Friday, March 24, 2006

 

"Vladi You're Doing a Heckuva Job..."

...or something like that:


Before the United States went to war with Iraq in 2003, the Russian ambassador gave specific details of the planned action to Iraqi officials, according to a description of the meeting in Iraqi documents obtained by the U.S. government.

The account included the specific number of troops, tanks, fighter planes and cruise missiles, along with other highly sensitive information.

"That they would actually pass such specific information to the Iraqis that could possibly compromise our troops and put them at risk, that is frustrating and it is disturbing," said former U.S. Army Gen. Jack Keane, now an ABC News consultant.
FLASHBACK: June 16th, 2001, President Bush on Russian President Vladimir Putin:
"I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue.

"I was able to get a sense of his soul.

"He's a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country and I appreciate very much the frank dialogue and that's the beginning of a very constructive relationship," Mr Bush said.
Well, I guess being half-right is not too bad: Vladimir Putin is "deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country..."

It just happens that there was never any particular reason to assume that simply trusting and hoping that another nation's best interest will somehow automatically coincide with America's --without some sort of independently objective guage for succes.

Or "Doveryai no proveryai," as someone once said
a long time ago in a place far, far away.

So, one more person that the president has decided to trust implicitly -- particularly with respect to Iraq -- and that person's words don't seem to square with reality.


True, there is nothing in the ABC story to suggest -- yet -- that Putin knew that his ambassador to Iraq was assisting Saddam in gathering intelligence on the U.S. invasion plan.

However President Putin was a
career member of the KGB. Something tells me he knows only too well what all of his underlings are doing.


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Pretty Hate Machine

Editor & Publisher has the basic rundown on the Ben Domenech/"Red America" saga.

Ben responds
here, with this interesting passage:

The truth is, no conservative could write for the Post without being subject to the gauntlet of the liberal attack machine. There is no question in my mind that any RedState contributor writing for this blog would have found leftists delving through his high school yearbooks and grade school book reports in an effort to discredit and defame him. And if you too were a sloppy teenage writer, your errors or the errors of others would’ve been exploded.
I don't wish to harp on this because what's done is done.

However, it needs to be said: The above statement is just plain wrong. Given the circumstances, I can understand Ben feeling besieged. Some of the comments directed against him were just plain inappropriate (exactly how does Ben's father
being connected to Jack Abramoff have anything to do with the appropriateness -- or lack thereof -- of Ben's initial hiring by washingtonpost.com?). However, blaming the "liberal attack machine" for this sad tale is as ridiculous as, yes, a certain one-time First Lady blaming a "vast right-wing conspiracy."

When a celebrity tumbles (and especially when a soldier on one side or another of the ideological divide falls), it is rarely the "media" -- old, new or otherwise -- that is to blame (the dirty truth is that the media is the true uniting force -- everyone hates us): Dan Rather -- a large target for years --
finally gave his ideological foes a sword with which to slice him up. With ideological blinders on, he committed professional suicide.

Ben hasn't been around long-enough to get the number of enemies that Rather acquired of decades, but he was identified as a symptom of the Left's belief in a Right Wing Wurlitzer that intimidates the "MSM" into acceding to conservative demands (read Kos, Atrios or any number of other liberal sites). Thus, the liberals were inspired into action -- just as the right would be if one of Daily Kos' bigwigs was given a prime spot in an MSM outlet). But, considering that washingtonpost.com's "mother", The Washington Post not only runs, but syndicates George Will and Charles Krauthammer PLUS has centrists like Jim Hoagland on its editorial pages and regularly publishes Bill Kristol, it stretches credibility to say that "no conservative could write for the Post" without being targeted by the "liberal attack machine."

We live in a very politicized, emotional, passion-filled era and the media are front and center on the battleground. That is a fact. Rather had been a bete noire of The Right for decades. The Left has picked up the previously only-province of the Right, media criticism, as a way to understand why their side is not getting a fair hearing. There is a distinct belief -- on both sides -- that controlling the means of delivery of the debate is the key to winning the debate itself. Thus, there is a zero-sum game: The placement of a recognized conservative at the washingtonpost.com means that a liberal voice might be squeezed out. As if the Internet itself doesn't invite a near infinite multitude of voices. Indeed, washingtonpost.com has more blog-ish columns than the next half-dozen major papers. Ironically, the fact that this scrap happened is a credit to The Washington Post. Its Web-site is not only a place for information and opinion, it is part of the tensions and vociferous debate that characterizes today's politics. (As opposed to that Grey Lady behind the Select wall.) This is war, after all, and no holds are barred.

But forget about the "liberal attack machine." As with all such public falls from grace, the "other side" can't oust someone. The final push always comes from within. Which is what happened early Friday when Michelle Malkin and other conservatives felt that -- whatever the reason -- the evidence of plagiarism was too strong to ignore. The sentiment over at National Review Online was similar. The consenus: Ben had made a serious mistake and blaming it on either attacking liberals or the sloppiness of his youth just didn't quite cut it.

Ben will bounce back. He is an entrepreneur (with RedState) and has proven himself successful in a variety of jobs (though I imagine his employers at Regnery will want some guarantees that all plagiarism clouds surrounding one of their editors is solidly in the past). At 24, he has many years to grow and learn from this. In the meantime, it may be asking too much, but it would be nice if the Blogocracy of all political views started asking itself (themselves) exactly what is appropriate in going after ideological opponents -- or the institution which chooses to hire them. Is it just their views (accepting by the way, that exposing a writer's alleged plagiarism is totally within bounds)? Should family members be brought in as collateral damage? And should there be a sense of what the target is? Were liberals going after Ben Domenech -- or was washingtonpost.com the target, pressuring the site into not recognizing conservatives' request for "balance"?

If so, was Ben Domenech actually the collateral damage in this latest skirmish in the 21st Century Media Wars?
UPDATE: I seriously understated NRO's reaction to Domenech who served as both an intern and a movie reviewer at different times in the National Review world. Here's what just a cursory review of some of Ben Domenech's NRO work produced.

UPDATE II: Several hours after the "liberal attack machine" message (presumably influenced by the the NRO material being made public), Ben Domenech put up this message:
I want to apologize to National Review Online, my friends and colleagues here at RedState, and to any others that have been affected over the past few days. I also want to apologize to my previous editors and writers whose work I used inappropriately and without attribution. There is no excuse for this - nor is there an excuse for any obfuscation in my earlier statement.
I hope that nothing I've done as a teenager or in my professional life will reflect badly on the movement and principles I believe in.
I'm deeply grateful for the love and encouragment of all those around me. And although I may not deserve such support, it makes it that much more humbling at a time like this. I'm a young man, and I hope that in time that I can earn a measure of the respect that you have given me.
And Mike Krempasky speaks to the matter, "On Behalf of Red State:
A young man took something and called it his own. He owes apologies to those writers, his editors, and especially his friends who have rushed to his defense in the past 48 hours. It is an embarrassing offense -- and one rightly criticized.
All of the leadership of RedState has struggled mightily over the past few days, and have tried at every step to take the right course of action. Now that the story is complete, we can move on. If you, as many have done, dedicate thousands of man-hours to scrutinizing of his life's work, you'll find two things: First, you'll find several instances of this behavior, some attributable to youth, and some not. Second, you'll find an amazingly talented writer, a man of principle, and an earnest young activist seeking not to advance himself -- though advance he did -- but the things he believed in.
Certainly it may seem strange today to describe him as a "man of principle." But those who know Ben -- and all of us on the RS leadership team do -- know that he is passionate in his beliefs. They also know that he is human. It was ignoring this humanity that led to our earlier posts about the situation. It is fitting then, that he chose “Augustine” as his nom de plume here at RedState – for who could serve as a better reminder of the full potential of fallibility and sin – and yet existing within that peril - real hope of forgiveness.
And for his failing, his career is in ruins, and his public reputation is in tatters. It is a long road back for Ben Domenech. And he's going to pay a steep price to regain lost trust among colleagues, readers, and friends.
And you know what? He'll take the time to wander in the wilderness as he rightly should. He'll walk that road. The least the rest of us can do is be waiting for him at its end. So today, the world thinks ill of Ben Domenech. But perhaps it should step back a bit. His crime was not mortal, and his character is not irredeemable. Indeed, most of his friends believe this episode a _deviation_ from a core character that is fundamentally good. He is my friend. He is our friend and will remain so. He needs some time away from this – and he’ll get it in the form of a leave of absence.
I will only say that I hope Mike is correct that this is a "deviation" from Ben's character. Much of it depends on whether is evidence of this more recently. It is possible that this was a phase that a young man lacking self-confidence did while his own writing voice was developing. Conversely and, sadly, looking at the extent of the swiping that is evident in the National Review Online movie reviews, I must say that this strikes one of the level of pathological behavior seen in Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair. These are people who will continue to do this until they get caught.

But, let this be the last word for now.


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Not-So-Heavy "Lifting"

I've paid little, if any, attention to the blogosphere kerfuffle over Washington Post.com's hiring of Ben Domenech to write a conservative blog.

My colleagues on the left such as Atrios and Josh Marshall were livid over it. Conservatives applauded. Ho-hum, the usual.

Yet, in ignoring all of this, I also overlooked the serious charges of plagiarism that were being directed at Ben (someone I've never met but with whom I chatted on the phone and exchanged e-mail back when he was working for National Review a few years back).

The accusations were disturbing and accurate enough that Domenech
resigned today. Michelle Malkin -- on whose book Ben worked while an editor at Regnery -- earlier called for him to step down from his Post post. Another conservative Rick Moran had side-by-side comparisons of passages that Ben apparently lifted.

Don Surber
weighed in -- and used the other F-word. However, to be fair to both the Post and Domenech, Surber went too far in dismissing Ben as just a "partisan hack" because he was only "a former Bush administration speech writer and editor of Michelle Malkin's books." Domenech's resume included the aforementioned stint at National Review as well as co-founding the rather influential RedState.org blog.

Yes, the discovered plagiarism disqualified him from continuing to work at WashingtonPost.com. However, it doesn't then follow that he was manifestly unqualified for the job in the first place (ideological biases aside).

Well, enough said.

Oh, wait, not quite enough, yet.

Speaking of "lifting":

New York Post editorial, March 21, 2006:

For all the supposed mounting public outrage over the continuing U.S. involvement in Iraq, the nationwide protests on the third anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom turned out to be more sputter than substance.
In New York, barely 1,000 people turned out Saturday to protest the war; another couple of hundred showed up on Sunday.
Frankly, there are longer lines waiting to buy tickets at the half-price booth. Even the Naked Cowboy in Times Square probably draws bigger crowds.


Ann Coulter, March 22, 2006:

Despite the fact that -- according to the polls -- the 'American people' are fed up with the war in Iraq, only a few hundred anti-war protesters showed up in New York City last weekend. The naked cowboy in Times Square gets a bigger crowd than that.

Ann, please contact the New York Post's advertising department to arrange appropriate restitution package (um, that's different than the Naked Cowboy's package).[ALERT!!! The previous line was a JOKE! This blog and the New York Post have NO official or unofficial relationship. The writer of this blog in no way, shape or form does any work for the Post's business, advertising or marketing sections.]

NOW, there's enough said!

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Charles K In Charge

Regardless of where one stands on the Iraq War (how we got there...should we stay or should we go now, etc.), the decidedly pro-war Charles Krauthammer cuts through the semantical B.S. and states the obvious -- "Of Course It's a Civil War".

But, now, that we can agree on this, what do we do about it? Krauthammer sketches an outline. Wishful thinking? Perhaps. But, as with other aspects of this difficult drama, nothing can really happen until people start speaking the same language.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

 

Hmmm...Check Out That Guy's Pachyderm...

Top 10 Reasons why Republicans are the better, um "party".

I'm certainly not saying that this is objectively true. I just report. You decide.

CAUTION: Slightly more naughty language than the usual things I link to.

UPDATE: Oh, how could I forget? Paging Ken Wheaton!! Mr. Ken Wheaton to the courtesy phone!! (Speaking of which -- if you go over to the "As I Please" site, please tell Ken to leave that blog up -- even if he's not planning to continue updating. He's one of the few Louisiana expats who blog and his keen observations of Katrina and its aftermath (including the occasional pictures) deserve to remain accessible.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

 

The Line Between Comedy & Tragedy...

...is never so thin as in Iraq.

A really poignant slice-of-life (and death) story from my erstwhile colleague Jake Tapper on ABC's Nightline.

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For The Record...

To the many of you who have asked, no, I am not responsible for this New York Post headline!

Why on earth would folks think I was?


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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

 

The New "Pro-Choice" Party...

Continuing our "Barnes ATF" ("Barnes & All Things Fred") obsession, we now take note of his outline of the GOP 2006 midterm gameplan:

At the moment, the 2006 midterm election is framed as a referendum on the Bush administration and congressional Republicans, putting Republican candidates on the defensive. Party strategists, led by chairman Ken Mehlman, want to rejigger the debate so it's about a choice between candidates, putting Democratic candidates on the defensive as well. In short, they want it to be a choice election, not a referendum election.

This is not a new idea. Republicans brought about a choice election in 2004. Democrats believed they were a cinch to win a referendum on President Bush's first term, and Republicans worried they were right. But Republicans were able to make Democrat John Kerry at least as much of an issue as Bush was, especially on national security.
.....

Republicans have done little to hide their strategy. At the Southern Republican Leadership conference in Memphis recently, Mehlman spoke repeatedly about "choice" in the 2006 election. Voters, he said, "can see the difference between leaders committed to winning this war [on terror] and politicians who will say anything to win the next election. The war on terror is not the only area where we face an urgent choice in 2006."

Mehlman asked, rhetorically, if voters "want the chairman of the tax-writing committee in the House to be someone who said that tax increases would spur the economy. Do you want the speaker of the House to be someone who said, less than a year after 9/11, 'I don't really consider ourselves at war.'" That, Mehlman said, "is the choice we will make in 242 days."

Mehlman is convinced the emphasis on choice will work. "The ultimate referendum election is a presidential reelection," he says. "If you can make that into a choice election, you can make a midterm election into a choice election."
Of course, the one problem with making something a "choice" election -- under the current circumstances -- is that, by definition, this becomes a "negative" campaign: I'm bad, but the other guy is far worse, becomes the implied message.

This is quite different than the 1994 congressional race. Yes, Republicans "nationalized" the race, turrned the
Contract With America into a de facto platform and offered the Democrats a stark choice. The Contract itself was evidence that there was a positive agenda as part of the "choice."

However, there doesn't seem to be much on offer this time around -- on either side. Not surprisingly, some House Republicans want to
resuscitate the spirit and language of the "Contract."

On the other hand, the Democrats, as yet, have no version of their own "Contract" (admittedly, twelve years ago, the Contract wasn't unveiled to the public until late September, so Democrats may be playing it safe.

Meanwhile, completely separate from the president, congressional Republicans have to defend "bridges to Nowhere," several corruption cases and a general sense of misplaced priorities.

The GOP would be unwise to depend merely on the Democrats' uncanny ability to continue screwing up the politics of the day (hey, they've done it for two elections and counting! Why stop now?) Furthermore, Bush was the more-than-equalizer in the 2002 and 2004 campaigns. When a president signs on, it much easier to turn an election into a referendum. The combination of the overriding issue of national security and the public's view of Bush as both honest and competent made for a potent 1-2 strategic punch to take around the country.

Unfortunately, the latest ratings show how much Bush's personal qualities of honesty, leadership and competence have all taken major hits. The Dubai controversy briefly created a circumstance where one (GOP-friendly) poll had the Democrats inching ahead on the national security question.

That may not be the case at the present time. However, the numbers between Democrats and Repubicans on who is better suited to keeping the country safe is far closer than it has been since th 9/11 attacks. What happens this November if the public is faced with a choice that comes down to the "evil of two lessers"?

What choice do they make?

UPDATE: Today's Washington Post also outlines exactly how difficult it may be for the GOP just to make the election about "choice":

The struggles reflect philosophical differences among competing factions within the party, but they also underscore the political consequences of holding power. Republicans insist they remain united around core principles of smaller government, lower taxes and a strong national defense, but can no longer agree on how to implement that philosophy and are squabbling over their delivery on those commitments.
.....

One Republican strategist, who asked not to be identified so he could speak openly about the party's problems, said divisions between moderates and conservatives have left the House and Senate Republican conferences in disarray. "Getting consensus on policy matters . . . is very difficult," he said. "That has caused stagnation and led to perceptions that Republican governance is going nowhere."

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Monday, March 20, 2006

 

Bandow Bludgeons Beetle Barnes

Erstwhile Cato scholar Doug Bandow goes after Fred Barnes for his odd apportioning of blame for President Bush's recent political stumbles:


Who is to blame for this state of affairs, according to FredBarnes? Not the President, who more Americans describe as incompetent than anything else. Not the venal, irresponsible Congress. Not the legion of neocon publicists, intellectuals, and arm-chair warriors who endlessly demanded war without end and now are fleeing the battlefield, blaming the administration for bungling things.

No, it's the paleocons who, Barnes complains, are "in the lead among the critics" of the GOP. Horror, horror, he notes, paleocon issues are dominating the news these days. And thepaleocons could "influence the party in ways that threaten the narrow Republican majority."

Bad enough is that they criticize George W. Bush, which "weakens the Republican base and, potentially at least, reduces voter turnout." Even worse, they might prevail on an issue or two. Yet come November "What Republicans need more than anything else is unity."
Whoah!!! Shades of the official slogan of the dystopian British society in the current Number One movie: "Strength through unity; unity through faith!"

But George W. Bush's problems are hardly that of paleocons and libertarians abandoning ship --unless one considers
Peggy Noonan and Larry Kudlow (who openly calls for the election of a Democratic Congress) paleocons or libertarian.

For the record, neither phrase applies to either.

Republicans need "unity" more than anything else? Um, how about ideas and a continued allegiance to the basic principles of the party?

Or is that too much to ask for?

Since when is "unity" to principle to be subsumed by "unity" to a man -- or even a party?

Then again, maybe it's just way too late to even be asking that question.

UPDATE: Strenuously holding onto his belief in "unity," Barnes metaphorically keeps most of the band together -- but has them switch instruments:

The president's most spectacular move would be to anoint a presidential successor. This would require Vice President Cheney to resign. His replacement? Condoleezza Rice, whom Mr. Bush regards highly. Her replacement? Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, whose Bush-like views on Iraq and the war on terror have made him a pariah in the Democratic caucus.

Mr. Cheney would probably be happy to step down and return to Wyoming. But it would make more sense for him to move to the Pentagon to replace Donald Rumsfeld as defense secretary, a job Mr. Cheney held during the elder Bush's administration. The Senate confirmation hearing for Mr. Cheney alone would produce political fireworks and attract incredible attention. At Treasury, Mr. Bush has a perfect replacement for John Snow, someone he already knows. That's Glenn Hubbard, former chairman of Mr. Bush's council of economic advisers and currently dean of Columbia's business school. He is in sync with Mr. Bush ideologically and has the added value of being respected on Wall Street.

Interestingly, this broad Cabinet shake-up goes farther than many of what Bush's right-wing critics have called for -- yet, they are supposedly demonstrating disloyalty to the administration and the party.

Hmmm...

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

 

The Chicago Tribune's Steve Chapman...

...makes a very good point.

One might think that Congress might want to keep an eye on precedent and maintain its constitutional prerogatives.

One might be incorrect in that thinking.



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Blogger Hell

Sorry about the radio silence since Thursday. Blogger was down for most of Thursday evening and well through Friday on many sites.

Including this one...

Completely lost one post -- and was unable to upload others.

Sigh.

Well, we're back!

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