Nowhere to run, nowhere to go ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, here, and the LA Times, here, eat Alterman dust. (Though the LAT piece is actually excellent.)

Meanwhile, good for Mickey for linking to this.

Sad, sad, sad we have a president who doesn't even get this: "Bush, as he did with Rumsfeld, may have to cut loose the man he affectionately calls Fredo."

Much of what is wrong with the political mindset of the MSM can be seen here.

Meanwhile, on the war's fourth unhappy birthday, let's take a moment to look back at those clever folks at The Weekly Standard and their prescient mocking of some of those who disagreed with their cheerleading-cum-analysis:

The Cassandra Chronicles
The stupidity of the antiwar doomsayers
04/21/2003, Volume 008, Issue 31

AREN'T YOU PROUD of us? For most of this past week, as an overwhelmingly successful, lightning-quick Anglo-American military assault liberated Iraq's capital city, and ordinary Baghdadis poured into the streets to kiss our GIs and stomp on pictures of Saddam Hussein, THE SCRAPBOOK has remained the soul of magnanimity and restraint.

Here in our office there's this giant archive of newsclips, transcripts, and Internet postings we collected in the months preceding the war, wherein a world community of jackasses confidently predicted that the events lately unfolding on our television screens could not and would not ever take place. And you can imagine the temptation, we're sure: A lesser SCRAPBOOK would throw open the file boxes and run through the streets with treasures like these, laughing hysterically.

"This invasion of Iraq, if it goes off, will join the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Desert One, Beirut, and Somalia in the history of military catastrophe. What will set it apart, distinguishing it for all time, is the immense -- and transparent -- political stupidity."

-- Chris Matthews, San Francisco Chronicle, August 25, 2002

"Iraqis hate the United States government even more than they hate Saddam, and they are even more distrustful of America's intentions than Saddam's. . . . [I]f President Bush thinks our invasion and occupation will go smoothly because Iraqis will welcome us, then [he] is deluding himself."

-- New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, October 4, 2002

But being the soul of magnanimity and restraint, we're not going to do any such thing. Instead, THE SCRAPBOOK is going to run through the streets, laughing hysterically at all the people who were so blinded by hatred of President Bush -- or general anti-Americanism, or their own sheer foolishness -- that they continued to prophesy doom even after the war had begun and was already being won. People like a certain former U.N. weapons inspector turned Baath party apologist turned peace-movement celebrity:

"The United States is going to leave Iraq with its tail between its legs, defeated....We do not have the military means to take over Baghdad and for this reason I believe the defeat of the United States in this war is inevitable. . . . [W]e will not be able to win this war, which in my opinion is already lost."

-- Scott Ritter, on a South African radio station, March 25, 2003

[...]

"Visions of cheering throngs welcoming them as liberators have vanished in the wake of a bloody engagement whose full casualties are still unknown. . . . Welcome to hell. Many of us lived it in another era. And don't expect it to get any better for a while."

-- James Webb, in the New York Times, March 30, 2003

And you've got your usefully idiotic, broadcast-media war correspondent, phoning it in from wherever his Baath party minders want him to:

[...]

"If history is a guide, you cannot subdue a large and hostile city except by destroying it completely. Short of massacre, we will not inherit a pacified Iraq. . . . To support 'the groundwork' for this effort is to support a holocaust, quite soon, against Iraqi civilians and also against the troops on both sides. That is what victory means."

-- James K. Galbraith on the American Prospect website, April 1, 2003

[...]

Is Wolfowitz really so ignorant of history as to believe the Iraqis would welcome us as 'their hoped-for liberators'?"

-- Eric Alterman in the April 21, 2003, issue of the Nation

Speaking of the Standard, Matthew Continetti's profile of Newt Gingrich begins thusly, here:

It's February 28, 2007, in the poorly lit, dank, crowded basement, aka the "Great Hall," of Cooper Union college in Manhattan, and Newt Gingrich is talking to a sophisticated, well-attired, seen-it-all New York audience. As he speaks, the tempo of his words increases, until he begins to sound as though he is rapping: "We spent hours last week on a left-wing billionaire" -- David Geffen -- "getting unhappy because his former friends" -- the Clintons -- "didn't do what he thought they would do when he bribed them," he says, "because he's really unhappy about being lied to because he thought surely they would actually do what he wanted when he bribed them. . . ."

The issue of whether journalists should correct politicians when they lie is one that interests me but not many other people (save my sponsors). Of course in the MSM, politicians and others are invited to lie with impunity. I would think that in opinion magazines, it would be considered kosher, but it rarely happens to one's ideological allies.

In any case, Gingrich is full of it. I investigated this story pretty carefully, and the facts are that Geffen did ask for a pardon for Leonard Peltier -- in large measure because it was the passionate cause of his aide Andy Spahn -- but there was never any question of a quid pro quo. Geffen, in fact, once held a fund-raising dinner for Clinton in which he and his fellow incredibly rich guys lobbied for Clinton not to lower their taxes. They said they didn't need it. What pissed Geffen off, understandably, was the fact that when Clinton was trying to defend himself against critics of his Marc Rich pardon, he tried to defend himself by proving how tough he was in not acceding to Geffen's request. It was a low moment for Clinton in both respects, but nothing like what Gingrich claims in the opening paragraph of the Standard profile.

Speaking of Newt, look who remembered this quote: "She's not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of the president. And besides, she has cancer."

Meanwhile, the WSJ gets the Geffen story wrong, too, here.

From the National Coalition for History:

Anyone who wondered if a Democratically-controlled Congress would make a difference for historians, archivists, and journalists need look no further than what transpired in the House of Representatives on March 14, 2007. On that day three bills mandating increased public disclosure by the federal government all passed the House by substantial margins.

1. HOUSE OVERWHELMINGLY PASSES PRESIDENTIAL RECORDS ACT REFORM BILL

The most important House action for the historical and archival communities was the passage of H.R. 1255, the "Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007." The National Coalition for History (NCH) issued a legislative alert to the historical and archival communities that generated nearly 1,700 letters to the House in support of the bill. I would like to thank everyone who responded to the alert!

H.R. 1255 passed the House on March 14, 2007, by a vote of 333-93. It is key to note that 104 Republicans voted for the bill with 93 opposed. Democrats unanimously supported the bill. This overwhelming level of support may prove to be critical down the road since it is well above the two-thirds total that would be required to override a possible presidential veto. On March 13, 2007, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) threatening a presidential veto should the legislation pass the Congress. The SAP alleges that H.R. 1255 would cause a proliferation of lawsuits from those seeking access to presidential records. OMB also asserted that Congress was encroaching on the constitutionally-based prerogative of executive privilege.

The floor debate, and text of the bill, can be found in the Congressional Record beginning here. To see how your Member of the House voted on the bill, go here.

To view a copy of the OMB's Statement of Administration Policy in opposition to H.R. 1255, go here.

The same day the legislation passed the House, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced a companion bill (S. 886) in the Senate. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Senator Bingaman's floor speech on the introduction of the bill can be accessed here.

As passed by the House, H.R. 1255 would require the following:

Overturn Bush Executive Order 13233. Under the Presidential Records Act, presidential records are supposed to be released to historians and the public 12 years after the end of a presidential administration. In November 2001, President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13233, which overturned an executive order issued by President Reagan, and gave current and former presidents and vice presidents broad authority to withhold presidential records or delay their release indefinitely. The "Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007" would nullify the Bush executive order and establish procedures to ensure the timely release of presidential records.

Establish a Deadline for Review of Records. Under the Bush executive order, the Archivist of the United States must wait for both the current and the relevant former president to approve the release of presidential records, meaning that the review process could continue indefinitely. Under the bill, the current and former president would have a set time period of no longer than 40 business days to raise objections to the release of these records by the archivist.

Limit the Authority of Former Presidents to Withhold Presidential Records. Under the Reagan executive order, a former president could request that the incumbent president assert a claim of executive privilege and thereby stop the release of the records. If the incumbent president decided not to assert executive privilege, however, the records would be released unless the former president could persuade a court to uphold the former president's assertion of the privilege. The Bush executive order reversed this process and required the incumbent president to sustain the executive privilege claim of the former president unless a person seeking access could persuade a court to reject the claim. In effect, the Bush order gave former presidents virtually unlimited authority to withhold presidential records through assertions of executive privilege. The legislation would restore the Reagan approach, giving the incumbent president the discretion to reject ill-founded assertions of executive privilege by former presidents.

Require the President to Make Privilege Claims Personally. Under the Bush executive order, even designees of a former president could assert privilege claims after the death of the president, in effect making the right to assert executive privilege an asset of the former president's estate. The bill would make clear that the right to claim executive privilege is personal to current and former presidents and cannot be bequeathed to designees, relatives, or descendants.

Eliminate Executive Privilege Claims for Vice Presidents. In an unprecedented step, the Bush executive order authorized former vice presidents to assert executive privilege claims over vice presidential records. The bill restores the long-standing understanding that the right to assert executive privilege over presidential records is held only by presidents.

The bill would also require the Archivist of the United States to deny access to original presidential records to any designated representative of a former president if the designee had been convicted of a crime relating to the review, retention, removal, or destruction of records of the archives. The amendment was inspired by the well-publicized theft of documents from the National Archives by President Clinton's former National Security Advisor Samuel R. (Sandy) Berger. On April 1, 2005, Berger pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents.

2. FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT REFORM BILL PASSED BY THE HOUSE

On March 14, 2007, the House of Representatives, by a vote of 308-117, approved H.R. 1309, the "Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 2007." This legislation contains numerous provisions that will increase public access to government information by strengthening the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The same day, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a SAP on H.R. 1309, expressing the Administration's opposition to the bill.

The floor debate, and text of the bill, can be found in the Congressional Record beginning here. To see how your Member of the House voted on the bill, go here.

To view a copy of the OMB's Statement of Administration Policy in opposition to H.R. 1309, go here.

The bill reaffirms the presumption that records should be released to the public if disclosure is allowable under law and the agency cannot reasonably foresee harm from such a disclosure. This was the standard that was in effect during the Clinton administration. This provision would effectively rescind the "Ashcroft Memorandum" which was issued on October 12, 2001, in response to the 9/11 attacks and restore the "foreseeable harm" standard. The Ashcroft FOIA Memorandum established a "sound legal basis" standard. Under this standard, agencies are required to reach the judgment that their use of a FOIA exemption is on sound footing, both factually and legally, whenever they withhold requested information. This provision was one of the major reasons the Administration opposed the bill.

A copy of the Ashcroft FOIA Memorandum can be accessed here.

The bill also puts teeth into the requirement that agencies respond to FOIA requests within 20 days. H.R. 1309 makes this deadline meaningful by ensuring that the 20-day statutory clock runs immediately upon an agency's receipt of a request and by imposing consequences on federal agencies for missing the deadline. The bill also requires agencies to provide requesters with individualized tracking numbers for each request and access to a telephone or internet hotline with information about the status of requests.

The bill strengthens agency reporting requirements to identify excessive delays and requires each agency to make the raw data used to compile its annual reports publicly available. The bill also requires the Government Accountability Office to report annually on the Department of Homeland Security's use of the broad disclosure exemption for "critical infrastructure information."

H.R. 1309 creates a new FOIA ombudsman to help FOIA requesters resolve problems without having to resort to litigation. The FOIA ombudsman will be located at the National Archives and will help requesters by providing informal guidance and nonbinding opinions regarding rejected or delayed FOIA requests. The FOIA ombudsman will also review agency compliance with FOIA.

H.R. 1309 makes it more feasible for citizen groups to challenge the improper withholding of government information by expanding access to attorneys' fees for FOIA requesters who successfully challenge an agency's denial of information. The bill also holds agencies accountable for their decisions by enhancing the authority of the Office of Special Counsel to take disciplinary action against government officials who arbitrarily and capriciously deny disclosure.

The legislation also requires agencies to provide reasons for each redaction in documents that are released in response to a FOIA request.

3. PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY FUNDING DISCLOSURE BILL PASSES HOUSE

On March 14, 2007, the House of Representatives approved H.R. 1254, the Presidential Donation Reform Act of 2007," by a vote of 390-34. Unlike the previous two bills, the administration did not express an opinion on this legislation.

The floor debate, and text of the bill, can be found in the Congressional Record beginning here. To see how your Member of the House voted on the bill, go here.

Presidential libraries are built using private funds raised by an organization or foundation working on behalf of the president. Under current law, donations for the presidential library can be unlimited in size and are not required to be disclosed. The bill would require that all organizations established for the purpose of raising funds for presidential libraries or their related facilities report on a quarterly basis all contributions of $200 or more.

Organizations that raise funds for presidential libraries typically begin fundraising while the president remains in office. Before the library is turned over to the National Archives, these organizations must raise enough money to build the library and to provide the Archivist with an endowment for the maintenance of the facility. Under the legislation, organizations fundraising for presidential libraries would be required to disclose their donations while the president is in office and during the period before the federal government has taken possession of the library. The bill sets a minimum reporting period of four years after the end of a president's term.

Under the bill, presidential library fund-raising organizations would be required to disclose to Congress and the Archivist the amount and date of each contribution, the name of the contributor, and if the contributor is an individual, the occupation of the contributor. The National Archives would be required to make the information available to the public through a free, searchable, and downloadable database on the internet.

One of the concerns the bill is designed to remedy is the fact that foreign nationals can make unlimited contributions to a sitting, or former, president's library foundation. This is in contrast to federal election laws which prohibit contributions by foreign nationals.

From TomDispatch:

We're now four horrific years from the moment the shock-and-awe invasion of Iraq began, an important moment for taking stock of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the President's bring-'em-on war of choice. Anthony Arnove, author of Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal, considers some of the appropriate, if thoroughly dismal figures that stand in for the disintegration of that country. Nowhere on Earth, for instance, is there a worse refugee crisis -- 3.9 million Iraqis have by now fled abroad or are internal exiles in the midst of a brutal civil war. Add in the Iraqi dead and you're approaching one out of every five Iraqis uprooted or slaughtered. Unimaginable figures for any country.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Kimberly Viner
Hometown: Laramie, Wyoming

Dr A: All this stupid talk about reduced deaths (mil/civ/US/Iraqi) in Baghdad is just playing with the numbers. The violence in Iraq, taken as a whole, continues to wreak havoc on all sides. The latest statistics indicate the number of deaths country wide continues to be about the same as the recent past. Let's stop fudging the numbers and get to a solution.

Name: J DAlessandro
Hometown: Crestwood, NY

There's something about your friend and fellow Bloghead Kaus [perhaps vulnerability and a lack of arrogance] that makes it hard for me to work up to a state of pure vitriol for the things he writes, but if he really is a neo-liberal, as he likes to say, why not this for a topic:

We know what the Bush-Cheney-Rove cabal is, and how they operate. So how is it possible, that after 6 years of lies and deceit, they were so easily able to "secretly" slip a provision into the Patriot Act which legitimized the firing of the US Attorneys? Don't Senators have large staffs whose job is to do things like actually read bills that their bosses are going to vote on? How incompetent are the Democrats in the Senate, and for that matter, the GOP Senators who purport to be so enraged against A.G. Gonzales? Is the incompetence of Bush merely a mirror of all of our elected officials?

I guess we really do need a Kaus here; just not the one we got.

Name: Rob
Hometown: Denver

Another example of how NBC is the official propaganda organ of the left.

Tom DeLay and Richard Perle on Meet the Press?

WTF?

These guys should be behind bars, not featured on national television as legitimate commentators on the mess in Iraq.

It was classic Little Timmy to allow a convicted criminal and serial liar, Tom DeLay, to lecture a retired USN Admiral on military strategy.

Ugggggh.

Name: Andrew Goodman
Hometown: Upper East Side

Dr. A --

Thanks for keeping up your good works at the new digs...

I saw Tom DeLay on Press the Meat this morning talking about how leaving Iraq was equivalent to surrendering. Even he had a hard time keeping from smirking, especially in the face of Adm. Joe Sestak, one of the new house Dems. Or should I say, someone with ACTUAL MILITARY EXPERIENCE?

My take on this is while he ostensibly is trying to intimidate current members of Congress, his true purpose is trying to set up the narrative for when Bush's successor (most likely a Dem) inevitably has to clean up the mess that Bush left in his/her lap, which means getting out.

Nothing like using the troops for political advantage. Although I will note that there were four guests on that segment, two Dems and two Republicans. (The other was Richard Perle, who is currently in Fitz's crosshairs.) Care to guess which two were either indicted or the subject of a Wells notice? I thought you could ...

Name: John B
Hometown: Des Moines, IA

Dear Eric:

Thanks for your attention to the private army operating in Iraq. I only learned of Blackwater USA a few days ago through the Ted Koppel documentary "Our Children's Children's War." In spite of his acceptance of the concept that we will be in a state of continuous war for the next 30-40 years without bothering to ask if that's really a good idea or even possible given budget and logistical issues, even Koppel seems to be uncomfortable with the concept of Blackwater USA as a legitimate military force. In the program Erik Price boldly makes a pitch that Blackwater should be sent to Darfur to "handle" the situation there. Considering their claim to be subject to neither US civilian nor military law they are accountable to no one except those who hired them under classified concepts. Blackwater's ambition to operate as a private security force during emergencies on US soil makes them a potential threat to liberty like nothing we have seen to date. Since covert operations are part of their contract, it isn't difficult to imagine a situation in which "civilian contractors" would deliberately provoke an attack by Iranian forces along the Iraqi border, which would need to be rebuffed by the full might of the American military. And none of it subject to oversight by Congress, in fact the American people wouldn't even have the "right" to know what's being done on their behalf. This is a big deal, it needs the attention that big deals deserve.

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