A preview of a partisan presidential think tank

March 30, 2007

A preview of a partisan presidential think tank
Andrew Weaver
SMU Daily Campus
March 30, 2007

If you want a preview of the sort of disinformation that many of us expect from the proposed Bush partisan think tank at SMU, which the president told the press he wants to call the Institute on Democracy, take a gander at the opinion piece by Mark Tooley published in The Daily Campus on March 21 titled “Bush Library controversy: Who’s really ‘disconnected'”?

Mr. Tooley was employed by the CIA before he became head of the United Methodist unit (UMAction) within the neoconservative think tank the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) in Washington, D.C. He also writes a regular column for David Horowitz’s FrontPageMagazine.com. Horowitz is known for his attacks upon academic freedom and tenure and is the author of the seedy little book, “The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America.”

Continued here.

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More on the White House RNC e-mails

March 30, 2007

Follow the e-mails
Sidney Blumenthal
Salon.com
March 29, 2007

March 29, 2007 | The rise and fall of the Bush presidency has had four phases: the befuddled period of steady political decline during the president’s first nine months; the high tide of hubris from Sept. 11, 2001, through the 2004 election; the self-destructive overreaching to consolidate a one-party state from 2005 to 2006, culminating in the repudiation of the Republican Congress; and, now, the terminal stage, the great unraveling, as the Democratic Congress works to uncover the abuses of the previous six years.

[snip]

The discovery of a hitherto unknown treasure-trove of e-mails buried by the Bush White House may prove to be as informative as Nixon’s secret White House tapes. Last week the National Journal disclosed that Karl Rove does “about 95 percent” of his e-mails outside the White House system, instead using a Republican National Committee account. What’s more, Rove doesn’t tap most of his messages on a White House computer, but rather on a BlackBerry provided by the RNC. By this method, Rove and other White House aides evade the legally required archiving of official e-mails. The first glimmer of this dodge appeared in a small item buried in a January 2004 issue of U.S. News & World Report: “‘I don’t want my E-mail made public,’ said one insider. As a result, many aides have shifted to Internet E-mail instead of the White House system. ‘It’s Yahoo!, baby,’ says a Bushie.”

The offshoring of White House records via RNC e-mails became apparent when an RNC domain, gwb43.com (referring to George W. Bush, 43rd president), turned up in a batch of e-mails the White House gave to House and Senate committees earlier this month. Rove’s deputy, Scott Jennings, former Bush legal counsel Harriet Miers and her deputies strangely had used gwb43.com as an e-mail domain.

[snip]

When I worked in the Clinton White House, people brought in their personal computers if they were engaged in any campaign work, but all official transactions had to be done within the White House system as stipulated by the Presidential Records Act of 1978. (The PRA requires that “the President shall take all such steps as may be necessary to assure that the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of his constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties are adequately documented and that such records are maintained as Presidential records.”) Having forsaken the use of Executive Office of the President e-mail, executive privilege has been sacrificed. Moreover, Rove’s and the others’ practice may not be legal.

Continued here.

Waxman Reveals New Evidence Showing White House Use Of Political E-mail Accounts
ThinkProgress.org
March 29, 2007

U.S. News reported recently that several White House aides “said that they stopped using the White House system except for purely professional correspondence. … ‘We knew E-mails could be subpoenaed,’” said one aide.

In a new letter to White House counsel Fred Fielding, House Government and Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman reveals new e-mail communications that provide further evidence that White House employees were trying to circumvent the archives system:

New Scott Jennings E-Mails. Scott Jennings, the deputy director of political affairs in the White House, and his assistant used “gwb43.com” e-mail accounts to communicate with the General Services Administration about a partisan briefing that Mr. Jennings gave to political appointees at GSA on January 26, 2007. When Mr. Jennings’s assistant emailed the PowerPoint presentation to GSA, she wrote: “It is a close hold and we’re not supposed to be emailing it around.”

Continued here.

On March 29, 2007, Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter to White House Counsel, Fred Fielding, inquiring about the administration’s e-mail policies:

[snip]

Moreover, U.S. News & World Report reported yesterday that my letter on Monday to the RNC may be driving official White House communications even further underground. According to this report, at least two White House aides have now “bought their own private E-mail system through a cellular phone or Blackberry server” to avoid the possibilities of subpoenas. Another aide told U.S. News that he now communicates through “texting.”

The statements of White House spokesperson Dana Perino at a press briefing this week only further confused the issue. She said: “Of course, people are encouraged, on official White House business, to use their official White House accounts.” But she did not cite any specific policy or guidance issued to White House staff regarding the use of e-mail accounts and the preservation of presidential records, and she acknowledged that certain officials in the White House have been given access to political e-mail accounts. When asked if a new directive had been issued to White House staff reminding them to use their White House e-mails, she stated, “I don’t know of any new directive, but it is what we ask people to do.”

Read the entire letter here. Mr. Waxman concluded with a request for information about White House policies regarding the preservation of records, including those created on nongovernmental e-mail accounts, by April 5, 2007, and also asked for a briefing on these matters by Fielding or his representative during the week of April 2, 2007.


The Bush Library in Slate and the White House RNC emails

March 29, 2007

This Slate article reveals how the Bush Library controversy has become embedded in larger debates over administration policies and allegations of corruption and criminal misconduct. See also in Slate an interesting critique of “George Bush’s favorite historian,” Andrew Roberts.

Every Man for Himself: Bush administration discipline slips further
John Dickerson
Slate.com
March 27, 2007

As George Bush’s tenure winds down, he has started thinking about building his presidential library. Somewhere off the Mission Accomplished Atrium he should put a boxing ring. An administration that came into office boasting of exemplary teamwork looks like it’s going to end in a hail of blame-placing, finger-pointing, and backbiting.

Continued here.

And the revelations about the use of private e-mail accounts by government officials, apparently in order to prevent the archiving of these public records as required by the Presidential Records Act, is another brewing scandal. It also raises serious doubts about the historical value of the Bush Library as the ultimate repository for the documentary record of this administration, as touted by its supporters, if a deliberate attempt is being made to conceal the real paper trail. On Wednesday, March 28, 2007, Senators Patrick Leahy and John Conyers sent a joint letter to White House Counsel, Fred Fielding (of Watergate fame).

[snip]

We urge you to provide all relevant documents without delay. The White House documents to and from the Deptartment of Justice and with third parties, such as Republican state party officials, should be provided to us without delay. You have acknowledged your willingness to provide those to us previously.

[snip]

In addition, we have become increasingly sensitized over the last several days to the White House staff wearing several “hats” and using Republican National Committee and campaign e-mail addresses. In fact, as Chairman Waxman has recently pointed out, congressional investigations, including this one, “have uncovered evidence that White House Staff have used nongovernmental e-mail accounts to conduct official government business.”

 

As Chairman Waxman has also pointed out, many exchanges between Jack Abramoff and White House officials were conducted via non-governmental e-mail accounts. Indeed, he quotes exchanges that suggest that Mr. Abramoff and House officials were using the nongovernmental accounts specifically to avoid creating a White House “record” of the communications.

[snip]

Accordingly, we trust that you will be collecting and producing e-mails and documents from all e-mail accounts, addresses and domains and that you are not artificially limiting your production to the official White House e-mail and document retention system.

Read the entire letter here.


Faculty Columnist Offers Sardonic Take on Bush Institute

March 28, 2007

This from Spanish Prof. George Henson’s regular column in the Daily Campus. It starts off with a pithy description of faculty back and forth about the Institute, and then a sardonic and (to me) entertaining prophecy about the potential roster of fellows. Henson observes that “the government will probably want to open a federal prison nearby so fellows can rotate weekends while serving their sentences for corruption, perjury, obstruction of justice, and treason.” Fun, fun fun!

It’s the Institute, Stupid
George Henson
SMU Daily Campus
March 28, 2007

There is a contentious back-and-forth going on via e-mail among some SMU faculty regarding the Bush Institute.

The majority of faculty members, if not all, have finally accepted the Library as a fait accompli. Indeed, for the majority of faculty, the library is no longer the primary concern. To paraphrase James Carville, it’s the institute, stupid.

Not so much the institute as the structure of the institute. As it stands, SMU will have zero control over Bush’s eponymously oxymoronic think tank.

Concerns ranging from the institute’s policy focus (preemptive war, denying global warming, expansion of executive powers, creation of an imperial presidency, privation of civil liberties, torture) to who will hold fellowships have many faculty rightfully concerned.

More important, the prospect that departments will be required to accept co-appointments of Institute fellows who, by virtue of their appointment to the institute, will be exempt from the normal departmental hiring practices.

continued here


BYU Debate over Cheney Address Degree Raises Similar Opposition as Bush Complex

March 27, 2007

This from a self-described liberal/Progressive blog.  The posting first describes the debate at BYU, and then draws parallels to Methodist and faculty opposition to the Bush complex at SMU.  Although this is not a reason of itself to oppose either Cheney’s commencement address or the coming of the Bush complex to SMU, it’s amazing to me how loathed Bush and Cheney are across this country, even in the heart of supposedly “Red” America.

Religious Community Challenges a Visit by Dick Cheney

Dick Cheney is catching heat this week from what many progressives may view as an unlikely source, students, parents, alumni, faculty, and others affiliated with Brigham Young University. Why has an invitation for Cheney to speak at the university’s graduation next month been met with criticism from members of an institution that appears to be the embodiment of conservative morality?
As the leading university of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), Brigham Young University (BYU) in Salt Lake City, Utah is, in many respects, a conservative institution. Wikipedia asserts that 98% of its students are LDS members, and, as a condition for admission to the university, students commit to an honor code that forbids sex outside of marriage, mandates traditional standards of dress and grooming, and imposes other requirements consistent with the conservative strict father worldview. However, as the dissent expressed by some members of the Brigham Young University community illustrates, it is not solely a conservative institution.

An article in Utah’s Daily Herald provides a revealing quote from a professor at BYU’s Marriott School of Business, Warner Woodworth:

“Cheney’s coming here is a contradiction of what we’re trying to do,” he said. “We represent an institution of peace, he represents an institution of war … an institution of deception and outright lies.”

The posting turns briefly to the SMU debate.  The author mischaracterizes SMU, lumping us in with BYU as a “religious educational institution that also reflects conservative values.”  I hope that we’re not perceived that way by the general public, even though I appreciate his larger point about how self-identified progressives shouldn’t write places like BYU off:

In both the opposition to Cheney’s planned commencement address at Brigham Young University and the protests against the proposed Bush library at Southern Methodist University, we find expressions of progressive values from people who have chosen to join religious educational institutions that also reflect conservative values. Many of these people may apply conservative values in some areas of their lives, but their progressive values are no less valid. Turning the country in a positive direction requires us to activate the progressive worldview in and work with people whose lives are guided largely by religious principles and values, which have both progressive and conservative dimensions. The future of our country depends on it.


Local TV station’s image of Bush Library was UD model

March 27, 2007

WFAA image was UD model
Mark Norris
SMU Daily Campus
March 27, 2007

An image that was purported to be the design for George W. Bush Presidential Library is actually the University of Dallas’ model for their failed bid for the complex. It was unveiled to the public at a January news conference announcing the school’s withdrawal from the library race.

An image of the complex appeared in a story dated March 14 about the Methodist Church’s approval to lease land for the library project.

Continued here.


More on the Vodicka case and the Bush Library from the SMU Daily Campus

March 27, 2007

University Gardens case comes back to life
Mark Norris
SMU Daily Campus
March 27, 2007

A federal judge has sent Gary Vodicka’s lawsuit against SMU back to a state district court. The move came after Vodicka asked the case be remanded because he dropped federal racketeering charges against the university.

“It’s good for us,” Vodicka said of the decision. The Daily Campus was unable to get a comment from SMU representatives after multiple attempts Monday, but representatives expressed disappointment with the judge’s decision in a Saturday article in the Dallas Morning News.

The move brings the case back to the front of the Bush Library debate, as some are saying that it is delaying the acquisition of the complex. Vodicka said he does not believe that is true and that a choice was made long ago.

Vodicka sued SMU in August 2005 saying the university defrauded him and intimidated others out of the University Gardens condominium complex.

Continued here.