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Politics is certainly a

Politics is certainly a rough business. And it's common, and understandable, that candidates will often send staffers to videotape or record their opponents' speeches.

But we seem to have an embarrassing new low in the Illinois senate race -- one that might even amount to stalking.

Barack Obama is the Democratic candidate for the open seat and his opponent is Republican Jack Ryan. For the last ten days, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, Ryan has had a campaign staffer, Justin Warfel, follow Obama with a video camera all day.

And I mean, all day.

Not only does he record Obama's public appearances, he tails Obama in his car; he follows him into restrooms; he stays a couple feet behind him when he's walking in public; he waits outside his office and pesters his secretary. And he heckles Obama at public appearances.

The Chicago Sun-Times asked Ryan's campaign manager if this was appropriate ...

But Jason Miller, Ryan's campaign manager, insisted Obama's public movements are fair game and the point is to make sure Obama doesn't contradict himself with his public statements.

"If he's having a phone conversation, then Justin is not trying to tap into the conversation or record what he is saying or something like that," Miller said. "He's monitoring because you never know when ... a reporter comes up and starts asking questions."

The State's Republican Senate Minority Leader disagreed. "I don't care if you're in public life or who you are," Frank Watson (R-Greenville) told the Sun-Times. "You deserve your space, your privacy. I don't think it's appropriate."

If you'd like to register your opinion here's Obama's website and here's Ryan's.

Next up Gen. Zinni.This

Next up Gen. Zinni.

This from a CBS press release about Zinni's appearance this <$NoAd$>Sunday night on 60 Minutes ...

Accusing top Pentagon officials of "dereliction of duty," retired Marine General Anthony Zinni says staying the course in Iraq isn't a reasonable option. "The course is headed over Niagara Falls. I think it's time to change course a little bit or at least hold somebody responsible for putting you on this course," he tells Steve Kroft in an interview to be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, May 23 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

The current situation in Iraq was destined to happen, says Zinni, because planning for the war and its aftermath has been flawed all along. "There has been poor strategic thinking in this...poor operational planning and execution on the ground," says Zinni, who served as commander-in-chief of the U.S. Central Command from 1997 to 2000.

He blames the poor planning on the civilian policymakers in the administration known as neoconservatives who saw the invasion as a way to stabilize the region and support Israel. He believes these people, who include Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense, have hijacked U.S. foreign policy. "They promoted it and pushed [the war]...even to the point of creating their own intelligence to match their needs. Then they should bear the responsibility," Zinni tells Kroft. In his upcoming book, Battle Ready, written with Tom Clancy, Zinni writes of the poor planning in harsh terms. "In the lead-up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw, at minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility; at worse, lying, incompetence and corruption," he writes. Zinni explains to Kroft, "I think there was dereliction in insufficient forces being put on the ground and [in not] fully understanding the military dimensions of the plan."

He still believes the situation is salvageable if the U.S. can communicate more effectively with the Iraqi people and demonstrate a better image to them. The enlistment of the U.N. and other countries to participate in the mission is also crucial, he says. Without these things, says Zinni, "We are going to be looking for quick exits. I don't believe we're there now, and I wouldn't want to see us fail here," he tells Kroft. Also central to success in Iraq is more troops, from the U.S. and especially other countries, to control violence and patrol borders, he says.

Zinni feels that undertaking the war with the minimum of troops paved the way for the security problems the U.S. faces there now - the violence Rumsfeld recently admitted he hadn't anticipated. "He should not have been surprised," says Zinni. "There were a number of people who before we even engaged in this conflict that felt strongly that we underestimated...the scope of the problems we would have in [Iraq]," he tells Kroft.

The fact that no one in the administration has paid for the blunder irks Zinni. "But regardless of whose responsibility...it should be evident to everybody that they've screwed up, and whose heads are rolling on this?"

Incompetence + No Accountability = Bad Show for Nation. I was never good at math; but I think I've got this formula right.

And what will they say about Zinni? Another disgruntled showboater like Clarke and Wilson?

Department of unintended Chalabi

Department of unintended Chalabi ironies. From President Bush's commencement speech at LSU: "On the job, and elsewhere in life, choose your friends carefully. The company you keep has a way of rubbing off on you. And that can be a good thing or a bad thing."

Ahmed who From Robin

Ahmed who? From Robin Wright's piece in Friday's Post ...

"The vast majority of reports of his proximity to and influence on administration policy have been greatly exaggerated," said a senior administration official involved in Iraq policy who knows Chalabi. "The reality is that he was among a wide variety of Iraqi figures who made the case to an array of American officials over a period of time for the liberation of the Iraqi people."

Ask not for whom the memory-hole sucks, Ahmed; it sucketh for you ...

For years the backdrop

For years the backdrop to the Chalabi question <$NoAd$> was his 1992 conviction in absentia on charges of embezzlement in Jordan. To his American critics this was the crux of who Chalabi was: a crook. To his American partisans it was a political conviction, a slur, a price Chalabi had paid for earlier opposition to Saddam. (The Jordanians had, so the story went, turned on Chalabi at Saddam's behest.)

Now read this: a few grafs at the end of Post's piece on the Chalabi raid ...

For several months, U.S. officials have been investigating people affiliated with the INC for possible ties to a scheme to defraud the Iraqi government during the transition to a new currency that took place from Oct. 15 last year to Jan. 15, according to a U.S. occupation authority official familiar with the case. The official said the raids were partly related to that investigation.

At the center of the inquiry is Nouri, whom Chalabi picked as the top anti-corruption official in the new Iraqi Finance Ministry. Chalabi heads the Governing Council's finance committee, and has major influence in its staffing and operation.

When auditors early this year began counting the old Iraqi dinars brought in and the new Iraqi dinars given out in return, they discovered a shortfall of more than $22 million. Nouri, a German national, was arrested in April and faces 17 charges including extortion, fraud, embezzlement, theft of government property and abuse of authority. He is being held in a maximum security facility, according to three sources close to the investigation.

Speaks for itself.

Ahhh nothing like money

Ahhh nothing like money well spent ...

According to a new GAO report, from March 2000 to September 2003, the State Department doled out some $33 million to Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress.

You can see the highlights of the report here and the whole deal here.

Of course, by a rather more expansive, though not unjust, measure, we dropped around $300 billion on our association with the Chalabi crew.

In Slate this afternoon

In Slate this afternoon, Chris Suellentrop, has a short profile of Doug Feith, the man who put the FU in the FUBAR that is the American adventure in Iraq. The subheading of the piece pretty much says it all: "What has the Pentagon's third man done wrong? Everything."

Feith has become the living, breathing, employed example of the fact that epochal screw-ups are the best source of job security within the Bush administration.

If anything, I'd say Chris lets Feith off a bit easy on several counts. But then, consider the source (i.e., me).

In any case, take a look.

In the category of

In the category of articles you should not miss: Take a look at Wes Clark's new piece in The Washington Monthly on democracy, the Middle East and the how the Bush administration failed to understand how either works.

A tad tentative On

A tad tentative?

On CNN's new Chalabi story, the caption under Chalabi's picture reads: "Ahmed Chalabi is thought to have been a source of intelligence about Iraq's alleged WMD."

Like alleged Ba'athist Saddam Hussein.

A follow-up on this

A follow-up on this morning's post: Juan Cole says Chalabi has been suspended from the IGC. Maybe now he'll head north and found the Salo Republic -- that's a little Italian history shout-out. Another thought: why doesn't someone ask the Jordanians about the telephone intercept they shared with the Americans last fall showing that Chalabi had foreknowledge of the bombing of their embassy in Baghdad on August 7th.

Of course, the heart is a fickle, fickle thing. Here's the pre-Sharia-Chalabi (in the back on the left in the picture) as the guest of the First Lady at the 2004 State of the Union, a mere four months ago.