Thursday, October 27, 2005

Sidney Blumenthal: Shipwrecked.........

Bush has so thoroughly destroyed the Republican establishment that no one, not even his dad, can rescue him now.

By Sidney Blumenthal

Oct. 27, 2005 | There is no one left to rescue the Republican Party from George W. Bush. He is home alone. The Republican-establishment wise men whose words were once quiet commands are shouting unheeded warnings. The Republican leaders of Congress are distracted and obsessed with their own crises of corruption.

Suspended House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is under indictment for criminal campaign practices while Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for insider stock trading in his family-owned Hospital Corporation of America. The only revolt brewing in the Senate is on the right against President Bush's nomination of his White House legal counsel, Harriet Miers, to the Supreme Court; some Republican senators fear her potential for secret liberal heresy despite the president's protestations of her conservative purity.

On Aug. 7, 1974, three Republican leaders of Congress made a fateful journey down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. Sen. Barry Goldwater, tribune of the conservative movement; Sen. Hugh Scott, the stalwart minority leader from Pennsylvania; and Rep. John Rhodes, the minority leader in the House, informed President Richard Nixon that as a result of the Watergate scandals he must resign the presidency in the interest of the country and the Republican Party. Two days later, Nixon quit.

On Nov. 25, 1986, Attorney General Edwin Meese announced at a White House press conference that tens of millions of dollars from illegal sales of weapons to Iran had been siphoned to Contra guerrillas in Nicaragua by a far-flung conspiracy centered in the National Security Council. National Security Advisor John Poindexter immediately resigned and NSC military aide Oliver North was fired. Within the next month, President Reagan's popularity rating had collapsed from 67 to 46 percent; it did not recover until a year and a half later, in May 1988, when he negotiated an arms control treaty with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and traveled to Moscow to declare the Cold War over. After the revelation of the Iran-Contra scandal, Reagan purged his administration of right-wingers and neoconservatives in particular. The Republican establishment in all its aspects took control. Former Sen. Howard Baker, who had been the Republican leader at the Watergate hearings, became White House chief of staff; Colin Powell was named national security advisor; neocon protector and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger was forced out and replaced by pragmatic bureaucratic player Frank Carlucci; and Secretary of State George Shultz was given charge of foreign policy in order to negotiate terms with Gorbachev.

The storm enveloping President Bush is a consequence of his adoption of the vicious smear tactics of the Nixon political operation, learned there by Karl Rove, who was called as a witness to testify about them before the Watergate inquiry, and of Bush's elevation to power of the neoconservatives removed by Reagan and excluded from office by Bush's father. Bush is haunted by the history he insisted on defying.

The elements of the Republican establishment that Bush brought into his first administration as a sort of symbolic tribute were gone by his second. By their nature, these people are discreet, measured and private. It is not their impulse to voice disagreement in public. Their sweeping and emotional jeremiads against what Bush has wrought are extraordinary not only in their substance but in having been made at all. Those expressing their disquiet about Bush are more than simply losers in bureaucratic struggles for primacy of place. Once representative of the heart and soul of the Grand Old Party, they are historical castaways. They stand for another Republican Party that has been supplanted by Bush's version.

Paul O'Neill, the former CEO of Alcoa, was shocked at the degradation of policymaking he witnessed as Bush's first secretary of the Treasury. He had anticipated that the councils of government under Bush would be no different from those he had experienced as an economic aide under Nixon. Nixon had rigorously insisted on objective analysis, hearing all sides and considering all options. In Cabinet meetings, O'Neill wrote in his memoir, "The Price of Loyalty," Bush was like "a blind man in a roomful of deaf people." The White House struck back at O'Neill by falsely charging him with leaking classified materials and subjecting him to an investigation, which had the desired effect of silencing him. In retrospect, the accusation of leaking classified information can only appear ironic.

Christine Todd Whitman, former Republican governor of New Jersey, was stunned by her denigration and the suppression of science when she was Bush's first director of the Environmental Protection Agency. After her resignation, she compared Bush unfavorably to Reagan, who, she said, "didn't reach out in a way that indicated that there was no room for others." Whitman's book, "It's My Party Too," was a meek plea for attention from the "social fundamentalists" she claimed had seized control of the family firm. She would not name names, as though she might have another go at riding the tiger that had already devoured her.

John Danforth, for 18 years a U.S. senator from Missouri, served briefly before resigning as Bush's ambassador to the United Nations. He did not stipulate the reasons for his departure, but he did publish an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times on March 30 of this year decrying how "Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians." The GOP, he wrote, has become "a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement." Danforth, an old friend of George H.W. Bush's, lamented the loss of the party's heritage: "Our current fixation on a religious agenda has turned us in the wrong direction. It is time for Republicans to rediscover our roots." Danforth was replaced at the U.N. not with a believer in old-fashioned bipartisan internationalism but with John Bolton.

Lawrence Wilkerson, the former head of the Marine War College who had served as chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, revealed the inner struggles of the Bush administration in a speech before the New America Foundation on Oct. 19. A "Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal" ran U.S. foreign policy for a president "not versed in international relations and not too much interested." Wilkerson defined the Bush doctrine as "cowboyism." Condoleezza Rice as national security advisor was "extremely weak" and more interested in "her intimacy with the president" than in acting as an honest broker. Cleaning up after Bush's tarnishing of America's image in the world was an impossible task. "It's hard to sell shit," said Wilkerson.

Powell, Wilkerson's principal, has remained publicly quiet since his September outburst, in which he said that his speech before the United Nations arguing the case for the existence of WMD and an invasion of Iraq, which subsequently was revealed to be filled with disinformation, was a "blot" on his record and continues to be "painful now." Behind the scenes, however, Powell has been active in countering the Bush torture policy, which he opposed from the beginning. Powell sent personal letters and made telephone calls to Republican senators urging them to support the amendment to the military appropriations bill that would end the torture policy. As a result of Powell's lobbying, 90 senators voted for it. It was a stinging rebuke to Bush, who has threatened to veto the entire military appropriations package if the amendment is attached.

Brent Scowcroft, perhaps more than anyone else, personifies the realist, bipartisan Republican tradition of internationalism. He is also the former national security advisor to the elder Bush and among his closest friends. President Bush dismissed him early this year from the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, having ignored his advice through the first term. Scowcroft's candid views appear in an article in the current issue of the New Yorker, in which he details his rejection by Bush at length. "I don't want to go there," Scowcroft replied when asked about the difference between the father and son. He said dismissively of the Iraq policies of a leading neoconservative, former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, "He's got a utopia out there." On Cheney, Scowcroft sounded perplexed: "The real anomaly in the Administration is Cheney. I consider Cheney a good friend -- I've known him for thirty years. But Dick Cheney I don't know anymore."

But Scowcroft the foreign policy mandarin may not have been exposed to the partisan Cheney when he served as secretary of defense in the administration of Bush Sr. He may have missed Cheney's tenure as a representative in the House leadership, where he compiled a far-right voting record and, as House minority whip during the 1980s, was the hidden hand behind the rise of Newt Gingrich and his band of radicals. When he was slated to be Bush's running mate, it was widely assumed that Cheney would act as a stabilizing and moderating presence. Only those who understood his congressional career knew of his affinities with the radical right, his vengeful instincts and his mean-spiritedness. His emergence at the center of the "cabal" now under investigation by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald should not surprise those who have penetrated his avuncular image to see the hard man beneath. Cheney was not the substitute father figure but the false father.

Bush's highhanded treatment of the few Republican moderates of his first term all but eviscerated what was left of the establishment that once controlled the party. The story of the old party's fall from grace and Bush's part in it is a well-known bildungsroman, a family saga that begins with the father.

The son of Prescott Bush, a patrician moderate Republican senator from Connecticut and a Wall Street investment banker, George H.W. Bush traveled to Texas to make his fortune in the wildcat oil industry. He was hardly a roaring success, but he took up his father's line of work, getting elected to the House from suburban Houston. It was then that he opened the negotiations of his Faustian bargain. His father had been the head of the United Negro College Fund; he and his wife were prominent members of the local chapter of Planned Parenthood. But George Bush Sr., seeking political advantage in Texas, declared his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Bush spent the next decade advancing himself as a consummate Republican loyalist in positions ranging from chairman of the Republican National Committee under Nixon to Gerald Ford's CIA director and United Nations ambassador. After losing the Republican presidential nomination to Ronald Reagan in 1980, he swallowed his criticism of Reagan's supply-side nostrums as "voodoo economics" when he became his running mate.

The Faustian negotiations deepened. In 1988, he ran for president as Reagan's anointed successor. Faltering on his own, with unenthusiastic backing from Reagan's evangelical supporters, he ran a series of nativist and racially charged attacks on his Democratic opponent. Bush won that election with the right-wing Republican base voting for him but still doubtful of his authenticity. As president his compromises on taxation and realism in foreign policy led to their open disillusionment.

His son George lost his first campaign for the House from Texas, tainted by association with his father, who was tarnished by the right as a member of the Trilateral Commission international conspiracy. From then on, Bush was never outmaneuvered on his right flank. His political field marshal, Karl Rove, managed the right wing for his benefit. The Faustian bargain of the father became business as usual for the son.

Now the old establishment is faded. Its remnants largely consist of his father's superannuated retinue. Not even the old Texas establishment in the person of James A. Baker III, Bush's father's field marshal and the former secretary of state (among his many official posts), who managed the Florida contest that gave the presidency to the son, is welcome in this White House.

The Republican Party after Bush, minus its traditional establishment, threatens to become the party of its irreducible base, the party of the old Confederacy and the sparsely populated Rocky Mountain states. But this base, however loyal and obsequious to Bush, regardless of any crisis, does not offer statesmen to step in to handle his shaken White House.

A sharp reversal of policy and turnover in personnel are the only actions that may enable Bush to salvage the shipwreck of his presidency, as they did for Reagan. But bringing in the elders, even if they could be summoned, would be psychologically devastating to Bush, a humiliating admission that his long history of recklessness and failure, from the Texas Air National Guard to Harken Energy, with rescue only through the intervention of his father and his father's friends, has reached its culmination.

This story has been changed since it was originally published.

-- By Sidney Blumenthal

More on Cheney and Scooter!!!!

Cheney, Libby Blocked Papers To Senate Intelligence Panel

By Murray Waas, special to National Journal
© National Journal Group Inc.
Thursday, Oct. 27, 2005

Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, overruling advice from some White House political staffers and lawyers, decided to withhold crucial documents from the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2004 when the panel was investigating the use of pre-war intelligence that erroneously concluded Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, according to Bush administration and congressional sources.

Cheney had been the foremost administration advocate for war with Iraq, and Libby played a central staff role in coordinating the sale of the war to both the public and Congress.

Among the White House materials withheld from the committee were Libby-authored passages in drafts of a speech that then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell delivered to the United Nations in February 2003 to argue the Bush administration's case for war with Iraq, according to congressional and administration sources. The withheld documents also included intelligence data that Cheney's office -- and Libby in particular -- pushed to be included in Powell's speech, the sources said.

The new information that Cheney and Libby blocked information to the Senate Intelligence Committee further underscores the central role played by the vice president's office in trying to blunt criticism that the Bush administration exaggerated intelligence data to make the case to go to war.

The disclosures also come as Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald wraps up the nearly two-year-old CIA leak investigation that has focused heavily on Libby's role in discussing covert intelligence operative Valerie Plame with reporters. Fitzgerald could announce as soon as tomorrow whether a federal grand jury is handing up indictments in the case.

Central to Fitzgerald's investigation is whether administration officials disclosed Plame's identity and CIA status in an effort to discredit her husband, former ambassador and vocal Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson, who wrote newspaper op-ed columns and made other public charges beginning in 2003 that the administration misused intelligence on Iraq that he gathered on a CIA-sponsored trip to Africa.

In recent weeks Fitzgerald's investigation has zeroed in on the activities of Libby, who is Cheney's top national security and foreign policy advisor, as well as the conflict between the vice president's office on one side and the CIA and State Department on the other over the use of intelligence on Iraq. The New York Times reported this week, for example, that Libby first learned about Plame and her covert CIA status from Cheney in a conversation with the vice president weeks before Plame's cover was blown in a July 2003 newspaper column by Robert Novak.

The Intelligence Committee at the time was trying to determine whether the CIA and other intelligence agencies provided faulty or erroneous intelligence on Iraq to President Bush and other government officials. But the committee deferred the much more politically sensitive issue as to whether the president and the vice president themselves, or other administration officials, misrepresented intelligence information to bolster the case to go to war. An Intelligence Committee spokesperson says the panel is still working on this second phase of the investigation.

Had the withheld information been turned over, according to administration and congressional sources, it likely would have shifted a portion of the blame away from the intelligence agencies to the Bush administration as to who was responsible for the erroneous information being presented to the American public, Congress, and the international community.

In April 2004, the Intelligence Committee released a report that concluded that "much of the information provided or cleared by the Central Intelligence Agency for inclusion in Secretary Powell's [United Nation's] speech was overstated, misleading, or incorrect."

Both Republicans and Democrats on the committee say that their investigation was hampered by the refusal of the White House to turn over key documents, although Republicans said the documents were not as central to the investigation.

In addition to withholding drafts of Powell's speech -- which included passages written by Libby -- the administration also refused to turn over to the committee contents of the president's morning intelligence briefings on Iraq, sources say. These documents, known as the Presidential Daily Brief, or PDB, are a written summary of intelligence information and analysis provided by the CIA to the president.

One congressional source said, for example, that senators wanted to review the PDBs to determine whether dissenting views from the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the Department of Energy, and other agencies that often disagreed with the CIA on the question of Iraq's programs to develop weapons of mass destruction were being presented to the president.

An administration spokesperson said that the White House was justified in turning down the document demand from the Senate, saying that the papers reflected "deliberative discussions" among "executive branch principals" and were thus covered under longstanding precedent and executive privilege rules. Throughout the president's five years in office, the Bush administration has been consistently adamant about not turning internal documents over to Congress and other outside bodies.

At the same time, however, administration officials said in interviews that they cannot recall another instance in which Cheney and Libby played such direct personal roles in denying foreign policy papers to a congressional committee, and that in doing so they overruled White House staff and lawyers who advised that the materials should be turned over to the Senate panel.

Administration sources also said that Cheney's general counsel, David Addington, played a central role in the White House decision not to turn over the documents. Addington did not return phone calls seeking comment. Cheney's office declined to comment after requesting that any questions for this article be submitted in writing.

A former senior administration official familiar with the discussions on whether to turn over the materials said there was a "political element" in the matter. This official said the White House did not want to turn over records during an election year that could used by critics to argue that the administration used incomplete or faulty intelligence to go to war with Iraq. "Nobody wants something like this dissected or coming out in an election year," the former official said.

But the same former official also said that Libby felt passionate that the CIA and other agencies were not doing a good job at intelligence gathering, that the Iraqi war was a noble cause, and that he and the vice president were only making their case in good faith. According to the former official, Libby cited those reasons in fighting for the inclusion in Powell's U.N. speech of intelligence information that others mistrusted, in opposing the release of documents to the Intelligence Committee, and in moving aggressively to counter Wilson's allegations that the Bush administration distorted intelligence findings.

Both Republicans and Democrats on the committee backed the document request to the White House regarding Libby's drafts of the Powell speech, communications between Libby and other administration officials on intelligence information that might be included in the speech, and Libby's contacts with officials in the intelligence community relating to Iraq.

In his address to the United Nations on February 5, 2003, Powell argued that intelligence information showed that Saddam Hussein's regime was aggressively pursuing programs to develop chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons

Only after the war did U.N. inspectors and the public at large learn that the intelligence data had been incorrect and that Iraq had been so crippled by international sanctions that it could not sustain such a program.

The April 2004 Senate report blasted what it referred to as an insular and risk- averse culture of bureaucratic "group think" in which officials were reluctant to challenge their own longstanding notions about Iraq and its weapons programs. All nine Republicans and eight Democrats signed onto this document without a single dissent, a rarity for any such report in Washington, especially during an election year.

After the release of the report, Intelligence Committee, Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Vice Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said they doubted that the Senate would have authorized the president to go to war if senators had been given accurate information regarding Iraq's programs on weapons of mass destruction.

"I doubt if the votes would have been there," Roberts said. Rockefeller asserted, "We in Congress would not have authorized that war, in 75 votes, if we knew what we know now."

Roberts' spokeswoman, Sarah Little, said the second phase of the committee's investigation would also examine how pre-war intelligence focused on the fact that intelligence analysts -- while sounding alarms that a humanitarian crisis that might follow the war - failed to predict the insurgency that would arise after the war.

Little says that it was undecided whether the committee would produce a classified report, a declassified one that could ultimately be made public, or hold hearings.

When the 2004 Senate Intelligence Committee was made public, Bush, Cheney, and other administration officials cited it as proof that the administration acted in good faith on Iraq and relied on intelligence from the CIA and others that it did not know was flawed.

But some congressional sources say that had the committee received all the documents it requested from the White House the spotlight could have shifted to the heavy advocacy by Cheney's office to go to war. Cheney had been the foremost administration advocate for war with Iraq, and Libby played a central staff role in coordinating the sale of the war to both the public and Congress.

In advocating war with Iraq, Libby was known for dismissing those within the bureaucracy who opposed him, whether at the CIA, State Department, or other agencies. Supporters say that even if Libby is charged by the grand jury in the CIA leak case, he waged less a personal campaign against Wilson and Plame than one that reflected a personal antipathy toward critics in general.

Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff to Powell as Secretary of State, charged in a recent speech that there was a "cabal between Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense [Donald L.] Rumsfeld on critical decisions that the bureaucracy did not know was being made."

In interagency meetings in preparation for Powell's U.N. address, Wilkerson, Powell, and senior CIA officials argued that evidence Libby wanted to include as part of Powell's presentation was exaggerated or unreliable. Cheney, too, became involved in those discussions, sources said, when he believed that Powell and others were not taking Libby's suggestions seriously.

Wilkerson has said that he ordered "whole reams of paper" of intelligence information excluded from Libby's draft of Powell's speech. Another official recalled that Libby was pushing so hard to include certain intelligence information in the speech that Libby lobbied Powell for last minute changes in a phone call to Powell's suite at the Waldorf Astoria hotel the night before the speech. Libby's suggestions were dismissed by Powell and his staff.

John E. McLaughlin, then-deputy director of the CIA, has testified to Congress that "much of our time in the run-up to the speech was spent taking out material... that we and the secretary's staff judged to have been unreliable."

The passion that Libby brought to his cause is perhaps further illustrated by a recent Los Angeles Times report that in April 2004, months after Fitzgerald's leak investigation was underway, Libby ordered "a meticulous catalog of Wilson's claims and public statements going back to early 2003" because Libby was "consumed by passages that he believed were inaccurate or unfair" to him.

The newspaper reported that the "intensity with which Libby reacted to Wilson had many senior White House staffers puzzled, and few agreed with his counterattack plan, or its rationale."

A former administration official said that "this might have been about politics on some level, but it is also personal. [Libby] feels that his honor has been questioned, and his instinct is to strike back."

Now, as Libby battles back against possible charges by a special prosecutor, he might be seeking vindication on an entirely new level.

-- Murray Waas is a Washington-based journalist. His previous articles, focusing on Rove's role in the case, Libby's grand jury testimony, the apparent direction of Fitzgerald's investigation, and the Secret Service records that prompted Miller's key testimony also appeared on

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Vice President For Torture
Vice President for Torture

Wednesday, October 26, 2005; A18

VICE PRESIDENT Cheney is aggressively pursuing an initiative that may be unprecedented for an elected official of the executive branch: He is proposing that Congress legally authorize human rights abuses by Americans. "Cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment of prisoners is banned by an international treaty negotiated by the Reagan administration and ratified by the United States. The State Department annually issues a report criticizing other governments for violating it. Now Mr. Cheney is asking Congress to approve legal language that would allow the CIA to commit such abuses against foreign prisoners it is holding abroad. In other words, this vice president has become an open advocate of torture.

His position is not just some abstract defense of presidential power. The CIA is holding an unknown number of prisoners in secret detention centers abroad. In violation of the Geneva Conventions, it has refused to register those detainees with the International Red Cross or to allow visits by its inspectors. Its prisoners have "disappeared," like the victims of some dictatorships. The Justice Department and the White House are known to have approved harsh interrogation techniques for some of these people, including "waterboarding," or simulated drowning; mock execution; and the deliberate withholding of pain medication. CIA personnel have been implicated in the deaths during interrogation of at least four Afghan and Iraqi detainees. Official investigations have indicated that some aberrant practices by Army personnel in Iraq originated with the CIA. Yet no CIA personnel have been held accountable for this record, and there has never been a public report on the agency's performance.

It's not surprising that Mr. Cheney would be at the forefront of an attempt to ratify and legalize this shameful record. The vice president has been a prime mover behind the Bush administration's decision to violate the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention Against Torture and to break with decades of past practice by the U.S. military. These decisions at the top have led to hundreds of documented cases of abuse, torture and homicide in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Cheney's counsel, David S. Addington, was reportedly one of the principal authors of a legal memo justifying the torture of suspects. This summer Mr. Cheney told several Republican senators that President Bush would veto the annual defense spending bill if it contained language prohibiting the use of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by any U.S. personnel.

The senators ignored Mr. Cheney's threats, and the amendment, sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), passed this month by a vote of 90 to 9. So now Mr. Cheney is trying to persuade members of a House-Senate conference committee to adopt language that would not just nullify the McCain amendment but would formally adopt cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as a legal instrument of U.S. policy. The Senate's earlier vote suggests that it will not allow such a betrayal of American values. As for Mr. Cheney: He will be remembered as the vice president who campaigned for torture.
© 2005 The Washington Post Company


Why can't the left face the Stolen Elections of 2004 & 2008?
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If some of its key publications are any indicator, much of the American left seems unable to face the reality that the election of 2004 was stolen. So in all likelihood, unless something radical is done, 2008 will be too.

by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman

Misguided and misinformed articles in both and Mother Jones Magazine indicate a dangerous inability to face the reality that these stolen elections mean nothing less than the death of what's left of American democracy, and the permanent enthronement of the Rovian GOP.

As investigative reporters based in Columbus, Ohio, we witnessed first-hand, up close and personal, exactly how the 2004 election was stolen, and how it will most likely be done in 2008. In the precinct in which Harvey Wasserman grew up, and in the one where Bob Fitrakis now lives, we saw the well-funded, profoundly cynical and deadly effective mechanisms by which the Bush-Cheney-Rove-Blackwell GOP machine switched a victory for John Kerry to an easily-repeatable defeat for democracy.

That Kerry and the spineless Ohio and national Democratic Parties have been complicit is a crucial part of the problem much of the left also seems unwilling to face. But if you live in Franklin County, Ohio, and watch the Republican and Democratic Parties run joint pickets against progressive candidate, and cut backroom deals allowing incumbents of either party run unopposed, you may miss the full scope of the disaster.

And until the left faces the rot that defines the Democratic Party, there is no hope for a fair election in this country. In other words: those who think the White House can be retaken in 2008, but refuse to face the theft of the vote in 2004, should prepare to be ruled by the likes of Jeb Bush, now and forever.

Before we go into the sordid details, we have to ask: exactly what is it about Team Bush that makes people think they could not or would not steal an American election? Do they lack funds? Do they lack expertise? Is there something in the Machiavellian/mobster moral code of Karl Rove and the Bush Family that would prevent them from doing here what they've been doing throughout the Third World for so long?

CIA meister Poppy Bush long ago perfected the art and science of stealing elections. US manipulators have interfered with and tipped elections for decades. Why should Ohio be any different? Especially when all the world knew control of the most powerful office on earth would be decided right here.

Lets do the bookends: before the voting, Ohio's infamous Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell clearly and vehemently denied poll access to teams of international observers from the United Nations and other international election observers.

Since the election, he has effectively stonewalled and sabotaged all recount attempts, to the point that no credible accounting of the Ohio election has ever been done. To this day, at least 100,000 votes remain uncounted, electronic voting machines remain unaudited, key hardware and data files have been trashed, paper ballots have sat unguarded for anyone to pilfer and tallies in dozens of key counties remain filled with statistical impossibilities.

In our HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, we list more than 180 bullet points on how this theft was perpetrated. It was a brilliant, cynical and masterfully executed campaign of death by a thousand cuts.

In Florida 2000, the means of the crime were limited to a few instances of intimidation, butterfly ballots, computer manipulation and a corrupt Supreme Court. But four years after, in Ohio, dozens of sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant tricks were designed to steal a few thousand votes here, a few thousand more there, until victory was in GOP hands. Unless they are exposed and blocked, every one of these scams can and will be duplicated throughout the United States in 2006 and 2008. The question is: will the left follow mainstream Democrats with sheep-like acceptance as every election goes the same way from here on? And if so, why bother even staging more votes in this country at all?

Starting with Russ Baker at, the indicators are grim. Last January, Baker penned an absurd, ill-reported piece of nonsense called "What Didn't Happen in Ohio." Baker traipsed into Columbus for a few days, interviewed the usual faux Democrats, and left with a Big Story: "The Election Was Fair."

If Baker had done any meaningful research he might have seen the dozens of other instances of intimidation, irregularities and fraud that went unmentioned in his glib paragraphs. Instead he relied on Bill Anthony, chair of the Franklin County Democrats and Board of Elections.

Bill is a pleasant, affable African-American with no commitment or fight for democracy or even the Democrats. He has appeared on Bob's local radio show and with Harvey on others. On one of them, Bill admitted that the Franklin County BOE knew there would be problems with voting machines, and asked Blackwell for paper ballots well before the 2004 election. Blackwell, Anthony said, turned them down. The result was the now infamous chaos at the polls, with inner city voters stuck in the rain for hours. Just what Blackwell wanted.

But did Bill Anthony fight Blackwell's absurd ruling? Did he make it a public issue prior to the election?

Not a chance.

For a quickie reporting job, Anthony is a dream. He's well-spoken, charming and convincing. As an African-American with union connections, he would seem the perfect liberal source.

In 2003, Anthony endorsed the Republican mayor's former press secretary for the Columbus School Board. He then supported two Republican candidates on a "Reform Slate" aimed at ousting the Board's only progressive Democrat, an African-American.

Bill Anthony is just one of a legion of what are known throughout the state as DINOs---Democrats in Name Only. The Ohio Democratic Party is a national embarrassment. Its chair, Denny White, was not long ago a Republican, and will soon be one again, once the party is fully disemboweled, a job very close to done. Throughout Ohio, DINOs piously cover this piece of fraud and that piece of theft with glib "I hate Bush" rhetoric. The pity is, out-of-state reporters actually take them seriously.

Mark Hertsgaard is a well respected author and reporter and a long-time friend of Harvey Wasserman, and of election critic Mark Crispen Miller. He has contributed some very valuable work over the years. But he's done himself---and the voting public---very wrong on "Recounting Ohio" in the new Mother Jones.

Mark is smart and thorough enough to leave open the possibility that Ohio's election was, indeed, stolen. But he also falls prey to the DINO trap, failing to cover far too much of what happened here while taking seriously centrist Democrats who are known locally to have no credibility.

So Mother Jones questions the significance of the firing of a Democratic election official who blew the whistle on computer manipulations by Triad, an obscure Republican voting machine company. But Triad was involved in counting the votes in nearly half of Ohio's 88 counties. Questions are still being raised about Triad, including: "How did they get all these contracts in the first place?"

Mother Jones correctly points out that seven times the number of votes by which Bush took Ohio were cast on Republican-controlled machines. But the magazine fails to follow up with mention that those votes have been tabulated on proprietary non-transparent software---a fact we pointed out in our own article in many months prior to the election.

Mother Jones also discounts the fact that a phony Homeland Security alert in Warren County landed the vote count in an unauthorized warehouse rather than the official secure location, and that reporters were barred from the vote count. That count, which went hugely and suspiciously and very importantly for Bush, was observed by nominal Democrats. But so were other highly dubious vote counts around the state, as they had been in Florida 2000, which Mother Jones argues adamantly was indeed stolen.

The irony of this is that the same issue of Mother Jones leads off with a dead-on story about Ohio and national Democrats who are sabotaging the campaign of the aggressively electable Paul Hackett for a key US Senate seat. And another MoJo piece bemoans the fact that national Democrats seem adept only at losing.

Yet here the back of the book is a story discounting evidence compiled by a legion of independent, grassroots election rights advocates, while favoring phone interviews with the very Democrats being denounced in the front of the book.

Above all, the core of evidence that the election was stolen in Ohio 2004 comes from some 500 sworn statements and signed affidavits taken by people of all political parties, including two Republican hearings officers, in the weeks after the election. Anyone truly committed to finding out what happened here needs to start with that huge body of evidence.

As MoJo points out, none of this has been made easier by the "abandon ship" of the biggest DINO of all, John Kerry. Kerry had $7 million in the bank earmarked to "count every vote" and was apparently losing by just 136,000 Ohio votes with more than 250,000 still uncounted when he turned tail and conceded. Even Blackwell's corrupt, virtually meaningless first fake recount dropped Bush's official tally by 18,000 votes.

The Democrats have since attacked the election protection movement here through a lawyer named Daniel Hoffheimer who comes from none other than the stalwart Cincinnati Republican law firm of Taft, Stettinius et. al. MoJo quotes another Kerry/DINO lawyer Michael O'Grady, counsel to the state Democratic Party, who argues that for Ohio to have been stolen, the entire GOP would have had to be "conspiratorial," while the Democrats were "dumb as rocks."

In fact, that's an assessment many activists in Ohio heartily endorse, though you might add the word "inert" to the description of the Democrats.

O'Grady claims, for example, that an impossible vote count in three southern Ohio counties that gave Bush his entire margin of victory can be explained by a feminist outpouring for an African-American court candidate who ran zero campaign in those counties. But the presumption is that those same feminists somehow didn't bother to vote for Kerry over George W. Bush. No local student of that election could begin to take such an assessment seriously.

Or how about the quote from Chris Rakocy, a "tech specialist" about those notorious touchscreens in Mahoning County where voters who chose Kerry saw Bush light up. Rakocy says that problem was "only" on 18 of 1,148 machines, and that it was corrected early.

But Rakocy stands alone against dozens of sworn statements and affidavits confirming that the problem went on all day, and was never fixed, and may have involved far more machines than 18, and not only in Mahoning County but also in Franklin. Even at that, in heavily Democratic Youngstown (not to mention Columbus), just 18 machines could have accounted for switching thousands of votes. And, in fact, Kerry's margins in both Youngstown and Columbus were suspiciously light.

And what would Mother Jones herself do to machines that disenfranchised even one voter, no matter what the apparent impact on the ultimate vote count? Why is the magazine named for her discounting the you-couldn't-make-this-one-up reality of voters pushing one candidate's name on a touchscreen and seeing another's name light up, time after time after time? Or are we taking this---and her---all too seriously?

Then there's the song and dance from Warren Mitofsky. The father of exit polls saw his work used to overturn a stolen election in Ukraine just prior to the American vote. But when his poll-taking here showed John Kerry with a nationwide margin of 1.5 million votes, somehow Mitofsky jumped ship on his own decades of professionalism.

Exit polls funded by six major news organizations showed Kerry carrying Ohio, Iowa, New Mexico and Nevada as late as 12:20 am on Wednesday morning, well after balloting stopped even in Alaska and Hawaii. These four "purple states" gave the election to the "blue" Democrats, then miraculously switched to "red" for Bush, giving him the White House once again.

Given all that's known about exit polls---and it's a lot---the odds on one state switching like that are about one in one hundred. For four, it's a virtual statistical impossibility. Add the fact that not one, not four, but TEN of eleven swing states showed drastic shifts from Kerry to Bush and you enter the realm of, well, a stolen election.

Add huge, unexplained shifts from pre-election polls to post-election vote counts in crucial 2002 Senatorial races in Georgia, Minnesota and Colorado, then remember what happened in Florida 2000, and examine the basic Bush attitude toward democracy itself, and you've got a pattern to say the least. And an obvious prescription for one-party rule as far as the eye can see.

Except when you are dealing with America's Democratic Party in 2004 and with reportage that relies on a few phone calls and a disheartening lack of grassroots perspective. If all politics is local, as Tip O'Neill well knew, then so are all vote counts.

Our first article predicting what would happen in Ohio 2004 was published many months before the election in, of all places, We warned that electronic voting machines deployed by the likes of Diebold could give Ohio and thus the nation to George W. Bush. Wally O'Dell, Diebold's infamous CEO, pledged to deliver Ohio's electoral votes to Bush in 2004, and all evidence points to the fact that he at least helped.

What we missed in addition was the myriad clever tricks the GOP would bring to bear in pulling this off. Ohio has a long history as a test market. New products like white bread and spam are brought here first, to see how they'll fly with America at large.

In Ohio 2004, scores of tools for stealing an American election were tried and proven out. Outside reporters have come here again and again to pull at this one and tear at that one. Almost always, they get even that wrong. And almost always, they fail to see the bigger picture.

If we have a "know it all" attitude, as is sometimes charged, it's because we were (and are) here, we saw it happen, we witnessed the seven-hour waits and the denials of the absentee ballots, and we took the testimony of the hundreds who later went under oath.

And we see more unravel every day. Conspiracy theories happen sometimes when actual conspiracies occur. The stakes involved, the players on both sides and the events that are out there plain as day are all of a piece that's simply too obvious for anyone on the ground here to miss.

Hertsgaard has the good sense to mention indictments that have recently come down on election thieves in Cuyahoga County. We know that to be the tip of the iceberg.

What matters now is whether the GOP will be allowed to repeat nationwide in 2006 and 2008 what they saw they could get away with in Ohio 2004.

Election theft skeptics tend to conclude their put-downs by urging we forget about the vote-count stuff and concentrate on coming up with candidates so good that "the election won't be close enough to steal."

Having seen what we saw here, knowing what Mother Jones is reporting about the Democratic attacks on Paul Hackett, and about the loser instinct ingrained in the Dems' DLC/DNA, we must charitably describe such a conclusion as being profoundly wishful thinking.

Someday we may indeed have candidates far worthier than Al Gore and John Kerry. But they both won the presidency of the United States, however corruptible their margins of victory.

We need to guarantee that if someone worthwhile and willing to fight ever does come along, we will have a left that's prepared to make sure the votes are fairly counted.

As Rev. Jesse Jackson put it while speaking to election protection activists here, "We can afford to lose an election. We can't afford to lose our democracy."

Who would agree more strongly than Tom Paine and Mother Jones?

Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, available at and Their upcoming WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO, with Steve Rosenfeld, will be published by The New Press in spring, 2006.

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Paul Begala Talks About White House Under Siege

What It's Like

By Paul Begala

From: TPMCafe Special Guests
Tom Petty was wrong. The waiting is not the hardest part.

Sure, all of what Eric Alterman dubbed "the punditocracy" has a severe case of indictus interruptus, but for President Bush and his White House staff, the worst is yet to come. To be sure, waiting on a decision to indict is an exquisite form of torture. But what lies ahead is worse. If special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald does choose to indict one or more senior Bush White House officials, they will be the first top White House aides to be indicted in a decade and a half.

This is when a White House staffer earns his pay. The pressure of a federal criminal investigation - especially one in the media spotlight - is bone-crushing. My guess is that the strain is taking a gruesome toll. Already we hear rumors of President Bush exploding at his aides, at the President blaming Vice President Cheney, Karl Rove, and anyone else in sight for his woes.

This I know first hand: when The Boss explodes like that, there are two kinds of aides -- those who fight and those who flee. When he came to Washington, Mr. Bush surrounded himself with tough-minded people who seemed not to be afraid to stand up to him. But now his team is loaded with weak-kneed toadies, and Mr. Bush is home alone. Karl Rove, of course, is fending off a potential indictment. His prodigious brain has not entertained another thought in months. (That's why, I suspect, some months back Rove popped off and said liberals wanted to give terrorists psychotherapy after 9/11. It was a loopy, stupid, and distinctly un-Rovian, meltdown - the first public sign that the pressure was causing Karl to crack.)

Oct 26, 2005 -- 11:07:27 PM EST
What of the rest of Team Bush? Karen Hughes is at the State Department, as is Condi Rice. Al Gonzalez has decamped for Justice, and fellow Austinite Margaret Spellings is at the Department of Education. Harriet Miers is fighting a losing battle to avoid becoming a permanent punch line. Ari Fleischer is selling books and dispensing sage advice to corporations. And Mary Matalin is busy raising her girls and rallying the troops from the outside.

The exodus and incapacity were inevitable; replacing Bush's stand-up guys and gals with suck-ups and sycophants was not. After he was re-elected, with the clouds of scandal still all `round, Bill Clinton lured John Podesta back to the White House. Podesta, who is as tough as a bar of iron, became deputy chief of staff, and then chief of staff. He was indispensable in maintaining the focus of both the President and his staff. When Abner Mikva left, Clinton recruited a new White House counsel, Charles Ruff, who was strong and steady, and put together the most impressive team of lawyers ever to grace the West Wing. When Mike McCurry stepped down, he was replaced by bulldog Joe Lockhart. Clinton also promoted Rahm Emanuel and Doug Sosnik, veteran campaigners, and convinced me to leave my beloved Austin to become Counselor to the President. Not because I was possessed of some special wisdom or insight, but because I knew him well and was not afraid to give him bad news.

Mr. Bush would do well to augment his current staff, a C-Team if ever there was one, with some stronger characters. But to read the Bush-Miers correspondence is to gain a disturbing insight into Mr. Bush's personality: he likes having his ass kissed. Ms. Miers' cards and letters to the then-Governor of Texas belong in the Brown-Nosers Hall of Fame. You can be sure the younger and less experienced Bush White House aides are even more obsequious. The last thing this President wants is the first thing he needs: someone to slap his spoiled, pampered, trust-funded, plutocratic, never-worked-a-day-in-his-life cheek and make him face the reality of his foul-ups.

And so they wait. And they sniff the royal throne. They tell the Beloved Leader he's the victim of a partisan plot (although how the Bush CIA, which referred the Plame case for prosecution, became ground zero of Democratic liberalism escapes me). They assure him all is well. But all is not well. People are looking over their shoulders. The smart ones have stopped taking notes in meetings. The very smart ones have stopped using email for all but the most pedestrian communications. And the smartest ones have already obtained outside counsel.

When a White House is under siege, no one wants to talk to anyone. Literally, anything you say can and will be used against you. When you're in a meeting and you see one of your colleagues taking notes, you start to wonder how long it will be before you're interrogated based on her notes. Maybe she's doodling. Or maybe she's digging your grave. The mind tries to focus on the task at hand, but the grand jury is never far from your thoughts.

Compared to these folks, I had it easy. I'd never met Monica Lewinsky, had no knowledge of the affair, which took place when I was living in Austin, and I knew that neither I nor any of my colleagues were in Ken Starr's perverse crosshairs. The Fitzgerald investigation is very different. It's not about the President's extracurricular activities. It's about the essence of how the White House works - and the suggestion that this White House has become deeply corrupt.

If the waiting is as painful for the Bushies as I suspect it is, it's only because they know how terrible the toll will be when the truth comes out.

What It's Like | 39 comments (39 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)

Re: What It's Like (5.00 / 2) (#19)
by Revolutionary on Oct 27, 2005 -- 02:35:47 AM EST
Great insight on the culture inside the White House. But a slightly different angle to consider. Do you think there has been discussion of possible pardons being issued for Rove, Cheney, Libby and others? If so, do you believe that the discussions would have been out in the open with more than one of the about to be indicted staffers present? And just how would you coordinate something like that without obstructing the investigation, tampering with a potential witness, etc.? Do you believe the public would stand for across the board pardons by President Bush after a 2 year investigation by Fitzgerald? And what kind of price would President Bush pay for utilizing that option? Thanks for your insight.