Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 2, 2008

Who Is He?

John McCain’s “Bio Tour” ( and the incidents Abe refers to) got me thinking about all the candidates’ backgrounds and personalities. And it struck me: what do we really know about Barack Obama? I don’t mean that in the creepy, suggestive way that the Clinton team does, seeming to imply some jumbo skeleton in his closet. I mean in the sense of knowing him and his personality the way we do with McCain or Hillary Clinton.

With both Clinton and McCain you could reel off a list of personal characteristics and be able to hazard a guess as to how they would react in a variety of settings, political or otherwise. For Clinton we have a sense of her basic personality – the negative (dishonest, self-righteous, controlling) and the positive (tenacious . . . ok, I’m stuck, but there are others). Similarly with McCain, who has taken to joking about his best known negative quality (temper), we think we “get” who he is. Part of this is a function of their longevity in the public eye and part is that they actually talk about themselves.

Obama’s cool reserve and verbal acuity have benefited him in many ways ( keeping him above the fray in the debates, for example), but also prevented voters from getting to know him. Is he an “A” or “B” personality? Is he gregarious or a loner? Is he quick to anger or does he hold a grudge? We don’t know any of that and he seems disinclined, as we saw in the Wright episode, to talk about himself. (He’d rather tell us all about us.) So we try to get glimpses of him from his wife’s comments (is he arrogant and self-centered too?), from his choice of associates and mentors, or from an incident on the campaign trail( is he not a “people person”?) to put together a picture of who he is. We still don’t know. And that’s remarkable for someone who’s been running for President for over a year.

But, as he said in his own book, he’s a “blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” Telling us who he really is might muddy the mass exercise in self-projection and thus dim his allure. And if the Newsweek cover story got it right, he might not have a very fixed sense of his own identity. So it may be awhile, if ever, before we learn who he really is. Whatever your political preferences, that’s a bit unnerving.

John McCain’s “Bio Tour” ( and the incidents Abe refers to) got me thinking about all the candidates’ backgrounds and personalities. And it struck me: what do we really know about Barack Obama? I don’t mean that in the creepy, suggestive way that the Clinton team does, seeming to imply some jumbo skeleton in his closet. I mean in the sense of knowing him and his personality the way we do with McCain or Hillary Clinton.

With both Clinton and McCain you could reel off a list of personal characteristics and be able to hazard a guess as to how they would react in a variety of settings, political or otherwise. For Clinton we have a sense of her basic personality – the negative (dishonest, self-righteous, controlling) and the positive (tenacious . . . ok, I’m stuck, but there are others). Similarly with McCain, who has taken to joking about his best known negative quality (temper), we think we “get” who he is. Part of this is a function of their longevity in the public eye and part is that they actually talk about themselves.

Obama’s cool reserve and verbal acuity have benefited him in many ways ( keeping him above the fray in the debates, for example), but also prevented voters from getting to know him. Is he an “A” or “B” personality? Is he gregarious or a loner? Is he quick to anger or does he hold a grudge? We don’t know any of that and he seems disinclined, as we saw in the Wright episode, to talk about himself. (He’d rather tell us all about us.) So we try to get glimpses of him from his wife’s comments (is he arrogant and self-centered too?), from his choice of associates and mentors, or from an incident on the campaign trail( is he not a “people person”?) to put together a picture of who he is. We still don’t know. And that’s remarkable for someone who’s been running for President for over a year.

But, as he said in his own book, he’s a “blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” Telling us who he really is might muddy the mass exercise in self-projection and thus dim his allure. And if the Newsweek cover story got it right, he might not have a very fixed sense of his own identity. So it may be awhile, if ever, before we learn who he really is. Whatever your political preferences, that’s a bit unnerving.

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Khalid Meshal’s Doublespeak

Imagine if Barack Obama had been able to control completely the public’s awareness of his relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright. In all likelihood, he would have emphasized this connection to a small segment of the African-American community, and otherwise denounced Wright forcefully when addressing the broader American public. Of course, this was hardly a realistic option: in the United States, such bold attempts at duplicitous crowd-pleasing are quickly exposed, and accusations of hypocrisy often become overwhelming. For Obama, an attempt to reconcile his connection to Wright with his campaign’s unifying claims thus became a necessity.

Yet the rules are substantially different in Palestinian politics, where audience-dependent double-speak—in which mutually exclusive positions are routinely aired to separate constituencies—is a long-cherished art form. Indeed, Yasser Arafat refined this strategy down to a science, saying entirely different things to his Arabic- and English-language audiences. For example, not long after vowing to pursue “coexistence” on the White House lawn during the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords, Arafat promised a Johannesburg mosque audience, “The jihad will continue!” Through this strategy, Arafat kept western diplomatic and financial support flowing, even while satisfying his Palestinian base and preparing for future war with Israel via the Second Intifada.

Naturally, the double-speak strategy that Arafat employed requires access to both Arabic- and English-speaking audiences, as well as proficiency in English. But for Hamas politburo chief Khalid Meshal, these qualifications are deeply problematic. After all, Meshal generally confines himself to his Damascus headquarters and, if his recent interview with Sky News (a must-watch) is any indicator, his command of English is quite rudimentary.

Well, Meshal has apparently located an alternate strategy for producing effective double-speak: issuing conciliatory statements towards Israel that are withheld from his Palestinian base through Hamas’ press censorship. Indeed, in an interview with the pro-Fatah al-Ayyam, Meshal declared Hamas’ support for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza—in theory, a major concession considering the Hamas Charter’s call for raising “the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.” Yet Hamas’ political base will never hear of Meshal’s statement, as Hamas has banned al-Ayyam in Gaza for the past fifty days. Even Gaza’s Internet users will be left in the dark: the online edition of al-Ayyam says nothing of Meshal’s openness to a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders, and only carries his statements regarding Palestinian prisoners and failed ceasefire negotiations. As a result, Meshal’s supposed concession carries no political price, and therefore no political significance.

For the time being, there is good news: with the exception of the ever-optimistic Ha’aretz, Meshal’s statements have gone entirely unnoticed in the western press. Let’s hope that this is because the top media outlets have learned from previous experiences with Arafat, and not because they’re stuck in Gaza.

Imagine if Barack Obama had been able to control completely the public’s awareness of his relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright. In all likelihood, he would have emphasized this connection to a small segment of the African-American community, and otherwise denounced Wright forcefully when addressing the broader American public. Of course, this was hardly a realistic option: in the United States, such bold attempts at duplicitous crowd-pleasing are quickly exposed, and accusations of hypocrisy often become overwhelming. For Obama, an attempt to reconcile his connection to Wright with his campaign’s unifying claims thus became a necessity.

Yet the rules are substantially different in Palestinian politics, where audience-dependent double-speak—in which mutually exclusive positions are routinely aired to separate constituencies—is a long-cherished art form. Indeed, Yasser Arafat refined this strategy down to a science, saying entirely different things to his Arabic- and English-language audiences. For example, not long after vowing to pursue “coexistence” on the White House lawn during the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords, Arafat promised a Johannesburg mosque audience, “The jihad will continue!” Through this strategy, Arafat kept western diplomatic and financial support flowing, even while satisfying his Palestinian base and preparing for future war with Israel via the Second Intifada.

Naturally, the double-speak strategy that Arafat employed requires access to both Arabic- and English-speaking audiences, as well as proficiency in English. But for Hamas politburo chief Khalid Meshal, these qualifications are deeply problematic. After all, Meshal generally confines himself to his Damascus headquarters and, if his recent interview with Sky News (a must-watch) is any indicator, his command of English is quite rudimentary.

Well, Meshal has apparently located an alternate strategy for producing effective double-speak: issuing conciliatory statements towards Israel that are withheld from his Palestinian base through Hamas’ press censorship. Indeed, in an interview with the pro-Fatah al-Ayyam, Meshal declared Hamas’ support for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza—in theory, a major concession considering the Hamas Charter’s call for raising “the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.” Yet Hamas’ political base will never hear of Meshal’s statement, as Hamas has banned al-Ayyam in Gaza for the past fifty days. Even Gaza’s Internet users will be left in the dark: the online edition of al-Ayyam says nothing of Meshal’s openness to a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders, and only carries his statements regarding Palestinian prisoners and failed ceasefire negotiations. As a result, Meshal’s supposed concession carries no political price, and therefore no political significance.

For the time being, there is good news: with the exception of the ever-optimistic Ha’aretz, Meshal’s statements have gone entirely unnoticed in the western press. Let’s hope that this is because the top media outlets have learned from previous experiences with Arafat, and not because they’re stuck in Gaza.

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Zimbabwe: Don’t Hold Your Breath

Across the world yesterday, hope was rife that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe would actually step down, rather than try to steal the election he had just lost. Such news made the front page of today’s New York Times. Things have become so bad in Zimbabwe that, amidst the dizzying good news of election returns in the opposition’s favor, rumors of Mugabe’s departure began to spread. But as with so many reports of Robert Mugabe’s imminent demise, these too were greatly exaggerated.

Today, The Herald, a state-run newspaper, says that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission will report that no candidate gained a majority in the presidential race. The ZEC will also certify a tie in the parliamentary elections between the ruling ZANU-PF and opposition MDC, thus triggering a runoff between Mugabe and his main opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai. Yesterday, there was speculation that Mugabe would step down rather than submit himself to the humiliation of a runoff. But this speculation was baseless: losing at the polls is far more humiliating for a dictator who has served for nearly three decades than giving election theft a second try.

The New York Times reports:

A Zimbabwean businessman with close links to the ruling party, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the nation’s military and intelligence chiefs discussed several options with the president after the vote appeared to go badly. These included the outright rigging of the election, going to a runoff and even the “elimination” of Mr. Tsvangirai. [Emphasis added]

Yesterday’s optimism was unfounded. This is not the sort of regime that allows anyone else to win elections.

Across the world yesterday, hope was rife that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe would actually step down, rather than try to steal the election he had just lost. Such news made the front page of today’s New York Times. Things have become so bad in Zimbabwe that, amidst the dizzying good news of election returns in the opposition’s favor, rumors of Mugabe’s departure began to spread. But as with so many reports of Robert Mugabe’s imminent demise, these too were greatly exaggerated.

Today, The Herald, a state-run newspaper, says that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission will report that no candidate gained a majority in the presidential race. The ZEC will also certify a tie in the parliamentary elections between the ruling ZANU-PF and opposition MDC, thus triggering a runoff between Mugabe and his main opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai. Yesterday, there was speculation that Mugabe would step down rather than submit himself to the humiliation of a runoff. But this speculation was baseless: losing at the polls is far more humiliating for a dictator who has served for nearly three decades than giving election theft a second try.

The New York Times reports:

A Zimbabwean businessman with close links to the ruling party, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the nation’s military and intelligence chiefs discussed several options with the president after the vote appeared to go badly. These included the outright rigging of the election, going to a runoff and even the “elimination” of Mr. Tsvangirai. [Emphasis added]

Yesterday’s optimism was unfounded. This is not the sort of regime that allows anyone else to win elections.

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Obama’s Fading Smile

The man whose ingratiating smile launched a thousand delegates may not be so friendly after all. Here’s Karl Rove in an upcoming GQ interview:

Barack Obama is coolly detached and very arrogant. I think he’s very smart and knows he’s smart, but as a result doesn’t do his homework.

Rove may well have a slew of ulterior motives in trash-talking Obama. But in this week’s New York magazine, John Heilmann claims that after leaving the primary race John Edwards was all set to endorse Obama—until they got together for a policy chat:

Obama blew it. Speaking to Edwards on the day he exited the race, Obama came across as glib and aloof. His response to Edwards’s imprecations that he make poverty a central part of his agenda was shallow, perfunctory, pat. Clinton, by contrast, engaged Edwards in a lengthy policy discussion. Her affect was solicitous and respectful. When Clinton met Edwards face-to-face in North Carolina ten days later, her approach continued to impress; she even made headway with Elizabeth [Edwards]. Whereas in his Edwards sit-down, Obama dug himself in deeper, getting into a fight with Elizabeth about health care, insisting that his plan is universal (a position she considers a crock), high-handedly criticizing Clinton’s plan (and by extension Edwards’s) for its insurance mandate.

Heilmann quotes a Hillary insider who admits that “Elizabeth hates her guts.” Edwards’ ambivalence speaks volumes.

At Politico, Ben Smith reports on a tense exchange between Obama and a man with a camera. The exchange ends with this from Obama:

Yeah well whatever. Just take it. I won’t be smiling. Because you’re wearing me out . . . . No, no, you’ve been really rude about it. Just take a shot.

Barack Obama is having trouble clearing a pretty low bar. He turns big-name Democrats off just as much as Hillary, and it’s getting harder for him to coast through the media gauntlet purely on superficial charisma. He’s wielded his charm like a superpower up until now: take it away and he’s Clark Kent with unattractive friends. In a general election, he was supposed to be the friendly alternative to the irascible John McCain. That might be hard to pull off if he doesn’t figure out how to get humble pretty soon. And wait: wasn’t Obama supposed to show other nations that America under his leadership will be less . . . arrogant?

The man whose ingratiating smile launched a thousand delegates may not be so friendly after all. Here’s Karl Rove in an upcoming GQ interview:

Barack Obama is coolly detached and very arrogant. I think he’s very smart and knows he’s smart, but as a result doesn’t do his homework.

Rove may well have a slew of ulterior motives in trash-talking Obama. But in this week’s New York magazine, John Heilmann claims that after leaving the primary race John Edwards was all set to endorse Obama—until they got together for a policy chat:

Obama blew it. Speaking to Edwards on the day he exited the race, Obama came across as glib and aloof. His response to Edwards’s imprecations that he make poverty a central part of his agenda was shallow, perfunctory, pat. Clinton, by contrast, engaged Edwards in a lengthy policy discussion. Her affect was solicitous and respectful. When Clinton met Edwards face-to-face in North Carolina ten days later, her approach continued to impress; she even made headway with Elizabeth [Edwards]. Whereas in his Edwards sit-down, Obama dug himself in deeper, getting into a fight with Elizabeth about health care, insisting that his plan is universal (a position she considers a crock), high-handedly criticizing Clinton’s plan (and by extension Edwards’s) for its insurance mandate.

Heilmann quotes a Hillary insider who admits that “Elizabeth hates her guts.” Edwards’ ambivalence speaks volumes.

At Politico, Ben Smith reports on a tense exchange between Obama and a man with a camera. The exchange ends with this from Obama:

Yeah well whatever. Just take it. I won’t be smiling. Because you’re wearing me out . . . . No, no, you’ve been really rude about it. Just take a shot.

Barack Obama is having trouble clearing a pretty low bar. He turns big-name Democrats off just as much as Hillary, and it’s getting harder for him to coast through the media gauntlet purely on superficial charisma. He’s wielded his charm like a superpower up until now: take it away and he’s Clark Kent with unattractive friends. In a general election, he was supposed to be the friendly alternative to the irascible John McCain. That might be hard to pull off if he doesn’t figure out how to get humble pretty soon. And wait: wasn’t Obama supposed to show other nations that America under his leadership will be less . . . arrogant?

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Florida Looms Large

Howard Dean met with the Florida Congressional delegation and the head of the Florida state party and came up with a bowl full of mush, a vague statement promising to seat the Florida delegation ( if they can), yet stick to the DNC rules and get both campaigns to agree. How? They don’t say.

I tend to think this plays right into Hillary Clinton’s hands, emphasizing the unfairness of excluding the delegation and the potential consequences for the Democrats in November if they don’t reach an accommodation. Sure enough, she pounced, releasing this statement:

We have long maintained that pretending the voters of Florida and Michigan don’t exist is not fair in principle and unwise in practice. This morning’s Quinnipiac poll out of Florida reflects the urgent need for Democrats to get behind our effort to count Florida’s voters and seat its delegation. Chairman Dean is clearly committed to seating the Florida delegation and we urge Senator Obama to join us in calling on the rules and bylaws committee to make this a reality.

She is trying to prevent people from counting her out. Keeping the Florida dilemma front and center prevents a definitive conclusion to the race. If she can make Barack Obama look defensive and indifferent to the party’s interests (i.e. nailing down Florida in November) all the better.

And as for those superdelegates . . . As Abe pointed out, they are not necessarily her ace in the hole. They are not going to throw the nomination her way out of any sense of loyalty, let alone affection, for the Clintons. They will have to be convinced that an Obama nomination spells electoral disaster for the Democrats. It will take some cold, hard primary returns and some scary poll numbers to do that.

Howard Dean met with the Florida Congressional delegation and the head of the Florida state party and came up with a bowl full of mush, a vague statement promising to seat the Florida delegation ( if they can), yet stick to the DNC rules and get both campaigns to agree. How? They don’t say.

I tend to think this plays right into Hillary Clinton’s hands, emphasizing the unfairness of excluding the delegation and the potential consequences for the Democrats in November if they don’t reach an accommodation. Sure enough, she pounced, releasing this statement:

We have long maintained that pretending the voters of Florida and Michigan don’t exist is not fair in principle and unwise in practice. This morning’s Quinnipiac poll out of Florida reflects the urgent need for Democrats to get behind our effort to count Florida’s voters and seat its delegation. Chairman Dean is clearly committed to seating the Florida delegation and we urge Senator Obama to join us in calling on the rules and bylaws committee to make this a reality.

She is trying to prevent people from counting her out. Keeping the Florida dilemma front and center prevents a definitive conclusion to the race. If she can make Barack Obama look defensive and indifferent to the party’s interests (i.e. nailing down Florida in November) all the better.

And as for those superdelegates . . . As Abe pointed out, they are not necessarily her ace in the hole. They are not going to throw the nomination her way out of any sense of loyalty, let alone affection, for the Clintons. They will have to be convinced that an Obama nomination spells electoral disaster for the Democrats. It will take some cold, hard primary returns and some scary poll numbers to do that.

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The Poor, Dear Protector of Saddam Hussein

Consider the following description, plucked from today’s New York Times:

A gaunt, worn-looking 52-year-old with warm brown eyes and an apologetic manner, he is one of the many people whose fortunes have been utterly transformed by the American invasion.

Just who do you suppose that poor contrite fellow is? Humble proprietor of a once-thriving Baghdad fruit stand? A village school teacher whose one-room institution was blown to bits? Close: he’s Mudher al-Kharbit, an old business chum and protector of Saddam Hussein!

In today’s Times, Robert F. Worth lavishes this Saddam crony with the kind of unchecked deference usually reserved for Barack Obama. Al-Kharbit is now in jail in Beirut, but before the invasion of Iraq in 2003 he was one of the richest men in Iraq. He benefited from his relationship with Saddam and made a fortune in oil and construction. After the invasion he took Saddam in, actually housing the dictator in one part of his compound while coalition forces bombed another, because, as the Times simply shrugs, “tribal hospitality required it.”

You see, we are not to bear ill will toward al-Kharbit: in the run up to the war he had a few meetings with the CIA, and if the Times and one unnamed CIA official “who spent time in Iraq” are to be believed, he was the unheralded “early backbone of U.S. policy on tribes.” It is implies that al-Kharbit was the theoretical mastermind of the Sunni Awakening. The headline of the Times story is “Advice of Iraqi, Now in Beirut Cell, Finally Heeded.”

But Mr. al-Kharbit’s policy on tribes is to extend “tribal hospitality” to even the most despicable criminal co-member of one’s sect, as he did in the case of Saddam Hussein. Is this not the exact opposite of the policy the U.S. is enforcing amongst tribes in Iraq today? The Sunni Awakening and various efforts among the Shiites are geared towards getting Iraqis to look past sectarian affiliation and towards statehood. The Sunni Awakening is Sunnis turning on Sunnis; last week’s Basra battle was, in some sense, Shiite on Shiite. Only if members of both sects turn on the problem elements within each group can stability be achieved.

How does that square with this, below?

Mr. Kharbit is quick to point out that his family was obligated by Arab tradition to shelter Mr. Hussein, and that the gesture was not a show of support. He is keenly aware of the dictator’s cruelties, he said, having spent years in hiding in the mid-1990s when Mr. Hussein suspected him of backing an insurrection.

It’s no wonder the CIA missed this glaring contradiction. They hadn’t a thing to do with a single successful aspect of the war. Furthermore, it’s important to note that the New York Times is willing to credit American military policy with success once they’ve linked it to someone as despicable as this old Saddam stooge. And, just for a second, consider what the Times headlines would be if the U.S. was currently working with the man who housed Saddam after the invasion.

The Times tries to make the case for Mudher al-Kharbit’s freedom. They’d spend their time more wisely covering the ways in which Iraqis are creating a nation free of the “tribal hospitality” that kept them imprisoned for decades.

Consider the following description, plucked from today’s New York Times:

A gaunt, worn-looking 52-year-old with warm brown eyes and an apologetic manner, he is one of the many people whose fortunes have been utterly transformed by the American invasion.

Just who do you suppose that poor contrite fellow is? Humble proprietor of a once-thriving Baghdad fruit stand? A village school teacher whose one-room institution was blown to bits? Close: he’s Mudher al-Kharbit, an old business chum and protector of Saddam Hussein!

In today’s Times, Robert F. Worth lavishes this Saddam crony with the kind of unchecked deference usually reserved for Barack Obama. Al-Kharbit is now in jail in Beirut, but before the invasion of Iraq in 2003 he was one of the richest men in Iraq. He benefited from his relationship with Saddam and made a fortune in oil and construction. After the invasion he took Saddam in, actually housing the dictator in one part of his compound while coalition forces bombed another, because, as the Times simply shrugs, “tribal hospitality required it.”

You see, we are not to bear ill will toward al-Kharbit: in the run up to the war he had a few meetings with the CIA, and if the Times and one unnamed CIA official “who spent time in Iraq” are to be believed, he was the unheralded “early backbone of U.S. policy on tribes.” It is implies that al-Kharbit was the theoretical mastermind of the Sunni Awakening. The headline of the Times story is “Advice of Iraqi, Now in Beirut Cell, Finally Heeded.”

But Mr. al-Kharbit’s policy on tribes is to extend “tribal hospitality” to even the most despicable criminal co-member of one’s sect, as he did in the case of Saddam Hussein. Is this not the exact opposite of the policy the U.S. is enforcing amongst tribes in Iraq today? The Sunni Awakening and various efforts among the Shiites are geared towards getting Iraqis to look past sectarian affiliation and towards statehood. The Sunni Awakening is Sunnis turning on Sunnis; last week’s Basra battle was, in some sense, Shiite on Shiite. Only if members of both sects turn on the problem elements within each group can stability be achieved.

How does that square with this, below?

Mr. Kharbit is quick to point out that his family was obligated by Arab tradition to shelter Mr. Hussein, and that the gesture was not a show of support. He is keenly aware of the dictator’s cruelties, he said, having spent years in hiding in the mid-1990s when Mr. Hussein suspected him of backing an insurrection.

It’s no wonder the CIA missed this glaring contradiction. They hadn’t a thing to do with a single successful aspect of the war. Furthermore, it’s important to note that the New York Times is willing to credit American military policy with success once they’ve linked it to someone as despicable as this old Saddam stooge. And, just for a second, consider what the Times headlines would be if the U.S. was currently working with the man who housed Saddam after the invasion.

The Times tries to make the case for Mudher al-Kharbit’s freedom. They’d spend their time more wisely covering the ways in which Iraqis are creating a nation free of the “tribal hospitality” that kept them imprisoned for decades.

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Clinton Gets A Hand

Both Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi are now voicing the Clinton line that superdelegates should vote their conscience and not just rubber-stamp the pledged delegate outcome. Dean (accurately) states that this is precisely what party rules require. Pelosi previously sounded much more in tune with the Obama, insisting that superdelegates risk an angry uprising if they deviate from the pledged delegate vote.

Did the Clintons “get to” these two? It’s safe to say that neither one wants to step into the role of power broker or risk the wrath of either side. If the race were in the bag for Obama, as many in the media contend, I think you would see a different tone. But with Clinton leading in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia, who’s to say that she can’t pull it off? Or that the superdelegates won’t want to consider whether Obama’s base of support has crumbled by June? And superdelegates will, I think, be very concerned if Clinton continues to poll better than Obama in key must win states. Michael Barone’s electoral analysis is rarely wrong. (Meanwhile, the New York Times discovers that Dean is not exactly a problem solver, having taken no active role in trying to resolve the Michigan and Florida delegate fights.)

Both Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi are now voicing the Clinton line that superdelegates should vote their conscience and not just rubber-stamp the pledged delegate outcome. Dean (accurately) states that this is precisely what party rules require. Pelosi previously sounded much more in tune with the Obama, insisting that superdelegates risk an angry uprising if they deviate from the pledged delegate vote.

Did the Clintons “get to” these two? It’s safe to say that neither one wants to step into the role of power broker or risk the wrath of either side. If the race were in the bag for Obama, as many in the media contend, I think you would see a different tone. But with Clinton leading in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia, who’s to say that she can’t pull it off? Or that the superdelegates won’t want to consider whether Obama’s base of support has crumbled by June? And superdelegates will, I think, be very concerned if Clinton continues to poll better than Obama in key must win states. Michael Barone’s electoral analysis is rarely wrong. (Meanwhile, the New York Times discovers that Dean is not exactly a problem solver, having taken no active role in trying to resolve the Michigan and Florida delegate fights.)

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The Protocols of the Elders of Amazon

A few years ago, the Goliath of online booksellers, Amazon.com, purchased a company called BookSurge which offers on-demand publishing of thousands of books. Rather than keep an inventory of books in a warehouse, on-demand publishing allows buyers to choose the title they want and have it printed for them. This reduces the overhead associated with publishing a book, and so allows books that otherwise might not be published-since publishers expect they wouldn’t recoup the costs of producing them-to make their way to readers.

As a result of this foray into the on-demand book business, Amazon has become a publisher of books as well as a seller, and so has taken on an unusual level of responsibility for some of the content it now sells to readers.

I tell you all this because this morning I received a press release by email from BookSurge, informing me in breathless tones of the publication of an exciting new book called Persecution, Privilege & Power, edited by Mark Green, and offering “a searing collection of articles about the organized-but often unrecognized-exploitation of political and cultural power in the United States.” Here is how the email describes the book:

In Persecution, Privilege & Power, Green has collected the sharpest commentaries and analyses from 30 different writers as they critically examine the role that Zionism plays in shaping U.S. policies abroad as well as cultural transformations at home. This riveting volume provides a broad and exhilarating inspection of Zionist machinations as well as the entrenched taboos and covert alliances that sustain them. Green’s array of commentators includes James Petras, Charlie Reese, Alison Weir, Kevin MacDonald, Gilad Atzmon, Ray McGovern, Joe Sobran and many others. Persecution, Privilege & Power unearths the unchecked malfeasance within the political wing of organized Jewry, specifically examining that international lobby’s political excesses from a multiplicity of perspectives.

The email is signed by Amanda Sullivan Wilson, BookSurge’s public relations manager, and it details the company’s status as “a subsidiary of Amazon.com Inc., (NASDAQ AMZN)”.

You have to wonder if anyone at Amazon realizes they are now the publishers of conspiracy theories about the “Zionist machinations” of “organized Jewry,” and that BookSurge is actively promoting the book in their name.

A few years ago, the Goliath of online booksellers, Amazon.com, purchased a company called BookSurge which offers on-demand publishing of thousands of books. Rather than keep an inventory of books in a warehouse, on-demand publishing allows buyers to choose the title they want and have it printed for them. This reduces the overhead associated with publishing a book, and so allows books that otherwise might not be published-since publishers expect they wouldn’t recoup the costs of producing them-to make their way to readers.

As a result of this foray into the on-demand book business, Amazon has become a publisher of books as well as a seller, and so has taken on an unusual level of responsibility for some of the content it now sells to readers.

I tell you all this because this morning I received a press release by email from BookSurge, informing me in breathless tones of the publication of an exciting new book called Persecution, Privilege & Power, edited by Mark Green, and offering “a searing collection of articles about the organized-but often unrecognized-exploitation of political and cultural power in the United States.” Here is how the email describes the book:

In Persecution, Privilege & Power, Green has collected the sharpest commentaries and analyses from 30 different writers as they critically examine the role that Zionism plays in shaping U.S. policies abroad as well as cultural transformations at home. This riveting volume provides a broad and exhilarating inspection of Zionist machinations as well as the entrenched taboos and covert alliances that sustain them. Green’s array of commentators includes James Petras, Charlie Reese, Alison Weir, Kevin MacDonald, Gilad Atzmon, Ray McGovern, Joe Sobran and many others. Persecution, Privilege & Power unearths the unchecked malfeasance within the political wing of organized Jewry, specifically examining that international lobby’s political excesses from a multiplicity of perspectives.

The email is signed by Amanda Sullivan Wilson, BookSurge’s public relations manager, and it details the company’s status as “a subsidiary of Amazon.com Inc., (NASDAQ AMZN)”.

You have to wonder if anyone at Amazon realizes they are now the publishers of conspiracy theories about the “Zionist machinations” of “organized Jewry,” and that BookSurge is actively promoting the book in their name.

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Bill’s Blowing Hillary’s Superdelegate Chances

A piece on sfgate offers a telling glimpse of Clinton rage. Last weekend, Bill Clinton flew in from Chicago to California and schmoozed with superdelegates at a state convention. Mingling with the party elite, he was all grins and eye-bags until someone mentioned Hillary defector Bill Richardson:

Rachel Binah, a former Richardson delegate who now supports Hillary Clinton, told Bill how “sorry” she was to have heard former Clinton campaign manager James Carville call Richardson a “Judas” for backing Obama.

It was as if someone pulled the pin from a grenade.

“Five times to my face (Richardson) said that he would never do that,” a red-faced, finger-pointing Clinton erupted.

The former president then went on a tirade that ran from the media’s unfair treatment of Hillary to questions about the fairness of the votes in state caucuses that voted for Obama. It ended with him asking delegates to imagine what the reaction would be if Obama was trailing by just 1 percent and people were telling him to drop out.

Let’s be honest: if Obama was conclusively behind delegate-wise and in the popular vote (as Hillary is) the only question the media would be asking him is, “to what do you attribute your loss?” Yes, Obama has received a big fat pass from the press and they softball him at every turn. But the ongoing assumption that Hillary has some legitimate claim to her continued fight is sustained by little more than the Clinton phenomenon itself. And Bill and Hillary are only called out when their antics go so far beyond the pale as to slip into tabloid-land. Speaking of, here’s more from Bill’s blow-up.

It was very, very intense,” said one attendee. “Not at all like the Bill of earlier campaigns.”

When he finally wound down, Bill was asked what message he wanted the delegates to take away from the meeting.

At that point, a much calmer Clinton outlined his message of party unity.

“It was kind of strange later when he took the stage and told everyone to ‘chill out,’ ” one delegate told us.

“We couldn’t help but think he was also talking to himself.”

Isn’t he always. It’s called solipsism. The Clintons function in a world of their own. It’s what enables Bill to explode and then urge people to “chill out.” It’s what allows Hillary to recall a routine helicopter landing as a scene from Rambo. It’s what drives them to treat the desperately-needed superdelegates with the same contempt to which they subjected the regular Democratic electorate. With trademark class, Bill had someone else call Ms. Binah later in the day and apologize for him.

A piece on sfgate offers a telling glimpse of Clinton rage. Last weekend, Bill Clinton flew in from Chicago to California and schmoozed with superdelegates at a state convention. Mingling with the party elite, he was all grins and eye-bags until someone mentioned Hillary defector Bill Richardson:

Rachel Binah, a former Richardson delegate who now supports Hillary Clinton, told Bill how “sorry” she was to have heard former Clinton campaign manager James Carville call Richardson a “Judas” for backing Obama.

It was as if someone pulled the pin from a grenade.

“Five times to my face (Richardson) said that he would never do that,” a red-faced, finger-pointing Clinton erupted.

The former president then went on a tirade that ran from the media’s unfair treatment of Hillary to questions about the fairness of the votes in state caucuses that voted for Obama. It ended with him asking delegates to imagine what the reaction would be if Obama was trailing by just 1 percent and people were telling him to drop out.

Let’s be honest: if Obama was conclusively behind delegate-wise and in the popular vote (as Hillary is) the only question the media would be asking him is, “to what do you attribute your loss?” Yes, Obama has received a big fat pass from the press and they softball him at every turn. But the ongoing assumption that Hillary has some legitimate claim to her continued fight is sustained by little more than the Clinton phenomenon itself. And Bill and Hillary are only called out when their antics go so far beyond the pale as to slip into tabloid-land. Speaking of, here’s more from Bill’s blow-up.

It was very, very intense,” said one attendee. “Not at all like the Bill of earlier campaigns.”

When he finally wound down, Bill was asked what message he wanted the delegates to take away from the meeting.

At that point, a much calmer Clinton outlined his message of party unity.

“It was kind of strange later when he took the stage and told everyone to ‘chill out,’ ” one delegate told us.

“We couldn’t help but think he was also talking to himself.”

Isn’t he always. It’s called solipsism. The Clintons function in a world of their own. It’s what enables Bill to explode and then urge people to “chill out.” It’s what allows Hillary to recall a routine helicopter landing as a scene from Rambo. It’s what drives them to treat the desperately-needed superdelegates with the same contempt to which they subjected the regular Democratic electorate. With trademark class, Bill had someone else call Ms. Binah later in the day and apologize for him.

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Why WWII Matters

Matthew Yglesias asks “Do we really need a Richard Cohen column about how World War II was, in fact, a good war? Surely there’s some more pressing topic that the precious Washington Post op-ed page real estate could be devoted to.”

It would indeed be nice if, over half a century later, we did not require Washington Post columnists to remind us that “World War II was, in fact, a good war.” But recently a major American novelist undertook a history of World War II aimed at convincing us, in the words of the New York Sun’s Adam Kirsch,

that the Holocaust was, at least in part, Hitler’s response to British aggression, and that the only people who demonstrated true wisdom in the run-up to the war were American and British pacifists, who refused to take up arms no matter how pressing the need.

Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke (which Yglesias does not bother to mention in attacking the decision to publish Cohen’s piece) was not published by the sort of press that puts out tracts by Lyndon LaRouche or Lew Rockwell, but by Simon and Schuster. The book has received favorable notices in both the Los Angeles Times and New York magazine. It enjoyed, in other words, the blessing of American literary culture. Yglesias has an award for political non-conformism named after him. You’d think he’d be more skeptical of thinkers like Baker and the political sophism they practice, whatever sympathies he may share with them.

David Pryce-Jones’s review of Human Smoke, published in COMMENTARY last month, shows why Baker, with his outrageous moral equivalency, is what George Orwell would call “objectively pro-fascist.”Pryce-Jones writes:

For Baker, Churchill and Roosevelt were just as bad then as Bush is now: foolish, small-minded cowards who ordered the bombing of innocent civilians from the air and so participated in a process of reciprocal killing, both blind and, worse, needless.

Leon Wieseltier’s review of Baker’s 2004 novel Checkpoint (about assassinating President Bush), memorably began “This scummy little book . . .” Judgments about Baker’s latest effort should be no more charitable, and should find their way into even Yglesias’s discussions of the Second World War.

Matthew Yglesias asks “Do we really need a Richard Cohen column about how World War II was, in fact, a good war? Surely there’s some more pressing topic that the precious Washington Post op-ed page real estate could be devoted to.”

It would indeed be nice if, over half a century later, we did not require Washington Post columnists to remind us that “World War II was, in fact, a good war.” But recently a major American novelist undertook a history of World War II aimed at convincing us, in the words of the New York Sun’s Adam Kirsch,

that the Holocaust was, at least in part, Hitler’s response to British aggression, and that the only people who demonstrated true wisdom in the run-up to the war were American and British pacifists, who refused to take up arms no matter how pressing the need.

Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke (which Yglesias does not bother to mention in attacking the decision to publish Cohen’s piece) was not published by the sort of press that puts out tracts by Lyndon LaRouche or Lew Rockwell, but by Simon and Schuster. The book has received favorable notices in both the Los Angeles Times and New York magazine. It enjoyed, in other words, the blessing of American literary culture. Yglesias has an award for political non-conformism named after him. You’d think he’d be more skeptical of thinkers like Baker and the political sophism they practice, whatever sympathies he may share with them.

David Pryce-Jones’s review of Human Smoke, published in COMMENTARY last month, shows why Baker, with his outrageous moral equivalency, is what George Orwell would call “objectively pro-fascist.”Pryce-Jones writes:

For Baker, Churchill and Roosevelt were just as bad then as Bush is now: foolish, small-minded cowards who ordered the bombing of innocent civilians from the air and so participated in a process of reciprocal killing, both blind and, worse, needless.

Leon Wieseltier’s review of Baker’s 2004 novel Checkpoint (about assassinating President Bush), memorably began “This scummy little book . . .” Judgments about Baker’s latest effort should be no more charitable, and should find their way into even Yglesias’s discussions of the Second World War.

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Democrats’ Risky Alliance with Big Labor

Barack Obama addressed the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO today. Both have a lot at stake. The AFL-CIO and other unions clearly see 2008 as their year. The AFL-CIO just announced a $53 million ad campaign aimed at attacking John McCain. Yes, Obama doesn’t accept special interest money. But he’s happy to benefit from union help, all the same.

Among Big Labor’s key objectives in recent years has been passage of the Orwellian-sounding Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). That measure would replace secret ballot union elections with so-called “card checks” whereby cards signed by a majority of workers in the presence of union officials would be sufficient to unionize a workplace. Conservatives have long argued that such a measure would open up workers to union intimidation. Nevertheless, this remains a pet project for Big Labor, Congressional Democrats (who failed to pass it in 2007), and both Democratic presidential contenders. (Not surpringly, Obama plugged the EFCA in his AFL-CIO talk today.)

Now comes some evidence that Democrats do the bidding of Big Labor at their political peril. McLaughlin & Associates, a well-regarded GOP polling group, has conducted a survey for a business group, Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, in the battleground states of Minnesota, Colorado, and Maine. The results (according to the press release) show that large majorities of voters in Colorado (68%), Maine (72%), and Minnesota (65%) oppose the EFCA. Moreover, voters in Minnesota and Colorado would be less likely to support Democratic senate candidates who support the EFCA. (Specifically, a plurality of voters would be less likely to vote for Democratic Senate candidates Mark Udall (44%) and Al Franken (41%) if they support this legislation.) To boot, at least 80% of voters in all three states believe that secret ballot elections are the cornerstone of democracy and should be retained for union elections.

This is one more instance in which Democrats have confused the interests of union power brokers with the interests of working-class voters. Unions may want to do away with workplace democracy, but real workers do not. Similarly, teachers’ unions hate school choice measures, but working-class voters whose kids are trapped in underperforming public schools like them.

Will this slow down Big Labor or give Democratic politicians reason to reconsider their position? Probably not. But it’s an opening Republicans should exploit, now that they have some evidence to indicate it’s a smart strategy.

Barack Obama addressed the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO today. Both have a lot at stake. The AFL-CIO and other unions clearly see 2008 as their year. The AFL-CIO just announced a $53 million ad campaign aimed at attacking John McCain. Yes, Obama doesn’t accept special interest money. But he’s happy to benefit from union help, all the same.

Among Big Labor’s key objectives in recent years has been passage of the Orwellian-sounding Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). That measure would replace secret ballot union elections with so-called “card checks” whereby cards signed by a majority of workers in the presence of union officials would be sufficient to unionize a workplace. Conservatives have long argued that such a measure would open up workers to union intimidation. Nevertheless, this remains a pet project for Big Labor, Congressional Democrats (who failed to pass it in 2007), and both Democratic presidential contenders. (Not surpringly, Obama plugged the EFCA in his AFL-CIO talk today.)

Now comes some evidence that Democrats do the bidding of Big Labor at their political peril. McLaughlin & Associates, a well-regarded GOP polling group, has conducted a survey for a business group, Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, in the battleground states of Minnesota, Colorado, and Maine. The results (according to the press release) show that large majorities of voters in Colorado (68%), Maine (72%), and Minnesota (65%) oppose the EFCA. Moreover, voters in Minnesota and Colorado would be less likely to support Democratic senate candidates who support the EFCA. (Specifically, a plurality of voters would be less likely to vote for Democratic Senate candidates Mark Udall (44%) and Al Franken (41%) if they support this legislation.) To boot, at least 80% of voters in all three states believe that secret ballot elections are the cornerstone of democracy and should be retained for union elections.

This is one more instance in which Democrats have confused the interests of union power brokers with the interests of working-class voters. Unions may want to do away with workplace democracy, but real workers do not. Similarly, teachers’ unions hate school choice measures, but working-class voters whose kids are trapped in underperforming public schools like them.

Will this slow down Big Labor or give Democratic politicians reason to reconsider their position? Probably not. But it’s an opening Republicans should exploit, now that they have some evidence to indicate it’s a smart strategy.

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No Kidding

Hillary Clinton adviser and superdelegate wrangler Harold Ickes revealed to TPM Election Central (h/t The Page) that he’s talking to superdelegates about Reverend Wright. Shocked? To liberal pundits who think the Wright episode is a nothingburger it may be a surprise. But Democratic insiders–who by and large have real constiutents–do care, at least according to Ickes. The report tells us:

“Super delegates have to take into account the strengths and weakness of both candidates and decide who would make the strongest candidate against what will undoubtedly be ferocious Republican attacks,” Ickes continued. “I’ve had super delegates tell me that the Wright issue is a real issue for them.” In a reference to Wright’s controversial views, Ickes continued: “Nobody thinks that Barack Obama harbors those thoughts. But that’s not the issue. The issue is what Republicans [will do with them]…I think they’re going to give him a very tough time.” Asked whether he was specifically bringing up Wright to super-delegates, Ickes said: “I’ve said what I’ve said . . . I tell people that they need to look at what they think Republicans may use against him. Wright comes up in the conversations.”

There is good reason for Democrats to be concerned, despite the assurances they are getting from the Obama-enablers. This poll shows Clinton leading by 9 points in Indiana, and by 21 points among white voters. Even more telling, this report (worth reading in its entirety for the priceless quotes from actual voters) suggests that, despite what some voters are telling national pollsters, Indiana Democrats are bothered about Wright:

Interviews with dozens of Democrats in this overwhelmingly white region — where voters will go to the polls in the May 6 primary — suggest residual concerns over the controversy involving Obama’s former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. . . Still, there are stirrings of unease among white voters, including those who fear the issue will hurt Obama in a general election. Pew also found that 39 percent of all white voters who had heard of the controversy, including Republicans and independents, said it made them less favorable toward Obama.

Well, there’s the rub. What some national polls and liberal media tell us conflicts with private conversations among Democratic insiders and voter reaction in a battleground state. Which do you think is more reliable?

The Democrats better be very sure this is a non-issue not only with primary voters, but with non-primary voting Democrats and independent voters (whose preferences only really are known on Election Day in November). Lots of material for Ickes and those superdelegates to talk about, it would seem.

Hillary Clinton adviser and superdelegate wrangler Harold Ickes revealed to TPM Election Central (h/t The Page) that he’s talking to superdelegates about Reverend Wright. Shocked? To liberal pundits who think the Wright episode is a nothingburger it may be a surprise. But Democratic insiders–who by and large have real constiutents–do care, at least according to Ickes. The report tells us:

“Super delegates have to take into account the strengths and weakness of both candidates and decide who would make the strongest candidate against what will undoubtedly be ferocious Republican attacks,” Ickes continued. “I’ve had super delegates tell me that the Wright issue is a real issue for them.” In a reference to Wright’s controversial views, Ickes continued: “Nobody thinks that Barack Obama harbors those thoughts. But that’s not the issue. The issue is what Republicans [will do with them]…I think they’re going to give him a very tough time.” Asked whether he was specifically bringing up Wright to super-delegates, Ickes said: “I’ve said what I’ve said . . . I tell people that they need to look at what they think Republicans may use against him. Wright comes up in the conversations.”

There is good reason for Democrats to be concerned, despite the assurances they are getting from the Obama-enablers. This poll shows Clinton leading by 9 points in Indiana, and by 21 points among white voters. Even more telling, this report (worth reading in its entirety for the priceless quotes from actual voters) suggests that, despite what some voters are telling national pollsters, Indiana Democrats are bothered about Wright:

Interviews with dozens of Democrats in this overwhelmingly white region — where voters will go to the polls in the May 6 primary — suggest residual concerns over the controversy involving Obama’s former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. . . Still, there are stirrings of unease among white voters, including those who fear the issue will hurt Obama in a general election. Pew also found that 39 percent of all white voters who had heard of the controversy, including Republicans and independents, said it made them less favorable toward Obama.

Well, there’s the rub. What some national polls and liberal media tell us conflicts with private conversations among Democratic insiders and voter reaction in a battleground state. Which do you think is more reliable?

The Democrats better be very sure this is a non-issue not only with primary voters, but with non-primary voting Democrats and independent voters (whose preferences only really are known on Election Day in November). Lots of material for Ickes and those superdelegates to talk about, it would seem.

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Bring Back the OSS?

We’ve frequently criticized the performance of the intelligence community in this space. Criticism is easy, especially when things as bad they are. But criticism of something so vital to our security can only take one so far. At some point, one has to turn and look for solutions. That’s where I run into trouble.

When thinking about institutions so complicated, so secretive, so self-protective, so entangled with Congress, so impervious to genuine reform, it becomes difficult to conceive of a plan that would be radical enough and also politically feasible.

Presumably, one approach would be build some new and highly functional institutions from scratch to accomplish narrowly tailored purposes — like fighting terrorists.

My friend Max Boot has been giving the matter some serious thought and that is the direction he has proposed.  In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, he presented the bold idea of resurrecting the Office of Strategic Services (OSS)  “that was created in 1942 to gather and analyze intelligence as well as to conduct low-intensity warfare behind enemy lines in occupied Europe and Asia.”

OSS was disbanded after World War II; both the Green Berets and the CIA trace their lineage to this august ancestor. My proposal is to re-create OSS by bringing together under one roof not only Army Special Forces, civil-affairs, and psy-ops but also the CIA’s paramilitary Special Activities Division, which has always been a bit of a bureaucratic orphan at Langley (and which is staffed largely by Special Operations veterans). This could be a joint civil-military agency under the combined oversight of the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence, like the Defense Intelligence Agency or the National Security Agency. It would bring together in one place all of the key skill sets needed to wage the softer side of the war on terror. Like SOCOM [U.S. Special Operations Command], it would have access to military personnel and assets; but like the CIA’s Special Activities Division, its operations would contain a higher degree of “covertness,” flexibility, and “deniability” than those carried out by the uniformed military.

Max is not only a super-smart guy, he’s also an influential one: lately, he’s been whispering into the ear of one of the candidates for the presidency of the United States.

This if from a speech by that candidate:

I would also set up a new civil-military agency patterned after the Office of Strategic Services in World War II. A modern-day OSS could draw together unconventional warfare, civil-affairs, paramilitary and psychological-warfare specialists from the military together with covert-action operators from our intelligence agencies and experts in anthropology, advertising, foreign cultures, and numerous other disciplines from inside and outside government. In the spirit of the original OSS, this would be a small, nimble, can-do organization that would fight terrorist subversion across the world and in cyberspace. It could take risks that our bureaucracies today are afraid to take – risks such as infiltrating agents who lack diplomatic cover into terrorist organizations. It could even lead in the front-line efforts to rebuild failed states. A cadre of such undercover operatives would allow us to gain the intelligence on terrorist activities that we don’t get today from our high-tech surveillance systems and from a CIA clandestine service that works almost entirely out of our embassies abroad.

Does this sound familiar?

The question of the day is: which candidate has embraced Max Boot’s proposal: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or John McCain?

The second question of the day: will meaningful intelligence reform ever come about or will it take a second September 11 to get rid of the clowns?

We’ve frequently criticized the performance of the intelligence community in this space. Criticism is easy, especially when things as bad they are. But criticism of something so vital to our security can only take one so far. At some point, one has to turn and look for solutions. That’s where I run into trouble.

When thinking about institutions so complicated, so secretive, so self-protective, so entangled with Congress, so impervious to genuine reform, it becomes difficult to conceive of a plan that would be radical enough and also politically feasible.

Presumably, one approach would be build some new and highly functional institutions from scratch to accomplish narrowly tailored purposes — like fighting terrorists.

My friend Max Boot has been giving the matter some serious thought and that is the direction he has proposed.  In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, he presented the bold idea of resurrecting the Office of Strategic Services (OSS)  “that was created in 1942 to gather and analyze intelligence as well as to conduct low-intensity warfare behind enemy lines in occupied Europe and Asia.”

OSS was disbanded after World War II; both the Green Berets and the CIA trace their lineage to this august ancestor. My proposal is to re-create OSS by bringing together under one roof not only Army Special Forces, civil-affairs, and psy-ops but also the CIA’s paramilitary Special Activities Division, which has always been a bit of a bureaucratic orphan at Langley (and which is staffed largely by Special Operations veterans). This could be a joint civil-military agency under the combined oversight of the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence, like the Defense Intelligence Agency or the National Security Agency. It would bring together in one place all of the key skill sets needed to wage the softer side of the war on terror. Like SOCOM [U.S. Special Operations Command], it would have access to military personnel and assets; but like the CIA’s Special Activities Division, its operations would contain a higher degree of “covertness,” flexibility, and “deniability” than those carried out by the uniformed military.

Max is not only a super-smart guy, he’s also an influential one: lately, he’s been whispering into the ear of one of the candidates for the presidency of the United States.

This if from a speech by that candidate:

I would also set up a new civil-military agency patterned after the Office of Strategic Services in World War II. A modern-day OSS could draw together unconventional warfare, civil-affairs, paramilitary and psychological-warfare specialists from the military together with covert-action operators from our intelligence agencies and experts in anthropology, advertising, foreign cultures, and numerous other disciplines from inside and outside government. In the spirit of the original OSS, this would be a small, nimble, can-do organization that would fight terrorist subversion across the world and in cyberspace. It could take risks that our bureaucracies today are afraid to take – risks such as infiltrating agents who lack diplomatic cover into terrorist organizations. It could even lead in the front-line efforts to rebuild failed states. A cadre of such undercover operatives would allow us to gain the intelligence on terrorist activities that we don’t get today from our high-tech surveillance systems and from a CIA clandestine service that works almost entirely out of our embassies abroad.

Does this sound familiar?

The question of the day is: which candidate has embraced Max Boot’s proposal: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or John McCain?

The second question of the day: will meaningful intelligence reform ever come about or will it take a second September 11 to get rid of the clowns?

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Michael Monsoor

The White House announced yesterday that Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor, a Navy SEAL, would posthumously receive the Medal of Honor — only the third MOH recipient in the Iraq war. From the Washington Post‘s story:

Monsoor and a group of SEAL snipers took up position on a residential rooftop as part of an operation to push into a dangerous section of southern Ramadi. Four insurgents armed with AK-47 rifles came into view, and the SEAL snipers opened fire, killing one and wounding another. Loudspeakers from a mosque broadcast calls for insurgents to rally, and residents blocked off nearby roads with rocks.

Insurgents shot back at the SEAL position with automatic weapons from a moving vehicle and fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the building. The SEALs knew that more attacks were inevitable but continued their mission of protecting the troops clearing the area below, according to an official account.

Monsoor’s commander repositioned him in a small hidden location between two SEAL snipers on an outcropping of the roof, facing the most likely route of another insurgent attack. As Monsoor manned his gun, an insurgent lobbed up a hand grenade, which hit Monsoor in the chest and bounced onto the roof.

“Grenade!” Monsoor shouted. But the two snipers and another SEAL on the roof had no time to escape, as Monsoor was closest to the only exit. Monsoor dropped onto the grenade, smothering it with his body. It detonated, and Monsoor died about 30 minutes later from his wounds.

True to form, the New York Times could not be bothered today to mention the awarding of our nation’s highest honor. The story is nowhere to be found in the print edition. Buried on the Times’ website, though, one can find a three-sentence mention from the AP — an item whose brevity is a disgrace not just to the solemn importance of the award, but to Monsoor’s selflessness and heroism. Priorities, you see.

The White House announced yesterday that Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor, a Navy SEAL, would posthumously receive the Medal of Honor — only the third MOH recipient in the Iraq war. From the Washington Post‘s story:

Monsoor and a group of SEAL snipers took up position on a residential rooftop as part of an operation to push into a dangerous section of southern Ramadi. Four insurgents armed with AK-47 rifles came into view, and the SEAL snipers opened fire, killing one and wounding another. Loudspeakers from a mosque broadcast calls for insurgents to rally, and residents blocked off nearby roads with rocks.

Insurgents shot back at the SEAL position with automatic weapons from a moving vehicle and fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the building. The SEALs knew that more attacks were inevitable but continued their mission of protecting the troops clearing the area below, according to an official account.

Monsoor’s commander repositioned him in a small hidden location between two SEAL snipers on an outcropping of the roof, facing the most likely route of another insurgent attack. As Monsoor manned his gun, an insurgent lobbed up a hand grenade, which hit Monsoor in the chest and bounced onto the roof.

“Grenade!” Monsoor shouted. But the two snipers and another SEAL on the roof had no time to escape, as Monsoor was closest to the only exit. Monsoor dropped onto the grenade, smothering it with his body. It detonated, and Monsoor died about 30 minutes later from his wounds.

True to form, the New York Times could not be bothered today to mention the awarding of our nation’s highest honor. The story is nowhere to be found in the print edition. Buried on the Times’ website, though, one can find a three-sentence mention from the AP — an item whose brevity is a disgrace not just to the solemn importance of the award, but to Monsoor’s selflessness and heroism. Priorities, you see.

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