"Liberal Media" Fails to Strike Again!
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
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
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
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
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."
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
Brad's blog can be found at www.bradfriedman.com/BradBlog