Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Crisis in the White House

The rot inside the Bush Administration and particularly inside the White House is becoming apparent for all to see. The more questions that are asked, the more rot begins to show thus leading to even more questions. And holes in testimony the size of barn doors that require yet another series of questions, including questions about why Congress and the American people were lied to in the first place. The fertile minds of people like Karl Rove can no longer keep track of all the lies and spin being put out by the White House. The next few weeks are going to be interesting.

Let's start with a minor problem: Paul Wolfowitz and his crumbling presidency at the World Bank. Let's keep in mind that Wolfowitz was never known as an able administrator. He is a theorist; that's his calling card. Being president of the World Bank requires a certain amount of administrative ability. And Wolfowitz apparently appropriated the Bush model: arrogant, a small circle of loyal advisers, a loose system of ethics, 24/7 spin, blaming everyone but those responsible, etc. What Wolfowitz has lacked is a compliant press and a compliant Congress willing to look the other way; and Wolfowitz's lack of administrative experience made it difficult for him to sweep some of his transgressions under the rug. Now nothing is ever all one way, but defending Wolfotwitz has become difficult to do, if one is honest about what is happening.

The US Attorney scandal, the dysfunctional behavior at the Justice Department and what appears to be the direct involvement of the White House in ordering the firings for purely partisan political reasons is simply getting larger and spilling over into other issues, including what has been the simmering but always disturbing NSA spying story. Glenn Greenwald of Unclaimed Territory has some thoughts about James Comey's Congressional testimony:
...yesterday's hearing underscores how unresolved the entire NSA matter is -- how little we know (but ought to know) about what actually happened and how little accountability there has been for some of the most severe and blatant acts of presidential lawbreaking in the country's history.


Comey then made clear that he and Ashcroft met, determined that the NSA program lacked legal authority, and agreed "on a course of action," one whereby the DOJ would refuse to certify the legality of the NSA program. Yet even once Ashcroft and Comey made clear that the program had no legal basis (i.e., was against the law), the President ordered it to continue anyway. As Comey said: "The program was reauthorized without us and without a signature from the Department of Justice attesting as to its legality."

Amazingly, the President's own political appointees -- the two top Justice Department officials, including one (Ashcroft) who was known for his "aggressive" use of law enforcement powers in the name of fighting terrorism and at the expense of civil liberties -- were so convinced of its illegality that they refused to certify it and were preparing, along with numerous other top DOJ officials, to resign en masse once they learned that the program would continue notwithstanding the President's knowledge that it was illegal.

The overarching point here, as always, is that it is simply crystal clear that the President consciously and deliberately violated the law and committed multiple felonies by eavesdropping on Americans in violation of the law.

Though unproven, there has been some speculation that the NSA was sometimes used for purposes other than monitoring al Qaida type terrorists. For example, John Bolton apparently seemed to know too much about conversations people in the State Department were having with the North Koreans under Colin Powell's direction; Bolton was something of a Cheney mole who reported various items back to the vice president's office in their dysfunctional and bizarre political war with Bush's own State Department. Laura Rozen of War and Piece raises a related issue:
A reader raises a good point. Why was FBI director Mueller and the FBI so involved in Comey's decision-thinking on the NSA warrantless domestic spying program? Was this about a separate component of the program, that involved the FBI spying without warrants on Americans? Not just the NSA? And think of the time too: mid March 2004 - a few months before the presidential elections.


Comey was more than adamant in his testimony yesterday that these Republican appointee conservative justice department officials -- he, Ashcroft, Goldsmith, Philbin -- could find no legal basis for the program. As Marty Lederman says, imagine just how bad it must have been. bad it must have been. Hmm. Whatever the reason was. Keep in mind that some of the US Attorneys who were fired were Republican appointees who balked at some of the unethical things that the Bush Administration (and apparently some members of Congress) was asking them to do.

The questions and the scandals are growing. Bush can only get out from under the growing clouds hanging over the White House with the compliant cooperation of the media. So, not just the White House, but an overly complacent Washington media will be under close scrutiny in the coming weeks.

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Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Although I have strong political differences with Ashcroft, the cited incident makes two that have caused me to respect him for being honest and decent.

The first one occurred several years ago, when Ashcroft passed on seeking a recount following his close Senate race against the widow of the Democratic incumbent. Word then was that he might well have come out on top if a recount had been done.

It wasn't just that Ashcroft gave it up, but the way he did that. I saw him being interviewed. He had already formally conceded, but basically did so again, in a gentlemanly and even warm way. I was struck by it.

In this latest incident, when he was being pressured in his hospital bed and I'm quite sure was dealing with considerable pain, Ashcroft evidently told Gonzales and Card to get the hell out — after again refusing to go along with a grossly unconstitutional scheme.

No surprise, then, that Ashcroft and Comey resigned from the DOJ. It speaks well of both that they voluntarily disassociated themselves from the bad crowd they had fallen in with.

Of course, they would really have won my admiration if they had subsequently gone public with what they knew about the lowlifes in charge at Bush & Co., and what those lowlifes are doing to our country.

11:19 PM  
Blogger Craig said...

S.W., great comments as always. One of the outcomes of the US Attorney scandal is that people who were asked to resign are suddenly realizing that they were part of a bigger setup. Obviously, there's that Republican rule about not speaking ill of the party but we may see more speak up as they realize how extensively the Bush loyalists have been playing games.

1:25 AM  

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