Monday, October 31, 2005

"Take My Medicine, Make Me Rich!" Says Rummy

Rumsfeld's growing stake in Tamiflu
Defense Secretary, ex-chairman of flu treatment rights holder, sees portfolio value growing.
October 31, 2005: 10:55 AM EST
By Nelson D. Schwartz, Fortune senior writer

NEW YORK (Fortune) - The prospect of a bird flu outbreak may be panicking people around the globe, but it's proving to be very good news for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other politically connected investors in Gilead Sciences, the California biotech company that owns the rights to Tamiflu, the influenza remedy that's now the most-sought after drug in the world.

Rumsfeld served as Gilead (Research)'s chairman from 1997 until he joined the Bush administration in 2001, and he still holds a Gilead stake valued at between $5 million and $25 million, according to federal financial disclosures filed by Rumsfeld.

The forms don't reveal the exact number of shares Rumsfeld owns, but in the past six months fears of a pandemic and the ensuing scramble for Tamiflu have sent Gilead's stock from $35 to $47. That's made the Pentagon chief, already one of the wealthiest members of the Bush cabinet, at least $1 million richer.

Rumsfeld isn't the only political heavyweight benefiting from demand for Tamiflu, which is manufactured and marketed by Swiss pharma giant Roche. (Gilead receives a royalty from Roche equaling about 10% of sales.) Former Secretary of State George Shultz, who is on Gilead's board, has sold more than $7 million worth of Gilead since the beginning of 2005.

Another board member is the wife of former California Gov. Pete Wilson.

"I don't know of any biotech company that's so politically well-connected," says analyst Andrew McDonald of Think Equity Partners in San Francisco.

What's more, the federal government is emerging as one of the world's biggest customers for Tamiflu. In July, the Pentagon ordered $58 million worth of the treatment for U.S. troops around the world, and Congress is considering a multi-billion dollar purchase. Roche expects 2005 sales for Tamiflu to be about $1 billion, compared with $258 million in 2004.

Rumsfeld recused himself from any decisions involving Gilead when he left Gilead and became Secretary of Defense in early 2001. And late last month, notes a senior Pentagon official, Rumsfeld went even further and had the Pentagon's general counsel issue additional instructions outlining what he could and could not be involved in if there were an avian flu pandemic and the Pentagon had to respond.

As the flu issue heated up early this year, according to the Pentagon official, Rumsfeld considered unloading his entire Gilead stake and sought the advice of the Department of Justice, the SEC and the federal Office of Government Ethics.

Those agencies didn't offer an opinion so Rumsfeld consulted a private securities lawyer, who advised him that it was safer to hold on to the stock and be quite public about his recusal rather than sell and run the risk of being accused of trading on insider information, something Rumsfeld doesn't believe he possesses. So he's keeping his shares for the time being.


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Keep the Poor People Down.....The Republicans At Work
Rich Senators Defeat Minimum-Wage Hike
Congressional Pay Rises While Minimum Stays Same
Helen Thomas, Hearst White House columnist

POSTED: 6:12 pm EDT October 26, 2005
U.S. senators -- who draw salaries of $162,100 a year and enjoy a raft of perks -- have rejected a minimum wage hike from $5.15 an hour to $6.25 for blue-collar workers.

Can you believe it?

The proposed increase was sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and turned down in the Senate by a vote of 51 against the boost and 49 in favor. Under a Senate agreement, it needed 60 votes to pass.

All the Democrats voted for the wage boost. All the negative votes were cast by Republicans.

Four Republicans voted for it. Three of the four are running for reelection and were probably worried about how voters would react if they knew that their well-heeled senators had turned down a pittance of an increase in the salaries of the lowest paid workers in the country.

The minimum wage was last increased in 1997.

Kennedy called the vote "absolutely unconscionable."

The lawmakers are hardly hurting. They get health insurance, life insurance, pensions, office expenses, ranging from $2 million on up, depending on the population of a state. The taxpayers also pay for their travel, telecommunications, stationery and mass mailings.

AFL-CIO president John Sweeney said the rejection was "outrageous and shocking."

Sweeney said minimum-wage workers "deserve a pay raise -- plain and simple -- no strings attached."

He said it is "appalling that the same right-wing leaders in Congress -- who have given themselves seven pay raises since the last minimum wage increase -- voted down the modest wage increase proposed by the Kennedy amendment."

During the same period since 1997, raises that the Senate has given itself bolstered senatorial pay by $28,000 a year, Kennedy said.

"If we are serious about helping hard-working families, we will give a fair raise to America's low-income workers without taking away essential protections," he added.

The Senate also killed an amendment proposed by Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., which also would have increased the minimum wage by $1.10 but included drastic measures such as wiping out the 40-hour work week, cutting overtime pay and weakening job safety and health protection.

At the same time, Enzi wanted to sweeten the pot for small business by providing tax and regulatory relief and to exempt small business from the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Kennedy likened the Enzi bill to an "anti-worker poison pill" and said it would "severely hurt millions and millions of workers."

According to the Census Bureau, there are 37 million Americans living in poverty, up 1 million in just a year.

Statements by President George W. Bush since the Gulf Coast hurricane disasters indicate he has a new awareness of the plight of the poor in this country. Katrina and the devastation of New Orleans have made the more affluent realize the hardships suffered by poor families.

When asked about the Kennedy measure, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Bush "believes that we should look at having a reasonable increase in the minimum wage ... But we need to make sure that, as we do that, that it is not a step that hurts small business or prices people out of the job market."

Bush has not weighed in with his own proposal for a pay hike.

The Senate's action comes at a worrisome time when motorists are paying much more for gasoline and heating bills are expected to rise by 56 percent this winter, according to Kennedy.

As a result, families will have to tighten their belts to pay for the basic necessities.

"It is shameful that in America today, the richest and most powerful nation on earth, nearly a fifth of all children go to bed hungry at night because their parents, many of whom are working full time at the minimum wage, still can't make ends meet," Kennedy said.

Kennedy has been in the forefront of the fight for increases in the minimum wage for years, and I don't expect him to throw in the towel now.

Congress still may have a chance to redeem itself in the eyes of the less fortunate -- before the 2006 elections.

(Helen Thomas can be reached at the e-mail address

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Copyright 2005 by Hearst Newspapers. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Don't Stand Behind Me...with a knife in my back...

Forum: Stand up, politicians, and end the war in Iraq
My son is gone, says Diane Davis Santoriello, but don't go hiding behind my skirt

Sunday, October 30, 2005

I am a 56-year-old schoolteacher going out to buy my first micro-miniskirt. Why? Because I refuse to let any more politicians hide behind my skirts.

Steve Mellon, Post-Gazette
Diane Davis Santoriello and husband, Neil, hold the flag presented to them at their son's funeral last year. Anthony Santoriello, 24, of Penn Hills, died August 13, 2004, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his mounted reconnaissance patrol vehicle near Khalidiyah in Al Anbar province in western Iraq.
Click photo for larger image.

Too many politicians are letting military families and Gold Star families -- those who have lost a son or daughter in war -- take the front line against this mess in Iraq. In their hearts they know this war is a mess and that lives are being lost at an ever-accelerating rate for nothing. They are afraid to take a moral stand because they don't want to look soft in future elections. They await our turning the tide for them.

Last year I was an ABB -- Anybody But Bush. I worked for John Kerry because I thought he might possess the cachet to get the rest of the world to help us out of Iraq. Well, you can be sure I will not vote for anyone in '06 who does not take a stand against this war now! For the first time in my life I may sit out an election if any of these spineless members of Congress don't start speaking out now.

I don't care how many of them meet with families of the fallen. I care about how many come out publicly against this war and put effort into pulling out.

In June, I met with U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones, along with a small group of other parents who had lost sons in the war. I went into the meeting expecting to meet another insincere politician speaking against the war and blaming anyone but himself.

Diane Davis Santoriello lives in Penn Hills (dianesantoriello@ She is a member of Military Families Speak Out and Gold Star Families for Peace.

Instead, Rep. Jones, a conservative Republican from North Carolina, apologized for his part in allowing this war to start and to continue. Here is a Republican who is putting what he believes ahead of re-election.

We need more politicians to examine their conscience to admit their complicity in this travesty. My beloved son Neil Anthony Santoriello Jr. was a 1st lieutenant in the Army's 1st Division 34th Armored A company.

When he was killed in action near Fallujah, on Aug. 13, 2004, he was the 930th American to die in the war. Today 1,070 more families have experienced the knock on the door -- the knock that tells them the life they knew, the happiness they had, the dreams they dreamed are over forever.

We go on, but we never get over the knock on the door. Politicians read force depletion reports, casualty rates, war tempo, they do not comprehend the effect of the knock on the door.

It was an incredible mistake to go into this misbegotten war without an exit strategy. The American public is realizing the effect of a war based on a lie that was ill-conceived and poorly managed.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle must be aware of this, but they are looking for their own exit strategy.

How do they get out of the position they bought into when they accepted the false premise of the war? They are not looking out for what would best help the poor Iraqi people or our dedicated men and women in uniform, but they are looking for an exit strategy that promotes their own political future. They were not elected to serve themselves. They were elected to do what is best for this country.

I am not going to continue to stand on the front line of this battle and let them hide behind people like me. They will be held accountable for the stand they take now. If they do not get on the "Bring Them Home Now Bus" immediately, they will snot have many of us behind them in 2006.

So I am off to the mall to buy myself that micro-mini and a pair of short shorts for my 60-year-old husband, who marches beside me in this fight. Congress and potential presidential candidates beware: You will have to duck and cover somewhere else. My skirt will not be long enough nor wide enough for you to hide behind.


Copyright ©1997-2005 PG Publishing Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Greg Mitchell: Our Myth Brooks

Our Myth Brooks
In his Sunday column, David Brooks declares there is no cancer on the presidency, no cover-up in the Plame scandal, and the White House did not mislead the country into war. Anyone who thinks otherwise is inhaling "swamp gas."

By Greg Mitchell

(October 30, 2005) -- David Brooks no doubt benefits from context. At The New York Times’ Op-Ed page his only reliably conservative brother is the hapless John Tierney, which often allows Brooks to appear reasoned, thoughtful, and moderate in comparison (except when he urges women to fulfill their destiny as babymakers). How could Brooks not come off well in that kind of company?

In Tierney’s latest example of addled thinking, this past Saturday, he called the leak of Valerie Plame’s CIA employment an “accident.” It might have been many things, but one thing it wasn’t: an “accident.”

Still, Brooks seemed intent on outdoing Tierney in his Sunday column. This is too good to be denied those lacking a TimesSelect gold key.

For starters, Brooks declares, “One thing is clear: there is no cancer on this presidency.” Actually, one thing that is not clear even after the Friday indictments is exactly where, and how malignant, that cancer might be, even after the successful removal of the malignant Libby nodes.

Brooks tops that whopper by declaring flatly that the notion of Karl Rove’s "general culpability" is basically "hokum." And that’s why federal prosecutor Fitzgerald is still probing Rove?

Brooks asserts that Fitzgerald “did not find evidence of wide-ranging criminal behavior.” How does he know this? Pressed for time (thanks to Brooks’ colleague Judith Miller), Fitzgerald did not feel he had enough evidence to indict anyone else, just yet. But any reading of the indictment and the prosecutor’s public remarks on Friday leaves no doubt that he believes -- and obtained evidence -- that there was criminal behavior, beyond Libby (stay tuned).

You’ll look in vain in Brooks’ column for any condemnation of Rove or Libby for leaking the name of a CIA operative who (Fitzgerald has underlined) was indeed still under cover. So who are the bad guys in this Bobo world? Why, the Democrats, who had nothing to do with it.

Leading Democratic politicians, Brooks writes, have filled the precious airtime “with grand conspiracy theories that would be at home in the John Birch Society.” For gosh sake, that wacko Howard Dean even alleged a “huge cover-up.” Lock that man up and then let’s hear him scream! A cover-up? Brooks says any such charge is nothing but “swamp gas.”

And Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) has clearly lost his mind, in Brooks’ view. How else to explain his statement: "There is mounting evidence, that there may have been a well-orchestrated effort by the president, the vice president and other top White House officials to lie to Congress in order to get its support for the Iraq war."

And Teddy Kennedy saying that the Fitzgerald charge amounts to ”far more than an indictment of an individual.” Put Teddy in a straight jacket for that one.

“The question is, why are these people so compulsively overheated?” Brooks asks. “One of the president's top advisers is indicted on serious charges. Why are they incapable of leaving it at that? Why do they have to slather on wild, unsupported charges that do little more than make them look unhinged?”

Wild, unsupported charges…. a White House cover-up…lies that led to war…. GET OVER IT PEOPLE.

Then Brooks offers a review of Hofstadter’s classic “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” Brooks’ message: the White House cabal has only made “honest mistakes.” To think otherwise makes Democrats frustrated to the point of paranoia.

Actually it is Brooks and his like that are growing frustrated. Their favorite president’s approval rating now rests below 40% in every major poll, and that was before the Libby indictments. Six in 10 Americans want disengagement from Brooks’ war in Iraq. Perhaps it is Brooks who is turning paranoid -- not worrying about what any of us might think of him, but how history might judge his support for a disastrous war and all those other “honest mistakes” in the White House.

On ABC last week, after Fitzgerald launched a Web site to publish indictment-related material, Brooks said, "Maybe he just wanted to start a blog, talk about his favorite movies, favorite TV shows. You know, I think this is actually a story that is not a politically important story. You know, when I've talked to a lot of House members this week about what people are asking about, it's never this. The amount of American people who have heard about Karl Rove is small."

He wishes. In fact, every poll on the subject shows that most Americans have heard of Rove, and have a negative opinion of him.

Brooks’ latest work follows by just three days his column profiling Bush’s second-term malaise and how he can repeat the Reagan resurrection -- without once mentioning the war in Iraq. “The Bush administration is not in quite the same bind the Reagan administration was in,” he wrote. “There is no one big scandal.” Brooks willfully ignores that even if Plamegate is no Iran-contra, Bush is beset with a far worse scandal than anything Reagan faced: misleading his country into war, a war that is still going on, with no end in sight and American boys coming home in body bags almost every day. A cancer on this presidency.
Greg Mitchell ( is editor of E&P and author of seven books on politics and history.

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October 30, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
The Prosecutor's Diagnosis: No Cancer Found
On March 21, 1973, John Dean told President Nixon that there was a cancer on his presidency. There was, Dean said, a metastasizing criminal conspiracy spreading through the White House.

Thirty-two years later, Patrick Fitzgerald has just completed a 22-month investigation of the Bush presidency. One thing is clear: there is no cancer on this presidency. Fitzgerald, who seems to be a model prosecutor, enjoyed what he called full cooperation from all federal agencies. He found enough evidence to indict one man, Scooter Libby, on serious charges.

But he did not find evidence to prove that there was a broad conspiracy to out a covert agent for political gain. He did not find evidence of wide-ranging criminal behavior. He did not even indict the media's ordained villain, Karl Rove. And as the former prosecutors Robert Ray and Richard Ben-Veniste said on "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," he gave little indication he was going to do that in the future.

Fitzgerald went as far as the evidence led him. In so doing, he momentarily punctured the wave of hysteria that had been building around the case. Over the past few weeks, oceans of ink and an infinity of airtime have been devoted to theorizing about Rove's conspiratorial genius and general culpability - almost all of it hokum. Leading Democratic politicians filled the air with grand conspiracy theories that would be at home in the John Birch Society.

Senator Frank Lautenberg assented that Rove was guilty of treason. Howard Dean talked about a "huge cover-up." Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York said: "The C.I.A. leak issue is only the tip of the iceberg. This is looking increasingly like a White House conspiracy aimed at misleading our country into war.

"There is mounting evidence," Nadler continued, "that there may have been a well-orchestrated effort by the president, the vice president and other top White House officials to lie to Congress in order to get its support for the Iraq war."

One may wish it, but that doesn't make it so. We do know that the White House lied about who was involved in calling reporters. But as for traitorous behavior, huge cover-ups and well-orchestrated conspiracies - that's swamp gas.

As it turned out, Fitzgerald's careful and forceful presentation of the evidence was but a brief respite from the tide of hysterical accusations. Fitzgerald may have pointed out that this case is not about supporting or opposing the war; it's about possible perjury and obstruction of justice. But the Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid immediately ran out with some amorphous argument intended to show that this indictment indeed is all about the war. Ted Kennedy, likening Fitzgerald's findings to Watergate, insisted, "This is far more than an indictment of an individual," before casting his net far and wide. And Howard Dean, who doesn't fly off the handle but lives off it, grandly asserted that Fitzgerald's findings indicate that "a group of senior White House officials" ignored the rule of law.

The question is, why are these people so compulsively overheated? One of the president's top advisers is indicted on serious charges. Why are they incapable of leaving it at that? Why do they have to slather on wild, unsupported charges that do little more than make them look unhinged?

The answer is found in an essay written about 40 years ago by Richard Hofstadter called "The Paranoid Style in American Politics." Hofstadter argues that sometimes people who are dispossessed, who feel their country has been taken away from them and their kind, develop an angry, suspicious and conspiratorial frame of mind. It is never enough to believe their opponents have committed honest mistakes or have legitimate purposes; they insist on believing in malicious conspiracies.

"The paranoid spokesman," Hofstadter writes, "sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms - he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization." Because his opponents are so evil, the conspiracy monger is never content with anything but their total destruction. Failure to achieve this unattainable goal "constantly heightens the paranoid's sense of frustration." Thus, "even partial success leaves him with the same feeling of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he opposes."

So some Democrats were not content with Libby's indictment, but had to stretch, distort and exaggerate. The tragic thing is that at the exact moment when the Republican Party is staggering under the weight of its own mistakes, the Democratic Party's loudest voices are in the grip of passions that render them untrustworthy.

On Friday we saw a man, Patrick Fitzgerald, who seemed like an honest and credible public servant. What an unusual sight that was.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Paul Krugman, Bob Herbert 10/31/05

October 31, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
Ending the Fraudulence
Let me be frank: it has been a long political nightmare. For some of us, daily life has remained safe and comfortable, so the nightmare has merely been intellectual: we realized early on that this administration was cynical, dishonest and incompetent, but spent a long time unable to get others to see the obvious. For others - above all, of course, those Americans risking their lives in a war whose real rationale has never been explained - the nightmare has been all too concrete.

So is the nightmare finally coming to an end? Yes, I think so. I have no idea whether Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, will bring more indictments in the Plame affair. In any case, I don't share fantasies that Dick Cheney will be forced to resign; even Karl Rove may keep his post. One way or another, the Bush administration will stagger on for three more years. But its essential fraudulence stands exposed, and it's hard to see how that exposure can be undone.

What do I mean by essential fraudulence? Basically, I mean the way an administration with an almost unbroken record of policy failure has nonetheless achieved political dominance through a carefully cultivated set of myths.

The record of policy failure is truly remarkable. It sometimes seems as if President Bush and Mr. Cheney are Midases in reverse: everything they touch - from Iraq reconstruction to hurricane relief, from prescription drug coverage to the pursuit of Osama - turns to crud. Even the few apparent successes turn out to contain failures at their core: for example, real G.D.P. may be up, but real wages are down.

The point is that this administration's political triumphs have never been based on its real-world achievements, which are few and far between. The administration has, instead, built its power on myths: the myth of presidential leadership, the ugly myth that the administration is patriotic while its critics are not. Take away those myths, and the administration has nothing left.

Well, Katrina ended the leadership myth, which was already fading as the war dragged on. There was a time when a photo of Mr. Bush looking out the window of Air Force One on 9/11 became an iconic image of leadership. Now, a similar image of Mr. Bush looking out at a flooded New Orleans has become an iconic image of his lack of connection. Pundits may try to resurrect Mr. Bush's reputation, but his cult of personality is dead - and the inscription on the tombstone reads, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

Meanwhile, the Plame inquiry, however it winds up, has ended the myth of the administration's monopoly on patriotism, which was also fading in the face of the war.

Apologists can shout all they like that no laws were broken, that hardball politics is nothing new, or whatever. The fact remains that officials close to both Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush leaked the identity of an undercover operative for political reasons. Whether or not that act was illegal, it was clearly unpatriotic.

And the Plame affair has also solidified the public's growing doubts about the administration's morals. By a three-to-one margin, according to a Washington Post poll, the public now believes that the level of ethics and honesty in the government has declined rather than risen under Mr. Bush.

So the Bush administration has lost the myths that sustained its mojo, and with them much of its power to do harm. But the nightmare won't be fully over until two things happen.

First, politicians will have to admit that they were misled. Second, the news media will have to face up to their role in allowing incompetents to pose as leaders and political apparatchiks to pose as patriots.

It's a sad commentary on the timidity of most Democrats that even now, with Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, telling us how policy was "hijacked" by the Cheney-Rumsfeld "cabal," it's hard to get leading figures to admit that they were misled into supporting the Iraq war. Kudos to John Kerry for finally saying just that last week.

And as for the media: these days, there is much harsh, justified criticism of the failure of major news organizations, this one included, to exert due diligence on rationales for the war. But the failures that made the long nightmare possible began much earlier, during the weeks after 9/11, when the media eagerly helped our political leaders build up a completely false picture of who they were.

So the long nightmare won't really be over until journalists ask themselves: what did we know, when did we know it, and why didn't we tell the public?

October 31, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
Smoke Gets in Our Eyes
There's a reason so many top officials of the Bush administration treat the truth as if it were kryptonite.

More than anything else, the simple truth has the potential to destroy the Bush gang.

Scooter Libby was one of the most powerful figures in the administration, Dick Cheney's most highly trusted aide and a champion of the wholesale flim-flammery that led us into the crucible of Iraq. I haven't heard anyone express surprise that he would lie in the service of the administration.

But if the federal indictment returned last week in Washington is to be believed, Mr. Libby lied with the kind of reckless disregard for his own interests that would suggest he had become unhinged. It was as if he'd waved red flags in front of the grand jury and cried, "Come get me!"

You will hardly ever hear of someone who is skilled in the art of government, and a lawyer to boot, telling the kind of transparent lies that Mr. Libby is accused of telling the F.B.I. and a federal grand jury.

The indictment says, for example, that he told the feds he'd had a discussion with N.B.C.'s Tim Russert in which Mr. Russert asserted that "all the reporters" knew that Valerie Wilson, the wife of the former diplomat Joseph Wilson, worked for the C.I.A. In fact, according to the indictment and Mr. Russert, no such discussion occurred.

Mr. Libby himself was spreading the word about Ms. Wilson and, as Patrick Fitzgerald, the special counsel investigating the case, asserted, "he lied about it afterwards, under oath and repeatedly."

Who knows why Mr. Libby did what he did. Misplaced loyalty? An irrepressible need to be punished for his sins? Maybe he's just a dope. Of greater consequence for the republic is the fact that Mr. Libby is no hapless functionary who somehow lost his way. He's a symptom, the hacking cough that should alert us to a dangerous national disease, and that's the Bush administration's culture of deceit.

Scooter Libby was the main man of the most powerful vice president in the history of the United States. The most important aspect of the prosecution of Mr. Libby for perjury and obstruction of justice is the tremendous spotlight it is likely to shine on the way this administration does its business - its relentless, almost pathological, undermining of the truth, and its ruthless treatment of individuals who cling to the old-fashioned notion that the truth matters.

Condoleezza Rice, for example, gave us nightmare fantasies of mushroom clouds and declared on television that aluminum tubes seized en route to Iraq "were only really suited for nuclear weapons programs." Perhaps she forgot that a year earlier her own staff had been advised that experts had serious doubts about that. In any event, she would be promoted to secretary of state.

Gen. Eric Shinseki met a different fate when, as chief of staff of the Army, he dared to speak an uncomfortable truth to a Senate committee: that it would take several hundred thousand soldiers to pacify postwar Iraq. There was no promotion for him. His long and honorable career evaporated.

That's the game plan of this administration, to fool the people as much as possible (not just on the war, but on taxes, Social Security, energy policy and so on) and punish, if not destroy, anyone who tries to counter the madness with the truth.

Most members of the administration are more artful than Scooter Libby when they send out the smoke that is designed to hide the truth on important matters. They dissemble and give themselves wiggle room, like Dick Cheney when he said, truthfully but deceptively on "Meet the Press," that he didn't know Joseph Wilson. The vice president didn't know him personally, but he sure knew what was going on.

The art of Bush-speak is to achieve the effect of a lie without actually getting caught in a lie. That's what administration officials did when they deliberately fostered the impression that Saddam Hussein had ties to Al Qaeda and thus was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. This is an insidious way of governing, and the opposite of what the United States should be about.

It should tell you something that the administration's resident sleazemeister, Karl Rove, who is up to his ears in this mess but has managed so far to escape indictment, continues to be viewed not as an embarrassment, but as President Bush's most important and absolutely indispensable asset.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company