The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Hot off the smashing success of "Lump in the Bed", here's President George Dubya Bush's second entry into the world of poetry.

Okay, okay, so it's a found poem of classic quotes, but it'll have to do.
Whether or not you agree with the message one sends through their art, even just through Photoshop, there is no excuse to do what these guys did. What fucking scum.

Wonkette on WMD-Joke-gate:
Who can forget Lincoln's Gridiron dinner punchline: "Is there a carpenter in the house? Because I've got a house divided I'm having trouble with." Or Nixon at White House Correspondents' Dinner: "You may have heard we bombed Cambodia. It's not my fault. I told them left at Laos, left."

For those of you who missed it, here's some background on what went down at the Radio Correspondents' Dinner:
Bush provided amusing descriptions of photographs Wednesday night during the annual dinner of the Radio and Television News Correspondents Association. Some showed the president in awkward poses as he looked behind furniture in the Oval Office. For those photos, Bush told the audience, "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere ... nope, no weapons over there ... maybe under here?"

Laughter erupted from the crowd of journalists, politicians and their guests then and at other times during Bush's remarks. For years the dinner has featured political and topical humor, most of it playful if barbed at times.
In a vacuum, this joke could play very well, if delivered correctly. Based on the laughter it received, it seems that George delivered it very well. But that's not the point.

Yes, many comedians of all shapes and sizes -- though probably not Dennis Miller, though the issue there is whether or not he's actually funny anymore -- have received laughs from WMD jokes. Trouble is Bush, unlike most other comedians, is also the President of the United States. He needs to talk about WMD in a serious way too. If he started a war in Iraq based on WMD that didn't actually exist, he needs to open up a serious, meaningful dialogue with the American people on the issue before he can expect to be able to joke about it without John Kerry, T-Mac and others jumping on it.

And once again, if Bush really believed those WMD existed, and he couldn't find them, wouldn't he be a wee bit more concerned as to where they went?

On the whole, Bush making a joke at a correspondents' dinner isn't the biggest deal in the world, but as far as the outrage expressed by some, Bush should know that he was playing with fire.

What's going on here?
The man who uncovered evidence the FBI tailed presidential candidate John Kerry for months in 1971 said some of those files were stolen this week.

Author Gerald Nicosia reported to police Friday that three of the 14 boxes of once-secret FBI files he obtained under the Freedom of Information Act were taken from his Corte Madera home Thursday.

Particular files from the remaining 11 boxes were also taken, Nicosia said, including files containing documents about Kerry that hadn't been reviewed yet by others.

"The three files folders about John Kerry were taken," Nicosia said. "Those revelations are lost now, at least to me."
Hopefully those files will turn up soon. But something tells me that if they do, they will have a lot of badly Photoshopped pictures of Kerry-Fonda trysts in them . . . and I don't necessarily mean Jane.

Aw, that's so cute that the happy folks at WorldNetDaily are upset that Outkast appeared at a Democratic event. Especially since -- ye gods! -- Andre 3000 was once photographed with a firearm!

Those wussy Democrats!

If they were serious about firearms, they'd be like Republicans and invite convicted killers to their events who have actually used them to kill people.

(wnd link via jesse)
Marshall digs up an article from Foreign Affairs written during the 2000 campaign by Condoleeza Rice, outlining the significant priorities of the foreign policy of a potential George W Bush administration.

In it, terrorism is mentioned only once, and in the context of the actions of states (Iran, Iraq, DPRK), and not of international non-state organizations. And naturally, no mention of Al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden.

Wow, Condi has been race-baiting Richard Clarke for years!

If you've been looking for a one-stop shop for refutations of all the general arguments made against same-sex marriage, look no further than this detailed, comprehensive post from Paul over at A Fortiori.

His takedown of the "hetero nuclear families make better kids" argument includes a critique of the same bits of this Patriot piece that I addressed earlier this month on my sister blog, awesome.

* - since I mention Santorum, perhaps "cry" implies the wrong liquid substance...
Below is my first, and probably last, audio post using audblog. It's on the curious pair of strategies being used by Bill Frist and Condi Rice, in the effort to discredit Richard Clarke, and it's only about 45 seconds long.

Enjoy my nasal-pubescent voice!
Powered by audblogaudio post powered by audblog

Friday, March 26, 2004

Mr. de la Rocha, do you have anything to say to Dr. Rice?

Slate gives us the PowerPoint Pledge of Allegiance, very well done. Slide 3 was great.
Ari Fleischer: Liar.

Don Luskin: Sap.

Funny, how bad weeks for the Bush administration and ambiguous, uncorroborated terror threats seem to go hand in hand.

(link via hesiod)

Thursday, March 25, 2004


The right finally has an effective response to the allegations of Richard Clarke. And it comes from... Ann Coulter. (link via Jack, who should know better, hehe)

It's good that someone out there is being, uh, coherent, cuz the administration sure hasn't been!

So what does Adam's Apple have to say for herself? It's sad when weekly columnists weigh in on issues like this, because they're always one or two debunked charges behind, at least:
ARE YOU sitting down? Another ex-government official who was fired or demoted by Bush has written a book that ... is critical of Bush! Eureka! The latest offering is Richard Clarke's new CBS-Viacom book, "Against All Enemies," which gets only a 35 on "rate a record" because the words don't make sense and you can't dance to it.
Blah blah, Clarke stayed on for more than two years after that, and such.

Then she wastes a whopping five paragraphs of her column equating Clarke to . . . Gary Aldrich? I mean, even putting aside the equating of allegations about sex and allegations about, you know, the administration's entire war on terrorism from a knowledged insider who wasn't just in the loop, but was the loop, Gary Aldrich is a Republican shill, and everybody knows that. His latest game has been to label Kerry a possible Communist. For more on him, go here and here.

The rest of her incredible takedown of Richard Clarke amounts to seven paragraphs of hilarious race-baiting, all based on one sentence at the beginning of a chapter, where Clarke observes Condi Rice apparently being clueless about Al Qaeda in January of 2001. Of course, later in that chapter Clarke describes an interchange with Paul Wolfowitz in which he is equally clueless and skeptical regarding the Al Qaeda threat, but Coulter doesn't accuse Clarke of anti-Semitism.

Of course, she runs into a problem in the middle of her race-baiting (which says more about her views than Clarke's, I might add):
All this was while Clarke was presiding over six unanswered al-Qaida attacks on American interests and fretting about the looming Y2K emergency. But chair-warmer Clarke claims that on the basis of Rice's "facial expression" he could tell she was not familiar with the term "al-Qaida."

Isn't that just like a liberal? The chair-warmer describes Bush as a cowboy and Rumsfeld as his gunslinger -- but the black chick is a dummy. Maybe even as dumb as Clarence Thomas! Perhaps someday liberals could map out the relative intelligence of various black government officials for us. (emphases mine)
Apparently Coulter wants us to think that Clarke was worried about dates on bank accounts and extra water supplies, but what she hides behind her "fretting about Y2K" derision is that Clarke was working with the Clinton administration to try to stop, you know, an actual terrorist threat, that being a major bombing within the country. Of course, Coulter doesn't seem to have much of a problem with domestic bombings, having once joked "My only regret with Tim McVeigh is that he didn't go to the New York Times building." Cheap shot? Of course! How bout one more: The proximity of her views to those of Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph also deserves mention.

Furthermore, it would break poor Coulty's heart to know that Richard Clarke, if he is anything, is not a liberal. He was originally appointed by a certain actor-turned-president. No, not Martin Sheen. He worked closely with four presidents, three of whom were Republican, two of whom were named Bush. Furthermore, he is an independent living in Virginia, who votes Republican. If that's a liberal, than god knows what a moderate or a conservative is.

All this being said, you can probably guess as to my explanation for why these points haven't been heard elsewhere.

UPDATE: Holy Christmas, did Bob Novak, who at least feigns credibility from time to time, take Coulter's bait? Wow, this can only mean they're quite desperate...

This time with Fox News playing the role of Rock Bottom, the trashy tabloid show that twisted Homer's words, via editing, to make him appear guilty of sexual assault. (further context here)

The short, short version is that Fox News, in their recap of Clarke's testimony, took elements from one Republican commission member's remarks, and had Clarke responding to them in a way that made him appear to be a partisan shill... when in fact, not only was Clarke responding to a completely different question, but also to a completely different commission member:
"You've got a real credibility problem," John Lehman, former Navy secretary under President Reagan, told Clarke, calling the witness "an active partisan selling a book."

Clarke responded: "I don't think it's a question of morality at all, I think it's a question of politics."
If you want to know what's horribly wrong with their recap, either find it in the transcript if you like, or you can click on either of the links at the beginning of this post.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

More blogging tomorrow night! Consider me officially "back" at that point.
The Bush administration goes for the KO -- on eachother! -- in their attempts to discredit Clarke.

A couple days ago, Marshall excerpted a bit from Newsweek about Paul Wolfowitz:
In the meeting, says Clarke, Wolfowitz cited the writings of Laurie Mylroie, a controversial academic who had written a book advancing an elaborate conspiracy theory that Saddam was behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Clarke says he tried to refute Wolfowitz. "We've investigated that five ways to Friday, and nobody [in the government] believes that," Clarke recalls saying. "It was Al Qaeda. It wasn't Saddam." A spokesman for Wolfowitz describes Clarke's account as a "fabrication." Wolfowitz always regarded Al Qaeda as "a major threat," says this official.
Marshall notes that Wolfowitz wrote a very complimentary blurb for one of Mylroie's books.

I sat up in my chair when I read Mylroie's name, because I knew I saw her somewhere else. As Newsweek mentions, she is an proponent of the theory that Saddam was behind the 1993 WTC bombing. Guess most of the right was too busy blaming Clinton for that one (you know, it happened quite a ways into his administration, way past the, uh, Flexible Blame Threshold), to notice Laurie's allegations. And then it hit me: She was the one claiming Iraq was behind the Oklahoma City bombing too! I remembered this because I saw her on The O'Splotchy Factor a few years back trying to make such a case. Apparently she thought that Midwestern militia-men know surprisingly little about the wide variety of uses for fertilizer.

Anyway, keep that in mind next time someone brings up something Wolfowitz says.
A smattering of links on Richard Clarke, both his testimony today and on the amusing attempts to discredit him.

Here is the transcript of his open testimony before the 9/11 Commission, starting on page 45. His opening statement was brief:
I welcome these hearings because of the opportunity that they provide to the American people to better understand why the tragedy of 9/11 happened and what we must do to prevent a reoccurance. I also welcome the hearings because it is finally a forum where I can apologize to the loved ones of the victims of 9/11. To them who are here in the room, to those who are watching on television, your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you and I failed you. We tried hard, but that doesn't matter because we failed. And for that failure, I would ask -- once all the facts are out -- for your understanding and for your forgiveness.
Here's the NYT recap of his testimony. Note that Judith "WMD" Miller has been kicked off the Clarke beat, with David Stout covering the testimony.

Next, Joe Conason interviews Clarke over at Salon. From the looks of his first response, regarding the nature of the administration's attacks against him since 60 Minutes, he knows what they're up to:
You said on "60 Minutes" that you expected "their dogs" to be set on you when your book was published, but did you think that the attacks would be so personal?

Oh yeah, absolutely, for two reasons. For one, the Bush White House assumes that everyone who works for them is part of a personal loyalty network, rather than part of the government. And that their first loyalty is to Bush rather than to the people. When you cross that line or violate that trust, they get very upset. That's the first reason. But the second reason is that I think they're trying to bait me -- and people who agree with me -- into talking about all the trivial little things that they are raising, rather than talking about the big issues in the book.
There's plenty more to read there, including that Clarke is a voting Republican (you can't register in Virginia) who voted for McCain in the 2000 primaries. He also addresses why the White House kept him on, takes down a McClellan strawman about 9/11, and provides some context to the now well-known "swatting flies" comment from Dubya:
Apparently on one occasion -- of all these many, many days when George Tenet mentioned the al-Qaida threat -- the president on one occasion said, "I want a strategy. I don't want to swat flies." Well, months or certainly weeks went by after that, and he didn't get his strategy because Condi Rice didn't hold the meeting necessary to approve it and give it to him. And yet George Bush appears not to have asked for it a second time.
Next, let's quickly deal with the Bushies' hail mary pass to try to discredit Clarke, in which they released a transcript of a background briefing from August 2002 in which Clarke appears to have fonder words for Bush's anti-terrorism strategy than he does in his book and his testimony, all 15-plus hours of it, counting his closed-door testimony. How do we deal with this? Initial reactions from the left blogosphere range from unfazed to concerned to quite disheartened. Well, let's go to the transcript! Starting bottom of page 55:
THOMPSON: Mr. Clarke, as we sit here this afternoon, we have your book and we have your press briefing of August 2002. Which is true?

CLARKE: Well, I think the question is a little misleading. The press briefing you're referring to comes in the following context: Time magazine had published a cover story article highlighting what your staff briefing talks about. They had learned that, as your staff briefing notes, that there was a strategy or a plan and a series of additional options that were presented to the national security adviser and the new Bush team when they came into office. Time magazine ran a somewhat sensational story that implied that the Bush administration hadn't worked on that plan. And this, of course, coming after 9/11 caused the Bush White House a great deal of concern. So I was asked by several people in senior levels of the Bush White House to do a press backgrounder to try to explain that set of facts in a way that minimized criticism of the administration. And so I did. Now, we can get into semantic games of whether it was a strategy, or whether it was a plan, or whether it was a series of options to be decided upon. I think the facts are as they were outlined in your staff briefing.

THOMPSON: Well, let's take a look, then, at your press briefing, because I don't want to engage in semantic games. You said, the Bush administration decided, then, you know, mid-January -- that's mid- January, 2001 -- to do 2 things: one, vigorously pursue the existing the policy -- that would be the Clinton policy -- including all of the lethal covert action findings which we've now made public to some extent. Is that so? Did they decide in January of 2001 to vigorously pursue the existing Clinton policy?

CLARKE: They decided that the existing covert action findings would remain in effect.

THOMPSON: OK. The second thing the administration decided to do is to initiate a process to look at those issues which had been on the table for a couple of years and get them decided. Now, that seems to indicate to me that proposals had been sitting on the table in the Clinton administration for a couple of years, but that the Bush administration was going to get them done. Is that a correct assumption?

CLARKE: Well, that was my hope at the time. It turned out not to be the case.

THOMPSON: Well, then why in August of 2002, over a year later, did you say that it was the case?

CLARKE: I was asked to make that case to the press. I was a special assistant to the president, and I made the case I was asked to make.

THOMPSON: Are you saying to be you were asked to make an untrue case to the press and the public, and that you went ahead and did it? MORE

CLARKE: No, sir. Not untrue. Not an untrue case. I was asked to highlight the positive aspects of what the administration had done and to minimize the negative aspects of what the administration had done. And as a special assistant to the president, one is frequently asked to do that kind of thing. I've done it for several presidents.
Sooooooo, how exactly does this damage Clarke's credibility in any way? He was working for the President, and the President asked him to give a briefing in a manner that would make the President's policies look good. If that doesn't pass your laugh test, then you're a damn hack. It's nearly incidental that Clarke was the one giving the briefing as opposed to Richard Armitage, Condi Rice, Hadley, whoever. (Yes, they have different roles in the White House, I know) Why doesn't it matter? Because since it was a "backgrounder" that means that they represent the White House views, and not necessarily those of Clarke. (thanks, Jonah!)

The short, simple version of all of this is that if one takes the view that every sound that emerges from Clarke's lips is applicable to whether or not he's a hypocrite, even if those words are spoken at the request of the Bush administration while he was a paid staff member within it being asked to spin, then congratulations, you got him. That seems somewhat similar to Ann Coulter's "direct quotes from within book reviews prove that the New York Times is anti-Semitic" theory as described in Franken's book.

Lastly, for a double-shot of reasons why Clarke should be believed, read these two Slate pieces from Fred Kaplan and Bill Saletan.

One parting comment: I've noticed that many of those the Bushies have sent out, "Fly monkeys fly!"-style, to attack Clarke's credibility and character (though not nearly as much his substance) have referred to him in the shortened form "Dick Clarke". Naturally, he's not this guy, and yes, Bush has a propensity for using nicknames for those that surround him. All that being said, is this some sort of subliminal campaign to subconsciously discredit Clarke in the eyes of the American people, by association? Eh...

UPDATE: Via Digby, there's this line from his testimony which I must have missed, due to the busy state of my house:
When asked in the hearings about whether it was moral to put the best face on an administration you work for when briefing the press, Clark said:
"I don't think it's a question of morality at all. I think it's a question of politics." [big applause]
David Horsey.

And some Oliphant for your trouble.

The Bush administration is "concerned" about rising gas prices.


Go do a Google News search of "bush gasoline concerned". When you do so, you will find that Bush was just as "concerned" about gasoline prices on March 4th as he is 20 days later.

These are real men of action.

Monday, March 22, 2004

You know, in the interest of keeping the heat on Bush on defense, John Kerry chose a pretty darn good week to take a vacation, didn't he?

I think that the Bush administration will have an even harder time discrediting Richard Clarke than they did Paul O'Neill, particularly because Clarke seems like a hard-ass who wont buckle under their pressure.

But the two whistleblowers have made critiques of Bush's MO that are strangely similar in some respects.

Clarke's conversational experiences with Bush and Rummy -- who were both, according to his accounts, hell-bent on linking 9/11 to Iraq in the hours and days following the attacks -- seemed character-wise to be very in line with Rove's reminders to Bush to "stick to principle", as described by O'Neill.

The difference is that Clarke isn't going to fold like a deck of cards with Al-Qaeda leaders' crossed out faces on them. One reason is that he will be testifying, openly I might add, before the 9/11 commission this week. Also, they can't do the "he's crazy or bitter!" routine that they tried on O'Neill, and other conservatives tried on David Brock. But that hasn't stopped them from trying!
In an interview Sunday evening, Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, dismissed Mr. Clarke's charges as "politically motivated," "reckless" and "baseless."

"If Dick Clarke had such grave concerns about the direction of the war on terror, why did he stay on the team as long as he did, and why did he wait till the beginning of a presidential campaign to speak out?" Mr. Bartlett said. He said the book's timing showed that it was "more about politics than policy."
Those are a couple of stupid questions there, Bartlett.

Regarding the first one, wouldn't the answer be that he's, you know, a serious person who wanted the anti-terror effort to go well? He stayed on the team because he had grave concerns about the directions of the war on terror! Apparently Dan Bartlett has low expectations for administration staff.

The second question can be answered easily when you consider the 9/11 commission itself. Didn't the Bush administration try to keep them from getting an extension past July? The de facto reason for their efforts was to keep the commission from finishing its report too close to the election. (Cuz if anything, the Bushies don't want 9/11 to get into electoral politics, do they?) Therefore, by the standard essentially argued by the Bush administration, shouldn't Clarke have waited until the summer or early autumn to release his book in order for them to make such a charge? They can't have it both ways.

Anyway, consider this week TFM's spring break (which it actually is, by the way), so posting will be occasional at best, at least through friday. Have a great week everybody!

UPDATE: Ouch! Via Atrios, on today's Newshour, Clark noted that the book was delayed 3 months by the White House before it was published. So does that make Bartlett's second piece of spin non-operational?