Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Jeff Gannon: A Bad Week Gets Worse for Bush

First his own party tells him that they don't share his "priorities" on the budget, now there is a problem brewing for Bush. If you want the long story, go here.

What's the big deal? The Bush Administration provided White House media credentials to a guy (known as Jeff Gannon, although his real name appears to be James "JD" Guckert) who does not appear to have a journalism background, and whose "news organization" looks to be merely part of a conservative political organization called GOPUSA (and the founder is -- you'd better sit down -- a Texas Republican).

His role? To ask softball questions to the president and his spokesman in the midst of contentious news conferences. Oh, and he also and routinely reprinted long passages verbatim from official press releases as original news articles on his website. (PS -- CNB got that from the Boston Globe. No plagiarism!)

The kicker? Mr. Gannon/Guckert runs several websites . . .with a gay military theme. Here's his AOL pic. It's not relevant, but it's the part of the story that does two things: (1) gets it more attention, and (2) gives many conservative bloggers something to focus upon, rather than the troublesome truth.

Bottom line: A guy, evidently using an alias, not only has an audience with the U.S. President, but he actually gets to ask him a question. This is the same Administration that had Cheney hiding out for months at a time under the guise of protecting him -- do they now just allow anyone to stroll into the White House? Please note that his bio is off the Talon News website, as are his articles (though you can go to the cache on Google). Doesn't that seem mildly odd?

The White House says that Gannon has come in for the past two years on daily passes (he did not have a permanent pass), noting that daily passes may be issued to anyone who writes for an organization that publishes regularly and who is cleared to enter the building. This won't be an issue any longer, as Mr. Gannon/Guckert has retired.

What is funny is that at the very same press conference where he took a question from Gannon/Guckert, Pres. Bush joked to a different White House reporter that "Yeah, I should have done a background check on you." Right thought, Pres. Bush, but wrong guy.

We've learned in the last month that several conservative commentators were paid by the Bush Administration: Armstrong Williams -- the man who set this all off, and who ominously said "there are others", Maggie Gallagher (her best line: ""Did I violate journalistic ethics by not disclosing it? I don't know. You tell me."), and Michael McManus. No one is accusing Bush of paying Mr. Gannon/Guckert (at least not yet), but, at a minimum, this adds fuel to the fire concerning the Bush Administration's thinly-veiled propaganda.

Proof that blogging works on the left and not just the right (as with Danny "Courage" Rather), in just 24 hours, Rep. Louise Slaughter, (D-NY) has sent a letter to Pres. Bush requesting an explanation for why Gannon/Guckert was repeatedly credentialed as a member of the White House press corps AND regularly called upon in White House press briefings by Press Secretary Scott McClellan, despite his false name and questionable journalistic credentials.

Wonder if Bush can use some of his political capital to make this one go away. . .

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Bush Budget: B.S.

CNB is not quite sure how you can claim financial accuracy in the creation of a budget when you omit your biggest expenses. CNB is all for fiscal responsibility, but at least put all the numbers in before determining your total.

The biggest problem? The budget omits most of the costs of war in Iraq, other than $459 million -- what makes this significant is that the $2.57 trillion budget proposal (for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1) does not include new funding for the Iraq war, although the administration has said that it will request $81 billion in new spending for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan within a few days and will have to come back to Congress for more money in 2006. The rationale is that the funding is done via supplemental requests, and, therefore, need not be included in the budget. Creative, but intellectually dishonest.

In addition, the budget omits the president’s plans for privatizing Social Security, which many analysts believe could cost the federal government up to $ 2 trillion. Bush further includes a request for a five-year freeze in domestic spending, though CNB wonders if this could be achieved if we weren't incurring over $5 billion a month in Iraq.

Pres. Bush said Monday, “It’s a budget that focuses on results.” Well, of course. The problem is, that "result" is the impression that the Administration is on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009 (as opposed to the actual cutting in half of the deficit). Hopefully, the smoke and mirrors will not fool the budget-conscious in Congress.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Something's On The March, But It Might Not Be Freedom

There is word that Iraqi Shiite clerics will push for an Iraqi constitution that denies women equal rights with men. This would seem to be no big deal (they can push for whatever they want -- doesn't mean they'll get it), except for one small, nagging detail: the slate of Shiite candidates called the United Iraqi Alliance is expected to take the largest share of seats in the 275-member National Assembly. Thus, this is looks to be more than an idle threat.

VP Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld have attempted to play down these reports that leading Shiite clerics are pushing for strong Islamic terms to be incorporated into the new constitution. Oddly, CNB is hardly comforted by either Cheney (best case: was woefully mistaken on reasons for war in Iraq; worst case: lied like a rug) or Rummy (how does this guy still have a job?)

While the voting in Iraq was a wonderful sight, calling it a "resouding success" is a bit premature until we know how it will turn out, and all the propagandists with purple fingers cannot change that -- the Shiite coalition are also ahead in most of the absentee ballots cast by Iraqis living abroad, not just those in Shiite areas of Iraq.

Let's withhold final conclusions before prematurely proclaiming "Mission Accomplished" again.