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Noose Tightens on the Bush Bunker Crew

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Message Bernard Weiner

By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers As the Bush Administration stumbles from one disaster, scandal and corruption investigation into another, the looming political/legal noose continues moving closer to the necks of Bush, Cheney, Rove, Gonzales and the rest of the White House bunker crew. Let's start off with the Constant Disaster: "SURGING" TO CATASTROPHE Despite the illusionary bloviating from McCain and Cheney about how well the expanding war-escalation is going in Iraq, the true depths of Bush's military fiasco abroad can be understood not only by journalists' detailed reports in-country, but also from news gleaned elsewhere. Such as: * At least three four-star generals have refused Bush's offer of serving as the "war czar" over the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Question: Don't we have a Commander-in-Chief, Secretary of Defense, and General Petraeus for those jobs? Why another level of decision-making? The only reasonable explanations: Under CheneyBush, there is no workable policy and nobody who can make a square peg fit into a round hole; Cheney, Bush and Rove don't fully trust Bob Gates; a "war czar" would provide somebody else for CheneyBush to blame for the disasters they have initiated. * West Point graduates are seeking employment outside the military/war zones. No sane up-and-coming young officer wants anything to do with the Administration's reckless imperialism. * There is increasing open-opposition to the CheneyBush war policies inside the military by serving troops and officers, as there has been for years within the Pentagon and even among the Joint Chiefs of Staff. * The extension of soldiers' tour of Iraq duty by three months, and the dispatching of 13,000 National Guard troops abroad, is stirring up even more anger and resentment by those brave warriors and their put-upon families at home. * The poll ratings of Bush and the Republicans with regard to Iraq are not rising; indeed, in some polls, they are sinking even lower as the situation deteriorates. As the 2008 election draws nearer, Republicans will be running at full speed away from association with CheneyBush and their disastrous war policies. Those GOPers want to keep their jobs, and they see where the American people are on this war and how the Democrats are benefitting from that sense of anger and revulsion at the Bush Administration. THE "LOST" WHITE HOUSE E-MAILS The "missing" e-mails scandal, which overlaps with the more-developed one involving the fired U.S. Attorneys, is growing and threatens to take down a whole lot of high-level Administration officials, not the least of whom is Karl Rove. We don't yet know what might be learned from the so-called "lost" e-mails, but even the little we do know helps fill in the informational blanks. The CheneyBush Administration, from the get-go, has been the most secretive of any regime in the nation's history. (For a good primer, read John W. Dean's "Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush." There's the public facade of this Administration, which the Washington press corps covers, and then there's the real government, hidden from public view and conducted in utmost secrecy. By and large, Rove runs the domestic secret government, and Cheney the secret foreign affairs/military government. HIDING ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS When CheneyBush were moved into the White House in 2001, they had about two dozen of their key officials and aides use laptops and Blackberries and e-mail servers provided by the Republican National Committee. This was partly to help preserve their deepest secrets but also because they saw the trouble Clinton and his associates got into by using only government-issued communications equipment and servers. This way, if the Bush Administration ever had to supply information to the relevant oversight committees of Congress, they could truthfully say they would turn over all official White House e-mails, computer hard-drives and documents and so on. Since nobody would have asked them for RNC data (since nobody would know about that hidden channel of communication), they figured they'd never get caught. But the law, as codified in the Presidential Records Act, is more precise about what information must be preserved and turned over, if requested. Here's the wording of the law about e-mail retention: "Federal law requires the preservation of electronic communications sent or received by White House staff... The official EOP [Executive Office of the President] e-mail system is designed to automatically comply with records management requirements. ... Personnel working on behalf of the EOP are expected to use only government-provided e-mail services for all official communication." To repeat, the law covers not only White House-generated e-mails and such but all e-mails and text-messages received by White House staff. One can imagine that Rove and his minions felt trapped. If they turned over a complete record of electronic communications received, they would be revealing all sorts of possibly illegal activities about a wide variety of scandals, including the explosive U.S. Attorneys one. "THE DOG ATE MY HOMEWORK" Suddenly, potentially vital documents are reported "missing" and may not be retrievable. And Rove appears to be one of the major deleters of these electronic communications. (His lawyer says whatever deletions of e-mails he may have made were inadvertent, since he believed that the RNC maintained a full archive. However, Rove's e-mails were treated as a quite separate entity by the RNC, and he'd been warned by Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald two years ago to make sure to save all his emails.) Now, why Rove would assume it was someone else's job to save those communications is belied by his also having been warned in 2001 that all White House employees "were cautioned in employee manuals, memos and briefings to carefully save any e-mails that might discuss official matters even if those messages came from private e-mail accounts." Rove would have been required to sign a document acknowledging he had received and read the warning-form. Tom Hamburger's Los Angeles Times story goes on to say that the "documents included a memorandum from then-White House General Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales, who is now attorney general, cautioning employees that 'any e-mail relating to official business ... qualifies as a presidential record. The instructions dwell on the importance of separating political from official acts. But they also explain that all e-mail sent 'to your official account is automatically archived as if it were a presidential record'." But there are no Rove e-mails for at least the past four years. Quelle coincidence! No wonder Patrick Leahy, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, exploded that this "the dog ate my homework" excuse won't fly. He said that e-mails are indeed retrievable on some server or another. What he didn't add was: unless they've been deliberately wiped clean. (Leahy and various pundits said the missing Rove tapes reminded them of the mysterious 18-minute gap on one of Nixon's key tapes dealing with the Watergate coverup.) It's a bit early to make definitive judgments here, since nobody knows for certain if and when those missing e-mails might be located. My guess is that a good many will be found on some server, but (surprise!) not the ones with evidence on it that could incriminate Rove. But I'd be happy to be proved wrong. UNFOLDING U.S. ATTORNEYS SCANDAL Gonzales is scheduled to testify to Congress this week. I would not want to be in his shoes, especially if the Democrats stop their ego-grandstanding and refuse to let him provide evasive answers, which is his usual M.O. The lies about the U.S. Attorneys scandal that he told under oath provide plenty of ammunition for possible perjury and contempt-of-Congress charges. You'll recall that when Gonzo was first questioned about the attorneys situation, he told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he would "never, ever" use political criteria when assessing U.S. Attorneys' right to remain in their posts. When questioned later by the press about his role in the unfolding scandal of U.S. Attorneys fired for partisan reasons, Gonzales claimed that he was almost entirely out of the loop when it came to the firings and replacements. Moi? Since that time, documents have been located that contradict Gonzo's statements and make it plain that he was up to his eyeballs in partisan maneuvering to replace certain U.S. Attorneys with more malleable types. Those U.S. Attorneys who wouldn't necessarily do their political bidding (mainly dealing with indicting Democrats for alleged "voter fraud" and looking the other way when Republicans faced possible legal action), were to be let go and replaced with "loyal Bushies," to use the term from Kyle Sampson's e-mail to him. Sampson, Gonzales' chief of staff, claimed in his Senate testimony that no replacements were considered prior to the firings. But documents have surfaced revealing that he began compiling a list of U.S. Attorneys ripe for firing and their possible replacements a full year before the U.S. attorneys were eased out. Even more damning, there was an e-mail from Gonzales' assistant Monica Goodling to two key DOJ officials: "This is the chart that the AG requested," with a grid listing the U.S. Attorneys' political and ideological persuasions, including whether they were members of the rightwing Federalist Society, much in favor in the White House for judicial appointments and other employment. Now, John Conyers, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, wants to see the RNC e-mails relating to the U.S. Attorneys firings. However, even though these e-mails supposedly are "private" rather than official White House communications, the Administration (surprise!) is claiming "executive privilege" to keep them secret. No wonder since Bush himself is now directly implicated in the scandal. ( ) THE "WHITE HOUSE HORRORS" The reason why the Bush Administration is trying so hard to avoid testimony under oath before Congress is that once one thread is pulled out in an investigation, another one gets noticed and needs to be probed, and pretty soon all sorts of ugly, hidden crimes are out there for all to see. That way lies impeachment and conviction, and with them the loss of the protections that go with power. And thus the Administration must engage in elaborate cover-ups to keep the truth away from the light of day. In President Richard Nixon's Watergate travails in the early-1970s, the fear of the Administration was that the Senate investigation of the bugging and break-in of Democratic Headquarters would unravel the various threads leading to what Attorney General John Mitchell termed "the White House horrors" -- i.e., all the other felonies committed, including slush funds to bribe witnesses for their silence, break-ins at doctors' offices, plots and conspiracies to kidnap and maybe even murder opponents, etc. When that assault on the Constitution and democratic government became known and impeachment hearings were held in the House, Nixon resigned before he could be tried in the Senate. Certainly, Rove and Cheney and Gonzales and Bush understand the possible consequences of the truth coming out in the various Administration scandals. Just a few months ago, with a compliant Republican-controlled Congress and a docile media, they didn't have to worry about legal ramifications. Now, with bulldog Democrats like Leahy, Waxman, Conyers and others in charge of the investigations, there is every likelihood that the Bush Administration's own "White House Horrors" will be uncovered, and impeachment hearings might likely follow. O happy day! Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked as a writer/editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits the progressive website The Crisis Papers ( For comment: . First published by The Crisis Papers and Democratic Underground 4/17/07. Copyright 2007 by Bernard Weiner.
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Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked for two decades as a writer-editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (more...)
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