Bush, Democrats meet today on Iraq funding

President Bush meets today with Democrats and Republicans from Congress to work on an Iraq war funding measure both sides can accept.

Bush’s veto of an Iraq war spending bill that set timelines for U.S. troop withdrawals puts new pressure on Democrats in Congress to craft a compromise even as their caucus grows more fractious on the topic.

The party’s most liberal members, especially in the House, say they will vote against money for continuing the war if there’s no binding language on troop drawdowns. Bush and almost all congressional Republicans continue to insist on a spending bill with no strings attached on troop movements.

Bush on Tuesday rejected legislation pushed by Democratic leaders that would require the first U.S. combat troops to be withdrawn by Oct. 1 with a goal of a complete pullout six months later.

“This is a prescription for chaos and confusion and we must not impose it on our troops,” Bush said in a nationally broadcast statement from the White House. “It makes no sense to tell the enemy when you plan to start withdrawing.”

The standoff gives Republicans leverage, because even with the liberals’ votes, Democrats don’t have enough support to override Bush’s veto. It will force Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to seek more Republican help in drafting a new bill that Bush might accept, her allies and opponents say.

“I think the Democrats are in a box,” Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., said in an interview Tuesday. “We’re pretty resolute on our side. We are not going to tie this funding to any type of withdrawal deadline or any type of redeployment deadline.”

Some Democrats believe the GOP solidarity will crack over time, noting that polls show heavy public support for a withdrawal plan.

Lawmakers in both parties agree that a workable compromise is a huge challenge in the coming days or weeks. Because Democrats control the House and Senate, the pressure is mainly on them to craft a bill that Bush will sign, and thus avoid accusations that they failed to finance troops in a time of war.

Many Democrats say a new spending bill must include so-called benchmarks for progress in Iraq that, if not met, would trigger movements of U.S. troops out of the country or perhaps to non-urban areas that see little sectarian violence. A new spending bill “has got to be tied to redeployment,” said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., the House’s fourth-ranking Democratic leader.

Emanuel conceded, however, that Democrats have yet to figure out where they will find the votes.

The situation frustrates Democrats, who won control of the House and Senate in an election that largely focused on Iraq.

Moreover, Democrats showed impressive solidarity in passing the bill that Bush vetoed Tuesday, losing only 14 House Democrats while holding 216. Top Democrats say they have no hope of replicating that showing once they begin making even modest concessions in response to Bush’s veto.

That makes them dependent on Republican help to some degree — perhaps a lot. As long as most GOP lawmakers stick with the president, “the question is how much policy and change we can push in Iraq,” Emanuel said.

In his veto statement Tuesday, Bush again rejected the notion of an “artificial deadline” for troop withdrawals. But he added, “I’m confident that with good will on both sides we can agree on a bill that gets our troops the money and flexibility they need, as soon as possible.”

Pelosi, who was to join Republican and Democratic leaders from both houses in a meeting with Bush on Wednesday, told reporters after Bush’s remarks: “The president wants a blank check. The Congress is not going to give it to him.”

Democrats will work with the White House, she said, “but there is great distance between us right now.”

Numerous possible compromises are being floated on Capitol Hill, all involving some combination of benchmarks. Some would require Bush to certify monthly that the Iraqi government is fully cooperating with U.S. efforts in several areas, such as giving troops the authority to pursue extremists. Others would require an Iraqi-run program to disarm militias and a plan to distribute oil revenues fairly.

The key impasse in Congress is whether to require redeployments of U.S. troops if the benchmarks are not met. Many Democrats insist on it, and many Republicans vow not to budge.

“Our members will not accept restraints on the military,” House Minority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri told reporters Tuesday. He suggested tying benchmarks to continued U.S. nonmilitary aid to Iraq, an idea that many Democrats consider too weak.

Under another proposal being floated, unmet benchmarks would cause some U.S. troops to be removed from especially violent regions such as Baghdad. They would redeploy to places in Iraq where they presumably could fight terrorists but avoid the worst centers of Sunni-Shia conflict.

Still another possibility would change the bill that Bush vetoed only by allowing the president to waive the redeployment requirements under certain conditions

Senate Republicans show a bit more interest in compromise than do their House colleagues, in part because several of them face tough re-elections next year in competitive states.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told reporters Tuesday that his party will accept benchmarks. But he declined to say whether he would agree to binding consequences if such benchmarks go unmet.

“You’ve asked me if there is an area where there’s a potential common ground,” McConnell said, “and I think benchmarks are a possibility.”

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press

Anatomy of a failure

Here in the Oval Office, on this Saturday morning, an intelligence failure is about to erupt.

You are sitting at your desk, surrounded by your vice president, your CIA director and most of your national security team on Dec. 21, 2002. You are listening to the CIA’s deputy director, John McLaughlin, run through a presentation, complete with charts, that is being billed as the best public case your administration can make that Saddam Hussein possesses and is prepared to use weapons of mass destruction.

You are underwhelmed and unimpressed. You say this won’t convince “Joe Public.” You suggest maybe some lawyers who argue cases in front of juries ought to be brought in to make the case more convincing. But then your top man at the CIA speaks up. George Tenet promises that his agency can make the case powerfully. He says it is “a slam dunk.”

So what happens next? Do you just sit there and say nothing? Does your CIA director just sit there and offer no elaboration?

Of course not. In a world where leaders use their own intelligence to make decisions that are based on carefully documented and analyzed intelligence, you would be smart enough to follow your CIA director’s flip “slam duck” assertion by demanding specifics. You’d say something like: “Just what additional information do you have that you can add to make this case convincing? Because so far I’ve heard nothing that sounds like a slam dunk.”

Also, in a world where intelligence chiefs make assertions based upon both their own intelligence and that which their agency has amassed, the CIA’s director would be smart enough to detail just what would be done differently to make the case convincing.

But neither President Bush nor Tenet displayed the intelligence that led them to say any such thing. At least not according to all known versions of that now-famous meeting. Not the version Bush and/or his acolytes dished to Bob Woodward for his best-selling book, “Plan of Attack.” And not the version Tenet just dished, most defensively, in his own new book that he hopes will make him a profit in his own time.

To take Tenet at his word, his book (“At the Center of the Storm,” which I just bought and read so you won’t have to) may not have been written primarily to get rich but to get even. Tenet makes no secret that he believes the Bush sources who leaked the “slam dunk” anecdote to Woodward have used it to make him appear the scapegoat for the intelligence failures that are responsible for all that has gone wrong in Iraq. Tenet is sharply critical of Vice President Dick Cheney and the neo-cons who mounted the campaign within to invade Iraq before and certainly after the attacks of 9/11.

And he is sharply critical of Condoleezza Rice’s performance as national security adviser for failing to give the president countervailing intelligence and analysis that cautioned against a quick invasion of Iraq.

Tenet also writes of having warned Rice in July 2001 about Osama bin Laden’s determination to attack the United States — and says he assumes she told the president. Timeout: If Tenet, who boasts that he saw Bush daily, felt a preventive attack on bin Laden was urgent, he should have made his case forcefully to the president.

But mainly, Tenet is consumed by the way his “slam dunk” braggadocio has been fashioned into permanent scapegoat horns by his enemies within. “If I had simply said, ‘I’m sure we can do better,’ I wouldn’t be writing this chapter — or maybe even this book,” Tenet wrote in a chapter he titled “Slam Dunk.” It was, he wrote, “a phrase that was later taken completely out of context and has haunted me ever since it first appeared in Bob Woodward’s book …”

No doubt it has also haunted thousands of Americans who became designated next-of-kin due to the war that was justified by a failure of intelligence. In his book’s most honest and revealing admission, Tenet wrote in the “Slam Dunk” chapter: “… in a position such as mine, you owe the president exactness in language. I didn’t give him that …” Nor did the president demand it. For that failure of intelligence, history will see to it that Tenet and Bush are forever slammed and dunked.

–MARTIN SCHRAM

(Martin Schram writes political analysis for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mail him at martin.schram(at)gmail.com.)

Lowering the bar

A story in The New York Times makes it clear White House officials are giving off-the-record interviews designed to dampen expectations regarding Iraq. These officials are saying that the administration will make no interim reports on the situation until September, and that in any event people shouldn’t expect much in the way of military or political progress by then.

This is a welcome dose of realism after months of optimistic statements from the Bush administration, claiming we would know by the end of the summer if the latest troop escalation was “working.” As Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the American military in Iraq, has emphasized, the kind of counterinsurgency campaign his troops are now fighting takes years to “work” in any meaningful sense, assuming it ever does.

Of course, the purpose of this ratcheting down of expectations is to try to forestall the political firestorm over Iraq that gets closer with every passing month. That effort is almost certainly doomed to fail: Six months from now things in Iraq are likely to look very much as they do now. Furthermore, the odds that any marked change will be for the worse are far higher than it will be for the better (in a context like Iraq, real progress takes years under the best of circumstances, while all-out chaos is always just around the corner).

The hard political reality is that anything like “success” in Iraq, even as that term is defined down to levels that would have seemed wildly pessimistic when President Bush gave his “Mission Accomplished” speech four years ago, will require several more years of all-out commitment. That commitment will cost, at a minimum, the lives of several thousand more of our troops, along with tens of thousands of serious injuries, and hundreds of billions more tax dollars.

And of course this immense sacrifice may very well fail to achieve even the relatively modest goals the White House is now pursuing (the word “victory” has become noticeably absent from the president’s speeches).

Whatever one thought of the original decision to invade Iraq, the political question the nation now faces could not be clearer: Should we ask our troops to continue to fight this war, and our children to pay for it through future tax increases? (The option of paying for it ourselves would require some sacrifice on the part of the average voter, so it never seems to have been considered seriously.)

The American people have already answered that question, and their answer is “no.” The Republicans lost 30 congressional seats in last fall’s elections, while the Democrats lost none, largely because the American people were voting against the war. Every opinion poll shows that, by large majorities, Americans support the efforts of Democrats to force Bush to begin withdrawing our troops.

That pressure will only grow. As increasingly panicky Republicans are all too aware, this is still a democracy, which means America will begin to withdraw from Iraq no later than January 2009, even if bringing this about requires an electoral rout of the Republican Party in November of next year.

In the end, Bush’s failure to heed the will of the people isn’t so much an act of principle but rather an outburst of sheer peevishness. With Democrats in control of Congress, he’s no longer getting a blank check to fund his military adventures. He finds this frustrating, so he’s stamping his foot, covering his ears and taking his party down with him.

All this is exactly what one would expect in the way of a political farewell gesture from a spoiled rich kid who never grew up. Future generations of historians will note that George W. Bush made a mess of every real job he ever had — and, unfortunately for America, the presidency of the United States proved to be no exception.

–PAUL F. CAMPOS

(Paul F. Campos is a law professor at the University of Colorado and can be reached at Paul.Campos(at)Colorado.edu. For more stories visit scrippsnews.com.)

Bush veto puts pressure on Democrats

050107bush3_0.jpgPresident Bush’s veto of an Iraq war spending bill that set timelines for U.S. troop withdrawals puts new pressure on Democrats in Congress to craft a compromise even as their caucus grows more fractious on the topic.

The party’s most liberal members, especially in the House, say they will vote against money for continuing the war if there’s no binding language on troop drawdowns. Bush and almost all congressional Republicans continue to insist on a spending bill with no strings attached on troop movements.

Bush on Tuesday rejected legislation pushed by Democratic leaders that would require the first U.S. combat troops to be withdrawn by Oct. 1 with a goal of a complete pullout six months later.

“This is a prescription for chaos and confusion and we must not impose it on our troops,” Bush said in a nationally broadcast statement from the White House. “It makes no sense to tell the enemy when you plan to start withdrawing.”

The standoff gives Republicans leverage, because even with the liberals’ votes, Democrats don’t have enough support to override Bush’s veto. It will force Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to seek more Republican help in drafting a new bill that Bush might accept, her allies and opponents say.

“I think the Democrats are in a box,” Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., said in an interview Tuesday. “We’re pretty resolute on our side. We are not going to tie this funding to any type of withdrawal deadline or any type of redeployment deadline.”

Some Democrats believe the GOP solidarity will crack over time, noting that polls show heavy public support for a withdrawal plan.

Lawmakers in both parties agree that a workable compromise is a huge challenge in the coming days or weeks. Because Democrats control the House and Senate, the pressure is mainly on them to craft a bill that Bush will sign, and thus avoid accusations that they failed to finance troops in a time of war.

Many Democrats say a new spending bill must include so-called benchmarks for progress in Iraq that, if not met, would trigger movements of U.S. troops out of the country or perhaps to non-urban areas that see little sectarian violence. A new spending bill “has got to be tied to redeployment,” said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., the House’s fourth-ranking Democratic leader.

Emanuel conceded, however, that Democrats have yet to figure out where they will find the votes.

The situation frustrates Democrats, who won control of the House and Senate in an election that largely focused on Iraq.

Moreover, Democrats showed impressive solidarity in passing the bill that Bush vetoed Tuesday, losing only 14 House Democrats while holding 216. Top Democrats say they have no hope of replicating that showing once they begin making even modest concessions in response to Bush’s veto.

That makes them dependent on Republican help to some degree — perhaps a lot. As long as most GOP lawmakers stick with the president, “the question is how much policy and change we can push in Iraq,” Emanuel said.

In his veto statement Tuesday, Bush again rejected the notion of an “artificial deadline” for troop withdrawals. But he added, “I’m confident that with good will on both sides we can agree on a bill that gets our troops the money and flexibility they need, as soon as possible.”

Pelosi, who was to join Republican and Democratic leaders from both houses in a meeting with Bush on Wednesday, told reporters after Bush’s remarks: “The president wants a blank check. The Congress is not going to give it to him.”

Democrats will work with the White House, she said, “but there is great distance between us right now.”

Numerous possible compromises are being floated on Capitol Hill, all involving some combination of benchmarks. Some would require Bush to certify monthly that the Iraqi government is fully cooperating with U.S. efforts in several areas, such as giving troops the authority to pursue extremists. Others would require an Iraqi-run program to disarm militias and a plan to distribute oil revenues fairly.

The key impasse in Congress is whether to require redeployments of U.S. troops if the benchmarks are not met. Many Democrats insist on it, and many Republicans vow not to budge.

“Our members will not accept restraints on the military,” House Minority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri told reporters Tuesday. He suggested tying benchmarks to continued U.S. nonmilitary aid to Iraq, an idea that many Democrats consider too weak.

Under another proposal being floated, unmet benchmarks would cause some U.S. troops to be removed from especially violent regions such as Baghdad. They would redeploy to places in Iraq where they presumably could fight terrorists but avoid the worst centers of Sunni-Shia conflict.

Still another possibility would change the bill that Bush vetoed only by allowing the president to waive the redeployment requirements under certain conditions

Senate Republicans show a bit more interest in compromise than do their House colleagues, in part because several of them face tough re-elections next year in competitive states.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told reporters Tuesday that his party will accept benchmarks. But he declined to say whether he would agree to binding consequences if such benchmarks go unmet.

“You’ve asked me if there is an area where there’s a potential common ground,” McConnell said, “and I think benchmarks are a possibility.”

–CHARLES BABINGTON

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press

Bush vetoes Iraq spending, troop withdrawal bill

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President Bush discusses veto (AP)

President Bush vetoed legislation to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq Tuesday night in a historic showdown with Congress over whether the unpopular and costly war should end or escalate.

In only the second veto of his presidency, Bush rejected legislation pushed by Democratic leaders that would require the first U.S. combat troops to be withdrawn from Iraq by Oct. 1 with a goal of a complete pullout six months later.

“This is a prescription for chaos and confusion and we must not impose it on our troops,” Bush said in a nationally broadcast statement from the White House. He said the bill would “mandate a rigid and artificial deadline” for troop pullouts, and “it makes no sense to tell the enemy when you plan to start withdrawing.”

Democrats accused Bush of ignoring American’s desire to stop the war, which has claimed the lives of more than 3,350 members of the military.

“The president wants a blank check,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., moments after Bush’s appearance. “The Congress is not going to give it to him.” She said Congress would work with him to find common ground but added that there was “great distance” between them on Iraq.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Bush has an obligation to explain his plan for responsibly ending the war.

“If the president thinks by vetoing this bill, he’ll stop us from working to change the direction of the war in Iraq, he is mistaken,” Reid said.

Lacking the votes to override the president, Democratic leaders quietly considered what might be included or kept out of their next version of the $124 billion spending bill. Bush will meet with congressional leaders — Democrats and Republicans alike — on Wednesday to discuss a new bill.

Bush said Democrats had made a political statement by passing anti-war legislation. “They’ve sent their message, and now it’s time to put politics behind us and support our troops with the funds,” the president said.

He said the need to act is urgent because without a war-funding bill, the armed forces will have to consider cutting back on buying or repairing equipment.

“Our troops and their families deserve better, and their elected leaders can do better,” Bush said.

“Whatever our differences, surely we can agree that our troops are worthy of this funding and that we have a responsibility to get it to them without further delay,” the president said.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press

Gonzales aides had firing authority

050107gonzales.jpgAttorney General Alberto Gonzales gave two top aides authority to hire and fire political appointees other than U.S. attorneys, according to a Justice Department order obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

The March 2006 order gave Gonzales’ then-Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson and later White House liaison Monica Goodling authority to hire and fire about 135 politically appointed Justice Department employees who did not require Senate confirmation.

Labeled “Internal Order,” the document bestowed “the authority, with the approval of the attorney general, to take final action in matters pertaining to the appointment, employment, pay separation and general administration” of non-civil service employees of the Justice Department.

Such employees include deputy assistant attorneys general and press aides. U.S. attorneys, who serve as the top federal prosecutors in their state districts, normally require Senate confirmation and would not be covered by the order.

The order was first reported Monday by National Journal.

When Gonzales issued the order, top Justice Department officials were well into the process of determining which U.S. attorneys to fire. A month later, Goodling became White House liaison. The list eventually was narrowed to eight U.S. attorneys, and their dismissals began in December.

The uproar that ensued spawned congressional and internal Justice Department investigations, claimed Sampson’s and Goodling’s jobs and imperiled Gonzales’ position.

Democrats pounced on news of the order, complaining that it had not been turned over to them among thousands of other documents released by the department about the firings.

“The mass firing of U.S. attorneys appeared to be part of a systematic scheme to inject political influence into the hiring and firing decisions of key Justice employees,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. “This secret order would seem to be evidence of an effort to hardwire control over law enforcement by White House political operatives.”

“This revelation shows that the Attorney General was prepared to engage in an extraordinary delegation of power to two young and unaccountable staffers who may have taken their marching orders directly from the White House,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

But the Justice Department pushed back, saying Gonzales never relinquished authority over hiring and firing decisions. In addition, political appointees — “non-career employees” — are just that: they serve at the pleasure of the president and can be fired for any reason.

“This order simply gives the chief of staff and the White House liaison the authority to execute certain decisions related to the hiring and termination of some non-career employees with, as the memo states, the approval of the attorney general,” Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said.

During a Senate hearing April 17, Gonzales repeatedly said he did not recall details of how those firings were carried out, making a point to emphasize that he delegated many of the details to his staff — notably Sampson and Goodling.

Democrats have accused the two of using ideology to decide which U.S. attorneys to fire, pointing to Sampson and Goodling’s frequent consultations with former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and presidential counselor Karl Rove.

–LAURIE KELLMAN

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Associated Press Writer Matt Apuzzo contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press

Bush talks compromise…but only on his terms

President Bush said Monday he wants to work with Democrats on compromise legislation to pay for the Iraq war but will carry through on his threat to veto any spending bill that sets a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal.

“I’m optimistic we can get something done in a positive way,” Bush said in a Rose Garden news conference with leaders of the European Union.

The bill, which Bush has long threatened to veto, was expected to reach his desk on Tuesday. The House and Senate voted last week to approve the $124.2 billion measure, which also calls for troops to begin being pulled out in October.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., urged the president to reconsider his veto.

“If the president wonders why the American people have lost patience, it is because the news out of Iraq grows worse by the day,” Reid said. “When we send the supplemental conference report to President Bush tomorrow, we ask that he take some time to reflect on that somber fact.”

Bush said that once he vetoes the bill, he’s ready to work with Democrats on a new version that provides funds without strings attached.

“There are a lot of Democrats who understand we need to get the money to the troops,” he said.

Democratic congressional aides said they anticipate Bush will veto the bill on Wednesday, before a scheduled meeting the president plans at the White House with bipartisan congressional leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Reid.

Bush said the measure includes “artificial timetables for withdrawal. But that’s not the only bad thing about the bill. It also imposes the judgment of people in Washington on our military commanders and diplomats. It also adds domestic spending that’s unrelated to the war.

“I have made my position very clear. The Congress chose to ignore it, and so I will veto the bill,” Bush said.

On another matter, Bush said that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice might meet with Iranian diplomats later this week on the sidelines of a meeting in Egypt on Iraq.

“Should the foreign minister of Iran bump into Condi Rice, Condi won’t be rude. She’s not a rude person. I’m sure she’ll be polite,” Bush said.

The administration in the past has resisted engaging Iran diplomatically on Iraq because of the stalemate over Tehran’s nuclear uranium enrichment program. But, in recent days, the administration has signaled more flexibility.

Rice will “also be firm in reminding the representative of the Iranian government that there’s a better way forward for the Iranian people than isolation,” Bush said.

He called Iran “a significant threat to world peace, today and in the future” because of its nuclear weapons ambitions. He immediately amended his remarks, saying, “‘today’ is the wrong word — in the future. They don’t have a weapon today.”

Tehran insists it is developing nuclear energy to meet electricity demands, not to build weapons.

Bush said the U.S. and European leaders were together in backing enforcement of U.N. resolutions on Iran to allow inspections of nuclear facilities. Bush said that the United States and the European Union are “united in sending this very clear message” to Iran.

Bush met with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and German Chancellor Angela Merkel , the president of the European Union.

On another subject, Bush said that he wanted Paul Wolfowitz to remain as president of the World Bank.

“He ought to stay,” Bush said. Wolfowitz is being investigated for helping to arrange a contract to give a big salary increase to his female companion.

Bush cited Wolfowitz’s work in championing programs to end poverty throughout the world.

On efforts to restart the so-called Doha round of global trade-liberalization talks, Bush said, “I’m under no illusion about how hard it will be to achieve the objective.”

The leaders also said they talked about climate change and agreed to take a united approach to find ways to lower pollution that causes global warming.

“We don’t want to isolate ourselves” from rest of world, Merkel said.

–JENNIFER LOVEN

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press

Tony Snow back on the job

050107snow.jpgWhite House press secretary Tony Snow was back on the job Monday, five weeks after doctors discovered a recurrence of his cancer. He said he would soon undergo chemotherapy “just to make sure we’ve got the thing knocked out.”

Snow, 51, has been on medical leave since undergoing exploratory surgery last month, when doctors discovered that a growth in his abdominal area was cancerous and had metastasized, or spread, to the liver.

Snow started typically early, appearing Monday on the North Lawn of the White House for a series of morning television network news shows, including an interview on “Fox and Friends,” with his former Fox network colleagues.

“I’ve recovered from the surgery, more or less,” Snow said in a CNN interview. “I’ll start doing chemo on Friday. We’ll do it every other week for four months.”

Once a month, Snow said, “We’ll do a maintenance chemo just to make sure we’ve got the thing knocked out and put in remission.”

Snow had his colon removed in 2005 and underwent six months of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with colon cancer.

Over the weekend, Snow spoke to students and alumni at Davidson College, from which he graduated in 1977. During an impromptu question-and-answer session there, Snow said he has become closer to God and his family because of the cancer, The Charlotte Observer reported.

“I am actually enjoying everything more than I ever have,” Snow said, according to the newspaper. “God hasn’t promised us tomorrow, but he has promised us eternity.”

Snow is married with three children, 10, 11 and 14.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press

Tenet’s book angers targets

The backlash has built up even before the official release of former CIA Director George Tenet’s memoir, with criticism about his version of the run-up to the Iraq war, interrogation techniques and other events.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday disputed Tenet’s claim that the Bush administration, before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, never had a serious debate about whether Iraq posed an imminent threat or whether to tighten existing sanctions.

“The president started a discussion practically on the day that he took power about how to enhance sanctions against Iraq,” she said. “You may remember that in his first press conference, he said the sanctions had become Swiss cheese.”

Rice, who was Bush’s national security adviser in his first term, said the administration reviewed the sanctions, went to the United Nations to strengthen them and tried to tighten the no-fly zone in northern Iraq to better police Saddam Hussein’s forces.

She also said the question about the imminence of the threat was not “if somebody is going to strike tomorrow.”

“It’s whether you believe you’re in a stronger position today to deal with the threat, or whether you’re going to be in a stronger position tomorrow,” she said. “And it was the president’s assessment that the situation in Iraq was getting worse.”

A Tenet associate, who spoke on condition of anonymity before the book’s release Monday, said Tenet was not talking about improving the sanctions, but rather the debate about the wisdom of going to war. The associate said those debates did not happen in the presence of Tenet or other senior CIA officials, despite their participation in numerous discussions in the White House’s situation room.

The memoir from the second-longest serving CIA chief covers many topics — from his attempts to help negotiate peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians during the Clinton administration, to the days surrounding Sept. 11, 2001, and to the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath.

Looking ahead, he says, al-Qaida wants to change history and meet its top one goal of obtaining a nuclear device.

Tenet highlights the errors of others during his tenure from July 1997 to July 2004, such as the extraordinary efforts by Vice President Cheney and others to connect Iraq and al-Qaida.

Tenet also takes blame for other failures, such as the production of the botched National Intelligence Estimate in 2002 that was used to justify invading Iraq.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he does not accept assertions from Tenet that the U.S. government saved lives through some of the agency’s most aggressive interrogation techniques.

In an often defensive interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes” aired Sunday, Tenet says the intelligence gained from suspected terrorists in the CIA’s covert detention program and its “enhanced interrogation techniques” was more valuable than all the other terrorism-related intelligence gathered by the FBI, the National Security Agency and his own agency.

Yet McCain said the U.S. cannot torture people and maintain its moral superiority in the world. “I don’t care what George Tenet says. I know what’s right. I know what’s morally right as far as America’s behavior,” the presidential candidate and former prisoner-of-war said Sunday.

McCain said he does not accept Tenet’s premise that the CIA’s practices save lives because torture and mistreatment historically have not worked in intelligence collection. “We’ve gotten a huge amount of misinformation as well as other information from these techniques,” McCain said.

Tenet and the CIA deny using torture. But McCain’s words suggest he believes the CIA’s practices amounted to torture and were wrong.

In his book, Tenet said McCain has engaged the country in an important moral debate “about who we are as people and what we should stand for, even when up against an enemy so full of hate they would murder thousands of our children without a thought.”

If elected officials believe certain interrogation actions put the country in a difficult moral position, they should be stopped, according to Tenet, once the Democratic staff director of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Critics have started picking apart the book’s accuracy. In a dramatic preface, Tenet said he ran into former Pentagon adviser Richard Perle coming out of the White House on Sept. 12, 2001, and Perle told him Iraq had to pay for the attack. “They bear responsibility,” Tenet recalls Perle saying.

On Sunday, Perle categorically denied the exchange to the editor of the conservative Weekly Standard and noted he was out of the country until Sept. 15. Tenet’s associate said the date may have been wrong, but the exchange took place.

Writing in Sunday’s Washington Post, the one-time head of Tenet’s Osama bin Laden unit, Michael Scheuer, said Tenet should have told his story sooner.

“At this late date, the Bush-bashing that Tenet’s book will inevitably stir up seems designed to rehabilitate Tenet in his first home, the Democratic Party. He seems to blame the war on everyone but Bush (who gave Tenet the Medal of Freedom) and former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell (who remains the Democrats’ ideal Republican),” Scheuer wrote.

A half-dozen former CIA officers — including counterterrorism experts Larry Johnson and Vince Cannistraro — are urging Tenet to dedicate a significant portion of his royalties to soldiers and families of those killed or wounded in Iraq.

“We agree that the war of choice in Iraq was ill-advised and wrong headed. But your lament that you are a victim in a process you helped direct is self-serving, misleading and, as head of the intelligence community, an admission of failed leadership,” they wrote.

Rice appeared on CNN’s “Late Edition,” ABC’s “This Week,” and “Face the Nation” on CBS. McCain was on “Fox News Sunday.”

–KATHERINE SHRADER

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Associated Press Writer Scott Lindlaw in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press

Murtha: Bush could face impeachment over Iraq

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Rep. John Murtha

President George W. Bush could face impeachment if he continues to refuse to deal with Congress on setting a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, Democratic Congressman John Murtha said Sunday.

Appearing on CBS News’s Face the Nation, Murtha said impeachment is “one of the options” for dealing with Bush’s refusal to accept a timetable for withdrawal of troops from the President’s failed war in Iraq.

Murtha’s comments came after Secretary of State Condi Rice told host Bob Schieffer that Bush will not only veto any Iraq funding bill that sets a timetable for withdrawal but would also reject any bill that sets “benchmarks” for the Iraqi qovernment.

Rice said the president would not agree to a plan that penalizes Baghdad if the Iraqi government fall shorts. To do so, she said, would remove the ability of Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, and other leaders to do their jobs.

“What we don’t want to do is to tie our own hands so that we cannot act creatively and flexibly to support the very policies in Iraq that we’re trying to enforce,” Rice said.

Rather, Rice said, it makes sense to give Iraq’s leaders time to meet the goals they have set. She said Bush has made clear to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that people in the United States have limited patience.

“The United States is paying in blood and treasure,” Rice said. “The Iraqi leadership is being told — and I think they understand — that the kind of Iraq there is going to be is up to them. We can’t give them a united Iraq.”