When does it just get to be too much?
So the news the last few months has been bad for the Bush administration. The occupation in Iraq is not going as well as had been hoped. The economy is still sputtering--it seems every good piece of news is followed by two or three negative to questionable pieces. Even the most favorable polls show Bush's approval ratings hovering at 50%, and many show him well below that mark. The 9/11 Commission, which he opposed vehemently and only signed because public opinion forced his hand, is actually doing its job and is asking tough questions. And then there's been the recent spate of, shall we say, less-than-flattering books, first from Suskind/O'Neill, then Richard Clarke and now from Bob Woodward.
This is Woodward's second book on the Bush presidency. His first has been described charitably as an exercise in ass-kissing. This one apparently is anything but that. I haven't read it yet, and to be honest, I have so much work of my own to do that I may never get to it. But if the charges he levels in Woodward's book are accurate--and he apparently has tapes and detailed notes to back his story up--then even the fiercest partisan ought to think twice before supporting Bush this fall.
In his interview with 60 Minutes, Woodward makes some serious accusations. A report on the interview is here, and the following quotes are from the article.
Point one: The White House may have broken the law in the run-up to the war in Iraq. Woodward is the person in quotes.
"And there's this low boil on Iraq until the day before Thanksgiving, Nov. 21, 2001. This is 72 days after 9/11. This is part of this secret history. President Bush, after a National Security Council meeting, takes Don Rumsfeld aside, collars him physically, and takes him into a little cubbyhole room and closes the door and says, ‘What have you got in terms of plans for Iraq? What is the status of the war plan? I want you to get on it. I want you to keep it secret.’"Before the President had gotten authorization from Congress to do anything regarding Iraq, they took $700 million from the Afghanistan conflict and started on Iraq. Forget the legalities for a moment--how can Bush credibly claim that he was focused on Bin Laden when he authorized the diversion of such a large amount of resources from his capture to begin preparation for a war he had no authority to conduct? Simple answer--he can't.
Woodward says immediately after that, Rumsfeld told Gen. Tommy Franks to develop a war plan to invade Iraq and remove Saddam - and that Rumsfeld gave Franks a blank check.
”Rumsfeld and Franks work out a deal essentially where Franks can spend any money he needs. And so he starts building runways and pipelines and doing all the preparations in Kuwait, specifically to make war possible,” says Woodward.
“Gets to a point where in July, the end of July 2002, they need $700 million, a large amount of money for all these tasks. And the president approves it. But Congress doesn't know and it is done. They get the money from a supplemental appropriation for the Afghan War, which Congress has approved. …Some people are gonna look at a document called the Constitution which says that no money will be drawn from the Treasury unless appropriated by Congress. Congress was totally in the dark on this."
Point two: the President's relationship with the House of Saud and with Prince Bandar in particular is closer than most realize, to the point where top secret intelligence was shared with him.
”Saturday, Jan. 11, with the president's permission, Cheney and Rumsfeld call Bandar to Cheney's West Wing office, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Myers, is there with a top-secret map of the war plan. And it says, ‘Top secret. No foreign.’ No foreign means no foreigners are supposed to see this,” says Woodward.Now why is the President of the US sharing top secret information with a major player in a foreign government, especially considering that government had the closest contacts with the 9/11 hijackers? We are talking about an agent of a government that, by Bush's own definition, should be part of his so-called "axis of evil" after all.
“They describe in detail the war plan for Bandar. And so Bandar, who's skeptical because he knows in the first Gulf War we didn't get Saddam out, so he says to Cheney and Rumsfeld, ‘So Saddam this time is gonna be out, period?’ And Cheney - who has said nothing - says the following: ‘Prince Bandar, once we start, Saddam is toast.’"
After Bandar left, according to Woodward, Cheney said, “I wanted him to know that this is for real. We're really doing it."
But this wasn’t enough for Prince Bandar, who Woodward says wanted confirmation from the president. “Then, two days later, Bandar is called to meet with the president and the president says, ‘Their message is my message,’” says Woodward.
Point three: This is the one that really steams me, and it should piss off everyone. The Saudis are apparently planning to try to affect the election in the US this November.
Prince Bandar enjoys easy access to the Oval Office. His family and the Bush family are close. And Woodward told 60 Minutes that Bandar has promised the president that Saudi Arabia will lower oil prices in the months before the election - to ensure the U.S. economy is strong on election day.Al Gore got called every name in the book and was accused of treason for far less. Moreover, what Bush is essentially telling everyone is that he could theoretically get the Saudis to pump more oil, but he's going to gouge us longer so it will help him politically. And when White House spokesman Scott McClellan was questioned about this at length at today's press briefing, he wriggled and squirmed and yet did not offer a denial of any sort.
Woodward says that Bandar understood that economic conditions were key before a presidential election: “They’re [oil prices] high. And they could go down very quickly. That's the Saudi pledge. Certainly over the summer, or as we get closer to the election, they could increase production several million barrels a day and the price would drop significantly.”
So tell me, Republicans--when is it too much? When do you finally say "enough"? When do you decide that this man is not representative of your party and that he is leading you down the road to disaster? When do you divorce yourselves from this person who claims to be conservative but is anything but?