Archive for March, 2007

Why do we support Barack Obama
March 29, 2007

This is the first of (hopefully) many contributions by our latest blogger, Linda Hansen. Linda is not a student but rathern a more experienced liberal. Her perspective is completely different from that of the other bloggers on this blog and of many bloggers in general. See her bio for more information. I think you will enjoy reading what she has to say.
– Will N.

Why do we support Barack Obama? Another good reason:

Here’s the Myth of gays/lesbians honorably serving their country in the armed services: They are dangerous. They are “bad for morale.” While our straight military men and women are courageous enough to fight in the wild terrain of Afghanistan, in the streets of Baghdad and Fallujah, brave enough to face IEDs without adequately armed vehicles and bullets without adequate body armor, a gay/lesbian comrade-in-arms is a deadly threat. A gay/lesbian soldier scares them senseless. There’s something rotten about those sexual deviants. They’re unfit to serve…unless they refuse to tell the truth about who they are. Some things have to be covered up. For the good of the war on terror. For national security. For the good of a “Christian” nation…

What’s rotten here is the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. It serves no practical purpose. It denigrates gay/lesbian men and women who have served their country–and died for it–in the past. It denigrates those who choose to serve today. It glorifies dishonor and dishonesty.

And this official policy of lies has been adopted by the White House. In one scandal after another, one act of misfeasance or malfeasance after another committed by this administration, Congress has no right to ask, Bush cronies/aides have no obligation to tell. The truth about going to war in Iraq? Don’t ask, don’t tell. Gitmo, black sites and torture? Don’t ask, don’t tell. Illegal wiretapping, spying on American citizens? Don’t ask, don’t tell. Outing a 20 year undercover CIA agent and compromising every contact she ever made? Don’t ask, don’t tell.

Now it’s the firing of eight DOJ prosecutors because they failed to “be loyal to the administration…and its policies.” What did they do wrong? One went after Duke Cunningham. Others refused to drop active cases to go after Democrats the White House wanted smeared before the 2004 election because, to paraphrase one of the prosecutors, “There’s no case here!” One was, well, just inconvenient. Rove wanted his own fair-haired boy to have the job in Arkansas. They were fired for political reasons, blamed for “poor performance”, their reputations damaged in the process.

New policy: Alberto Gonzales lied. At a March 13th press conference he denied he participated at all–ever–in any discussion about firing the attorneys. He swore he never saw any documents about the firings. Newly released documents prove that he did, indeed, attend a meeting on November 27, 2006, with senior aides to discuss the firing of selected DOJ attorneys and approved “a detailed plan to carry out the dismissals.”

Dubyah says he will not permit any of his gang to testify in open session, under oath, about any of this. Executive privilege. National security. Monica Goodling, Gonzales’s liaison to the White House, says she will invoke her fifth amendment right to refuse to answer any questions asked by Congress. Why? Her answers might incriminate her. Gonzales, his aides and the White House declare they have done nothing wrong. So why the need for fifth amendment protection? Why the demand for secret interviews with no swearing in and no transcripts?

When a democracy dies, the public’s right to know the truth is the first thing to go. The tyrant shrieks “I’m the Decider!” Neither Congress nor the voting public merits any explanation. He will veto one, ignore the other. His word becomes law.

Don’t ask, don’t tell. It’s for your own good, America. It’s how we keep you “safe” from homosexuals and terrorists. It’s how we keep you deaf, dumb and blind while we eviscerate the Bill of Rights and strangle the life out of a free nation.

Why do we need Barack Obama? Why do we commit, recommit, to this candidacy? Because he is an expert in constitutional law, in civil rights law. Because he cherishes both ideals. Because he is the anti-Bush.


Iraq-From a Different Perspective
March 27, 2007

Being from a military background, Jessica Sellers sees Iraq from a different perspective yet reaches the same conclusion we do. We welcome her enthusiastically to the team with this fascinating view on the war in Iraq.

p.s. Don’t forget to check out the new petition-keep your voice heard through a simple signature!

Headlines read: Suicide bomber in Baghdad kills American Soldiers…

Bomber in Baghdad kills AMERICA SOLDIERS!

American Soldiers…my dad. My family. My friends. My country men and women.

I can’t help but think that part of me knows these American Soldiers. I grew up an Air Force Brat. I moved from state to state just about every two years. I have lived in eleven houses in the past twenty years and know it was all because the Air Force needed my dad elsewhere. I have grown up knowing all kinds of different people in different branches of the military. I have grown up knowing the camaraderie that comes with being a military family; we only had each other when we moved. Military family life is different than that of a stationary family. I find that knowing what I know about military life that has given me different point of view about the anniversary of the Iraqi War the United States is engaged in.

Every time I watch the news I am forced to remember the summer of 1999, just before my senior year. It was then that I watched, almost helplessly, as my father boarded a bus, which was to take him to a plane, which would fly him to a destination unknown. DESTINATION UNKNOWN? What was this to mean? To me it meant that my dad was going somewhere were he was not going to be safe. Though I was older than my three younger sisters and knew that my dad was going to war, I couldn’t help but feel an extreme sense of foreboding. How many families have experienced this? With the upsurge of enlistment after September 11, 2001, thousands of families experienced it. Hundreds of families still experience it when their loved ones come home and tell them they are being deployed to Iraq.

I feel as if these two major events in my life accompanied with growing up military has created an awareness that is hyper-sensitive to those who put their lives in danger simply by being in Iraq. We have now passed the four year anniversary of the War in Iraq and I can’t help but to pause and think about those who are there now, those who were there, and those who never saw their families again. My heart breaks for them. I want them all to come home safe and sound to their families, for those I know so I can see you again and for those I don’t may I possibly meet you. I hate this war. I hate the reasons we are in Iraq, we had no business going there. I hate that we were lied to! I feel betrayed! I feel an intense sense of loss when I hear of those that have died fighting for “democracy.” Part of me dies with them. I just hope, without any real conviction, that we will soon be out of Iraq.

My earnest wish is to one day read in the headlines: American soldiers coming home, at last.

Petition Information!
March 25, 2007

Hey folks!

Just wanted to drop you a brief line and let you know about our new online petition!

As you may know, Tom Vilsack will endorse Hillary Clinton this coming Monday. Fear not, your names will be delivered to him so he knows of the extensive and expansive grassroots support for Barack! I thought that this disappointing event may give us some motivation to convince another leading political figure that Obama is the only person for the job, thus today I am happy to say that we have drafted a petition to Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina. Clyburn is a very influential political and serves as the Majority Whip in Congress. Having him back Barack would do a wonderful things for South Carolina’s primary election and also the African American vote!

Would you please take a minute and sign it?

You can find it here.

Thanks for your continued support!

Nathan Lean

Executive Director

Rock with Barack

Unpaid Parking Tickets
March 20, 2007

The lesson is to always pay your parking tickets. Even if they are 20 years old and add up to about $300.00. Then again, even if you do pay those tickets, make sure you do it non-discretely? I don’t know even anymore. What I do know is that I am getting more and more frustrated with the opposition’s constant attempts to make Barack Obama look bad. Obviously, they can’t find anything else to nitpick outside of parking tickets. Ok. Fine with me. It is just getting old. Very old.

I’m sorry. Maybe I should backtrack. I just returned from my spring break. During this spring break, I went home for a couple of days. I live in Somerville, Massachusetts (town just north Cambridge and Boston). Barack Obama used to live in Somerville during his Harvard law days. While I was at home I checked out the local Somerville paper. I wouldn’t have given it a second look but there was a feature on Obama. Apparently this paper was the first to break the Obama parking tickets story that Fox News ran with last week. And they were quite proud of it.

I talked to someone who’d read the article and they commented that what bothers them isn’t the parking tickets but the fact that Obama sent one of his “people” to come and pay the bill. No, no, that makes perfect sense. It’s not like he’s been on the campaign trail while serving as a U.S. Senator all at the same time. It’s not like you can make an argument that Obama may be the busiest man in America right now. No. The other critique is that he took too long. How about we instead focus on the fact that Obama had the guts to come out and say “…hey, here’s something I did that was wrong but I’m going to rectify it in the best way I can…” In the words of a Geico caveman: “Yeah. Sorry we couldn’t get that to you sooner.” He is actually trusting us, the American people, to understand this tiny thing for what it is and just look at the bigger picture. A politician – trusting the people! What a novel concept! And at least he’s not a hypocrite who has based his entire political career off of criticizing others who made the same mistake (hi Newt!).

If you gain anything whatsoever from this glorified rant it is to look past all the mudslinging, most of which will come Obama’s way. He’s an easy target and his opponents will stop at nothing to make him look bad. Please focus on bigger issues, though. Focus on the fact that this country needs a decisive leader. Focus on the benefits of a universal health care plan. Focus on a better environment. Focus on better educational policy. Focus on this country’s state of division and we need a politician that can unify us all, regardless of party, race, religion, or anything. Focus on Barack Obama in 2008. Do the little things really matter in the long run? (especially when most of the mudslinging will be half-truths at best).

Keep on rocking and sign the Vilsack petition-we’re looking to hit 2,500!

Will Nomikos
Internet/Blog Team Director

Rock with The Issues: Iraq
March 18, 2007

Today we rock with the issue of Iraq. Our guest contributor is Marcus Gadson, the deputy director of (for more information check out the “Blog Team” section). I hope you enjoy the dicussion and it provokes you to further debate this topic amongst yourselves and further check out Obama’s stance on it.

The Bush administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq was one of the worst policy decisions in American history. Almost four years after bush declared “mission accomplished,” The US has squandered the lives of over 3,000 brave young soldiers and wasted $407 billion and counting on a war that should never have been authorized or fought. Now, President Bush has decided to make matters worse by surging 20,000 more soldiers.

This came despite the advice of several of his commanders on the ground. General John Abizaid, the former of head of central command argued that more soldiers were not the answer before he left his post. The head of the Iraqi government, Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki was against the surge as well, thinking that an increased American force would only add to the perception of an imperialistic American occupation at a time when increased Iraqi control of the effort was vital.

Of course this is not the first time, that Bush has ignored good advice. In private, Colin Powell advocated against launching the invasion, or going into Baghdad. Bush rejected calls for a larger invasion force and a larger occupation force at the war’s outset. He disbanded the entire military structure. This decision is to blame for much of today’s chaos in Iraq; the country would be much further along had the old military been in place to keep some semblance of order.

Needless to say, escalating hostilities is not the answer. More troops on the ground simply means more targets for terrorist, and more dead young Americans. The only way increasing the number of troops would help is if we put in an overwhelming number of troops: think 100,000 or more to destroy the insurgency. There is neither the public support for this, nor the resources necessary to do this. What we need now is a political solution, not a military one. We need to focus on getting a working Iraqi government, and developing a plan to share oil revenues.

Even worse, the surge is detracting from our ability to fight not only in the rest of Iraq, but in the wider war on terror. To surge troops in Baghdad we will have to pull soldiers from other problem areas like Tikrit and Fallujah. The insurgents will soon move back in, and then we will have to deal with them too. In short, condition will deteriorate in the other parts of the country we leave.

Barack Obama had the wisdom to foresee the disastrous consequences of fighting this war in the first place. Way back in 2002, as a state senator, he said the following:

(See related video – Ed.)

“I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined costs, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than the best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaida”

Obama made this statement when the President’s popularity was at a high point, and speaking out against the war was construed as unpatriotic. Despite the political pressure, Obama had the courage and principle to buck the popular opinion and the President, and oppose the war.

While other Senators offer non-binding resolutions that Dick Cheney, George Bush, and Karl Rove will ignore, he offers us the Iraq De-Escalation Act of 2007. This legislation, if enacted would bring our soldiers home by March 31 of 2008 with exceptions in place should an emergency require soldiers. This is the only responsible thing left to do. With our soldiers out of Iraq, we can refocus our energies on stabilizing Afghanistan, and we would force the Iraqi government to taking responsibility for its own security, a prerequisite for any sovereign state. In any case, the time is long since past for escalation of hostilities. So, in the upcoming election, ask yourselves this question: do want someone who wants us to keep sending American citizens to fight a needless war or someone who has been opposed to said needless war from the very beginning?

Don’t be fooled by other candidates who keep going back and forth on their stances. For example, both John Edwards and Hillary Clinton voted for the war in Iraq. Don’t let them re-write history just to gain votes. If you really care about this issue then surely you will make the right decision in the coming election and primaries. Hopefully this has provided some initial insight to help you make that decision. We’ll keep providing you with facts about Obama and the other candidates as well as Iraq in general.

Stay tuned and as always, keep rocking,

Marcus Gadson
Deputy Director

R.I.P. Captain America?
March 14, 2007

Returning to the Captain America story I mentioned in my State of the Union, I think it is more significant than we may think at first glance. I grew up with Marvel Comics. As a kid I loved the X-Men, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and Captain America. Cap was the perfect leader. He represented all that was great about America. Cap gets shot, Marvel Comics/wikipediaAll the idealism in its soul. Everything. He was America. In World War II, Captain America was a straight up propaganda comic. By the 60s, he had become something else. That’s when the legend started growing. In the 90s when I read Captain America, he was one of the most popular comic book figures of all time. After September 11th, he became the main character of a new Marvel Comics story arc. While the ones we grew up always had some significance (i.e. X-Men being outcasts in a prejudiced society taught us about racism and stereotypes, for example), this comic book arc relies much more on this generation of comic book readers to identify with politics.

In this arc the government approves an act that requires all superheroes to submit to the government and register their powers (including revealing secret identities). This causes a division among the superheroes. One half fights for all superheroes to do what they think is their legal obligation and the other half fights for superheroes to retain their civil rights and liberties and not be required to register. Guess which side Captain America fights for in what has been termed the Marvel Comics “Civil War.” Cap becomes a fugitive for refusing to give up his liberties. In the end, he gives himself up in hopes for a peaceful resolution but a sniper shoots him (see picture).

The end of Captain America is representative of how people care less and less about liberties in this country. Our ultimate freedom fighter killed by his own people. This current administration has not exactly fostered the idea of increased liberties either. Whomever you decided to vote for, whether it be Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, or even Rudy Giuliani, just make sure they will restore all the liberties that have been progressively taken away from us in the past six years. Barack Obama gets my vote because I know he cares about the liberties of Americans and that he doesn’t care about profiling those who are slightly different in any way. Barack Obama is my Captain America. He exemplifies everything that is free and good with America. He is not perfect, not flawless, but he does his best to be the best representative possible. Just like Captain America he fights for everyone‘s rights, not just the privileged or the money-making corporations of America. Barack Obama is one of us and he fights for us, with us. Hopefully we can help him out and put him in the best position possible to help us out in return.

Captain America may be dead in the Marvel Universe but in the real universe he is alive and kicking…and running for president.

State of the Union 3-9-07
March 10, 2007

Welcome to “State of the Union.” Here we will be taking some quick hit looks around the country. Not much here will be Obama-related but we feel it’s just as important to give an overview of the country as a whole. Otherwise, how can we justify the great need for Barack Obama in this nation.

Now, with no further ado…the State of the Union

  • The NY Times ran an article examing the after-effects of the Scooter Libby sitution. Apparently, there is talk of a Bush pardon for Libby. I’m torn. The moralist in me wants to see Libby punished for his actions as determined by the United States legal system. No one is above the system. However, the politician in me wants to see George W. Bush pardon Libby just so Bush and all of his White House “posse” can see if the American people are willing to take this situation any longer. My guess would be that something like this would push a big chunk of the country over the line. How much longer is Washingtong going to be this dirty and corrupt? It’s all up to us, folks.
  • Honestly? I think Libby is just the scapegoat here. I don’t think anyone will come down and save him. He’s the fall guy…everything is pretty much going according to plan. Again, it’s all up to us folks. We’ve got a pretty big election coming up.
  • My friend Evan Lowry, who will soon be joining the Blog Team officially when we announce it sometime soon, sent me this link yesterday. He followed it with this note: “My question is, with three thousand dead American soldiers in Iraq, is this what we need CNN to be covering?” Good point, Mr. Lowry. Good point.
  • My retort: the top headline was “Obama Pays Harvard $375 for Outstanding Parking Tickets.” No mention of the Scooter Libby trial. It’s almost as if they are trying to intentionally make conservatives look better than Democrats. Oh wait.
  • Seriously though, it seems as if Fox News (as well as most conservatives) have two agendas right now: besmirching Barack Obama and Rudy Giuliani. Could this be because they know Obama is the best Democratic candidate while Giuliani is the candidate that most Democrats would prefer losing to in an election? I say yes. I’m flattered. You know when Fox News goes after you, you’ve made it. Then again, you could just be a Democrat with unpaid parking tickets from two decades ago. But what do I know, I am but a blogger.
  • In another shocking revelation, the Justice Department decided that the FBI misused the Patriot Act. To quote the great Will Smith: “Somehow “I told you so” just doesn’t quite say it.” Oh well, at least it’s coming out now.
  • In a decisive setback for gun control, “a federal appeals court in Washington today struck down on Second Amendment grounds a gun control law in the District of Columbia that bars residents from keeping handguns in their homes.” This will be interesting to pursue as it develops. In the election it could become an interesting issue. Obama is pro-gun control while many of his opponents are split. Definitely look for this in an upcoming “Rock with the Issues.”
  • The biggest story this week, however, has to be what is going on Iraq-wise. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates approved more troops to be sent to Iraq on Wednesday and according to General David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander, that number might only increase if the U.S. stays in Iraq. Fortunately, Congress Democrats quickly responded by setting forth their proposal for pulling out of Iraq. Quoting from the latter article, “the Democrats’ leader in the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said the bill would get US troops out of Iraq “safely, responsibly and soon.” I think we can all agree that that’s we want more than anything; to get out boys back home safe. Obviously, this situation is very complicated and has many intricate subplots. I simply wanted to introduce it here because this will be the first issue we will be discussing in “Rock with the Issues.” So let the settle as we delve into this election process and hear what Barack Obama has to say about the war.
  • Those are my quick hits for this time…so until the next State of the Union entry,

    Keep rocking,

    Will Nomikos
    Internet/Blog Team Director

Vilsack Petition
March 7, 2007

Our executive director, Nathan Lean, has been kind enough to explain the purpose of the petition we’re pushing right now. I’ll leave you with that until our next real blog entry.
– Will Nomikos

Iowa is a field of dreams when it comes to Presidential primary elections. It’s the magical place that can make or break any Presidential hopeful and for years has become the go-to stomping ground for candidates and their platforms. It’s unlike any other caucus in the country and since 1976 has been a strong indicator of which Presidential candidate might win the nomination at their party’s national convention.

We believe that Barack Obama is the best person for the job and we support him. Rock with Barack has created a way to help Sen. Obama win the support of Iowa. We have drafted an official petition urging the support of former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack by requesting that he endorse Barack Obama and his bid for President. We want you to help us by signing up. Youth votes in this election will be more important than ever and we plan to create enthusiasm for Barack that will help him win Iowa. An endorsement by Vilsack would help tremendously as we believe many of the former Governor’s supporters would reach out to this “politics of hope” and embrace the vision and leadership of Barack Obama.

All we are asking for is your signature. Thirty seconds of your time could help us take back America! Let’s do this for Barack!

You can find the petition online here:

I leave you with this quote from Barack Obama himself:

“I’ve learned that meaningful change always begins at the grassroots, and that engaged citizens working together can accomplish extraordinary things”

We need a “more perfect union.”

We need a “politics of hope.”

We need you.

Be sure to visit our website at

Thanks for reading!

Nathan Lean is a senior piano major at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC and the Executive Director of Rock with Barack. He is a Master’s in International Studies candidate with a focus in political science and cultural arts. He has spent time living in and touring Morocco and has performed various concerts as a guest of the United States Embassy.

Scooter Libby and Integrity in Washington
March 6, 2007

Sorry to just give you an article without a thorough analysis but I thought this was a very good analysis of the Scooter Libby situation in the Washington Post (if you are not familiar with the situation or just want more facts, click on the link to take you the Post website which has some excellent material). Just exemplifies why we need something new and refreshing in Washington. Barack Obama is a man of integrity, honesty, and honor. Something even the opposition cannot deny. True, Washington is not the most corrupt place in the world but can any American honestly say that they like the direction our government is going in terms of integrity and virtue? Our next few entries will reflect this matter and how seriously we believe that the man to bring upon this change in D.C. is Barack Obama.

Libby Found Guilty in CIA Leak Case

By Amy Goldstein and Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, March 6, 2007; 12:52 PM

A federal jury today convicted I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby of lying about his role in the leak of an undercover CIA officer’s identity, finding the vice president’s former chief of staff guilty of two counts of perjury, one count of making false statements and one count of obstruction of justice, while acquitting him of a single count of lying to the FBI.

The verdict, reached by the 11 jurors on the 10th day of deliberations, culminated the seven-week trial of the highest-ranking White House official to be indicted on criminal charges in modern times.

Under federal sentencing guidlines, Libby faces a probable prison term of 1 1/2 to three years when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton June 5.

As the jury forewoman read each guilty count in a clear, solemn voice, Libby was impassive, remaining seated at the defense table, gazing straight ahead and displaying no visible emotion. His wife, Harriet Grant, sat in the front row with tears in her eyes and was was embraced by friends. Later she hugged each of Libby’s lawyers.

A few minutes after the jury was dismissed, Libby appeared coatless outside the federal courthouse with his two main lawyers, Theodore V. Wells Jr. and William Jeffress Jr. Wells issued a brief statement to the crush of reporters and television crews.

“We intend to file a motion for a new trial,” Wells said. “If that is denied, we will file an appeal. We believe Mr. Libby eventually will be vindicated.”

” We intend to keep fighting for his innocence,” he added.

Libby and his lawyers then briskly turned away and returned to the courthouse without taking questions. The trial’s outcome may have been a repudiation of the strategy that Libby’s attorneys chose by not calling either Libby or Vice President Cheney, his former boss, as a witness.

Libby, 56, was the only person charged in a three-year federal investigation that reached the highest echelons of the Bush White House. The central question in the probe was whether anyone in the administration illegally disclosed classified information during the late spring and early summer of 2003, when they told several journalists that an early critic of the Iraq war was married to undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame.

No one was ever charged with the leak, but the results of the investigation, led by Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald, ultimately tarnished both the administration and the Washington press corps.

The trial revolved around whether Libby deliberately lied about–or simply was too busy toremember correctly–several conversations he had about Plame with colleagues and reporters whenhe was questioned months later by FBI agents and a federal grand jury investigating the leak.

Plame’s husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, was sent by the CIA on a mission to Niger in 2002 to assess reports that Iraq had sought to buy nuclear materials there. He concluded the reports were false. In early July, 2003, Wilson published a rebuke of the White House, accusing the administration of distorting his findings to exaggerate the danger posed by Iraq and justify the war to the American people.

Prosecutors contended that Libby tracked down and told reporters about Plame’s CIA job as part of an administration strategy to discredit her husband by insinuating that the agency had dispatched Wilson to Niger because of nepotism. The prosecution alleged that Libby realized afterwards that he might have relayed classified information and lied to FBI agents and grand jurors to cover that up.

Defense attorneys countered that Libby had a notoriously bad memory and, consumed by his work on sensitive national security matters, did not recall accurately what he knew and said about Plame. The defense also asserted that Libby did not have a motive to lie because he did not know Plame’s job was classified.

The weeks of testimony and evidence placed a microscope on Libby’s actions during a tumultuous period inside the White House shortly after the Iraq war began, casting a harsh light on the way power and information flows in Washington.

The trial highlighted the nation’s divisions over the war, the Bush White House’s intolerance of critics and the uneasy symbiosis between an elite tier of Washington journalists and their confidential sources inside the government.

It also exposed rifts between the White House and the CIA and laid bare rivalries within the White House itself. Relying on testimony from current and former White House officials and hand-written notes by Cheney, Libby and their co-workers, the prosecution showed resentments among the vice president’s office; Karl Rove, the president’s top political adviser; and White House press secretaries.

It also portrayed Cheney as more intimately involved in orchestrating the campaign to disparage Wilson than was previously known. Cheney was motivated in part by Wilson’s erroneous allegation that the CIA had undertaken the mission to Africa solely at the vice president’s request.

Testimony and evidence revealed that the vice president dictated precise talking points he wanted Libby and other aides to use to rebut Wilson’s accusations against the White House, helped select which journalists would be contacted and worked with Bush to declassify secret intelligence reports on Iraqi weapons that he believed would contradict Wilson’s claims.

“There is a cloud over what the vice president did,” Fitzgerald told jurors in the prosecution’s closing arguments. “That’s not something we put there. That cloud is not something you can pretend is not there.”

The case also broke controversial new ground when prosecutors forced journalists to cooperate in a criminal probe. After a long history of leak investigations that had foundered out of reluctance to subpoena reporters in order to get to their sources, Fitzgerald compelled prominent reporters to abandon promises of confidentiality they had made to high-ranking administration officials.

Several news organizations, including The Washington Post, negotiated limits that allowed Fitzgerald to question reporters on specific matters once their sources had waived confidentiality. But one journalist, former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, went to jail for 85 days in an attempt to avoid disclosing the identities of Libby and other sources to investigators. Her protest went to the Supreme Court, which declined to hear her case. Miller ultimately appeared before the grand jury and at the trial.

By the trial’s end, journalists, all but one of whom testified about once-confidential interviews, accounted for 10 of the 19 witnesses to appear at the trial. . Seven of the nine defense witnesses were journalists, including Bob Woodward, an assistant managing editor at The Washington Post, and Robert D. Novak, the syndicated columnist who was the first journalist to disclose Plame’s identity in print. Three of the government’s 10 witnesses were reporters.

For all the journalistic star power and political intrigue on display in recent weeks in Courtroom 16 of the federal courthouse in downtown Washington, the case Fitzgerald presented to the jury was methodical and, at time, dry.

The prosecution’s case hinged on establishing that Libby had lied deliberately to investigators–in part by showing that the memory lapses alleged by the defense were implausible. In particular, the prosecution chipped away at Libby’s statement to investigators that he thought he heard about Plame for the first time on July 10, 2003 from Tim Russert, NBC News’ Washington bureau chief. Only later, Libby told investigators, did he remember that Cheney actually had told him about Plame nearly a month earlier.

“This is not a case about bad memory,” Fitzgerald told the jury during opening statements last month “It was important. . .He made time to deal with the Wilson matter day after day after day.”

Fitzgerald and fellow prosecutors showed notes hand-written by Cheney and Libby indicating that the vice president was deeply disturbed by Wilson’s explosive accusations that the White House had used bogus intelligence to justify the war. Witnesses and evidence showed Cheney orchestrating a point-by-point response to Wilson’s claims–some of it misleading–that the administration gave to hand-picked reporters.

Prosecutors called current and former administration officials who testified to a series of steps Libby took to learn about Wilson and Plame. Two of them told jurors that Libby had called them during the spring of 2003, sounding agitated and demanding information about why Wilson was chosen by the CIA for the Niger mission.

Prosecutors then took the jury through Libby’s disclosures about Plame. Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer testified that, on July 7, 2003, Libby took him to lunch in the White House mess. After discussing the Miami dolphins and Fleischer’s pending move to a private-sector job, Fleischer said, Libby told him, “hush-hush,” that Wilson’s wife worked in the CIA’s counterproliferation division and had sent her husband to Niger.

Miller, the former New York Times reporter, testified that Libby became the first person to tell her about Plame, during a meeting in his office that June 23. Matthew Cooper, a former Time magazine White House reporter, testified that Libby confirmed to him off-the-record that Plame worked at the CIA, shortly after Cooper had been told of her by Rove.

Finally, the prosecution highlighted discrepancies between the accounts of the government witnesses and Libby’s statements to investigators. The jury listened to eight hours of audiotapes of Libby’s testimony during two appearances before the grand jury in March, 2004.

The government’s final witness, Russert, was the most pivotal. A well-known face from television, Russert firmly contradicted Libby’s statements to investigators that Russert had told him about Plame. Russert testified that Libby had called him on July 10, 2003 to complain about comments that Chris Matthews, host of the MSNBC show, “Hardball,” made about Cheney and Libby. Russert testified he did not mention Plame during that conversation.

“That would be impossible,” he said, “because I didn’t know who that person was until several days later.”

The defense put on a case that lasted less than three days.

Libby’s lead attorney, Theodore V. Wells Jr., did not explain why he and other defense attorneys decided not to call Libby and Cheney as witnesses. But by keeping them off the stand, the defense spared the two men cross-examination by Fitzgerald.

Instead, the defense relied on a surrogate, John Hannah, to convey to the jury some of the points the defendant and the vice president probably would have made. Hannah, one of Libby’s deputies for national security affairs and now Cheney’s national security adviser, recounted for jurors crises in Iraq, Iran, the Middle East, North Korea and elsewhere in the world that preoccupied Libby about the time of the leak and during the months afterwards.

Hannah testified that “on certain things, Scooter just had an awful memory.” Hannah said that, “times too many to count,” he gave Libby policy recommendations in the morning and, by evening, Libby forgot that Hannah had been the source of the advice.

Libby’s lawyers also suggested the prosecution overstated Libby’s zeal to tell journalists about Plame. A half-dozen journalists, including three from The Washington Post, testified that they had spoken with Libby about the time of the leak–but that he did not mention her to them.

In large part, Libby’s defense consisted of trying to erode the credibility of prosecution witnesses, often by pointing up the fallibility of their own memories.

The defense case did not, however, address the most dramatic assertion Wells made when the trial began. In his opening statement, Libby’s attorney said Cheney had complained that his chief of staff was “put through the meatgrinder” by other White House officials, who were willing to make Libby a scapegoat when the leak investigation began in order to insulate Rove. The defense did not present witnesses or evidence to corroborate that point.

In his closing argument, Wells said the trial turned the courtroom into “a laboratory on recollection,” contending that it was “madness” for prosecutors to argue that Libby’s faulty recollections amounted to criminal conduct. Libby’s conversations about Wilson and Plame, his attorneys insisted, were tangential compared with what was happening inside the White House early the summer of 2003.

“The country was saying, “Hey, you lied to the American public.’ I mean, you talk about a stressful period,” Wells said. “The wheels are falling off the Bush administration. . .It’s a crazy period.”

Months later, when Libby spoke to investigators, Wells told the jury, “if what he said turned out to be incorrect or a mistake, that doesn’t mean he’s a liar.”

Barack Obama in Alabama
March 5, 2007

Barack in Selma with Hillary and Bill Clinton; NY Times.

The New York Times ran a great article about Barack Obama’s latest campaign stop in Selma, Alabama. It’s a nice, feel-good read. I think it’s worth perusing in the middle of this campaign. It details how Obama and the Clintons walked with several black leaders in this civil rights milestone town.

Despite the fact that I think Hillary Clinton still seems very insincere in her efforts, as a great contrast to both her husband and Obama, it is nice to see these two rivals come together for the bigger thing here. It is important to remember our history so we can see how far we have progressed in the latest half-century. When white police officers were beating mostly black protesters in Selma, I doubt anyone would have imagined that not even 50 years later, a black man would be running for president and he would have nation-wide support from both black and white voters. Not to mention hispanic, asian, native American, and any and all ethnicities that live in this diverse country. If there is one thing that I admire about Barack Obama more than anything, it is his ability to unify. This country is more divided now than it has been in a long while. Obama is just the man to unify the country. I actually like Hillary Clinton. I think she is a very sharp and intelligent politician. However, I fear what she may do in terms of division in this country. It is about time we had someone that we can all identify with in the White House that will unify us. That someone is Barack Obama.

Some other notes from this brief little stop:

  • I find it interesting how little things keep popping up about Obama everywhere, trying to prevent him from running or trying to soil his name. Someone recently tracked down Barack Obama’s family records and found that his mother’s great-great-great-great-grandfather owned slaves. (By the way, can we use the Patriot Act to check Karl Rove’s library records to see if he’s checked out anything related to this?). Obama’s response was that “That’s no surprise. That’s part of our tortured, tangled history.” Still, it is amazing the lengths that these people are willing to go. Fortunately, it does not seem to bother Obama nearly as much as it bothers the rest of us. He’s probably been struggling with this his entire life.
  • My favorite part of the article? The following:

    Mary Broadnax, 52, was walking closely behind, absorbing a moment she would never have imagined growing up in nearby Montgomery. After hearing Mr. Obama speak, she said she would do whatever she could to see him win the presidency.

    “I love Bill Clinton, but if he came up to me and asked me to support Hillary, I would have to say I’m sorry,” Ms. Broadnax said, pausing before unspooling a long string of attributes about Mr. Obama. “He’s the right man for our time.”

    I think Mary Broadnax said what we were all thinking and have been thinking since Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama announced their intentions to run.

  • Am I the only one who thinks that Bill Clinton is secretely rooting for Barack? Or at least secretely hoping that his wife can drop out/lose so he can full fledgedly rock with Barack?

That is all for now…but consider the blog officially open for business.


Will Nomikos
Internet/Blog Team Director

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