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White House Stonewalls on Rove Scandal

I advise all students of political speech to read the transcript of the press briefing conducted by White House press secretary Scott McClellan today. It was a smorgasbord of stonewalling. He entered the White House press room at 1:00 p.m., his eyes darting about, and started off by reading a statement from President Bush on the tenth anniversary of the massacre at Srebrenica. Then the subject changed. Rather abruptly. Reporter after reporter asked McClellan about Karl Rove and the news--broken by Michael Isikoff of Newsweek--of a July 11, 2003, e-mail written by Time's Matt Cooper that noted that Cooper had spoken to Rove on "double super secret background" and that Rove had told him that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's "wife...apparently works at the agency on wmd issues." The e-mail is proof that Rove leaked to a reporter information revealing the CIA employment of Valerie Plame (a k a Valerie Wilson).

This puts Rove and the White House in a pickle. Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, says that Rove did not mention Valerie Wilson's name to Cooper. But this is a rather thin defense. (I explain why here, and I also note why George W. Bush, if he takes his own rhetoric seriously, has no choice but to dismiss Rove.) But legal and criminal difficulties aside, the e-mail is undeniable evidence that Rove leaked national security information to a journalist to discredit a critic (Joseph Wilson). How does that square with White House policy as it has been previously stated? Well, it doesn't. And the journalists in the White House press room knew that. Many had a list of previous McClellan statements at the ready. I was there, and I had a list, too. Here are some of the past White House statements I had collected.

On September 29, 2003, Scott McClellan said of the leak (which first appeared in a Bob Novak column on July 14, 2003):

That is not the way this White House operates. The President expects everyone in his Administration to adhere to the highest standards of conduct. No one would be authorized to do such a thing.

Asked then about the allegation Rove had been involved in the leak, he said,

Well, I've made it very clear that it was a ridiculous suggestion.... It is simply not true.... And I have spoken with Karl Rove.

He also said that the White House would not stand for such conduct:

If anyone in this Administration was involved in [the leak], they would no longer be in this Administration..

On October 1, 2003, McClellan reiterated the White House position:

The president certainly doesn't condone the leaking.

And he said of Rove:

I made it very clear that he didn't condone that kind of activity and was not involved in that kind of activity.

On October 7, McClellan noted that prior to previously telling the press that Rove and two other White House aides--National Security Council staffer Elliott Abrams and Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby--were not involved in the leak, he had spoken to each of the three and determined they had not been part of the Plame/CIA leak:

I had no doubt of that...but I like to check my information to make sure it's accurate before I report back to you, and that's exactly what I did.

How could McClellan defend such a record? His strategy was clear: don't even try. When the reporters began firing Rove-related queries at him, he refused to answer any of them. The first query came from Terrence Hunt of Associated Press: Does Bush stand by his pledge to fire anyone involved in the Plame/CIA leak? McClellan replied that "while the [leak] investigation is ongoing, the White House is not going to comment on it." Hunt tried again: "Excuse me, but I wasn't actually talking about any investigation. But in June 2004, the president said that he would fire anybody who was involved in this leak.... And I just wanted to know, is that still his position?"

McClellan would not say: "We're not going to get into commenting on an ongoing criminal investigation." He claimed that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had "expressed a preference to us" that the White House not comment on the matter. (I later called Fitzgerald's office and asked it to confirm whether Fitzgerald had made such a request. A spokeswoman for Fitzgerald said he would not have any comment regarding any part of the investigation. "Not even to back up what the White House said?" I asked. "No," she replied.)

Next up in the press room was John Roberts of CBS News. He asked if McClellan was contradicting himself since he had freely discussed the matter in the fall of 2003 when he claimed it was "ridiculous" to believe Rove had been involved in the leak. McClellan said, "I appreciate the question." (That was clearly not the truth.) He went on: "I remember very well what we previously said, and at some point would be glad to talk about it, but not until after the investigation is complete."

NBC's David Gregory then piped up: "Did Karl Rove commit a crime?" Again, McClellan went to Index Card No. 1: "This is a question relating to an ongoing investigation, and you have my response related to that investigation." Did McClellan stand by his previous statements? No answer. A frustrated (justifiably) Gregory noted, "Scott, I mean, just--I mean, this is ridiculous. The notion that you're going to stand before us after having commented with that level of detail and tell people watching this that somehow you decided not to talk. You've got a public record out there. Do you stand by your remarks from that podium, or not?" McClellan: "There will be a time to talk about this, but now is not the time."

That was for sure. Other reporters took similar swings at McClellan. He just stood there, counting the minutes, perhaps silently trying to convince himself that he was in his happy place and that he was not being beaten into a pulp. One reporter asked when Fitzgerald had requested the Bush White House not to talk about the investigation. McClellan said the request came in the fall of 2003. A-ha, one reporter said; Bush spoke about the leak investigation in June 2004 and renewed his pledge to fire anyone involved. Had Bush violated the White House policy against speaking about the probe? "You have my response," McClellan said. Of course, the reporter did not.

Carl Cameron of Fox News asked if Bush continues "to have confidence in Mr. Rove?" McClellan wouldn't even touch this down-the-middle pitch: "Again, these are all questions coming up in the context of an ongoing criminal investigation. And you've heard my response on this." And when another reporter asked McClellan to describe the importance of Rove to the Bush Administration, he replied, "Do you have questions on another topic?"

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Don't forget about DAVID CORN's BLOG at www.davidcorn.com. Read recent postings on Rove and the Plame/CIA leak, Blair's poodle problem and other in-the-news subjects.

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By the time my turn came, I realized I was not going to be able to cause any crack in the wall. But I had to try, and I attempted to slightly redefine the issue. I noted,

There's a difference between commenting publicly on an action and taking action in response to it. Newsweek put out a story, an e-mail saying that Karl Rove passed national security information on to a reporter that outed a CIA officer. Now, are you saying that the President is not taking any action in response to that? Because I presume that the prosecutor did not ask you not to take action, and that if he did, you still would not necessarily abide by that; that the President is free to respond to news reports, regardless of whether there's an investigation or not. So are you saying that he's not going to do anything about this until the investigation is fully over and done with?

In other words, how about forgetting the crime and focusing on the leak? He responded,

Well, I think the President has previously spoken to this. This continues to be an ongoing criminal investigation. No one wants to get to the bottom of it more than the President of the United States. And we're just not going to have more to say on it until that investigation is complete.

But Bush has not said what he intends to do about Rove now that there is public evidence that Rove leaked information on Valerie Wilson. (And if Bush wants to get to the bottom of this, shouldn't he just whistle Rove into his office and ask, "Karl, what gives?") So I pushed on:

But you acknowledge that he is free, as President of the United States, to take whatever action he wants to in response to a credible report that a member of his staff leaked information? He is free to take action if he wants to?

But there would be no such acknowledging. McClellan said,

Again, you're asking questions relating to an ongoing investigation, and I think I've responded to it.

He hadn't. But then why should my question receive special treatment this day?

Other Rove-related questions were hurled at him. He refused to touch a single one. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post took a stab as well:

Scott, I think you're [being] barraged[d] today in part because we--it is now clear that twenty-one months ago, you were up at this podium saying something that we now know to be demonstratively false. Now, are you concerned that in not setting the record straight today that this could undermine the credibility of the other things you say from the podium?

McClellan showed no such concern:

Again, I'm going to be happy to talk about this at the appropriate time. Dana, you all--you and everybody in this room, or most people in this room, I should say, know me very well and they know the type of person that I am. And I'm confident in our relationship that we have. But I will be glad to talk about this at the appropriate time, and that's once the investigation is complete.

Everybody in the room--and out of it--should review McClellan's exchange with the reporters to see how he and this White House do business. After what transpired, no reporter should take McClellan's word at face value (if they ever did). Moreover, the larger issue is not his--and Bush's--credibility but the wrongdoing committed by a senior White House official and the apparent lack of a response from the White House. (And remember, Bob Novak's column outing Valerie Wilson as a CIA officer cited two unnamed senior Bush Administration officials.) The White House is adopting a familiar media strategy: say nothing, don't fuel the story, wait for it to pass--and ignore the substance of the issue. Bush aides must be hoping that the media lose interest and are not provided any further reasons to headline this story. They are probably also hoping that the Democrats fail to create the sort of political storm that would compel journalists to continue to give the Rove scandal prominent play. Maybe their stonewall will hold. And what's the alternative? Tell the obvious truth and admit that Bush's most important adviser committed an act that Bush has said warrants dismissal? But what's the percentage in that? With McClellan providing no answers related to the Rove scandal, the question is whether the White House's we-can't-comment stance will allow it to dodge yet another troubling and inconvenient reality.

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IT REMAINS RELEVANT, ALAS. SO DON'T FORGET ABOUT DAVID CORN'S BOOK, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! An UPDATED and EXPANDED EDITION is AVAILABLE in PAPERBACK. The Washington Post says, "This is a fierce polemic, but it is based on an immense amount of research.... [I]t does present a serious case for the president's partisans to answer.... Readers can hardly avoid drawing...troubling conclusions from Corn's painstaking indictment." The Los Angeles Times says, "David Corn's The Lies of George W. Bush is as hard-hitting an attack as has been leveled against the current president. He compares what Bush said with the known facts of a given situation and ends up making a persuasive case." The Library Journal says, "Corn chronicles to devastating effect the lies, falsehoods, and misrepresentations.... Corn has painstakingly unearthed a bill of particulars against the president that is as damaging as it is thorough." And GEORGE W. BUSH SAYS, "I'd like to tell you I've read [ The Lies of George W. Bush], but that'd be a lie."

For more information and a sample, go to www.davidcorn.com. And see his WEBLOG there..

More Bush Lies

In his recent Nation web piece, "Profiles in Cowardice," William Greider rightly took aim at Democrats who may be "preparing to take a dive on the issue they have righteously hammered for four years--repeal of the estate tax."

If any more evidence was needed that Dems need to hang tough on this defining issue, they should read David Cay Johnston's stunning, and inexplicably buried New York Times article "Few Wealthy Farmers Owe Estate Taxes, Report Says." (In my edition it was published on page A 30.)

Johnston is America's premier journalist on the inequities of Bush's tax policies. His clear reporting has consistently exposed how the working class is getting screwed by an Administration which gives hundreds of billions in tax breaks to the wealthiest one percent, while cutting back on health care, education, affordable housing, veterans' needs and programs for everyone else.

Remember back in June 2001, Bush said he'd talked to farmers who told him the estate tax (or in GOP doublespeak, "the death tax") had destroyed their family farms? And you know all those Republican spinners like Grover Norquist and Frank Luntz who prattle on about how the estate tax is destroying family farming? Well, according to a Congressional Budget Office report released last week, they're not telling us the truth. Listen to Neil E. Harl, an economics professor at Iowa State University whose expertise in estate tax planning for famers has made him a household name in the farm belt: The Congressional study, Harl tells Johnston, "adds to the weight of the evidence that this is a myth that has been well-spun."

According to Johnston, the CBO study contradicts assertions that the estate tax burdens family farms. Its findings show that "the number of farms on which estate tax is owed when the owners die has fallen by 82 percent since 2000, to just 300 farms, as Congress has more than doubled the threshold at which the tax applies."

And here's a stunning rebuke to those GOP hypocrites who preach fiscal responsibility while increasing our debt burden for future generations to bear: "All but 27 farmers left enough liquid assets to pay taxes owed, and the CBO hinted that the actual number might be zero." That means we may well be looking at zero farmers affected by an estate tax whose abolition is incessantly justified by the purported threat it represents to the very existence of family farming in America.

More facts, according to Johnston: "The estate tax raised an estimated $23.4 billion last year. Repeal would shift part of the burden of taxes off the fortunes left by the richest one percent of Americans, some of whose fortunes were never taxed, onto the general population." And according to Michael Graetz, a professor of Yale Law School who was a tax policy official in the Bush Administration, repeal would primarily benefit people with large estates held in stocks and other securities---very few farmers among them.

Here's another crucial fact that those who are assaulting the very foundations of our country don't want you to know: "Because of details in the repeal bill," Johnston reports, "it would also force a large majority of farms and small businesses to pay larger tax bills in the future." John Buckley, the chief tax lawyer for the Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee, told Johnston that he was critical of "farm and small business groups [for] not explaining to their members that the repeal as written would cost them money while primarily benefiting those with vast fortunes.

For those who believe Democrats pay a huge long-term price for failing to serve as credible defenders of the economic interests of ordinary Americans, here is a chance to take a stand. Don't compromise on the estate tax's provisions. Build a moral social contract with those who want a fair shake--the 99 percent of Americans who will get screwed, again, by an Administration that isn't telling the truth to its farmers.

Bugged by the Brits

Conservative radio and television personalities in the United States were unsettled after last week's bombings in London -- not because of the terrorist attack on a major western city, but because too few Londoners were willing to serve as props to support the right-wing ranting of the Americans. After one stoic Brit, who had blood on the side of his face, calmly described climbing out of a smoke-filled subway station, a Fox anchor exclaimed, "That man's obviously in shock."

Actually, the man appeared to be completely in control of his faculties, as did the British journalists who appeared that evening on Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor." Host Bill O'Reilly, the king of the hysterics, had a hard time with the Brits, who simply were not as feverish as he had hoped -- and who were genuinely bemused when he started ranting about how much he hated Britain's highly regarded Guardian newspaper.

O'Reilly, like too many other American radio and television commentators, expected the British attacks to provide a new opportunity to hype support for the war in Iraq, gripe about "open borders" and generally spin sorrow and fear into political gold for the conservative cause.

It didn't happen, though not for lack of trying by the folks at Fox.

The Fox commentary following the London bombings was surreal. Brit Hume babbled about how the dip in stock values after the attacks meant it was "time to buy," Brian Kilmeade suggested that a deadly terrorist attack on a country where the G8 leaders were meeting "works to our advantage," and John Gibson bemoaned the fact that the bombs hit London and not Paris. "They'd blow up Paris, and who cares?" chuckled Gibson, the host of one of the network's "news" shows.

But the Fox personalities and their allies in right-wing talk radio found few takers among the British for their efforts to politicize the gruesome developments in the British capital.

Try as American conservative commentators did to get Londoners to echo their pro-Bush, pro-war line, the British generally refused to play along.

This does not mean that most Brits who were interviewed embraced calls for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq or other alternatives to the Bush administration's misguided approach to the so-called "war on terror." But it does mean that, instead of parroting propaganda, the Brits preferred to engage in thoughtful discussions about what had happened, why the terrorists targeted London and what ought to be done to prevent future attacks. Few topics were off limits.

Veteran journalist Gary Younge suggested that the attacks were "Blair's blowback" -- the bloody wages of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's decision to back President Bush's disastrous decision to invade Iraq. Some members of parliament called for Britain to quickly withdraw its troops from the quagmire. Others suggested that Britain needs to get more engaged in promoting the Middle East peace process. There was no single response, no lockstep approach, because the Brits were angry enough -- and determined enough -- to put everything on the table.

Unfortunately, a thoughtful, nuanced discussion that was focused on finding solutions -- rather than merely venting or promoting a particular political agenda -- didn't fit into the Fox format.

The inability of American right-wing media to recognize honest discourse prevented most U.S. media outlets from recognizing that which was genuinely meaningful and moving about the British reaction.

For instance, U.S. media pretty much missed the one truly Churchillian response to the attacks -- that of London Mayor Ken Livingstone, a committed socialist and anti-war activist, who issued the following statement on the day of the attacks:

I have no doubt whatsoever that this is a terrorist attack. We did hope in the first few minutes after hearing about the events on the Underground that it might simply be a maintenance tragedy. That was not the case. I have been able to stay in touch through the very excellent communications that were established for the eventuality that I might be out of the city at the time of a terrorist attack and they have worked with remarkable effectiveness. I will be in continual contact until I am back in London.

I want to say one thing specifically to the world today. This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful. It was not aimed at presidents or prime ministers. It was aimed at ordinary, working-class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old. It was an indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, for class, for religion, or whatever.

That isn't an ideology, it isn't even a perverted faith -- it is just an indiscriminate attempt at mass murder and we know what the objective is. They seek to divide Londoners. They seek to turn Londoners against each other. I said yesterday to the International Olympic Committee that the city of London is the greatest in the world, because everybody lives side by side in harmony.

Londoners will not be divided by this cowardly attack. They will stand together in solidarity alongside those who have been injured and those who have been bereaved and that is why I'm proud to be the mayor of that city.

Finally, I wish to speak directly to those who came to London today to take life.

I know that you personally do not fear giving up your own life in order to take others -- that is why you are so dangerous. But I know you fear that you may fail in your long-term objective to destroy our free society and I can show you why you will fail.

In the days that follow look at our airports, look at our sea ports and look at our railway stations and, even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfill their dreams and achieve their potential.

They choose to come to London, as so many have come before, because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves. They flee you because you tell them how they should live. They don't want that and nothing you do, however many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our city where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail.

Why Bush Has to Fire Rove

In a weekend posting I asked if it was time to get ready for the Karl Rove frog-march. The question was prompted by a Newsweek article by reporter Michael Isikoff that disclosed the first documentary evidence showing that Rove revealed to a reporter that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife worked at the CIA. In a July 11, 2003, e-mail that Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper sent to his bureau chief, Cooper noted he had spoken to Rove on "double super secret background" and that Rove had told him that Wilson's "wife...apparently works at the agency on wmd issues." "Agency" means CIA. This is not good news for Rove and the White House.

The e-mail--which Time had turned over to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who is investigating the Plame/CIA leak--may not be enough to prompt Fitzgerald to indict Rove. Under the narrowly written Intelligence Identities Protect Act, Fitzgerald would have to show that Rove knew Valerie Wilson (a k a Valerie Plame) was working at the CIA under cover--that is, as a secret employee--which she was. But Fitzgerald still could build such a case upon other evidence. And Rove also could be in legal peril if his previous testimony to Fitzgerald is contradicted by this e-mail--or the other material Time surrendered, over Cooper's objections, to Fitzgerald or by Cooper's forthcoming testimony to Fitzgerald's grand jury. (Last week, Cooper declared his source, presumably Rove, had given him permission to testify before the grand jury.)

But let's put aside the legal issues for a moment. This e-mail demonstrates that Rove committed a firing offense. He leaked national security information as part of a fierce campaign to undermine Wilson, who had criticized the White House on the war on Iraq. Rove's overworked attorney, Robert Luskin, defends his client by arguing that Rove never revealed the name of Valerie Plame/Wilson to Cooper and that he only referred to her as Wilson's wife. This is not much of a defense. If Cooper or any other journalist had written that "Wilson's wife works for the CIA"--without mentioning her name--such a disclosure could have been expected to have the same effect as if her name had been used: Valerie Wilson would have been compromised, her anti-WMD work placed at risk and national security potentially harmed. Either Rove knew that he was revealing an undercover officer to a reporter or he was identifying a CIA officer without bothering to check on her status and without considering the consequences of outing her. Take your pick: In both scenarios Rove is acting in a reckless and cavalier fashion, ignoring national security interests to score a political point against a policy foe.

This ought to get Rove fired--unless he resigns first.

Can George W. Bush countenance such conduct within the White House? Consider what White House press secretary Scott McClellan said on September 29, 2003, after the news broke that the Justice Department was investigating the leak. McClellan declared of the Plame/CIA leak, "That is not the way this White House operates. The president expects everyone in his Administration to adhere to the highest standards of conduct. No one would be authorized to do such a thing."

Apparently, it is how the White House operated--or at least how Rove operated. If he violated White House rules (and presidential expectations) that prohibit such skulduggery, he should be booted.

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Don't forget about DAVID CORN's BLOG at www.davidcorn.com. Read recent postings on Rove and the Plame/CIA leak, Blair's poodle problem and other in-the-news subjects.

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McClellan also maintained at the time that "the president knows" that Rove wasn't involved in the leak. And he said that the allegation that Rove was involved in this leak was "a ridiculous suggestion" and "it is simply not true."

McClellan was wrong. Did that mean that Rove had lied to McClellan about his role in this? That Rove had also lied to Bush? Or was McClellan knowingly misinforming the public? If the latter, then there should be two resignations.

Days later, Bush took a clear stand on the Plame/CIA leak. He said:

There are too many leaks of classified information in Washington. If there's leaks out of my Administration, I want to know who it is, and if the person has violated the law, the person will be taken care of.

According to Cooper's e-mail, Rove did leak classified information, wittingly or not. Did he share that fact with Bush? If McClellan can be believed, Rove did not. If that's true, Bush should dismiss Rove for holding out on him. But it Rove did talk to Bush about his participation in the leak, what did he tell Bush? And what actions did Bush take? Did Rove tell Bush how he had come to know about Valerie Wilson's position at the CIA? Did he disclose to Bush who else knew about it? Did he tell his boss whether anyone else was passing this information to reporters? In the first column that disclosed Valerie Wilson's CIA identity, Bob Novak referred to "two" senior Administration officials. So who in addition to Rove might have revealed this information to Novak?

Bush also said at the time that any government official with knowledge of the leak should "come forward and speak out." Rove certainly did not follow that presidential order. He should be pink-slipped for that, too.

But before Rove is cast out of the White House, Bush ought to demand that he come clean and--if he has not done so--tell Bush everything that happened with this leak. Then Bush should "come forward and speak out" and share the details with the American public. And an apology to Valerie and Joseph Wilson would be a nice touch.

Fitzgerald is handling the Plame/CIA leak as a criminal matter, as he should. That's his job. But the leak--whether a crime or not--was serious wrongdoing. The White House has taken no steps to address that in the two years since the leak occurred. But it need not wait for Fitzgerald to conclude his investigation. Rove may end up not guilty of a crime, but he is guilty of significant misconduct. With the disclosure of this smoking e-mail, Bush has no excuse for inaction. Newspaper editorial boards and members of Congress (OK, Democratic members of Congress) ought to be howling for a White House response to the news that its current deputy chief of staff revealed national security information to a reporter in order to discredit a critic. The only appropriate response for such a thuggish infraction of White House policy and common decency would be to send Rove back to Texas.

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IT REMAINS RELEVANT, ALAS. SO DON'T FORGET ABOUT DAVID CORN'S BOOK, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! An UPDATED and EXPANDED EDITION is AVAILABLE in PAPERBACK. The Washington Post says, "This is a fierce polemic, but it is based on an immense amount of research.... [I]t does present a serious case for the president's partisans to answer.... Readers can hardly avoid drawing...troubling conclusions from Corn's painstaking indictment." The Los Angeles Times says, "David Corn's The Lies of George W. Bush is as hard-hitting an attack as has been leveled against the current president. He compares what Bush said with the known facts of a given situation and ends up making a persuasive case." The Library Journal says, "Corn chronicles to devastating effect the lies, falsehoods, and misrepresentations.... Corn has painstakingly unearthed a bill of particulars against the president that is as damaging as it is thorough." And GEORGE W. BUSH SAYS, "I'd like to tell you I've read [ The Lies of George W. Bush], but that'd be a lie."

For more information and a sample, go to www.davidcorn.com. And see his WEBLOG there..

O'Connor, Rehnquist and the Future of the Court

On Friday, newsrooms nationwide were abuzz with rumors that Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist was set to announce his resignation, only one week after his colleague Sandra Day O'Connor had given President Bush his first Supreme Court vacancy. Rehnquist hasn't done it yet but is still widely expected to do so, maybe as early as tomorrow.

O'Connor's resignation alone has already ignited an epic struggle over the direction of the Court with the future of legal abortions, affirmative action for minority groups, government aid to religious schools and other issues that have long divided US society potentially at stake.

In anticipation of Bush meeting with Senate leaders to discuss potential new nominees, IndependentCourt.org, a project of the Coalition for a Fair and Independent Judiciary, drafted an open letter signed by more than 75 national organizations, stressing the importance of meaningful consultation with both parties as well as the critical--and legitimate--role the Senate should play in the confirmation process. Click here to read the full text of the letter and, if you agree with it, click here to add your name to the list of signatories.

Two groups--the Alliance for Justice and People for the American Way--are out in front in organizing opposition to any picks who might hew to the same far-right ideological cloth as Bush appellate court selections like William Pickering, Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers (to name just a few). So check out their websites to keep up on the liberal community's response to whoever Bush nominates.

The Daily Kos, one of the world's preeminent liberal bloggers, also posted recently a very useful checklist of things you can do today to help in the first Supreme Court nomination battle in more than a decade.

Sweet Victory: NYC Makes Way for Hybrids

Frustrated by exorbitant gas prices, Kwame Corsi, a taxi driver from the Bronx, had been waiting years for the chance to drive a hybrid car. In New York, where 93 percent of the city's cabs are Crown Victorias (large Ford models that guzzle a gallon every twelve miles), drivers like Corsi often pay up to $100 dollars a day on fuel. Up until last week, New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission had refused to grant medallions for hybrid taxis.

Now, thanks to the City Council's unanimous decision to approve the "Clean Air Taxis Act," Corsi will get his wish and New Yorkers will literally breathe easier. New York, which was ranked by the American Lung Association as one of America's most polluted cities in 2004, suffers from the highest asthma mortality rate in the country. But under the new law, which will put hybrids on the street by this fall, the harmful emissions spewed out by New York's fleet of 13,000 cabs will be dramatically reduced. According to the Sierra Club, hybrids are particularly well-suited for New York City, because the greatest difference in emissions from hybrids comes under conditions of slow traffic and idling.

"The New York yellow taxi is an American icon. What better way to showcase a great solution to our air pollution and oil dependence problems?" said Mark Izeman of the NRDC in a press release from the Coalition Advocating for Smart Transportation (CAST), a group that has been at the forefront of the fight for green cabs in New York City.

New York's high profile win is the latest in a string of victories for the "Green Fleets" movement. A few weeks ago, legislators in Charlotte, NC voted to hybridize the city's municipal fleet, and Denver, Seattle, and Madison have also made strides in converting their fleets to green.

As is increasingly the case, cities across the country are making progressive strides in the face of an obstinate administration that refuses to declare its independence from oil. It's time to tell Congress to seriously invest in a clean energy plan. Take action by supporting the Apollo Alliance and clicking here to send a letter to your Senators and Congressmen.

We also want to hear from you. Please let us know if you have a sweet victory you think we should cover by e-mailing nationvictories@gmail.com.

Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen, a freelance journalist, documentary filmmaker and blogger (www.boldprint.net) living in Brooklyn.

More Trouble for Rove in CIA Leak Case?

What happened on Wednesday in Courtroom 8 at the federal district courthouse in Washington, DC, gave rise to more questions than answers about the shrouded-in-secrecy Plame/CIA leak investigation. But those questions may not be good for Karl Rove.

The most dramatic moment of the hour-plus hearing was when federal District Court Judge Thomas Hogan ordered New York Times reporter Judith Miller to jail for failing to reveal a source to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who has been trying to find out which Bush administration officials outed undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a critic of the Bush White House. Conservative columnist Bob Novak first published the leak in a July 14, 2003 article that cited "two senior administration officials." Three days later, Time magazine posted a piece cowritten by Cooper that noted that "government officials" had told Time about Valerie Wilson's employment at the CIA. Miller wrote no article on this matter but apparently she talked to at least one source about it. Her decision to honor her pledge of confidentiality to her source and resist a court order might have afforded her source--whoever that might be--a measure of protection. But minutes earlier, Cooper--who had also been held in civil contempt for not cooperating with Fitzgerald--made a dramatic statement that could lead to trouble for a source he had previously protected, and that source might be Rove.

Cooper told the court that he had left home that morning--after saying good-bye to his six-year-old son and telling the boy that he might not see him for a while--resolved not to comply with Fitzgerald's request that he testify before the grand jury. (Time had already surrendered Cooper's notes and emails to Fitzgerald--over Cooper's objections--but Fitzgerald still sought Cooper's testimony.) But on the way to the courthouse, Cooper said to the judge, his source had contacted him and provided what Cooper called a "personal and unambiguous waiver to speak before the grand jury." So Cooper declared that he was now prepared to answer Fitzgerald's questions. He would not be sent off to the hoosegow.

What does this mean for Cooper's source--a person apparently of intense interest to Fitzgerald?

This past weekend, Michael Isikoff of Newsweek reported that the emails and notes turned over by Time indicated that "one of Cooper's sources [for Time's article that named Plame] was White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove." Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, confirmed that Rove had been interviewed by Cooper for that article. But Luskin maintained that Rove "did not tell any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA." (But does that statement cover all possibilities? Might Rove have confirmed Valerie Plame had a job at the CIA? Might he have said that "Valerie Wilson"--not Plame--worked for the CIA?)

Is Rove indeed the Cooper source being pursued by Fitzgerald and the person who apparently gave Cooper the greenlight to tell all to the grand jury? After Cooper's announcement, Rove's lawyer told Newsweek that Rove and Cooper had not "spoken" about waiving confidentiality prior to the court hearing. Luskin may have been playing it cute. Perhaps the communication between Rove and Cooper was an email. And The New York Times reported that lawyers representing Cooper and Rove--not Cooper and Rove--had talked prior to hearing. Or could it be that another Cooper source is Fitzgerald's target?

What's come out so far still points to Rove. And it does seem clear that only one Cooper source is in the middle of this imbroglio. In a recent court filing, Fitzgerald repeatedly noted that he needed Cooper's testimony regarding "a" source (not more than one). And in Cooper's last-minute courtroom drama, he noted that his "source"--one person, that is--had released him.

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This focus on one person is curious. The Time story written by Cooper reported,

And some government officials have noted to TIME in interviews, (as well as to syndicated columnist Robert Novak) that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Note the plural "officials." And Novak's column cited "two" senior Bush administration officials. Given this, shouldn't Fitzgerald be asking Cooper about more than one source? Shouldn't Cooper have to obtain waivers from more than one person? Cooper's article did carry two other bylines--Massimo Calabresi and John Dickerson--and it's possible that Calabresi and/or Dickerson spoke to other sources about Valerie Wilson. But neither have been subpoenaed by Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald apparently has reason to believe that Cooper is the fellow responsible for the two-sentence portion of the article that covers Valerie Wilson.

So who else told Time about Wilson/Plame? I can think of explanations that might render this question moot. Perhaps the story was mis-edited in a fashion that mistakenly pluralized the sourcing on the key sentence. Maybe one government official disclosed Valerie Wilson's CIA identity to Time prior to the Novak column, and another merely confirmed it after Novak had published the leak. But inquiring minds should want to know: what happened to Time's other source(s)?

But for now the most critical question is, what will Cooper tell the grand jury? Presumably, he will have to say which "government officials" talked to Time about Valerie Wilson and what they said. Will that place his source (or sources) in legal jeopardy? Fitzgerald has vigorously argued that Cooper's information is important for his investigation. Since no White House official has acknowledged revealing Valerie Wilson's CIA identity to any reporter, if Cooper fingers any one of them, that will be bad news for the White House. Any official named might be able to wiggle out of an indictment due to the narrow nature of the relevant law. (I explained how this might be done in my previous column.) Still, outing a CIA officer to score a political point ought to be a firing offense at any White House, even this one.

Which brings us to another intriguing wrinkle. Cooper's source only granted him a waiver to speak before the grand jury. He is not free, Cooper told me after the hearing, to discuss in public this source and the contents of his conversation with this source. In essence, the source made sure that Cooper--if he were going to cooperate with Fitzgerald--would not be able to ID him (or her) in public. Not that Cooper seemed about to do so. Before the hearing, it seemed that Cooper was prepared to go to jail, even though Time had turned over his notes and emails and Newsweek had identified his source as Rove. But could it be that his source was not so sure of this and wanted to cut a deal (your freedom for your continuing public silence)? Or could it be that Cooper's source simply felt bad about Cooper being placed in the slammer? Or could it be that the source believed that Cooper's testimony might actually be beneficial for him or her? Or could it be that the source assumed he or she was already in legal peril and did not want also to be blamed for Cooper's incarceration?

There are plenty of avenues of conjecture. But one thing is for certain. Fitzgerald, who does seem devoted to the task of investigating the leak and who does not appear to be pursuing (rightly or wrongly) reporters merely for the hell of it, will now be able to obtain Cooper's testimony--information that he says is critical in determining what happened in the leak episode and whether a prosecutable crime was committed. The betting has to be that this is reason for the White House to be more nervous and not less.

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And what of Novak? How has he managed to escape the clutches of Fitzgerald? Why does he not face the same legal dilemma as Miller? Well, he must have cooperated with Fitzpatrick. But to what end? And what did he say?For speculative answers to these and other questions about Novak's role in this affair, see the piece I posted at TomPaine.com by clicking here.

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How to Fight Terrorism

President Bush unwittingly provided an appropriate response to the gruesome terrorist attacks on London.

Highlighting the "vivid" contrast between the Group of Eight summit in Gleneagles, Scotland -- where the world's most powerful leaders have been forced by grassroots pressure to address issues of global poverty and climate change -- and the carnage in London after coordinated bomb blasts killed dozens of commuters Thursday morning, Bush said, "On the one hand, we got people here who are working to alleviate poverty and to help rid the world of the pandemic of AIDS and that are working on ways to have a clean environment. And on the other hand, you've got people killing innocent people. And the contrast couldn't be clearer between the intentions and the hearts of those of us who care deeply about human rights and human liberty, and those who kill, those who've got such evil in their heart that they will take the lives of innocent folks."

Bush went on to promise that, "we will spread an ideology of hope and compassion that will overwhelm their ideology of hate."

Imagine the cries of outrage and incomprehension that would have arisen from right-wing talk radio and television pundits if a President Al Gore or a President John Kerry had called, in the immediate aftermath of an attack linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, for spreading an "ideology of hope and compassion" as part of the response to terrorism.

Imagine if a President Gore or a Kerry had spoken, as Bush did, of bringing those responsible for the attacks "to justice" rather than pledging to "hunt them down and kill them."

Imagine if a President Gore or Kerry had failed to make any mention of the invasion and occupation of Iraq -- supposedly a critical front in the "war on terror" -- at such a moment.

Bush's amen corner in the media is, of course, packed with hypocrites who hear echoes of Churchill in the president's every utterance, just as they detect the language of treason in the mere mention of alternative approaches to fighting terrorism.

But the failings of his followers ought not obscure the fact that the president's response -- intentionally or otherwise --went to the issues that should be addressed.

Bush expressed his "heartfelt condolences," he called for bringing the killers to justice. And then he spoke -- in the context of a broader discussion about alleviating poverty, disease and environmental decay -- about combating terrorism with "hope and compassion." In the end, it will only be when hope and compassion are delivered to the world's most dispossessed peoples -- through debt reduction, aid and measures that combat the spread of easily treated diseases -- that those who preach violence as a response to inequity and injustice will be sufficiently marginalized to make it possible to talk of "winning" a war on terrorism.

Is it possible that the president is beginning to accept this reality? Could he be coming to realize that the challenges posed by international terrorism cannot be met merely with cowboy rhetoric and bombs?

Surely, the painful recognition that, almost four years after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, al-Qaeda is apparently still capable of pulling off coordinated, and extremely deadly, attacks in one of the most security-savvy cities on the planet ought to cause Bush to rethink his misguided response to what he describes as the great challenge of his presidency.

Unfortunately, Bush has shown little capacity for growth in his knowledge or understanding of world affairs. So it is wise to remain skeptical about how far he plans to take his "hope and compassion" response.

That said, we ought to hold the man to his words -- and to remind the president's amen corner that it was not Ted Kennedy or Nancy Pelosi who responded to the news of a terrorist attack with a discussion about alleviating poverty and ridding the world of disease. It was George W. Bush. And, at least in that moment, he was right.

London Hit

This post will be updated throughout the day.

Three explosions rocked the London tubes this morning and one tore open a packed double-decker bus during today's rush hour, sending victims fleeing after what Tony Blair called "barbaric" terrorist attacks. London Mayor Ken Livingstone, in Singapore where he supported London's successful bid to host the 2012 Olympics, said the blasts that ripped through his city were "mass murder" carried out by terrorists bent on "indiscriminate slaughter." (A group called The Secret Organisation of al-Qaeda in Europe said it carried out the series of blasts in retaliation for Britain's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

There are conflicting reports over how many people were killed and injured but a US law enforcement official is being widely quoted saying that at least 40 people were killed and London hospitals have reported more than 700 wounded. Whatever the exact numbers, it's clear that this is Britain's worst-ever terrorist attack.

Click here to read The Guardian's continuing coverage and watch the The Nation online for further reporting on events.

(If you need information on someone who may have been injured in the attack, the British police have listed this emergency hotline number: 44-0870-1566-344)