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I find more and more that the only place I get to read for any length at a time without distraction is at the gym. So it was this evening that I finally got down to reading Seymour Hersh’s much-discussed article on Iran in the New Yorker.

Like many Hersh articles, it was studded with many glowing quotes and very few names attached to them. But I have to say that in the actual reading I found the article a good deal more alarming than the advance billing suggested.

Perhaps Hersh is totally out to lunch on this issue and talked to all the wrong people. But given the subject matter and the sort of sources he cultivates, I doubt that. And if he’s anywhere near right about his portrayal of the current thinking inside the Bush White House we’re in a lot of trouble.

President Bush’s dimwit megalomania seems to have survived the disaster of his Iraq adventure wholly intact.

Consider this passage …

A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon said that Bush was “absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the bomb’ if it is not stopped. He said that the President believes that he must do “what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do,” and “that saving Iran is going to be his legacy.”

Takes your breath away, doesn’t it?

I have to say, I can totally imagine the crackpots and sycophants around the president (many of them, no doubt, ‘consultants’ and ‘contractors’) stoking up his grandiosity along these lines. The world really didn’t know how easily it was getting off when President Clinton settled for the national conversation about race being his legacy, did it? (For you younger folks, you sort of had to be there.)

Here’s the graf that comes after that one.

One former defense official, who still deals with sensitive issues for the Bush Administration, told me that the military planning was premised on a belief that “a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government.” He added, “i was shocked when I heard it, and asked myself, ‘What are they smoking?'”

This is what I was getting at. If this is an even remotely accurate reflection of what these clowns are thinking … well, you can finish the sentence.

I’m going to try to write in a more considered and detailed way about this tomorrow. But for the moment I’d refer back to a point I made a couple weeks ago and say that the biggest folly would be to engage the administration on the particulars of their fantasies and delusions about foreign policy in the Middle East.

They appear to have learned almost nothing from the last three years in Iraq. The only sensible expenditure of energy is to find ways to hem these guys in or constrain them before they do even more damage to this country.

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