Monthly Archives: September 2006

Poll: Webb-Allen Tied

This is great news for Jim Webb. Latest Mason-Dixon poll done for McClatchy newspapers has the race tied. With only six weeks to go, the incumbent only has 43% of the vote, the same as Jim Webb. Twelve percent are undecided, and this group usually breaks overwhelmingly for the challenger.

Good Reporting

After criticizing this morning’s Washington Post story on Jim Webb, I want to be fair about the good reporting The Post does, for it far outweighs the transgressions it sometimes makes. I noticed these examples yesterday but didn’t get around to commenting.

The first example was Peter Baker’s story about the dust-up over who is to blame for not taking Osama bin Laden seriously.

[Former President Bill Clinton] said that after the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, “I had battle plans drawn to go into Afghanistan, overthrow the Taliban and launch a full-scale attack search for bin Laden. But we needed basing rights in Uzbekistan.” The Sept. 11 commission, though, found no plans for an invasion of Afghanistan or for an operation to topple the Taliban, [emphasis added] just more limited options such as plans for attacks with cruise missiles or Special Forces. And nothing in the panel’s report indicated that a lack of basing rights in Uzbekistan prevented a military response.

Clinton also asserted that the Bush administration “didn’t have a single meeting about bin Laden for the nine months after I left office.” In fact, the Bush team held several meetings on terrorism through the interagency group known as the deputies committee and one on Sept. 4, 2001, through the principals committee composed of Cabinet officers. What Clinton may have been referring to was counterterrorism chief Richard A. Clarke’s frustration that the principals disregarded his urgent calls to meet sooner because of a months-long policy review. [emphasis added]

Rice came under fire for her assertion that “we were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al-Qaeda” by Clinton’s team. In fact, Clarke sent Rice an al-Qaeda memo on Jan. 25, 2001, along with a strategy to “roll back” the terrorist network, but the Bush team decided to conduct the policy review. [emphasis added]

Another example is in the analysis by Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus on the recent NIE estimate.

In announcing yesterday that he would release the key judgments of a controversial National Intelligence Estimate, President Bush said he agreed with the document’s conclusion “that because of our successes against the leadership of al-Qaeda, the enemy is becoming more diffuse and independent.”

But the estimate itself posits no such cause and effect. [emphasis added] Instead, while it notes that counterterrorism efforts have seriously damaged and disrupted al-Qaeda’s leadership, it describes the spreading “global jihadist movement” as fueled largely by forces that al-Qaeda exploits but is not actively directing. They include Iraq, corrupt and unjust governments in Muslim-majority countries, and “pervasive anti-U.S. sentiment among most Muslims.”

More reporters need to point out when the facts belie the spin.

But later on in the article, can anyone explain to me what is meant by this passage?

Democratic claims of an administration coverup seemed less justified yesterday as it became apparent that the complete classified report had been made available to lawmakers within days of its completion in April.

Copies of the NIE were sent to the House and Senate intelligence, armed services and foreign affairs committees at the time, through normal electronic information channels available to all members, intelligence and congressional sources said. It arrived at the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on April 26.

In the House, “there was a bit of a snafu with this particular document,” said a spokesman for Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the intelligence committee chairman. “We had a massive computer failure on our classified side.” The first that the committee knew of its existence was late last week, when “it was requested specifically by a member. That was when it was found and scanned into our system.”

Whether the document was ignored or disappeared into cyberspace, however, it seemed to have made little impact on Capitol Hill at the time. No one in either chamber, on either side of the aisle, requested a briefing or any further information on its conclusions until now, the sources said.

“[A] snafu with the document”? Was it even known to Democrats that the document was available? The passage doesn’t make that clear.

HP Clams Up

Pretty riveting television right now on CNBC as each HP executive and their contractors so far — about seven — has pleaded the fifth in the Congressional hearings into HP’s scandal on “pretexting.” I’m not a financial advisor, but if you have HP stock, call your broker.

Pot (Shear), Kettle (Bloggers)

Mike Shear and The Washington Post have a story today about whether Jim Webb ever used the “N-word.” Why? Just read Marc Fisher’s column nearby.

“I’d just ask people to look at the facts,” said Allen’s campaign manager, Dick Wadhams. “We’ve had one person go on the record, and not one of [Shelton’s] teammates has come forward to back him up. It’s an interesting new standard in journalism: If somebody called you and said, ‘I want to make a charge against Jim Webb,’ should that person automatically be afforded the assumption of truth?”

Mike Shear answers, “yes” And for those who charge that The Post is part of the liberal media cabal, the story proves otherwise. To prove they are not liberal, The Post felt compelled to run a story because the Allen campaigned demanded it, after Webb was asked by the Richmond Times Dispatch if he ever used the word.

Webb’s comments to the Times-Dispatch prompted Allen campaign officials to direct a reporter [Ed. Note — meaning Shear] to Dan Cragg, a former acquaintance of Webb’s, who said Webb used the word while describing his own behavior as a member of ROTC during his freshman year at the University of Southern California in the early 1960s.

Cragg says that Webb admitted using the word when interviewed by Cragg for a 1983 article in a Vietnam veterans magazine. Yet, Cragg’s account is not supported by his own documentation.

Cragg, who described himself as a Republican who would vote for Allen, did not include the story in his article. He provided a transcript of the interview, but the transcript does not contain the ROTC story.

This is more evidence of the MSM’s caving in to the pressure from the right about their supposed liberal biases. To prove otherwise, they run a story like this. Mike Shear, who lectured bloggers at a conference earlier this year about posting unsubstantiated stories, runs a story based on an admitted partisan’s charge when his own documentation can’t support it.

Let’s make clear the differences: Against Webb, we have one man making this charge. His own notes for his interview belie his accusations.

Against Allen, we have his own admission of fascination with the Confederacy, though he was a privileged son raised in California. He hung a Confederate flag in his home and a noose in his office. And several people have confirmed his use of the racial epithet and now another who has come forward confirming hearing the deer head in the mailbox story years ago from one of the participants in the prank. And oh yeah, Allen called a dark skinned kid a “macaca.”

Liberal media! More apt, Wimpish Media, Hypocritical Reporter

Not My Phone Recods!

Commenting on the HP scandal re the illegal acquisition of phone records, Congressman Joe Barton (R-Tex.) said on CNBC this afternoon”I don’t think anybody should be able to get my phone records without my permission, period.”

Anyone know how he might feel about the NIC getting them?


Well, if a clear majority of Americans wanting us out of Iraq isn’t enough to rip Bush’s grip off the trigger, about a majority of Iraqis?

Clinton Being Real

I’m too much of a political junkie. I can almost quote in real time as the clips of President Clinton’s interview with Chris Wallace roll on endlessly on talk shows. I need a life.

But what strikes me about this is how many folks describe it as a sort of meltdown, or at best, a loss of temper. Maybe my family has too much Italian blood in it, because if you want to see someone blow a gasket… Well, let’s just say I hope I never see it on YouTube.

We are often critical of our politicians for being scripted, cautious and afraid to make a mistake. Indeed, there are some that think Clinton was scripted and feigned outrage to fire up the troops and deliver a roadmap for wimpy Dems. Maybe. But it comes off to me not only as a spirited defense, but a great example of questioning the motives, integrity and perhaps intelligence of a reporter. I don’t watch Chris Wallace that much to have an opinion as to whether he is a “right wing hit man,” though at least once I remember thinking his father must have cringed if he saw what clearly was to me a right wing bias in an interview I saw. But that was only one example. I’m willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. And the question was legitimate.

But Clinton was right to call out Fox News. There is honest debate about whether the MSM is liberal or a lackey for corporate America. But it is not debatable whether Fox news is right-wing, not just in its talk shows, which are typically stacked with conservative pundits, but in its delivery of the news.

But it goes beyond Fox News. I wish more politicians would take on their questioners. I think many pundits should too, but that would only ensure they were not invited back. Doesn’t help when you bite the hand that feeds you or insult your host in any venue. But politicians should more often say, “That’s really a dumb question” or “Your premise is not justified and reveals a bias that’s really not professional.” And then they should take a couple of seconds to debunk the premise or say why the question is dumb.

Clinton was not afraid (what has he got to lose?) to show a little flash of good old fashioned gumption. But it was hardly a meltdown or an out of control moment. It was a guy being himself and not being afraid of his own passion, although I guess you could say, in one sense anyway, that Clinton doesn’t have a reputation for that fear.

Jim Webb Gets It

Webb has a new TV ad and it’s terrific. It effectively conflates Bush and Allen and their “stay the course” theme for Iraq. But more important and effective is that the candidate himself delivers the message and does so in an authoritative manner. I think in today’s climate, where voters are looking for responsibility, candidates who deliver the message themselves win a lot of votes. Best of all, he delivers a succinct message that, for the life of me, I don’t understand why it hasn’t become the mantra for Democrats this year: “The people who failed to prevent this disaster are not the ones you can count on to fix it.”

The Bush administration also likes to say that critics of the Iraq War are Monday morning quarterbacks. “Let’s not play the ‘blame game’,” they say. One, that belies their mantra about others who should accept responsibility for their actions. You’ve often heard that from conservatives vis-à-vis welfare recipients. They should take responsibility for their actions, but the president won’t accept responsibility for his. But also, as Webb says, given the monumental disaster that Bush’s foreign policy has been and the outlandish costs, destruction of America’s integrity and loss of life, that we shouldn’t expect this gang that can’t shoot straight to get us out of this quagmire.

Another point I think needs to be addressed is this spin that comes from the Bush administration that we all thought Iraq had WMD. I heard it last night from Fran Townsend, assistant to the president for homeland security, who said,

What I‘m saying is, the intelligence that was provided in the NIE suggesting that Iraq was a threat to the region and to the world, was believed on by—on both sides of the aisle, that formed the basis of our going into Iraq. The intelligence turned out to be wrong. That said, we are safer as a result of not having Saddam Hussein in power.

The only reason “both sides of the aisle” believed there were WMD is because the Democrats only knew what the administration told them and what they told them was wrong, some say a lie. Either way, you can’t say with any intellectual honesty that both sides believed in the WMD charge.

FactCheck Wrong

Apparently, the web site was playing loose with the facts when it debunked Vote Vets ad that claims Sen. Allen voted against body armor. It’s amusing to see how the right wing neo-radicals attack the ad. As I read Media Matters’ analysis of the ad and FactCheck’s parsing of words, I’m reminded of all the times during the 2004 campaign the GOP said Kerry voted to raise taxes dozens of times, citing even bills where he didn’t vote to decrease them and all sorts of bills that were only tangentially related to taxes. Now it is the right who cries foul in its defense of George Allen because the sponsor of the bill didn’t use the words “body armor.”

Again, the hypocrisy of the right astounds me.


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is thought to be winning the worldwide PR world with his appearance this week at the U.N. He said many of the right things.

On Thursday, he explained that when he called for the destruction of Israel and dismissed the Holocaust as a myth, his issue was not with the Jewish people but with Zionists, “who are not Jews.”

“We love everyone in the world — Jews, Christians, Muslims, non-Muslims, non-Jews, non-Christians,” he said, adding “we are against ugly acts.”

“Everyone is respected. But I repeat, we are against aggression, occupation, killings. … We declare this in a loud voice,” he said.

…”We support … peace and permanent stability in Lebanon, and we will fall short of no measure in promoting this goal. Whether it’s in the cultural or spiritual support that we can render or whether it is the role that we can play in the international arena, we will do our best. And this is the fundamental principle of our foreign policy, and it does not preclude Lebanon,” he said.

At the news conference, Ahmadinejad also expressed love and affection for the American people, just as President Bush reached out to the Iranian people in his General Assembly speech on Tuesday. Ahmadinejad said he wished he had more time here to spend with them in person.

“The people of the United States are highly respected by us,” he said. “Many people in the United States believe in God and believe in justice.” He thanked the New York City police and security forces for protecting him during his stay here and apologized to New Yorkers for traffic disruptions from the arrival of world leaders to attend the U.N. General Assembly session.

But most important,

He said his country was ready to negotiate a suspension of uranium enrichment.

“We have said that under fair conditions and just conditions, we will negotiate about it,” he said.

Now no one believes all those oh-so-nice things he said. Surely, his actions speak louder than words. But words are the currency of diplomacy and with his invitation to negotiate, how does it hurt us to do so? Yet, this is still a pissing match.

But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Iran must suspend its uranium enrichment and reprocessing before any full-fledged negotiations.

“Iran has been told by the international community … that they should suspend and if they suspend the negotiations can begin. It’s as simple as that. I don’t think we need any further conditionality,” she told reporters after a Security Council meeting on Mideast peace.

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov makes a key point

“I think that artificial timeframes do not work,” he said. “The quality of the agreement is much more important, and especially in this particular case there is no objective reason for any ultra-rush if you wish.”

If you listen to the NPR’s report last night on “All Things Considered,” he sounds like a politician who, at the very least, wants respect, which is a point I’ve made before.

The same point is made is yesterday’s AP story.

Ahmadinejad said the United States’ objection to Iran’s nuclear program — which he claims is for peacefully purposes only — was essentially aimed at aborting his country’s progress. And he said if the world stops treating his country as a subordinate, then things might be different.

“If they recognize that we too, as a nation, have rights … the concerns too will be removed,” he said.

Respect it a key issue in negotiating with the Muslim world. And why is it necessary for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment if it is willing to “ready to negotiate a suspension of uranium enrichment”? Even if they said yes before negotiations, what’s to stop them from restarting it? First and foremost, we need to find out what they want and what they’re willing to give to get it.

Because let’s face it: We have no options. We couldn’t attack Iran if we wanted to and such an attack would doom our children’s generation to decades of terrorism.