Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 12, 2008

Hamas Loses

Despite initial denials from officials of both sides, sources are now indicating that an Israel-Hamas ceasefire in Gaza is imminent. According to Ha’aretz, the deal will put Palestinian Authority Presidential Guard members along the Karni, Sufa, Kerem Shalom, Erez, and Rafah border crossings, thereby fulfilling agreements that the U.S., Palestinian Authority, and Israel had reached prior to the 2005 Gaza disengagement. Hamas will play a secondary role nearby some of these crossings, monitoring the movement of civilians–though not goods–in and out of the strip.

This should be interpreted as the first major setback for Hamas since the party won the parliamentary elections over two years ago. At the very least, permitting Mahmoud Abbas’s Presidential Guard to assume control of border crossings represents a major political concession. If the Guard succeeds in stemming weapons smuggling, it will severely hamper Hamas’s military capabilities. Moreover, the ceasefire requires as a first step that Hamas stop firing rockets, which suggests that Israel’s recent operation in Gaza was highly effective in targeting key Hamas personnel and infrastructure.

Of course, the ceasefire also implies an Israeli concession, insofar as it shatters the hope that Hamas will be dislodged from Gaza by force. After all, the truce requires that Israel curtail its military operations entirely, including its targeting of Hamas officials. Still, Israel has located an opening for slowly chipping away at Hamas’s domestic power, with Abbas able to declare victory for having brokered an agreement that finally opens the border crossings-an accomplishment that Hamas’s rockets have decisively failed to achieve.

For the truce to succeed in the long run, bolstering the commitment and capabilities of the Presidential Guard must be a top priority. History should be a guide in this: last June, Hamas seized Gaza largely thanks to an ill-equipped and unmotivated Fatah force. Although the Bush administration has steered clear of the ceasefire negotiations, it should view the conditions of the Presidential Guard as critical to the peace process, which Vice-President Dick Cheney will address when he visits the region next week. Indeed, any breakdown in the Presidential Guard’s ability to control the borders would represent the final nail in the coffin for the still-nascent Annapolis “process.”

Despite initial denials from officials of both sides, sources are now indicating that an Israel-Hamas ceasefire in Gaza is imminent. According to Ha’aretz, the deal will put Palestinian Authority Presidential Guard members along the Karni, Sufa, Kerem Shalom, Erez, and Rafah border crossings, thereby fulfilling agreements that the U.S., Palestinian Authority, and Israel had reached prior to the 2005 Gaza disengagement. Hamas will play a secondary role nearby some of these crossings, monitoring the movement of civilians–though not goods–in and out of the strip.

This should be interpreted as the first major setback for Hamas since the party won the parliamentary elections over two years ago. At the very least, permitting Mahmoud Abbas’s Presidential Guard to assume control of border crossings represents a major political concession. If the Guard succeeds in stemming weapons smuggling, it will severely hamper Hamas’s military capabilities. Moreover, the ceasefire requires as a first step that Hamas stop firing rockets, which suggests that Israel’s recent operation in Gaza was highly effective in targeting key Hamas personnel and infrastructure.

Of course, the ceasefire also implies an Israeli concession, insofar as it shatters the hope that Hamas will be dislodged from Gaza by force. After all, the truce requires that Israel curtail its military operations entirely, including its targeting of Hamas officials. Still, Israel has located an opening for slowly chipping away at Hamas’s domestic power, with Abbas able to declare victory for having brokered an agreement that finally opens the border crossings-an accomplishment that Hamas’s rockets have decisively failed to achieve.

For the truce to succeed in the long run, bolstering the commitment and capabilities of the Presidential Guard must be a top priority. History should be a guide in this: last June, Hamas seized Gaza largely thanks to an ill-equipped and unmotivated Fatah force. Although the Bush administration has steered clear of the ceasefire negotiations, it should view the conditions of the Presidential Guard as critical to the peace process, which Vice-President Dick Cheney will address when he visits the region next week. Indeed, any breakdown in the Presidential Guard’s ability to control the borders would represent the final nail in the coffin for the still-nascent Annapolis “process.”

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U.S. “Magic” Is Fini!

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has come to a decision: Regarding America, says M. Kouchner, “I think the magic is over.”

C’est fini? The Herald Tribune reports:

Asked whether the United States could repair the damage it has suffered to its reputation during the Bush presidency and especially since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Kouchner replied, “It will never be as it was before.”

You mean Americans will never enjoy the reputation we had amongst the French before 2003? Say it isn’t so. Oh yeah, and the funny thing about that U.S.-led invasion in 2003 is that Kouchner was, how-do-you-say, for eet:

The sovereignty of states can be respected only if it emanates from the people inside the state. If a state is a dictatorship, then it is absolutely not worthy of the international community’s respect.

So, what is he for now?

Asked whether there is a way to engage Hamas, which is supported by a significant minority of Palestinians, Kouchner appeared to hold out hope of contact, saying: “I’m looking for a diplomatic way to say yes.”

Looking for a way to be diplomatic about saying you want to be diplomatic can take a Frenchman a while. Perhaps this time is best used to consider Kouchner’s place in that rich European tradition of predicting America’s demise. There were all those German thinkers like Hegel and Nietzsche who knew our decadence would do us in. Needless to say the Nazis picked up where they left off and had us pegged for goners. Marx, too, knew of the inevitable American downfall, and the Soviet leaders killed millions of their own while relishing the prospect of America’s end. More recently, the European Union, (which actually seems historical, too) was poised to take the place of the world’s debauched and dying superpower.

Though things didn’t go as they all predicted, I’m sure that this time Bernard Kouchner is right. And I’m sure what he says has nothing to do with what he said a few years ago in defense of his pro-American invasion stance: “In my country it’s not easy at all. If you are a pioneer you are a target and if you are the winner you are more targeted than before.” Nah, can’t be that.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has come to a decision: Regarding America, says M. Kouchner, “I think the magic is over.”

C’est fini? The Herald Tribune reports:

Asked whether the United States could repair the damage it has suffered to its reputation during the Bush presidency and especially since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Kouchner replied, “It will never be as it was before.”

You mean Americans will never enjoy the reputation we had amongst the French before 2003? Say it isn’t so. Oh yeah, and the funny thing about that U.S.-led invasion in 2003 is that Kouchner was, how-do-you-say, for eet:

The sovereignty of states can be respected only if it emanates from the people inside the state. If a state is a dictatorship, then it is absolutely not worthy of the international community’s respect.

So, what is he for now?

Asked whether there is a way to engage Hamas, which is supported by a significant minority of Palestinians, Kouchner appeared to hold out hope of contact, saying: “I’m looking for a diplomatic way to say yes.”

Looking for a way to be diplomatic about saying you want to be diplomatic can take a Frenchman a while. Perhaps this time is best used to consider Kouchner’s place in that rich European tradition of predicting America’s demise. There were all those German thinkers like Hegel and Nietzsche who knew our decadence would do us in. Needless to say the Nazis picked up where they left off and had us pegged for goners. Marx, too, knew of the inevitable American downfall, and the Soviet leaders killed millions of their own while relishing the prospect of America’s end. More recently, the European Union, (which actually seems historical, too) was poised to take the place of the world’s debauched and dying superpower.

Though things didn’t go as they all predicted, I’m sure that this time Bernard Kouchner is right. And I’m sure what he says has nothing to do with what he said a few years ago in defense of his pro-American invasion stance: “In my country it’s not easy at all. If you are a pioneer you are a target and if you are the winner you are more targeted than before.” Nah, can’t be that.

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High Moral Fiber

Eliot Spitzer’s not alone. The chief of Tehran’s police was arrested Monday when caught—literally—pants down in a brothel, in the company of six equally naked prostitutes (h/t: Gateway Pundit).

As the news report indicates, Reza Zarei was in charge of enforcing the Islamic Republic’s harsh public modesty laws. In this capacity he supervised the police crackdown on lax public morals, issued warnings to tens of thousands of women for their immodest dress, and forced thousands to take “guidance classes” on how to dress and behave in public. Clearly, the moral fiber needed to implement such a task requires that a man lives up to certain standards—which exclude, I imagine, engaging in paid-for group sex. So, is this a classic case of private vices hidden by public virtue? Maybe. Or maybe was he carrying out, deep undercover, a sting operation . . .

Eliot Spitzer’s not alone. The chief of Tehran’s police was arrested Monday when caught—literally—pants down in a brothel, in the company of six equally naked prostitutes (h/t: Gateway Pundit).

As the news report indicates, Reza Zarei was in charge of enforcing the Islamic Republic’s harsh public modesty laws. In this capacity he supervised the police crackdown on lax public morals, issued warnings to tens of thousands of women for their immodest dress, and forced thousands to take “guidance classes” on how to dress and behave in public. Clearly, the moral fiber needed to implement such a task requires that a man lives up to certain standards—which exclude, I imagine, engaging in paid-for group sex. So, is this a classic case of private vices hidden by public virtue? Maybe. Or maybe was he carrying out, deep undercover, a sting operation . . .

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On The Same Team

Since John McCain wrapped up the nomination last week, his campaign and the RNC have effectively merged efforts for the 2008 election. The change is dramatic and affords McCain the assistance and research capabilities of the RNC. For example, in response to the announcement that the AFL-CIO will now spend $53M to target McCain, the RNC has put out a statement:

The AFL-CIO’s campaign against John McCain clearly demonstrates their priorities lie in attack politics as opposed to focusing on American families. Voters looking for something new will find it in John McCain’s campaign to help working families–not the AFL-CIO’s partisan attacks. Considering Senators Obama and Clinton’s frequent denunciations of special interests, they must reject the unions’ campaign against Senator McCain.

And Alex Conant, RNC Press Secretary, has come out with a nicely packaged bit of oppo research questioning whether an attack operation by big labor is really “new politics” or just the same old story of special interest money. Likewise, in response to the attack on McCain’s role in insisting that Boeing not receive a no-bid contract for a U.S. Air Force tanker, the RNC and McCain made sure to circulate this from McCain advisor Steve Schmidt:

Over the past few days, there have been a number of political attacks launched by John McCain’s political opponents attempting to blame him for the Boeing Company not being awarded the USAF tanker contract. Incredibly, several news organizations have parroted the attack. Here are the facts:

John McCain uncovered a massive taxpayer rip-off and evidence leading to corruption convictions for Boeing and Pentagon officials, some of whom went to jail for their crimes. The CEO of Boeing resigned.

John McCain’s investigation saved the taxpayers over $6 billion dollars.

So wrapping up the GOP nomination has many benefits for McCain–watching the Democrats snipe, for example–but one of them should not be underestimated: the full machinery of the the RNC is now at his disposal.

Since John McCain wrapped up the nomination last week, his campaign and the RNC have effectively merged efforts for the 2008 election. The change is dramatic and affords McCain the assistance and research capabilities of the RNC. For example, in response to the announcement that the AFL-CIO will now spend $53M to target McCain, the RNC has put out a statement:

The AFL-CIO’s campaign against John McCain clearly demonstrates their priorities lie in attack politics as opposed to focusing on American families. Voters looking for something new will find it in John McCain’s campaign to help working families–not the AFL-CIO’s partisan attacks. Considering Senators Obama and Clinton’s frequent denunciations of special interests, they must reject the unions’ campaign against Senator McCain.

And Alex Conant, RNC Press Secretary, has come out with a nicely packaged bit of oppo research questioning whether an attack operation by big labor is really “new politics” or just the same old story of special interest money. Likewise, in response to the attack on McCain’s role in insisting that Boeing not receive a no-bid contract for a U.S. Air Force tanker, the RNC and McCain made sure to circulate this from McCain advisor Steve Schmidt:

Over the past few days, there have been a number of political attacks launched by John McCain’s political opponents attempting to blame him for the Boeing Company not being awarded the USAF tanker contract. Incredibly, several news organizations have parroted the attack. Here are the facts:

John McCain uncovered a massive taxpayer rip-off and evidence leading to corruption convictions for Boeing and Pentagon officials, some of whom went to jail for their crimes. The CEO of Boeing resigned.

John McCain’s investigation saved the taxpayers over $6 billion dollars.

So wrapping up the GOP nomination has many benefits for McCain–watching the Democrats snipe, for example–but one of them should not be underestimated: the full machinery of the the RNC is now at his disposal.

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Shocked

When  high-profile scandals break, the first reaction from elected leaders, as well as ordinary voters,  is their claim to be “shocked.” Well, yes: we never imagined that Eliot Spitzer would fall from power in just this way. And yes: we were amazed that Bill Clinton would have relations with Monica Lewinski in the White House. But should we have been?

The basic contours of both these leaders’ personalities and character were well known. As John notes, Spitzer was a ruthless seeker of power, a self-aggrandizer. Everything was about him ; rules were merely the means by which he trapped his prey. And Bill Clinton’s lack of personal discipline and history of sexual infidelity were public knowledge. So why are we shocked when these characters live up to their reputations and “disappoint” us? Because political allies and voters look the other way and con themselves into believing that patterns of behavior are really isolated instances.

So as we continue in this presidential election year, we should be wary of discounting evidence and overlooking the obvious. We know that the Clintons are ruthless and will do and say anything. So if Hillary is elected we shouldn’t be shocked by the next financial or personal scandal or the next vindictive crusade against her political opposition. We know that Barack Obama has zero executive experience and virtually no foreign policy expertise. So if he is elected he shouldn’t be shocked by executive incompetence or foreign policy blunders. We know John McCain does not always play well with others. So if he is elected we shouldn’t be shocked if he winds up in shouting matches with Congressional leaders. In short, if we kid ourselves less now, we’ll be less shocked later on.

When  high-profile scandals break, the first reaction from elected leaders, as well as ordinary voters,  is their claim to be “shocked.” Well, yes: we never imagined that Eliot Spitzer would fall from power in just this way. And yes: we were amazed that Bill Clinton would have relations with Monica Lewinski in the White House. But should we have been?

The basic contours of both these leaders’ personalities and character were well known. As John notes, Spitzer was a ruthless seeker of power, a self-aggrandizer. Everything was about him ; rules were merely the means by which he trapped his prey. And Bill Clinton’s lack of personal discipline and history of sexual infidelity were public knowledge. So why are we shocked when these characters live up to their reputations and “disappoint” us? Because political allies and voters look the other way and con themselves into believing that patterns of behavior are really isolated instances.

So as we continue in this presidential election year, we should be wary of discounting evidence and overlooking the obvious. We know that the Clintons are ruthless and will do and say anything. So if Hillary is elected we shouldn’t be shocked by the next financial or personal scandal or the next vindictive crusade against her political opposition. We know that Barack Obama has zero executive experience and virtually no foreign policy expertise. So if he is elected he shouldn’t be shocked by executive incompetence or foreign policy blunders. We know John McCain does not always play well with others. So if he is elected we shouldn’t be shocked if he winds up in shouting matches with Congressional leaders. In short, if we kid ourselves less now, we’ll be less shocked later on.

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A Mesopotamian Love Triangle?

Diana West just emailed me her March 7 Washington Times column about Mahmoud Ahmadinijad’s visit to Iraq. The article “Whose Side is Iraq really on?” was sent with the tag “Feedback welcome.” With Diana’s permission, I’ll use this space for my thoughts.

Diana is disgusted with Ahmadinejad’s seemingly warm welcome in Iraq. She compares the U.S.-Iraq-Iran relationship to a pulp fiction love triangle. “The good guy (us, natch), has been betrayed by the love object he supports and defends (Iraq), having been left to watch and stew as she gallivants with his rival (Iran).”

In describing the situation as fiction, Diana is more correct than she knows. Ahmadinejad’s celebrated tour of Iraq was, more than anything else, a PR coup staged by a small group of Iranian proxies. Troubling as it is to read that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said to Ahmadinejad, “Call me Uncle Jalal,” it hardly means that the U.S is in an unprecedented historical pickle. In fact, he’s simply known to all as “Uncle Jalal.”

Though at times maddening, Talabani is in some sense exactly what Iraq needs to move forward: a shrewd, pragmatic leader with a cool eye on long-term solutions. In a region that’s known only murderous realists or murderous idealogues, a man for whom occasional compromise is a means to just ends is a promising change.

Iraq and Iran share an enormous border. Iraq is in no position militarily to stop the mullahs to their east. Frankly that will come down to us or Israel, or no one. If Talabani thinks observing the hollow niceties of “diplomatic” jaunts can buy his country a little peace, he is being, in my estimation, disturbingly “realist” and surprisingly naïve. But he’s not going over to the dark side.

Talabani may have been willing to go through the motions because, as mentioned earlier, Ahmadinejad’s trip was ultimately a failure. Orchestrated by Iranian surrogates inside Iraq, the deck was stacked wherever he went. Former employees of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Qods Force, and the Ministry of Intelligence greeted him in various locations, while hordes of Iraqis outside his caravan protested.

But Ahmadinejad was deprived of what he wanted most: a picture with Shi’ite cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. This would have advertised solidarity between Shi’ite Iran and the most important Shi’ite in Iraq. Though Diana cites the fact that al-Sistani still has an Iranian passport as evidence of the Iran-Iraq romance, al-Sistani seems to feel otherwise. He cited “scheduling conflicts” and sent Ahmadinejad back to Iran with nothing but a very dull razor in hand. The U.S., however, is still in Iraq, fighting the good fight, forging legitimate ties with a potentially powerful ally, and reestablishing throughout the region what had all but disappeared: American credibility.

Diana recently wrote a book entitled The Death of the Grown-up. It’s a fascinating study of how the West now faces the most pressing issues with a dangerously adolescent worldview. Diana writes at the end of her Times piece: “I wonder whether we will ever walk out on these destructive relationships and recover our self-respect.” I must say, respectfully, to her: Relationships are work, Diana. Kids quit.

Diana West just emailed me her March 7 Washington Times column about Mahmoud Ahmadinijad’s visit to Iraq. The article “Whose Side is Iraq really on?” was sent with the tag “Feedback welcome.” With Diana’s permission, I’ll use this space for my thoughts.

Diana is disgusted with Ahmadinejad’s seemingly warm welcome in Iraq. She compares the U.S.-Iraq-Iran relationship to a pulp fiction love triangle. “The good guy (us, natch), has been betrayed by the love object he supports and defends (Iraq), having been left to watch and stew as she gallivants with his rival (Iran).”

In describing the situation as fiction, Diana is more correct than she knows. Ahmadinejad’s celebrated tour of Iraq was, more than anything else, a PR coup staged by a small group of Iranian proxies. Troubling as it is to read that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said to Ahmadinejad, “Call me Uncle Jalal,” it hardly means that the U.S is in an unprecedented historical pickle. In fact, he’s simply known to all as “Uncle Jalal.”

Though at times maddening, Talabani is in some sense exactly what Iraq needs to move forward: a shrewd, pragmatic leader with a cool eye on long-term solutions. In a region that’s known only murderous realists or murderous idealogues, a man for whom occasional compromise is a means to just ends is a promising change.

Iraq and Iran share an enormous border. Iraq is in no position militarily to stop the mullahs to their east. Frankly that will come down to us or Israel, or no one. If Talabani thinks observing the hollow niceties of “diplomatic” jaunts can buy his country a little peace, he is being, in my estimation, disturbingly “realist” and surprisingly naïve. But he’s not going over to the dark side.

Talabani may have been willing to go through the motions because, as mentioned earlier, Ahmadinejad’s trip was ultimately a failure. Orchestrated by Iranian surrogates inside Iraq, the deck was stacked wherever he went. Former employees of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Qods Force, and the Ministry of Intelligence greeted him in various locations, while hordes of Iraqis outside his caravan protested.

But Ahmadinejad was deprived of what he wanted most: a picture with Shi’ite cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. This would have advertised solidarity between Shi’ite Iran and the most important Shi’ite in Iraq. Though Diana cites the fact that al-Sistani still has an Iranian passport as evidence of the Iran-Iraq romance, al-Sistani seems to feel otherwise. He cited “scheduling conflicts” and sent Ahmadinejad back to Iran with nothing but a very dull razor in hand. The U.S., however, is still in Iraq, fighting the good fight, forging legitimate ties with a potentially powerful ally, and reestablishing throughout the region what had all but disappeared: American credibility.

Diana recently wrote a book entitled The Death of the Grown-up. It’s a fascinating study of how the West now faces the most pressing issues with a dangerously adolescent worldview. Diana writes at the end of her Times piece: “I wonder whether we will ever walk out on these destructive relationships and recover our self-respect.” I must say, respectfully, to her: Relationships are work, Diana. Kids quit.

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Who Gains From the Spitzer Collapse?

There is one other consequence of Spitzer fall, John. Should Obama lose the Democratic nomination to Clinton, and she subsequently loses the general election to McCain, it is a near certainty that Obama will be the Democratic nominee in 2012 — probably with no serious challenger. Spitzer wore his ambition on his sleeve and, absent the Emperor’s Club revelations, talk about his presidential campaign committee would have surely started in 2009 regardless of this fall’s outcome. Now, should Obama need a second bite at the apple, this week’s news was terrific for him: his greatest potential rival in the party just self-destructed.

There is one other consequence of Spitzer fall, John. Should Obama lose the Democratic nomination to Clinton, and she subsequently loses the general election to McCain, it is a near certainty that Obama will be the Democratic nominee in 2012 — probably with no serious challenger. Spitzer wore his ambition on his sleeve and, absent the Emperor’s Club revelations, talk about his presidential campaign committee would have surely started in 2009 regardless of this fall’s outcome. Now, should Obama need a second bite at the apple, this week’s news was terrific for him: his greatest potential rival in the party just self-destructed.

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He Does Not Get It, Or His Lawyer Does

Eliot Spitzer, with his wife in her new role as “sympathy prop,” has resigned. But he showed no sign that he’s aware of the depth of his offense. Twice referring to his sins as “private,” he doled out a large helping of self-congratulation for the work he did as governor. Is he that dense, not to realize his actions are criminal? That his offense is an abuse of the public’s trust? Maybe. He may, with his world-class ego, simply be unwilling to accept the fact that he is a common criminal like so many he has prosecuted.

The other explanation is that he understands all too well that he is in deep trouble. Standing guard at Spitzer’s side was Ted Wells, criminal defense lawyer supreme (Scooter Libby was a client), who no doubt has been trying to work out a plea deal for his newest client. The feds apparently did not value Spitzer’s resignation as much of a bargaining chip, and the prospect of prosecution under multiple felony statutes still looms over him. So it is, for now, better for him to cop to “private” sins than to public, criminal ones.

Eliot Spitzer, with his wife in her new role as “sympathy prop,” has resigned. But he showed no sign that he’s aware of the depth of his offense. Twice referring to his sins as “private,” he doled out a large helping of self-congratulation for the work he did as governor. Is he that dense, not to realize his actions are criminal? That his offense is an abuse of the public’s trust? Maybe. He may, with his world-class ego, simply be unwilling to accept the fact that he is a common criminal like so many he has prosecuted.

The other explanation is that he understands all too well that he is in deep trouble. Standing guard at Spitzer’s side was Ted Wells, criminal defense lawyer supreme (Scooter Libby was a client), who no doubt has been trying to work out a plea deal for his newest client. The feds apparently did not value Spitzer’s resignation as much of a bargaining chip, and the prospect of prosecution under multiple felony statutes still looms over him. So it is, for now, better for him to cop to “private” sins than to public, criminal ones.

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“Brain-Dead” No More

Dramatist David Mamet is a proud flip-flopper. In a Village Voice must-read, Mamet commits the bravest act known to a celebrity thinker: he changes his mind in public. No longer able to reconcile his 1960’s-born “everything is always wrong” worldview with the “rather wonderful and privileged circumstances” of American life, he has renounced his inner “brain-dead liberal.” Mamet on his moment of revelation: “We were riding along and listening to NPR. I felt my facial muscles tightening, and the words beginning to form in my mind: Shut the f__k up”.

In an aside, Mamet recalls how he once won a New Yorker contest:

The task was to name or create a “10” of anything, and mine was the World’s Perfect Theatrical Review. It went like this: “I never understood the theater until last night. Please forgive everything I’ve ever written. When you read this I’ll be dead.” That, of course, is the only review anybody in the theater ever wants to get.

I’d say he composed a “9.5” with the following:

I’d observed that lust, greed, envy, sloth, and their pals are giving the world a good run for its money, but that nonetheless, people in general seem to get from day to day; and that we in the United States get from day to day under rather wonderful and privileged circumstances—that we are not and never have been the villains that some of the world and some of our citizens make us out to be, but that we are a confection of normal (greedy, lustful, duplicitous, corrupt, inspired—in short, human) individuals living under a spectacularly effective compact called the Constitution, and lucky to get it.

That is just about the only admission a conservative ever wants to get.

Dramatist David Mamet is a proud flip-flopper. In a Village Voice must-read, Mamet commits the bravest act known to a celebrity thinker: he changes his mind in public. No longer able to reconcile his 1960’s-born “everything is always wrong” worldview with the “rather wonderful and privileged circumstances” of American life, he has renounced his inner “brain-dead liberal.” Mamet on his moment of revelation: “We were riding along and listening to NPR. I felt my facial muscles tightening, and the words beginning to form in my mind: Shut the f__k up”.

In an aside, Mamet recalls how he once won a New Yorker contest:

The task was to name or create a “10” of anything, and mine was the World’s Perfect Theatrical Review. It went like this: “I never understood the theater until last night. Please forgive everything I’ve ever written. When you read this I’ll be dead.” That, of course, is the only review anybody in the theater ever wants to get.

I’d say he composed a “9.5” with the following:

I’d observed that lust, greed, envy, sloth, and their pals are giving the world a good run for its money, but that nonetheless, people in general seem to get from day to day; and that we in the United States get from day to day under rather wonderful and privileged circumstances—that we are not and never have been the villains that some of the world and some of our citizens make us out to be, but that we are a confection of normal (greedy, lustful, duplicitous, corrupt, inspired—in short, human) individuals living under a spectacularly effective compact called the Constitution, and lucky to get it.

That is just about the only admission a conservative ever wants to get.

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And Khatami’s Better?

Interviewed by the Associated Press, the granddaughter of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini–she’s an avowed reformist in Iran’s political landscape–declared that “the only way to save the country is for [former Iranian president Mohammad] Khatami to run next year in presidential elections. He is the only one who will defeat Ahmadinejad.”

I’m no fan of the current president of Iran, but I fail to see how Khatami would be much better. After all, assuming the National Intelligence Estimate is accurate in its assessment that Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003 would mean that suspension happened during Khatami’s presidency. So, prior to 2003 he was promoting “the dialogue of civilizations” around the globe while building a nuke in his backyard.

Clearly, those hoping that the upcoming elections in Iran will weaken Ahmadinejad and give way to a return of the “moderates” forget three things. One: the nuclear program and the quest for a nuclear weapon went on under reformists as well as hardliners. There seems to be little difference among them on the nuclear issue. Two: whoever is president or serving inside the Majlis (the legislative assembly) may matter little. The ultimate decision maker–Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei–is not going to change his worldview on nukes (or anything else) as a result of elections. And three: even under the reformist Khatami, Iran’s human rights failed to improve. In fact, there is considerable evidence that they deteriorated during Khatami’s presidency. So be careful what you wish for–you just might get it.

Interviewed by the Associated Press, the granddaughter of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini–she’s an avowed reformist in Iran’s political landscape–declared that “the only way to save the country is for [former Iranian president Mohammad] Khatami to run next year in presidential elections. He is the only one who will defeat Ahmadinejad.”

I’m no fan of the current president of Iran, but I fail to see how Khatami would be much better. After all, assuming the National Intelligence Estimate is accurate in its assessment that Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003 would mean that suspension happened during Khatami’s presidency. So, prior to 2003 he was promoting “the dialogue of civilizations” around the globe while building a nuke in his backyard.

Clearly, those hoping that the upcoming elections in Iran will weaken Ahmadinejad and give way to a return of the “moderates” forget three things. One: the nuclear program and the quest for a nuclear weapon went on under reformists as well as hardliners. There seems to be little difference among them on the nuclear issue. Two: whoever is president or serving inside the Majlis (the legislative assembly) may matter little. The ultimate decision maker–Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei–is not going to change his worldview on nukes (or anything else) as a result of elections. And three: even under the reformist Khatami, Iran’s human rights failed to improve. In fact, there is considerable evidence that they deteriorated during Khatami’s presidency. So be careful what you wish for–you just might get it.

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He’s #9! He’s #9!

Need further proof that folks are downright delighted by the Spitzer scandal? Buy the t-shirt. (Personally, as a jersey collector, I think a better tribute would look like this or this.)

Need further proof that folks are downright delighted by the Spitzer scandal? Buy the t-shirt. (Personally, as a jersey collector, I think a better tribute would look like this or this.)

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Who is Thomas P. M. Barnett?

In the LA Times today, Max Boot effectively takes down the Esquire profile of Admiral William Fallon, who just resigned as head the U.S. Central Command in a spat with the Bush administration over Iran policy:

Its author, Thomas P.M. Barnett, a former professor at the Naval War College, presents a fawning portrait of the admiral — a service he previously performed for Donald Rumsfeld. But evidence of Fallon’s supposed “strategic brilliance” is notably lacking. For example, Barnett notes Fallon’s attempt to banish the phrase “the Long War” (created by his predecessor) because it “signaled a long haul that Fallon simply finds unacceptable,” without offering any hint of how Fallon intends to defeat our enemies overnight. The ideas Fallon proposes — “He wants troop levels in Iraq down now, and he wants the Afghan National Army running the show throughout most of Afghanistan by the end of this year” — would most likely result in security setbacks that would lengthen, not shorten, the struggle.

Max calls Barnett’s portrait “fawning.” Max is a master of understatement. Here are some excerpts:

The first thing you notice is the face, the second is the voice.

A tall, wiry man with thinning white hair, Fallon comes off like a loner even when he’s standing in a crowd.

Despite having an easy smile that he regularly pulls out for his many daily exercises in relationship building, Fallon’s consistent game face is a slightly pissed-off glare. It’s his default expression. Don’t fuck with me, it says. A tough Catholic boy from New Jersey, his favorite compliment is “badass.” Fallon’s got a fearsome reputation, although no one I ever talk to in the business can quite pin down why.

And in truth, Fallon’s not a screamer. Indeed, by my long observation and the accounts of a dozen people, he doesn’t raise his voice whatsoever, except when he laughs. Instead, the more serious he becomes, the quieter he gets, and his whispers sound positively menacing. Other guys can jaw-jaw all they want about the need for war-war with . . . whomever is today’s target among D.C.’s many armchair warriors. Not Fallon. Let the president pop off. Fallon won’t. No bravado here, nor sound-bite-sized threats, but rather a calm, leathery presence. Fallon is comfortable risking peace because he’s comfortable waging war.

Along with such treacle, the Esquire portrait also contains a dose of the same kind of poison pedaled by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. Barnett writes that Fallon’s articulation of a soft line toward Iran amounts to “fighting words to your average neocon — not to mention your average supporter of Israel, a good many of whom in Washington seem never to have served a minute in uniform. But utter those words for print and you can easily find yourself defending your indifference to ‘nuclear holocaust.'” Thanks largely to Mearsheimer and Walt, this kind of Charles Lindbergh-Henry Ford-style discourse has seeped into the discourse of even third-rate hacks.

But perhaps even more notable is Barnett’s account of Fallon’s travel to a Chinese city when he was in charge of American forces in the Pacific:

Early in his tenure at Pacific Command, Fallon let it be known that he was interested in visiting the city of Harbin in the highly controlled and isolated Heilongjiang Military District on China’s northern border with Russia. The Chinese were flabbergasted at the request, but when Fallon’s command plane took off one afternoon from Mongolia, heading for Harbin without permission, Beijing relented.

Did a U.S. military aircraft really enter Chinese airspace without permission? Under what circumstances are U.S. military aircraft ever granted permission to fly over China, let alone over a military district? What really happened here? My first bet is that either Barnett made this stuff up or he was sold a bill of goods by the man with the “calm, leathery presence.” I knew Barnett back in grad school at Harvard, and my second bet is the latter.

Barnett became famous at Harvard for another fawning article he wrote, in this case about the Romanian tyrant Nicolae Ceausescu. Describing Ceausescu as a “shrewd and farsighted politician,” Barnett noted that the Romanian leader had recently been “unanimously reelected at the recent Communist Party congress,” and his “grip on power appears firm.” Barnett’s op-ed appeared in the Christian Science Monitor on December 11, 1989. Fourteen days later, Romania was in full revolt and Ceausescu was dead — not of natural causes.

Let’s put aside Admiral Fallon’s views on Iran. If for nothing else, he deserved to be relieved of his command for collaborating with such a malign goofball in anything, let alone a campaign of insubordination.

In the LA Times today, Max Boot effectively takes down the Esquire profile of Admiral William Fallon, who just resigned as head the U.S. Central Command in a spat with the Bush administration over Iran policy:

Its author, Thomas P.M. Barnett, a former professor at the Naval War College, presents a fawning portrait of the admiral — a service he previously performed for Donald Rumsfeld. But evidence of Fallon’s supposed “strategic brilliance” is notably lacking. For example, Barnett notes Fallon’s attempt to banish the phrase “the Long War” (created by his predecessor) because it “signaled a long haul that Fallon simply finds unacceptable,” without offering any hint of how Fallon intends to defeat our enemies overnight. The ideas Fallon proposes — “He wants troop levels in Iraq down now, and he wants the Afghan National Army running the show throughout most of Afghanistan by the end of this year” — would most likely result in security setbacks that would lengthen, not shorten, the struggle.

Max calls Barnett’s portrait “fawning.” Max is a master of understatement. Here are some excerpts:

The first thing you notice is the face, the second is the voice.

A tall, wiry man with thinning white hair, Fallon comes off like a loner even when he’s standing in a crowd.

Despite having an easy smile that he regularly pulls out for his many daily exercises in relationship building, Fallon’s consistent game face is a slightly pissed-off glare. It’s his default expression. Don’t fuck with me, it says. A tough Catholic boy from New Jersey, his favorite compliment is “badass.” Fallon’s got a fearsome reputation, although no one I ever talk to in the business can quite pin down why.

And in truth, Fallon’s not a screamer. Indeed, by my long observation and the accounts of a dozen people, he doesn’t raise his voice whatsoever, except when he laughs. Instead, the more serious he becomes, the quieter he gets, and his whispers sound positively menacing. Other guys can jaw-jaw all they want about the need for war-war with . . . whomever is today’s target among D.C.’s many armchair warriors. Not Fallon. Let the president pop off. Fallon won’t. No bravado here, nor sound-bite-sized threats, but rather a calm, leathery presence. Fallon is comfortable risking peace because he’s comfortable waging war.

Along with such treacle, the Esquire portrait also contains a dose of the same kind of poison pedaled by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. Barnett writes that Fallon’s articulation of a soft line toward Iran amounts to “fighting words to your average neocon — not to mention your average supporter of Israel, a good many of whom in Washington seem never to have served a minute in uniform. But utter those words for print and you can easily find yourself defending your indifference to ‘nuclear holocaust.'” Thanks largely to Mearsheimer and Walt, this kind of Charles Lindbergh-Henry Ford-style discourse has seeped into the discourse of even third-rate hacks.

But perhaps even more notable is Barnett’s account of Fallon’s travel to a Chinese city when he was in charge of American forces in the Pacific:

Early in his tenure at Pacific Command, Fallon let it be known that he was interested in visiting the city of Harbin in the highly controlled and isolated Heilongjiang Military District on China’s northern border with Russia. The Chinese were flabbergasted at the request, but when Fallon’s command plane took off one afternoon from Mongolia, heading for Harbin without permission, Beijing relented.

Did a U.S. military aircraft really enter Chinese airspace without permission? Under what circumstances are U.S. military aircraft ever granted permission to fly over China, let alone over a military district? What really happened here? My first bet is that either Barnett made this stuff up or he was sold a bill of goods by the man with the “calm, leathery presence.” I knew Barnett back in grad school at Harvard, and my second bet is the latter.

Barnett became famous at Harvard for another fawning article he wrote, in this case about the Romanian tyrant Nicolae Ceausescu. Describing Ceausescu as a “shrewd and farsighted politician,” Barnett noted that the Romanian leader had recently been “unanimously reelected at the recent Communist Party congress,” and his “grip on power appears firm.” Barnett’s op-ed appeared in the Christian Science Monitor on December 11, 1989. Fourteen days later, Romania was in full revolt and Ceausescu was dead — not of natural causes.

Let’s put aside Admiral Fallon’s views on Iran. If for nothing else, he deserved to be relieved of his command for collaborating with such a malign goofball in anything, let alone a campaign of insubordination.

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Farewell, Fox Fallon

Today’s Los Angeles Times carries an article by me on the resignation of Admiral Fox Fallon from Central Command. In it I applaud his departure. Fallon was on the wrong side of so many issues–from opposing the surge in Iraq to making public statements that made it more difficult to maintain pressure on Iran. But his departure also raises a broader issue that I didn’t have room to address in the article: When is it appropriate for military commanders to break ranks with their civilian overseers?

This has been a hot issue for years. A decade ago, one of the most capable officers in the entire army, H.R. McMaster, published a best-selling book, Dereliction of Duty, which took the Joint Chiefs of Staff to task for not quitting in protest because President Johnson supposedly ignored their best military advice about the Vietnam War. More recently, a group of retired general officers came out against the Iraq War and against Donald Rumsfeld when he was still Secretary of Defense. Many in the military have suggested there should have been more protest and, if necessary, resignations among the senior ranks to protest the misguided decisions made by the Bush administration about the Iraq War.

There is little doubt that senior officers should have ample opportunity to engage in debate and dissent–in private. The President and secretary of defense should hear a wide variety of views before making a decision. But it’s another matter altogether when senior officers go public with their disagreements, especially when disagreeing with policy decisions that have already been made by their civilian superiors. That is an untenable situation, and–as with George McClellan, Douglas MacArthur, and now Fox Fallon–there is no choice but for such general officers to resign.

A further distinction should be made. Military officers are experts in how to wage war, not when to wage it. Their advice is most needed when it comes to tactics and operations, not for building grand strategy. Bush and Rumsfeld would have been well advised to pay closer attention in 2003 to the misgivings of generals such as Eric Shinseki, who warned that a larger force would be required in Iraq. And today the administration should certainly listen to Fallon or other officers about which military options, if any, are viable in the event of war with Iran.

But that’s a different matter from Fallon publicly carping that the U.S. should make nice with Iran and not threaten the mullahs with military action. Those decisions are above his pay grade, and while he should get a say in internal deliberations, his views should not necessarily be translated into policy.

Even when it comes to tactics and operations, generals shouldn’t necessarily carry the day. Fallon, after all, was wrong in opposing the surge. If the President had followed his advice we would not now be winning the war in Iraq. The trick, from the standpoint of a commander in chief, is to listen to a wide variety of views and not to defer automatically to the military hierarchy. Some officers will necessarily be unhappy with the final decisions if they run contrary to their own views. But once the President issues a directive, it is the job of the armed forces to salute and march out–not to mouth off to Esquire. If any officer can’t in good conscience carry out his orders, he has only one option left: to resign. And that’s just what Fallon did.

Democrats will try to make a scandal out of Fallon’s departure. But in fact it shows the system of civilian control of our armed forces working as intended. That is something any future President, Democrat or Republican, should be grateful for.

Today’s Los Angeles Times carries an article by me on the resignation of Admiral Fox Fallon from Central Command. In it I applaud his departure. Fallon was on the wrong side of so many issues–from opposing the surge in Iraq to making public statements that made it more difficult to maintain pressure on Iran. But his departure also raises a broader issue that I didn’t have room to address in the article: When is it appropriate for military commanders to break ranks with their civilian overseers?

This has been a hot issue for years. A decade ago, one of the most capable officers in the entire army, H.R. McMaster, published a best-selling book, Dereliction of Duty, which took the Joint Chiefs of Staff to task for not quitting in protest because President Johnson supposedly ignored their best military advice about the Vietnam War. More recently, a group of retired general officers came out against the Iraq War and against Donald Rumsfeld when he was still Secretary of Defense. Many in the military have suggested there should have been more protest and, if necessary, resignations among the senior ranks to protest the misguided decisions made by the Bush administration about the Iraq War.

There is little doubt that senior officers should have ample opportunity to engage in debate and dissent–in private. The President and secretary of defense should hear a wide variety of views before making a decision. But it’s another matter altogether when senior officers go public with their disagreements, especially when disagreeing with policy decisions that have already been made by their civilian superiors. That is an untenable situation, and–as with George McClellan, Douglas MacArthur, and now Fox Fallon–there is no choice but for such general officers to resign.

A further distinction should be made. Military officers are experts in how to wage war, not when to wage it. Their advice is most needed when it comes to tactics and operations, not for building grand strategy. Bush and Rumsfeld would have been well advised to pay closer attention in 2003 to the misgivings of generals such as Eric Shinseki, who warned that a larger force would be required in Iraq. And today the administration should certainly listen to Fallon or other officers about which military options, if any, are viable in the event of war with Iran.

But that’s a different matter from Fallon publicly carping that the U.S. should make nice with Iran and not threaten the mullahs with military action. Those decisions are above his pay grade, and while he should get a say in internal deliberations, his views should not necessarily be translated into policy.

Even when it comes to tactics and operations, generals shouldn’t necessarily carry the day. Fallon, after all, was wrong in opposing the surge. If the President had followed his advice we would not now be winning the war in Iraq. The trick, from the standpoint of a commander in chief, is to listen to a wide variety of views and not to defer automatically to the military hierarchy. Some officers will necessarily be unhappy with the final decisions if they run contrary to their own views. But once the President issues a directive, it is the job of the armed forces to salute and march out–not to mouth off to Esquire. If any officer can’t in good conscience carry out his orders, he has only one option left: to resign. And that’s just what Fallon did.

Democrats will try to make a scandal out of Fallon’s departure. But in fact it shows the system of civilian control of our armed forces working as intended. That is something any future President, Democrat or Republican, should be grateful for.

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Guess Who’s Coming to Help Us Enrich Uranium!

Guess who visited Syria recently? Nope, it wasn’t Zbigniew Brzezinski. And it wasn’t the Carnegie Endowment, either. It was a group of North Korean nuclear engineers:

North Korea admitted to sending engineers to military-related and other facilities in Syria during its recent talks with the United States over its nuclear program, diplomatic sources in New York said Friday. Pyongyang, however, denied its involvement in Syrian nuclear development, according to the sources. The dispatch of engineers and other personnel for bilateral cooperation, including on the military front, started in around 2000, North Korea told the United States in their talks from the end of last year to January. The North also exported materials to Syria, the sources said. Pyongyang claimed most of the personnel worked at civilian facilities, according to the sources.

Alarming, especially that too-emphatic claim that “most of the personnel worked at civilian facilities.”

Guess who visited Syria recently? Nope, it wasn’t Zbigniew Brzezinski. And it wasn’t the Carnegie Endowment, either. It was a group of North Korean nuclear engineers:

North Korea admitted to sending engineers to military-related and other facilities in Syria during its recent talks with the United States over its nuclear program, diplomatic sources in New York said Friday. Pyongyang, however, denied its involvement in Syrian nuclear development, according to the sources. The dispatch of engineers and other personnel for bilateral cooperation, including on the military front, started in around 2000, North Korea told the United States in their talks from the end of last year to January. The North also exported materials to Syria, the sources said. Pyongyang claimed most of the personnel worked at civilian facilities, according to the sources.

Alarming, especially that too-emphatic claim that “most of the personnel worked at civilian facilities.”

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Help Alaric Morgan

In response to my recent CONTENTIONS post about the difficulty of securing visas for translators who have put their lives on the line to help American forces in Iraq, I received the following email. I have not verified its contents but on its face it appears to be another appalling story of bureaucratic ineptitude that hurts our closest allies. The author of the email, Alaric Morgan, agreed to let me post it. You can read it in its entirety after the jump.
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In response to my recent CONTENTIONS post about the difficulty of securing visas for translators who have put their lives on the line to help American forces in Iraq, I received the following email. I have not verified its contents but on its face it appears to be another appalling story of bureaucratic ineptitude that hurts our closest allies. The author of the email, Alaric Morgan, agreed to let me post it. You can read it in its entirety after the jump.

Greetings,Yesterday my friend called me and said she heard a radio program that you spoke on concerning Iraqi’s coming to America and how hard it is for them. By the time I tuned to the station they had moved to another subject. May I briefly fill you in on my very frustrating, but very similar, situation?

I worked as a police officer in Colorado for 25 years. In 2004 I went to Baghdad as a civilian police adviser. I worked there for 3 years. Our company worked closely with Iraqi citizens, both as interpreters and as personal security guards for us. One of the men who worked with our company for 4 years became my husband (we married in Jordan in 2006).

In October 2006 we applied for a visa for him. He continued to work for us as a personal security guard, risking his life everyday —not only on the job but in his neighborhood as well. We kept our marriage secret as we were afraid word would get out to sources unfriendly to Americans—and unfriendly to Iraqi’s working with Americans—and my husband would be killed or kidnapped.

In March 2007 I had to return to the US, as I was not allowed to renew my contract (I had been in Ira1 3 years and the DOS required us to repatriate—-plus I wanted to get my husband to the US). He stayed in Baghdad and continued working with Americans as a personal security guard . In May 2007 we had his interview at the US Embassy in Jordan. It was very hard getting him in Jordan, as that government is cracking down on allowing refugees into their country. After his interview he was told the visa would not be issued at that time and that it would be another 8-12 weeks. We decided that he should remain in Jordan–that if he returned to Baghdad it would be too dangerous and he might not be able to get back into Jordan at a later date.

After 12 weeks there was still no visa, so I began sending emails. I sent them to the Embassy in Jordan, as well as to my Congressman. It took weeks for my Congressman to reply to me and then they promptly forgot about my request for a Congressional Inquiry. I hired an attorney in the beginning of the process, but even this attorney would not get back with me.

I tried very hard to find out what was going on but all I was told by the US Embassy in Jordan was that his application was being processed and he had to wait until they received approval from the Department of State. Finally, in October my Congressman’s office said they sent an inquiry. In November my husband was contacted by the US Embassy and was told his visa was ready and he needed to get his passport to them. We were so happy!! However, 2 weeks later his passport was returned without a visa and no explanation. Around that same time my Congressman got a reply to the inquiry—but it contained NO information as to why the visa was not issued—it only said the application was being processed. I sent an email to the US Embassy and was advised that the DOS wanted more information on his application. All along I have been advised that the ” process usually takes one month but can take longer. ” So, we waited and waited.

Let me just add that at no time has ANYONE ever talked to me during this process. I have made numerous attempts to contact someone directly but am always referred back to the email address for the Embassy in Jordan—-and when I send emails asking for details and information I get nothing but the standard “it is being processed and you must wait”.

Now, into 2008. In February again the Embassy called my husband and said the visa was ready. Again, he got his passport to them. Again, it was returned (after 3 weeks) with NO VISA and NO REASON other than saying the DOS must approve all visas!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I sent an email wanting more information and got none. I sent an email to my Senator and as yet have not heard anything back. I tried to contact a local law firm and they have not responded either.

So, no one has to tell me how difficult it is to bring my husband here! He risked his life everyday for Americans—-but since we were civilians it does not seem to have made any difference. As a matter of fact a worker in my Congressman’s office callously commented that his working with us did not indicate his loyalty to us or lack of connections to terrorists because they “blow themselves up all the time”, so if he were on a convoy with us and got killed that is just part of what they do!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We are at our wits end and do not know what to do or who to turn to. I know this is a long email, but believe me I have condensed it A LOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you have an suggestions, or anyone I can turn to for help PLEASE let me know!

Again, thank you for listening. I hope to hear back from you, or someone, soon.

Alaric Morgan

arakimorgan@yahoo.com

Perhaps someone at the State Department will read this plea for help and do something. Or is that expecting too much?

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Romney for Veep?

A month removed from his presidential campaign, Mitt Romney is back on the airwaves. Last night, Romney told Fox News that he would be “honored” to serve as John McCain’s vice-presidential nominee-a suggestion that has to leave just about anyone who followed the Republican nomination battle utterly perplexed.

After all, by all appearances, Romney and McCain detest each other, with the vitriol increasing as the two emerged as leading candidates in the run-up to Super Tuesday. Romney expended much of his personal wealth on attack ads, seeking to paint McCain as liberal. Meanwhile, McCain accused Romney of flip-flopping on key political positions, referring to him as the “candidate of change” during the New Hampshire debate. For those who have wondered how Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton could possibly coexist on the same ticket given their own heated nomination contest, a McCain-Romney ticket should be no less of a head-scratcher.

Of course, the obvious choice for McCain’s running mate is Mike Huckabee. During the nomination contest, Huckabee emerged as the consensus conservative candidate, assuming the place that was to be filled by Fred Thompson (remember him?) and directly challenging the original argument for Romney’s candidacy. Then, as the campaigns approached Super Tuesday, Huckabee teamed with McCain against Romney: Huckabee defended McCain against Romney’s barbs, while McCain urged his supporters in West Virginia to back Huckabee–critically thwarting an early Super Tuesday victory for Romney. Most importantly, Huckabee extended his campaign despite nearly impossible odds of victory, affording McCain the opportunity to appeal to voters in key states, including Virginia and Ohio.

Or, if McCain desires to maintain the moderate flavor of his campaign, Florida Governor Charlie Crist is another strong option. Crist is viewed as a truly moderate Republican and as an environmentalist, and his endorsement of McCain was viewed as critical to McCain’s defeat of Romney in the January 29th primary. Moreover, his nomination would boost the Republicans’ odds of maintaining Florida’s red-state status, given Crist’s incredible 71% approval rating.

Ultimately, the Democrats’ decision regarding whether they will re-run primary elections in Florida and Michigan should determine whether McCain chooses Crist or Huckabee. Indeed, if the DNC fails to seat Floridian delegates at the convention, McCain would hardly need Crist to win Florida, and his attention might therefore turn to solidifying the conservative base via Huckabee. Meanwhile, previous bad blood would require McCain and Romney to defend their partnership, which would become a total distraction.

A month removed from his presidential campaign, Mitt Romney is back on the airwaves. Last night, Romney told Fox News that he would be “honored” to serve as John McCain’s vice-presidential nominee-a suggestion that has to leave just about anyone who followed the Republican nomination battle utterly perplexed.

After all, by all appearances, Romney and McCain detest each other, with the vitriol increasing as the two emerged as leading candidates in the run-up to Super Tuesday. Romney expended much of his personal wealth on attack ads, seeking to paint McCain as liberal. Meanwhile, McCain accused Romney of flip-flopping on key political positions, referring to him as the “candidate of change” during the New Hampshire debate. For those who have wondered how Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton could possibly coexist on the same ticket given their own heated nomination contest, a McCain-Romney ticket should be no less of a head-scratcher.

Of course, the obvious choice for McCain’s running mate is Mike Huckabee. During the nomination contest, Huckabee emerged as the consensus conservative candidate, assuming the place that was to be filled by Fred Thompson (remember him?) and directly challenging the original argument for Romney’s candidacy. Then, as the campaigns approached Super Tuesday, Huckabee teamed with McCain against Romney: Huckabee defended McCain against Romney’s barbs, while McCain urged his supporters in West Virginia to back Huckabee–critically thwarting an early Super Tuesday victory for Romney. Most importantly, Huckabee extended his campaign despite nearly impossible odds of victory, affording McCain the opportunity to appeal to voters in key states, including Virginia and Ohio.

Or, if McCain desires to maintain the moderate flavor of his campaign, Florida Governor Charlie Crist is another strong option. Crist is viewed as a truly moderate Republican and as an environmentalist, and his endorsement of McCain was viewed as critical to McCain’s defeat of Romney in the January 29th primary. Moreover, his nomination would boost the Republicans’ odds of maintaining Florida’s red-state status, given Crist’s incredible 71% approval rating.

Ultimately, the Democrats’ decision regarding whether they will re-run primary elections in Florida and Michigan should determine whether McCain chooses Crist or Huckabee. Indeed, if the DNC fails to seat Floridian delegates at the convention, McCain would hardly need Crist to win Florida, and his attention might therefore turn to solidifying the conservative base via Huckabee. Meanwhile, previous bad blood would require McCain and Romney to defend their partnership, which would become a total distraction.

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The Meaning of Spitzer’s Fall

The fall of Eliot Spitzer offers a reminder, after two years of tawdry Republican scandals used to brilliant advantage by Democrats, that misbehavior by public officials knows no party. Too often, people find it difficult to separate their own ideas about politics from their moral expectations. Democrats and liberals slip far too easily into a conviction that the Republican and conservative focus on equality of opportunity and the benefits of the market is merely a cover for greed and power dominance. Republicans and conservatives, likewise, believe the Democratic and liberal elevation of the government’s role in solving social problems is merely a cover for a bottomless hunger to arrogate and centralize political power. They are not content to believe their opponents are wrong. Rather, they are sure their opponents think exactly the same way they do and, therefore, that they are acting from malign intent rather than from a different perspective on how the world works best.

Conservatives tend to view the world through a moral framework, and this makes them susceptible to believing that others are immoral because they do not do so. Liberals tend to view the world through a framework of compassion, and this makes them susceptible to believing that others are heartless because they do not do so.

None of this offers a description of Eliot Spitzer, however, who is simply an Appetite in human form. He wanted to be attorney general of the State of New York, and used every means at his disposal to do so, including a bald-faced abrogation of campaign-finance laws that made it possible for his father to finance his campaigns. He wanted to become famous as Attorney General, so he read the headlines and decided he could use his office’s not-inconsiderable authority to go after anyone he chose to go after — always making sure that his opponent was not in the good graces of the New York Times at the time.

And when he became governor, almost by acclamation, he decided everything in Albany was going to be done his way — something he could have effected through the proper use of his huge mandate. Instead, he threatened people, while his people (which probably means Spitzer himself) decided to use state police as his private investigations unit.

Finally, in what I suspect was a scheme to garner a few thousand frauduent votes at an opportune moment so that he could flip the New York State Senate to the Democratic side and work his will in the State Legislature, he championed the notion of giving illegal aliens drivers’ licenses — which would have meant any illegal alien in New York State could have registered to vote through motor-voter rules without ever getting caught.

Eliot Spitzer wanted what he wanted when he wanted it. That is the consistent pattern of his public life, and it is why America will be a better place when the only power he has left is the power to hurt the people closest to him.

The fall of Eliot Spitzer offers a reminder, after two years of tawdry Republican scandals used to brilliant advantage by Democrats, that misbehavior by public officials knows no party. Too often, people find it difficult to separate their own ideas about politics from their moral expectations. Democrats and liberals slip far too easily into a conviction that the Republican and conservative focus on equality of opportunity and the benefits of the market is merely a cover for greed and power dominance. Republicans and conservatives, likewise, believe the Democratic and liberal elevation of the government’s role in solving social problems is merely a cover for a bottomless hunger to arrogate and centralize political power. They are not content to believe their opponents are wrong. Rather, they are sure their opponents think exactly the same way they do and, therefore, that they are acting from malign intent rather than from a different perspective on how the world works best.

Conservatives tend to view the world through a moral framework, and this makes them susceptible to believing that others are immoral because they do not do so. Liberals tend to view the world through a framework of compassion, and this makes them susceptible to believing that others are heartless because they do not do so.

None of this offers a description of Eliot Spitzer, however, who is simply an Appetite in human form. He wanted to be attorney general of the State of New York, and used every means at his disposal to do so, including a bald-faced abrogation of campaign-finance laws that made it possible for his father to finance his campaigns. He wanted to become famous as Attorney General, so he read the headlines and decided he could use his office’s not-inconsiderable authority to go after anyone he chose to go after — always making sure that his opponent was not in the good graces of the New York Times at the time.

And when he became governor, almost by acclamation, he decided everything in Albany was going to be done his way — something he could have effected through the proper use of his huge mandate. Instead, he threatened people, while his people (which probably means Spitzer himself) decided to use state police as his private investigations unit.

Finally, in what I suspect was a scheme to garner a few thousand frauduent votes at an opportune moment so that he could flip the New York State Senate to the Democratic side and work his will in the State Legislature, he championed the notion of giving illegal aliens drivers’ licenses — which would have meant any illegal alien in New York State could have registered to vote through motor-voter rules without ever getting caught.

Eliot Spitzer wanted what he wanted when he wanted it. That is the consistent pattern of his public life, and it is why America will be a better place when the only power he has left is the power to hurt the people closest to him.

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Why So Mum?

For a candidate who runs against old-style politics, who needs to make inroads with women voters, and who might do well to show a little political cunning, Barack Obama sure has been mum on the topic of Eliot Spitzer. It is clear, for multiple reasons, why Hillary Clinton would like to say as little as possible on the subject. But why is Obama running from the press on this one? A comment about the importance of upholding the public trust would be in keeping with his promise of a “new politics,” and would turn up the heat a tick or two on Clinton. But so far, nada. It makes you wonder whether the Obama team has bought into a “he’s-inevitable, let’s make-no-waves” view of the race and is letting opportunities go by the wayside.

Likewise, in neither his CNN or MSNBC interview last night did Obama anything newsworthy. (The Chris Matthews interview on MSNBC was an embarrassing series of set-up questions with no follow-ups. “Isn’t it telling that hundreds of thousands of documents show no link existed between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda?” “Wasn’t Rep. Steve King horribly out of line in his comments about your name?”) On foreign policy experience, Obama did not even press his campaign’s attack that Clinton’s résumé has been puffed up. He merely repeated a talking point: that his readiness to be commander-in-chief stems from his judgment in opposing the Iraq war. Well, at least he said he did not think much of Professor Patterson’s interpretation of the “3 a.m.” ad.

For a candidate who runs against old-style politics, who needs to make inroads with women voters, and who might do well to show a little political cunning, Barack Obama sure has been mum on the topic of Eliot Spitzer. It is clear, for multiple reasons, why Hillary Clinton would like to say as little as possible on the subject. But why is Obama running from the press on this one? A comment about the importance of upholding the public trust would be in keeping with his promise of a “new politics,” and would turn up the heat a tick or two on Clinton. But so far, nada. It makes you wonder whether the Obama team has bought into a “he’s-inevitable, let’s make-no-waves” view of the race and is letting opportunities go by the wayside.

Likewise, in neither his CNN or MSNBC interview last night did Obama anything newsworthy. (The Chris Matthews interview on MSNBC was an embarrassing series of set-up questions with no follow-ups. “Isn’t it telling that hundreds of thousands of documents show no link existed between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda?” “Wasn’t Rep. Steve King horribly out of line in his comments about your name?”) On foreign policy experience, Obama did not even press his campaign’s attack that Clinton’s résumé has been puffed up. He merely repeated a talking point: that his readiness to be commander-in-chief stems from his judgment in opposing the Iraq war. Well, at least he said he did not think much of Professor Patterson’s interpretation of the “3 a.m.” ad.

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