The Nation

Woodward Enters--Not Breaks--the Story

This week, Bob Woodward didn't break a story. He entered the story. On Wednesday, The Washington Post, Woodward's home base, disclosed that two days earlier the nation's most prominent reporter had given a sworn deposition to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. According to a statement issued by Woodward, the week after Fitzgerald indicted Scooter Libby, Fitzgerald asked Woodward to come in for a chat--under oath. What had happened was that a senior administration official had recently revealed to Fitzgerald that in mid-June 2003--a month before conservative columnist Bob Novak published the administration leak that outed Valerie Wilson as an undercover CIA official--this Bush official had told Woodward that Valerie Wilson worked for the CIA as a WMD analyst. (The official apparently has not permitted Woodward to disclose his or her name publicly.) This revelation changes the chronology of the leak case. Previously, Libby's June 23, 2003 conversation with New York Times reporter Judith Miller was the first known instance of a Bush administration official telling a reporter about former ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife and her employment at the CIA. Now, it turns out, another top administration figure shared this classified information with Woodward a week or so earlier.

Yet another round of Plamegate guessing has exploded. Who was Woodward's source? Was this person Novak's original source? (As of now, only the second of Novak's two sources--Karl Rove--has been fingered.) Why did Woodward sit on this information and not even tell the editor of his paper about this conversation until late last month? (Woodward has apologized to Post executive editor Len Downie Jr.) Did Woodward's possession of this inside information prompt him to criticize the leak investigation repeatedly on talk shows? Was he putting down Fitzgerald to protect or curry favor with one of his insider sources? Will this have any impact on the case against Libby?

As for the big who-is-it question, no sooner had the speculating begun that several obvious suspects denied being Woodward's source. An unnamed administration official quickly told The New York Times that neither Bush, White House chief of staff Andrew Card Jr, nor White House aide Dan Bartlett had spilled this secret to Woodward. Spokespeople for Colin Powell, former CIA chief George Tenet and former CIA director John McLaughlin did the same. (By the way, how can an administration official issue such a denial when the White House position is that it will not comment on the leak case while the investigation remains open?) A lawyer for Rove said that Rove was not the one. (Rove only talked about Wilson's wife with Novak--supposedly as Novak's second source--and Time's Matt Cooper.) As the Times noted--slyly?--"Mr. Cheney did not join the parade of denials." Nor, it seemed, did Richard Armitage, who was deputy secretary of state under Powell.

After these denials came out, a smart columnist called me and asked isn't it now clear the available evidence indicates that Cheney, who was previously interviewed by Fitzgerald, was Woodward's source and that Libby had lied to prevent Cheney from being charged with perjury. Not necessarily, I replied. It's worth noting that, according to the Libby indictment, when Cheney told Libby on June 12, 2003, that Wilson's wife was in the CIA, he said she worked at the Counterproliferation Division, which is part of directorate of operations (aka the DO), the clandestine portion of the CIA. Woodward claims that his source described her as a WMD analyst. The difference in the terminology might be significant. Then again, it might not be. It's also hard to imagine Cheney approaching Fitzgerald and conceding anything, even if he was worried about Libby flipping (and there have been signs of that). But if Cheney--who had been collecting information on Wilson's wife apart from what Libby was doing--did tell a reporter about Valerie Wilson (particularly after finding out she worked in the DO, where most employees are undercover), that would be a rather dramatic shift in the leak saga. [UPDATE: On Thursday night, Associated Press reported that a "person familiar with the investigation" said that Cheney was not Woodward's source. Richard Armitage, look out. CNN is reporting that a spokesperson for Armitage said "no comment" when asked if Armitage was Woodward's source--which makes Armitage the only person on the Official Speculation List who has not yet denied it. ]

But the whole why-would-Libby-lie fuss has been overblown. It is no great riddle. Ideological allies of Libby have claimed that since no crime was broken by the leakers, there was no reason for Libby to mislead purposefully the FBI agents and grand jurors who questioned him about his role in the leak. This argument is thin. First, who knows if no crime occurred. Perhaps one did, but Fitzgerald cannot prove it. More importantly, at the time Libby first spoke to FBI agents about the leak in October 2003 (and claimed he had only passed to reporters scuttlebutt he had picked up from other journalists), he nor anyone else could be certain no crime had transpired. Yet aside from protecting himself--or another (such as his boss)--from being charged with a crime, Libby had plenty of reason not to own up to being involved in the Plame leak. A crime or not, the leak seemed to be part of a hardball--if not ugly--effort to discredit a White House critic, and it potentially damaged national security. Certainly, Libby would not be eager to acknowledge that he and the vice president had gathered material on Valerie Wilson and that he (Libby) had slipped information about her to reporters. This would have been sufficient motivation for Libby to not tell the truth--especially in those early interviews with the FBI, which occurred before Fitzgerald had been appointed.

At that point, Libby might have seen the FBI inquiry as yet another routine leak investigation destined to go nowhere. He might have believed he could get by with a convenient cover story. But once he told the FBI agents he had merely disseminated gossip--when, according to the indictment, he had actively sought and obtained information on Valerie Wilson--he had to stick to his tale, even after Fitzgerald, the bloodhound prosecutor, inherited the probe.


Don't forget about DAVID CORN's BLOG at www.davidcorn.com. Read recent postings on the battle over the prewar intelligence, the rise of the new Open Source Media site, Ahmad Chalabi's weak defense, and other in-the-news matters.


So the Woodward revelation does not provide an answer to the not-that-important question of why Libby lied (if he did). Nor does it help Libby's case much, if at all. On Thursday, the Post published a news story titled "Woodward Could Be a Boon to Libby." The article noted that "legal experts" (note the plural) said that the Woodward disclosure could "cast at least a shadow of doubt on the public case against Libby." But it quoted only one legal expert--a former federal prosecutor named John Moustakas--making such an argument. He said that the Woodward revelation "casts doubt about whether Fitzgerald knew everything as he charged someone with a very serious offense."

But who says a prosecutor has to know "everything" before bringing a case? Libby's legal team reportedly plans to use Woodward's deposition--in which Woodward notes he talked to Libby and Libby did not out Valerie Wilson to him--as evidence that Libby was not hell-bent on revealing Valerie Wilson's CIA connection. But none of this has anything to do with whether Libby lied to investigators and the grand jury when he was asked what he had said to other reporters. The Post article also quotes Randall Eliason, former head of the public corruption unit for the US attorney's office in Washington, DC, dismissing this legal strategy as "defense spin" and noting that the Woodward news "doesn't really tell us anything about the central issue in Libby's case."

The newsflash about Woodward tells us more about Woodward (he sat on information while blasting the investigation) and presumably provides Fitzgerald yet another lead. Where this might take Fitzgerald, if anywhere, is open to wide-ranging conjecture. But one need not know the identity of Woodward's latest secret source (Top Throat?) to ask a pointed question of the White House. When the CIA leak first became the subject of an investigation, Bush declared that everyone in his administration with any information on the matter had to come forward and "speak out." Obviously, Karl Rove did not do this. Neither did Libby. The White House grandly--but falsely--denied they had been "involved" in the leak. And here's another administration official who did not come forward until late in the game. (Why Woodward's source contacted Fitzgerald at this stage is another guessing game.) When is Bush going to acknowledge that he has been surrounded by people who ignored the come-clean command? If the White House can leak word that Bush is not Woodward's source, it certainly can explain why Bush has yet to demand that White House officials be held accountable for disobeying his order.

Just Watch It!

I'm no expert, but we seem to be experiencing a resurgence of independent filmmaking with more quality documentaries and small-budget movies being produced than ever before. The traditional challenge with indie filmmaking has been how best to distribute the movie after it's been made and how, without a massive ad budget, to get people to watch it even after if it gets into theaters. 

But the internet has made it possible for movies--and books, as Chelsea Green proved last fall with George Lakoff's best-selling Don't Think of An Elephant--to bypass traditional methods of distribution and find new audiences for their work, often those who are most engaged by the film's themes and who will thus work mightily to get the word out about a particular new feature.

Robert Greenwald's new film on Wal-Mart, The High Cost of Low Prices, is working this model adroitly, bringing in numerous organizations,  including The Nation, to help promote the film to their own constituencies and asking the public to set up house parties where people will show the film to their friends, family and colleagues in their own living rooms.

Now, a new progressive film club called Ironweed advances the project with an innovative new effort that offers movie buffs easy access to independent films that are frequently unavailable outside of New York City, San Francisco, a handful of artsy college towns and a couple of high-altitude ski resorts.

The process is simple: Sign up for the club and every month you'll receive a special package containing an award-winning independent feature film on DVD, a short film, and free extras--all which you can keep. If you subscribe before the end of the year, you'll also receive a free, one-month trial. If you don't think the films are great, you can cancel with no hassles.

Ironweed sends you movies like Power Trip, the tragi-comic film that follows an American company that buys the energy system in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia and sends two bungling Americans to make the Georgians pay for power. The film won the jury prize at the Berlin Film Festival and Best Documentary at the Independent Spirit Awards, but you can't see it anywhere except through Ironweed.

Or Wetback, the touching award-winner that follows two friends who leave Nicaragua to find their fortune and experience the untold story of American immigration as they face vigilante Minutemen on the Arizona border.  

Ironweed also provides resources to help members build progressive film clubs and facilitate special filmmaker events. Just as conservatives have strengthened their movement by tapping into social organizations like churches and civic groups, Ironweed charts a path for building local networks through independent film clubs. Click here for more info. Membership in the progressive film club also makes a great holiday gift. And The Nation is partnering up with Ironweed, so joining the club also helps America's oldest weekly magazine.

Green Planet Films is rolling out another innovative way to secure DVDs.  Aiming to create and maintain a nature and environmental film library, which offers easy access for DVD rentals or purchases, GPF will mail you as many DVDs as you'd like with a 15 day borrowing period. You can also become a GPF member and borrow DVDs at cost. If you're looking for innovative movies like Building with Awareness or other green-oriented films, Blockbuster ain't gonna help much. So click here for info. 

O'Reilly to San Francisco: You're Out of the US

I was in San Francisco last week, when Fox News commentator-in-chief Bill O'Reilly had one of his tantrums and told would-be terrorists to "go ahead" and blow the city off the map of the United States.

The experience got me thinking about why it is that O'Reilly and his fellow broadcast bloviators are so venomous toward the American communities that are generally recognized - even by thinking conservatives - as the most appealing and open-minded places in the country. There's an explanation here, and it does not reflect well on the right-wing ranters.

But, first, to O'Reilly's complaint.

In referendum votes last week, San Franciscans expressed their opposition to military recruitment in the public schools and to handgun ownership. That was too much democracy for the man who presides over cable television's "no spin zone." So he did what he usually does when Americans start exercising their First Amendment rights - he blew up.

On his syndicated radio program, O'Reilly told San Franciscans they were no longer welcome in his America.

"You want to be your own country? Go right ahead," he told the residents of the Bay Area. "And if al-Qaida comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, 'Look, every other place in America is off limits to you except San Francisco.'"

O'Reilly even suggested a target for the terrorists. "You want to blow up Coit Tower (a San Francisco landmark)," he told the suicide bombers. "Go ahead."

San Franciscans took O'Reilly's remarks in stride. The city's major daily newspaper headlined an amusing front page account: "Talk host's towering rant: S.F. not worth saving," while San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, who represents the district where Coit Tower is located, recalled the addiction problems of another talk radio host and said, "It sounds like (O'Reilly's) on the same medication Rush Limbaugh is addicted to, and he should go see a therapist."

To be sure, O'Reilly is ready for some anger management instruction.

But what fascinates me is the target of so much of his anger: American cities that work.

O'Reilly's always got his shorts in a knot about some city like San Francisco or Madison or Boulder that has made the mistake of questioning Fox's Orwellian "war-is-peace," "tolerance-is-hateful," "smart-is-stupid" dogmas.

Nothing bugs the cable TV's boldest blowhard more than Americans who think for themselves. And the people who live in America's most livable cities tend to be a diverse lot of entrepreneurs and innovators, big thinkers and big doers who are better educated, better traveled and better prepared to see through the spin that is pumped out by the Bush White House and its media amen corner.

As such, they are less likely to take cues about how to vote or what to think from television and radio personalities. That's bad news for O'Reilly, who has gone so far as to write a children's book - "The O'Reilly Factor for Kids" - that pushes the "indoctrination" envelope to places even Limbaugh feared to go.

And a city that is immune to indoctrination, a city that thinks for itself and refuses to fall for the fear-mongering that is the stock in trade of the cable news channels these days, well, that's just not O'Reilly country.

What's an O'Reilly to do? Point the terrorists in the direction of the cities that are not scared enough, not paranoid enough, not ignorant enough to put their trust in the likes of Bill O'Reilly.

An Unconstitutional Amendment

Last Thursday, in a close 49-42 vote, the Senate adopted South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham's amendment to a military budget bill restricting the authority of US courts to hold the executive branch accountable for its detainee policies. (Click here for the roll call.)

The measure would overrule a 2004 Supreme Court decision allowing detainees, even those the government has declared "unlawful combatants," the right to appeal to American courts. This right--known as "habeas corpus"--is enshrined in the US Constitution and even strict constructionists like Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas can't be happy with this unprecedented encroachment on the judicial branch's turf.

Graham is carrying water for the increasingly embattled Bush Administration on this one, and it may come back to haunt him. The rapid-fire opposition to his bill is being joined by far more than the usual suspects, as Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith write in a new piece on The Nation.com: "John Hutson, a retired rear admiral and former judge advocate general of the Navy, not only protested but organized 60 former military officers to object. The National Institute of Military Justice, the organization of military lawyers, denounced it. High-powered legal scholars like Judith Resnik of Yale Law School, David Shapiro and Frank Michelman of Harvard Law School, and Burt Neuborne of New York University Law School circulated a blistering letter describing the legislation as "an effort to alter fundamental precepts of our constitutional order."

It also seems to me that if there is nobody in detention who can be convicted of anything without special kangaroo courts, then the real terrorists have indeed won, in part by pushing us to abdicate all moral authority.

The tidal wave of opposition seems to having an effect and cooler heads in the Senate are already reconsidering its action. An amendment proposed by Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, which would restore habeas corpus to detainees may come up as early as this week. The Center for Constitutional Rights, which sued the Justice Department on behalf of people held at Guantanamo, is calling for "emergency action" in support of the Bingaman amendment.

Click here to send a letter to your Senators imploring them to vote in favor of the Constitution (or call toll-free at 888-818-6641 or 888-355-3588), check out and circulate background resources put together by CCR, including an excellent primer exposing seventeen myths and distortions underlying the Graham amendment and click here to find contact info for your local newspaper editor and write him/her urging the paper to come out for Bingaman's amendment.

As Hilzoy at the Obsidian Wings blog--who has penned a series of thirteen posts debunking the Graham amendment--rightly insists. "Our country should never be the sort of place where the Secretary of Defense can just drop someone into a legal black hole, where the laws cannot reach, and whence there is no appeal. And we should not tolerate attempts to turn it into such a place. We claim to be a nation of laws; habeas corpus is one of the foundations of those laws, and it is too precious, and too important to the country we want to be, for us to throw it away."


And here's a good update from Hilzoy.

Bush Rewrites History To Criticize His Antiwar Critics

In a Veterans Day speech on Friday, delivered to troops and others at the Tobyhanna Army Depot in Pennsylvania, George W. Bush veered from the usual commemoration of sacrifice to strike at critics who have questioned whether he steered the country into war by using false information. This has become a tough and troubling issue for his presidency. A poll taken before his speech found that 57 percent of the respondents now believe that Bush "deliberately misled" the nation into war. That is astounding and, I assume, without precedent in history. Has there been another wartime period during which a majority of Americans believed the president had purposefully bamboozled them about the reasons for that war? Addressing this charge is tough for Bush because it calls more attention to it, and the on-ground-realities in Iraq only cause more popular unease with the war. But Bush and his aides calculated that it was better to punch back than ignore the criticism, and that's a sign that they're worried that Bush is coming to be defined as a president who conned the nation into an ugly war. So Bush tried. Let's break down his effort:

Our debate at home must also be fair-minded. One of the hallmarks of a free society and what makes our country strong is that our political leaders can discuss their differences openly, even in times of war.

Conservative who claim raising questions about the war does a disservice to the troops and is anti-American might want to keep these words in mind.

When I made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Congress approved it with strong bipartisan support.

Actually, Congress did not approve Bush's decision to remove Saddam. In October 2002, the House and Senate approved a resolution that gave Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq if he deemed that appropriate. At the time, Bush and his aides were claiming it was their goal to force Saddam Hussein to give up his weapons of mass destruction and his WMD programs (which, we know now, did not exist). When the resolution passed---and in the weeks after---the White House insisted that Bush was not bent on "regime change" and that he was willing to work within the UN to force Saddam to accept UN inspectors (which Saddam did) in pursuit of the goal of disarming Iraq. Is Bush now saying that he had already resolved to invade Iraq at this point and all his talk about achieving disarmament through the UN process was bunk? Is he rewriting history--or telling us the real truth? In any event, when Bush did order the invasion of Iraq months later in March 2003, he did not ask Congress to vote on his decision to remove Saddam.

I also recognize that some of our fellow citizens and elected officials didn't support the liberation of Iraq. And that is their right, and I respect it. As President and Commander-in-Chief, I accept the responsibilities, and the criticisms, and the consequences that come with such a solemn decision.

Bush might accept "the responsibilities and criticisms," but has yet to acknowledge the mistakes he and his aides made before and after the invasion about planning for a post-invasion Iraq. He also has not insisted on any accountability for these mistakes. For instance, he gave a spiffy medal to former CIA chief George Tenet, who was responsible for the prewar intelligence failure.

While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began.

When was the last time Bush talked about how the war began--that is, when did he mention that his primary reason for war (protecting the American public from the supposed WMD threat posed by Saddam Hussein) was discredited by reality? Is ignoring history the same as rewriting it?

Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war. These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs.

This is not the full and accurate explanation of the controversy at hand. The issue of whether the Bush administration misled the nation in the run-up to the war has two components. The first is the production of the intelligence related to WMDs and the supposed al Qaeda-Sadam connection. The second is how the Bush crowd represented the intelligence to the public when trying to make the case for war. As for the first, the Senate intelligence committee report did say the committee had found no evidence of political pressure. But Democratic members of the committee and others challenged this finding. Several committee Democrats pointed to a CIA independent review on the prewar intelligence, conducted by a panel led by Richard Kerr, former deputy director of the CIA, which said,

Requests for reporting and analysis of [Iraq's links to al Qaeda] were steady and heavy in the period leading up to the war, creating significant pressure on the Intelligence Community to find evidence that supported a connection.

More to the point, Kerr told Vanity Fair that intelligence analysts did feel pressured by the go-to-war gang. The magazine in May 2004 reported,

"There was a lot of pressure, no question," says Kerr. "The White House, State, Defense were raising questions, heavily on W.M.D. and the issue of terrorism. Why did you select this information rather than that? Why have you downplayed this particular thing?...Sure, I heard that some of the analysts felt pressure. We heard about it from friends. There are always some people in the agency who will say, 'We've been pushed to hard.' Analysts will say, 'You're trying to politicize it.' There were people who felt there was too much pressure. Not that they were being asked to change their judgments, but there were being asked again and again to restate their judgments--do another paper on this, repetitive pressures. Do it again."

Was it a case, then, of officials repeatedly asking for another paper until they got the answer they wanted? "There may have been some of that," Kerr concedes. The requests came from "primarily people outside asking for the same paper again and again. There was a lot of repetitive tasking. Some of the analysts felt this was unnecessary pressure. The repetitive requests, Kerr made clear, came from the C.I.A.'s "senior customers," including "the White House, the vice president, State, Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff."

Despite Bush's assertion, the question remains whether undue pressure was applied by the White House. And in his Veterans Day speech, Bush ducked the second issue: how he and his aides depicted the intelligence. This is the source of the dispute over the so-called Phase II investigation of the Senate intelligence committee. The allegation is that Bush and administration officials overstated and hyped the flawed intelligence and claimed it was definitive when they had reason to know it was not.

For example, in his final speech to the nation before launching the war, Bush claimed that US intelligence left "no doubt" about Iraq's supposed WMDs. But there was plenty of doubt on critical issues. Intelligence analysts at the Energy Department and State Department disagreed with those at the CIA about the evidence that purportedly showed Iraq had revived its nuclear weapons program: its importation of aluminum tubes and the allegation that Iraq had been uranium-shopping in Niger. (In 2002, Dick Cheney said the tubes were "irrefutable evidence," and Condoleezza Rice said they were "only really suited for nuclear weapons programs." But a year earlier, as The New York Times reported in 2004, "Rice's staff had been told that the government's foremost nuclear expert seriously doubted that the tubes were for nuclear weapons.") The CIA believed Iraq had chemical weapons. But the Defense Intelligence Agency reported that there was no evidence such stockpiles existed. Some intelligence analysts concluded that Iraq was developing unmanned aerial vehicles that could deliver chemical or biological weapons. The experts on UAVs at the Air Force thought this was not so. Was Bush speaking accurately when he told the public--and the world--there was "no doubt"?

Also, did Bush make specific claims unsupported by the intelligence? The National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, produced in October 2002, maintained that Iraq had an active biological research and development program. Bush publicly said Iraq had "stockpiles" of biological weapons. There is a difference between an R&D program (which Iraq did not have) and warehouses loaded with ready-to-go weapons (which Bush implied existed). How did an R&D program become stockpiles? This is as intriguing a question as how those sixteen words about Iraq's alleged pursuit of uranium in Africa became embedded in the State of the Union speech Bush delivered in early 2003.


Don't forget about DAVID CORN's BLOG at www.davidcorn.com. Read recent postings on Ahmad Chalabi's weak defense, the Rove/Libby scandal, the slow Phase II review of prewar intellience, and other in-the-news matters.


On the key issue of Saddam Hussein's alleged connection to al Qaeda, Bush also made statements that went beyond the intelligence. This link was crucial to the case for war, for Bush and other hawks were arguing that Saddam Hussein could slip his WMDs to his pal Osama bin Laden. Bush claimed that Saddam Hussein was "dealing with" al Qaeda. But his intelligence agencies had not reached that conclusion. (And the 9/11 Commission later said there was no evidence of collusion between al Qaeda and Saddam.) So how did Bush come to make such a statement? Recently, Senator Carl Levin, a Democrat, released formerly classified material showing that before the war when Bush, Cheney, Colin Powell and other administration officials cited evidence that Iraq had been training al Qaeda operatives in the use of bombs and other weapons, Bush and these officials were relying on the statements of a captured al Qaeda member whose claims had been discounted by the Defense Intelligence Agency. Once more, how had Bush and his senior aides come to disseminate specific and provocative information deemed unreliable by the intelligence community?

Bush's Veterans Days comments addressed none of this.

They also know that intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein.

The people with the most hands-on information regarding WMDs in Iraq did not. The International Atomic Energy Agency, led by recent Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, concluded weeks before the war (after their inspectors had returned to Iraq) that Saddam Hussein had not revived the nuclear weapons program that the IAEA had dismantled in the mid-1990s. And Hans Blix, head of the UN inspectors in Iraq, repeatedly said that his team was not finding evidence of chemical or biological weapons stockpiles.

...And many of these critics supported my opponent during the last election, who explained his position to support the resolution in the Congress this way: "When I vote to give the President of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat, and a grave threat, to our security." That's why more than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate--who had access to the same intelligence--voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power.

As noted above, the Democrats voted to give Bush the authority to use force when he thought he should--but only after Bush had promised to go to the United Nations in an effort to disarm Saddam Hussein, who, it turned out, was telling the truth when he denied his government possessed WMDs. Even the John Kerry quote that Bush cites contains the to-disarm condition. And several Democratic members of Congress have claimed that they did not see all the intelligence that was available to the White House.

The stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the national interest is too important, for politicians to throw out false charges.

It's hard to argue with that.

These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will. As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them. Our troops deserve to know that this support will remain firm when the going gets tough.

Who said that "it's perfectly legitimate to criticize" the "decision [to go to war in Iraq] or the conduct of the war"? That was Bush, moments earlier, in the same speech. So which is it? Is it okay to criticize the conduct of the war or not?

By the way, while accusing his critics of falsifying history, Bush never conceded that he launched the war on a false premise--that Saddam Hussein was up to his neck in WMDs--and, thus, as he paid tribute to veterans of this war and others, he did not accept responsibility for sending American troops into battle for a cause that did not exist.

Cruising With Scheer

On Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reported that, "In a major shakeup ofits editorial pages," it "...was discontinuing one of its most liberal columnists."

Three days later that columnist, Robert Scheer, had 150 people aboard The Nation's (8th) annual cruise crammed into the Queen's Lounge listening to his take on life, liberty, leisure, lies, the state of journalism and what's going on at the LA Times. The Nation's John Nichols led the conversation. Here are a few extracts from Scheer's spirited sprint through the last decades and days:

"From the company's point of view, it was a dumb move...If only they wereinterested in sales and profits--be better newspapers. This was a stupidmanagement decision, A bad marketing decision...Let's go bland and safe. "

"The publisher is a wise guy accountant, a bean counter from Chicago. These guys come in from Chicago. They don't know the community, and buying the LA Times may be illegal. The Chicago Tribune already owns a TV station in same market and they're going to need a waiver request which comes up next year.The publisher/bean counter's Pasadena golf buddies probably warned him about me--that flaming leftie. Now, (Times founder) Otis Chandler was no liberal but he understood his community. The paper is in decline. They have 300,000 fewerreaders now than when I went to work there nearly thirty years ago....The Times needed me more than I need it...I always have two or three balls inthe air at same time...That's why I teach full-time at USC's Journalism school, do my radio show, write books. It's the only way to live. I've been preparing for this moment for 30 years. I wrote this column for 13 years and never missed a deadline.

Probably the main reason they got rid of me was O'Reilly and Limbaugh made a living out of attacking me, pounding, pounding away and doing mass mailing campaigns against me and using me as a punching bag. But I'm still standing; the paper may collapse....Would never go back to LA Times, and I start at the San Francisco Chronicle next week. They called Wednesday to offer me a column. And my syndicate stood behind me, and the syndicate's editor, a conservative, was quoted in Editor & Publisher saying he was 100 percent behind me. And it's the same syndicate which runs O'Reilly's column.

These bean counters from Chicago are so cowardly that the day after the paper wonfive Pulitzers they flew into LA and met with chief editors at Burbank airport hotel to let them know of cuts. This corporation doesn't understand that the paper belongs to readers and they forget that it's not just shareholders and wider profit margins thatcount." Bob then broke some news: "And this week, they're going to lay off over 70 editorial people."

"They may own the paper but they don't own the readers. And LA is the greatest cityin the world, and it deserves a great newspaper. Send emails and make them aware that if they want to keep readers, they got to be smarter. Let them know readers don't like being treated with contempt. I know there's shock in the Times building; every switchboard jammed, emails streaming in." [One estimate is that close to 10,000 e-mails have come in; on Saturday, the paper ran a series of articulate, intelligent, reasoned and serious letters protesting Scheer's ouster.] "I hear the publisher is walking around in a daze. Didn't anticipate these protests, the level of outrage. Every complaint you send will give space to others who want to do bold, brave reporting."

Click here and here to email the editor (Andres Martinez) and publisher (Jeff Johnson) respectively of the LA Times.

And don't worry about Scheer. Two weeks from now, he launches his new website, TruthDig.com. "I think of A.J. Liebling, who said 'freedom of the press belongs to those who own one' and fortunately, now I own one. I think of the site as Ramparts on speed."

"I don't like to get bummed out," Scheer said. "Hey, reports of my end are premature. I am not into suffering. Want to enjoy life, act on my passions, write about the truth. And I will."

God's Pat Problem

It cannot be easy being God these days, what with so many of His self-proclaimed followers launching wars in His name.

So the last thing that the Almighty needs is a whackjob calling down the wrath of, er, well, God on communities that fail to follow the instructions in the "Christian Coalition Voter Guide."

But that's what God's got in the person of Pat Robertson, the religious broadcaster who frequently uses his 700 Club television program to pray about weather patterns or to encourage the assassination of foreign leaders.

Last week, Robertson went the next step and began deciding who can and cannot talk to God.

After the citizens of Dover, Pa., voted to remove eight school board members who had attempted to introduce an "intelligent design" curriculum -- which encourages the rejection of science and established views of evolution in order to promote the notion that the universe was simply popped into being by the Big Guy -- Robertson announced that people living in that community are off God's Christmas card list.

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city," Robertson said on his Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club."

Instead of praying to God, Robertson said the folks in Dover will have to worship science. "If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin," the television personality declared. "Maybe he can help them."

To be sure, there will be those sincere disbelievers who suggest that prayers to Darwin would be of equal consequence with prayers to the Almighty. That's a debate for another day.

But the choice that Robertson sets up for followers of his Christian faith is false one.

Many of the greatest evolutionary scientists of history and the present day have been men and women of deep religious faith -- with Christians well represented among their number. These scientists have suggested in some of the most thoughtful and elegant essays of our time that the study of evolution can -- and should -- be seen as an endeavor that is entirely in synch with their faith. After all, they ask, what could be wrong with trying to better explain God's creation?

The answer, of course, is "nothing" -- unless you've made a fortune setting yourself up as God's "spokesman."

Robertson and his ilk despise science because it provides explanations and insights that expose their pseudo-religious rants about who is on the right or wrong side of God -- not to mention who gets to pray and how -- for what they are: schemes to scare Christians into voting for Robertson's right-wing allies and writing checks to Robertson's enterprises and causes.

The so-called "Christian broadcaster" is wrong this time, as he has so frequently been in the past.

Despite what Roberston says, the people of Dover can pray to whomever they choose: God or Charles Darwin or even Pat Robertson.

And they can believe, as no doubt most Dover, Pa., voters did when they cast their ballots, that sound religion and sound science need not be in conflict.

Demand Peace

Medea Benjamin and Gayle Brandeis ask a good question for today's holiday in a new piece for The Nation online: "On Veteran's Day, when we honor all of those who have served our country through the military, it's helpful to take a closer look at three words that have become so familiar: What does it mean to truly support our troops?"

The best way, of course, to support the troops is to bring them home. After that, making sure they come back to viable jobs, legit educational opportunities and proper healthcare and counseling are all high on the list.

Benjamin and Brandeis also offer a series of concrete suggestions, including sending care packages to Iraq with books, food and other everyday items difficult to find in a war zone; donating to organizations, like the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, that provide help for returning soldiers struggling to put their lives together and supporting groups like United for Peace and Justice, CodePink, Gold Star Families for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War, who are out there in the trenches of the antiwar movement.

It also never hurts--particularly as polls increasingly show that opposing the war will be a winning electoral issue--to click here and implore your elected reps to support a quick withdrawal strategy today. For arguments why this is so critical, check out The Nation mag's new lead editorial.

Dictionary of Republicanisms

We did it! With the support of thenation.com's loyal readers, Nation Books has just published The Dictionary of Republicanisms--an attempt to call out and decode the right's well-funded efforts to transform American political discourse to suit its political ends. I want to personally thank the hundreds of readers, from forty-four states, who submitted literally thousands of definitions. They were strong, smart, and funny. The book itself is a distillation of my favorites.

Check out a few definitions:

Dick Cheney, n. The greater of two evils [Jacob McCullar, Austin, TX]

Extraordinary Rendition, n. Outsourcing terror [Milton Feldon, Laguna Woods, CA]

Healthy Forest, n. No Tree Left Behind [Dan McWilliams, Santa Barbara, CA]

Voter Fraud, n. A significant minority turnout. [Sue Bazy, Philadelphia, PA]

In the fight against the radical right, it's my hope that this book will serve as inspiration for progressives who have known for a long time that the conservative agenda is bad for America. Slowly, the rest of the nation seems to be waking up to this fact. But we can't be complacent. The right-wing machine was built over decades, and it won't stop simply because its had a few bad weeks.

At The Nation, we will continue to skewer the Orwellian doublespeak of the Republican right, hopefully with your help. The bad news from the White House continues, and we are presented daily with new words and people demanding redefinition. Some recent examples: The Apprentice (by Scooter Libby), Arabian Horse Association, avian flu, Brownie, entanglement (e.g. Judy Miller/Scooter Libby), ethics seminar, federal indictment, To be Harriet Miered, heck of a job, pandemic, Plamegate, Scalito.

So we're once again taking submissions for follow-up weblog postings. If you didn't submit before, now is your chance. Just click here to submit definitions.

If you are part of a book club, work together on the definitions. Or buy a copy of the book and invite some friends over. All proceeds will go to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. And if you happen to know one of the authors in the collection (they are from all over the country), please invite them too. They should be celebrated for their wit and wisdom.