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Our friend Mr. Perle

Our friend Mr. Perle is giving new meaning to the phrase 'comedy of errors'. Yesterday in Washington he called for the resignation of CIA chief George Tenet and the head the of DIA. "Heads should roll," he said, "not in a punitive or vindictive way. But when you discover you have an organization that doesn't get it right time after time, you change the organization, including the people.... I would start with the head. George Tenet has been at the CIA long enough to assume responsibility for its performance."

Now, this is truly one of those 'where do you start' points of ridiculousness. It's rather like Andy Fastow and Ken Lay calling for heads to roll at the SEC because the government regulators didn't get the whole securities oversight thing quite right. Well, Yes, heads should roll, you say in response. But then when you see the would-be executioners, the rationale and the logic of the thing starts to break down.

It is awfully hard to find a single data point on which the CIA or the DIA were 'wrong' in which Perle & Co. were not wrong-squared or even wrong-cubed, and in which he and his crew were not playing the same old bureaucratic and media games to mau-mau those agencies into being even more 'wrong' than they were. (See this particularly humorous example.)

We can leave aside for the moment that this is far from the first time. Perle himself was a leader in the effort to second-guess US intelligence agencies about the Soviet threat in the 1970s, arguing that Soviet military was far more threatening and powerful than the folks at the CIA believed.

Of course, the CIA did miss the boat on that one. But their error wasn't in underestimating but rather in overestimating the military and economic power of the late Soviet state.

They missed the internal rot and economic and military and political degeneration that would bring the whole edifice crashing down in the late 1980s. To say that Perle's crew failed to see this coming is rather an understatement. As late as 1980, in The Present Danger: Do we have the will to reverse the decline of American power?, neoconservative founding father Norman Podhoretz, lamented whether it might not be too late to prevent the "finlandization of America, the political and economic subordination of the United States to superior Soviet power."

In any case, if Perle wants to call for others to walk the plank, it's a call he should be making from the waves, not the deck.

Who will take this claptrap seriously? Advice on honing our intelligence processes from a serial enabler of intelligence ridiculousness stretching back two generations.

A hard time kicking

A hard time kicking the habit?

You've probably already heard the story of Richard Convertino, the Assistant US Attorney from Detroit who's just sued John Ashcroft for "gross mismanagement" and various bad acts stemming out of a counter-terrorism case in Detriot.

But look at this passage down in this Associated Press story ...

Convertino also accused Justice officials of intentionally divulging the name of one of his confidential terrorism informants (CI) to retaliate against him.

The leak put the informant at grave risk, forced him to flee the United States and "interfered with the ability of the United States to obtain information from the CI about current and future terrorist activities," the suit alleges.


More payback?

Check out this very

Check out this very funny and very good piece by Slate's Jack Shafer about a really embarrassing article in the New York Times. Actually that's Jack Abu Shafer -- read the article, you'll understand.

Oh how sweet it

Oh, how sweet it is. We've been telling you for some time about the 6th congressional district special election in Kentucky, pitting former state Attorney General Ben Chandler against Alice Forgy Kerr.

This was the first federal election of the 2004 cycle. Kerr based her campaign almost exclusively on her strong support for the Bush agenda. And the AP is now reporting that Chandler has beaten Kerr decisively. That marks the first time since 1991 that a Democrat has won a Republican seat in a special election.

This is a big deal for a number of reasons.

The first is the shot in the arm it'll give to Democrats around the country.

But another part of the story is Internet fundraising. As you'll notice there on the left, the Chandler campaign has been advertising for about the last two weeks on this and a number of other blogs. The campaign budgeted about two grand for blog advertising. And my understanding is that by today they had raised close to $100,000 from contributors who linked through from those blogs on which the campaign was advertising.

In other words, they got roughly a 50-fold turnaround on their investment in the final two weeks of the campaign. And in case you're wondering one hundred grand is a lot of money in a House race.

Now, obviously that's exciting news for proprietors of blogs looking to open up revenue streams from advertisers. But the bigger story here is about the Democrats and the Internet, and the way this technology seems to click, shall we say, for the Democratic demographic.

Democrats have always lamented how Republicans just have far better direct-mail lists than they do, and how the Republicans are just plain better at it. And they do have better lists and they are better at it. But I've always thought that it wouldn't really matter all that much if the Democrats had high quality lists too. The truth is that direct-mail, for whatever reason, just works with folks who are apt to give money to Republican campaigns. And it just doesn't with Dems, or at least not nearly as well. It's a different demographic. For whatever social or cultural reasons, the technology or mechanism -- in this case fundraising by mail -- is just particularly well suited to one demographic and not to the other.

But the Internet does seem to work for Democrats. That was clear in the spectacular early success of the Dean campaign and now you're seeing it in smaller ways in individual House races. That doesn't mean that it won't work equally well for Republicans; we just don't know yet. But for the first time in a long time Democrats have a technology, a mechanism that is allowing them to raise large sums of money, not from a few well-heeled givers but from large numbers of energized Democrats giving $10, $50 or $100 a shot. It's already starting to make a difference.

And as long as we're at it, there's another special election coming up in which a Democrat has a good chance to pick up a seat currently held by a Republican. That's the June 1st special election for South Dakota's single House seat. The Democrat is Stephanie Herseth.

According to this AP

According to this AP article France has convened a special meeting to decide, among other things, whether to send peace-keepers into Haiti.

Doesn't this raise some Monroe Doctrine issues?

And, no, I'm not kidding.

Fiction Then close your

Fiction: "Then close your eyes and tap your heels together three times. And think to yourself, 'There's no place like home. There's no place like home.'"

Source: The Wizard of Oz.

Reality: "The artificial windows revealed an inviting blue sky. Bush portrayed a similarly sunny outlook with remarks that used "optimistic" or "optimism" seven times in 49 minutes. He repeatedly stressed the power of positive thinking as an engine of job creation."

Source: "Bush Upbeat on Economy in Campaign Preview in Fla.", Mike Allen, Washington Post, Feb. 17th, 2004.

I came home this

I came home this afternoon and saw this headline on the front page of the CNN website: "Bush says Democrats would threaten fiscal health."

The article's lede said Bush told a crowd in Florida that "Democrats would endanger America's fiscal health by raising taxes."

This is one of many reasons why President Bush is in trouble. On fiscal policy, he has not simply lost all credibility. With claims like these, he is right on his way to becoming the butt of jokes. And laughter and derision are in many ways the deadliest bogies in politics.

When the president came into office the budget surplus was over $200 billion. Now the deficit is over $500 billion.

Even my frail grasp of mathematics tells me that's a deterioration in the nation's fiscal health of roughly three-quarters of a trillion dollars in the three years he's been in office. And for almost all of that time the president's party controlled both houses of congress.

And he says the Democrats are a danger to the nation's fiscal health?

This is the arsonist in your house telling you that stranger outside with the hose can't be trusted.

On Friday I reported

On Friday, I reported on a tense exchange between <$Ad$>Helen Thomas and Scott McClellan over whether the president had taken time off from the Guard because he had been compelled to perform community service.

Now Harry Jaffe provides some helpful follow-up on the spat in The Washingtonian.

Thomas says “I think they are getting pretty nervous about this."

McClellan says "Helen was asking about trashy rumors. There’s a difference between trashy rumors and journalism. I will not dignify them from the podium."

I never gave anybody

"'I never gave anybody hell,' he would later say, 'I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.'" David McCullough quoting Harry S. Truman, Truman, p. 664.

Thirty-five years old today.

Thirty-five years old today. In the last several <$Ad$>months this marker seemed hard to get my head around, and more than a little daunting. But now that it's here, it feels right, like it's where I should be.

Thank you very sincerely to all who've sent good wishes.

I took a light week last week. But this week ahead we should be back to the standard frequency of posts. And there's certainly plenty to write about.

The new line out of the White House is that they really just haven't been in campaign mode. But with the Democrats being so mean and ungenerous, well ... they'll have to let loose the dogs.

Allegedly predicting this shift, Peggy Noonan has a piece in the Post today which, among other things, is, in the first few grafs, a good example of cliche and slander gussied up to look like literature. It's worth taking a moment to read.

The key to so much of this is that Republicans -- particularly those in the president's orbit -- simply don't have much experience being on the receiving end of what they normally serve up with such alacrity and zest. They're knocked off balance. Their breath is a bit taken away.

There is a natural tendency for each side to believe the other side is meaner, more disciplined, more unfair, more this, that, and the other. But it's only very recently that Democrats have had enough of an infrastructure of media and fundraising to raise the attention of their ideological competitors. And the White House has, for literally years now, been sowing the wind while using aggressive tactics and the climate of national emergency to knock back any response.

That's beginning to change.

More on all of this soon.

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