Democrats Attack Over War Intelligence

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid wants answers about the war in Iraq, finally.

WASHINGTON, D.C.--Republican efforts to refocus the nation’s attention from the indictment of Scooter Libby to the Supreme Court nomination of Samuel Alito flopped yesterday as the Democrats briefly got control of the Senate and forced a closed session on the Bush administration's handling of intelligence before the war in Iraq--the real essence of the Libby case.

"They have repeatedly chosen to protect the Republican administration rather than get to the bottom of what happened and why," Democratic leader Harry Reid said.


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. . . Bill Frist, the majority leader, angrily responded: "The United States Senate has been hijacked by the Democratic leadership," adding the President’s nomination of Alito to the Supreme Court had "set the Democrats back on their heels. ... This may just be a reaction to that."

"They have no convictions, they have no principles, they have no ideas," the Republican leader said.

At base, the Libby case is whether the government rigged intelligence and manipulated the press in preparing to invade Iraq. Robert Scheer points out that if New York Times reporter Judy Miller had acted a year ago, when Libby first granted her permission to go public with his name, the case might have influenced the 2004 presidential election. Viewed in this light, her role and that of the Times gain added importance.

Another maneuver on Tuesday by President Bush, his announcement of a $7.1 billion request to Congress to fight potential pandemic of avian flu, immediately opened the door for more problems for the president. Hidden in the small print was Bush’s plan for financing a large part of  the project with state and local funds--an aspect sure to raise hackles outside the Beltway. Here's how it played in the San Diego Union-Tribune:

The states' collective tab would reach $510 million, said Kim Elliott, deputy director of the nonpartisan Trust for America's Health. She worried that some wouldn't buy any, and that others wouldn't share their Tamiflu stash if a pandemic struck in a part of the country that ran out.

"It depends on where you live and the state of your state's budget as to whether or not you might receive a treatment drug," she said.

The president's proposal will inevitably involve sizable purchases of Tamiflu, the world’s hottest drug. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former Reagan secretary of state George Shultz-are big investors in Gilead Sciences, the California biotech company that owns the rights to Tamiflu. Shultz sits on the manufacturer’s board of directors. Roche is the only company licensed to make the vaccine, and though it promises to make more of it, the process of doing so is complicated and time consuming.

Rumsfeld was Gilead Research’s chairman from 1997 to 2001, and holds stock worth anywhere from $5 to $25 million, reports Fortune. On news of a possible pandemic, Gilead stock has jumped over the last year from $35 to $47, making Rumsfeld a cool $1 million richer, according to the publication.       

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