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The meme at last

The meme at last seems to <$Ad$>be taking flight.

For more than a year I've argued that the Office of the Vice President operates in the Bush White House as a sort of rogue operation, free from the bureaucratic and organizational constraints and responsibilities imposed on the normal agencies and departments of the executive branch.

(Also, almost everything Cheney touches goes bad.)

This from the new 'how Cheney sold us the Iraq war' piece in Newsweek ...

Cheney has long been regarded as a Washington wise man. He has a dry, deliberate manner; a penetrating, if somewhat wintry, wit, and a historian’s long-view sensibility. He is far to the right politically, but in no way wild-eyed; in private conversation he seems moderate, thoughtful, cautious. Yet when it comes to terrorist plots, he seems to have given credence to the views of some fairly flaky ideologues and charlatans.

And this ...

Nonetheless, it appears that Cheney has been susceptible to “cherry-picking,” embracing those snippets of intelligence that support his dark prognosis while discarding others that don’t. He is widely regarded in the intelligence community as an outlier, as a man who always goes for the worst-case —scenario and sometimes overlooks less alarming or at least ambiguous signs. Top intelligence officials reject the suggestion that Cheney has somehow bullied lower-level CIA or Defense Intelligence Agency analysts into telling him what he wants to hear. But they do describe the Office of the Vice President, with its large and assertive staff, as a kind of free-floating power base that at times brushes aside the normal policymaking machinery under national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice. On the road to war, Cheney in effect created a parallel government that became the real power center.

Compare this name-brand product to the lower-cost generic versions from September 2002 and January 2003.

One other thing: It's become conventional wisdom that the Pentagon, or rather the civilians at the Pentagon, muscled out the State Department on key issues of planning for Iraq. My recent reporting tells me it's much more a matter of Cheney and the Office of the Vice President. Much more.

Sullivanus Laughibalis. Id heard

Sullivanus Laughibalis. I’d heard that Andrew Sullivan was preparing a “counterblast” to my recent writings on the ‘imminent threat’ ridiculousness. Well, now it’s up. And you can see it here: "Marshall Comes Up Empty".

Most revealing nugget: Sullivan found the direct quotations chosen by TPM readers so weak, skewerable, and unconvincing that he fails to quote, mention or even make reference to any of them.

Imagine that.

(Also note the funny-business with the Rumsfeld quote.)

If I had to

If I had to pick one book to get my footing in the history of the modern Middle East, its ironies and intractability, there's no question I'd pick David Fromkin's A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East.

It's a history of the birth of the modern Middle East in the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of the new Arab successor states by the European powers.

Just shy of a masterpiece.

Do you reap what

Do you reap what you sow?

From Dick Cheney on the hustings on Friday ...

In Iraq, a ruthless dictator cultivated weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. He gave support to terrorists, had an established relationship with al Qaeda -- and his regime is no more. (italics added)

One can only imagine where they're going with this one.

The Republicans are puffing

The Republicans are puffing themselves up with a lot of mock outrage over this Democratic draft memo. And the White House is about to get into the act too.

I’ve got an idea, a proposal, shall we say, that I’m going to float on behalf of the Democrats to get us past all this acrimony and suspicion.

The Democrats will turn over all their memos and work product on everything to do with intelligence and investigations into intelligence. Everything back to September 1st, 2001.

And I mean everything --- every staff memo, every planning memo, minutes from brainstorming sessions, memos from each senator's staff, communications with the White House and the CIA, and planning and strategizing with regards to both. All the work product. Everything. They’ll package it all together and give one copy to the majority and one copy to the White House.

In exchange, the majority will hand over the same range of documents to the minority and the White House.

And the White House and the rest of the national security-related departments and agencies in the executive branch will hand over the same to the majority and the minority in the Senate.


The U.S. military swept

"The U.S. military swept through Iraqi neighborhoods early Saturday, firing at houses suspected to be harboring hostile forces in the wake of an apparent attack on a Black Hawk helicopter that killed six U.S. soldiers."

That's the lede of a piece Fox News is running on the aftermath of today's helicopter downing.

We all know how

We all know how this works.

Two guys walk into a ring for a fight. One knows he’s about to get creamed. But he can’t bear the shame and humiliation of walking away from a fight. So at the very last moment he whips out some phony claim that the other guy’s cheating.

He puffs himself up with forced indignation. And huffily storms off.

Everybody knows it was bogus --- the accused, the accuser, everyone else. But it gives the coward just enough of an angle, just enough of a smokescreen to get out of the place without having a glove laid on him and with a bit of his dignity intact.

This is of course more or less exactly what the Republicans are doing with the hullabaloo over this unsent Democratic staff memo.

Precisely the same.

(The actual memo bears reading because, though Jay Rockefeller has said he never authorized it and it was never sent, it's much more tame than the hyper-ventilating coverage would suggest. The 'plot' is essentially a plot to have a real investigation.)

As I said in this earlier post, the Republicans are trying to use this memo ridiculousness to shut down any scrutiny of the intelligence related bad-acts in the lead-up to the war.

And they’re already starting. According to Newsmax, Newt Gingrich said yesterday that the president should refuse to cooperate with the committee altogether.

“I don't see how the White House can cooperate with an intelligence committee which has this level of partisanship,” he told Sean Hannity on Thursday.

See where they’re going with this?

Throughout the day Ive

Throughout the day I've been collecting thoughts about the ridiculous charges Senate Republicans are making about this Democratic staff memo revealed by Sean Hannity. But I've been reporting out another story for most of the day. And, honestly, I'm just too worn out to write.

A quick thought, then more later.

The Republicans are trying to protect the administration from a host of disclosures about shenanigans in the lead up to the war. They've seized on this memo (which is a bit embarrassing for the Dems, certainly, but hardly more than that) and are trying to use it to secure even further partisan control over the intelligence oversight process -- or, in other words, to prevent any serious inquiry into what happened in the lead-up to the war.

The stakes are truly that serious.

Senator Santorum apparently wants to use the brouhaha as an excuse to stack the Senate Select Intelligence Committee with Republicans.

The whole thing will be a test of how much people in this town can be played for saps, and whether the Democrats can shake off these intimidation tactics and learn to fight back.

They truly know no

They truly know no limits.

According to an email sent out Wednesday by director of the White House Office of Administration, Timothy A. Campen, the Bush administration will no longer respond to budgeting questions from congressional Democrats. And they imply they may apply this new principle, if you can call it that, to non-budgetary oversight.

(Given the questions that are being asked, I can certainly understand the motivation.)

They've dressed it up a bit. The wording actually says they'll no longer respond to queries not sent by the committee chairmen. But since Republicans are the chairmen that means the GOP chairman will have a veto over every Democratic request for info.

AEI's Norm Ornstein, not exactly a shill for the Dems, says "I have not heard of anything like that happening before. This is obviously an excuse to avoid providing information about some of the things the Democrats are asking for."

Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. And if you're already pretty corrupt when you get the power ... well, then things can really get bad pretty quick, as we're seeing.