During a press conference today, President Bush was confronted about recent accusations made by former Deputy Attorney General James Comey regarding the White House's shocking efforts to seek legal sanction for its warrantless wiretapping program. According to Comey, Bush personally directed a White House effort to bypass Comey’s authority and seek approval from John Ashcroft, who was then hospitalized and in intensive care.
Now the non-denial, denials...
Q: There's been some very dramatic testimony before the Senate this week from one of your former top Justice Department officials who describes a scene that some Senators called stunning, about a time when the warrantless wiretap program was being reviewed. Sir, did you send your then chief of staff and White House counsel to the bedside of John Ashcroft while he was ill to get him to approve that program, and do you believe that kind of conduct from White House officials is appropriate?
BUSH: Kelly, there's a lot of speculation about what happened and what didn't happen. I'm not going to talk about it. It's a very sensitive program. I will tell you that one, the program was necessary to protect the American people and it's still necessary, because there's still an enemy that wants to do us harm, and therefore I have an obligation to put in place programs that honor the civil liberties of the American people - a program that was, in this case, constantly reviewed, and briefed to the United States Congress. And the program, as I say, is an essential part of protecting this country, and so there will be all kinds of talk about it. As i say, I'm not going to move the issue forward by talking about something as highly classified subject. I will tell you, however, that the program was necessary.
Q: Was it on your order, sir?
BUSH: As I said, the program is a necessary program that was constantly reviewed and constantly briefed to the Congress. It's an important part of protecting the United States, and it's still an important part of our protection, because there's still an enemy that would like to attack us, no matter how calm it may seem in America, an enemy lurks and they would like to strike. They would like to do harm to the American people, because they have an agenda. They want to impose an ideology. They want us to retreat from the world. They want to find safe haven, and these just aren't empty words. These are the words of al Qaeda themselves, and so we will put in place programs to protect the American people that honor the civil liberties of our people and programs that we constantly brief to Congress.
The question is, does he really believe that the American people are still falling for this crap? I don't think soooo....
WASHINGTON: Ever since Republicans lost control of Congress, President George W. Bush has known a fight like this could come.
The battle over the congressional inquiry into the firing of eight federal prosecutors is not one of Bush's choosing. But now that it has been thrust upon him, Bush is defiantly refusing to allow Karl Rove and other top aides to testify publicly in an inquiry into the firing of the prosecutors, and standing by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
In doing so, the president is sending a message to Democrats on Capitol Hill. He may be a lame duck and his poll numbers may be down, but he will protect those closest to him, defend his presidential powers and run his White House the way he sees fit in his remaining 22 months in office.
"George W. Bush will rue the day if he lets Al Gonzales go," said Ari Fleischer, a former press secretary for Bush, "because that will be the first scalp that the Democrats on the Hill will gather and collect, and then the door will then be opened to show that if you can put enough pressure on President Bush, anybody can go. This is a crucial first test."
Bush is also waging what he views as an even bigger war over presidential prerogatives. He has moved aggressively to expand presidential powers — asserting authority to eavesdrop on Americans without court warrants and try suspected terrorists before military tribunals. To avoid divulging the membership of Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force, the administration even went to the Supreme Court.
One Republican friend of Bush's, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share the president's sentiments, said the president was trying to "take back control," adding, "He's pretty angry."
That was evident Tuesday evening in a hastily convened press conference. It was held in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, but there was little diplomacy about it. A defiant Bush made clear that he was not going to allow Democrats on Capitol Hill to spend the rest of his term "dragging White House members up there to score political points, or put the klieg lights on."
Republicans applauded. "I thought he was fired up," Charlie Black, a Republican strategist who is close to the White House, said Wednesday. "I was glad to see it. I got a lot of comments from people who said, 'It's about time he put his foot down.'"
Bush has offered to let Rove and three other officials, including Harriet Miers, a former White House counsel, be interviewed by lawmakers, but only in private, without transcripts, and not under oath — conditions that are not acceptable to Democrats. A House Judiciary subcommittee authorized subpoenas on Wednesday, bringing the confrontation one step closer to the courts.
Bush says he's willing to go to court. Fleischer says Bush is convinced that presidential powers have been eroded since Watergate, and that it is his duty to restore them for his successors.
"This is the White House that, under his leadership, didn't give up the energy records and took a beating for it," Fleischer said. "He's willing to lose the politics of these things, because he does have a longer view of the powers of the presidency and what it takes to protect them."
And indeed, Bush did appear to be losing the politics on Wednesday, as his press secretary, Tony Snow, was hammered with questions about whether the administration was stonewalling by not allowing public testimony under oath.
He said members of Congress could gain all the facts they needed in private interviews, but objected to anything resembling a trial.
"What you're trying to do is create a courtroom atmosphere," an exasperated Snow finally exclaimed, "which is exactly what we're trying ... " He cut himself off before finishing the sentence.
Read the whole article... Sounds so noble, standing by a friend, standing up for Presidential prerogatives.. After six years of this administrations lying and shenanigans, I doubt its anything more than sheer fear that the testimony will reveal more details of just how out of control this administration has been.
Editor's note: Kevin Tillman joined the Army with his brother Pat in 2002, and they served together in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pat was killed in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004. Kevin, who was discharged in 2005, has written a powerful, must-read document.
It is Pat's birthday on November 6, and elections are the day after. It gets me thinking about a conversation I had with Pat before we joined the military. He spoke about the risks with signing the papers. How once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people. How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition. How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice ... until we get out.
Much has happened since we handed over our voice:
Somehow we were sent to invade a nation because it was a direct threat to the American people, or to the world, or harbored terrorists, or was involved in the September 11 attacks, or received weapons-grade uranium from Niger, or had mobile weapons labs, or WMD, or had a need to be liberated, or we needed to establish a democracy, or stop an insurgency, or stop a civil war we created that can't be called a civil war even though it is. Something like that.
Somehow our elected leaders were subverting international law and humanity by setting up secret prisons around the world, secretly kidnapping people, secretly holding them indefinitely, secretly not charging them with anything, secretly torturing them. Somehow that overt policy of torture became the fault of a few "bad apples" in the military.
Somehow back at home, support for the soldiers meant having a five-year-old kindergartener scribble a picture with crayons and send it overseas, or slapping stickers on cars, or lobbying Congress for an extra pad in a helmet. It's interesting that a soldier on his third or fourth tour should care about a drawing from a five-year-old; or a faded sticker on a car as his friends die around him; or an extra pad in a helmet, as if it will protect him when an IED throws his vehicle 50 feet into the air as his body comes apart and his skin melts to the seat.
Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.
Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.
Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.
Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.
Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.
Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.
Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated.
Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe.
Somehow torture is tolerated.
Somehow lying is tolerated.
Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.
Somehow American leadership managed to create a more dangerous world.
Somehow a narrative is more important than reality.
And I can promise you, the conservatives who drapped Pat in the flag and made him a hero of the conservative movement are NOT going to pick up on this story. Pat Tillman was a Hero, just like all the other soldiers who signed up for this dangerous mission, believing they were doing so to protect our country. It is a shame that they were decieved, and even more of a shame that the American people have become such cowards that they are willing to follow sheepishly an administration that has laid waste to our American ideals about Freedom, Liberty and "doing the right thing!"
Jan. 8 - What to do about the deepening quagmire of Iraq? The Pentagon’s latest approach is being called "the Salvador option"—and the fact that it is being discussed at all is a measure of just how worried Donald Rumsfeld really is. "What everyone agrees is that we can’t just go on as we are," one senior military officer told NEWSWEEK. "We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents. Right now, we are playing defense. And we are losing." Last November’s operation in Fallujah, most analysts agree, succeeded less in breaking "the back" of the insurgency - as Marine Gen. John Sattler optimistically declared at the time - than in spreading it out.
What was the Salvador option? It was our clandestine support of ARENA, a Facist organization in El Salvador responsible for thousands of murders and rapes in the name of anti communism. But our support of murderous thugs in El Salvador was the tip of the iceberg. Our support of a murderous regime in Guatemala and of the Contras in Nicaragua. In fact, our hands are so bloody in Central America, that it is amazing to me as someone who lives here that Americans are not outright hated.
Empire's Workshop is an incredible piece of historical reporting and analysis, tying together the players and philosophies that have driven America's political ambitions for the last 50 years or more. It makes an incredibly compelling read.
Disclosure: I was given a complimentary copy of the book by the publisher.
"I'm working on a big story now with people who are confidential sources inside the Federal Air Marshal Service. They were all alarmed that they might be exposed as talking with me in violation of rules. So it's of great concern."