The White House press corps, taking a break from its usual stenography duties, actually roused itself to ask truth-impaired spokesman Scott McClellan some tough questions about Dick Cheney. Unfortunately, while it was good to see a few reporters rise from their bended knees, they were asking the wrong questions about the wrong issue.
What got the press corps all hot and bothered was the fact that Cheney and his aides kept details about the vice president shooting a man secret for the better part of 24 hours, and then slipped the story to a local paper in the city nearest the Texas dude ranch where the incident took place.
Most of Monday's 41-minute-long White House press briefing was taken up with questions about the gun-slinger-in-chief's penchant for secrecy and the bloody details of the shot Cheney's hunting buddy took to the face. But what was especially clear was that the members of the press corps do not like to get scooped on the story of a vice presidential shooting sprees by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.
In a larger sense, I think Dick Cheney's hunting accident is emblematic of the staggering, reckless incompetence that has been the hallmark of this administration. It is also emblematic of how Bush & Co. have worked to manipulate and suppress news--usually in the belief that they can pretty much get their way--and always to the detriment of public record and interest.
As the Frank James of the Chicago Tribune points out, "When a vice president of the US shoots a man under any circumstance, this is extremely relevant information. What is the excuse to justify not immediately making the incident public? Why did the VP's office not immediately report this--but, instead, wait 24 hours?" And now we learn that in this security-obsessed administration, the president did not know the shooter was Cheney until Sunday morning? Then there is the striking disdain for accountability which Cheney (Dick, Cheney, n: lesser of two evils) has come to embody. As Sunday's New York Times editorial stated, "There is a gaping trust gap when it comes to this administration."
Doug Ireland noted today, "The entire Cheney hunting incident story stinks." (Check out his blog for the explanation.)
On Sunday night, 60 Minutes aired an important story exposing Iraqi war profiteering that has stolen billions, crippled reconstruction and put the lives of troops at fatal risk.
As Steve Kroft reported, "The United States has spent over one-quarter trillion dollars in three years in Iraq, and more than 50 billion of it has gone to private contractors, hired to guard bases, drive trucks and shelter the troops and rebuild the country." This money, more than the annual budget of the Department of Homeland Security, "has been handed out to companies in Iraq with little or no oversight. Millions of dollars are unaccounted for. And there are widespread allegations of waste, fraud and war profiteering." The segment focused on a company called Custer Battles, which is the subject of a civil lawsuit that goes to trial today.
The $2 million given to Custer Battles was only the first installment--of $100 million--on a contract to provide security at Baghdad International Airport. What's significant is that the company was started by two guys with absolutely no security experience. What one of them had was (a claim of) ties to the Republican Party and connections at the White House. In a memo obtained by 60 Minutes, the Baghdad airport's director of security wrote to the Coalition Authority, "Custer Battles have shown themselves to be unresponsive, uncooperative, incompetent, deceitful, manipulative and war profiteers. Other than that, they're swell fellows."
George Allen, the not-so-bright, tobacco-dipping, football-quoting Senator from Virginia, is quickly emerging as the right wing's potential answer to John McCain come 2008. Allen solidified his standing as an inside the Beltway rising star by winning the Conservative Political Action Conference's '08 straw poll on Saturday, besting McCain 22 to 20 percent. He also won the title of "America's Best Senator" from Muslims for Bush.
Since we're likely to be hearing Allen's name more and more in the coming months, let's take a look back at what he thinks of the pressing issues of the day, starting with the selection of Ben Bernanke as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. From the New York Times, January 31, 2006:
Here is what Senator George Allen of Virginia, who is considering a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, said when asked his opinion of the Bernanke nomination.
Sure, it's been fun joking about the fact that Dick Cheney obtained five -- count them, five -- deferments to avoid serving in the military during the Vietnam War. Sure, its been amusing to recount his limp claim that the man who served as George Bush I's Secretary of Defense had "other priorities" than taking up arms in defense of his country. Sure, it was a laugh when the chief cheerleader for the war in Iraq mocked John Kerry for having actually carried a weapon in a time of war.
But it is time to stop laughing at Dick Cheney's expense.
Now that the vice president has accidentally shot and wounded a companion on a quail hunt at the elite Texas ranch where rich men play with guns -- spraying his 78-year-old victim, er, friend, in the face and chest with shotgun pellets and sending the man to the intensive care unit of a Corpus Christi hospital -- it has become clear that Cheney was doing the country a service when he avoided service.
It seemed like the Air Force knew it had a problem with religious intolerance.
A "Team Jesus Christ" banner was hung by the head football coach in the team locker room. Cadets of various faiths reported conversion attempts and harassment by superiors as well as evangelical prayer at official academy events. And a Lutheran minister confirmed a systemic evangelical bias by administrators, faculty, and upperclassmen.
So a draft of new guidelines on religious expression discouraged sectarian prayer at public gatherings, and warned superiors against proselytizing to subordinates. But Focus on the Family and other evangelical groups would have none of it.
On Saturday night, Stephen Crockett, Co-host of Democratic Talk Radio, had an interesting blog about a "typical missed news story" and what it reveals about the "liberal media" myth.
I'm posting it to The Notion not because it's about an event The Nation was involved in, but because I believe it's another sign of how skewed our so-called mainstream media coverage is. Too many media outlets--especially television--focus on the beltway, on the horse-race stories, and echo the administration's line. As a result, they fail to reflect the real and broad range of views in this country. I'd argue that the mainstream media is missing what is mainstream.
As Paul Krugman recently pointed out, "You'd never know it from the range of views represented on the Sunday talk shows, but a majority of Americans believes that the administration deliberately misled the nation about W.M.D.'s and that we should set a timetable for withdrawal [or]... For example, that the public believes by two to one that we should guarantee health insurance for all Americans."
To truly understand conservatives, you need to experience them in their element. The largest such gathering of true believers is the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which took place this weekend in Washington, DC. CPAC is a rite of passage for young conservatives, graced by the likes of Dick Cheney, John Bolton and Bill Frist.
I and The Nation's Max Blumenthal stopped by on Friday, hoping to catch Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, the subject of Jeff Sharlet's masterful profile in this month's Rolling Stone. Brownback didn't show, but luckily Ann Coulter was on the menu later in the day. She didn't disappoint--characterizing Muslims as "ragheads," comparing moderate Republicans to slave plantations and wishing she'd assassinated Bill Clinton. Go read Max's blog for the full account.
Before Coulter's speech we strolled around the exhibit hall, home to such vendors as the "ex-gay is OK" table and "Muslims for Bush." We stopped by the booth of one man opposed to affirmative action in South Africa, of all places. Much to our surprise, he was not a fan of the current Republican Party or its followers. When Max told him to go see Coulter he responded, "my friend warned me about her."
Americans ought be listening to Russ Feingold in these defining days for the Republic, because what the Democratic senator from Wisconsin is saying goes to the heart of the question of whether a nation founded in revolt against monarchy will be ruled by laws or by the crude whims of an intemperate sovereign and his out-of-control administration.
Feingold has been fighting for weeks to get the Congress to address the issue of President Bush's illegal approval of warrantless wiretapping of Americans. A small but growing group in Congress, including some prominent Republicans -- most recently, U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., the chair of the House Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence, who this week called for a "complete review" of the National Security Agency domestic spying program -- have begun echoing Feingold's demand that the Constitutional crisis created by the president's wrongdoing be taken seriously.
But too many major media outlets continue to treat the eavesdropping scandal as little more than a political game. They chart the progress of the critics and then measure the extent to which the administration's spin has limited the damage to the president's approval ratings.
Think the Internet will always be the freewheeling, democratic information superhighway you've grown to rely on? Well, think again. Corporate media giants are working hard behind the scenes to convince a clueless and compliant Congress to privatize the Internet. The telecom and cable giants want to fence off the Internet with one area for the haves--who will pay a premium to enjoy life in the fast lane--and the other for the have-nots.
As digital democracy expert Jeff Chester wrote on The Nation's site, "The nation's largest telephone and cable companies are crafting an alarming set of strategies that would transform the free, open and nondiscriminatory Internet of today to a privately run and branded service that would charge a fee for virtually everything we do online."
To ward off the prospect of "virtual toll booths on the information highway," an interesting coalition of public-interest groups like Common Cause and Free Press, along with new media companies like Amazon.com, are calling for new federal policies requiring "network neutrality" on the Internet. This would prohibit broadband providers from discriminating against any forms of digital content. In this way internet service providers would be regulated like telephone companies used to be, and couldn't simply decide to block their customers' access to legal websites.
Twenty-two members of the House have now signed on as co-sponors of the call by Representative John Conyers, D-Michigan, to establish a select committee of the Congress to investigate whether the Bush administration's actions before and after the invasion of Iraq violated Constitutional requirements, statutes and standards in a manner that would merit impeachment of the president or vice president.
Conyers introduced the resolution last December, and only a handful of members agreed to cosponsor the measure before Congress went on its long holiday break: California's Lois Capps, Maxine Waters and Lynn Woolsey, New Jersey's Donald Payne, New York's Charles Rangel and Texan Sheila Jackson-Lee. The list of cosponsors swelled after the long holiday break, when ten members from around the country -- California's Barbara Lee and Pete Stark, Hawaii's Neil Abercrombie, Illinois' Jan Schakowsky, Minnesota's Jim Oberstar, Missouri's William Lacy Clay, New York's Jerry Nadler and Major Owens, Washington's Jim McDermott and Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin -- came back to Washington convinced that the American people are a good deal more interested than most DC insiders recognize in reasserting checks and balances on an administration that has spun out of control.
In the past week, six additional members have signed on: California's Mike Honda and Sam Farr, Georgia's John Lewis and Cynthia McKinney, and New York's Carolyn Maloney and Maurice Hinchey.
Following up on Ari's post about the Band of Brothers, those military veterans running for Congress as Democrats.
The theory is that as former soldiers they will be immunized against Republican charges that Dems are unpatriotic girly-men who are "soft on defense." (As "Mask" points out in the comments section of Ari's post, running as a vet worked so well for Max Cleland and John Kerry!)
One thing the Band of Brothers strategy will do if it succeeds is to help keep Congress white and male. Of the 56 candidates currently marching under the brotherly battle flag, only three are women. (One of the three, Mishonda Baldwin, is also the only African-American).
Is the White House coming begging to Senate Minority Leader HarryReid? "Karl Rove's back and there's no doubt about that," Reid remarkedat a one-hour on-the-record breakfast sponsored by The AmericanProspect that I attended today. "He's so desperate he's called methree times in the last few weeks." The White House knows it's going toexceed the government's debt limit, Reid said, and they want his help.But there's little agreement between Rove and Reid on the deficit ormany other issues these days. "I don't think Karl Rove's message, ifhe's still out of jail [in 2006], will have the same sound as it did."
Reid, a pro-life, pro-gun Mormon from Nevada, vacillated betweenthe left and the center before the group of progressive journalists. Herepeatedly praised Russ Feingold as an example of a Democrat who standsup for what he believes in but refused to endorse a timetable for thewithdrawal of troops from Iraq, as Feingold advocates. "I met with theJoints Chiefs of Staff recently and troops are gonna be pulled out ofIraq this year," Reid said, without specifying whether all the troopsshould leave. Feingold was "still really upset" about the
After the unveiling of their anti-corruption "Honest LeadershipAct," Senate Democrats will focus on "real security," including a planby Indiana Senator Evan Bayh to increase the size of the Army by100,000 troops. "On a number of different directions we're going afternational defense," he said. "We'll be more competitive on that issuethan ever before."
For those who had any doubts that the Bush Administration manipulatedintelligence to take us into a disastrous, unprovoked and unnecessarywar, Walter Pincus's
Today's story, in my view, is the equivalent of America's
As Pincus notes, this is the first time that such a senior intelligenceofficer "has so directly and publicly condemned" Bush & Company'shandling of intelligence. Pillar's critique is also one of "the mostsevere indictments of White House actions by a former Bush officialsince Richard C. Clarke , a former National Security council staffmember, went public with his criticism of the administration's handlingof the September 11, 2001, attacks."
Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen.
This week, we present victories that have been submitted by ourreaders. We read every submission and we encourage readers to keepthem coming (submissions should be sent to email@example.com).While these stories may not reflect tectonic shifts in Americanpolitics, it's our belief that no "Sweet Victory" is too small tocelebrate.
The other night, Pat Buchanan said on Scarborough Country's segment about "The Politics of Impeachment" that my views on the subject are irrelevant.
I suggest Pat check out a little known book, Everything I Needed to Know About the Constitution I Learned in Third Grade. He might rediscover some basic American tenets such as a system of checks and balances,loyalty to the Constitution and shared power and accountability between three branches of government.
It's the shredding of these ideals that has led to growing, mainstream support for discussing the impeachment of Mr. Bush: conservative business magazine, Barron's...John Dean...leading constitutional scholars...former intelligence officersâ€¦even some Republicans...and the 53 percent of Americans who said in November that Bush should be impeached if it is found that he lied about the basis for invading Iraq.