Filtered news 6/24

"Democrat presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich is heading an impeach Dick Cheney movement. How many heart attacks has Cheney had? Five? Six? If you want to get rid of this guy just buy him a cheeseburger." ---Jay Leno

"Republican presidential candidates Sam Brownback and Tom Tancredo both promise that if they are elected president, they will pardon Scooter Libby. Sorry, Scooter . . . You are going to jail." ---Conan O'Brien

"Let's begin tonight in Iraq, where the United States armed, sorry...coalition forces are staging a massive attack against al Qaeda in the Diyala province, now considered Iraq's most violent region. Which is something akin to being, say, The Village People's gayest member." ---Jon Stewart

Bouncing toward the dustbin of history. Say this about George Walker Bush: you might not like him but at least ya know where he stands. And right now he stands at , the lowest approval rating of any president except Richard Nixon. But I gotta give him credit---he's working damn hard to earn it. You think destroying a republic in eight years is easy? He must be plumb tuckered out by now, and yet you know he won't be satisifed 'til he's in single digits. My money's on 9-point-9 by next April.

I'm shocked, I tell you -- Oh forget it. Strikingly, the big "sweep" against al-Qaeda failed for that this technique always fails, both in previous iterations in Iraq, and also in other counterinsurgency situations around the world and throughout history.

Why we should fear for America As part of its cover story on "what you need to know now," Newsweek conducted a broad poll on a variety of political and cultural affairs. There were plenty of interesting results, but was particularly noteworthy.

Even today, more than four years into the war in Iraq, as many as four in ten Americans (41 percent) still believe Saddam Hussein's regime was directly involved in financing, planning or carrying out the terrorist attacks on 9/11, even though no evidence has surfaced to support a connection. A majority of Americans were similarly unable to pick Saudi Arabia in a multiple-choice question about the country where most of the 9/11 hijackers were born. Just 43 percent got it right -- and a full 20 percent thought most came from Iraq.

For that matter, one in five Americans (20%) believe that we did find chemical/biological weapons "hidden by Saddam Hussein's regime."

Perhaps most troubling, the number of people who are confused about Iraq's non-existent role in the 9/11 attacks has gone up in recent years. When Newsweek asked the same question in the fall of 2004, 36% said Saddam Hussein was "directly involved" with the attacks. Nearly three years later, that number is 41%. Sure, Bush administration officials have been careless with their rhetoric, leading to some confusion. And sure, there were probably some Fox News viewers included in the poll, skewing the numbers. But that still doesn't explain a result like this one.

Do we need another know-nothing Commander in Chief?

The fact is, Giuliani has no idea what he's talking about. On the campaign trail he says that the terrorist threat "is something I understand better than anyone else running for president." As the mayor of New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, he may have lived more intimately with the consequences of terrorism, but this has no bearing on his inexperience or his scant insight in the realm of foreign policy. He is, in fact, that most dangerous would-be world leader: a man who doesn't seem to know how much he doesn't know.

Hmmm. That reminds me of somebody. But who? Push? Tush? Schmush? Something like that.....

By the way, the academic name for this is the Impress your friends by knowing this! Dunning and Kruger, in a famous series of tests, found that "Incompetent individuals, compared with their more competent peers, will dramatically overestimate their ability and performance relative to objective criteria." Also: "They will be less able than their more competent peers to recognize competence when they see it — be it their own or anyone else's." In other words, the halfwits of the world all think they're geniuses. But you knew that already, didn't you?

Pastry Nazis. Bangor International Airport is a frequent stop for troops returning from Iraq, and they've always been welcomed by local "Maine Troop Greeters" offering homemade "cookies, brownies, doughnuts, fudge, candy and even strawberries." Thanks to airport authorities, that practice has come to an abrupt end. Why? Because after enduring months of IED explosions, flying bullets, chaos, hysteria, blinding sandstorms, shattered limbs, crappy food, busted equipment, swarms of bugs, pestilence, dysentery, insufferable heat and horrifying images that will haunt their dreams for decades, America's finest might . War is hell.

And for no damn reason at all

Wile E. Coyote at war. U.S. Military commanders say they're around Baghdad. Unfortunately, a must-read TIME magazine article reveals that our kids over there are . This is what we're up against:

Insurgent groups have had four years' practice in making and camouflaging IEDs. The bombs are especially hard to detect in crowded urban areas full of potholes, drains and sewers. The abundance of garbage on Baghdad's streets can defeat devices meant to locate bombs in relatively uncluttered locales. [...]

One common tactic is to hide bombs in loose rubble, then stack human feces on top; soldiers are less likely to investigate too closely. Other tactics are more complex. In some neighborhoods militants use snipers to lure soldiers toward IEDs. The bombs are hidden in places where the troops would tend to take cover when under fire---behind a hedge or a pile of bricks. Senior Iraqi police officials report that militants hide bombs in human cadavers, dumping them on the street and detonating them when a military or police patrol stops for an inspection. "They know that we can't just leave a body to rot in the street," a police official says. "They are counting on us to do the right thing, then hit us when we do."

Nice job, neocons. Thanks to you we got our asses handed to us by piles of shit and dead people. It's Miller time!

Misogyny It's one thing to project misogyny onto the public-at-large and question whether they're willing to support a woman for president, it's quite another to question whether the mere presence of women Why is Tweety on TV?

Bigotry on parade It's so classy, how Bush to clean up after the politicians.

I want to thank our Chef, Paul Prudhomme, from New Orleans, Louisiana -- one of the great chefs in America. Thanks for coming, Paul. (Applause.) I thank Tony Snow and his bunch of, well, mediocre musicians -- (laughter) -- no, great musicians. Beats Workin, thanks for coming. (Applause.) Kermit, come up here. Kermit, we're proud to have you.

MR. RUFFINS: Well, thanks for having us.

THE PRESIDENT: Kermit Ruffins and the Barbeque Swingers, right out of New Orleans, Louisiana. (Applause.)

MR. RUFFINS: Thank you. Thanks for having us. We're glad to be here.

THE PRESIDENT: Proud you're here. Thanks for coming. You all enjoy yourself. Make sure you pick up all the trash after it's over. (Laughter.)

Lies and the Lying Liars

I knew the GOP was hard up, but I had no idea it was this bad. According to this in the San Francisco Chronicle, the California GOP has hired as its chief operating officer, an Australian national who the Department of Homeland Security has been trying to deport for repeated immigration violations. As recently as Februrary, Michael Kamburowski, was working, rather haplessly, as a real estate agent in the Domincan Republic until he "ran away without mentioning anything to us," according to his one-time boss, Rico Pester, the owner of Re/Max Island Realty, in the resort town of Punta Cana. (Said his : "With his attention to detail, laid-back yet professional approach, and sense of humor, Michael will smoothen the road to your dream property in Punta Cana.")

Perhaps it is somehow implicitly redundant to note that in the second half of the 1990s Kamburowski was working for Grover Norquist on immigration policy, tort reform and 'paycheck protection' before becoming the executive director of Norquist's Reagan Legacy Project.

Along the way there were a couple of hasty marriages leading shortly to his new brides submitting "Petition for Alien Relative" forms to get him citizenship, various stints as an "aspiring actor" and even a stay at the Wackenhut Correctional Facility in Jamaica, New York courtesy of the Department of Homeland Security.

In addition to his work running the California Republican party he is also suing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency for "significant financial hardship" and "severe emotional stress and embarrassment" for trying to have him deported.

Apparently, this wasn't the last of the CA GOP's overseas outreach.

Republican Party Chairman , who hired the afore-mocked Kamburowski, claimed he was not able to find a qualified political director for the California party among the three-hundred-odd million citizens of the United States. Nehring used a H1B visa (the type commonly used by high-tech companies when say they need to hire a foreigner with a skill not possessed by any American) to Christopher Matthews, a Canadian citizen, with no experience in California politics.

Jonah is plainly just a stupid man Matt Yglesias had an mocking Jonah Goldberg for that the media steered clear of embarrassing FDR photos "because the press almost unanimously agreed that -- despite the huge news value -- depicting FDR as a cripple would be bad for the war effort." Since Roosevelt had polio when he took office in 1933, and World War II didn't start until 1941, Yglesias is able to deduce -- using arithmetic -- that perhaps Goldberg is confused.


But as long as we're having fun at Goldberg's expense, let's also take a moment to review his , in which he recommended eliminating the national public school system and replacing it with a private system, subsidized through vouchers. "Consider Washington, home of the nation's most devoted government-lovers and, ironically, the city with arguably the worst public schools in the country. [...] Private, parochial and charter schools get better results. Parents know this."

Condemning the nation's public schools by cherry-picking one troubled school district seems like the basis for a poor argument. For that matter, it's hardly an apples-to-apples comparison -- private schools in DC can discriminate against applicants based on everything from test scores to behavioral problems, while public schools in DC have to take everyone.

But even if we put all of that aside and consider Goldberg's argument at face value, he still : "Students in the D.C. school voucher program, the first federal initiative to spend taxpayer dollars on private school tuition, generally performed no better on reading and math tests after one year in the program than their peers in public schools, the U.S. Education Department said."

And what about Goldberg's contention that charter schools also perform better? Well, Bush's Education Department found that charter schools nationwide , with test scores showing "charter school students often doing worse than comparable students in regular public schools." (The Bush administration responded to the report by announcing it would on the information it collects about charter schools.)

Try again, Jonah.

Army intel officer in court filing.

This case may bear more attention. The apparently highly-qualified chief counsel of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE, the successor agency to the INS) in El Paso, a Mexican-American woman named Guadalupe Gonzalez was repeatedly passed over for an immigration judgeship in favor of white men who were her subordinates. She's for employment discrimination.

Add joke as needed. Fred Thompson to on Tuesday.

Off-target terrorism Jim Henley takes at Mitt Romney's PowerPoint of Terror and the results aren't very pretty. It turns out, for example, that Switzerland isn't under assault by terror groups looking to restore the Caliphate and "defeat the Modernity."

Ever the enabler of criminals and dangerous men, Alberto Gonzales has VP Cheney sustain his claim that he's not part of the executive branch.

This is fun. Senator James Inhofe made a lot of noise today by claiming he overheard Senators Hillary Clinton and Barbara Boxer saying that they want a "legislative fix" for talk radio. One problem: He's now told two versions of the story, and let's just say that they're .

Cheney insanity watch For a White House that has offered a bountiful stream of substantive scandals for six years, the latest dust-up might be the most bizarre. The background details are surprisingly straightforward. In 1995, the Clinton White House issued an executive order establishing uniform rules for protecting classified information. In 2003, the Bush White House revised it. The order plainly includes any executive-branch agency, any military department, and "any other entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information." The entire branch of government, the order said, is subject to oversight.

This week, however, in light of revelations about the White House ignoring its own E.O., the Bush gang started .

The White House said Friday that, like Vice President Dick Cheney's office, President Bush's office is not allowing an independent federal watchdog to oversee its handling of classified national security information. An executive order that Bush issued in March 2003 -- amending an existing order -- requires all government agencies that are part of the executive branch to submit to oversight. Although it doesn't specifically say so, Bush's order was not meant to apply to the vice president's office or the president's office, a White House spokesman said.

Look, I can appreciate the fact that the White House is in a jam here. Bush, Cheney, and the rest of the gang repeatedly mishandled classified materials during a time of war, got caught, ignored their own rules, and is now struggling to rationalize their conduct. When the federal agency responsible for oversight tried to do its job, the Vice President reportedly tried to abolish the agency. This isn't a fact-pattern that's easy to spin. But the explanations thus far have been transparently ridiculous, up to and including the notion that the Vice President, as defined in Article II of the Constitution, isn't actually part of the executive branch of government.

Perhaps it's best to take a moment to summarize the questions that need answers:

* Why did Bush and Cheney abide by the executive order in question in 2001 and 2002, and then stop in 2003? Is it a coincidence they started ignoring the E.O. on handling classified materials just as they started mishandling classified materials?

* Why did Cheney abide by the E.O. in 2001 and 2002 if he's not part of the executive branch?

* Why did the President exempt the Vice President from an executive order he was already following? Why did he later exempt himself?

* When, precisely, did the White House decide that Bush and Cheney should exempt themselves from their own rules?

* Does Bush consider Cheney part of the executive branch? Why has the White House thus far refused to respond to this question? Does the President consider this a trick question?

* In its response to questions about the E.O., why did the White House point to a provision of the E.O. ?

* The White House insists, "" with the E.O. If there is no oversight, and Cheney is unaccountable, how does the White House know?

* In yesterday's press briefing, the president's spokesperson dismissed the oversight provision of the E.O. as "" six times. Does the White House believe only "big" provisions need to be followed? How does the administration make the distinction?

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said yesterday, "Vice President Cheney is expanding the administration's policy on torture to include tortured logic. In the end, neither Mr. Cheney nor his staff is above the law or the Constitution."

At this point, I think they might quibble with that assertion.

In Washington, I think is what one might call a "winning argument." Washington, D.C. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel issued the following statement regarding his amendment to cut funding for the Office of the Vice President from the bill that funds the executive branch. The legislation -- the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill -- will be considered on the floor of the House of Representatives next week.

"The Vice President has a choice to make. If he believes his legal case, his office has no business being funded as part of the executive branch. However, if he demands executive branch funding he cannot ignore executive branch rules. At the very least, the Vice President should be consistent. This amendment will ensure that the Vice President's funding is consistent with his legal arguments. I have worked closely with my colleagues on this amendment and will continue to pursue this measure in the coming days."

Very clever. Good for Rahm. If the Office of the Vice President is a branch unto itself, I'm sure Emanuel will consider Cheney's own appropriations bill, independent of any actual executive-branch spending.

Oh, and Bush is "exempt" too Bwahahahahah You remember from this morning, right?

Bush claims oversight exemption too
The White House says the president's own order on classified data does not apply to his office or the vice president's.
By Josh Meyer, Times Staff Writer
June 23, 2007

WASHINGTON — The White House said Friday that, like Vice President Dick Cheney's office, President Bush's office is not allowing an independent federal watchdog to oversee its handling of classified national security information.

An executive order that Bush issued in March 2003 — amending an existing order — requires all government agencies that are part of the executive branch to submit to oversight. Although it doesn't specifically say so, Bush's order was not meant to apply to the vice president's office or the president's office, a White House spokesman said.

I just thought it was weird to say the order wasn't meant to apply to the President or the Vice President, considering that they appear...


Sec. 1.3. Classification Authority. (a) The authority to classify information originally may be exercised only by:

(1) the President and, in the performance of executive duties, the Vice President;

and here...

[Sec. 1.3.(c)](2) "Top Secret" original classification authority may be delegated only by the President; in the performance of executive duties, the Vice President; or an agency head or official designated pursuant to paragraph (a)(2) of this section.

(3) "Secret" or "Confidential" original classification authority may be delegated only by the President; in the performance of executive duties, the Vice President; or an agency head or official designated pursuant to paragraph (a)(2) of this section; or the senior agency official described in section 5.4(d) of this order, provided that official has been delegated "Top Secret" original classification authority by the agency head.

and here...

[Sec. 3.1.](c) If the Director of the Information Security Oversight Office determines that information is classified in violation of this order, the Director may require the information to be declassified by the agency that originated the classification. Any such decision by the Director may be appealed to the President through the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. The information shall remain classified pending a prompt decision on the appeal.

and here...

[Sec. 3.3.(c) An agency head shall notify the President through the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs of any specific file series of records for which a review or assessment has determined that the information within that file series almost invariably falls within one or more of the exemption categories listed in paragraph (b) of this section and which the agency proposes to exempt from automatic declassification. [...]The President may direct the agency head not to exempt the file series or to declassify the information within that series at an earlier date than recommended. File series exemptions previously approved by the President shall remain valid without any additional agency action."

And... well, you get the idea. The President and/or the Vice President have roles, tasks, responsibilities, obligations and entitlements prescribed for them no less than 30 times in

But... none of it applies to them. No siree, Bob. Move along, people. Nothing to see here. Look! It's the B.F. Goodrich blimp! And it's getting an expensive haircut!

Chaney insanity watch Part II That Dick Cheney is secretive is hardly news, but seeing is striking.

Stealth is among Cheney's most effective tools. Man-size Mosler safes, used elsewhere in government for classified secrets, store the workaday business of the office of the vice president. Even talking points for reporters are sometimes stamped "Treated As: Top Secret/SCI." Experts in and out of government said Cheney's office appears to have invented that designation, which alludes to "sensitive compartmented information," the most closely guarded category of government secrets. By adding the words "treated as," they said, Cheney seeks to protect unclassified work as though its disclosure would cause "exceptionally grave damage to national security."

Across the board, the vice president's office goes to unusual lengths to avoid transparency. Cheney declines to disclose the names or even the size of his staff, generally releases no public calendar and ordered the Secret Service to destroy his visitor logs. His general counsel has asserted that "the vice presidency is a unique office that is neither a part of the executive branch nor a part of the legislative branch," and is therefore exempt from rules governing either. Cheney is refusing to observe an executive order on the handling of national security secrets, and he proposed to abolish a federal office that insisted on auditing his compliance.

Stick it in a time capsule; future generations won't believe it.

Honestly, it's like watching a Twilight Zone episode. Since the outset of the war in Iraq, Bush and his administration have enjoyed almost unfettered control over policy. Everything the president has asked for, the president has received. Of course, more than four years after Bush launched the war, we now know that every decision the administration has made falls into one of three categories: a) wrong; b) tragically wrong; or c) you've-got-to-be-kidding-me wrong. Therefore, when searching for someone to blame for the failures, it's only natural to the one group of Americans who've had no influence on administration policy whatsoever. "IN THE MAIL: Col. Buzz Patterson's War Crimes: The Left's Campaign to Destroy Our Military and Lose the War on Terror. I don't think that the left wants to lose the war on terror, exactly -- they just want Bush to lose the war on terror. I suspect, however, that Patterson's theme is one that we'll hear more in the future, especially if things go badly in Iraq."

As Kevin Drum , "You can almost smell the stink of desperation from the pro-war crowd. The next couple of years is going to be a nonstop frenzy of books, articles, TV shows, op-eds, radio segments, blog posts, and white papers about how everyone except George Bush and his enablers were responsible for our catastrophe in the Middle East." What worries me is that some of these clowns actually believe their talking points. The RNC and Republican lawmakers churn out a lot of nonsense in the hopes of directing attention away from the White House's foreign policy fiascos, pointing the finger at those who had no power to speak of from 2003 to 2006. The rhetoric is more pitiable than infuriating; one gets the sense that GOP flacks know how pathetic it is. But Reynolds, Patterson, and some on the right actually seem to buy into the claptrap. There's a disconcerting sincerity to it. Indeed, Patterson was recently asked, "Surely you're not calling Democrats traitors. Or are you?" To which he responded, "." He did not appear to be kidding.

Dubya's Iraq lie continues The presdent was in Alabama the other day for a couple of events, including a fundraising reception for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who's up for re-election next year. Bush delivered a on Sessions' behalf, but one comment stood out. The president was explaining how his current war policy came together: "I listened very carefully to senators like Jeff Sessions and senators who didn't agree with what Jeff and I believed was necessary. I listened to our military. That's what you want your President doing.... "So I made the decision to name a new commander, as well as send troops into Baghdad, all aiming to give this young democracy a chance to survive the relentless attacks from extremists and radicals who want to prevent their emergence." (emphasis added)

This comes up from time to time, but the president is simply wrong. He makes this claim quite a bit, but Bush didn't shape his policy on the advice of "our military." Remember from January? "When President Bush goes before the American people tonight to outline his new strategy for Iraq, he will be doing something he has avoided since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003: ordering his top military brass to take action they initially resisted and advised against. [...] It may also be a sign of increasing assertiveness from a commander in chief described by former aides as relatively passive about questioning the advice of his military advisers. In going for more troops, Bush is picking an option that seems to have little favor beyond the White House and a handful of hawks on Capitol Hill and in think tanks who have been promoting the idea almost since the time of the invasion." In November, after the election, CentCom commander Gen. John Abizaid rejected the notion of a so-called surge, saying that he "met with every divisional commander, Gen. Casey, the core commander, Gen. Dempsey" and asked them if bringing "in more American troops now, [would] add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq and they all said, 'No.'"

Indeed, Bush fired Gen. Casey, in large part because he neglected to tell the president what he wanted to hear.And yet, here we are, just a few months later, watching Bush brag about how his policy followed the advice of the generals -- which is "what you want your President doing." Please. If Bush wants to reject the advice of top military leaders, that's his prerogative; he is regrettably the Commander in Chief. But he really needs to drop this I-listened-to-our-military schtick.

Sounds "clear" to me. In yesterday's painfully-amusing White House , spokesperson Dana Perino argued, without explanation, that the president exempted Dick Cheney from an Executive Order on preserving classified materials. In fact, she got rather specific about it, telling reporters that on page 18 of the E.O., "There's a distinction regarding the Vice President versus what is an agency." Perino added that this is "clear." MSNBC's Keith Olbermann's staff looked at page 18. Take a wild guess . "No exemption at all for the Vice President on page 18. So we emailed the White House, which referred us to section 1.3 -- which is about something else altogether -- and 5.2 -- which makes no mention of the Vice President. In fact, there is no exemption for the President or the Vice President when it comes to reporting on classified material." Faiz that the language of the E.O. is rather sweeping: "Sec. 6.1(b) of Bush's 2003 executive order governing classified material explicitly states that it applies to any 'Executive agency...any 'Military department'...and any other entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information.'"

I'm sure it's just a coincidence.

, the Acting Associate Attorney General, resigned on June 22, 2007.

, chief of staff to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, resigned on June 15, 2007.

, Alberto Gonzales' White House liaison, resigned on April 6, 2007.

And what do all of these dates have in common? They're all Fridays. (And, in each instance, the resignations were announced in the late afternoon.) The Late-Friday-Media Trick has been around since before Bush took office -- release embarrassing news when it's least likely to get noticed -- but no White House has ever been this shameless.

Neocon media watch Reader SM writes in ... "It's a curious thing that, over the past 10 - 12 days, the news from Iraq refers to the combatants there as "al-Qaida" fighters. When did that happen? Until a few days ago, the combatants in Iraq were "insurgents" or they were referred to as "Sunni" or "Shia'a" fighters in the Iraq Civil War. Suddenly, without evidence, without proof, without any semblance of fact, the US military command is referring to these combatants as "al-Qaida". Welcome to the latest in Iraq propaganda." I don't know if SM's claim is accurate in the particular. But it's very true as a general matter. I've long been amazed at how freely reporters accept it when this or that Arab or Muslim with a gun is labelled as "al Qaida." And the issue is complicated by the fact that a new group -- a post-invasion group with a very uncertain connection to the actual al Qaeda -- has taken the name of al Qaeda in Iraq. But is the standard bamboozle getting ramped up a notch? As Andrew Sullivan noted yesterday, even David Patraeus acts like the whole issue in Iraq now is just al Qaeda and Iranian arming of, I guess, al Qaeda. Otherwise things would be great. This is the sort of thing that requires a close watching of the news and how things are being reported. Is 'insurgent' now being replaced across the board by al Qaeda. Keep an eye out and let us know what you see. We'll do the same.

takes that ball and runs with it:

What is so amazing about this new rhetorical development -- not only from our military, but also from our "journalists" -- is that, for years, it was too shameless and false even for the Bush administration to use. Even at the height of their propaganda offensives about the war, the furthest Bush officials were willing to go was to use the generic term "terrorists" for everyone we are fighting in Iraq, as in: "we cannot surrender to the terrorists by withdrawing" and "we must stay on the offensive against terrorists." .... But now, support for the war is at an all-time low and war supporters are truly desperate to find a way to stay in Iraq. So the administration has thrown any remnants of rhetorical caution to the wind, overtly calling everyone we are fighting "Al Qaeda." This strategy was first unveiled by Joe Lieberman when he went on Meet the Press in January and claimed that the U.S. was "attacked on 9/11 by the same enemy that we're fighting in Iraq today". Though Lieberman was widely mocked at the time for his incomparable willingness to spew even the most patent falsehoods to justify the occupation, our intrepid political press corps now dutifully follows right along.

The root of Cheney's power The article is not explicit, but an underlying theme of the Washington Post's is that his unprecedented power is only possible because Bush is anxious to get out of the way.

Waxing or waning, Cheney holds his purchase on an unrivaled portfolio across the executive branch. Bush works most naturally, close observers said, at the level of broad objectives, broadly declared. Cheney, they said, inhabits an operational world in which means are matched with ends and some of the most important choices are made. When particulars rise to presidential notice, Cheney often steers the preparation of options and sits with Bush, in side-by-side wing chairs, as he is briefed.

Before the president casts the only vote that counts, the final words of counsel nearly always come from Cheney.

"Side-by-side wing chairs"? I'm reminded of the embarrassing point in 2004 in which the President agreed to talk to the 9/11 Commission, but only if Cheney could sit with Bush, and help answer questions, during the discussion.

In 2000, when Bush, an inexperienced governor in a state where the governor has limited power, sought the presidency, his supporters insisted the nation need not worry -- Bush had assembled a team of capable "advisors" who would help guide his hand.

What the equation didn't consider is what happens when the advisors disagree and the President has to make a decision. As the Post's profile makes clear, Bush has spent the better part of the last six years simply going along with Cheney's demands. Dan Quayle characterized this as Cheney taking on the role of "surrogate chief of staff." The reality is more disconcerting -- Cheney has routinely been the "surrogate President," with Bush putting his signature on the VP's ideas (military commissions, domestic warrantless-searches) because the VP told him it was the right thing to do.

Indeed, when it came to ignoring the Geneva Conventions, Cheney made his decision before Bush did.

On Nov. 14, 2001, the day after Bush signed the commissions order, Cheney took the next big step. He told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that terrorists do not "deserve to be treated as prisoners of war."

The president had not yet made that decision. Ten weeks passed, and the Bush administration fought one of its fiercest internal brawls, before Bush ratified the policy that Cheney had declared: The Geneva Conventions would not apply to al-Qaeda or Taliban fighters captured on the battlefield.

Meet George W. Bush, the not-so-innocent bystander of his own presidency.

Need to prune this deadwood William Kristol bills himself as a serious, credible person, and is routinely rewarded by the DC establishment. As Kevin Drum recently , "The Bill Kristol phenomenon is a stellar example of what a nice suit and a sober tone of voice can do for you."

But one need not look too far below the surface to find the .

This morning on Fox News Sunday, Weekly Standard editor William Kristol defended Vice President Cheney's decision to exempt himself from an executive order designed to safeguard classified national security information. Kristol said the exemptions for the president and vice president were "reasonable enough." He called it "a pain in the neck" to have "some bureaucrat" from the National Archives "come and inspect your safe to see whether you're locking it up properly each night."

He did not appear to be kidding.

Let's review: Dick Cheney was bound by a presidential executive order to safeguard classified materials. Cheney ignored the E.O., exempted himself from its instructions, and mishandled secret information. The federal agency responsible for oversight had a few questions about all of this, which Cheney ignored, insisting that he's not part of the executive branch of government. The Vice President then decided he'd like to resolve the questions by eliminating the oversight agency asking them.

Kristol believes this is "reasonable enough"? If Vice President Al Gore had conducted himself the same way, would Kristol come to the same conclusion? (As for some "bureaucrat" checking to see if the OVP properly locked up its safe, we're not just talking about oversight; this deals with the willful mishandling of classified secrets in a time of war. That Kristol takes a rather blase attitude about the whole thing speaks poorly to the right's credibility on national security.)

I've been curious about how the right's leading voices might respond to Cheney's bizarre and rather dangerous arguments. So far, we haven't heard much, except Kristol's ham-fisted nonsense this morning.

The White House's allies will have to do better than this.

Cheney insanity watch Part III In 2001, shortly after his inauguration, Dick Cheney met with Dan Quayle, who had of course served in the same position eight years earlier. Quayle wanted to offer some advice, one vice president to another.

"Dick, you know, you're going to be doing a lot of this international traveling, you're going to be doing all this political fundraising ... you'll be going to the funerals," Quayle said. "We've all done it."

Recalling the conversation, Quayle said Cheney "got that little smile," before replying, "I have a different understanding with the president."

The in the Washington Post today on Cheney's White House role, written by Barton Gellman and Jo Becker, helps demonstrate just how true those comments were. Today's profile helps document the scope and breadth of a Vice President with unprecedented (and largely unchecked) authority. Cheney wanted a "mandate that gave him access to 'every table and every meeting,' making his voice heard in 'whatever area the vice president feels he wants to be active in,'" and, naturally, Bush gave his VP what he requested.

It's hard to know which of the many jaw-dropping anecdotes to highlight, but Cheney's work in establishing military commissions for detainees stood out for capturing all the characteristics of Cheney's hyper-secretive, ruthless, legally-dubious style.

At the White House, Bellinger sent Rice a blunt -- and, he thought, private -- legal warning. The Cheney-Rumsfeld position would place the president indisputably in breach of international law and would undermine cooperation from allied governments. Faxes had been pouring in at the State Department since the order for military commissions was signed, with even British authorities warning that they could not hand over suspects if the U.S. government withdrew from accepted legal norms.

One lawyer in his office said that Bellinger was chagrined to learn, indirectly, that Cheney had read the confidential memo and "was concerned" about his advice. Thus Bellinger discovered an unannounced standing order: Documents prepared for the national security adviser, another White House official said, were "routed outside the formal process" to Cheney, too. The reverse did not apply.

Powell asked for a meeting with Bush. The same day, Jan. 25, 2002, Cheney's office struck a preemptive blow. It appeared to come from Gonzales, a longtime Bush confidant whom the president nicknamed "Fredo." Hours after Powell made his request, Gonzales signed his name to a memo that anticipated and undermined the State Department's talking points. The true author has long been a subject of speculation, for reasons including its unorthodox format and a subtly mocking tone that is not a Gonzales hallmark.

A White House lawyer with direct knowledge said Cheney's lawyer, Addington, wrote the memo. Flanigan passed it to Gonzales, and Gonzales sent it as "my judgment" to Bush. If Bush consulted Cheney after that, the vice president became a sounding board for advice he originated himself.

Cheney and his small team had, by design, excluded the Justice Department, the NSA, and the State Department to create the entire policy, which would also circumvent the federal judiciary.

Occasionally, through a combination of hype and fear, certain public figures are exaggerated into scary, powerful caricatures. And sometimes, the caricatures understate the case. The Cheney profile has enough tidbits for a week's worth of blog posts, but in the meantime, this is obviously a . If you're reading it with Sunday-morning breakfast, keep a bottle of Maalox handy.

Cheney insanity watch Part IV There's nothing wrong with the fact that Dick Cheney is a powerful vice president. Jimmy Carter began the transformation of the vice presidency decades ago when he gave Walter Mondale more than just the veep's usual ribbon cutting and funeral attendance duties, Bush Sr. continued the transformation, and Al Gore took it up yet another notch when he was Bill Clinton's vice president.

That's all fine. Since the vice president is the guy who takes over the country if the president dies, we're all better off if the VP is deeply involved in the operations of the executive. The Washington Post's series on Dick Cheney, however, describes a man who's not just involved, but nearly pathological. The most telling moment comes in a passage that involves Condoleezza Rice, back when she headed up the National Security Council, and her top lawyer, John Bellinger. The subject is Cheney's belief that

At the White House, Bellinger sent Rice a blunt — and, he thought, private — legal warning. The Cheney-Rumsfeld position would place the president indisputably in breach of international law and would undermine cooperation from allied governments. Faxes had been pouring in at the State Department since the order for military commissions was signed, with even British authorities warning that they could not hand over suspects if the U.S. government withdrew from accepted legal norms.

One lawyer in his office said that Bellinger was chagrined to learn, indirectly, that Cheney had read the confidential memo and "was concerned" about his advice. Thus Bellinger discovered an unannounced standing order: Documents prepared for the national security adviser, another White House official said, were "routed outside the formal process" to Cheney, too. The reverse did not apply.

The article doesn't explain how this process happens, but it's astonishing that even the NSC director and her top aides are not allowed to exchange private memos in the Bush/Cheney White House. Apparently the West Wing has been transformed into a panopticon for the benefit of Dick Cheney and his staff: they can watch you, but you can't watch back. Jeremy Bentham's passion for "invisible omniscience" must have struck a chord with them.


June 25, 2007 - 10:14am