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Okay from the sublime

Okay, from the sublime to the ridiculous. As I reported earlier this afternoon, the Pentagon's transcript of the Vanity Fair interview between Sam Tanenhaus and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz seems to have left out at least one key exchange.

That's the sublime.

Now to the ridiculous.

Rush Limbaugh has a blurb up on his website that says you can debunk Hillary's new book with passages from Sid Blumenthal's new book -- a sort of inverted harmonic convergence of Clinton-hating, you might say.

Limbaugh writes that Hillary's claims to be the last one to know are bogus, as are her claims to any estrangement after Bill's confession. Everything was staged ...

Sydney Blumenthal's book blows Hillary's out of the water. He writes that Bill called him after his Lewinsky grand jury testimony to see what he thought of it. Next, Hillary picked up the phone followed by James Carville.

Sydney heard Hillary and Bill talking in the background, and rejoiced that they were "still working together." They managed the entire scene at that time, pretending to be estranged. How many times did we see this Pulitzer Prize-winning photo (below) of the first family and dog departing for the Vineyard the day after Bill testified, with Chelsea between them and Hillary off to the side?

Yet Blumenthal says that Mrs. Clinton was in on the strategy, not giving her husband "the silent treatment" as we were told. This disagrees with Mrs. Clinton saying in her book that Buddy the dog came along to keep Bill company, since he's the only one who would. I have to feel sorry for the Democratic presidential nominees today, because this book is the only story out there!

As you might expect, this is rather misleading spin. He even gets the quotes wrong. Blumenthal explicitly says he never talked to Hillary about her emotions or feelings or what was happening between her and her husband. This is his description (p. 461) of his first contact with Hillary after the president's admission ...
I called Hillary. We dispensed with the extraordinarily difficult personal problem at the start. As her friend, I wanted to respect her privacy. I said that whatever "issues" anyone had, and hers was worse than anyone's, we had to think about the politics. That was her reasoning as well. She said that the President would be "embarrassed," but that was for him to deal with. And that was all she said about it.
What follows this passage is an uncomfortable description not only of Hillary's feelings of personal betrayal but of her humiliation and chagrin at having defended her husband against charges she now understood to be true. Four pages later Blumenthal describes talking by telephone to Clinton, then Hillary, then Carville and Mark Penn after the president's speech to the country. While talking to Penn he says ...
I could hear the President and Hillary bantering in the background. Whatever they would have to do between themselves to get over this episode, in the challenge to their marriage and the presidency they were still working as a team. Without that, nothing was possible.
Now that I think about it, would anyone really trust Rush Limbaugh on something like this? Doesn't one go to Rush for Vince Voster and the Temple of Doom sorta things? In any case, next back to why passages seem to have been scrubbed from the Pentagon's Tanenhaus-Wolfowitz transcript.

Remember that transcript the

Remember that transcript the Pentagon posted of the interview Sam Tanenhaus did with Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz for Vanity Fair magazine? Just how complete and accurate is it? As I discussed in my article this morning in The Hill, what I found most surprising was a passage in which Tanenhaus discusses the portion of the interview in which he and Wolfowitz discussed the possibility that Saddam may have played a role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. According to Tanenhaus' article, Wolfowitz is "confident" Saddam played some role in the 1993 incident and has "entertained" the theory that he played a role in the Oklahoma City bombing as well. In the interview, according to Tanenhaus, Wolfowitz declined comment on the 1995 bombing.

These are theories that are, to put it mildly, not widely credited. And it raises some serious questions about just what sorts of theories gained credence at the DOD.

I wanted to see the actual interchange so I called up the transcript of the interview on the Pentagon website. And that passage is nowhere to be found.

So I called the Pentagon to see if the transcript was a complete transcript or only a partial one. A Wolfowitz spokesman, Jeff Davis, told me that, though he wasn't present during the interview, to the best of his knowledge it was a complete transcript -- save, possibly, for any pleasantries at the beginning of the conversation, or any parts that may have been off the record.

So what happened to the parts of the interview where the 1993 and 1995 bombings were discussed? Davis speculated that those quotes from Wolfowitz might not have been from the interview at all, but rather from published accounts of other previous statements Wolfowitz may have made, or other transcripts from the Pentagon website that Tanenhaus may have gotten his hands on.

So then I called Vanity Fair. Vanity Fair's Beth Kseniak told me categorically that Tanenhaus' and Wolfowitz's discussion of the 1993 and 1995 bombings definitely took place during their interview.

If that's true, why isn't it anywhere in the Pentagon's transcript?

Very Friedmanesque but also

Very Friedmanesque, but also very good column by Tom Friedman in Wednesday's Times; also a good column by Maureen Dowd -- each on figuring out why we fought the war we just fought.

Tragic. Just tragic. Back

Tragic. Just tragic. Back on that awful day last February 1st when the shuttle Columbia ripped and burned apart over Texas, I never really believed that some sort of rescue or repair mission wasn't possible -- either an attempt at a repair of some sort, or sending one of the other shuttles up to save the crew. Couldn't they rush another shuttle up to rescue them? Couldn't they do a spacewalk and fix the damage? The conceit of the NASA brass was that there was simply nothing that could have been done -- a claim that took a lot of sting out of the fact that so little was in fact done to find out what damage the ship had sustained.

That never sounded right to me. And now it turns out that I and, I'm sure, many, many others who were similarly unconvinced were right.

You probably remember in the movie Apollo 13 when a crack NASA team of white-buttoned-down-shirted gizmocrats ingeniously brainstormed a way to use all the available materials on the crippled spacecraft to get the three astronauts home safely. Recently, as part of the investigation, NASA set a similar team to work on devising possible rescue or repair plans -- as though they had known in time that something was wrong.

You almost wish they hadn't, but the team came up with two very credible -- though certainly not foolproof -- plans to rescue the seven astronauts. In both scenarios the ship, Columbia, was doomed. But not necessarily the crew. One plan was to quickly get the shuttle Atlantis into space for a rescue. It turns out this would have been possible. The question was how quickly they could get it to launch. And that would have been a close call. If they couldn't have managed that in time there was a repair that might have worked. A space walk to the underside of the shuttle, it turns out, would have been feasible. The plan would have been to hope the repair held on through the most violent part of reentry and then have the astronauts parachute out at about 35,000 feet.

None of these ideas were sure-fire, of course. But they would have had a fighting chance. And as the author of the MSNBC exclusive says, under the pressure of actually having lives to save, they might have come up with even more ingenious solutions.

Read it and, literally, weep.

The Glenn Hubbard story

The Glenn Hubbard story, the struggles of a hard-working economist struggling to maintain tax progressivity while cutting or abolishing every tax paid by high-income earners ... From the Post ...

"It's hard to get a lot of progressivity at the very top," said R. Glenn Hubbard, the architect of Bush's most recent tax cut proposal and a former chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. By slashing taxes on dividends, capital gains and inheritances, the cuts ensure that tax burdens will no longer rise consistently with income, as they would with a perfectly "progressive" system. "But," Hubbard added, "we've very much retained progressivity overall because so much money was dumped into the bottom rates."
Hard. So hard...

This graph would seem

This graph would seem to tell the tale. It's from the new Pew poll on global attitudes toward the United States. I was a little confused at first about the timing of the poll. It's being reported and sent around today as though it's a new release. Indeed, the International Herald Tribune says it was conducted in May. Yet the Pew site says it was released on March 18th and that the polls were conducted in the week previous to that. So I'm not quite sure what to believe. It's not an insignificant difference -- considering that that week was the one immediately prior to the beginning of the war when anti-US sentiment was presumably at its apogee.

In either case, the results are sobering. Folks tend to get their backs up when they hear about foreign disapproval. They say that what people overseas think or don't think doesn't tell us what's right or wrong. And they're correct, of course, as far as it goes. Amongst countries as amongst individuals, you must make your decisions based on what you think is right, not what everyone else says -- though unanimous disapproval should usually provoke at least some serious reflection.

The more relevant point, however, is that foreign disapproval on such a scale is a fact that must be taken into account quite apart from rights or wrongs. It is a form of collateral damage produced by the conflict -- no different from combat fatalities, expended materiel, and so forth -- part of the price we've paid for the decision to go to war.

One other point: the essence of the Atlantic Alliance -- both its values and its strength -- is that it is an alliance of democracies. That's why NATO won the Cold War. Despite some significant ebbs and flows of public opinion, the great majority of the people of Western Europe supported the alliance throughout the Cold War. Given these facts, America's standing among the people of Europe -- as opposed to the governments of Europe -- is no secondary matter. It is fundamental to the preservation of the alliance. And it is deeply frayed.

LATE UPDATE 2:01 PM: My bad -- there are two polls, one from March 18th, another embargoed till 2 PM this afternoon and to be announced at a press conference in downtown DC. The numbers in the new poll show a bounce back up in the European and other allied countries, but not nearly to the levels they were at a couple years ago, or even one year ago. And in some key countries like Turkey there is virtually no bounce back at all.

Former Army secretary Thomas

"Former Army secretary Thomas White said in an interview that senior Defense officials 'are unwilling to come to grips' with the scale of the postwar U.S. obligation in Iraq." That's from an interview with former Army Secretary Tom White, which appears today in USA Today. Rumsfeld had wanted to fire White for months, but his unwillingness to toe the line on Iraq and troop strength issues was certainly a trigger for his defenestration last month.

Hmmm. When I talked

Hmmm. When I talked to Texas state rep Lon Burnam he told me he had "multiple sources" at the Texas Department of Public Safety who told him about illicit document shredding. When he was deposed yesterday he said his only source was Roberta Bilsky, a staffer for Kevin Bailey, the Democrat running the investigation in the state House. How do you explain the conflict? Good question. On an equally troubling note, the State Attorney General's Office now wants to depose Bailey. In other words, Bailey is investigating the AG's office among others to find out their role in the manhunt. And now the AG's office wants to put Bailey and his folks under oath. The saga continues.

Just read Sam Tanenhauss

Just read Sam Tanenhaus's article on the neocons in Vanity Fair, the one which generated all the controversy about the quotes from Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. The piece is quite good, definitely pick up a copy. The best line from the piece: "The neocons are not usurpers. They are the new establishment ..."

To call it an article about the neocons is partly a misnomer. It's really about Wolfowitz, with biographical profiles of Perle and Kristol woven in to give a context to his place within the larger movement. The piece is quite good, I think, on Wolfowitz, capturing him in far more than wooden or two dimensional terms. It's not a portrait that will be entirely congenial to either his critics or his allies, though in many respects I think he comes off quite well.

Tanenhaus captures the aspects of the guy that make me just as much an admirer of the guy as I am, in many respects, a critic. The quotes that have generated all the commotion come at the very end of the piece. And really the whole issue of WMD only comes up in any serious way at the tail end of the piece.

In fact, for all the buzz surrounding the WMD quotes, the real stunner comes in the very next paragraph. It's there where Tanenhaus says Wolfowitz is "confident" that Saddam was "connected" to the original World Trade Center attack in 1993 and that he has "entertained the theory" that Saddam was involved in the Oklahoma City bombings in 1995.

These are both ideas advanced by Laurie Mylroie, a researcher at AEI, whose theories on Saddam (many of which are contained in The War Against America: Saddam Hussein and the World Trade Center Attacks: A Study of Revenge) are often ridiculed even by some of the neoist of neocons.

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