Monday, October 31, 2005

A Leak, Then a Deluge

This is from the Washington Post:

The chain of events that led to Friday's indictment can be traced as far back as 1991, when an unremarkable burglary took place at the embassy of Niger in Rome. All that turned up missing was a quantity of official letterhead with "Republique du Niger" at its top.

More than 10 years later, according to a retired high-ranking U.S. intelligence official, a businessman named Rocco Martino approached the CIA station chief in Rome. An occasional informant for U.S., British, French and Italian intelligence services, Martino brought documents on Niger government letterhead describing secret plans for the sale of uranium to Iraq.

The station chief "saw they were fakes and threw [Martino] out," the former CIA official said. But Italy shared a similar report with the Americans in October 2001, he said, and the CIA gave it circulation because it did not know the Italians relied on the same source.

On Feb. 12, 2002, Cheney received an expanded version of the unconfirmed Italian report. It said Iraq's then-ambassador to the Vatican had led a mission to Niger in 1999 and sealed a deal for the purchase of 500 tons of uranium in July 2000. Cheney asked for more information.

What caught my eye on this is that Rocco Martino approached the CIA with the forged documents claiming Iraq was buying uranium from Niger. The CIA saw that these were fakes and threw Martino out! Did Martino approach the CIA first with these documents before giving them to Panoram--where Elisabetta Burba brought them to the embassy at the request of Panorama's editor Rossella? I'm not sure what to make of this, other that Martino was peddling this stuff to as many contacts as he can.

Bush nominates Alito to Supreme Court

This is from CNN.Com:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Moving quickly to pick a Supreme Court nominee after his last selection withdrew her name, President Bush on Monday nominated Circuit Court Judge Samuel Alito -- a favorite of conservatives -- to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

"Judge Alito's reputation has only grown over the span of his service," Bush said from the White House, with Alito by his side. "He has participated in thousands of appeals and authored hundreds of opinions. This record reveals a thoughtful judge who considers the legal merits carefully and applies the law in a principled fashion."

Alito, a former U.S. attorney who has been a judge for 15 years, said while on the bench he has kept in mind what he called a "solemn responsibility."

The president went from nominating someone without any record (Miers) to nominating a hard-lined conservative with 15 years of judicial experience (Alito). A couple things stand out with this nomination. First is that the president went with the right-wingnuts of his party when selecting this guy. The right-wingnuts opposed Miers because they didn't know where she stood on abortion. This is a complete cave-in to the religious right.

The right-wingnuts and evangelicals will forgive Bush now. You can expect the Right-Wing Echo Machine to continue calling for an "up-or-down-vote" in the Senate for Alito--even though they were enviscorating Miers, who never had a chance to get to the Senate hearings or get an "up-or-down-vote."

The corporate business elites will love Alito. He's more than likely pro-business in his decisions, and will rule in business's favor on the Supreme Court.

For Alito's confirmation hearings, he'll probably use the same defense that Roberts used--the "I-can't-comment-on-that-case-because-it-may-come-up-
in-a-future-court-decision!" The big problem with this defense is that Alito has fifteen years worth of judicial rulings handed down that the Democrats can pick over. And they're already starting to. In Casey versus Planned Parenthood Alito dissented from the lower court's decision that struck down a Pennsylvania law requiring women to inform their husbands before getting abortions. The Supreme Court affirmed that decision. You can bet that if he's confirmed, he will overturn Roe versus Wade.

So how should the Democrats react to this new nominee? The Democrats cannot argue that Alito is not qualified--he certainly is. President Bush chose this individual for two reasons--first to placate his religious right-wingnuts and second, to revive his flagging presidency from the scandals of Miers, Scooter Libby, and the hurricanes' mess. The president is hoping that if he wins this fight, it will rejuvenate his own flagging poll numbers and give his radical right-wingnut agenda a shot in the arm. President Bush chose this nominee without the "advise and consent of the Senate." Senate Democrats should fight him on this with every weapon they have--including the filibuster. They should stall the confirmation hearings until 2006--don't give the president a quick up-or-down-vote! And if the president complains about the Democrat's stalling tactics, they should remind the president and the right-wingnuts that they never gave Mier's a chance for an up-or-down-vote. They should attack Alito for his decision in Casey, and any other decisions that shows Alito out of the mainstream. The Democrats need to attack Alito on his own record, using his own words, demanding explanations for his decisions. They should not allow Alito to get away with the Robert's defense. And if Alito tries to use the Robert's defense, then the Democrats should filibuster. The Democrats may lose this fight. Alito may be confirmed, forcing the Court further rightward. The key here is to expose the Republican Party, and President Bush with views and ideology that out of the mainstream of public opinion. The Democrats need to expose the president as subservient to the Religious Right ideology. And they should use this when the 2006 midterm elections start up.

The question is, do the Democrats have the guts to stand up and fight?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Schwarzenegger Varies Campaign Messages

Time now to step away from Fitzmas for a moment, and look at another fun issue--we're talking California politics here. From Yahoo News:

LONG BEACH, Calif. - One day Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger describes himself as a warrior battling union bosses and their puppet army of legislators. Another day, he's humble, almost apologetic, telling viewers in a commercial released Friday: "I've had a lot to learn."

Elected two years ago to shake up a stagnated statehouse, the Republican governor is trying out a variety of campaign messages in the closing days of a political campaign in which he hopes to push through a slate of ballot initiatives.

The shifts in tone and tactics point to a political reality: With polls showing several of Schwarzenegger's proposals on shaky ground, he must find a way to connect with voters uneasy with his leadership and with the special election he called for Nov. 8.

"He needs to convince Democrats and independents that his reforms are not politically motivated, that he's looking after their best interests," said Mark Baldassare, a pollster at the Public Policy Institute of California.

Schwarzenegger enters the last full week of the campaign still trying to find his stride following a year in which his popularity faded and his agenda stalled. The "year of reform" election is his bid to win at the ballot box what Democrats denied him in the Legislature.

In an interview Thursday, Schwarzenegger said he was confident his campaign had hit the right message but conceded that a flood of union-sponsored TV ads had hurt his cause.

If you want to look at another disaster, just look at this California special election. The Governator has tried to stake out his entire right-wingnut, pro-business agenda with an end-run around the Democratically-controlled legislature by pushing this special election. And in doing so, he's angered some pretty powerful interest groups in California politics--including such groups that don't traditionally align themselves with each other. Case in point--Prop. 75, which requires public employee unions to secure written permission from its members before contributing to political campaigns. This has certainly aligned the teacher's unions (which are pro-Democrat) with the policemen's unions (which are pro-Republican). You can see it with the campaign spending in this election. Consider this:

Campaign finance records released Thursday show Schwarzenegger raised $45 million for his special election campaign, while the coalition of unions and Democratic supporters aligned against him has spent $115 million.

And where is the Governator campaigning? How about Southern California where his Republican pro-business base is? Schwarzenegger's hope is that he can turn out enough of his Republican base in support for these initiatives, while praying that the rest of the state stays home from voting. It is an interesting political strategy, that may work. Californians are pretty much disgusted by politics. Consider this:

But with voters distracted by the war in Iraq and day-to-day issues such as housing prices and the cost of gasoline, some say they are unable to connect Schwarzenegger's goals to their more immediate concerns at home.

"Politics seem remote from our lives," said Rachelle Aguiar, 23, a college student in Fresno who tends to vote Republican. With families overwhelmed by bills, child care and work, "I think people don't care about it."

Anthony Ferrario, 25, a registered independent from Hayes Valley, said he was confused by the initiatives but credited the governor with good motives. He didn't know how he would vote.

"Schwarzenegger wants to be a stronger governor," Ferrario said. "Obviously, Democrats are opposed."

The big question is, will the higher amounts of spending against the Governator's special election initiatives bring enough Californians out to shoot these measures down at the polls?

By the way, I'll be voting against all the measures in the special election.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Fitzmas Observations

I've sort of been avoiding writing any posts yet on the Fitzgerald indictments against Scooter Libby yet. I've been watching this whole thing play out, reading the press stories, blog entries, and watching some of the news coverage on TV. So much has been said, speculated, accused, counter-accused. So now out of all the watching and reading, it is time to put my own speculations down for this post.

First, I don't think Libby was acting alone in this scandal. I believe he was responsible for outing Valerie Plame, along with others inside the Bush administration, in a partisan attack against Ambassador Joe Wilson for Wilson's criticisms, in the NY Times opinion piece, of the Bush claims that Iraq purchased uranium yellowcake from Niger. There is just no way Libby would do this without telling his boss VP Dick Cheney. Libby was acting under the orders or the blessings of Cheney. I would also speculate that uber-advisor Karl Rove was also in on this scandal--either he thought it up, or went along with Libby to instigate it. Both Rove and Libby talked to several journalists about Plame--NY Times Judy Miller, Time Magazine's Matt Cooper, Washington Post's Walter Pincus, and probably even columnist Bob Novak. In his press conference, Fitzgerald talked about a "Mr. X" and a "Mr. A." I have no idea who those two characters are or what role they played in this scandal.

I believe that once Fitzgerald started looking into the White House as being the source of the leaks, top White House officials--probably Cheney and Rove--started instigating this cover-up. They started obstructing Fitzgerald's investigation. I'd also say that Libby has been set up as a fall guy to protect Cheney. I'm not sure if President Bush knew of this entire operation, but I'm sure he knew after Valerie Plame was outed and the CIA demanded an investigation. I would say that President Bush knew of the cover-up.

For this investigation to move on into its next phase of exposing this cover-up, Fitzgerald is going to have to convict Libby on all counts. Libby is going to have to face prison time of 10-30 years. With that sort of threat looming against him, there may be a chance for Libby to consider cooperating with Fitzgerald against his boss Cheney. Until then, Libby's probably clammed up until the trial starts next year. Of course, Libby may also refuse to cooperate if he knows that, once convicted, President Bush will pardon him when he leaves office in 2008. For Libby to refuse to cooperate in his own self-interest, it would certainly require the reassurance from President Bush himself that he will pardon Libby.

Libby's defense strategy has been outlined through this Yahoo News story. It's pretty standard. Libby was a patriotic American public servant who was working tirelessly for the country, and he forgot what he did or said, two years ago when talking about his meetings with reporters to the grand jury and special prosecutors. These prosecutors are being evil at smearing Libby with charges stemming from legal technicalities--Libby's innocent until proven guilty. The defense will use a lot of deception in this case. And that deception will be picked up and amplified by the corporate media and the Right-wing echo machine. You can bet this will happen during the trial.

The trial may just turn out to be a huge mess. You can bet the prosecution will call up Karl Rove and Dick Cheney to the witness stand. When that happens, all eyes will be on that courtroom. And whatever Rove or Cheney says will be picked apart by both the press and the blogosphere. Inconsistencies will be amplified. There is no way the Bush White House will be able to focus its agenda or its media image Libby's trial has started.

Harriet Miers connection? I've always wondered if there is a connection between this leak case and the Harriet Miers withdrawal of her name to the Supreme Court. Bush nominated Miers as an ultimate stealth candidate--without any sort of record regarding her judicial philosophy. The right-wingnuts didn't like that--they wanted a hard-lined ideologue who would overturn Roe verses Wade. Miers failed to dazzle or wow Republican senators (The Democrats were sitting back and watching this play out, saying they'll withhold judgment until after the Miers' confirmation hearings). Republican senators wanted to view White House records regarding Miers' work as legal counsel. White House refuses to release papers. Miers pulls out of Supreme Court nomination process. It is ironic that the Republicans wanted to view the White House records, and not the Democrats. What was in those records that would cause questions raised during Miers' hearings? Did Miers know anything regarding this cover-up? Let's face it--Miers was President Bush's legal counsel. Every scrap of paper going through the Bush White House will also go through her office. How much do you want to bet that the senators in the Senate Judiciary Committee would question Miers regarding this scandal and the possible cover-up--whether or not the White House produced any documentation regarding Miers' work as legal counsel to the president? This brings up the question of why did President Bush choose Miers, saying she was the most qualified candidate for the Supreme Court--especially since she wasn't, considering the conservative alternatives to the bench (Even the right-wingnut prospects such as Michael Luttig, Priscilla Owen, or Janice Rogers-Brown are more qualified than Miers). Did Bush want Miers on the Court in case the scandal went as far as impeachment proceedings, or in case a Democratic Congress subpoenaed White House records regarding their marketing of the Iraq war--you can bet that case would go to the Supreme Court.

The Right-wing Echo Machine will start its campaign to smear Fitzgerald almost immediately after the indictments were handed down against Libby. We've seen a part of this campaign, where Libby is being hailed as a tireless worker, a patriotic American, Libby's innocent until proven guilty and the prosecution is charging Libby on technicalities. Expect to see more where Fitzgerald will be labeled as a partisan, playing politics in trying to bring down the Bush White House, the Democrats are behind all this scandal, and its all Clinton's fault.

The Republican Congress will not initiate any investigations regarding this scandal. The Democrats are going to have to take control of one or both houses, so they can control the committees, and start their own investigation into this matter.

I'll probably think up some more speculations later on.

Poll: Americans Give Congress Poor Marks

This is from Yahoo News:

WASHINGTON - Only one-third of Americans give Congress good ratings for its ethics and honesty, according to an AP-Ipsos poll that found more evidence of the public's longstanding disdain for the legislative branch of government.

Investigations of two top congressional leaders have drawn more attention to Congress' low standings, though analysts say other factors such as the Iraq war and gas prices are likely contributors to the dip this year in Congress' ratings.

Almost half in the poll, 45 percent, give Congress poor marks for its honesty and ethics, and 21 percent said congressional ethics were neither good nor poor.

Congressional ethics have been in the spotlight recently with the probe of stock sales by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and the indictment of Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, former House majority leader, on charges of violating campaign finance laws. DeLay recently notified House officials that he has failed to disclose all contributions to his legal defense fund.

"Public opinion about Congress is at low ebb," said John Hibbing, a University of Nebraska professor and a co-author of "Congress as Public Enemy." But Hibbing said he doubts that recent news about Frist and DeLay are big factors.

"Congress always lags behind the other two institutions of government and most other institutions," he said. "People don't really like to hear about conflict about important decisions."

Just over a third in the poll, 35 percent, approve of the way Congress is handling its job — down from 44 percent in February, according to the poll of 1,000 adults taken Oct. 3-5. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Why doesn't this surprise me?

Let's face it--our government is completely out of touch with reality. We've got a presidency that has lied to the American people for getting us into a war, then has broken the law in attempts to character assassinate critical opposition. We've had one sitting White House official indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice. The White House sings praise for this indicted official. We've had a president who tried to select a crony--his personal lawyer--to the Supreme Court--and such nomination was knocked down by his own party members in Congress. We've got one House minority leader indicted for money laundering, his replacement has been investigated due to his own relationship with an indicted lobbyist. We've got a Senate majority leader investigated by the SEC for insider stock trading. I've purposely left out names and party affiliations just to show this growing list of scandal and corruption. Is it no wonder that the American public is shooting down both branches of government--the presidency and the Congress--in the polls?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Schwarzenegger Street

I usually don't post parodies on my blogsite, but I found this too funny not to post it. I love a good parody and satire--on both sides of the political spectrum.

So take a walk on Schwarzenegger Street:

Documents, backlash doomed nomination

I found this off CNN.Com:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Harriet Miers took her name out of consideration for the Supreme Court on Thursday amid a brewing showdown over White House documents. But some lawmakers and observers suggest that the impasse was simply the most graceful exit possible for a floundering nominee.

Miers never served as a judge and her critics said her background as an attorney, a former head of the Texas State Bar Association and as a Dallas city council member provided few clues to her judicial philosophy.

Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee had asked for documents she had worked on as the White House's top lawyer. The president refused, calling the request "a red line I'm not willing to cross."

This is how the political spin-meisters work overtime. Now that Miers has withdrawn her name from the court, the big question of why she was forced out is taking shape over a controversy of the Senate Judiciary Committee asking for documents Miers worked on as White House legal counsel. Even Meirs and Bush are putting their spin in this document controversy. Here's what Miers said:

In a letter to the president on Thursday, Miers said she was concerned that she would be called upon to testify about her service as White House counsel, which she said would jeopardize the independence of the Executive branch.

"I am concerned that the confirmation process presents a burden for the White House and its staff and it is not in the best interest of the country," she wrote.

President Bush's response to the document controversy is just as fun:

In a statement issued by the White House, Bush said, "It is clear that senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure at the White House -- disclosures that would undermine a president's ability to receive candid counsel."

I'm sorry, but this is all a bunch of smelly, political BS.

Miers was scuttled because she was the ultimate stealth candidate. Nobody knew anything about her, nor was there any paper trail that could allow senators to get some sense of her judicial philosophy and ideology. She was a corporate lawyer, and a personal lawyer for President Bush. She was not a judge. In fact, the only qualifications that Miers seemed to have was that President Bush liked her and thought that she'd make a great Supreme Court justice. Liberals and Democratic Senators couldn't decide how she'd vote on the big issue of Roe verses Wade, any more than the conservative and Republican senators. In fact, the conservatives and right-wingnuts were worried that Miers wasn't too conservative for their tastes. The wingnuts feared she'd become another David Souter--a Supreme Court justice picked by a Republican president, who would shift his ideology to an opposite view. In the past three weeks, you didn't hear the Democrats complaining about Miers--the complaining was going on with the right-wingnuts. And since there was almost no documentation to study and examine regarding Miers' judicial philosophy, this amplified the criticisms coming from the right. There were other problems as well--questions of Miers finances, her work on the Texas State Lottery Commission, her problems with paying state bar dues, her botched questionnaire, her flubbed answers in meetings with the senators, and the latest scandal coming out with the Washington Post publishing an old speech that Miers gave regarding abortion. But all these little problems simply confounded and amplified the fact that Miers was a complete unknown. There was no scholarly or judicial record that the Senate, the Washington press corps, and the public could examine and review. And had there been some type of judicial record that Miers could lean on, some of these other smaller problems may not have become as prominent. President Bush went too far in selecting a stealth candidate, and it backfired on him. Miers was going to get shot down--either before or after the confirmation hearings.

So with the Miers candidacy sinking, and adding some other scandals plaguing the Bush administration (We all know of them--Valerie Plamegate, the Iraq War, FEMA, energy prices), what is the White House suppose to do? Pull Miers' nomination and come up with an acceptable politically-correct answer. Senate Republicans were demanding White House documents of which Miers worked as legal counsel. The Republicans wanted those documents to determine what Miers judicial philosophy was like (And the Senate Democrats would certainly also want to see them as well). The White House was certainly going to refuse releasing those documents--they weren't going to release John Roberts' papers when he worked as solicitor general during the first Bush administration, do you think they're going to release documents regarding Miers' work? Guess what? We've got the perfect scapegoat reason for withdrawaling Miers' name. The Senate demands documents that the White House refused to give up, so Miers is scuttled. Consider this:

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, suggested in a column in last Friday's Washington Post that the White House press the documents issue as a face-saving way to withdraw the nomination.

"That creates a classic conflict, not of personality, not of competence, not of ideology, but of simple constitutional prerogatives: The Senate cannot confirm her unless it has this information. And the White House cannot allow release of this information lest it jeopardize executive privilege," he wrote.

Just remember, this is all a bunch of political BS.

White House Plans to Deflect

This is from the Los Angeles Times:

WASHINGTON — The prosecutor hasn't announced any indictments, but President Bush's aides and their allies in Congress are working on strategies to counter the blow if White House officials are accused of crimes.

The basic plan is familiar to anyone who has watched earlier presidents contend with scandal: Keep the problem at arm's length, let allies outside the White House do the talking, and try to change the subject to something — anything — else.

The White House doesn't plan to attack Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the CIA leak investigation — at least not directly, several GOP officials said. Instead, expect Bush to unveil a flurry of proposals on subjects from immigration and tax reform to Arab-Israeli peace talks.

"We've got a lot of work to do, and so we don't have a lot of time to sit back and think about" possible indictments, Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said Wednesday, reflecting the strategy. "We're focusing on what the American people care most about, and that is winning the war on terrorism, succeeding in Iraq, addressing high energy prices Â… and helping the people in the Gulf Coast region recover and rebuild."

Republicans outside the White House are pleading with Bush to act quickly and decisively if aides are indicted. "What is of most concern is that the president handle it properly — that he ask [officials who are indicted] to step down; that he not vacillate, not equivocate; that he be decisive," said Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), a leading Republican moderate.

"Changing the subject will not work," said David Gergen, a former aide to Presidents Reagan and Clinton. "Giving more speeches about Iraq or the state of the economy doesn't have the weight that action doesÂ…. It's dangerous for the country to have a disabled president for three years, and we're getting close to seeing that happen. I worry that they [Bush and his aides] are in denial."

And GOP pollster David Winston warned that discontent among Republicans in Congress was rising. "This is not the environment that Republicans want to run in next year," Winston said.

Why doesn't this also surprise me? The Bush White House has got a huge credibility problem here. Their public opinion poll numbers have gone south. Much of their agenda is dead--you don't hear anything about Social Security Privitization anymore, health care costs are ballooning, and the budget is a total disaster with looming deficits. Energy costs are starting to increase, even as big energy companies are recording record profits again. Casualties for the war in Iraq has just passed 2000, and there is no end in sight for that disaster. And to top it off, Harriet Miers just withdrew her nomination to the Supreme Court, so no confirmation hearings to deflect from the upcoming indictments. And there's even bigger problems looming for the Bush team. If Karl Rove is indicted and forced to step down, the Bush White House has just lost their greatest political strategist. Do you think that President Bush will find someone--or someones--who can replace Rove? Continuing on:

So far, the probe has attracted relatively little attention from the public. One recent poll found that 50% of those surveyed recognized Rove's name; NBC's "Today" show ran a three-minute primer on the case Wednesday morning called "Leak Investigation for Dummies."

But at a time when Bush's standing in public opinion polls has been battered by soaring gasoline prices and rising pessimism about the war in Iraq, the prospect that several White House aides might be indicted was being treated — despite McClellan's public dismissals — as a potentially major political crisis.

"We've had discussions; we've gamed out different scenarios," said one Republican strategist in frequent contact with the White House. "But to try to put together a big binder with 18 different tabs is a fool's errand at this point. There are so many different ways this could play out."

If tstoryimes stor is correct in that the probe has not attracted as much attention to the mainstream American public, it will attract attention once indictments are handed down against the Bush White House. People will start to notice--especially since the electorate is already grumbling about the problems in this country and have reflected this discontent in Bush's poll numbers. Putting together a tab of alternative issues as a means to deflect the indictments may just backfire. But the Bush supporters are taking an alternative view:

White House officials and allies are hoping that intensive news coverage of the Fitzgerald investigation will be short-lived. On Nov. 7, they predicted, attention would shift to the Senate confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Harriet E. Miers.

Miers has already withdrawn her nomination to the court, causing another problem for the Bush White House. Now the president will have to try to find another nominee to replace O'Conner.

Once the controversy begins to subside, they argued, Bush will have an opening to change the subject and call public attention to Iraq and the domestic economy, where the administration says there is good news.

"Because all this other snap, crackle and pop is occurring, it's harder to tell the story of the progress being made on the foreign policy front and the economic front," another strategist said. "When some of these other stories expire, it will be easier to get back on those issues."

Some conservative Republican members of Congress and activists outside the White House agreed with that view.

"The only thing I ever learned from Bill Clinton was that when problems are nipping at the heels of an administration or a party, it's always a good idea to return to the agenda that brought you to Washington, D.C.," said Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), a leading House conservative. "The American people who care about Republican governance in Washington, D.C., will be heartened and encouraged if we put our heads down and return to our agenda."

The problems of Clinton's scandal resulted from Bill Clinton's personal failings. The Clinton sex scandals had nothing to do with his job performance as president, nor did it directly affect the country. The scandals of President Bush are completely opposite. They are not a direct result of Bush's personal failings, but rather they are a result of Bush's management team subverting the law for the administration's political gain--members of the Bush White House broke the law by outing CIA officer Valerie Plame in retribution for her husband Ambassador Joe Wilson's criticisms against the White House arguments for going to war in Iraq. This has directly affected the country--in 2000 American solder's lives lost, in hundreds of billions of dollars wasted in a war, and in the destroyed reputation and stature of the United States in world public opinion. The Bush administration will have a hard time trying to deflect, or casually explain away the destructive effects of this scandal.

Miers Failed to Win Support of Key Senators and Conservatives

This is from the New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 - Harriet E. Miers withdrew her nomination for the Supreme Court this morning after her selection by President Bush led to criticism from conservatives and liberals and opposition to her appointment began to grow more intense.

In recent days, several prominent members of the Republican Party had begun to publicly question Ms. Miers's nomination, suggesting that she was not conservative enough on issues like abortion. Others, including both Republicans and Democrats, have questioned Ms. Miers's lack of judicial experience since her nomination was announced by President Bush on Oct. 3. Democratic senators had also sought White House documents from Ms. Miers, who is the White House counsel, that might have given clues to her judicial philosophy.

With opposition from both Republicans and Democrats, it had become increasingly likely that Ms. Miers would fail to garner enough votes to be confirmed by the Senate.

Ms. Miers's withdrawal comes at a time when senior members of the Bush administration face possible indictment growing out of the disclosure of the identity of a C.I.A. officer two years ago. Public opinion polls also show that the president's popularity has fallen dramatically as the war in Iraq continues to claim Iraqi and American lives with no end in sight.

In one sense, I'm not surprised that Miers pulled out. Her selection to the court by President Bush smacked of cronyism. Here was a corporate lawyer who had no judicial qualifications, nor was she a constitutional scholar. There were no records that the Senate Judiciary Committee could use to measure her judicial philosophy and views--and whatever records there were, were from her work as Bush's White House legal counsel and the president refused to release them, citing executive privilege. She flubbed on the Senate questionnaire. The right-wingnuts didn't think she was conservative enough--this was just another snowball effect to pretty much quash this lady out of the court. Here's President Bush's response to the Mier's withdrawal:

In a statement today, President Bush said he had "reluctantly" accepted her decision to withdraw.

"It is clear that senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure as the White House - disclosures that would undermine a president's ability to receive candid counsel," Mr. Bush said in the statement.

The president added: "Harriet Miers' decision demonstrates her deep respect for this essential aspect of the constitutional separation of powers - and confirms my deep respect and admiration for her."

Mr. Bush said that he intends to fill the Supreme Court vacancy "in a timely manner."

Mr. President, there was no way you could have gotten a complete stealth candidate like Miers--a complete unknown--onto the court. Simply saying "She's a good person--she's qualified," is not enough. You were going to have to back up your claims with documentation, otherwise Miers is going down in flames. Now, you're going to have to make a new pick. And such a pick--even if you make one quickly enough, will probably have to face confirmation hearings in 2006--right at the midterm elections. The Supreme Court now becomes an election issue. If Bush tries to placate his right-wingnuts by submitting a hard-lined ideologue, you can bet the Democrats will use the filibuster on such a nominee, forcing the nuclear showdown--thus sending up another election issue.

The game continues on.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

My Thoughts and Comments on The Repubblica Story

I've had a chance now to really go through and read the English translation of the Repubblica expose on the Italian forged documents and their link to the Bush White House. It is amazing. I've included the link for the Nur-al-Cubicle blogsite which I used to read this article. Here are my comments on the story:

This is totally amazing. I’m going to start this post as a series of thoughts and observations regarding La Repubblica’s expose. Quotes from the article are italicized.

Let’s start with Rocco Martino, the ‘postman,’ in this debacle. He has a background in military intelligence and worked for SISMI until 1999 as a double agent. He was also working for French intelligence, selling information on Italian intelligence to the French and French intelligence to the Italians. Rocco Martino was playing both sides off each other.

Martino finds out that the French are interested in discovering who is mining and smuggling uranium from Niger at around 1999 to 2000. So Martino hatches a plan with his friend Antonio Nucera, who works at the SISMI divisions that investigate WMD in Africa and the Middle East.

An unnamed Italian intelligence official claims that Nucera’s division got a hold of a Niger code book and a “telex from Ambassador Adamou Chékou to the Niger Foreign Ministry informing Niamey that Wissam al-Zahawie, the Iraqi Ambassador to the Vatican, would be coming to Niger as a representative of Saddam Hussein.

But that wasn’t all. We confiscated maraging steel (ultra-high strength steel) in the port of Trieste. We thought it was destined for a series of centrifuges used to separate uranium. We exchanged information on Iraqi nuclear proliferation at the end of the eighties with the British of MI6—the cream of the crop. A sincere friend of Italy worked there: Hamilton MacMillan. MacMillan mentored Francesco Cossiga [Interior Minister, in charge during the kidnapping and murdering of Aldo Moro by the Red Brigades] in Cossiga's introduction to the mysterious ways of espionage when he was "resident" in Rome.”

So Hamilton MacMillan is an intelligence official at MI6, who worked with the Italian intelligence.

Martino asked for information from Nucera regarding uranium purchases from Africa that he could sell to the French. Nucera gives this telex from the Niger ambassador regarding al Zahawie’s trip. Nucera also provides Martino with an intelligence contractor, La Signora, who works at the Niger embassy in Rome. La Signora introduces Martino and Nucera to another contact at the Niger embassy, First Embassy Counselor Zakaria Yaou Maiga. It seems that everyone here—Martino, La Signora, Maiga, and possibly Nucera needed money. So on New Year’s Eve of 2001, they simulate a break-in of the Niger embassy and steal the Niger embassy letterhead and official stamps.

‘ Old documents are extracted from the SISMI division’s archives where Nucera is deputy chief of section: code books, letters, contracts and a memorandum of understanding between the government of Niger and Iraq “concerning the supply of uranium on 5 and 6 July 2000 in Niamey”. The memorandum has a 2-page attachment entitled “Agreement.”’ The forgeries are created using old SISMI intelligence and combining it with new stuff created with the Niger embassy stationary. Martino sells the stuff to French intelligence.
“The French take the documents and toss them in the dumpster. One of the agents remarks, Niger is a French-speaking place and we know how things are there. But nobody would have confused one minister with another they way they did in that useless piece of garbage.”

September 11 comes up. President Bush wants intelligence proof that Saddam is building WMDs to build his case for Iraq. Nicolo Pollari now runs SISMI. Prime Minister Berlusconi wants Pollari to give him information that would provide Italy lots of international brownie points from the the U.S. President Bush is looking for proof to use against Saddam. The White House and Cheney are pressuring the CIA to provide that proof. “The absence of proof isn’t proof of absence, philosophizes Rumsfeld at the Pentagon. In that kind of climate, with their phony dossier, the snake oil salesmen of via Baiamonti, (Rocco Martino and Antonio Nucera) would be useful. So what do they do in the fall of 2001? Rocco Martino describes it this way: At the end of 2001, SISMI handed the yellowcake dossier to the British of MI6”.

Did SISMI hand these forged documents to their MI6 ally Hamilton MacMillan?

“They hand over a dossier devoid of scrutiny. They claim only that they got it from “a reliable source.” Then they make a small tweak: SISMI wanted to disseminate the Niger documents to allied intelligence but at the same time, did not want its collaboration in the operation known.” SISMI didn’t want British intelligence to know that these documents were forged by SISMI operatives using old archival material.

Pollari vouches for the information in these forged documents to CIA station chief Jeff Castelli. The documents end up at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence—the Office of Strategic, Military and WMD Proliferation Affairs. So by 2001, these forged documents are in U.S. intelligence hands.

Now here’s an interesting part of the story: “Strategic Affairs is not a big place. At the time, 16 analysts worked there under the direction of Greg Thielmann. Thielmann tells La Repubblica: I received the report in fall of 2001. We thought that Langley acquired it from their field officer in Italy. The agent in the field reports that Italian intelligence permitted him see some papers documenting the attempt by Iraq to acquire 500 tons of uranium ore from Niger. So, SISMI purported the truth of documents it knew to be false to the CIA. There’s a second confirmation. At Langley, Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson was assigned the mission to verify the Italian “story” of the 500 tons of uranium.” SISMI tells that these documents are true to the CIA, even though they knew them to be falsified? Now Joe Wilson enters the story to check out these Italian claims.

The CIA rejects the bogus documents. ‘CIA analysts consider the report to be “somewhat limited” and “lacking in necessary detail”. Intelligence and Research analysts at the US Department of State qualify the intelligence as “highly suspect.”’

Now this gets interesting: Pollari, “who is no fool, surveys the landscape and the players of the ongoing behind-the-scenes battle in the American Administration between those who stress caution and pragmatism (the US Department of State and the CIA) and those who are looking for an excuse to start a war (Cheney and the Pentagon), which is already on the drawing board. However, when the SISMI director returns to Italy, he perceives a similar battle underway in Rome. Gianni Castellaneta advises Pollari to look in other directions, while Defense Minister Antonio Martino tell Pollari to expect a visit from an old friend of Italy.” We have hawks and doves in both Washington and Rome—both with different agendas, and yet they complement each other. The hawks of Washington—Cheney, Rumsfeld—want any excuse to start a war, while the doves of Powell, and the CIA stress caution. In Rome, Pollari is told by Castellaneta to stress caution (look in other directions), while Defense Minister Antonio Martino is pushing Pollari to see Michael Ledeen. Ledeen is working for the Office of Special Plans, headed by Paul Wolfowitz to collect information in support for the Iraq war. Pollari talks to Ledeen about the forged documents. Ledeen takes the information to Wolfowitz, who takes it to Cheney. Cheney then pressures the CIA to look into this intelligence, even though the CIA already knows these documents are bogus.

Now here’s another interesting piece of information. Pollari marginalized his own SISMI station chief in Washington—an Admiral Giuseppe Grignolo. Apparently Grignolo had an excellent relationship with the CIA and possessed extensive background on WMDs. There’s a good chance that Grignolo would have quickly seen these Italian documents as fakes. So Pollari blocks Grignolo and instead works through the NSA or the Office of Special Plans.

“On September 9, 2002, General Nicolò Pollari met with Stephen Hadley, deputy to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.”

Now we bring in the Panorama affair. Rocco Martino attempts to sell the forged documents to Panorama’s editor Carlo Rossella. Panoram publishes the Sept. 12-19, 2002 scoop “War with Iraq? It has already begun.” Martino also has given the documents to MI6, and contacts Panorama reporter Elisabetta Burba to sell her the documents. Burba checks up on the documents and discovers they are bogus. Unfortunately, Rossella loves the idea of Martino giving him ‘the smoking gun,’ and sends the documents back to the U.S. Embassy in Rome, where CIA station chief Castelli already knows they’re fakes. These forged Italian documents have gone through three different channels. The first was through the normal CIA intelligence channels, of which the CIA rejected them. The second channel was through Ledeen and the Office of Special Planning, where they went up through Wolfowitz and to Cheney. The third channel was through the Italian press, where Panorama’s editor Rossella sends them back to the U.S. Embassy in Rome—where they were first judged as bogus.

Now back to Pollari’s meeting with Hadley on September 9, 2002. “Pollari knows everything. He has been apprised of sordid adventure of Rocco Martino. His own men were up to their necks in it. He is familiar with the role played by SISMI deputy chief Antonio Nucera, who lends a hand to snake oil salesman Martino. On this day, Pollari is facing a choice for which he has all the elements: to tell Rice’s deputy that the White House had better forget about the uranium story, because it’s a hoax and that the Martino-Nucera duo are imposters, or to reinforce the convictions of the American ally through a little shrewd silence. So what does Pollari choose to do?

Some background first. On September 8, 2002, New York Times Judith Miller reports on a story where Iraq was attempting to purchase aluminum tubes which could be used as rotor sheathing for centrifuges to enrich uranium. In reality, these were not tubes to be used in centrifuges to enrich uranium, but rather the tubes were used for making artillery shells. These tubes could specifically be used to make 81-mm rocket artillery shells in the Medusa air-to-ground missile system, used by the Italian Army. The Iraqis were familiar with this type of weapon system since they purchased this system from the Italians during their military cooperation with Italy in the 1980s.

On September 9, 2002, seated in front of Stephen Hadley, Pollari has the means to address even this aspect of the issue. SISMI claims that it has documentary proof of the acquisition of aluminum tubes by Iraq. Pollari knew that this intelligence the Miller wrote was also bogus. But Pollari did not say a word about the aluminum tubes, or about the forged document regarding Iraqi purchases of uranium from Niger. Pollari kept his mouth shut. He basically went along with the entire scheme.

Pollari does not have Rocco Martino “busted” when he knocks on the door of MI6. Instead, Pollari credits Martino as “a reliable source”. He does not put the damper on the enthusiasm of Michel Ledeen and the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans. He simply sits there in silence as the imbroglio simmers. In fact, when he does open his mouth, he neither extinguishes nor disappoints American hopes. This is what happened in the case of the aluminum tubes. Following a “brilliant operation”, SISMI enters into material possession of the tubes. It’s a military intelligence victory.

On September 12, Panorama publishes its article “War with Iraq? It has already started.” On September 24, British Prime Minister Tony Blair announces that the Iraqi purchases of uranium yellowcake from Africa. Finally President Bush announces the proof of Iraq purchasing uranium from Africa in his 2003 State of the Union address.

If this entire Repubblica article is even half true, it is almost amazing how a simple third-rate attempt at forging old documents for money, could have ended up to the highest reaches of power in Washington, Rome, and London. The information portrayed in these forgeries were almost too good to be true for everyone involved. The Bush White House wanted to believe these documents as definitive proof for going to war in Iraq. The Italian government of Prime Minister Berlusconi wanted to use these documents to curry favors with the Bush White House—even though SISMI’s Pollari knew that these documents were fakes. Tony Blair used the documents to rally British support for the war. And yet no-one questioned the validity of these documents. And those who did look closely at them—the CIA in Rome, Elisabetta Burba with Panorama Magazine, even the French intelligence with whom these forgeries were originally designed for—their objections were ignored, or discredited as Ambassador Joe Wilson would learn when his wife Valerie Plame would be exposed as working for the CIA. This is not a conspiracy of top government officials in the U.S., Italy, or Great Britain, to use these documents for their own self-interests. But rather, this is a conspiracy of incompetence and hubris between the three governments and their self-interested officials. And as their incompetence regarding these forged documents becomes publicly known, it is only natural for these top leaders to cover up their own failures due to their hubris and incompetence.

CIA leak probe has Washington waiting

Here's a little something to keep you waiting impatiently with your milk and cookies. From CNN.Com:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The federal grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA operative's identity adjourned Wednesday afternoon and Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald made no public announcement of any action.

But Fitzgerald met with U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan, the chief judge of the District of Columbia, for about 45 minutes after the grand jury met, a court official told CNN.

"I can confirm a meeting took place in the chief judge's chambers after the grand jury met today," court spokesman Sheldon Snook said. He declined to say what they talked about.

Many legal experts and lawyers not involved in the case had expected the grand jury to vote on an indictment Wednesday and that the outcome would be announced publicly.

The grand jury's term is set to expire Friday unless Fitzgerald requests an extension.

Asked about anxiety levels at the White House, press secretary Scott McClellan said Wednesday, "There's a lot of speculation going around, and I think there are a lot facts that simply are not known at this point. It remains an ongoing investigation, and we'll let the special prosecutor continue to do his work."

He added, "This White House is focused on the priorities of the American people."

Put your milk and cookies out. Tonight is Fitzmas Eve! We'll soon see tomorrow what indictments Fitzgerald will hand out....If any.

Merry Fitzmas!

The English Translation of La Repubblica is Here!

The English translation of La Repubblica is right here!

I know I'm going to be picking through it.

More Speculation Regarding British Intelligence

This is from the Left-Coaster blogsite:

This passage goes a long way in helping me confirm the mechanics of the creation of the Niger uranium hoax that I had described yesterday. Here is the translated version of the passage (emphasis mine):

So [Rocco Martino] asks for help form an old colleague at SISMI: Antonio Nucera. A Carabinieri (cop) like Rocco, Antonio is the Deputy Chief of the SISMI center in viale Pasteur in Rome. He’s chief of the 1st and the 8th divisions (weapons and technology transfers and WMD proliferation counterespionage, respectively, for Africa and the Middle East.

This section is very busy section at the end of the 1980s tailing the many agents which Saddam has deployhed around the world prior to the invasion of Kuwait. “With some success”, according to an Italian intelligence official who at the time worked for the division. The official recalls: "We succeeded in getting our hands on Niger code books and a telex from Ambassador Adamou Chékou to the Niger Foreign Ministry informing Niamey that Wissam al-Zahawie, the Iraqi Ambassador to the Vatican, would be coming to Niger as a representative of Saddam Hussein."

I have been harping on this for some time, but this is the visit that the British falsely associated with uranium in order to peddle their "uranium from Africa" allegation, long after the CIA had given up on it. It was the British Government's last remaining claim - one that they continued to push in the mendacious Butler report, in its Conclusions, to cover-up their false allegation and to give George Bush some cover in the aftermath of the Joseph Wilson op-ed and the White House's retraction of the false Bush SOTU claim.

Prior to the appearance of the forged documents, the Al-Zahawi visit was known to have been unrelated to uranium (as the CIA effectively admitted, as IAEA noted in their March 2003 statement and as the Iraq Survey Group independently confirmed later in 2004). However, once a mention of Al-Zahawi's visit was deliberately introduced into the forged documents, with the visit being falsely linked to uranium, it gave the documents a veneer of plausibility (since the trip did occur), while allowing the forgers and the intelligence agencies to claim that this trip was about uranium, even though it was not. Further, because the visit itself occurred, it made it easy for the British to keep claiming that the visit had to do with uranium (with no evidence whatsoever) even after the Niger documents were revealed as forgeries. This was an easy allegation to make and it was easier to sell to the public because, unlike a uranium sale, one could simply allege that Al-Zahawi was "seeking" uranium without any documentary proof for it. That, folks, is how the "sought...uranium from Africa" hoax was perpetrated by the Bush and Blair administrations and extended perpetually by the British Government.

I'm not sure how valid the information on this blogsite is regarding British intelligence getting duped by the Italian forgeries, but it does provide an interesting explanation. It certainly provides some measure of validity--the forgeries show that Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican, al-Zahawie was going to visit Niger, of which he did but for different reasons than the forged documents claim. British intelligence would certainly have known of the trip, and would have watched al-Zahawie. It would certainly also give the British a second claim of an intelligence source regarding Iraq's purchasing uranium, even though this claim is still linked to the original forgeries (Since the forgeries spelled out this link).

More to come to this puzzle.

The British Connection in La Repubblica

This is also from the blogsite Crooked Timber:

La Repubblica has another story today on the role of Italian intelligence in feeding bogus evidence on Niger to Hadley and others in the US and elsewhere. There’s one key piece of new information. UK intelligence claimed to have evidence independent of the forged documents, which showed that Iraq had indeed been trying to obtain uranium in Niger. According to La Repubblica:

This “evidence” has never been brought forward … “If it ever were brought forward,” said a source in Forte Braschi to la Repubblica, with a smile, “it would be discovered, with red faces, that it was Italian intelligence collected by SISMI at the end of the 1980’s, and shared with our friend Hamilton McMillan.”

As best as I can piece this together, the timeline that La Repubblica is arguing for goes as follows. Italian intelligence collected [genuine] information that Hussein was trying to obtain raw uranium at the end of the 1980’s, before the First Gulf War. This information was stored by the branch of Italian intelligence dealing with weapon proliferation issues. When the invasion of Iraq was imminent, this information was brought out from the archives, and bundled together with fake documents in order to make the latter look more legitimate. This dossier was then circulated to UK and US intelligence. The latter didn’t bite at first, causing the director of Italian intelligence to use back channels to Hadley and to Wolfowitz via Ledeen. UK intelligence did bite, either then or later. UK intelligence later claimed that it had a source of intelligence independent from the faked documents saying that Iraq was trying to obtain uranium. However, according to La Repubblica the ‘independent’ source was also from Italian intelligence, and related to efforts by Hussein’s regime to obtain uranium in the 1980’s. Hence, it was for all intents and purposes irrelevant to the question of whether Hussein was trying to obtain uranium in post-sanctions Iraq.

And now we come to President Bush's famous 16 words in his 2003 State of the Union Speech:

The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

So the big question is, where did the British government get its intelligence regarding Saddam's purchasing of uranium from Africa? Was it from the forged documents that SISMI sent over? Was British intelligence completely duped by this stuff? Remember--the CIA didn't bite at this stuff! Then there's this question of British intelligence finding a source that was independent of the forged documents saying Saddam was buying uranium from Africa. The Brits have not said what that source was. Repubblica claims that the independent source was also from Italian intelligence and the fake documents--perhaps the Panorama magazine story? We know that Panorama's editor Carlo Rossella sent reporter Elisabetta Burba to the American embassy with the forged documents. Could Rossella have also contacted the British with this intelligence information? What is this other source of information?

More to come.

Senators in G.O.P. Voice New Doubt on Court Choice

I'm sort of wondering if President Bush's Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers isn't really Rodney Dangerfield in disguise. I mean--the poor lady just doesn't get any respect from the Senate. This is from the New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25 - The drumbeat of doubt from Republican senators over the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet E. Miers grew louder Tuesday as several lawmakers, including a pivotal conservative on the Judiciary Committee, joined those expressing concerns about her selection.

Emerging from a weekly luncheon of Republican senators in which they discussed the nomination, several lawmakers suggested that as Ms. Miers continued her visits on Capitol Hill, she was not winning over Republican lawmakers.

"I am uneasy about where we are," said Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican on the Judiciary Committee who had so far expressed only support for the president's choice. "Some conservative people are concerned. That is pretty obvious."

Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, called Republican sentiment toward Ms. Miers's nomination "a question mark."

A question mark? Talk about getting no respect. But then again, that's what you get when the White House sends up a complete unknown, who just happens to be President Bush's personal attorney. You just get no respect. But it get better:

Senator Norm Coleman, a Minnesota Republican in the political middle of his party, said he needed "to get a better feel for her intellectual capacity and judicial philosophy, core competence issues."

"I certainly go into this with concerns," Mr. Coleman said.

Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas has questioned her legal views on abortion rights, and the committee chairman, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, has said Ms. Miers could benefit from a "crash course in constitutional law."

Several Republican aides, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said two other Republican committee members, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, had privately raised questions about her judicial philosophy. Both declined to comment on their views of her.

And leaving the lunch meeting on Tuesday, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a Judiciary Committee member, acknowledged that senators who had met with Ms. Miers were telling colleagues that they had been unimpressed. "She needs to step it up a notch," Mr. Graham said.

Senator Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi, said there was not much enthusiasm for the nomination among Senate Republicans, although most had "held their fire."

Why, even President Bush himself is getting no respect from these pesky senators.

Many prominent conservatives have criticized the nomination or called for its withdrawal, and one conservative group plans on Wednesday to start a week of radio and television advertising urging Ms. Miers's withdrawal.

At a Republican National Committee dinner on Tuesday night, President Bush restated his support for Ms. Miers, calling her "a really fine person" and "a good practicing attorney" who "will strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States."

No Republican senator has publicly suggested that she withdraw. But on Tuesday some offered notably neutral comments about the question.

"To support the withdrawal would be a rebuke of the president, not her, because she has not said anything yet, so that is a slam on the president, not Harriet Miers, so I don't think any Republican wants to do that," Senator Graham observed.

"The message being delivered from the White House," he added, is that she will not withdraw before the confirmation hearings."

I'm telling ya....No respect. No respect.

Ms. Miers faces a deadline of Wednesday to comply with a request from Mr. Specter and Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, for fuller answers to her judicial questionnaire and documents relating to her work in the White House. Mr. Specter has said he believes Ms. Miers could provide some documents and other information without unduly violating the confidentiality of White House deliberations.

But at the Republican dinner on Tuesday night, Mr. Bush restated that he did not intend to provide them. "Asking for those documents is a red line, as far as I'm concerned, in protecting the White House and the ability to operate," he said.

In an interview Tuesday, Mr. Hatch, a former chairman of the committee, argued that Republicans had previously opposed the arguments for disclosure that Mr. Specter was making. "I am just surprised that there are some on our side using it, after we have established that principle," Mr. Hatch said.

But other conservatives who said they supported the administration's stance also said that the lack of information about Ms. Miers's work there could make it harder for her. "It is going to be incumbent on her to get as much information to Republicans as possible in response, particularly, to some of the fundamental constitutional issues," Mr. Thune said. "She has really got to raise the comfort level around here.

Ms. Miers faced challenges from Democrats as well. After meeting with her on Tuesday evening, Senator Russell D. Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, expressed frustration that she had declined to discuss any of her White House work. "There is a kind of a hard line coming from the White House on this that is actually to her detriment," Mr. Feingold said.

No respect....No Respect. But the greatest kicker has to come from Senator Jeff Sessions:

Asked if the debate had become "one-sided," with too few defending Ms. Miers, Senator Sessions, the Alabama Republican, struggled for words, then pushed a button for a nearby elevator in the Capitol building and told an aide, "Get me out of here."

Italian Faces Pre-War Intelligence Probe

Looks like the Associated Press has picked up on this Italian intelligence story:

ROME - The head of Italy's military secret services will be questioned by a parliamentary commission next week over allegations that his organization gave the United States and Britain disputed documents suggesting that Saddam Hussein had been seeking uranium in Africa, officials said Tuesday.

Nicolo Pollari, director of the SISMI intelligence agency, will be questioned on Nov. 3 by members of the commission overseeing secret services, said Micaela Panella, a commission spokeswoman.

She said Pollari asked to be questioned after reports Monday and Tuesday in the Rome daily La Repubblica claiming SISMI passed on to the CIA, U.S. government officials and Britain's MI6 intelligence services a dossier it knew was forged.

The documents detailed a purported Iraqi deal to buy 500 tons of uranium yellowcake from Niger, a claim the United States and Britain used to try to prove Saddam Hussein was seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction and justify the case for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The Italian government a staunch U.S. ally repeatedly has denied reports that SISMI passed on documents about the Niger affair.

Now here's the fun part:

Pollari's hearing will not be open to the public, but the commission's president, Enzo Bianco, was expected to brief reporters after the meeting, Panella said.

You do know what's going to happen? The commission's going to sweep this whole affair under the rug. The last thing the Italian government wants to do is discover that they were involved in this whole, sorrid affair. Thus, we have secret hearings, where the commission's president Bianco can say anything he wants and quash this thing on the Italian side. Pollari may become the fall guy, in which case he'll be quietly let go.

If Pollari was invovled in creating these forged documents, then he was acting under orders from someone higher up. Who was that higher-up? Was it the advisor to the Foreign Minister Gianni Castellaneta? And if so, was Castellaneta following orders from Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi? Do you think the commission wants to uncover all of this--if Pollari talks about it? Would Berlusconi or Castellaneta want all this to come out? In one sense, it is out through the press, but then the Italian government can simply deny this whole thing took place. Pollari's testimony to the commission would validate this connection between the Italian government and the Bush White House PR-spin machine.

More questions, more speculation...More to come.

La Repubblica Scoop--Some More Answers and Questions

Note: When I first published this piece, there was some problems with the punctuation. I've tried to clean this up the best I can.

I found this from the Crooked Timber blogsite:

As various bloggers have noted, the Italian paper La Repubblica seems to have a scoop on the sources of the famous forged Niger documents, and the role played by the Italian intelligence services. Laura Rozen has a summary article in the Prospect, but there's some additional detail in the original article. For the benefit of non-Italian readers, I've done a quick translation of the relevant bits and put it below the fold. Two health warnings. First, this is a rough and ready translation. I'm not a professional, and there may well be a few inaccuracies (please point them out in comments if you spot them). Second, La Repubblica is, as Italian newspapers go, a trustworthy publication, but like all Italian newspapers, it's surrounded by a swirl of politics and special interests. I'm obviously not in a position to attest to the veracity of its claims, but at the least, they're very interesting.

It's a fact that on the eve of the Iraq war, and under the supervision of the diplomatic advisor to the Foreign Ministry, Gianni Castellaneta (today ambassador to the USA), the director of SISMI organized his agenda in Washington with the staff of Condoleeza Rice, who was National Security Adviser to the White House at that time. La Repubblica is able to document this two track process between the government and Italian intelligence. At least one of these "barely official" [molto poco istituzionali] meetings of Pollari's was, according to secret service agents, the "creation of a system" that would bring together government, intelligence and public affairs [informazione].

To summarize: Nicolo Pollari's SISMI wanted to substantiate the [case for] the Iraqi acquisition of raw uranium to build a nuclear bomb. The game-plan was rather transparent. "Authentic" documents relating to an attempted acquisition in Niger (old Italian intelligence from the 1980's) were the dowry of the second-in-command of CISMI's Roman headquarters (Antonio Nucera). They were bundled together with another fabricated document through a simulated burglary on the Nigerien embassy (from which they had gotten headed notepaper and seals). The documents were shown by Pollari's men to CIA station agents, and at the same time, a SISMI "postman" by the name of Rocco Martino was sent to Sir Richard Dearlove of MI6 in London.

turning to the second chapter of the Great Swindle, organized in Italy, to build the case that military intervention in Iraq was necessary. The Italian report on uranium

The CIA analysts thought the first report "very limited" and "without the necessary details." INR analysts in the Department of State assessed the information as "highly suspect." The immediate impact on the American Intelligence community wasn't very gratifying for Pollari. Gianni Castellaneta advised him to look in "other directions" too, while the minister of Defence, Antonio Martino invited him to meet "an old friend of Italy's." The American friend was Michael Ledeen, an old fox in the "parallel" intelligence community in the US, who had been declared an undesirable person in our country [Italy] in the 1980's [editorial note; I understand that this claim was contested when it was made by Sidney Blumenthal]. Ledeen was at Rome on behalf of the Office of Special Plans, created at the Pentagon by Paul Wolfowiz to gather intelligence that would support military intervention in Iraq. A source at Forte Braschi told La Repubblica : "Pollari got a frosty reception from the CIA's station head in Rome, Jeff Castelli, for this information on uranium. Castelli apparently let the matter drop [lascia cadere la storia]. Pollari got the hint and talked about it with Michael Ledeen." We don't know what Michael Ledeen did in Washington. But at the beginning of 2002, Paul Wolfowitz convinced Dick Cheney that the uranium trail intercepted by the Italians had to be explored top to bottom. The vice-president, as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence tells it, once again asked the CIA "very decisively" to find out more about the "possible acquisition of Nigerien uranium." In this meeting, Dick Cheney explicitly said that this piece of intelligence was at the disposition of a "foreign service."

So, Gianni Castellaneta of the Italian Foreign Ministry, and the director of SISMI--Pollari per chance--were working with NSA Condi Rice in gathering intelligence favorable to President Bush to sell the war in Iraq to the American public. Pollari's SISMI was given the task to build this case for the Iraq war by spicing up some old Italian intelligence documents regarding Iraq's purchase of uranium in the 1980s. These old intelligence documents were being held by SIMSI's Antonio Nucera. But since the documents were old, they would have been rejected by the CIA. So, these 1980s documents were bundled together with some new forged documents using the Nigerian embassy's stationary and seals. Pollari gave the documents to the CIA in Rome, while Rocco Martino sent another set of documents to Sir Richard Dearlove of MI6 in London. So who ordered this scam? Was it Castellaneta? Pollari? Or could it be a higher-up, such as the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi? Did Condi Rice know of this scam?

The CIA rejected the documents. Now this gets interesting. '"The immediate impact on the American Intelligence community wasn't very gratifying for Pollari. Gianni Castellaneta advised him to look in "other directions" too, while the minister of Defence, Antonio Martino invited him to meet "an old friend of Italy's." The American friend was Michael Ledeen"' Because the CIA rejected the documents, Castellaneta told Pollari to shop the documnets around. Defense Minister Martino told Pollari to show the documents to Michael Ledeen. "Ledeen was at Rome on behalf of the Office of Special Plans, created at the Pentagon by Paul Wolfowiz to gather intelligence that would support military intervention in Iraq." Ledeen was working for Paul Wolfowiz. Wolfowiz was with the Office of Special Plans, who was certainly shopping for proof to make the Bush case for going to war in Iraq. You can bet that what Pollari had was hot stuff for both Ledeen and Wolfowiz.

So the Italian intelligence provided the CIA with forged documents. The CIA rejected those documents, after which the Italians then went through the back door to give the documents directly to the White House. [A]t the beginning of 2002, Paul Wolfowitz convinced Dick Cheney that the uranium trail intercepted by the Italians had to be explored top to bottom. The vice-president, as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence tells it, once again asked the CIA "very decisively" to find out more about the "possible acquisition of Nigerien uranium." In this meeting, Dick Cheney explicitly said that this piece of intelligence was at the disposition of a "foreign service." Cheney didn't say what foreign intelligence service these documents came from--If the CIA knew that they came from Italy, the CIA would immediatly claim they were bogus since the CIA had already seen these documents. But the White House gets these documents, and it is almost too good to be true. It is definitive proof that Iraq was purchasing uranium from Nigeria. VP Cheney orders the CIA to investigate this intelligence, even though the CIA knew that these documents were forgeries. And to make these documents seem more credible, Rocco Martino gives them to a Panoram journalist, allowing them to be published and to provide more credibility to them through public opinion.

And there's more:

Pollari could concentrate on another essential aspect of his stratagem. Promoting SISMI and himself, extracting the proceeds of his secret labour over a year. After returning from his secret meeting with Hadley, Pollari sought a hearing from the parliamentary committee that oversees the secret services. There were two hearings. In the first, the director of SISMI maintained "We don't have documentary evidence, but we do have information that a central African state has sold pure uranium to Baghdad." Thirty days later, Pollari said, "We have documentary evidence of the acquisition of natural uranium by Iraq in a central-African republic."

Pollari had to get the Italian intelligence services to back his plan. So first, he says there were no documentary evidence at a parlimentary committee meeting, but then later on says that he had documentary evidence. Pollari lied to his parlimentary committee overseeing his intelligence service. And finally there is this:

Pollari still had the problem of how to convey the fake document to Washington without leaving any of his fingerprints. The SISMI "postman," Rocco Martino, who had already knocked on MI6's door, contacted the Panorama correspondent, Elisabetta Burba, and tried to sell her the document. Burba correctly checked the information in Niger, she concluded that the story didn't stand up. But the editor of the weekly, Carlo Rossella, enthusiastic that he might have found, as his staff describe it, a "smoking gun," sent her with the document to the American embassy, as the "highest source for verification."

Pollari had sent Rocco Martino to give the documents first to MI6, and then to the Panorama's reporter. Now this is also interesting. Carlo Rossella told Panorama's reporter Elisabetta Burba to send the documents to the American embassy. In my previous blog post, I noted that Carlo Rossella was a favorite of Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi. Did Berlusconi (or someone in his office) tell Rossella that these documents were important to his agenda of helping sell the Iraq war on behalf of President Bush?

The more I read into this, the more I'm starting to ask if this is a scam that was created by both the Italian intelligence, and someone in the U.S. government? Why would Italian intelligence go about trying to deceive American intelligence with these forged documents? And these documents were poor forgeries--the CIA outright rejected them. And yet, Pollari was able to end run these through directly into the White House, where Cheney ordered the CIA to investigate this intelligence lead that the CIA knew was a fraud. So we come back to the question of who started this scam and why? One obvious "why" answer would be to provide documented proof that Iraq was purchasing materials to make WMDs, and this was the reason for President Bush to go to war in Iraq. But who created this fraud? It had to be someone high up in the Italian government, who could order Italian intelligence to play out this scheme. Was it Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi? Did Berlusconi order Castellaneta to find or make-up proof as a means to help President Bush? Did President Bush personally ask Berlusconi for help in marketing his war? Where does Hadley and Rice fit in on this? We know that Hadley and Pollari met on September 9, 2002 and that three days after, the Pomona story on the forged documents was published. Did Pollari tell Hadley of these documents? And if so, did Hadley know that these documents were forgeries--did he check with the CIA?

Such a puzzle.

Bigger, Stronger Homemade Bombs Now to Blame for Half of U.S. Deaths

This is from the Washington Post:

BAGHDAD, Oct. 25 -- After 31 months of fighting in Iraq, more than half of all American fatalities are now being caused by powerful roadside bombs that blast fiery, lethal shrapnel into the cabins of armored vehicles, confronting every patrol with an unseen, menacing adversary that is accelerating the U.S. death toll.

U.S. military officials, analysts and militants themselves say insurgents have learned to adapt to U.S. defensive measures by using bigger, more sophisticated and better-concealed bombs known officially as improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. They are sometimes made with multiple artillery shells and Iranian TNT, sometimes disguised as bricks, boosted with rocket propellant, and detonated by a cell phone or a garage door opener.

The bombs range from massive explosives capable of destroying five-ton vehicles to precision "shaped charges" that bore softball-size holes through thick armor, the main defense of troops in the field, and they are becoming a key factor in the fast-rising U.S. death toll.

It took about 18 months from the start of the March 2003 invasion of Iraq to reach 1,000 U.S. deaths; it took less than 13 months to reach 1,000 more. A major reason for the surge, statistics show, is the insurgency's embrace of IEDs, together with the military's inability to detect them.

"It's the dreaded IED that's killing our soldiers," said Michael White, the creator of , a Web site that tracks U.S. military casualties. "I read in the paper that we have some new device to detect them, or we're taking extra care to make sure we don't get hit, and death after death keeps coming in, and it's IEDs."

Somehow, this doesn't surprise me. The insurgents greatest advantage is to hide in plain sight against the U.S. troops, and this is the perfect way to fight them. Saddam's old army had millions of tons of explosives sitting in barracks and ammo depots that were never secured or guarded by the U.S. forces during the waning days of the invasion--all just sitting there waiting to be picked up. Now that the insurgents have been getting plenty of help and training for experienced foreign terrorists, they've been adapting these explosives into newer and deadlier weapons to attack U.S. convoys and patrols. These insurgents are not going to step out and fight mano to mano--that plays into the U.S. advantage of bringing in overwhelming firepower. Consider this from the Post:

In the first six months of battle in Iraq, only 11 soldiers -- about 4 percent of the 289 who died -- were killed by homemade roadside bombs. In the last six months, at least 214 service members have been killed by IEDs, or 63 percent of the 339 combat-related deaths and 53 percent of the 400 U.S. fatalities, according to data complied by the Brookings Institution's Iraq Index.

"The IEDs are the biggest threat we have," said Lt. Col. John Walsh, commander of Task Force 1-163, a Montana Army National Guard battalion that is completing a year-long combat tour in Hawija, a Sunni Arab city about 30 miles southwest of Kirkuk. Walsh's soldiers have encountered more than 600 roadside bombs, 60 percent of which exploded before they were detected. The unit has lost four soldiers, two from roadside bombs, and had 68 wounded, a casualty rate of 8.5 percent.

"Right now they're probably four times more powerful than when we first got here," 1st Sgt. Stanley Clinton said, referring to the bombs. Clinton, 53, has been deployed for the past year in Kirkuk for Alpha Company of the 2nd Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team.

Clinton said that when the 116th combat team, an Idaho Army National Guard unit, arrived last December, the insurgents employed "backwoodsy stuff" -- often tiny bombs fashioned from items as basic as Coca-Cola cans. Now, he said, they often consist of one or more 120- or 155-mm artillery rounds, 15 or 20 pounds of rocket propellant or shaped charges that concentrate the blast and punch through armor plating.

Of course, it gets better:

In some instances, insurgents have constructed IEDs powerful enough to kill soldiers inside 22-ton Bradley Fighting Vehicles, which are more heavily armored than Humvees.

And you can bet that as this war goes on, the insurgents will be getting even more powerful explosives. Consider this:

According to a former Iraqi army officer who lives in the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi and is now a member of al Qaeda in Iraq, the group headed by Abu Musab Zarqawi, insurgents have advanced beyond the crude bombs they once used, such as dynamite or gunpowder mixed with nails and buried beside a road. Now, he said in an interview, militants have access to TNT from Iran that he said was about seven times stronger than the TNT available in Iraq. He said they were also using old Austrian missiles from the former Iraqi army and detonating them with electric wires, cell phones and other remote-control devices.

I can continue to go on with example after example from this Post story. Invading Iran will not stop the weapons from getting into the hands of the insurgents--it will just create another American protectorate to be occupied by more American troops--which we don't have--that will become targets for new Iranian insurgents using the same weapons and tactics as Iraq. This is a tactic of death by a thousand cuts. It is a tactic that favors the insurgents, and so far there is no way for the American military to respond in its current state.

We are losing the war in Iraq. It is time to get out--NOW!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Italy's intelligence chief met with Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley just a month before the Niger forgeries first surfaced.

This is from Laura Rozen at the American Prospect Online:

In an explosive series of articles appearing this week in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, investigative reporters Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe d'Avanzo report that Nicolo Pollari, chief of Italy's military intelligence service, known as Sismi, brought the Niger yellowcake story directly to the White House after his insistent overtures had been rejected by the Central Intelligence Agency in 2001 and 2002. Sismi had reported to the CIA on October 15, 2001, that Iraq had sought yellowcake in Niger, a report it also plied on British intelligence, creating an echo that the Niger forgeries themselves purported to amplify before they were exposed as a hoax.

Today's exclusive report in La Repubblica reveals that Pollari met secretly in Washington on September 9, 2002, with then–Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. Their secret meeting came at a critical moment in the White House campaign to convince Congress and the American public that war in Iraq was necessary to prevent Saddam Hussein from developing nuclear weapons. National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones confirmed the meeting to the Prospect on Tuesday.

Pollari told the newspaper that since 2001, when he became Sismi's director, the only member of the U.S. administration he has met officially is his former CIA counterpart George Tenet. But the Italian newspaper quotes a high-ranking Italian Sismi source asserting a meeting with Hadley. La Repubblica also quotes a Bush administration official saying, "I can confirm that on September 9, 2002, General Nicolo Pollari met Stephen Hadley."

The paper goes on to note the significance of that date, highlighting the appearance of a little-noticed story in Panorama a weekly magazine owned by Italian Prime Minister and Bush ally Silvio Berlusconi, that was published three days after Pollari's meeting with Hadley. The magazine's September 12, 2002, issue claimed that Iraq's intelligence agency, the Mukhabarat, had acquired 500 tons of uranium from Nigeria through a Jordanian intermediary. (While this September 2002 Panorama report mentioned Nigeria, the forgeries another Panorama reporter would be proferred less than a month later purportedly concerned Niger.)

The Sismi chief's previously undisclosed meeting with Hadley, who was promoted earlier this year to national security adviser, occurred one month before a murky series of events culminated in the U.S. government obtaining copies of the Niger forgeries.

The forged documents were cabled from the U.S. embassy in Rome to Washington after being delivered to embassy officials by Elisabetta Burba, a reporter for Panorama. She had received the papers from an Italian middleman named Rocco Martino. Burba never wrote a story about those documents. Instead her editor, Berlusconi favorite Carlo Rossella, ordered her to bring them immediately to the U.S. embassy.

Although Sismi's involvement in promoting the Niger yellowcake tale to U.S. and British intelligence has been previously reported, the series in La Repubblica includes many new details, including the name of a specific Sismi officer, Antonio Nucera, who helped to set the Niger forgeries hoax in motion.

What may be most significant to American observers, however, is the newspaper's allegation that the Italians sent the bogus intelligence about Niger and Iraq not only through traditional allied channels such as the CIA, but seemingly directly into the White House. That direct White House channel amplifies questions about a now-infamous 16-word reference to the Niger uranium in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union address -- which remained in the speech despite warnings from the CIA and the State Department that the allegation was not substantiated.

So Italian intelligence first tried to send these documents to the CIA, but the CIA rejected them. So instead, a General Nicolo Pollari met with Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley to inform Hadley of the Iraq uranium yellowcake purchase. And even more importantly, this information was never confirmed by U.S. intelligence. Now here's an interesting question--did Pollari know, at the time of the meeting with Hadley, that this intelligence was bogus? Did Italian intelligence report this bogus information to the CIA, or even to Hadley?

Now the question of these documents. First, there is this Italian magazine Panorama that's owned by the Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi, who happens to be a Bush ally. Forged documents of this uranium yellowcake deal was obtained by a Panorama reporter, who was then ordered by an editor of Panorama--who just happened to be a Berlusconi ally--to take them to the U.S. embassy in Rome? Who is this Sismi intelligence officer Nucera, and where does he fit into this picture? Where did this Italian middleman Rocco Martino get these forged documents? Who forged the documents? Who paid for these forged documents? Where did Panorama get this story about Iraq purchasing 500 tons of uranium from Nigeria through a Jordanian intermediary?

I'm sorry, but this is starting to look like a snow job here. Berlusconi was a Bush ally who probably wanted to help Bush's Great War on Terrorism. And since Bush couldn't find any documentation proving that Iraq was aquiring WMDs, someone decided to create "proof" of Iraq's involvement in aquiring nuclear weapons. Hence, this entire scam of Iraq purchasing uranium yellowcake, and the forged documents to prove it. The scam had to come from overseas, where this proof could be fixed through a third party-country's overseas intelligence services. And it had to go through a country who was an ally of Bush, where such an ally could have the power to selectively control these documents moving from the host country's intelligence services to the U.S. intelligence without suspicion. So Italy enters the picture with Prime Minister Berlusconi. The big question now is, who's the mastermind behind this entire scam?

Poll: Few doubt wrongdoing in CIA leak

I feel like I'm in a polling mood. Here's another poll from CNN.Com:

(CNN) -- Only one in 10 Americans said they believe Bush administration officials did nothing illegal or unethical in connection with the leaking of a CIA operative's identity, according to a national poll released Tuesday.

Thirty-nine percent said some administration officials acted illegally in the matter, in which the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative, was revealed.

The same percentage of respondents in the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll said Bush administration officials acted unethically, but did nothing illegal.

The poll questioned 1,008 adults October 21-23 and has a sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Now I'll admit that the poll's percentage in error is pretty high at 5 percentage points, but when you've got a statistic of one in 10 Americans saying they believe that the Bush administration did nothing illegal in the Valerie Plame affair, you can kiss this sampling error goodbye. Bush has got a PR disaster here. Whatever he says about the Valerie Plame leaks, the only people who are going to believe him are his base supporters--basically the right-wingnuts. How much of the American public is going to believe the White House spin machine as they try to demonize Patrick Fitzgerald? In other words, 85-95 percent of the American public doesn't believe the Bush White House PR story regarding the Valerie Plame affair.

That's a pretty deep hole for the Bush White House to have sunk into. And the indictments are coming.

Indictments Coming Tomorrow; Targets Received Letters Today

This is from Steve Clemons at The Washington Monthly blogsite:

October 25, 2005
Indictments Coming Tomorrow; Targets Received Letters Today

An uber-insider source has just reported the following to TWN:

1. 1-5 indictments are being issued. The source feels that it will be towards the higher end.
2. The targets of indictment have already received their letters.

3. The indictments will be sealed indictments and "filed" tomorrow.

4. A press conference is being scheduled for Thursday.

The shoe is dropping.

More soon.

-- Steve Clemons

One to five sealed indictments issued, the targets have received their letters, and they'll be a press conference regarding these indictments on Thursday. If Clemons' source is valid, this is big news. The blogosphere has been constantly speculating about who the targets are going to be for these indictments--Rove, Cheney, Libby, UN Ambassador John Bolton, Condi Rice, just about anyone who works in the Bush White House could be considered.

My question is how far up does this go? If Vice President Dick Cheney ends up getting indicted, then the next big question is what did the president know about the Plame affair and when did he know it? Is the president involved in the cover-up? Even more interesting is the possibility that if Cheney was involved in this leak, will Fitzgerald extend his investigation--perhaps even bring in a new grand jury to investigate the vice president or president himself?

There is so much speculation, rumors, leaks, innuendo flying about regarding this Valerie Plame affair, that it is almost impossible to try to make sense of it. And yet, there is so much out there that we don't know yet.

Stay tuned....More to come.

Poll: Bush would lose an election if held this year

This is from CNN.Com:

(CNN) -- A majority would vote for a Democrat over President Bush if an election were held this year, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll released Tuesday.

In the latest poll, 55 percent of the respondents said that they would vote for the Democratic candidate if Bush were again running for the presidency this year.

Thirty-nine percent of those interviewed said they would vote for Bush in the hypothetical election.

The latest poll results, released Tuesday, were based on interviews with 1,008 adults conducted by telephone October 21-23.

In the poll, 42 percent of those interviewed approved of the way the president is handling his job and 55 percent disapproved. In the previous poll, released October 17, 39 percent approved of Bush's job performance -- the lowest number of his presidency -- and 58 percent disapproved.

However, all the numbers are within the poll's sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, so it's possible that the public's opinion has not changed at all.

More than half, 57 percent, said they don't agree with the president's views on issues that are important to them, while 41 percent said their views are in alignment with those of Bush on important issues.

Well, this little poll doesn't bode too well for the Bush White House. When you have more than half the American public saying they don't agree with the president's views and would vote for a hypothetical Democrat in a presidential race, your administration is in pretty deep doo-doo. And the supposed Patrick Fitzgerald indictments haven't even been handed down yet. But it gets better. Continuing on:

On separate issues, a majority of those questioned felt the Democrats could do a better job than Republicans at handling health care (59 percent to 30 percent), Social Security (56 percent to 33 percent), gasoline prices (51 percent to 31 percent) and the economy (50 percent to 38 percent).

Forty-six percent also believed Democrats could do better at handling Iraq, while 40 percent said the GOP would do better.

In 2003, 53 percent said Republicans would better handle Iraq and only 29 percent believed the Democrats would do better.

The only issue on which Republicans came out on top was in fighting terrorism: 49 percent said the GOP is better at it, while 38 percent said the Democrats are.

So the public believes that the Democrats can do better on the issues of health care, Social Security, the economy, gas prices--and possibly energy policy as well. This is pretty much the entire domestic agenda for Bush. The only thing the Republicans can do better than the Democrats is in fighting terrorism--the Republican PR-spin machine is still adept in brainwashing the American public into believing they can do better at fighting terrorism, even though the entire invasion of Iraq was once defined as a goal in fighting terrorism. But now the public is starting to believe that the Democrats can do better in fighting in Iraq over the Republicans. So it may be just a matter of time before the Republicans advantage in fighting terrorism is lost to the Democrats. Also remember, this poll came out BEFORE any possible Fitzgerald indictments. So we don't know how the public will respond if Fitzgerald starts handing down indictments against Rove, Libby, or even Cheney, who are the top advisors to the president.

The Democrats have a golden opportunity here in defining a new agenda for the country. The American public is starting to realize that this country is heading down the wrong path. There is also a realization that this Bush White House has almost no clue in how to respond to events that are out of its spin-meister control. This is a White House that has become reactive, rather than pro-active. And if Rove and Libby are forced to resign due to indictments in the Valerie Plame affair, then the Bush administration loses more of its top political spin and marketing people who could have maintained control of the news events and the agenda. But the Democrats need to start acting now. They need to start proposing a radically new agenda to shift the course of this country. They need to start energizing the public's imagination with bold new ideas and new proposals to solve the nation's issues.

Now is the time to go on the offensive.