Monday, February 02, 2009

Matt Lauer is not Barack Obama

The Barack Groupies offer drive-by e-mails today regarding last night's "And the war drags on . . ." Do I not understand that Barack said yesterday that there would be a major withdrawal!!!! Why, oh why, will I not give the Christ-child his due!!!!! Must he feed thousands with five loaves of bread and two fish!!!!

No, how about he just say what he's being credited with saying? I don't care what you read online. I don't care if you read it at Reuters, at the Telegraph of London, at Australia's ABC. I do care what he said. This is the MSNBC text report -- linked to last night -- which contains the box you can click on for the video -- which apparently none of the groupies bothered to do. Here's the transcript and Barack is not saying what he's been reported as saying:

Matt Lauer: Let's talk about some of those men and women who are serving this country overseas in Afghanistan, other locations, in Iraq and I'm sure they're watching today. It's a big event for the armed services and a lot of those people have a vested interest in one of your campaign promises, to end this war and get home as soon -- within 16 months or so -- as humanly possible. So when you look at them, can you say that a substantial number of them will be home in time for next Superbowl Sunday?

Barack Obama: Yes, uh, er, I mean we're gonna roll out in a very, very formal fashion what our intentions are in Iraq as well as Afghanistan. But in conversations that I've had with the Joint Chiefs, with people -- the commanders on the ground, uh, I think that we have a sense, now that the Iraqis just had a very significant election, with no significant violence there, that we are in a position to start putting more responsibilities on the Iraqis and that's good news for not only the troops in the field but their families who are carrying an enormous burden.

"The economy," Matt Lauer will next launch into. That's the full Iraq section above. One thing we can now do is say that Barack promised all troops out of Iraq within 16 months because Matt pretty much summarizes the 'pledge' that way and Barack doesn't bother to correct him. But Barack didn't say anything. His "yes" is an uncomfortable one. His remarks about "very significant election . . . more responsibilities on the Iraqis" are not all that different from multiple remarks in the last nearly six years by George W. Bush.

Again, I don't care what the write up says that you're e-mailing, the above is the transcript of the Iraq exchange. That's what was said. Not what you're reading in the write-ups. I have no idea why the outlets are taking Matt's words and putting them in Barack's mouth. The "yes" is uncomfortable and everything that follows indicates the "yes" is an "anyway." (As in, "Anyway, Matt . . .") The interview was the usual Matt Lauer embarrassment focusing on sports and opening with questions about 'living with your mother-in-law.' Yes, Matt Lauer is that pathetic. The first interview with the president of the United States and Matt's coming off like bargain basement Regis Philbin.

Meanwhile CBS and AP (link has text and video) report that the Commission on Wartime Contracting will hear testimony beinging today on "allegations of bribery, conflicts of interest, defective products, bid rigging and theft". CBS notes:

[Special Inspector General for Iraq Stuart]Bowen, author of the report, told CBS News the reconstruction plan went from "very narrow" to "enormous" in just three months after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.
"It effectively became like building the airplane while you were flying it, and as a result, there was not the resources, there was not the structures, there were not the personnel to carry out so large a program so quickly," Bowen says.

CBS and AP note that the commission is based on the Truman Committee. The Commission on Wartime Contracting notes it is an eight-member commission that, under Section 841 of the National Defense Autorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, is required "to assess a number of factors related to wartime contracting, including the extent of waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement of wartime contracts. The Commission has the authority to hold hearings and to refer to the Attorney General any violation or potential violation of law it identifies in carrying out its duties." A minimum of two reports are mandated and after the final report (which could be the second or another number if they go beyond what is required), the committee sunsets out of existence in sixty days. Here are the members

Michael J. Thibault
Michael J. Thibault

Robert J. Henke Charles Tiefer
Dov S. Zakheim
Robert J. Henke Charles Tiefer Dov S. Zakheim

CWC issued their first press release Wednesday:

Inspectors General in the spotlight at first hearing of Commission on Wartime Contracting

ARLINGTON, VA, Jan. 28, 2009 -- A new report from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction will be featured in the Feb. 2 initial hearing of the federal Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan (CWC).

The CWC hearing in the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, will coincide with the public release of the SIGIR's "Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience" report on five years of investigating waste, fraud, and abuse in the reconstruction effort in Iraq. The hearing, "Lessons from the Inspectors General: Improving Wartime Contracting," will open with testimony from three U.S. Senators who have been involved in investigations and reforms of federal acquisition and contracting: Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Senator James Webb (D-VA). Senators McCaskill and Webb were the original Senate cosponsors of the legislation that created the CWC.

After Special Inspector General Stuart Bowen discusses his new SIGIR report, the Commissioners will hear from a panel of three witnesses representing the inspector-general functions of the Departments of Defense and State, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. All three agencies are involved in wartime contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. CWC Co-Chair Michael Thibault will preside at the hearing and offer an opening statement on behalf of himself and Co-Chair Grant Green.

The Feb. 2 session will be the first of several hearings to be conducted as the CWC carries out its statutory mandate. Future hearings will include a review of the work of the recently appointed Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. The CWC’s work also includes outreach to other government agencies, public-interest groups, academic and research organizations, and the contracting community, as well as independent research and investigations by the CWC’s professional staff.

The Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan was created by Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (Public Law 110-181). The CWC has a broad mandate to research and investigate federal-agency contracting for reconstruction, logistical support and security functions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The CWC will develop findings and recommendations on issues including the extent of reliance on contractors in wartime settings, contractor performance and accountability, federal contracting and management systems and practices, contractor use of force, and potential violations of law. The CWC will issue an interim report May 1 and a final report in the summer of 2010; other reports will be issued as appropriate.

The law provides for eight appointed CWC commissioners to direct the staff's work and decide upon ultimate findings and recommendations. Besides Co-chairs Thibault and Green, the commissioners are Clark Kent Ervin, Robert Henke, Linda Gustitus, Charles Tiefer, and Dov Zakheim. There is one vacancy. The commissioners bring a wide range of experience in government, law, the military, education, and business to the CWC's work.

Additional information, including biographical notes on the commissioners, may be found at the Commission's Web site,

The Feb. 2 hearing will begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Senate Caucus Room, #325 in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill. That chamber is the same room that Senator Harry S. Truman of Missouri used in 1941 to open a long-running investigation of the efficiency and effectiveness of federal defense spending.

Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus (Washington Post) report on the committee and note that Stuart Bowen's office released a lengthy report today:

"Hard Lessons," a draft of which was leaked to the news media in December, concludes that the U.S. reconstruction effort in Iraq was a failure, largely because there was no overall strategy behind it. Goals shifted from "liberation" and an early military exit to massive, ill-conceived and expensive building projects under the Coalition Provisional Authority of 2003 and 2004. Many of those projects -- over budget, poorly executed or, often, barely begun -- were abandoned as security worsened.
In a preface to the 456-page book, Bowen writes that he knew the reconstruction was in trouble when he first visited Iraq in January 2004 and saw duffel bags full of cash being carried out of the Republican Palace, which housed the U.S. occupation government.
Security was a constant problem, not only for military and civilian officials serving in Iraq but also for SIGIR. Auditor Paul Converse was killed in March during a rocket attack in Baghdad, following a year in which five other SIGIR employees were wounded.

Bowen is scheduled to testify this morning. Dieter Bradbury (Portland Press Herald) reports that US Senator Susan Collins will be among those offering testimony today: "Collins has overseen investigations into government contracting as ranking member and former chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee."

Bonnie notes that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Greedy Pig" went up yesterday.

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