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A White House Forgery Scandal?

"It is one of the great lies in modern American political history."

Loss of Nerve

Suskind lists a cast of characters on his own Web site. Here's what he writes about Bush there: "Bush made it to the top mostly on pure nerve.

"Which he lost on 9/11. That was visible to anyone who saw him on the tarmac making his first timorous statements and speaking uncertainly at first before the rubble at Ground Zero. This began to turn when he grabbed the bullhorn. By the time he delivered the best speech of his presidency, two weeks after the attack, he was rebuilt, a chastened bully, who wiped away tears, brushed off the dirt, and was reconstituted by vengeance dressed up as high purpose.

"The moment was so cathartic for Bush it's easy to see how it would be difficult for him to move past it."

A Pattern Emerging?

James Gordon Meek wrote in the New York Daily News earlier this week: "In the immediate aftermath of the 2001 anthrax attacks, White House officials repeatedly pressed FBI Director Robert Mueller to prove it was a second-wave assault by Al Qaeda, but investigators ruled that out, the Daily News has learned.

"After the Oct. 5, 2001, death from anthrax exposure of Sun photo editor Robert Stevens, Mueller was 'beaten up' during President Bush's morning intelligence briefings for not producing proof the killer spores were the handiwork of terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden, according to a former aide.

"'They really wanted to blame somebody in the Middle East,' the retired senior FBI official told The News.

"On October 15, 2001, President Bush said, 'There may be some possible link' to Bin Laden, adding, 'I wouldn't put it past him.' Vice President Cheney also said Bin Laden's henchmen were trained 'how to deploy and use these kinds of substances, so you start to piece it all together.'

"But by then the FBI already knew anthrax spilling out of letters addressed to media outlets and to a U.S. senator was a military strain of the bioweapon. 'Very quickly [Fort Detrick, Md., experts] told us this was not something some guy in a cave could come up with,' the ex-FBI official said. 'They couldn't go from box cutters one week to weapons-grade anthrax the next.'"

Peter S. Canellos writes in the Boston Globe: "The significance of the anthrax attacks in shaping US policy in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has largely been forgotten. . . .

"When the anthrax attacks occurred, Iraq was immediately fingered by some experts and many neoconservative hawks as a possible source; ABC News quoted three unnamed government sources as saying the powder in the letters matched the type produced in Iraq.

"Even though most serious analysts were highly skeptical that the tainted letters came from Hussein, the mere possibility that Iraq could have maintained a stockpile of anthrax was enough to convince many people that it was a looming threat.

"It's impossible to know how much, if at all, this speculation influenced the Bush administration's subsequent decision to confront Iraq. Perhaps Iraq was so much on the minds of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney that no other trigger was needed.

"But to many others in Congress, the media, and the general public, the anthrax attacks made the administration's later arguments seem more credible: If an enemy of the United States could start killing people by sending powder through the mail, there might indeed be a justification for more precipitous action.

"In the end, of course, there was no anthrax found in Iraq - and no weapons of mass destruction of any sort."

So who told ABC the powder looked Iraqi? Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald has been asking that question for days.

Bush's China Syndrome

Michael Abramowitz writes in The Washington Post: "Three days before he is set to arrive in Beijing for the Olympics, President Bush offered a mixed assessment of China's role in the world, praising its efforts to curb the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran, expressing disappointment about its recent move to help scuttle global trade talks, and saying that it is 'really hard to tell' whether human rights in China have improved over the past eight years. . . .

"Bush said China must do more to pressure repressive governments in Burma and Sudan, where he suggested Beijing's interest in acquiring raw materials to fuel China's booming economy is conflicting with an interest in stopping the killing in Sudan's Darfur region. But he skirted a question about a pre-Olympics security drive by Chinese authorities that human rights advocates call a crackdown on dissent.

"'They're hypersensitive to a potential terrorist attack,' Bush said. 'And my hope is, of course, that as they have their security in place, that they're mindful of the spirit of the Games, and that if there is a provocation, they handle it in a responsible way without violence.' . . .

"During a half-hour interview in his private office aboard Air Force One, Bush emphasized that it is 'important to engage the Chinese' -- a striking comment for a president who came to office with aides depicting China as a 'strategic competitor' and surrounded by hawks who looked suspiciously upon the Chinese government. Even critics of the president say he has emerged as an unexpected diplomat with China, conducting a personal campaign to woo the senior Chinese leadership."

Bush's advisers say engagement has paid off in terms of Chinese cooperation on key international concerns, but human rights activists are critical.

"'In terms of effectiveness, the so-called quiet, behind-the-scenes diplomacy so far is a failure,' said Bob Fu, founder of the China Aid Association and one of several activists who met with Bush last week at the White House. 'On the human rights front, as we approach the Olympics, China really has the worst record and is deteriorating up until today.'"

Steven Lee Myers writes in the New York Times that Bush "has characterized his visit as an apolitical celebration of the Olympic spirit and American sportsmanship. But behind the scenes, according to officials and others involved in the discussions, the preparations have been far more complicated and remain a source of friction.

"The White House's plans have been thwarted by Chinese objections, by security issues and by sensitivities that the administration chose not to upset, even as Mr. Bush faced criticism from human-rights campaigners and lawmakers here in Washington for not doing and saying more. . . .

"Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, who was among a group of advocates who met with [national security adviser Stephen] Hadley last week to discuss China, said the problem with the balance Mr. Bush was striving for was that it too readily accepted the Chinese authorities' conditions. . . .

"The worst nightmare for the White House could be a harsh, even violent Chinese government response to protests at a moment when Mr. Bush is appearing in sparkling stadiums, watching sports with his family.

"'He will look awful,' Mr. Roth of Human Rights Watch said, 'if he ignores the repression around him.'"

Interview, Part II

In a second story about his interview with Bush, Abramowitz writes on "President Bush said Monday he sees little distance between himself and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on how to approach troop reductions in Iraq, dismissing the suggestion that Maliki had effectively endorsed Sen. Barack Obama's plan to withdraw all U.S. combat brigades in 16 months.

"'I talk to him all the time, and that's not what I heard,' Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post aboard Air Force One on the start of a trip to Asia. 'I heard a man who wants to work with the United States to come up with a rational way to have the United States withdraw combat troops depending upon conditions on the ground, that's all.'"

Abramowitz also asked Bush about the recent charges of politicization at the U.S. Justice Department: "In a report last week, the Justice Department's inspector general concluded that senior department officials broke the law and improperly took political considerations into account in screening applicants for civil service jobs.

"Bush described the report as a 'very thorough and well-researched analysis' but declined to say much more. He also refused to get drawn into a discussion of whether there was 'too much politics' in administration hiring, as Democrats and others have charged.

"'I had a lot of hires in this administration, a lot of parts of it,' Bush said. 'I've read the critique. I've listened very seriously to what they said. And other than that, I have no comment.'"

Abramowitz blogs about the interview: "Bush was in a feisty mood, eager to challenge me over some of my questions: 'Are you giving me the summary of the story or were. . . . you trying to actually talk to the guy who formulated the policy?' Bush said at one point, when I interrupted him to ask a question. . . .

"I came away from the interview with a sense of a guarded president, skeptical of the press and anxious not to make 'news' except on his own terms."

Torture Watch

Josh White writes in The Washington Post: "The Bush administration informed all foreign intelligence and law enforcement teams visiting their citizens held at Guantanamo Bay that video and sound from their interrogation sessions would be recorded, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post. The policy suggests that the United States could possess hundreds or thousands of hours of secret taped conversations between detainees and representatives from nearly three dozen countries. . . .

"Should such videotapes exist, they would reveal how representatives from countries such as China, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia treated detainees in small interrogation booths at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- sessions that some detainees have said were abusive and at times contained threats of torture or even death."

Alaska Stopover

Ben Feller writes for the Associated Press: "President Bush said Monday that U.S. troops going to Iraq soon will find a country dramatically different from the one that was 'hopeless' before his troop buildup. . . .

"Beginning a weeklong Asian tour with a refueling stop in Alaska, the president offered thanks to units from this base near Fairbanks and nearby Fort Wainwright that have done tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. . . .

"'About a year ago people thought Iraq was lost and hopeless. People were saying let's get out of there, it doesn't matter to our national security. Iraq's changed -- a lot,' Bush said. 'The terrorists are on the run.'"

Dan Eggen writes in The Washington Post: "Last week, President Bush's Justice Department announced that Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska had been indicted on federal corruption charges. Yesterday, the two men came together at a military base in Stevens's state, where Bush warmly praised the Senate's longest-serving Republican."

Cartoon Watch

Joel Pett on Bush's war on science-ism; David Fitzsimmons on Bush's Justice Department.

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