The Italian job: In a follow-up to Jon’s earlier posting, the rapidly deteriorating relationship between George Bush and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi seems to be accelerating. As reported by the Christian Science Monitor, Berlusconi, in a “behind the scenes effort” to convince Bush not to go to war he even asked Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi to help him.
That would have scored some points with the Repugs!
Berlusconi is coming to visit Bush just five months befpre his re-election bid and he’s coming to discuss something very delicate — the withdrawal of Italian troops from Iraq. A former Bush advisor, David Frum, told Italy’s La Stampa that Bush would likely view Berlusconi’s remarks as “treacherous”:
“What Berlusconi said has damaged his personal relationship with Bush. In politics, it is sometimes good to be cynical, but not to appear cynical. Berlusconi’s words and their meaning seemed very cynical,” said Frum, a political scientist at the neoliberal American Enterprise Institute think-tank in Washington.
“The Bush administration’s perception of Berlusconi has long been very positive. Bush [has made] it plain that he enjoyed his company and appreciated the sacrifices Italy has made in the war on terror. But maybe Bush thought Berlusconi a stronger leader than he actually is,” Frum continued. “I think that from now on, it will be very difficult for the president to confide in Berlusconi, to believe and trust him.”
The Italian-American waters are further muddied by allegations from a lleft-leaning Italian newspaper that has accused an intelligence official of passing forged documents to the United States suggesting that Saddam Hussein had been seeking uranium in Africa. Can you spell “yellow cake”?
In a statement today, Berlusconi said he appreciated the work that Nicolo Pollari, director of the SISMI intelligence agency, was doing and rejected suggestions that he should resign as a result of the allegations.
At least Bush and Berlusconi still share one thing — loyalty to corrupt subordinates — at least until the investigation gets too close.
Political seppuku? In every profile of Scooter Libby – and they are legion these days – friends and co-workers express shock that anyone so meticulous and bureaucratically sure-footed could have made such dumb mistakes and told such easily debunked lies to a federal grand jury.
One easily drawn conclusion is that Libby assumed that because the conversations he fictionalized were with reporters, with whom he generally spoke on background, the reporters would never testify against him. However, his conversation with NBC’s Tim Russert was not off the record – and it was this conversation that tricked him up. Libby told the grand jury that he first learned the CIA agent’s secret identity in that conversation, a fact that did not square with Russert’s recollection and that Russert vehemently denies.
Another possible explanation now afloat in the Capitol is that Libby may be taking a hit for his boss. If true, this would mean that the cover-up is still active and Cheney was more deeply involved – or that some more terrible secret is being protected. Consider this quote from former Cheney aide
Mary Matalan in today’s Washington Post:
“I know he has a story. Believe me, he’ll answer,” Matalin said. “People who wish the best for Scooter . . . have to take a step back. It’s so completely inconsistent with Scooter’s work ethic, his intelligence and his history. There’s no context in the indictment . . . it’s only one side of the story.”
Sorry, Mare, the “context” seems very clear: Sccoter got nabbed in a disinformation campaign about Saddam’s nuclear capabilities. What other side of the story could there be?
The United Press International said Saturday, Oct. 29, 2005, that Iraqi medical sources have reported the first case of bird flu in the northern Iraqi Kurdish city of Erbil.
However, a moderator of an international scientific and medical organization cautioned against taking the report at face value:
This piece of information, lacking elementary clinical and epidemiological data — such as the number of dead birds — should be viewed with caution.
UPI reported that Ilham Butros, head of the central veterinary laboratory in Erbil, said in a statement that a chicken was found to have been infected with the avian flu virus.
She said a sample was taken from a sick bird at a poultry farm in the city and sent for testing to a Cairo, Egypt, laboratory because Erbil has no facilities to detect such viruses. Butros said the tests confirmed the chicken was infected with avian flu.
Iraqi medical and veterinary officials have repeatedly said Iraq was free of bird flu and the government has taken strict measures to prevent the entry and import of birds, live and slaughtered chicken, and all poultry products.
If true, the report, which could not be confirmed from other sources, would make Iraq the first country in the Middle East to report the strain. Two weeks ago Turkey, which borders northern Iraq, reported a case of the avian flu virus.
Political misdirection: What better way to deflect attention away from the Scooter than to nominate another Italian wingnut to the Supreme Court? Hail, Scalito! But the Libby indictment goes to the ethics question, and most people just aren’t buying the “cleaning up government and bringing morality back to the White House” load of malarkey.
From National Journal’s Polltrack (edited):
This morning’s Supreme Court announcement overshadowed much of the buzz about Friday’s indictment in the CIA leak case, but two new polls suggest that the matter could leave bad feelings lingering in the public sphere.
President Bush, like many politicians before him, campaigned on cleaning up government and bringing morality back to the White House, but a new ABC News/Washington Post survey suggests he hasn’t done a better job than his predecessors. A 46-percent plurality said the “overall level of ethics and honesty in the federal government” has fallen since Bush became president; 37 percent said it’s stayed the same and just 15 percent said it’s risen.
Nearly two-thirds rated Bush’s own handling of ethics in government as fair or poor, and just 34 percent rated them positively — but that’s roughly on par with former President Bill Clinton’s level in January 2000 and former President Ronald Reagan’s in November 1988, according to the analysis.
The ABC/Post survey put Bush’s overall approval at 39 percent, 3 points lower than its September number; CNN/Gallup/USA Today gauged the split at 41/56. Both of those numbers are statistically even with the 42/55 measure a few days before the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, on five charges related to the CIA leak investigation.
As for the Libby case specifically, the ABC/Post poll found the public in a harsh mood. Nearly seven in 10 said the charge against Cheney’s adviser was a serious crime, and a majority (55 percent) also said it points to broader ethics problems in the Bush administration. Fifty-five percent said Bush himself didn’t do anything wrong in connection to the case, however, and 44 percent let Cheney off the hook as well.
As usual, the question remains about what effect these numbers will have at the polls in 2006 and beyond. A majority of respondents told Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (D) pollsters that “reform and change” better described Democrats than Republicans — but the GOP came out ahead on “know what they stand for.” The parties were tied on “creating prosperity.”
Gotta be more to this: This is the last minute development that Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff says saved Karl Rove from being indicted last week:
Two sources close to Rove who asked not to be identified because the probe is ongoing said Luskin presented evidence that gave the prosecutor “pause.” One small item was a July 11, 2003, e-mail Rove sent to former press aide Adam Levine saying Levine could come up to his office to discuss a personnel issue. The e-mail was at 11:17 a.m., minutes after Rove had gotten off the phone with Matt Cooper—the same conversation (in which White House critic Joe Wilson’s wife’s work for the CIA was discussed) that Rove originally failed to disclose to the grand jury. Levine, with whom Rove often discussed his talks with reporters, did immediately go up to see Rove. But as Levine told the FBI last week, Rove never said anything about Cooper. The Levine talk was arguably helpful to one of Luskin’s arguments: that, as a senior White House official, Rove dealt with a wide range of matters and might not remember every conversation he has had with journalists.
JUAN WILLIAMS: You can try to minimize it, but the fact that you have Scooter Libby, so involved in justifying going to war, and in the posture of trying to smear a critic of that justification. I think is pretty revealing and pretty damaging to the Bush White House. I think they’re going to have to rebuild a sense of trust with the American People. And that’s why when Brit asked this question, why did he have to lie, he felt the need to lie if he did lie, but by all indications he’s going to say I didn’t remember it quite the way this person remembered and all the like. That’s not very strong in my book, and I think Fitzgerald did a terrific job on Friday. But the reason he felt the need was to make it clear that he was not involved in what really was a conspiracy to defame Joe Wilson.
BRIT HUME: Juan, somebody needs to hose you down.
Source: Think Progress
Lying, Italian-style: In the run-up to the Iraq war, President Bush had so few supporters among European leaders that it’s hard not to remember who they were: Tony Blair in the U.K. and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
But now, on the eve of his visit to Washington – and with his poll numbers at home tanking as much as Bush’s are here – Berlusconi is lying about his attitude toward Bush’s harebrained crusade to conquer Islam:
For years, he has been one of President Bush’s most loyal supporters in Europe, a leader who steadfastly backed the U.S.-led war in Iraq and one of the few on the continent to send troops to help out.
So it came as something of a surprise this weekend when Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi revealed his reservations about the war, on the eve of a visit to Washington no less.
“I tried repeatedly to convince the American president not to go to war,” Berlusconi told an interviewer with the La7 television channel. “I was never convinced that war was the best system to achieve democracy in a country that had to emerge from a bloody dictatorship. I maintained that military action should be avoided.”
This is a prime example of how conservative corruption does not respect international boundaries – and of how rats desert each other when the ship is sinking.
President Bush, stung by the rejection of his first choice, nominated longtime judge Samuel Alito Monday in a bid to reshape the Supreme Court and mollify his conservative allies. Democrats said that Alito may be “too radical for the American people.
“Judge Alito has served with distinction on that court for 15 years, and now has more prior judicial experience than any Supreme Court nominee in more than 70 years,” Bush said, drawing an unspoken contrast to his first choice, Harriet Miers.
Unlike her nomination, which was derailed Thursday by Bush’s conservative allies, Alito faces opposition from Democrats.
“The Senate needs to find out if the man replacing Miers is too radical for the American people,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada.
Election dysfunction: In yet another of his growing list of quirky electoral decisions, Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush has ignored the suggestions of local elections officials and the company that supplies our touch-screen voting machines, and called for county and city elections to go forward. He allowed Miami-Dade and Broward counties two weeks’ reprieve, but called for several communities with elections slated for Nov. 8 to stick to that date, whether all polling places have power or not.
Let’s keep in mind that some people in South Florida have been told not to expect the power to be back on until Nov. 22, just in time for Thanksgiving.
From the Miami Herald:
Both the county and Election Systems and Software, the company that manufactures Miami-Dade’s voting machines, have warned state elections officials that the Nov. 8 date is too soon to ensure smooth operations at the polls. Their date of choice for all six upcoming local elections: Dec. 6.
”The governor’s office worked with the Department of State and local officials to complete a thorough evaluation of conditions and needs,” Bush spokeswoman Deena Reppen told The Herald. “The governor feels that this will provide a good window of time to prepare and execute the election.”
A memo sent Friday from ES&S to state elections officials warned that holding elections Nov. 8 “would put the election success at too high of a risk.”
”Time and the ability to plan is the most important element of running a trouble-free election,” the memo said. “Nov. 8 does not allow the time needed to manage and assure the myriad of tasks can be completed and tested.”
The memo said ES&S could go along with holding elections on Nov. 15 but that there are ”inherent risks” with that date and that Dec. 6 was the first choice.
When told that the company had raised such concerns, Reppen, the Bush spokesperson, said she stood by her original statement that the governor had confered with the various affected parties and arrived at a “good window of time.”
Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections Lester Sola acknowledged the governor-mandated election schedule poses a “challenge.”
”Ultimately, the elections department and the supervisor of elections are responsible for making sure that the elections are held, and they’re held correctly. That is my job,” Sola said.
Sola noted that the governor’s office has committed to help Miami-Dade overcome the obstacles associated with holding elections so soon — including the possibility power may not be fully restored to all polling places.
”They stated to me on the record they would provide the generators and whatever other resources were needed to make sure the elections were pulled off correctly,” Sola said.
Following on the heels of the botched Wilma response (for which Jebby took token responsibility, then pointed his finger at citizens who, he said, didn’t prepare adequately), I’m sure these elections, like all those in Florida in the past five years, will run smoothly and there will be absolutely no question about the results.
Look out! Flying pigs!