December 27, 2006

This Is President Bush's War

Democrats will soon get a say on Iraq

Congress' new leaders aim to thwart Bush's call for a troop increase. Hearings are planned.

"I hope the president and his people will listen," Biden said.

Biden, who was elected to the Senate during the Vietnam War and who is planning a 2008 presidential run, has been among the most outspoken critics of Bush's Iraq policies; he called any increase in troops "the absolute wrong strategy."

A new tone in Washington

As recently as last year, when John P. Murtha called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, many in the party agonized over whether that position would permanently tar Democrats as weak. But as discontent with the war has grown, sapping Bush's popularity, Democratic lawmakers have become increasingly outspoken. And senior party leaders now appear to be uniting behind the call for a phased withdrawal of U.S. forces, a position that was bolstered by the release this month of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group's report.

"Democrats and the bipartisan Iraq Study Group have both laid down a roadmap for the president to begin the withdrawal of American troops from the civil war in Iraq," incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said last week. "It is now up to the president to follow that course."

Bush has met with the new Democratic leaders but thus far has shown little inclination to accept their counsel on the war.

Rather than talk of reducing the number of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, the White House has focused in the weeks since the release of the Iraq Study Group report on a temporary increase in troops that proponents say will help control the growing sectarian violence. Senior congressional Democrats, including Biden, have attacked that plan, arguing that beginning a phased withdrawal is the best way to force Iraqis to take responsibility for halting the violence between Sunnis and Shiites.

As he outlined his scheduled hearings in a Tuesday conference call with the media, Biden expressed hope that by airing more viewpoints on Iraq, congressional leaders, particularly Republicans, could persuade the president to reconsider the idea of deploying more soldiers.

"If we can, out of those hearings, generate some bipartisan consensus in the Senate, then he may very well listen to some of … my Republican colleagues who, I believe, share my great concern," Biden said.

Only 12% of Americans back a troop increase, compared with 52% who prefer a timetable for withdrawal, a recent Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll found.

And House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton last week promised a series of oversight hearings aimed at uncovering and correcting abuses in the war effort.

The flood of congressional hearings next month will probably shed unfavorable light on the way the Bush administration has prosecuted the war in Iraq.

But Biden acknowledged that, short of cutting off funding, Congress has limited ability to compel the White House to dramatically change course.

Though Congress has in the past used its power over the budget to challenge the foreign policies of presidents — including cutting funding to the government of South Vietnam in the mid-'70s — thus far no leading Democrat has called for withholding money for military operations in Iraq.

"We should not exaggerate the ability of the United States Foreign Relations Committee or the Congress to get a president to act in a manner in which the Congress thinks is more rational or more appropriate," Biden said Tuesday. "There's nothing the United States Congress can do by a piece of legislation to alter the conduct of a war that a president decides to pursue.

"This is President Bush's war," he said.

Read The Full Story, By Noam N. Levey...

"Conservatism, like Christianity, has not failed. Neither has ever been tried, especially by this administration."

December 25, 2006

Interior, Pentagon Faulted In Audits

Interior, Pentagon Faulted In Audits

Effort to Speed Defense Contracts Wasted Millions

The Defense Department paid two procurement operations at the Department of the Interior to arrange for Pentagon purchases totaling $1.7 billion that resulted in excessive fees and tens of millions of dollars in waste, documents show.

Defense turned to Interior, which manages federal lands and resources, in an effort to speed up its contracting. Interior is one of several government agencies allowed to manage contracts for other agencies in exchange for a fee.

But the arrangement between Interior and Defense "routinely violated rules designed to protect U.S. Government interests," according to draft audit documents obtained by The Washington Post.

More than half of the contracts examined were awarded without competition or without checks to determine that the prices were reasonable, according to the audits by the inspectors general for Defense (DOD) and Interior (DOI). Ninety-two percent of the work reviewed was awarded without verifying that the contractors' cost estimates were accurate; 96 percent was inadequately monitored.


December 19, 2006

Cheney to Be Defense Witness in CIA Case

Vice President Cheney will be called to testify in the perjury and obstruction of justice trial of his former chief of staff, which is scheduled to begin next month, a lawyer for the defense announced today.

The attorney representing I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby told a judge today that the defense plans to call the vice president to help rebut charges that his most trusted aide had a criminal motive to mislead agents and a grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA operative's identity. Libby's trial on five counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to investigators is slated to start Jan. 16.

Washington Post

December 18, 2006

Changing Course In Iraq

Democrats won control of Congress in last month's midterm elections in part because of public dissatisfaction with Bush's handling of the war. More than half of Americans want to set a schedule to withdraw all troops.

Start with democracy, a word conspicuously deemphasized by Baker and co-chair Lee Hamilton in their Iraq Study Group report. They want Rice to talk with Iran and with Syria, which is busy undermining democracy in Lebanon. They speak more broadly for the burgeoning Washington consensus that the promotion of democracy in the Middle East was a dangerous pipe dream best abandoned before any more damage is done.

Iraqi troops, they are insufficient, incompetent, and many of them (are) corrupted.

Harry Reid, whose party campaigned in the November congressional elections on changing course in Iraq, said he would be open only to a short-term increase.

The American people will not allow this war to go on as it has. It simply is a war that will not be won militarily.

Sen. Jack Reed, said that if it were a short-term increase, "won't our adversaries simply adjust their tactics, wait us out and wait until we reduce again? So I think you'd have to ask very serious questions about the utility of this."

Sen. Edward Kennedy, said, "I respect Harry Reid on it, but that's not where I am."

Kennedy, like Reed a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said there would be widespread opposition by members of his committee if Bush proposed a troop increase.

Ex-secretary of state says U.S. is losing and a temporary troop boost won't help.

Former U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell says the United States is losing the war in Iraq and victory, as traditionally defined by the Bush administration, is "not in the cards."

Powell, who resigned after George W. Bush's first term, also says he doesn't think a short-term surge of U.S. troops to try to stabilize Baghdad would work.

The surge option is said to be gaining favour in the White House as the U.S. president prepares to announce a new course in Iraq to the American people early in the new year.

Powell, in an interview on the CBS program Face the Nation, agreed with Baker and Hamilton that the situation in Iraq was "grave and deteriorating".

"If it's grave and deteriorating and we're not winning, we are losing," Powell said in his most extensive analysis of the war since he left office.

He said the U.S. should turn its attention to bolstering Iraq's government and training its security forces and police. Powell said Americans should start the "baton toss" to Iraqis by mid-2007, making the Iraqis responsible for their own security and well-being and starting the draw-down of U.S. troops.

"I am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purposes of suppressing this communitarian violence, this civil war, will work," Powell said.

He said not only would it not improve the situation on the ground, the U.S. would pay for it further down the road because there would be no troops available to replace those sent in as part of the surge.

"There really are no additional troops," he said. "All we would be doing is keeping some of the troops who were there longer and escalating or accelerating the arrival of other troops."

Powell said "if victory means you have gotten rid of every insurgent, you have peace throughout the country, I don't see that in the cards.

"What we are going to have to do is try to bring a sense of order and security to the country, even if there continues to be low-level violence and insurgency."

Powell has maintained a low profile since his departure from the Bush cabinet, but has weighed in at critical points during the debate over the war.

Powell, who had counselled caution about a unilateral move on Iraq and often clashed with Donald Rumsfeld's defence department.

December 15, 2006

General Says Army Will Need to Grow

General Says Army Will Need to Grow
Iraq and Afghanistan Are Straining the Force, Chief of Staff Warns
Warning that the active-duty Army "will break" under the strain of today's war-zone rotations, the nation's top Army general yesterday called for expanding the force by 7,000 or more soldiers a year and lifting Pentagon restrictions on involuntary call-ups of Army National Guard and Army Reserve troops.
Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, issued his most dire assessment yet of the toll of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on the nation's main ground force. At one point, he banged his hand on a House committee-room table, saying the continuation of today's Pentagon policies is "not right."
I am banging my hand on the table, saying this is “not right”.
The Iraqi (not a war any longer) occupation.

December 05, 2006

House to Vote on Senate's Offshore Drilling Plan

[House Democratic leaders have decided not to take a position on the bill in order to avoid having to choose between different constituencies within the party's own ranks. Environmental groups oppose the drilling measure; the Sierra Club issued a statement saying that "it's time for Congress to stop appeasing Big Oil" and that "drilling is a bad deal for Americans."]

[House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) opposes offshore drilling and is concerned about the loss of federal royalties, said spokeswoman Jennifer Crider. But Pelosi will not try to rally the Democratic caucus against the Senate bill.]

[Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) said, "As the Republican Party prepares to relinquish control of the House and Senate, they are attempting a last-minute giveaway of public lands as an early Christmas present to the big oil companies."]

Read the full story…
By Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin,
Washington Post Staff Writers
Nancy Pelosi, and the rest of you spineless (lacking in willpower, courage, or strength of character) Democrats going to do something right? If you oppose this bill, do something about it. Voters oppose it. Big oil companies indorse it.
Sounds to me like big oil companies money found its way into the Democratic Party.

Nancy Pelosi will not try to rally the Democratic caucus against the offshore drilling bill, but she will rally the Democratic caucus for John Murtha.

She needs to find a different job!

Read more… WestTexasBliss


House Postpones Offshore Drilling Bill

House leaders pulled an offshore drilling measure off the calendar today, an apparent signal that the bill did not have the two-thirds majority of votes needed for it to be adopted.
Foes of offshore drilling hoped that today's move spelled the end of efforts to get the bill passed. "Let's hope this is the end of Congress' fling with Big Oil and that we can make a fresh start to achieving true energy security with the new year and the new Congress," Athan Manuel of the Sierra Club said in a statement.

By Steven Mufson

December 04, 2006


Hillary Clinton Actively Considers 2008 Bid For Presidency

We Don't Know When She'll Make Decision

Hillary Rodham Clinton., has begun active consideration of a 2008 run for president and has personally asked some fellow top New York Democrats for their support in the event she goes ahead with such a campaign, a top adviser said Sunday.
"As Senator Clinton said, she was going to begin actively considering a presidential run after the election. That process has begun," said Howard Wolfson.
"She is reaching out to her colleagues in the New York delegation and asking for their advice and counsel, and their support if she decides to make a run," the Clinton adviser told The Associated Press. Wolfson said he did not know when she might make a decision.


Bill Clinton got $12 million for his memoirs. Hillary got $8 million for hers. That's $20 million for memories from two people, who for eight years, repeatedly testified, under oath, that they couldn't remember anything.
If these three ladies were running for President, who would you vote for?

December 03, 2006

The "do-nothing" 109th U.S. Congress

Ridiculed as the "do-nothing" 109th U.S. Congress, the Senate and U.S. House of Representatives on Monday begin a brief session to wrap up whatever work they can, install a new defense secretary and approve money to prevent a shutdown of government services.

The Republican-led Congress will meet only for about another week before drawing to a close -- as lawmakers prepare for the new 110th Congress set to convene on Jan. 4 under Democratic control.

Having been blown out in the Nov. 7 elections, Republican lawmakers are getting ready to hand over to Democrats some major unfinished business, led by what to do about the increasingly unpopular Iraq war.

Republicans are also leaving unfinished long-term government funding legislation, and appear unlikely to decide whether to extend popular tax credits that expired at the end of 2005.

But before turning out the lights, the Senate seems certain to confirm President George W. Bush's choice of Robert Gates as defense secretary.

Gates, a former CIA director, enjoys strong support on Capitol Hill to succeed Donald Rumsfeld, who was fired on Nov. 8, one day after the congressional elections.

House Democrats plan a forum Tuesday to hear from high-profile critics of the Iraq war. The following day, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group submits its recommendations to the White House and Congress on how to salvage the situation.

After the new Democratic-led Congress is seated, lawmakers will be asked by Bush to approve more money for the Iraq war, which could top a staggering $100 billion.

Democrats won control of the House and Senate largely because of public discontent with the Iraq war as well as with this Congress, which critics branded as "do-nothing."

This Congress will also end having failed to enact some of Bush's top priorities, including sweeping reform of U.S. immigration laws and the Social Security retirement program.

Legislation to authorize a warrantless domestic spying program implemented by Bush after the Sept. 11 attacks has also been stalled amid constitutional concerns.

The top priority for this "lame-duck" session of Congress will be to avert a federal government shutdown.


Congress has failed to pass nine of the 11 annual bills that fund government activities in the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1. Farm subsidies, education, health and law enforcement are among the programs without full-year funding.

To avert government shutdowns, two temporary spending bills have already been enacted. The latest expires on Friday and Congress is expected to pass a third stopgap funding bill that would keep U.S. agencies running through Feb. 15.

Early next year, Democrats will try to finish the work. But in the meantime, some programs could suffer as the stopgap bills mostly hold spending to last year's level.

Joe Davis, a spokesman for Veterans of Foreign Wars, said that "will absolutely hurt." With growing numbers of Iraq war veterans, he said the backlog of claims for medical, pension and education benefits has swelled to more than 800,000, compared to about 773,000 last year.

A senior administration official said he was still hopeful Congress might approve this year's veterans-spending bill before leaving town, which he said would bring an increase of more than 12 percent in funds for veterans medical care.

Also on the economic front, Republican leaders were still trying to decide whether to renew a series of expired tax breaks, including child and college tuition deductions.

If they do, the tax provisions might be coupled with a U.S.-Vietnam trade deal and possibly other trade measures.

A House ethics panel is poised to release a report on its investigation into former Rep. Mark Foley's sexually explicit electronic messages to teenage interns and what fellow Republicans knew about the matter.