“You could almost see their dicks getting hard as they got new ideas." A Vanity Fair reporter investigates the chain of command that tossed out the Geneva Conventions and instituted coercive interrogation techniques -- some might call them torture or even war crimes -- in Bush's Global War on Terror. UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo's now-obsolete 81-page memo to the Pentagon in 2003 [available as PDFs here and here] was crucial, offering a broad range of legal justifications and deniability for disregarding international law in the name of "self-defense." Others say that Yoo was just making "a clear point about the limits of Congress to intrude on the executive branch in its exercise of duties as Commander in Chief." [previously here and here.]
Politics/PlameFilter: In opening arguments today in the Plame investigation perjury case against Vice President Cheney's former Chief of Staff I. Lewis Libby, the prosecutor portrayed Libby as an agent of a Cheney-driven media offensive. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day came from Libby's attorney, who portrayed his client as a White House-chosen scapegoat for Karl Rove's misdeeds. A conservative reporter saw in Libby's emerging defense a "dramatic split inside the Bush White House." An MSNBC host asked whether this hullabaloo could lead to Cheney's resignation. Background on the case. Liveblogging of today's arguments from an anti-administration perspective.
Intrigues at the White House: Andrew Card, Bush's longtime chief of staff -- the guy who briefly interrupted the President's reading of The Pet Goat one rough morning in 2001 and took heat for the Katrina and Dubai debacles -- is out, replaced by budget director "Yosh" Bolten, the one-time founder of a club called "Bikers for Bush." Meanwhile, is Rove rolling over for Patrick Fitzgerald, and if so, what's the angle?
Notice: henceforth, the Minister of War shall address the people only through the Ministry of Truth. The story-behind-the-story of the Vice President's hunting mishap is the denigration of the MSMTM as the traditional proxy of the public interest, says NYU journalism professor and media critic Jay Rosen. "It strikes me that the Corpus Christi Caller-Times is just as valid a news outlet as The New York Times is," Cheney told cherry-picked Fox "News" correspondent Brit Hume yesterday. GOP spokesperson Mary Matalin underlined the point by saying that Cheney considered holding a news conference, but that "would have meant a lot of grandstanding" by reporters; Donald Rumsfeld often goes even farther, claiming that terrorist organizations manipulate the American press directly through "media committees." Judging by the administration's contempt for the Fourth Estate, says Rosen, "The public visibility of the presidency itself is under revision. More of it lies in shadow all the time. Non-communication has become the standard procedure, not a breakdown in practice but the essence of it." Even arch-conservative pundits like George Will are starting to get nervous about the lack of check and balances under the current regime. There's no doubt that the White House press corps seems angrier these days -- but are they missing the bigger stories by focusing their wrath on Scott McClellan's birdshot spin?
What unites hardliners like Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, and Rush Limbaugh -- their uncompromisingly conservative take on politics? In a provocative blog post titled Do Bush followers have a political ideology?, Glenn Greenwald persuasively argues otherwise. He believes that the conservative movement -- traditionally against big government, excessive spending, and federal intrusion into the private lives of Americans -- has been hijacked by something much more dangerous: an authoritarian cult of personality, or as Greenwald puts it, "a form of highly emotional mass theater masquerading as political debate."
"It has become clear that official intelligence was not relied on in making even the most significant national security decisions, that intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made, that damaging ill will developed between [Bush] policymakers and intelligence officers, and that the intelligence community's own work was politicized," writes former CIA official Paul Pillar, coordinator of U.S. intelligence on the Middle East until 2005, in an article soon to appear in Foreign Affairs, hardly a radical rag. More confirmation that Seymour Hersh was right about the administration "cherry-picking" intelligence to justify a foregone conclusion to go to war in Iraq.
Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald says emails relevant to the Valerie Plame leak investigation have gone missing from the White House. "In an adundance of caution," Fitzgerald wrote [PDF] to "Scooter" Libby's lawyers on January 23, "we advise you that we have learned that not all email of the Office of the Vice President and the Executive Office of President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system." Might this help explain why Alberto Gonzales -- now the Attorney General, and lately so busy mustering arguments to assert that Bush's NSA domestic-spying program is "legal" -- waited 12 hours before instructing White House staff to preserve documents relevant to the leak investigation after telling Andrew Card about it? Shades of the late, great yoga instructor, Rose Mary Woods. [More on Plame here.]
Astroturfing gone bad. Why aren't newspaper editors fighting this? They've seen it before. Its one thing to offer a press release and another to ask visitors of the Bush-Cheney website to mail their newspapers the same form letter.