nearly half of the reported deaths were in Baghdad (likely that proportion is so high in part because Baghdad is the best-reported of Iraq’s conflict-ridden areas, and because of the good quality of mortuary data there); about one in every 500 Baghdad civilians has been killed violently since March 2003. Baghdad didn’t have the highest number of civilian deaths per capita, though; that honor, among the larger cities, went to Fallujah, where the number rose to 1 in 136.

About 37% of those folks were killed by U.S. forces. Just under 11% were killed by insurgent forces, and about 5% were caught in cross-fire in which both groups participated. That leaves 36% killed in the continuing wave of violent crime that followed the war, enabled by the absence of police and the easy availability of weapons (this is an “excess” figure, subtracting out the average number of pre-war killings over a two-year period), and 11% who could not be classified.

The vast bulk of the 9,270 civilian killings by U.S.-led forces took place either in March 20-April 30 2003 (6882 reported civilian deaths, or 164 per day), or in April-November 2004 (2038 civilian deaths, or between eight and nine per day for the eight-month period). During other calendar periods, U.S.-led forces have killed, on average, fewer than one Iraqi civilian per day.

Counting dead bodies, reducing the lost lives to ticks on a piece of paper, is a lousy way to get at the reality of what’s going on in Iraq. But I think it may be at least slightly less lousy than not even giving those deaths that much attention. In any event, I think these numbers are significant, and are worth thinking about.

Bialik Outs Out-of-Context Movie Review Blurbs

Wednesday, July 20th, 2005

I enjoyed this item in which Carl Bialik of Gelf Magazine traces over-the-top quotes from movie reviews to their actual in-context sources: Blurb Racket 6/24/05.

The Girl in the Café (HBO)
Oregonian: “An endearing romantic comedy.”
Actual line: “This new offering from HBO Films is at its heart a bit of political propaganda wrapped into an endearing romantic comedy that starts losing its laughs when it gets to Reykjavik and decides its teachable moment has arrived.”

BAGnewsNotes on Roberts

Wednesday, July 20th, 2005

BAGnewsNotes comments on the images being chosen to craft our initial take on Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts: First impressions.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: You Want Squirrels? Then You Get Burton.

Tuesday, July 19th, 2005

Tim Burke of Easily Distracted doesn’t much like Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Woof, Woof! Zap!

I’ve never seen a filmmaker so capable of getting so many things right and then just colossally miscalculating with horrible plot ideas or stagings that rip the guts out of everything he’s done to that point in the film.

Specifically, Burke hates Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Willie Wonka, and really hates the backstory about Wonka’s dad, the candy-hating dentist.

Well, even through the haze of the icepick behind my right eyeball that is my particular manifestation of a migraine headache, I managed to really enjoy watching this movie yesterday, and I have to disagree with Burke. This is a great film.

No, it’s not sweetly magical like the 1971 version with Gene Wilder. (Note: Burke doesn’t make that comparison. I’m responding here to some other reviews I’ve seen.) It’s darkly comic and grim. But unlike that earlier adaptation, which stylistically was standard kiddie-musical fluff, this is Tim Burton at his insane best, which means you get Vision with a capital V.

With a few prominent exceptions (mainly, the aforementioned treatment of Wonka’s character), the movie is heart-breakingly true to the book, in ways that the 1971 movie wholly missed. Which isn’t surprising, in that screenwriter John August was a childhood fan of the book who somehow had never seen the 1971 version when he was approached to do the screenplay, and who was stopped by Burton from seeing the earlier film specifically so that his approach wouldn’t be tainted by the earlier movie’s choices.

Anyway, as with Peter Jackson & Co.’s changes to The Two Towers, I don’t think it’s fair to criticize Burton and August for fleshing out Wonka’s character, because we didn’t see the movie that would have been produced had they failed to make those changes. It’s all well and good to lament that a favorite book has (gasp!) been changed on its way to the screen, but movies have a different artistic imperative than books do. If this movie had the unchanging, wryly omniscient Wonka of Roald Dahl’s book, Burke might have left the theater vaguely appreciative of the adaptation’s faithfulness, but fundamentally dissatisfied by the character’s failure to connect with him on an emotional level.

In any event, such scenarios must remain hypothetical, because this was Tim Burton’s movie, to deliver as he chose, and deliver he has. At the core of Dahl’s book are the darkly sadistic punishments that Charlie’s four awful companions bring upon themselves. When depicting those fates, the 1971 movie gave us cute. They replaced Veruca Salt’s frankly-unfilmable manhandling by nut-shelling squirrels with the much-tamer golden-egg-laying geese.

But for Tim Burton, ‘unfilmable’ isn’t a warning. It’s a challenge. And Veruca’s on-screen fate in this film is a childhood nightmare made real: at once hilarious and horrifying. As are the catastrophes that befall each of the other naughty children.

Tim Burton\'s squirrels prepare to deal with Veruca Salt

Yes, it’s a Tim Burton movie, with all the pluses and minuses that go along with that. For myself, I give the nod to the pluses. Thumbs way up.

Today from Buster’s Obsession with Jon Stewart’s Couch

Tuesday, July 19th, 2005

Something of a one-trick pony, but still kind of funny: Bring back the couch.

Cole: Did Bush Team’s Outing Lead to London Bombings?

Tuesday, July 19th, 2005

No, not that politically motivated outing of a national security asset, a different politically motivated outing of a national security asset. With the Bush White House, it’s hard to keep track, I realize, but Juan Cole has the details: The outing of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan: State of play.

I actually did not begin by being critical of the Ridge announcement. I remember being interviewed by a print reporter on August 3 or so, and declining to dismiss the press conference as pure politics. I didn’t say anything negative about it at my weblog at the time. What impelled me to begin following the story and to speak out about it was the Reuter report of August 6, which made the case that the Bush administration had leaked Khan’s name as part of its public relations use of terrorism. That allegation seems to have been incorrect in its specifics.

The Reuters story still does seem to me to hold water, however, at a more general level. After understanding that Ridge set in train the events that led to Khan’s outing, I think it was a huge mistake. It would have been better to keep quiet and use Khan to get more and more of al-Qaeda, maybe even Bin Laden himself. I do not know if the Bush administration made the announcement to take the spotlight off the Kerry campaign right after the Democratic National Convention, but Paul Krugman and others have persuasively argued that the Bush administration does time such announcements for political purposes. The British security officials have the better instincts here.

Raza on Crick

Tuesday, July 19th, 2005

From 3quarksdaily, Abbas Raza talks about the role aesthetics play when scientists seek explanations: Francis Crick’s beautiful mistake.

Still Yet More on Plame/Rove

Tuesday, July 19th, 2005

(Plaintive whine from the back seat: “Are we there yet?” Exasperated response from the blog’s driver: “We’ll get there when we get there!”)

I was down with a migraine during my prime obsession window yesterday, so I didn’t get a chance to update you all. But here’s what I’ve been reading about the Plame-outing story lately:

Raimondo: The Other Shoe in Rove/Plame Has Yet to Drop

Sunday, July 17th, 2005

A detailed exploration of what might be going on behind the scenes of Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation into Rove/Plame from’s Justin Raimondo: Rove-gate: Who Leaked to the Leakers?

This isn’t about Rove.

It’s about a cabal of war hawks inside the administration who passed on this information to others without telling them about Plame-Wilson’s deep cover status, perhaps suggesting that she was just an analyst working at a desk rather than a covert operative involved in a vitally important overseas operation, the knowledge of which was highly compartmentalized and only dispensed on a need-to-know basis. When Rove and his shills blabbed to reporters and anyone who would listen, they didn’t realize that they were aiding and abetting an elaborate ploy to stick it to the CIA.

Marshall on What Wilson Got Wrong

Sunday, July 17th, 2005

Joshua Micah Marshall offers an interesting explantion of one of the side issues in the Rove/Plame scandal: Yesterday evening, I started making a new timeline… He talks about how Joseph Wilson charged in his initial “what I didn’t find in Africa” piece that Vice President Cheney’s office either knew or should have known the results of his investigation into the Niger uranium allegations. But what Wilson missed was that the program to skew the intelligence was more sophisticated than that.

So Wilson didn’t say he’d seen the report back to the vice president or that he knew for a fact that one had been sent. He said that he’d been in government long enough to know that this was standard procedure and that he was confident that it had been. And if it had this amounted to an indictment of the administration.

Only it hadn’t, or that’s what the people in the White House say. And unlike the question of whether his wife recommended him for the job, this actually is a relevant fact in understanding the story.

So the question is, why?

The explanation confected by the authors of the SSCI report was the rather contradictory one that either Wilson’s trip generated no substantive information or that it in fact tended to confirm suspicions of an illict uranium traffic between the two countries. No one who’s looked at the evidence involved believes that. Nor is that cover story compatible with the CIA’s subsequent and repeated attempts to prevent the White House from using the Niger story.

Here in Pincus’s reporting — before the evidentiary and political battle lines were drawn — is the answer: “Information not consistent with the administration agenda was discarded.”

It never made it back to Cheney’s office because it wasn’t what Cheney’s office wanted to hear. They were looking for evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program, not ambiguous data and certainly not evidence that contradicted the claim.

In this key respect, the dismissal of the information is displaced from the VP’s office to the CIA. And the reason is that they already understood what was wanted and what wasn’t.

This makes a lot of sense to me, and having read pretty much the entirety of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on Iraq WMD intelligence, and doing my best to sift through the spin applied to that report by Senator Pat Roberts, the committee chairman, it seems to jive pretty well with what’s in that document, too.

The intelligence was cooked in stages. At the bottom, where the front-line career analysts prepared the initial version, it was balanced, nuanced, and guarded, accurately reflecting what was and wasn’t known about Saddam’s WMD. As it moved up through the hierarchy, these analyses merged with other streams of intelligence, some of them (the State Department’s contributions, the Energy Department’s contributions) similarly professional, others (the Office of Special Plans’ contributions) less so. But (and this is key), the higher in the hierarchy it went, the more the intelligence morphed toward the storyline being told publicly by Bush and his senior officials. The suspect streams were emphasized. The nuanced ones were de-emphasized. The caveats got shoved into footnotes, then dropped altogether. When it hit the level of CIA Director George Tenet, it got a final shellacing to make it conform with the party line, and when what was left at the end of that process landed on Bush’s (or Cheney’s) desk, it was neat, tidy, and ready to go: a slam-dunk case that nevertheless turned out to be both 1) completely wrong, and 2) still blameable (with the active assistance of friends in Congress, like Senator Roberts) on the low-level analysts.

Frank Rich on the Real Meaning of Rove/Plame

Saturday, July 16th, 2005

One of the best things I’ve read on Rove/Plame so far is this op-ed piece from tomorrow’s NYT, by Frank Rich: Follow the uranium. As a bonus feature, it quotes Jon Stewart, which is pretty cool in my book: The fake journalist who actually speaks the truth is newsworthy enough to get his quips quoted by the real journalists:

The morning after Mr. McClellan went mano a mano with his tormentors in the White House press room – “We’ve secretly replaced the White House press corps with actual reporters,” observed Jon Stewart – the ardently pro-Bush New York Post ran only five paragraphs of a wire-service story on Page 12. That conspicuous burial of what was front-page news beyond Murdochland speaks loudly about the rising anxiety on the right.

But the best thing about the piece is the way it pulls back and offers a wide-angle view of the affair, in which it’s not Joe Wilson, or Valerie Plame, but the way Bush sold the Iraq war with bogus claims about Saddam’s nuclear program, that is the real heart of the matter.

Let me reiterate: This case is not about Joseph Wilson. He is, in Alfred Hitchcock’s parlance, a MacGuffin, which, to quote the Oxford English Dictionary, is “a particular event, object, factor, etc., initially presented as being of great significance to the story, but often having little actual importance for the plot as it develops.” Mr. Wilson, his mission to Niger to check out Saddam’s supposed attempts to secure uranium that might be used in nuclear weapons and even his wife’s outing have as much to do with the real story here as Janet Leigh’s theft of office cash has to do with the mayhem that ensues at the Bates Motel in “Psycho.”

This case is about Iraq, not Niger. The real victims are the American people, not the Wilsons. The real culprit – the big enchilada, to borrow a 1973 John Ehrlichman phrase from the Nixon tapes – is not Mr. Rove but the gang that sent American sons and daughters to war on trumped-up grounds and in so doing diverted finite resources, human and otherwise, from fighting the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. That’s why the stakes are so high: this scandal is about the unmasking of an ill-conceived war, not the unmasking of a C.I.A. operative who posed for Vanity Fair.

My Guesses on What’s Really Going on in Rove/Plame

Saturday, July 16th, 2005

Josh Marshall has a brief, sarcastic take on yesterday’s news stories, apparently the result of anonymous leaking by Rove’s Lawyer, Robert Luskin, of what is alleged to be Rove’s testimony before the grand jury in the Plame-outing case: It’s amazing how much can happen…

Oddly enough, I’m told, this version of events from the Rove camp apparently absolves him of any wrongdoing in the whole affair.

Marshall links to some detailed speculation on the meaning of the leaked Rove testimony by reporter Murray Waas: Front page fronts:

The coverage underscores the secrecy surrounding Fitzgerald’s grand-jury investigation. The few leaks that constitute public knowledge of the investigation’s progress have largely come from one side: the defense attorneys’. And what they have to say is oftentimes self-serving, misleading, and in some cases untrue. Their all-too-willing collaborators have been the nation’s leading newspapers.

In the meantime, however, what has propelled the investigation — and led to the extraordinary jailing of the Times’ Judith Miller — has been the strong belief by federal investigators that Rove, Novak, and others may have misled them and the public, and that one or more of the participants may have devised a cover story with others to avoid public or legal culpability.

What follows is my personal opinion. I’m not saying it’s provably true. It’s simply my best take on what’s really happening behind the scenes on this, based on the hints and nuances in all that’s been going on, and the various parties’ track records in similar circumstances in the past.

I don’t think this latest batch of stories is credible. The leaks and on-the-record statements by Luskin, Robert Novak’s own frequently-changing story, the talking points from the Republican National Committee, the pattern of statements (and then non-statements) from Bush and Scott McClellan; they all fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. They are the result of a conscious, coordinated effort by the White House (by which I mean, Rove acting in close consultation and concert with Bush and to a lesser extent with the entire Republican Party apparatus) to win the public relations war in a case where the facts are clearly and overwhelmingly damning.

That basically characterizes the initial Plame outing by Novak, as well as the recent response to the events triggered by Matt Cooper’s email. This is also very reminiscent of the pattern we saw when Richard Clarke blew the whistle on Bush’s pre-9/11 ball-dropping on al Qaeda, and is consistent with Rove’s trademark character-assassination efforts in previous political contests.

Rove outed Plame, with Robert Novak serving as the mouthpiece. Rove may not have specifically known that Plame was an undercover operative at the time he conspired with Novak to out her; I don’t think he cared very much either way. When he’s in spin mode I don’t think the truth matters much at all to him, except to the extent that the public’s knowledge of it serves to constrain his options.

For my part, I think Rove and Bush have been working together on this from day one, that the Plame outing was a conscious smear attempt, meant not to retaliate against Wilson, as Wilson has alleged, but simply to undercut his criticisms by calling into question his qualifications, and his selection by the CIA as the person to go to Africa and check out the Nigerian yellowcake allegations.

To repeat what I’ve said before, everything at this point depends on Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. I think it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that he possesses evidence that top officials in the White House, including Rove (and conceivably extending even to Bush, though I think it would be uncharacteristically sloppy by Rove/Bush if they had let such evidence come into existence) engaged in the possibly-illegal leaking of Plame’s identity, as well as a certainly-illegal criminal conspiracy to concoct a false cover story about the event and tell it to the grand jury.

So, assuming he has that evidence, what does he do with it? Does he go up against the most-powerful political machine I’ve seen operating in this country in my lifetime? If so, we could be in for the most spectacular character-assassination attempt by Karl Rove yet: The destruction, through political smear tactics and backroom Machiavellian maneuvering, of an opponent not simply in an election campaign, but in a criminal prosecution in which he, Rove, is the direct target.

Hell; if Rove can pull that off, he probably deserves to run the country.

Let me go one step farther in my hypothetical speculation. Let’s assume Fitzgerald does decide to prosecute Rove. The trial is under way, and it’s increasingly clear that Rove is going to be convicted. What does Bush do?

Rove isn’t called “Bush’s brain” for no reason. The two of them are the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a dual presidency; certainly much moreso than Bill and Hillary. Even in that scenario, I think Bush would be as unwilling to fire him as he would be to cut off his own arm. The Bush/Rove machine would continue to spin things as long as it could, until, when no other option was available, Rove would resign, and Bush would promptly pardon him. And the Republican spin machine would go into high gear (indeed, probably would already be in high gear) praising this noble act of protecting someone who had been the victim of an unfair and dishonest prosecution by the left-leaning, mentally unstable child molester who had somehow managed to sneak his way into the role of U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

Dana Stevens Recoils in Horror from the New Daily Show Set

Friday, July 15th, 2005

I’d say that Slate’s Dana Stevens has been spending too much time thinking about The Daily Show — except that technically, I don’t think that’s possible. Anyway, be sure to check out her in-depth analysis of the new set: Talk show feng shui – Is anyone else freaked out by The Daily Show’s new studio set?

Fun Flash Games

Friday, July 15th, 2005

I’m not sure how to categorize this, but I guess I’d call it a cross between sports and drugs. Anyway, it’s Good experience games, a site listing lots of fun little flash games.

The Gitmo/Abu Ghraib Connection

Friday, July 15th, 2005

Here’s another example of new data confirming something that we in the reality-based community already knew: the hijinks at Abu Ghraib were not the brainchild of a few bored guards with too much time and not enough training. The techniques arrived at Abu Ghraib along with Maj. General Geoffrey Miller, who had helped develop them at Gitmo specifically as a tool for extracting information from high-value prisoners. Kevin Drum talks about Andrew Sullivan’s take on the issue in The Schmidt report, while Washington Post staff writer Josh White weighs in with Abu Ghraib tactics were first used at Guantanamo. Quoting from the latter:

The report’s findings are the strongest indication yet that the abusive practices seen in photographs at Abu Ghraib were not the invention of a small group of thrill-seeking military police officers. The report shows that they were used on [alleged “20th hijacker” Mohamed] Qahtani several months before the United States invaded Iraq.

The investigation also supports the idea that soldiers believed that placing hoods on detainees, forcing them to appear nude in front of women and sexually humiliating them were approved interrogation techniques for use on detainees.

A central figure in the investigation, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who commanded the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and later helped set up U.S. operations at Abu Ghraib, was accused of failing to properly supervise Qahtani’s interrogation plan and was recommended for reprimand by investigators. Miller would have been the highest-ranking officer to face discipline for detainee abuses so far, but Gen. Bantz Craddock, head of the U.S. Southern Command, declined to follow the recommendation.

defective yeti, Larry Johnson, Kevin Drum, Krugman on Rove/Plame: Background and Meaning

Friday, July 15th, 2005

Here are the four best things I’ve read on the Rove/Plame scandal since I last updated you all. From defective yeti, a really good primer on what the story is about: Roving reporter. Similarly, Larry Johnson focuses on the heart of the matter in The big lie about Valerie Plame.

From Kevin Drum of Washington Monthly: Rove vs. Nixon. And from Paul Krugman: Karl Rove’s America. For Drum and Krugman, the Rove/Plame story represents a fundamental challenge to their notions of what kind of country they’re living in. I know how they feel.