Monday's must-reads

By Geraldine Sealey

Published May 17, 2004 3:30PM (EDT)

Powell regrets pre-war presentation
For the first time on Sunday, Colin Powell said he believes the Central Intelligence Agency was deliberately misled about evidence that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction, and said he regrets citing evidence that Iraq had mobile biological weapons labs in his presentation to the United Nations weeks before the U.S. invaded Iraq, the New York Times reports. Powell made his comments on "Meet the Press."

"The assertion about the mobile labs was one of the most dramatic pieces of the presentation, which was intended to make public the Bush administration's best case for invading Iraq. For days before his speech, Mr. Powell sat in a conference room at the C.I.A., examining the sources for each charge he planned to make. But on Sunday, Mr. Powell argued that the C.I.A. itself was misled, and that in turn he was, too ..."

"On Sunday, Mr. Powell hinted at widespread reports of fabrications by an engineer who provided much of the most critical information about the labs. Intelligence officials have since found that the engineer was linked to the Iraqi National Congress, an exile group that was pressing President Bush to unseat Mr. Hussein. 'It turned out that the sourcing was inaccurate and wrong and in some cases, deliberately misleading,' Mr. Powell said in the interview, broadcast from Jordan. 'And for that, I am disappointed and I regret it.'"

"Emily, get out of the way"
Powell's newsworthy admission about the WMD "evidence" wasn't even the most exciting part of "Meet the Press" yesterday. The Washington Post walks us through the interview, which included Powell being temporarily silenced by a press aide during tough questioning by Tim Russert.

From Howard Kurtz: "Anyone who saw 'Meet the Press' yesterday witnessed quite a moment: A State Department staffer tried to pull the plug on Tim Russert yesterday. Toward the end of a 'Meet the Press' interview with Secretary of State Colin Powell in Jordan, the camera suddenly moved off Powell to a shot of trees in front of the water.

"You're off," State Department press aide Emily Miller was heard saying.

"I am not off," Powell insisted.

"No, they can't use it, they're editing it," Miller said.

"He's still asking the questions," Powell said.

Miller, a onetime NBC staffer who recently worked for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, also told Powell: "He was going to go for another five minutes."

Undeterred, Russert complained from Washington: "I would hope they would put you back on camera. I don't know who did that." He later said, "I think that was one of your staff, Mr. Secretary. I don't think that's appropriate."

As the delay dragged on, Powell ordered: "Emily, get out of the way. Bring the camera back please." Powell's image returned to the screen, and Russert asked his last question.

What happened was that both NBC and Fox News were using Jordanian television facilities for back-to-back Powell interviews. Russert was allotted 10 minutes, and was asked to wrap when he went over by about two minutes. He said "Finally, Mr. Secretary," but abruptly lost his guest.

Russert was still puzzled afterward. "A taxpayer-paid employee interrupted an interview," he said. "Not in the United States of America, that's not supposed to go on. This is attempted news management gone berserk. Secretary Powell was really stand-up. He was a general and took charge." Powell later called the NBC anchor from his plane to apologize for the glitch."

Rummy approved secret interrogation plan
Seymour Hersh has another major piece in the latest New Yorker shedding light on Donald Rumsfeld's involvement in approving interrogation practices in Iraq and elsewhere.

"The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld's decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of élite combat units, and hurt America's prospects in the war on terror."

"According to interviews with several past and present American intelligence officials, the Pentagon's operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq. A senior C.I.A. official, in confirming the details of this account last week, said that the operation stemmed from Rumsfeld's long-standing desire to wrest control of America's clandestine and paramilitary operations from the C.I.A."

Kerry's Iraq problem
George W. Bush isn't the only presidential candidate with an Iraq problem, Joel Klein writes in Time magazine.

"John Kerry has been a very good Democrat these past few weeks, roaming the country, talking up the bran-muffin issues that Democrats really, really care about: education and health care. He's even been a wee bit adventurous. He challenged the teachers' unions with a clever deal -- more pay in return for less job protection (it is nearly impossible to fire a lousy teacher these days). Last week he reintroduced his thoughtful health-insurance proposal, which might even be politically plausible -- if still not entirely affordable -- if the Bush tax cut for people earning more than $200,000 is eliminated."

"Of course, practically no one was listening. It was like Nero offering a brilliant water-and-sewage plan for Rome in the midst of the fire. The Bush Iraq policy lay shattered in tiny pieces; the President seemed crestfallen in his public appearances. Indeed, Kerry's message discipline -- broken by occasional, measured responses to reporters' questions about the war -- almost seemed a clever way to avoid the issue. His audiences waited in vain for a passionate response to the Iraq debacle."

"... In recent months, Kerry's inadequacies have been picked apart by preying pundits, including me. And yes, it would be nice if he were more eloquent, emotive, funny and, above all, courageous. But if nothing else, Kerry has a sophisticated sense of political timing; he knows how to wait until people are paying attention. 'I've been with him through six campaigns, and he always scares you in the beginning,' a Kerry stalwart told me last week. 'But he's always right there in October.'"

"The Commonwealth will not collapse"
As the first gay couples are legally married in Massachusetts today, Howard Dean has an Op-Ed in the Boston Globe on what his state learned about civil unions there.

"In the spring of 2000, Vermont became the first state in the union not only to recognize same-sex partnerships, but to make sure that every single right outlined in the Vermont Constitution and Vermont laws applied equally to heterosexual and homosexual Vermonters. Every right but one. Gay and lesbian Vermonters do not have the right to call their unions marriage. The fallout was the least civil public debate in the state in over a century, since the "wets" and "dries" battled in the middle of the 1800s. Death threats were made, epithets were used, not only on the streets and in the general stores but on the floors of both the Senate and the House, as the bill was being debated. Otherwise respectable church leaders railed against homosexuals and not so respectable ones organized political action committees vowing to oust any legislator who voted for the bill. Five Republican members of the House lost their seats in primaries. In the general election, Democrats lost control of the House for the first time in 14 years, as the Republicans piled up nearly a 20-vote majority. My own race, for a sixth term, was the most difficult in my career.

"Four years later, we wonder what the fuss was all about. Civil unions were never an issue in Vermont in the 2002 election and will not be this fall. The intensity of anger and hate has disappeared, replaced by an understanding that equal rights for groups previously denied them has no negative effect on those of us who have always enjoyed those rights. My marriage has not become weaker. ... Is there a lesson here for Massachusetts? Perhaps. The Commonwealth will not collapse today, and the prognosis, based on Vermont's experience, is good."

Dennis hangs in
The New York Times checks in with the hard-slogging Dennis Kucinich campaign.

"This is how Dennis Kucinich -- the former boy mayor of Cleveland whose half-forgotten, dead-but-still-twitching presidential campaign is now focusing on Tuesday's Oregon primary -- figures it: 'The reason I have not dropped out of the race is that we may have a nominee, but the future direction of the Democratic Party has not yet been determined.'"

"And what he wants Mr. Kerry, and the Democratic Party, to do is to take an unambiguous stand not only against the war in Iraq but against 'the very idea that war is inevitable.' The nation's whole political mindset must be changed, Mr. Kucinich said."

" ... The war in Iraq is turning out to be just the disaster he had predicted, and if he can just keep accumulating delegates here and there, he might be able to go into the Democratic convention in Boston this summer with enough juice to nudge the party toward his way of thinking."

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at

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