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The "Liberal Media" Fails to Strike Again!
April 30, 2004
By Brad Friedman

There's an elephant in the living room. It's the $700 million that Bob Woodward reports Bush as having spent to prepare for war in Iraq back in July of 2002 - long before General Tommy Franks claims that his Commander-in-Chief had instructed him to prepare for war in Iraq.

The appropriation of the money, Woodward suggests, may have come from the money appropriated by Congress to wage war in Afghanistan.

The White House isn't talking - perhaps because few in the "Liberal Media" seem to be bothering to ask. So I will.

Having perused the US Constitution again just now, it still seems clear that only Congress may authorize the spending of US tax dollars.

Given the lack of explanation for this questionable, and possibly unlawful, expenditure by the President it's no wonder Team Bush is being silly enough to try and attack John Kerry on his war record! Even though such attacks inevitably lead back to questions of Bush's own military records (or lack thereof).

I suppose the gambit to exhaust folks with "scandal fatigue" over a 30 year old issue, ridiculous in the case of Kerry's record, but on-the-mark in regards to Bush whose released records are still conspicuously absent of many key documents, is a goose chase the Administration would rather see followed by the sycophants in the media rather than a potentially lethal question of high crimes and misdemeanors by Bush while in office just a year or two ago.

Of the scant reporting on the topic so far, Cass R. Sunstein in Salon offers a rather to-the-point examination of the possible authority from Congress that Bush may have felt had allowed him to use such funds in this clandestine expenditure.

It seems there are two different Congressional Acts from which Bush may have drawn his authority:

The most likely candidate is the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, passed on Sept. 14, 2001, a direct response to the 9/11 attacks that appropriated $40 billion for five enumerated purposes:

1) providing federal, state and local preparedness for mitigating and responding to the 9/11 attacks.
2) providing support to counter, investigate or prosecute domestic and international terrorism.
3) providing increased transportation security.
4) repairing public facilities and transportation systems damaged by the attacks.
5) supporting national security.

Of these, 1, 3 and 4 could not possibly include preparations for war in Iraq -- and 2 and 5 even seem a bit of a stretch.

...

But let's suppose that these words are read very broadly. Even so, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act clearly states that the "President shall consult with the chairmen and ranking minority members of the Committees on Appropriations prior to the transfer of these funds." [emphasis added]

id President Bush consult with those leaders before committing millions of dollars to preparations for the war in Iraq? If so, there might be no problem. But at this stage it is far from clear that such consultation occurred.

He raises a very good question. But is anybody other than Sunstein (and me and a handful of others in the blogosphere) actually asking it? If they aren't, why aren't they? How lazy is this supposed "liberal media" anyway?

But back to the point and the other legislated possibility:

According to Woodward, the war preparations were partly funded "from the supplemental appropriation bill being worked out in Congress for the Afghanistan war and the general war on terrorism." This is apparently a reference to the appropriations act of Aug. 2, 2002 (which runs to well over 100 pages of dense text). But nothing in the Aug. 2 act unambiguously authorizes the $700 million expenditure. To be sure, one provision allows the secretary of defense to use up to $275 million "to meet other essential operational or readiness requirements of the military services." But even if fully available, this provision accounted for well under half of the $700 million reported by Woodward; and to use the money for that purpose, the law requires the secretary to notify the congressional defense committees. Did he? [emphasis added]

Don't know. But John Kerry might have thrown ribbons instead of medals over the fence in 1971! And Michael Jackson has fired his attorneys!

But I digress...

These contentions, vague and conclusory as they seem, might ultimately be proved valid. But the underlying issues are extremely serious ones, and they deserve careful investigation. Perhaps the White House has a detailed explanation, on the facts and the law, that shows why any use of taxpayer funds was consistent with congressional enactments. But in the face of legitimate questions, such an explanation really needs to be offered. Its absence raises genuine problems both for democratic government and for the rule of law.

Ah, there ya go. The "rule of law." We know it applies to presidential blowjobs, worthy of a Constitutional crisis when lied about. But the secret, perhaps illegal, expenditure of $700 million of tax payer money to prepare for a war against a sovereign nation which - even by the vaguest terms (and the terms were vague indeed when finally authorized by Congress several months later) - hadn't yet been approved by the branch of government constitutionally mandated to do so is, apparently, just another one of those things not worth worrying about for the "liberal media."

After all, Kobe Bryant is still facing rape charges! And Rush Limbaugh's medical records may be used as evidence in a criminal prosecution against him!

The beat goes on. The fatigue sets in. And that's precisely what Karl Rove and Friends are counting on.

In the meantime, I'd love to remind the made-up and hair-sprayed crowd in the "liberal media" set that Woodward earned his reputation as an investigative reporter by actually investigating and reporting. I realize that remaining on Scott McClellan's "must call" list is important to keep your face regularly on the nightly news, but so is doing the dirty work of following up on the tough issues that the American public needs to know about. Even if the man who might have committed such illegal appropriations of American Funds wasn't running for re-election. The fact that he is makes it even more important. Please get to work!


Brad's blog can be found at www.bradfriedman.com/BradBlog

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