Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Iraq Government is Demanding a "Timeline"

Now the only people who still argue against a timeline for our troops to leave Iraq are Bush and McCain.

Iraq's foreign minister insisted Sunday that any security deal with the United States must contain a "very clear timeline" for the departure of U.S. troops. A suicide bomber struck north of Baghdad, killing at least five people including an American soldier.

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters that American and Iraqi negotiators were "very close" to reaching a long-term security agreement that will set the rules for U.S. troops in Iraq after the U.N. mandate expires at the end of the year.

Zebari said the Iraqis were insisting that the agreement include a "very clear timeline" for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces, but he refused to talk about specific dates.

"We have said that this is a condition-driven process," he added, suggesting that the departure schedule could be modified if the security situation changed.

But Zebari made clear that the Iraqis would not accept a deal that lacks a timeline for the end of the U.S. military presence.

"No, no definitely there has to be a very clear timeline," Zebari replied when asked if the Iraqis would accept an agreement that did not mention dates.

Differences over a withdrawal timetable have become one of the most contentious issues remaining in the talks, which began early this year. U.S. and Iraqi negotiators missed a July 31 target date for completing the deal, which must be approved by Iraq's parliament.

President Bush has steadfastly refused to accept any timetable for bringing U.S. troops home. Last month, however, Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki agreed to set a "general time horizon" for a U.S. departure.

Last week, two senior Iraqi officials told The Associated Press that American negotiators had agreement to a formula which would remove U.S. forces from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009 with all combat troops out of the country by October 2010.

The last American support troops would leave about three years later, the Iraqis said.

But U.S. officials insist there is no agreement on specific dates. Both the American and Iraqi officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are ongoing. Iraq's Shiite-led government believes a withdrawal schedule is essential to win parliamentary approval.

American officials have been less optimistic because of major differences on key issues including who can authorize U.S. military operations and immunity for U.S. troops from prosecution under Iraqi law.

The White House said discussions continued on a bilateral agreement and said any timeframe discussed was due to major improvements in security over the past year.

Meet The Press Transcript (8-10-08)

Read the complete transcript.

MR. BROKAW: Let me also say I know you're a sports fan of a certain age. Remember the old Joe Louis line about one of his opponents, "He can run, but he can't hide"? You can come all the way to Beijing, but you can't escape what's going on at home. So I'm going to share with you and with our viewers some of the more tough news that we've heard this week. Freddie Mac lost $821 million in the last quarter, and then Fannie Mae reported a loss of $2.3 billion. These are the government-sponsored mortgage agencies. On July 20th of this year, you told my friend Bob Schieffer on "Face the Nation," "Well, I think it's going to be months that we're working our way through this period. Clearly, months. But remember, the long-term fundamentals are very solid." After what we heard from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae this week, have you changed your mind about how long it's going to take to get out of this?

SEC'Y PAULSON: No, I think what, what I said to Bob Schieffer is, is, is consistent what I, what I believe today. I, I believe that we, we have got some serious issues we're dealing with in our economy, and, as I said to him, I believe that it's going to take us well beyond the end of the year to work through the housing--all of the housing problems. But I think the key question is when will the largest part of this housing correction be behind us? Because until the biggest part of the housing correction is behind us, we're going to continue to have turmoil in our capital markets. And I think the housing correction is really at the heart of our economic problems as a, as a nation right now. So, again, I think given that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are solely involved in housing--that's their sole business--and given the magnitude of the housing correction we've had, it, it, it's not a surprise to me to, to see those, those losses.

MR. BROKAW: You have the ability now to insert money into Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Do you think that that's going to become necessary, given the size of these losses?

SEC'Y PAULSON: Well, we have no plans to insert money in, in, in, in either of those institutions. I, I think it was very important that we get these temporary backup facilities because Fannie and Freddie are very important to our capital markets broadly. There's $5 trillion of securities that they have outstanding--$3 1/2 trillion in the U.S., a trillion and a half outside of the U.S.--and they're responsible for funding about 70 percent of the mortgages in the United States today. And so a key to our getting through this, this housing situation, this housing correction and getting some stability is that we continue to have mortgage financing available.

MR. BROKAW: Those two agencies were not well known to most taxpayers in this country...

SEC'Y PAULSON: Yeah, yeah.

MR. BROKAW: ...until the housing crisis hit.


MR. BROKAW: But we also know that they were caught in some significant accounting irregularities. They changed the management at the top; now they're both hemorrhaging money. You do have the authority to bail them out if it becomes necessary. But a lot of taxpayers are saying, "Why should I have to foot the bill for this?" I mean, there are wealthy investors who bought these bonds knowing that the government would not back them. Now, suddenly, they've got a fail-safe arrangement with the Treasury secretary.

SEC'Y PAULSON: Well, I've heard a lot of those same comments, and what I say to all those who make the comments to me is I say to them, you know, this was not a pleasant task for me to go to the Congress and ask for these backup facilities. Matter of fact, it was a very unpleasant task. But it was an easy one because it was better than the alternative. These institutions are right now critical to the stability of our capital markets, and they're critical to us getting through this, this housing situation.

And I would like to point something else out. In addition to these backup powers we have, these backup authorities, what we have now is a legislation calling for a strong new regulator with real powers to deal with, with capital adequacy, to deal with systemic risk. And the issue we've had, Tom, is, for some time, people in Washington have looked at these government-sponsored entities and on one side people have said they are really significant risks. Others said there weren't significant risks, and for, for, for many, many years nothing was done. And we now have a new regulator with very strong powers. The Fed is going to have a seat at the table. And so, in addition to working through this period of turmoil, we're in a position where the country will now be able to focus looking ahead at the systemic risk, and I, I think it's going to be very difficult for someone to argue there isn't systemic risk.

FOX News Sunday Transcript (8-10-08): McCain's Campaign Manager

Read the transcript here. Chris Wallace interviews McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis.

WALLACE: According to a recent poll — and let's put it up — people rate Obama's ads as positive by a margin of 38 percent to 13. But they view McCain's ads as negative 31 percent to 19.

Mr. Davis, why is the McCain campaign spending so much time and so much of its money attacking Obama?

DAVIS: Well, first of all, I don't think that we are spending that much time and money attacking Obama. And I would say Obama is spending exactly the same amount of time attacking us and, frankly, probably more money.

Obama started negative campaigning on John McCain long before we started punching back, and I think a lot of our effort is really to get back into this game, try and galvanize some of the public attention back onto this race, make sure everybody understands there's two people in this race, not just one, and I think we've been successful in doing that.

And you know, look. You could read a lot of polls right now, and it's August before a presidential election, and I really don't think that these polls are going to make a bit of difference come September.

WALLACE: All right. Let's take a look at one of your campaign's recent ads. Here it is.


NARRATOR: Life in the spotlight must be grand. But for the rest of us, times are tough. Obama voted to raise taxes on people making just $42,000.


WALLACE: Mr. Davis, especially that last sentence, isn't that misleading?

DAVIS: Nothing misleading about it. Barack Obama voted for a budget resolution that would have increased taxes on people, families, making $42,000. What's misleading about that?

WALLACE: Well, in fact, it only would be single people making $42,000. It would be families making over $60,000. But Obama — as you say, he voted for a non-binding budget resolution that overall talked about doing away with the Bush tax cuts.

In fact, he says, that's not his tax plan, that he supports a middle-class tax cut. And I want to put something up on the screen. The non-partisan Tax Policy Center says someone making $37,000 a year under Obama's plan would get a tax cut of $892. Under McCain's plan, they get a tax cut of $113.

DAVIS: Look, Obama wants to take away the current tax cuts that people now have. That includes a $1,000 child tax credit for people exactly in that category. It means doing away with the marriage penalty and many other things.

In the short period of time Barack Obama has been in the United States Senate, less than 300 working days, he has voted for 90 tax increases.

Now, we could have an ad on every tax increase he's voted on every single day between now and the election and still not get them all in. So I don't think anybody's going to question — who's going to raise your taxes as president of the United States? Barack Obama.

Who's going to cut your taxes and hold down spending as president of the United States? John McCain.

The Anthrax Witch Hunt: Ivins Only the Latest Victim

The more we learn the more we find out that the U.S. investigators are behaving more like the Gestapo or KGB rather than law enforcement officers sworn to uphold the Constitution.

When Perry Mikesell, a microbiologist in Ohio, came under suspicion as the anthrax attacker, he began drinking heavily, family members say, and soon died. After a doctor in New York drew the interest of the F.B.I., his marriage fell apart and his practice suffered, his lawyer says. And after two Pakistani brothers in Pennsylvania were briefly under scrutiny, they eventually had to leave the country to find work.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s path to Bruce E. Ivins, the Army scientist who committed suicide late last month as federal officials moved closer to indicting him for the 2001 anthrax letter attacks, was long and tortuous. Before the investigators settled on Dr. Ivins — and his defenders still say the F.B.I. hounded an innocent man to death — they had focused on Steven J. Hatfill, another Army researcher, for several years.

But along the way, scores of others — terrorists, foreigners, academic researchers, biowarfare specialists and an elite group of Army scientists working behind high fences and barbed wire — drew the interest of the investigators. For some of them the cost was high: lost jobs, canceled visas, broken marriages, frayed friendships.

At the Army biodefense laboratory in Frederick, Md., where Dr. Ivins worked, the inquiry became a murder mystery, the cast composed of top scientists eyeing one another warily over vials of lethal pathogens.

“It was not pleasant,” recalled Jeffrey J. Adamovicz, a former official there. “There was a general sense of paranoia that they were going to get somebody no matter what.”

Some critics fault the F.B.I.’s investigation as ignorant, incompetent and worse. Representative Rush D. Holt, a New Jersey Democrat who was a Princeton University physicist, said that the disclosures linking Dr. Ivins to the crime notwithstanding, the inquiry was “poorly handled” and “resulted in a trail of embarrassment and personal tragedy.”

[...]Early on, with more zeal than solid information, agents turned on three Pakistani-born city officials in Chester, Pa. One, Dr. Irshad Shaikh, was the health commissioner; his brother, Dr. Masood Shaikh, ran the lead-abatement program. The third, Asif Kazi, was then an accountant in the finance department.

Mr. Kazi was sitting in his City Hall office one day in November 2001 when F.B.I. agents burst in and began a barrage of questions.

“It was really scary,” Mr. Kazi recalled in an interview last week. “It was: ‘What do you think of 9/11? What do know about anthrax?’ ”

Across town, an agent pointed a gun through an open window at Mr. Kazi’s home while others knocked down the front door as his wife was cooking in the kitchen. At the Shaikh brothers’ house, agents in bioprotection suits began hunting for germ-making equipment and carted away computers.

None of the three men had ever worked with anthrax. But for days, they were on national television as footage of the searches ran on a video loop and news announcers wondered aloud if they were the killers.

The men were cleared after it turned out that a disgruntled employee had sought revenge by calling in a bogus tip. But for all three, trouble followed. The Shaikhs’ path to citizenship was disrupted, their visas ran out and both had to find work abroad, Mr. Kazi said.

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Russia Ignores Bush Warnings, Escalates Fighting

The fighting in Georgia could easily escalate into a wider war, if not World War III.

Russia expanded its bombing blitz Sunday against tiny neighbor Georgia, a U.S. ally, targeting the country's capital for the first time. Heavy Russian shelling also forced Georgian troops to pull out of the capital of the contested province of South Ossetia.

Amid the escalating attacks, Russia's navy deployed ships to blockade Georgia's Black Sea Coast, according to Georgian officials.

The risk of the conflict setting off a wider war also increased when Russian-supported separatists in another Georgian breakaway region, Abkhazia, declared "full mobilization" on Sunday.

The Bush administration warned Russia to halt its attacks on Georgia or risk "significant" and enduring damage to its relationship with the United States.

Russian jets, which have been roaming Georgia's skies since Friday, bombed a factory Sunday on the eastern outskirts of the Georgian capital of Tbilisi that builds Su-25 jets warplanes. The attack inflicted some damage to the plant's runways but caused no casualties, said Georgia's Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili.

"We heard a plane go over and then a big explosion," said Malkhaz Chachanidze, an artist who lives next to factory. "It woke us up, everything shook."

Georgia's Security Council chief Alexander Lomaia said the Georgian troops had to move out of Tskhinvali, the provincial capital of separatist South Ossetia, because of heavy Russian fire.

"Russia further escalated its aggression overnight, using weapons on unprecedented scale. In these conditions our forces conducted redeployment," Lomaia said.

Battle for control of South Ossetia
Georgia, whose troops have been trained by American soldiers, began an offensive to regain control over South Ossetia overnight Friday, launching heavy rocket and artillery fire and air strikes that pounded Tskhinvali.

In response, Russia, which has granted passports to most South Ossetians, began overwhelming bombing and shelling attacks against Georgia and Georgian troops.

The Georgian president proposed a cease-fire Saturday, but Russia said it wants Georgia to first pull its troops from South Ossetia and sign a pledge not to use force against the breakaway province.

U.N. Security Council planned to meet Sunday for the fourth time in four days to try to resolved the situation.

U.S. President George W. Bush called for an end to the Russian bombings and an immediate halt to the fighting, accusing Russia of using the issue of South Ossetia to bomb other regions in Georgia.

"The attacks are occurring in regions of Georgia far from the zone of conflict in South Ossetia. They mark a dangerous escalation in the crisis," Bush said in a statement to reporters while attending the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Jim Jeffrey, President Bush's deputy national security adviser, said the United States had made it clear that "if the disproportionate and dangerous escalation on the Russian side continues, that this will have a significant long-term impact on U.S.-Russian relations."

Clinton Campaign Tried to Portray Obama as Foreign

The Clintons are still trying to undermine the Obama campaign.

Mark Penn, the top campaign strategist for Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign, advised her to portray Barack Obama as having a “limited” connection “to basic American values and culture,” according to a forthcoming article in The Atlantic.

The magazine reports Penn suggested getting much rougher with Obama in a memo on March 30, after her crucial wins in Texas and Ohio: “Does anyone believe that it is possible to win the nomination without, over these next two months, raising all these issues on him? ... Won’t a single tape of [the Reverend Jeremiah] Wright going off on America with Obama sitting there be a game ender?”

Atlantic Senior Editor Joshua Green writes that major decisions during her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination would be put off for weeks until suddenly Clinton “would erupt, driving her staff to panic and misfire.”

Green reports that on a staff conference call in January where Clinton received “little response” or “silence” to several of her suggestions for how to recover from the Iowa loss and do better in New Hampshire, “Clinton began to grow angry, according to a participant’s notes,” Green recounts. “‘This has been a very instructive call, talking to myself,’ she snapped, and hung up.”

The eight-page blockbuster, “The Front-Runner’s Fall,” draws on internal memos, e-mails and meeting notes to reveal what the magazine’s September issue calls “the backstabbing and conflicting strategies that produced an epic meltdown.”

Penn, the presidential campaign’s chief strategist, wrote in a memo to Clinton excerpted in the article: “I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values.”

A key take-away from the article is that Clinton received a lot of accurate advice, including from Penn. He wrote a remarkably prescient memo in March 2007 about the importance of appealing to what he called “the Invisible Americans,” specifically “WOMEN, LOWER AND MIDDLE CLASS VOTERS” — exactly the groups that helped Clinton beat Obama in key states nearly a year later.

But no one synthesized and acted on the good advice.

“The anger and toxic obsessions overwhelmed even the most reserved Beltway wise men,” Green writes. “[H]er advisers couldn’t execute strategy; they routinely attacked and undermined each other, and Clinton never forced a resolution. ... [S]he never behaved like a chief executive, and her own staff proved to be her Achilles’ heel.

“What is clear from the internal documents is that Clinton’s loss derived not from any specific decision she made but rather from the preponderance of the many she did not make.”