Sense from Seattle

Common sense thoughts on life and current affairs by a Seattle area sexagenarian, drawing on personal experience, years of learning as a counselor to thousands of families and an innate passion for informed knowledge, to uniquely express sensible, thoughtful, honest and independent views.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Here’s Your Hat - What’s Your Hurry?

A great majority of the American people are anxious to see George W. Bush return to “the ranch” for good. The great interest with which people are following the 2008 race for the White House is as much a testimony to the desire to be rid of George as it is to decide just who the next occupant will be. Since the Republican party so overwhelmingly embraced the Bush Administration, now as that regime continues to disintegrate in disgrace before the public eye, the disgrace rightfully rubs off on all Republicans. Chris in Bangkok, sent a link to this article on a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, indicating how low the Republicans have sunk in public opinion.

Every day seems to bring a new Bush related scandal or a significant new development in some of the numerous ongoing shames. The investigation into the firing of the U. S. Attorneys is shaping up as an interesting one, because it stands a good chance of forcing Bush sycophant Alberto Gonzales to resign. If Congress had taken my advice to “see if he floats” at the time of his confirmation hearings, I expect he would have sunk, along with his nomination.

Gonzales is numero uno at Justice and his fate is big news. But just last week a former numero duo in the Bush Interior Department entered a guilty plea to a charge of lying to Congress about his involvement with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Like lots of the bad Bush news, his plea came out on Friday in hopes of receiving little media attention and being forgotten over the weekend.

Two significant points have already been made in the U.S. Attorney scandal. Alberto is an incompetent manager and he is also incapable of operating in any mode other than loyal devotion to George. The Attorneys are political appointees, but the time to change them is when a new President takes over, not in midterm. Political motivated U.S. Attorney changes in midterm are tacky and have rarely been done. But making midterm changes for political reasons which involve the ongoing prosecutorial actions of the Attorneys approaches illegal obstruction of justice. The White House obviously has some things to hide, as indicated by the almost comical “one time offer” to have White House personnel only speak to a limited number of members of Congress, one time, in a small closet, without an oath to be truthful and with no record to be kept of what was said.

A week or two ago, I saw the name of a Monica Goodling, who issued some statements on the Attorney scandal as a liaison spokesperson for the White House and Justice Department. I was curious to see what she looked like and did a Google Image search for pictures. I found pictures of her at social functions of Regent University, a small Christian College founded by Pat Robertson. She apparently graduated from the Regent School of Law in 1999. Unlike Valerie Plame, you will not be able to see Monica Goodling testify before Congress, because she is invoking the Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself by giving testimony which could be used against her if she is charged with any crimes. How does such a recent graduate of such a small college get a job where she interrelates with the White House and Justice Department? Well, maybe she started as an intern - you know, like that other Monica. Hm, I wonder if Ken Starr would like another special prosecutorial job?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

If You Did Not Watch the Plame Hearing

Friday morning I watched the House committee hearing on the issues involved in the Valerie Plame outing. The governmental oversight committee was investigating how this CIA agent had become publicly outed four years ago by informants in our government and what should be done to prevent such a threat to our national security from happening again.

If you did not watch, here is what you missed:

Valerie Plame, the beautiful, articulate and accomplished CIA agent, specializing in nuclear non-proliferation issues, testifying for the first time about her service undercover and about the facts involved in the CIA attempts, in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, to verify whether Saddam Hussein had in fact tried to buy uranium from Niger. Plame testified she was undercover and that her outing has endangered her and her family, her fellow agents in the CIA and all the people and agents she has worked with from other nations through the years. She explained that the CIA had used two other highly reliable sources to check into the Niger rumor and found it to be unfounded, but that as a result of a call from Dick Cheney’s office asking them to check again, another CIA officer had suggested Plame’s husband be sent to investigate, since he had firsthand knowledge and experience with Iraq and with Niger, having served in diplomatic positions in both countries.

CIA Director Michael Hayden’s letter to the committee verifying Plame was an undercover agent of the CIA at the time she was outed and worked undercover at great personal risk on some of the most sensitive issues involving preventing use of WMD against the US.

James Knodell, Director of the White House Office of Security testifying about the investigation the White House conducted into the outing, the investigation George W. Bush assured the nation would take place.

Mr. Bill Leonard, Director, Information Security Oversight Office, National Archives and Records Administration testifying about the legal requirement under Presidential Executive Order 12958 for anyone who discloses classified information, even unintentionally, to file a prompt report with the NARA office.

Victoria Toensing, conservative attorney with roots in the Goldwater era, invited by the Republican members of the committee, grandiosely testifying about her involvement in the drafting of the criminal statute (not the Executive Order) regarding the outing of undercover CIA agents and claiming that Plame was not undercover.

Several Democrats on the Committee who respectfully expressed appreciation for Plame’s courageous service to the country and showed sincere concern about finding out how she was outed so steps can be taken to prevent such a security breach in the future.

Two of the Seventeen Republicans on the Committee, who were the only Republican members who bothered to show up and who used their time to attempt to minimize and partisanly politicize the entire matter.

Chairman Henry Waxman, who demonstrated his ability to conduct a well organized and efficiently productive hearing, courteously protecting witnesses when civility required and also demonstrating an adeptness at shooting down a bloviator like Toensing, whom he relegated to her deserved status as an uninformed, irrelevant relic. Waxman pointed out that her continued insistence on the right wing talk show circuit that Plame was not undercover is not based on any personal knowledge or expertise and is flatly contradicted by the CIA Director himself.

The Chart put into evidence (viewable here at the Brad Blog) showing the flow of all the Plame leaks from the government to the media, with all the name boxes filled in except for one at the top, the person who only had contact with Dick Cheney and Karl Rove.

Here is what you did not miss:

From the White House, any information on the investigation the President ordered, since there was never a White House investigation according to Knodell. Or as Bush in his fluent Spanish would say, “nada”. In spite of the fact Bush told the American people he would investigate, and in spite of the fact the criminal investigation did not start for several months, the Bush White House maintains that the criminal investigation by Patrick Fitzgerald, the same investigation they now discount as political and unimportant, prevented any White House investigation. Until this hearing, no one from the White House ever told the American people there has been no White House investigation as Bush said there would be.

From NARA, any information about the report filings required of the leakers, because like the White House investigation, they are non-existent. None of the leakers has ever filed a report.

From the Republicans, any expression of appreciation to Plame for her brave service or any concern for protecting the national security from such leaks in the future.

Revelation of the identity of “Unknown”, the person in the top line of the leak chart, the one who talked only to Cheney and Rove. Hint: maybe he covered himself by talking only in his fluent Spanish.

If you would like to see for yourself, the House committee has made video of the hearing and testimony available on the Web.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Presidential Pardons

No sooner was Scooter Libby convicted on 4 of 5 counts, than the conservative right was condemning the prosecutor and calling upon Bush to pardon Libby. The Fox so-called news channel, in the spirit of looking at the glass as one-fifth full, ran a banner headline proclaiming Libby’s acquittal on the one charge. That is the same channel that ran only one video about the Walter Reed scandal in the two weeks since it hit the headlines, while running over 50 different video reports on Anna Nicole Smith in the same time period.

The hypocrisy of the right wing Clinton haters is blatant,as the same people who cheered on the unproductive Whitewater witch hunt and then called for Clinton’s head over his attempt to cover up his sexual dallying claim to see no comparison between that “outrageous” perjury and the “insignificant” lies Scooter told. Clinton’s sexual foolishness with an intern [somewhat similar to the above irresistible photo of Bush pardoning a Thanksgiving turkey] had nothing to do with the subject matter of Whitewater, while Scooter’s lies obstructed the very purpose of the investigation into the outing of a CIA agent.

Pundits seem to be drifting toward a consensus that Scooter will be pardoned, in spite of the fact his pardon would be a departure from the guidelines Bush has been using for pardons. Bush has never been a stickler for following rules, including his own, so the more real question is whether he will pardon Libby now or let the appeal process proceed and pardon him later. Since voters have short memories, Bush may decide to do it well ahead of the 2008 election, as part of a secret deal that I think was made to keep Cheney from having to testify.

Some analysts are saying this conviction and likely pardon is the most scandalous executive branch disgrace since Iran-Contra and the pardoning of the offenders by Bush I, and before that Watergate. There is a pattern to all three of these shames, the Executive branch of our government breaking laws designed to protect the way our system works and then covering them up, by lying to the Congress, the American people and the lawful investigators, and then pardons being given to the offenders. There is something else these three have in common - Republican control of the Executive branch by the three Republican Presidential regimes of the last 50 years, Nixon/(Ford), Reagan/Bush I and Bush II. The right wing conservative ideology has no validity for the average American, so those who espouse it to gain votes must distort what it really is in order to get elected. Once elected, they continue the distortions, hiding the unlawful means to achieve the desired ends they cannot achieve openly and legally.

Ford said he pardoned Nixon to save the country the ordeal of pursuing a disgraced ex-President, a valid reason even if some people [not me] believed the pardon was part of an undisclosed deal to let Ford become President. Bush I gave four reasons for pardoning the Iran-Contra perpetrators, and those reasons will be offered for Scooter’s pardon. Here are the reasons, and why I say they are bogus:

1. The offender was motivated by patriotism. Patriotism is love of country and its Constitution, not devotion to a particular ideological view of how one would like the world to be.

2. No profit was sought. The power and prestige of the offices held by these offenders profits them in so many ways during and after their term of office, that they are motivated to go along with even illegal schemes in order to preserve their membership in “the club”.

3. They have a long record of service. Service in public office brings power, prestige and other rewards, during the time in office and afterwards, but it also brings the fiduciary duty to support and defend the Constitution. The higher the office and greater the duration of service, the higher and greater the duty. Not having breached an earlier and lower level of public trust should not be an excuse for breaching the higher level.

4. The price has already been paid by the embarrassment, disgrace and emotional impact on the offender and the family. And so it is for every wrongdoer.

In closing, there seems to be a simple solution to avoiding this problem in the future - do not elect any more Republican Presidents.

Monday, March 05, 2007

May I Sell a Vowel Please?

You may have heard that of the 42 American Presidents, none has had a surname ending in a vowel. The significance of this is supposedly the fact that names ending in vowels are ethnic, most notably Italian, and that Americans have always voted for Waspish Presidents.

Actually, we have had 6 Presidents with surnames ending in a vowel. Arguably, 4 of these were not technically vowels, but rather a silent “e”, Fillmore, Pierce, Coolidge and Monroe. Monroe is the only name of the 4 which sounds like it ends in a vowel, but it would never be mistaken for an Italian name. The other 2 vowel ending surnames both ended with a “y”, McKinley and Kennedy, ethnic Irish names of two of our Presidents who were shot to death while in office.

The wide open run for President in 2008 is well under way and each party has a top candidate with a surname ending in a vowel, both of whom are not Wasps, the Democrat Obama and the Republican Giuliani. Giuliani is also challenging the syllable barrier, with his four exceeding the record of three shared by 12 men. We have had 10 monosyllabic Presidents, none of whom is considered top notch. The current holder of the office is monosyllabic both in surname and vocabulary, and is definitely bottom notch.

The best literal odds of election is for surnames ending in “n”, shared by 16 Presidents, and offering encouragement to Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Next best is “r” with 6, followed by “t” and the silent “e” with 4 each.

As for first names, James is the winner, with 6 if Jimmy Carter is included, or 5 if he isn’t. Runner up honors are shared by John and William with 4 each. The only 3-peat is George, a name we should have retired before we got stuck with the 2 Bushes. We have had 2 Andrews and 2 Franklins. The 22 singles include some fairly popular names like Benjamin, Richard and Thomas, but also some real oddballs like Millard and Rutherford.

In the current crop of candidates, John McCain would seem to have the favorite name, a runner up first name with a two syllable last name ending in “n”. John Edwards has the same first name and a two syllable last name ending in “s”, which was good enough for 3 Presidents. New Mexico Governor William Richardson has a runner up first name and a surname ending in “n”, in spite of the fact he has Hispanic heritage. Senator Clinton has a proven last name, but her predecessor literally looms over her, and she has a female first name. Obama has the vowel problem and also a first name from a different hemisphere [and a middle name, Hussein, with definite negative vibes for some people]. Giuliani not only suffers from a four syllable last name ending in an ethnic vowel, but a certain holiday song that plays around election time will make some people think of his first name in a different light. Romney could have a chance to become the 3rd “y”, but a first name that sounds like a baseball glove is a definite handicap.

Considering factors other than names, here is my present thinking on how I think they are seen:

CLINTON - Best known, most polarizing . Overshadowed by Bill, with whom she is so closely identified. Very capable and very calculating. Huge treasure chest. Concerns about a woman President not as significant factor as concerns about Hillary. Her tactics toward Obama could make or break her, and so far she is off to a shaky start in that regard.

EDWARDS - Fairly well known and liked. Personable but not well connected or experienced. Concern that he would be treated as Carter was, not accepted by the power establishment.

GIULIANI - Only known for being everywhere after 9/11. As conservatives get to know his moderately liberal record and as his personal background is openly discussed, they will not want him. Liberals will prefer a Democrat - the whole package.

MCCAIN - More eccentric than maverick, and now more accommodating to the point of being submissive. Burned out and fading. Not trusted by those he irritated and from whom he now seeks support. Holds his age well, but as it is more discussed, it will hurt him.

OBAMA - The “it” factor to many. Brains, stage presence, elocution mastery. Straight talk and the high road. Freshly unique biography. Money and power are attracted to enabling him. Little experience on the big stage and not much meat yet put on the bones of his ideas, but the longer he stays in and the more mistakes Hillary makes in regard to him, the more money and power will move toward him. If he begins to show an impressive roster of senior advisors who would serve with him, that will help.

ROMNEY - Very handsome, but his Mormonism and flip flops on hot button issues hurt him. Conservatives may conclude that he espoused liberal positions only to fool liberal voters and get elected as Governor of Massachusetts, but that he is really a social conservative. Bigger problem is overcoming admitted public ignorance and concern about how being a Mormon would affect a President. Has strong financial connections and could soon rise from distant third to be a serious Republican challenger.

RICHARDSON - The New Mexico Governor is the most roundly experienced candidate, having also been in Congress, on the Cabinet as Energy Secretary and at the UN as our Ambassador, in addition to conducting many international negotiations as a special envoy. But the Democratic money and power are gravitating to the front runners, leaving him as a definite long shot.