Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

06/23/2008 (11:32 am)

Between Free Speech and Treason

I want to draw to my readers’ attention Scott Shane’s discussion at the New York Times of the interrogation of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed by agents of the Bush administration. The article produces some fascinating and relevant details about the process that should become part of the cultural narrative, which I’ll cite at the end.

First, though, the attention paid the article over the weekend focuses appropriately on the fact that the Times chose to reveal the identity of the chief interrogator, which exposes the man and his family to possible attacks from Islamic radicals. This constitutes another incident in the Times’ ongoing war against the Bush administration, and at a level that’s genuinely disgusting. The exposed interrogator, who did not agree to be interviewed, requested anonymity, but the Times rationalized that request away; the same article, however, grants anonymity to several sources that agreed to talk on condition of anonymity. This makes it appear that the disclosure of the man’s identity hinged on his willingness to be interviewed, with the protection of anonymity somehow a perquisite of collaborating with the Times. I don’t see this as different in any way from what the Times accuses (falsely) that the Bush administration did to Joe Wilson by revealing the identity of his spouse, though Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, who unpacks the matter, finds a distinction in the fact that the interrogator was never undercover; I think that’s a difference of degree, not of type(1). Flopping Aces takes my side in the discussion, in the middle of a piece discussing how much of the Times’ treatment of Iraq constitutes anti-US propaganda.

I’ve written before about the Intel Community’s covert war against the Bush administration; see my topic “Intelligence Community” for instances. I firmly believe that the entire Wilson-Plame affair was a covert op by rogue elements within the CIA to undermine the Bush administration’s War on Terror (it’s not widely appreciated how thoroughly the CIA leans toward the political Left); Kenneth Timmerman’s book “Shadow Warriors” addresses this and wider issues. The Times’ repeated moves to disclose details of classified operations related to the War on Terror constitute cooperation in this effort.

The press’ and the CIA’s response to the Bush administration pose a thorny question for those of us who value freedom of the press: is there a difference between advocating a position contrary to that of the government, and actually attempting to undermine the government’s policy? Fiction writers for years have speculated about wholehearted attempts to subvert the government, usually from well-meaning but utterly mistaken far-right military types (think “The Siege,” “Clear and Present Danger,” etc.) What we’re seeing is a murky, gray area between that extreme and ordinary advocacy, only coming from the political left. The left has thrown aside mere advocacy, spurning the regard for legitimate processes of government that are necessary for protecting our liberties in favor of activism deliberately aimed at overthrowing the government’s policy. Fortunately for all of us, they stopped short of overthrowing the government itself, choosing instead to pursue the Constitutionally appropriate course of impeachment; this failed because they could not manufacture an issue large enough to produce a credible impeachment move (The Anchoress produced a raucously convincing piece about 2 weeks ago regarding just how insupportable a move to impeach President Bush would be; it’s worth a visit.)

There needs to be a legal line between legitimate advocacy of contrary positions, and activism to undermine the legitimate policies of legally elected government. The former is inviolable in a free society; the latter is a danger to us all. Without the willing collaboration of the electorate, no political system can survive for the long haul. This illustrates just how foolish, selfish, and ultimately destructive was Al Gore’s attempt to overturn the 2000 election in Florida; even if he’d had a legitimate complaint (he did not,) he should have backed off for the sake of the nation, as Richard Nixon did when the Democrats actually stole the election from him in 1960. The Left’s perception that George Bush was not a legally elected President surely contributed to their decision to undercut his policies rather than cooperate with the elected government. It should be possible to prosecute the perpetrators of this war against the Bush administration, not because dissent is not permitted — it most certainly is permitted — but because dissent can never become actual undermining of policy without destroying the institutions that protect us all.

The details of the interrogation are fascinating, on the other hand, and except for the truly insupportable decision to air the interrogator’s name, constitutes a solid and helpful bit of journalism. A few thoughts about the article itself:

  • I’m not sure I believe there has never been any application of the harsher techniques of interrogation, as Scott Shane reports. I’d like to see a less invested historian’s take on that topic. I do find the application of harsh interrogation techniques troubling.
  • The article undercuts the sorts of complaints raised by the dupes of hard leftists regarding how ineffective harsh tactics are known to be; there was clearly no agreement among professionals regarding this, and it remains unclear whether harsh tactics produced results or not.
  • The article also explains the decision to house detainees in undisclosed locations, and undercuts claims that this practice was unduly harsh and unnecessary, although there are questions of national sovereignty that ought to be considered. The account includes the observation that the CIA, drawing on close associations with the Thai intelligence community, housed detainees in a Thai jail without informing the Prime Minister.
  • The Times notes of the FBI, “They correctly predicted that harsh methods would darken the reputation of the United States and complicate future prosecutions.” I add: not without your collaboration, New York Times. Nice going.
  • Whatever else you can say about the Bush administration’s handling of the capture and interrogation of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah, it worked, and very well. We owe them gratitude for an essential job well done.

The topic deserves more attention and less heat. The partisanship in the current political arena poisons sensible discussion of these matters, and sane assessments may not arise for decades.

Courtroom sketch from the New York Times.

(1) The reason disclosing the identity of a covert agent is a problem is not just that it ruins their effectiveness (although that is a consideration,) but rather that it exposes that individual and everyone nearby to danger. The general discretion of the CIA regarding the locations of detention and the identities of personnel, effectively prevents enemies from learning the identity of the interrogator unless they have an inside source; the Times provides that inside source, and thus exposes the interrogator to reprisals from which he’d probably be safe otherwise. It may not be as egregious a violation as the outing of Plame would have been if the government had actually done that; but it’s the same violation.

05/30/2008 (12:59 pm)

Nukes & Spooks, Put Up Your Dukes

Leftists are predictably and tiresomely crowing “We told you so” in response to Scott McClellan’s tattler book. With the assistance of memeorandum, I selected one of the more serious leftist slime jobs and deconstructed it here.

The site is “Nukes & Spooks,” a blog by three McClatchy journalists. Their article contains a summary of the left’s disingenuous indictment against the Bush administration, based entirely on their own previous reporting, thereby making the point that McClellan’s book adds nothing new to the debate (the same point I made Wednesday). What they’re complaining about, though, is nothing more than normal governance in an uncertain environment, and review of their article confirms that that’s all they have. They’re trying to paint ordinary government workers as Snidely Whiplash, complete with maniacal cackle and curling moustaches. It would be funny if they weren’t so successful at it.

Here’s their indictment:

* The Bush administration was gunning for Iraq within days of the 9/11 attacks, dispatching a former CIA director, on a flight authorized by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, to find evidence for a bizarre theory that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the first World Trade Center attack in 1993.

The troubles with Iraq predated 9/11 by about 15 years. The US Congress had already confirmed US policy of regime change in Iraq as early as 1998, based on the invasion of Kuwait, followed by 7 years of Iraqi intransigence in meeting UN requirements. If the complaint is that the administration had Iraq in mind before 9/11, the only sane response is “Of course; why shouldn’t they have?”

Furthermore, administration personnel had discussed Middle East strategy far in advance of 9/11, and even in advance of taking office, and already had a plan in mind for pacifying the anti-American sentiment that was brewing in the Middle East. Yes, that plan involved Iraq. That the McClatchy folks find this somehow ominous suggests they think it’s a bad thing to be aware of current tensions and have a plan in mind. Color me unimpressed.

The alleged connection between the 1993 WTC bombing and Iraq was still under consideration at the time. I don’t recall that the administration used it as a reason supporting the Iraq invasion, for which reason I can’t imagine why it’s somehow damning that they sent someone to verify its accuracy. Yes, they already had Iraq in their sights; go reread the previous two paragraphs if you wonder why.

* Bush decided by February 2002, at the latest, that he was going to remove Saddam by hook or by crook. (Yes, we reported that at the time).

Yes, and if you’ll read the article they linked to, you’ll discover that the Bush administration stated this plainly and in public. There was certainly no outcry against his doing so at the time; the most common liberal response was that if we attacked Hussein, he’d use his WMDs on our troops, sending tens of thousands home in body bags. What, exactly, is their indictment? That they publicly stated that they intended to fulfill a policy that had been decided by an act of Congress in 1998? We’re supposed to be aghast at THAT? Why?

* White House officials, led by Dick Cheney, began making the case for war in August 2002, in speeches and reports that not only were wrong, but also went well beyond what the available intelligence said at that time, and contained outright fantasies and falsehoods.

If you’ll read the McClatchy article they claim proves Cheney went “well beyond what the available intelligence said at that time,” what you’ll find is that we had no hard evidence pointing to an unusual breakthrough in weapons technology. If you’ll read Cheney’s speech that they linked to, you’ll discover that he acknowledges this and explains why it’s meaningless, because Hussein was engaged in an ongoing pattern of deception that had hoodwinked our intelligence, and the UN’s, before. Cheney’s point was that if we know Hussein is working on weapons, and we know he’s deceiving inspectors about what he’s doing, we’d be insane to simply assume he’s not getting anywhere. That’s not fantasy; that’s a sober assessment. To say otherwise is to counsel foreign policy based solely on wishful thinking; and if the administration HAD taken that passive approach, and Hussein had developed serious weapons, they would have condemned them for that, too. (Author’s update: Cheney’s argument here was echoed by Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller on the Senate floor on October 10, 2002. “We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam Hussein has been able to make in the development of weapons of mass destruction.” I’m curious to know how alleged misinformation could have produced Rockefeller’s agreement with such an argument.)

* Dissenters, or even those who voiced worry about where the policy was going, were ignored, excluded or punished.

There’s always dissent to any major decision. Some point of view always loses. Anybody who wants to claim that their sober opinions were ignored will get plenty of opportunity to do so from any administration, discussing any topic. I can’t think of a single policy in any administration in which the complaint that “dissenters were ignored” could not be raised — for which reason I simply can’t understand what the indictment is supposed to be here. What is it, besides an insane demand that the President submit every internal decision to nationwide scrutiny?

They name Joseph Wilson among the dissenting voices. We already know why he was ignored — he was not even part of the administration, and he lied.

* The Bush administration didn’t even want to produce the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs that’s justly received so much criticism since.

The administration’s case against Iraq contained a series of indictments that were already well-documented and had long been the subject of public debate. Claims included that Hussein had brutalized his own population, had destabilized the region by building an unusually large military and attacking his neighbors, had flouted UN resolutions, had fired at US aircraft, had reconstituted forbidden weapons programs, and had sponsored international terrorism. To my knowledge, the only parts of the entire case that have ever been disputed are the quantity of chemical weapons (but it’s admitted that he had some), the robustness of the nuclear program (but it’s admitted that he had one), and the use of aluminum tubes for nuclear weapons (they were actually for a missile system that was also forbidden by the terms of the UN agreement.) The bulk of the US case against Hussein was indisputable.

The call for an unwanted NIE was simply one of dozens of instances of the Democrats in Congress attempting to exercise unconstitutional powers over the conduct of the Executive branch of government. And I’m just curious: doesn’t the later criticism vindicate the assessment that an NIE was uncalled for?

* The October 2002 NIE was flawed, no doubt. (My note: see?) But it contained dissents questioning the extent of Saddam’s WMD programs, dissents that were buried in the report. Doubts and dissents were then stripped from the publicly released, unclassified version of the NIE.

Yes. They assessed the evidence, reported what they believed was correct, and omitted what they believed was incorrect. This sounds like normal procedure to me. What’s the indictment?

* The core of the administration’s case for war was not just that Saddam was developing WMDs, but also that, unchecked, he might give them to terrorists to attack the United States. Remember smoking guns and mushroom clouds? Inconveniently, the CIA had determined just the opposite: Saddam would attack the United States only if he concluded a U.S. attack on him was unavoidable. He’d give WMD to Islamist terrorists only “as a last chance to exact revenge.”

Leftists love to say that “the core” of the admininstration’s case was WMDs, but that was only one point; I outline the more complete case above, in the paragraph beginning “The administration’s case against Iraq…” They ignore the rest and focus on WMDs because that’s the only part of the case that’s even remotely debatable. They’ve done it so many times that they’re no longer aware how dishonest a tactic it is; but it’s dishonest, and at some point they must have known it.

As to what the CIA had “determined,” the interesting point is that the later evaluation of captured Iraqi documents concluded something very different. The research documents that Hussein’s government cooperated extensively with various terrorist organizations (of which al Qaeda is only one of dozens), that Hussein habitually used terrorism as a tool of statecraft, that his goals included attacks on America wherever he could pull it off, and even that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda when their goals coincided. This research confirms a major complaint the Bush administration leveled against Saddam Hussein’s government.

So the indictment against the Bush administration here has become that they rejected a CIA assessment that was incorrect. They should be applauding here, not condemning. In fact, I can’t imagine indicting the Bush administration for ignoring just about anything George Tenet told them.

* The Bush administration relied heavily on an Iraqi exile, Ahmed Chalabi… The same INC-supplied “intelligence” used in the White House propaganda effort (you got that bit right, Scott) also was fed to dozens of U.S. and foreign news organizations.

I can’t comment on Chalabi, as I don’t know how much they relied on him. I simply know what the administration’s publicly stated case was; and I can’t find any part of it that was inaccurate, other than the quantity of chemical weapons and the intended use of aluminum tubes. And frankly, I’m not convinced that the quantity of chemical weapons was inaccurate; there’s some evidence that such weapons were found but not categorized as WMDs (because the shells weren’t filled, the chemical agents were still in barrels,) and some more evidence suggesting they might have been moved.

* It all culminated in a speech by Secretary of State Colin Powell to the U.N. Security Council in February 2003 making the case against Saddam. Virtually every major allegation Powell made turned out later to be wrong.

To be sure, that wasn’t the culmination of anything other than an attempt to involve the UN. The real culmination was the President’s State of the Union address the previous month, which was pretty accurate (yes, even the famous 16 words that they later wimped out and waffled on. Hussein was attempting to purchase uranium, and British intelligence did tell us this.) But Powell’s report documented Iraqi efforts to sidestep inspectors, which was true. It documented that Hussein never intended to cooperate with the UN, which we know to have been true. It documented comments that many of the weapons had been evacuated; no evidence rebutting this has ever been presented, and it explains why we didn’t find stockpiles of chemical weapons. It documented weapons sites that had held weapons, but were empty when the UN inspectors arrived; there’s no reason to doubt this. “Virtually every allegation Powell made turned out later to be wrong?” They wish.

* The Bush administration tried to link Saddam to al Qaida and, by implication, to the 9/11 attacks.

I listened to several broadcasts in which Vice President Cheney stated very, very clearly that they did not believe Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks; they did believe, however, that he was involved in financing and abetting international terrorists. This turned out to have been correct.

* An exhaustive review of Saddam Hussein’s regime’s own documents, released in March 2008, found no operational relationship between Saddam and al Qaida.

The same review found extensive relationships between Hussein’s regime and international terrorist groups, both explicit and implicit, and found an indirect relationship with al Qaeda. This report confirmed nearly everything the Bush administration had been saying about Iraq’s involvement in international terrorism. The extent of McClatchy’s sheer, outright lying on this subject has been documented earlier on this blog.

* The Bush administration failed to plan for the rebuilding of postwar Iraq, as we were perhaps the first to report.

That they failed to plan is simply false. That the plan was not so good, is true. The error of Paul Bremer’s approach to post-war Iraq is pretty well documented by now. We’ve adjusted. It’s working better now.

The claim that the Bush administration was somehow criminally negligent in its approach to the Iraq war, and got everything wrong, is false in nearly every particular. There are a few items they got wrong in the run-up, which is inevitable when relying on foreign intelligence. There are a lot more items they got exactly right. What we’re looking at in the McClatchy article is a hit job against a fairly ordinary administration. Scott McClellan adds nothing but another assenting voice to the worst, most incharitable interpretation of what was actually a fairly sensible policy process.

Update: Doug Feith, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy during the Bush administration, wrote a much more cogent book than Scott McClellan about the decision-making process in the run-up to the Iraq war, entitled War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism. He addresses the inaccuracies of leftist memes like the McClatchy screed much more credibly than I ever could, by virtue of the fact that he was involved personally. Visit the web site he set up for marketing the book, which contains a number of since-declassifed source documents. Also, note the distinction between the press’ reception of Feith’s remarkably accurate insider account with that of McClellan’s: Both the Washington Post and the New York Times refused to review Feith’s book, which disputes the leftist line.

05/28/2008 (8:28 am)

What Happened?

Politico last night posted a preview of Scott McClellan’s tattler book “What Happened”, about his stint as White House Press Secretary from 2003-2006. As I read Mike Allen’s report, my reaction was ironically similar to the title of the book: “What happened to this guy?”

I haven’t read the book, so I can only go by Allen’s report. However, judging from the bullet points Allen emphasizes, the book adds nothing to the history of the events. What’s remarkable about the book is what Allen expresses here:

McClellan repeatedly embraces the rhetoric of Bush’s liberal critics…

There are no new facts. McClellan simply gives in and say, “Yes, liberal press, all things were as you said.” The reasonable question is, “Why does he do that?”

This book is today’s blog troupe chatter, and the most common theme among them is “we don’t think much of Scott McClellan.” Those who agree with his interpretation of the events wonder why he didn’t complain at the time, or why he kept the job so long. Those who disagree remember him as a weak press secretary, too easily cowed by the liberals in the press.

It’s the last that strikes me as the most relevant; I suppose McClellan grew tired tying to gut out principled opposition to the propaganda machine — the press’, not the President’s — and decided to suck up to the “popular” kids instead by repeating their words. It won’t work. As he might have learned in junior high school, sucking up doesn’t make you popular, it just earns you the status of a despised hound.

It’s not as though we didn’t have to patiently rebut the leftloons’ faux outrage already, about such bosh as the President “outing” a “covert agent,” something liberal icons do without qualm whenever it serves their purpose and liberal robots dutifully accept as virtuous. However, McClellan’s psychic collapse will make their propaganda all that much more tiresome to rebuff; “Even his own people admit…” when in fact, it looks as though his own people simply wearied of standing for the truth and began reciting the mantras. I can see McClellan as Winston in 1984, facing the President and confessing, “I betrayed you.”

05/21/2008 (6:05 pm)

Why I'm Conservative, Why I'm Christian

I have to say it: Ted Kennedy came home to Hyannis yesterday after having been diagnosed with a brain tumor. What’s missing from the blogosphere? Declarations of glee at his misfortune. Instead of the barking of hungry hyenas that we hear from the Left when misfortune befalls one of their opponents, the folks I know on the right are praying for the Kennedys. Read this reflection from the Anchoress:

I’ve read a few messages from people who, while wishing Kennedy no evil, also cannot find it within themselves to pray for him. Actually a lot of people are struggling with that, for various reasons. A friend confessed to me that her dithering about praying for Kennedy has forced some introspection – the good old Catholic notion of “examining the conscience” forced her to look at where she was lacking. But of course, taking the time to make that examination, and to locate her fault, helped her to move past it and to find herself both willing and able to pray for Kennedy and for his family. It is funny how locating our own beams make it easier to look past other’s splinters.

I had some trouble praying for the man, myself. He’s my enemy, and stands for things all decent people hate. But the truth is, there isn’t one of us who doesn’t need grace. I hope he finds it. Honestly, I do.

Meanwhile, if you read to the bottom of the Anchoress’ article, you’ll hear a leftie wishing that it was Bush who was terminal.

It’s good to be reminded that I’m hanging with the right people.

Update: A Christian brother of mine from the other side of the country is very upset with me for this post, and I don’t completely disagree with him about it. His concern is, what sort of message does it send when a Christian says, as I did here, “See how good we’re being?”

I actually realized the difficulty before I posted the original message. It’s a function of the inherent conflict between being a Christian tasked with loving everyone the way God loves them, and being a columnist tasked with observing the culture candidly. Frequently I say things here on my blog that I would hesitate to say to anybody face to face.

I’m not sure how to resolve this. It’s my sincere opinion that the American political debate features one party attempting rational discourse, however imperfectly, and one party throwing rocks in an increasingly demented rage. I can’t help but point it out.

On the other hand, it’s also my sincere opinion that every single one of us deserves hell, and that the moral distance between good humans and bad humans is infinitely smaller than the moral distance between the best humans and what God created us to be. Lest anybody mistake my intent, let me say it plainly: I don’t believe I deserve grace any more than Senator Kennedy does. And I’m appropriately shamed by my satisfaction with saying “We’re better than you.” But it doesn’t change my opinion: the conservative response to Kennedy’s misfortune is better by far than the liberal response to similar misfortunes of their adversaries in the past. If it’s a sin on my part to say so, then God grant me repentance; but my opinion is sincere, and I’m standing by it.

04/25/2008 (12:20 pm)

A Defeat for the Conspiracy Theorists

Retiring Senator Pete Dimenici (R, NM) received a “qualified admonition” yesterday from the Senate Ethics Committee for making a phone call to US Attorney David Iglesias regarding a corruption case involving Democrats during the run-up to the 2006 election, according to Politico. Basically, the Ethics Committee scolded Sen Domenici “You shouldn’t have made the phone call,” but the administrative wrist-slap demonstrates that the committee has nothing resembling evidence that Domenici committed an obstruction of justice.

From the Washington Post’s report:

“You should have known that a federal prosecutor receiving such a telephone call, coupled with an approaching election which may have turned on or been influenced by the prosecutor’s actions in the corruption matter, created an appearance of impropriety that reflected unfavorably on the Senate,” the committee wrote in a three-page letter signed by the three Democrats and three Republicans on the panel.

Democrats have been creating political theater over the firing of 8 US Attorneys in the middle of President Bush’s 2nd term, an act that is in no way illegal and unusual only in that it usually happens at the beginning of a president’s term. The call from Domenici to Iglesias was the only part of the matter that had even the appearance of impropriety. Naturally, the Bush-Deranged ranted interminably about the absence of the rule of law under Bush (something they apparently learned about between 2000 and 2007, as they seemed remarkably unconcerned about the rule of law before 2000). They’re awfully quiet today; Memeorandum shows no responses from the blogs concerning this story. They got their political payoff last year, making a false accusation in public in such a manner as it will stick in the minds of voters. Next year they’ll be recalling the Bush administration’s “war on the rule of law,” and conveniently failing to mention that the most egregious violation came from a Senator, not from the White House, and turned out to be nothing but a badly timed phone call.

The dispute between Senator DiMenici and US Attorney Iglesias involved the Senator’s perception that Iglesias was not sufficiently aggressive in investigating voter fraud involving Democrats prior to the 2006 election. DiMenici and fellow Senator Heather Wilson (R, NM) apparently both made phone calls to Iglesias asking about the status of the investigations. The investigation of Sen. Wilson continues.

04/09/2008 (5:38 am)

Petraeus: Much Progress, Much Work Remaining

General David Petraeus delivered a cautious but positive report to Congress yesterday regarding the progress of the Multinational Forces in establishing the new republic of Iraq. According to Petraeus, violence is down and Iraqis are seeking peaceful alternatives to fighting with each other, but the progress is fragile and reversible. Ambassor Ryan Crocker also testified, praising Iraq’s growing economy and functioning government. Both noted that Iran must be closed out of internal Iraqi politics, and counseled a pause in drawing down troops.

The text of Petraeus’ testimony is here, and the text of Crocker’s testimony is here, both in pdf format. Click on the image below to see Gen. Petraeus’ slides. Content courtesy of Bill Roggio’s Long War Journal.

Meanwhile, the leftward blogs have been going berserk over a silly question from Sen. Joe Biden and its answer by Ambassador Crocker, acknowledging that the al Qaeda presence on the Afghan-Pakistan border is greater than the al Qaeda presence in Iraq, a factoid that any astute 13-year-old could have told us. See the video here on Salon.com, and watch the Victory Dance at Hullaballo, where the headline hyperventilates, “Joe Biden Just Obliterated Every Administration Argument About Iraq.” It’s typical of the talking points top Democrat operatives feed the Echo Chamber — factually true, logically irrelevant. The Democratic base doesn’t understand the concept, “relevance,” so they’ll recite the irrelevant point ad nauseum as though anybody can see how it simply ends the debate. In a sense, they’re right: reciting an irrelevant talking point and refusing to respond to intelligent discussion does, in fact, end any possibility of debate among adults. It’s easy being a Democrat.

The left’s complaints about the war have always had the character of children who watch too much TV: if the show isn’t over in 1 hour, and getting the Bad Guy doesn’t tie things up neatly, it’s time to change the channel. Al Qaeda is only one of dozens of players in the global war against radical Islam, and a stable Iraq can yield long-term benefits that may change hundreds of millions of Muslim minds — but the leftists just want to get the Bad Guy so the show can end.

I found the testimonies of Petraeus and Crocker enlightening and informative, with several details about Iraq that don’t ordinarily make it into the press reports. They’re worth a read.

03/17/2008 (9:41 am)

DOJ, An Inversion In Progress

Old news, I know, but since DayByDay drew attention to my screeching inversion nomenclature over the weekend and distorted my viewer metrics, I had to note this morning’s appearance of another tiresome diatribe from Scott Horton at Harper’s, the latest installment in the fringe Left’s nonstop manufacture of scandals against the Bush administration.

The heart of the current screeching inversion is this soulful, heartfelt protestation of pure motives, drawn from deep within the Democratic party’s heart for the institutions of American justice:

Were political considerations allowed to trump the proud heritage of non-partisan, independent prosecutions in a Justice Department widely trusted as the guardian of civil rights? Did the White House or senior Justice Department officials direct the removal of U.S. Attorneys for failing to satisfy local partisans or to retaliate for certain public corruption prosecutions? Have officials lied to cover up wrongdoing and to avoid criminal prosecution? Can the damage to the Justice Department be undone, restoring the role of federal prosecutors as disdainful of politics and devoted to accountability, fairness, and the firm execution of the nation’s laws?

Clearly so, says Horton. The Bush Legacy is pure, partisan justice:

Perhaps the hallmark of the administration of justice in the Bush era is its complete politicization. No aspect of the process of law enforcement seems beyond the reach of political meddling.

The problem with this, of course, is that there are plenty of us around with clear memories of the 1990s. In my memory, there had never been a Justice Department more obviously politicized than Janet Reno’s. It appeared then, and remains in my memory now, that Reno’s primary role was to deflect investigations from the Clinton White House; who can forget FBI Director Louis Freeh begging Congress to override his boss (Reno) and allow him to investigate the Chinese Connection in the 1996 campaign financing scams? It’s widely observed that Donald Smaltz, Special Prosecutor in the Tyson Chicken bribery scandal, found evidence of White House involvement in the matter, but was denied an extension of scope that would have enabled him to follow up the investigation — by Janet Reno. And to this day, my opinion is that when Reno was unable, after three years of stonewalling, to stop the investigation into Whitewater and Madison Guarantee, she did her best to destroy the Starr Commission by piling additional tasks onto it, making it additionally responsible for half a dozen investigations which were not part of its original purview, complaining about the resulting years wasted and millions of dollars spent, and declaring all those other investigations “settled” when Starr was unable to pay them the attention they deserved.

Even the very act of selecting US Attorneys was more highly politicized then than it is now. The American Spectator quotes an unnamed Clinton administration operative (emphasis mine):

“We knew the political affiliation of every lawyer and political appointee we hired at the Department of Justice from January 1993 to the end of the Administration,” says a former Clinton Department of Justice political appointee. “We kept charts and used them when it came time for new U.S. Attorney nominations, detailee assignments, and other hiring decisions. If you didn’t vote Democrat, you weren’t going anywhere with us. It was that simple.

In fact, according to this source, at least 25 career DOJ lawyers who were identified as Republicans were shifted away from jobs in offices they held prior to January 1993 and were given new “assignments” which were deemed “noncritical” or “nonpolitically influential.” When these jobs shifts came to light in 1993, neither the House nor Senate Judiciary committees chose to pursue an investigation.

“The difference between then and now, is that they [Department of Justice] didn’t coordinate so openly with the White House,” says a former Clinton White House staffer. “Remember, we had our own separate database that we could cross check if we had names. Everybody today forgets about the databases we created inside the White House. It’s funny no one talks about that anymore. We were doing stuff far more aggressively than this White House or the Department of Justice did.

The point, of course, is not that “they did it too” makes it ok. The point is that Democrats are lying when then say they care about the purity of the Justice Department mission. They don’t care; they watched the department become a partisan tool through the 1990s and not only said nothing, but were offered the opportunity to defend the non-partisan role of the Department of Justice and specifically refused to investigate.

Today, they want us to think that the Evil Bush Administration invented politicized justice — when nothing of the sort is going on. By contrast, what seems to have gone on at the Bush administration is simply that some of the political holdovers from the Clinton days were dragging their feet in the pursuit of priorities established under the Bush administration’s Justice Department, and were fired — appropriately. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, now thankfully only a bad memory, handled the announcement of the handful of US Attorney firings badly, rather than stating his intentions clearly. One Senator, Pete Domenici, probably sought improperly to influence a case; he’s out of the Senate, so there will probably be no indictment.

In my humble opinion, the true, lasting epitaph on the Bush administration will turn out to be “They knew the Executive bureaucracy was riddled with plants from the Clinton years, but never figured out how to protect themselves from them.” The result has been a steady stream of screeching inversion fodder: one “crisis” after another that turn out to have been generated by Democrat opponents lodged within the Executive branch.

Scott Horton and his ilk are working overtime attempting to create the illusion of corruption around the Bush Justice Department. At some level they have to know that they’re deliberately granting the Clinton Justice Department a pass, and trying to pretend that what we’re seeing in the Bush administration is insidious and unique, not a fairly innocuous correction of a distortion introduced during the Clinton years. They may eventually pull it off, simply because they continue to screech.

03/02/2008 (8:28 pm)

The Latest "60 Minutes" Debacle

Sixty Minutes has attempted to make a national issue out of the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. They ran a report last week implying that he was railroaded into prison simply because he was a Democrat. There’s been considerable chatter about the story this week.

I’ve stayed out of it because I was trying to gather facts about the case, rather than simply jump to a conclusion. I’d already tapped into Scott Horton’s series of articles at Harper’s, and was wondering if there was anything to it. Horton reads like a bad day at the Daily Kos, and consistently says insanely silly things, but that doesn’t prove he’s 100% wrong (suggests it, but doesn’t prove it). For my part, I prefer to find out the facts before I call somebody a liar.

I’m satisfied now. Among other reasons, I found Eddie Curran, the reporter from the Mobile Press Register who uncovered and reported on most of the scandals that eventually led to Siegelman’s indictment and conviction, along with the convictions of half a dozen other participants in the pay-for-play scams these guys were running. Curran wrote a letter to the producers of the 60 Minutes piece that ripped them more new orifices than I’ve ever seen on a group of human beings; it was a stunning and thorough denunciation. The short version is that the 60 Minutes piece implied things that they had to know were false, and relied on testimonies from individuals who had no specific knowledge of the case. Not that I ever take anything 60 Minutes says at face value — I learned how dishonest they were back in the 1980s, and have not watched them since — but if Rathergate wasn’t enough for some of you, this letter should convince you that 60 Minutes does not belong in the “journalism” category.

The sum of Curran’s reporting on the Siegelman case and related scandals is here. For what it’s worth, I lived in Mobile, AL for about 11 years, and acknowledge that the Press Register is a legitimate and reasonably professional newspaper.

In addition to Curran’s letter, Power Line did a remarkably thorough job of dismantling Jill Simpson’s testimony. Simpson is a small-town attorney who, after providing sworn testimony to investigators claiming only peripheral involvement, stated on 60 Minutes that Karl Rove instructed her to gather dirt on Siegelman, and that she heard him say he was going to “get Siegelman.” Short version: everybody who was directly involved in the matter says she’s making up whatever part they know about, including Siegelman himself. Jill Simpson is, to put it bluntly, demented, and not credible.

Let’s state a few facts: Don Siegelman is guilty. He was found guilty in a court of law. The “guilty” verdict was not a surprise to anybody following the case. Siegelman was not the only person convicted in the mess; also convicted was HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy, and three additional defendants in the same scheme pleaded guilty: Alabama businessman and consultant Clayton “Lanny” Young, former Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Acting Director Nick Bailey and architect William Curtis Kirsch. This was not a small scheme, and the amounts of money involved were not small.

From the FBI’s conviction announcement:

Siegelman was convicted of mail fraud arising from a pay-for-play scheme in which he exchanged official acts and influence for cash, property, and services from Alabama businessman and consultant Clayton “Lanny” Young. The jury found that Siegelman took thousands of dollars in bribes from Young to aid Young’s business interests, including the awarding of contracts to companies controlled by Young. The jury also found Siegelman and Scrushy guilty of crimes arising from a bribery scheme in which Scrushy paid Siegelman $500,000 in laundered funds to obtain a seat on a state regulatory board governing HealthSouth.

There’s also a decent summary of the crimes here. Pardon the partisan blather at that site, it’s the best summary of the crimes I found on short notice.

The griping about the Siegelman case is really about the Democrats’ continuing obsession with the Justice Department under George W. Bush. The political Left is simply unable to cope with the fact that when Republicans are running the Justice Department, Republicans get to set the agenda for the department, and it does not have to be the same agenda that Democrats were pursuing — especially when the Democrats’ agenda included turning a blind eye to every possible instance of Democrat election fraud. In order to sustain the delusion, many on the far left have convinced themselves that any conviction of a Democrat has to have been the result of Republican dirty dealing; no other explanation can possibly account for it. Consequently, they invent conspiracies that defy imagination, and then proceed to slander honest jurists and US attorneys, not to mention Karl Rove.

The scary part is that since they control a huge percentage of news reporting, including slime producers like 60 Minutes, they stand a fair chance of convincing the voting public that their delusions are reality. We live in frightening times.

Whatever else you hear, remember this: Siegelman was convicted in a court of law, of crimes with several other defendants who pleaded guilty. This was not an imaginary crime. Nobody was railroaded anywhere. If the topic comes up, make sure you assert this with confidence, because it’s true.

01/14/2008 (6:20 pm)

The Left Goes Racist… and Blames the Right

The leftward blogosphere is aflame over the apparent race-baiting comments being casually dropped by the Clinton campaign, and the return fire from the Obama Campaign. And it’s all our fault.

Huffington Post reprinted a memo allegedly obtained from the Obama campaign in SouthCarolina, citing 5 separate instances where Ms. Clinton, her husband, or someone considered a shill for her campaign used a phrase that could easily be taken as a racist reference (the blog post says “here’s the link,” but the actual memo is reproduced at the end of the post; it’s a little confusing). Michelle Malkin lays out the whole squabble with her usual thoroughness.

Now comes the fun part:

Jane Hamsher at FireDogLake is banging her head against the wall… “How stupid can they be?”

…it’s stupid and shortsighted. Just because the Republicans will go there in the general is not a reason to start now.

Think Progress is denouncing Bob Kerry for resurrecting a right-wing smear:

This evening on CNN’s The Situation Room, former Sen. Bob Kerrey asserted that Barack Obama had spent time “in a secular madrassa” and argued this was a “tremendous strength” for Obama…

Note to Kerrey: Barack Obama never attended a “secular madrassa”… The claim that Obama attended a madrassa didn’t come from blogs, but rather from right-wing outlets.

Bob Shaheen was fired for warning about what the Republicans are going to do to Obama:

The Republicans are not going to give up without a fight … and one of the things they’re certainly going to jump on is his drug use,” said Shaheen…Shaheen said Obama’s candor on the subject would “open the door” to further questions. “It’ll be, ‘When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?’” Shaheen said. “There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It’s hard to overcome.”

Notice the repetition: they’re dropping their bombs inside containers discussing what the Republicans are going to say.

Note to Democrats: your guys are saying it, not ours.

Particularly dishonest is the jibe about the source of the Madrassa story. Think Progress blames this on Insight Magazine, and on Fox News for repeating the “lie.” But the Insight and Fox reports were about claims coming from inside the Clinton campaign. From Insight:

An investigation of Mr. Obama by political opponents within the Democratic Party has discovered that Mr. Obama was raised as a Muslim by his stepfather in Indonesia. Sources close to the background check, which has not yet been released, said Mr. Obama, 45, spent at least four years in a so-called Madrassa, or Muslim seminary, in Indonesia.

“He was a Muslim, but he concealed it,” the source said. “His opponents within the Democrats hope this will become a major issue in the campaign.”

And from Fox, a transcript from John Gibson’s “The Big Story”:

The New York senator has reportedly outed Obama’s madrassa past. That’s right, the Clinton team is reported to have pulled out all the stops to reveal something Obama would rather you didn’t know: that he was educated in a Muslim madrassa.

Once you’ve created a demon suit for your opponent, it’s convenient to don it while doing the nefarious things you’ve claimed your opponent is evil enough to do.

I’ve been politically aware since I was a teenager, almost 40 years. In all that time, the only public displays of outright racial hatred I’ve seen have come from the Left. Remember the “lawn jockey” depiction of Clarence Thomas? Remember Condi Rice as a thick-lipped parrot on George Bush’s finger? Ann Coulter sniffed out the veiled racism and misogyny of the Democrats’ talking points: after years of riffing about how stupid George Bush is and how the evil Neocons handle him, they finally found somebody they think he handles, and it’s the black chick.

Trent Lott gave up a Senate leadership role for approving Strom Thurmond’s sensible policy positions, not realizing that some would think he was referring to Jim Crow laws rather than law-and-order and limited government. Lott made an error. But these racist shots coming from the alleged Party of Racial Tolerance are not errors, they’re mean-spirited cheap shots, and they’re made assuming they’ll have meaning to Democrat voters. And it’s about time the Democrats gave up their lying, and admitted what’s becoming increasingly evident:

All the racists are Democrats. And it appears that the Democrats know it.

01/11/2008 (11:41 am)

Sawing the Limb Where They're Sitting

Remember Diebold Dementia? It’s BAAAAAAAAAACK…

Only, this time, it’s pointed at Democrats.

Starting around the 2004 elections, nutroots began screeching about electronic voting machines being used to steal elections. Never mind that there are zero recorded instances of this ever being carried out. Never mind that actual, documented voter frauds seem always to come from the Left. No. BusHitler is stealing the elections. We know because… um… the President of the company who makes the machines is a Republican! Yes! We’ve proved it!

Well, they’re at it again. The blog site “Cadillac Tight” published the first collection, and then a number of major right-wing blogs jumped on the bandwagon.

I like Texas Rainmaker the best:

The news really isn’t that the nutroots are again blaming electoral defeat on conspiracy theories… but that they’re highlighting the fact that Democrats are out there trying to commit election fraud today. Quite the admission.

And now, responding to the flurry of Diebold Delusions, Dennis Kucinich has requested a recount.

I’ve already said that I think it’s possible the ballot box got stuffed somehow, so I’m glad of the investigation attention. Ms. Clinton received almost 10% more votes than polls predicted, while every other poll prediction was accurate. But.. Diebold? I’m more inclined to think “Clinton,” since frauds just keep coming up surrounding Clinton campaigns. But that’s just my Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy membership talking…

Update: This remarkably sane liberal posits reasons to believe Diebold had nothing to do with it. What has me scratching my head is his or her insistence on paper ballots. Paper ballots can’t be created fraudulently? He’s never heard of stuffing the ballot box? I’m sorry, but turning Luddite doesn’t solve the corruption problem.

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