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Washington Journalism on Trial

"Under questioning before the grand jury by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, Libby said he went to Cheney with the new information.

"Libby said that before reading his own notes, he had told Cheney he first learned the information from Russert. And he wanted to set the record straight with his boss, he said.

" 'He didn't say much, something about 'from me?' Libby told the grand jury. The vice president 'tilted his head, something he does commonly, and that was that,' Libby recalled."

David Corn blogs for The Nation: "The note was a big deal. Libby was claiming he had known nothing about Wilson's wife until his conversation with Russert. But here was indisputable documentation that Cheney had informed Libby weeks before that -- and proof that Cheney had been gathering his own information on the Wilsons and the trip Joseph Wilson took to Niger for the CIA to check out the allegation that Iraq had sought uranium there."

As for Cheney's reaction, Corn writes: "Tilted his head? What did that mean? Libby had no more of an explanation. . . .

"Libby's grand jury testimony contained other intriguing nuggets. At one point, he noted that then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz had leaked portions of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's WMDs to the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. . . . Libby, in turn, talked to Wolfowitz about doing so because he didn't 'have as good a relationship with the Wall Street Journal as Secretary Wolfowitz did.' (When the Journal ran an editorial quoting the NIE and insisting that Bush had been right to cite Iraq's alleged attempt to buy uranium in Africa, the paper's editorialists asserted 'this information...does not come from the White House.')

What Did Bush and Cheney Say?

Joe Conason writes in the New York Observer: "At long last, the fog of mystification generated by the Bush administration and the Washington media is lifting, so that everyone can see clearly why I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby is on trial and why his prosecution is important. Whether the jury eventually finds the former White House aide innocent or guilty of perjury, the evidence shows that his bosses George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have misled the public from the very beginning about the vengeful leaking of Valerie Plame Wilson's C.I.A. identity. . . .

Conason calls attention to Cheney and Bush's interviews with prosecutors during the summer of 2004.

"[R]eports indicate that Mr. Bush, accompanied by private counsel, wasn't placed under oath during his interview. But even if neither he nor Mr. Cheney was sworn during those encounters, that wouldn't excuse them from telling the truth. To do otherwise would expose them to prosecution for making false statements to federal investigators -- a felony -- as well as possible counts of conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

"Did the President ask Mr. Libby to take the fall for others in the White House? Did the President know the extent of the Vice President's involvement in the effort to ruin the Wilsons? When did he learn what Messrs. Cheney, Libby, Rove and Fleischer had done to advance that scheme?

"Most important, did Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney tell the truth when Mr. Fitzgerald and his investigators interrogated them about those issues? That is the inescapable question at the bottom of this case -- and sooner or later, the Congress and the press must demand answers."

On Climate Change

Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Felicity Barringer write in the New York Times: "At a time when his policies on global warming are under scrutiny from environmentalists, President Bush this week cloaked himself in another environmental issue: conservation. He used his budget, and his bully pulpit, to announce a 10-year, $1 billion commitment in taxpayer money to enhance national parks, which have been limping along with limited money. . . .

"Despite the praise for its effort on parks, the administration found itself on the defensive Wednesday -- so much so that the White House felt compelled to issue an ' open letter on the president's position on climate change.'

"In the letter, Mr. Bush's top science and environmental advisers challenged news media reports that suggested that his concern about climate change was new. 'Beginning in June 2001,' they wrote, 'President Bush has consistently acknowledged climate change is occurring and humans are contributing to the problem.'

"The letter cited a June 2001 statement in which Mr. Bush quoted the National Academy of Sciences saying an increase in Earth's temperatures was 'due in large part to human activity.' But it failed to finish the quotation, in which he went on to say it was unclear how much 'natural fluctuations in climate' played a role, whether further climate change was inevitable and what, if anything, could be done about it."

In fact, the issue with Bush has not been that he hasn't acknowledged climate change -- it's that he hasn't acknowledged that the problem is manmade. And as far as I know, he still hasn't.

Here's the transcript of Bush's remarks yesterday about national parks.

Snow Makes More Stuff Up

Here's an eye-popping claim from yesterday's press briefing by Tony Snow.

Snow was talking about various climate-change initiatives supported by the administration, when he said: "We're talking about nuclear development, which is now championed by, among others, Greenpeace."

A little while later, one reporter felt obliged to ask:

"Q. Greenpeace has signed on to nuclear?

"MR. SNOW: I think there's some Greenpeace people who are certainly advocates of nuclear power. Why? Because it's clean and it provides for energy."

But Greenpeace supporting nuclear power would be about as likely as Gandhi endorsing violence.

As the Greenpeace Web site makes clear: "Greenpeace has always fought - and will continue to fight - vigorously against nuclear power because it is an unacceptable risk to the environment and to humanity. The only solution is to halt the expansion of all nuclear power, and for the shutdown of existing plants."

Jim Riccio, a nuclear policy analyst with Greenpeace, told me this morning: "Mr. Snow is about 180 degrees off. Not only do we not support nuclear power, we certainly don't support it as an answer to global climate change."

Riccio said Snow might have been thinking of Patrick Moore, a founding member of Greenpeace who is now, according to Riccio, "a paid spokesperson for the nuclear power industry."

So was Riccio surprised by Snow's claim? Not really.

"The administration has had very little problem making up things out of whole cloth when it comes to nuclear, so to see them mischaracterizing Greenpeace's position doesn't really surprise me."

No Need for Confirmation

The liberal Web site reports: "Last week, The Guardian reported that the Exxon-funded American Enterprise Institute was offering to pay global warming deniers to push back on the new IPCC climate change study.

"This morning, CNN incorrectly reported that during an appearance in Spain, Al Gore had blamed the White House -- not AEI -- for offering to pay the scientists. The headline read: 'Gore says Bush administration paying scientists to dispute global warming.' But hours later, the site issued a retraction saying Gore had 'responded to a question' from a reporter 'that incorrectly implied the Bush administration was making payments to scientists.' Gore was referring to AEI when he said, 'They're offering cash for so-called skeptics who will try to confuse people about what the science really says.'"

But over at the White House, the initial report was enough for a Snow riposte. "The reported remarks by the Vice President that the United States -- that the government is going out and paying money to those who dispute climate change research is just breathtakingly silly," Snow said. "I think maybe what he's done is he's mixed up a story about a think tank in Washington with government policy."

Iran Opinion Watch

Vali Nasr and Ray Takeyh write in a Washington Post op-ed: "As Iran crosses successive nuclear demarcations and mischievously intervenes in Iraq, the question of how to address the Islamic republic is once more preoccupying Washington. Economic sanctions, international ostracism, military strikes and even support for hopeless exiles are all contemplated with vigor and seriousness. One option, however, is rarely assessed: engagement as a means of achieving a more pluralistic and responsible government in Tehran. . . .

"Paradoxically, to liberalize the theocratic state, the United States would do better to shelve its containment strategy and embark on a policy of unconditional dialogue and sanctions relief. A reduced American threat would deprive the hard-liners of the conflict they need to justify their concentration of power. In the meantime, as Iran became assimilated into the global economy, the regime's influence would inevitably yield to the private sector, with its demands for accountability and reform."

Javad Zarif, the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, writes in a New York Times op-ed that "the United States administration is -- unfortunately -- reaping the expected bitter fruits of its ill-conceived adventurism, taking the region and the world with it to the brink of further hostility. But rather than face these unpleasant facts, the United States administration is trying to sell an escalated version of the same failed policy. It does this by trying to make Iran its scapegoat and fabricating evidence of Iranian activities in Iraq.

"The United States administration also appears to be trying to forge a regional coalition to counter Iranian influence. But even if it succeeds in doing so, such a coalition will prove practically futile, dangerous to the region as a whole and internally destabilizing for Iraq. By promoting such a policy, the United States is fanning the flames of sectarianism just when they most need to be quelled. . . .

"We all need to learn from past mistakes and not stubbornly insist on repeating them against all advice -- including the advice George Bush gave as a presidential candidate in 2000: 'If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us; if we're a humble nation, but strong, they'll welcome us.'"

Budget Watch

David Wessel writes in the Wall Street Journal: "William Gale of the Brookings Institution. . . . has been thinking a lot lately about the parallels between Mr. Bush on Iraq and Mr. Bush on the budget. . . .

"The president took the U.S. into Iraq with 'falsely rosy scenarios' about the post-Saddam landscape there, he says. Mr. Bush built his tax cuts in 2001 on a similarly unrealistic hope that the budget surplus was large enough to cut taxes without creating deficits." And so on.

Bryan Bender writes in the Boston Globe: "President Bush's proposed war budget includes many high-cost weapons that won't be operational for years, using a funding request aimed at supporting the troops to seek money for some of the Pentagon's favorite projects."

Cartoon Watch

Jeff Danziger on Libby and Russert.

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