Friday, April 23, 2004

Old Watergate Era Muckraker
Turned Establishment Shill Shows
He Still Has Some Juevos

(Quick note: I'm acting in my first play in nearly two years and, even though it's a small part, as we approach tech rehearsals, I'm starting to feel squeezed for time. I'm going to keep posting on a daily basis, but my usually sparse commentary is, no doubt, soon to be even more sparse. I'll be back to my normal self in about ten days or so.)

Just in case you haven't noticed the press party going on this week, here are some highlights from Bob Woodward's appearance last Sunday on 60 Minutes. For background, it is important to remember that Woodward, one half of the duo that broke the Watergate story back in the early 70s, has recently turned White House apologist: his recent book, Bush at War, is, according to all reports, quite a lionization of our idiot President. Woodward's new book, however, Plan of Attack, appears to level some major criticisms of the Oval Office's handling of the Iraq War.


"Rumsfeld and Franks work out a deal essentially where Franks can spend any money he needs. And so he starts building runways and pipelines and doing all the preparations in Kuwait, specifically to make war possible," says Woodward.

"Gets to a point where in July, the end of July 2002, they need $700 million, a large amount of money for all these tasks. And the president approves it. But Congress doesn't know and it is done. They get the money from a supplemental appropriation for the Afghan War, which Congress has approved. Some people are gonna look at a document called the Constitution which says that no money will be drawn from the Treasury unless appropriated by Congress. Congress was totally in the dark on this."

That's right, Bush violated the Constitution by funding his pre-war build up with misappropriated funds. This was before a single shot had been fired. Clearly, this is an impeachable offense.


"A year before the war started, three things are going on. Franks is secretly developing this war plan that he's briefing the president in detail on," says Woodward. "Franks simultaneously is publicly denying that he's ever been asked to do any plan."

For example, here's Gen. Franks' response to a question about invading Iraq, in May 2002, after he's been working on war plans for five months: 'That's a great question and one for which I don't have an answer, because my boss has not yet asked me to put together a plan to do that.'

Of course, it's been clear for some time now that the White House was lying about their intentions toward Iraq. This latest quip just drives the point home.


In his book, Woodward describes Cheney as a "powerful, steamrolling force obsessed with Saddam and taking him out."

"Colin Powell, the secretary of state, saw this in Cheney to such an extent, he, Powell, told colleagues that 'Cheney has a fever. It is an absolute fever. It's almost as if nothing else exists,'" says Woodward, who adds that Cheney had plenty of opportunities to convince the president.

"He's just down the hall in the West Wing from the president. President says, 'I meet with him all the time.' Cheney's back in the corner or sitting on the couch at nearly all of these meetings."

This certainly adds to the perception that Cheney is the real boss, using his Jedi powers to influence the chimp. Again, no surprise here.

Still more:

He calls Colin Powell in alone, sitting in those two famous chairs in the Oval Office and the president said, 'Looks like war. I'm gonna have to do this,'" adds Woodward.

"And then Powell says to him, somewhat in a chilly way, 'Are you aware of the consequences?' Because he'd been pounding for months on the president, on everyone - and Powell directly says, 'You know, you're gonna be owning this place.' And the president says, 'I understand that.' The president knows that Powell is the one who doesn't want to go to war. He says, 'Will you be with me?' And Powell, the soldier, 35 years in the army, the president has decided and he says, 'I'll do my best. Yes, Mr. President. I'll be with you.' And then, the president says, 'Time to put your war uniform on.'"

Woodward says he described Powell as semi-despondent "because he knew that this was a war that might have been avoided. That's why he spent so much time at the United Nations."

This comment bolsters the view that Powell was the lone good guy in the administration. One wonders if he would have been more aggressive in his opposition to the invasion if he hadn't had 35 years of a military mind-set that makes him ask how high when his commanding officer says to jump.

And check out this weird outrage:

But, it turns out, two days before the president told Powell, Cheney and Rumsfeld had already briefed Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador.

"Saturday, Jan. 11, with the president's permission, Cheney and Rumsfeld call Bandar to Cheney's West Wing office, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Myers, is there with a top-secret map of the war plan. And it says, 'Top secret. No foreign.' No foreign means no foreigners are supposed to see this," says Woodward.


Prince Bandar enjoys easy access to the Oval Office. His family and the Bush family are close. And Woodward told 60 Minutes that Bandar has promised the president that Saudi Arabia will lower oil prices in the months before the election - to ensure the U.S. economy is strong on election day.

Woodward says that Bandar understood that economic conditions were key before a presidential election: "They're [oil prices] high. And they could go down very quickly. That's the Saudi pledge. Certainly over the summer, or as we get closer to the election, they could increase production several million barrels a day and the price would drop significantly."

Not only did they dis Powell by informing him of the invasion last, but as Atrios has pointed out, this little oil price deal comes perilously close to treason: Bush conspired with a foreign power to manipulate the US economy for the purpose of being reelected. Can we impeach Bush now?

This bit is interesting:

And in the wake of the war, according to Woodward, there's a deep rift between Powell and Cheney.

"The relationship between Cheney and Powell is essentially broken down. They can't talk. They don't communicate," says Woodward. "Powell feels that Cheney drove the decision to go to war in Iraq. And Cheney feels that Powell has not been sufficiently supportive of the president in the war or in the aftermath."

Perhaps Woodward means that Cheney feels that Powell has not been sufficiently supportive of the vice president. This is assuming that Cheney is the real power in the White House.

And finally:

But who gave President Bush the duty to free people around the world? "That's a really good question. The Constitution doesn't say that's part of the commander in chief's duties," says Woodward. "That's his stated purpose. It is far-reaching, and ambitious, and I think will cause many people to tremble."

How deep a man is President George W. Bush? "He's not an intellectual. He is not what I guess would be called a deep thinker," says Woodward. "He chastised me at one point because I said people were concerned about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction. And he said, 'Well you travel in elite circles.' I think he feels there is an intellectual world and he's indicated he's not a part of it ... the fancy pants intellectual world. What he calls the elite."

How does the president think history will judge him for going to war in Iraq?

"After the second interview with him on Dec. 11, we got up and walked over to one of the doors. There are all of these doors in the Oval Office that lead outside. And he had his hands in his pocket, and I just asked, 'Well, how is history likely to judge your Iraq war,'" says Woodward.

"And he said, 'History,' and then he took his hands out of his pocket and kind of shrugged and extended his hands as if this is a way off. And then he said, 'History, we don't know. We'll all be dead.'"

I think this last bit speaks for itself.

Click here for the rest. And be sure to watch some of the streaming video--you get to hear it from the horse's mouth. Woodward, of course, is the horse. A big stinky, self-important horse, to be sure, but still worth a few rides it seems.