Another reason I’ve been stepping away from the politics posts – the estimable Charlie Pierce has this beat covered. Here he eviscerates the Politico-Industrial complex’s continued infatuation with gasbag Newt Gingrich. “Not to stick up for Karl Rove but, Jesus H. Christ on a special episode of Blossom, there is no serious comparison to be made.” Naturally, CNN — home of Serious People™ like David Gergen — has recently picked him up as a political correspondent.
Still, the Republicans’ recent intemperate rhetoric aside, one could argue we’re seeing the slow-motion devolution of a movement that began over a half-century ago, with Goldwater in 1964. Since then, Nixon notwithstanding, the Republicans have moved continually to the right, engaging in putsch after putsch to retain the purity of their conservatism (to say nothing of the precious bodily fluids.) Even the much-beloved Ronald Reagan, pretty far right for his day, would be considered a pinko by the standards of the contemporary Tea Partier, as would, in many corners, the Muslim-coddling Dubya.
And so, here we are at the end of the rainbow. The snake is eating itself. Not for nothing is Newt Gingrich, once the Robespierre of this particular Revolution, now frantically swimming right to save his own head — He doesn’t want to end up like Rove. (Speaking of which, Presidents Collins and Snowe, take note: There is no room for you at this table anymore.)
As for the evening’s big winner, well, obviously I think O’Donnell is frighteningly wrong on just about everything, from creationism to onanism, and she’d be an absolute disaster in the Senate. (Good thing she seems unelectable.) Still, however much we disagree, I have to confess a soft spot for anyone who takes their Tolkien seriously.
I don’t mean to be too harsh — There’s nothing terribly wrong with this edutainment-y attempt to explain de-Baathification, highly dubious detainee procedures, and most notably the faked WMD casus belli to disinterested laypersons by way of action-thriller. And, in a way, I sorta admire the gutsiness of the the attempt. But, if you were already well aware of these grim developments, and I assume most GitM readers are, then it’s hard to escape the sensation that one is mainly just being talked down to for two hours. Wait, there were no WMD in Iraq? You’re kidding me, right? And, while I’m a great fan of Greengrass’ previous output — I said over and over again in this space that I wish he had stuck with Watchmen, and on the Top 100 films of last decade list, Bloody Sunday was #84, his two Bournes were at #49, and the exemplary United 93 was at #6 — The Green Zone feels quite a bit more leaden than usual.
As with the political edutainment project Greengrass aspired to here, I like the idea of fusing his highly visceral action work (the Bournes) with his fly-on-the-wall discursions into recent history (Sunday, ’93)…on paper. But The Green Zone gets lost somewhere in the interstice, and lacks the gripping power of either of these previous Greengrass grooves. Instead, Zone ends up mostly being two grainy hours of watching Matt Damon run around at night, as he tries to uncover an insidious government plot that our nation has been fully aware of for years…and has chosen to greet with a yawn.
More on that depressing problem in a bit, but, first, to bring y’all up to speed: Loosely based on Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City, a non-fiction examination of Dubyaite imbecility and excess in post-war Baghdad, Green Zone begins with a brief sequence set amid the original Shock-and-Awe period of the war, followed by, a few weeks later, a tense raid on a possible WMD storehouse by American soldiers. Led by Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Damon), this crack MW2-ish assault ends up finding, well, bupkis, just like the time before and the time before that.
To Chief Miller, the problem here is obvious — the intel must be rotten. But, when he brings this up at the next briefing for high-level military muckety-mucks, he is basically told to shut up and do his job. Nonetheless, events soon conspire to introduce Miller to the “Jack of Clubs” in the Dubya deck, a Baathist general (Yigal Naor) with a still-clearly extant power base in Baghdad. And, when our hero digs deeper to figure out how this Jack might know “Magellan,” the top-secret source of all this lousy intel, he soon finds himself trapped — along with a very Judith Miller-y reporter (Amy Ryan) — in a power play between a slimy executive branch bureaucrat (Greg Kinnear, stuck no more) and a grizzled CIA hand (Brendan Gleeson), one that might just end up getting Miller fragged by the creepy Special Forces guy (Jason Isaacs, with great accent) who keeps popping up…
Along the way, there’s a digression into a detainee facility with all the makings of an Abu Ghraib waiting to happen, the tearful homecoming of the administration’s hand-picked Iraqi stooge (re: Ahmed Chalabi), some rather pained attempts to make the decision to de-Baathify an action beat…In other words, Green Zone is basically an attempt to dramatize the Iraq war for people who, for whatever reason, weren’t paying much attention the first time ’round. And, to be fair, it’s done with solid acting all around (including several folks recognizable from United 93), quality production values, and a reasonable degree of versimilitude throughout. (Note also the brief Paul Rieckhoff cameo, which should nip any IAVA whining about dramatic license right in the bud.)
But, for all its edutainmenty truths to tell, Green Zone still ends up feeling rather fake and film-ish to me, perhaps in part because — unlike Greengrass’ other recent histories — it seems to subscribe to a very movie-like All the President’s Men view of things, where, once word of misdeed gets out, justice will be done tho’ the heavens fall. Not to get all Debbie Downer up in here, but that’s not really the way the world works anymore, is it? One of the saddest and scariest moments in the recent and very worthwhile Daniel Ellsberg: The Most Dangerous Man in America is when Ellsberg explains how he thought everything would change once the Pentagon Papers got out…and then he finds that, in the face of clear and irrefutable evidence of government wrongdoing, most people just shrugged.
This is the uncomfortable horror that Green Zone almost seems willfully designed not to recognize. The whole premise of the movie seems to be that, if We the People knew what really went down in Iraq (or could just be taught via action-movie), we would be totally livid about the corruption involved. But, is the problem really that the American people don’t know what happened in the build-up to Iraq? Or is it that we know pretty well what happened and don’t much seem to care?
Just as with our indefensible dabbling in torture and indefinite detention in recent years, we have known about the lies and incompetence that fueled the Iraq fiasco for awhile now. And, alas, nothing ever happened. Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and the whole awful, lying lot are still deemed Serious People with Serious Opinions by the nation’s domesticated media watchdogs, who, by the way, have also been studiously ignoring the Blair hearings overseas. Our current president, elected with the largest mandate for change in a generation, has deemed all of this just the sins of the past and refused to “look backward” (or worse, made himself complicit in these Dubya-era crimes.) And life continues, much as it has this past age, with no sense of reckoning whatsoever for the Big Lies that were told.
One of the main reasons Bloody Sunday and United 93 work so well is that they offer complex, nuanced portraits of complicated times. But, as Green Zone moves along, it just ended up feeling more and more like a cartoon to me, and one predicated mainly on wishful thinking. Like I said, I guess I admire what Paul Greengrass & co. were trying do here, but Green Zone as an action film feels flat and mostly uninvolving. And Green Zone as a political enterprise — Iraq War: The Movie!, basically — often seems at best condescending and at worst dangerously naive.
Remember the persecuted prosecutors? The Senate Judiciary does, voting 12-7 to hold Karl Rove and Josh Bolten in contempt of Congress. “Two Republicans, Arlen Specter and Charles Grassley, joined the committee Democrats in the contempt vote. Today’s action means contempt citations are now pending in both the House and Senate.“
“‘We will take the evidence where it leads us. We will not leave any stone unturned.’” Well, Sheryl Crow’s the least of his worries now. Based on the fact that several different current investigations seem to point his way, the White House’s Office of Special Counsel opens an inquiry into Karl Rove, to ascertain if (and how often) he’s violated the Hatch Act. “‘This is a big deal,’ Paul C. Light, a New York University expert on the executive branch, said of [Special Counsel] Bloch’s plan. ‘It is a significant moment for the administration and Karl Rove. It speaks to the growing sense that there is a nexus at the White House that explains what’s going on in these disparate investigations.’” And, in related news, John Edwards calls for Rove’s firing, based on his refusal to testify about the persecuted prosecutors.
“‘You can’t erase e-mails, not today,’ Leahy said in an angry speech on the Senate floor. “They’ve gone through too many servers. Those e-mails are there — they just don’t want to produce them. It’s like the infamous 18-minute gap in the Nixon White House tapes.‘” Breaking last Friday: Just as the persecuted prosecutors case boils to a head, four years of Karl Rove’s e-mail go conveniently missing from the RNC archives. And, also developing on the prosecutorial front, another subpoenaed Justice official, Michael Battle, has contradicted Gonzales’ earlier professions of ignorance on the subject, setting up the Attorney General for a raucous time during his hearings tomorrow: “Gonzales…has been preparing for a pivotal appearance on Tuesday before the committee, including mock testimony sessions lasting up to five hours a day, officials said. Better get that story straight, Al.
In the past week, I have seen two things that made me want to claw out my eyes Oedipus-style and run screaming down Amsterdam Ave. One was the live octopus scene in Oldboy, a movie that’s worth seeing for the hallway fight sequence alone but, lordy, is hard to watch. (The tongue and teeth parts ain’t much better. I’m learning I just can’t hang with the edgy Korean cinema, but I still find it preferable to grotesque Miike stuff like Ichi the Killer. That film is just plain sick.) The other: Karl Rove rapping. Is it the token black guy standing next to him? NBC’s David Gregory forced to bob up and down in the background? The porcine lack of rhythm and gesticulating of Mr. Rove himself? Or the whole sheer staggering whiteness, bordering on minstrelsy, of the scene taken together? (Paging David Roediger.) Whatever it is, it is straight-up cringeworthy.
The plot thickens: A battle over executive privilege looms as the Senate handily rejects Dubya’s attempt to evade subpoenas for Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, and other administration officials in the persecuted prosecutors dispute. “‘The only thing they would accept is if the Senate did exactly what they told them to, which would be closed-door, limited number of people, limited agenda, no oath and no transcript, so nobody knows exactly what happened,’ Leahy said. ‘So there’s really nothing to look for for a compromise, because that is not acceptable to me.’” For their part, Spineless Specter advocated a capitulation to Dubya, as per the norm, while Republican Charles Grassley supported the Senate’s use of the subpoena power.
With even Republicans such as Senator John Sununu now calling for his firing as a result of the furor over persecuted prosecutors, embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales gets the usual heck-of-a-job from Dubya: “I’ve heard those allegations about political decision-making — it’s just not true…What Al did, and what the Justice Department did, was appropriate.” Meanwhile, side-stepping Gonzales’ misdeeds, Salon‘s Sidney Blumental sees the hand of Karl Rove at work in the firings.
“‘I’ve always been trained that loyalty is a two-way street,’ Iglesias answered. ‘I started thinking: Why am I protecting these people who not only did me wrong but did wrong to the system for appointing U.S. attorneys?’” The House and Senate Judiciary Committees listen to testimony from eight former U.S. attorneys concerning what appears to be an epidemic of illegal GOP arm-twisting. “The [Justice] department has also acknowledged that Cummins, the Little Rock prosecutor, was asked to resign solely to provide a job for a former aide to presidential adviser Karl Rove.”
The wreckage of the midterms behind him, disgraced GOP operative Jack Abramoff heads to prison today to begin a 5-year, 10-month stint in the Big House…but, not — according to ABC News — before dropping dirt on Karl Rove and “dozens of members of Congress and staff” including “six to eight seriously corrupt Democratic senators.” Sounds like the Ballad of Casino Jack might keep on keepin’ on right through the next cycle…Let’s hope the Dem Congress are much more vigilant about rooting out the corruption in their midst than were their predecessors.
Every single Dem incumbent returned to office. At least 26 more seats in the House. The nation’s first woman Speaker. Six new governorships. At least four Senate seats. And, if all goes well in Virginia (which, at 5am EST, is looking likely — Webb’s up 8,000, which is a pretty solid lead heading into a recount) and Montana (which seems positive for us, albeit less so — Tester’s up 5,000 with 85% reporting), perhaps even control of Congress…Yessir, all-in-all, it was a pretty grand night for us. So, Dubya and Karl…how you like them apples? Update: Make that 28 seats in the House and 5 in the Senate….soon to be six. Congress is ours!
I don’t really have anything to say about Kerrygate, except, well, is it Tuesday yet? Way to stick your foot in it, Senator. But, really, is this all you guys got? Is this all you can conjure, Rove? The whole GOP media onslaught about it reeks of desperation (as do the gutterball ad campaigns), and, hey, I don’t blame them: times are desperate: “‘So many different kinds of scandals going on at the same time, that’s pretty unique,’ Zelizer said. ‘There were scandals throughout the ’70s, multiple scandals, but the number of stories now are almost overwhelming.‘”
“Lame Duck” Dubya and his man behind the curtain, Karl Rove, may be “inexplicably upbeat,” but John McCain is apparently contemplating suicide. Meanwhile, Dems Carville and Greenberg suggest breaking out the party credit cards, while the bellwether state of Ohio sours on the GOP completely. Only 20 days left until Election 2006…
“As a former Abramoff assistant, Ralston played intermediary between the lobbyist and Rove. The congressional report found 66 Abramoff contacts with the White House, more than half of them with Ralston. In addition, Abramoff’s lobbying colleagues contacted Ralston 69 times.” The Casino Jack affair claims another White House victim in Rove deputy Susan Ralston, who, it was recently discovered in a House report, made the mistake of accepting Abramoff swag — choice tickets and such — without paying for it. Illegal, no doubt, but somehow I suspect her procuring courtside Wizard tix is the least of the Abramoff-related corruption going on in Karl’s outfit.
“I and my former colleagues trusted the government to protect us in our jobs.” Plamegate enters a new phase as Valerie Plame files a lawsuit against Cheney, Rove, and Libby for “leaking Plame’s identity to ‘discredit, punish and seek revenge against the plaintiffs.’” And for all the rabid right-wingers out there cheering on Paula Jones back in the day, it looks like the chickens have come home to roost: “Cheney and others might be compelled to turn over documents to the Wilsons, as well as give sworn depositions, as President Bill Clinton eventually had to do when Paula Jones sued him for sexual harrassment.”
“He’s making a political speech. He’s sitting in his air-conditioned office on his big, fat backside saying, ‘Stay the course.’ That’s not a plan.” As justifiably disgruntled veteran John Murtha lights into bile-spouting chicken-hawk Karl Rove for another gutterball attack on Dems’ patriotism, the Democrats step up to the bar and offer two substantive plans for phased withdrawal from Iraq, to be debated tomorrow. “Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Russell Feingold of Wisconsin…pushed an amendment requiring that U.S. combat troops be out by July 2007…In a statement, Kerry and Feingold said a deadline ‘gives Iraqis the best chance for stability and self-government’ and ‘allows us to begin refocusing on the true threats that face our country.‘”
Fitzmas is cancelled? Lawyer Robert Luskin announces that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has told him he “does not anticipate seeking charges” against Karl Rove for his alleged role in Plamegate, partly because Rove apparently told the truth about his involvement to the FBI: “It’s now known that Rove had discussed Plame’s CIA employment with conservative columnist Robert Novak, who exposed her identity less than a week later…Rove’s truth-telling to the FBI saved him from indictment.“
For their part, Karl and the GOP are now strutting about in vindication mode and the Dubya White House is breathing a sigh of relief, but Salon‘s Walter Shapiro says don’t fret, Dems: “Rove was not exactly doing hard time on a federal rock pile when Bush’s popularity plunged to around 35 percent. It was Rove’s handiwork to make Social Security privatization the signature issue of Bush’s second term. The disastrous fate of that political gambit, combined with the Iraq war, turned Bush into a lame-duck president before his time. As a political strategist, Rove runs the gamut of issues from A (national security) to B (tax cuts). Six years into his tenure in the White House, Rove may be running on empty, just like the president whom he serves.”
“‘He couldn’t not do it,’ explained Richard Viguerie, a prominent conservative activist who believes that gay marriage will not have much of an impact in 2006. ‘He’s got an election coming up and he is 30 percent in the polls. Nothing, Dr. Samuel Johnson told us, focuses the mind like an impending hanging.’” The conservative coalition collapsing in historic fashion around their ears, Dubya and Rove invoke an old standby and attempt to shore up the bigot vote in November by publicly coming out for the anti-gay marriage amendment. Unfortunately for them and the GOP, the same old freak-baiting trick — however carefully worded — doesn’t seem likely to catch fire amid all the war and scandal, and the Senate, as well as GOP moderates, want none of it. Update: As expected, the Senate spike the amendment, with 2 Dems (Byrd, Ben Nelson) backing the bigots and 7 Republicans (Chafee, Collins, Gregg, McCain, Snowe, Specter, Sununu) joining the rest of the Dems in voting against the measure.
All the t’s have been crossed and Novaks have been questioned…Now, according to the Post‘s Jim Vanderhei, Plamegate prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s extended investigation of Karl Rove is nearing resolution. “Rove expects to learn as soon as this month if he will be indicted — or publicly cleared of wrongdoing — for making false statements in the CIA leak case, according to sources close to the presidential adviser. An indictment would be devastating to a White House already battered by low poll numbers, a staff shake-up and a stalled agenda.”
Fifth time’s the charm? Karl Rove returns once more to testify before Patrick Fitzgerald’s Plamegate grand jury, mainly to discuss his interactions with TIME reporter Viveca Novak. Will this fifth round of testimony of Dubya’s consigliere result in an indictment (and finally make Karl a household name?) Hopefully, we’ll know sooner rather than later. Update: Make that 2-3 weeks.
I dannae if the ship of state could take any more…As suspected, the continuing White House shakeup claims another victim in press secretary Scott McClellan. (Text of statement.) Also, Rove got reassigned from policy to politics, but that sounds like more of a cosmetic switch than anything else.
“The curtain got pulled aside, and there’s not even a wizard behind it…these people are incompetent.” As you probably heard, Karl Rove emerged from hiding to offer his blueprint for Republican resurgence in 2006. Yep, you guessed it: terror, terror, terror, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, garnished with a smattering of tax cuts. But, to their credit, it sounds like Dems are relishing this coming fight, with Intelligence Committee Dem Jane Harman pushing back once more on the illegal wiretaps, and, in keeping with the recent trend of presidential also-rans finding their voice, John Kerry taking off the gloves on the Sunday shows. “Osama bin Laden is going to die of kidney failure before he’s killed by Karl Rove and his crowd.“
“One final note: Luskin is unhappy that I decided to write about our conversation, but I feel that he violated any understanding to keep our talk confidential by unilaterally going to Fitzgerald and telling him what was said.” TIME reporter Viveca Novak explains her testimony before the Fitzgerald grand jury. Novak, who may well have tipped Luskin to a hole in Rove’s story, is now on a leave of absence with TIME “by mutual agreement.”
“After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the former official said, he was told that Bush felt that ‘God put me here’ to deal with the war on terror. The President’s belief was fortified by the Republican sweep in the 2002 congressional elections; Bush saw the victory as a purposeful message from God that ‘he’s the man,’ the former official said. Publicly, Bush depicted his reelection as a referendum on the war; privately, he spoke of it as another manifestation of divine purpose.” By way of Salon‘s War Room, The New Yorker‘s Sy Hersh scrutinizes the terrifying dogmatism and tone-deafness at work in the White House with regards to Iraq.
Here’s more: “[Rove and Cheney] keep him in the gray world of religious idealism, where he wants to be anyway,’ the former defense official said. Bush’s public appearances, for example, are generally scheduled in front of friendly audiences, most often at military bases. Four decades ago, President Lyndon Johnson, who was also confronted with an increasingly unpopular war, was limited to similar public forums. ‘Johnson knew he was a prisoner in the White House,’ the former official said, ‘but Bush has no idea.’“
Meanwhile, the investigations continue. This weekend, Time reporter Viveca Novak announced she’s cooperating with Plamegate prosecutors, who have been asking her about her conversations with Robert Luskin, Karl Rove’s attorney, beginning in 2004. Doesn’t sound like Rove is off the hook, does it? Update: Apparently, Novak was Rove’s alibi: “‘This is what caused [Fitzgerald] to hold off on charging’ Rove, the source said. But another person familiar with the conversations said they did not appear to significantly alter the case.“