The burgeoning flap over the leaking to the press of the name of a CIA agent – a clear and serious violation of federal law – is a serious, serious legal and political problem for the Bush White House.

Let us explore the numerous implications:

1) The facts: In July two high level White House aides called at least six DC reporters – one of whom was Robert Novak – to ‘slime’ whistle-blowing former US Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, by revealing that she, Valeria Plame, is a CIA agent.

2) The CIA is furious over the ‘politicization’ of the identity of one of their agents. CIA Director George Tenet has asked the Department of Justice to investigate and bring criminal charges.

3) Former Ambassador Wilson – once appointed by the first President Bush and the last US Ambassador to meet with Saddam before the 1990 invasion of Kuwait – believes it was G.W. Bush’s closest political advisor, Karl Rove, who either made or authorized the ‘sliming’ phone calls. Wilson is so angry over this lawbreaking that he has called for Rove to be arrested and “frog marched out of the White House in handcuffs.”

4) The Bush White House was angry at Wilson for writing a July 1, 2003 op-ed piece in the New York Times explaining his Administration-authorized investigation into the ‘Saddam tries to buys uranium from Niger’ story. After shooting down that tale, Wilson was shocked to see the President make the same claim in this year’s State of the Union speech.

5) Now, here is a key question: who in the White House was so angry with Wilson for ‘blowing the whistle’ that they authorized these six phone calls? Certainly no one can believe that low-level aides would even know that Plame was a CIA agent let alone feel free to have a concerted ‘leaking campaign.’

6) Clearly whoever orchestrated this anti-Wilson campaign was looking for payback – payback for having the temerity to challenge the veracity of the President of the United States. But their anger took them over the edge into lawbreaking. Who in this disciplined, top-down, well oiled White House would read Wilson’s op-ed and slam his fist down on the desk and proclaim, “That bastard is going to pay! What do we have on him? Let’s get it out there!”

7) Whoever authorized the Plame leak could possibly go to jail for this willful act of lawbreaking. And those who actually called the six reporters could also go to jail – unless they cop a plea and rat out others.

8) Preliminary reports are that there is a great dissension inside the White House staff over this leak. Many are described as ‘disgusted’ at the outing of Ms. Plame.

9) There is still the question of whether or not the Ashcroft Justice Department will honestly investigate the Bush White House. Already Capitol Hill Democrats are calling for an Independent Counsel to do this investigation. But that law expired and has not been renewed.

10) Meanwhile over at the Langley HQ of the CIA, there is much disgust over the way they are always made the scapegoats by this White House. After all, CIA Director Tenet had kept the African uranium tale out of the Cincinnati speech last October that helped escalate the case for a pre-emptive war against Iraq. But if heads don’t roll over the Plame leak, you can bet that CIA will leak things of their own about the Bush White House.

11) Leaking and blackmail have always been a part of governing inside the Beltway. But it has been one of this Administration’s unexplained curiosities why President Bush has kept Clinton’s CIA Director – especially after so many massive intelligence failures: 9/11; our failure to get Osama; our failure to prove the existence of WMD before the war; our failure to get Saddam; and our failure to find WMD in the six months since the end of the war.

12) Many have wondered if Tenet has ‘something’ on the Bushes. Now many more are wondering who made those six phone calls – and who authorized them?

13) We need to reverse things: if the Clinton White House had sold out an active-duty CIA agent as ‘payback’ for some whistle-blowing article, we would be outraged. This crime is no less serious because it was done in a Republican White House.

14) Long ago, in a piece entitled “Bush’s Achilles Heel,” I wrote that this Bush’s weakness was the entire mystery, secrecy and sometimes-illegality of the intelligence community. This Plame leak now threatens to become a huge story – involving lawbreaking, revenge, abuse of power and the inevitable cover-up. Plus the 10 Democrats running for President and the media are going to have a field day with it.

15) Yep, ‘tis true: payback is a bitch.


We are a sick, drug and alcohol-addicted country.

More people are hooked on illegal drugs and booze than we ever knew. So says a new study recently released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This SAMHSA report used a better methodology – including paying the 68,000 people $30 per person – than any previous study on this topic.

Let us look at a few of the shocking results:

1) 22 million Americans suffering from alcohol or drug abuse.

2) 19.5 million used illegal drugs in 2002.

3) 14.6 million marijuana users per month.

4) 2 million cocaine users. (Of these people, 567,000 have also used crack).

5) 1.2 million have used Ecstasy or other hallucinogens.

6) 54 million binge drinkers per month. And also, there are 16 million heavy drinkers (5 or more drinks per day).

On the treatment front:

1) 18. 6 million need alcohol treatment but only 1.5 million are receiving it.

2) 7.7 million need drug treatment but only 1.4 million are receiving it.

These shocking findings portray an addicted nation in desperate need of rehabilitation. And this ‘sickness’ hurts us all. Economically we all suffer through the effects of lost wages, impaired quality of work, and increased insurance costs. Also, there is the problem of danger from impaired drivers and domestic abuse powered by drugs and alcohol.

What to do as a country?

The problem is so daunting as to make us cry. But it can’t be ignored.

First, what is so lacking today is self-discipline. People have to take control of their lives and regulate themselves. The abuse of drugs - including legal, prescription drugs - can only be handled by people and their close friends and family intervening to start the healing process. And, as they say, it ain’t easy.

Second, we need scientists to find the ‘addictive’ gene and turn it ‘off.’ Knowledgeable scientists believe there is a genetic predisposition toward addiction. If this could ever be neutralized then much of this problem could be treated more easily.

However, our culture needs to change, too. Drinking and smoking dope need to be treated as a bad thing, not a wonderful experience. Entertainers should stop lionizing these vices. Our young are being ‘taught’ from the earliest ages that getting ‘hammered’ is a rite of passage. The binge drinking statistics cited above fit a profile: college students consider Friday and Saturday nights to be made for binge drinking – and total Animal House debauchery.

From the earliest ages all schools need to teach the young about the brain damage caused by overuse of all drugs – including alcohol. Kids should be taken into the most gruesome hospital scenes to see the results of booze and drug –related accidents. And older addicts need to come to class – often – and talk about how their lives were ruined by their once-‘fun’ habits.

Government cannot do this. Families, local school boards, other neighborhood groups and each of us have to do it. Hollywood and the entertainment industry, too, must reverse the degenerate culture they extol.

If we do not wage this battle, we will see our once-great nation crumble from within.


President George W. Bush’s re-election chances are beginning to slip. His downward poll ratings are eerily similar to his father’s the year he was defeated for re-election.

Why has this once-enormously popular president sunk to under 50% in the latest polls and, in fact, loses 50% to 44% on the crucial NEWSWEEK ‘re-elect’ question?

Because there is absolutely no good news these days – and nothing the Bush White House can do to reverse this trend at the moment.

The lead-up to the war in Iraq and the war itself were filled with examples of the Presidency controlling the agenda. Presidential focus is a wonderful thing; even the majority of Democrats fell in line last fall and the result was a precedent-setting GOP victory in the House and Senate mid-term elections.

And – thanks to the lessons of Vietnam – both political parties now support our troops during a conflict. So the ‘hot’ war itself saw America united behind the war effort. And thus President Bush looked strong and in control and his poll ratings reflected that.

But when the ‘major combat operations’ were declared finished with the dramatic carrier landing on May 1st, things began coming unglued. Standing in front of a giant poster claiming “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED,” the President gloated over Saddam’s removal from office. All looked rosy then – and the American people rewarded Mr. Bush with an approval rating in the mid 70% range.

Now almost five months later and Team Bush is in full panic mode. The NEWSWEEK poll shows the President’s rating plummeting lower than ever before.

Here is the White House dilemma: there is virtually nothing they can do to get some good news into our homes each night on the news.

Right now it is the drip, drip, drip of more GIs killed almost every day in Iraq coupled with a sour view of the jobs situation in a slowly – too slowly – improving economy.

The American voter is being depressed by sourness and death. Not a particularly good environment to run for re-election.

On the other side of the equation, there are still 13 months left before the November 2004 presidential election. Lots can – and will – happen to change this equation.

One thing is likely: the economy is improving; the only question is: will the perception of improvement be enough to reverse the President’s miserable economic poll results? The recent Washington Post poll had a 56% negative and 42% positive rating for the President’s handling of the economy. That has to change or else Mr. Bush will follow his father into premature political retirement.

Another event that could break the ‘bad news’ cycle would be the capture or death of Saddam Hussein and/or Osama bin Laden.

But even if we get Saddam – and we must get him for this war to ever be judged a success – if the killing of our soldiers continues then the war will turn into a detriment for this President.

One other likely event: the unexpected. Who knows what surprises lie ahead? And if those events can be used to help the President’s re-election? Certainly the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks were an opportunity that several incumbents – President Bush, Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Governor Pataki – used to their personal and political advantage.

But it is also possible that the unexpected could include something – a declining jobs picture, a new revelation or scandal – which hurts the President’s re-election prospects.

All we know for certain is this: the White House cannot control the agenda right now. They can not generate the all-important ‘movement’ that successful campaigns require. In sum, they cannot deliver any good news to the voter.

And until they can, they are going to be in peril for re-election.


The reviews are in.

General Clark – on TV – is a complete bore.

And that spells doom for the brand-new campaign and brand-new candidate.

Here is why:

Elected politics today in the United States has basically come down to one thing: a candidate must cut through the clutter of other candidates, hundreds of TV commercials, shows, talking-head experts and commentators with a clear, concise and powerful message – in just a few seconds!

If the candidate takes too long to make his point, the TV viewer moves on, hitting the remote and trying out another show.

But if the candidate taps into the viewer’s inner emotion – whatever it is – then that candidate is ‘scoring.’

Howard Dean so far is the surprise of this presidential race. The least known candidate has done the best. Why? Because he has tapped into the furious anger of Democratic primary voters. Those voters are furious at G.W. Bush first for what they see as his illegitimate ‘stealing’ of the Florida vote – thanks to his brother, the Governor of Florida – and his ‘lies’ about the imminent need to start a pre-emptive war in Iraq over Saddam’s WMD. This ‘anger’ is also directed at the Democratic Establishment in DC that supported Bush’s war in Iraq.

Dean has found that anger and plugged into it. None of the Big Name candidates – Kerry, Gephardt, Lieberman or Edwards – had a clue that this anger even existed. And he rode that rocket to huge polling gains in New Hampshire, Iowa and California. His fundraising has been through the roof – almost all on the Internet - again tapping into this anger.

This successful strategy has spurred normally extra-cautious inside-the-beltway candidates like Gephardt and Kerry to ape Dean. Gephardt – who voted for the Iraq war and happily trumpeted that vote while the war was progressing smoothly – now calls President Bush “a miserable failure.” And Kerry – another enthusiastic war-supporter – now says, “President Bush lied to me personally” about the Iraq WMD program.

But Dean remains the one true-blue anti-war candidate in an anti-war party.

Now comes along recent TV-commentator General Clark, another anti-war candidate, who is jumping into the race. Yes, as a former four-star general he does have credibility if he wants to criticize a war or military policy. But he better do it succinctly – and with some punchy pizzazz.

Yesterday’s announcement speech and TV interviews showed why it is very hard for a career non-candidate to suddenly hit the Big Time. Clark was boring! He didn’t – or can’t – say what he wants to say in 7 seconds. And – sadly – that is what you have to do in the Age of Clutter.

By the way, another recent first-time candidate who ran for president – Ross Perot – was not boring. And that is why he did so well despite dropping out and then back into the race and acting so strangely about his daughter’s wedding. Still, Perot got 19% of the vote.

Clark isn’t going to put a dent into Dean’s core anti-war vote. Clark may hurt Edwards, Graham and Kerry by muddling up their supporters. But Dean is running away – right now – with the primary voters and passionate workers.

There are only four months left before Iowa and New Hampshire. Can Clark vault to front of the pack? Yes and no. He can – as a new face – become the flavor of the day. But he doesn’t have what it takes to take those angry anti-war voters away from Dean.

Maybe Clark is really running for Vice President. In that case, he needs to show that he can be an attack dog capable of ripping Bush and Cheney to shreds.

Off of yesterday, we didn’t see that capability either.

No, Clark is a bore. Period.


1) The California Recall election is getting crazier and crazier. The only candidate to have ‘upward momentum’ is GOP State Senator Tom McClintock. He continues to gain – while Bustamante and Schwarzenegger remain static. The latest LA TIMES poll has McClintock all the way up at 18%; he is now only seven points behind Ahnold. Funny that no one is calling for Ahnold to drop out of the race, isn’t it?


3) General Clark’s entry into the presidential race: what a yawn! Why does anyone care about this fellow? Another Rhodes Scholar Democrat from Arkansas? Someone who has never run before and wants to start out in the top job? Years ago Lyn Nofziger commented on generals who run for office: “The only generals who get elected are generals who win wars.” Washington, Grant, Ike all won wars. Wesley Clark? Has anyone even heard of him? What did he win? Does anyone care about the air war in Bosnia?

4) The latest ABC/Washington Post poll must deeply worry the White House: President Bush’s ratings on the economy are 42% approval and a whopping 56% disapproval. And this while the economy seems to be revving up. But the key indicator – unemployment – is bedeviling this President Bush just as it destroyed his father’s presidency.

5) Productivity: while there is positive economic growth, why does employment continue to lag? Because corporations have learned how to make more with fewer workers. Rising employee costs – wages, health care, family leave and retirement costs – have forced employers to find efficiencies and other ways to squeeze more production out of fewer workers. A sad but true commentary on the capitalist system. And a reaction to employee benefits earned in negotiations and from the government.

6) Israel and Arafat: let’s face it: there will never be a peaceful coexistence between Israel and the PLO as long as Yasser Arafat is alive. Period. He and the PLO are dedicated to the extermination of all Jews who live in Israel. Period. All this pussyfooting by our State Department is a total waste of time.

7) However, talk of expulsion, arrest or assassination are a Big Mistake. Why? Because that will only make Arafat a martyr and inflame even more radicalized Palestinian youth into committing murder with suicide bombs. The only solution is to wait out the ailing Arafat’s inevitable death. In the meantime, Israel should proceed wit the security fence around the Palestinian territory. Israel should protect itself – and let the Palestinian people be the ones to demand a change in their government’s idiotic policies.

8) Well, it is mid-September and David Kay was supposed to reveal proof that Saddam’s government indeed had WMD and those weapons are still in Iraq. We are all waiting! Notice how the President and other administration bigwigs have conveniently dropped WMD from their speeches and interviews?

9) How can this be? How can we go to war because of the possibility of an ‘imminent’ attack and then discover that the weapons don’t even exist?

10) Our intelligence is a disaster – across the board – and it is still an amazement that CIA Director George Tenet remains in power. After 9/11, the failure to find Osama, the failure to find even one WMD, and the failure to find Saddam. Incredible.


Yesterday it was revealed that the Democratic frontrunner, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, had had four personal meetings with retired four-star General Wesley K. Clark. According to the Dean camp, these meetings have ranged from discussions over national security to the possibility of General Clark becoming Dean’s Vice Presidential running mate.

The latest meeting between the two men took place Saturday in Los Angeles.

General Clark is weighing his own run for president; he has set a timetable of having to make up his mind by a September 19 speech in Iowa.

Clark was the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO during our air war in Bosnia.

DC ‘insiders’ have long viewed Dean’s weakness to be military and national security issues. Perhaps Dean is trying to enlist Clark on his team now to forestall further criticism of these gaps in his background. Or maybe it is also to pre-empt Clark’s own presidential candidacy.

But the possibility of a Dean/Clark ticket will set off other possibilities before the January 27 New Hampshire primary:

Senator John Kerry – once the frontrunner in this race – is desperate – absolutely desperate - to win the presidency. And he sees the future, too. If Bush wins next year, then the Democratic nomination in 2008 is Hillary’s – period. So it is now or never for Kerry.

In his back pocket he has an emergency plan: knowing he must win New Hampshire to survive in the race, Kerry will ask John McCain to run with him in a dramatic Fusion Ticket.

Kerry and McCain, despite coming from different parties, are very close.

And McCain won the 2000 GOP primary in New Hampshire primarily because independent voters came into the primary to vote for him.

With no GOP primary this year independent voters up in New Hampshire are looking for someone to support in the Democratic primary. (In New Hampshire, independents can vote in either party’s primary.) And they are a key element to victory in that crucial first primary.

A Kerry/McCain ticket is possible. McCain, supposedly a conservative Republican, is a massive egomaniac who secretly hates G.W. Bush and remains bitter over the way the Bush forces slandered him in the South Carolina primary. And, with Bush’s popularity steadily declining, McCain may figure – like Kerry – that 2004 is his best shot to get onto a national ticket.

Other match-ups are also possible: Senator Bob Graham of Florida has proven to be a lackluster candidate for president but will be on everyone’s short list for Veep because he has never lost a statewide race in Florida. Two terms as Governor followed by three in the US Senate make Graham an attractive Vice Presidential candidate. Remember: Florida will again be one of the key states in the Electoral College in what appears to be yet another razor-thin election.

Graham’s junior Floridian senator, Bill Nelson, will also be on everyone’s short list. A former House member who flew on the space shuttle in the 1980’s, Nelson also would be expected to ‘deliver’ his home state.

Back in the 1976 GOP primary race, President Ford was narrowly leading his challenger, Ronald Reagan, when the primaries ended. But Ford still did not have enough delegates to win the nomination. And Reagan was within striking distance as he courted the remaining undecided delegates. It was then that the Reagan camp shocked the political world by picking their running mate before the nomination was his. Such a move was unheard of before then.

Governor Reagan picked Richard Schweicker, a senator from Pennsylvania, in hopes that he could help in the wooing of the large block on undecideds in the Pennsylvania delegation. It almost worked.

Dean’s courting of General Clark may be another similar move – months earlier – in which rivals join together to pre-empt their competition.


Whew! What a week the Bush White House has had!

Since coming back from the Labor Day weekend and the August vacation, the White House has gone into full reversal on a number of issues:

1) Beginning with last Tuesday, Team Bush completely reversed itself and virtually begged the United Nations to help us out in Iraq.

2) At the same time, the same Bush foreign policy team also completely reversed itself on the nuclear problem in North Korea. Now – instead of refusing to negotiate with Pyongyang – the Bush foreign policy team is happy to enter into talks.

3) A day later, the Bush White House threw Judge Miguel Estrada over the side and withdrew his nomination for the US District Court of Appeals.

4) Then the Bush White House – in recognition of the declining number of manufacturing jobs – created a new position in the Commerce Department: an Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Manufacturing.

5) The whirlwind week ended with last night’s Presidential Address to the nation about Iraq and the future of the War on Terrorism.

The backdrop of all these reversals/announcements/appointments was simple: new polling shows the President is now on the verge of repeating his father’s crash and burn in a run for re-election.

The new Zogby poll now shows this President Bush is actually less popular than he was before his inauguration!

In other words, all the high poll ratings after 9/11 and at the end of ‘Major Combat Operations’ in Iraq have been frittered away in an eerie sequel of his father’s similar fall from grace.

Like Bush 41, Bush 43 now has a terrible ‘re-elect number’ – that number of voters who say they will definitely vote to re-elect someone. (The rule in politics is that any incumbent with a re-elect number under 50% is in Big Trouble.) This President Bush’s re-elect number is a paltry 40%.

Conclusion: he is in real trouble for next year – and thus all of last week’s moves.

Lost in all those reversals and stunning policy shifts are a few ‘unmentionables’:

1) Osama bin Laden. Why do the President and his is team never even mention this mastermind of the 9/11 attacks? Why 150,000 wonderful, brave and heroic American troops inside Iraq but not the same level of commitment to capture Osama bin Laden?

2) Why can last week’s NEWSWEEK have a cover story detailing a mountaintop terror conference inside Afghanistan chaired by Osama – yet US intelligence cannot find him?

3) And why does the US Government downplay the importance of killing Bin Laden? The American military spokesman in Afghanistan told NEWSWEEK, “We don’t know where he is. And frankly, it is not about him.” An American diplomat chimed in, “Bin Laden’s operational role is not as important as it was to Al Qaeda and the Taliban.”

4) Domestically, the economy is killing Bush’s popularity – just like it did his father’s. 52% believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. And that was before Friday’s disappointing jobs report was issued.

True, there are still 14 months before the next presidential election. That gives Team Bush time to weather the storm and get re-elected.

But, in the process, are they going to keep reversing everything they said they stood for, increase government spending, and shamelessly ‘play politics’ in an effort to win next November?


Howard Dean – for all intents and purposes – is the Democratic nominee for president in 2004.

Yep, ‘tis true.

Amazingly, this former governor of a tiny, liberal, northeastern state has literally come out of nowhere and blown his competition – and the Democratic establishment, as well – right out of the water.

Dean has done something no one has ever done before: gone from dead last to an overwhelming front-runner before one caucus or primary vote has even been cast.

He has done what other previous unknowns such as Jimmy Carter did – but without the actual victories in Iowa and New Hampshire that propel a candidate into the top tier of candidates.

His surge is so remarkable that other candidates – including the much better known figures such as Senators Joseph Lieberman and John Kerry – are repeatedly questioned about Dean and how to defeat or stop Dean. Believe me, the very last thing a candidate wants to answer is a question about one of his rivals!

How has Dean pulled off this remarkable feat?

By tapping into a deep-seeded anger inside Democratic primary voters.

This is an anger over the War in Iraq on top of what they perceive as ‘dirty dealings’ in the Florida recount.

Democratic primary voters tend to be the most committed, the most passionate – and the most liberal in their party. (Similarly, inside the Republican Party the primary voters are usually the most conservative.) And these liberals have opposed the way President Bush – with the support of the Democratic leadership in Washington - unilaterally launched us into the War in Iraq.

Howard Dean is the only Democratic candidate who from the start was against this war. He has never wavered in his opposition - not just to the war but the flip-flopping over their support of the war - by John Kerry and Richard Gephardt

As the war as turned into an occupation with a steady drumbeat of American deaths, no WMD found, dubious intelligence used to justify the war in the first place, and now huge car bombings resulting in horrific death, Howard Dean has surged into first place in Iowa and New Hampshire.

In the process he has rendered his three chief competitors – Gephardt, Liebeman and Kerry – as single digit candidates desperate now to tear down Dean.

The former Vermont Governor has the Big Mo right now. He is rolling in cash – much of it raised for the first time by a presidential candidate over the Internet – and has time on his side. Let me explain: in the ‘old days’ of politics, Iowa came in late January followed a week later by New Hampshire. The primary process then lasted until the first Tuesday in June. Thus candidates had a long time to gain momentum – or to lose it. The four-month process allowed these candidates to be tested, to raise money and to become known nationally.

But all that has now changed. The Democratic National Committee has changed their rules and compressed the whole process into five weeks. By March they will have their nominee.

So Dean, by already surging ahead in the two key early contests – Iowa and New Hampshire – has harnessed this new selection process to his overwhelming advantage.

And because his anger over Iraq and the Washington DC establishment mirrors his party’s primary voters’ anger – and because no one can possibly believe that Iraq is going to calm down in the next few months – Dean really has it all going his way right now.

The pompous Kerry, who ‘announces’ today after campaigning for nine months, is flummoxed over Dean’s popularity. Lieberman, full of himself after the 200 VP run, keeps doomsaying that Dean will lead the Democratic Party down to a massive defeat to G.W. Bush next year.

Well, November 2004 is still a long way away. First comes the nomination. And Dean is running away with it.

On another day we will analyze Bush vs. Dean.

But one thing is certain: always expect the unexpected.