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Capital Games | The Nation

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Capital Games

 Washington: a city of denials, spin, and political calculations. The Nation's former DC editor David Corn spent 2002-2007 blogging on the policies, personalities and lies that spew out of the nation's capital. The complete archive appears below. Corn is now the DC editor at Mother Jones.

Libby Is Closer to Jail; Now Comes Neocon Pardon-mania

Now it gets serious.

On Thursday afternoon, federal district court Judge Reggie Walton ruled that he will not put off sending Scooter Libby to jail. Last week, the judge sentenced Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff to 30 months and a $250,000 fine for obstructing justice during the CIA leak investigation. Libby's lawyers asked for Libby to remain free on bail while they appeal the conviction. Walton said he would entertain the request, though he indicated he was not at all sympathetic to their legal arguments. He did not change his mind.

His ruling was a routine legal decision. Walton usually sends criminals convicted in his court (who are not flight risks) to prison once the Bureau of Prison notifies him it has selected a prison for the convict. That process tends to take 45 to 60 days. So unless Libby's layers can persuade an appeals court to overturn Walton's decision, Libby will soon be reporting to a federal penitentiary.

Which means neocon pardon-mania is about to hit.

The Libby Lobby has long called for George W. Bush to pardon Libby--even before his trial and conviction. And the neocons and conservatives have amped up their demand for a pardon in the days since Libby was sentenced.

On June 5, The National Review reiterated its call for a pardon:

[Libby] is a dedicated public servant caught in a crazy political fight that should have never happened, convicted of lying about a crime that the prosecutor can't even prove was committed. President Bush has the power to end this ridiculous saga right now. He should do so.

Days later, William F. Buckley suggested this was an issue involving Bush's manhood:

Mr. Bush will have to exhibit the courage for which he is loved and hated, by doing the right thing, and letting Mr. Libby get on with life.

Today, P.S. Ruckman, writing for The National Review, proposed that Bush issue a "respite" that would delay Libby's jail term while Libby's appeal continues.

The Wall Street Journal's editorial page, too, has been in the forefront of the free Scooter movement. Three days ago, it opined:

With Mr. Libby, what is Mr. Bush afraid of--jeopardizing his 33% approval rating? A pardon would be a two-day story. His opponents can't hate Mr. Bush more than they already do, and his supporters would cheer to see the President standing by the man who stood by him when others in his Administration cut and ran.

Days earlier, The WSJers proclaimed:

Mr. President, this buck stops with you.

Among the rush-to-war crowd, there is outrage that Bush has not waved his magic wand for Libby. These conservatives believe that that Libby (and they) have been betrayed by the president. Rightwing columnist Bob Novak (who started the leak scandal when he outed covert CIA officer Valerie Plame in his column) recently channeled this rage in a column:

The treatment of Lewis Libby, once Vice President Cheney's influential chief of staff, enrages Republicans far more than their public utterances suggest. The president's studied distance from the CIA leak case led to the appointment of a special prosecutor by then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey at a time when Comey already knew the leaker's identity. That distance has continued with Bush's response from Europe to Libby's conviction; it was filtered through a deputy press secretary, emphasizing that he had no intention of issuing a pardon.

One Republican who did not watch her words last week was Washington lawyer Victoria Toensing: "If the president can pardon 12 million illegal immigrants, he can pardon Scooter Libby." Toensing is joining the procession supporting the still-unannounced run for president by Fred Thompson, who is unequivocal in his outrage over Libby's fate and asserts that he would pardon him.

You can feel the rage. And the neocons know how to gin up campaigns. They will do whatever it takes to pressure Bush. Expect them to go--to use a technical term--bananas. Especially since the White House still is indicating Bush is not eager to untie Libby from the train tracks. After Walton turned down Libby's request to remain free, White House spokesperson Dana Perino said, "Scooter Libby still has the right to appeal, and therefore the president will continue not to intervene in the judicial process. The president feels terribly for Scooter, his wife, and their young children, and all that they're going through."

There was wiggle room in the statement. Perhaps if Libby exhausts his appeals on the issue of staying out of prison while he appeals the conviction, Bush might then consider a pardon. But this was not the message the Libby Lobby wanted to hear.

These days Bush has lost the general public due to the Iraq war, He is in trouble with party's base because of the immigration bill he's been pushing. Now the elite guard of the GOP is in an uproar over his failure (so far) to pardon Libby. These guys and gals are going to endeavor to make this decision a painful one for Bush. They know how to play (read: manipulate) the media. And they have a mole in the White House: Dick Cheney. With Americans and Iraqi civilians being killed in Iraq every day, they will pour all their passion into the Save Scooter fight. After all, he is one of them. And though most neocons who misguided the United States into the failed war in Iraq have never served in the military, they do share a credo with one of the military services: leave no man behind. Scooter is their holy cause. The crusade has just begun.

*****

JUST OUT IN PAPERBACK: HUBRIS: THE INSIDE STORY OF SPIN, SCANDAL, AND THE SELLING OF THE IRAQ WAR by Michael Isikoff and David Corn. The paperback edition of this New York Times bestseller contains a new afterword on George W. Bush's so-called surge in Iraq and the Scooter Libby trial. The Washington Post said of Hubris: "Indispensable....This [book] pulls together with unusually shocking clarity the multiple failures of process and statecraft." The New York Times called it, "The most comprehensive account of the White House's political machinations...fascinating reading." Tom Brokaw praised it as "a bold and provocative book." 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.

Libby Sentenced: 30 Months in Jail Because "Truth Matters"

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby stood before federal district court Judge Reggie Walton. It was finally the moment for Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff to speak. The sentencing hearing was coming to an end; Walton was about to pronounce the punishment Libby would face for having obstructed justice in the CIA leak case. Libby, who did not testify during the trial, thanked the court for showing him and his defense team consideration during the proceedings. He told the judge, "It is...my hope the court will consider...my whole life."

That was it. No apology. No expression of remorse.

Then Walton sentenced Libby to 30 months in jail and a $250,000 fine. Libby didn't flinch. His wife, Harriet Grant, cried. Notable conservatives in the front row of the crowded courtroom--Mary Matalin, Barbara Comstock, and Victoria Toensing--appeared shocked.

Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had asked Walton to incarcerate Libby for 30 to 37 months. At the hearing, prior to Walton's ruling, Libby's defense attorneys--Ted Wells and William Jeffress Jr.--contended that Libby should get off with probation. They threw several arguments at the judge. First, they claimed that the toughest sentencing guides should not be applied to Libby, echoing an argument put forward by Libby's champions in rightwing circles: Nobody was ever charged with leaking the identity of Valerie Plame Wilson, so the whole case was not such a big deal. Walton did not bite. Citing appeals court decisions, he noted that in an obstruction of justice case it's the investigation that counts, not the ultimate outcome of the investigation. "Your position," Walton told Jeffress, "would seem to promote someone aggressively engaging in obstruction behavior."

Next, Jeffress asserted that no one really knew if Valerie Wilson had been a covert CIA officer covered by the Intelligence Identities Protection Act and suggested this ought to be a mitigating factor. (In a recent court filing, Fitzgerald declared, "It was clear from very early in the investigation that Ms. Wilson qualified under the relevant statute [the Intelligence Identities Protection Act] as a covert agent whose identity had been disclosed by public officials, including Mr. Libby, to the press.") Walton, with his voice rising, outlined the case: "The CIA believes one of its agents was improperly outed....They had a legitimate concern. So they contact the Justice Department and they say this needs to be investigated....And the Justice Department...goes to investigate and they make inquiries....And that person lies." Walton went on: "When law enforcement officials...initiate an investigation...it is the obligation of the American citizenry to be honest and forthright." And Fitzgerald, wearing a gray rumpled suit, added that Libby's lie to those investigating the Plame leak created "a house of mirrors" and made it more difficult for the investigators to "sort out the truth."

Walton indicated that as a matter of law he was sticking with the tougher sentencing guidelines. Next, the issue was whether he ought to use judicial discretion and cut Libby any slack. Fitzgerald argued that Walton's sentence should "make a clear statement that truth matters." He noted that Libby had lied persistently during the leak investigation and had subsequently displayed no contrition. The sentence, the prosecutor continued, should also send the message "that one's status in life does not matter" when it comes to justice. Realizing what Wells and Jeffress were about to argue, Fitzgerald declared that a public servant ought not to receive special treatment. Libby, he said, deserved no more consideration than a social worker, a teacher, a cop. Fitzgerald recognized that Libby had worked long and hard in a variety of government jobs, but he said, "We need the truth from government officials."

Wells had one last shot. The dynamic and dramatic African-American defense attorney said he had "no quarrel with Mr. Fitzgerald's statement that truth matters." But, he added, "it is entirely appropriate for a sentencing judge to take into consideration the good works and the good deeds a person has done." He contended that Libby for decades had engaged in "exceptional public service." He reminded the judge that more than 150 people had submitted to the court letters hailing Libby. This band includes prominent conservative and neoconservative hawks, including Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Henry Kissinger, John Bolton, Doug Feith.

But Wells did not read the letters from these notables. He chose six others. In this group were retired Admiral Joseph Lopez, who praised Libby as a "linchpin" during the first Persian Gulf War; Seth Carus, a biowarfare expert who asserted "Libby has done more to enable the United States to address the challenge of bioterrorism than any other single person"; Robert Blackwill, a former Bush National Security Council official, who said that at the White House no one was "more driven by...sound policy reasoning than Libby"; and Paul Wolfowitz, the former deputy defense secretary, who extolled Libby's "decisive contribution" to forging the post-Cold War world. (Wells' use of Wolfowitz, the scandal-struck and outgoing World Bank president, as a character reference prompted smirks among reporters in the courtroom.)

None of the testimonials Wells read referred to the Iraq war. And Wells told the court that though the Libby case was not about the war, it did "seem that Libby was the poster child for all that has gone wrong with this terrible war." Wells essentially argued that was punishment enough. He noted that Libby has "been exposed...to overwhelming negative press coverage" and has "endured public scorn and ridicule." He pointed out that Libby has received hate mail. And that whether Libby goes to jail or not, he will no longer be able to serve his two great loves: working in the government and practicing law. "He has fallen from public grace," Wells exclaimed. "It's a tragic fall....There's no need to incarcerate Mr. Libby."

Walton accepted none of this. He acknowledged Libby had been a public servant for years, foregoing income he could have obtained in private practice. But, the judge noted, "we expect a lot" of senior government officials. Libby's high position, Walton remarked, came with high obligations. Walton derided the attacks launched by Libby partisans and commentators against the CIA leak investigation, the trial, and the verdict. "The evidence overwhelmingly indicates Mr. Libby's culpability," he declared. He blasted Libby for discussing Valerie Wilson with reporters without considering that she might have been an undercover officer. "Government officials must realize," he said, "if they're going to step over the line...there are consequences."

In the end, Walton explained, Libby's government service and his violation of the obligations of his office balanced each other out. There would be no mitigation in the sentencing. He announced his decision: two-and-a-half years in jail and a quarter of a million dollars.

Libby was not hauled off to jail. His lawyers asked Walton to permit Libby to remain free on bond while they appeal the conviction. Walton indicated he was not sympathetic to this position. But he noted that it would take the Bureau of Prisons 45 to 60 days to find a spot for Libby. Consequently, he said, the defense could file a motion on this point by Thursday, and he scheduled a hearing on this question for next week. Presuming Walton does not change his mind at that hearing, Libby will have to surrender himself and begin his jail term sometime in the next two months.

After the sentencing hearing was concluded, Libby exchanged hugs with his wife and friends. His lawyers said they would make no statements. They quickly left the courthouse. Fitzgerald and his team exited the courtroom without answering questions. A few minutes later, I spotted Fitzgerald alone in a courthouse hallway. He was checking messages on his cellphone. Anything to say? I and another reporter asked. He shrugged sheepishly and stuttered, "I...I..." He closed his cell phone. "Just can't." He had an apologetic look on his face. Then he left the building.

Minutes later, as television camera crews in front of the courthouse were breaking down their equipment, a motorcade sped past. In a dark limousine was Cheney, on his way to a meeting on Capitol Hill. His former aide--who had helped Cheney guide the country into the Iraq war--was heading to jail, having been convicted of obstructing an investigation that had targeted Cheney among others. Cheney was still in power. His office had, as of that moment, issued no comment on Libby's sentence.

Fitzgerald got from Walton the message he wanted: Libby lied; this lying was consequential; it demanded serious punishment. One of the Bush officials responsible for a war that many Americans believe was sold with lies will be imprisoned for lying. Still, Libby's conviction and sentencing will have little impact on popular opinion, for most of the public has already reached a verdict on Bush, Cheney and their administration. The Libby case is merely an affirmation of the (widely-held) view that the Bush crowd is not an honest one.

Now the Libby saga enters the real endgame: pardon or no pardon. Bush has a week until the question is truly forced upon him. If next Thursday's hearing changes nothing, Libby will be awaiting a vacancy in a federal penitentiary. This will drive the Libby Lobby to pump up the volume on its call for a pardon. Conservative pundits will go wild. Republican presidential candidates will demand freedom for Libby. (Former Senator Fred Thompson is a member of the Libby Legal Defense Trust and has hosted a fundraiser for Libby.) What will Cheney say? What will Bush do? It appears Bush will not be able to opt for on-the-sly, last-minute sort of pardon that his father awarded Iran-contra figures shortly before leaving office and that President Bill Clinton handed to fugitive financier Marc Rich as the Clinton presidency was ending. If Bush wants to pardon Libby, he will have to do it in full public glare. He will have to explain why a convicted liar--who shares blame for the mess in Iraq--ought to go free.

When Bush first ran for president in 2000, he vowed to bring accountability and ethics back to the White House. A pardon of Libby would be a telling moment in his long departure from that promise.

*****

JUST OUT IN PAPERBACK: HUBRIS: THE INSIDE STORY OF SPIN, SCANDAL, AND THE SELLING OF THE IRAQ WAR by Michael Isikoff and David Corn. The paperback edition of this New York Times bestseller contains a new afterword on George W. Bush's so-called surge in Iraq and the Scooter Libby trial. The Washington Post said of Hubris: "Indispensable....This [book] pulls together with unusually shocking clarity the multiple failures of process and statecraft." The New York Times called it, "The most comprehensive account of the White House's political machinations...fascinating reading." Tom Brokaw praised it as "a bold and provocative book." 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.

Libby Sentenced: 30 Months and $250,000

I'm at the courthouse and will be back with a report soon.

Dems Debate: Is There a Difference on Iraq--Or Not?

There are no major differences among us regarding the Iraq war.

So said Senator Hillary Clinton at Sunday night's Democratic presidential debate in New Hampshire.

There are profound differences among us regarding the Iraq war.

So said former Senator John Edwards at the same debate.

The difference over the difference was the main point of contention of the event. The positions staked out by the leading candidates were--no shocker here--obvious. Clinton wants to play down the fact that until recently she was out of step with Democratic primary voters concerning the war, for she had (a) voted to grant George W. Bush the authority to attack Iraq and then (b) more or less defended the war for several years before she (c) announced her campaign for presidency and starting calling (and voting) for an end to the war. So on the stage she pointed out that "we all believe we need to end the war." She added that whatever disagreements exist among the Democrats on how best to do so, these disputes are trivial given that every major Republican running to succeed Bush supports the president on the war. "This is George Bush's war," she declared.

It was a typical frontrunner's performance. Focus not on the rivals in your own party but on the other side. After all, Clinton doesn't want to encourage Democratic voters to compare the Democratic contenders on the Iraq war.

Edwards--who's placing third in the national polls but first in the Iowa polls--needs a line of attack on Clinton and Senator Barack Obama. So at the debate, he maintained there's an immense gap between himself and the other two. He defined it as the "difference between leading and following." He noted--correctly--that when the recent Iraq war funding bill was up for a vote in the Senate, he vociferously urged the Democrats in the Senate to say no to Bush, while Clinton and Obama went mum. Sure, Edwards went on, Clinton and Obama ended up voting against the funding, but they did so "quietly" and said nothing about how they would vote before the roll was called. That, Edwards maintained, is not leadership.

Edwards had a point--but perhaps a minor one. Is this criticism enough to fuel his attempt to overtake Clinton and Obama? Edwards' claim that he's the best antiwar candidate of the leading Democrats would have more potency if his current position were significantly different from theirs. But Clinton and Obama, by voting against the Iraq funding measure, did not give Edwards the opening he craved. And at the debate, Obama had a good comeback. "It is important to lead," he said, adding "I opposed this war from the start...not years late." Edwards, like Clinton, voted to give Bush the authority to start the war.

So among the Democrats' three leaders, there's a candidate who was initially against the war and now pledges to end it, a candidate who voted for the war and now pledges to end it, and a candidate who voted for the war and now pledges to end it and who criticizes his two key opponents for not being sufficiently passionate in their opposition to the war. Viva la difference? Or not.

Clinton hopes to blur the edges; Edwards needs to sharpen them. Meanwhile, Obama cannot coast on his original opposition to the war. If he and Clinton are at the same place now on the most critical issue for Democratic voters, he's going to have a tough time upsetting her apple cart. On Iraq--the dominant topic of the night--this debate did not achieve much for Clinton's main rivals. With Edwards' support slipping and Obama's support softening in the most recent national poll, each needs a boost more than she does. Bottom-line (for those keeping score at home): it was a good night for the former First Lady. Anytime she makes it through a debate without being clobbered, she's the winner.

*****

JUST OUT IN PAPERBACK: HUBRIS: THE INSIDE STORY OF SPIN, SCANDAL, AND THE SELLING OF THE IRAQ WAR by Michael Isikoff and David Corn. The paperback edition of this New York Times bestseller contains a new afterword on George W. Bush's so-called surge in Iraq and the Scooter Libby trial. The Washington Post said of Hubris: "Indispensable....This [book] pulls together with unusually shocking clarity the multiple failures of process and statecraft." The New York Times called it, "The most comprehensive account of the White House's political machinations...fascinating reading." Tom Brokaw praised it as "a bold and provocative book." 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.

Dems Wimp Out on Bush & Prewar Intelligence

As part of its much belated inquiry into the prewar intelligence, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a 229-page report on Friday on the intelligence produced by US intelligence agencies on what could be expected to occur in Iraq following a US invasion. No surprise: the intelligence community foresaw the likelihood of chaos and trouble inside and outside Iraq.

As the committee's report notes, before the war the top intelligence analysts of the United States government concluded that creating a stable democratic government in Iraq would be a difficult and "turbulent" challenge, that sectarian conflict could erupt in a post-invasion Iraq, that al Qaeda would view a US invasion of Iraq as an opportunity to increase and enhance its terrorist attacks, that a heightened terrorist threat would exist for several years, that the US occupation of Iraq would probably cause a rise of Islamic fundamentalism and a boost in funding for terrorist groups, and that Iran's role in the region would enlarge.

That is, prior to the war, the experts predicted the tough times to come. In the book I co-wrote with Michael Isikoff Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, we reported that the intelligence community and the Pentagon had produced several estimates in early 2003 that warned about what could happen following a U.S. invasion. In his memoirs, former CIA director George Tenet quoted from some of these intelligence assessments. And the Senate Intelligence Committee report reprints two such studies. The intelligence establishment blew the WMD call--partly because it failed to accept its own skeptical intelligence evaluations--but it was largely correct about what would transpire after the United States entered Iraq.

But the Senate Intelligence Committee--now chaired by Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller--blinked.

That assessment comes from one of the committee's own members: Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat. In comments attached to the report, she justifiably gripes that the report ignores a critical matter--what the Bush administration did (or did not do) with all this strong intelligence. She writes:

I believe that the report could have, and should have, been much stronger and more direct on the quality and use of prewar intelligence.

In particular, the report should have included a conclusion that the quality of prewar assessments was generally high and that many of the predictions made by the Intelligence Community (IC) about postwar Iraq proved to be correct. There should also have been a conclusion that although policymakers had access to these assessments...they failed to take steps to prevent or lessen postwar challenges.

Feinstein is essentially charging that Rockefeller wimped out. He let the Bush White House off the hook. As Feinstein writes,

A more troubling aspect of prewar assessments on postwar Iraq was the extent to which they were ignored by policymakers....In the rare occasion that Administration officials addressed the postwar environment, their statements tended to ignore or directly contradict the IC's views.

Moreover, major policy decisions, including the number of troops needed after the initial combat phase and the extent of de-Baathification in the government and security forces, flatly ignored the assessments and recommendations of intelligence officials. Similarly, intelligence recommendations to actively engage Iraq's neighbors, especially Iran, in the postwar period were dismissed.

There is a bottom-line here: Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and other top administration officials shirked their duties by not planning for the troubles predicted by the intelligence community. Moreover, they misled the public, by presenting images of a post-invasion Iraq not supported by the assessments produced by the government's analysts. Feinstein notes:

The Committee has seen no evidence that government officials and decisionmakers appropriately considered and prepared for the difficulties in the postwar environment that were predicted by the Intelligence Community. The failure to act on this intelligence is a key contributing factor to the current situation in Iraq.

The Senate intelligence committee dropped the ball on the most important point: how Bush and his colleagues paid little heed to reality (or predictions of a reality to come) when they took the nation to war. It's good to know that the intelligence community--which screwed up the WMD question--did get something right. (The CIA also was correct when it produced reports saying there was no evidence of an operational link between Iraq and al Qaeda--a conclusion mocked by neocons in the Bush administration.) Yet the more significant issue is how Bush and his aides handled the decision to go to war. As the report shows--without stating so--the president and his team disregarded the experts and, thus, steered the country into one helluva ditch in Iraq.

The Senate intelligence committee has yet to finish its so-called "Phase II" report on the administration's use (or abuse) of the prewar intelligence on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. That inquiry has been the subject of contention between Republicans and Democrats on the committee for the past three years. (The Democrats even shut down the Senate for a few hours to protest the Republicans' reluctance to wrap up that investigation.) But if the latest committee report is any indication, Bush critics, even fellow Democrats of Jay Rockefeller, may end up disappointed when the long-awaited Phase II report finally emerges.

*****

JUST OUT IN PAPERBACK: HUBRIS: THE INSIDE STORY OF SPIN, SCANDAL, AND THE SELLING OF THE IRAQ WAR by Michael Isikoff and David Corn. The paperback edition of this New York Times bestseller contains a new afterword on George W. Bush's so-called surge in Iraq and the Scooter Libby trial. The Washington Post said of Hubris: "Indispensable....This [book] pulls together with unusually shocking clarity the multiple failures of process and statecraft." The New York Times called it, "The most comprehensive account of the White House's political machinations...fascinating reading." Tom Brokaw praised it as "a bold and provocative book." 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.

The Dems' Self-Defeat on the Iraq War Vote

The congressional Democratic leaders' big problem: they can't count.

Given the choice of funding the unpopular Iraq war or being accused by George W. Bush of succumbing to a defeatism that endangers America's security, a majority of senators and representatives clearly prefers Option One. This group is composed mostly of Republicans. But a slice of Democrats are within its ranks. Such a reality couldn't be hurdled by Democratic leaders in the House and Senate during the just-ended face-off over an Iraq war funding bill. The Democrats tried at first to have it both ways and ended up with nothing--except a flood of resentment from their core supporters. Amid the debris, there's a lesson for them.

Led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Democrats thought they could cleverly force Bush to end (or, at least, begin ending) the war. They oppose the war, but their plan was to vote for Iraq war funds and attach a variety of conditions, including benchmarks and a withdrawal schedule, to the funding measure. Such a move would have both continued the war and established a glide path for its end (that is, the end of active US combat participation in the conflict). A few Democrats who wanted to just say no to the war bolted, but Pelosi managed to craft a Rube Goldberg measure that won the barest party-line majority possible. (There was doubt whether the legislation would do much in concrete terms, for it contained escape clauses Bush could exploit.) In the Senate, Reid, with his fellow Democrats aboard, passed a less complicated bill that called for beginning a withdrawal in several months. Next, the president vetoed the blended bill that subsequently emerged.

That was no surprise. For the Democrats, the question was, what to do next? Antiwar advocates, such as the members of MoveOn, demanded the Dems hang tough. Former Senator John Edwards, a presidential candidate, called for Pelosi and Reid to keep passing the same bill in defiance of Bush's veto, as Edwards sought to pressure two rivals, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The media portrayed the episode as a showdown between congressional Democrats and Bush. The key issue: who would blink first?

The answer came on Thursday night when the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate essentially turned tail and allowed votes on a $120 billion war funding measure containing weak benchmarks and little in the way of consequences should the Iraqi government fall short. GOPers provided most of the support for the legislation, but in the House 86 Democrats voted for it (including such leaders as Representatives Steny Hoyer, Rahm Emanuel, James Clyburn and John Murtha). In the Senate, 37 of 50 Democrats went along. Toward the end of the vote in the Senate, Obama voted nay; then Hillary Clinton followed suit.

The war continues. No checks, no balances.

Grassroots and antiwar Democrats who expected their party's win last November to lead to the war's end are enraged. As they see it--and accurately so--a Democratic-controlled Congress has failed to halt or slow Bush's war in Iraq, even though public opinion polls show that a majority of Americans favor establishing a withdrawal timetable. And, worse, many Democrats have now voted to give the war, with the ongoing escalation, another chance. The Democratic Party leaders stand alienated from their base--while congressional Republicans, though out of step with popular sentiment, are in sync with their core supporters.

Was such an unhappy (for the Democrats) outcome inevitable? Probably. The Democrats do not have the votes to stop the war, even in their own caucus--unless they are audaciously willing to defy majority rule (say, by preventing war funding legislation from reaching the floor). Most House Democrats do favor withdrawing from Iraq. Days ago, 169 House Democrats (and two Republicans) voted for such a measure. And 28 Democratic senators voted for a similar bill. Yet a significant minority of Democrats are aligned with almost all the Republicans in opposition to a legislatively-mandated pullback. Some of these Democrats may believe in the war; many probably fear being blamed for the ugly consequences that could ensue in Iraq following a removal of US troops. In any event, the Democrats were mathematically destined to disappoint those hoping they would suffocate Bush's war in Iraq.

The denouement, though, did not have to be so dismal for the Democrats. If the Democrats had at the start not attempted to outfox an uncompromising commander in chief, they could have reaped the rewards of moral (or political) clarity. Had Pelosi offered a bill forcing a withdrawal of US forces within a year, she would have lost the vote on that measure. But she would have been in a position to declare, "Most of the Democratic Party want to end this war, but because some of our members (and practically all of the Republicans) disagree, we cannot pass legislation to achieve this...yet." A clear picture would have been painted: the war belongs to Bush and the Republicans.

After that, Pelosi could have permitted the Republicans to bring forward an appropriations bill for the war. The Democrats could have offered various benchmarks, conditions, timetables, and deadlines via amendments. Most would have failed, a few (but no withdrawal deadlines) might have passed. Again, there would be clarity. The narrative would have been that the Democrats first tried to stop the war and then attempted to place limits on the war. If they failed, they failed. Sure, there still would have been anger from the base at those Democrats who bucked the Democratic gameplan. But the party's grassroots and netroots--and the rest of the public--would have seen that the Democratic leadership had endeavored to change course in Iraq.

The House Democratic leaders can now contend that they did try to force a change on Bush and point to the 140 Dems who voted against the war funding bill. But this claim cannot overcome the appearance of Democratic strategizing gone awry. The Democrats created too much confusing context for their failure. Bush had a simple position: I want my war the way I want it, and if the Democrats don't give it to me, they'll be harming the troops and bear responsibility for whatever ill befalls America from the evildoers. The Democrats presented a series of hard-to-follow and hard-to-explain gyrations. They were rolled.

At the end of the day, Bush and the GOP--who are on the wrong side of public opinion on the war--came out political winners. And the Democrats looked divided, confused, and weak. Which brings me back to the first point. In politics, you can sometimes turn a liability (not enough votes) into an asset, if you play for a clean loss that sends the right message. That's not what happened on this round.

The match is not over. The war slogs on, and Congress will face another vote on war funds in the fall. Lawmakers of both parties are already saying that September will be the make-or-break month, meaning that if there are no obvious signs of progress by summer's end, even Republicans may start to proclaim enough's enough. "This is not the end of the debate," Pelosi asserted before voting against the war funding measure. She's right about that.

Pelosi and Reid will get another shot at Bush's war soon. Democrats should wonder what their leaders learned from this defeat.

******

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.

Wolfowitz Out: The Spin Doesn't Matter

From the statement of the World Bank's board of directors, announcing the resignation of its president, Paul Wolfowitz:

Over the last three days we have considered carefully the report of the ad hoc group, the associated documents, and the submissions and presentations of Mr. Wolfowitz. Our deliberations were greatly assisted by our discussion with Mr. Wolfowitz. He assured us that he acted ethically and in good faith in what he believed were the best interests of the institution, and we accept that. We also accept that others involved acted ethically and in good faith. At the same time, it is clear from this material that a number of mistakes were made by a number of individuals in handling the matter under consideration, and that the Bank's systems did not prove robust to the strain under which they were placed.

Note that the board does not identify which individuals made mistakes--even after a special panel of the board concluded that Wolfowitz broke the institutions rules when he devised a lucrative compensation package for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, who worked at the Bank. This is reminiscent of Ronald Reagan's remark about the Iran-contra scandal: "mistakes were made." He, too, didn't say who in his administration had committed the errors (such as himself). The World Bank, in this instance, took a similar tact: no blame for Wolfowitz. That was the price Wolfowitz demanded for his resignation, and board members it seemed, were quite willing to pay it.

From Wolfowitz's statement:

I am pleased that after reviewing all the evidence the Executive Directors of the World Bank Group have accepted my assurance that I acted ethically and in good faith in what I believed were the best interests of the institution, including protecting the rights of a valued staff member.

The poorest people of the world, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa deserve the very best that we can deliver. Now it is necessary to find a way to move forward.

To do that, I have concluded that it is in the best interests of those whom this institution serves for that mission to be carried forward under new leadership. Therefore, I am announcing today that I will resign as President of the World Bank Group effective at the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2007).

One question: if Wolfowitz did indeed act "ethically and in good faith," why must he resign?

As I wrote on my own blog:

Words don't matter at this stage. Neither the Bank nor Wolfowitz can spin the scent of scandal from the finale of the Wolfowitz affair. The Bank's board may have accepted his claim that his actions were honorable in order to ease him out--ignoring that a special panel had concluded he broke the rules in arranging for a hefty salary boost for his girlfriend. But Wolfowitz's (forced) departure says more than any explanatory statement from the Bank or from him. Wolfowitz had to leave because of what he did. Still, under his contract, he's entitled to a year's salary of $375,000 and other benefits. If he wants to help the world's poor, perhaps he ought to donate that money to Oxfam.

Or maybe half.

******

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.

The Wolfowitz Report: How He and Riza Gamed the Bank

World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz broke the rules and engaged in an actual conflict of interest when in 2005 he arranged for a rather generous salary boost for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, a communications official at the Bank.

That's the conclusion of a special panel of the Bank's board of directors, which on Monday released its report on the Wolfowitz matter. This judgment was no surprise; the basics had been leaked days earlier. But the report presented more information that places Wolfowitz in a tough spot--for it suggests that he and Riza brazenly took advantage of the situation created by his appointment to the Bank to guarantee her a promotion and pay rise she had failed to obtain previously. And the question of the moment is the obvious one: can he survive?

Here are some interesting portions of the report:

According to Mr. [Xavier] Coll [vice president of human resources], he met with Mr. Wolfowitz and Ms. [Robin] Cleveland, Counselor to the President, on August 10, 2005, in preparation for a meeting on August 11 with Ms. Riza. During that meeting, Mr. Coll was told to stop consulting with the Bank's General Counsel on this matter.

In retrospect, it's clear there was the need for more legal advice, not less, about what to do about Riza, who could not continue to work at the Bank in a position under the supervision of Wolfowitz. Yet Wolfowitz kept the circle small. He has claimed it would have been a conflict of interest to involve the Bank's general counsel--a contention rejected by the special panel. But even if Wolfowitz had been right about that, he could have sought another way for the human relations department to obtain appropriate legal guidance. He did not.

According to Mr. Wolfowitz, he knew of Mr. Coll's "discomfort" with the proposed agreement with Ms. Riza. He stated that Mr. Coll did not tell him the proposals were outside the Bank's rules, and that, in any case, "there were no established Bank practices for a situation like this." According to Mr. Coll, he told Mr. Wolfowitz and Ms. Cleveland that the terms proposed by Ms. Riza, regarding her promotion increases and guaranteed promotions...were "outside the Staff Rules" and that moving forward with them was a reputational risk to the Bank. In Mr. Coll's view, there is "no doubt that the President knew or had been made aware of by me that this was outside the rules."

If this is so--if the Bank's board believes Mr. Coll--it's end of story. Had Wolfowitz indeed proceeded with a deal after he was warned it was "outside the rules"--a deal that was rather lucrative for his girlfriend--that ought to be a firing offense.

According to Mr. Coll, after he received the written August 11 [2005] instructions from Mr. Wolfowitz [dictating the terms of the Riza deal], he asked again whether he could consult with the Bank's General Counsel, or anyone in the Bank's Legal Department, and was told he could not.

Two strikes for Wolfowitz.

According to Ms. Riza, she arrived at the figure of $180,000 [for her new salary] by taking into account her view that "two consecutive MENA [Middle East and North Africa] Vice Presidents" had not promoted her due to "discrimination," because she is "a Muslim, Arabic woman who dares to question the status quo."

This explains it. Riza was angry. She was mad (as the report notes) that she had to leave the Bank because her romantic partner was taking over. But she also harbored a grudge, believing, rightly or wrongly, that she had been the victim of discrimination at the Bank. (In a previous article, I explained how she was turned down for a promotion to a job for which she did not meet the minimum qualifications.) According to the panel's report, it was Riza who came up with the specific terms of her reassignment. It seems she was trying to turn lemons into champagne--that is, using the opportunity to settle old scores and award herself the money she believed she deserved. And Wolfowitz went along with his gal-pal.

The report is clear: "The salary increase granted to Ms. Riza far exceeded an increase that would have been granted in accordance with the applicable Staff Rule." The report notes that even had she received a promotion at that time, she could have expected a boost in her annual salary of between $5000 and $20,000--not the $47,000 Wolfowitz awarded her. The report also says that the agreement Wolfowitz arranged called for an annual salary increase more than twice the customary rate and that the automatic promotions awarded Riza in the deal violated the Bank's rules.

The special panel is unequivocal. Wolfowitz engaged in a conflict of interest by setting the terms for Riza's package. "It is the view of the Ad Hoc Group," the report notes, "that these actions show that the relationship between Mr. Wolfowitz and Ms. Riza went beyond the appearance of conflict of interest...and constituted an actual conflict of interest situation." It adds, "these actions manifest a lack of understanding and a disregard for the interests of the institution as a public international organization." The report also finds that Kevin Kellems, a senior aide to Wolfowitz (who recently resigned) made misleading public statements about the Riza deal and that Wolfowitz's "actions are inconsistent with his obligation to "maintain the highest standards of integrity in [his] personal and professional conduct."

This is a damning document. One doesn't have to read far between the lines to see that panel members believe that Riza tried to pull a fast one and that Wolfowitz enabled her, even cutting out other Bank officials who might have questioned the deal. "Her desire for compensation for a past grievance, not related to Mr. Wolfowitz [sic] arrival," the panel says, "appears to have driven the most controversial elements of the agreement she reached with the Bank (with Mr. Wolfowitz directing the Bank's side of the negotiations)." The report slams Wolfowitz for not accepting "responsibility or blame for the events that transpired....The Ad Hoc Group sees this as a manifestation of an attitude in which Mr. Wolfowitz saw himself as the outsider [at the Bank] to whom the established rules and standards did not apply. It evidences questionable judgment and a preoccupation with self interest over institutional best interest."

The board of directors was scheduled to discuss the report with Wolfowitz on Tuesday evening. The issue is, what will the board do in response to the report? It can vote to reprimand or remove Wolfowitz. A reprimand might not be enough for many board members. But the board may not want to pull the trigger. It can issue a vote of no confidence, hoping Wolfowitz will resign. But does Wolfowitz want to put up a fight? Is the White House willing to stick with him, as it has done (so far) with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales? George W. Bush can be a stubborn fellow.

The report is a strong indictment of Wolfowitz. It shows he and his girlfriend tried to game the system in a way that could bring her (over the course of his tenure and beyond, thanks to a generous pension) millions of extra dollars. If Wolfowitz manages to stay on after the release of the report, it will be quite an accomplishment for the accountability's-not-us Bush administration.

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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.

Wolfowitz and Riza: How Sweet It Is!

At the start of the scandal triggered by the revelation that World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz had helped arrange generous pay boosts for his girlfriend Shaha Riza, Wolfowitz declared, "I made a mistake, for which I am sorry."

Two and a half weeks later, Wolfowitz had readjusted his rhetoric. "The ethics charges are unwarranted" and "bogus," he said.

On Friday, the Bank's board of directors was working to complete its report on the Wolfowitz affair and pondering whether to reprimand or even remove Wolfowitz. But regardless of the outcome of the official deliberations--which have been affected by behind the scenes maneuvering and the individual agendas of member nations--the Wolfowitz and Riza tale is one of Washington insiderism, a story in which a powerful player was able to guarantee that his companion would make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and be entitled to a lucrative pension while working at a fledgling foundation with a friend of his. This is not how most public servants in Washington live.

After Wolfowitz, a former deputy defense secretary who was a prime architect of the Iraq war, assumed the Bank's presidency, he was faced with what he has called "a potential conflict of interest." He would be the boss (albeit not the direct boss) of his girlfriend, who was a communications officer in the Middle East section. He subsequently worked out a deal under which Riza would remain a Bank employee but be reassigned out of the Bank. What has caused the fuss is that this arrangement included a 36 percent pay hike--which raised her annual salary from $132,660 to $180,000--and guaranteed yearly pay increases of 8 percent. (She is now pulling in $193,000 a year.)

Wolfowitz has justified the initial compensation boost by arguing that when he arrived at the Bank Riza was short-listed for a promotion to communications adviser to the vice president of the Middle East region. Such a promotion would entail a jump in pay grade. The office of the vice president of the region had placed Riza's name on a short list of nine candidates, but, according to an official familiar with the deliberations of the human resources committee overseeing this job opening, Riza's position on the short list was not initially approved by the committee--a necessary step for her to receive the job. That did not end the matter. "It became clear the board was under strong pressure from upstairs to keep her on the short list," this official says.

Whether or not she made it to the final short list--Bank officials have different recollections--she was no shoe-in for the promotion. Two years earlier, Jean-Louis Sarbib, then the vice president for the Middle East region, had proposed Riza for a similar position, and the human resources board had rejected her. The board noted, according to a report made available to The Nation, that Sarbib should have sought other applicants for the position, that Riza "needs to establish herself as a communications professional," and that she should not receive a "promotion through the backdoor." Riza did not meet the minimum job qualifications: an advanced degree in communications and 15 years of experience. She was a gender specialist at the Bank--a well-known Arab feminist-- who had done communications work for only a few years.

In statements to the Bank's board, Wolfowitz has pointed to Riza's candidacy for the communications adviser post as a reason for awarding her a $47,340 compensation increase. "This raise is about double what you'd be allowed to get if you got that promotion," the official familiar with these deliberations said. "For Wolfowitz to use the argument that she was short-listed goes against what the committee said about her two years before. It does not justify the salary increase."

The Riza deal included more than that first big pay hike and annual increases. It also essentially guaranteed Riza subsequent promotions to higher pay grades. And the deal would provide her the yearly pay increases for up to ten years, if Wolfowitz remained at the Bank for a second term. By the end of a second Wolfowitz term, Riza, were she to stay a Bank employee, would make close to $400,000, possibly more.

These pay increases would lead to an outsized pension. According to a Bank source familiar with the institution's pension rules and formulas, pensions for Bank retirees are based on the average salary of an employee's last three years at the Bank. Under the Wolfowitz deal, Riza could expect an annual pension of about $110,000, if she retired in 2015 (assuming Wolfowitz served two terms). If Wolfowitz had not awarded her that initial salary hike of nearly $50,000 and she instead received steady annual raises of 4 percent over this ten-year period, her pension would be about $56,000. With the Wolfowitz deal, Riza could look forward to a rather comfortable pension.

And she could retire after working with a close friend of her boyfriend.

In September 2005, the Riza deal was finalized, and the World Bank and State Department agreed she would be seconded to the department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. She was given the task of developing a foundation that would focus on reform in the Middle East and North Africa. It would eventually be called the Foundation for the Future. (At the time, Elizabeth Cheney, the daughter of the vice president, was a principal deputy assistant secretary in the bureau, coordinating Middle East initiatives.) But there aparently was some question about her status at the State Department. The next month, J. Scott Carpenter, a deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, faxed a note to the World Bank saying that "we do not view Ms. Riza as detailed or seconded to the U.S. Government." He offered to "further refine this arrangement." Documents released by the World Bank do not indicate what subsequently transpired between the State Department and the Bank regarding Riza's employment status.

Over a year later, on October 1, 2006, Anwar Ibrahim, chairman of the Foundation for the Future, wrote Robin Cleveland, a senior Wolfowitz aide at the Bank, and requested the transfer of Riza from the State Department to the Foundation for the Future. Two months later, after Cleveland instructed the Bank's vice president of human resources to approve the transfer, the Bank okayed the switch.

The Anwar letter and other Bank documents related to this transfer did not mention that Anwar is a longtime friend of Wolfowitz. One of Asia's most prominent Muslim politicians, Anwar was a former deputy prime minister of Malaysia. He and Wolfowitz met and developed a friendship in the mid-1980s, when Wolfowitz was U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, according to Aasil Ahmad, an adviser to Anwar. In 1998, after addressing a rally protesting the government, Anwar was arrested and subsequently jailed on corruption and sodomy charges. During his years in jail, Wolfowitz was an outspoken champion of Anwar. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Anwar, while still imprisoned, wrote an essay condemning the attacks and calling on the Muslim worked to address "the suffering inflicted on the Muslim masses in Iraq by its dictator."

When Anwar was released from prison in 2004, Wolfowitz flew to Germany to meet him. The next year, Anwar, a former finance minister for Malaysia, endorsed Wolfowitz's appointment to the Bank, though he noted that he didn't share Wolfowitz's view of the Iraq war. ("The best the Americans can do is to withdraw their forces from Iraq," Anwar said.) These days, Anwar is back in Malaysia, advising the PKR opposition party, which is led by his wife, and preparing to run for president.

While helping to establish the Foundation for the Future at the State Department, Riza had recruited Anwar to serve as its initial adviser, according to Ahmad. The two then went about selecting a board of directors and drawing up the mandate for the group, which calls on the foundation to "advance and strengthen freedom and democratic trends and practices" in Middle Eastern and North African nations by supporting reform, media, human rights, and women's groups in those countries. The foundation, which is not a US government entity, has received a $35 million funding commitment from the United States and about $20 million in pledges from other governments. The board includes prominent citizens of Muslim nations. Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is the only American on the board.

The foundation has not gotten off to a big start. It has yet to provide a single grant. Its first president, Bakhtiar Amin, an Iraqi who served as a minister in the first interim government set up following the invasion of Iraq, left the post after a short time in the job. "He was not up to the task," says a source who has worked with the foundation. No replacement has yet been selected. The group also does not have a chief financial officer or a chief operations officer at this time. Last year, it decided to open its main Middle East office in Beirut--right before the war in Lebanon. It has no permanent office in Washington. Email requests for information on its activities have gone unanswered. Its website lists no phone number. But Ahmad, the adviser to Anwar, says the foundation will soon begin awarding grants, perhaps in the beginning of June. Riza, he says, has continued to handle the day-to-day operations of the foundation. Riza, who is qualified for the job, has not been talking to the media.

Bloggers have raised conspiratorial questions about the foundation. (See here.) The available evidence is that the outfit is legitimate, though it has been beset with logistical problems. But until it gets around to handing out grants, its work and aims cannot be fully assessed.

In the Paul and Shaha saga, the work (or non-work) of the Foundation for the Future is not the main issue. Riza ended up there after a Wolfowitz friend (Anwar) wrote the Bank and asked for Riza to be detailed to the foundation--and a Wolfowitz crony (Cleveland) said yes. Whether such actions violate any Bank rules, this is incestuous. Consider the overall scenario: thanks to her boyfriend, Shaha Riza, after receiving a hefty pay raise, could serve as an adviser to a barely-functioning foundation she helped create, working with a friend of her romantic partner, and pull in $200,000 to $400,000 annually over the next ten years. And then she could retire with a $110,000 per year pension. This is quite a deal for the average foundation aide in Washington. In all that, is there nothing wrong? (Wolfowitz attorney Robert Bennett told Newsweek that it was Riza who "worked up the numbers" and pressed Wolfowitz to craft such generous terms.)

After first admitting he committed an error, Wolfowitz now fiercely argues he is the victim of a smear campaign waged by Bank employees who opposed him from the get-go due to his role in the Iraq war. His detractors at the Bank may be out to bring him down as payback for Iraq and for his heavy-handed management ways at the Bank. But Wolfowitz, who entered the Bank a self-styled scourge of corruption, has handed them potent ammunition. Every recipient of World Bank money must now want deals with terms so sweet.

With reporting from Stephanie Condon.

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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.

In New Book, Tenet Bashes Cheney Belatedly

This was first posted at www.davidcorn.com...

Should Americans have to pay to get the truth about how their government failed them?

Former CIA director George Tenet's new book has hit the bookstores. For $30 a reader can find out what really happened in that December 2002 meeting at the White House when Tenet used the phrase "slam dunk." Or what really happened with the prewar WMD intelligence and how it was used--or abused--by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and others.

The usual promotional theatrics are underway. Tenet appeared on 60 Minutes on Sunday, and CBS had already released some choice tidbits of that interview. Meanwhile, The New York Times last week obtained a copy of the under-wraps book and reported some of its disclosures. (News flash: Cheney pushed the nation to war without ever seriously examining the threat posed by Iraq.)

All of this is making Tenet, the man who was in charge of an intelligence establishment that failed the country before 9/11 and that then produced an intelligence estimate that vastly overstated the WMD threat posed by Iraq, a rich fellow. He reportedly bagged millions of dollars for writing this book.

But here's an out-of-the-box question: Don't the citizens of the United States deserve to know what happened in the run-up to the war (and to 9/11) for free? Tenet may feel--as he claims--damn lousy about the screwed-up National Intelligence Estimate that helped pave the way to war in Iraq. But he did not feel bad enough to resign--or to disclose earlier what had gone wrong. He sat on the story and now is peddling it for personal profit.

Tenet should have long ago been questioned openly by a congressional committee about all this--though no Republican committee chair would have dared--or he should have spilled all to 60 Minutes and other media, as a public service, not as an advertisement for his book. On Friday, Representative Henry Waxman, the chairman of the House oversight and government reform committee, sent Tenet a letter asking him to testify before his committee on May 10 regarding "one of the claims used to justify the war in Iraq--the assertion that Iraq sought to import uranium from Niger--and related issues." Let's hope Tenet can take time from the book tour to appear.

Tenet's a smart guy who saw much. And he was screwed by the White House, even though he did fail to make sure the intelligence on Iraq was properly vetted and responsibly used. But if Tenet indeed believed before the invasion of Iraq that Bush and Cheney were pushing the nation to war without adequately assessing the threat or assessing options other than full-scale war, he had an obligation at the time to make that known--at least to members of Congress, if not the public at large. He did not do so. Consequently, he owes the public a full accounting and an apology--not a sales campaign.

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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.

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