Friday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
January 23, 2004 7:10PM (UTC)

Dean TV
Howard Dean made network television appearances from morning to night Thursday, trying to regain control of his public image in time to break his fall in the New Hampshire polls. His primetime performance came after a subdued candidates debate. On ABC's Primetime, as Dean and wife Judy cuddled on the couch, Diane Sawyer grilled them about their marriage and Judy's choice to avoid the typical role of political wife. Of the raucous Iowa speech that got Dean so much unwanted attention this week, the nonplussed Judy Dean said: "I thought it looked kind of silly."

The Washington Post reviews Dean's network television blitz: "Dean capped the highly unusual day on CBS's 'Late Show With David Letterman' reciting 'the top 10 ways I, Howard Dean, can turn things around.' Number 2: 'Fire the staffer who suggested that we do this lousy top-10 list instead of actually campaigning.' Number 1: 'Oh, I don't know, maybe fewer crazy, red-faced rants?'"

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The entire Top 10 list is here.

Grand jury sits in Plame case
Time magazine reports on its Web site that a grand jury on Capitol Hill is hearing testimony into who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame to conservative pundit and columnist Robert Novak and other journalists. Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, says the leak was to retaliate against him for exposing the bogus Bush administration claim that Iraq tried to buy "yellowcake" uranium in Niger for possible use in nuclear weapons.

"A huge unanswered question in this case is whether the leaker or leakers knew that Plame was undercover when they gave her identity away. That is a necessary element for any indictment for leaking the name of a covert agent. However, charges could also be brought for making false statements to the FBI, if a guilty party has falsely claimed innocence in interviews with government agents."

"It's also possible that prosecutors will learn who perpetrated the leak but won't have enough to bring charges. But true to form, the Bush administration continues to be extremely tight-lipped about the investigation -- even internally. 'No one knows what the hell is going on,' says someone who could be a witness, 'because the administration people are all terrified and the lawyers aren't sharing anything with each other either.'"

Cheney's misleading comments
Vice President Dick Cheney is getting out there, now that Bush-Cheney '04 is well-underway. And his public appearances are being noticed, if only for his insistence on repeating assertions about the war in Iraq that have already been debunked. The Los Angeles Times reports that just Thursday, Cheney made two whoppers, declaring "there was 'overwhelming evidence' that Saddam Hussein had a relationship with Al Qaeda and that two trailers discovered after the war were proof of Iraq's biological weapons programs."

Other Bush administration officials have abandoned these arguments, but not Cheney. The Times reports: "Members of Congress and some in the intelligence community said Thursday that Cheney's comments could lead the public to believe there was collaboration between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and that that was not supported by the evidence."

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As for the claim that the U.S. found semi-trailers that were part of a WMD program, David Kay, who just stepped down as the government's lead weapons inspector, continued Thursday night to say "we have not yet been able to corroborate the existence of a mobile [biological weapons] production effort."

Halliburton employees took Kuwaiti kickbacks
The Wall Street Journal reports today that Halliburton admitted to the Pentagon that two employees took kickbacks worth up to $6 million in exchange for awarding a Kuwaiti company with a lucrative contract in Iraq.

"The disclosure is the first firm indication of corruption involving U.S.- funded projects in Iraq and raises new questions about Halliburton's dealings there. The company's work already is being scrutinized because of accusations that the U.S. government was overcharged for gasoline under another controversial contract," the Journal reports.

"Halliburton has strenuously defended its Iraq work as fairly priced and free of taint. A discovery of kickbacks could expose the company to hefty fines and other punishments such as potential fraud charges. At the least, contracting experts say, Halliburton will be required to reimburse the money."

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GOP to Bush: Deficits do matter
The Christian Science Monitor reports on a revolt against President Bush by dozens of GOP lawmakers for what they see as "a spending binge that's settling into a habit."

"To some observers, Bush and his party have been looking more like the party of big government than small. Behind the scenes, the GOP debate now is whether big spending has become the price of retaining political power in today's America -- or an intolerable breach of the party's principles."

The Monitor gives a rundown of some alarming figures: "Deficits are expected to reach or exceed $5 trillion over the next decade, according to new studies by groups ranging from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities to Goldman Sachs. The federal budget deficit this year is expected to approach $500 billion. That's a record, although sustainable in the short term if the economy grows fast enough. The Medicare system is expected to go cash negative for the first time in 2015; Social Security in 2018."

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Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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