Tuesday, November 22, 2005
# Posted 8:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Anyhow, the real issue here is the SecDef and how he ought to strengthen his arguments for the administration's strategy in Iraq. Unsurprisingly, the first question Rumsfeld got from both George Stephanopoulos on ABC and Bob Schieffer on CBS was "What do you say to Congressman Murtha?" Rumsfeld clearly had his talking points ready since he gave the exact same response to both questions.
The core of Rumsfeld's response was the idea of empathy. He told Schieffer,
"Try to put yourself in the shoes of other people...Put yourself in the shoes of the Iraqis, the Iraqi people, who've risked their lives to run for public office and to go out and vote."That's a solid point, although altruism isn't exactly the philosophy one associates with Rumsfeld. The SecDef did a little better with Stephanopoulos, however. On ABC, he told the audience to empathize with American soldiers on the ground "who believe that [their mission] is a noble cause, which it is". And of course, on both ABC and CBS, Rumsfeld cleverly turned the empathy prism around and asked the audience how the insurgents might feel if they knew that all they had to do to defeat the United States was run out the clock.
Yet perhaps because Rumsfeld is such a blunt person who has never been comfortable with the artificial etiquette of network television, the SecDef seems to delight in making outrageous statements that have the unfortunate effect of calling his perception of political reality into question. For example, before directly answering Stephanopoulos's question about Murtha, Rumsfeld insisted that Murtha's protest isn't that significant because there have always been those who wanted to bring the troops home -- in WWII, in Korea and in Vietnam.
In WWII? I'll assume that Rumsfeld is right and that someone must've called for an early exit from the Second World War. But do you know how comparing Iraq to WWII sounds? Ridiculous. Period. As for Korea and Vietnam, the analogy to Iraq shouldn't comfort the administration at all.
Moving on, the next big question Rumsfeld had to address was the issue of whether the Iraqi army will ever be ready to take over from us. To my surprise, Schieffer didn't even try to challenge the SecDef's assertion that there are now 212,000 members of the Iraqi security forces. But Stephanopoulos immediately shot back that only 700 are ready to fight on their own. To which Rumsfeld replied:
"Oh, George, that is a red herring that people have been flopping around here for weeks."You should really listen to the podcast to hear the tone of voice Rumsfeld used to say that. He sounded like a Jewish mother who'd just been told her only son was becoming a Catholic.
Anyhow, Rumsfeld's first substantive point in response to the question was pretty good: The Iraqis are already fighting hard all across the country and taking very heavy casualties. But then the SecDef once again decided he wasn't going to play by the rules. When Stephanopoulos stated that even the best 20,000 Iraqis "can take the lead in a battle but need to be heavily supported by US forces", Rumsfeld responded:
Most of our forces need support. Most of NATO forces need support.Say what you will about the Belgians and the Dutch, I'm pretty damn sure the Iraqis are nowhere close. And comparing American soldiers to the Iraqis? Huh???
Although quite proficient at pre-emptive warfare, I think the SecDef might do well to practice the art of pre-emptive question-swatting. Everywhere you look, it gets reported that only one Iraqi battalion, or around 700 troops, is ready to fight on its own without the Americans. That number is down from three battalions a couple of months ago.
Now, Rusmfeld may be right that the number who can fight independently isn't the best indicator of progress. But I think it looks very bad for him or the President to say that there are 212,000 Iraqis ready to go, then get confronted with the 700 figure and admit that it's accurate. Just say up front that more and more Iraqis are approaching self-sufficiency.
With regard to question-swatting, Rumsfeld should also know what's going to happen everytime he insists that the American mission in Iraq is making significant progress. The interviewers will immediately fire back with questions about the persistence of American casualties and about the number of suicide bombs. On CBS, Rumsfeld made a decent come back by arguing that Zarqawi's slaughter of the innocent actually costs him more supporters than it gains.
But the key point is that it looks bad to start out optimistic and then be reminded of everything going wrong. Instead, administration officials should begin by showing that they understand public and media concern with the mission's steep cost in American lives and the persistence of terrorism in Iraq. But. But guerrillas wars are won politically, not on the battlefield. Thus, the indicator that really matters is that Iraq is going from
A successful election in January to a drafting of a constitution, to a referendum on the constitution with the biggest turnout anyone could've imagined, and the Sunnis participating...In less than a month there'll be an election. And then there will be a new government that will be in place for a period of time. That's progress. That's significant progress.Yes, yes it is. But that message won't get through until administration officials are more candid about the persistence of casualties and terrorism, so that journalists can't chalk up easy debating points by reminding them that things aren't perfect. (6) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:39 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
For the moment, what I will do is highly recommend the Bistro D'Oc, where the five of us had dinner. As you might gather from the name, it's a great little French place just across the street from Ford's Theater on 10th St. between E & F. Bon appetit! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, November 20, 2005
# Posted 9:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Btw, we will be using word verification to limit spam. If that doesn't work, then we'll have to come up with a Plan B.
UPDATE: Detailed comments are welcome. Reproducing publications from elsewhere in their entirely is a nuisance. Comments are not Xerox machines! (11) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Simply defined, a man date is two heterosexual men socializing without the crutch of business or sports. It is two guys meeting for the kind of outing a straight man might reasonably arrange with a woman.Yikes! I just prefer to go out with my gay friends. There's no sexual tension there, because they could all do so much better than me. (Hat tip: The lovely SC) (4) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:37 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 7:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Of course, any liberal site so willing to buck the conventional wisdom is occasionally going to say things that antagonize its friends and vindicate its critics. For example, Suzanne Nossel recently pointed out one of the most implausible but least noticed things that Jack Murtha has been saying: Leave Iraq now, but "go back in, in case there's more terrorist activity." Hmmm...
Of course, the price conservatives have to pay for such pleasant heresies is the obligation to take Suzanne and her colleagues more seriously when they say things conservatives don't want to hear. For example, Suzanne has been watching carefully for any signs that the Bush administration wants to follow the Nixon/Kissinger precedent in South Vietnam by building up our proteges in Iraq just enough to ensure that they don't crumble too soon after we withdraw.
Am I persuaded? No, I am not. But it is an important argument to have with a talented counterpart. Nixon and Kissinger were self-avowed realists who rejected the importance of moral considerations to the making of foreign policy. Bush is a relentless idealist, regardless of what you think of his ideals. Naturally, liberals suspect that all of his idealistic rhetoric is nothing more than a front for a self-interested agenda. And before accepting that Bush is sincere, one must hear that argument out.
Of course, DA is still a blog and not a chemistry textbook, so sometimes it can be quite snarky and that snark is quite partisan. (Who knows, maybe chemistry textbooks are snarky too. I haven't read one since high school.)
The bottom line here is that I don't think you'll find a liberal foreign policy blog with a lower ratio of rhetoric to substance. If you do, tell me about it. (10) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:15 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 3:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Well, not exactly the same place, but close. First of all, we agree on two major points. The first is that Murtha has the wrong plan. As Andrew writes:
It's not intellectually easy to continue supporting a war when you've lost faith in the honesty and competence of the president who's leading it, but what choice do we have? There are other good people struggling to make this work: Casey, Rice, Khalilzad, McCain; and the thousands of troops who are risking their lives in this project. They key is to grasp how little we know, how badly we've screwed up, but also not to throw in the towel when, in fact, there is still a chance for leveraging the current situation to our and to Iraqis' advantage.The second is that certain Republicans (think Jean Schmidt) have launched apalling attacks on Murtha's integrity. Andrew differs slightly on that second point, since is he is more inclined than I am to believe that Schmidt's attack is typical GOP behavior.
I'd say the one major point of disagreement between myself and Andrew is that he seems to reject the idea that all of the hype about Murtha is a manufactured story. For example, Andrew criticizes Glenn for trying to spin the Murtha story as old news. Well, that's my spin as well, so I guess Andrew and I will have to disagree on this one.
But what matters more is our agreement on the substantive issue of what to do about Iraq. (20) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Anyhow, all I want to in this post is take a somewhat closer look at what Murtha said in an interview with CNN (Hat tip: GP) in May 2004, shortly after he first described the war as "unwinnable". Here goes:
At first glance, one might say this excerpt vindicates the media's decision to cover Murtha's conversion as a major change of heart. After all, what Murtha is calling for here -- an extraordinary increase in US manpower -- is the polar opposite of withdrawal.
But on the other hand, Murtha seems to recognize that this kind of increase in manpower is simply impossible. Thus, the real choice to be had is between withdrawal -- an "international disaster" -- and "struggl[ing] along, get[ting] more and more young people killed.
But what is the point of struggling along in an unwinnable war with mounting casualties? Murtha's logic clearly points to withdrawal as the least-worst option. But he wasn't ready to say it in May 2004, so he kept his options open by going on record in favor of the impossible option, a Shinseki-style occupation.
So, yes, one can argue that Murtha's decision to call for a withdrawal is news. But it is hardly a revelation. (4) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, November 19, 2005
# Posted 10:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The deployment of United States forces in Iraq, by direction of Congress, is hereby terminated and the forces involved are to be redeployed at the earliest practicable date.Btw, the roll call on the GOP version is here. Three cheers for Cynthia McKinney and her two brave colleagues for voting "aye"!
Also, Joe Gandelman argues that the GOP shot itself in the foot by drawing even more attention to Murtha, giving anti-war Dems a highly visible platform, and exposing some of their own members as malicious and small minded.
Just to underscore the importance of that last point, who was the only GOP representative to get a soundbite on NBC Nightly News after the debate? You guessed it: Jean Schmidt.
And of course, Murtha himself got more great coverage from NBC. At the end of her segment on the House debate, Andrea Mitchell asked:
Why is one congressmen's call for withdrawal so powerful? Because people on both sides of the debate think that if the president has lost John Murtha, he could lose the nation.You can't pay for coverage like that. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Senator Kerry, for having us to your Capitol office. You made a very strong statement in a press release last night. You said, “It‘s hard to name a government official with less credibility on Iraq than Vice President Cheney.” Why‘d you say that?I don't know what Chris Matthews earns, but NBC could pay me half as much to help John Kerry recite his talking points. By the way, here are some gems from Kerry that Matthews didn't challenge:
KERRY: I think that the decision was fundamentally made that [the administration] wanted to remake the Middle East, remove Saddam Hussein, have a foothold in that part of the world, and they naively and inaccurately believed the intelligence people like Chalabi and others...Well, at least he's more reasonable than the senior senator from Massachusetts. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Actually, it isn't right to call it an interview, since Matthews let Murtha ramble on with his usual talking points for five or six minutes in response to Matthews' opening question. Then Matthews tucked in a few quick questions at the end, which were softer than softballs:
MATTHEWS: Mr. Murtha, I've known you for years, I really like you, but you've always been a hawk, you've always been a defense defender, big defense spending, big support for the Pentagon, known as the soldier's friend, why are you against this war in Iraq now?Two things to notice. First, Matthews' introduction of Murtha perpetuates the myth that a renowned hawk has suddenly turned against the war. A renowned hawk is what Murtha is, but as many, many bloggers pointed out immediately after Murtha made headlines, he's been saying exactly the same thing about Iraq for more than a year now. This is a manufactured story.
Second of all, it is remarkably disingenuous for Murtha to talk about how his recent visit to Iraq changed his mind about the war. If you listen to the full interview, he also lists a number of other recent data points as contributing factors. In other words, Murtha himself is now peddling the myth of his sudden conversion from hawk to dove. Karl Rove would be proud.
CLARIFICATION: The next-to-last sentence in the previous paragraph clearly suggests that Murtha is being disingenuous, perhaps even dishonest. However, I would like to add some nuance to that point.
Even though Murtha was on the brink of coming out in favor of withdrawal almost a year and a half ago, his did not do so, instead calling for the impossible option of a Shinseki-sized occupation.
Thus, some new consideration must have convinced Murtha that now was the time to go all out and demand an ASAP withdrawal. But the considerations Murtha cited in response to Matthews' question were hardly new: too many insurgent attacks, not enough troops, and the unpopularity of the occupation forces.
So it's not really clear at all what led Murtha to change his official position. One might infter that it was fatigue -- eighteen more months of the same problems as before, with another thousand American soldiers killed in action. That's not unfair.
And if one were in Murtha's position, and one perceived oneself as having had a major change of heart, and one were asked by an interviewer to explain that change of heart, one probably wouldn't start out by saying "Well, Chris, nothing really changed. I just got sick of seeing more of the same."
So let me take back the comparison between Murtha and Rove. That was mostly meant as a provocation to Murtha's fans, anyhow.
The real issue here is that the media have fallen so completely for the "hawk becomes dove" storyline that Murtha's comments, in that misleading context, seem to be much more disingenuous than they really are. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:33 AM by Patrick Belton
John Pilger, querying AC about British involvement in the arms trade: 'I read that you were a vegetarian and you are seriously concerned about the way animals are killed. Doesn’t that concern extend to the way humans, albeit foreigners, are killed?'(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, November 18, 2005
# Posted 10:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
"He asked me to send Congress a message — stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message — that cowards cut and run, Marines never do," Schmidt said.That is disgusting. Moreover, it is exactly what Democrats want to hear. They want to believe that Murtha's critics are venal and small-minded, rather than opposed to the Pennsylvania's Democrat's bad facts and flawed logic. Rep. Schmidt should be ashamed of herself.
I should also point out that I first saw the quote from Rep. Schmidt on Michelle Malkin's blog, where it was reposted without any criticism. I hope that Michelle will correct that mistake.
UPDATE: Political Teen (via MM) has a video of Rep. Schmidt's statement. Sadly, PT seems to think this sort of ad hominem attack is a good thing. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
"We have nothing but respect for Congressman Murtha's service to his country," White House communications director Nicolle Wallace told NBC's "Today" show Friday. "And I think he spoke from the heart yesterday. We happen to have a real serious policy disagreement with him."Absolutely correct. But it is also important to point out, as Joe Malchow does (with perhaps a little more vitriol than necessary), that Murtha has been speaking out against the war for some time now.
He called for a strict timetable for withdrawal this past June and called the war "unwinnable" in May of 2004. Thus, the flurry of media coverage surrounding yesterday's speech -- including the lead story on NBC Nightly News -- is somewhat inappropriate. Murtha's record as a hawk is real, but it is in the past.
And it is past I am quite familiar with as a result of my doctoral dissertation. In the 1980s, Murtha was one of very few Democrats who consistently supported Ronald Reagan's controversial policies toward El Salvador and Nicaragua. At the time, there was no better test of a congressman's hawkishness. But now it is seems like ancient history.
UPDATE: Jason Broander has live-blogged tonight's debate about withdrawal, provoked by Murtha's comments.
UPDATE: Instapundit has multiple posts making the same point as Joe, i.e. that Murtha has been against the war for some time now. Glenn also links to this post from GatewayPundit, which drives home the fact that if journalists made a little more use of LexisNexis that wouldn't get so many things wrong. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I believe we've done everything we can do. I believe we have become the enemy. And I'll tell you this: The Iraqis are not going to do the fighting unless we turn it over to them...From the WaPo article "Three Bombings in Iraq Kill More than 90":
BAGHDAD, Nov. 18 -- Suicide bombers killed at least 90 worshipers Friday inside two Shiite Muslim mosques northeast of the capital near the Iranian border, and a pair of car bombs outside a Baghdad hotel that houses foreign journalists destroyed a nearby apartment building and left several more people dead.No, we are not the enemy. Those were not American mosques that the terrorists bombed today. They were Iraqi mosques. Shi'ite mosques. Muslim mosques.
Rep. Murtha is also incorrect to say that the Iraqis are not fighting themselves. They need us there, but even more of their soldiers and policemen are dying, in addition to the thousands of Shi'ites murdered by terrorists.
Yet Rep. Murtha is right that there were no suicide bombings in Iraq before our soldiers arrived. That is because when the Sunnis held power, their secret police could bring their victims to their torture chambers. Now they have to slaughter women and children in public.
I believe that Rep. Murtha's opposition to the war rests on a fundamental misunderstanding of what is happening in Iraq. Murtha is a tremendous public servant, but on the issue of the war, his facts and logic are profoundly flawed. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:56 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Don't know how many of you caught Rep. John Murtha's very angry, very moving speech just now in which he called on the White House to institute an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. CNN didn't air the entire thing, but as I listened to it, I could feel the ground shift. Murtha, as you know, is not a Pelosi-style Chardonnay Democrat; he's a crusty retired career Marine who reminds me of the kinds of beer-slugging Democrats we used to have before the cultural left took over the party. Murtha, a conservative Dem who voted for the war, talked in detail about the sacrifices being borne by our soldiers and their families, and about his visits out to Walter Reed to look after the maimed, and how we've had enough, it's time to come home...It would seem that conservatives aren't exactly following Dreher's advice, since
Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) declared: "Murtha and Democratic leaders have adopted a policy of cut and run. They would prefer that the United States surrender to the terrorists who would harm innocent Americans. To add insult to injury, this is done while the president is on foreign soil."That's low. There is a case to be made on the merits and that certainly isn't it. First and foremost, Murtha and others who want to withdraw have no good ideas for how to prevent a post-withdrawal Iraq from becoming another pre-9/11 Afghanistan. Murtha said that
All of Iraq must know that Iraq is free. Free from United States occupation. I believe this will send a signal to the Sunnis to join the political process for the good of a “free” Iraq.Absolutely not. The signal that our withdrawal will send is that terrorists can defeat a superpower. That is the signal we sent when we withdrew from Lebanon in 1983. That is the signal we sent when we withdrew from Somalia in 1993. This time, nothing will change.
And if terrorists -- Al Qaeda or Ba'athist -- can defeat a superpower, what possible incentive will they have to come to terms with the unprepared Iraqi army we have left behind?
Which brings is to an ethical question: What about our obligation to the people of Iraq? It would be nothing short of cruel to liberate them from Saddam only to abandon them now. Remember, they are also sacrificing their sons and daughters every day for the cause.
The Shi'ites and Kurds -- the overwhelming majority of the people of Iraq -- share our vision of Iraq's democratic future. That is the foundation of victory. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, November 17, 2005
# Posted 8:56 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:38 AM by Patrick Belton
My FBI : Bringing Down the Mafia, Investigating Bill Clinton,
and Fighting the War on Terror
by Louis J. Freeh
St Martin’s Press. 352 pp. $25.95.
Memoir is the literature of memory. When private and public memory touch, we have history’s first draft. The story of the Clinton administration has now been recounted by the president, the first lady, its two Secretaries of State, its first Secretary of Labor, its second Secretary of Treasury and its final Secretary of Energy. It is told here by its FBI director.
Suffice it to say at the Clinton administration’s going-down party there were no choruses sung of ‘for Freeh’s a jolly good fellow.’ The feelings were cordially requited. Mr Freeh is not a reticent man, and some hint of his sentiments toward his former employer comes across in this catalogue: ‘farcical,’ ‘unedited,’ ‘a bad movie,’ and, the unkindest blow, ‘master politician.’ It was not always this way. Freeh, impressed by Clinton’s charm and knowledge of the Bureau on their meeting, tells an anecdote of a jovial Clinton cross-examining one of the Freeh children, and writing a birthday note to another. Clinton, for his part, described Freeh as a law enforcement legend. But as in all love affairs, the end result was heartbreak and recrimination on both sides. The now-infamous White House pass which Freeh returned in late 1993 presaged the fall; by the time a special prosecutor was appointed for Whitewater, he would join that other judge Kenneth Starr as Clinton’s great adversary in Washington.
There was also the matter of a Bureau to run. He had been preparing to run it his entire life. Coming from a working-class Catholic background, he tellingly viewed the FBI as ‘a calling.’ Joining the Bureau after law school, he left it in 1981 for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York. He worked closely with assassinated Sicilian judge Giovanni Falcone on the prosecution of Salvatore Catalano and Gaetano Badalamenti, in these mafia cases finding a natural idiom of tough-talking street-smart wisecrackers on both offence and defence. (‘Some of the goons we dealt with were genuinely funny, some of them genuinely warm’: he never speaks so warmly about politicians.) He rounded out this gestation with a brief tour as a federal judge in the Southern District. His tenure would include not only the investigation of a president, but his search for the Iranian and Hezbollah operatives behind the 1996 Khobar Towers bombings on Saudi soil, which killed 19 U.S. servicemen. It is remarkable then that he did it so badly.
The classic criticisms are those of Richard Clarke and Ronald Kessler, supplemented by the report of the 9/11 Commission.* These ranged from the comparatively sanguine (though dedicated, his skills did not match the job; a former field agent, he micromanaged individual cases rather than leading a Bureau; not using a computer personally and in technology preferring a Smith & Wesson, he failed to grasp the importance of databases and computers for the FBI); to the damning (his managerial style was arrogant and cronyish; incompetent, he survived only because of a hobbled administration and the patronage of a Congress for whom he served as a penetration agent). He became well known in forays up Capitol Hill for ritual penitence for Bureau failures, subsequent deflection of guilt onto insufficient budget and staff, and at end walking away graced with a larger budget from Congress (which increased by 65 per cent during his tenure). The Commission found that while he increased the number of legal attaché offices abroad, there was no significant resource shift under him to counterterrorism, nor did field offices much view terrorism as a priority. Information systems were poor, intelligence collection ineffective, and the Counterterrorism Division he created faltered with paltry resources and mediocre analysts; his deputy, misinterpreting a 1995 Department of Justice guideline, informed agents that too much information sharing within the Bureau could be a career stopper. For Kessler, each of the FBI's embarrassments during his tenure is directly attributable to him; and his successor could not find a church willing to accept the Bureau’s 286 and 386 computers. For Clarke, he ignored terrorism and the bureaucratic reform and technological provision of his bureau, preferring instead to micromanage high-profile cases, and in the process inflicting serious damage to each. In Khobar, he depicts Freeh as an ingénue credulously duped by the fawning attentions of a Prince Bandar, and oblivious to broader containment policy against Iran conducted by the administration’s foreign policy levels. Freeh maintained a low profile after September 11, having left the directorship in late June to return to private life.
To those who had looked to this memoir to provide melodic counterpoint to these criticisms, this book will come as some disappointment. He describes his term blandly, reciting Bureau accomplishments in the argot of a press release. Nor should one look to this book for competing evidence to a reading of Freeh’s directorship as the spurning of lesser temptations as Osama Bin Laden to pursue what in different circumstances or lesser pages one might refer to as his Moby Dick, a president’s sex life. For rebuttal, Freeh offers us no more than to accuse Clarke of ‘bad facts, no access’ and of being a ‘second-tier player,’ and he makes no mention of the 9/11 Commission report whatever. The ‘second-tier player’ parry is less than effective given that in the text of the report Freeh receives five mentions, to Clarke’s forty nine (Freeh’s including one for being present at a briefing and two incidental mentions for remaining in the Bush administration, and then retiring). It is not Clarke who here appears as a bit player. Instead of answering his critics, Freeh then presents the Agincourt finger to the very public he took an oath to protect.
‘I never during my public service or afterward felt the slightest inclination to respond to the group of witless and mostly idle FBI critics who all believe they should lead this important government agency but would not have the fortitude or skill to do so. This assortment of knuckleheads—who inhabit government roles in some cases but mostly just stand on the sidelines—are wont to tell the real athletes, coaches, and referees what should be done in the arena without ever having put on a jersey themselves.’One presumes he means us. But that’s just the point: ‘My FBI,’ it wasn’t, and no quantity of loyalty or distinguished service changes that fact. One gets the sense Freeh prefers to take his American people as a mass to be protected by heroes of integrity, rather than citizens who might ask questions. This is the arrogance of office. His critics anyway were not convinced. During the writing of this review, Kessler commented to me that Freeh was ‘diverting attention from his colossal mismanagement of the FBI, and the fact it almost disintegrated under his leadership, by taking pot shots at Clinton.’ Clarke was somewhat more succinct: ‘I am not going to comment on Freeh's statements except to say that anyone interested in the truth can read the 9/11 Commission Report, with which I agree.’
Much more fun to slough blame. Like a dull boxer punching blind in all directions, we learn Clinton’s vertebra and not the chief domestic counterterrorist agency is at fault for 9/11: ‘what we lacked was the spine’ to take on Osama more directly. (Ironically, it was precisely Freeh’s sparring partner Clarke who after the Cole attack laid out the administration’s most formal proposal for an ultimatum to the Taliban to be backed up by argument of arms.) We learn the Wen Ho Lee debacle was not his fault but the New York Times’s and the ‘gods of political correctness.’ With Richard Jewell, this time it’s the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that’s culpable. Without self-consciousness he then complains ‘Washington is never short of politicians willing to off-load their own share of the blame.’
More interesting, though, is the glimpse here provided into the psychology of the last FBI director, what Freeh was in Freeh’s eyes. At times to his own mind he appears the Capetian St Louis, the stud-saint: ‘Maybe I was, in Clinton’s eyes, too much the altar boy I once had been.’ He notes to us his record of ‘winning convictions in some of the office’s highest-profile cases, in the nation’s highest-profile venue.’ And then the dual brag: ‘Just about the only times I ever took off the gun were when I slept – and then it was on the nightstand, just a hand’s reach away – and the early morning, when I went jogging.’ As a card-carrying ghostwriter, it was Howard Means’s task to edit away much of this, including such passages as ‘the brothers made a serious effort to involve us in good works … in my case, with spectacular results.’ Perhaps Freeh is not so full of himself; but it is how he permitted himself to be represented in these pages. The heroism of the passengers of September 11’s United 93, ordinary citizens who saved Washington, was of quieter stuff.
This tough guy self image is directed against somebody. He defines himself against Clinton like the inverse cut-out in a wax mould. His moral, which he does not risk repeating so infrequently we forget it, is ‘how politics can sometimes destroy judgment and corrupt moral sense.’ It’s the moral of most of his anecdotes, from a drug case tried before him compromised by a lying witness to a small kindness he once did for a mobster he was arresting. ‘Politics’, we are given to understand, is generally a prefiguring code word for Clinton; and ‘integrity’, for himself. It is thus a chillingly low blow when he cites the Holocaust as an example of politics overwhelming the police power. Future historians may find intriguing the disjunct between his self-definition as a ‘straitlaced Catholic kid, raised to respect authority’, and disdain for his boss. Amateur psychologists could sense a connection between the self-pitying turn of soul that produced the chapter title ‘You’re not really college material’ and the resentment and hatred toward privilege embodied in Clinton. The irony of course is that Clinton’s origins were as humble, and lay much farther from Manhattan; there may be here the makings of a play rather better than this memoir.
His relationship to the FBI – ‘my FBI’ – fits in somewhere here. In his more reflective moments, he tells us of a Bureau that has grown reactively more than logically, its powers granted more as corrective than preventative. He feels strongly about creation of an American MI-5 (‘loony notion’); which not wholly tangentially, would largely be carved out of the FBI. But in other paragraphs the book carries the misflavour of such saccharine declarations as ‘FBI agents – even just two of them – can make a difference.’ One gathers we’re meant to congratulate, or perhaps hug them. The FBI is a player in a tale that is culture wars all the way down: ‘I never learned to do good ol’ boy. My part of New Jersey is a long way from Hope, Arkansas.’ While at Rutgers more privileged students protested the Vietnam war, the prospective director was ‘paying for all those course hours myself.’ He says of his assistant U.S. attorneys, but could have been speaking of Clinton, ‘even Yale Law graduates need lots of watching.’ Rutgers, he remembers revealingly, ‘topped Princeton 6-4’ in the first American football fixture. Freeh’s gentlemanly respect for an adversary, so evident with mobsters, disappears when the adversary does not speak the demotic of the New York City streets.
When Clinton is off stage, he often writes with real feeling. He writes appealingly about his family’s history. His most engaging moments deal with anecdotes about New Jersey childhood and mob-busting. Among his other redeeming features, he is a resolute New Yorker. One gets the feeling he might be a nice enough man, if you could keep him away from Clintons. Students of the administration will learn in office his confidantes were the first President Bush, William Webster, and Robert Fiske from the SDNY attorney’s office. Similarly for his relationships with other members of his administration: he cordially dislikes Jim Woolsey, and unsuspensefully, Clarke. He liked George Tenet, John Deutch, Condoleezza Rice, Rudolph Giuliani, Bernie Nussbaum (to whom he owed his job), along with Gore, Ken Starr, and Attorney General Reno (with whom his relations were purportedly icy, but who comes in for kind words here). He also likes wise guys, and dead people (inevitably ‘heroes,’ more so if they might prefer him to Clinton.)
Mr Freeh may well be a delightful man, but he has written here an ugly book of political score settling. What is still worse, he has not even settled them very well. One wonders whether leading with the Khobar Towers is an attempt to outhawk his critics for September 11. Doing so at any rate produces a distorted narrative timeline in which Louis Freeh: 1. investigated the Khobar Towers against the frustrations of a president who preferred Saudi book money, 2. was born in New Jersey, and so forth. He criticises Clinton for seeking to get closer to the Iranians; Freeh by contrast had wanted to get closer to the Saudis. The Iranians had killed Americans; the Saudis were arguably about to. From the subtitle, one might still be left with the grudging impression the ordering of words reflects their hierarchy in the mind of the author as officeholder. There is no note of apology carried in the sentence, ‘Before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the largest single area of responsibility for the Bureau was white-collar crime.’ This from a director who in a moment of truly bureaucratic dullness of imagination claimed on 60 Minutes that even with adequate intelligence that did not specify date and time, nothing could have been done to prevent the September 11 hijackings. (The increased checks at airports, passengers will be gratified to know, are apparently for show.) When he writes ‘That’s what we learned on 9/11: al Qaeda is not the Cosa Nostra, and Osama bin Laden is not a John Gotti or a Ted Kaczynski,’ he means I.
As a personal recounting of a journey through a career in the FBI and federal bench, Mr Freeh’s memoir invigorates. As a rebuttal of serious criticisms levied at Director Freeh in the wake of September 11th in the report of the 9/11 Commission and writings of those who served in government with him, it disappoints badly. The book is also riddled with grapeshot of minor inaccuracies; Zug, for instance, is not in the Alps. Memory is truth’s cousin, with a complicated relationship; it is famously unfaithful as politicians. To return in the end to the author’s ensign allegation, in the director’s words,
The story that came back to me, from ‘usually reliable sources,’ as they say in Washington, was that Bill Clinton briefly raised the subject [of the Khobar Towers] only to tell the crown prince that he certainly understood the Saudis’ reluctance to cooperate. Then, according to my sources, he hit Abdullah up for a contribution to the still-to-be-built Clinton presidential library.What is clear from this passage is the following: 1. Louis Freeh was not in the room. 2. We do not know who was in the room (except it was not Freeh). 3. For all we know from the account he has given us, Mr Freeh heard this off a gentleman at a bar. No one has stepped forward to confirm the story’s authenticity. Coming from someone who has just told us he did not hold a White House pass, this sounds suspiciously like bad facts and no access. One wants to retort to the frequently engaging street-wise New York investigator: C’mon, Judge. You gotta give us better than that.
* Against All Enemies, by Richard Clarke, Free Press, 2004; Inside the FBI, by Ronald Kessler, St Martin's, 2002 (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
# Posted 12:01 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
# Posted 11:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Last month, Cindy Sheehan, the bereaved mother crusading against the Iraq war, posted an open letter on the website of left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore. Her latest target wasn't the man she staked out last summer--George W. Bush--but the new villain of the antiwar left: Hillary Clinton. Sheehan's letter excoriated Clinton for backing the Iraq war and for her refusal to call for a speedy withdrawal of U.S. troops. "That sounds like Rush Limbaugh to me. That doesn't sound like an opposition party leader speaking," Sheehan wrote. "I think [Clinton] is a political animal who believes she has to be a war hawk to keep up with the big boys."...(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Monday, November 14, 2005
# Posted 9:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Painting as unpatriotic those individuals who change their opinions simply for political reasons is wholly appropriate, and that is what Glenn stated. Reynolds is not, as Kevin Drum would have you believe, simply calling anyone against the war or anyone who believes that the the reasons used to go to war were inaccurate ‘unpatriotic.’It is wrong and offensive to argue that simply changing one's opinion is unpatriotic, regardless of the motive.
Let's assume for the sake of argument that most Democrats have come out against the invasion only because of the polls. This fact may demonstrate that the Democrats have no ideas of their own about foreign policy, but it isn't immoral. Public opinion has a democratic legitimacy of its own. Therefore, it is in no way unpatriotic for elected representatives to change sides in order to satisfy their constituents.
In democratic systems, there is an enternal tension between representation in terms of doing what the people want and representation in terms of doing what one believes is right. The role of politicians is to balance these competing demands on their allegiance.
This argument does not, however, contradict my assertion below that if the Democrats are consciously lying about the origins of the war, then one may consider them unpatriotic. The right to change positions does not entail a right to lie in order to defend that change of positions.
The reason, I think, that Kevin and Glenn are getting so angry at one another is that they are conflating these two arguments. Kevin paraphrases Glenn as saying that
Democrats who claim that George Bush misled us into war are being unpatriotic.At times, Glenn makes it clear that it is not the Democrats' claim per se that is unpatriotic, but rather the fact that it is false. Yet Glenn is also responsible in part for the confusion, since his initial post simply said that
The White House needs to go on the offensive here in a big way -- and Bush needs to be very plain that this is all about Democratic politicans pandering to the antiwar base, that it's deeply dishonest, and that it hurts our troops abroad.So what's wrong here? The pandering? The effect on the troops? Or the dishonesty? I hope that my efforts to explicate the differences between these arguments has shed some light on a very important debate. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I believe there is a substantial difference between "Your false charges are undermining the troops" and "Your criticism is undermining our troops".I agree with this argument in the abstract, although I don't think that it justifies what George Bush said. For Bush to be in the right, it should be transparently clear that his opponents are lying. I would argue that while the Democrats may not be telling the truth, it is not intentional. Instead, they have succumbed to confusion, short-sightedness, and unthinking resentment of the President.
Now I recognize that numerous conservatives see the case against the Democrats as black and white. Even according to Kevin Drum, who has lashed out at Glenn for slandering the Democrats' patriotism,
Liberals, for their part, need to accept the obvious: in 2002, virtually everybody believed Iraq had an active WMD program. The CIA believed it, as their October NIE made clear:Kevin adds that Bush lied in order to make his argument more persuasive, but that is secondary (and debatable). The key point is that leading Democrats supported the war because the evidence said Saddam had WMD. As Kevin pointed out long ago in an excellent post, opponents of the war argued that invading Iraq was a bad idea in spite of Saddam's possesion of WMD. For the Democrats to argue now that they supported the war because they were tricked is disingenuous at best.Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons....Iraq has maintained its chemical weapons effort, energized its missile program, and invested more heavily in biological weapons....has largely rebuilt missile and biological weapons facilities.... has begun renewed production of mustard, sarin, GF (cyclosarin), and VX....most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf war.The British believed the same thing. The Germans and French believed it. Former Clinton administration officials believed it. Lots of Democratic members of congress believed it. They were all wrong, it turned out, but they weren't lying. The simple fact is that virtually everyone who had access to the full range of classified intelligence at that point in time thought Iraq had an active WMD program.
Even Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus, the WaPo correspondents whose "Analysis" column distorted the President's statments, admit in that selfsame column that
The administration's overarching point is true: Intelligence agencies overwhelmingly believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and very few members of Congress from either party were skeptical about this belief before the war began in 2003. Indeed, top lawmakers in both parties were emphatic and certain in their public statements.So what am I holding out against? When not just conclude that the Democrats are lying and therefore unpatriotic? I guess it turns on the Democrats' precise words. John Edwards wrote in yesterday's WaPo that
The intelligence was deeply flawed and, in some cases, manipulated to fit a political agenda...Going back to another post from Kevin, I think it's fair to suggest that the administration may have withheld certain information and/or misrepresented it. This missing information wouldn't have done much to disrupt the overwhelming consensus that Saddam had WMD, but it justifies saying that we didn't have the "whole story".
So what Edwards is doing here isn't lying, but rather relying on rhetorical sleight-of-hand. He points to the missing information, but totally ignores the overwhelming evidence which suggested Saddam had WMD and which was the basis of his support for the war.
This is playing dirty, but not lying. Or am I just splitting hairs? I guess where I come down on this whole issue is that attacking an opponent's patriotism is so serious that it shouldn't be done unless the case for the prosecution is open and shut. Period. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Well aware of how provocative his message was, Bush prefaced it by saying that "it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war." He nonetheless concluded that
The stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the national interest is too important, for politicians to throw out false charges. These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will.The first thing Bush should have known was that these two sentences would become the next day's headlines, overshadowing all of the other important messages in his long (50 minutes) and otherwise well-crafted speech.
The next thing Bush should have known is that the media instinctively side with those who have their patriotism questioned. It doesn't matter that Bush avoided using harsh words such as 'treasonous' or 'unpatriotic'. He was setting himself up for a fall.
If the President had been wiser, he would've focused on a simple and straightforward message: that the Democrats are lying. Bush was in a very good position to claim the moral high ground in spite of lesser flaws in the administration's case for war, such as the aluminum tubes debate.
But now the discussion has become about whether Bush went too far instead of about whether the Democrats are lying. The strongest point in Bush's favor is, of course, the Democrats' own lavish statements about the threat Saddam Hussein presented because of his weapons of mass destruction.
In his speech, Bush quoted John Kerry' statement that
"When I vote to give the President of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat, and a grave threat, to our security."In its major story on the speech, the WaPo at least noted this critical aspect of Bush's argument and republished half of the quote from Kerry. In contrast, the NYT made no mention of the Kerry quote, although it did report with consummate detachment that
Mr. Bush asserted that Democrats as well as Republicans believed before the invasion in 2003 that Saddam Hussein possessed banned weapons.As if it were only an "assertion" that the Democrats believed Saddam had WMD. But this is what happens when a president attacks his opponents' patriotism. The substance of his arguments gets ignored.
Often, the substance of a president's argument gets ignored even when he comports himself with greater decorum. But this time the president had a strong hand to play, and he could've thrown the Democrats back on the defensive if he hadn't let his anger get the better of him. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:12 PM by Patrick Belton
My first banlieue article hits the press today. Please let me know what you think! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:57 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
(And, no, I'm not cherry-picking. I got this photo from the Washington Post website 20 minutes ago. Click here and go to photo #9.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:31 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
[BOB] SCHIEFFER: Senator, if there's anybody in this country that's an expert on prisoners of war -- I mean you spent about five years in that hotel run by the Vietnamese in Hanoi. Why do you feel so strongly about [torture]?Even though I am a very, very, very big fan of McCain, there's really no excuse for this kind of pandering. It's not as if Bob Schieffer and Elisabeth Bumiller don't know how to ask tough questions. They do it all the time. But McCain gets a pass.
One reason for that pass is that journalists like to use McCain as a foil for Bush. They bring him on the show or do an interview because all they really want is for a popular Republican to contradict the president. In other words, they're not interested in taking a careful look at exactly what McCain thinks and why.
But you also have to consider McCain's reputation as a straight-shooter. He makes journalists feel that he'll give them the truth even if they don't ask tough questions or lay elaborate traps, a la Tim Russert. In addition, McCain cultivates an aura of self-awareness that journalists' value tremendously. Consider this:
Ms. BUMILLER: Senator, let me ask you about a recent poll that shows you neck and neck with former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for the Republican nomination, and you're just edging out Hillary Clinton for the presidency. When are you going to make a decision and what is your thinking right now about a campaign?A lot of scholars have observed that Ronald Reagan made journalists like him by being self-deprecating. But McCain takes this a very important step further by being self-aware, for example talking about his own ego.
In an earlier post about spin doctors, I argued that self-awareness is the attribute that journalists value most highly. One might object that the cost of being that honest is greater than the benefits. After all, look at what journalists did to Howard Dean after "the scream".
However, McCain's success demonstrates that you can be a media darling for years on end if you know how to play your cards right. What I really want to know is whether McCain will keep getting the kid glove treatment once he is actually running against a Democrat for president.
In the primaries, I'd say it's a foregone conclusion that McCain will get better press coverage than any of his opponents. But in a general election, journalists will begin to realize -- subconsciously, in most cases -- that giving McCain good coverage may actually result in the Republicans holding onto the White House.
Until now, lionizing McCain has had minimal costs. I can't wait to see what happens when the rubber hits the road. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:01 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
I think Dean did a better job of seeming honest because he often really is. But I also began to get the sense that Dean has become too comfortable with the Beltway regimen of giving talking points instead of answers. Like Mehlman, Dean sometimes rushed to reel off what sounded like a clever answer instead of taking Russert's questions seriously.
I guess Dean has found himself between a rock and a hard place. The media adored him at first then punished him for being too forthcoming. Now he may be too well-prepared and not spontaneous enough. Then again, what politician has discovered the Golden Mean of both disarming candor and message discipline? Answer: John McCain.
Anyhow, what I wanted to do in this post is look at one specific answer that Dean gave to Russert:
MR. RUSSERT: The other issue that the Republicans still have the upper hand with Democrats, strong moral values; 35 percent see the Republicans are better on that issue. Only 18 percent of Democrats. And maybe that's why we're hearing radio ads like this that the Tim Kaine, Democratic gubernatorial candidate and governor-elect in Virginia, ran for his campaign. Let's listen.That was a cute answer about Jewish Democrats not embracing Christ. But it is also an indication of how most Democrats' immediate response to religious rhetoric is to start worrying about who it excludes.(Audiotape, Tim Kaine for governor advertisement):MR. RUSSERT: And then John Kerry, last week, talking about the budget, said it was immoral; "There is not anywhere in the three-year ministry of Jesus Christ, anything that remotely suggests--not one miracle, not one parable, not one utterance--that says you ought to cut children's health care or take money from the poorest people in our nation to give it to the wealthiest people in our nation."
Notice how Dean immediately recast Kaine and Kerry's embrace of Christ as an embrace "of tolerance and of inclusion." Dean seems to be missing the much bigger point that excessive talk about tolerance and inclusion is precisely what's responsible for making it seem that the Democrats have no fixed values.
Also notice how, in the second half of his answer, Dean equates a concern for values with school lunch programs and health care policy. Yes, there is a moral element to providing food and medicine for the needy. But what the Democrats never seem to get is that voters with an interest in values are concerned precisely about those issues that can't be resolved by spending more money.
When Democrats translate values into money, it reinforces their image as the party that ignores the spiritual dimension of life and responds to every challenge it faces with a reflexive desire to tax and spend.
Now, I do appreciate the Democratic dilemma here. If the party wants to establish itself as the party of values, it can't really do that by touting its pro-choice and pro-gay rights agenda, because "values voters" tend to be pro-life and uncomfortable with gay rights.
I won't pretend that I have a good answer for the Democrats. But I would say that the party needs to think long and hard about its core values, so it doesn't have to fall back on economic answers to ethical questions. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, November 13, 2005
# Posted 11:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
If you just read the transcript, I don't think you'll get a good sense of just how defensive and disingenuous Mehlman sounded -- and this is coming from someone who agrees with almost everything Mehlman said.
Some of the best advice I've gotten about job interviews is to pause before answering every question. The point is to show the person doing the interview that you're really thinking about the substance of their question. In fact, it is a good idea to take advantage of that pause to really think about the question and how to be most responsive to it before firing off your preferred answer.
Mehlman did exactly the opposite. He rushed to answer every question Russert threw at him but evaded the questions' actual substance. For example:
MR. RUSSERT: But isn't there a cloud over the Bush presidency because of Iraq? The administration said he was reconstituting his nuclear program. Not true. It said there would be vast stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. Not true. He said we'd be greeted as liberators. Not true. Isn't Iraq a political problem for this president?If I were going to write a how-to manual for spin doctors ("Spin Doctoring for Dummies?") its first principle would be that journalists value self-awareness above all else. Journalists see themselves as being the only profession committed to exposing the manipulation inherent in everything about politics. Thus, they tend to show the most respect to those who are also willing to talk about politics as a game. Conversely, journalists resent most those who play the game without admitting what it is.
When you get a question like the one Russert asked Mehlman above, the first thing to do is acknowledge the question's premise: "Yes, Tim. I can see how someone might think that the absence of WMD in Iraq lends credibility to the Democrats' accusations. But if you take a closer look, you'll see that..."
Journalists think of themselves as committed to carefully weighing all of the evidence for and against everything. Therefore, politicians and their spokesman must, at minimum, go through the motions of showing uncertainty and weighing the evidence.
At times, the journalist's brand of uncertainty can border on the pathological. George Bush could never have discovered the importance of moral clarity by taking lessons from journalists. But I firmly believe that even if he advocated the exact same policies, Bush could get much better coverage from journalists if he presented his arguments in the style with which journalists are comfortable. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Instead of asking Abdullah why he continues to rule with an iron fist while democracy awakens in Lebanon and Iraq, Russert instead tried to force the king to admit that he was much more pro-American than his subjects.
Well, obviously. But the real question is, what should Abdullah and America do about it? George Bush argues consistently but controversially that bringing democracy to the Muslim/Arab world will transform its peoples' attitudes towards the United States of America.
Bush's critics that the liberalization of Muslim/Arab dictatorships may accomplish nothing more than bringing jihadist regimes to power. I disagree, but it is a very important point to discuss in detail.
And what better case in point than Jordan? Russert could've challenged Abdullah to give his people the freedom they deserve. Or he could've asked Abdullah whether the only alternative to his rule is a jihadist republic. Either way, Russert missed a critical opportunity. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Saturday, November 12, 2005
# Posted 5:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Although I can connect to the Internet thanks to my trusted Linksys G wireless card, the connection fails every few seconds. And then returns. And then fails. And then returns. And so on and so forth.
On the bright side, I can check my e-mail and do other basic tasks. But any program that requires sustained connectivity -- iTunes, for example -- is now semi-functional at best.
Just now, I spent an hour and forty-five minutes on the phone with Microsoft technical support. I must admit, I'm very impressed that the technical rep kept up a positive attitude for the entire time I was talking to her. But I think I would've accepted a lesser attitude in exchange for a solution to my problem.
On the off chance that any of you have endured a similar problem while upgrading to XP, please let me know. Until then, I will attempt to maintain my sanity via the continuous consumption of alcohol. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:35 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 3:00 PM by Patrick Belton
OxBlog (in Mandarin): very nice music, isn't it
Panhandler (in French): money, please
Helpful Pausing Postman: this gentleman is wondering if you happened to have a euro.
OxBlog: it's a very intriguing proposition, but I'm not yet convinced.
Algerian Secretary then exited from the crowd to join this interesting conversation and perhaps offer Arabic translation services. It was, after all, a Friday in Paris, and no one seemed terribly eager to make the subway connection to leave it and go home. So, I suggested to the Postman and the Secretary that we go out for a drink, not solely because it seemed like the sort of random and aesthetic thing one does in Paris. As we wondered through the rues of the northern 8eme, the Secretary then shared her ambition to become a jazz singer and started demonstrating by singing us jazz standards, as we walked out toward adventure, fraternité and the Guinness which upon learning my name my comrades fretted I must instantly be given as a matter of the greatest urgency, or likely death would result. We paused by the nice gentleman speaking about Jesus so the Secretary could share that as an entirely assimilated Algerian, she didn't like the Qur'an at all on literary grounds, and much preferred the Bible of the Christianity to which she converted so that as a better assimilated Frenchwoman, she would instead have it as the religion she didn't believe in.
After much adventure, the scene ended up as follows.
parisienne: you're depressed. i can see it in your eyes.
oxblog: no. it's just 4 am, it's cold and raining on the champs, and i'm in shirt sleeves.
parisienne: tell me about all this pain of yours. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, November 11, 2005
# Posted 2:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
But what would it sound like for a Democrat to talk about religion in a positive and persuasive manner? All too often, calculated efforts to talk positively about religion come across as just that -- calcuated. (For example, take a look at Hillary Clinton's ostentatious but maddeningly vague references to religious values in her autobiography.)
But a few days ago, I was listening to Brian Williams talk to Jimmy Carter on C-SPAN. The subject was Carter's new book, Our Endangered Values. While talking about the separation between church and state, Carter referred in passing to "Jesus Christ, whom I worship."
Carter's total comfort and sincerity with these words is what Democrats are searching for. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
For example, Tom Coburn talked to Tim Russert just after the end of Russert's discussion with Ted Kennedy. Russert immediately tripped up the Oklahoma Republican by pointing out his promise to oppose any Supreme Court nominee who refused to outlaw partial-birth abortion. But then after Alito was nominated, Coburn declared his opposition to any single-issue litmus test.
If I felt like it, there's plenty more in the Coburn interview to poke fun at. But what it comes down to is that Kennedy has a reputation as a man of principle and a deep thinker, whereas the media tends to portray Coburn as a not-all-there extremist (except when Coburn criticizes the Bush's profligate spending).
All I can promise is that if the media starts heralding Coburn as a genius, OxBlog will be the first to expose his idiocy. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Thanks to the magic of podcasting, I got to listen to West even though I missed the original broadcast. (The URL for the After Words podcast is: <http://www.c-span.org/podcast/aw_feed.xml>. For a full list of C-Span podcasts, click here.)
West describes the intensity of the battles for Fallujah in a way that makes you tense and angry just listening to him. In urban combat, there is no choice but to go house to house, fighting at almost point-blank range. Each house is a darkened maze that renders every soldier in it vulnerable to brutal surprise. As West wrote last month in the WaPo,
Fallujah first leaped to national attention last November when it became the scene of the fiercest urban combat in the past 35 years. During that battle, 100 Marine squads engaged in more than 200 firefights inside small, dark cement rooms against suicidal jihadists. A single such ferocious gunfight between police and gangs anywhere in America would receive overwhelming and immediate press attention. The Marines did that 200 times in one week in Fallujah.But the courage and competence of the US Marines gets little attention because it is so commonplace. We faithfully count the number of soldiers killed in Iraq, but give little recognition to their incredible heroism and bravery. Perhaps that would be a better way to honor their sacrifice. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Ladles out plenty of blame but largely defends what she still considers a fair piece of reporting, although an independent panel accused CBS of having "failed miserably" to authenticate the documents before rushing the story to air.Now, if you follow Kurtz's story to its end on page C12, you will notice that there is a second, entirely separate discussion of Mapes' book by Paul Farhi, who writes that:
It's entirely possible that Mapes was wrong -- very wrong -- about Bush's military record. But that's still only theoretical...Now back to Kurtz:
Linda Mason, a CBS News senior vice president, said Mapes was fired because "her basic reporting was faulty. She relied on documents that could not be authenticated -- you could never authenticate a Xeroxed copy. She led others who trusted her down the wrong road." ...Personally, I trust Kurtz's account more than Farhi's. Kurtz covered this story from the beginning and constantly provides first-rate coverage of the media. Plus, my own knowledge of the situation suggests that Kurtz is right. But some people will believe Farhi, because he is also a WaPo staff writer who covers the media.
The bottom line here is that journalists have a habit of presenting their own subjective, sometimes wild, interpretations as the unvarnished truth. It is precisely that habit that got Mary Mapes into so much trouble. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion