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I dont want to

I don't want to make too big a deal about this. But I have to agree with Mickey Kaus that Tony Blair's statement on the assassination of Dutch rightist politician Pim Fortuyn was more than a little inadequate. "No matter what feelings political figures arouse, the ballot box is the place to express them," said the Brit PM. This caught my eye here even before I saw that Mickey had pointed it out. It does almost read like, "Well, you can understand the sentiment but this is hardly an appropriate response." Perhaps, as they say in the House, Blair needs to revise and extend his remarks.

I hear that the

I hear that the internal Pentagon investigation into Tom White's alleged lobbying of Congress against Don Rumsfeld's decision to kill the Crusader artillery system has been completed. And Tom White dodged the bullet. They fingered some lower levels guy instead. So Rumsfeld apparently lets White stay on.

The one person who ends up looking a bit off base here is Torie Clarke, who may have gotten out a little ahead of her brief on this one. She told the Times that "without prejudging [the Army's inquiry] "if people try to blame some midlevel staffers, it would be inappropriate and wrong."

"What the hell is she saying?" a Pentagon source told TPM today. "She's saying I don't want to prejudge the report but regardless of what it says you're not going to get away with blaming mid-level people. Well, you know today Rumsfeld said based on Tom White's assurance it looks like midlevel people did it. So we think that Torie Clarke is a loose canon, no pun intended."

On an unrelated note, could Led Zeppelin IV be any more of a kick-$&% album? Yes, yes, yes, I picked up my copy when I was like nineteen but I hadn't listened to it in a while. Metal-infused blues before it got lame? And precious, folky guitar ballads before they got too precious and folky? God, it rocks.

Maybe I've been working on this Iraq article for too long.

Okay, back to insider Washington punditry.

I think of all

I think of all the paragraphs appearing in any newspaper anywhere this week, this one from a NYT article on "The Osbournes" has to be the most pitiful and hilarious:

The success of "The Osbournes" has been noted across the television industry with numerous television program executives saying they have been approached by other celebrity and show business figures about creating similar reality shows about their lives. The executives have so far kept those names private, and the only similar shows so far close to being scheduled are both on MTV.

Oh the possibilities.

Was Dick Cheney set

Was Dick Cheney set up? You'll remember that a little while back Vice-President Cheney went to the Middle East to get the region's leaders lined up behind an attack on Iraq. Well, this evening I was talking to a very knowledgeable insider on Middle Eastern affairs, and he said that the State Department had sent out word to folks in the region to give Cheney an earful. Among other things, said my source: "[Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs] Bill Burns met with a prominent Arab ambassador here and he told him, 'Don't tell me your views on Iraq. When he goes there you guys tell him.' So this is the vice president going to the region to hear Arab views and he came back and reported to the president 'The Arabs are not on our side.' They set him up. They set him up."

I just had a

I just had a funny experience. I was reading the humor site The Onion and then quickly buzzed over to MSNBC and started reading this article on the craze for the cosmetic neurotoxin Botox. And, well, it was hard to know whether I'd left The Onion. But, alas, it was true.

Youve probably seen the

You've probably seen the reports that Don Rumsfeld has essentially withdrawn his support for Army Secretary Tom White over White's alleged lobbying of Congress against Rumsfeld's decision to scrap something called the Crusader artillery system, something the army is very set on having.

Perhaps this is the final straw for White, who's obviously been on the ropes with Enron for months. Who knows? But don't mistake this for an Enron story or even a Tom White story.

The real issue here is the intense antagonism between the Office of the Secretary of Defense (i.e., the political appointees shaping policy) and the uniformed services at the Pentagon. It's real; it's deep; and it runs from policy to procurement.

The defense intellectuals who are running the Pentagon have little respect for the folks in uniform and the feeling is pretty much mutual. White is a career army officer so his divided loyalties are apparent. So maybe this looks like a chance for Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et al. to kill two birds with one stone.

Wow Paul Begala really

Wow! Paul Begala really took a whack at Matt Drudge on Crossfire tonight. And he definitely drew some blood. Matt really had the look of serious regret that he'd come on the show. And he looked more than a bit pissed. I only caught part of it as I was walking into my apartment. But it'll definitely be worth catching on the replay tonight.

My apologies for the

My apologies for the relative paucity of posts of late. I'm knee deep in a big reporting piece and I barely get a chance to read the papers, let alone mouth off on TPM about what I read.

In any case, more soon.

A few things to look at. President Bush is resisting making any condemnatory statement about French neo-fascist presidential candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen, which strikes me as a bit weird. There's always the issue of not meddling in another country's internal affairs. But pretty much every other world leader has spoken out. For the Europeans there is a slight sense that the EU makes this a bit different, almost a domestic issue. Still, what's the problem with a mild statement of condemnation from Bush?

Another interesting thing. Yesterday I was at an Iraq panel at the Council on Foreign Relations and one of the panelists was Khidr Hamzah, the former head of Iraq's nuclear weapons program and the author of a new book called Saddam's Bombmaker: The Daring Escape of the Man Who Built Iraq's Secret Weapon.

Anyway, here's one thing he said on the panel that caught my attention:

Suppose the Iraqi opposition came and took over? Why would they drop this huge [Weapons of Mass Destruction] infrastructure that's built inside Iraq which is power in the region? Would they drop it? Now it's coming out now with the new posture of the US which is dropping the Iraqi opposition as an option or as an instrument of toppling Saddam that probably the US doesn't believe the Iraqi opposition will abandon its nuclear or other weapons program ...

[Here Hamzah says US policy will be more like the occupation and democratization of Japan and Germany after World War II.]

Now many people now in the Iraqi opposition believe that this is the scenario now. That the US probably does not want the Iraqi opposition not because it is not viable, as they say, not because it is weak and frightened -- so was the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan -- no, because there is no belief that the inheritance, this is a huge inheritance, that will be taken over by the next government will be disbanded. And the only way to make sure is to take it over and disband it themselves.

That caught my attention.

Wow The New York

Wow! The New York Times has a big scoop today. Tom Ridge is so out of the loop that he wasn't even consulted when the Pentagon decided to stop combat air patrols over New York and Washington, DC.

Well, okay, maybe not a scoop exactly, since Salon.com broke this story in late March. Hell, you can even see it in the free first few paragraphs of the piece. You don't even have to buy Salon Premium.

I guess working in the bosom of the Grey Lady means never having to say 'as first reported by.'

I'll have to make a note of that.

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