Topic: Bush Administraiton
Just when we're all biting our nails to the nub over what Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is going to do about the Plame leak case, Harriet Miers steals the show by withdrawing her name from consideration for the her nomination to the Supreme Court. W., meanwhile, is in Florida with the Jebster helping him to take responsibility for the slow distribution of water, ice and food to people who are lined up for blocks waiting hours for it, sometimes overnight. Jebster wants you to know that, it’s not FEMA's fault! If you all are real good and don't ask any hard questions about the Miers nomination, W. will put on his tool belt and hammer some nails.
Anyway, Miers told Bush in her resignation letter that she felt that since W. had said he wasn't going to cross that "red line" of turning over internal White House documents describing her work involving torture and Gitmo detainees, in particular, she would find it difficult to answer questions that were likely to be asked by the Senate Judiciary Committee, especially by Arlen Specter who wrote to Miers yesterday letting her know he was going to ask her some very involved questions about Guantanamo and her closeness to the president and whether she would have "any special deference on any matter involving him" that might come before the court. (I think what really pushed her over the edge, though, was Concerned Women for America pulling their endorsement. See, they're women and they're concerned, concerned for America. That was a bridge too far for this administration.)
Naturally, keep in mind this was totally Miers' decision, Andy Card had nothing to do with it at all. Asked yesterday whether the White House would withdraw the nomination, Specter said, "Anything is possible, but my sense is her nomination will not be withdrawn. I think it would be a mistake and a sign of weakness on the part of the administration for that to happen." Since she fell on the sword herself, the White House comes out looking like roses, right? That's why W. is out of town today. (Where's the president of Macedonia when you need him?)
The real question about this nomination is why did it take them so long to withdraw her name? ATC had no problem finding Republican senators who had a real tough time saying anything good about Miers and I'm sure the White House has been hearing this for weeks. Richard Wolf, senior White House correspondent for Newsweek, said on Radio Times today that the timing of this had something to do with managing the bad news, getting it all into one bunch, assuming bad things come out of the Plame Grand Jury today or tomorrow and more importantly they need her back in the WH counsel’s office more than they need her in the Supreme Court right now.
The Counsel’s office is completely overwhelmed with defending the administration against FEMA's disastrous management on Katrina, among other things, and it's going to get a lot busier if Libby and Rove need legal help. At present the office is without a head and things are a little chaotic, although word is Miers was partly responsible for a lot of chaos before she left. Wolf also says there's a perverse sense of the "boil being lanced," not having to take a beating from their base over this nominee anymore.
I don't think this administration can take one more thing going wrong. There's Katrina, Iraq, Plame, Miers, DeLay, Frist, and God knows what's going to come out of the Jack Abramoff investigations. There is a definite tipping point here; is Andy Card up to it, because W. is probably going to be out of town a lot.
On the Karina/FEMA front:
The administration had extended Michael Brown's job for another 30 days at his annual $148,000, according to DHS director Michael Chertoff, in order to, "allow the new people who have responsibility...to have access to the information we need to do better." So we're paying this jackass to tell DHS how not to fuck things up next time? It will be interesting to see if they keep paying him when he gets hauled in front of congress to explain the inconsistencies in his testimony under oath, which were exposed by FEMA employee Marty Bahamonde's emails, which show that while he was the only FEMA employee in New Orleans---Brown said there were a dozen and a medical team---while everything fell apart at the Superdome. According to Brown's press secretary he was too busy trying to get some dinner at a Baton Rouge restaurant while the levies were flooding the Big Easy. "OH MY GOD!!!!!!, I just eat an MRE and crapped in the Superdome along with 30,000 other close friends so I understand her concern about busy restaurants." Classic!
On the Gitmo front:
This hunger strike story just won't go away. There are at least 20 detainees on hunger strike, what the pentagon calls, "voluntary fasting," who are being force fed through tubes down their noses. Letta Taylor of Newsday, reports, "The Pentagon has engaged in a new form of medical abuse at Guantanamo Bay by force-feeding detainees on a hunger strike in ways that are deliberately painful and that cause life threatening vomiting and weight loss, defense attorneys say." Lawyers for the detainees have filed complaints in federal court which allege that, "doctors and guards intentionally trust feeding tubes covered in blood and bile from one detainee’s nose into another inmate's nose and that they deny prisoners anesthesia."
A day after John McCain got the anti-torture measure passed, FT reported, "Amnesty International called for an independent body to be given full access to the facilities [at Gitmo] to investigate and report on the allegations," of hunger strikers being force fed by tubes. [BG] "Amnesty said, 'it fully supported' the goals of the hunger strikers---which include the right to a fair trial, contact with families, access to sunlight, and a central demand to observe and report openly on their conditions." How crazy is that? Just because some of them have been in detention for years without any proof that they've ever done anything wrong, why should they be able to talk to their families or see sunlight?
On the day we hit the 2000 benchmark, W. said that these terrorists are as "brutal an enemy as we have ever faced, unconstrained by humanity and by the rules of warfare." So, why should we be constrained by any silly rules or treaties we've signed and have been ratified by the Senate, that the Constitution says is the law of the land? Dick Dick Cheney went up to the Hill last Thursday to try to get McCain to change the language of his anti-torture measure to exempt the CIA from having to abide by the Army's field manual's rules on the treatment of prisoners. The exemption Cheney wants and what McCain rejected, said the measure---passed by the Senate 90-9--- "shall not apply with respect to clandestine counterterrorism operations conducted abroad, with respect to terrorists who are not citizens of the United States, that are carried out by an element of the United States government other than the Department of Defense and are consistent with the Constitution and the laws of the United States and treaties to which the United States is a party, if the president determines that such operations are vital to the protection of the United States or its citizens from terrorist attack."
That a pretty big loophole. McCain said, "I don't see how you could possibly agree to legitimizing an agent of the government engaging in torture. No amendment at all would be better than that." This White House provision would basically endorse torture. Of course, not that the government has ever engaged in torture: just because the ACLU has found from the government’s own records that 21 prisoners have been killed in custody, that's no reason to tie the president's hand in the war on terror. [Hear Tom Wilber, a lawyer for Kuwaiti prisoners at Gitmo, on the feeding tube issue on Here and Now today.]
Reuters reports newly elected Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said at a "World Without Zionism" conference that Israel was a "disgraceful blot" and should be "wiped off the map." Scott McClellan was quick to respond that, "I think it reconfirms what we have been saying about the regime in Iran. It underscores the concerns we have about Iran's nuclear intentions." Number one; I think we should be a lot more concerned about the various Iranian groups operating inside Iraq and their influence on the Iraqi "government" which they appear to have a lot more of than we do these days. Iran's introduction of new and more deadly roadside bombs into Iraq are a much bigger threat to us than whatever some figurehead says at a rally designed for domestic consumption.
What he said was, "There is no doubt that the new wave in Palestine will soon wipe off this disgraceful blot from the face of the Islamic world." It's just the same old lip service every autocratic government in the Middle East pays to the Palestinians. I don't see any imminent threat of a nuclear attack on Israel. Suicide bombers in Israel aren't about to burn Israel in "a fire of the Islamic nation's fury." This Ahmadinejad character is a joke, he doesn't make policy or have anymore pull than Mohammad Katami did. This is much to do about nothing.