from the United States in Iraq.” — Alberto Fernandez, a top U.S. diplomat in the State Department, 10/21/06
One thing to keep your eye on is emerging tensions inside the Democratic Party which find their locus in the persons of Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emmannuel. Essentially, the way the centrist side of the argument is trying to set things up, insofar as the election returns are in some sense disappointing, this will be blamed on Pelosi, Leader of the House Democrats. But insofar as the election returns are encouraging, credit belongs to Emmannuel, Architect of the Great Victory. Damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t, in other words. This Bull Moose post gives you a good example of the genre. He’s expecting big things for the Democrats, and hails the wisdom of the House Democratic leadership, with said leadership comprised apparently of Emmannuel and Steny Hoyer. Pelosi, a liberal who thought invading Iraq was a bad idea before it was cool, who also happens to be the actual leader of the caucus, doesn’t come into play.
As I say, keep your eyes peeled. Also check out Zach Roth’s excellent profile of Steny Hoyer in The Washington Monthly. Hoyer, clearly, would be a big step forward from his GOP predecessors as Majority Leader, but he’s no great shakes and not the sort of dude who’s going to, say, spearhead an exciting era of progressive reform. Meanwhile, many liberals have complaints of their own with Pelosi, some warranted others much less so. Folks should be aware, however, of the objective contours of this debate . . . the alternative to Pelosi is weak tea of the sort served by Hoyer and Emmannuel (who, I’ll happily grant, is a pretty canny electoral tactitian) and not the leader of your dreams.
“making October the deadliest month for American forces in Iraq this year.”
It’s been a kind of theme weekend, as I went to see The Queen Thursday night and Marie Antoinette last night. Antoinette has several fantastic moments, but I ultimately found it to be a deeply flawed film with, in particular, some very serious pacing problems that make it dull in parts and rendering it hard to say what’s really supposed to be happening thematically. It’s a very interesting film nonetheless; I liked the occassional dollops of deliberate anachronism and they did an excellent job of portraying the fundamental weirdness of Versailees and 18th century society while also making the characters distinctly human. Also, Steve Coogan is just great in every movie I’ve seen him in.
The Queen, by contrast, is oddly brilliant especially considering that the story — about the response of the Royal Family and the Blair family to the death of Princess Diana — is something I was pretty profoundly not interested in. The cast, however, is brilliant with the exception of Michael Sheen’s Tony Blair, which is pretty good. Director Stephen Frears does a great job of staging scenes where nothing really happens except various people talking to each other, and nicely blends actual footage together with his dramatic scenes. Peter Morgan’s screenplay, most crucially, actually takes this story and turns it into a fascinating movie of ideas with sympathetic portrayals of various different takes on the purpose and nature of the Monarchy and the concepts of duty and political leadership.
A Democratic staffer’s access to classified information was recently suspended by House Intelligence Chairman Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), supposedly because the staffer requested a copy of a National Intelligence Estimate two days before it was reported in the New York Times.
But, as the Washington Post notes, the New York Times was interviewing government officials about the NIE for weeks before the story was printed:
Intelligence community sources, speaking anonymously because the NIE remains classified, have told The Washington Post that Times reporters were asking questions about the contents of that NIE weeks before publication of the story. In his story, Times reporter Mark Mazzetti wrote that over the weeks he had interviewed “a dozen United States government officials and outside experts . . . for this article.” He added that all “had either seen the final version of the document or participated in the creation of earlier drafts.”
The staffer requested the NIE because Rep. John Tierney (D-MA) received a media inquiry about it. The staffer provided the NIE to Tierney in an appropriate manner. Once Tierney saw the NIE was classified “he refused to discuss it with reporters.”
Hoekstra’s only apparent reason for suspending the staffer was the timeline of his request. The timeline, however, virtually precludes the possibility that the staffer was the source of the leak.
It’s not the biggest deal in the world, per se, but continuing liberal obsession with Max Cleland strikes me as a bit odd. Josh Marshall hails a witty Cleland line at a campaign event for John Tester and remarks: “If the Dems take Congress, that image will bookend the era of Bush mendacity for me, along with the attack ad the GOP ran against the triple-amputee Cleland in the 2002 election, questioning his courage during the run-up to the Iraq War.”
The infamous anti-Cleland ad was legitimately scummy, presenting a seriously distorted and underhanded view of the issues at hand. That said, what does Cleland’s triple-amputee status have to do with it? Saxby Chambliss wasn’t attacking Cleland’s personal bravery, he was attacking Cleland’s policies. Democrats over and over again seem to think that biographical qualities either are or out to somehow immunize nominees from political attacks based on national security issues and they keep getting burned. They need to get over it — the world doesn’t work that way and the world shouldn’t work that way. This is on a par with whining that Republicans are politicizing national security. Well, guess what, national security is a political issue. The Democratic Party is full of politicians. They need to learn to do politics — the whining just looks weak and pathetic.
Meanwhile, there’s a real lesson to be learned from the Cleland campaign. If you read Tom Ricks’ Fiasco, Cleland more-or-less admits that he thought authorizing the use of military force against Iraq was a bad idea, but he voted to do it anyway because he thought it would inoculate him against GOP attacks. Cleland, sure, was not alone in this. But it didn’t work. He couldn’t take national security off the table, and he lost anyway. Had he acted more courageously and stood up for his beliefs, he almost certainly would have lost the election anyway. But had Democrats as a whole voted against the war, they’d be far better-positioned to take advantage of the sorry state of Iraq today than they actually are. In a pinch, it actually helps in politics to be right — undue cynicism has fairly minimal benefits. That’s the real lesson here.
Catherine mentions that the talk last night at the Florida Avenue Home for Unemployed Bloggers concerned the advisability of having sex with one’s clone. Personally, I think names need to be named here. Sommer, Will, and Julian were firmly in the sex-with-your-clone is hott, while Catherine had wishy-washy views. I think this is gross.
Jim Henley tries to draw a distinction: “It’s not that you’ll never get good information via torture. It’s that you’ll never be sure, absent checking and rechecking, whether the information you got was any use. Perhaps I should say, ‘was true.’ Obviously al Libbi’s statements were ‘useful’ – they were used to sell a war that our rulers were set on having. None of this has anything to do with our old friend, the Ticking Bomb Scenario.”
I would put it slightly differently. The issue here is systems. Not, if we employ systematic torture will we learn some true things, but if we employ systematic torture will we improve our intelligence overall? I think the answer to the latter question, drawing on history and the recent American experience, is pretty clearly “no.” The bad information, and the problems caused by needing to weed it out, outweigh the former. As I’ve said before, the problem of intelligence isn’t that we need “more information” it’s that it’s hard to distinguish the accurate information from the garbage. What torture mostly does is increase the garbage/accurate ratio.
Lots of Shiite Iraqis think it’s great.
This week, China put pressure on North Korea’s mercurial dictator, Kim Jung Il, apparently winning a pledge to not conduct another nuclear test. If it stands, this is the first good news to come from Secretary of State Condoleeeza Rice’s travel to Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, and Moscow drumming up support for the U.N. Security Council’s economic sanctions and trade interdiction package.
North Korea also appears ready to make concessions, the Chinese say, if the United States does as well. Sanctions and tough diplomacy cannot force the regime to collapse — in part because neither China nor South Korea want the chaos of a collapsed state — but they can prod the North Koreans back to the negotiating table.
This is how hard-nosed diplomacy should proceed in the face of North Korean intransigence. The question is: What took so long? It was clear over a year ago that President Bush’s “regime change” strategy for dealing with the “axis of evil” was a failure. And it’s been clear for some time that a tough, but more nuanced approach, could work — witness the success of negotiations with Libya stretching over three administrations that resulted in a deal that “cost little, caused no deaths, and was 100 percent effective.”
The United States must now be prepared to implement the agreement struck in the six-party talks last September: security assurances and economic assistance in exchange for a complete, verifiable dismantlement of the nuclear program. We should all encourage the realists within the Bush administration to get back to basics.