Sidney Blumenthal

America Must Build Statues Against Slavery and Racism

A house divided stands symbolically in the 1,503 monuments dedicated throughout the south to leaders of the Confederacy, including the eight in Statuary Hall in Congress. Dozens of memorials extol Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy. Three state capitols – Alabama, Kentucky and Virginia – prominently display statues of him.

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How Abraham Lincoln Found His Anti-Slavery Voice

The book that had the greatest influence on his thinking was an impassioned tract against everything he believed. George Fitzhugh’s Sociology for the South, or The Failure of Free Society, published in 1854, “defended and justified slavery in every conceivable way,” recalled Lincoln’s law partner, William Henry Herndon, and “aroused the ire of Lincoln more than most pro-slavery books.”

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What Abraham Lincoln Would Have Thought of Trump's 'America First' Platform

Abraham Lincoln neither spoke nor read any language other than English and would never travel abroad, but he was an internationalist in sentiment, conviction and politics. His internationalism was not a vague or transient feeling, but a firmly rooted belief that was a necessary and logical part of his defense of American democracy. Lincoln believed that the struggles for liberal democracy in Europe and the U.S. were organically linked. He fervently hoped that an emancipated America would serve as an inspiration for Europeans seeking to overthrow authoritarian regimes. Once Lincoln emerged in 1854 to oppose the extension of slavery to western territories and advance the cause for democracy he never faltered in framing it as the vanguard of an international movement.

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Sidney Blumenthal: 5 Ways to Measure Trump's Illegitimacy

Not since The Wizard of Oz has anyone proclaimed himself to be so great and powerful as Donald Trump.

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When Lincoln Warned Against Trump

The following excerpt is adapted from A Self-Made Man 1809-1849: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, 2016), the first of a four-volume biography. The excerpt describes Lincoln’s first formal speech, delivered in 1838, when he was nearly 28 years old and a member of the Illinois state legislature.

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The Battle Between McCain and Bush: The Cancelled First Night, The "Furious" President and the Palin Gambit

The cancellation of the first night of the Republican National Convention marks the renewal of the rivalry between George W. Bush and John McCain. Since their bitter contest over the Republican nomination in 2000, they have taken years to make peace. But now McCain's last chance has collided with Bush's legacy.

Hurricane Gustav was "a big blessing," according to a source close to the McCain campaign. Facing a Katrina level wipeout--the landfall in St. Paul of both President Bush and Vice President Cheney--McCain felt trapped. How could he prevent the President and Vice President from appearing at the convention? Only an act of God could intervene. Suddenly, a hurricane whipped up in the Gulf and looked headed for New Orleans. Like a divinely inspired miracle, a storm to blow away Bush and Cheney had been conjured.

The McCain campaign and the Bush White House negotiated terms that unfolded as a script over the past several days, several sources told me. First, Bush announced he must oversee the preparations for dealing with the hurricane. He would not be able to attend the convention. Cheney, too, would drop out. In order that Bush and Cheney not seem to have been humiliated, McCain cancelled the entire proceedings for the first evening.

Almost certainly, Bush had to cancel his planned speech while Gustav loomed. But the sources say he didn't like the idea and felt pushed. Bush is described by sources as "furious" at McCain for being deprived of his last appearance before his party, which nominated him twice, as a sitting president. He believes he is being treated disrespectfully.

Shuttering the convention for a night was probably inevitable given the hurricane, but to provide a cover-up for scratching Bush and Cheney it became absolutely necessary. But once the hurricane passed, Bush asserted his primacy as president and forced his way back on the schedule to deliver a satellite speech to the convention.

McCain is desperately seeking ways to pivot from Bush, whose in-person appearance on the first night of the convention threatened to obliterate his message as a "maverick" and "reformer." Even though McCain himself would not be onstage, Bush and Cheney would have dominated the opening and underlined continuity between their administration and McCain. The cancellation of the first night of the convention is a small price to pay for their absence.

McCain's campaign is perfectly aware of the mortal danger of Bush's embrace. He has needed the president to rally the Republican base. But once he has the nomination his imperative is to project himself as an antidote to what has gone wrong with Republicanism.

McCain's political quandary is paradoxical. Bush has broken all parts of the Republican Party, as I document in my book, The Strange Death of Republican America. McCain's emergence as the party's nominee has been made possible by its crackup, which he must transcend. The primary field fractured the conservatives, none of whom were able to isolate the others and unite the whole movement. None could do what Bush achieved in 2000, running at the same time as the candidate of the party establishment and the conservative movement. McCain historically has represented neither.

McCain's selection of Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska reflected his impulse to reject Bush. As I explained in a previous article in the Huffington Post, he really wanted to name Senator Joe Lieberman as his running mate, but that option was a political impossibility that would have provoked an open revolt at the convention. Karl Rove tried to manipulate McCain into choosing Mitt Romney, endorsed by almost all members of the Bush family (except the president who had to remain above the fray). Rove organized a campaign against Lieberman and other potential choices. There could be little doubt that Rove was doing Bush's bidding. But McCain, resentful of Rove's maneuvering, outflanked him with Palin.

Bush is said to be dismissive of McCain's pick of Palin, according to the sources. Ironically, he is said to believe that now he will bear no responsibility if McCain loses. The old rivalry, supposedly buried, has come back to life.

The Strange Death of Republican America

On July 29, President George W. Bush appeared at the Lincoln Electric Company in Euclid, Ohio, where he spoke about energy and then asked the audience for questions. The opportunity for people in a small town in the Midwest to pose a question directly to the president of the United States is a rare one, possibly a once in a lifetime experience. "And now I'd like to answer some questions, if you have any," said Bush. But his request was returned with silence. Bush filled the air with an awkward joke: "After seven-and-a-half years, if I can't figure out how to dodge them, I shouldn't..." The audience tittered nervously. Bush continued, "If you don't have any questions, I can tell you a lot of interesting stories." The crowd laughed again, but no one raised a hand. "Okay," said Bush, "I'll tell you a story."

Despite the daily tracking polls and the back-and-forth of the candidates, the underlying story of the 2008 presidential campaign remains the Bush presidency and how it brought about the end of the long era of Republican political dominance that began in 1968 with the election of Richard Nixon. That story is the subject of my new book, "The Strange Death of Republican America: Chronicles of a Collapsing Party."

Bush has the lowest sustained popularity among modern presidents. The Republican Party has fallen farther behind the Democratic Party in party identification and favorable ratings than it has in decades. Democrats are poised to make dramatic gains in their numbers in the House of Representatives and the Senate. The previously little-known Senator Barack Obama could have vaulted to become the presumptive Democratic nominee only as a response to Bush. Senator John McCain's emergence at the presumptive Republican nominee is also one of Bush's consequences. Without the crackup of the conservative movement and the fragmentation of the Republican primary field, McCain would not have had his opening. His candidacy is as much a manifestation of the shattering of the Republican phalanx as Obama's. Whatever the outcome of their contest, the party as it was is over. Today no one can even envision when the Republicans will control the presidency and both houses of the Congress as they did just two years ago.

Bush's decline is an end to more than family dynasty; it is an end of political empire. Bush, "The Decider," was the implementer of complementary radical plans for an imperial presidency and a one-party government to be ruled for generations by Republicans.

Dick Cheney, whose Secret Service code name when he was President Gerald Ford's chief of staff, "Backseat," suggested his invisible influence, was the originator of the imperial presidency. It was a overarching idea he took from the Nixon White House, when he was then counselor Donald Rumsfeld's deputy, and elaborated as vice president into a doctrine of an unaccountable and unfettered "unitary executive" that had the right unto itself even to order torture.

Bush's chief political strategist, Karl Rove, whom he has called "The Architect" and "Turdblossom," was the designer of the grand realignment that would lock in Republican control for time immemorial.

But Bush's fiascos, from Gulf to shining Gulf, from the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq to FEMA in New Orleans, were the culmination of Republican ideology and have unraveled Republican strengths built up over 40 years. I explain the scope of Bush's damage to his party in a talk on July 31 at the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C., which can be viewed here.

Though the Republican era is drawing to an end, a new Democratic one is not inevitable. Its dawning would require not only winning the White House and the Congress but also governing together successfully, which has not been possible since Lyndon Johnson was president.

In the meantime, the growing intensity of the day-to-day campaign has turned the focus away from the Bush presidency. Bush has achieved the weird effect of being the incumbent, still responsible, and increasingly ignored as somehow irrelevant. The silence that greeted Bush in Euclid, Ohio is symptomatic of his fading while still being present. Dominating politics just a short time ago, his elusiveness can only work to the advantage of the Republicans. If the Democratic campaign allows him to escape from being in the picture it will have forgotten a cardinal law of politics that voters can be led into the future only by making the election a referendum on the past.

The Disastrous Rule of a Mayberry Machiavelli

The following is an excerpt from How Bush Rules: Chronicles of a Radical Regime (Princeton University Press, 2006).

No one predicted just how radical a president George W. Bush would be. Neither his opponents, nor the reporters covering him, nor his closest campaign aides suggested that he would be the most willfully radical president in American history.

In his 2000 campaign, Bush permitted himself few hints of radicalism. On the contrary he made ready promises of moderation, judiciously offering himself as a "compassionate conservative," an identity carefully crafted to contrast with the discredited Republican radicals of the House of Representatives. After capturing the Congress in 1994 and proclaiming a "revolution," they had twice shut down the government over the budget and staged an impeachment trial that resulted in the acquittal of President Clinton. Seeking to distance himself from the congressional Republicans, Bush declared that he was not hostile to government. He would, he said, "change the tone in Washington." He would be more reasonable than the House Republicans and more moral than Clinton. Governor Bush went out of his way to point to his record of bipartisan cooperation with Democrats in Texas, stressing that he would be "a uniter, not a divider."

Trying to remove the suspicion that falls on conservative Republicans, he pledged that he would protect the solvency of Social Security. On foreign policy, he said he would be "humble": "If we're an arrogant nation, they'll view us that way, but if we're a humble nation, they'll respect us." Here he was criticizing Clinton's peacemaking and nation-building efforts in the Balkans and suggesting he would be far more restrained. The sharpest criticism he made of Clinton's foreign policy was that he would be more mindful of the civil liberties of Arabs accused of terrorism: "Arab-Americans are racially profiled in what's called secret evidence. People are stopped, and we got to do something about that." This statement was not an off-the-cuff remark, but carefully crafted and presented in one of the debates with Vice President Al Gore. Bush's intent was to win an endorsement from the American Muslim Council, which was cued to back him after he delivered his debating point, and it was instrumental in his winning an overwhelming share of Muslims' votes, about 90,000 of which were in Florida.

So Bush deliberately offered himself as an alternative to the divisive congressional Republicans, his father's son (at last) in political temperament, but also experienced as an executive who had learned the art of compromise with the other party, and differing from the incumbent Democratic president only in personality and degree. Bush wanted the press to report and discuss that he would reform and discipline his party, which had gone too far to the right. He encouraged commentary that he represented a "Fourth Way," a variation on the theme of Clinton's "Third Way."

In his second term, Clinton had the highest sustained popularity of any president since World War II, prosperity was in its longest recorded cycle, and the nation's international prestige high. Bush's tack as moderate was adroit, shrewd and necessary. His political imperative was to create the public perception there were no major issues dividing the candidates and that the current halcyon days would continue as well under his aegis. Only through his positioning did Bush manage to close to within just short of a half-million votes of Gore and achieve an apparent tie in Florida, creating an Electoral College deadlock and forcing the election toward an extraordinary resolution.

Few political commentators at the time thought that the ruthless tactics used by the Bush camp in the Florida contest presaged his presidency. The battle there was seen as unique, a self-contained episode of high political drama that could and would not be replicated. Tactics such as setting loose a mob comprised mostly of Republican staff members from the House and Senate flown down from Washington to intimidate physically the Miami-Dade County Board of Supervisors from counting the votes there, and manipulating the Florida state government through the office of the governor, Jeb Bush, the candidate's brother, to forestall vote counting were justified as simply hardball politics.

The Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore, by a five-to-four margin, perversely sanctioned not counting thousands of votes (mostly African-American) as somehow upholding the equal protection clause of the 15th Amendment (enacted after the Civil War to guarantee the rights of newly enfranchised slaves, the ancestors of those disenfranchised by Bush v. Gore). In the majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia argued that counting votes would cast a shadow on the "legitimacy" of Bush's claim to the presidency. The Court concluded that the ruling was to have applicability only this one time. By its very nature, it was declared to be unprecedented. Never before had the Supreme Court decided who would be president, much less according to tortuous argument, and by a one vote margin that underlined and extended political polarization.

The constitutional system had ruptured, but it was widely believed by the political class in Washington, including most of the press corps, that Bush, who had benefited, would rush to repair the breach. The brutality enabling him to become president, while losing the popular majority, and following a decade of partisan polarization, must spur him to make good on his campaign rhetoric of moderation, seek common ground and enact centrist policies. Old family retainers, James Baker (the former Secretary of State who had been summoned to command the legal and political teams in Florida) and Brent Scowcroft (elder Bush's former national security adviser), were especially unprepared for what was to come, and they came to oppose Bush's radicalism, mounting a sub rosa opposition. In its brazen, cold-blooded and single-minded partisanship, the Florida contest turned out in retrospect to be an augury not an aberration. It was Bush's first opening, and having charged through it, grabbing the presidency, he continued widening the breach.

The precedents for a president who gained office without winning the popular vote were uniformly grim. John Quincy Adams, the first president elected without a plurality, never escaped the accusation of having made a "corrupt bargain" to secure the necessary Electoral College votes. After one term he was turned out of office with an overwhelming vote for his rival, Andrew Jackson. Rutherford B. Hayes and Benjamin Harrison, also having won the White House but not the popular vote, declined to run again. Like these three predecessors Bush lacked a mandate, but unlike them he proceeded as though he had won by a landslide.

The Republicans had control of both houses of the Congress and the presidency for the first time since Dwight Eisenhower was elected. But Eisenhower had gained the White House with a resounding majority. He spent his early years in office trying to isolate his right wing in the Congress, quietly if belatedly encouraging efforts to censure Senator Joseph McCarthy. Eisenhower greeted the Democratic recovery of the Congress in 1954 with relief and smoothly governed for the rest of his tenure in tandem with Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson. The outrageous behavior of the Republicans during the brief period in which they had held congressional power and unleashed McCarthy was a direct cause of their minority status for 40 subsequent years. But the Republicans who gained control of the Congress in 1994 had not learned from their past.

The Republican radicals in charge of the House of Representatives remained unabashed by their smashing failures of the 1990s. They were willing to sacrifice two speakers of the House to scandals of their own in order to pursue an unconstitutional coup d'état to remove President Clinton. (It was unconstitutional, strictly speaking, because they had rejected any standards whatsoever for impeachment in the House Judiciary Committee in contradistinction to the committee's exacting standards enacted in the impeachment proceedings of President Nixon.) Now these Republicans welcomed the Bush ascension as deus ex machina, rescuing them from their exhaustion, disrepute and dead end. They became Bush's indispensable partners.

Immediately upon assuming office, Bush launched upon a series of initiatives that began to undo the bipartisan traditions of internationalism, environmentalism, fiscal discipline, and scientific progress. His first nine months in office were a quick march to the right. The reasons were manifold, ranging from Cheney and Rumsfeld's extraordinary influence, Rove's strategies, the neoconservatives' inordinate sway, and Bush's Southern conservatism. These deeper patterns were initially obscured by the surprising rapidity of Bush's determined tack.

Bush withdrew from the diplomacy with North Korea to control its development and production of nuclear weapons. Secretary of State Colin Powell, after briefing the press that the diplomatic track would continue, was sent out again to repudiate himself and announce the administration's reversal of almost a decade of negotiation. Powell did not realize that this would be the first of many times his credibility would be abused in a ritual of humiliation. Swiftly, Bush rejected the Kyoto treaty to reduce greenhouse gases and global warming, and presented a "voluntary" plan that was supported by no other nation. He also withdrew the U.S. from its historic role as negotiator among Israelis, Palestinians and Arabs, a process to which his father had been particularly committed.

In short order, Bush also reversed his campaign promise to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and canceled the federal regulation reducing cancer causing arsenic levels in water. He joked at a dinner: "As you know, we're studying safe levels for arsenic in drinking water. To base our decision on sound science, the scientists told us we needed to test the water glasses of about 3,000 people. Thank you for participating." He appointed scores of former lobbyists and industry executives to oversee policies regulating the industries they previously represented.

As his top priority Bush pushed for passage of a large tax cut that would redistribute income to the wealthy, drain the surplus that the Clinton administration had accumulated, and reverse fiscal discipline embraced by both the Clinton and prior Bush administrations. The tax cut became Bush's chief instrument of social policy. By wiping out the surplus, budget pressure was exerted on domestic social programs. Under the Reagan administration, a tax cut had produced the largest deficit to that time, bigger than the combined deficits accumulated by all previous presidents. But Reagan had stumbled onto this method of crushing social programs through the inadvertent though predictable failure of his fantasy of supply-side economics in which slashing taxes would magically create increased federal revenues. Bush confronted alternatives in the recent Republican past, the Reagan example or his father's responsible counter-example of raising taxes to cut the deficit; once again, he rejected his father's path. But unlike Reagan, his decision to foster a deficit was completely deliberate and with full awareness of its consequences.

Domestic policy adviser John DiIulio, a political scientist from the University of Pennsylvania, who had accepted his position in the White House on the assumption that he would be working to give substance to the president's rhetoric of "compassionate conservatism," resigned in a state of shock. "There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus," DiIulio told Esquire magazine. "What you've got is everything -- and I mean everything -- being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis ... Besides the tax cut ... the administration has not done much, either in absolute terms or in comparison to previous administrations at this stage, on domestic policy. There is a virtual absence as yet of any policy accomplishments that might, to a fair-minded non-partisan, count as the flesh on the bones of so-called compassionate conservatism."

After just four months into the Bush presidency, the Republicans lost control of the Senate. Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont, who had served for 26 years as a moderate Republican in the House and the Senate, left his party in response to Bush's radicalism. "In the past, without the presidency, the various wings of the Republican Party in Congress have had some freedom to argue and influence and ultimately to shape the party's agenda. The election of President Bush changed that dramatically," Jeffords said on May 24, 2001. Overnight, the majority in the upper chamber shifted to the Democrats.

Bush spent the entire month of August on vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. His main public event was a speech declaring federal limits on scientific research involving stem cells that might lead to cures for many diseases. Bush's tortuous position was a sop to the religious right. On August 6, three days before his nationally televised address on stem cells, he was presented with a Presidential Daily Brief from the CIA entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside U.S." CIA director George Tenet later told the 9/11 Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States "the system was blinking red." The Commission reported: "The President told us the August 6 report was historical in nature ... We have found no indication of any further discussion before September 11 among the President and his top advisers of the possibility of a threat of an al Qaeda attack in the United States."

By September 10, Bush held the lowest job approval rating of any president to that early point in his tenure. He appeared to be falling into the pattern of presidents who arrived without a popular mandate and lasted only one term. The deadliest foreign attack on American soil transformed his foundering presidency.

The events of September 11 lent Bush the aura of legitimacy that Bush v. Gore had not granted. Catastrophe infused him with the charisma of a "war president," as he proclaimed himself. At once, his radicalism had an unobstructed path.

Bush's political rhetoric reached Manichaean and apocalyptic heights. He divided the world into "good" and "evil." "You're either with the terrorists or with us," he said. He stood at the ramparts of Fortress America, defending it from evildoers without and within. His fervent messianism guided what he called his "crusade" in the Muslim realm. "Bring them on!" he exclaimed about Iraqi insurgents. Asked if he ever sought advice from his father, Bush replied, "There's a higher Father I appeal to."

After September 11, the American people were virtually united in sentiment. Support for the Afghanistan war was almost unanimous. "The nation is united and there is a resolve and a spirit that is just so fantastic to feel," said Bush. But two weeks after he made this statement, in January 2002, his chief political aide, whom he called "The Architect," Karl Rove, spoke before a meeting of the Republican National Committee, laying out the strategy for exploiting fear of terror for partisan advantage. "We can go to the country on this issue because they trust the Republican Party to do a better job of protecting and strengthening America's military might and thereby protecting America," said Rove. His strategy was premised on the idea that Republicans win elections by maximizing the turnout of their conservative base; his method was to polarize the electorate as much as possible. Rove's tactic was to challenge the patriotism of Democrats by creating false issues of national security in which they could be demonized. September 11 gave his politics of polarization the urgency of national emergency.

How Bush Destroyed the CIA

The moment that the destruction of the Central Intelligence Agency began can be pinpointed to a time, a place and even a memo. On Aug. 6, 2001, CIA director George Tenet presented to President Bush his presidential daily briefing, a startling document titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." Bush did nothing, asked for no further briefings on the issue, and returned to cutting brush at his Crawford, Texas, compound.

In Bush's denial of responsibility after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the search for scapegoats inevitably focused on the lapse in intelligence and therefore on the CIA, though it was the FBI whose egregious incompetence permitted the plotters to escape apprehension. Bush's intent to invade Iraq set up the battle royal that followed.

Tenet, an inveterate staff careerist held over from the Clinton administration, had ingratiated himself with the new White House tenant with salty stories, but it was in his eagerness to please Bush on Iraq that he ensured his tenure and made himself indispensable. At first, Tenet opposed including in the president's speech of October 2002 the disinformation that Iraq was seeking to build nuclear weaponry using yellowcake uranium Saddam Hussein supposedly sought to purchase in Niger, and the reference was knocked out. Yet, having already been discredited, the falsehood was inserted into the president's State of the Union address of January 2003, becoming the now infamous 16 words.

Tenet reassured Bush that the case for Saddam's possession of WMD was a "slam-dunk." At CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., Tenet promised then Secretary of State Colin Powell that for Powell's Feb. 5, 2003, speech before the U.N. Security Council, the information that would be used to prove Saddam had WMD was ironclad. Powell insisted that Tenet be seated behind him while he spoke as visual reinforcement of his statement's unimpeachable character. Yet every piece of it was false, and the humiliated Powell later said he had been "deceived." Tenet resigned on June 4, 2004, and shortly thereafter was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

After the brief interim appointment of CIA professional John McLaughlin, on Aug. 10, 2004, almost three years to the day after the Aug. 6 presidential daily briefing on bin Laden, Bush named Porter Goss the new director of Central Intelligence. The president was looking for someone to rid him of the troublesome agency. In Goss, he thought he had discovered the perfect man for the bloody job, but the nature of the task undid Goss, and in his unraveling another scandal unfolded.

In the absence of any reliable evidence, CIA analysts had refused to put their stamp of approval on the administration's reasons for the Iraq war. Vice President Dick Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, personally came to Langley to intimidate analysts on several occasions. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his then deputy secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, constructed their own intelligence bureau, called the Office of Special Plans, to sidestep the CIA and shunt disinformation corroborating the administration's arguments directly to the White House.

"The administration used intelligence not to inform decision-making, but to justify a decision already made," Paul Pillar, then the chief Middle East analyst for the CIA, writes in the March-April issue of Foreign Affairs. "The process did not involve intelligence work designed to find dangers not yet discovered or to inform decisions not yet made. Instead, it involved research to find evidence in support of a specific line of argument -- that Saddam was cooperating with al Qaeda -- which in turn was being used to justify a specific policy decision."

But despite urgent pressures to report to the contrary, the CIA never reported that Saddam presented an imminent national security threat to the United States, that he was near to developing nuclear weapons, or that he had any ties to al-Qaida. Moreover, analysts predicted a protracted insurgency after an invasion of Iraq. Tenet, despite the lack of cooperation from the CIA's Directorate of Intelligence, acted as backslapper for the administration's policy.

The White House was in a fury. The CIA's professionalism was perceived as political warfare, and the agency apparently was seen as the center of a conspiracy to overthrow the administration. Inside the offices of the president, the vice president and the secretary of defense, the CIA was referred to as a treasonous enemy. "If we lived in a primitive age, the ground at Langley would be laid waste and salted, and there would be heads on spikes," wrote neoconservative columnist David Brooks in the New York Times on Nov. 13, 2004, citing White House officials and "members of the executive branch" as his sources. Reflecting their rage, he called on Bush to "punish the mutineers ... If the C.I.A. pays no price for its behavior, no one will pay a price for anything, and everything is permitted. That, Mr. President, is a slam-dunk."

Goss combined the old-school tie with cynical zealotry. A graduate of Hotchkiss and Yale (class of 1960) and married to a Pittsburgh heiress, he had served as a CIA operative, left the agency for residence on Sanibel Island, Fla., a resort for the wealthy, bought the local paper, sold it for a fortune, and was elected to the House of Representatives in 1988. There he struck up an alliance with Newt Gingrich and his band of radicals. And after they captured the House in 1994, Goss used his CIA credential to become chairman of the Intelligence Committee.

In that position, he proved his bona fides to the Bush administration time and again. "Those weapons are there," he declared after David Kay, head of the Iraq Survey Group, reported that there were no WMD. He blocked investigations into detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib and into prewar disinformation churned by the neoconservatives' favorite Iraqi exile, Ahmed Chalabi. "I would say that the oversight has worked well in matters relating to Mr. Chalabi," Goss said. He also derided the notion of investigating the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson: "Somebody sends me a blue dress and some DNA, I'll have an investigation." Goss was on board with the cavalier way in which Plame was outed, a breach that revealed ingrained contempt for the agency as well as the supremacy of political objectives over national security.

On April 21, 2005, his mission dictated by Bush's political imperatives, Goss became CIA director. Immediately, he sent a memo to all employees, ordering them to "support the administration and its policies in our work." He underscored the supremacy of the party line: "As agency employees we do not identify with, support, or champion opposition to the administration or its policies."

He installed four political aides to run the agency from his offices on the seventh floor at Langley. Within weeks, an exodus of professionals began and then turned into a flood. In the Directorate of Operations, he lost the director, two deputies, and more than a dozen department and division directors and station chiefs out in the field. In the Directorate of Intelligence, dozens took early retirement. Four former operations chiefs, horrified by the carnage, sought to meet with Goss, but he refused.

As a result of hectoring by the 9/11 Commission, Bush established the position of national director of intelligence, a new layer of bureaucracy, but one that lacked operational or intelligence resources of its own. Suddenly, the CIA's preeminence was shattered. Since its creation by the National Security Act of 1947 at the onset of the Cold War, the CIA had dominated the intelligence community. But now the "central" part of the CIA was handed off to the new NDI, whose lines of authority and power were untested and uncertain.

The "global war on terror," meanwhile, was a boon to the concentration of power within the Pentagon, and that department gained control of more than 80 percent of the total budget for intelligence. Without its assigned place at the top of the pyramid, the CIA became disoriented and ever more peripheral. That suited Rumsfeld's empire building. And the CIA's plight was aggravated by the power grabs of the first NDI, John Negroponte (coincidentally an old Yale classmate of Goss'). Without natural functions of its own, Negroponte's office seized them from the CIA.

Acting on the president's charge, Goss in effect purged the CIA. He was even conducting lie detector interrogations of officers to root out the sources of stories leaked to the press -- to the Washington Post, for example, in its Pulitzer Prize-winning exposé of CIA "black site" prisons where detainees are jailed without any due process, Red Cross inspection or Geneva Conventions protection. Last month, a CIA agent, Mary McCarthy, was fired for her contact with a reporter. Like others subjected to questioning, she was asked her political affiliation.

But Goss' purging weakened the agency and his own inherent bureaucratic strength in relation to his voracious rivals at the Directorate of National Intelligence and the Pentagon. The more he served as the president's loyalist, the less was his power. By fulfilling his mission, he diminished himself. The butcher's defense of the integrity of the CIA from the directorate and the Pentagon lacked all conviction.

Goss' attempt to run the CIA through his own band of loyalists proved his ultimate undoing. It turned out that the "gosslings," as they were known at Langley (after "quislings"), had unsavory connections that trailed them into the agency. An unintended consequence of Goss' dependence on his team of political hatchet men was that his future was dependent on their past.

As Goss parried with Negroponte and Rumsfeld, federal investigators began to close in on his third-ranked official, in charge of contracting, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, for possibly granting illegal contracts to Brent Wilkes, the military contractor named as "co-conspirator No. 1" in the indictment of convicted former Republican Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, now serving eight years in prison for accepting $2.4 million in bribes. Wilkes, who gave $630,000 in cash and favors to Cunningham, remains under investigation by prosecutors. Cunningham has confessed to accepting a $100,000 bribe from "co-conspirator No. 1." Wilkes' business associate, Mitchell Wade, has pleaded guilty to bribing Cunningham.

For years, Wilkes hosted "hospitality suites" at the Watergate Hotel for House members and other associates that involved poker games and, allegedly, prostitutes. That, too, is under investigation. Foggo has admitted his presence, but "just for poker." At least six House members, unnamed so far, are alleged to have participated. Goss has denied attending as CIA director, but not as an elected representative. Yet another hand at the poker table has been identified as Brant Bassett, aka "Nine Fingers." Bassett was Goss' staff director on the House Intelligence Committee and was hired as a consultant to the CIA's Directorate of Operations.

Foggo and Wilkes are best friends going back to high school in suburban San Diego. They were roommates at San Diego State, where they were members of the Young Republicans, were best men at each other's weddings, and named their sons after each other. Wilkes pays for a joint wine locker for them at the Capital Grille steakhouse favored by lobbyists and Republican legislators.

The White House announcement of Goss' resignation was incredibly abrupt, without advance warning or a named successor. White House aides frenetically briefed the press that the sole reason was an internecine conflict between Goss and Negroponte. But such an internal controversy could have been managed for a smooth transition. Something else appeared to be at work.

Indeed, in March, the CIA's inspector general had launched an investigation into Foggo's relationship with Wilkes, who had received CIA contracts in Iraq. Three days after Goss left, Foggo quit, too. In a highly unusual development, two days later, on Wednesday, the special agent in charge of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service's investigation in the "Duke" Cunningham case, Rick Gwin, spoke publicly: "This is much bigger and wider than just Randy 'Duke' Cunningham," he told Southern California's North County Times. "All that has just not come out yet, but it won't be much longer and then you will know just how widespread this is."

President Bush has nominated Gen. Michael Hayden, the former director of the National Security Agency and currently Negroponte's deputy, as the new CIA director. He has distinguished himself as a loyalist to the administration by using his uniform as a shield against the heat generated by the revelation of illegal domestic surveillance by the NSA.

Regardless of anodyne assurances offered in his forthcoming congressional testimony, Hayden will preside over the liquidation of the CIA as it has been known. The George H.W. Bush CIA headquarters building in Langley will of course remain standing. But the agency will be chipped apart, some of its key parts absorbed by other agencies, with the Pentagon emerging as the ultimate winner.

The militarization of intelligence under Bush is likely to guarantee military solutions above other options. Uniformed officers trained to identify military threats and trends will take over economic and political intelligence for which they are untrained and often incapable, and their priorities will skew analysis. But the bias toward the military option will be one that the military in the end will dislike. It will find itself increasingly bearing the brunt of foreign policy and stretched beyond endurance. The vicious cycle leads to a downward spiral. And Hayden's story will be like a dull shadow of Powell's -- a tale of a "good soldier" who salutes, gets promoted, is used and abused, and is finally discarded.

No president has ever before ruined an agency at the heart of national security out of pique and vengeance. The manipulation of intelligence by political leadership demands ever tightened control. But political purges provide only temporary relief from the widening crisis of policy failure.

This article has been reprinted with permission of the author. It first appeared on

The Tethered Goat Strategy

Since the Iraqi elections in January, US foreign service officers at the Baghdad embassy have been writing a steady stream of disturbing cables describing drastically worsening conditions. Violence from incipient communal civil war is rapidly rising. Last month there were eight times as many assassinations committed by Shia militias as terrorist murders by Sunni insurgents. The insurgency, according to the reports, also continues to mutate.

Meanwhile, President Bush's strategy of training Iraqi police and army to take over from coalition forces -- "when they stand up, we'll stand down" -- is perversely and portentously accelerating the strife. State department officials in the field are reporting that Shia militias use training as cover to infiltrate key positions. Thus the strategy to create institutions of order and security is fueling civil war.

Rather than being received as invaluable intelligence, the messages are discarded or, worse, considered signs of disloyalty. Rejecting the facts on the ground apparently requires blaming the messengers. So far, two top attaches at the embassy have been reassigned elsewhere for producing factual reports that are too upsetting.

The Bush administration's preferred response to increasing disintegration is to act as if it has a strategy that is succeeding. "More delusion as a solution in the absence of a solution," said a senior state department official. Under the pretence that Iraq is being pacified, the military is partially withdrawing from hostile towns in the countryside and parts of Baghdad. By reducing the number of soldiers, the administration can claim its policy is working going into the midterm elections. But the jobs the military doesn't want to perform are being sloughed off on state department "provisional reconstruction teams" (PRTs) led by foreign service officers. The rationale is that they will win Iraqi hearts-and-minds by organising civil functions.

The Pentagon has informed the state department it will not provide security for these officials and that mercenaries should be hired for protection instead. Internal state department documents listing the PRT jobs, dated March 30, reveal that the vast majority of them remain unfilled by volunteers. So the professionals are being forced to take the assignments in which "they can't do what they are being asked to do", as a senior department official told me.

Foreign service officers, as a rule, are self-abnegating in serving any administration. The state department's Intelligence and Research Bureau was correct in its scepticism before the war about Saddam Hussein's possession of WMDs, but was ignored. The department was correct in its assessment in its 17-volume Future of Iraq project about the immense effort required for reconstruction after the war, but it was disregarded. Now its reports from Iraq are correct, but their authors are being punished. Foreign service officers are to be sent out like tethered goats to the killing fields. When these misbegotten projects inevitably fail, the department will be blamed. Passive resistance to these assignments reflects anticipation of impending disaster, including the likely murder of diplomats.

Amid this internal crisis of credibility, the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, has washed her hands of her department. Her management skills are minimal. Now she has left coercing people to fill the PRTs to her counsellor, Philip Zelikow, who, by doing the dirty work, is trying to keep her reputation clean.

While the state department was racked last week by collapsing morale, Rice traveled to England to visit the constituency of Jack Straw. She declared that though the Bush administration had committed "tactical errors, thousands of them" in Iraq, it is right on the strategy. Then she and Straw took a magic carpet to Baghdad to try to overthrow Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafaari in favour of a more pliable character.

"Did you ever imagine in your wildest dreams that after Vietnam we'd be doing this again?" one top state department official remarked to another last week. Inside the department, people wonder about the next "strategy" after the hearts-and-minds gambit of sending diplomats unprotected to secure victory turns into a squalid fiasco. "Helicopters on the roof?" asked an official.