Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 26, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

MANIPULATING INTELLIGENCE....Having slightly defended the honor of Senate Intelligence Committee chair Pat Roberts a few minutes ago, let's switch gears and rip right back into him. You may recall that back in 2004, Roberts divided his committee's investigation of prewar intelligence into two parts: Phase 1 assessed the intelligence agencies themselves, and Phase 2 was supposed to investigate possible prewar manipulation of intelligence by the Bush administration.

Needless to say, the purpose of this was political: it allowed the committee to blast the intelligence community before the 2004 election, but put off the delicate topic of administration malfeasance until after the election.

But then it got even worse: even after the election was over, Roberts still showed no inclination to go ahead with Phase 2. It just dropped into a black hole. Finally, a year after the election, with no progress apparent, Harry Reid dramatically shut down the Senate as a way of forcing Roberts to follow through on his promise. Roberts reluctantly said he would.

But guess what? There's another election coming up this year, and you know what that means. The Hill reports:

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said he wants to divide his panels inquiry into the Bush administrations handling of Iraq-related intelligence into two parts, a move that would push off its most politically controversial elements to a later time.

....Questions about the Bush administrations handling of pre-war intelligence have new political relevance as the midterm elections draw nearer. Public concern about the war in Iraq is considered a major reason for Bushs low job approval rating, which, in turn, is widely viewed as harmful to congressional Republicans political fortunes.

What a worm. We keep hearing that the intelligence committees in Congress are a rare example of sober, bipartisan consensus, but Roberts apparently subscribes to Grover Norquist's definition of bipartisanship: it's date rape. It looks like Roberts is still bound and determined to loyally do whatever it takes to cover up the Bush administration's prewar manipulations.

Via Greg Sargent, who suggests that Jay Rockefeller, the ranking Dem on the committee, needs to grow a pair this time around and not let Roberts get away with this. Sam Rosenfeld agrees. So do I.

Kevin Drum 11:43 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (25)

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So do I.

Posted by: merlallen on April 26, 2006 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

For all the latest news, documents, filings, timelines and other essential Iraq Intel materials, see:
"The Iraq WMD Intel Document Center."

Posted by: AvengingAngel on April 26, 2006 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

The Iraqis buried airplanes in the sand, so there are bound to be WMD we haven't found.

Whoever protecteth George our Savior will be Rewarded in Heaven.

Posted by: Freedom Phukher on April 26, 2006 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

it's easy to be bi-partisan when the other side says "yes Boss, whatever you like".

screw Rockefeller

Posted by: cleek on April 26, 2006 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

So do I - and I sent him a letter yesterday saying as much. Not that it'll do much good, of course.

Posted by: kg on April 26, 2006 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

This whole government thing would be a lot easier if these elections didn't keep rolling around. If something controversial takes more than a year to finish, you wind up in an election year!

Posted by: SP on April 26, 2006 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, doesn't all this covering for Bush by Congress play into the Democratic strategy of tying them to Bush's unpopularity? It makes them complicit in Bush's mistakes. Right now, I think making hay out of the cover-up will work as well as well as investigating the crime. It keeps the topic alive, makes Congress co-conspirators and implies guilt.

Works for me.

Posted by: Memekiller on April 26, 2006 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

Here's what I honestly just don't get.

What does Rockefeller even imagine is the upside to agreeing with Roberts to do it Roberts' way?

Moreover, what was the point of Reid's dramatic shutting down of the Senate over this issue, if the upshot is nothing more than further opportunity to stall and whitewash?

We already know how the Republicans have used the first part of the report: as something to point to that supposedly "proves" the WH didn't manipulate intelligence, even though, as we all know, that was NOT its mandate. Who can imagine that the proposed first part of the second phase would not be used to "prove" the exact same thing, even though it would also not have been part of its mandate either? Then, of course, they would have TWO reports to "demonstrate" the utter absence of manipulation by the WH.

You see, I don't so much want Rockefeller to grow some balls. I want him to grow a brain.

Posted by: frankly0 on April 26, 2006 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

2012: Roberts issues the 10th Phase Intelligence Committe Report on Administration's (ab)use of intelligence leading upto the Iraq fiasco but defers the part dealing with the White House involvement to a later date.

Posted by: lib on April 26, 2006 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

I am not going to hold my breath for a comment on this from Al.

Posted by: stumpy on April 26, 2006 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

I called Rockefeller's office and asked if it were true that he will not oppose Roberts' gambit. The woman who answered the phone first asked if I could hold, then came back and read me her official talking point on the question, which was something like, "Senator Rockefeller is committed to seeing the investigation through to the end." I asked if that meant that he will oppose Roberts' gambit and she re-read the talking point. I reasked my question and she said that was all she was allowed to say.

It looks like Rockefeller is just another gutless Democrat. Oh well, at leat he has a lot of company.

Posted by: Cause Disturbance on April 26, 2006 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

I hear Roberts actually wanted the inquiry divided into several hundred 'sub-phases'. I think this was scraped after they realized that the release of the first of these 'sub-reports' could jeopardize the re-election campaign of Jenna Bush in 2024.

Posted by: xsociate23 on April 26, 2006 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

Somehow when I think of the Roberts approach, it reminds me of Zeno's paradox.

You keep cutting the remaining distance in half, and you never reach the end.

Posted by: frankly0 on April 26, 2006 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

The Dems need to kick Rockefeller out of his committee position if he's not going to use it to benefit the party or the country. I'd think they could find at least one vertebrate senator out of 44.

Posted by: Doug T on April 26, 2006 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

"The bottom line is either we're going to do this [fund memorial for Flight 93 passengers and crew] because [subcommittee ranking member] Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) is going to offer an amendment and it's going to pass, or we're going to do it and get credit for it," the aide said. "So I think we're pursuing a path by which we, Republicans, get credit for it, not the Democrats."

Not because the passengers and crew deserve to be honored, mind you, but because the GOP can get credit for it, even though they were against it before they were for it.

Conservative priorities: self, self, self and if anything left over, self, then others who might benefit self.

Posted by: Advocate for God on April 26, 2006 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Rockefeller's cave in and Roberts hack work is even worse in light of last Sunday's 60 minutes story. The intelligence saying that Iraq was NOT a threat was there in 2002 - the administration just chose not to look at it. And that's not really a secret - most of the world was screaming that out in 2002, and Powell even said it 2001.

But somehow Rockefeller acquiesced to a report saying that it was an "intelligence" failure.

And now 2 years later he's getting run over again. This remains a huge problem for the Democrats: major national "leaders" such as Rockefeller, Biden and Lieberman who just failed utterly. And they're still there.

Once again, I'd throw out the Zell Miller analogy - it would have been much better for the Party if they'd kicked him out. And it would be much better for the party if people didn't see Lieberman, Biden and Rockefeller as leaders.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on April 26, 2006 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

To be fair, the Democrats were wearing pretty short skirts, tight sweaters, and were making sounds that indicated they liked it.

What happened to you Kevin? The veil of "moderateness" is being shed. Next you'll be spouting off theories about how flight 93 was shot down as intended and Rumsfeld masterminded a cover-up so the press didn't question the appropriateness or ineptness of the administration's actions on 911.

Posted by: Al on April 26, 2006 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

But then it got even worse: even after the election was over, Roberts still showed no inclination to go ahead with Phase 2

Oh my goodness! Knock me down with a feather! Who could have predicted this!

Jesus H Fucking Christ...

Posted by: craigie on April 26, 2006 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

OT . . .

Rasmussen: Before the immigration debate exploded on the national scene, Americans were evenly divided as to which political party they trusted more on the issue. After the earliest rounds of the debate, the GOP gained ground and were favored by a 37% to 31% margin.

Since then, Democrats have focused more attention on enforcement and appear to have won round two of the debate among the general public--42% now trust Howard Dean's party more on this issue while 35% trust the GOP

Fitzmas keeps giving and the GOP continues to implode.

So much for this being a bad week for the Democrats as some resident GOP lemming opined.

Posted by: Advocate for God on April 26, 2006 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Whoever protecteth George our Savior will be Rewarded in Heaven.

Soros does inspire that kind of loyalty.

Posted by: Advocate for God on April 26, 2006 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

A total non-story...Kevin, where have you been the past couple of years, boyo? This mug Roberts has been the WH point man on burying Senate investigations that really would cut to the heart of the matter regarding intel misuse and abuse of the process. He is only one of several well-placed Repub Congressional people whose sole purpose in life is to play CYA for this criminal operation called the Bush Administration, and the complete relinquishing of constitutional requirements for "oversight" by Congress is a legacy that will take years to undo. Bugger Roberts, he has just been doing his job, so what's new, here?

Posted by: barrisj on April 26, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

I'd look for Reid and Rockafeller to do something about this, but right now isn't necessarily the right time to do it.

First, under the Senate Rules, Roberts can do anything he wants. Until the Democrats have a majority. So Rockafeller's opposition is only useful if it can generate media coverarge that is favorable to him, and unfavorable to the Republicans. It's even better if it derails some other agenda of the Republicans. Is right now the time to shoot this wad? Or should Reid wait until Frist wants to conduct some important votes on the Senate floor and shut them down again? Or is that window closed, and he'll have to find something else?

They don't have the votes in the Senate; they have to find other leverage. Frankly, there's NOTHING on the Senate agenda that is as big as this, so there's not going to be any horse trading. The last thing they want to do is give Rockafeller subpoena power. So they have to get media attention, and win back the Senate in November. Let's watch and see how they do that.

I'm tired of this bashing of Rockafeller. Rousing speeches are nice, but I'd rather see him actually win. I'll probably have to wait until next year, though.

Posted by: Doctor Jay on April 26, 2006 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

The top U.S. commander in Iraq has tentative plans to reduce U.S. troops levels in Iraq by about 30,000 by the end of the year, senior military officials said today. The officials said that Gen. George Casey is considering reducing troop levels from 15 to 10 brigades.

Why does Gen. Casey hate America and love the terrorists?

Why is he willing to embolden the terrorists by publically stating we intend to draw down our troops?

Why is he supporting a cut-and-run policy?

Now is not the time to be spilling out guts about troop withdrawal plans!

Posted by: 'Mike K' on April 26, 2006 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

Dr. Jay - what's the upside in waiting? To quote Rage against the Machine:

"No better time than now, no better place than here."

The 60 minutes story broke, the public trust in the administration is eroding - this is the perfect time to add to the Lackoff frame: "Don't trust these guys". Make it a big media event by calling them out on the cover-up: We want the report now!

Remember again that most of the public doesn't care too much about politics, many don't know that the GOP controls all the levers of power. Most don't see that almost all of these corruption scandals involve Republicans. It's a huge upside for the Democrats to put the credibility questions into the headlines - incessantly.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on April 26, 2006 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK



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