NDN Blog

President Bush Extols the Virtues of AEI...Is 'Virtues' the Right Word?

President Bush went to AEI yesterday, ostensibly to talk about Iraq and Afghanistan.  After reading his remarks though, I think the speech might have been better labeled "President Bush gives AEI enough quotes for a year's worth of fund raising pitches."  Make no mistake, that's one thing conservatives are very good at: deploying their stars for institution building purposes. 

Read the quote below:

I appreciate the chance to come and share some thoughts with the men and women of AEI. I admire AEI a lot--I'm sure you know that. After all, I have been consistently borrowing some of your best people. More than 20 AEI scholars have worked in my administration. A few have returned to the fold--you'll have to wait two more years to get another one to return to the fold. Dick Cheney is occupied. He sends his best.  

I appreciate what the AEI stands for. This Institute has been a tireless voice for the principles of individual liberty, free enterprise, limited government, and a strong national defense...  

I appreciate the board of directors of the AEI for giving me this forum. Thanks for trying to stay on the leading edge of thought, as well. It's really important that ideas be conceived, circulated and embraced. I want to thank members of the Congress who have joined us today--there they are. Good, yes. All friends--Pete King from New York, Trent Franks from Arizona, Mario Diaz-Balart from Florida, and fellow Texan Mike McCaul. Thanks for coming. Appreciate you being here. I thank the members of the diplomatic corps who have joined us; proud you're here. Thanks for taking time out of a busy schedule to come and hear this address. I appreciate members of the United States Armed Forces who have joined us. I thank the dignitaries and friends of the AEI and members of my administration who have joined. Don't linger. Get back to work, but thank you for being here. I fully expect you to stay awake for the entire address.  

As scholars and thinkers, you are contributing to a nationwide debate about the direction of the war on terror.

So what has AEI been doing lately to earn such warm praise from the President?  Well, there is the recent attempt to use Exxon Mobil's money to buy academic papers discrediting global warming.  From the Guardian:

Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.

Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded think tank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasize the shortcomings of a report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

And the Washington Post reported on the skepticism within the scientific community, even among scientists who have departed from the consensus on global warming:

AEI visiting scholar Kenneth Green -- one of two researchers who has sought to commission the critiques -- said in an interview that his group is examining the policy debate on global warming, not the science...

At least two academics -- Texas A&M University atmospheric sciences professor Gerald North and Texas A&M climate researcher Steven Schroeder -- turned down AEI's offer because they feared their work would be politicized.Schroeder, who has worked with Green in the past and has questioned some aspects of traditional climate modeling, said in an interview that he did not think AEI would have skewed his results. But he added that he worried his contribution might have been published alongside "off-the-wall ideas" questioning the existence of global warming."We worried our work could be misused even if we produced a reasonable report," Schroeder said. "While any human endeavor can be criticized, the IPCC system greatly exceeds the cooperation, openness and scientific rigorousness of the process applied to any other problem area that has significant effects on society..."

Several environmental activists and climate scientists questioned why AEI would offer a $10,000 honorarium to scientists to critique the IPCC survey. Andrew Dessler, another Texas A&M atmospheric science professor, who has worked with both Schroeder and North, said the move represents an effort by climate skeptics to create "reasonable doubt" in the minds of policymakers who are debating whether to limit greenhouse gases.

And that doesn't even touch the foreign policy debacles born and bred at AEI.  Remember, neocons Richard Perle and Vice President Cheney were both at AEI prior to joining the Bush administration.  More recently, AEI Scholar Frederick Kagan is the loudest cheerleader for the McCain-Bush escalation in Iraq, with his "A Plan for Success in Iraq" paper that seems to have borrowed its title from Tony Snow's daily briefing.

And then there's this beauty: 

New Nielsen study on DVR impact on ad watching

Though the Times plays this story as good news for advertisers, I'm not sure how good it is.  Of those who watched the recorded show, only 42% watched the commercials.  This means that more than 50% of people using this new technology have already grown accoustomed to skipping ads. 

My family recently got our first DVR, in one of those new Comcast boxes.  It had an immediate impact on the way we watch TV as a family.  But those habits are evolving, and my sense is that the way we watch TV 2-3 years from now will be radically different from how we do today.  The real impact of this new technology - and others - will be felt over 2-4 years, and it is way too early from advertisers to feel a sigh of relief.  A 60% skip rate seems really high to me, like people are already making extraordinary changes in their relationship to this thing we call TV.   

Visit our affiliate the New Politics Institute at www.newpolitics.net for more on the evolution of TV and other media and how it effects politics.

WaPo: Iraq Troop Boost Erodes Readiness, General Says

Another remarkable story, coming from the government, challenging the neocon view of the world. 

Among the many telling graphs: "I am not satisfied with the readiness of our non-deployed forces," Schoomaker told the Senate Armed Services Committee, noting that the increased demands in Iraq and Afghanistan "aggravate that" and increase his concern. "We are in a dangerous period," said Schoomaker, adding that he recently met with his Chinese counterpart, who made it clear that China is scrutinizing U.S. capabilities.

Reid and Pelosi Call on Administration to Protect Troops

We've written before about the fact that the 20,000 new troops the President is deploying to Iraq will go there without proper equipment.  Now the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have written a letter to the President on the subject.  The press release is below.

For Immediate Release

Date: Wednesday, February 14, 2007

CONTACT:  Jim Manley / Rodell Mollineau, Reid, 202-224-2939

                Brendan Daly / Nadeam Elshami, Pelosi, 202-226-7616


Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi today sent the following letter to President Bush, urging him to take the necessary steps to ensure that the tens of thousands of soldiers being sent to escalate the war in Iraq have the armor and equipment needed to perform their mission and protect their lives. Unfortunately, reports suggest that the President is once again sending troops into Iraq without adequate supplies and support. Democrats, who join the overwhelming majority of Americans in opposing the President’s escalation, believe the men and women serving bravely in Iraq should receive the equipment and support they need and deserve.

Quotes from the letter:

“As Iraqi leaders bicker, the violence in Iraq continues to inflict casualties on our troops at unacceptably high rates.  Equally disturbing is the fact that thousands of the new troops you are sending to Iraq as well as those already there will apparently not have the armor and equipment they need to perform the mission and reduce the likelihood of casualties.”

“Mr. President, it is wrong to deploy troops to the Iraqi theater until they have the up-armored Humvees, equipment, lodging, training and other support required to carry out their mission.  We hope you will work with us to make sure that they do.  Our troops and their families deserve nothing less.”

List of Alleged Bribes From Wilkes to Cunningham and Foggo

Wow.  The WAPO has gone over the Wilkes indictment and it's well worth reading.  Below is the list of alleged bribes:

  • Thousands of dollars in meals at the Capital Grille, the Palm, Ozio's, P.F. Chang's, Mr. K's, the Serbian Crown and the Confucius Cafe.
  • The services of Shirlington Limousine in and around Washington.
  • Two Sea-Doo Speedster watercraft, priced at $11,255 and $14,496.
  • Catered dinners for Cunningham on his yacht.
  • An NEC laptop computer and a computer desk.
  • An inflatable dock.
  • A visit to the Four Seasons Hotel in Las Vegas and a $4,043 meal there.
  • Tickets to the January 2003 Super Bowl and a Jimmy Buffett concert.
  • Private jet flights "to various locations in the United States," including lavish in-flight meals.
  • Payments on the mortgage for Cunningham's yacht, a Global Positioning System device and associated software for the yacht.
  • Two vacations in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, including a "fully automatic machine gun shooting session" and $800 worth of golf equipment.
  • A vacation in Key Largo, Fla., including a fishing tournament and diving trip.
  • A vacation stay in a $6,600-per-night suite at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel in Hawaii, including a diving trip, golf tournament and the services of two prostitutes on successive nights.
  • A $525,000 payment on Cunningham's home mortgage.

Wilkes separately provided Foggo with the following benefits, the government alleges, in exchange for Foggo's assistance in obtaining several CIA contracts:

  • An offer of a "high-level, high-paying" job in Wilkes's companies.
  • A joint family vacation in Scotland aboard a private jet, a $4,000 helicopter ride to a round of golf and more than $44,000 in lodging expenses at an estate with a seven-person staff.
  • A joint vacation at a Hawaiian estate, costing $32,000.
  • A cigar humidor.
  • Meals at the Capital Grille, Ruth's Chris Steak House and the Serbian Crown.

Senate to Vote on Escalation

Reid is calling the GOP bluff:

For Immediate Release

Date: Thursday, February 15, 2007

CONTACT: Jim Manley / Rodell Mollineau, (202) 224-2939


Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today released the following statement, announcing that the Senate will vote this Saturday on whether to move forward to debate the President’s escalation of the war in Iraq.

“For nearly four years, the Republican-controlled Senate stood silent on the President's flawed Iraq policies and watched as the situation deteriorated into a civil war. The American people have chosen to change course. Democrats have chosen to change course. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans have chosen obstruction. Almost every Republican who expressed concern about the escalation chose to block the Senate from debating the issue.

“Today, Democrats offered Republicans another chance for compromise, suggesting the Senate debate one resolution in favor of escalation and one resolution opposed to escalation. Once again, Senate Republicans refused.

“Democrats are determined to give our troops and the American people the debate they deserve, so the Senate will have another Iraq vote this Saturday.  We will move for a clear up or down vote on the House resolution which simply calls on Congress to support the troops and opposes the escalation.

“Those Republicans who have expressed their concern over the Senate’s failure to debate the war in Iraq will have another opportunity to let their actions speak louder than their words.”


Wilkes Fires Back

Brent Wilkes has a statement out today, the day after he was indicted on 11 counts of bribery in connection with the massive GOP appropriations scandal that is coming out in dribs and drabs.  Wilkes defends both his name and that of Kyle Foggo, the also indicted top aide to Bush appointed CIA Chief Porter Goss.  That means no admission of guilt and no announcement about rehab.  The statement does include some awkward exploitation of his family though, in an attempt to drum up sympathy.

Read the entire statement here...

Update 3:00pm:

The federal prosecutor who indicted Wilkes, Carol Lam, has been fired by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.  By most accounts, she was fired along with six others, so that  Gonzales could appoint new prosecutors who wouldn't have to go through the normal Senate confirmation process and would therefore be completely beholden to the White House.  Gonzales has the authority to do this under an obscure clause inserted into the Patriot Act at the last moment by Senator Arlen Specter.  Now House Democrats are fighting back with a strongly worded letter to the Attorney General.  Read it below:

The Honorable Alberto Gonzales
U.S. Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

Dear Attorney General Gonzales:

Last week, Congressman Emanuel sent you a letter requesting that former U.S. Attorney in San Diego Carol Lam be appointed as outside counsel to finish her work on the Duke Cunningham Case. Unfortunately, your office has not yet responded to that letter.

Two days ago, Lam's investigation continued to bear fruit as a federal grand jury charged Kyle "Dusty" Foggo and Brent Wilkes with at least 11 felony counts related to their involvement with Cunningham. As Elana Schor's article in The Hill yesterday points out, "Justice Department officials have praised the Cunningham probe as the linchpin of their growing pursuit of public corruption cases, yet prosecutor Lam is nonetheless slated to step down[Thursday] after the Bush administration cited unspecified 'performance' issues in requesting her resignation late last year. Six other U.S. attorneys, several involved in ongoing corruption investigations, were dismissed at about the same time."

As you know, of those seven fired U.S. Attorneys, Lam was not the only one investigating sitting public officials before being dismissed. For example, Daniel Bogden of Nevada and Paul Charlton of Arizona were dismissed while their offices were conducting probes concerning elected officials.

Schor's article also notes that Deputy U.S. Attorney General Paul McNulty was scheduled to brief members of the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday with information on the decisions to dismiss the U.S. Attorneys. During last week's public Senate hearing, Deputy U.S. Attorney General McNulty confirmed that Bud Cummins III, the former U.S. attorney for Eastern Arkansas, was dismissed without cause to install Timothy Griffin, a former aide to White House adviser Karl Rove.

Carol Lam's indictments of Foggo and Wilkes underscore the importance of last week's request and the need for an explanation of why these diligent public servants were dismissed. It is vital that U.S. Attorneys be able to prosecute wrongdoing free from political pressure. We are pleased that the Department of Justice has also agreed to brief members of the House Judiciary Committee on the dismissals of Carol Lam and other U.S. Attorneys. We look forward to further details regarding the date for that briefing and your response regarding the request to appoint Carol Lam as an outside counsel to finish the Cunningham and related investigations.

Thank you for your prompt attention to these matters. We look forward to hearing from your office.


Rahm Emanuel
Member of Congress

Howard Berman
Member of Congress

John Conyers
Chairman, Judiciary Committee

Linda Sánchez
Chairman, Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law

techPresident keeps tabs on 2008 web strategies

Personal Democracy Forum has a new group blog called techPresident that reports on how campaigns are both using and affected by new tools. Among other things, it tracks the number of MySpace friends each candidate has (FYI - Sen. Obama leads the pack).

Now Iran?

In light of the seriously overly optimistic planning for Iraq going on as early as 2002 (see the powerpoint), the President can't expect much support for his allegations against Iran and the accompanying saber rattling

Speaking at a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Mr. Bush dismissed as “preposterous” the contention by some skeptics that the United States was drawing unwarranted conclusions about Iran’s role. He publicly endorsed assertions that had until now been presented only by anonymous military and intelligence officials, who have said that an elite branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps known as the Quds Force has provided Shiite militias in Iraq with the sophisticated weapons that have been responsible for killing at least 170 American soldiers and wounding more than 600.

Yesterday, Senator Hillary Clinton made it clear what she thinks about the President's authority to preemptively attack Iran.

An Iraq Plan Missing One Ingredient - Reality

This is an amazing story from the NYT, complements of FOIL...

When Gen. Tommy R. Franks and his top officers gathered in August 2002 to review an invasion plan for Iraq, it reflected a decidedly upbeat vision of what the country would look like four years after Saddam Hussein was ousted from power.

A broadly representative Iraqi government would be in place. The Iraqi Army would be working to keep the peace. And the United States would have as few as 5,000 troops in the country.

Military slides obtained by the National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act outline the command’s PowerPoint projection of the stable, pro-American and democratic Iraq that was to be.

The arrogance that a post-Saddam Iraq would run itself is astonishing enough.  Even more amazing is that the Administration, Gen. Franks, et al assumed that the State Department, which was sidelined throughout the rush to war, would put together the pieces and create a stable government in Iraq, with limited military support.

August 2002 was an important time for developing the strategy. President Bush had yet to go to the United Nations to declare Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons programs a menace to international security, but the war planning was well under way. The tumultuous upheaval that would follow the toppling of the Hussein government was known antiseptically in planning sessions as “Phase IV.” As is clear from the slides, it was the least defined part of the strategy.

General Franks had told his officers that it was his supposition that the State Department would have the primary responsibility for rebuilding Iraq’s political institutions.

“D.O.S. will promote creation of a broad-based, credible provisional government — prior to D-Day,” noted a slide on “key planning assumptions.” That was military jargon for the notion that the Department of State would assemble a viable Iraqi governing coalition before the invasion even began.

See the entire slide show here...

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