After his plane was forced to take evasive maneuvers to avoid rocket-propelled grenades while taking off from Baghdad, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said “he watched through the window as the grenades exploded near the plane. He said he felt the blasts.” Asked if he was frightened, Inhofe responded, “Not a bit. I was kind of excited.”
The Nation‘s David Corn has a copy of a secret government report saying there’s a lot of it. You know what I think a sensible response would be? Engineering
the departure of American troops a return to power of discredited former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. There’s nothing like an ex-Baathist whose buddies have, in the past, stolen as much as a billion bucks to help resolve this kind of problem. I’m feeling surge-ilicious already.
Today, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke to President Bush about their growing conern of the “strain on troops and their families from long and repeated combat tours.” Currently, many U.S. soldiers are serving 15-month tours of duty with just 12 months at home.
Karl Rove was nearly overcome with emotion Friday as colleagues privately paid tribute to the political adviser as he leaves the White House, senior officials say.
At the closed-door senior staff meeting at 7:30 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room, Rove was surprised with a slide show of photos chronicling his nearly seven years at President Bush’s side, through good times and bad.
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow told CNN that Rove was so touched by the tribute that he didn’t have any final words for his colleagues. “He was pretty choked up,” Snow said.
AP is reporting that tomorrow, Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) will announce whether or not he intends to resign. “Idaho Gov. C.L. ‘Butch’ Otter already appears to have settled on a successor – Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, according to several Republicans familiar with internal deliberations.”
UPDATE: According to four Idaho GOP officials, “Craig will announce at a news conference in Boise Saturday morning that he will resign effective Sept. 30.”
When Tony Snow took over as White House Press Secretary on April 26, 2006, the media and pundits predicted that he would turn around the President’s image and help push forward his agenda:
Bush’s first press secretary, Ari Fleischer, said Snow and other staff changes offer the chance to show Americans that “something new may come from the White House” and that Bush deserves a second look. [MSNBC, 4/26/06]
“An outsider with a somewhat happy-go-lucky attitude could help externally, but also internally,” said [William] Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, because staffers tend to get “so defensive after years of getting pummeled.” [Washington Post, 4/26/06]
“We want fresh thinking, to charge the batteries, and passionate participation,” said Dan Bartlett, a top Bush adviser. “There is a lot of value added in Tony coming on board and helping us internally with his own views and ideas. It fits into the mold.” [Washington Post, 4/27/06]
On Wednesday, Snow’s appointment, which had been rumored for days, got positive reviews by Republicans on the Hill, including from one senior GOP leadership aide who told NEWSWEEK it was “great news.” “He’ll give some good outside-the-box thinking for the White House,” said the Republican aide.” [Newsweek, 4/27/06]
But Snow has been unable to sell Bush and his policies to the American public. For the past year, Bush’s poll numbers have continued to fall, dropping to all-time lows and rivaling Richard Nixon’s ratings right before he resigned from office:
Additionally, nothing “new” has come from the White House in the past year, and Snow’s “good outside-the-box thinking” has been largely rejected by the public. Even right-wing pundits Charles Krauthammer and Fred Barnes recently admitted that the White House has “no agenda.” As the Washington Post noted in July:
But the president’s unpopularity has left the White House to play mostly defense for the remainder of his term. With his immigration overhaul proposal dead, Bush’s principal legislative hopes are to save his No Child Left Behind education program and to fend off attempts to force him to change course in Iraq. The emerging strategy is to play off a Congress that is also deeply unpopular and to look strong by vetoing spending bills.
Looks like even Tony Snow couldn’t spin around the White House.
UPDATE: Tim Grieve at Salon has highlights during Snow’s tenure.
Not that I have anything in particular to say about Belgium (took a trip to Brussels one time and found it delightful — I’m personally a huge fan of both Renée Magritte and mussels) but Ingrid Robeyns has an interesting teaser for projected future coverage of Belgian politics:
For those of you in countries where there hasn’t been any reporting – it’s day 82 after the federal elections, and the Flemish and Walloon parties are so bitterly opposed to each other’s demands, that commentators are talking aloud of “the end of Belgium” (which is not going to happen soon, since neither of them wants to give up Brussels – but there are signs that the crisis between the Dutch/Flemish-speaking and Francophone regions is deeper than it has been in decades).
And the more I thought about what I should write, the more it became clear that it’s a complicated issue to write about. One problem is that the interpretations of the political events differ dramatically between the Dutch-language and the Francophone Belgian press – truly as if they are from two different planets – so any (foreign) journalist/reader who masters only one of those two languages will almost inevitably get a distorted or one-sided pictured. Then there is the question whether, as a Flemish person, I can write sufficiently neutral about this.
Whenever I try to chart a course between the “Iraq would have been great if we’d just had smarter people in charge of the occupation” and the “Arabs can’t handle democracy” school of thought, I tend to come back to things like this — the great difficult Belgians have in creating a viable, legitimate binational democratic state. Or think of the Canadians. Or the endless problems in Spain with the Basques. It’s genuinely difficult to work these kinds of things out. And then there’s the former Czechoslovakia where it couldn’t be worked out, or else Northern Ireland where it also couldn’t be worked out but where there proved to be no adequate line of partition. None of these places are precisely like the others, of course, but the general point is just that there’s shouldn’t be anything surprising about the fact that it’s proven very difficult to come up with a vision for Iraq that’s appealing across sectarian and ethnic lines in Iraq.
Yesterday, a plane carrying three U.S. senators and a member of the House was forced to take evasive maneuvers to avoid rocket-propelled grenades as they took off from Baghdad. “It was a scary moment,” said Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL). “There were a few minutes there where I wondered: ‘Have we been hit? Are we OK?’” added Rep. Bud Cramer (D-AL).
Despite the close call, the lawmakers continued to insist that progress was being made in Iraq:
– “Incredibly significant progress has been made on the military front,” Martinez told the Orlando Sentinel.
– “I believe the surge, from observations…that they have made a lot of progress with the surge. It’s not definitive, but it’s on the right track,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) told the Tuscaloosa News.
– Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) told the Tulsa World that “his visit allowed him to witness firsthand the progress resulting from the ongoing troop surge in Iraq.”
The senators’ assessments are contradicted by the conclusion in the Government Accountability Office’s upcoming report on Iraq, a draft of which was leaked to the Washington Post yesterday. The “strikingly negative” draft report says that “Iraq has failed to meet all but three of 18 congressionally mandated benchmarks for political and military progress”:
“While the Baghdad security plan was intended to reduce sectarian violence, U.S. agencies differ on whether such violence has been reduced,” it states. While there have been fewer attacks against U.S. forces, it notes, the number of attacks against Iraqi civilians remains unchanged. It also finds that “the capabilities of Iraqi security forces have not improved.”
“Overall,” the report concludes, “key legislation has not been passed, violence remains high, and it is unclear whether the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion in reconstruction funds,” as promised. [...]
It contradicts the Bush administration’s conclusion in July that sectarian violence was decreasing as a result of the U.S. military’s stepped-up operations in Baghdad this year. “The average number of daily attacks against civilians remained about the same over the last six months; 25 in February versus 26 in July,” the GAO draft states.
In an interview with ThinkProgress this week, Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) described the “physiological phenomenon” of lawmakers claiming to see progress in Iraq that is contradicted by empirical evidence. She called it “Green Zone fog.”
Apparently even a close-call with a rocket propelled grenade isn’t enough to shake the “Green Zone fog” from the eyes of some Bush supporters.
I haven’t been posting as much as I usually do, since I have been preparing testimony for the Congressional hearing on Wednesday. The committee has finally posted details of the hearing here. It should be a rousing debate. At least I won’t be all alone on the anti-CTL side.
In the course of preparing, one of Climate Progress’s readers sent me some high-quality information on the high level of water use in the liquid coal process, which I though I’d share. The key factoid is five to seven gallons of water are necessary for every gallon of diesel fuel that’s produced (and double that if you coproduce diesel fuel and electricity from coal).
This comes from a very useful report: “Emerging Issues for Fossil Energy and Water” by DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. The key chart is (click on it for a clearer image):
GPM is gallons per minute, Bgal is billions of gallon, BPSD is barrels per steam day (whatever a “steam day” is), and I think 42 gallons per barrel (that’s what it is for oil, anyway). Ed Markey (D-MA) put this all in layman’s language on Grist:
ABC’s The Blotter reports:
The White House will not identify a private company which appears to be involved in the disappearance of millions of White House e-mails.
The company was responsible for reviewing and archiving White House e-mails, a White House official told congressional staff in May, according to a letter yesterday from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif. Congressional investigators asked then for the name of the company and “have repeatedly requested” the information since then, according to Waxman. [...]
According to the White House, at least five million e-mails were not properly archived and may be lost forever, in apparent violation of the Presidential Records Act. The post-Watergate law states that communications relating to official activity in the offices of the president and vice president are owned by the American public and cannot be destroyed.