Friday, September 30, 2005

N.Y. Times Reporter Testifies in CIA Leak Case

This is from the Washington Post:

New York Times reporter Judith Miller testified today before a federal grand jury investigating the leak of a covert CIA agent's identity and said afterward she agreed to end her stay in jail and cooperate with the probe after receiving a personal go-ahead from her source and a prosecutor's promise that her testimony would be limited.

Miller, speaking to reporters on the steps of the federal courthouse in Washington, said her source had released her from a pledge of confidentiality through "a personal letter and, most important, a telephone call to me at the jail." This personal communication went beyond a general waiver that she had previously rejected and assured her that "my source genuinely wanted me to testify," she said.

After she received this "personal, voluntary waiver," Miller said, her lawyer approached the special prosecutor in the leak investigation and received an assurance that her testimony would be narrowly limited to her communications with the source. She did not mention the source's name in her brief appearance on the courthouse steps, but he has been identified previously as I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Cheney. Libby called Miller at the jail in Northern Virginia last week, according to his lawyer.

In some ways, it is not surprising that Scooter Libby was Miller's source. This whole Valerie Plame case reeks of a vindictiveness against Ambassador Joe Wilson's criticisms that the Bush administration fixed the intelligence for supporting their war with Iraq. Those individuals who had the most to gain in this were most certainly working within the White House--destroy and discredit Joe Wilson, and his criticisms will also be discredited and ignored. And if this is true, then who in the Bush White House would have such classified information that Valerie Plame was a CIA operative? Lewis Libby and Karl Rove would certainly have access to that information.

I find it ironic that in the Post article, Rove was said to have "discussed Wilson's wife with [Time Magazine's Matt] Cooper and [Columnist Robert] Novak but that he never mentioned her by name." Libby talked to Judith Miller twice in which Valerie Plame's name came up. According to the Post article:

In the first, on July 8, Miller met with Libby to interview him about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the source said.

At that time, she asked him why Wilson had been chosen to investigate questions Cheney had posed about whether Iraq tried to buy uranium in the African nation of Niger. Libby, the source familiar with his account said, told her that the White House was working with the CIA to find out more about Wilson's trip and how he was selected.

Libby told Miller he heard that Wilson's wife had something to do with sending him but he did not know who she was or where she worked, the source said.

Libby had a second conversation with Miller on July 12 or July 13, the source said, in which he said he had learned that Wilson's wife had a role in sending him on the trip and that she worked for the CIA. Libby never knew Plame's name or that she was a covert operative, the source said.

So we talked about her, but we really didn't mention her by name. I find that a little disingenuous. Rove and Libby have been playing a little game of double-speak, where they'll mention everything they can about Plame, except for her name. And since Rove and Libby didn't give away Valerie Plame's name, well then they technically didn't break the law--although anyone in the Washington press corps could easily find out who Joe Wilson's wife is. And it is also ironic that these two were fishing for reporters willing to take this fabricated story and publish it--Judith Miller, Matt Cooper, and Bob Novak--who ultimately took the bait.

You've got to marvel at the hypocrisy of this Bush administration.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Jailed reporter reaches deal in CIA leak probe

This is from CNN.Com:

(CNN) -- A New York Times reporter was released from jail Thursday after agreeing to provide evidence to a federal grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA operative's name.

Judith Miller will appear before the grand jury Friday after spending 12 weeks behind bars protecting a confidential source, whom she said has cleared her to testify.

Miller said her attorneys reached an agreement with prosecutors on the scope of her testimony that "satisfied my obligation as a reporter to keep faith with my sources."

"It's good to be free," Miller said in a statement. "I am leaving jail today because my source has now voluntarily and personally released me from my promise of confidentiality regarding our conversations."

She did not identify the source.

So the big question now is, who will Judith Miller name in her grand jury testimony on Friday? From the way this thing's playing out, you can almost guess that Miller probably told Cheney's chief of staff Scooter Libby, and then Libby told Karl Rove. After that, Rove went on a smear campaign to destroy Ambassador Joe Wilson's name. If Judith Miller does name Scooter Libby as the source, and if Libby did tell Rove about Valerie Plame, then both Libby and Rove would have committed a felony by lying to federal investigators. This is all off-the-wall speculation, but I do have a feeling we're going to see indictments handed down against the presidents men.

Which brings me to my next little comment. I've been watching with detached fascination, the corruption and scandals that are slamming against both the Bush White House and the Republicans in Congress. We have the FEMA fiasco, where the Bush White House placed their cronies into top government positions without any experience in disaster response. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (And possible 2008 presidential candidate) is in hot water for insider trading allegations. And House Majority Leader Tom Delay has stepped down after being indicted for laundering illegal political campaign contributions. Now Judith Miller is going to reveal her source in the Valerie Plame investigation, with a lot of suspicion being directed at the White House. I never thought it possible that the Republican Party could make such a mess of this country in five years. I never expected that the Republican Party could become this hypocritical, this blatant in their lying, and this mean in their extremist ideology. How did we Americans even allow this to happen?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Many Contracts for Storm Work Raise Questions

This is from the New York Times:

The first detailed tally of commitments from federal agencies since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast four weeks ago shows that more than 15 contracts exceed $100 million, including 5 of $500 million or more. Most of those were for clearing away the trees, homes and cars strewn across the region; purchasing trailers and mobile homes; or providing trucks, ships, buses and planes.

More than 80 percent of the $1.5 billion in contracts signed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency alone were awarded without bidding or with limited competition, government records show, provoking concerns among auditors and government officials about the potential for favoritism or abuse.

Already, questions have been raised about the political connections of two major contractors - the Shaw Group and Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton - that have been represented by the lobbyist Joe M. Allbaugh, President Bush's former campaign manager and a former leader of FEMA.

"When you do something like this, you do increase the vulnerability for fraud, plain waste, abuse and mismanagement," said Richard L. Skinner, the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, who said 60 members of his staff were examining Hurricane Katrina contracts. "We are very apprehensive about what we are seeing."

Bills have come in for deals that apparently were clinched with a handshake, with no documentation to back them up, said Mr. Skinner, who declined to provide details.

The cronyism in the Bush White House just doesn't stop. Now we have no-bid contracts being awarded to Halliburton, who was represented by Allbaugh--connected by Bush through his presidential campaign financing and as being a former leader of FEMA. What is even worst is that some of these companies are in hot water due to overcharging the government for the Iraq war costs. The Times continues saying:

Some businesses awarded large contracts have long records of performing similar work, but they also have had some problems. Kellogg, Brown & Root, which was given $60 million in contracts, was rebuked by federal auditors for unsubstantiated billing from the Iraq reconstruction and criticized for bills like $100-per-bag laundry service.

Kellogg, Brown & Root is a subsidiary of Halliburton--Dick Cheney's old company. The good-ole-boy network continues on in the Bush White House.

Archaeologists Discover Infants' Remains

This is fascinating! Found it on Yahoo News:

VIENNA, Austria - Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of two newborns dating back 27,000 years while excavating a hillside in northern Austria, the scientist in charge of the project said Monday.

The find made last week near the Danube River city of Krems is important because the newborns were buried beneath mammoth bones and with a string of 31 beads — suggesting that the internment involved some sort of ritual, said Christine Neugebauer-Maresch, the project's leader at the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

"They could be twins," she said. "They have the same (length) limbs and were buried together."

The burial — one of the oldest in the region — is also significant in that the children were not simply disposed of after their deaths, Neugebauer-Maresch said. The burial suggests "they were members of society," she said.

Archaeologists are combing the area to see if the infants' mother is nearby, as giving birth to twins in that era would have been extremely difficult and potentially fatal.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Bush mulls lead role for military in disasters

Found this off Yahoo News:

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush said on Sunday that Congress ought to consider giving the U.S. military the lead role in responding to natural disasters, as he heard one general describe the Hurricane Katrina rescue effort as a "train wreck."

Bush spent the last three days monitoring Hurricane Rita's high winds and flooding from military bases and emergency centers in Colorado, Texas and Louisiana. The president, whose poll numbers have slumped to new lows, was widely criticized over the slow federal response to Katrina.

Bush said Congress would have to consider under what circumstance the Department of Defense should become the lead agency in coordinating and responding to a disaster.

"Clearly, in the case of a terrorist attack, that would be the case. But is there a natural disaster ... of a certain size that would then enable the Defense Department to become the lead agency in coordinating and leading the response effort? That's going to be a very important consideration for Congress to think about," Bush said.

McClellan said Bush's goal was to make sure "there's a very clear line of authority" in the event of another major catastrophe, whether it is another storm like Katrina or an avian flu outbreak.

"You need to mobilize assets and resources and logistics and communications very quickly to help stabilize or contain the situation," McClellan said. "The organization, in the president's mind, that has the capability to do that is the Department of Defense."

McClellan said Bush has already discussed some of these issues with the secretary of Homeland Security and some top military leaders, and that the next step was to hold talks with congressional leaders.

McClellan acknowledged the proposal faced legal hurdles, and that a major issue would be determining what type of disaster would "trigger" a shift in authority to the Pentagon.

Putting the military in the lead role would sideline the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA, which now works with local and state officials to coordinate disaster response.

This is how you maintain complete control over the dissimulation of information to the American public regarding events surrounding a disaster--you give it to the military. By gutting FEMA and giving control of disaster planning and execution to the Pentagon, the White House will then have a free pass in crafting a public relations campaign for future disasters. This will not do anything in helping American citizens who are affected by the disasters. Having the Pentagon control disaster planning takes away the state and local government's ability to respond to such disasters. The problem here is that the Pentagon has no experience in disaster response at a local level--they are not the first authorities at the scene. State and local police, fire and medical officials are the first authorities at the scene of a disaster and will have the immediate first-hand information on getting recovery and relief procedures started. They know what are the hardest areas hit, where the casualties are, and where to send the relief to the hardest hit areas because they know their cities and towns--not some nameless bureaucrat sitting in the Pentagon. The Defense Department's main asset is the ability to move tremendous resources--both men and supplies--into an area after a disaster has occurred. The Pentagon can certainly make plans for shifting military assets from bases located in the various states towards certain geographic areas where disasters may occur, but once those resources are in the disaster area, there has to be some type of coordination between the state authorities (who will have the first-hand knowledge of what needs to be done) and the military (who has the muscle to do things). And that is what FEMA was originally designed for. The simple reason why FEMA screwed up in response to Katrina was that the top officials in charge of FEMA were not qualified for those positions. They were selected by the Bush Administration due to politics, or political favors.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

In Face of Hurricane, a Rush to Secure Oil Operations

From The New York Times:

Oil and other energy prices moved higher today as Hurricane Rita gathered strength and threatened a dense patch of oil production facilities along the Texas coast in the Gulf of Mexico.

Energy companies stepped up evacuations of offshore platforms and rigs in or near the path of the hurricane, which the National Hurricane Center upgraded to a Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale with winds of near 135 miles an hour early this morning. The many refineries along the coast of Texas were also bracing for a harsh lashing by strong winds, rain and flooding.

Crude oil for November delivery was trading up $1, or 1.5 percent, to $67.20 a barrel this afternoon on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gasoline futures were up 7.34 cents, or 3.7 percent, to $2.05 a gallon; natural gas was up 2.7 percent.

Rita has the ability to severely disrupt oil production and refining that has still not completely recovered from the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina three weeks ago. The devastation could conceivably be even more severe than the previous hurricane because the Texas coast is more densely packed with refineries and other onshore plants than Louisiana was, analysts said.

"A direct hit by a level 4 or 5 hurricane on the Houston ship channel, that would be devastating," said Bob Linden, a managing consultant at PA Consulting, noting that the area is thick with refineries and other critical energy operations.

Forecasters caution that it can be incredibly difficult to predict the trajectory of a hurricane and where it might make landfall. The National Hurricane Center believes the storm could land in a wide swath from near the Mexican border in the south to the western shores of Louisiana by the weekend. Officials in Galveston, Tex., the island city 50 miles southeast of Houston that has seen its share of hurricanes, have declared a state of emergency.

Texas accounts for more than a quarter of the United States' crude oil refining capacity, while the Gulf Coast, which both includes Texas and Louisiana, accounts for about 45 percent, according to the Energy Department. Katrina initially disabled about 10 percent of refining capacity, which were already stretched thin by heavy demand and tight supplies, and four refineries representing about 5 percent of capacity remain out of service to date.

Somehow, this doesn't surprise me.

Prop. 75 Puts Police on the Side of Liberals

Talk about strange bedfellows. This is from the Los Angeles Times:

[P]olice unions, a hybrid of law-and-order conservatism and bread-and-butter liberalism. They may tilt Republican in party loyalty, but their labor representatives frequently turn to Democrats on matters such as pay and pensions.

That paradox is on stark display in the battle over Proposition 75, a November ballot measure that would require public employee unions to get members' written permission to spend their dues on political campaigns.

California police unions are mobilizing against the proposition and its largely conservative backers. They contend Proposition 75 is designed to make it hopelessly cumbersome for them to raise election funds.

The initiative has deepened the rift between public employee unions and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican who backs the measure.

Schwarzenegger riled labor by trying to shift government pensions to private accounts. He abandoned that idea earlier this year after the unions pummeled him with a campaign of media ads and street rallies, which saw police officers close ranks with firefighters, nurses and teachers.

The unions describe Proposition 75 as an attempt to weaken their ability to fend off future runs at their retirement packages. If it passes and succeeds in shrinking labor campaign treasuries, they say, the initiative would give anti-union corporate interests a ballot-season spending advantage.

Among the initiative's proponents are a business coalition aligned with Schwarzenegger, tax-cut crusaders and the state Republican Party, which complains unions contribute disproportionately to Democrats.

So here we have the cops--who are staunchly Republican--joining up with the Democratic unions to oppose the Governator's Proposition 75. Prop. 75 would not only limit those Democratic-leaning public employees unions, or the grocery, hotel, or teacher's unions ability to raise campaign funds, but apparently also the policemen's unions. The Governator is cutting off the support of the cops for the interests of his Big Business benefactors. If Proposition 75 passes, this may have major repercussions in the Governator's re-election campaign where the policeman's unions may oppose the Governator. Is it no wonder that his popularity in California polls have also been steadily dropping?

Ford to increase production of hybrid vehicles-CEO

This is from Yahoo News:

DEARBORN, Michigan (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F - news), the No. 2 U.S. automaker, will boost global production of hybrid vehicles tenfold by 2010, Chief Executive Bill Ford said on Wednesday

At that time, more than half of the company's Ford, Lincoln and Mercury cars and light trucks will have hybrid capability, Bill Ford said during a meeting at a research lab here with company scientists and engineers.

He also said Ford will have the capability to build about 250,000 hybrid vehicles in that year with the ability to boost that. Ford currently makes about 24,000 hybrid vehicles annually.

The CEO also said the automaker will launch four vehicles in 2006 that will run largely on ethanol, a corn-based fuel, raising the output of vehicles that can operate with more than just gasoline in 2006 to as many as 280,000 units.

The company also will launch a new corporate advertising campaign in the fall with the theme of innovation, Bill Ford said. The company did not say how much it will spend in the campaign.

"(Innovation) will be the lens through which we view our budgets and our capital investments, our people and programs, and the way in which we rank our most essential priorities," the CEO said in a statement.

Ford builds the Escape hybrid sport utility vehicle and will begin production this year of the Mariner hybrid, the Mercury version of the Escape.

By 2008, the Detroit-based company said it will have five hybrid vehicles on the road, including the Escape, Mariner and Mazda Tribute SUVs, all based on the same platform, or vehicle underpinnings. The other two will be the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan mid-sized sedans.

I find it ironic that Ford announces today they are going to produce hybrid vehicles, after GM announced yesterday that their own SUV sales will slow down. For the past 10 years or so, the Big Three automakers were addicted to the fat profits coming from big gas-guzzling SUV sales. They never considered the possibility that gas prices would rise to a point where the American public would stop buying the big SUVs. They never gave serious consideration to hybrid technology. Now they have to play catch-up to the Japanese. Ford is now starting to adapt. Chrysler would certainly start adapting to hybrids within the next year. The big question is, will GM adapt to hybrids?

Rita Upgraded to 'Monster' Category 4 Hurricane

This is from the Washington Post:

KEY WEST, Fla., Sept. 21 -- Hurricane Rita quickly intensified into a monster Category 4 storm Wednesday, churning in the Gulf of Mexico with winds of up to 140 mph toward the Texas coast after slapping at the Florida Keys.

The National Hurricane Center warned Rita could intensify into a Category 5 hurricane in the next 24 hours as it travels over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

"Rita is an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane," the Hurricane Center in Miami said in a 10 a.m. EDT advisory.

Mandatory evacuations were underway in coastal Galveston, Tex., and flood-ravaged New Orleans. Although the hurricane was veering away from New Orleans, it still forced the evacuation of 7,000 of Louisiana's Katrina evacuees from Texas. And officials in New Orleans warned that as little as three inches of rain could swamp the city's damaged levees, according to the Associated Press.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff urged residents to quickly leave.

"The lesson is that when the storm hits, the best place to be is to be out of the path of the storm," he told ABC's "Good Morning America." "There's plenty of [advance] notice about Rita."

Gov. Rick Perry (R) of Texas said the first impact from the storm will probably be felt in Texas Thursday morning.

"If you're not out by then, you have problems," Perry said on CNN.

Rita's power grew quickly overnight Tuesday and early Wednesday. At 8 a.m. EDT, Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center upgraded it from a Category 3 to a Category 4. The upgrade came only six hours after it was upgraded from a Category 2 to a Category 3 hurricane.

Katrina was a Category 4 hurricane when it slammed into the Gulf Coast Aug. 29, causing devastating damage along the Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama coastlines.

And we thought that Katrina was bad? Now we've got Rita coming into the Gulf Coast region. If it hits the Galveston / Houston region by Thursday, we'll probably see a lot more property damage and flooding in the region, but not the heavy loss of life as was with Katrina. In other words, the entire southern coast of the United States would be destroyed by these two monsters. What is even worst is that the oil infrastructure in Texas will also be damaged by Rita. With the oil and gas infrastructure in Louisiana already damaged by Katrina, we could start seeing energy supplies being contstricted even tighter, with heating oil and gas prices continuing to rise. Rita's own destruction in Texas could also add another $100 billion to the reconstruction bill (If Katrina's reconstruction bill costs $200 billion, then I'm estimating Rita's bill to be half that of Katrinas). Rita's going to force the lawmakers in Washington to question how they are going to pay for both Rita's and Katrina's bill on top of an already spiraling out-of-control budged deficit, a war in Iraq, and President Bush's insistence of keeping the tax cuts in place.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Report: GM says new SUVs wont help sales

This is from CNN Money:

DETROIT (CNN/Money) - General Motors rolled out its next generation of sport utility vehicles, saying that they will debut with "significant gains in fuel efficiency, safety, sophistication and design," but a report quotes a GM executive saying that even with the new vehicle's fuel efficiency the segment's sales will be flat.

GM, which unveiled Tuesday its 2007 Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe as well as the GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade, is projecting sales to maintain current levels, according to trade publication

"It is realistic to assume the segment won't grow," said Robert Lutz, GM's vice chairman of global development, was quoted by the trade publication as saying.

Can anyone at GM think of why their SUV sales are slowing? How about $3.00 a gallon gasoline, where it will cost about $70 to fill a tank (And we're not talking about the small 16-gallon fuel tanks here). GM blew it. They bet that Americans would continue to buy up big gas-guzzling SUVs, not thinking of what would happen when gas would go up from $2 a gallon to $3 a gallon--and beyond. They became addicted to the fat profits coming from SUV sales, just as Americans were addicted to the big 4X4 SUVs--many of which would never even be seen off-road. GM never went ahead to invest in hybrid technology, that Toyota, Honda, and Nissan were investing in. Now as gas prices have gone through the roof, the American public is starting to shift to more fuel efficient cars. Toyota and Honda are starting to introduce hybrid cars that are brisk sellers--look at the Toyota Prius. It is only a matter of time before Toyota starts placing its hybrid technology into its best-selling Camry, Corolla, and its Highlander SUVs. Tack on the fact that GM can't raise prices on their SUVs because the Japanese car makers would undercut GM in a price war with an image of a better quality car at a cheaper price, and you can say that GM is between a rock and a hard place, and the water is rising rapidly.

So what is GM doing? Lobbying Congress and the Bush White House--along with Ford and Chrysler--about capping the CAFE standards for SUVs and trucks? Is this going to solve the problem when the American public would simply turn around and buy more Japanese cars? Is that going to solve the problem?

Pentagon Blocks Testimony at Senate Hearing on Terrorist

Talk about an overt cover-up. This is from the New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 - The Pentagon said today that it had blocked a group of military officers and intelligence analysts from testifying at an open Congressional hearing about a highly classified military intelligence program that, the officers have said, identified a ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks as a potential terrorist more than a year before the attacks.

The announcement came a day before the officers and intelligence analysts had been scheduled to testify about the program, known as Able Danger, at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Bryan Whitman, a Defense Department spokesman, said in a statement that open testimony about the program "would not be appropriate - we have expressed our security concerns and believe it is simply not possible to discuss Able Danger in any great detail in an open public forum." He offered no other detail on the Pentagon's reasoning in blocking the testimony.

Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who is chairman of the committee, said he was surprised by the Pentagon's decision because "so much of this has already been in the public domain, and I think that the American people need to know what happened here."

This is what we call CYA--Cover Your Ass!! The Pentagon doesn't want it known to the American public that they screwed up in the sharing of intelligence between the Defense Department and the F.B.I. So now this thing is coming out in public--like it has already been in public through the blogs and some recent books analyzing the World Trade Center attacks--and it is going to make the Pentagon look bad again. And the Pentagon doesn't want this bad news to show up as the war in Iraq disintegrates into a messy fiasco. And not only would this make the Pentagon look bad, but also would make the Bush administration look bad as well--since the president is the Commander-in-Chief with the war in Iraq, and the war on terror, being his major policy objectives. What a mess. Continuing on with the story:

Mr. Specter said in a telephone interview that he intended to go ahead with the hearing on Wednesday and hoped that it "may produce a change of heart by the Department of Defense in answering some very basic questions."

Two military officers - an active-duty Navy captain and a reservist Army lieutenant colonel - have said publicly in recent weeks that they were involved with Able Danger and that the program's analysts identified Mohamed Atta, the Egyptian-born ringleader of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, by name as a potential terrorist by early 2000.

They said they attempted to share the information with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the summer of 2000, more than a year before the terrorist attacks, but were blocked by Defense Department lawyers. F.B.I. officials, who answer to the jurisdiction of Senator Specter's committee, have confirmed that Defense Department abruptly canceled meetings in 2000 between the bureau's Washington field office and representatives of the Able Danger team.

The Pentagon has said that it has interviewed three other people who were involved with Able Danger and who said that they, too, recalled the identification of Mr. Atta as a terrorist suspect. But Defense Department investigators said they could find no documentary evidence to back up the assertion; they acknowledged that much of the information might have been routinely destroyed.

Mr. Specter said his staff had talked to all five of the potential witnesses and found that "credibility has been established" for all of them.

"There are quite a few credible people who are prepared to testify that Mohamed Atta was identified long before 9/11," he said. "Now maybe there's more than one Mohamed Atta. Or maybe there's some mistake. But that's what we're trying to find out."

Mr. Whitman, the Pentagon spokesman, said that in place of members of the Able Danger team, a senior defense official would be sent to the Wednesday hearing to discuss "what the law and policies are on domestic surveillance and to provide some insights about information-sharing between agencies."

Kerry, Edwards Criticize Bush Over Response to Hurricane

This is from the Washington Post:

President Bush came under withering criticism for his handling of Hurricane Katrina yesterday, with Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) charging that the storm exposed the administration's incompetence and ideological blinders and former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.) asserting that even in its response, the administration backs policies that support the privileged over the working poor.

Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, said in a speech at Brown University that Michael D. Brown, who quit under fire as the Federal Emergency Management Agency's director, exemplified the administration's failures over the past five years.

Using the nickname Bush used for Brown, Kerry said, "Brownie is to Katrina what Paul Bremer is to peace in Iraq, what George Tenet is to slam-dunk intelligence, what Paul Wolfowitz is to parades paved with flowers in Baghdad, what Dick Cheney is to visionary energy policy, what Donald Rumsfeld is to basic war planning, what Tom DeLay is to ethics and what George Bush is to 'Mission Accomplished' and 'Wanted Dead or Alive.' "

Edwards, who has made poverty a signature issue, said the plight of many of those displaced by the flooding in New Orleans underscores an urgent need for the nation to attack the problem again. He offered policy initiatives aimed at ensuring that Americans who work full time do not fall below the poverty line.

The former senator -- who was tapped by Kerry to be his running mate last year and, like Kerry, is contemplating a 2008 presidential run -- said the administration has long favored wealth over work. He criticized Bush for suspending a law requiring federal contractors along the Gulf Coast to pay prevailing wages on reconstruction projects.

"I might have missed something, but I don't think the president ever talked about putting a cap on the salaries of the CEOs of Halliburton and the other companies . . . who are getting all these contracts," he said in a speech at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. "This president, who never met an earmark he wouldn't approve or a millionaire's tax cut he wouldn't promote, decided to slash wages for the least of us and the most vulnerable."

What can I say, but that's a pretty wicked attack against the incompetence of the Bush administration. The Democrats need to keep hitting hard at him--keep exposing this corruption. They need to constantly keep attacking Bush, while at the same time start offering their own proposals on how to get this country back on track. The 2006 mid-term elections does not start on January 1. The midterm elections start now--attack Bush while he is weak, and continue to sap his strength.

Democratic Leader Intends to Vote Against Roberts

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 - Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, said today that he will vote against the confirmation of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to be the 17th chief justice of the United States, in part because he does not know enough about him.

"No one doubts that John Roberts is an excellent lawyer and an affable person," Mr. Reid said on the Senate floor. "But at the end of this process, I have too many unanswered questions about the nominee to justify a vote confirming him to this enormously important lifetime position."

The move comes as a surprise; many Senate observers expected Mr. Reid, who comes from a Republican-leaning state, to support Judge Roberts. But with a second vacancy on the court, Mr. Reid could be using his vote to send a message to the White House, which must replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a critical swing vote on the court.

Democrats have insisted that Mr. Bush replace Justice O'Connor with a moderate, and Mr. Reid has already declared that several candidates the White House is considering would be unacceptable to Democrats.

"The stakes for the American people could not be higher," Mr. Reid said of the Roberts nomination. "The retirement of Justice O'Connor and the death of Chief Justice Rehnquist have left the Supreme Court in a period of transition. On key issues affecting the rights and freedoms of Americans, the court is closely divided. If confirmed, Judge Roberts, who is only 50 years old, will likely serve as chief justice and leader of the third branch of the federal government for decades to come."

It is about time that the Democrats finally start growing a backbone!

One of the biggest problems that I have with Roberts is that I still don't know much about him. At the confirmation hearings, Roberts pretty much avoided, deflected, or refused to answer any questions about how he views a number of issues on the grounds that they may come up in future court cases. So by refusing to answer these questions, we are to assume that you're qualified to be the Chief Justice, even though we have no idea what you stand for? I didn't like that--especially since if Roberts does get on the bench, he will be handing down rulings until 2030 or beyond.

The second thing I have always been worried about was Roberts work at the solicitor general's office during the Reagan and first Bush administrations. It seems that this current Bush administration refuses to release a number of documents that Roberts had written, while working in the government, claiming a right of confidentiality in consultations between the lawyer-client (in this case, the client is the U.S. Government). So these papers could not be released to the American public--even though the American public is the ultimate boss of who to hire and fire of their elected employees of the U.S. Government. And since Roberts is being introduced to the American public for his new government job, the American public should have a right to know what is in those papers that Roberts had written for the government. Either way, the American publics opinion doesn't really count in this Bush administration, the Roberts papers are buried, and the Democrats have lied down and died on that issue.

What I really wanted the Democrats to do was to filibuster Roberts. Filibuster Roberts until the White House does release all of those papers that Roberts had written while he was working at the solicitor general's office. That way we could understand Roberts' views and his mode of thinking. And if there were questions in those papers, then Roberts should have to answer for them. I doubt that will ever happen. Democrats and Republicans are afraid of the 'nuclear option' that the filibuster of a Supreme Court justice would cause--even though we nearly went nuclear over the federal appeals court justices. But here's the problem. If the Democrats do not use the filibuster against Roberts now, who is to say what selections Bush will pick for replacing O'Conner? Why not threaten to filibuster Roberts unless the White House relinquishes and gives up those papers (Of course, we know that Bush will refuse, therefore the Democrats would have to filibuster anyway, the Republicans would try to change the rules, and we'd have gridlock in the Senate).

Fine. Do it. Start opposing this corrupt administration! Don't lie down and die--stand up and fight against the extremism. This is a small step where Harry Reid is opposing Roberts. Now start taking larger steps, and start acting like a true opposition party, where the party in power has to truly give up something in compromise. Don't play the cheap, demeaning rubber-stamp that the Democrats have been doing for the last five years.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Democrats Are Still Blowing It

Taking a break from the studying of economics and cost-benefit analysis, I've had a little time to start looking over the news headlines. The Roberts' hearings have wrapped up, with the Senate now scheduling to confirm Roberts to the Supreme Court. President Bush made a major prime-time speech last Thursday in New Orleans (Nothing surprising there, considering his poll numbers have been dropping like a stone). But there is one question I have to ask--what are the Democrats doing? Where are the Democrats? Why don't we hear more of them standing up against the corruption of this administration?

Look at where this country has gone. Five years ago, we were at peace with the budget deficit placed under control, and a surpluses on the horizon. What do we have now? We are in a lost cause of a war in Iraq, which is wasting billions of dollars and young American lives, we have tax cuts benefiting the wealthiest Americans, budget deficits on the horizon as far as the eye can see, and now a complete disaster area in New Orleans which will cost us even more billions of dollars that we don't have. Whatever reconstruction and disaster aid that is going into New Orleans is being funneled through no-bid contracts to Haliburton (who is also handling a no-bid contract for Iraq's reconstruction).

We have a president who has lost touch with reality. The only base of support this president has is his conservative ideological base and the Religious Right. Bush has lost support of the moderates and independents. And yet, those moderates and independents are not going rush headlong into the Democratic Party's outstretched arms--not if the Democratic Party can provide some alternative direction and vision to take this country, than the tired old "me too" Bush-lite-slogans they've been preaching for the last five years. What have we heard from the Democrats? We need to support the troops and finish the job in Iraq--in a war that's already lost? Roberts is qualified--even though he's refused to answer just about every question the Senate posed for him regarding his views? Democratic senators lying down and dying because they can't get the Bush White House to release legal papers that Roberts wrote while he was in the solicitor general's office? Deficit spending and tax cuts to the wealthy--Democrats haven't made a peep on that issue.

I find it ironic that the one top Democrat that has started attacking President Bush has been former President Bill Clinton. Here was an individual who was impeached by the neocon Republicans for having sex with an intern, but who left the country in better shape politically, economically, and diplomatically, than our current president will ever have a chance to (Bush will never be impeached for the far graver crimes he's committed against this country). A former president is now breaking tradition to criticized his successor.

So where are the other Democrats?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Bush Takes Responsibility for Katrina While His Poll Numbers Slide

I found two interesting stories that I think should go together. The first story is from the New York Times

WASHINGTON, Sept. 13 - President Bush said on Tuesday that he bore responsibility for any failures of the federal government in its response to Hurricane Katrina and suggested that he was unsure whether the country was adequately prepared for another catastrophic storm or terrorist attack.

"Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government, and to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility," Mr. Bush said in an appearance in the East Room with President Jalal Talabani of Iraq. "I want to know what went right and what went wrong."

Throughout his nearly five years in office, Mr. Bush has resisted publicly acknowledging mistakes or shortcomings, and his willingness in this case to edge up to a buck-stops-here statement, however conditional, was evidence of how shaken his presidency has been by the political fallout from the government's handling of the storm.

It also set the stage for a White House effort to pivot from dealing with urgent rescue and relief efforts to setting out a vision of how the federal government could help rebuild devastated communities and re-establish Mr. Bush's image as a leader.

The White House said Mr. Bush would address the nation from Louisiana on Thursday night, during the president's fourth trip to the region since the hurricane and his first major speech on the disaster.

This is certainly incredible. The president actually admitted that he will take responsibility for the feds lack of rescue in Katrina's wake. This is the first time he had admitted responsibility for his mistakes--the president never admitted any mistakes on the war in Iraq, WMDs, or just about every other crisis that has occurred in this administration. Of course, while the president will admit responsibility, his minions have been spinning that the state and local governments never told the feds that they needed help--shifting a chunk of the blame for Katrina down to the state and local governments.

But the thing here is that Bush never admits responsibility for mistakes on his part. And now he is just starting. So there is something else that is far more damaging for the Bush White House that would cause the spin doctors to suddenly shift their political playbook in this new direction. And there is. According to, the latest ABC News / Washington Post poll (Sept 8-11), has President Bush's job approval ratings sinking down to 42% with 57% or respondents disapproving of Bush's performance. The CNN / USA Today / Gallup Poll has Bush's job approval ratings at 46% with a 51% of respondents disapproving. The Pew Research Center has a poll of Bush's job approval ratings at 40% approved, and 52% disapproved. Bush's presidency is sinking to where he's losing support of the moderates and independents. This is especially bad news, for if these poll results continue into the 2006 midterm elections, an angry American public may just take their wrath out against Bush and the Republicans in the voting booth. The spinmeisters of Karl Rove and company know this. And they know they will need to keep control of Congress if they want to continue pushing the Republican agenda through, and to avoid any investigations into past White House transgressions by a Democratically-controlled Congress.

So what we are witnessing here is not a change of heart, or an admission of guilt by the White House, but rather another callous political maneuver designed to keep a White House afloat in spite of its own governing incompetence. The president's address on Thursday night will probably be the same political spin--a combination of the news conference where Bush admitted responsibility, and including Bush demanding answers of what really happened in Katrina by appointing a bipartisan-blue-ribboned investigation into the matter (however, the investigation will not be headed by an independent commission or a special prosecutor), with recounting stories of American heroism in the face of the storm and the devastation that followed, while also conveniently linking Katrina's heroism with the heroism of Sept. 11th.

It will be the same ole...Same ole.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Why Bush Chose Roberts for Chief Justice?

This is going to be a tricky post to write, but if I'm careful and precise, I may be able to provide an explanation as to why President Bush chose John Roberts to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

I first want to make a couple of assumptions. First we have to assume that the Republican Party / Bush White House has an overwhelming need to control everything regarding news and politics. Each political decision is made on the basis for that need to control. We can certainly see that with the restriction of the press in its coverage of the war in Iraq, or even the fact that the press is still not able to cover the return of American dead soldiers from Iraq.

The second assumption we will make is that the Religious Right has a profound desire to change the ideological make-up of the Supreme Court. We know that the Religious Right has contributed heavily in the re-election of George W. Bush. We can assume that in return for the re-election support of President Bush, that the Religious Right will want Bush to select hard-lined conservatives who will shift the court far rightward, and possibly overturn abortion--which has been the Religious Rights goal for the last 30 years. We also know that President Bush favors Supreme Court justices in the ideological mode of Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia.

Now I want to define the ideological make-up of this current Supreme Court. This court has been sharply divided with Sandra Day O'Conner as a crucial swing voter, who is also conservative. The Chief Justice has been the conservative William Rehnquist. So let's assume this is the ideological make-up of the court:

The Conservative Base
William Rehnquist--Chief Justice
Antonin Scalia
Anthony Kennedy
Clarence Thomas

The Swing Voter
Sandra Day O'Conner

The Liberal Base
John Paul Stevens--Senior Associate Justice
David Souter
Ruth Badar Ginsburg
Stephen Bryer

This is the make-up of the court. Now we take out Rehnquist due to his death, and O'Conner due to her retirement (Without Robert's confirmation). Now look at the new make-up of the court:

The Conservative Base
Antonin Scalia
Anthony Kennedy
Clarence Thomas

The Liberal Base
John Paul Stevens--Acting Chief Justice
David Souter
Ruth Badar Ginsburg
Stephen Breyer

The court's ideological make-up shifts to a more liberal stance with four liberal justices and three conservative justices. And more importantly, John Paul Stevens takes on the duties as an acting chief justice since he is the most senior associate member of the Supreme Court. The last thing the Religious Right will want is to allow John Paul Stevens, one of the most liberal members of the court, to take on the responsibilities of an acting chief justice for the next three to six months, until President Bush selects a new chief justice. Now in O'Conner's resignation letter, she will retire only after an associate justice is confirmed to take her place, assuming Robert's confirmation is still pending. So when we place O'Conner back into the above list, we get this:

The Conservative Base
Antonin Scalia
Anthony Kennedy
Clarence Thomas

The Swing Voter
Sandra Day O'Conner

The Liberal Base
John Paul Stevens--Acting Chief Justice
David Souter
Ruth Badar Ginsburg
Stephen Breyer

The court make-up will still be four liberals and three conservatives, but O'Conner will play an even more powerful role in making decisions regarding social issues such as abortion. We are still assuming Robert's confirmation process as pending. John Paul Stevens will still remain as an acting chief justice until Bush selects a replacement chief justice who is confirmed by the Senate. The court will further leftward--something that both the Republican Party, and the Religious Right would refuse to accept.

Now let's assume Roberts is confirmed to replace O'Conner. Let us also assume that Robert's ideology is similar to that of Scalia or Thomas, considering that Bush likes a nominee with the thinking of either Thomas or Scalia. The make-up of the court will be this:

The Conservative Base
Antonin Scalia
Anthony Kennedy
Clarence Thomas
John Roberts

The Liberal Base
John Paul Stevens--Acting Chief Justice
David Souter
Ruth Badar Ginsburg
Stephen Breyer

Here the make-up of the court is split down the middle--four conservatives and four liberals. And once again, John Paul Stevens will be acting chief justice until Bush selects a replacement. The Religious Right will also not accept this make-up--they will certainly not allow Stevens as acting chief justice, nor does this combination allow the court to shift rightward. Now if we continue to assume that Roberts ideology is similar to Thomas and Scalia, then we can also assume that these three justices would form a new conservative block. This could bring Anthony Kennedy to the forefront as a major swing voter / power player in the politics of the court, considering that the current swing voter O'Conner has retired. Even if President Bush replaces O'Conner with Roberts and decides to elevate Scalia or Thomas to the chief justice position, the make-up of the court will still be split down the middle at four each. Bush will still need to find a new associate justice to replace either Scalia or Thomas's chair, once either of them were elevated to the chief justice. If Bush was able to select a new associate justice nominee by the beginning of October, it would take about three months for the FBI to do a background check, then perhaps another one to two months for the confirmation hearings to conclude. Such an associate justice would not be sworn in until after February or March--well into the start of the 2006 midterm election campaigning. The Supreme Court would become THE campaign issue for both political parties.
This is assuming that Bush can find a nominee quickly enough, and without any major political baggage that the Senate Democrats can use to attack and destroy this nominee during the confirmation hearings.

Now let's assume that President Bush nominates Roberts to replace Chief Justice Rehnquist. Sandra Day O'Conner would continue to serve on the court until Bush selects and the Senate confirms another nominee to replace her. Here is the new make-up of the court:

The Conservative Base
John Roberts--Chief Justice
Antonin Scalia
Anthony Kennedy
Clarence Thomas

The Swing Voter
Sandra Day O'Conner

The Liberal Base
John Paul Stevens--Senior Associate Justice
David Souter
Ruth Badar Ginsburg
Stephen Bryer

The court goes back to its original ideological positions, with four conservative justices, four liberal justices and one swing vote justice. Also the Chief Justice position will go to John Roberts, keeping that powerful position within the conservatives. There will be nine justices on the court. The big advantage here is that Bush is given some more time to again carefully consider who to choose as a replacement to O'Conner--someone with even less of a record than John Roberts. The big disadvantage will be that the next confirmation fight may take place at the start of the election year, a confirmation fight that could be more nasty than the Roberts fight.

This whole exercise is to show how careful the Bush Administration is in making political calculations as a means to maintaining control in all forms of government. This is a form of control--control of the Supreme Court for the conservative ideology. of course, this calculation was developed due to the unforeseen circumstances of Rehnquist's death (Although everyone was expecting Rehnquist would die before Bush's term was up). President Bush now has the power to shape the court to a more conservative stance with the selection of two Supreme Court justices. If, for example, one of the liberal justices either dies or retires--such as Stevens or Ginsburg--this would give President Bush and the Religious Right even more power to control and shape the court to their own, hard-lined, conservative image.

Bush Nominates Roberts to Replace Chief Justice Rehnquist

This is from the New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 5 - President Bush nominated Judge John G. Roberts Jr. today to replace Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, whose death late Saturday opened a second vacancy on the Supreme Court and a new front in the ideological battle over the judiciary.

It was not clear how the announcement would affect the proceedings. But the Republican leadership in the Senate had already signaled that it would almost certainly alter its schedule for the confirmation hearings for the seat being vacated by Justice O'Connor, providing time to honor Chief Justice Rehnquist and acknowledging the extraordinary political climate in Washington after Hurricane Katrina.

Talk about a political spin here. We were expecting a confirmation battle on Roberts as an associate justice. Now the stakes have gotten even higher. The White House has been battling Senate Democrats on judicial papers that Roberts worked on while he was in the solicitor general's office under the first Bush presidency. Now that Roberts has been elevated to Chief Justice--the Democrats should demand access to those papers, or they should filibuster Roberts confirmation.

There are two more interesting aspects about this story. The first is that the Supreme Court will convene on the first Monday of October--less than a month away. Rehnquist's death means that it would have no sitting chief justice on the court. And with no chief justice on the bench, the powers that the chief justice would have in opening and closing the court sessions would go to the most senior associate justice member--justice John Paul Stevens, who is also the most liberal member on the court. I would say that the Religious Right would not want Stevens to have that kind of power on the Court as the confirmation processes for the new justices would take about six months or longer, if the Senate Democrats put up a fight. And since the Republicans were confident that Roberts would be slated for confirmation before the Court convenes, it was a political calculation to elevate Roberts to the chief justice chair. Sandra Day O'Conner would continue sitting on the court until Bush finds a replacement for her and to bring the court up to its nine members.

The second aspect is how quickly this decision was made. Less than 48 hours after Rehnquist's death, and already the Bush political strategists have filled the Chief Justice's chair. This decision shifts the corporate media, and the American public's attention away from Katrina's destruction to this new, "big news story." Of course, there will be a major Republican public relations campaign--similar to the one Bush used to introduce John Roberts as O'Conner's replacement. This is another example of the manufactured spin that this administration is known for.

So now what? The Democrats need to generate a backbone. They need to demand that the White House release all papers that Roberts worked on in the solicitor general's office. They need to start asking very tough questions on Roberts, and demanding answers to Roberts views on the issues. And if the Republicans start stalling, then the Democrats need to filibuster Roberts.

The question is, do the Democrats have a backbone?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Bush Faces A Tricky Choice

I found an interesting article from The Washington Post regarding President Bush's problem with choosing a new Chief Justice after William Rehnquist's death.

The White House, along with the rest of the country, has known for months that President Bush was likely to have the chance to name a new chief justice.

But the president and his associates could not have known that when the opportunity arrived last night with the death of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, that Bush would be in a weakened state, thanks not only to the war in Iraq, but to rising gas prices and the spectacle of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

President Bush has a major problem on his hands. His administration has been lurching from one crisis to the next, trying to fight forest fires with a garden hose. He has had to deal with continued violence and chaos in Iraq, while at the same time public support for the war has plummeted. His vacation at Crawford Texas has been plagued with Cindy Sheehan. While he was able to successfully introduce John Roberts as a replacement for Sandra Day O'Conner, new allegations of Robert's past judicial work for the government--and the White House stalling of releasing documents regarding Robert's work in the solicitor general's office--has started generating opposition to Robert's confirmation. And now Hurricane Katrina has destroyed New Orleans, with the administration being criticized for not quickly providing help to the Gulf Coast. And as a result of the destruction caused by Katrina on the nation's energy infrastructure, gas prices have started to rise at the pump, causing more anger among consumers.

To top it off, Chief Justice William Rehnquist dies.

So instead of one Supreme Court justice for Bush to select, he will have to choose two Supreme Court justices--with the Court slated to convene on the first Monday in October. Bush may choose to elevate one of the sitting justices to the top position--either Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas to Chief Justice. But even elevating Scalia or Thomas to the Chief Justice's chair would mean that Bush would still have to select another associate justice to their former associate justice seats. And elevating Scalia or Thomas to the Chief Justice position would not cause a major political fallout--both individuals would have an extensive Supreme Court judicial records, and would easily be confirmed. The problem would be finding an associate justice with the legal and ideological viewpoints that Bush and the Religious Right favors--i.e. opposing abortion--who would have an almost non-existent judicial record that Senate Democrats would be unable to pick over and force a confirmation hearings fiasco similar to the one that destroyed Robert Bork's confirmation hearings. And to see that these confirmation hearings will be completed--possibly by the end of this year, and certainly before the 2006 midterm election campaigning gets underway. Oh, and by the way, this Supreme Court selection is taking place under a backdrop of a war in Iraq, the Katrina disaster, high gas prices, and whatever other crisis may take place in the coming months (Hurricane Maria is already forming 530 miles east-southeast of Bermuda).

The Religious Right will continue to pressure Bush in selecting a hard-lined conservative to achieve their goal of overturning Roe. Senate Democrats, however, may just want to stall Robert's confirmation hearings until they learn who Bush will select as a new Chief Justice (Or an associate justice if Scalia or Thomas are elevated). Both political parties have a major stake in determining the ideological make-up of this court. The Republicans, under the Religious Right, will want to shift this court hard right with a conservative view. The Democrats want to maintain the court's status quo. However, the continued lurching from one crisis to another has politically weakened the Bush White House. His poll numbers have dropped dramatically, causing a large number of the American electorate to wonder if George Bush is living in a fantasyland. All of this has hurt Bush politically, and would cause another firestorm if Bush chooses to confront Senate Democrats with a politically controversial choice to the court. You could end up seeing both Roberts and the controversial nominee being stalled.

We will just have to wait and see who will Bush choose.

What will Bush's Legacy Be?

Over the past couple of weeks, there have been a lot of powerful stories ripping through the press--the war in Iraq is not getting any better, Katrina has destroyed New Orleans while the feds have been asleep at the relief switch, and now Chief Justice William Rehnquist has died, giving Bush another pick for the Supreme Court. I could talk about any of these post, and may do so. But now, I'm starting to wonder how history will treat George W. Bush over the next twenty years? What will Bush's legacy be?

The Bush presidency is both complicated and contradictory. This administration came up at the end of eight years of peace and prosperity under the Clinton administration. This administration also came at a time when history declared the Cold War had ended--a Cold War that had shaped American foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. During President Clinton's eight years in office, the economy had taken off in an unprecedented economic boom, and was just starting to reverse itself during the November 2000 elections. American foreign policy had some successes in Bosnia and Kosovo, and some failures in Somalia. Even President Clinton himself had his own complications. Clinton's great success was his ability to grasp the intimate nature of the political arena, and how policy choices can affect this arena--Clinton was able to quickly adapt to the changing political landscape. This can be seen in the health care debate, welfare, Somalia. And yet Clinton--the man--could not adapt his personal failings to that changing political landscape as his sexual affairs with Monica Lewinsky became public, and of the impeachment trial against him. So by the November elections of 2000, the United States was at a crossroads in terms of where to send this country in terms of its slowing economic growth, and the lack of a foreign policy mandate. And in that time, George W. Bush became elected as president.

The election of 2000 was mired in controversy. First, it was a close vote--almost as close as the Nixon / Kennedy election of 1960. Florida became the contested battleground for this election, with unsubstantiated allegations of security guards standing around polling places in black neighborhoods, butterfly ballots placing Patrick Buchanan's name next to Al Gores, and broken down ballot machines. Bush versed Gore quickly morphed from an election issue to a legal issue, with the case moving up through the Florida state courts, and poll workers were instructed to told to recount the ballots from Miami Palm-Dade and gauge the voters intent in selecting their votes--are those hanging chads, pregnant chads, or what? Somehow, this legal case went up to the U.S. Supreme Court, where nine justices had voted to select George Bush as president. This is not to say that Bush won the election or not. But rather, the Supreme Court had forced a decision on this issue for the sake of selecting a president. The result of the Supreme Court decision in Bush verses Gore, had left half the country feeling they have been cheated upon--that the election had been stolen by Bush, and the Republican Party. This feeling will continue to linger among hard-core liberals and Democrats.

But there is actually more to Bush verses Gore than the Supreme Court's decision or the pregnant chads in Florida. There was probably a subconscious backlash against the Clinton administration by the voters themselves. Public opinion polls at that time had shown that while the American voters consistently supported Clinton as president, they disapproved of Clinton on a personal or moral level. They supported Clinton as president and as a leader, but they were disgusted by Clinton's moral failings. These moral failings were brought out both by Clinton's own consistent lying regarding his extramarital affairs, but also by the Republican attempts to impeach Clinton as a means to remove him from office. As the 2000 elections approached, the American public may have become disgusted by this double standard of character. The public had a new choice to gauge the moral characteristics of two new candidates--Al Gore and George Bush. While Al Gore may have had strong moral credentials, he was also the sitting vice-president under Bill Clinton. That was his Achilles heel. George Bush also had his own problems in the past--his drinking and cocaine usage and his discrepancies in his national guard records--he was also a born-again Christian and an evangelist. This alone would have galvanized the growing evangelical movement to select Bush as president. One interesting note: While the public opinion polls show strong American approval for Clinton as a presidential leader and strong disapproval for Clinton's morals, the current polls are showing a reversal for George W. Bush, where the American public is starting to show a strong disapproval for Bush as a presidential leader, and a somewhat strong approval ratings for Bush's morality.

Bush's presidency and his leadership abilities really started slow. He certainly succeeded in getting his tax cut and No-Child-Left-Behind education bill through, but his first year as president was hampered by the split in the electorate due to the Florida fiasco and the Supreme Court's decision in selecting Bush as president. To put it bluntly, half the electorate believed that Bush cheated his way into the White House. This would continue to hamper him until the Sept. 11 attacks. But now, I want to look into some of the early legislative victories that Bush achieved in his first term, starting with the tax cut. What is interesting about the tax cut is that it started the Republican propaganda machine towards consistently reworking over arguments to selectively fit a policy choice. This is not bad politics--all leaders will adapt their arguments to fit their legislative and political agendas. But the Bush White House had taken this strategy and made it into a science. When Bush was campaigning for his tax cut during the 2000 elections, he argued that the tax cut should be made to give back the projected federal surpluses to the people. As the recession started to hit in 2000, the argument was changed to where this same tax cut could be used as an economic stimulus package. This strategy of adapting the argument to fit the policy will also be used extensively in the Iraq war. It didn't matter what the argument was, as long as it achieved the political and legislative results. The one major bi-partisan legislative victory that Bush achieved was his No-Child-Left-Behind act. Bush was able to enlist the support of Senator Ted Kennedy to pass a major educational reform bill requiring states to develop standardized testing programs for public school students. While the bill became law, and was touted by both political parties as a major educational reform, the No-Child law failed to improve public education due to a lack of federal funding for this measure.

September 11. This even really started Bush's presidency. Even with the World Trade Center attacks, there is controversy as to whether White House officials knew that Osama bin Laden was planning to use aircraft in terrorist attacks, and had failed to react to this information. I don't want to get into that argument. What the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center really did was to completely rally the American public around their president. At that moment, there was no split electorate. Half the country dropped their disgust at Bush's cheating his way into the White House, and supported Bush in this new war on terror. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and Bush certainly made the most of it as he ordered the U.S. military to invade Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden and his al Qaida terror organization were based with the support of the Taliban government. It is this moment where George Bush could have become one of the greatest presidents, and it is this moment where he failed miserably. Instead of concentrating on Osama and al Qaida in Afghanistan, he shifted his gaze towards Iraq, and started a major public relations campaign to enlicit support for an invasion of Iraq. It is here that the Republican propaganda machine perfected its technique towards adapting any argument to fit its defined policy goals of invading Iraq--Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, Iraq was a threat to the United States (Mushroom clouds sprouting in New York), Iraq had al Qaida terrorist training camps in their boarders, Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator to his people (Another Hitler), Saddam was a bad guy--it didn't matter what the argument was as long as it could be used to justify an American invasion of Iraq. During the 2000 election debates with Gore, Bush stressed that America should not embark on a campaign of nation-building and criticized the Clinton Administration's policies in Bosnia and Kosovo. Now the United States under his leadership had invaded one country--Afghanistan--and was planning to invade another country--Iraq.

There is a lot to say about America's invasion of Iraq--Product for a New American Century's report on a direct American intervention into the Middle East, and the Bush Administration's complete incorporation of the PNAC model in U.S. foreign policy, the swiftness of the actual U.S. invasion of Iraq and the subsequent failure to provide enough troops for the actual occupation of Iraq, and the growing insurgency movement that has started against a complete U.S. failure to plan for a comprehensive occupation and reconstruction policy in Iraq. But there are a couple interesting aspects of the Bush administration that can be seen in its invasion of Iraq. The first is Bush as an individual. George W. Bush certainly saw the political effects that can occur when a president is confronted by war. He had a front-row seat in how his father, George H.W. Bush Senior, conducted the first Iraq war, when Iraq invaded Kuwait. He certainly saw how the public rallied around Bush Sr., as the American forces successfully evicted Iraqi forces from Kuwait, with public opinion polls showing 80% American support for President Bush Sr. That's the first lesson that George W. Bush took to heart--a war can make a president popular.

But Bush already had a war in Afghanistan against al Qaida and the Taliban government. Why did he invade Iraq? Here the answer could be two-fold. First, is that George W. Bush selected a number of officials where were intimately involved in Bush Senior's war in Iraq--Cheney, Powell, Condi Rice, Wolfowitz, Pearl. A number of these officials had probably believed that American forces should have gone into Baghdad during the First Gulf War, and they had made their views known through the PNAC Doctrine. Once they were brought back into George W. Bush's administration, they were more than ready to put the PNAC plan into operation and finish the job.

But the other answer to why Bush invade Iraq also depends on George W. Bush--the man. Here is a man who--while he has had personal adversity through his drinking and cocaine usage--has never really had much adversity due to outside influences. Think about it. Whatever outside adversity he has had, Daddy Bush or his influential friends, has been able to get him out of it. Bush's experiences regarding Vietnam were shaped by Daddy Bush's ability to get him into the Texas Air National Guard--then get him transferred into the Alabama National Guard to work on Winton Blount's Senate campaign, then was able to get transferred into Harvard Business School. There are reports that Bush Senior may have helped George W. Bush after his own oil drilling company went bankrupt, and in Bush Junior's purchase of the Texas Rangers. What is important to note here is that George W. Bush has always been under George Bush Senior's shadow--they even have the same name of George Bush. And when you're the son of a successful politician, with that same name, it will probably get to you that you want to become just as successful--or even more successful--than that of your father. And yet, whatever attempts George W. Bush has made to beak out of the limelight of his father, he has been unable to and has caused Daddy Bush to bail him out--possibly causing more resentment in George W. Bush against his father.

So George W. Bush becomes president of the United States--just as his father Bush Senior did. But George W. Bush does not handily win the election as his father did, but rather is selected by the Supreme Court. So even becoming president is not enough. There is only one way for George W. Bush to become just as good, or even better, than his father. And that is to finish what his father had started in Iraq. That is to invade and take over the country of Iraq. So the People for a New American Century found the perfect spokesman for their plan to radical reshape American foreign policy in the Middle East, and George W. Bush found the perfect way to step out of his father's shadow. Using a sophisticated Republican propaganda machine, together they were able to sell the American public on this invasion.

A good amount of George W. Bush's legacy will be shaped by the Iraq war, and in the administration's mismanagement and failures in Iraq. There are a number of them--the lack of postwar planning after the invasion was complete, lack of adequate troops to occupy the country, lack of supplies given to current troops--such as armored Humvees, and harsh White House and Republican-manipulated character attacks against critics of the war--such as Joe Wilson and the Valerie Plamegate scandal that has resulted from it. What is interesting to note here is that George W. Bush's administration is one that consistently excels at selling and public relations, but has failed in the analysis of complex policy issues, and the execution of public policy. Whatever policy objective the administration has enacted, they have enacted for the benefit of big business while playing a public relations game that the same policy objective was good for the American public. This can be seen in just about everything--the bankruptcy bill, the energy bill, the tax cut, and even Iraq--where Halliburton has received extensive military and reconstruction contracts, paid for by the American taxpayer. President Bush's Social Security privitization plan would certainly benefit Wall Street. You can even see this lack of public policy planning with Hurricane Katrina, where the administration dawdled in not providing emergency aid quickly enough, as the storm destroyed New Orleans. The Bush administration has aligned itself closely to Big Business, almost to the point of cronyism. This is certainly going to be reflected in his legacy.

Finally, the Supreme Court. After Sandra Day O'Conner announced her retirement, George W. Bush selected an unknown named John Roberts. And just yesterday, Chief Justice William Rehnquist had died from thyroid cancer. If there is one powerful aspect of Bush's legacy, it will be his selection of these two Supreme Court justices. Bush is a hard-line conservative, and a born-again Christian. Both his election and re-election strategy centered on getting the evangelicals out to vote Republican. And they did so in record numbers. The evangelicals and the Religious Right feel that they were the ones who carried the victory to George W. Bush and they will certainly want their views to be heard by the president. The Religious Right's goals are simple--to pack the Supreme Court with hard-lined conservatives that would overturn Roe verses Wade, and break down the barriers between church and state. The Supreme Court, when Bush was first elected in 2000, was a divided court with Sandra Day O'Conner making up a powerful swing vote on a number of issues. Now with Roberts being selected to take O'Conner's seat, and Rehnquist dead, Bush has the opportunity to fill two Supreme Court seats--and possibly more if John Paul Stevens dies or retires (Stevens, at 85, is the most liberal justice on the court). George W. Bush now has the power to shift the court to a far more conservative stance, and achieve the Religious Right's ultimate dream.

That is what I can say so far about Bush's legacy--and we still have three more years before the 2008 elections. In some ways, Bush is the complete opposite--as both a man and a president--as to what Bill Clinton was. Bill Clinton had his moral failings, with his consistent womanizing and his own pot smoking (I smoked, but I didn't inhale). As president, Bill Clinton got into trouble as his affair with Monica Lewinsky became public. George W. Bush certainly had his own moral failings with his drinking and cocaine use as a young adult, but there's no evidence yet that these failings have manifested themselves during his presidency. Bill Clinton was a major policy wonk, who could look at the news events and could recognize the political ramifications of those events. George Bush, by his own account, doesn't even read the newspapers. Clinton was a detailed-oriented president (remember his all-night policy wonk sessions?). Bush delegates details to his staff, making only big picture decisions. Somehow, the American public had selected two presidents who were polar opposites of each other--back-to-back. We are now bearing the fruit of this decision.