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Elizabeth Drew: How much is George W. Bush responsible for 9/11?

How Much Is George W. Bush Responsible for 9/11?
Elizabeth Drew
Posted: 11/02/2015

Poor Jeb. Or I should say, Poor Jeb! (I'm not given to exclamation points, but Jeb! is so magnetic.) It's unfathomable how he thought that he could run for the Republican nomination without having to wrestle with his brother's record as president.

Soon enough, he was so entangled in the question of whether he would have gone into Iraq, knowing what we know now, that it took him four tries to come up with the currently politically acceptable answer: No. But while the war in Iraq is widely accepted to have been a disastrous mistake, another crucial event during the George W. Bush administration has long been considered unfit for political discussion: President Bush's conduct, in the face of numerous warnings of a major terrorist plot, in the months leading up to September 11, 2001.

The general consensus seems to have been that the 9/11 attacks were so horrible, so tragic, that to even suggest that the president at the time might bear any responsibility for not taking enough action to try to prevent them is to play "politics," and to upset the public. And so we had a bipartisan commission examine the event and write a report; we built memorials at the spots where the Twin Towers had come down and the Pentagon was attacked; and that was to be that. And then along came Donald Trump, to whom "political correctness" is a relic of an antiquated, stuffy, political system he's determined to overwhelm. In an interview on October 16, he violated the longstanding taboo by saying, "When you talk about George Bush--I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time."

Trump's comments set up a back and forth between him and Jeb Bush--who, as Trump undoubtedly anticipated, can't let a blow against him by the frontrunner go by without response--but the real point is that with a simple declaration by Trump, there it was: the subject of George W. Bush's handling of the warnings about the 9/11 attacks was out there.

much more...


E. J. Dionne: Obama and the Republican Cavaliers

Comment in parentheses entirely mine.

Obama vs. the Republican Cavaliers

Those who counsel Obama to be more conciliatory toward Republicans in defending an agreement that could block Iranian nuclear ambitions for at least a decade (and probably more) are nostalgic for a time when many Republicans supported negotiated settlements, saw containment policies as preferable to the aggressive rollback of adversaries and were committed to building international alliances.

Such Republicans still exist, but there are not many of them left in Congress. And we should have enough respect for the party’s presidential candidates to believe that they mean what they are saying when, for example, one of them (Scott Walker) insists that “Iran is not a place we should be doing business with,” while another (Jeb Bush) declares that “we need to stop the Iran agreement, for sure, because the Iranian mullahs have . . . blood on their hands.”

(Wow! This is incredibly rich coming from JEB! whose brother Dubya has far more Middle East blood on his hands than anyone on earth--other than perhaps Dick Cheney.)

Obama is defending a long bipartisan tradition of negotiating even with adversaries we deeply and rightly mistrust, the prime example being the Soviet Union. For now, the consensus across party lines in favor of such diplomacy is broken. Many of us would like to see it restored, but the evidence of Obama’s time in office is unambiguous: Friendly gestures won’t win over those determined to block his policies.

In the short run, Obama simply has to win enough votes for his Iran deal. For the long run, he has to convince Americans that his measured approach to the world is the safest path for the country. Defending this view aggressively is no vice.

NYT: Saudi Arabia Approves of Iran Nuclear Deal

Note the date of this article. Have heard or read nothing else regarding this seemingly significant development.

Saudi Arabia Approves of Iran Nuclear Deal, U.S. Defense Chief Says
JULY 22, 2015

JIDDA, Saudi Arabia — Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter gave a surprisingly upbeat assessment on Wednesday of American relations with Saudi Arabia, asserting that the kingdom welcomed the international nuclear deal reached with its regional rival, Iran.

Mr. Carter, who visited Jidda and held his first meeting with King Salman, also said the Saudi monarch would visit the United States this fall and was committed to fighting the Islamic State, the Sunni militant extremist group.

The defense secretary’s description of ties with the Saudis, which he made to reporters after the meeting while en route to Amman, Jordan, was unexpectedly upbeat, considering Saudi Arabia’s strong reservations about the nuclear negotiations between the big world powers and Iran that yielded an agreement last week.



Peter Beinart: Don't Underestimate Bernie Sanders

“Don’t underestimate me,” declared newly announced presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to George Stephanopoulos on Sunday. That may be good advice.


Luckovich: So you think you can dance...

Peter Beinart: The Real Achievement of the Iran Nuclear Deal

The Real Achievement of the Iran Nuclear Deal
Details of the accord matter less than the potential end of Washington's cold war with Tehran.

APR 3 2015

Right now, a thousand pundits and politicians are debating the details of Thursday’s framework nuclear deal with Iran. That’s fine. I think the details are far, far better than the alternative—which was a collapse of the diplomatic process, a collapse of international sanctions as Russia and China went back to business as usual with Tehran, and a collapse of the world’s ability to send inspectors into Iran. But ultimately, the details aren’t what matters. What matters is the potential end of America’s 36-year-long cold war with Iran.

For the United States, ending that cold war could bring three enormous benefits. First, it could reduce American dependence on Saudi Arabia. Before the fall of the shah in 1979, the United States had good relations with both Tehran and Riyadh, which meant America wasn’t overly reliant on either. Since the Islamic Revolution, however, Saudi Arabia has been America’s primary oil-producing ally in the Persian Gulf. After 9/11, when 19 hijackers—15 of them Saudis—destroyed the Twin Towers, many Americans realized the perils of so great a dependence on a country that was exporting so much pathology. One of the unstated goals of the Iraq War was to give the United States a large, stable, oil-producing ally as a hedge against the uncertain future of the House of Saud.

What George W. Bush failed to achieve militarily, Barack Obama may now be achieving diplomatically. In recent weeks, American hawks have cited Saudi anxiety about a potential Iran deal as reason to be wary of one. But a big part of the reason the Saudis are worried is because they know that as U.S.-Iranian relations improve, their influence over the United States will diminish. That doesn’t mean the U.S.-Saudi alliance will disintegrate. Even if it frays somewhat, the United States still needs Saudi oil and Saudi Arabia still needs American protection. But the United States may soon have a better relationship with both Tehran and Riyadh than either has with the other, which was exactly what Richard Nixon orchestrated in the three-way dynamic between Washington, Moscow, and Beijing in the 1970s. And today, as then, that increases America’s leverage over both countries.

Over the long term, Iran may also prove a more reliable U.S. ally than Saudi Arabia. Iranians are better educated and more pro-American than their neighbors across the Persian Gulf, and unlike Saudi Arabia, Iran has some history of democracy. One of the biggest problems with America’s Mideast policy in recent years has been that, from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan to Egypt, the governments the United States supports preside over populations that hate the U.S. Thursday’s nuclear deal, by contrast, may pave the way for a positive relationship with the Iranian state that is actually undergirded by a positive relationship with the Iranian people.



Fred Kaplan: The Deal of a Lifetime

The Deal of a Lifetime
There are still questions to be answered, but the nuclear agreement with Iran is very good news.

By Fred Kaplan

The Iranian nuclear deal reached in Switzerland on Thursday is a significant breakthrough. Uncertainties remain, inherently so, as it’s merely a “political framework” for a formal deal to be completed and signed by June 30. But this framework turns out to be far more detailed, quantitative, and restrictive than anyone had expected.

It might not lead to a deal as good as the outline suggests; it might not lead to a deal at all. But anyone who denounces this framework—anyone who argues that we should pull out of the talks, impose more sanctions, or bomb Iran because it’s better to have no deal than to have this one—is not a serious person or is pursuing a parochial agenda.

If this deal is fully implemented, Iran will be unable to build a nuclear bomb by enriching uranium or by reprocessing plutonium for at least 10 years. Some of the restrictions imposed by this deal would last 15 years. The international inspections of certain aspects of Iran’s nuclear program would stay in place for 25 years.

As for the economic sanctions against Iran, they would be lifted not upon the deal’s signing, as the Iranians initially demanded, but only after the inspectors have verified that Iran has fulfilled all of its commitments in the deal.


Luckovich: Our Founding Fathers

The Kochs Are Already Getting What They Paid for in Congress: What the Keystone debate is really about

Ask progressives what the last three weeks of Senate debate on a Keystone XL bill was really about, and they might mention the Koch brothers. “The Republican's Keystone XL obsession is about one thing and one thing only—a direct payback to Big Oil, specifically to the Koch brothers,” Credo’s Senior Campaign Manager Elijah Zarlin said in response to the Senate passing a Keystone XL bill, 62-36, on Thursday.

It's not just a talking point. Just one month into the new Congress, and already the Kochs' fossil fuel interests—which include oil pipelines and refineries—have neatly aligned with Republican priorities. The Koch network's campaign for and against Keystone amendments not only offers a preview of future energy battles, but demonstrate their difficult-to-quantify political influence.

In January, three conservative groups—Heritage Action, American Energy Alliance (AEA), and Americans for Prosperity (AFP)—combined for a total of seven key vote alerts on amendments that would count in their congressional scorecards. The alerts serve as a warning: If a senator votes against the group's interest, he or she risks future attacks from the right. All three groups are tied to the Kochs: AFP is considered the brothers' "main political arm," and they have contributed to Heritage and AEA.

The groups helped defeat an amendment from Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat, that would have reinstated the wind production tax credit for five years. Heitkamp couldn't even scrape together a majority of senators for what historically has been a popular, bipartisan policy. Wind energy happens to be big in red states, so it has the support from Republicans like Iowa's Chuck Grassley, but it has long been a target for conservative, fossil-fuel-aligned groups. AEA, AFP, and Heritage all recommended a "no" vote on the amendment, in line with the Koch network's years-long campaign to eliminate renewable tax credits (while oil's tax breaks remain politically untouchable).



Michael Tomasky: The Most Powerful Democrat in America

Michael Tomasky

The Most Powerful Democrat in America
Elizabeth Warren’s weekend heroics have endeared her even more to the Democratic base, and it’s time Hillary started getting worried.

Are future historians going to look back on the past weekend as the one in which Elizabeth Warren took over the Democratic Party? She didn’t win the fight she led over the weekend to have the provision weakening the Dodd-Frank law stripped out of the spending bill, but she was never going to win that vote. What she did win, though, was the ever-more intense ardor of her growing number of liberal fans. They’d march with her over hot coals. There’s no other Democrat in the country with that kind of following.

So it’s hardly impossible that Warren could come to be the leader of the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton, who hasn’t been cutting an inspiring figure across the landscape of late, makes a few more “dead broke” missteps. Warren decides to run after all. The two go head to head through the primaries, but somehow Warren taps into Democrats’ emotional nerve-endings in a way Clinton simply can’t, and she becomes the nominee. And then...

As I said, that’s hardly an insane scenario, and it’s one Clinton should heed, and heed pretty quickly. The general assumption has been that Warren won’t challenge Clinton, and that’s probably correct. But Warren is well aware of how adoring and numerous her followers are and how much leverage that gives her in the party, and what she wants is to push the party to embrace her economic views. I doubt she really expects that she can be elected president, and I wonder if she even would really want the gig (she’s shown practically no interest in foreign policy, and that is destined to be by far the hardest and most hair-graying part of the job). But if she becomes convinced that challenging Clinton is the best—or only—way for her to maximize her leverage, then she might just do it.

Surely, after this last week, she can’t be blamed if she’s feeling a bit more intoxicated. After watching her astounding call to break up Citigroup, her admirers have been rushing forth with pleas and petitions for her to run. Referring to Citi’s role in the lobbying effort to get that anti Dodd-Frank provision put in the spending bill Congress just passed, Warren said on the Senate floor last Friday: “If a financial institution has become so big and so powerful that it can hold the entire country hostage, that alone is reason enough to break them up. Enough is enough. Enough is enough, with Wall Street insiders getting key position after key position, and the kind of cronyism that we have seen in the executive branch. Enough is enough, with Citigroup passing eleventh-hour deregulatory provisions that nobody takes ownership over but everybody will come to regret.”


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