The Nation

Edwards's Iran Problem

George W. Bush is upping the ante towards a war with Iran. And a number of prominent Democrats seem to be telling the President to go all in. Take one recent example: John Edwards.

During a speech via satellite at a security conference last week in Herzliya, Israel, Edwards joined the chorus of those threatening the Iranian government. "Iran threatens the security of Israel and the entire world," Edwards said, echoing a line peddled by many neoconservatives. "Let me be clear: Under no circumstances can Iran be allowed to have nuclear weapons."

A few moments later, he strongly hinted at the need for possible US military action. "To ensure that Iran never gets nuclear weapons, we need to keep ALL options on the table," Edwards said. "Let me reiterate – ALL options must remain on the table."

Such a provocative speech seems out of character for the ‘08 contender, at least in political terms. As he's moving left on Iraq---by calling on Congress to deny funding for an escalation of troops and advocating the immediate withdrawal of 50,000 US soldiers---why is Edwards veering right on Iran?

There's a few possible explanations. One, Edwards sincerely believes in a more confrontational Iran policy. Two, he's pandering to win the support and money of hawkish "pro-Israel" voters and donors. Three, he's trying to impress the foreign policy intelligentsia by talking tough.

No matter the rationale, speeches like these won't help Edwards with Democratic primary voters and could potentially injure his presidential prospects. Preventing a war with Iran is as important as getting out of Iraq to many in the peace movement. Indeed, those goals are now intertwined. Edwards can't have it both ways.

The Politics of Motherhood

Today's New York Times has a cover story about women politicians and the politics of motherhood.

As a woman, a wife, a mother, a step-grandmother of four, and the editor of a political weekly, I have strong yet conflicted feelings about this charged subject. Earlier this month, in my Editor's Cut blog, I tried to sort out my conflicted feelings about this very subject--provoked by Speaker Nancy Pelosi's use of motherhood and its images on her first day in office.

In that piece, I admitted that I was still sorting out my thoughts and asked readers what they thought. Their responses reflected a a wide range of opinion on an issue that resonates on many levels. But in today's media, there's not much space for nuance or for conflicted feelings about that trifecta of subjects: politics, women and motherhood. And when I read what the Times article chose to quote, it seemed like it was slotting me into a category--not trying to explore the nuances of this large subject.

For anyone who understands that there's no right answer, no single or easy way when it comes to being a woman in public life, please read my full blog post, Pelosi: Mother, Grandmother, Speaker --and the many fascinating reader responses--about the politics of motherhood.

Tancredo the Terrible

Rep. Tom Tancredo displays all the qualities of an ignorant, xenophobic racist and yet he has recently taken a stand against what he considers to be discrimination. Last week, the long-shot candidate for the Republican nomination in 2008 called for the abolition of both the Hispanic and Black caucuses in Congress. Tancredo claimed, "If we are serious about the goal of a color-blind society, Congress should lead by example and end these divisive, race-based caucuses." To say that Tancredo is a peculiar figure to pontificate on the virtues of unity and color-blindness is probably one of the understatements of the year.

Tancredo (R-CO) has made his name as an anti-immigration zealot, championing all the most extreme positions on the issue and saying the most uproariously offensive things in the process. "Look at what has happened to Miami," Tancredo said after last November's elections, "It has become a third world country. You just pick it up and take it and move it someplace. You'd never know you're in the United States of America."

Even more alarming was his appearance revealed last September by the Southern Poverty Law Center at a barbecue hosted by the South Carolina chapter of League of the South (LOS), a group that prides itself in defending and celebrating the Confederacy and everything it stood for. At $15 per plate fundraiser Tancredo appeared at a podium draped in the Confederate flag with a portrait of Robert E. Lee behind him. By the end of this speech Tancredo was flanked by LOS members and he joined them in singing "Dixie". Tancredo said that there's nothing wrong with singing what is seen by most African Americans as a hateful ode to slavery "if the spirit moves you."

When grilled about this appearance Tancredo remained characteristically defiant and insensitive. He explained that he'd given his anti-immigration pep talk at several different venues and that "I don't check people at the door for their private thoughts." But what are his private thoughts? At the South Carolina rally Tancredo was spotted holding a copy of The Citizen's Informer, which is the newspaper of the Conservative Citizens Council, an overtly racist organization that is reported to be the product of the segregationist White Citizens Councils of the 1950's. Tancredo has claimed not to know the history of these groups.

He also clearly does not comprehend the history or value of the Congressional Black or Hispanic caucuses. Until there is a more substantial balance of races within our Congress the members representing communities largely consisting of minorities will be at something of a disadvantage in what has always been a body dominated by white men. The ability of these groups of representatives unite and take positions that are beneficial to their constituents provides them with a leverage and power that they would not be able to attain otherwise. These are not hate groups, something Rep. Tancredo knows a thing or two about.

The Forgotten American Dead

In an important study that has gotten too little attention, a demographer, William O'Hare, and a journalist, Bill Bishop, working with the University of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute, which specializes in the overlooked rural areas of our country, have crunched the numbers on where the American dead of the Iraq and Afghan Wars come from. The answer is: disproportionately from rural America.

According to their study, the death rate "for rural soldiers (24 per million adults aged 18 to 59) is 60% higher than the death rate for those soldiers from cities and suburbs (15 deaths per million)." Of rural areas, Vermont has the highest rate of casualties, followed by Delaware, South Dakota, and Arizona. Only 8 of our states have higher urban than rural death rates.

Demographer O'Hare, who himself grew up in the small Michigan town of Flushing, sums the matter up this way:

"We know that soldiers from rural America are dying at higher rates than those from urban America, strikingly higher, 60% higher. We know, from other research, that the rural young join the military at higher rates than those from metropolitan areas. The dearth of opportunity in rural areas simply leaves more young people there with fewer alternatives to the military.

"Dozens of case studies show that opportunities are moving away, part of a long-term shift. The opportunity differential between rural and urban America is probably higher now than at any time in the past. Our study highlights the price some young folks and their families are paying for lack of opportunity in rural America."

Just over 3,000 Americans have died in Iraq. If the U.S. population is 300 million, then that's just 0.001% of it – and many of these come disproportionately from the most forgotten, least attended to parts of our country, places that often have lost their job bases. Given our all-volunteer military (so that not even the threat of a draft touches other young Americans), you could say that the President's war in Iraq -- and its harm -- has been disproportionately felt as well.

No wonder it's been easy for so many Americans to ignore such a catastrophic war until relatively recently. This might, in a sense, be considered part of a long-term White House strategy, finally faltering, of fighting two significant wars abroad while demobilizing the population at home. When, for instance, soon after the 9/11 attacks the President urged Americans to go to Disney World or, in December 2006, to go "shopping more" to help the economy, he meant it. We were to continue with our normal lives, untouched by his war.

In an interview this week, the Newshour's Jim Lehrer asked George W. Bush: "Why have you not, as president of the United States, asked more Americans and more American interests to sacrifice something?"

And here was the President's pathetic but revealing answer:

"Well, you know, I think a lot of people are in this fight. I mean, they sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night."

In other words, our President wants -- has always wanted -- most of us to do nothing whatsoever.

To put all of this in some kind of crude context, consider the Iraqi side of this horrific equation. Just recently, the United Nations announced that in 2006, approximately 34,000 Iraqi civilians were killed, an obvious undercount as Jon Wiener pointed out at this blog.

Nonetheless, if the Iraqi population is about 27 million, then even that one-year undercount represents more than 0.1% of it. If, as such figures indicate, total Iraqi deaths since the invasion reached even the low end of the recent Lancet study's estimates -- several hundred thousand dead -- then we are talking about a country that has already lost at least 1% of its population as direct casualties of the President's invasion and occupation.

To take another crude measure of such things, sociologists sometimes claim that an average American knows approximately 200 people by their first names. So think of those 3,000 dead Americans, significantly from rural areas, as known on a first-name basis to 600,000 other people. On the same exceedingly crude basis, those 34,000 dead Iraqi civilians of 2006 alone would have been known by 6,800,000 other Iraqis. If you add in the Iraqi wounded and those who have fled the country or become internal refugees in the roiling civil war, there can essentially be no one in Iraq who has escaped intimate knowledge of the ravages of the American invasion and occupation.

In other words, you have a war launched by a country whose people can, in a personal sense, hardly know that it's going on and fought in a country that has been taken apart and ravaged more or less down to the last citizen.

Or think of it this way: The forgotten rural American dead are the Iraqis of the American War. I leave you to wonder about what the Iraqi dead are.

[Note: The Carsey Institute report by William O'Hare and Bill Bishop, "U.S. Rural Soldiers Account for a Disproportionately High Share of Casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan," can be read by clicking here (pdf file).]

DC Marchers Challenge Congress to End War

Actor Sean Penn summed up the new energy -- and the new focus -- of the anti-war movement Saturday, when he turned George Bush's own words against the president.

Just hours after the president had again reasserted his false claim to authority to pursue a war that is not wanted by the American people or the Congress, Penn told anti-war demonstrators gathered in Washington that Bush would be wise to review the Constitution.

"In a democracy," the actor told the cheering crowd, which organizers said numbered in the hundreds of thousands, "we are the deciders."

Saturday's anti-war demostrations, which filled the streets of cities from San Francisco to Washington, marked a return to form for an anti-war movement that had trouble building momentum during the three years that followed Bush's decision to launch a preemptive war against a country that posed no serious threat to the United States or its allies. During the period from 2OO3 to 2OO6, Bush's Republican Party had complete control of the machinery of government, and his allies were successful in assuring that Congress would not serve as any kind of check or balance on the presidency.

Though polls showed that most Americans thought Bush had been wrong to take the country to war, and that they disapproved of his handling of the conflict, demonstrations seemed fruitless because the president held all the cards. Many opponents of the war poured their energies into electoral politics, hoping to restore at least a measure of balance to the federal government by putting opposition Democrats in charge of at least one house of Congress. On November 7, the work paid off, with the election of Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

So it was that one of the most popular signs at Saturday's rally in Washington read: "I Voted for Peace."

An equally popular sign, distributed by United for Peace and Justice, the group that played a central role in organizing the demonstrations, read: "Congress: Stand Up to Bush!"

Both signs were necessary messages on Saturday because, while there is no question that Americans voted November 7 for peace, there is still a great deal of uncertainty about whether the Congress that was elected will, in fact, tell the president that it is time to bring the troops home.

Some members of Congress do get it. Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Lynn Woolsey, D-California, addressed the Washington rally, urging activists to lobby the House on behalf of comprehensive legislation she has sponsored to withdraw Congressional approval for the war and implement a rapid yet orderly withdrawal of U.S. soldiers and civilian contractors from Iraq. The second most senior member of the House, Michigan Democrat John Conyers, was there as well, telling the crowd that: "George Bush has a habit of firing military leaders who tell him the Iraq war is failing," said Conyers, who then looked out at the crowd and shouted: "He can't fire you."

"He can't fire us," added the House Judiciary Committee chair, referencing the Congress that he said should block funding for Bush's plans to maintain his war. "The founders of our country gave our Congress the power of the purse because they envisioned a scenario exactly like we find ourselves in today. Not only is it in our power, it is our obligation to stop Bush."

While Bush and Vice President Cheney continue to peddle the fantasy they have the power to wage war as they choose, Congressman Dennis Kucinich corrected the latest lie from the White House. "It is time for George Bush to understand that Congress is a coequal branch of government," the Ohio Democrat said. "Congress has the power to end this war."

Kucinich is right on both counts. But he might have added a footnote: There are still a lot of representatives and senators who do not fully accept the responsibility that goes with being members of a coequal branch of government. Until they are reminded of that fact by their constituents, a cautious approach to Constitutionally-mandated duties will prevent Congress from ending the war -- or even seriously curtailing it.

Sean Penn's message was, indeed, the appropriate one: Those who marched on Saturday can and should be the deciders in a democracy.

But in order to claim that title from a dubiously-selected president, the people will have to do more than march.

Only by delivering the message that was on their signs -- "Congress: Stand Up to Bush!" -- directly to their elected representatives will the people convince House and Senate majorities to act to end a war that should never have begun.

The lobbying starts Monday. It should not stop until the troops are home -- and until those who sent them into the quagmire are held fully to account.

While ending the war was the first priority for those who marched in Washington, San Francisco and dozens of other cities across the country Saturday, the demand for accountability was high on the agenda.

"This past November the American people sent a resounding signal to Washington, D.C., and the world. We want change. We want this war to end. And how did Bush respond? Twenty-one thousand, five hundred more will risk their lives for his misguided war," declared actor Tim Robbins, as he addressed the tens of thousands who had gathered on the National Mall. "Is impeachment still off the table? Let's get him out of office."

The crowd roared, "Impeach Bush! Impeach Bush. Impeach Bush!"


John Nichols' new book, THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism has been hailed by authors and historians Gore Vidal,Studs Terkel and Howard Zinn for its meticulous research into theintentions of the founders and embraced by activists for itsgroundbreaking arguments on behalf of presidential accountability.After reviewing recent books on impeachment, Rolling Stone politicalwriter Tim Dickinson, writes in the latest issue of Mother Jones, "JohnNichols' nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic, TheGenius of Impeachment, stands apart. It concerns itself far less withthe particulars of the legal case against Bush and Cheney, and insteadcombines 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 Genius of Impeachment can be found at independent bookstores and atwww.amazon.com

March for Peace, Accountability

Hundreds of thousands of antiwar demonstrators will take to the streets this weekend in a surge for peace that is long overdue.

The message of these demonstrations is not directed at the Bush Administration.

The President has made it clear that he does not intend to listen to anyone outside of his delusional inner circle when it comes to resolving the mess he has created in Iraq. George Bush did not listen in 2003 to the wise counsel of experts on Iraq and the Middle East who warned about the dangers of invading and occupying that country. He has not listened to the cries of anguish from Cindy Sheehan and other Americans who have lost their loved ones in a war that should never have been fought. He has not listened to the Iraqi people, who in poll after poll have indicated their desire for the occupation to end. He has not listened to world opinion, which has turned dramatically against the United States because of his misguided and dangerous military adventuring. And he is not listening to the will of the American people, which was clearly expressed in the antiwar result of the 2006 elections that shifted control of Congress to the Democrats.

It is the prospect that members of the new Congress might listen to the people who elected them that makes this weekend's demonstrations meaningful--not to mention necessary.

Many members of Congress--from veteran Democrats such as Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy and California Senator Barbara Boxer to Republican mavericks such as Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel and North Carolina Congressman Walter Jones to newcomers such as Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison and Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen--recognize the need to get this country's troops out of Iraq and to focus its energies on diplomacy and realistic responses to terrorist threats. But the majorities in both the House and Senate have yet to accept that they have a responsibility to check and balance the President. They continue to waste time and energy on essentially meaningless resolutions expressing discomfort with the Administration's latest strategic blunder.

Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, cast his vote for the nonbinding resolution disapproving of President Bush's plan to surge 21,500 more US troops into the Iraq quagmire. But, he bluntly told the committee, the action represented an insufficient Congressional response.

"My fear, Mr. Chairman, is this is slow walking," Feingold told the committee, which approved the resolution 12-9. "This is not a time for legislative nuancing. This is not a time for trying to forge a compromise that everybody can be a part of. This is a time to stop the needless deaths of American troops in Iraq. We have a moral responsibility, as well as a responsibility to the lives of the American people, to start doing it now."

Feingold says, "It's time for Congress to use the power of the purse to end this devastating war and finally bring American troops out of Iraq."

He is right, and antiwar marchers should demand nothing less.It is sad but true that only by telling the current King George that he will no longer have an unlimited credit line to pursue his madness can the occupation be ended.

"As the President made clear (in announcing a plan to 'surge' 21,500 more troops into the quagmire), he has no intention of redeploying our troops from Iraq. Congress cannot continue to accept this. Congress can, by restricting funding for this misguided war, do what the President refuses to do--redeploy from Iraq to refocus on defeating global terrorist networks."

Feingold is not naïve. He understands the spin that will be employed to argue against blocking funding for an endless US presence in Iraq.

"Some will claim that cutting off funding for the war would endanger our brave troops on the ground. Not true. The safety of our service men and women in Iraq is paramount, and we can and should end funding for the war without putting our troops in further danger," the Senator explains. "Congress will continue to give our troops the resources and support they need, but by, for example, specifying a time after which funding for the war would end, it can give the President the time needed to redeploy troops safely from Iraq."

That is the essential message of the moment.

It is the message that this weekend's antiwar demonstrators can and must deliver.

Nonbinding resolutions are a joke.

Congress needs to embrace its constitutional duty to check executive excess and to balance against dangerous exercises of the presidential prerogative.

The first step is to use the power of the purse to force a course correction regarding Iraq.

The second step is to use the full authority afforded the House and Senate by the Constitution to hold the President and the Vice President to account for their deceptions and their abuses of power--so that never again will the Republic be placed in so perilous a circumstance.


John Nichols' new book, THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism has been hailed by authors and historians Gore Vidal,Studs Terkel and Howard Zinn for its meticulous research into theintentions of the founders and embraced by activists for itsgroundbreaking arguments on behalf of presidential accountability.After reviewing recent books on impeachment, Rolling Stone politicalwriter Tim Dickinson, writes in the latest issue of Mother Jones, "JohnNichols' nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic, TheGenius of Impeachment, stands apart. It concerns itself far less withthe particulars of the legal case against Bush and Cheney, and insteadcombines 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 Genius of Impeachment can be found at independent bookstores and atwww.amazon.com

And the Winner Is...Iran

The Washington Post tells us two things about Iran today, one that we knew and one that we didn't. First, the obvious: "Tehran's Influence Grows as Iraqis See Advantages." Second, the secret: "Troops Authorize to Kill Iranian Operatives in Iraq." It appears, startlingly, that the US raid of an Iranian consulate and the arrest of six Iranians in northern Iraq a few weeks back was no exception. Indeed, since last summer the Administration has adopted what the Post, in a matter of understatement, called a "more confrontational approach."

On CNN on Wednesday, Wolf Blitzer asked Dick Cheney: "How worried are you of this nightmare scenario -- that the US is building up this Shiite-dominated Iraqi government with an enormous amount of military equipment, sophisticated training, and then, in the end, they're going to turn against the United States?"

Cheney replied, "Wolf, that's not going to happen."

But CNN correspondent Brian Todd reported a day later, "Several military and political analysts say it very well could." He then added: "Still, one former American military adviser says if US forces don't train the Iraqis, someone else will, namely, Iran."

Either the new Iraqi army, dominated by Shia and Kurds, aligns with Iran. Or the new Iraqi army is trained by Iran. Whichever way you look at it, Iran wins.

Surge for Peace

Read John Nichols' dispatch and Karen Houppert's analysis from Saturday's antiwar march, and watch TheNation.com for further reporting on this weekend's antiwar activities.

The National Weather Service is predicting highs in the low 50s and sun for Washington, DC today. With no expected chance of precipitation, it'll be a beautiful day for what is expected to be the largest mobilizations against the Iraq war since the US invasion in 2003.

The proceedings have been organized by United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of 1,400 local and national organizations, including the National Organization for Women, United Church of Christ, the American Friends Service Committee, True Majority, Military Families Speak Out, Iraq Veterans Against the War, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, CodePink, MoveOn.org, and September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.

The idea is to show Congress that America wants a peace surge, not a troop surge, and to push legislators to listen to the voters, not President Bush, and bring the war to a close. And judging from this good piece in the Washington Post, the corporate media is finally taking this round of protesting more seriously than in the past.

There's a rally starting at 11 am on the Mall featuring remarks from a host of speakers including Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, Rep. Maxine Waters, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Leslie Cagan, playwright Eve Ensler, Bob Watada, Danny Glover and many others. At 1 pm the march kicks off from the Mall and move around the Capitol. There's still time to get on a bus until late tonight (Friday). Click here for info on transportation and here if you need a place to stay.

The weekend's activities will include an interfaith peace service, a Congressional Education Day on Monday and a host of related activities coast to coast. In Mobile, Alabama, there'll be a rush-hour protest with people lining the sidewalks of Airport Blvd to express opposition to the troop surge. In Jasper, Arkansas, citizens will be "gathering with signs, song and good energy" in front of the courthouse at noon. In Fresno, CA, activists will converge on the corner of Blackstone & Shaw Avenues at 10:30 am. In Los Angeles, people will assemble at noon in front of the State Democratic party headquarters at 9th Street and Figueroa for a march downtown past City Hall, to the Federal Building at 300 N. Los Angeles Street for a rally headlined by Cindy Sheehan. In Pensacola, Fla, activists will be meeting downtown at noon for a peace rally at the corner of Palafox and Garden St. in downtown Pensacola. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, people will be gathering at noon with signs at the corner of 41st and Yale.

If you can't make it to DC, you can also still show your opposition to the Iraq war by joining more than 19,000 activists in a Virtual March on Washington being arranged by Democrats.com, which also has a very useful list of related antiwar events in the DC area over the next few days. You can also help make the actions a success by making a donation to UFPJ, by helping spread the word and by asking your elected reps to support Senator Edward Kennedy's bill against funding a troop surge.

The Libby Trial: Cheney's Office Takes the Stand

On Thursday, the Vice President's office was on the stand in the Scooter Libby trial-sort of. The fourth witness to be called by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was Cathie Martin, who during the CIA leak scandal, was Dick Cheney's senior public affairs aide. Currently deputy director of communications and planning at the White House, Martin was a poised and confident witness; she was hardly looking to help the prosecution nail her former colleague. Yet she testified that she had told Libby that Valerie Wilson worked at the CIA weeks before that information was leaked--reinforcing Fitzgerald's accusation that Libby lied to the FBI and a grand jury when he claimed that he possessed no direct knowledge of Valerie Wilson and her CIA employment at the time of the leak.

Martin described a conversation she had with William Harlow, the CIA public affairs chief, and though she had no direct recollection of when this phone call happened, she noted it likely occurred around June 11, 2003. At that time, Walter Pincus of The Washington Post was asking Vice President Cheney's office whether it had been involved in former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's trip to Niger (which had been cited in a May 6 New York Times column by Nicholas Kristof that did not name Wilson). Martin testified that as the result of a call between Scooter Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, and a CIA official (probably Robert Grenier, an earlier witness in the trial), she had been put in contact with Harlow.

During her conversation with Harlow, Martin testified, she asked him what the CIA knew about the trip to Niger taken by the then-unnamed ambassador. Harlow told her the former diplomat was Joseph Wilson and revealed that his wife worked at the CIA. Later that same day, in the vice president's office, she shared with Cheney and Libby what Harlow had told her, including the information that Wilson's wife was employed at the CIA. How did Cheney or Libby respond to this? Fitzgerald asked Martin. "I don't remember any other specific response," she answered.

The significance of this? Fitzgerald had shown once again that Libby was making efforts to gather information on the Wilson trip when little was publicly known about it. As a result of this effort, he was told by Martin that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA. Ted Wells, a Libby lawyer, tried to depict Martin's report to Cheney and Libby as nothing but an easy-to-forget ten-second snippet. But Martin also testified that Libby was intensely engaged in a campaign to rebut Joseph Wilson's charge that the Bush administration had rigged the case for war by misrepresenting the prewar intelligence--and that Libby had even requested to see transcripts of cable news shows covering the controversy (particularly Chris Matthews' Hardball program). Consequently, a juror could well conclude that information regarding Valerie Wilson's CIA employment was important to Libby and registered with him.

Under cross-examination from Wells, Martin did say that in her many conversations with Libby and Cheney in June and July 2003 about the Wilson imbroglio, only once was Valerie Wilson mentioned--when she shared the information from Harlow with the vice president and his chief of staff.

Wells--and Martin--helped Libby on a different front. During her initial testimony, Fitzgerald asked her about a phone conversation between Libby and Matt Cooper of Time on July 12, 2003. Cooper has said that during this call Libby confirmed for him that Valerie Wilson worked at the CIA. (That would be leaking classified information.) Libby has told investigators that all he said to Cooper was that he (Libby) had heard that other reporters were saying this about Valerie Wilson. Martin was a witness to Libby's side of the call. Did she, Fitzgerald asked, hear Libby tell Cooper that other journalists were talking about Valerie Wilson and her CIA connection? No, said Martin. That seemed a blow for the defense. But then Wells asked if she had received a phone call while Libby had been talking to Cooper. Yes, she replied. And that meant Martin had not overheard the entire Libby-Cooper conversation. Fitzgerald's blow was undone.

Earlier in the day, Wells explicitly previewed a defense attack that he had only previously hinted at. It came during an attempt to impeach the credibility of Craig Schmall, Libby's onetime CIA briefer, who testified on Wednesday that Libby had mentioned Joseph and Valerie Wilson during a June 14, 2003 briefing. Wells tried to persuade Judge Reggie Walton to allow him to read from a classified document the various matters that Schmall had briefed Libby about that day. Schmall (who briefed Libby and/or Cheney several times a week) had testified he could not recall any of the specifics of that particular briefing, and Wells wanted to suggest that this assertion was not believable. He then could argue that nothing Schmall had told the jury should be accepted--including Schmall's statement that he had written down a reference to Libby's remark about the Wilsons on that morning's briefing. (The page with the handwritten note was entered into evidence.)

Wells told the judge--with the jury out of the room--that he wanted to "paint a picture that [Schmall] should not be believed." But he was not out to discredit just one witness. He claimed that in this case "there is tension between the CIA and the White House and that there "are biases and motivations so that these witnesses from the CIA cannot be believed." In other words, the CIA was--and is--out to get Libby. The judge turned down his request to disclose the contents of the briefing.

Cathie Martin will be back on the stand on Monday. (For the duration of the trial, Fridays are days off.) After she is done, Ari Fleischer, the former press secretary, is scheduled to take the stand. According to Fitzgerald's opening argument, Fleischer leaked Valerie Wilson's CIA identity to NBC News' David Gregory--and did so after obtaining information on Valerie Wilson from both Libby and White House communications director Dan Bartlett. (Gregory did not report that information.) Neither Fleischer, Bartlett, nor Gregory have commented on this new disclosure. Fleischer--who demanded and received immunity from Fitzgerald--could be trouble for Libby and also the White House.


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.