White House Insiders
Friday, July 9, 2004; 11:00 AM
What is the latest buzz within the Bush administration? How is the White House handling the run-up to the Democratic convention?
Washington Post White House correspondent Dana Milbank took your questions and comments on President Bush, the current administration and covering the White House on Friday, July 9 at 11 a.m. ET.
White House Insiders is a show featuring Washington Post staff writers Mike Allen and Dana Milbank. Every two weeks, one or both will take your questions on the White House, the president and the Bush administration.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Dana Milbank: Good morning. As we chat in the ether, the Senate intelligence committee is wrapping up a press conference about the pre-war Iraq intelligence. The Democrats are disputing the Republican view that there was no meddling in the intelligence by the administration, and Rockefeller is claiming the CIA was correct in seeing no Iraq-terrorist ties. Should be an interesting day.
TNR reported that Administration officials have really leaned on the Pakistanis to kill or capture high value targets like Osama bin Laden on a schedule that just happens to coincide with the Dem's convention. I haven't seen this reported elsewhere. Any comments? Thanks.
Dana Milbank: I have a high regard for my former employer, the New Republic, and for John Judis, who wrote that story. It sounds quite fanciful to me. I don't doubt that a Pakistani intelligence official said such a think; I doubt that the official knows what he's talking about.
Do you have any thoughts about the rise in credibility of political bloggers? Do political reporters talk about the blogs? Do they make fun of them?
Political bloggers spend a lot of time criticizing the mainstream media, but it doesn't go the other way very much. I think they can be quite useful in noticing things that otherwise might fall through the cracks. My trouble is there's no time to go through all of them. Has anybody found a reliable uber-blog that gets everything?
So, is Cheney in or out? With his image so tarnished, isn't it in the Democrats' interest to have him stay on the ticket with Bush? Switching gears a bit, to the extent that Edwards is being cast as not a traditional "bull dog" kind of VEEP pick, is it possible he may actually be transformative in the No. 2 spot in the runup to the election [and wouldn't that be a rather good thing for our public discourse?]
Cheney: In, in, in. The politics don't matter; he's staying because that's how Bush does business. Without his loyalty, the discipline of the White House, its main strength, would break down instantly.
Edwards: He's more of a show dog than a bull dog, I'd say. Possibly a standard poodle.
Do you see the Democrats using the current Bush/Cheney connection to Enron and Kenneth Lay to their political advantage? Will the timing of Mr. Lay's trial be politically motivated?
Smart money says the perp walk of Lay yesterday actually helps Bush, showing that he's so serious about corporate responsibility that he's willing to put "Kenny Boy behind bars. On the other hand, Democrats will try to tie Enron to Halliburton to BC'04 and paint the administration as too cozy with bad corporate actors generally.
Senate intel bulletin: Now Roberts is saying that there was not "undue pressure" by the Bush administration on CIA analysts but that the administration was indeed "forward leaning."
What is your analysis of the President's refusal to address the NAACP convention?
Before he took office, Bush made clear that he was trying to circumvent the traditional civil rights establishment in favor of new black leaders, particularly religious ones, who shared his conservative views on social policy and favored school vouchers, etc. He's also visited milder groups such as the Urban League. This strategy of avoiding the traditional civil rights crowd has not gone very well for him, but neither is there much to be gained by drawing a hostile reception from the NAACP.
Is Lehmann still the Man with the Plan for CIA? Or are the political waters too troubled for a confirmation before the big showdown in November?
Cabin Dweller and Poet
Dana Milbank: We report this morning that Lehman and Goss are on the outs in the CIA sweepstakes and that Armitage is the only candidate likely to win bipartisan approval in the limited time left.
National Review says you are "biased" in their current edition and your own Ombudsman has referred to at least two of your pieces as being "smart aleck." Response? Oh, also I hear you are short.
Dana Milbank: And bald.
Charleston, W. Va.:
When you say Edwards is more a show dog than a bull dog are you suggesting that Edwards will be all appearance and no substance? That seems to be a risky position to take regarding a personal injury lawyer turned politician.
Dana Milbank: I only mean that he is well, er, groomed.
Charleston, W. Va.:
I'm amazed by the depth and sophistication of the questions posed by readers and often wonder if they might actually be professional colleagues.
Are the re-election campaign leaders worried about the selection of John Edwards because of his "charisma" or are they happy to have a candidate lacking experience who would be open to attack?
Dana Milbank: Indeed, I would suspect that this very question came from the Post's John Harris -- typically he is Rochester, N.Y. -- but he has a three-day-old daughter so it is to be hoped that he is not online.
The inexperience label is the strongest line of attack against Edwards, but it has limited effectiveness. Just as President Hatch, who said the same of Bush in '99.
We read last month about the respective graduations of the president's twin daughters from college. As I recall, their post-graduation plans are still rather vague, and may include some campaigning for their father. I was wondering if anyone has asked them, or their father, whether they are considering enlisting in the military as one of their options, given the critical need for staff at this juncture.
Well, Jenna did ride on both Marine One and Air Force One with President Bush this morning. But maybe you don't count that as military service.
Even in the Bush country (Texas), we are seeing lot of bumper stickers for Kerry.
Is White House nervous on the upcoming election? Is Dick Cheney a drag on the ticket?
Are there really Kerry stickers in Plano?
Maybe they're day trippers from Austin.
Any chance in our lifetimes that the American taxpayer will get to read the full, unexpurgated version of the Senate report on intelligence failures by the CIA? After all, we're paying for it. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Accountability -- the first responsibility of the first freedoms.
Dana Milbank: There's an excellent chance you'll see it within minutes, if it's not posted already. The 500-page report doesn't include classified information, but there should be plenty to chew on.
All the Way with CIA:
What about that Pat Roberts guy for Chief Spook?
Frankly, he makes Graham and Shelby look like the Einstein brothers. And I don't mean as in bagels.
News Flash: There's nothing wrong with being bald, short, and fat. The Budda was and look what happened to him. Instant name recognition and immortality!;
Somewhere in the Twilight Zone
Dana Milbank: You are biased and smart alecky and I am reporting you to National Review, and the ombudsman.
Who said anything about fat?
Dana, re: the Senate report on the faulty CIA intelligence analysis. Am I right in recalling that Wolfowitz said something like, we emphasized the WMD intelligence because it was the one thing that we all could agree on as a justification for war? The implication being that they wanted to go to war and remove Saddam for other reasons as well, so it wasn't a case of going to war because the CIA misled them on WMD.
Dana Milbank: Quite true about Wolfowitz. This makes the current debate all the more interesting. On the WMD question, and particularly the Hussein-Qaeda ties, the administration has not yielded an inch, on the theory that to admit any fault invites an avalanche of criticism (remember last year's flap over the Niger yellow cake uranium). It is worth noting that the neocons' best argument for war in Iraq -- that it could be a building block for transforming the Middle East -- is the only rationale of the three that still has a chance of proving true in the long run.
I can't be the only one who's sick of the spin the White House invariably puts on any news that comes out. Like today's, for example. McClellan says that the report pretty much agrees with what they (the White House) have been saying?! Did someone not tell him that those flawed reports are what his boss and Secretary Powell used to justify the invasion of Iraq?!
Dana Milbank: There's a logic to this tactic. When the White House furiously attacked Dick Clarke and Joe Wilson, it drew more attention to the charges against Bush. But by characterizing a potentially damaging disclosure -- the 9/11 commission staff report, Bob Woodward's book, and possibly the Senate intel report -- it deflects attention. Still, today's report does help the White House by concentrating its attention on intelligence agencies and not on policymakers' use of hte intelligence.
Good morning Dana-
I heard this morning that a portion of President Bush's military records were inadvertantly destroyed in the late 90's during a microfiche "malfunction" at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service.
Do you think this will end the saga, or could there be some incident reports that verify this tragic, yet convenient mishap?
Dana Milbank: Here's what the Pentagon's FOIA office said to news organizations, including the Post, that requested the Guard records:
"The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) has advised of the inadvertent destruction of microfilm containing certain National Guard payroll records. In 1996 and 1997, DFAS engaged with limited success in a project to salvage deteriorating microfilm. During this process, the microfilm payroll records of numerous service members were damaged, including those from the first quarter of 1969 (January 1 to March 31) and the third quarter of 1972 (July 1 to September 30). President Bush's payroll records for those two quarters were among the records destroyed. Searches for back-up paper copies of the missing records were unsuccessful.
Can you explain why John Judis' story in The New Republic (a strong supporter of the Iraq War!) is "fanciful" except for the fact that to accept the thesis of the story will be tantamount to confirmation that the Bush Administration is playing politics with the war on terror? Do you or your paper have any sources in Pakistan which cast doubt on the story, or are you expressing a personal philosophical position? And why is everything critical of this crooked, dishonorable regime slandered as conspiratorial thinking, instead of honestly dealing with the factual basis for the story?
Dana Milbank: No, the report was not fanciful. I expressed my view that the notion expressed by the Pakistani official about the linking of high value targets to the dates of the Democratic convention was fanciful.
Note to National Review: I am now accused of slandering everything critical of this administration.
The DNC is running Internet ads claiming the Bush administration plans to make major cuts to domestic programs like WIC (Women, Infants, and Children). The DNC cites The Washington Post, but all I can find is a brief mention in your June 28th column. Do you have more details?
Dana Milbank: This is based on work by my colleague Jonathan Weisman, who got his hands on a budget planning document from OMB for fiscal 2006.
Anything new on the Palme investigation?
Dana Milbank: The Olaf Palme assassination remains, tragically, unsolved, a source of great agitation to all who love Sweden.
The Plame investigation, by contrast, chugs along in the secrecy of the grand jury and Justice department.
Dana Milbank: Thanks for the questions. I'm off to get a hair transplant.
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