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The Gross National Debt

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Cross-posted at Daily Kos, My Left Wing and ePluribus Media

I watched 60 Minutes tonight.  I try to catch it, but miss it about as often as I watch it, unfortunately.  Tonight, however, I wanted to hear Woodward's interview with Mike Wallace as it happened.

The teasers you've been seeing in the news regarding the interview were true.  The soundbites are all there.  But there's a bit more than that, so I've transcribed the interview (which wasn't overly long) and will present it after the fold with a little bit of commentary to close it out.

Make the jump.

CBS also has some of this content online.  All emphasis in the transcript is strictly mine.

Introduction:

WALLACE: President Bush's former Chief of Staff Andy Card said that the Bush Presidency will be judged by three things: Iraq, Iraq and Iraq.  Bob Woodward of Watergate fame reports that he has just completed his third book on the Bush Presidency - State of Denial, it's called.  Woodward spent more than two years, interviewed more than 200 people including most of the top officials in the Administration and he came to a damning conclusion - that for the last three years the White House has not been honest with the American public.  

WOODWARD: It is the oldest story in the coverage of government.  The failure to tell the truth.  

WALLACE: When you say the Bush Administration has not told the truth about Iraq, what do you mean?

WOODWARD: Probably the most prominent example is the level of violence.  

[Cut to tape of (presumably) insurgent gunfire and activity in Iraq]

WALLACE: [Voiceover]: Not just the growing sectarian violence - Sunnis against Shias - that gets reported every day.  But attacks on US, Iraqi and Allied forces.  Woodward says that's the most important measure of violence in Iraq and he unearthed this graph, classified as secret, that shows those attacks have increased dramatically over the last three years.  [On screen in a graph with an upward trend from May 2003 to May 2006]

WOODWARD: Getting to the point now where there are 8, 900 attacks a week.  That's more than 100 a day.  Four attacks an hour.  Attacking our forces.

[Cut to tape of Woodward working at computer]

WALLACE [Voiceover]: Woodward says the government had kept this trend secret for years before finally declassifying the graph just three weeks ago.

[Cut to tape of The Decider entering a room full of adoring, clapping people]

WALLACE [Voiceover]: And Woodward accuses President Bush and the Pentagon of making false claims of progress in Iraq.  Claims contradicted by facts that are being kept secret.  For example, Woodward says an intelligence report, classified Secret by the Joint Chiefs of Staff concluded in large print that "the Sunni Arab insurgency is gaining strength and increasing capacity, despite political progress".  And "insurgents retain the capabilities to...increase the level of violence through next year.  [The report graphic is show with a date of May 24, 2006 as these quotes are read]  But just two days later in public the Defense Department said just the opposite.  "...Violent action will begin to wane in early 2007."

I think that this is key takeaway number one.  Woodward had the secret chart, it clearly showed the trend from 2003 to 2006, and the classified report by the Joint Chiefs said that violence would continue to rise into 2007.  Yet the Pentagon released its own unclassified "survey" making the last statement in the quote in direct contradiction to what it knew to be true in private.

WALLACE [to Woodward]:  What are we supposed to make of that?

WOODWARD: The truth is that the assessment by the intelligence experts is that next year - now next year is 2007 - it's going to get worse.  And in public you have the President and you have the Pentagon saying "no no - things are going to get better".  Now.  There's public, and then there's private.  But what did they do with the private?  They stamped it Secret. No one's supposed to know.  Why is that secret?  The insurgents know what they're doing - they know the level of violence and how effective they are.  Who doesn't know?  The American public.

That's key point number two.  The only people it makes sense to hide this information from is the American public.  It's not, as the Administration would have you believe, a means of protecting sources and methods or some other balderdash they spew.  It's a matter of keeping us in the dark to keep themselves in power.  Period.  So simple, and so obvious once pointed out so clearly.

WALLACE: President Bush says, over and over, as Iraqi forces stand up, US forces will stand down.  The number of Iraqis in uniform today, I understand, is up to 300,000.  

WOODWARD: They've stood up from essentially zero to 300,000.  This is the military and the police.

WALLACE: But US forces are not standing down.  The attacks keep coming.

WOODWARD: They've stood up, and up and up, and we haven't stood down.  And, it's worse!

[Cut to tape of John Negroponte]

WALLACE [Voiceover]: John Negroponte knows it's worse.  He's the US director of National Intelligence, and according to Woodward, Negroponte thinks the US policy in Iraq is in trouble.  That violence is now so widespread that the US doesn't even know about much of it, and that the killings will continue to escalate.  

WOODWARD: He was the Ambassador there in Iraq and now he sees all the intelligence.  I report he believes that we've always, going almost back to beginning, miscalculated and underestimated the nature of the insurgency.

WALLACE [interrupts]: Why?  Why?

WOODWARD: There is the feeling, how can a bunch of guys running around putting improvised explosive devices in dead animals and by the side of the road in cars, cause all this trouble?  

[Cut to tape of Rumsfeld, Joint Chiefs, Gen. John Abizaid]

WALLACE [Voiceover]:  Woodward reports that a top General says Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has so emasculated the Joint Chiefs that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has become "the parrot on Rumsfeld's shoulder".  And according to WOODWARD: another key General, John Abizaid, who's in charge of the whole Gulf region, told friends that on Iraq, Rumsfeld has lost all credibility.  

WALLACE [to Woodward]: Now what does that mean, that he doesn't have any credibility any more?

WOODWARD: That means that he cannot go public and articulate what the strategy is.  This is so important.  They decide that Secretary of State Rice will announce what the strategy is.  This is October of last year.

[Cut to tape of Rice giving testimony]

RICE: Our political military strategy has to be to clear, hold and build.  To clear areas from insurgent control, to them securely, and to build durable national Iraqi institutions.

WOODWARD: Rumsfeld sees this [the testimony] and goes ballistic.  And says now wait a minute.  That's not our strategy.  We want to get the Iraqis to do these things.  Well it turns out George Bush and the White House like this definition of the strategy [Rice's] so it's in a Presidential speech he's going to give the next month.  Rumsfeld sees it.  He calls Andy Card the White House Chief of Staff and says "take it out - take it out.  That's not our strategy.  We can't do that."  Card says "it's the core of what we're doing."  That's two and a half years after the invasion of Iraq.  They cannot agree on the definition of a strategy.  They cannot agree on the bumper sticker.

Key point number three:  These bozos have willingly marched us into a war that they can't agree, among themselves how to win.  Mr. RenaRF likes to use the phrase "it's like watching monkeys trying to f--k a football."  I think that visual fits perfectly.

WALLACE: General John Abizaid, commander of all US forces in the Middle East, you quoted him as saying privately a year ago that the US should start cutting its troops in Iraq&.  You report that he told some close Army friends "We've got to get the F out."  And then, this past March, *General Abizaid visited Congressman John Murtha on Capitol Hill.

WOODWARD:  John Murtha is, in many ways, the soul and the conscience of the military.

Gotta interrupt here.  I don't have a key point yet - but that is, without a doubt, one of the most elegant and apt things I have heard said about John Murtha.  

[Cut to tape of Murtha making a statement]

WOODWARD: And he came out and said "we need to get out of Iraq as soon as it's practical."  And that sent a 10,000 volt jolt through the White House.  Here's Mr. Military saying we need to get out.  And John Abizaid went to see him privately.  This is Bush's and Rumsfeld's commander in Iraq.  And John Abizaid held up his fingers, according to Murtha [Woodward holds up thumb and index finger about 1/4 inch apart], and said "we're about a quarter of an inch apart.  We're that far apart."

WALLACE: Abizaid and Murtha.

WOODWARD: [Holds up fingers again] That far apart.

Key point number four: John Murtha is not and never was playing politics iwth the war in Iraq.  We all know that - but the RWNM tried to swift boat him in this.  John Murtha  was acting directly on information he was receiving from the Generals, among them John Abizaid, the commander of all US forces in the Gulf region.  

WALLACE: You report that after George W. Bush was re-elected hi s then Chief of Staff Andy Card tried for months to convince the President to fire Don Rumsfeld.  Why?

WOODWARD: To replace him.  Because it wasn't working, Card felt very strongly, that the President needed a whole new National Security team.  

WALLACE: You write, "Laura Bush was worried that Rumsfeld was hurting her husband."  Andy Card told you, the President seemed happy with Rumsfeld, and the first lady replied "He's happy with this, but I'm not."  And later she said "I don't know why he's not upset."

WOODWARD: What's interesting is Andy Card, as White House Chief of Staff, every six weeks set up a one-on-one meeting with Laura Bush.  Set aside an hour and half, to talk about what's going on, what are the President's anxieties - smart meeting.  And in the course of these sessions the problem with Rumsfeld came up and she voiced her concern about the situation.

WALLACE: But Dick Cheney wanted Rumsfeld to stay.  Why?

WOODWARD: That's right.  Well, Rumsfeld's his guy, and Cheney confided to an aide that if Rumsfeld goes, next they'll be after Cheney.

I don't know if this is key point number five or not, but I found it interesting, the notion that Cheney would be worried that anyone would "come after" him.  It does reinforce the whole suspicion that Cheney, who is unpopular, is running the show where IRaq is concerned.

[Cut to tape of Cheney in a crowd of military personnel; Kissinger file tape]

WALLACE [Voiceover]: Cheney stunned Woodward by revealing that a frequent advisor to the Bush White House is former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who served Presidents Nixon and Ford during the Vietnam War.  

WOODWARD: He's back.  In fact, Henry Kissinger is almost like a member of the family.  If he's in town, he can call up and if the President's free, he'll see him.

[Wallace in voiceover, split-screen with picture of Woodward and Cheney in preparation for audio tape] Woodward recorded his on-the-record interview with Cheney and here's what the Vice President said about Henry Kissinger's clout:

CHENEY: Of the outside people that I talk to in this job I probably talk to Henry Kissinger more than just about anybody else.  He just comes by and I guess at least once a month I sit down with him.  

WOODWARD: And the same with the President?

CHENEY: Yes.  Absolutely.

WOODWARD: President Bush is, I understand--

CHENEY: A big fan of his.

WOODWARD: Now, what's Kissinger's advice in Iraq, he declared very simply: Victory is the only meaningful exit strategy.  This is so fascinating.  Kissinger's fighting the Vietnam War all over again.  Because in his view, the problem in Vietnam is we lost our will.  That we didn't stick to it.

WALLACE: So Henry Kissinger is telling George W. Bush - Stick to it.  Stay the course.  

WOODWARD: That's right.  It's right out of the Kissinger playbook.

Key point number six should be obvious.  Vietnam didn't go so well for a long time before people finally got a clue.  One of the key advisors to this White House endorses and embraces a strategy that would have kept us in Vietnam.  Plus, tying in the whole Vietnam parallel is helpful, I think.

[Cut to tape of Woodward's book rolling down the production line]

WALLACE [Voiceover]: In his book, published by CBS sister company Simon and Schuster Woodward reported that the first President Bush confided to one of his closest friends how upset he is that his son invaded Iraq.

WALLACE [to Woodward]: The former President Bush is said to be in agony, anguished, tormented over the war in Iraq and it's aftermath.

WOODWARD: Yes.

WALLACE: Does he tell that to his boy?

WOODWARD: I don't know the answer to that.  He tells it to Brent Scowcroft, the former National Security Advisor.

WALLACE: You paint a picture, Bob, of the President as the 'Cheerleader in Chief', current reality be damned.  He's convinced that he's got to succeed in Iraq, yes?  

WOODWARD: Yes. That's correct. Now--

WALLACE: You believe that he believes.

WOODWARD: I do.

WALLACE: How well do you know him?

WOODWARD: I interviewed him for the first two books for hours.

WALLACE: And you know what?  There are people who are going to say "Look - Woodward is savaging President Bush because he wouldn't see him for this book."

WOODWARD: That's not true.

WALLACE: Well he didn't.

WOODWARD: He did not.  I asked, and made it very clear to the White House what my question were, what my information was.  What could he say?  That secret chart is not right?  That these things that happened in these meetings didn't occur?  It's documented.  I've talked to the people who were there.  Your producer, Bob Anderson, has listened to the tapes of my interviews with people, to make sure that it's not just kind of right, but literally right.  This is what occurred.

Key point number seven: Bush was more than willing to be interviewed for the first two books because they were largely favorable.  Knowing in advance the information and content of this book, however, Bush refused to be interviewed because he couldn't refute the information that Woodward had.

[Cut to tape of violence in Iraq, Bush chatting with soldiers]

WALLACE [Voiceover]: And Woodward says that no matter what's occurred in Iraq Mr. Bush does not welcome any pessimistic assessments from his aides because he is sure that his war has Iraq and America on the right path.

So sayeth The Decider.  Kind of makes you wonder if he's having a flashback.

WOODWARD: Late last year he had key Republicans up to the White House to talk about the war.  And said I will not withdraw, even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me.  Barney is his dog.  

[Cut to Wallace, snickering]

WOODWARD: My work on this leads to lots of people who spend hours, days with the President.  And in most cases they are my best sources and there is a concern that we need to face realism.  Not being the voice that says oh-no - everything's fine when it's not.

So there you have it.  I'm sure there are nuggets in the book also.  Woodward has redeemed some level of favor with me, and I will read his book after that interview.

I also think that this totally fits all the claims of "abuse of power" and Dems should be making these kinds of charges for the next 36 days.  They now have two recent examples they can use:

Foley: A known sexual predator was reported to Republican leadership yet he was allowed to remain in his job and in contact with minors.  To protect their power, Congressional Republicans allowed a sexual predator to continue his predation for a year.

Iraq: The Bush administration selectively classifies and declassifies information to control the "knowledge agenda".  In so doing, they withold relevant information from the American public to ensure they can maintain their power.

I also wonder who in Congress has seen these classified documents and information.  Forgive my ignorance, but I just don't know which committees (Intelligence?  Armed Services?  Both?) would have access to this information and whether or not it is required to be submitted to them.  But given that Republicans control both houses of Congress (for now) and have performed virtually no oversight on these subject, I can't help but believe that real facts were ignored by leadership in an effort to maintain their hold on power.

So there you have it - thoughts are welcome!



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