Odds and Ends

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Well, it was quite a weekend in Washington D.C. In a previous post, Alex did a fine job of spelling out the facts in the case of ex-Rep. Mark Foley (R-Predator). The only thing that can be added is that Foley has now headed down a familiar path-- as Josh Marshall puts it: "Ahhh, once again, the last refuge of the disgraced House Republican: rehab." Foley's checked himself into rehab for alcoholism, perhaps in preparation for blaming his personal demons on the Demon Rum. (Is it a Church of Scientology rehab program?)

But as Digby reminds us, the Foley story really shouldn't qualify as the biggest scandal of the past week.

If we lived in a nation that wasn't completely dysfunctional, this scandal wouldn't be at the top of the list of scandals that have been revealed just in the last week:

* A new book by the official court scribe describes an administration so inept, unorganized and incoherent that if most people were aware of the details, the president's fear campaign would blow back hard against him. If the terrorists really are coming to kill us in our beds any day now, then we are in deep shit with these guys in charge.
* We have more news this week-end that Karl Rove and the white house were actively and personally involved in all the Jack Abramoff congressional corruption scandals which feature ripping off taxpayers of many millions of dollars.
* It turns out that Bush fired Colin Powell.
* The intelligence community agree that the invasion of Iraq super-charged the extremist jihadist moviement and is fuelling terrorism far more quickly and broadly than we would have had to deal with otherwise.
* We have officially sanctioned torture and the repeal of habeas corpus --- at the least competent president in history's discretion.

I'm sure I've missed something.


Each one of those scandals is full of fascinating details, from the disturbing to the picayune. Take for example, Bob Woodward's new book, State of Denial. Lost in the crowd of other revelations-- most of which are actually just confirmations of what we either already knew or sure as hell suspected-- is the fact that the Watergate-era retreads who are running the country have been turning to disgraced artifacts of Iran-Contra-era for guidance. And I'm not talking about administration fixtures John Poindexter and Elliot Abrams, both of whom would be still be answering to their federal prison id numbers in a just world. No, I'm talking about Manucher Ghorbanifar. From the book:
In Iraq, [chief Iraq weapons inspector] David Kay had a call from Scooter Libby.
"The vice president wants to know if you've looked at this area," Libby said. "We have indications -- and here are the geocoordinates -- that something is buried there."

Kay went to the mapping and imagery experts on his team. They pulled up the satellite and other surveillance photos of the location. It was in the middle of Lebanon.

"That's where we're going next," joked one of the imagery experts.
At another point Kay got a cable from the CIA that the vice president wanted him to send someone to Switzerland to meet with an Iranian named Manucher Ghorbanifar.

"I recognize this one," Kay said when he saw the cable. "This one I'm not going to do."

Ghorbanifar had been the Iranian middleman in the Reagan administration's disastrous secret arms-for-hostages deals in the Iran contra scandal. Though he had been a CIA source in the 1970s, the agency had terminated him in 1983 and the next year issued a formal "burn notice" warning that Ghorbanifar was a "talented fabricator."

This time, Kay read, Ghorbanifar claimed to have an Iranian source who knew all about Iraqi nuclear weapons, but who wanted $2 million in advance, and who would not talk directly to the U.S., only through Ghorbanifar.

Kay discovered the latest Ghorbanifar stunt involved Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute, a former NSC colleague of Oliver North who had been involved with Ghorbanifar in the Iran-contra days.

Kay sent a cable to the CIA saying, "Unless you give me direct instructions to talk to him, I will not have any member of the [Iraq Survey Group] talk to this guy.

The guy is a known fabricator-peddler, and it will ruin someone. If the [Director of Central Intelligence] wants to send me direct instructions to do it, I will of course do it. But it's got to be direct."

The idea was dropped. Cheney was acting as a kind of super-investigator, trying to ferret out the elusive WMD, Kay concluded…(pp. 259-260).


And, of course, it isn't only Cheney that been behaving irrationally. On the torture and habeas corpus front, the New York Times gives us this glimpse of how Donald Rumsfeld behaves when someone says something he doesn't want to hear:
In June 2005, two senior national security officials in the Bush administration came together to propose a sweeping new approach to the growing problems the United States was facing with the detention, interrogation and prosecution of terrorism suspects.

In a nine-page memorandum, the two officials, Gordon R. England, the acting deputy secretary of defense, and Philip D. Zelikow, the counselor of the State Department, urged the administration to seek Congressional approval for its detention policies.

They called for a return to the minimum standards of treatment in the Geneva Conventions and for eventually closing the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The time had come, they said, for suspects in the 9/11 plot to be taken out of their secret prison cells and tried before military tribunals.

The recommendations of the paper, which has not previously been disclosed, included several of the major policy shifts that President Bush laid out in a White House address on Sept. 6, five officials who read the document said. But the memorandum's fate underscores the deep, long-running conflicts over detention policy that continued to divide the administration even as it pushed new legislation through Congress last week on the handling of terrorism suspects.

When the paper first circulated in the upper reaches of the administration, two of those officials said, it so angered Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that his aides gathered up copies of the document and had at least some of them shredded.


On the picayune end of the scale, we learned this weekend that Colin Powell's limitations as a typist added to his humiliation when he was fired by Bush. (Of course, he was actually fired by Bush-- the dirty work was delegated to White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card. As ever, President Gelding lets others do the hard work for him.) The Washington Post reported Sunday:
Powell dropped off his resignation letter, as instructed, after typing it himself on his home computer. (The White House later pointed out a typo and sent it back to be redone.)

But to me, the most fascinating story to come out this weekend involves Jack Abramoff and Karl Rove, and it isn't about the typical trafficking in favors. It's about the invasion of Iraq: Abramoff was talking about the invasion as a certainty seven months before Congress voted to authorize action against Iraq, and Abramoff was getting his information directly from Karl Rove. It's a harmonic convergence of the domestic sleaze of the Bush White House and its criminal foreign policy. The story emerges from an email that was included in a set of documents that has just been released by Rep. Henry Waxman in his capacity as minority chair of the House Government Reform Committee. No one in the working press noticed the email, but it couldn't escape the notice of the many-headed hydra that is the Daily Kos. The email, with some background, can be found here.

It's a shame that Abramoff didn't mention anything about wanting to strip the underwear off an underage boy in his email, because I'm afraid that that's the only way this story could get the attention it deserves.

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