Impeach Bush

  Bush on Vacation 42% of time
  Regime Change an Alien Concept in UN Resolutions
  WTO rules against US
  Vacations and the Budget
  Wildfire Watchdog?
  Treasury admits tracking terrorist money is a joke
  Conservatives attack Bush on Secrecy
  Bush Squawks Over Minor Spending
  CBO Slashes Projected Surplus--Again!
  Another Judge Stops Bush--Enemy Combatant *
Bush on Vacation 42% of time

September 3, 2002
President Bush's trip to Pittsburgh yesterday was his 13th to Pennsylvania since taking office, his third to the Pittsburgh area, his second Labor Day appearance with the carpenters union and his 72nd domestic trip overall.

How do we know this? There is only one source: Mark Knoller, the leading collector of modern presidential arcana.

How many foreign leaders has Bush met with? Knoller's got it: 136.

How many states has Bush visited so far? Knoller's got it: 43.

How long did Bush's round of golf last on July 6? Knoller's got it: 2 1/2 hours.

The 50-year-old CBS News radio correspondent, who has been covering the White House on-and-off since the Ford administration and every day for the past 11 years, collects data about presidential activities as if it were baseball trivia. The bearded, often curmudgeonly Knoller can be found in the press filing center on most every presidential trip, his stentorian voice booming out 35-second takes for radio -- as many as 20 a day -- and shaping the day's news for dozens of journalists who can't help but hear him.

When he's not recording one of the more than 10,000 radio spots he's done over the past decade, he spends hours a week updating his famous statistical logs. Other reporters -- academics, too -- rely on them. The Clinton White House even asked Knoller for his logs; turns out the newsman kept better track of President Bill Clinton's travel than the president's aides did.

The statistics Knoller assembles produce many revealing portraits of the Bush presidency:

Bush has spent a whopping total of 250 days of his presidency at Camp David (123 days), Kennebunkport (12) and his Texas ranch (115). That means Bush has spent 42 percent of his term so far at one of his three leisure destinations.

To date, the president has devoted far more time to golf (15 rounds) than to solo news conferences (six). The numbers also show that Bush, after holding three news conferences in his first four months, has had only three more in the last 15 months -- not counting the 37 Q&A sessions he has had with foreign leaders during his term.

Bush has raised $114.8 million this year at 48 GOP events, surpassing Clinton's record of $105 million in 2000 from 203 events. The Bush White House has challenged his tally only once, and Knoller countered with voluminous evidence.

"The judge's decision is final," he says.

Knoller got a job out of New York University in 1975 with Associated Press radio, covering the last few months of Ford and also taking stints during the Carter and Reagan administrations. After moving to CBS in 1988, he covered the last year of the first President George Bush and just about every day since. Unmarried and without children, he takes almost every presidential trip and rarely stops working. "I find when I take a day off it takes so much time to get up to speed I'd rather work it and be easier on myself," he says.

As a reporter, Knoller rarely "breaks" news; there's no time to do investigative journalism when you're filing 20 times a day. But he exerts influence in another way: His powerful voice, inescapable to those within 50 yards of him, summarizes every speech or briefing within moments for all the other White House correspondents.

"Knoller's voice, booming out his quick and witty takes on the day's story, unconsciously settles into all our brains and no doubt finds its way into our copy," says Ron Fournier, the chief AP White House correspondent. "He may be the most influential and respected reporter in the press corps."

In addition to his impressive volume is his briefcase full of presidential statistics. Knoller walks around with a thick manila folder with printouts of his logs, which he also keeps on disks and a mainframe computer. For eight years, he has kept a log of every day of the president's schedule down to the smallest detail. Aug. 6 indicates that Bush "arrives TSTC [the airport near his ranch] with Spot, Barney and India (in pet carrier)." Knoller even notes that the cat, India, did not get to join the two dogs on Marine One.

During the Bush administration, which practices the none-of-your-business theory of public disclosure, the logs have become even more valuable. "They don't want to talk about their strategy themselves, but they reveal it by what they do," says the keeper of the stats.

Consider, for example, the seven states Bush has not visited. His absence from Washington, Vermont, Rhode Island and Hawaii might indicate Republicans have written off those states. His absence in Idaho and Kansas suggests those safely GOP states don't require his presence. And his absence from Nevada might indicate concern about local anger over his plan to ship nuclear waste there.

Bush's pattern of foreign travel is similarly intriguing for a president who frowns on the "intercontinental" set. Bush has visited 18 countries and the Vatican in nine overseas trips, keeping pace with Clinton, who took eight trips to 26 countries during his first two years.

Many of the reporters who borrow Knoller's numbers -- sometimes without crediting him -- believe the veteran correspondent is performing a crucial public service. "I do this for me, not for the public," he demurs. "I wouldn't be so immodest to think this is of great interest. A lot of the time I have difficulty even convincing my editors."



'Regime Change' an Alien Concept in UN Resolutions

August 30, 2002
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Like the weather, everybody is talking about a new U.N. Security Council resolution to approve any American military action against Iraq. Everyone, that is, but the U.S. government.

Security Council diplomats speculate that if a vote were held tomorrow, it would fail, although discussions around the world are still in the early stages.

And without another resolution, most argue that existing measures do not provide a legal basis for a "regime change" -- the Bush administration's euphemism for overthrowing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on allegations of rebuilding weapons of mass destruction.

Russia, which has veto power in the 15-nation council, made its position clear again on Thursday.

"Russia strongly believes in political and diplomatic means to solve any issue on the U.N. agenda and this fully relates to the Iraqi issue," Moscow's U.N. Ambassador Sergei Lavrov told reporters.

China too opposes military action. France, another veto-bearing council member, has called for a Security Council vote with President Jacques Chirac criticizing attempts to legitimize the "unilateral and preemptive use of force."

And in Britain, whose position is closest to the United States, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he would consider a report by a parliamentary committee to propose a U.N. deadline to readmit the weapons inspectors.

The arms experts left Iraq in December 1998 on the eve of a U.S.-British bombing raid and have not been allowed to return.

Unclear yet among Europeans, is whether calls for U.N. approval are a way to dissuade Washington from military action or to get political cover for eventually backing a U.S. war.


But no one in the Bush administration has mentioned it, despite reports that senior officials were weighing the risks and benefits of Security Council action.

"You're not hearing calls for a resolution from anyone in the government now," noted one U.S. official.

Vice President Dick Cheney in speeches this week dismissed U.N. inspections as ineffective and made the case for a preemptive strike. "The risks of inaction are far greater than the risk of action," he said.

Cheney said he feared Iraq's ability to produce nuclear arms, although he gave no evidence of a new buildup after U.N. inspectors several years ago destroyed the heavy hardware needed to construct a bomb.

In contrast, former Secretary of State James Baker, who got U.N. Security Council approval in November 1990 to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait, openly suggested a U.N. resolution.

Baker wrote in the New York Times last Sunday that even if a resolution failed, the United States should try it anyway.

"We will occupy the moral high ground and put the burden of supporting an outlaw regime and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction on any countries that vote 'no,"' he said.

The United States, he said, should push for a resolution requiring Iraq to submit to intrusive inspections and authorizing "all necessary means to enforce it."

Richard Holbrooke, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, agreed, but acknowledged that few nations in the world would openly back a "regime change." But he wrote in London's Guardian newspaper that if the council approved any kind of force, "it will soon become evident that it is impossible to eliminate the weapons without a change in regime."


Some U.S. officials, including Baker, argue that a post-Gulf War cease-fire U.N. resolution, number 687 in April 1991, provides legal justification for a new invasion because Iraq has violated a series of U.N. demands.

They contend that resolution 687 was conditional on Iraq's acceptance of arms inspections. By blocking the inspectors, the cease-fire resolution was automatically suspended and no additional permission was needed.

But many legal experts disagree, as do most governments.

"It is clear to me that post-Gulf War resolutions do not authorize an invasion of Iraq for the purpose of regime change," Mary Ellen O'Connell, an international law professor at Ohio State University, said in an interview. "They do not authorize the use of violent force at all."

Resolution 687, she said, kept economic sanctions in place and demanded disarmament of Iraq's dangerous weapons, but said further action had to be considered by the council.

"There is no question that Saddam Hussein is not in compliance, but the resolutions don't authorize a single state to go out and do whatever it wants, up to and including a change of regime. That is not how they work," she said.



WTO rules against US

August 30, 2002
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Friday said it was "disappointed" with a World Trade Organization ruling that opens the door for the European Union to impose sanctions on $4 billion worth of goods in a long-running dispute over U.S. tax breaks for exporters.

But top Bush administration aides also downplayed the decision, saying they did not expect the EU to take any action as long as the United States is moving forward on legislation to bring its tax law into line with international rules.

"I am confident that today's findings regarding damages will be rendered moot by our coming into compliance," U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Kenneth Dam said in a statement.

"We look forward to working with the Congress to enact changes to our tax law that will preserve the competitiveness of U.S. businesses and American workers while honoring our WTO obligations," Dam said.

However, a State Department official warned the EU against expecting quick results.

"This compliance will take time," the aide said.

The latest ruling ended months of suspense over the amount of sanctions the EU could apply in the case, which stretches back to the late 1990s.

In January, the WTO ruled for the fourth time that U.S. tax breaks benefiting exporters such as Boeing Caterpillar and the Walt Disney Co. were illegal subsidies under WTO rules.

An arbitrator ruling on the amount of sanctions the EU could apply in the case was originally expected in April, but was delayed a number of times.

The EU asked for the right to retaliate on $4.043 billion in goods, based on the annual value of the tax breaks to U.S. companies. The United States argued $1 billion was a more appropriate figure, which it said represented the actual damage done to EU exporters by the provision.

"I'm disappointed the arbitrator did not accept the lower figure put forward by the United States," U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said in a statement. "We believe that $1 billion is much more accurate."

"Nevertheless, the key point, as the President has said, is that the executive branch will work with Congress to fully comply with our WTO obligations," Zoellick added.


In Brussels, EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy urged U.S. lawmakers to move quickly to change the tax law. "The path is now clear for the EU to adopt sanctions if the U.S. does not repeal the (tax break) scheme expeditiously," Lamy said.

However, congressional aides and trade analysts said it was unlikely Congress would pass new tax legislation this year.

"I don't think there's any chance of doing it before 2003," said a Senate Finance Committee aide.

A bill introduced in the House of Representatives by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Thomas, a California Republican, -- and cited by Lamy as a sign of progress -- has run into opposition from Boeing and some other current beneficiaries of the tax break.

Meanwhile, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, and Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, have called for the Bush administration to take the lead in developing legislation by putting together a working group of experts from the executive branch and Congress.

In a statement, Thomas gave no hint of any willingness to abandon his bill. However, Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, the top Democrat on the Ways and Means panel, also endorsed the approach advocated by Baucus and Grassley.

Gary Hufbauer, a trade policy expert at the Institute for International Economics, said he doubted the EU would impose sanctions even if Congress does not pass a bill this year.

However, the ruling gives the EU's Lamy "a huge club" that he can exploit to Europe's advantage in other trade disputes with the United States, Hufbauer said.

The sanctions decision also poises a potential threat to U.S. farmers. Agricultural goods dominated a preliminary sanctions list published by the EU in November 2000.

EU officials on Friday said they would fine tune that list when they take the next procedural step of formally asking the WTO for permission to retaliate. They noted there was no precise deadline for them to take that action.



Vacations and the Budget

September 04, 2002
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate on Wednesday began debating a $19.3 billion spending bill for U.S. public lands and conservation programs as Congress cast about for a way out of the tangle that has snarled its annual process for funding the government in the coming year.

The House of Representatives has passed only five of the 13 spending bills required to keep the government running in 2003 and the Senate just three, well behind their usual pace so late in the year. None have been signed into law.

With the fiscal year ending on Sept. 30 and bitterly contested congressional elections looming in early November, some lawmakers are suggesting that taking tough spending decisions is now all but impossible.

"There is a strong likelihood we won't get all the appropriations bills done," said assistant Senate Republican leader Sen. Don Nickles of Oklahoma. That would leave lawmakers with two likely options, neither of them palatable.

Either they can return after the election to complete the spending bills in a so-called lame duck session. Or they can defer the unfinished bills until next year -- extending current spending levels by means of a continuing resolution, or CR.

"It's a question of then how long the CR would go," Nickles said. "I'm hopeful it would go into next year, thereby eliminating the need for a lame duck."

Other congressional leaders insist the spending bills can still be wrapped up quickly if lawmakers focus on the task -- despite the fact they still face the same combination of factors that has effectively hobbled the process.

"I still think there is a chance we can get the work done," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat. "I think it's important for us to use every day we can between now and the end of the session."

Among the hurdles, Congress has been unable to agree on a formal budget plan for next year, leaving the Senate and the House working off spending limits over $11 billion apart.

And lawmakers have been locked in pre-election battle with the White House over controlling federal spending, culminating in President Bush recently refusing to release $5 billion in funds for various congressional priorities that had been included in a broader emergency counterterrorism bill.

The Senate is expected on Thursday to add $825 million in emergency funds to the Interior spending bill to pay the cost of fighting wildfires that have swept the U.S. West. Farm state senators are also seeking to attach billions of dollars in new aid for drought-hit farmers and ranchers.


Wildfire Watchdog?
Seattle Times

August 31, 2002
WASHINGTON — The man chosen to head the Bush administration's wildfire prevention program doubts the existence of ecosystems and says it would not be a crisis if the nation's threatened and endangered species became extinct.

Allan Fitzsimmons was named yesterday to be in charge of reducing fire danger on lands managed by the Interior Department. But Fitzsimmons' background as a free-market policy analyst and his writings for libertarian and conservative think tanks have alarmed environmental groups across the West. The groups say Fitzsimmons' appointment confirms their fears that the recently announced program the administration calls the Healthy Forests Initiative is a smokescreen for a return to unfettered logging. "How can a man who doesn't understand ecological systems and community values for wildlife run a program that's supposed to protect forests and communities?" asked John McCarthy, spokesman for the Idaho Conservation League. "People won't have confidence in this guy. He'll be divisive, it will all be based on junk science."

For the past 10 years, he has operated his consulting firm, Balanced Resource Solutions in Woodbridge, Va. Between 1983 and 1992, he held a series of policy-setting jobs in the Interior and Energy departments. He holds a doctorate in geography.

He said his goal in forest policy is not to tilt toward either heavy logging or excessive protections.

"The intent is to get that pendulum as close to the center as you can," he told The Oregonian. "It's not devious. It's certainly not a cynical attempt to turn chain saws loose from sea to shining sea with smoke from forest fires as a cover," as some environmentalists charge.

Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, is expected to introduce legislation next week that would carry out at least some of President Bush's forest-management ideas. Bush wants to have logging companies thin the forests in exchange for the right to harvest larger, commercially valuable trees.

His plan would suspend environmental rules and make it harder for the public to sue to stop thinning work from going forward. Environmentalists support thinning forests around homes and communities, but only if loggers keep their saws away from the large trees.

In "The Illusion of Ecosystem Management," published in 1999 by the Political Economy Research Center, which says it applies market principles to environmental problems, Fitzsimmons says ecosystems exist only in the human imagination and cannot be delineated. Federal policies, therefore, should not be used to try to manage or restore them, he wrote.

In another paper, entitled "Ecological Confusion among the Clergy," Fitzsimmons criticizes religious leaders who encourage their parishioners to worship God by protecting the environment. He singled out Catholic bishops who issued their own paper in 1997 in support of protecting and restoring the Columbia River watershed. The paper was published in 2000 by the Center for Economic Personalism, which advocates limited government and promotes religion and "economic liberty."

"By urging the public to make changes in their lives to accommodate nonexistent ecosystem needs, one wonders if the bishops are beginning inadvertently to make an idol out of their own creation, what they call the Columbia Basin ecosystem," he writes.

He added that the biodiversity crisis religious leaders often point to is not a crisis at all. There are between 250,000 and 750,000 species in the United States and 1,201 are on the Fish and Wildlife Service's endangered and threatened list.

"If each of these species were to become extinct tomorrow, our total biological endowment would decline by less than 1 percent, which would be a disconcerting loss but would not constitute a crisis," Fitzsimmons writes. "Conversely, at least 4,500 non-indigenous species have established free-living populations in the United States over the past few hundred years, so that on balance, this part of the world has seen an increase in biological diversity."

Timothy Ingalsbee, executive director of the Western Fire Ecology Center, said many of those non-indigenous species — like cheatgrass — are taking over native landscapes with devastating results. Cheatgrass is highly flammable, has little nutritional value for livestock and chokes out native plants.

"Making the argument that non-native species are increasing the biological diversity is pure bunk."


Treasury admits tracking terrorist money is a joke

September 03, 2002
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Arriving in small groups, using mail boxes for addresses and opening bank accounts with cash, the al Qaeda hijackers attracted little attention in the United States before Sept. 11.

They wrote few checks and there were no rent, utilities or car payments to track, government analysts have found.

But their ultimate act, killing thousands of people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, prompted U.S authorities to launch an unprecedented assault on terror financing to choke off the flow of money to militant groups, including al Qaeda, which it blames for the attacks.

As the Sept. 11 anniversary nears, Treasury officials acknowledge a worrisome fact: stopping the thousands of dollars needed to finance an attack in the midst of a $10 trillion economy is nearly impossible.

The entire Sept. 11 operation has been pegged as costing about $500,000, while the cost of the 2000 attack on the Navy warship USS Cole has been estimated as low as $10,000.

In an August appearance on Capitol Hill, Deputy Treasury Secretary Ken Dam noted al Qaeda's expenses are now lower without having to finance the Taliban in Afghanistan or run training camps.

He said there was no reason to believe the group did not have enough money to carry out a substantial number of attacks in the future.


The Treasury's main weapon has been a wide-ranging presidential order issued Sept. 23 that gave its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) the power to block the U.S. assets of designated "global terrorists," as well as those of entities or individuals believed to be aiding them.

The order, which has resulted in around 200 individuals, groups and businesses being listed as "terror financiers" and blocked more than $100 million in assets globally, was aimed at wringing terror money from the banking system here and abroad. But observers say that was only the first step.

Thomas Sanderson, deputy director with the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Transnational Threats Center in Washington, compared it to "squeezing a balloon."

"You're never reducing the amount of air in the balloon. You're just moving it around," he said.

Jimmy Gurule, the Treasury Department's under secretary for enforcement, said efforts to cut the flow of terror funding may not stop all attacks.

But they can help stop the use of a weapon of mass destruction, such as a dirty bomb, biological agent or nuclear device.

"We certainly want to prevent that type of terrorist attack. We believe that there are significant financial resources associated with such an attack," he said in an interview with Reuters.

The list also has a deterrent effect on potential donors that should not be underestimated, Gurule said.

But if banks are made off-limits, experts say terrorists will turn to the Arab hawala system of transferring money through unregulated brokers or traffick in precious gems.

Gurule said tracking such informal transfers of cash presents an enormous challenge. But even hawala dealers in the United States must eventually use a bank.

"He's going to take that money and deposit it in a bank. He's not going to stuff it under a mattress," he said.

The U.S. approach has met with resistance, however. By freezing assets without a court proceeding, the OFAC list, and its use by other countries, has raised questions over civil liberties, particularly among European allies.

A draft U.N. report last week criticized the international effort to freeze al Qaeda's assets as sloppy and uncoordinated. Treasury said the report was "limited in scope."


Another prong in the strategy is the PATRIOT Act anti-terror bill enacted last year that widened reporting requirements for financial services firms. Under the law, it should be tougher to move large sums of money under the government's radar. However, the approach has its doubters.

"Many requirements in the PATRIOT Act are applying money laundering methodologies to terror financing. Is this really going to result in shutting down terrorist finance? I think the jury is very much out on that," said Thomas Crocker, a partner specializing in trade law with law firm Alston & Bird.

Still, analysts have praised Treasury's efforts to date, even while saying progress is difficult to gauge.

"There is no measure of success," said Crocker.

Gurule acknowledged the difficulty in measuring progress in a war fought largely behind the scenes.

"Our ultimate objective is not to raise the tally on the totals of money seized and blocked. That's not the end goal," Gurule said. "The end goal is to save lives."


Conservatives attack Bush on Secrecy

September 03, 2002
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As part of its "war on terrorism," the Bush administration has vastly expanded government secrecy, removing information from the public domain, limiting its disclosures to Congress and allowing law enforcement agencies to operate in the shadows.

Its policies are beginning to stir growing criticism from the courts, Congress and even from some conservatives.

"For whatever reason, this administration has gone way way too far in its pursuit of secrecy in some particularly worrying ways," said Mark Tapscott, head of the Center for Media and Public Policy at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Administration officials, from the president down, have justified their policy on the needs of fighting terrorism.

"We can't have leaks of classified information. It's not in our nation's interest," Bush said last October.

But the policy goes beyond classified information. A March 19 memorandum from White House Chief of Staff Andy Card urged government agencies to more aggressively protect "sensitive but unclassified" information.

Even before the Sept. 11 attacks, the administration was expanding secrecy. It moved to hold up the release of presidential papers from former President Ronald Reagan and insisted on keeping secret members of an energy policy task force chaired by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Last week, the White House said it would keep secret 4,000 pages related to presidential pardons granted by former President Bill Clinton in the final days of his administration. It said all presidents had the right to discuss and decide on pardons in private.


"This administration is the most secretive of our lifetime, even more secretive than the Nixon administration. They don't believe the American people or Congress have any right to information," said last week Larry Klayman, chairman of Judicial Watch, a conservative group that is suing the administration to force it to reveal the members of the energy task force.

A month after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Justice Department revised its policy on releasing documents under the Freedom of Information Act, urging agencies to pay more heed to "institutional, commercial, and personal privacy interests."

Gary Bass of OMB Watch, a private group which monitors government spending and legislation, said the change represented a dramatic reversal of decades of open government.

"We are moving from a right to know to a need to know society," Bass said.

The administration wants its new Department of Homeland Security exempted from many requirements of the Freedom of Information Act but Senate Democrats are opposed.

"The administration is asking us to put this new department above the law and outside the checks and balances these laws are put there to ensure," said Vermont Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Thousands of pages of information that were publicly available on the Internet suddenly disappeared after Sept. 11. Some related to areas of obvious security concern but others were much less clear.

For example, researcher and community activists could no longer access data on chemical plants that violate pollution laws or on where hazardous chemicals are stored.

"Some degree of secrecy is obviously justified but we are seeing far more secrecy than is warranted by national security requirements," said Steven Aftergood, who runs the project on government secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists.

"There is a pattern of secrecy that is a defining characteristic of the Bush administration. It resists even the most mundane requests for information," he told Reuters recently.

Following the Sept. 11 attacks, Congress rushed through the USA Patriots Act, which vastly expanded the government's ability to track and detain suspected enemies in secret.

The government gained the power to conduct searches of homes without informing their owners until long after; it can conduct telephone and e-mail traces of people not suspected of a crime and investigate people on basis of activities such as writing a letter to the editor or attending a rally.

Last month, book publishers and booksellers criticized the Justice Department for refusing to reveal how many times it had used new powers under the act to force bookstores, libraries and newspapers to reveal confidential records, including the titles of books an individual has purchased or borrowed.

The Department refused to turn over this information to the House Judiciary Committee, saying it would give it only to House Intelligence Committee, which does not have oversight responsibility for the act.

Some judges and legislators are beginning to bristle. House Judiciary Committee chairman James Sensenbrenner and ranking minority member John Conyers said this secrecy was "an open invitation to abuse of government power."

Gladys Kessler, a federal district judge in Washington, recently called the government's secret arrests after Sept. 11, "a concept odious to a democratic society."

In a rare public rebuke, the secret court that supervises the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in May alleged that Justice Department and FBI officials supplied erroneous information to the court in more than 75 applications from search warrants and wiretaps.

The court found that new procedures proposed by Ashcroft in March would have given prosecutors too much control over counterintelligence investigations and allowed the government to misuse intelligence information for criminal cases.



Bush Squawks Over Minor Spending. Is anyone listening?
By E. J. Dionne Jr.
Tuesday, August 20, 2002; Page A13

Tuesday, August 20, 2002
Let's list a few large issues facing the United States: terrorism, corporate confidence and a jittery stock market, rising health care costs, growing budget deficits.

And then let's examine a few sentences from President Bush's weekly radio address on Saturday bashing the Senate for over spending.

"I requested $2.4 billion for public housing; the bill moving through the Senate includes $300 million more," Bush said. "I requested $2.2 billion for agricultural research; again, the Senate wants to spend $300 million more. I requested $3.1 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the Senate wants to spend $200 million more."

Now, sure, if you total this list up, you have $800 million in extra spending, which is a lot of money to most of us. And in principle, there is nothing wrong with the president fighting Congress over small sums. That's routine.

But in a $1.9 trillion federal budget (and a $9 trillion economy), it's hard to see $200 million for NOAA -- or any of these other sums -- amounting to much compared with, say, Bush's own big spending increases for the military and homeland security.

And all of the spending differences Bush listed are -- with apologies to that agricultural research budget -- chicken feed compared with the long-term costs of Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Thus, the strangest fact about the aftermath of the president's economic summit last week: After using the event to show he cares, really cares, about what's happening to the economy, the president has fallen back on purely symbolic politics.

Bush began making the small look like a big deal at the summit itself. He wouldn't spend some $5 billion Congress has already appropriated, even though he favors some of the programs it included. Republicans once made fun of Bill Clinton's proclivity for symbols -- remember his call for school uniforms? The current Bush "offensive" on spending amounts to school uniforms applied to large economic questions. Note the content of Bush's list: Will voters go marching in the streets for the NOAA budget? Are many core Republican voters much affected by spending on public housing? And after the big giveaway Bush has already signed into law through this year's farm bill, how many farmers will be upset about $300 million less for wonky agricultural research?

"We cannot go down the path of soaring budget deficits," Bush declared. But if the president really means that, he has two choices, neither of which has anything to do with spinning a few spending cuts into a crusade.

He could propose large spending cuts to offset the long-term costs of his tax reductions and defense increases. Some honest conservative and libertarian members of Congress would cheer Bush for doing so.

But most Republican politicians would shudder at the resulting carnage. It would affect programs that they love (for example, farm subsidies and road building) or that the voters insist upon (retirement security, health care and the environment). Republicans still run screaming from the room whenever they hear the litany of "Medicare, Medicaid, education and the environment" that helped Clinton come back from his political near-death experience after the 1994 elections.

Avoiding big spending cuts and still keeping deficits at bay means, for the long run especially, far more revenue than Bush wants the government to have. Yet, instead of freezing his tax reduction where it is -- at a point where middle-class voters have already gotten most of what they are going to get anyway -- Bush wants to make it permanent. That would cost $4 trillion in revenue over the next decade.

If Bush went back on the tax cut, of course, he would be offending core Republican constituencies, which is verboten after the experiences of Bush 41. Faced with the option of filling a $4 trillion hole, it is easier and so much more fun to shift the argument to whether National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration needs that $200 million.

If President Bush is willing to risk large deficits over the long run to keep his tax cuts and all his spending priorities, he should just say so. If he thinks deficit spending is good for a shaky economy, he can say that.

But it just doesn't work to be 100 percent against deficits and 100 percent in favor of the policies that are making them grow. That contradiction cannot be hidden behind the dust kicked up by a staged fight over a little extra spending for public housing or agricultural research. Waging tiny skirmishes may affect the political atmospherics, but not the deficit and not the economy.



CBO Slashes Projected Surplus--Again!

August 27, 2002
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Congressional Budget Office on Tuesday slashed its forecasts of government budget surpluses over the next decade by 80 percent, underscoring the recent steep slide in the U.S. fiscal position and provoking furious pre-election finger-pointing on Capitol Hill.

Congress' nonpartisan budget watchdog projected cumulative surpluses of $336 billion from 2002 through 2011, down from the $1.7 trillion it last forecast in March. Early last year, the CBO was predicting 10-year surpluses of around $5.6 trillion.

The erosion of the surplus -- fueled by reduced tax revenues, higher spending and an economic slowdown -- has become a hot political issue ahead of November's congressional elections, where small voting swings could shift party control of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

The CBO also estimated the government would post a $145 billion deficit in fiscal year 2003 and confirmed its earlier forecast of a $157 billion deficit in fiscal year 2002, which ends on Sept. 30. The federal budget will not return to balance until 2006, it predicted.

Democrats blame current budget woes on President Bush's $1.35 trillion tax cut package last year, though few have yet been willing to call for it to be rolled back.

"CBO's update renders a strong verdict: the budget, under Republican stewardship, is deteriorating at a rapid rate," said Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee. "It's hard to believe you could see this sort of fiscal reversal in such a short time."

They say new tax breaks the White House is reportedly considering would add insult to fiscal injury.

"The president is taking us down the path of soaring budget deficits, and his only answer is to dig the hole even deeper," said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat.

Republicans counter the tax cut is aiding the U.S. recovery from recession, a stock market slide and the aftermath of Sept. 11 -- factors they say explain current budget setbacks.


"Predicting future economic growth and revenues will always be an imprecise art at best," said White House Budget Director Mitch Daniels. "CBO's report ... does show a turn back toward balanced budgets with the right choices."

The real problem is Congress' spending habits, Republicans argue, accusing Democrats of ignoring fiscal discipline by pushing for more money for nonemergency government programs.

"Democrats want to have their cake and eat it," said House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, an Iowa Republican. "These projections reinforce the need for Congress to constrain spending to put us back on the path to fiscal health."

The CBO attributed $2.4 trillion of the decline in projected surpluses since early 2001 to legislation -- with half of that due to tax cuts and half due to new spending.

Another $500 billion of the drop could be attributed to higher debt service costs, the agency said, with the remaining $2.3 trillion largely accounted for by technical changes in its forecasting assumptions to reflect a faster-than-expected drop in tax revenues as the economy has slowed.

The CBO outlook -- which serves as a guide for lawmakers in evaluating future tax and spending decisions -- is considerably gloomier than comparable Bush administration forecasts. The agency bases its estimates only on current fiscal policies.

The White House in July projected a 2003 deficit of $62 billion and a total surplus of $1.7 trillion through 2011.

The CBO also predicted a cumulative budget surplus of $1.0 trillion for the 10 years from 2003 through 2012, down from the $2.4 trillion it projected in March. But it noted most of those surpluses accrue only if last year's tax cuts expire in 2010 as scheduled -- something many analysts believe is unlikely.

In its economic outlook the agency said it expected the U.S. economy will continue its modest recovery this year and strengthen next year. It forecast real GDP growth of 2.3 percent in fiscal year 2002 and 3.0 percent in fiscal 2003.



Another Judge Stops Bush--Enemy Combatant *
An Impeachable Offense

August 16, 2002
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal judge ruled on Friday that the U.S. government had provided insufficient evidence supporting its claims against a U.S.-born Taliban prisoner held as an enemy combatant, and ordered it to turn over more documents by next Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Robert Doumar in Norfolk, Virginia, ruled that the government must provide documents about the capture, classification and detention of Yaser Esam Hamdi, whose case has become a test of the government's power to hold enemy combatants in the war against terrorism.

Hamdi, 21, has been held in a U.S. military jail in Norfolk since early April, without access to a lawyer and without any charges brought against him.

Doumar's ruling was a stinging defeat for the government.

"This case appears to be the first in American jurisprudence where an American citizen has been held incommunicado and subjected to an indefinite detention in the continental United States without charges, without any findings by a military tribunal and without access to a lawyer," Doumar said.

"We must protect the freedoms of even those who hate us, and that we may find objectionable. If we fail in this task, we become victims of the precedents we create," Doumar wrote in the 15-page ruling.


After U.S. officials discovered that Hamdi had been born in Louisiana, he was moved from the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where other Taliban and al Qaeda detainees are being held. His parents returned from the United States to Saudi Arabia when he was a young child.

The Justice Department had given the judge an explanation as to why the U.S. military determined that Hamdi was an enemy combatant, providing him with the declaration by a Defense Department official to support its decision.

Michael Mobbs, special adviser to the undersecretary of defense for policy, wrote in the affidavit that Hamdi told U.S. military interrogators that he went to Afghanistan last summer to train with and, if necessary, fight for the Taliban. The Taliban was toppled as Afghanistan's rulers amid a U.S.-led military campaign prompted by the Sept. 11 attacks.

But Doumar ruled that the declaration was insufficient.

A federal appeals court in July reversed an earlier ruling by Doumar allowing Hamdi to meet privately with Public Defender Frank Dunham, and sent the case back to the judge for more proceedings.

Spokeswoman Barbara Comstock said the Justice Department was reviewing the judge's ruling and "will consider all appropriate options." She did not elaborate on what that meant.

"Yaser Esam Hamdi traveled to Afghanistan for the purpose of fighting with the Taliban, and was carrying an AK-47 when he was captured with an enemy Taliban unit by coalition forces," she said in a statement.

Doumar said the court "would be acting as little more than a rubber stamp" if he accepted the sparse facts of the Mobbs declaration.