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April 17, 2004

Busy week ahead

Which means light posting, most likely.


April 15, 2004

This modern world of ours

Students at the University of Illinois are staging a sit-in, to protest the university's mascot ("Chief Illiniwek"). The 21st century twist: they're blogging it live, via WiFi.

Radio fun

A quick snapshot of your host, and friends, between segments on Majority Report.

...I'm just getting over a cold, spent most of the show trying not to cough.

...picture moved here to conserve bandwidth.


April 14, 2004

Other PDBs

In the Washington Post this morning, we learn that the August 6 PDB was simply one in a series of alarmingly-titled memos:

In April and May 2001, for example, the intelligence community headlined some of those reports "Bin Laden planning multiple operations," "Bin Laden network's plans advancing" and "Bin Laden threats are real."

Somebody was clearly trying to get the attention of a simpleton, and failing.

About last night

It's hardly a surprise when a politican gives evasive answers at a press conference. It's just that Bush is so terrible at it--he has maybe eighteen pre-programmed sound bites ready to go, and if none of them are applicable to the question, he just starts sputtering like a computer on the original Star Trek, after Captain Kirk has just irrefutably pointed out the illogic of its basic programming.

One of the standard soundbites is, of course, that no one could have imagined 9/11 beforehand:

But there was nobody in our government at least — and I don't think the prior government — could envision flying airplanes into buildings on such a massive scale.

And yet, mere seconds later:

I asked for the briefing. And the reason I did is because there had been a lot of threat intelligence from overseas. And part of it had to do with the Genoa G8 conference that I was going to attend.

Alert readers will recall that one of the major security concerns at the Genoa conference was the possibility of aerial incursions.

And then there was this illuminating exchange:

Q. Mr. President, Why are you and the vice president insisting on appearing together before the 9/11 commission? And Mr. President, who will you be handing the Iraqi government over to on June 30?

A. We'll find that out soon. That's what Mr. Brahimi is doing. He's figuring out the nature of the entity we'll be handing sovereignty over. And secondly, because the the 9/11 commission wants to ask us questions. That's why we're meeting, and I look forward to meeting with them and answering their questions.

Q. Mr. President, I was asking why you're appearing together rather than separately, which was their request.

A. Because it's a good chance for both of us to answer questions that the 9/11 commission is looking forward to asking us, and I'm looking forward to answering them.

In other words: that is a very good question, I commend you for asking such a good question, next question please.

And finally--when sound bites fail.

Q. In the last campaign, you were asked a question about the biggest mistake you'd made in your life and you used to like to joke that it was trading Sammy Sosa. You've looked back before 9/11 for what mistakes might have been made. After 9/11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say? And what lessons have you learned from it?

A. Hmmm. I wish you'd have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it. I'm sure historians will look back and say, Gosh, he could have done it better this way or that way. You know, I just — I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn't yet.

If you think that reads badly, you should have seen him desperately flailing about, trying to think of something to say--without, of course, admitting that he's ever made a mistake.

I would have gone into Afghanistan the way we went into Afghanistan. Even though what I know today about the stockpiles of weapons, I still would have called upon the world to deal with Saddam Hussein. See, I happen to believe we'll find out the truth on the weapons. That's why we sent up the independent commission. I look forward to hearing the truth as — exactly where they are. They could still be there. They could be hidden, like, the 50 tons of mustard gas in a turkey farm.

One of the things that Charlie Duelfer talked about was that he was surprised at the level of intimidation he found amongst people who should know about weapons and their fear of talking about them, because they don't want to be killed. You know, there's this kind of, there's this terror still in the soul of some of the people in Iraq. They're worried about getting killed. And therefore, they're not going to talk. And it'll all settle out. We'll find out the truth about the weapons at some point in time.

However, the fact that he had the capacity to make them bothers me today just like it would have bothered me then. He's a dangerous man. He's a man who actually not only had weapons of mass destruction — and the reason I can say that with certainty is because he used them. And I have no doubt in my mind that he would like to have inflicted harm or paid people to inflict harm or trained people to inflict harm on America because he hated us.

You know, I hope I don't want to sound like I've made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't — you just put me under the spot here and maybe I'm not quick, as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one.

God forbid the President of the United States of America should be able to think on his feet.

Heads up

I'm going to be on Majority Report tonight sometime during the eight o'clock hour.


April 13, 2004

Oh god

He's so awful. He just flounders around until he can dredge up a marginally appropriate sound bite--and when the question doesn't allow for that, he's just utterly lost.


April 12, 2004

Say it with flowers
The FTD® Salute to a Patriot ™ Bouquet

A appropriate display of respect and sympathy. This arrangement takes red roses and carnations and surrounds them with blue larkspur and white mini carnations and snapdragons. Appropriate to send to a home or to a funeral.
Approx. 27H x 17W

Your purchase includes a FREE personalized gift message.

Here. Via Billmon, who's really on a roll lately. If he's not one of your daily must-reads, it is assuredly your loss.

War President
"I am satisfied that I never saw any intelligence that indicated there was going to be an attack on America — at a time and a place, an attack," Mr. Bush said after attending Easter services in Fort Hood, Tex.

And what did President Serious About Terror do after reading the memo entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US," since after all it did not indicate that there was any cause for alarm?

Well, he went golfing, of course.

President Bush was in an expansive mood on Aug. 7, 2001, when he ran into reporters while playing golf at the Ridgewood Country Club in Waco, Tex.

The day before, the president had received an intelligence briefing -- the contents of which were declassified by the White House Saturday night -- warning "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US." But Bush seemed carefree as he spoke about the books he was reading, the work he was doing on his nearby ranch, his love of hot-weather jogging, his golf game and his 55th birthday.

"No mulligans, except on the first tee," he said to laughter. "That's just to loosen up. You see, most people get to hit practice balls, but as you know, I'm walking out here, I'm fixing to go hit. Tight back, older guy -- I hit the speed limit on July 6th."


But if top officials were at battle stations, there was no sign of it on the surface. Bush spent most of August 2001 on his ranch here. His staff said at the time that by far the biggest issue on his agenda was his decision on federal funding of stem cell research, followed by education, immigration and the Social Security "lockbox."

Meanwhile, Jim Pinkerton, who Josh Marshall describes as a somewhat alienated Republican, asks the right question:

If you knew that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had received a memo a month before Pearl Harbor entitled, "Japanese Determined to Attack the United States in the Pacific," and that he had done nothing about that information, would that knowledge change your perception of FDR as a wise war leader? Roosevelt received no such memo, of course, but President George W. Bush got a blunt warning five weeks before 9/11 and he did little or nothing. He even presided over a stand- down in preparations, concentrating on other concerns.


April 11, 2004

Just a flesh wound

As Iraq spins out of control, right-wingers like David Brooks (recently dubbed "Baghdad Brooks" by the blogs) try to spin it back into something comprehensible, as though the killing and chaos can be smoothed over with rhetoric alone.

And for some reason, I keep thinking of the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail...

I have no quarrel with you, good Sir Knight, but I must cross this bridge.
Then you shall die.
I command you, as King of the Britons, to stand aside!
I move for no man.
So be it!
Aaah!, hiyaah!, etc.
[ARTHUR chops the BLACK KNIGHT's left arm off]
Now stand aside, worthy adversary.
'Tis but a scratch.
A scratch? Your arm's off!
No, it isn't.
Well, what's that, then?
I've had worse.
You liar!
Come on, you pansy!
[ARTHUR chops the BLACK KNIGHT's right arm off]
Victory is mine!
We thank Thee Lord, that in Thy mer--
Come on, then.
Have at you!
Eh. You are indeed brave, Sir Knight, but the fight is mine.
Oh, had enough, eh?
Look, you stupid bastard. You've got no arms left.
Yes, I have.
Just a flesh wound.



Now, it's true, as Condi Rice is quick to remind us, that this memo does not specifically warn that terrorists are going to attack the United States on September 11, 2001, by hijacking airplanes and crashing them into the WTC and the Pentagon. As the President has said, if he'd known exactly what was going to happen, exactly when, then he sure would have tried to prevent it.

Then again, that level of specificity did not seem to be the standard when it came to invading Iraq.

I don't think the debate over whether 9-11 could have been prevented is worth wasting time on. The point is, the administration has been running on its record as terror-fighters since 9/11--when in reality, they were completely asleep at the wheel then and they've been bumbling their way through ever since.


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