Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?
It Looks Like the Spirit of Judy Miller Is Alive and Well at the New York Times

Thuds and Screams Inside the Topkapi Palace

Sidney Blumenthal on what the hell he thinks is going on inside the White House bunker:

Salon.com | Shuttle without diplomacy: James Baker, the consummate Republican political operator over the past 30 years, did not expect that President Bush would accept the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group he co-chaired simply on its merits. Baker's hidden political hand was unrevealed in the report's dire analysis or in its urgent suggestions.... [H]e understood that enlisting all of these formidable figures was insufficient. Baker privately... counted on the decisive intervention of one person in the president's closed inner circle -- who sees him alone and could not be kept from him, and on whom he has become dependent for support and trusts implicitly -- to deliver the bad news that continuing those policies would only deepen the disaster and explain that he had no way out except to change course....

Scowcroft traveled to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, broaching his ideas to President Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah. They told him they were fully supportive... but were skeptical that Rice or Bush would embrace Scowcroft's program.... Scowcroft and Baker began reassembling the elder Bush's national security team, using the Iraq Study Group as a mobilizing tool. They saw this as a last chance to save the Bush presidency.... Scowcroft briefed Rice.... She seemed to concur with his views and asked him, "How are we going to present this to the president?" "Not we," replied Scowcroft. "You." She appeared taken aback.... Rice became the linchpin for Scowcroft's and Baker's plans.

Rice now confronted the biggest quandary of her career. On one side were... not only Scowcroft and Baker but also... Bush's father. On the other was the president... whom she had flattered as the equal of Lincoln and Churchill.... Rice had been Bush's enabler. It was because Scowcroft understood her special relationship that he sought to win her over.

Rice's turn appeared to be reflected in a speech delivered at the Middle East Institute in Washington on Sept. 15 by Philip Zelikow, her counselor, closest aide and friend... he asserted that "some sense of progress and momentum on the Arab-Israeli dispute is just a sine qua non for their ability to cooperate actively with the United States on a lot of things that we care about."... Rice publicly rebuked him, which provoked his abrupt resignation....

Informed correspondents of the Washington Post and New York Times related in conversation that Bush furiously called the [Iraq Study Group] report "a flaming turd," but his colorful remark was not published. Perhaps it was apocryphal. Nonetheless, it conveyed the intensity of his hostile rejection.... Scowcroft and Baker... waited for Rice....

[Meanwhile,] Kagan and Keane and a team of neocons at AEI whipped up a PowerPoint presentation, and one week after the ISG report release, on Dec. 11, they were ushered into Bush's presence. The president had become enraged at the presumption of the Baker-Hamilton Commission.... "How to look distinctive from the study group became a recurring theme. As described by participants in the administration review, some staff members on the National Security Council became enamored of the idea of sending more troops to Iraq in part because it was not a key feature of Baker-Hamilton."... The Joint Chiefs were ignored and sidelined.... Their dissent, leaked to the Washington Post for appearance in the paper on the day of Bush's "surge" speech, was an extraordinary gesture by the senior military leaders to distance themselves from impending failure.

Rice... finally intervened. When the U.S. military commanders in Iraq and U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad protested against a rush by the Iraqi government to hang Saddam Hussein, Rice overrode their objections and gave the signal to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to proceed.

Maliki's management and subsequent defense of the gruesome circus... disabused any illusion that he could act in the larger Iraqi national interest.... He is to his marrow a creature of the Dawa Party.... [T]he Maliki government... cannot and does not wish to be reformed.... Maliki exists only to achieve Shiite control, and if he did not he would not exist. There is no other Maliki. Nor can Bush invent one...

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