Editor’s Blog

I must confess to

I must confess to you that with many friends working on Capitol Hill (and myself living only a few miles away), it’s not so easy to get a critical distance on these most recent disclosures of Anthrax-tainted letters.

Regular readers will also know that I’ve been skeptical of the ‘bomb Iraq now’ crew inhabiting the middle-ranks of the Pentagon. But these new reports raise some very serious questions.

We now seem to be getting conflicting reports about the nature and quality of the Anthrax which arrived at Tom Daschle’s office. First we were hearing that it was high-quality, weapons-grade material. Now authorities seem to be partially backing off those statements, noting among other things that the strain seems highly susceptible to various antibiotics, etc.

Still it seems increasingly likely that someone has Anthrax that is the product of a quite sophisticated operation.

What happens if we find out, upon further testing, that this Anthrax was the product of a sophisticated production system which could only exist as part of a state-sponsored bioweapons program or with the complicity of some state? And let’s cut to the chase, what if the evidence points to Iraq?

We needn’t assume high-level Iraqi state complicity in giving terrorists anthrax to believe that the Iraqi program was the source of the material. Perhaps it was stolen. Perhaps some Iraqi intelligence officers gave a small amount to Mohammed Atta. Who knows? And perhaps more to the point, who cares?

I say this neither to be flippant nor to discount the possibility of direct Iraqi involvement. I say it only to focus our attention on what I take to be the real question at hand. That is, can we allow the continued existence of production facilities and large stocks of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq once we know, or strongly suspect, that some of them have made it to our shores? Once you put it that way, I don’t think it really matters whether Saddam Hussein or Tariq Aziz signed off on the transfer. And if the question is, can we allow it? I think the answer is pretty obviously that we cannot.

That conclusion leads to some dizzying and troubling implications. But I’m not sure they’re ones we can any longer ignore.

Just a quick update

Just a quick update on the media consortium’s comprehensive recount of last year’s presidential election in Florida. When I cited the Globe and Mail article which said the recount story had been spiked, I hadn’t yet seen Howie Kurtz’s article which said the recount analysis had only been delayed by the war, not canceled. Mickey Kaus makes a similar point, quoting the Wall Street Journal’s Alan Murray.

So consider this post a partial correction of yesterday’s.

But only partial.

Mickey’s evidence comes from a bureau chief of one of the news organizations. And Kurtz provides no quotations. The only quotes I’ve been able to find are in the Globe and Mail piece. And those seem at least ambiguous about the fate of the mega-recount analysis. A New York Times spokeswoman told the paper that the recount analysis had been “postponed indefinitely.”

I assume the recount probably will proceed at some later date. But considering the importance of the matter at hand, it still seems to me that the media outlets in question are being deliberately vague. I think they’re hedging. And bureau chiefs giving personal assurances to friends in the business (absent quotes) really doesn’t cut it.

As mentioned yesterday, a delay in the project seems entirely reasonable. But if it’s only a delay, the whole consortium should issue a press release stating that this is only a delay, and that the complete survey of disputed ballots will be completed and published as originally planned.

I assume Ive written

I assume I’ve written enough positive stuff about President Bush’s conduct of this war that I can say the following with some measure of credibility: It’s a very, very bad decision for the media consortium to cancel the publication of their comprehensive analysis of voting results from last year’s presidential election in Florida.

What’s even more disturbing is that the story is only being reported in news outlets outside the United States. Here’s an article about it in Canada’s Globe and Mail, which was picked up by a couple regional papers in the US.

As much of a firebrand as I am on last year’s election, I am perfectly willing to concede that this may not be the time to rehash this controversy — especially if, as has been rumored, it cuts strongly in Al Gore’s direction. A delay may be in order, but we’re still a democracy. Knowing what really happened last year still counts, a lot.

And the apparent decision of many news organizations not even to announce the cancellation of the study points less to a concern for the national interest than a less appealing desire not to offend.

More and more is

More and more is being made of the story of how Sudan offered to turn over Osama bin Laden to the United States in 1996. There’s been much foolish Monday-morning quarterbacking questioning various errors the Clinton administration allegedly made in counter-terrorism policy. And as a Clinton loyalist I’d be more than happy to point out how this Sudan story is just another example of that. But I can’t. Because it’s not. This really was a missed opportunity of immense proportions.

But it’s easy to draw the wrong lesson from what happened.

The prevailing idea seems to be that the Clinton administration got things wrong because they were too indulgent toward so-called ‘rogue states.’ If you look close at what happened in 1996, though, it’s really more that they were, in a sense, too rough with them. The real story about what happened with Sudan in 1996 is that the folks at NSC were so keen to ‘isolate’ the Sudan (and generally slap them around) that the they were blinded to the fact that this quasi-bad-actor state was willing to do us a very good turn. In a sense, they fell for their own spin.

In our current situation that’s a lesson well worth considering.

Next up, the Richard Clarke angle.

Okay I suppose youve

Okay, I suppose you’ve probably seen this evidence of the connection between Osama bin Laden and notorious Sesame Street sourpuss Bert.

But I just couldn’t help pointing it out to you in case you missed it. In case you’re wondering, except for the highlight circle, this is not a doctored photo. And this article describes the very 21st century, globalization -drenched way the seemingly mild-mannered Bert ended up on bin Laden posters in Bangladesh.

But first a warning: the editor of Talking Points literally almost died of laughter when he read the story. So be warned. I mean, I hadn’t heard anything so funny since I read about how Kermit the Frog had hooked up with Imad Mugniyah in the Bekaa Valley!

The Talking Points crusade

The Talking Points crusade (can we still say ‘crusade’?) against Richard Perle is catching on. And across the ideological spectrum too.

Jude Wanniski — pied piper of supply-side economics — gets into the act. He actually calls on Don Rumsfeld to fire his deputy Paul Wolfowitz (a topic we’ve touched on here before, though I don’t think Wolfowitz is in the Perle category by any means). But Perle gets his mention too.

Here’s what he says:

Do you realize that Wolfowitz, and his pal Richard Perle who chairs your Defense Policy Board, have been calling all their friends in the press corps, urging them to beat the drums for war with Iraq? Perle actually signed the “famous” letter of 41 drafted by Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, who is Perle’s mouthpiece in Washington … It is incomprehensible to me that you would allow Perle to remain at that post, where he is permitted to read all the most sensitive secret traffic flowing through the Pentagon. Not that he wouldn’t see it anyway, courtesy of Wolfowitz, but how brazen can he be and get away with it.

Now, I disagree with a number of points Wanniski makes in his piece. But the inappropriateness of Perle’s behavior should be clear to everyone.

Also, let’s roll out the first edition of the Richard Perle Media Hall of Shame (RPMHS): the list of media outlets which have featured Perle without noting his position in this administration. So far CNN, The Washington Post, and the London Daily Telegraph have all joined. No doubt others are soon to take the plunge.

Another Richard Perle update.

Another Richard Perle update.

Why the continuing subterfuge and irresponsibility? In today’s Washington Post article on expanding the war beyond Afghanistan, Perle is identified as “a Pentagon official in the Reagan administration who is close to many members of the Bush administration.”

As we’ve noted repeatedly in recent posts, Perle is a member of this administration. I know this is a matter of definition. But for my money when the Sec Def appoints someone chairman of a key policy oversight committee, which comes with an E-Ring office and salary, that’s being in the administration, period.

When will this man realize the rules apply to him too? And when will someone (anyone!) call him on it?

Neo-cons may not like Colin Powell but don’t they like loyalty and the chain of command? And just when I was going to praise Bill Kristol’s excellent piece in the Weekly Standard Online!

You may have thought

You may have thought this was the government of Uzkekistan’s first effort to curry favor with American presidents. But far from it. Back in 1997 the Embassy of Uzbekistan paid the PBN Company (which specializes in work in Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics) $7,500 to a) put together a “briefing book of Hillary Clinton speeches” and b) get approval from the White House and the publishers to translate It Takes a Village into Uzbeke!

All so dignitaries back home could drop a few good lines on Hillary when she visited the country that year.

P.S. This from secretly obtained confidential documents? Alas, no. Publicly obtained at the Foreign Agents Registration Act office several months ago while researching an unrelated story.

In case you missed

In case you missed this crushing passage

“Each addict’s story here in the Pakistan city of Quetta is sadder than the next. Mooruddin Aki’s arms were chopped off by the Taliban after authorities caught him smoking opium in an Afghan school. At 18, he begs on the streets and people who take pity on him place bills in his mouth.”

New York Times, Oct. 7th, 2001

As I noted Friday

As I noted Friday evening, Richard Perle (a member of this administration, which I explained in the earlier post) went on Crossfire and accused Colin Powell of working against President Bush’s policies. Let’s follow up on a few fronts.

First, it turns out Donald Rumsfeld agrees with me! Or at least he used to. When I saw Perle mouthing off on CNN, I thought I remembered something from Rumsfeld’s Rules (what’s that?) about this. And it turns out I’m right. “Avoid public spats,” RR says on page 9, “When a Department argues with other government agencies in the press, it reduces the President’s options.” All the more so during wartime, one must imagine.

Second, it turns out this isn’t the only freelancing Perle was doing on Friday. On the 5th, in the London Daily Telegraph, Perle penned a derisive attack on British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, for his recent visit to Tehran.

And in case you haven’t noticed, the Brits have been rather supportive of our efforts of late. (Perle just doesn’t seem to like Foreign Offices, whether in the UK or the US.)

As I explained in the earlier post, Richard Perle is a member of this administration, though he seldom identifies himself as such in these contexts. This isn’t about his views, but rather his behavior, which lacks honor, judgment and discretion. By his actions he has shown that he believes the normal rules do not apply to him.

According to Newsweek, Dick Cheney told Paul Wolfowitz to knock off the public statements about attacking Iraq, after publicly butting heads with Powell. Isn’t it time for Rumsfeld or someone to do the same with Perle?

The rules apply to Reaganites and neo-con intellectuals too, ya know. No special pleading. No excuses.

Thereve been many articles

There’ve been many articles describing what good has been able to come from the tragedies of September 11th: the outpouring of charitable giving, the surge of national unity and patriotism, the willingness of states around the globe to provide the cooperation necessary to hunt down and root out terrorist organizations. Of course, few developments have been more salutary than the banishment of Mitch Daniels from public life.

Have you seen Daniels recently? A quick Nexis search revealed 19 references to Daniels’ name in the last week; and 124 for Glenn Hubbard, the head of the Council of Economic Advisors, who’s recently been put forward as Daniels de facto public replacement.

The real question now is whether it’s just Daniels — a dissembler and a hack — who is going to stay banished or whether his hackish ways are out too. Paul Krugman thinks the chances of that are starting to look pretty poor indeed.

This is a dirty

This is a dirty, dirty business. If you watched CNN’s Crossfire tonight you saw Richard Perle, an Assistant Secretary of Defense from the Reagan administration, talking about strategy in the United States’ war against terrorism. In particular he was distinguishing between President Bush’s strategy and that emanating from the State Department, i.e., from Colin Powell. I don’t have the transcript in front of me. But to put it bluntly he was saying that Powell was pursuing a foolish policy of coalition building and undermining or ignoring the stated wishes of the president.

Tough words. But not so unexpected from someone with Perle’s politics and temperament.

Only that’s not the whole story. Because Perle’s not really a former Assistant Secretary of Defense. Or at least that’s not all he is. He’s also the Chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board. He’s got an office in the E-ring of the Pentagon, a floor away from Rumsfeld’s office.

In other words, he’s a part of this administration. CNN was either dishonest or asleep at the switch in how they chose to identify him.

(As a side note, my understanding is that part of the reason Perle was given this job is that administration hawks really wanted to bring him in but knew there was no way to give him a position that requires Senate confirmation. And this position doesn’t require it.)

Different appointees of an administration will sometimes criticize each other, certainly. But junior appointees at the Defense Department do not go on TV and explicitly accuse the Secretary of State of ignoring the president’s wishes or undermining his policies.

So what’s going on here? Can this really be allowed to continue? Can the Secretary of State or the President’s dignity abide this? And where’s Rumsfeld on all this? Can we, i.e., the American people, really put up with this kind of crap at what we are told, rightly, is a time of national crisis and mobilization?

This is a big deal. And it’s not a laughing matter.

Oh what a tangled

Oh what a tangled web we weave …

They say lies beget more lies. But, more importantly, boneheaded statements tend to beget more boneheaded statements. Especially when you can’t bring yourself to take one back and move on.

Ever since Andrew Sullivan let fly that hot-headed and instantly pummeled remark about a lefty “fifth column” on the deracinated East Coast he’s been hunting around for some way to get out of the egregious over-statement penalty box. And now he’s done it! He’s found the fifth column! It’s called United Peoples. And they’re so big and well organized they even have a web site!

Of the ten American “organizers” included on the site most are identified as affiliated with another website called Friendly Favors, which that site chillingly identifies as “A tool to find Friendly people, connect with them and acknowledge their Favors.”

I, for one, already feel more secure that Andrew has unearthed this gaggle of risible oafs. Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit seems to have the right idea when he says: “if this is the fifth column, we can focus most of our attention on the first four. They’re no threat, except to their own credibility.”

I was thinking they might be a bigger threat to Andrew’s.

P.S. Yes, yes, yes. I know I’m writing too much about Sullivan. And I’m trying to kick the habit. But on this one I couldn’t help it.

As long as were

As long as we’re already fighting this war on terrorism maybe we can also set aside a little juice for a war on Ukrainian ineptitude.

Ugh Is it just

Ugh! Is it just me or did tonight’s episode of The West Wing make you almost ashamed to be a liberal. Not that I’m a liberal exactly. But my God! I’ve only watched the show maybe 4 or 5 times. But this was supposed to be a special episode. So I watched it with friends. Anyway, where to start? Mawkish, preachy, trite, boneheaded, ridiculous on logical principles. I mean, can we get Sorkin back on crack? This is terrible.

Im really glad The

I’m really glad The West Wing has all those ex-Clintonites on hand as consultants to give the show that seamless verisimilitude. Otherwise I never would have known that, in cases of a terrorist incursion into the White House, policy dictates that the Chief of Staff is in charge of interrogating the suspect. I don’t think Andy Card reads Talking Points, but maybe Podesta can help us out here. Did you ever get tasked with that detail, John?

Oh well. For a

Oh well. For a few months now — that is to say, long before 9/11 — I’ve been working on a story about Osama bin Laden. Particularly how the government of Sudan had opened a back channel to the United States in 1996 offering to take bin Laden — then resident in Sudan — into custody and turn him over either to the Saudis or to the United States.

In essence, we passed on the offer. It wasn’t quite that simple. The Saudis didn’t want him back. And at the time the United States had no criminal indictment against him. Nonetheless, at the end of the day, we passed on the offer. We told the Sudanese we didn’t want him going to Somalia and regretfully acquiesced in his departure for Afghanistan on May 18th 1996.

I’ve been interviewing various players in this little drama for some time now — something I’ve alluded to elliptically in a few posts over the last couple months. And though I was able to nail down the Saudi part of the equation, sufficient confirmation of the US part of puzzle eluded me.

So why am I telling you all this? Shouldn’t I be more hush-hush about it?

Well, when the Washington Post broke the story in Wednesday’s edition of the paper that sort of made secrecy a tad less important, didn’t it?

Oh well.

Cynics and wags may

Cynics and wags may look at the Anglo-American ‘special relationship’ and deride the Brits as America’s poodle. But you look at Tony Blair’s speech at the Labour Party Conference today and you say … some poodle!

“This is a battle with only one outcome – our victory, not theirs … Let there be no moral ambiguity about this, nothing could ever justify the events of 11 September, and it is to turn justice on its head to pretend it could …”

This is one of the many reasons why folks with politics of the TPM variety love Tony Blair.

We’re smitten. We’re in love. We’ve fallen and we can’t get up.

A few quick points.

A few quick points. Lost amidst much of the news over the tightening noose around the Taliban is what this is all going to mean for our long term relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Much has been made of the Saudis’ balking over allowing us use of one of their key military bases. But the depth of non-cooperation and estrangement between the US and the Saudis, and their recent history of sufferance of, or passive cooperation with, bin Laden has far-reaching consequences. The Saudis are the ones with the big oil supply (with very elastic production). They are the ones who host our primary military presence in the Gulf. They are both bin Laden’s enemies and his accomplices. Once the dust settles here there are going to be some serious ‘whose side are you on’ type questions to be asked.

Second, I noticed today on WSJ/Opinion Journal’s Best of the Web that The Weekly Standard has just debuted a new web site. BoW says the Standard site was “long an online laggard.” But we can leverage the strategic flexibility created by the fact that TPM is headquartered in a small apartment in DuPont Circle and faces precious little pressure from advertisers to be a little more evocative and blunt.

It blew. It was really awful — especially when you consider the cash they pour into the print magazine.

Anyway, I’m happy to report the redesign is quite nice, a real improvement.

It may surprise you that we’re plugging the Standard here at TPM. (A good bit of the content does offend my basic sensibilities. And the frequent, needess-to-mention anti-Clintonism speaks for itself.) But strictly in magazine terms it is perhaps the best political magazine currently being published. And it’s now the undisputed home of the most original and intelligent voices in contemporary conservatism and the ones TPM most admires — two groups which, admittedly, tend rather to overlap.

Speaking of which, here’s an article I just found on the Saudis on the Standard site which touches provocatively on themes noted above. A few of the points seem over-stated — particularly with regard to the puritanical streak in Islam and Wahabi anti-modernism — but I strongly commend it to you.

I was sitting in

I was sitting in my apartment trying to force myself to do something more productive and lucrative than write another TPM post, when I heard some chants and several helicopters buzzing overhead. I craned my neck out my fourth-floor window to see an anti-war march shambling down R Street, screaming a really wretched rendition of Whitfield and Strong’s ‘War’.

I don’t mean to be snarky. But I can’t help thinking this provides some harsh illumination on the whole IMF-WTO protest movement. These folks are here of course because there was supposed to be an IMF meeting in DC, but that got cancelled because of 9/11.

But the idea seemed to be, hell, we already built the puppets and rented the group house in Adams Morgan so we might as well protest something.

I’m told there was actually a brief but strenuous debate over whether to focus the protest on the imminent use of military force or the fact that heightened security at airports and border crossings is seriously impeding the inflow of some of the finer Jamaican weed.

P.S. For aggrieved lefties who wish to rail against this post, I’ve set up this special email address: aggrievedlefties@j-marshall.com.

A lot of folks

A lot of folks in the Bush administration have risen to the occasion of late; but that only shines a harsher light on the folks whose true colors are coming through in these arduous days. At the top of the list of course is Ari Fleischer.

Clarity, after a fashion, is one of Fleischer’s most refreshing qualities. Unlike most others in his field of work, in Fleischer we have all the complicating traces which make up the higher alloys burned away to reveal the pure metal of hackdom: embarrassingly little knowledge of the subjects he discusses, still less of the talent of a Karen Hughes, and none of the ethical ballast which gives the likes of Mike McCurry their dramatic tension.

Let’s just touch on a few points.

Ari’s part in the bogus story about the specific threat to Air Force One. (Just a note, I don’t think the president had anything to apologize for, staying away from DC for a few hours, while the capital had all the feel of a war zone. But the lies of lackeys like Ari are revealing and scandalous).

Ari’s crass and pitiful phone call to NBC execs trying to squelch an interview with Bill Clinton, on the rationale that national unity required keeping the former president off the airwaves.

(BTW, is anyone noticing that Jake Tapper is breaking big stories on the 9/11 aftermath about twice a week now?)

Ari’s clumsy effort to exploit our calamity to blunt any criticism of the executive branch, referenced briefly in Paul Krugman’s Times column.

And these are only the offense after September 11th (bogus White House vandalism story, etc.). Isn’t it time this guy comes in for some serious criticism, and not just from the alternative press?

Ohhh the perils of

Ohhh, the perils of the blame game and, oh, the perils of not doing your homework.

After a few placid days, Andrew Sullivan is back banging the bells of recrimination, laying a good bit of the blame for our recent catastrophes on the Clinton administration.

Sullivan, like other Clinton-haters, wants you to believe that we had a feckless, dilatory, and naive counter-terrorism policy under our former president and had to wait for the current crew to clean house, see the terrorist threat through the cold eye of realism, and act accordingly.

Which makes you wonder, of course, why the only big foreign policy player (beside CIA Director George Tenet) the Bush administration kept on from the Clinton team was Richard Clarke, head of counter-terrorism at NSC.

Can’t have it both ways, can we?

Woe unto the world because of fatuous Karl Rove spin! for it must needs be that such spin shall come; but woe to that man by whom the spin is transmitted!

(Matthew 18:7 slightly revised)

Though Ive never ignored

Though I’ve never ignored his rough edges, I’ve always been a pretty big fan of Rudy Giuliani. Or at least anything but a consistent critic. Obviously his actions in recent weeks have just crystallized his strengths and what I think you have to call his claim to greatness.

That’s why it really pains me to see what’s happening now. Like many greats, Giuliani’s virtues aren’t just equalled by his shortcomings, they’re difficult to distinguish one from another. If I had a magic wand I’d certainly like to see Giuliani remain as Mayor. But what’s going to happen here is that he’s going to try to hold on, more than likely fail, and then taint all the well-deserved praise.

Perhaps he’ll even give a hint that his heroism during this crisis had a political tinge, when I think it’s rather certain that it had none.

Even if he pulls it off, it won’t look good. It’ll looking grasping because it won’t be by acclamation. It’ll be political. Something hashed out in the normal runamok of politics.

The news today is that he’s come up with a secret plan to extend his term three months — which two of the three candidates have accepted. But extending a term isn’t a private deal that can be worked out between contenders and the incumbent. It’s a public matter, a matter of law.

He should have left well enough alone. But he couldn’t.

Here is a piece

Here is a piece of mine in today’s New York Post saying some kind things about President Bush but calling to account the growing number of his conservative supporters who are using the present ceasefire on partisanship to score cheap political points.

Not linked on their site, but next to my column in the paper edition, is this column by Michelle Malkin. The article attacks Hillary Clinton for her behavior since the 9/11 calamity. I once met Michelle when we were a left-right pairing on C-Span’s Washington Journal a year or so back. And she was perfectly pleasant, friendly, and engaging. But her column today is one of the most vicious and indecent pieces of writing I have ever read.

Finally, here’s a column by Maggie Gallagher, also in today’s Post but not linked on their site, which takes me to task for my column in those pages last week.

My first thought was that she had simply misunderstood my point — willfully or no. More likely we simply disagree. That will be the placeholder for a more acidy response.

Okay lets file this

Okay, let’s file this one away under the heading of things that don’t have any clear significance to the present circumstance but are nonetheless so utterly bizarre that they are sure to kick up at least a few conspiracy theories.

You may remember from that presidential election we had a while back that President Bush once had an ill-fated oil company called Arbusto. Lotsa sweatheart deals, etc.

Well it turns out one of Bush’s big investors was Osama bin Laden’s elder brother Salem.

Hey … listen, I kid you not, as my dad would say.

The story was first floated in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera and then yesterday in Britain’s Daily Mail. I read the Daily Mail piece on Nexis but I can’t get a link for it. It’s summarized, though, in this article from the India Times.

According to the articles, the White House declined comment.

Could this be story be all smoke? Maybe, but it’s been printed in several reputable papers outside the United States. There are some further details in this article from last week in the SF Weekly.

I was just about

I was just about to toss up a post asking whether there was really anybody who had any objections to letting airline pilots carry guns on flights. After reading a few articles, though, it does seem clear that there is at least one pretty good possible objection.

It changes the dynamics of hijackings entirely.

One of the things the WTC and Pentagon hijackers taught us is that getting guns on to planes is prohibitively difficult or at least needlessly risky. Yet with this reform every flight would start with a gun already on-board and in a sense in play. The question would only be who managed to get their hands on it.

On balance, I think arming the pilots is a good idea, and you could take plenty of precautions to deter or dash the plans of hijackers whose whole plan was to enter the plane unarmed and somehow get control of the captain’s weapon.

The one idea that seems clearly wrong, though, is the pilots’ association’s proposal to leave the decision to the individual pilots over whether or not to carry a weapon. I think we want to arm ’em or not arm ’em. After all, this isn’t about the pilots. It’s about the safety of the passengers and even more the safety of untold numbers of other innocents in targets of opportunity across the country. Let’s decide whether this makes commercial aviation more or less safe, and then tell the pilots how it’s gonna be.

I mean, imagine having your travel agent telling you, it’s a widebody, you’re in first class by the window, and Captain Scroggins is known to pack some serious heat

Whats the phrase nbsp

What’s the phrase?   “Some men are born great. Others have greatness thrust upon them. And still others are simply ridiculous hacks from whom no good can ever come.”

Or something like that.

Anyway, it brings me to the subject of Dan Quayle. I just walked home in the rain in the middle of the night and flipped on the TV to see this sorry chump rambling on about how we gotta get Saddam and he’s bad because he’s a terrorist and he’s bad and it’s not like the Gulf War but it’s like back in Desert Storm and yada and we gotta be wise and yada and we looked at the big picture yada …

It was pitiful. I can’t watch him talk without thinking I’m watching a grown man struggling to tread water in a pool that’s only three feet deep.

The peg for all this, I guess, is a recent meeting of something called the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board. It’s chaired by the Darth Vader of Republican defense policy hawks, Richard Perle, and it includes, inter alios, Henry Kissinger, James Schlesinger, Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. They met last week and apparently decided that we need to go after Iraq after Afghanistan.

On the face of it this board sounds a bit like a virtual retirement community for has-been Republicans like Quayle to get together for old time’s sake over the situation room planning maps. But I actually remember a friend of mine (who really knows this stuff) telling me that it was a pretty big deal when Perle got appointed to chair it. So who knows.

Anyway, watching this wretched goof try to string together a few coherent thoughts on international terrorism made me shudder (reshudder?) at the thought that he ever could have been president. Whatever you think of our current president (and, as I’ve said, I’m giving him pretty good marks so far in this crisis) think what sort of jam we’d be in if this floundering bonehead were running the show.

Its an overcast gloomy

It’s an overcast, gloomy, ominous day in Washington … One of the worst things these people did to us, I thought as I woke up this morning, was to make our optimism, our naivete — our best qualities — seem somehow shameful.

Could this be a

Could this be a strategy? If so, it would have the subtlety and cleverness of Sun Tzu.

It’s been no mystery and no surprise that the on-their-heels Afghan Northern Alliance, beaten back to a few obscure redoubts in their losing battle for control of their country, have pitched themselves as potential US allies in the fight against the Taliban.

But now they actually seem to be gaining victories on the ground. And in part it seems they’ve been able to accomplish this because the American build-up is tying down Taliban forces.

This is worth paying attention to.

Is this town big

Is this town big enough for Colin Powell and Paul Wolfowitz? I’m not sure it is.

There’s been a back-and-forth over the last week between Powell — as the point-man for slow and deliberate response — and Wolfowitz as the rep for overwhelming military retaliation on the model of Michael Corleone’s hit on all the family’s enemies at the end of Godfather I.

To date, much of this has been going on at the level of tea leaves. But it’s now escalating to the point where something or someone may have to give way.

I don’t have the transcript yet, but on This Week this morning Sam Donaldson was interviewing Powell. And in the course of that interview Donaldson pressed the Secretary of State on these internal disagreements within the administration. Particularly, Powell made a point of saying that whatever their private views, everyone in the administration is united following the president.

But he said everyone at the “cabinet level.” The clear target of that qualifier was Wolfowitz. So Powell wasn’t denying the rift; he was affirming it. And hurling what amounts to a pretty weighty accusation against the Deputy Secretary of Defense.

LATE UPDATE: Here’s the relevant portion of the interchange from the transcript posted at Washingtonpost.com.

DONALDSON: You’re a general. But you don’t sound very warlike, compared to other voices in this town, and some within the administration.

POWELL: The only voice that I try to compare myself to and to be consistent with is the president of the United States. All of his cabinet-level security advisers are in agreement with the policy direction he has given us, with the instructions he has given us, and the decisions he has made.

Mr. Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, myself, Dr. Rice, the secretary of the Treasury, the FBI, the attorney general, all working together, understand the instructions the president has given us.

Special thanks goes to TPM reader WM for sending along the link.