George Bush Spent $4 Billion to Kill Chrysler–on Obama’s Watch

I’m convinced. George Bush just spent $4 billion (of your money) to kill Chrysler.

In his speech announcing the auto relief, Bush claimed he didn’t want to leave the auto crisis to his successor:

… there’s too great a risk that bankruptcy now would lead to a disorderly liquidation of American auto companies. My economic advisors believe that such a collapse would deal an unacceptably painful blow to hardworking Americans far beyond the auto industry. It would worsen a weak job market and exacerbate the financial crisis. It could send our suffering economy into a deeper and longer recession. And it would leave the next President to confront the demise of a major American industry in his first days of office.

He implied he had provided enough to GM and Chrysler to give them three full months to stave off bankruptcy.

First, they will give automakers three months to put in place plans to restructure into viable companies — which we believe they are capable of doing. 

Yet he also described giving them enough money to enter bankruptcy in orderly fashion.

Second, if restructuring cannot be accomplished outside of bankruptcy, the loans will provide time for companies to make the legal and financial preparations necessary for an orderly Chapter 11 process that offers a better prospect of long-term success — and gives consumers confidence that they can continue to buy American cars.

But he didn’t give Chrysler enough to stave off bankruptcy. 

Bush gave Chrysler $4 billion, all on December 29. Just one payment. Unlike GM, Bush is not giving Chrysler a second and third chunk of money after the new year (GM will get $4 billion on December 29, $5.4 billion on January 16, and $4 billion on February 17).

That already suggests that Bush doesn’t imagine Chrysler will be around after the New Year. Furthermore, that $4 billion is $3 billion less than Chrysler said it needed to remain viable (and to pay its suppliers). 

Now, it’s possible that Bush gave those amounts anticipating that GM would eat up Chrysler. After all, Bush actually gave GM more than what it asked for. GM had asked for $4 billion in December, another $4 billion in January, and $2 billion in February (with the possibility of coming back for another $8 billion later next year). Read more

Drowning Duck Begs for Life Preserver

The WSJ reveals that–faced with the likely prospect that only five Republican Senators (presumably) would support giving Paulson the second half of the bailout funds–BushCo is trying to get Obama’s help to get to the funds.

A request for more TARP money now would come amid growing lawmaker criticism of Treasury’s implementation of its rescue program — including Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s decisions to forgo buying bad loans from distressed banks in favor of making equity injections in those institutions, and to not place stronger conditions on banks that receive government funds.

The existing bailout legislation does fast-track release of the next $350 billion of TARP money; Congress would have to pass new legislation to block the funding after a request is made. The president could then veto the blocking bill and force opponents to muster a two-thirds majority to override that veto.

But officials with the Treasury and the transition agree that the spectacle of even a failed effort to block the money could send financial markets into an uproar. One transition official said he was told Mr. Bush could expect only a handful of Republican votes — perhaps five — in his favor.

Can you say lame duck?

I understand Obama’s desire to avoid any affiliation with Bush’s failures. But I’m curious about the strategy behind the refusal to engage.

BushCo appears to be pitching for Obama’s help by claiming it will use the funds for foreclosure relief. Though the Bush team seems willing to consider only their crappy plans, and not Sheila Bair’s peg of new mortgages at 30% of an owners income.

Treasury and Fed staff outlined the three main ideas under discussion: A modification of the proposal being pushed by Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair; a plan to help bring down interest rates; and a proposal championed by the Fed to buy distressed mortgages. 

If it’s true that they still refuse to adopt the most practical response, then I would conclude they were still not acting in good faith. In fact, given that they blew off Dodd’s hearing the other day, I’d say it’s a good sign they’re still not acting in good faith.

At the same time, Democrats in Congress are screaming for foreclosure relief.

Of course, 50 Democrats + 5 Republicans only equals 55, so there’s no real reason for Obama to invest his own political will now. Read more

The Boogeyman versus the New Bretton Woods

Lots of people are posting this YouTube, but no one, as far as I’ve seen, has contextualized it.

This seemingly organized snub took place, after all, at the end of the attempt on the part of the G20 to find some global solutions to our present economic crisis. The snub occurred after Bush welcomed his guests with a radio address pre-empting some of the demands those guests were making.

This is a decisive moment for the global economy. In the wake of the financial crisis voices from the left and right are equating the free enterprise system with greed, exploitation, and failure. It is true that this crisis included failures by lenders and borrowers, by financial firms, by governments and independent regulators. But the crisis was not a failure of the free market system. And the answer is not to try to reinvent that system. It is to fix the problems we face, make the reforms we need, and move forward with the free market principles that have delivered prosperity and hope to people around the world. [my emphasis]

And the snub came during a summit in which Bush championed the adoption of a passage in the Declaration that came out of the summit that, once again, insisted the free market was working fine (this could have–and probably did–come straight out of Administration statements leading up to the summit).

12.  We recognize that these reforms will only be successful if grounded in a commitment to free market principles, including the rule of law, respect for private property, open trade and investment, competitive markets, and efficient, effectively regulated financial systems.  These principles are essential to economic growth and prosperity and have lifted millions out of poverty, and have significantly raised the global standard of living.  Recognizing the necessity to improve financial sector regulation, we must avoid over-regulation that would hamper economic growth and exacerbate the contraction of capital flows, including to developing countries.

And the snub came after the rejection of international regulation to control those purportedly functional free markets.

8.  In addition to the actions taken above, we will implement reforms that will strengthen financial markets and regulatory regimes so as to avoid future crises.  Regulation is first and foremost the responsibility of national regulators who constitute the first line of defense against market instability.

Read more

Bush to Declare “Economic Mission Accomplished” to G20

I’m as flabbergasted by this as Americablog’s Chris is: George Bush is going to lecture the G20 today about how lovely free trade is.

President George W. Bush today will urge leaders of the world’s biggest industrial and developing economies not to abandon principles of free-market capitalism as they seek a way out of an international financial crisis, calling it the "best system” for delivering growth. 

Even better, the Dim Son is going to lecture his counterparts about the history of the financial crisis.

He will also review how the crisis began and how markets are more interconnected than in the past. 

Haven’t you heard, George? The victors get to write the history, and the US is probably not going to be the victor this time around. 

In fact, this sounds like it will be an attempt to pre-empt a lot of the blame other leaders are ready to heap on Bush for the economic meltdown.

Leaders including Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have used the crisis to demand greater government control of markets and to attack the U.S. for failing to rein in investors and speculators. 


Officials overseas have heaped blame on the U.S. and the notion of unfettered markets promoted by Bush for sparking the crisis. German Chancellor Angela Merkel last month attacked "greed, speculation and mismanagement” and criticized the U.S. for ignoring her call of last year for stronger market regulation. Rudd said "the root of this malaise” lay in the "twin evils” of greed and fear that went unchecked because of “obscene” failures in oversight. 

While defending capitalism as the "most efficient system ever created,” Sarkozy has described as "over” the view that "everything could be solved by deregulation, free competition and the market.” 

And finally, do you find it at all amusing that the President who refuses to tell us which companies have gotten bailed out and has not yet appointed an Inspector General to oversee the bailout is going to lecture his counter-parts about transparency and regulation?

Bush will outline why markets should be subjected to greater transparency and appropriate regulation, while urging international financial leaders to strengthen cooperation, the White House said. 

Which brings me to this whole "we have one president at a time" thing–the mantra that Obama keeps repeating. Read more

Who Signed the Explicit Authorization to Torture?

The WaPo reveals that in June 2003, and again in July 2004, the CIA sought and got a memo explicitly authorizing the torture methods used in interrogation.

The Bush administration issued a pair of secret memos to the CIA in 2003 and 2004 that explicitly endorsed the agency’s use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding against al-Qaeda suspects — documents prompted by worries among intelligence officials about a possible backlash if details of the program became public. 

The article explains that Tenet felt he needed such memos to make sure the CIA had "top cover" for its actions.

The repeated requests for a paper trail reflected growing worries within the CIA that the administration might later distance itself from key decisions about the handling of captured al-Qaeda leaders, former intelligence officials said.


A. John Radsan, a lawyer in the CIA general counsel’s office until 2004, remembered the discussions but did not personally view the memos the agency received in response to its concerns. "The question was whether we had enough ‘top cover,’ " Radsan said. 


The CIA’s anxiety was partly fueled by the lack of explicit presidential authorization for the interrogation program.


By the spring of 2004, the concerns among agency officials had multiplied, in part because of shifting views among administration lawyers about what acts might constitute torture, leading Tenet to ask a second time for written confirmation from the White House.

But at that point, the story gets all vague. What the CIA was seeking, obviously, was a document signed by someone other that John Yoo, someone whose ass would be on the line along with the CIA if the torture program became public. That document would presumably implicate at least top aides to Bush, if not Bush himself. But the WaPo doesn’t describe who that person is.

Days later, he got what he wanted: a brief memo conveying the administration’s approval for the CIA’s interrogation methods, the officials said. Administration officials confirmed the existence of the memos, but neither they nor former intelligence officers would describe their contents in detail because they remain classified. 


Finally, in mid-July, a memo was forwarded to the CIA reaffirming the administration’s backing for the interrogation program. Tenet had acquired the statement of support he sought. 

I’ve updated the torture timeline, and the timing is fascinating (the second memo came, for example, just after Goldsmith and Olson left DOJ, Read more

Bush Failure > Obama Leadership > McCain Stunt

Let me just clarify what seem to be the underlying issues behind McCain’s latest gimmick.

First, the bailout is in deep trouble. There are several reasons why the bailout is in trouble. It’s a crappy plan that, experts believe, does not really fix the crisis. So for those assessing the plan rationally, there is great skepticism about it.

In addition, Democrats are rightly suspecting this is another case of the boy-Bush who cried wolf. At the very least, the Bush Administration is springing this bailout in a irresponsibly political manner.  Add in Paulson’s dishonesty about the bailout, and the Administration simply can’t be trusted as honest partners in trying to solve this problem.

Meanwhile, Republicans are unwilling to accept what this crisis clearly proves: their ideology is dead. Rather than deal with the crisis the country is in, they are instead trying to turn the crisis into a campaign gimmick–an opportunity to distance themselves from Bush.

All of these things: the problems with the plan, Bush’s lack of credibility with Democrats, and Bush’s inability to get his own party to put country over campaign gimmicks, demonstrate the depth of Bush’s leadership failure.

At the same time, Republican promises to politicize this issue–along with Paulson’s promises–made McCain the key political stumbling block to crafting a deal.

So Obama did the right thing–showed leadership. At 8:30 AM, Obama reached out to his rival to propose they come up with a bipartisan statement. By making this effort, Obama gave up the opportunity to show just how much better he and his team are responding to this issue and instead prioritized finding a solution that would work.

McCain received that offer.

And he sat on it.

For six hours.

Finally, at 2:30 PM, McCain accepted the offer to put country ahead of politicking.

Only McCain couldn’t afford to do that. It seems that, during those six long hours when McCain was mulling Obama’s proposal, McCain was inventing a way to turn this into yet another political gimmick. Twenty minutes after accepting Obama’s proposal, McCain pulled this stunt of calling for a suspension of the campaign and postponement of the debate.

Bush’s failure of leadership, Obama’s assumption of that leadership, followed by McCain’s empty stunt. That’s the state of our country right now.

And as for the guy whose failures got us into this mess? Read more

Bush and Cheney Responsible for Five Suspected Terrorists Going Free

A Court in the UK just convicted three men it had charged with plotting to make bombs from bottles of liquid and explode them on planes flying over the Atlantic.

Three Britons were found guilty on Monday of plotting to kill people using homemade liquid bombs, but a jury failed to agree that they intended to blow up transatlantic airliners.

After a five-month trial, the jury found Abdulla Ahmed Ali, Assad Sarwar and Tanvir Hussain guilty of conspiring to kill "persons unknown" but were not convinced by the prosecution’s case that they planned to target aircraft leaving London’s Heathrow airport headed for North America.

But it failed to convict a majority of the eight men it had charged.

The jury failed to reach a verdict in the case of four other defendants and an eighth was cleared on all counts. 

We’ll never know, but there’s a decent likelihood British officials could have convicted all the suspects had Bush and Cheney not prematurely trumped up these plans into a terror scare right before the 2006 elections.  As Ron Suskind described, Bush and Cheney pushed the Pakistanis to break this, in spite of demands from the UK that the investigators allow their work to continue to fruition.

NPR: I want to talk just a little about this fascinating episode you describe in the summer of 2006, when President Bush is very anxious about some intelligence briefings that he is getting from the British. What are they telling him?

SUSKIND: In late July of 2006, the British are moving forward on a mission they’ve been–an investigation they’ve been at for a year at that point, where they’ve got a group of "plotters," so-called, in the London area that they’ve been tracking…Bush gets this briefing at the end of July of 2006, and he’s very agitated. When Blair comes at the end of the month, they talk about it and he says, "Look, I want this thing, this trap snapped shut immediately." Blair’s like, "Well, look, be patient here. What we do in Britain"–Blair describes, and this is something well known to Bush–"is we try to be more patient so they move a bit forward. These guys are not going to breathe without us knowing it. Read more

Mukasey to SJC: Investigation of Rove’s Involvement in Siegelman Should Take Place … Somewhere Else

There has been some misunderstanding about Karl Rove’s refusal to show up to testify before HJC tomorrow. While Luskin referred to executive privilege to justify Rove’s refusal to appear tomorrow,

Accordingly, Mr. Rove will respectfully decline to appear before the Subcommittee on July 10 on the grounds that Executive Privilege confers upon him immunity from process in response to a subpoena directed to this subject.

And though Luskin parses wildly to pretend that the subject of this hearing–Siegelman’s prosecution and other selective prosecutions–is identical to the subject on which Rove was subpoenaed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee and for which Bush did invoke executive privilege–the firing of the nine US Attorneys.

Mr. Rove is simply not free to accede to the Committee’s view and take a position inconsistent with that asserted by the White House in the litigation [about the subpoenas regarding the US purge].

No one has ever asserted that Bush was invoking executive privilege with regards to this appearance by Rove. In fact, Rove himself, back in May, not only admitted that Bush had not yet done so but implied that Bush would have to do so in this case (and, he suggested, Bush would "probably" do so–though that hasn’t happened yet).

Rove: Congress–the House Judiciary Committee wants to be able to call Presidential Aides on its whim up to testify, violating the separation of powers. Executive Privilege has been asserted by the White House in a similar instance in the Senate. It’ll be, probably be asserted very shortly in the House. [my emphasis]

But no one has asserted that Bush has invoked executive privilege in this case. The sole legal rationale Rove has given for not showing up, even in the absence of executive privilege being invoked, is a memo that Steven Bradbury wrote that may or may not apply to this case. For example, that memo only applies if Rove is willing to claim that politicizing prosecutions was part of his official duties as Senior Advisor to Bush. Suffice it to say that not even Mr. Unitary Executive thought that memo was sufficient basis for blowing off HJC, and that on a topic (rationalizing torture) that probably would be considered among the official duties of OVP’s counsel in this Administration.

As of right now, the White House has declined to give Rove real legal protections for blowing off HJC tomorrow. Read more

Make Bush Invoke Executive Privilege for Rove

Kagro X wrote a post stating that Karl Rove is "not honoring his subpoena" from House Judiciary Committee. That’s not quite an accurate statement, yet–it won’t be until Rove actually does not show up when he was subpoenaed to testify, on Thursday, July 10.

I raise the distinction because, thus far, Rove’s refusal to testify is based solely on his attorney Robert Luskin’s efforts to pretend that the executive privilege Bush invoked with regards to the US Attorney purge extends to questions of politicized prosecution.

As I have indicated to you in each of my letters, Mr. Rove does not assert any personal privileges in response to the subpoena. However, as a former Special Advisor to the President of the United States, he remains obligated to assert privileges held by the President. As you are, of course, well aware, the precise question that we have discussed at length in our correspondence–whether a former Senior Advisor to thet President is required to appear before a Committee of Congress to answer questions concerning the alleged politicization of the Department of Justice–is the subject of a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Yet that invocation of executive privilege was very specific. It relied upon a Paul Clement opinion that very specifically refers to the "dismissal and replacement of U.S. Attorneys" and then goes on to claim that that deliberations about the hiring and firing of USAs "necessarily relate to the potential exercise by the President of an authority assigned to him alone." The claim is specious on its face–after all, Congress has specific authority in the Constitution to legislate the selection of inferior officers; they had passed and were considering passing laws pertaining to the selection of interim USAs; and therefore they had a clear and recognized legislative interest in, for example, whether Bush tried to appoint Tim Griffin using a PATRIOT appointment so as to avoid the Senate approval process. But putting aside Clement’s transparently false argument, everything else he argues is premised on the exclusivity of the hiring and firing authority to the President.

But prosecution of federal crimes is not exclusive to the President; it’s an issue that Congress has clear legislative authority over. So DOJ would have to make very different analysis to find that Rove didn’t have to testify about his role in politicized prosecutions. Read more

Dean and Bush and Pardons

John Dean’s piece on FISA reads with all the angst of someone who–after a number of people have demonstrated his error–is hoping to persuade Barack Obama to get him out of the hole he created for himself. "Please, Obama," Dean seems to be saying, "hold Bush accountable so I don’t have to admit immunity really is immunity."

One gaping problem with Dean’s argument is the absence of any discussion of statutes of limitation. Even if Obama did what Dean wanted–and announced he would direct his AG to immediately review the warrantless wiretap program–the Republicans in the Senate could just filibuster approval of Obama’s AG until, say, April 26, 2009 (five years and 45 days after the authorization signed by Alberto Gonzales on March 11), and the statute of limitations on the known crimes would expire.

But the proposition I find really ridiculous is Dean’s contention that Bush isn’t going to issue blanket pardons of all the law-breakers in his Administration.

Given the downside, it is not clear whether Bush would issue a pardon in this context.

If it were issued by Bush, however, a blanket pardon to his “national security” miscreants would require acceptance by them of the fact that they had broken the law, and thus an admission of guilt. Were Bush to issue such a remarkable pardon, it would, of course, cement his historical stature as several notches below even that of Richard Nixon, who refused to pardon those who (many “for national security reasons”) engaged in the so-called Watergate abuses of presidential power on his behalf. Not many presidents want to be viewed by history as worse than Nixon. And a blanket pardon would be an admission by Bush that his war on terror has been a lawless undertaking, operating beyond the bounds of the Constitution and statutes that check the powers of the president and the executive branch. It would be an admission by Bush, too, of his own criminal culpability (which is why Nixon refused to grant his aides a pardon.)

Bush is very politically savvy. He knows that a blanket pardon, or even the prospect of it, could give Obama and the Democratic Party a wonderful issue during the coming months of the general election. Most Americans are deeply concerned about Bush/Cheney’s conduct of foreign affairs and national security, which ignores American laws and treaty obligations. Read more