Quantcast

The Nation

Fox News Goes Corporate

It's official: Rupert Murdoch is launching a new business channel that will be "more business friendly" than its competitors, namely CNBC.

As if CNBC (owned by General Electric) isn't business friendly enough. Every night Lawrence Kudlow hawks the latest supply side argument and grotesque piece of corporate welfare. Recently Maria Bartiromo, the so-called "Money Honey," came under fire after it was disclosed that she hitched rides on Citigroup jets and did promotional appearances for the company. The network, with its omnipresent stock ticker, resembles a never-ending pep rally for Wall Street.

Fox Business Channel wants to do one better. Forget Enron, Worldcom, Goldman Sachs's bonuses or Exxon Mobil's earnings, now that Democrats are in charge of Congress corporate America needs to be cheered up. The new channel will be led by Roger Ailes, the Fox News mastermind who taught Karl Rove everything he needed to know.

There used to be a time, back in the day, when great muckraking reporters like my colleague Bill Greider dominated the business pages. Hard-hitting investigative stories were standard fare. Those days are over at most newspapers and almost completely nonexistent on TV. Murdoch can once again rejoice.

Drew Gilpin Faust: Why We Love War

Drew Faust, the historian who has been named Harvard's first female president, has been praised for her "people skills," but she's also done brilliant intellectual work on a crucial question for our time: why we love war. A Civil War historian who has published five books, Faust wrote recently about why war is "history's most popular subject."

In http://muse.jhu.edu/cgi-bin/access.cgi?uri=/journals/civil_war_history/v... >an article published in 2004 in the journal Civil War History, Faust explores the place of war in American politics and culture today. War, she writes, "offers an authenticity and intensity of experience" missing elsewhere in modern society. It provides "a moment of truth," when soldiers and civilians alike "have to define their deeply held priorities and act on them."

Causation is typically the big issue for scholars and analysts who study war: explaining and interpreting, in a dispassionate way, why particular wars have been fought. And of course much of our current argument is about the reasons the Bush White House gave for going to war in Iraq.

But for ordinary people, Faust argues, what counts is not so much the analysis of causation, but rather the personal stories, the human drama of war. The fascination with war can be "almost pornographic in its combination of thrill and terror." But that doesn't mean the details of suffering and the tragedies of death are overlooked. Personal stories of suffering and death make war "a force that gives us meaning"--the phrase is the title of a book by award-winning war correspondent Chris Hedges.

Faust's interpretation helps explain the way the US responded to the 9-11 terrorist attacks with a war on Iraq. "Even a war against an enemy who had no relationship to September 11's terrorist acts would do," she notes. People supported war not just because of the rational arguments offered by the White House, but also "because the nation required the sense of meaning, intention, and goal-directedness, the lure of efficacy that war promises." It was especially necessary to restore a sense of control after the terrorism of 9-11 had "obliterated" it. The US, she concludes, "needed the sense of agency that operates within the structure of narrative provided by war."

Those who write about war, she concludes – journalists and historians – need to acknowledge the power of war stories. Their job is to create "an orderly narrative," full of purpose and significance, about events that otherwise "would be simply violence," shapeless and meaningless.

Thus we are the ones who give meaning to war – so it's up to us to come to terms with the power of war stories. "In acknowledging its attraction," she concludes, " we diminish its power" – we move from being part of the problem to part of the solution.

Harvard's last president, Larry Summers, had been a Clinton administration free trade policy wonk. By choosing as its new president a scholar whose work has so much depth and significance, the university suggests a different sense of what intellectual leadership might mean.

Obama's In, Predictably

The only thing about the launch of Barack Obama's presidential candidacy that wasn't meticulously stage managed was the weather. Outside the old statehouse in downtown Springfield, it was sunny but the thermometer hovered in the teens and even the thousands of hearty Illinois Democrats who had shown up for the "historic event" were shivering uncontrollably by the time the senator arrived with a standard-issue opening line about how, despite the cold, "I'm fired up."

Obama's announcement, which had been anticipated since he announced last month that he would be announcing this month, had all the spontaneity of a Bill O'Reilly rant about "San Francisco values." There was the predictable U2 music, the predictable Lincoln reference – "a house divided…" – and the predictable "hand-lettered" signs promising to "Barack the Vote!" Leaving no cliché unuttered, Obama reminded the crowd that his was not a campaign but "a journey."

And a long one it shall be.

The frustrating thing about Barack Obama's "improbable quest" is that very little about it seems improbable. This campaign began as exactly what it is: a calculated grab the Democratic nomination by an appealing young senator who is risking very little in the hope of achieving very much.

Obama did deliver a fine populist line addressing his relative inexperience: "Now listen, I recognize there is a certain presumptuousness -- a certain audacity -- to this announcement. I know I haven't spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington. But I've been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change."

But even that soliloquy was woven with the point of getting in a mention of his best-selling book, The Audacity of Hope.

With the exception of the weather that accompanied it, nothing about Barack Obama's announcement was particularly invigorating.

That's not to say that the senator's launch was inept.

If anything, it was too ept, too well plotted, too reflective of the high-powered consultants who are managing one of the more interesting men ever to seek the presidency into the narrow confines occupied by every man who has ever sought the presidency.

Of course, Obama went through the motions with finesse. This is not some bumbling Biden we're talking about.

The junior senator from Illinois began by reviewing the challenges facing the country, as must any presidential candidate who is not an incumbent seeking reelection.

"All of us know what those challenges are today -- a war with no end, a dependence on oil that threatens our future, schools where too many children aren't learning, and families struggling paycheck to paycheck despite working as hard as they can," Obama said. "We know the challenges. We've heard them. We've talked about them for years."

And he talked about them some more on Saturday morning.

Obama was at his most effective in Springfield – as he was two and a half years ago while delivering the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston – when he scored the Bush administration, and by gentle extension the so-called Democratic "opposition," of recent years.

"For the last six years we've been told that our mounting debts don't matter, we've been told that the anxiety Americans feel about rising health care costs and stagnant wages are an illusion, we've been told that climate change is a hoax, we've been told that tough talk and an ill-conceived war can replace diplomacy, and strategy, and foresight. And when all else fails, when Katrina happened, or the death toll in Iraq mounts, we've been told that our crises are somebody else's fault. We're distracted from our real failures, and told to blame the other party, or gay people, or immigrants," the senator boomed. "And as people have looked away in disillusionment and frustration, we know what's filled the void. The cynics, the lobbyists, the special interests who've turned our government into a game only they can afford to play. They write the checks and you get stuck with the bills, they get the access while you get to write a letter, they think they own this government, but we're here today to take it back. The time for that kind of politics is over. It is through. It's time to turn the page right here and right now."

But did Obama offer much of a change?

Not from a policy standpoint. His pronouncements, such as they were, sounded like Democratic regifting.

"Let us be the generation that reshapes our economy to compete in the digital age." O.K., but the rhetoric was fresher when Al Gore was peddling it in 1999.

"Let's set high standards for our schools and give them the resources they need to succeed. Let's recruit a new army of teachers, and give them better pay and more support in exchange for more accountability." Didn't Bill Clinton say that in 1991?

"Let's be the generation that ends poverty in America." Er, John Edwards.

And so it went.

Obama said most of the right things. And he did so with the rhetorical flourishes that distinguish him from most of the other runners in a crowded Democratic field.

But the cautious candidate broke little in the way of new ground, pushed few limits and took no risks with his announcement. He wants the troops home from Iraq by next March, but is he willing to use the power of the purse to make it happen? He wants health care for all by the end of his first presidential term, but is he talking single-payer? He wants to end poverty, but does that mean the United States is going to start redistributing wealth down to those who lack it -- as opposed to the current upward trajectory? Of are we looking at another one of those "rising-tide-raises-all-boats" scenario?

There is no question that Obama is charismatic.

The size of the crowd in Springfield was no fluke. His "rock-star" campaign will draw the largest and most enthusiastic audiences throughout this campaign.

But Obama has to offer the people more than an acknowledgement of what ails the nation that, with a few tinkers, could be delivered by any number of moderate Republicans.

If Barack Obama's campaign is going to cause the nation to shake off its slumber "and usher in a new birth of freedom on this earth," as the senator promised on Saturday, this candidate must give America more than repackaged rhetoric and another U2 song. America does not need a new generation of careful politicians mounting predictable campaign. America needs a rock star who is ready to play a new song.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

Choice time: Unravel Al Qaeda or Fight Iran?

So just how firmly do the Bushists want to pursue the campaign to unravel Al-Qaeda? In today's WaPo, Dafna Linzer has a story, attributed largely to unnamed but concerned administration insiders, in which she gives disturbing new information about the extent to which they have subordinated this campaign to their current push to escalate tensions with Iran.

The back-story is that, as Linzer writes,

    Since... the winter of 2001, Tehran had turned over hundreds of people to U.S. allies and provided U.S. intelligence with the names, photographs and fingerprints of those it held in custody, according to senior U.S. intelligence and administration officials. In early 2003, it offered to hand over the remaining high-value targets directly to the United States if Washington would turn over a group of exiled Iranian militants hiding in Iraq.

Some of Bush's top advisers pushed for the trade, arguing that taking custody of bin Laden's son and the others would produce new leads on al-Qaeda. They were also willing to trade away the exiles -- members of a group on the State Department's terrorist list -- who had aligned with Saddam Hussein in an effort to overthrow the Iranian government.

Officials have said Bush ultimately rejected the exchange on the advice of Vice President Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who argued that any engagement would legitimize Iran and other state sponsors of terrorism. Bush's National Security Council agreed to accept information from Iran on al-Qaeda but offer nothing in return, officials said.

Now, Linzer has learned that, in addition to Osama Bin Laden's son Saad, those in Iranian custody include al-Qaeda spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith of Kuwait and Saif al-Adel of Egypt, both of whom are reportedly members of the "al-Qaeda operational management committee."

It is not clear to me how much the Bushists really care about the interests of that militant Iranian opposition group, the Mojahideen e-Khalq (MEK), around 3,000 or so of whose members had been in armed training camps in Iraq back in Saddam's day, and have been kept in a detention camp in Iraq under the Americans. It is important to remember that, as Linzer noted there, the MEK is still on the State Department terrorism list, in connection with some very lethal acts its members carried out inside Iran in the 1980s.

(So you'd think the US government might want to actually put on trial at least the leaders of the MEK people they have under their control in Iraq, wouldn't you? Nah... instead they have kept them there-- under conditions that may or may not at this point include their complete disarming-- as a way of keeping up the pressure on Teheran.)

You can see there, of course, the extent to which the Bushists have been willing to manipulate the quite legitimate concern people around the world have about terrorism for their own ideological ends.

What also seems clear from Linzer's article is the degree to which the top levels of the Bush administration are ready to compromise the anti-Qaeda campaign in the interests of maintaining their current campaign to isolate, encircle, and threaten Iran.

This is completely cock-eyed. Yes, Americans and others have a number of remaining concerns about Iran's behavior. (And Iranians, about ours.) But numerous diplomatic channels remain, through which all these concerns can be put on the table, fairly addressed, and resolved. If the Bushists continue with their campaign to isolate and threaten Iran, this runs the risk of unleashing not only a war between these two nations but also a tsunami of instability that will "surge" throughout the region and the world...

But even before we have reached that point, the Bushists' campaign of anti-Iran escalation has already forced many unwelcome costs onto the world community. One of these is that the anti-Qaeda campaign-- to which the Iranians have already made many significant contributions-- is being compromised. We should all be very, very concerned.

Wall Street Whining

In response to the massive loss of unionzed, relatively well-paid manufacturing jobs in the US, the barons of Wall Street (Bob Rubin, et al) generally respond with thinly veiled contempt for the knee-jerk whining of the protectionst volk. "Don't you understand?" they say, "this it the global economy and there's no reason for manufacturers to pay Americans to do the same thing the Chinese can do for 1/50th the price. Besides, what are you a racist? Don't you believe that Mexicans and Indians and Chinese should have jobs?" I'm paraphrasing here, obviously, but this is pretty standard.

So there's something deliciously ironic about listening to Wall Street bitch and moan about the fact that Wall Street is losing share of the international financial markets. So grave is the threat of New York losing its prime position, that in January Mayor Mike Bloomberg (along with Chuck Schumer) called a press conference to publicize a report issued by McKinsey consulting (which obviously has no conflict of interest in this sort of thing) that argues that in order to preserve Wall Street's pre-eminence we must do away with -- you guessed it -- excess regulation, namely Sarbanes-Oxley.

Despite the carping from the Street, Sarbanes-Oxley, as Business Week recently pointed out has succeeded at doing precisely what it was designed to do, that is produce reliable corporate reports that investors can trust in making decisions about what stocks to buy and sell. But the law's virtues aside, there's no persuasive evidence that Sarbanes-Oxley has anything to do with the recent drop in Wall Street's shares of global IPOs. As Thomas Palley argues, the more likely explanation is simply that "[f]oreign financial markets are catching up in quality of technology and regulatory governance." Why should New York be the locus for international finance? Why not let a thousand flowers bloom?

The question is whether the Democratic congress is going to be suckered by Wall Street's whining. So far, things don't look so good. Chuck Schumer, who sits on the Senate finance committee was at that Bloomberg press conference and has been making noises about weakening Sarbanes-Oxley. So here's a question for Chuck: If you change American regulatory policy with the stated intent of protecting a single American industry from foreign competition, doesn't that make you a protectionist? Or are protectionists only those who try to protect labor and not capital?

Pelosi, Planes and Partisan Propaganda

Republican apologists for the Bush administration's failed fight in Iraq and their amen corner in the media have been looking for something, anything, to distract the American public from a necessary discussion about the need to end the U.S. occupation of that country. They finally settled last week on the "scandal" involving House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's mode of transporation.

Pelosi, a California Democrat, was informed as she prepared to assume the speakership -- a position that places her third in the line of succession to the presidency -- that she could no longer travel as she previously had: on commercial airlines. She would, she was informed, have to fly as former Speaker Dennis Hastert had on a secure Air Force plane. So it was that, upon becoming speaker, Pelosi accepted her new circumstance and agreed to use a military plane with a fuel capacity that would allow for cross-country travel without stops.

That's not exactly the stuff of scandal. But, after an apparent "leak" from the Bush administration's Department of Defense to the White House-friendly Washington Times newspaper, the Times last week ran a story headlined: "Pelosi's Power Trip -- Non-stop Nancy Seeks Flight of Fancy."

Fox News jumped on the story, followed by other cable networks. The Republican National Committee stoked it with emails to reporters and briefing papers supposedly exposing Pelosi's imperial style -- and ambitions. The predictable Sean Hannity declared that Pelosi "thinks she's the president" -- seemingly unaware that by referencing the presidency he was acknowledging his own dear leader's regal pretensions.

Republican members of the House actually brought the issue up on the floor of a chamber that should have been focused on the question of how and when to end a war that began as Dick Cheney's "power trip" and George Bush's flight of fancy" but has since turned into an international disaster.

House Republican Conference chair Adam Putnam, of Florida accused Pelosi of displaying "an arrogance of office that just defies common sense."

House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, of Missouri, referred to the plane Pelosi would likely use as a "flying Lincoln Bedroom."

North Carolina Congressman Patrick T. McHenry, arguably the most consistently hysterical member of an increasingly hysterical caucus, described the speaker's plane as "Pelosi One," and declared that, "This is a bullet point to a larger value -- Pelosi's abuse of power continues.

McHenry accused the speaker of "exploiting America's armed forces and taxpayers for her own personal convenience."

Yikes! This was the Republican spin machine churning at full throttle.

There was only, er, one problem.

The charge that Pelosi was abusing her position was a complete fabrication.

The speaker did not request a bigger or better plane.

It was the man in charge of making security arrangements for members of the Congress who made the request.

House Sergeant at Arms Bill Livingood has confirmed that, for security reasons, he asked that Pelosi be provided with an Air Force plane that could make the trip from Washington to San Francisco without stopping to refuel.

"The fact that Speaker Pelosi lives in California compelled me to request an aircraft that is capable of making non-stop flights for security purposes, unless such an aircraft is unavailable," Livingood explained in a written statement. "I regret that an issue that is exclusively considered and decided in a security context has evolved into a political issue."

Livingood, who has served as sergeant at arms for 11 years, made similar arrangements for past speakers.

That was something the Republican National Committee and its media echo chamber could have discovered simply by contacting the Office of the Sergeant at Arms.

It is something that Republican Representatives Putnam, Blunt and McHenry should have known.

In fact, if this Congress had nothing else on its agenda, it might well be appropriate to inquire into whether Putnam, Blunt and McHenry used their positions to engage in a deliberate conspiracy to deceive the American people for partisan purposes.

But Congress has a higher calling. It is time to put aside the distractions and get focused on the discussion about war and peace that the administration and its acolytes on Capitol Hill are so determined to avoid.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

The Rich Get Greedier

Most Nation readers couldn't have missed ExxonMobil's recent announcement that in 2006 it reaped the largest annual profits of any corporation in history--39.5 billion dollars.

But what may be missed beneath the headlines is that unlike most of its competitors, ExxonMobil is avidly opposed to renewable energy and is actively working to undermine action on climate change. That means that at a time when the oil industry is starting to invest in alternatives to fossil fuel, CEO Rex Tillerson is poised to pump his profits right back into polluting oil and gas projects, lobbying against solutions to global warming, and funding front groups and junk science to confuse the public.

At the recent Davos meetings Tillerson told the business crowd that "even if renewable energy production grows at double digit rates, it will remain less than two percent of world energy supplies." (Well, yes, if companies don't invest in its development. Moreover, current calculations by the Renewable Energy Policy Network show that renewable energy already supplies roughly four percent of world power.)

Meanwhile, ten corporate giants, including Duke Energy, GE, Alcoa, PG&E and oil giant BP, have announced their broad support for mandatory reductions of global warming pollution. ExxonMobil, which typically outspends its competitors in the industry on lobbyists, reiterated its intentions to continue lobbying against such solutions.

What to do? Take your cues from ExposeExxon. The coalition has launched an innovative campaign to highlight the broad and deep opposition to ExxonMobile's adamant refusal to invest in or support solutions to global warming. Take a whiteboard or white piece of paper and using BIG letters, write a personal message to CEO Tillerson, then upload it to the ExposeExxon site. Check out photos people have already put up for an idea of what to do. There are already more than two hundred pictures.

If you're camera-shy you can still click here to tell your members of Congress to eliminate billions of dollars in tax breaks for Exxon and support bills that ensure reductions in global warming pollution; click here to join your name to a petition to Tillerson, and click here to support the campaign. Finally, read this report to see why so many public interest groups are joining together to target what they see as Exxon's particularly irresponsible behavior.

Ethnomusicologists Against Torture

Professional associations can be unaccountable, self-interested and reactionary. (It was the American Medical Association that almost single-handedly killed national health insurance during the Truman years.) But at a time when so many independent sources of civic power have been weakened, many have acquitted themselves quite well, and proven to be indispensable counter points to Bushism. The American Medical Association banned doctors from participating in the interrogations at Guantanamo, and the American Bar Association has been outspoken in asserting the detainees' legal rights. Now, the latest professional association to chime in: ethnomusicologists condemn using music for torture. Don't laugh. Blasting music non-stop, like sleep deprivation is sadistic. Kudos to the ethnomusicologists.

Libby Trial: Prosecution Rests--Strongly

It was Hail Mary time for Ted Wells, an attorney for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, as the prosecution moved toward resting its case in the perjury trial of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff. On Thursday, Meet the Press anchor Tim Russert was back on the stand to be cross-examined by Wells. The previous day, Russert had kicked Libby's cover story in the groin. He had disputed Libby's claim that in the days before the leak that outed Valerie Wilson as a CIA officer he (Libby) had learned about her CIA connection not from official sources but from Russert. No way, the newsman said. The Russert call is critical for Libby, who has maintained he never shared official (that is, classified) information about Valerie Wilson with other reporters and only passed along gossip he had picked up from Russert. But on the stand Russert stuck to his version: he didn't say anything to Libby about Wilson's wife during a phone call on July 10 or 11, 2003, because he knew nothing about Wilson's wife until the leak appeared in a July 14 Robert Novak column.

So what was Wells to do? He started off Wednesday by taking shots at Russert's memory. (See here.) He made little progress. On Thursday, he tried to undermine Russert's credibility on other fronts. Wells attempted to make an issue of the fact that until Russert appeared as a witness in this trial he had never divulged publicly that he had talked to the FBI about the CIA leak investigation in November 2003. Wasn't Russert's call with the FBI a "newsworthy event?" Wells inquired, hinting that Russert had for years hid part of his involvement in the CIA leak case. Russert explained that he had not reported the conversation because the FBI agent had asked him to keep it confidential.

Wells then tossed far-fetched theories at the jury. On the stand, Russert had said that none of his NBC colleagues had told him anything about Wilson's wife. What about David Gregory and Andrea Mitchell? Wells asked. None meant none, Russert noted. But Wells still was holding out the possibility that Gregory received leaked information on Wilson's wife from then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer and then quickly relayed it to Russert, who shared it with Libby. It's a thin theory--especially because neither Russert nor Gregory reported any news about Wilson's wife at the time. And the timing of real-world events may undermine the theory. But Wells keeps hammering at this possibility.

To buttress this part of his case, Wells tried to play for the jurors a video clip of Andrea Mitchell saying on CNBC in early October 2003 that she had known about Valerie Wilson's CIA employment prior to the Novak leak. But Mitchell, in two later interviews on Don Imus's radio show (which also aired on MSNBC), said she had misspoken and she retracted the comment. Wells suggested that Russert and Mitchell had conspired to undo Mitchell's remark so Russert's statements related to the leak case would not be undermined. He asked permission to show all these tapes to the jury. "This is nitpicky at best," Judge Reggie Walton complained. He ruled the tapes could not be played.

Next Wells took another shot at Russert's credibility. He pointed out that during Russert's appearance the previous day he had testified that Libby used the words "hell" and "damn" when he had called Russert in July 2003 to complain about Hardball host Chris Matthews' on-air criticisms of Cheney and Libby. Yet, Wells said, when Russert gave a deposition to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald in August 2004 about this conversation with Libby he had not referred to these curse words--as if Russert had somehow suspiciously changed his account. Russert explained that during his deposition he had said that Libby had been "venting" and that word covered the cursing.

Such small stuff did not seem to impress the jurors; many appeared to be unriveted by Wells' questioning of Russert. Finally, Wells played his last card. Was there, he dramatically asked the witness, "bad blood" between Russert (and all of NBC News) and Libby? "No, sir," Russert replied in the quiet tone he had used throughout his testimony. But Wells had evidence to suggest otherwise.

It was another Imus clip. On the morning of October 28, 2005, hours before Fitzgerald was to announce indictments in the CIA leak case, Russert was on the show (via telephone) telling Imus about the mood of anticipation within the Washington press corps and his own NBC News bureau: "It was like Christmas Eve last night. Santa Claus is coming tomorrow. Surprises. What's under the tree?" Citing this comment, Wells contended that Russert was "elated" that Libby was about to be indicted. No, Russert said, he was referring to the fact that a "big news day" was coming and that no one knew for sure what Fitzgerald would announce. Was Russert equating an indictment of Libby with Christmas "presents under the tree?" Wells asked. No, the television host said. "You looked very happy" in the Imus clip, Wells countered. That was a "still picture," Russert noted. The cross examination was over

One more swing and a miss for Wells. In the first three weeks of the case, Wells and co-counsel Bill Jeffrey have suggested there have been a Variety Pak of plots against their client: a CIA conspiracy against Libby, a State Department conspiracy against Libby, a White House conspiracy against Libby, and, now, an NBC News conspiracy against Libby. But they have introduced no evidence to back up any of this. Wells' attempt to transform Russert's Christmas comment into proof that Russert and NBC News were bent on ruining Libby was typical. It was silly. But Wells is merely acting as a defense attorney should. Pull on any thread you can. Raise any matter that might sow confusion or doubt among the jurors. Nevertheless, he failed to undercut Russert, Fitzgerald's final witness.

The prosecution ended strongly. Fitzgerald has presented a parade of witnesses who have contradicted Libby on the key points: what he had known about Valerie Wilson and what he had told journalists. The defense is expected to call its first witnesses on Monday. The lineup will probably include several reporters who spoke to Libby before the CIA leak happened and who will testify that he said nothing to them about Valerie Wilson's wife. But Wells might need more than that--and more than word games and hints of plots--to beat back Fitzgerald.

******

DON"T FORGET ABOUT HUBRIS: THE INSIDE STORY OF SPIN, SCANDAL, AND THE SELLING OF THE IRAQ WAR, the best-selling book by David Corn and Michael Isikoff. Click here for information on the book. The New York Times calls Hubris "the most comprehensive account of the White House's political machinations" and "fascinating reading." The Washington Post says, "There have been many books about the Iraq war....This one, however, pulls together with unusually shocking clarity the multiple failures of process and statecraft." Tom Brokaw notes Hubris "is a bold and provocative book that will quickly become an explosive part of the national debate on how we got involved in Iraq." Hendrik Hertzberg, senior editor of The New Yorker notes, "The selling of Bush's Iraq debacle is one of the most important--and appalling--stories of the last half-century, and Michael Isikoff and David Corn have reported the hell out of it." For highlights from Hubris, click here.