Commentary Magazine


Topic: Cheney

RE: The Unraveling of Seymour Hersh

Following up on Pete Wehner’s item about Sy Hersh: it’s hardly news that Hersh has, to put it mildly, a peculiar view of the world. Back in 2005, in this Los Angeles Times column, I wrote that Hersh is

the journalistic equivalent of Oliver Stone: a hard-left zealot who subscribes to the old counterculture conceit that a deep, dark conspiracy is running the U.S. government. In the 1960s the boogeyman was the “military-industrial complex.” Now it’s the “neoconservatives.” “They overran the bureaucracy, they overran the Congress, they overran the press, and they overran the military!” Hersh ranted at UC Berkeley on Oct. 8, 2004.

Hersh doesn’t make any bones about his bias. “Bush scares the hell out of me,” he said. He told a group in Washington, “I’m a better American than 99% of the guys in the White House,” who are “nuts” and “ideologues.” In another speech he called Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft “demented.” Hersh has also compared what happened at Abu Ghraib with Nazi Germany. (Were American MPs gassing inmates?) He has claimed that since 2001 a “secret unit” of the U.S. government “has been disappearing people just like the Brazilians and Argentinians did.” And in his lectures he has spread the legend of how a U.S. Army platoon was supposedly ordered to execute 30 Iraqis guarding a granary.

Similar nuttiness comes pouring out every time Hersh opens his mouth in public. His most recent speech, as Pete noted, was in Doha, where he made the rather imaginative charges that the Knights of Malta and Opus Dei run the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command and that Vice President Cheney had a plan to “change mosques into cathedrals” in Iraq. For wisdom like that, you normally have to turn to the likes of Jared Loughner. Not that Hersh is about to spray anyone with gunfire. What he does instead is spray venomous accusations around.

That, I suppose, is his prerogative. But what on earth is a supposedly reputable magazine like the New Yorker (to which I am, I admit, a subscriber) doing keeping him on its payroll? Shouldn’t Hersh’s rantings be limited to blogs and Twitter, where he would have plenty of company among the conspiracy crowd?

Following up on Pete Wehner’s item about Sy Hersh: it’s hardly news that Hersh has, to put it mildly, a peculiar view of the world. Back in 2005, in this Los Angeles Times column, I wrote that Hersh is

the journalistic equivalent of Oliver Stone: a hard-left zealot who subscribes to the old counterculture conceit that a deep, dark conspiracy is running the U.S. government. In the 1960s the boogeyman was the “military-industrial complex.” Now it’s the “neoconservatives.” “They overran the bureaucracy, they overran the Congress, they overran the press, and they overran the military!” Hersh ranted at UC Berkeley on Oct. 8, 2004.

Hersh doesn’t make any bones about his bias. “Bush scares the hell out of me,” he said. He told a group in Washington, “I’m a better American than 99% of the guys in the White House,” who are “nuts” and “ideologues.” In another speech he called Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft “demented.” Hersh has also compared what happened at Abu Ghraib with Nazi Germany. (Were American MPs gassing inmates?) He has claimed that since 2001 a “secret unit” of the U.S. government “has been disappearing people just like the Brazilians and Argentinians did.” And in his lectures he has spread the legend of how a U.S. Army platoon was supposedly ordered to execute 30 Iraqis guarding a granary.

Similar nuttiness comes pouring out every time Hersh opens his mouth in public. His most recent speech, as Pete noted, was in Doha, where he made the rather imaginative charges that the Knights of Malta and Opus Dei run the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command and that Vice President Cheney had a plan to “change mosques into cathedrals” in Iraq. For wisdom like that, you normally have to turn to the likes of Jared Loughner. Not that Hersh is about to spray anyone with gunfire. What he does instead is spray venomous accusations around.

That, I suppose, is his prerogative. But what on earth is a supposedly reputable magazine like the New Yorker (to which I am, I admit, a subscriber) doing keeping him on its payroll? Shouldn’t Hersh’s rantings be limited to blogs and Twitter, where he would have plenty of company among the conspiracy crowd?

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Reassessing the Bush Presidency

Earlier this week, I was in Dallas to participate in events surrounding the groundbreaking of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, which will include his library and policy institute.

I found the people there to be, almost to a person, in very good spirits, the mood upbeat, relaxed, and celebratory. Part of the reason for this has to do with being reunited with colleagues with whom you stood shoulder-to-shoulder during dramatic and even historic times. Sharing moments of great achievement and hardship can forge deep and lasting bonds of affection.

But there was something else at play — the sense that for America’s 43rd president, certain qualities and achievements are coming into sharper focus.

One area concerns George W. Bush’s core decency and integrity. He was endowed with the gifts of grace and class that have eluded others who have served as president, including Bush’s successor. President Bush is incapable of self-pity and self-conceit. And he has a deep, heartfelt, and unconflicted love for America. He clearly reveres the nation he served. That cannot be said for everyone who has held the office of the presidency.

Beyond that, though, is the realization that the public’s verdict of the Bush presidency is changing. A recalibration is under way.

After several intense, eventful years in office — years in which Bush stood atop the political world and was as popular as any man who has served as president — much of the public grew weary of his administration. The last years of his presidency were spent in a valley he had to fight through, day by day, especially on the matter of Iraq. By the end of his presidency, things that were viewed as strengths were seen as weaknesses. The strong, principled, decisive leader of the first term was viewed as a stubborn, inflexible leader during the second term. The twisting kaleidoscope moves us all in turn.

No matter; Bush persevered and refused to grow weary. He made unpopular decisions (from a new counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq to TARP) that turned out to be the right decisions. And one can now see that Bush’s achievements, particularly in the realm of foreign policy — his response to 9/11; keeping America safe from future attacks by putting the country on a war footing; the surge; deposing two sadistic regimes; championing freedom, human rights and the cause of dissidents; the global AIDS and malaria initiatives; and more — are growing in stature. That is something many of us were confident would happen, but it is happening at a quicker pace than we anticipated. As Vice President Cheney said in his splendid remarks, “History is beginning to come around.”

George W. Bush would not be the first president for whom this occurred. “I am not sure he was right about the atomic bomb, or even Korea,” the CBS correspondent Eric Sevareid said of Harry Truman. “But remembering him reminds people what a man in that office ought to be like. It’s character, just character. He stands like a rock in memory now.”

So he does. And so, one day, will George W. Bush.

Earlier this week, I was in Dallas to participate in events surrounding the groundbreaking of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, which will include his library and policy institute.

I found the people there to be, almost to a person, in very good spirits, the mood upbeat, relaxed, and celebratory. Part of the reason for this has to do with being reunited with colleagues with whom you stood shoulder-to-shoulder during dramatic and even historic times. Sharing moments of great achievement and hardship can forge deep and lasting bonds of affection.

But there was something else at play — the sense that for America’s 43rd president, certain qualities and achievements are coming into sharper focus.

One area concerns George W. Bush’s core decency and integrity. He was endowed with the gifts of grace and class that have eluded others who have served as president, including Bush’s successor. President Bush is incapable of self-pity and self-conceit. And he has a deep, heartfelt, and unconflicted love for America. He clearly reveres the nation he served. That cannot be said for everyone who has held the office of the presidency.

Beyond that, though, is the realization that the public’s verdict of the Bush presidency is changing. A recalibration is under way.

After several intense, eventful years in office — years in which Bush stood atop the political world and was as popular as any man who has served as president — much of the public grew weary of his administration. The last years of his presidency were spent in a valley he had to fight through, day by day, especially on the matter of Iraq. By the end of his presidency, things that were viewed as strengths were seen as weaknesses. The strong, principled, decisive leader of the first term was viewed as a stubborn, inflexible leader during the second term. The twisting kaleidoscope moves us all in turn.

No matter; Bush persevered and refused to grow weary. He made unpopular decisions (from a new counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq to TARP) that turned out to be the right decisions. And one can now see that Bush’s achievements, particularly in the realm of foreign policy — his response to 9/11; keeping America safe from future attacks by putting the country on a war footing; the surge; deposing two sadistic regimes; championing freedom, human rights and the cause of dissidents; the global AIDS and malaria initiatives; and more — are growing in stature. That is something many of us were confident would happen, but it is happening at a quicker pace than we anticipated. As Vice President Cheney said in his splendid remarks, “History is beginning to come around.”

George W. Bush would not be the first president for whom this occurred. “I am not sure he was right about the atomic bomb, or even Korea,” the CBS correspondent Eric Sevareid said of Harry Truman. “But remembering him reminds people what a man in that office ought to be like. It’s character, just character. He stands like a rock in memory now.”

So he does. And so, one day, will George W. Bush.

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Did Obama Say What Cheney Said? Oh, No.

In Slate, John Dickerson defends Obama from people like me who were horrified by his remark quoted yesterday that we could “absorb” another terrorist attack and come out “stronger” from it. A senior White House official told him Obama was talking to Bob Woodward about the panoply of threats:

Objectively, the president said, you would want to be able to stop every attack, but a president has to prioritize. So what does the president put at the top of the danger list? A nuclear weapon or a weapon of mass destruction. Why? Because—and here’s where the quote in question comes in—as bad as 9/11 was, the United States was not crippled. A nuclear attack or weapon of mass destruction, however, would be a “game changer”…

This line of reasoning is identical to what I heard regularly when I covered the Bush White House. Former Vice President Dick Cheney … said: “We have to assume there will be more attacks. And for the first time in our history, we will probably suffer more casualties here at home in America than will our troops overseas.”

I remember being a little shocked at how brutal the calculus was when I heard officials in Cheney’s office … say that they had to focus their energy first on “mass casualty” events. What were they talking about? The same thing the president was: a nuclear attack or one that used a weapon of mass destruction.

I generally like Dickerson’s reporting, but even if the White House official is telling the truth, and we don’t know that yet, this analysis is preposterous. I interviewed those people too, including in Cheney’s office, at the time, and I’m pretty sure there were no  “brutal” calculations about absorbing a second terrorist attack. The truth is that officials dealing with these matters were gripped with fear and anxiety about everything they were hearing and seeing in the intelligence. Every morning. For years. They were the opposite of certain that the country could absorb even a second major attack, though of course, as I said in my blog post yesterday, it could have and it can now in the narrowest possible sense. We would not roll over and die.

The last thing the Bush White House was airy and accepting about was the possibility of another terrorist attack. Why else were Bush’s critics screaming about the imposition of a fascist regime at home and a torture regime abroad? They were complaining of tactics and measures taken to interdict not only a “game changer” but anything — like the panoply of conventional attacks and ideas for them revealed to interrogators who waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and Abu Zubaydah. I know the logic of the most extreme of Bush’s critics seemed to be that the administration was doing it for sadistic kicks. But minimally rational people who strongly opposed the policy do acknowledge the fact that it arose from a true threat and that the people who instituted the policy did so out of a rational concern for preventing any conceivable attack, not just a nuclear one.

What was being sought was not only information on suitcase nukes. A colossal program of attack prevention was instituted over the objection from, among other people, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy. The United States didn’t institute Homeland Security measures in airports and ballparks and office buildings and the like because of fears of a nuclear attack. A conventional attack would suffice.

On the second day of his presidency, Barack Obama signed an executive order ending the CIA’s interrogation program. Since the White House official who talked to Dickerson told him Obama’s line — “we can absorb a terrorist attack … we absorbed it and we are stronger” — had to do with “the national security threats he faced upon becoming the president,” Obama’s quote to Woodward might prove even more damning.

In other words, it was acceptable to end the interrogation program in part because Obama had journeyed beyond the adrenalized alarm that characterized the condition of Bush national security officials for more than seven years. It was change Obama could believe in.

In Slate, John Dickerson defends Obama from people like me who were horrified by his remark quoted yesterday that we could “absorb” another terrorist attack and come out “stronger” from it. A senior White House official told him Obama was talking to Bob Woodward about the panoply of threats:

Objectively, the president said, you would want to be able to stop every attack, but a president has to prioritize. So what does the president put at the top of the danger list? A nuclear weapon or a weapon of mass destruction. Why? Because—and here’s where the quote in question comes in—as bad as 9/11 was, the United States was not crippled. A nuclear attack or weapon of mass destruction, however, would be a “game changer”…

This line of reasoning is identical to what I heard regularly when I covered the Bush White House. Former Vice President Dick Cheney … said: “We have to assume there will be more attacks. And for the first time in our history, we will probably suffer more casualties here at home in America than will our troops overseas.”

I remember being a little shocked at how brutal the calculus was when I heard officials in Cheney’s office … say that they had to focus their energy first on “mass casualty” events. What were they talking about? The same thing the president was: a nuclear attack or one that used a weapon of mass destruction.

I generally like Dickerson’s reporting, but even if the White House official is telling the truth, and we don’t know that yet, this analysis is preposterous. I interviewed those people too, including in Cheney’s office, at the time, and I’m pretty sure there were no  “brutal” calculations about absorbing a second terrorist attack. The truth is that officials dealing with these matters were gripped with fear and anxiety about everything they were hearing and seeing in the intelligence. Every morning. For years. They were the opposite of certain that the country could absorb even a second major attack, though of course, as I said in my blog post yesterday, it could have and it can now in the narrowest possible sense. We would not roll over and die.

The last thing the Bush White House was airy and accepting about was the possibility of another terrorist attack. Why else were Bush’s critics screaming about the imposition of a fascist regime at home and a torture regime abroad? They were complaining of tactics and measures taken to interdict not only a “game changer” but anything — like the panoply of conventional attacks and ideas for them revealed to interrogators who waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and Abu Zubaydah. I know the logic of the most extreme of Bush’s critics seemed to be that the administration was doing it for sadistic kicks. But minimally rational people who strongly opposed the policy do acknowledge the fact that it arose from a true threat and that the people who instituted the policy did so out of a rational concern for preventing any conceivable attack, not just a nuclear one.

What was being sought was not only information on suitcase nukes. A colossal program of attack prevention was instituted over the objection from, among other people, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy. The United States didn’t institute Homeland Security measures in airports and ballparks and office buildings and the like because of fears of a nuclear attack. A conventional attack would suffice.

On the second day of his presidency, Barack Obama signed an executive order ending the CIA’s interrogation program. Since the White House official who talked to Dickerson told him Obama’s line — “we can absorb a terrorist attack … we absorbed it and we are stronger” — had to do with “the national security threats he faced upon becoming the president,” Obama’s quote to Woodward might prove even more damning.

In other words, it was acceptable to end the interrogation program in part because Obama had journeyed beyond the adrenalized alarm that characterized the condition of Bush national security officials for more than seven years. It was change Obama could believe in.

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Is the U.S. Preparing to Bomb Iran? Check the Source First

Mistrust the press — that is one important lesson from Max Boot’s post about Mark Perry’s sensationalist (and sensationally inaccurate) attribution of the U.S.-Israel fallout to General Petraeus.

Elsewhere in the news, be prepared for more instances of the mass media’s inability to distinguish between fact and fiction. Take the report that the U.S. is seemingly getting ready to bomb Iran. The Herald, the Scottish daily, notes that a shipment has left California with military supplies for Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean. This shipment includes huge quantities of bunker busters. Now all this may be true — but their news story is that these supplies are in preparation of a U.S. attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The source of this analysis?

Professor Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

According to the Herald, Plesch said:

They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran … US bombers are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours … The preparations were being made by the US military, but it would be up to President Obama to make the final decision. He may decide that it would be better for the US to act instead of Israel … The US is not publicising the scale of these preparations to deter Iran, tending to make confrontation more likely …

How many times has Professor Plesch claimed this before?

OpenDemocracy, March, 21, 2005, “Iran, the coming war“:

So when might the attack on Iran occur? The Bush administration has, from its perspective, allowed the Europeans and the non-proliferation diplomats enough time to fail. They will certainly use the UN conference on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament from 2-27 May 2005 as an opportunity to grandstand.

For US domestic political purposes a “crisis” in spring 2006 when the EU and the UN can once more be confronted with their alleged failures, and challenged to support US leadership, would be timely for mid-term elections in which the ultra-conservative coalition will wish to consolidate its gains and eliminate any nascent moderate or realistic Republican candidate in good time for the 2008 presidential election.

The Guardian, “Are we going to war with Iran?” October, 21, 2005:

A new war may not be as politically disastrous in Washington as many believe … For an embattled President Bush, combating the mullahs of Tehran may be a useful means of diverting attention from Iraq and reestablishing control of the Republican party prior to next year’s congressional elections. From this perspective, even an escalating conflict would rally the nation behind a war president. As for the succession to President Bush, Bob Woodward has named Mr Cheney as a likely candidate, a step that would be easier in a wartime atmosphere. Mr Cheney would doubtless point out that US military spending, while huge compared to other nations, is at a far lower percentage of gross domestic product than during the Reagan years. With regard to Mr Blair’s position, it would be helpful to know whether he has committed Britain to preventing an Iranian bomb “come what may” as he did with Iraq.

New Statesman, February, 19, 2007, “Iran — ready to attack”:

American military operations for a major conventional war with Iran could be implemented any day. They extend far beyond targeting suspect WMD facilities and will enable President Bush to destroy Iran’s military, political and economic infrastructure overnight using conventional weapons.

Four predictions in five years — and no war so far.

Professor Plesch does not seem to have his fact-checking machine and his sources up to date, tuned in, and reliably informed. It may not matter to some media outlets, which will probably continue to publish on ideological rather than factual grounds.

Still, journalists should remember that a good news story cannot rely just on the sensation of the message but must also ensure the credibility of the messenger. With Professor Plesch, it seems, this is just not the case.

Mistrust the press — that is one important lesson from Max Boot’s post about Mark Perry’s sensationalist (and sensationally inaccurate) attribution of the U.S.-Israel fallout to General Petraeus.

Elsewhere in the news, be prepared for more instances of the mass media’s inability to distinguish between fact and fiction. Take the report that the U.S. is seemingly getting ready to bomb Iran. The Herald, the Scottish daily, notes that a shipment has left California with military supplies for Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean. This shipment includes huge quantities of bunker busters. Now all this may be true — but their news story is that these supplies are in preparation of a U.S. attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The source of this analysis?

Professor Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

According to the Herald, Plesch said:

They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran … US bombers are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours … The preparations were being made by the US military, but it would be up to President Obama to make the final decision. He may decide that it would be better for the US to act instead of Israel … The US is not publicising the scale of these preparations to deter Iran, tending to make confrontation more likely …

How many times has Professor Plesch claimed this before?

OpenDemocracy, March, 21, 2005, “Iran, the coming war“:

So when might the attack on Iran occur? The Bush administration has, from its perspective, allowed the Europeans and the non-proliferation diplomats enough time to fail. They will certainly use the UN conference on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament from 2-27 May 2005 as an opportunity to grandstand.

For US domestic political purposes a “crisis” in spring 2006 when the EU and the UN can once more be confronted with their alleged failures, and challenged to support US leadership, would be timely for mid-term elections in which the ultra-conservative coalition will wish to consolidate its gains and eliminate any nascent moderate or realistic Republican candidate in good time for the 2008 presidential election.

The Guardian, “Are we going to war with Iran?” October, 21, 2005:

A new war may not be as politically disastrous in Washington as many believe … For an embattled President Bush, combating the mullahs of Tehran may be a useful means of diverting attention from Iraq and reestablishing control of the Republican party prior to next year’s congressional elections. From this perspective, even an escalating conflict would rally the nation behind a war president. As for the succession to President Bush, Bob Woodward has named Mr Cheney as a likely candidate, a step that would be easier in a wartime atmosphere. Mr Cheney would doubtless point out that US military spending, while huge compared to other nations, is at a far lower percentage of gross domestic product than during the Reagan years. With regard to Mr Blair’s position, it would be helpful to know whether he has committed Britain to preventing an Iranian bomb “come what may” as he did with Iraq.

New Statesman, February, 19, 2007, “Iran — ready to attack”:

American military operations for a major conventional war with Iran could be implemented any day. They extend far beyond targeting suspect WMD facilities and will enable President Bush to destroy Iran’s military, political and economic infrastructure overnight using conventional weapons.

Four predictions in five years — and no war so far.

Professor Plesch does not seem to have his fact-checking machine and his sources up to date, tuned in, and reliably informed. It may not matter to some media outlets, which will probably continue to publish on ideological rather than factual grounds.

Still, journalists should remember that a good news story cannot rely just on the sensation of the message but must also ensure the credibility of the messenger. With Professor Plesch, it seems, this is just not the case.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

If you thought Obama was talking “We are the World” gibberish again to the “Muslim World,” you were right. He sort of seemed to be saying (if you get the plain English translation): “We’ll pull out of Iraq, soon and responsibly (is there any other way?); also, we’ll close our eyes and click our heels together three times and wish upon a star over and over again until Israelis and Palestinians reach Peace; in return you, in Afghanistan and beyond, will become modern, woman-respecting democrats because of our forged partnerships (and a few troops? Oh, never mind them!).” Read the whole thing, as they say.

Mickey Kaus reads the typically aggressive and hyper-partisan Obami’s invitation to Republicans to the health-care summit and finds: “Unsubtle subtext: We like our bill and the purpose of this meeting is to set things up so it can pass. … But what if, as a Republican, you don’t think we are ‘the closest … to resolving this issue in … nearly 100 years’? Maybe you don’t think the bill will resolve the issue at all! (I disagree, but I’m not a Republican.) … Even if Obama’s only trying to appear bipartisan, his aides are doing a mighty poor job of conveying that impression.”

Even Dana Milbank can figure out that the Washington blizzards were “an inconvenient meteorological phenomenon for Al Gore.” He writes: “In Washington’s blizzards, the greens were hoisted by their own petard. For years, climate-change activists have argued by anecdote to make their case. Gore, in his famous slide shows, ties human-caused global warming to increasing hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, drought, and the spread of mosquitoes, pine beetles, and disease.” He even concedes, “The scientific case has been further undermined by high-profile screw-ups. First there were the hacked e-mails of a British research center that suggested the scientists were stacking the deck to overstate the threat. Now comes word of numerous errors in a 2007 report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, including the bogus claim that the Himalayan glaciers would disappear in 25 years.” Maybe Al Gore should give back the Oscar.

I suppose it’s not news when Harry Reid screws up a potential bipartisan deal and blindsides the White House. But, on his sinking down the bipartisan Senate bill, even the New York Times acknowledges that “it was a telling glimpse into the state of mind of rattled Senate Democrats.” And another reason why Reid’s defeat might be a very welcome development by his party.

There is an alternative to civilian trials for terrorists. And it’s legal and everything: “Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) repeated his call Saturday for the Obama administration to try suspected terrorists in military tribunals. A former military lawyer himself, Graham said the tribunal system was well-equipped to handle delicate terrorism cases. . . . Graham was a main author of the Military Commission Act of 2009, which modified the tribunal system to align with a Supreme Court ruling.” Funny how none of the Obama spinners defending their handling of terrorist even mention the 2009 statute.

Politico asks “Why Cheney attacks?” The insiderish Beltway outlet can’t really be that dense, right? For starters, Cheney has been right and is in sync with the American people. And then the former VP does manage to get under the skin of the Obami and send them scrambling. (Politico might want to cut out the Stephen Walt and Keith Olbermann quotes — jeez — as well as the Beagle Blogger psychobabble if it wants to be taken seriously on these sorts of stories.)

Gov. Chris Christie earns plaudits: “As politicians spend America into the fiscal abyss, Republican Gov. Chris Christie has a novel idea: Freeze spending. For such statesmanship, watch him be demonized like no one before. . . New Jersey’s new governor, the successor of so many corrupt chief executives, is taking action that will make him, like Reagan, the focus of pure hate from those who think what taxpayers earn is Monopoly money to be treated according to the whims and desires of politicians, bureaucrats, union bosses and other power players.”

Not everyone (anyone?) is buying the itsy-bitsy-sanctions approach. (“Sanctions on the accounts of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in WESTERN banks?”) Amitai Etzioni writes: ” You can fool some people some of the time, but the Obama Administration credibility is melting faster than the snow in Washington.”

If you thought Obama was talking “We are the World” gibberish again to the “Muslim World,” you were right. He sort of seemed to be saying (if you get the plain English translation): “We’ll pull out of Iraq, soon and responsibly (is there any other way?); also, we’ll close our eyes and click our heels together three times and wish upon a star over and over again until Israelis and Palestinians reach Peace; in return you, in Afghanistan and beyond, will become modern, woman-respecting democrats because of our forged partnerships (and a few troops? Oh, never mind them!).” Read the whole thing, as they say.

Mickey Kaus reads the typically aggressive and hyper-partisan Obami’s invitation to Republicans to the health-care summit and finds: “Unsubtle subtext: We like our bill and the purpose of this meeting is to set things up so it can pass. … But what if, as a Republican, you don’t think we are ‘the closest … to resolving this issue in … nearly 100 years’? Maybe you don’t think the bill will resolve the issue at all! (I disagree, but I’m not a Republican.) … Even if Obama’s only trying to appear bipartisan, his aides are doing a mighty poor job of conveying that impression.”

Even Dana Milbank can figure out that the Washington blizzards were “an inconvenient meteorological phenomenon for Al Gore.” He writes: “In Washington’s blizzards, the greens were hoisted by their own petard. For years, climate-change activists have argued by anecdote to make their case. Gore, in his famous slide shows, ties human-caused global warming to increasing hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, drought, and the spread of mosquitoes, pine beetles, and disease.” He even concedes, “The scientific case has been further undermined by high-profile screw-ups. First there were the hacked e-mails of a British research center that suggested the scientists were stacking the deck to overstate the threat. Now comes word of numerous errors in a 2007 report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, including the bogus claim that the Himalayan glaciers would disappear in 25 years.” Maybe Al Gore should give back the Oscar.

I suppose it’s not news when Harry Reid screws up a potential bipartisan deal and blindsides the White House. But, on his sinking down the bipartisan Senate bill, even the New York Times acknowledges that “it was a telling glimpse into the state of mind of rattled Senate Democrats.” And another reason why Reid’s defeat might be a very welcome development by his party.

There is an alternative to civilian trials for terrorists. And it’s legal and everything: “Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) repeated his call Saturday for the Obama administration to try suspected terrorists in military tribunals. A former military lawyer himself, Graham said the tribunal system was well-equipped to handle delicate terrorism cases. . . . Graham was a main author of the Military Commission Act of 2009, which modified the tribunal system to align with a Supreme Court ruling.” Funny how none of the Obama spinners defending their handling of terrorist even mention the 2009 statute.

Politico asks “Why Cheney attacks?” The insiderish Beltway outlet can’t really be that dense, right? For starters, Cheney has been right and is in sync with the American people. And then the former VP does manage to get under the skin of the Obami and send them scrambling. (Politico might want to cut out the Stephen Walt and Keith Olbermann quotes — jeez — as well as the Beagle Blogger psychobabble if it wants to be taken seriously on these sorts of stories.)

Gov. Chris Christie earns plaudits: “As politicians spend America into the fiscal abyss, Republican Gov. Chris Christie has a novel idea: Freeze spending. For such statesmanship, watch him be demonized like no one before. . . New Jersey’s new governor, the successor of so many corrupt chief executives, is taking action that will make him, like Reagan, the focus of pure hate from those who think what taxpayers earn is Monopoly money to be treated according to the whims and desires of politicians, bureaucrats, union bosses and other power players.”

Not everyone (anyone?) is buying the itsy-bitsy-sanctions approach. (“Sanctions on the accounts of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in WESTERN banks?”) Amitai Etzioni writes: ” You can fool some people some of the time, but the Obama Administration credibility is melting faster than the snow in Washington.”

Read Less

Rethinking the Criminal-Justice Model

Many liberals are conflicted. They deride the Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism paradigm and angrily deny that Obama is treating the war against Islamic fascists (whom he never identifies as such) in an unserious manner. And yet they sense something is amiss. Ruth Marcus is a case in point. She huffs that it is poppycock to suggest that the Obama administration’s conduct reveals its “supposed law enforcement-only mindset.”  But then, turning on a dime, she sounds much like the president’s conservative critics:

Did the administration’s quick pivot to criminal charges — they were filed the next day — interfere with investigators’ ability to obtain maximum information from Abdulmutallab? What if other operatives had been deployed with similar devices? Wouldn’t it have been better to thoroughly interrogate Abdulmutallab — without offering Miranda warnings against self-incrimination, and without providing a lawyer whose first instruction was, no doubt, to stop talking?

And she, too, has figured out the timeline:  ” ‘He proceeded to talk for quite some time and provided useful intelligence long before he obtained an attorney,’ a senior administration official assured me. But the criminal charges were filed a scant 24 hours after the incident. Was that really enough time to exhaust Abdulmutallab’s informational value, no matter how small a fish he is?” No, likely not. She makes the not unreasonable suggestion that the administration and Congress, if they don’t want to treat terrorists as enemy combatants, should come up with an appropriate hybrid system for detaining and interrogating noncitizens.

So what happened to the huffy denials that the Obami have deployed an inappropriate criminal-justice model? Well, when you leave  Bush and Cheney out of it and just talk about common sense and specific cases, there are some reasonable liberals who will agree that the Obama-Holder fixation on extending full constitutional rights to terrorists makes no sense. And it might get people killed. We have enough problems connecting dots. Perhaps then there is some basis for bipartisan discussion and another look at the assumptions that allowed Abdulmutallab to clam up and KSM to prepare for the “trial of the century.”

Many liberals are conflicted. They deride the Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism paradigm and angrily deny that Obama is treating the war against Islamic fascists (whom he never identifies as such) in an unserious manner. And yet they sense something is amiss. Ruth Marcus is a case in point. She huffs that it is poppycock to suggest that the Obama administration’s conduct reveals its “supposed law enforcement-only mindset.”  But then, turning on a dime, she sounds much like the president’s conservative critics:

Did the administration’s quick pivot to criminal charges — they were filed the next day — interfere with investigators’ ability to obtain maximum information from Abdulmutallab? What if other operatives had been deployed with similar devices? Wouldn’t it have been better to thoroughly interrogate Abdulmutallab — without offering Miranda warnings against self-incrimination, and without providing a lawyer whose first instruction was, no doubt, to stop talking?

And she, too, has figured out the timeline:  ” ‘He proceeded to talk for quite some time and provided useful intelligence long before he obtained an attorney,’ a senior administration official assured me. But the criminal charges were filed a scant 24 hours after the incident. Was that really enough time to exhaust Abdulmutallab’s informational value, no matter how small a fish he is?” No, likely not. She makes the not unreasonable suggestion that the administration and Congress, if they don’t want to treat terrorists as enemy combatants, should come up with an appropriate hybrid system for detaining and interrogating noncitizens.

So what happened to the huffy denials that the Obami have deployed an inappropriate criminal-justice model? Well, when you leave  Bush and Cheney out of it and just talk about common sense and specific cases, there are some reasonable liberals who will agree that the Obama-Holder fixation on extending full constitutional rights to terrorists makes no sense. And it might get people killed. We have enough problems connecting dots. Perhaps then there is some basis for bipartisan discussion and another look at the assumptions that allowed Abdulmutallab to clam up and KSM to prepare for the “trial of the century.”

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Wurmser Weighs In

Be sure to check out David Wurmser’s take on Lebanon, by way of Lee Smith, who is guest-blogging for Michael Totten. (Wurmser was VP Cheney’s Middle East guru for many years.)

Be sure to check out David Wurmser’s take on Lebanon, by way of Lee Smith, who is guest-blogging for Michael Totten. (Wurmser was VP Cheney’s Middle East guru for many years.)

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Welcome to The 18th Century

Many Muslims in London are reeling over yesterday’s mayoral victory for conservative Boris Johnson. After the terrorist attacks of 7/7, Johnson wrote “When is someone going to get 18th century on Islam’s medieval ass?”

18th century? That kind of radical modernization is a bit too much for groups like muslims4ken, which threw its support behind incumbent Ken Livingstone. “How YOU can help save us from a Zionist Mayor,” was the catchphrase employed by the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, which also supported Livingstone. (One commenter on the MPAC’s website wrote “Not wanting Londoners to get blown to bits. That is reason enough for not wanting a Zionist Mayor.”)

Livingstone, elected as an independent in 2000 and reelected as a Labour candidate in 2004, embraced radical clerics such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi and seemed to consider “Islamophobia” a greater threat to England than Islamism. Not two weeks after the 7/7 bombings, Livingstone told Sky News, “Given that the Palestinians don’t have jet planes, don’t have tanks, they only have their bodies to use as weapons.”

One can see why Islamists are heartbroken about Livingstone’s departure. Johnson is no great shakes, himself. (He’s written in favor of Western technical support for Iranian nukes). But for Livingstone, all the world is a maligned Palestine and the Westerner’s first order of business is to apologize.

The most telling bit of election analysis comes from Asim Siddiqui at comment is free:

The last time I recall the “Muslim vote” being mobilised so counter-productively was in the US during the 2000 presidential elections when American Muslims were urged to vote for George W Bush (against Al Gore and Joe Lieberman). It was felt that an Al Gore victory, coupled with an assassin’s bullet, would leave a Jewish, and presumed pro-Israel candidate, as president. Instead, they got Bush and Cheney! How’s that for a counterproductive strategy?

In other words, if Muslims knew how sympathetic George Bush was going to be towards Israel, they would have been better off taking their chances on a Jewish vice president. It’s disturbing that Muslim radicals, in London and stateside, weigh every candidate’s utility in achieving the destruction of Israel and the enactment of a Palestinian right of return.

Many Muslims in London are reeling over yesterday’s mayoral victory for conservative Boris Johnson. After the terrorist attacks of 7/7, Johnson wrote “When is someone going to get 18th century on Islam’s medieval ass?”

18th century? That kind of radical modernization is a bit too much for groups like muslims4ken, which threw its support behind incumbent Ken Livingstone. “How YOU can help save us from a Zionist Mayor,” was the catchphrase employed by the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, which also supported Livingstone. (One commenter on the MPAC’s website wrote “Not wanting Londoners to get blown to bits. That is reason enough for not wanting a Zionist Mayor.”)

Livingstone, elected as an independent in 2000 and reelected as a Labour candidate in 2004, embraced radical clerics such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi and seemed to consider “Islamophobia” a greater threat to England than Islamism. Not two weeks after the 7/7 bombings, Livingstone told Sky News, “Given that the Palestinians don’t have jet planes, don’t have tanks, they only have their bodies to use as weapons.”

One can see why Islamists are heartbroken about Livingstone’s departure. Johnson is no great shakes, himself. (He’s written in favor of Western technical support for Iranian nukes). But for Livingstone, all the world is a maligned Palestine and the Westerner’s first order of business is to apologize.

The most telling bit of election analysis comes from Asim Siddiqui at comment is free:

The last time I recall the “Muslim vote” being mobilised so counter-productively was in the US during the 2000 presidential elections when American Muslims were urged to vote for George W Bush (against Al Gore and Joe Lieberman). It was felt that an Al Gore victory, coupled with an assassin’s bullet, would leave a Jewish, and presumed pro-Israel candidate, as president. Instead, they got Bush and Cheney! How’s that for a counterproductive strategy?

In other words, if Muslims knew how sympathetic George Bush was going to be towards Israel, they would have been better off taking their chances on a Jewish vice president. It’s disturbing that Muslim radicals, in London and stateside, weigh every candidate’s utility in achieving the destruction of Israel and the enactment of a Palestinian right of return.

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North Korea, Syria, and Iran

Today, U.S. intelligence officials will give closed-door briefings to members of Congress about North Korea’s role in building a reactor in Syria. (Israel, it’s been confirmed, destroyed that nuclear facility with their air-strikes last September.)

Why are the briefings taking place now? This morning the New York Times‘s David Sanger speculated that Vice President Cheney is trying to scuttle the six-party disarmament talks by highlighting Pyongyang’s proliferant behavior. Others have floated more intriguing theories. For example, Jon Wolfsthal, an analyst from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, thinks the Bush administration is releasing the information at this time to rescue its tentative deal with the North Koreans by letting them off the hook. “If it turns out we have them dead to rights–that we have enough information on our own–then we can eliminate this as a point of contention,” he says. “Maybe we don’t need to negotiate transparency with North Korea because we already know enough.”

Wolfstal is onto something–this is definitely how the State Department thinks. There is, of course, no reason to humiliate the Koreans publicly by forcing them to confess to something we already know. Yet there are two fundamental flaws with this line of reasoning. First, it is important that the North Koreans make a complete declaration of their proliferation activities to show that they have made the critical decision to stop spreading dangerous technologies. Second, we do not know whether Syria is the only party to which they have transferred such expertise. Specifically, it’s critical that we learn about the extent of Pyongyang’s relationship with Tehran.

There are reports that Iranians traveled to North Korea to witness its October 2006 nuclear test, that the North Koreans sold processed uranium to Iran, and that they have been coaching their Iranian counterparts on how to dodge inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency. The links between the two nuclear programs appear to go back to the late 1990’s.

North Korea’s proliferant activities may not be limited to just Syria and Iran. They are so extensive that there is concern that Kim Jong Il is trying to replicate the old A.Q. Khan nuclear black market. In any event, Pyongyang’s promise to make a declaration of its nuclear activities is a perfect opportunity for us to find out their real extent.

Today, U.S. intelligence officials will give closed-door briefings to members of Congress about North Korea’s role in building a reactor in Syria. (Israel, it’s been confirmed, destroyed that nuclear facility with their air-strikes last September.)

Why are the briefings taking place now? This morning the New York Times‘s David Sanger speculated that Vice President Cheney is trying to scuttle the six-party disarmament talks by highlighting Pyongyang’s proliferant behavior. Others have floated more intriguing theories. For example, Jon Wolfsthal, an analyst from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, thinks the Bush administration is releasing the information at this time to rescue its tentative deal with the North Koreans by letting them off the hook. “If it turns out we have them dead to rights–that we have enough information on our own–then we can eliminate this as a point of contention,” he says. “Maybe we don’t need to negotiate transparency with North Korea because we already know enough.”

Wolfstal is onto something–this is definitely how the State Department thinks. There is, of course, no reason to humiliate the Koreans publicly by forcing them to confess to something we already know. Yet there are two fundamental flaws with this line of reasoning. First, it is important that the North Koreans make a complete declaration of their proliferation activities to show that they have made the critical decision to stop spreading dangerous technologies. Second, we do not know whether Syria is the only party to which they have transferred such expertise. Specifically, it’s critical that we learn about the extent of Pyongyang’s relationship with Tehran.

There are reports that Iranians traveled to North Korea to witness its October 2006 nuclear test, that the North Koreans sold processed uranium to Iran, and that they have been coaching their Iranian counterparts on how to dodge inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency. The links between the two nuclear programs appear to go back to the late 1990’s.

North Korea’s proliferant activities may not be limited to just Syria and Iran. They are so extensive that there is concern that Kim Jong Il is trying to replicate the old A.Q. Khan nuclear black market. In any event, Pyongyang’s promise to make a declaration of its nuclear activities is a perfect opportunity for us to find out their real extent.

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Throwing Rocks in the Pond

Hillary Clinton has been mum on the subject lately. The McCain camp has studiously avoided mentioning Reverend Wright. But not Vice President Cheney. He had this to say on Thursday in an interview with Sean Hannity:

I’ve watched what’s going on on the Democratic side with great interest, and sort of blowing hot and cold in terms of who is going to win, whether it is going to be Senator Clinton or Senator Obama. I thought the controversy over Reverend Wright was remarkable. I thought some of the things he said were absolutely appalling. And, you know, I haven’t gotten into the business of trying to judge how Senator Obama dealt with it, or didn’t deal with it, but I really — I think, like most Americans, I was stunned at what the Reverend was preaching in his church and then putting up on his website.

Is this just a casual observation? Unlikely: Cheney has weathered two presidential elections. Maybe it’s a bouquet to Hillary Clinton, who could use a lift. Maybe it’s an attempt to counteract Colin Powell’s praise for Obama earlier in the day. Regardless of its motive, the effect is the same: Wright’s name stays in the news and voters continue to ponder this troubling association.

Meanwhile, Howard Dean tells us that, under no circumstances, will the Democrats bring up McCain’s age (71) as a factor in the election. It would be wrong, you see, to mention McCain’s age (71), and the Democrats are above mentioning McCain’s age (71). Did he mention that the Democrats’ high ethical standards don’t allow them to mention McCain’s age (71)? Even though his age (71) is a factor, according to focus groups run by the DNC (which is too high-minded to bring up his age)?

Hillary Clinton has been mum on the subject lately. The McCain camp has studiously avoided mentioning Reverend Wright. But not Vice President Cheney. He had this to say on Thursday in an interview with Sean Hannity:

I’ve watched what’s going on on the Democratic side with great interest, and sort of blowing hot and cold in terms of who is going to win, whether it is going to be Senator Clinton or Senator Obama. I thought the controversy over Reverend Wright was remarkable. I thought some of the things he said were absolutely appalling. And, you know, I haven’t gotten into the business of trying to judge how Senator Obama dealt with it, or didn’t deal with it, but I really — I think, like most Americans, I was stunned at what the Reverend was preaching in his church and then putting up on his website.

Is this just a casual observation? Unlikely: Cheney has weathered two presidential elections. Maybe it’s a bouquet to Hillary Clinton, who could use a lift. Maybe it’s an attempt to counteract Colin Powell’s praise for Obama earlier in the day. Regardless of its motive, the effect is the same: Wright’s name stays in the news and voters continue to ponder this troubling association.

Meanwhile, Howard Dean tells us that, under no circumstances, will the Democrats bring up McCain’s age (71) as a factor in the election. It would be wrong, you see, to mention McCain’s age (71), and the Democrats are above mentioning McCain’s age (71). Did he mention that the Democrats’ high ethical standards don’t allow them to mention McCain’s age (71)? Even though his age (71) is a factor, according to focus groups run by the DNC (which is too high-minded to bring up his age)?

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Cheney and the Road Map

I have to disagree with you, Eric. Cheney’s visit was interesting. As far as I can tell, the vice president, bless him, threw down a subtle but unmistakable rebuke to his frequent-flier colleague. At the opening Olmert-Cheney press conference, Cheney said this:

America’s commitment to Israel’s security is enduring and unshakeable, as is our commitment to Israel’s right to defend itself always against terrorism, rocket attacks and other threats from forces dedicated to Israel’s destruction. The United States will never pressure Israel to take steps that threaten its security. . . .

History has clearly shown that when encountered by Arab partners like Anwar Sadat and the late King Hussein of Jordan, who accepted Israel’s permanence and are willing and capable of delivering on their commitments, Israelis are prepared to make wrenching national sacrifices on behalf of peace. I have no doubt this is equally the case with Palestinians. [Emphasis mine.]

This seems to me a very sly variation of damning with faint praise — in this case, damning the Palestinians with as yet unjustified praise, to highlight the difference between their record and examples of actual Arab peacemaking.

Anyway, after a later meeting with Olmert, Cheney said about Gaza and the smuggling tunnels:

All of that obviously has resulted in the ongoing activity of launching rockets into Israel and threatening the lives of Israelis and obviously making it difficult for there to be the kind of progress that I think we would all like to see.

Recall one of Condi Rice’s great Annapolis feats, the destruction of the “sequentiality” of the 2003 Road Map, which insisted that an internal Palestinian war on terrorism must be the central prerequisite of the peace process. In the midst of the intifada, the idea was that it would be pointless to attempt to pursue a peace process when suicide bombings and jihad constituted the primary form of statecraft of the Palestinian Authority. Early this year, after Annapolis, Condi Rice surveyed the post-Road Map era and told reporters that

[T]he reason that we haven’t really been able to move forward on the peace process for a number of years is that we were stuck in the sequentiality of the road map. So you had to do the first phase of the road map before you moved on to the third phase of the road map, which was the actual negotiations of final status.

What Annapolis did was to break that tight sequentiality and to say, you can do these in parallel — you can do road map obligations and negotiation for the final status in parallel.

A more honest statement would have been something like: “The reason that we haven’t really been able to move forward on the peace process for a number of years is because the Palestinian Authority has not only failed to demonstrate even the slightest interest in confronting Palestinian terrorism, the PA itself has been deeply implicated in terrorism. So we’re jettisoning the requirements of the Road Map because of both the insurmountability of the Palestinian terrorism problem and our own desire to cultivate an image of Bush administration-led progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Obviously, there’s not the slightest chance that Rice (or any Secretary of State) would ever say such a thing; but it’s what she meant. And I also suspect that the real thrust of Cheney’s public statements during his visit was: Condi, get real. I furthermore suspect that Cheney resents having to participate in the peace process charade in the first place. But there was no elegant way he could have made those points.

I have to disagree with you, Eric. Cheney’s visit was interesting. As far as I can tell, the vice president, bless him, threw down a subtle but unmistakable rebuke to his frequent-flier colleague. At the opening Olmert-Cheney press conference, Cheney said this:

America’s commitment to Israel’s security is enduring and unshakeable, as is our commitment to Israel’s right to defend itself always against terrorism, rocket attacks and other threats from forces dedicated to Israel’s destruction. The United States will never pressure Israel to take steps that threaten its security. . . .

History has clearly shown that when encountered by Arab partners like Anwar Sadat and the late King Hussein of Jordan, who accepted Israel’s permanence and are willing and capable of delivering on their commitments, Israelis are prepared to make wrenching national sacrifices on behalf of peace. I have no doubt this is equally the case with Palestinians. [Emphasis mine.]

This seems to me a very sly variation of damning with faint praise — in this case, damning the Palestinians with as yet unjustified praise, to highlight the difference between their record and examples of actual Arab peacemaking.

Anyway, after a later meeting with Olmert, Cheney said about Gaza and the smuggling tunnels:

All of that obviously has resulted in the ongoing activity of launching rockets into Israel and threatening the lives of Israelis and obviously making it difficult for there to be the kind of progress that I think we would all like to see.

Recall one of Condi Rice’s great Annapolis feats, the destruction of the “sequentiality” of the 2003 Road Map, which insisted that an internal Palestinian war on terrorism must be the central prerequisite of the peace process. In the midst of the intifada, the idea was that it would be pointless to attempt to pursue a peace process when suicide bombings and jihad constituted the primary form of statecraft of the Palestinian Authority. Early this year, after Annapolis, Condi Rice surveyed the post-Road Map era and told reporters that

[T]he reason that we haven’t really been able to move forward on the peace process for a number of years is that we were stuck in the sequentiality of the road map. So you had to do the first phase of the road map before you moved on to the third phase of the road map, which was the actual negotiations of final status.

What Annapolis did was to break that tight sequentiality and to say, you can do these in parallel — you can do road map obligations and negotiation for the final status in parallel.

A more honest statement would have been something like: “The reason that we haven’t really been able to move forward on the peace process for a number of years is because the Palestinian Authority has not only failed to demonstrate even the slightest interest in confronting Palestinian terrorism, the PA itself has been deeply implicated in terrorism. So we’re jettisoning the requirements of the Road Map because of both the insurmountability of the Palestinian terrorism problem and our own desire to cultivate an image of Bush administration-led progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Obviously, there’s not the slightest chance that Rice (or any Secretary of State) would ever say such a thing; but it’s what she meant. And I also suspect that the real thrust of Cheney’s public statements during his visit was: Condi, get real. I furthermore suspect that Cheney resents having to participate in the peace process charade in the first place. But there was no elegant way he could have made those points.

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Walt and Mearsheimer at Princeton

The Israel Lobby duo is speaking at Princeton tonight, and the indispensable Martin Kramer has a few prefatory thoughts on what it might be worth asking them about:

In [their] book, Mearsheimer and Walt admit that Israel was pushing for Iran over Iraq. And yes, they say, Israel only joined the Iraq bandwagon when the Bush administration seemed set on Iraq. But they haven’t dismantled their thesis–far from it. Instead they’ve come up with the new and improved Mearsheimer-Walt thesis, and it goes like this: the Iraq war must still be blamed on Israel, because in the lead-up to the war, Israel and its lobby worked overtime to ensure that Bush didn’t get “cold feet.”

Believe it or not, this the new Mearsheimer-Walt twist: the “cold feet” thesis of Israel’s responsibility for the Iraq war. For example, page 234: “Israeli leaders worried constantly in the months before the war that President Bush might decide not to go to war after all, and they did what they could to ensure Bush did not get cold feet.” And this, page 261: “Top Israeli officials were doing everything in their power to make sure that the United States went after Saddam and did not get cold feet at the last moment.”

Mearsheimer and Walt bring not a single footnote, in their copiously footnoted book, to substantiate this new and bizarre claim. You have to be pretty credulous to imagine that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld would waver “at the last moment” when they had Saddam squarely in their sights. You can read Bob Woodward forward and backward and find no evidence of wobble. Nor is there any evidence of Israeli worries that the Bush administration would waver on Iraq. Mearsheimer and Walt just made it up.

The Israel Lobby duo is speaking at Princeton tonight, and the indispensable Martin Kramer has a few prefatory thoughts on what it might be worth asking them about:

In [their] book, Mearsheimer and Walt admit that Israel was pushing for Iran over Iraq. And yes, they say, Israel only joined the Iraq bandwagon when the Bush administration seemed set on Iraq. But they haven’t dismantled their thesis–far from it. Instead they’ve come up with the new and improved Mearsheimer-Walt thesis, and it goes like this: the Iraq war must still be blamed on Israel, because in the lead-up to the war, Israel and its lobby worked overtime to ensure that Bush didn’t get “cold feet.”

Believe it or not, this the new Mearsheimer-Walt twist: the “cold feet” thesis of Israel’s responsibility for the Iraq war. For example, page 234: “Israeli leaders worried constantly in the months before the war that President Bush might decide not to go to war after all, and they did what they could to ensure Bush did not get cold feet.” And this, page 261: “Top Israeli officials were doing everything in their power to make sure that the United States went after Saddam and did not get cold feet at the last moment.”

Mearsheimer and Walt bring not a single footnote, in their copiously footnoted book, to substantiate this new and bizarre claim. You have to be pretty credulous to imagine that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld would waver “at the last moment” when they had Saddam squarely in their sights. You can read Bob Woodward forward and backward and find no evidence of wobble. Nor is there any evidence of Israeli worries that the Bush administration would waver on Iraq. Mearsheimer and Walt just made it up.

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Deconstructing the NIE

Like other contentions readers, I have been interested in the exchange between Norman Podhoretz and Gabriel Schoenfeld over whether the new National Intelligence Estimate was driven by a political agenda designed to block military action against Iran. Norman suggested that it was; Gabe argued that his suspicions were unjustified; Norman retracted* his earlier post; Gabe basically said maybe there is something to Norman’s “dark suspicions” after all.

I agree with the conclusion reached in Gabe’s second post that there probably was political calculation behind the NIE, and if so it comes out in the language chosen by its authors. As pointed out by reader Ben Orlanski, and quoted by Gabe, the wording of the NIE is hardly neutral. The lead sentence—“We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program”—is designed to convey an impression that we don’t have to worry much about Iranian nukes.

The second sentence, claiming that Tehran’s decision was “directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure” is designed to convey the impression that diplomacy is sufficient to keep Iranian ambitions in check and that no bombing is needed—even though, if Iran really did halt its weapons program in 2003, it must surely have done so in response to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, not to any diplomatic gambit on our part.

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Like other contentions readers, I have been interested in the exchange between Norman Podhoretz and Gabriel Schoenfeld over whether the new National Intelligence Estimate was driven by a political agenda designed to block military action against Iran. Norman suggested that it was; Gabe argued that his suspicions were unjustified; Norman retracted* his earlier post; Gabe basically said maybe there is something to Norman’s “dark suspicions” after all.

I agree with the conclusion reached in Gabe’s second post that there probably was political calculation behind the NIE, and if so it comes out in the language chosen by its authors. As pointed out by reader Ben Orlanski, and quoted by Gabe, the wording of the NIE is hardly neutral. The lead sentence—“We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program”—is designed to convey an impression that we don’t have to worry much about Iranian nukes.

The second sentence, claiming that Tehran’s decision was “directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure” is designed to convey the impression that diplomacy is sufficient to keep Iranian ambitions in check and that no bombing is needed—even though, if Iran really did halt its weapons program in 2003, it must surely have done so in response to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, not to any diplomatic gambit on our part.

A more neutral and accurate summary of the NIE would have read something like this: “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program, but we have only moderate confidence that it has not resumed the program since then. In any case, we assess with high confidence that Iran continues to enrich uranium in violation of United Nations sanctions. Although Tehran claims that this enrichment is part of a civilian nuclear-power program, it could produce enough fissile material within a minimum of two years to make a nuclear weapon. We assess with high confidence that Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons if it decides do so, but we have no idea if that decision has been made.”

That would still convey the same information contained in the rest of the NIE, but it would give a very different impression up front, which is the only part most people notice.

I am not privy to any inside information about administration deliberations, but I am guessing that the wording of this NIE was criticized by Vice President Cheney and his aides, the keepers of the conservative flame in the administration’s waning days. I am guessing, again with no real basis, that they pressed for a more neutral write-up and won a few cosmetic concessions from the intelligence community, but that they were prevented from doing more because they feared that if the intelligence agencies lost a bruising interagency battle over the NIE, disgruntled officials would leak word that intelligence was being “politicized” and that the “books were cooked” to conform with the administration’s ideological agenda.

The threat of leaks also must have compelled the President and Vice President, whatever their misgivings, to approve the release of the NIE. They would know that if they didn’t release the NIE, intelligence officials opposed to their policies (and that’s most of them) would leak selective tidbits to make the President look bad the next time he warned of the dangers from Iran.

It would be nice if high-level deliberations like this could be conducted without the constant threats of leaks from our oh-so-secret intelligence agencies, but that’s not the way Washington works these days. The power to go public gives intelligence officials great pull that they can exercise if they disagree with the views of senior policymakers, and they have not been shy about using this gambit, no matter how illegal or destructive their leaks might be.

I hasten to add that I do not suspect the director of National Intelligence, retired Vice Admiral Mike McConnell, or the director of the CIA, Air Force General Michael Hayden, of participating in this political campaign. Both strike me as mild-mannered, straight-down-the-middle technocrats, but it is precisely that neutrality on their part that can leave them open to a partisan agenda pushed by senior subordinates such as the “hyper-partisan anti-Bush officials” said by the Wall Street Journal editorial page to be the primary authors of the NIE.

*CLARIFICATION: Norman Podhoretz informs me that I mischaracterized his views (see below) in my item on “Deconstructing the NIE.” He emails: “For the record…the only thing I retracted was the suspicion that the NIE was another one of those leaks that have regularly gushed out of the CIA and State to undermine Bush. But when I learned for a fact that the White House knew about it in advance and authorized publication (for fear that it would leak anyway and make it seem that they were suppressing unfavorable intelligence), I felt that I had to make a correction. What I didn’t retract is the charge that it’s a political document disguised as an intelligence report—especially in the way the conclusions are presented.” Mea culpa.

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Annapolis: Engaging With What?

Yesterday I attended two Annapolis-related presentations in Washington, the first at the New America Foundation and the second at the National Press Club, sponsored by The Israel Project. The events offered a useful contrast in the way that two camps view not just the state of the peace process, but the conflict itself. The Israel Project symposium featured Shmuel Rosner of Haaretz, Tamara Cofman Wittes of Brookings, and David Wurmser, the former Middle East adviser to Vice President Cheney. This was by far the more interesting presentation, as the three participants were serious people trafficking in serious ideas.

The New America event, on the other hand, was intended to publicize the “re-release” of a letter first published in the New York Review of Books on October 10th, most notably signed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Lee Hamilton, and Brent Scowcroft, which has now attracted a couple dozen more signatories. It was ignored the first time it was published, and it’s enjoyable to predict that the addition of the signatures of Joseph Wilson and Gary Hart is going to further cement its irrelevance.

In any event, the New America panelists were Daniel Levy, Robert Malley, Ghaith al-Omari, and Steve Clemons, and they lodged as their major criticism the United States and Israel’s refusal to “engage” Hamas. That refusal is shaping up, for the realist and leftist critics of the peace process, as a primary objection, and in the coming months it will likely be invoked by the same critics as a major reason why Annapolis accomplished nothing. This faction is positioning its argument so that the failure of Annapolis can be leveraged to undermine the isolation of Hamas. As such, it is worth wondering whether people like Malley and Levy actually have a point.

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Yesterday I attended two Annapolis-related presentations in Washington, the first at the New America Foundation and the second at the National Press Club, sponsored by The Israel Project. The events offered a useful contrast in the way that two camps view not just the state of the peace process, but the conflict itself. The Israel Project symposium featured Shmuel Rosner of Haaretz, Tamara Cofman Wittes of Brookings, and David Wurmser, the former Middle East adviser to Vice President Cheney. This was by far the more interesting presentation, as the three participants were serious people trafficking in serious ideas.

The New America event, on the other hand, was intended to publicize the “re-release” of a letter first published in the New York Review of Books on October 10th, most notably signed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Lee Hamilton, and Brent Scowcroft, which has now attracted a couple dozen more signatories. It was ignored the first time it was published, and it’s enjoyable to predict that the addition of the signatures of Joseph Wilson and Gary Hart is going to further cement its irrelevance.

In any event, the New America panelists were Daniel Levy, Robert Malley, Ghaith al-Omari, and Steve Clemons, and they lodged as their major criticism the United States and Israel’s refusal to “engage” Hamas. That refusal is shaping up, for the realist and leftist critics of the peace process, as a primary objection, and in the coming months it will likely be invoked by the same critics as a major reason why Annapolis accomplished nothing. This faction is positioning its argument so that the failure of Annapolis can be leveraged to undermine the isolation of Hamas. As such, it is worth wondering whether people like Malley and Levy actually have a point.

The engagement camp says that it wishes to bolster the moderates while engaging the extremists, which is presented as a cost-free way to conduct diplomacy—never mind that U.S. diplomatic attention directed at Hamas thoroughly would discredit Mahmoud Abbas, whose only selling point to the Palestinian people at this point is the fact that he is the Palestinians’ only focal point for American and Israeli attention. That is a rather obvious point, of course. But the one I wish to emphasize involves the incompleteness with which the engagement camp makes its case.

What I have always found strange about the engagers is their reluctance to make arguments that move beyond bumper-sticker bromides about the need to talk to your enemies, and to explain precisely what would be up for discussion with Hamas. The Hamas charter seems to preempt diplomacy insofar as it says that “there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.” I say “seems,” because perhaps in practice Hamas does not hew to the strict language of its founding declaration—but alas, there is no historic or contemporary evidence for this conceit. Hamas is famous for denying the right of Israel to exist, but not many people seem to pay much regard to the fact that Hamas also denies the right of Palestine to exist: Hamas has always been abundantly clear that its goal is the violent imposition of an Islamic caliphate throughout the Middle East—not the establishment of a Palestinian state.

So what, pray tell, do people like Daniel Levy and Robert Malley propose is up for negotiation with Hamas? In the face of both Hamas’s plainly stated antipathy to diplomacy, in addition to decades of concrete experience of the same, would it not behoove Levy and Malley to pay special attention to this particular aspect of engaging Hamas? Shouldn’t an explanation about the contours of, and prospects for, a successful pursuit of diplomacy with Hamas indeed be the very first thing to which Levy and Malley set themselves? I know that if I were arguing in good faith for engagement, this is where I would be compelled to start: to provide an answer to the question, What can Israel offer Hamas other than its own suicide?

At yesterday’s event, as he has elsewhere, Levy proposed an Israel-Hamas cease-fire as a starting measure…and then changed the subject. Well, what comes after that, Daniel? How many times has Hamas agreed to cease-fires with Israel (and with Fatah) out of its own need to regroup and rearm, only to attack later at a time of its choosing? At what point in the course of the “engagement” process do the leaders of Hamas renounce the basic premises and tactics for which their movement stands? Does Khaled Mashal march down to his local Al Jazeera office in Damascus to announce to the world that because he got a phone call from a member of the Quartet, he’s realized that all the crazy stuff in the Hamas charter—about how the Jews started the French Revolution, the Communist Revolution, both World Wars, the League of Nations, the United Nations, the Rotary Club and the Freemasons, all in pursuit of Zionist world domination—was perhaps a bit too anti-Semitic? Can you tell us, Robert Malley—you who has argued repeatedly that giving money, diplomatic attention, and concessions to Hamas will change the group—of a single instance in which Hamas permanently has moderated a position or altered its behavior because of diplomatic pressure? As people who continuously are banging on the table about “genuine engagement” with Hamas, is it too much to ask, you know, for some genuine details?

As it stands right now, the intellectual output of the Levy-Malley faction involves bromides about “engagement” that are quickly buried in an avalanche of ambiguous diplomatic jargon designed to avoid the possibility of having to commit themselves to engaging in a serious explanation of how diplomacy is going to transform Hamas from a genocidal Islamic supremacist group to a peaceful Palestinian nationalist movement. This is an act of alchemy that Levy and Malley cannot credibly perform, and it is the reason why all of their voluminous babble about engagement never manages to rise above the level of the vague cliché.

There are dozens of reasons why Annapolis will be unable to achieve anything close to its stated goals, but, contrary to popular opinion, one of them is not the absence, next week, of representatives of Hamas at the Naval Academy. Nevertheless, that absence will emerge, from the Scowcrofts and Malleys, as a major source of the peace process’s failure. I propose a different failure: the refusal of the most prolific advocates for engagement to display a little intellectual courage and put themselves on the record explaining how their concessions are going to transform Hamas. Because if that actually works, and one of the most intransigent Islamist groups in the world can be defeated by diplomacy, then clearly there are two other diplomatic summits that should be convened—between Israel and Hizballah, and the United States and al Qaeda.

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On the Soapbox

We learn from today’s New York Times that Rosie O’Donnell is in “serious discussions” to return to television “atop a new soapbox: a prime-time show on the cable news channel MSNBC.”

That is a perfect fit. MSNBC, after all, is the cable news channel that features, among others, Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews. Why not add Rosie to the mix? Her qualifications as a news journalist certainly rival those of Mr. Olbermann, who came to NBC’s news division via ESPN and Fox Sports.

The Times tells us that Mr. Olbermann’s program, which is “riding a ratings wave,” takes “strong issue” with the Bush administration. That would be one way of saying it. Another would be that Mr. Olbermann is afflicted with Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS)—defined by the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist (and former psychiatrist) Charles Krauthammer as “the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency—nay—the very existence of George W. Bush.”

Mr. Olbermann’s entire show is tendentious—but nothing quite approaches his “Special Comment” editorials. In his November 5 “Special Comment,” for example, Mr. Olbermann said, “The presidency of George W. Bush has now devolved into a criminal conspiracy to cover the ass of George W. Bush.” He spoke about “the petulancy, all the childish threats, all the blank-stare stupidity.” He referred to the “verbal flatulence of his apologists.” George W. Bush, Mr. Olbermann asserted, is a “mock president,” a “liar,” and, “if anybody had the guts to pursue it, a criminal.” Vice President Cheney is “unstable.” On and on (and on) his editorials go, with Olbermann playing a Lear-like figure, raging against the storm. One half-expects him to sign off his program not with his signature “Good night and good luck,” but with, “Off, off, you lendings! Come unbutton here.”

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We learn from today’s New York Times that Rosie O’Donnell is in “serious discussions” to return to television “atop a new soapbox: a prime-time show on the cable news channel MSNBC.”

That is a perfect fit. MSNBC, after all, is the cable news channel that features, among others, Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews. Why not add Rosie to the mix? Her qualifications as a news journalist certainly rival those of Mr. Olbermann, who came to NBC’s news division via ESPN and Fox Sports.

The Times tells us that Mr. Olbermann’s program, which is “riding a ratings wave,” takes “strong issue” with the Bush administration. That would be one way of saying it. Another would be that Mr. Olbermann is afflicted with Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS)—defined by the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist (and former psychiatrist) Charles Krauthammer as “the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency—nay—the very existence of George W. Bush.”

Mr. Olbermann’s entire show is tendentious—but nothing quite approaches his “Special Comment” editorials. In his November 5 “Special Comment,” for example, Mr. Olbermann said, “The presidency of George W. Bush has now devolved into a criminal conspiracy to cover the ass of George W. Bush.” He spoke about “the petulancy, all the childish threats, all the blank-stare stupidity.” He referred to the “verbal flatulence of his apologists.” George W. Bush, Mr. Olbermann asserted, is a “mock president,” a “liar,” and, “if anybody had the guts to pursue it, a criminal.” Vice President Cheney is “unstable.” On and on (and on) his editorials go, with Olbermann playing a Lear-like figure, raging against the storm. One half-expects him to sign off his program not with his signature “Good night and good luck,” but with, “Off, off, you lendings! Come unbutton here.”

Yet reading Olbermann’s commentaries doesn’t quite do justice to them. What you would miss is seeing the haughtiness, the unsurpassed air of self-importance and arrogance, the sputtering hatred, and the boundless self-delusion (he seems to consider himself not just a journalist, but the heir of Edward R. Murrow). Of course Olbermann’s ratings have increased; this is, in its own way, riveting stuff. Never have we seen the mad utterings of a journalist put on display quite like this. It makes even the shallowness and odd obsessions of Chris Matthews seem normal in comparison. And that is no easy achievement.

One can only imagine what serious, even outstanding, journalists like Tim Russert, Brian Williams, and Pete Williams must be thinking to have their good name, and the name of NBC News, associated with the likes of Olbermann and Matthews. Tim Russert’s tough and fair-minded approach has made him one of the most widely respected journalists in America. How must he, as NBC’s Washington Bureau Chief, feel to have people like Olbermann, Matthews, and perhaps Rosie O’Donnell define the NBC News brand? It takes a long time to build up the reputation of an institution; it takes a lot less time to tear it down. Mr. Russert and his (responsible) colleagues deserve better, and can do better, than this.

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Crying Wolf

The case of Andrew Meyer, the University of Florida student tasered by campus police while resisting arrest for disrupting a speaking engagement by Senator John Kerry on Tuesday, has provided excellent fodder for the Left’s paranoid nightmares about the cryptofascist United States. Finally, they tell us, the ugly, brutal face of Amerika has been revealed to all.

At the Huffington Post (which collectively reads as if it were written by the ensemble from Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), the feminist writer Naomi Wolf declares that this “shocking moment for society” is the “iconic turning point and it will be remembered as the moment at which America either fought back or yielded.”

No, it was not September 11—when 3,000 Americans were killed in spectacular terrorist attacks and the nation girded itself for war—that marked the decisive moment in America’s recent history, but rather the tasering and subsequent arrest of a deranged and self-promoting college student in Gainesville, Florida. And in the dreams of Naomi Wolf—where she, Andrew Meyer, and the rest of the crew at the Huffington Post represent some sort of Leninist vanguard—it is not Islamic terrorists whom America must “fight back” against, but rather our very own government. “It is time to rebel in the name of the flag and the founders,” Wolf, our latter-day Abigail Adams, pronounces.

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The case of Andrew Meyer, the University of Florida student tasered by campus police while resisting arrest for disrupting a speaking engagement by Senator John Kerry on Tuesday, has provided excellent fodder for the Left’s paranoid nightmares about the cryptofascist United States. Finally, they tell us, the ugly, brutal face of Amerika has been revealed to all.

At the Huffington Post (which collectively reads as if it were written by the ensemble from Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), the feminist writer Naomi Wolf declares that this “shocking moment for society” is the “iconic turning point and it will be remembered as the moment at which America either fought back or yielded.”

No, it was not September 11—when 3,000 Americans were killed in spectacular terrorist attacks and the nation girded itself for war—that marked the decisive moment in America’s recent history, but rather the tasering and subsequent arrest of a deranged and self-promoting college student in Gainesville, Florida. And in the dreams of Naomi Wolf—where she, Andrew Meyer, and the rest of the crew at the Huffington Post represent some sort of Leninist vanguard—it is not Islamic terrorists whom America must “fight back” against, but rather our very own government. “It is time to rebel in the name of the flag and the founders,” Wolf, our latter-day Abigail Adams, pronounces.

Having recently graduated from Yale University, where such self-obsessed, imaginary political martyrdom is de riguer, I have very little sympathy for Meyer. He wanted this to happen, giving a digital camera to a woman before he rose to the microphone, asking her, “Are you taping this? Do you have this? You ready?” Meyer wanted a show, with, naturally, himself as the star. In a matter of months, I predict, he will be touring the country speaking at antiwar rallies and campaigning for Dennis Kucinich.

For much of the Left today, protest has become a form of therapeutic self-aggrandizement. Publicly demonstrating one’s most sincerely felt political commitments (to as many people as possible) has long been an underlying, motivational aspect of leftist movements.

This incident reminds me of the 2004 arrest of then-Yale junior Thomas Frampton, a classmate, who cunningly feigned his way into a volunteer usher position at the Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden. The first night of the convention, Thomas chose an opportune moment to start screaming antiwar slogans and, according to the criminal complaint, “did forcibly assault, resist, oppose, impede, intimidate, and interfere with Special Agents of the United States Secret Service, in the performance of their official duties” by charging the VIP box in which Vice President Cheney sat with his wife and grandchildren. As befitting a liberal activist believing in equality before the law, Frampton posted the $50,000 bond and his father, a wealthy, high-powered Washington attorney, hired excellent legal counsel. Frampton got a slap on the wrist.

Neither Meyer nor Frampton rationally could have believed that his antics furthered a “progressive” political cause. On the contrary, these two young men must understand that most people—especially political moderates whom, presumably, Meyer and Frampton hope to persuade—will look at them as mere fanatics. But both Frampton and Meyer clearly think of themselves as modern incarnations of John Brown. And what they think of themselves is, in the end, all that seems to matter.

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More on Moran

In yesterday’s The Hill, we read this:

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) went after fellow Democrat Jim Moran of Virginia Tuesday, calling on him to retract his comments about the Israel lobby. “His remarks were factually inaccurate and recall an old canard that is not true, that the Jewish community controls the media and the Congress,” Hoyer said at a news conference in the Capitol. In an interview published in the September-October issue of Tikkun magazine, Moran said the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, “has pushed this war from the beginning. . . . They are so well-organized, and their members are extraordinarily powerful—most of them are quite wealthy—they have been able to exert power.” Asked if he considered Moran’s remarks anti-Semitic and if he should apologize, Hoyer reiterated that he found them “factually inaccurate” and said Moran should “retract” them. In a statement issued by Moran’s office, the congressman admitted that the tone of his remarks was “unnecessarily harsh,” but that he stood by his statements that AIPAC does not represent “mainstream American Jewish opinion.”

In today’s Politico, we learn that

Sixteen of Democratic Rep. Jim Moran’s House colleagues rebuked him in a withering letter Wednesday for saying last week that the pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, “pushed [the Iraq] war from the beginning.” It was the Virginia congressman’s latest dust-up over Israel—and one that brought a demand for a retraction by the House Democratic leader, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland. Moran’s colleagues . . . called the remarks of the Virginia congressman in the progressive Jewish magazine Tikkun inaccurate and “deeply offensive.”

First, all praise to Representative Hoyer and his colleagues for condemning Representative Moran’s comments. As for Moran: this isn’t the first time he’s waded into this cesspool. In 2001, he said then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was coming to Washington “probably seeking a warrant from President Bush to kill at will with weapons we have paid for.” And in 2003, at an antiwar forum in Reston, Virginia, Moran said: “If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this. The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should.”

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In yesterday’s The Hill, we read this:

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) went after fellow Democrat Jim Moran of Virginia Tuesday, calling on him to retract his comments about the Israel lobby. “His remarks were factually inaccurate and recall an old canard that is not true, that the Jewish community controls the media and the Congress,” Hoyer said at a news conference in the Capitol. In an interview published in the September-October issue of Tikkun magazine, Moran said the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, “has pushed this war from the beginning. . . . They are so well-organized, and their members are extraordinarily powerful—most of them are quite wealthy—they have been able to exert power.” Asked if he considered Moran’s remarks anti-Semitic and if he should apologize, Hoyer reiterated that he found them “factually inaccurate” and said Moran should “retract” them. In a statement issued by Moran’s office, the congressman admitted that the tone of his remarks was “unnecessarily harsh,” but that he stood by his statements that AIPAC does not represent “mainstream American Jewish opinion.”

In today’s Politico, we learn that

Sixteen of Democratic Rep. Jim Moran’s House colleagues rebuked him in a withering letter Wednesday for saying last week that the pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, “pushed [the Iraq] war from the beginning.” It was the Virginia congressman’s latest dust-up over Israel—and one that brought a demand for a retraction by the House Democratic leader, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland. Moran’s colleagues . . . called the remarks of the Virginia congressman in the progressive Jewish magazine Tikkun inaccurate and “deeply offensive.”

First, all praise to Representative Hoyer and his colleagues for condemning Representative Moran’s comments. As for Moran: this isn’t the first time he’s waded into this cesspool. In 2001, he said then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was coming to Washington “probably seeking a warrant from President Bush to kill at will with weapons we have paid for.” And in 2003, at an antiwar forum in Reston, Virginia, Moran said: “If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this. The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should.”

AIPAC, Moran said in his Tikkun interview, supports “domination, not healing. They feel that you acquire security through military force, through intimidation, even through occupation, when necessary, and that if you have people who are hostile toward you, it’s OK to kill them, rather than talk with them, negotiate with them, try to understand them, and ultimately try to love them.”

Where to begin? Perhaps with this point: the chief architects of the war to liberate Iraq— President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, and Condoleezza Rice—are not Jewish. They are not neoconservatives. And they are not and never have been under the power and sway of the “Jewish lobby.”

The reasons to go to war with Iraq were made clear publicly and repeatedly by the President and members of his administration. We believed, as did the rest of the world and every leading member of the Democratic Party, that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of WMD (it turns out he retained the capacity to build them once the sanctions regime fell apart). In addition, Saddam was the most destabilizing figure in the Middle East, having invaded two nations (Iran and Kuwait), incursions that were responsible for the deaths of more than a million people. He was among the most malevolent figures in modern times, having committed genocide against his own people. He defied sixteen U.N. resolutions over a dozen years. He was a supporter of terrorism. And he was a sworn enemy of America. Beyond all that, President Bush wanted to begin the difficult process of turning the Arab Middle East away from tyranny and toward liberty. If AIPAC never existed, the Iraq war would have commenced. Yet Mr. Moran insists that the role of a Jewish lobby played a decisive role in the United States’s going to war.

This assertion is not only risible, as anyone who worked in the Bush administration can tell you; it is also malicious. It perpetrates the anti-Semitic canard that “The Jews” and their lackeys are all-powerful, manipulative, and in the process of hijacking American foreign policy. Think dual loyalties and all that. (This calumny is now at a bookstore near you, in the form of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.)

I don’t know what lurks in the heart of James Moran. What I do know is that he seems quite eager to fan smoldering embers, with the purpose of igniting fires of division and hatred. It’s all very ugly stuff, and it ought to be condemned in the strongest terms.

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Rising Star

The leftwing blogosphere has found its next star. He is an articulate champion of a modern leftist sensibility:

• He says that the war in Iraq has failed to produce democracy and has only created “civil war” that is “getting out of [Bush’s] control.”

• He calls the war in Iraq “unjust” and says it was launched based “on deception and blatant lies.”

• He says that the war has made a mockery of our “slogans of justice, liberty, equality, and humanitarianism”—instead replacing them with “fear, destruction, killing, hunger, and illness.” He goes on to say that “more than 650,000 of the people of Iraq” have died “as a result of the war and its repercussions.”

• He says that the “vast majority” of the American public wants the war to stop and “elected the Democratic Party for this purpose, but the Democrats haven’t made a move worth mentioning,” leading to the “vast majority” of the American electorate “being afflicted with disappointment.”

• Why haven’t the Democrats done what they were supposed to? He has an explanation: “they are the same reasons that led to the failure of former President Kennedy to stop the Vietnam War. Those with real power and influence are those with the most capital. And since the democratic system permits major corporations to back candidates, be they presidential or congressional, there shouldn’t be any cause for astonishment—and there isn’t any—in the Democrats’ failure to stop the war.”

• He bemoans that the White House is focused on Iraq rather than on the real dangers facing all mankind, such as “global warming resulting to a large degree from the emissions of the factories of the major corporations,” “the burden of interest-related debts, insane taxes, and real estate mortgages,” and of course “the abject poverty and tragic hunger in Africa.”

• He is particularly peeved that President Bush “insists on not observing the Kyoto accord.”

• He decries the entire process of “globalization,” which he sees as nothing more than the attempts of “the capitalist system . . . to turn the entire world into a fiefdom of the major corporations.”

• He cites the growing consensus of thinkers who “have declared the approach of the collapse of the American Empire.”

• And he recommends that anyone who wants to know what’s really going on in the world read the works of MIT professor Noam Chomsky and former CIA official Michael Scheuer.

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The leftwing blogosphere has found its next star. He is an articulate champion of a modern leftist sensibility:

• He says that the war in Iraq has failed to produce democracy and has only created “civil war” that is “getting out of [Bush’s] control.”

• He calls the war in Iraq “unjust” and says it was launched based “on deception and blatant lies.”

• He says that the war has made a mockery of our “slogans of justice, liberty, equality, and humanitarianism”—instead replacing them with “fear, destruction, killing, hunger, and illness.” He goes on to say that “more than 650,000 of the people of Iraq” have died “as a result of the war and its repercussions.”

• He says that the “vast majority” of the American public wants the war to stop and “elected the Democratic Party for this purpose, but the Democrats haven’t made a move worth mentioning,” leading to the “vast majority” of the American electorate “being afflicted with disappointment.”

• Why haven’t the Democrats done what they were supposed to? He has an explanation: “they are the same reasons that led to the failure of former President Kennedy to stop the Vietnam War. Those with real power and influence are those with the most capital. And since the democratic system permits major corporations to back candidates, be they presidential or congressional, there shouldn’t be any cause for astonishment—and there isn’t any—in the Democrats’ failure to stop the war.”

• He bemoans that the White House is focused on Iraq rather than on the real dangers facing all mankind, such as “global warming resulting to a large degree from the emissions of the factories of the major corporations,” “the burden of interest-related debts, insane taxes, and real estate mortgages,” and of course “the abject poverty and tragic hunger in Africa.”

• He is particularly peeved that President Bush “insists on not observing the Kyoto accord.”

• He decries the entire process of “globalization,” which he sees as nothing more than the attempts of “the capitalist system . . . to turn the entire world into a fiefdom of the major corporations.”

• He cites the growing consensus of thinkers who “have declared the approach of the collapse of the American Empire.”

• And he recommends that anyone who wants to know what’s really going on in the world read the works of MIT professor Noam Chomsky and former CIA official Michael Scheuer.

The only area in which this bold thinker seems to differ from modern Western leftist orthodoxy is in his prescription for all these ills: “To conclude, I invite you to embrace Islam, for the greatest mistake one can make in this world and one which is uncorrectable is to die while not surrendering to Allah, the Most High, in all aspects of one’s life—i.e., to die outside of Islam.”

So perhaps Osama bin Laden won’t be blogging for DailyKos anytime soon. After all, hardcore leftists don’t look kindly on fundamentalist religion (though they tend to be more suspicious of Baptist preachers than of Muslim terrorist leaders). But the overlap between bin Laden’s world view (at least as it’s expressed in his most recent videotape) and that of many Western leftists is uncanny. This does not mean, I should stress, that leftists support al Qaeda. It does seem to mean, however, that bin Laden is trying to rally the “antiwar” crowd to his side in language they understand.

The Occam’s Razor explanation is that, like the North Vietnamese Communists during the 1960’s, he is attempting to manipulate public opinion among his enemies, and that he is good at doing so because his ideology is not that of traditional Islam, but rather a weird amalgam of Islamic teaching and modern totalitarian ideologies. That is, he probably believes the rants he spews out.

Of course, conspiracy theorists will posit that this all just a big ruse, and that precisely because bin Laden is posing as a man of the Left, this is a transparent attempt to discredit the Left and thereby to keep in power Bush, Cheney, et al., who are supposedly doing so much good for bin Laden’s cause. No doubt the works of bin Laden’s favorite American commentators will provide chapter and verse for this argument.

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Was Scooter’s Sentence Too Light?

Judge Reggie Walton has sentenced Scooter Libby to 2 1/2 years in prison. In calculating this term, Walton relied on federal guidelines, which give him latitude. He also weighed letters, pro and con, written to the court by dozens of people. Many of them are friends of Libby, some of them are individuals who had encountered Libby in the course of their lives, and others are ordinary citizens. Almost all of the letters call for Walton to show leniency. A handful, going in the other direction, call for throwing the book at Libby. Those are the ones the judge chose to follow.

The letters in favor of leniency stress Libby’s long and distinguished career in public service, his dedication and goodwill toward subordinates and colleagues, his love of children. Some of these letters are self-aggrandizing. But most of them are poignant portraits of sides of Libby that the public has never seen. That is especially true of those written by low-level employees, like the chief steward on Air Force Two and a White House photographer, both of whom emphasize the simple human kindness that the Vice President’s chief of staff showed to them.

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Judge Reggie Walton has sentenced Scooter Libby to 2 1/2 years in prison. In calculating this term, Walton relied on federal guidelines, which give him latitude. He also weighed letters, pro and con, written to the court by dozens of people. Many of them are friends of Libby, some of them are individuals who had encountered Libby in the course of their lives, and others are ordinary citizens. Almost all of the letters call for Walton to show leniency. A handful, going in the other direction, call for throwing the book at Libby. Those are the ones the judge chose to follow.

The letters in favor of leniency stress Libby’s long and distinguished career in public service, his dedication and goodwill toward subordinates and colleagues, his love of children. Some of these letters are self-aggrandizing. But most of them are poignant portraits of sides of Libby that the public has never seen. That is especially true of those written by low-level employees, like the chief steward on Air Force Two and a White House photographer, both of whom emphasize the simple human kindness that the Vice President’s chief of staff showed to them.

The letters calling for a harsh prison sentence are something else again. One such correspondent writes: “I would prefer to see Mr. Rove or Vice President Cheney behind bars so, in a sense, Mr. Libby is their proxy. He was the puppet but they pulled the strings.” The writer signs his missive, “an angry citizen,” but declines to provide his name, saying of the Bush administration, “I don’t use my name because I don’t trust them, either.”

Another such letter, handwritten and signed with a scrawl, reads: “I strongly implore you to putScooter’ in jail”—underlining those three italicized words. Yet another correspondent writes that Libby “has committed some of the most serious offense against our country in its entire 231 year history. . . . I believe he is also guilty of, although he hasn’t been tried for, helping the enemies of the United States, Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda Afghanistan/Pakistan escape justice through his lies.” A former federal prosecutor goes even further: “In its ultimate effects on the security of the United States, is what was done here [by Libby] really that different from what was done by [convicted spies] Aldrich Ames, Jonathan Pollard, and Robert Hanssen?”

Although nicely printed, and not drawn in a scrawl, a New York Times editorial today joins with the ranters, calling Libby’s sentence “an appropriate—indeed necessary—punishment for his repeated lies to a grand jury and to FBI agents investigating a possible smear campaign orchestrated by the White House.” Considering that the Times itself has trampled on U.S. laws governing secrecy—something that Libby has never been accused of by a court of law—the newspaper’s participation in this chorus of half-witted haters, though not unexpected, is all the more revolting.

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Off With Libby’s Head?

When he is sentenced this coming Tuesday, Scooter Libby may be sent directly to jail. If so, this would be grossly unfair since he stands an excellent chance of having the verdict against him overturned on appeal. But it would also be the moment for President Bush to pardon him immediately.

Back in March, when he was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice by a jury in federal court in Washington D.C., I explained why I thought the case “represents a terrible injustice.” The federal prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, had insisted to both the public and the jury that the disclosure of the identity of the CIA operative Valerie Plame—which was the underlying action he had been appointed to investigate—was in fact a crime. But this was a point that had never been established or even formally alleged. Fitzgerald’s overreaching on this colored the jury’s thinking about the gravity of the issues at stake, suggested a motive for Libby to lie that did not reside in proved facts, and conflicted with the judge’s ruling that the case would not hinge on Plame’s status.

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When he is sentenced this coming Tuesday, Scooter Libby may be sent directly to jail. If so, this would be grossly unfair since he stands an excellent chance of having the verdict against him overturned on appeal. But it would also be the moment for President Bush to pardon him immediately.

Back in March, when he was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice by a jury in federal court in Washington D.C., I explained why I thought the case “represents a terrible injustice.” The federal prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, had insisted to both the public and the jury that the disclosure of the identity of the CIA operative Valerie Plame—which was the underlying action he had been appointed to investigate—was in fact a crime. But this was a point that had never been established or even formally alleged. Fitzgerald’s overreaching on this colored the jury’s thinking about the gravity of the issues at stake, suggested a motive for Libby to lie that did not reside in proved facts, and conflicted with the judge’s ruling that the case would not hinge on Plame’s status.

Now Fitzgerald has been back in court, arguing that when Libby is sentenced on Tuesday, the judge should throw the book at him precisely on the grounds that he committed the underlying crime-that-was-not-a-crime. Fitzgerald approvingly cites Judge David S. Tatel’s ruling in the Judith Miller case that “because the charges contemplated here relate to false denials of responsibility for Plame’s exposure, prosecuting perjury or false statements would be tantamount to punishing the leak.”

But this a vicious circle. Convicted on the basis of something that was never proved or even formally alleged, is Libby now to be punished on the same basis? With Fitzgerald continuing to overreach, the case for a presidential pardon is growing stronger by the day. If Libby is imprisoned, will Bush do the right thing?

Meanwhile, in closely related news, Senator Kit Bond of Missouri, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wants Valerie Plame to be re-interviewed. Back in March, in a dispatch entitled Lying Liars and Their Lies, I asked whether Plame was under oath when she testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and declared that she played no role in sending her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, on a fact-finding trip to Niger. “I did not recommend him. I did not suggest him. There was no nepotism involved. I did not have the authority,” she said.

Plame was under oath, and Senator Bond has pointed out that she has put out three separate versions of the circumstances under which her husband was sent to Niger. According to USA Today‘s summary, they are:

*She told the CIA’s inspector general in 2003 or 2004 that she had suggested Wilson.

*Plame told Senate Intelligence Committee staffers in 2004 that she couldn’t remember whether she had suggested Wilson.

*She told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in March that an unidentified person in Vice President Cheney’s office asked a CIA colleague about the African uranium report in February 2002. A third officer, overhearing Plame and the colleague discussing this, suggested, “Well, why don’t we send Joe?” Plame told the committee.

Which of these is the real story? Is Plame telling three versions of the truth, or is she a lying liar, or even worse, a perjuring perjurer? Bond would like to find out.

But the Intelligence Committee is now under the control of the Democrats who have no interest in calling attention to the antics of the Plame-Wilson provocateurs. Stay tuned, in other words, for the cover-up of the cover-up.  

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