Politics postsThursday September 04, 2008
Quick thoughts on last night: Sarah Palin is the best speaker the Republicans have trotted out but she's also a bully, and someone who obviously enjoys being a bully. And we've just had eight years of two of the biggest bullies who have ever held the highest offices in the land — and look where it's gotten us. How many more enemies can we afford to make?
As for her joke about the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull — that the hockey mom wears lipstick? I know it's a joke but: Why does a hockey mom need to be a pit bull? Who is she attacking? Who is she biting? The coach? The other kids? Her own kids?
And since when did any leader of ours want to be a pit bull or a bully? When did that become a positive? Are we still such a sad, scared little country that we need to keep electing these people?
Talkin' RNC Blues
Sounds like a great show last night at the Parkway Theater near Lake Nokomis in South Minneapolis. My friend Jim Walsh hosting Billy Bragg, Tom Morello, Ike Reilly, others. David Carr taking notes. Read about it here. I'll post Carr's stuff when it arrives.
UPDATE: As promised, Dave Carr's piece.
Who's Whining Now?
So the McCain camp says that criticisms of Sarah Palin are sexist. Here.
So John McCain pulls out of a CNN interview with Larry King because earlier CNN anchorwoman Campbell Brown asked McCain spokesperson Tucker Bounds about Palin's command experience, and kept pressing when he didn't answer, and McCain felt this was “over the line.” Here.
Quick question: When did the GOP begin to exhibit all the traits they've publicly deplored over the last three decades?
Talk about a nation of whiners.
The Smart Candidate
I just finished the second part of Suskind’s book (I’m a slow reader) and it’s overwhelming: the places he takes us, the people he interviews, the analysis he comes up with. All of these different forces clashing in an attempt to either stabilize or destabilize the world. Destabilizing is the easy part, of course — any fool can knock over a sand castle — which is why the process of stabilization is so fraught. The way it's been politicized hasn’t helped.
Here's the bad news: the experts agree that you can’t patrol it all. They live in fear of the nightmare scenario, “The Armageddon Test,” for which the second part of the book is named: Terrorists exploding a nuke in a large western city. The Brits have their experts trying to prevent this, the U.S. has theirs. One gets the feeling that an undue burden has been placed on these men while the rest of us dick around. Never have so few done so much for so many watching “American Idol.”
At one point, Suskind interviews Saad al-Faqih, a surgeon from Saudi Arabia, who is on the U.S.’s list of those who have provided material support to al Qaeda, and who says that the goal of 9/11 was “always to create deep polarization between America and the Muslim world,” and that 9/11 mastermind Ayman Zawahiri “understood precisely the cowboy passions of the American establishment.” Another money graph:
Of course, not everything went as planned. The swift fall of the Taliban and the elimination of nearly 80 percent of al Qaeda’s manpower in Afghanistan surprised both bin Laden and Zawahiri, who expected America to fall into a quagmire as the Russians had in the 1980s. By the middle of 2002, they were both dispirited, on the run, living in caves, with their top lieutenants scattered. “Which is why Iraq was the greatest gift,” Saad says. “It proved to the world that it was, in fact, always America’s mission to get Muslims, especially when your stated reasons for that invasion were shown to be hollow.”
As for the future? Al Qaeda’s goals include what Zawahiri calls “the pacification stage,” where the U.S., disconsolate, withdraws from the world. Suskind doesn’t really buy the possibility of this, although the U.S. has always had its isolationist elements; then he asks himself this key question: “I wonder what bin Laden and Zawahiri are hoping the United States won’t do?”
Exactly. What is the smart response? So far, our response hasn’t been smart at all.
Which leads me to the “60 Minutes” broadcast last night. Steve Kroft interviewed Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Kroft came at them, and specifically at Barack, with a lot of frivolous questions — beer and bowling — and then he came at him with some frivolous but volatile questions. Was he tough enough for the job? Why didn’t he mention that he was black during his acceptance speech? Shouldn’t he be further ahead in the polls than he is? For this last, Obama said:
This is gonna be a rough, tough battle. The Republicans don't govern very well but they know how to campaign. And, you know, what I would expect is that it's gonna take-mid-October before a whole lot of people start making up their minds. And there's nothing wrong with that. This notion that somehow this should be a cakewalk and I should just walk into the election with a 10, 15 point lead, I think doesn't give the American people enough credit. They wanna get this thing right.
To the black question:
Yeah, I think people noticed that.
As for tough enough?:
The fact that I don't go out of my way to call people names, or try to take cheap shots, and that I try not to throw the first punch, but to see if I can find a way to work together with people, sometimes leads people to underestimate what I've got. I think it's fair to say that if I couldn't not only take a punch, but occasionally throw one, I wouldn't be sitting here.
And I came away thinking: This man is so smart. No matter what Steve Kroft threw at him, he turned it into a smart response. Which is exactly what we need. During the next four years, when the worst elements of the world throw what they can at us, we need the smart response, instead of the response, full of cowboy passions, that plays right into al Qaeda’s hands.
“F**k it. We're going in.”
Sometimes you come across a disconnect so profound it almost gives you whiplash.
The cover story in this morning’s New York Times Magazine, by Peter Baker, presumably an excerpt from his upcoming book, concerns Bush’s final days in office, and the beginning of the article focuses on the McCain campaign’s attempt to distance itself from this most unpopular president. At the end of the first section, Mark Salter, McCain’s campaign advisor, says this about the President: “You feel bad for the guy if you think about it.” This leads to the first line of the second section:
George Bush does not want anyone feeling bad for him.
Allow me to back up for a second. Yesterday I came across the money portion of Ron Suskind’s The Way of the World. Suskind is writing about all the end-arounds the Bush administration performed in the lead-up to the Iraq war: ignoring George Tenet and the CIA to get the 16 words into the State of the Union address; using the CIA chief of station for Germany to muzzle German fears about the unreliability of Rafid Ahmed, or “Curveball,” who was feeding the administration misinformation about Saddam’s biological weapons operation; and, finally, not just ignoring but actually reversing the findings of the CIA Paris chief, who was told, in a clandestine meeting with Naji Sabri, Saddam’s last foreign minister, that Saddam didn’t possess WMD.
Then Suskind gets to the big one. In a casual conversation with an American intelligence officer in a Washington restaurant, and subsequently confirmed in face-to-face meetings with the former director and current assistant director of MI6, Suskind discovers that the Bush administration knew Saddam didn’t possess WMD before they went to war. They didn’t suspect. They knew.
In the months before the war, it seems a British agent, Michael Shipster, met with the head of Iraqi intelligence, Tahir Jalil Habbush, who confirmed everything we subsequently found to be true: Not just that Saddam didn’t have WMD but why he was unwilling to say so publicly. And it all made sense. Here’s Suskind talking with the unnamed American intelligence officer:
I ask if the intelligence was passed to CIA and the White House.
“Of course. Passed instantly, at the very highest levels.”
“And what did we say,” I ask. “Or, I guess, what did Bush say?”
“He said, Fuck it. We’re going in.”
Don’t know if that’s a direct quote or not. Either way, it’s probably a good thing George Bush doesn’t want anyone feeling bad for him.