Archive for September, 2006

Fallout

Posted: September 30, 2006 in Music, Pop Culture

I’m working on an in-depth comment and analysis of the political fallout of the Mark Foley resignation, which I’m hoping to have up sometime tomorrow.

In the meantime, check out this joint performance by U2 and Green Day last weekend for the opening ceremony of the first New Orleans Saints home game at the Superdome since Hurricane Katrina last year.

Radioactive

Posted: September 30, 2006 in 2006 Elections, Beltway Drama

In less than 24 hours, the Foley resignation has become a full-fledged political scandal on Capitol Hill.

With Foley now out of the picture, news organizations are trying to figure out how long his behavior went on, who it involved, and most significantly, which of his House Republican colleagues knew, or should have known or investigated, the allegations of impropriety.

It is in the last of those three issues where heads much bigger than Foley’s could roll as a result of this scandal.

Because of their knowledge at different points of the allegations against Foley, the big targets of scrutiny in all of this will be:
1) Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert
2) Rep. John Shinkus, chairman of the House Page Board
3) Rep. Tom Reynolds, head of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC)
4) Rep. Rodney Alexander, the congressman who hired the boy that Foley was communicating with.

House Majority Leader John Boehner pointed the finger directly at Dennis Hastert. From the Washington Post:

The resignation rocked the Capitol, and especially Foley’s GOP colleagues, as lawmakers were rushing to adjourn for at least six weeks. House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told The Washington Post last night that he had learned this spring of some “contact” between Foley and a 16-year-old page. Boehner said he told House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), and that Hastert assured him “we’re taking care of it.”

It was not immediately clear what actions Hastert took. His spokesman had said earlier that the speaker did not know of the sexually charged e-mails between Foley and the boy.

Drip, Drip, Drip…

Posted: September 29, 2006 in 2006 Elections

One of Salon.com’s two anonymous sources in its original story on George Allen using racist slurs has decided to go on the record. Even more problematic for Senator Allen, the source remembers hearing about the deer head in a mailbox incident during the hunting trip.

A former football teammate of Sen. George Allen decided Friday to go on the record with recollections of the Virginia Republican’s alleged racist behavior during college.

Edward J. Sabornie, a special education professor at North Carolina State University, had previously spoken to Salon about Allen’s behavior on the condition of anonymity, because he feared retribution from the Allen campaign. In a Salon story on Sunday, Sabornie was quoted as a “teammate” who remembered Allen using the word “nigger” to describe blacks. “It was so common with George when he was among his white friends. This is the terminology he used,” Sabornie said in that article.

Sabornie said he has now decided to let his name be known because he was upset by how Allen responded this week to the Salon story. “What George said on Monday really kind of inflamed me — that it was ‘ludicrously false’ that he ever used the N-word,” Sabornie told Salon. “I don’t know how George can look himself in the mirror after saying that.”

Since Sunday, four other named acquaintances of Allen have told news organizations that they witnessed Allen using a racial epithet or demonstrating racist behavior. Allen, and his campaign staff, have denied each of the claims.

Sabornie, a registered independent who considers himself a liberal Democrat, was first contacted by Salon on Sept. 17. In the past, Sabornie said he has shown support for Allen, even writing him a congratulatory letter in 2000 after Allen was elected to the Senate.

But Sabornie said his opinion of Allen dimmed after the senator called an Indian-American student “macaca” at a recent campaign rally. “That was the catalyst,” Sabornie said. “I saw the old George.”

Sabornie was in Allen’s class and played football with the senator at the University of Virginia between 1971 and 1973. “We were friends,” said Sabornie, who played outside linebacker and tight end on the team. He said he remembers Allen also referring to blacks as “roaches,” and using the word “wetback” to refer to Latinos.

Sabornie said he also recalled hearing in college about a hunting trip with Allen that was rumored to have ended with a deer head being placed in a mailbox, a claim that was first made public by teammate Ken Shelton, and confirmed in part by teammate George Beam. Until Tuesday, after the Salon article came out, Sabornie said he had not spoken to Shelton for about 30 years.

“Because I was a hunter, and my teammates knew I hunted, I heard the story,” said Sabornie, who could not recall who told him. “I just remember that they cut off the doe head and stuffed it in a mailbox. I don’t remember anyone saying that George went looking specifically for black families.”

From ABC’s The Blotter:

Congressman Mark Foley (R-FL) planned to resign today, hours after ABC questioned him about sexually explicit internet messages with current and former Congressional pages under the age of 18.

A spokesman for Foley, the chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, said the congressman submitted his resignation in a letter late this afternoon to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.

Hours earlier, ABC News had read excerpts of instant messages provided by former male pages who said the congressman, under the AOL Instant Messenger screen name Maf54, made repeated references to sexual organs and acts.

Looks like former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards’ famous quote about “The only way I can lose is if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy,” was correct in Foley’s case, even if he wasn’t actually caught with the live boy.

Update: Foley has submitted his letter of resignation to the Speaker of the House.

The New Republic thinks they’ve found Mark Foley’s page on MySpace.

The Blotter has also posted some sexually explicit AOL Instant Messagenger chat transcripts from Foley and from their account, it was these transcripts that were the smoking gun that triggered Foley’s resignation. According to ABC, Foley could potentially be prosecuted and imprisoned for some laws that he helped pass as a member of Congress, and as chairman of the House caucus on missing and exploited children.

Bob Woodward can probably forget about waiting for the invitation to the White House Christmas party to arrive in the mail this year.

From the New York Daily News:

The CIA’S top counterterrorism officials felt they could have killed Osama Bin Laden in the months before 9/11, but got the “brushoff” when they went to the Bush White House seeking the money and authorization.

CIA Director George Tenet and his counterterrorism head Cofer Black sought an urgent meeting with then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice on July 10, 2001, writes Bob Woodward in his new book “State of Denial.”

They went over top-secret intelligence pointing to an impending attack and “sounded the loudest warning” to the White House of a likely attack on the U.S. by Bin Laden.

Woodward writes that Rice was polite, but, “They felt the brushoff.”

Tenet and Black were both frustrated.

Black later calculated that all he needed was $500 million of covert action funds and reasonable authorization from President Bush to go kill Bin Laden and “he might be able to bring Bin Laden’s head back in a box,” Woodward writes.

Black claims the CIA had about “100 sources and subsources” in Afghanistan who could have helped carry out the hit.

The details of the incident are emerging just days after Sen. Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton sparred with Rice over whether the Bush administration had tried to get Bin Laden before the terror attacks.

Update: Woodward also reports that President Bush was urged to dump Donald Rumsfeld twice after he won re-election, first by his then-Chief of Staff Andrew Card, the second time by Card and (interestingly enough) the First Lady. Looks like Andrew “Marketing Point of View” Card is trying to do some retroactive CYA after being replaced earlier this year.

From today’s Washington Post:

Former White House chief of staff Andrew Card on two occasions tried and failed to persuade President Bush to fire Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, according to a new book by Bob Woodward that depicts senior officials of the Bush administration as unable to face the consequences of their policy in Iraq.

Card made his first attempt after Bush was reelected in November, 2004, arguing that the administration needed a fresh start and recommending that Bush replace Rumsfeld with former secretary of state James A. Baker III. Woodward writes that Bush considered the move, but was persuaded by Vice President Cheney and Karl Rove, his chief political adviser, that it would be seen as an expression of doubt about the course of the war and would expose Bush himself to criticism.

Card tried again around Thanksgiving, 2005, this time with the support of First Lady Laura Bush, who according to Woodward, felt that Rumsfeld’s overbearing manner was damaging to her husband. Bush refused for a second time, and Card left the administration last March, convinced that Iraq would be compared to Vietnam and that history would record that no senior administration officials had raised their voices in opposition to the conduct of the war.

This from the Newark Star-Ledger:

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez’s closest political adviser was secretly recorded seven years ago boasting of political power and urging a Hudson County contractor to hire someone as a favor to Menendez, according to a transcript obtained by The Star-Ledger.

Menendez’s campaign said last night he had severed his ties with the adviser, Donald Scarinci, after learning of the taped conversation. The two men were childhood friends and Scarinci, a prominent attorney with extensive contracts in state and local governments, has been a key fundraiser for the senator throughout his long political career.

Scarinci was recorded in 1999 by Oscar Sandoval, a Union City psychiatrist who had contracts with the county jail and hospital in Hudson County, according to two people familiar with the tapes who requested anonymity because the recordings are evidence in a pending lawsuit.

A transcript of the recorded telephone conversation was obtained by The Star-Ledger and verified by the two sources. In it, Scarinci urged Sandoval to hire another physician, Vincente Ruiz, telling him: “Menendez will consider that a favor.”

Matt Miller, spokesman for Menendez’s campaign, said last night, “If this transcript is accurate, then Scarinci was using Menendez’s name without his authorization or his knowledge. That was a lapse in judgment on his part and because of it, he will no longer have any role in our campaign.”

Menendez, locked in a tight U.S. Senate election race against Republican Tom Kean Jr., is already facing political fallout from a federal investigation into a rental deal he had with a nonprofit organization in Union City years ago.

Menendez is in a tight race, and given the state party’s track record (Bob Torricelli, James McGreevey), this is one more headache Menendez doesn’t need a month before Election Day. Whether Tom Kean can capitalize on it and use it to lure away Democratic voters remains to be seen.

This from the Newark Star-Ledger:

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez’s closest political adviser was secretly recorded seven years ago boasting of political power and urging a Hudson County contractor to hire someone as a favor to Menendez, according to a transcript obtained by The Star-Ledger.

Menendez’s campaign said last night he had severed his ties with the adviser, Donald Scarinci, after learning of the taped conversation. The two men were childhood friends and Scarinci, a prominent attorney with extensive contracts in state and local governments, has been a key fundraiser for the senator throughout his long political career.

Scarinci was recorded in 1999 by Oscar Sandoval, a Union City psychiatrist who had contracts with the county jail and hospital in Hudson County, according to two people familiar with the tapes who requested anonymity because the recordings are evidence in a pending lawsuit.

A transcript of the recorded telephone conversation was obtained by The Star-Ledger and verified by the two sources. In it, Scarinci urged Sandoval to hire another physician, Vincente Ruiz, telling him: “Menendez will consider that a favor.”

Matt Miller, spokesman for Menendez’s campaign, said last night, “If this transcript is accurate, then Scarinci was using Menendez’s name without his authorization or his knowledge. That was a lapse in judgment on his part and because of it, he will no longer have any role in our campaign.”

Menendez, locked in a tight U.S. Senate election race against Republican Tom Kean Jr., is already facing political fallout from a federal investigation into a rental deal he had with a nonprofit organization in Union City years ago.

Menendez is in a tight race, and given the state party’s track record (Bob Torricelli, James McGreevey), this is one more headache Menendez doesn’t need a month before Election Day. Whether Tom Kean can capitalize on it and use it to lure away Democratic voters remains to be seen.

The Grudge

Posted: September 29, 2006 in 2006 Elections

Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut for Lieberman) gave an interview to the conservative blog Pajamas Media. The headline:

In an exclusive video interview with Pajamas Media, Senator Joseph Lieberman – the former Democrat now running as an Independent to retain his Connecticut senate seat – was asked by PJM’s CEO Roger Simon if he could forgive once close friends Chris Dodd, Al Gore and Teddy Kennedy, for endorsing his opponent Ned Lamont, the former Democratic Party vice-presidential candidate responded: “I can forgive… but I probably won’t forget.”

If Senator Lieberman hasn’t completely burned his bridges with Connecticut Democrats and the national party yet, this is more fuel for the fire.

CBS News has an interesting article about how Internet video sites like YouTube are changing or impacting the political process. Check it out.

Photo from CBS News/60 Minutes

It’s that time of year again in Washington… not election season, but the release of Bob Woodward’s next book. Last time around, he broke the story of George “Slam Dunk” Tenet’s case for WMD in Iraq, among other things.

I’m not one to judge a book by its cover, but the title doesn’t sound too flattering to the Bush Administration.

Woodward taped an interview with Mike Wallace that will run on 60 Minutes this Sunday night. Here’s the teaser from CBS News:

According to Woodward, insurgent attacks against coalition troops occur, on average, every 15 minutes, a shocking fact the administration has kept secret. “It’s getting to the point now where there are eight-, nine-hundred attacks a week. That’s more than 100 a day. That is four an hour attacking our forces,” says Woodward.

The situation is getting much worse, says Woodward, despite what the White House and the Pentagon are saying in public. “The truth is that the assessment by intelligence experts is that next year, 2007, is going to get worse and, in public, you have the president and you have the Pentagon [saying], ‘Oh, no, things are going to get better,'” he tells Wallace. “Now there’s public, and then there’s private. But what did they do with the private? They stamp it secret. No one is supposed to know,” says Woodward.

“The insurgents know what they are doing. They know the level of violence and how effective they are. Who doesn’t know? The American public,” Woodward tells Wallace.

Woodward also reports that the president and vice president often meet with Henry Kissinger, who was President Richard Nixon’s secretary of state, as an adviser. Says Woodward, “Now what’s Kissinger’s advice? In Iraq, he declared very simply, ‘Victory is the only meaningful exit strategy.'” Woodward adds. “This is so fascinating. Kissinger’s fighting the Vietnam War again because, in his view, the problem in Vietnam was we lost our will.”

President Bush is absolutely certain that he has the U.S. and Iraq on the right course, says Woodward. So certain is the president on this matter, Woodward says, that when Mr. Bush had key Republicans to the White House to discuss Iraq, he told them, “I will not withdraw, even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me.”

The book is being released one month before the election, so you can bank on political operatives who are going to read it cover to cover to pick and choose the tidbits that suit their opposition research and talking points. Whether any of Woodward’s revelations this time have an impact on the election remain to be seen. The person who got it worse last time was George Tenet. As a result of Woodward’s reporting, the phrase “slam dunk” is guaranteed to be in the first or second paragraph of his obituary.

I’ll watch 60 Minutes to see what else Woodward has up his sleeve, and I’ll pick up the book next week.

Update: The New York Times has obtained a copy of the book and written up some of the highlights.

The White House ignored an urgent warning in September 2003 from a top Iraq adviser who said that thousands of additional American troops were desperately needed to quell the insurgency there, according to a new book by Bob Woodward, the Washington Post reporter and author. The book describes a White House riven by dysfunction and division over the war.

The warning is described in “State of Denial,” scheduled for publication on Monday by Simon & Schuster. The book says President Bush’s top advisers were often at odds among themselves, and sometimes were barely on speaking terms, but shared a tendency to dismiss as too pessimistic assessments from American commanders and others about the situation in Iraq.

As late as November 2003, Mr. Bush is quoted as saying of the situation in Iraq: “I don’t want anyone in the cabinet to say it is an insurgency. I don’t think we are there yet.”

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld is described as disengaged from the nuts-and-bolts of occupying and reconstructing Iraq — a task that was initially supposed to be under the direction of the Pentagon — and so hostile toward Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser, that President Bush had to tell him to return her phone calls. The American commander for the Middle East, Gen. John P. Abizaid, is reported to have told visitors to his headquarters in Qatar in the fall of 2005 that “Rumsfeld doesn’t have any credibility anymore” to make a public case for the American strategy for victory in Iraq.

The book, bought by a reporter for The New York Times at retail price in advance of its official release, is the third that Mr. Woodward has written chronicling the inner debates in the White House after the Sept. 11 attacks, the invasion of Afghanistan, and the subsequent decision to invade Iraq. Like Mr. Woodward’s previous works, the book includes lengthy verbatim quotations from conversations and describes what senior officials are thinking at various times, without identifying the sources for the information.

Mr. Woodward writes that his book is based on “interviews with President Bush’s national security team, their deputies, and other senior and key players in the administration responsible for the military, the diplomacy, and the intelligence on Iraq.” Some of those interviewed, including Mr. Rumsfeld, are identified by name, but neither Mr. Bush nor Vice President Dick Cheney agreed to be interviewed, the book says.

The book describes a deep fissure between Colin L. Powell, Mr. Bush’s first secretary of state, and Mr. Rumsfeld: When Mr. Powell was eased out after the 2004 elections, he told Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff, that “if I go, Don should go,” referring to Mr. Rumsfeld.

Mr. Card then made a concerted effort to oust Mr. Rumsfeld at the end of 2005, according to the book, but was overruled by President Bush, who feared that it would disrupt the coming Iraqi elections and operations at the Pentagon.

Vice President Cheney is described as a man so determined to find proof that his claim about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was accurate that, in the summer of 2003, his aides were calling the chief weapons inspector, David Kay, with specific satellite coordinates as the sites of possible caches. None resulted in any finds.

The 537-page book describes tensions among senior officials from the very beginning of the administration. Mr. Woodward writes that in the weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Tenet believed that Mr. Rumsfeld was impeding the effort to develop a coherent strategy to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. Mr. Rumsfeld questioned the electronic signals from terrorism suspects that the National Security Agency had been intercepting, wondering whether they might be part of an elaborate deception plan by Al Qaeda.

On July 10, 2001, the book says, Mr. Tenet and his counterterrorism chief, J. Cofer Black, met with Ms. Rice at the White House to impress upon her the seriousness of the intelligence the agency was collecting about an impending attack. But both men came away from the meeting feeling that Ms. Rice had not taken the warnings seriously.

In the weeks before the Iraq war began, President Bush’s parents did not share his confidence that the invasion of Iraq was the right step, the book recounts. Mr. Woodward writes about a private exchange in January 2003 between Mr. Bush’s mother, Barbara Bush, the former first lady, and David L. Boren, a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a Bush family friend.

The book says Mrs. Bush asked Mr. Boren whether it was right to be worried about a possible invasion of Iraq, and then to have confided that the president’s father, former President George H. W. Bush, “is certainly worried and is losing sleep over it; he’s up at night worried.”

Mr. Rumsfeld reached into political matters at the periphery of his responsibilities, according to the book. At one point, Mr. Bush traveled to Ohio, where the Abrams battle tank was manufactured. Mr. Rumsfeld phoned Mr. Card to complain that Mr. Bush should not have made the visit because Mr. Rumsfeld thought the heavy tank was incompatible with his vision of a light and fast military of the future. Mr. Woodward wrote that Mr. Card believed that Mr. Rumsfeld was “out of control.”

The fruitless search for unconventional weapons caused tension between Vice President Cheney’s office, the C.I.A. and officials in Iraq. Mr. Woodward wrote that Mr. Kay, the chief weapons inspector in Iraq, e-mailed top C.I.A. officials directly in the summer of 2003 with his most important early findings.

At one point, when Mr. Kay warned that it was possible the Iraqis might have had the capability to make such weapons but did not actually produce them, waiting instead until they were needed, the book says he was told by John McLaughlin, the C.I.A.’s deputy director: “Don’t tell anyone this. This could be upsetting. Be very careful. We can’t let this out until we’re sure.”

Mr. Cheney was involved in the details of the hunt for illicit weapons, the book says. One night, Mr. Woodward wrote, Mr. Kay was awakened at 3 a.m. by an aide who told him Mr. Cheney’s office was on the phone. It says Mr. Kay was told that Mr. Cheney wanted to make sure he had read a highly classified communications intercept picked up from Syria indicating a possible location for chemical weapons.

Interesting but not surprising that Bush and Cheney did not agree to be interviewed for this book. My guess is that when they heard about the stuff Woodward had uncovered, they decided to cut him off.