Archive for December 8th, 2006

According to the “Investigation of Allegations Related to Improper Conduct Involving Members and Current or Former House Pages” (what’s become known as the “Page Report”), in October 2001 Congressman Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) received–and tried to suppress–sexually-explicit communications sent by Rep. Mark Foley to a House page Kolbe had sponsored the previous semester.

That communication, the former page told the authors of the report, involved Foley making “reference to the size of his penis,” via Instant Message. An image of that portion of the report follows:

The former page contends that he affixed the IM conversation to an email he sent to Kolbe, asking Kolbe to “take care of it.” Soon thereafter, the former page received an email from Foley apologizing for “making him feel uncomfortable.”

But later in the report, Kolbe denies that he knew the precise nature of the inappropriate communication. The page, “said that he had an email from Congressman Foley,” according to Kolbe’s deposition. “I did not see any communication that [the former page] had received, and as far as I know [my assistant] had not either.”

Though the subcommittee “found the former page to be credible and his testimony to be plausible,” they remained inconclusive about the likelihood that Kolbe had seen the instant messages the boy forwarded to him:

“[T]he instant message could have been attached to an e-mail sent to Rep. Kolbe but not opened and read,” the report reads, but adds, “If Rep. Kolbe was not shown the instant message he should have asked for it.”

Still later in the report’s account of Kolbe’s involvement in the page scandal, it is stated that, according to the former page, Kolbe warned him, “it is bes[t] that you don’t even bring this up with anybody…. [T]here is no good that can come from it if you actually talk about this. The man [Foley] has resigned anyway.”
An image of that portion of the report follows:

A few days after that conversation — after the national media had circulated several Instant Message conversations between Foley and former pages, including some that involved discussions of penis size — Kolbe left the former page a voice message, which, according to the page, said, “It looks like you did some talking.”

Kolbe was concerned that the page had been a source for a then-forthcoming article in the Washington Post and wanted to know what information might have made it into the story.

The former page later denied to Kolbe being a source for the Post.

According to the report, Kolbe himself is under investigation by federal authorities. “The Investigative Subcommittee was provided with information concerning certain allegations made regarding Rep. Jim Kolbe and his interaction with former House pages,” the report reads.

And, though the report concludes that an investigation of Kolbe would be within its jurisdiction, and “[t]he Subcommittee heard some testimony” about Kolbe’s actions, “Rep. Kolbe did not provide full and complete testimony regarding the allegations, citing the pending federal inquiry.”

Because the FBI is investigating the Arizona congressman, and because that investigation will conclude after “Rep. Kolbe’s imminent retirement” at the conclusion of the 109th congress today, Kolbe “will no longer be within the Committee’s jurisdiction,” and “the Investigative Subcommittee does not recommend further investigative or disciplinary proceedings by the House against Rep. Kolbe.”

Unclear from the report is whether the federal investigation concerns Kolbe’s handling of information provided to him by his former page or other, unspecified allegations of improper conduct.

Despite these and other damning discoveries, however, “the Investigative Subcommittee did not find that any current House Members or employees violated the House Code of Official Conduct,” and “recommends no further investigative or disciplinary proceedings against any specific person.”

RAW STORY will document more of the most noteworthy parts of the page report…


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GOP Senator: Iraq War "May Be Criminal"

It’s the kind of thing you’d expect to hear on Pacifica Radio, not in a speech by a Republican senator.

“I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs day after day. That is absurd. It may even be criminal,” declared Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR), a 10-year veteran of the Senate, in a speech last night.

Did he mean it? Senators rarely throw around words like “criminal,” especially when talking about actions by their own party. What’s he going to do about it? Well, Gordon has been known to act on his convictions when he thinks a president has broken the law: he voted to convict President Bill Clinton in 1999, following the president’s impeachment by the House.

The speech in its entirety below the jump.

Update: You can see video of the speech here.

The speech in its entirety:

Mr. President, I know it is probably appropriate to speak of our colleagues, and I will do that on the record. I rise tonight, however, to speak about a subject heavy on my mind. It is the subject of the war in Iraq.

I have never worn the uniform of my country. I am not a soldier or a veteran. I regret that fact. It is one of the regrets of my life. But I am a student of history, particularly military history, and it is that perspective which I brought to the Senate 10 years ago as a newly elected Member of this Chamber.

When we came to the vote on Iraq, it was an issue of great moment for me. No issue is more difficult to vote on than war and peace, because it involves the lives of our soldiers, our young men and women. It involves the expenditure of our treasure, putting on the line the prestige of our country. It is not a vote taken lightly. I have tried to be a good soldier in this Chamber. I have tried to support our President, believing at the time of the vote on the war in Iraq that we had been given good intelligence and knowing that Saddam Hussein was a menace to the world, a brutal dictator, a tyrant by any standard, and one who threatened our country in many different ways, through the financing and fomenting of terrorism. For those reasons and believing that we would find weapons of mass destruction, I voted aye.

I have been rather silent on this question ever since. I have been rather quiet because, when I was visiting Oregon troops in Kirkuk in the Kurdish area, the soldiers said to me: Senator, don’t tell me you support the troops and not our mission. That gave me pause. But since that time, there have been 2,899 American casualties. There have been over 22,000 American men and women wounded. There has been an expenditure of $290 billion a figure that approaches the expenditure we have every year on an issue as important as Medicare. We have paid a price in blood and treasure that is beyond calculation by my estimation.

Now, as I witness the slow undoing of our efforts there, I rise to speak from my heart. I was greatly disturbed recently to read a comment by a man I admire in history, one Winston Churchill, who after the British mandate extended to the peoples of Iraq for 5 years, wrote to David Lloyd George, Prime Minister of England:

“At present we are paying 8 millions a year for the privilege of living on an ungrateful volcano.”

When I read that, I thought, not much has changed. We have to learn the lessons of history and sometimes they are painful because we have made mistakes.

Even though I have not worn the uniform of my country, I, with other colleagues here, love this Nation. I came into politics because I believed in some things. I am unusually proud of the fact of our recent history, the history of our Nation since my own birth. At the end of the Second World War, there were 15 nations on earth that could be counted as democracies that you and I would recognize. Today there are 150 nations on earth that are democratic and free. That would not have happened had the United States been insular and returned to our isolationist roots, had we laid down the mantle of world leadership, had we not seen the importance of propounding and encouraging the spread of democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and the values of our Bill of Rights. It is a better world because of the United States of America, and the price we have paid is one of blood and treasure.

Now we come to a great crossroads. A commission has just done some, I suppose, good work. I am still evaluating it. I welcome any ideas now because where we are leaves me feeling much like Churchill, that we are paying the price to sit on a mountain that is little more than a volcano of ingratitude.

Yet as I feel that , I remember the pride I felt when the statue of Saddam Hussein came down. I remember the thrill I felt when three times Iraqis risked their own lives to vote democratically in a way that was internationally verifiable as well as legitimate and important. Now all of those memories seem much like ashes to me.

The Iraq Study Group has given us some ideas. I don’t know if they are good or not. It does seem to me that it is a recipe for retreat. It is not cut and run, but it is cut and walk. I don’t know that that is any more honorable than cutting and running, because cutting and walking involves greater expenditure of our treasure, greater loss of American lives.

Many things have been attributed to George Bush. I have heard him on this floor blamed for every ill, even the weather. But I do not believe him to be a liar. I do not believe him to be a traitor, nor do I believe all the bravado and the statements and the accusations made against him. I believe him to be a very idealistic man. I believe him to have a stubborn backbone. He is not guilty of perfidy, but I do believe he is guilty of believing bad intelligence and giving us the same.

I can’t tell you how devastated I was to learn that in fact we were not going to find weapons of mass destruction. But remembering the words of the soldier–don’t tell me you support the troops but you don’t support my mission–I felt the duty to continue my support . Yet I believe the President is guilty of trying to win a short war and not understanding fully the nature of the ancient hatreds of the Middle East. Iraq is a European creation. At the Treaty of Versailles, the victorious powers put together Kurdish, Sunni, and Shia tribes that had been killing each other for time immemorial. I would like to think there is an Iraqi identity. I would like to remember the purple fingers raised high. But we can not want democracy for Iraq more than they want it for themselves. And what I find now is that our tactics there have failed.

Again, I am not a soldier, but I do know something about military history. And what that tells me is when you are engaged in a war of insurgency, you can’t clear and leave. With few exceptions, throughout Iraq that is what we have done. To fight an insurgency often takes a decade or more. It takes more troops than we have committed. It takes clearing, holding, and building so that the people there see the value of what we are doing. They become the source of intelligence, and they weed out the insurgents. But we have not cleared and held and built. We have cleared and left, and the insurgents have come back.

I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs day after day. That is absurd. It may even be criminal . I cannot support that anymore . I believe we need to figure out how to fight the war on terror and to do it right. So either we clear and hold and build, or let’s go home.

There are no good options, as the Iraq Study Group has mentioned in their report. I am not sure cutting and walking is any better. I have little confidence that the Syrians and the Iranians are going to be serious about helping us to build a stable and democratic Iraq. I am at a crossroads as well. I want my constituents to know what is in my heart, what has guided my votes.

What will continue to guide the way I vote is simply this: I do not believe we can retreat from the greater war on terror. Iraq is a battlefield in that larger war. But I do believe we need a presence there on the near horizon at least that allows us to provide intelligence, interdiction, logistics, but mostly a presence to say to the murderers that come across the border: We are here, and we will deal with you. But we have no business being a policeman in someone else’s civil war.

I welcome the Iraq Study Group’s report, but if we are ultimately going to retreat, I would rather do it sooner than later. I am looking for answers, but the current course is unacceptable to this Senator. I suppose if the President is guilty of one other thing, I find it also in the words of Winston Churchill. He said:

After the First World War, let us learn our lessons. Never, never believe that any war will be smooth and easy or that anyone who embarks on this strange voyage can measure the tides and the hurricanes. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.

That is a lesson we are learning again. I am afraid, rather than leveling with the American people and saying this was going to be a decade-long conflict because of the angst and hatred that exists in that part of the world, that we tried to win it with too few troops in too fast a time. Lest anyone thinks I believe we have failed militarily, please understand I believe when President Bush stood in front of “mission accomplished” on an aircraft carrier that , in purely military terms, the mission was accomplished in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But winning a battle, winning a war, is different than winning a peace.

We were not prepared to win the peace by clearing, holding, and building. You don’t do that fast and you don’t do it with too few troops. I believe now that we must either determine to do that , or we must redeploy in a way that allows us to continue to prosecute the larger war on terror. It will not be pretty. We will pay a price in world opinion. But I, for one, am tired of paying the price of 10 or more of our troops dying a day. So let’s cut and run, or cut and walk, or let us fight the war on terror more intelligently than we have, because we have fought this war in a very lamentable way.

Those are my feelings. I regret them. I would have never voted for this conflict had I reason to believe that the intelligence we had was not accurate. It was not accurate, but that is history. Now we must find a way to make the best of a terrible situation, at a minimum of loss of life for our brave fighting men and women. So I will be looking for every opportunity to clear, build, hold, and win or how to bring our troops home.

I yield the floor.


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Governmental changes and upcoming legislation from the new Congress may bring an end to “paperless” electronic voting, The New York Times reports in its Friday edition.

“By the 2008 presidential election, voters around the country are likely to see sweeping changes in how they cast their ballots and how those ballots are counted,” write Ian Urbina and Christopher Drew, “including an end to the use of most electronic voting machines without a paper trail.”

Quoting federal voting officials and legislators, the Urbina and Drew report that new government guidelines and bills in Congress “will probably combine to make paperless voting machines obsolete.”

For the first time, the article states, vote-counting software will also be inspected by government authorities, and “the code could be made public.” Additionally, “states and counties that bought [voting] machines will have to modify them to hook them up to printers … while others are planning to scrap the machines and buy new ones.”

The article quotes the director of an elections website as saying, “In the next two years … we’ll see the kinds of sweeping changes that people expected to see right after the 2000 election. The difference now is that we have moved from politics down to policies.”

Excerpts from the registration-restricted article follow…

Motivated in part by voting problems during the midterm elections last month, the changes are the result of a growing skepticism among local and state election officials, federal legislators, and the scientific community about the reliability and security of the paperless touch-screen machines used by about 30 percent of American voters.

Many of these machines were bought in a rush to overhaul the voting system after the disputed presidential election in 2000 and the issue of hanging chads. But concerns have been growing that in a close election the paperless machines give election workers no legitimate method to conduct a recount or to check for malfunctions or fraud.

Several counties around the country are already considering scrapping their voting systems after problems this year, and last week federal technology experts concluded for the first time that paperless touch-screen machines could not be secured from possible tampering.

[I]t is also clear that the changes will not come without a struggle. State and local election officials are still reeling from the last major overhaul of the country’s voting system, initiated by the Help America Vote Act in 2002, and some say that the $150 million in federal aid proposed by Holt would not be enough to pay for the changes.


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Dem leaders hope to block Congressional pay raise

WASHINGTON (AP) — Members of Congress are in line for a $3,300 pay raise effective Jan. 1 unless they block it, and Democrats said Thursday they intend to try.

Officials said Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California and Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the party’s leaders, had notified Republicans they will try to add the anti-pay-raise provision to a bill that provides funds for most government agencies through Feb. 15. Congress must pass the funding bill before it adjourns for the year, and the target for that is Friday.

Under federal law, lawmakers, like many federal employees, receive a cost of living increase on each Jan. 1. The increase for 2007 is pegged at 2 percent, and would put the salary for rank-and-file lawmakers at $168,500.


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AP Poll: Few expect victory in Iraq

WASHINGTON – Americans are overwhelmingly resigned to something less than clear-cut victory in Iraq and growing numbers doubt the country will achieve a stable, democratic government no matter how the U.S. gets out, according to an AP poll.

At the same time, dissatisfaction with President Bush’s handling of Iraq has climbed to an alltime high of 71 percent. The latest AP-Ipsos poll, taken as a bipartisan commission was releasing its recommendations for a new course in Iraq, found that just 27 percent of Americans approved of Bush’s handling of Iraq, down from his previous low of 31 percent in November.

“Support is continuing to erode and there’s no particular reason to think it can be turned back,” said John Mueller, an Ohio State University political scientist and author of “War, Presidents and Public Opinion.” Mueller said that once people “drop off the bandwagon, it’s unlikely they’ll say ‘I’m for it again.’ Once they’re off, they’re off.”

Even so, Americans are not necessarily intent on getting all U.S. troops out right away, the poll indicated. The survey found strong support for a two-year timetable if that’s what it took to get U.S. troops out. Seventy-one percent said they would favor a two-year timeline from now until sometime in 2008, but when people are asked instead about a six-month timeline for withdrawal that number drops to 60 percent.

Public opinion expert Karlyn Bowman of the conservative American Enterprise Institute said stronger support for the longer timetable could reflect a realization that it takes time to change strategy.

But while Americans give their presidents considerable latitude on foreign policy when they think there is a clear plan, the negative numbers show a public that is clamoring for change, she said.

“It’s going to be very hard to reverse numbers as negative as the president has right now,” she said.

The AP-Ipsos survey of 1,000 Americans, taken Monday through Wednesday, underscores growing pessimism about Iraq. Some 63 percent did not expect a stable, democratic government to be established there, up from 54 percent who felt likewise in June. Skepticism was considerably higher among Democrats, with just 22 percent expecting a stable, democratic government, compared with half of all Republicans. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The latest numbers evoke parallels to public opinion about the war in Vietnam four decades ago. Just 9 percent expect the Iraq war to end in clear-cut victory, compared with 87 percent who expect some sort of compromise settlement. A similar question asked by Gallup in December 1965, when the American side of the war still had eight years to run, found just 7 percent believed the war in Vietnam would end in victory.

Former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton, one of the co-chairmen of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, took note of growing impatience with the war’s direction and with the commitment of U.S. troops when he told senators Thursday: “There are limits to the American patience. There are limits to American resources.”

“You want to get out in a way that is responsible,” he added.

The study panel’s 96-page report said flatly that the administration’s approach was not working and recommended that the U.S. military accelerate a change in its main mission so that most combat troops can be withdrawn by spring 2008.

House and Senate Democratic leaders have all signed on to a plan that the U.S. pull out some troops right away to put pressure on the Iraqis, but without a specific timetable.


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