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Berlusconi government lying but

Berlusconi government lying, but how much?

As the AP reports, the Italian government is "categorically" denying any complicity in the Niger fraud. The Italians, says the AP, deny any "direct or indirect involvement in the packaging and delivery of the 'false dossier on Niger's uranium'."

I strongly suspect that this is a complete lie.

But it is certainly what we might call a de facto lie, an intentional deception which may be technically accurate because of the specific and misleading phrasing employed.

Allow me to explain.

It is more or less an open secret, at least known fairly widely within the US government, that the Niger uranium ball was started rolling in late 2001 by the Italians. It began when they sent their reports about an illicit uranium traffic between Iraq and Niger to the CIA. Those are the reports that got Cheney's attention and eventually lead to Wilson's dispatch to Niger.

Those reports were partial text transcriptions of what would later be revealed as the Niger forgeries.

Set aside for the moment whether Pollari, Castellaneta and others in Mr. Berlusconi's government connived later to get the documents themselves into the hands of the White House or publicize them by leaking them to a Berlusconi-owned magazine. The denial above is only true if we make a distinction between facsimiles (i.e., photocopies) of the documents and text transcriptions of the phony documents. One way or another, what some of web folks lightheartedly call the 'yellowcake road' leads right to Rome. And the Berlusconi government is refusing to come clean.

A little comic reliefJames

A little comic relief?

James Dobson ...

I believe the president has made a wise decision in accepting Harriet Miers' withdrawal as a nominee to the Supreme Court.

In recent days I have grown increasingly concerned about her conservative credentials, and I was dismayed to learn this week about her speech in 1993, in which she sounded pro-abortion themes, and expressed so much praise for left-wing feminist leaders.

When the president announced this nominee, I expressed my tentative support, based on what I was able to discover about her. But I also said I would await the hearings to learn more about her judicial philosophy. Based on what we now know about Miss Miers, it appears that we would not have been able to support her candidacy. Thankfully, that difficult evaluation is no longer necessary."


Ask not for whom the sponge tolls, it tolls for thee SpongeDob ...

Heckuva job watch. TPM

Heckuva job watch. TPM Reader DS points out this AP story: "Former FEMA Director Michael Brown said Wednesday he was asked to stay on the job another 30 days to help the agency complete its review of the response to Hurricane Katrina, a 'completely legitimate thing to do.'"

Weak White House Watch

Weak White House Watch: Dep. AG nominee Flanigan withdraws, White House caves on Davis-Bacon, SCOTUS nominee Miers withdraws.

First rule of blogging

First rule of blogging and I forgot it: never go to sleep with a timely post on the brain. Last night I was going to finish up with another request for a show of hands on just who thought Harriet Miers would ever sit on the Supreme Court. And you can see the price I paid for an early bedtime.

In any case, I have to say I think this played out very much as I suggested it might back on the 9th. Despite the thunderings on the right, this nomination didn't go down because it had so many enemies or because those enemies were so strong. It went down because the nomination never found any reliable bank of defenders. She had no allies. And the White House was too enfeebled to create them. As I wrote ...

Nominations can have dynamics similar to those of political scandals.

We tend to think that the real key to a scandalee's fate is how many mobilize against him or her. Usually, though, the key issue is whether and how quickly they can find some committed group to mount a defense. If that happens, and quickly, a scandal equilibrium can be reached, and an embattled pol can often withstand merciless attacks and revelations. With no true base of support, however, a career can rapidly collapse even if the opposition itself isn't all that intense.

Miers' nomination could fail in a similar way.

Sure, only a few Republican senators have expressed serious misgivings. But who is it exactly, either in or out of the senate, who is going to fight hard for this nominee? What argument are those senators going to make on the floor? That the country needs Harriet Miers on the Court? That the criticisms of her nomination are frivolous?


In the end this nomination fell apart because of the crushing weight of its own insubstantiality.

The problem for the president -- aside from the imminent forced rearrangement of personnel -- is that each group that took a bite out of Miers will feel empowered. And those groups are so multifarious that the president's freedom of maneuver will be significantly curtailed.

The most obvious answer is that the president needs to throw one right over the plate for his right-wing base. But which one? The DC brainiac right? The single-issue anti-abortion fundies? Certainly there are plenty of brainy circuit court judges out there who could fill the bill. But each group feels empowered now and will want to be catered to.

Meanwhile, Democrats will see the obvious: that President Bush is a very weak chief executive right now. This is the second time in something like a week that a nomination has been withdrawn. Yesterday, the president folded on a policy initiative for the right -- the Davis-Bacon suspension. Democrats can see that the president's initiatives really can be beaten. In fact, they're going down pretty routinely now. And more Republicans up for reelection next year will think twice before walking off another plank for the president.

In sum, he's dealt himself deep in the hole with the Miers' fiasco.

Like many of you

Like many of you I've been curious just what it's like right now in the White House. So I asked Paul Begala if he could share some of his thoughts on how it feels in a White House under siege, in a special counsel's cross-hairs. Profoundly different as the situations are (Clinton Fall '98 and Bush Fall '05), some of the workplace and emotional dynamics must be the same.

Well, he really hit this one out of the park: the hardest-boiled aides cracking under the pressure, a president paying the price for the toady-fication he's surrounded himself with. Check it out here at TPMCafe; Paul just posted.

Silvios comin to townEagle-eyed

Silvio's comin' to town?

Eagle-eyed TPM Reader PP sent me this ABC News political calendar which includes this detail ...

Oct. 31, 2005: President Bush hosts Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at the White House for a meeting and lunch, Washington, DC.


So let's see. President Bush is engulfed in a firestorm originally ignited by the administration's use of the phony Niger uranium documents. A flurry of press reports in Italy have just implicated Berlusconi's government in being behind the forgeries themselves.

Can I come to lunch too?

Joint press conference? Press questions before the meeting?

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