Plame Affair Gets Interesting

Ken AshfordCrime, Plamegate, RepublicansLeave a Comment

According to today’s Newsday:

WASHINGTON — The federal grand jury probing the leak of a covert CIA officer’s identity has subpoenaed records of Air Force One telephone calls in the week before the officer’s name was published in a column in July, according to documents obtained by Newsday.

Also sought in the wide-ranging document requests contained in three grand jury subpoenas to the Executive Office of President George W. Bush are records created in July by the White House Iraq Group, a little-known internal task force established in August 2002 to create a strategy to publicize the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

And the subpoenas asked for a transcript of a White House spokesman’s press briefing in Nigeria, a list of those attending a birthday reception for a former president, and, casting a much wider net than previously reported, records of White House contacts with more than two dozen journalists and news media outlets.

What juicy clues! What questions this raises!

Who was in the "White House Iraq Group" (Josh Marshall found out: Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin and James R. Wilkinson; legislative liaison Nicholas E. Calio; and policy advisers led by Rice and her deputy, Stephen J. Hadley, along with I. Lewis Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff.

Who was the "former president" and why are his birthday party attendees relevant?

What’s the common thread between those events and the press secretary’s statement in Nigeria??

I’ll go out on a limb — it was Mary Matalin. She was part of the Iraqi Group, it’s quite likely she attended Bush 41’s birthday party, she has many media contacts (including, undoubtedly, Novak), and she left the White House shortly after the Plame thing happened.

It Makes Me Sick . . .

Ken AshfordElection 2004Leave a Comment

I recently reported about the new Bush ads here.

Now the AP is reporting:

Relatives of victims killed in the 11 September 2001 attacks have criticised George W Bush for using images from the tragedy in his campaign advertisements.

Some of the families have complained that the images exploit those killed in the attacks and are in poor taste.

"It makes me sick", one woman, who lost her brother in the attacks, told AP.

Didn’t see that coming?

Hitler (*Sigh*) Again

Ken AshfordElection 2004Leave a Comment

What will it take for people — of both sides — to stop with the Hitler comparisons???

Now comes Rep. Tom Cole (R) saying that a "vote against the re-election of President Bush is like supporting Adolph Hitler during World War Two".

Oh, and Osama, too.

The press report only quotes Cole verbatim on the Osama quote, but that’s beside the point. This kind of hyperbole, whether in MoveOn.Org ads or from Corinne Brown, is ridiculous.

And anyone who thinks otherwise is, in my view, Hitler.

Speaking of 30 Year Old Quotes . . .

Ken AshfordBush & Co.Leave a Comment

A former professor of Bush writes:

At Harvard Business School, thirty years ago, George Bush was a student of mine. I still vividly remember him. In my class, he declared that "people are poor because they are lazy." He was opposed to labor unions, social security, environmental protection, Medicare, and public schools. To him, the antitrust watch dog, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Securities Exchange Commission were unnecessary hindrances to "free market competition." To him, Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was "socialism."

So is this true? Does Bush think poor people are lazy? I think we should open up Bush’s school records to find out. Get his essays, homework, etc., and make them public. (Personally, I doubt the veracity of this story — because I doubt that Bush attended classes and/or participated in them very much).

Strange Meeting

Ken AshfordPersonalLeave a Comment

The Washington Post is reporting that Tuesday (March 2), Bush had "an unusual 80-minute session in the Oval Office with five network correspondents who agreed that his comments would not be directly quoted or attributed to him."

Unusual indeed. First of all, Bush was willing to devote a full 20 minutes more to chewing the fat with these reporters than to the committee investigating 9/11. Where are Bush’s priorities?

Secondly, why meet with reporters and ask them to promise not to attribute quotes directly to him? I guess it is an attempt to build camaraderie with the press, something he enjoyed during the 2000 campaign.

But for my money – the President — any President — cannot and should be able to talk to the press on "deep background". He’s the President — the American people have an interest in what he says and does — and the press has a responsibility to report it. The press should simply have rejected the offer and walked out.

Maybe Bush will only participate in debates as long as everyone excepts his disclaimer that we shouldn’t hold him to anything he says.

Kay to Prez – “Come Clean”

Ken AshfordRepublicansLeave a Comment

Looks like David Kay is getting more and more peeved with the administration.

David Kay, the man who led the CIA’s postwar effort to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, has called on the Bush administration to "come clean with the American people" and admit it was wrong about the existence of the weapons.

In an interview with the Guardian, Mr Kay said the administration’s reluctance to make that admission was delaying essential reforms of US intelligence agencies, and further undermining its credibility at home and abroad.

As Calpundit sez, perhaps Kay will be doing commercials for Kerry soon.

Because Mickey Might Expose Himself?

Ken AshfordPopular Culture, Sex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

Without comment, this:

Disney Removes Statue Inspired By Janet Jackson

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Walt Disney Co. has quietly shelved a life-size statue of Mickey Mouse inspired by singer Janet Jackson, who was roundly criticized for a risque Super Bowl halftime performance.

The 6-foot, 700-pound statue was one of 75 unveiled at Walt Disney World in Orlando last fall to celebrate the 75th birthday of Mickey Mouse (Photos from 75th celebration). The statues were inspired by celebrities such as tennis star Andre Agassi, actress Jamie Lee Curtis and comedian Ellen DeGeneres.

The Jackson statue used a tight black outfit Jackson wore in 1990 after the release of her album, Rhythm Nation 1814. It was replaced by a spare statue designed by Luis Fernandez, an in-house Disney artist.

New Bush Ads

Ken AshfordElection 2004Leave a Comment

You can see them here.

It’s pointless for me to review them objectively (as I originally intended). I can’t possibly be objective. But I would be interested to know what Bush supporters think. I’m even more interested to know what independents think (do these ads reach out to you or not?)

It’s clear that Bush is (for now) going for the positive. The first ad ("Lead") is the least convincing. Bush repeatedly says "I know. . .", as in "I know where I want to take the country . . . I know what we need to do to make this country safe . . . I know what we need to do to ensure the American dream . . . " (paraphrase). Any chance he might clue us in, or should we just vote for him based on his mere representation that "he knows" what he’s going to do?

The other two ads ("Tested" and "Safer, Stronger") predictably invoke 9/11. Both are interesting in that (a) there are no words (and few pictures) of GWB ("Safer, Stronger" has no spoken words at all), and (b) it appears to give "credit" to being "safer, stronger" to the American people, rather than George Bush.

Sadly, the two ads which have almost no George Bush in them are the better ads, in my view. Even the "Lead" ad relies heavily on Laura Bush as a supporting player. Which says a lot about the candidate, as well as (perhaps) the re-election team’s lack of faith in him.

But y’all decide for yourselves.

Update: Josh Marshall has a different — but equally unobjective — take on the ads.

Upon further reflection: I stated above that two of the ads reminded America about the tough times it had faced, and how Americans have persevered. Now that I ruminate about it, the ads gave no reason to vote for Bush. We, the people, are given credit for persevering. But couldn’t we persevere just as well under, say, any President???

Kerry’s VP

Ken AshfordElection 2004Leave a Comment

So now the guessing game begins. Edwards? Dean? Gore? McCain? (Kucinich???)

The most interesting potential nominee I’ve heard discussed is Clinton. No, not Hillary. I’m talking ’bout Bill.

A couple of potential stumbling blocks: the 12th and 22nd Amendments, which read (respectively, in relevant part):

But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of the Vice-President of the United States [12th Amendment]


No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected as President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. [22nd Amendment]

The operative words are "(in)eligible" (in the 12th) and "elected" (in the 22nd). My former NYU Law Professor Stephen Gillers — correctly in my view — says that nothing in the 22nd prevents Bill from becoming Kerry’s VP and even succeeding Kerry as President (should Kerry die from an overinflated ego or whatever). He even says (at the Volokh Conspiracy) that the 12th is not a stumbling block (I’m less sure he’s right on that one).

Anyway, I seriously doubt that Bill Clinton is even on the short list, but for law geeks like me, it’s an interesting issue to think about.

Tell Me Something I DON’T Know . . .

Ken AshfordIraqLeave a Comment

A recent Knight-Ridder investigation concluded:

The administration’s case on ties between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda relied on intelligence that was weaker than that on Iraq’s illegal weapons programs.

The article linked above discusses some of the "evidence" that has been paraded about (here and elsewhere) purporting to show the alleged connection between Iraq and al Qaeda.

Yes, this too, like the (lack of) WMDs, will be an election issue.

Physician, Heal Thyself!

Ken AshfordScience & Technology, Sex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

Dr. Paul Cameron is the founder of the Family Research Institute, and is cited often and reverently by the anti-gay (and anti-gay marriage) crowd. Recently, he opined on what was at stake in the present controversy. His belief is that in a few generations, homosexuality will become the dominant form of sexual behavior. Some selected quotes, based on his "research":

"If you isolate sexuality as something solely for one’s own personal amusement, and all you want is the most satisfying orgasm you can get – and that is what homosexuality seems to be – then homosexuality seems too powerful to resist."

"The evidence is that men do a better job on men and women on women, if all you are looking for is orgasm."

"People in homosexuality are incredibly evangelical. It’s pure sexuality. It’s almost like pure heroin. It’s such a rush."

"Martial sex tends toward the boring end. Generally, it doesn’t deliver the kind of sheer sexual pleasure that homosexual sex does"

I think the good "doctor" has some . . . uh . . . issues of his own that he might want to deal with. Not that there’s anything wrong with homosexuality, but there’s something wrong with not being able to admit it, while dictating to others the impropriety of it.

Tenuous Connection . . .

Ken AshfordGodstuff, Sex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

Dennis Prager at has an interesting perspective:

America is engaged in two wars for the survival of its civilization. The war over same-sex marriage and the war against Islamic totalitarianism are actually two fronts in the same war — a war for the preservation of the unique American creation known as Judeo-Christian civilization.

One enemy is religious extremism. The other is secular extremism.

One enemy is led from abroad. The other is directed from home.

Actually, one enemy wants to blow you up and destroy your home. The other wants to make you look faaaab-u-lous and redecorate your home on national television.

Seriously, if Dennis Prager was doing satire, I’d laugh my ass off. But he’s not. He’s just plain scary.

Flight 11 Recording

Ken AshfordWar on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

As far as I know, this is the first (and only) recorded excerpt available to the public which reflects communications between one of the flights on 9/11 and someone on the ground. Recently posted at the Memory Hole, the tape is Betty Ong (flight attendant on Flight 11) calling the American Airline Reservation Desk.

In an abundance of caution, I think I should warn that the tape may not be suitable for everyone. It’s not gory or anything like that, but unsettling; for me, hearing the tape brought back that day in a profound way.

Groupthink 101

Ken AshfordBush & Co., Science & TechnologyLeave a Comment

Okay. You’re President. You have some big decisions to make, and you want the best information possible. So you gather up all the information, hear all sides of the arguments, get all the viewpoints and perspectives, and then . . . you make your decision. Right?

Not if you’re GWB . . .

President Bush yesterday dismissed two members of his handpicked Council on Bioethics — a scientist and a moral philosopher who had been among the more outspoken advocates for research on human embryo cells.

In their places he appointed three new members, including a doctor who has called for more religion in public life, a political scientist who has spoken out precisely against the research that the dismissed members supported, and another who has written about the immorality of abortion and the "threats of biotechnology."

* * *

Bush created the council by executive order in 2001 to "advise the President on bioethical issues that may emerge as a consequence of advances in biomedical science and technology." He recently renewed its commission for another two years.

I mean, what’s the point of forming an advisory panel if you are only going to fill it with people who will just conform to your pre-determined outcome? (And yes, I do see the similarities between this and the run-up to the Iraqi War). Read more about this story here. Read a previous post regarding GWB misuse of science here.