Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Department of Political Justice

I watched almost all of the Monica Goodling testimony before the House Judiciary Committee today. With apologies to William Shakespeare I can sum up what I saw: "Congress's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

First off Monica Goodling came off very well. She is a polite, soft-spoken, albeit misguided political hack of a young woman who seems genuine in her remorse for as she put it "crossing the line" when she used political litmus tests for career DOJ job hiring, a big no-no under the law. She did have a few interesting comments such as saying Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty was not completely accurate (translation: he lied) during his congressional testimony and she said Attorney General Fredo Gonzales was also inaccurate in his statements about the firings of U.S. Attorneys. She said on her way out of Justice when she resigned Fredo Gonzales talked to her about what he thought had gone on there as far as his involvement in the firings. This was after it was known a congressional investigation was underway and this smacks more of trying to coach a witness to get their stories straight rather than an innocent "hey remember when..." conversation. It's more like "hey Monica, remember when all those U.S. Attorneys were fired and I had nothing to do with it but I knew it was all for performance rather than political reasons?" In any event, Goodling didn't bury anyone, although she said McNulty and Fredo were inaccurate in their swore testimony and that Kyle Sampson compiled the firing list. To this day there isn't a person or document from the DOJ that answers the question who made the list, when was it made, when names were placed on it and when names were taken off and for what reasons. But did Democrats ask simple and penetrating yes-no questions in their alloted five minutes each? Nope. It was a an embarrassment not only to the art of cross-examination but to basic english speakers everywhere.

John Conyers and Maxine Waters can barely speak. It's like they were drunk or something. I understand the Republicans praising Ms. Goodling (even though she admitted to breaking the law - ah the joys of use immunity) and wasting the time of the hearing - one congressman Chris Cannon used his five minutes to read into the record a newspaper article about John Murtha's earmark threat to another congressman and that relates to the DOJ investigation how? - but the Democrats are fucking useless. You don't have to be Clarence Darrow to get out a decent question. "So you don't know who drafted the list do you Ms. Goodling?" "And you don't know when David Iglesias the US Attorney in New Mexico was placed on the list do you?" "And you don't have any records of who made recommendations or on what grounds those recommendations were made do you?" "So you can't say with any certainty that some or all of the firings were done to obstruct ongoing investigations into republicans such as Congressman Duke Cunningham better known now as inmate #11789 can you?" The number of questions are endless but the Democrats once again sounded like dull knives. As sharp as marbles. I mean come on. You've got five minutes and you ask a four minute question that doesn't even make sense? In the words of Steve Martin, "Here's a good idea - have a POINT. It makes it SO much more interesting for the listener!" It boggles the mind.

So even though Monica Goodling doesn't really understand, along with the apologist Republicans in Congress and the solid 28% loyal Bushies out in the country, how political considerations of career hirings and firings have deeply damaged the Department of Justice, she did well. She probably has a future talk show on FOX News in the works. No there was no bombshell or smoking gun but the fact that Deputy AG McNulty has already said Goodlings testimony today was wrong shows you the vipers are quickly turning on each other. The damage has been done and it will take a new Attorney General and a new staff at main Justice as well as 93 new US Attorneys to start to repair the damage. What Goodling and the rest don't understand or don't seem to care much about is that when you run the Justice Department like the personal chew toy of the White House you run it into the ground.

P.S. I have more respect now for former AG John Ashcroft and Deputy AG James Comey then I would ever have imagined. Watch this and this and tell me if you aren't embarrassed by the Godfather-like thugs running this government. Government by "sign this" in a hospital room. Boggles the mind even more than the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Monica by any other name is still a nightmare

Katrina used to be a popular name in America. That was before Hurricane Katrina tried to turn New Orleans into Atlantis. Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News reported last week that in 2006 only 850 baby girls were named Katrina in the U.S. Makes sense. People don't like to name their kids after something that revives unpleasant memories. After Bill Clinton's "Monica problem" arose (pun intended) I thought well, there goes Monica as a girl's name. Another Monica has been in the news lately, Monica Goodling of the Department of Justice, and I'm hoping that "Monica" drops off the baby name lists completely since I'm unimpressed by their contributions to society so far.

Monica Goodling is the absurdly young and totally unqualified graduate of Pat Robertson's law school (no I'm not kidding) who was the Department of Justice's White House liaison (earning $133,000 a year) who had near total control over the hiring and firing of everyone at DOJ. Apparently going to a fourth-tiered law school (there is no fifth tier) and doing opposition research for the Bush-Cheney campaign is all you need to take control of the Department of Justice. Monica and her Rovian masters decided to put a few thumbs on the scales of justice and set the DOJ back 30 years when then President Nixon got Robert Bork (yes that guy) to fire Archibald Cox the Special Counsel. (Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy AG William Ruckelshaus resigned rather than fire Cox. Bork had no problem just following orders.)

I guess I shouldn't be shocked anymore but I am. I'm not shocked that people motivated by religion, politics and/or self-interest, with a bit of "what's the point of having power if you don't use it?" thrown in do immoral things. It's more that I'm impressed with how many different places they do these things. The Department of Justice is off-limits to politics for the day to day operations and especially for prosecutions. Another myth busted not by Mythbusters but by the usual suspects, W, Rove, Gonzales and his useful idiot Monica Goodling.

Here's how the New York Times reports how Ms. Goodling was using her time at the DOJ roughly six years after graduating from the Lord's Law School: "Two years ago, Robin C. Ashton, a seasoned criminal prosecutor at the Department of Justice, learned from her boss that a promised promotion was no longer hers. “You have a Monica problem,” Ms. Ashton was told, according to several Justice Department officials. Referring to Monica M. Goodling, a 31-year-old, relatively inexperienced lawyer who had only recently arrived in the office, the boss added, “She believes you’re a Democrat and doesn’t feel you can be trusted.” Ms. Ashton’s ouster — she left the Executive Office for United States Attorneys for another Justice Department post two weeks later — was a critical early step in a plan that would later culminate in the ouster of nine United States attorneys last year. Ms. Goodling would soon be quizzing applicants for civil service jobs at Justice Department headquarters with questions that several United States attorneys said were inappropriate, like who was their favorite president and Supreme Court justice. One department official said an applicant was even asked, “Have you ever cheated on your wife?” Ms. Goodling also moved to block the hiring of prosecutors with résumés that suggested they might be Democrats, even though they were seeking posts that were supposed to be nonpartisan, two department officials said." Hiring and firing based on political tests for career posts at Justice is against the law. No matter, laws are for other people not on a divine political mission.

The stories get worse. It seems as if the last few years at Justice has been like "Survivor: D.C." with political apparatchiks making lists of those not from the Church of W all to be sacrificed on the altar of well, Justice. Those Republicans are great at making lists. Ms. Goodling has resigned, taken the fifth (a DOJ first) and has been granted immunity before testifying to Congress. I'm sure she won't recall anything important and her fifteen minutes of infamy will soon pass. My only hope is that this finally puts and end to the name "Monica." So far I'm unimpressed with the progeny.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, May 10, 2007

It's not cutting and running so much as it's running for office

There was a saying before my time that "what's good for General Motors is good for America." The new philosophy of the Republican party is "what's good for Republicans is good for America." Of course the phrase should have been "what's good for America is good for General Motors" since we're all in this boat together but let's move on. Republicans, having used the September 11 attacks as a partisan club to bludgeon political opponents moved on to start a war with Iraq that was packaged, promoted and sold like Spider-Man 3. For the last four years we've heard all the talking points from Republicans why we had to invade Iraq and why we have to stay there no matter what. The terrorists would win or they'll follow us home or democracy would fail or Iran would become emboldened or chaos would ensue or the region would be threatened or Al Qaeda would have a base of operations to attack America. The list goes on and on. But it really is simpler than that. It was good politics for Republicans. They used the "Commander Guy" to swagger, talk tough and scare the piss out of people that if they voted for Democrats they would die. It worked in 2002 and 2004. Not so much in 2006. So now since it is not good politically to support staying in Iraq Republicans have decided not for the good the nation but for their party's own good it's time for a change.

Here's how the Washington Post reports it, "House Republican moderates, in a remarkably blunt White House meeting, warned President Bush this week that his pursuit of the war in Iraq is risking the future of the Republican Party and that he cannot count on GOP support for many more months." My own Republican congressman - an empty suit apparatchik - Mark Kirk was a "leader" (how are there leaders among blind followers?) of the Republican congressman who went to see the President and told him NOT that the war was a mistake and that we're doing more harm than good there, but that it's hurting the GOP politically. Not that it's hurting America but that it's hurting something more important - their political futures. After four years of mindless flag waving and supporting the worst foreign policy disaster possibly in our nation's history, these Republicans don't want to get out of Iraq because it's what the people want or that staying is further damaging America but rather that it's damaging the Republican party.

This isn't like Barry Goldwater telling Nixon he had lost all his support in Congress and for the good of the nation he should resign. No this is more like a few lackey Republican congressmen who go up to see Bush and tell him for the good of their jobs and their pensions and lobbying futures he needs to change policy in Iraq. It was the central front in the war on terror, a threat to the world and now it's just a threat to their jobs and their perks of elective office.

What's good for America is good for America not just the political prospects of the GOP. Remember that in 2008. Remember that the only thing these guys care about is winning elections and if cutting and running from Iraq helps their electoral chances they'll do it. They're doing it now.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A government as good as its people

Before the US invaded Iraq, President Bush said he had intelligence evidence that "Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda." Vice President Cheney said Iraq was the heart of "the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11." After the invasion (not after the war since it looks like it will last forever) Bush and Cheney continue to conflate and outright lie about the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda as it existed before the war.

Just last month on April 6, Vice President Cheney continued to claim a link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein telling, who else, Rush Limbaugh, "remember Abu Musab al Zarqawi, a Jordanian terrorist, al Qaeda affiliate; ran a training camp in Afghanistan for al Qaeda, then migrated -- after we went into Afghanistan and shut him down there, he went to Baghdad, took up residence there before we ever launched into Iraq; organized the al Qaeda operations inside Iraq before we even arrived on the scene, and then, of course, led the charge for Iraq until we killed him last June.... This is al Qaeda operating in Iraq. And as I say, they were present before we invaded Iraq." Of course this is lie layered on lie as Zarqawi was not even a member of al Qaeda until he pledged his support in 2004 - after the U.S. invasion. Before the 2003 invasion Zarqawi was in the northern Kurdish portion of Iraq, outside of Saddam Hussein's control and in an area hostile to Saddam's regime, not Baghdad and there's no evidence of collusion between Zarqawi and Hussein. But no matter it sounds good doesn't it?

Looking back at polls before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq as many as 70% of America thought there was a connection between Saddam Hussein/Iraq and the attacks of September 11. Mission accomplished indeed. And the "confusion" or the lie that there was some operational connection between the two (al Qaeda and Iraq that is, not the operational connection between Iraq and the U.S. - that was in the 1980s when Donald Rumsfeld was Saddam's cabana boy) continues to this day. "There are too many ifs, too many things going on - I don't know the whole story." says a potential juror in the Jose Padilla terrorism-support case who isn't sure who directed the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. "I'm oblivious to that stuff," one prospective juror said. And it wasn't President Bush who said, "I don't watch the news much. I try to avoid it." but he could have. No, it was a juror candidate who is as qualified to be on the Padilla jury as she is to be President of the United States.

A government as good as its people or a people as good as its government? Doesn't matter. If ignorance is bliss then this is the happiest country on Earth.

Monday, May 07, 2007

I don't recall - for now

I think I wrote about this before but I don't recall. I've searched my recollection but I can't recall. I have a vague memory of doing so but unless I am presented with other evidence I really can't provide any further answer other than what I've already said.

Memories like the corners of my mind are endangered in Washington. Who hasn't testified that they just can't recall anything important. I remember all the way back to Iran-Contra testimony of John Poindexter who was, if I can recall correctly, a National Security Advisor under Ronald Reagan and was called to testify about the arms for hostages with a covert slush fund diverted to the Contras scheme thrown in for good measure. In one memorable, at least for now - I may not recall this in the future, answer Poindexter could recall what he ate for breakfast while having a crucial conversation with one the of Iran-Contra players, Col. Oliver North (if I recall), but he couldn't recall the substance of the conversation. Those must have been some eggs.

So now we have George Tenet and Richard Perle (I'm not going to identify everyone I mention - if you don't know who these guys are go read some blog about the best hair gels out there) disputing what Perle may have said to Tenet after September 11. Tenet acknowledges he got the date wrong but insists he saw Perle leaving the White House in the days after 9/11 and told Tenet Iraq had to pay a price for the attack. Perle denies he said anything of the sort. Add this to the Alberto Gonzales testimony about fired U.S. Attorneys. He can't recall anything he did but he assures you he did nothing improper. To this day there is no answer as to who put together the firing list, or how they got on the list, or when the decision was made to fire them. No one can recall. Mind you these are people who for most part went to top colleges and law schools and have years of relying on their intelligence and powers of memory to recall bits and pieces of the law to do their jobs. All of a sudden they all become Sgt. Schultz knowing nothing and proud of it.

The game here is that saying, "I don't recall" is different than saying, "I don't remember." And now I'm having a bit of deja vu (not the movie by Denzel Washington althought that is on my Netflix queue) about this topic. Legally if you say "I don't remember" it's lost forever in the sands of time - sort of like my hopes and dreams. If you say, "I don't recall" then your memory can be refreshed by any method. Put a plate of scrambled eggs under Poindexter's nose and if his olfactory endings trigger his memory about subverting the Constitution then it's admissable. Show Alberto a memo that he did fire U.S. Attorneys for no real reason other than he can and that's what Karl Rove wanted then - Shazam! - no perjury, no obstruction of justice, no nothing. It's a miracle! But why go through all this? I mean, who has a plate of warm eggs or can piece together shredded memos at the right time?

I have a simpler solution. Since top officials in Washington seem to not recall very much, we invest in memory classes for all political appointees. As a backup we hire thousands of court stenographers and they are assigned, like Secret Service agents, to each high-level member of the government. They will walk next to each government official and take down everything they say for as long as they are in office. If they aren't doing anything improper as Gonzo says they won't mind the minor inconvenience. Under this plan you'd never hear, "I don't recall" anymore but rather "Let's take a look at the transcript."

A secondary benefit would be the job creation aspect. Can you imagine how many stenographers we would need to make sure "I don't recall" becomes a distant memory? Each top government official gets one, in the case of Gonzales maybe two would be in order. I'm sure they'll come up with some other excuse like alien possession at the time the alleged conversations were made but it's a start.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Curious George - Not Bush

Former CIA director George J. Tenet appeared on “60 Minutes” on Sunday and defiantly whined about being throw overboard by Bush and his capos as a way to blame him and the CIA for everything Iraq. Like an ex-wife Tenet lashed out at the abuse he took from the likes of Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld and their hatchet men who gave his "slam dunk" line about WMD intelligence to the press openly and as often as they could.

What say you George? "The hardest part of all of this has just been listening to this for almost three years. Listening to the vice president go on 'Meet The Press' on the fifth year of 9/11, and say, 'Well, George Tenet said, slam dunk.' As if he needed me to say slam dunk to go to war with Iraq," Tenet tells Pelley. "And they never let it go. I mean, I became campaign talk. I was a talking point. You know, 'Look at what the idiot told us, and we decided to go to war.' Well, let's not be so disingenuous. Let's stand up. This is why we did it. This is why, this is how we did it. And let's tell, let's everybody tell the truth." The truth being worth $4 million dollars for Tenet which is what he got for writing his book and letting the country know just how the jackels at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue eat one their own. "Men of honor don't do this," Tenet said of him being thrown under the bus. And where did he get the idea these were men of honor? Probably the same place the intelligence about Iraqi WMD came from - the department of let's pretend.

Well boo f-ing hoo George. You spent the second longest time as CIA director, you got your Medal of Freedom (that you could have refused) from the very dishonorable people who threw you over the cliff and then you pocketed $4 million for information that would have been quite valuable to the American public three years ago - you know when a presidential election was going on. Men of honor also resign when their conscience guides them to do the right thing. Guess what you did, or rather didn't do?

Don't worry George. You care more than the American public. According to Nielsen’s television ratings the Tenet interview led the time-slot albeit with a below-average 10.8 million viewers, ranking second in the time period among adults 18 to 49, behind ABC’s “Funniest Home Videos,” which drew 8.4 million total viewers. Got that - behind "Funniest Home Videos." It did beat “Along Came Polly” but that was a god awful movie and I at least could turn it off. Alas, "W: The Sequel" still has 20 months to go.

Labels: , ,