Editors’ Blog

Whatever you may think

Whatever you may think about President Bush’s current sky-high approval ratings, I am definitely one of those who believes that House Democrats should do quite well in the November 2002 off-year elections.

They have the able leadership of New York Rep. Nita Lowey and various crafty political operatives working under her. Still, with all the chatter about Marin-born Taliban John Walker being the product of permissive, New Age, Me-generation parenting, maybe the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) should reconsider the design of its new logo which seems to imply that Democrats endorse pyramids, and perhaps even crystals!

Will you indulge me

Will you indulge me?

Can we do a little Condit, just for old-time’s sake?


Okay, here’s the deal: When last we checked in with the pitiful, soon-to-be -former congressman from Modesto, he had decided to run for yet another term in congress. Condit told the LA Times he was “a little embarrassed” (cue: snicker here) by all the support he’d gotten from well-wishers across the United States. “People relate to this in the sense that I have been mistreated in terms of my civil liberties and in terms of the theory in this country that one is innocent until proven guilty,” Condit told the Times.

Now, the House Dems are in a bit of a bind because it’s tough for them not to support a fellow Democratic congressman for reelection – no matter how big a bozo he might be.

So let me see if I can give them a hand.

You may have heard that Gary Condit got a subpoena from a DC grand jury in mid-November. What you may not have heard is that he has resisted complying with that subpoena, apparently on the grounds that complying might violate the separation of powers doctrine.

This joke just sorta tells itself doesn’t it?

First Condit got Marina Ein to flak for him. Now he’s gotta drag James Madison into the mix?

CNN is slated to

CNN is slated to run an interview tonight with American mujahid John Walker.

In the interview Walker condemns the Mazar-e Sharif prison uprising which occurred soon after he was interrogated by CIA officer Mike Spann, and in which Spann was killed. The uprising is “against what we had agreed upon, and … against Islam. It is a major sin to break a contract, especially in military situations,” Walker told a CNN interviewer on December 2nd.

No doubt, Walker’s handlers at the firm of Morrison & Foerster will cheer this interview, believing it distances him at least somewhat from the prison revolt in which Spann was killed.

Actually, it makes Walker seem like an even bigger whack.

Blow up the World Trade Center and kill thousands of civilians? You bet. Break a battlefield surrender agreement? What do you think we are? Animals?

Meanwhile, the New York Times seems to have missed the mega-TPM scoop about how Walker’s attorney James J. Brosnahan told partners in his law firm that if Walker didn’t get with the program and ditch his bin-Laden-loving ways the firm would drop his case.

Clearly, life is not fair. There is no justice. Yada. Yada … yada.

If youd read this

If you’d read this article in the current issue of the battle-ravaged American Prospect, you’d know that Richard Perle is Chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, a standing committee charged with evaluating Defense Department readiness, acquisitions, planning, and all manner of defense-wonk big-think. That fact has some bearing on Perle’s opinion about the cancellation of a major Navy weapons program.

But apparently, no one told the Washington Post, which quoted Perle thusly in Saturday’s paper:

Richard Perle, a missile defense advocate who served in the Pentagon during the Reagan administration, said he wasn’t upset by the cancellation. “I’m for missile defenses, but I’m not for bad programs,” he said. “I’d rather move cautiously.”

P.S. Special thanks to TPM reader CM for the catch.

An important update on

An important update on the post about John Walker from earlier today. Just because John Walker now says he was buds with Osama bin Laden and a member of Al Qaeda, doesn’t mean it’s so. But from the perspective of how much mercy he’s likely to get from US courts and the American public, the fact that he still seems to be boasting about such things is really as important as whether or not such claims are actually true.

File this away in

File this away in your connecting-the-dots folder. According to Roll Call, once and future national Democratic ticket contender, Senator Joe Lieberman, has confirmed that he’ll begin an investigation of Enron early next year in the Senate Government Affairs Committee.

Why, why, why, why

Things just keep going

Things just keep going from bad to worse for American mujahid John Walker.

From the beginning I’ve had the suspicion that at the end of the day Walker would basically get off scot-free. The administration clearly just wanted the issue to go away (it’s off message in a big way); after a while most people wouldn’t have the stomach for seeing tough punishment meted out to the pitiful goof; and, for various technical reasons, finding a specific crime to indict him with in a civilian court would be difficult. In fact, at a party a couple nights ago I even bet a friend ten bucks that Walker would never serve jail time — even though I figured this was a bet I’d more than likely lose.

In any case, now it comes out that Walker was actually a member of Al Qaeda, trained at some of the terrorist training camps, and even hung out with bin Laden himself.

One also gets the sense that Walker isn’t confessing the error of his ways on that American ship in the Arabian Sea.

Let’s remember that, as Talking Points noted in a TOO-LITTLE-NOTED SCOOP about a week and a half ago, the law firm Walker’s parents retained to defend him, Morrison & Foerster, was already nervous about just what Walker’s post-capture attitude was going to turn out to be. If Walker remained an unrepentant bin-Ladenite, lead attorney James J. Brosnahan told a private meeting a Morrison & Foerster partners and associates on December 5th, he’d likely end up being an ex-Morrison & Foerster client really quick.

So maybe my better bet would have been how many days are left before John Walker’s big San Francisco law firm drops him like a stone.

First of all lets

First of all, let’s just say it. How bummin’ is this dude on the left?

I mean, c’mon. What is he thinking? “Why’s this guy getting all the attention? I fought the jihad. What am I? Chopped liver?”

Second, you can say this was a bad day for OBL and the rest of the crew. But let’s be clear about who really had a very bad day. Right. Suleiman Abu Ghaith, OBL’s Press Secretary and Spokesman. Not since Pamela Anderson has an ill-considered home video caused its subject so much grief. It was a rotten press day for OBL. But the Press Secretary’s always the one who gets left to pick up the pieces.

How is he going to walk a story like this back, exactly? What’s the explanatory context you can provide?

For all the flood

For all the flood of information we’re seeing today (bin Laden tape, the supposed severing of ties between Israel and Arafat, US pulling out of the ABM treaty) the biggest deal may end up being the terrorist attack on the Indian parliament. If the perpetrators were Muslim militants from Kashmir or Al Qaeda-ites, this will be trouble. Big trouble.

“For the past two decades, we have been fighting terrorism; now the battle has reached its final phase,” says India’s Prime Minister. “The fight has now reached a decisive stage. At this time of crisis, the nation is united,” says the Defense Minister. “This problem (terrorism) has crossed the limit and we have to solve it.”

As you may know

As you may know, the national sport of Afghanistan is buzkashi, an ancient Ghengis Khan-era competition in which two teams of horsemen vie against each other to grab hold of and toss around the decapitated body of an eviscerated old goat.

Which brings us to the race now taking shape in California’s 18th congressional district, Condit country.

Against all odds, the old goat himself has decided to throw his hat in the ring (tried to think of another metaphor, but couldn’t) for the Democratic nomination in the 18th district and try to win another term as congressman. Rep. Gary A. Condit told the LA Times that deciding to run again was a hard decision but that he didn’t “know that [he] could be comfortable letting the national press, the people in Washington, D.C., the pundits and the talking heads determine my decision.”

Condit’s main competitor for the Dem nomination is Dennis Cardoza, a one-time Condit staffer and protege. The main Republican in the race is state Sen. Dick Monteith. To get the horsemen really riled up Condit dared these would-be opponents to raise the Chandra Levy scandal in the campaign.

Meanwhile, Condit has apparently still not turned over the materials subpoenaed by federal investigators on November 13th, seemingly because of some separation of powers issues he believes are involved. So says his lawyer.

P.S. Since we last checked in on Rep. Condit he has allowed his one-time lawyer Abbe Lowell to leave the case, presumably to make a start at regaining his dignity. Replacing Lowell is none other that Larry King-Condit- gabmeister Mark Geragos. Actually, according to my sources, Geragos was already informally advising Condit last summer when he was still part of the Larry King panel commenting about Condit.

Heres a special item

Here’s a special item for TPM regulars. I’d say it was a treat. But that word wouldn’t be appropriate. And I’m not certain quite what to call it. Maybe just something weird and worth seeing.

In any case, if you’re enough of a pack-rat to have held on to the September 10th, 2001 issue of The New Yorker (that is, the second-to-last issue before the attacks) you can thumb back through those pages and find something that is equal parts bizarre, chilling, and weird. And, I think I can guarantee you, an ad-campaign that came to a screeching halt on September 11th.

So if you’ve still got a copy of that issue (the one with a black and white and yellow drawing of an over-sized child walking his parents) open it up and look at the Lufthansa ad opposite the table of contents.

Shouldnt Dick Cheney be

Shouldn’t Dick Cheney be catching a little more grief for refusing on Meet The Press to disavow the scurrilous Republican ad which likens Tom Daschle to Saddam Hussein? (Why are they on the same team, you ask? Because both oppose drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, of course. Actually, I missed Saddam’s announcement when he came out against. I must not have been paying attention.)

MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you an ad in South Dakota, and you mentioned Senator Tom Daschle, and this was paid for by the Family Research Council out there. Saddam Hussein and Tom Daschle juxtaposed. That’s a little over the line, isn’t it?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I’m not responsible for the ad, and you flashed it so fast I didn’t have a chance to read the copy. But there is a disagreement with respect to Senator Daschle on energy. The House of Representatives has moved and passed an energy bill last summer. The Senate has not acted. Tom pulled it out of the Energy Committee, so they’re not even considering in committee an energy bill at this point. The House has passed a stimulus package. The Senate has yet to act. The House just passed trade promotion authority. The Senate has yet to act. In the energy area, it’s extraordinarily important that we move for energy security, energy independence. We’re never going to get all the way over to energy independence, but given the volatility of the Middle East and our increasing dependence on that part of the world for oil, it’s important we go forward, for example, with things like ANWR.

Dick “you flashed it so fast I didn’t have a chance to read the copy” Cheney.

Can’t we do a little better than that?

How embarrassing Who thought

How embarrassing! Who thought the Bush Social Security Commission would have such a pitiful demise? The whole point of the Commission — which, improbably enough, had libs jittery and wingers giddy — was to send up a privatization proposal which would have the wind in its sails, define reform as privatization, and perhaps even arrest Pat Moynihan’s precipitous slide into mendacity, hackdom and irrelevance.

Now the last of these three objectives was obviously a pipe dream. Number two was a tough proposition. But who would have thought they wouldn’t even be able to manage number one? I mean, the whole cliche about presidential commissions is that their reports sit on library shelves collecting dust. Releasing not a report or a proposal but three different vague policy recommendations really charts new territory on the barren wasteland of commission fecklessness. No wonder privatizers in the media feel like they’ve been had.

The denouement is pitiful but the reality behind it is instructive. For years, privatization opponents have insisted that when it came down to brass tacks, there was no way to hash out a partial privatization plan that actually worked. That is, it was impossible if you defined ‘working’ as a) insuring long-term solvency for the program, b) not requiring massive benefit cuts, c) not requiring sizeable tax increases, and d) not being based on bogus accounting.

What happened is that when the Commission tried to do it they discovered that this was pretty much true.

This much could have, and should have, been predicted. What wasn’t obvious was that the Commission would have all the political agility and polish of a drunk, blind mouse trying to find its way out of a paper bag (for a good run-down of the Commission’s implosion see this article by Nick Confessore).

Millions of dollars were supposed to raised by the administration’s allies for a privatization media blitz. But they forgot about it or lost interest. And now all the Republicans who actually have to run in elections are terrified that they’re going to get creamed with the issue come 2002.

A group called Campaign for America’s Future put together an operation which mau-maued the Commission from coast to coast, repeatedly harassing them and calling them out for how the Commission was stacked, how it tried to operate in closed meetings contrary to law, etc. etc. etc. The CAF folks were doing the Lord’s work, as far as I’m concerned. But the hapless commissioners gave them a lot to work with, making one misstep after another, letting themselves get drawn into hopeless debates and generally being made fools of.

It’s hard not to find examples. The just-released Draft Final Report (Adobe Acrobat Required) is plastered with warnings that say “Do Not Quote Without Permission.” What exactly that is supposed to mean in a public document uploaded on a government website I’m not really sure. Isn’t it the online, policy wonk equivalent of making a “Kick Me” poster, taping it to your butt, and taking a nice leisurely walk through Queens and the Bronx?

Here is a short

Here is a short review I just wrote for the New York Times Book Review. The review is of The Strange Death of American Liberalism by H.W. Brands. Brands’ thesis is that the dominance of liberalism in America through the second and third quarters of the twentieth century was a product of the Cold War. No more Cold War, he argues, no more liberalism.

My take on the book is generally negative. But the flaws in Brands’ argument should give pause to those liberals who believe that the muscular government response to 9/11, and the public’s heightened reliance on government, necessarily portends some sort of liberal revival.

Nearly everyone has said

Nearly everyone has said it at this point. (Jake Weisberg makes the case eloquently.) But let me at least go on record: John Ashcroft’s performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday was offensive, even disgusting. On attitude and lack of forthcoming-ness alone, it was bad. But to argue that those who raise questions about civil liberties are somehow aiding the terrorists is offensive and, frankly, requires an apology.

Even if you don’t think the Justice Department has done anything wrong or over-stepped on any count, you should still be glad that some people are raising these questions.

Wartime and crisis often require steps that would be unwarranted and even unacceptable in peacetime. But there must some counter-balance to the government which, in the nature of things, will try to push the ball as far as it can.

So it’s imperative that people should be raising these questions, issuing these criticisms – if only to put the state to its test, to make sure it can meet its burden of showing that the steps it’s taking are both necessary and constitutional – two variables that become interwoven in moments like these.

Anti-war critics are always permissible, but I’m not sure they’re always necessary. Civil liberties critics are always necessary. Even when they’re wrong.

This is the problem with Ashcroft. Both in his penchant for secrecy and his intolerance of criticism, his flaws of character and untoward belligerence get him in trouble even when he’s right on the merits.

Next follow up response

Next, follow up response to Glenn Reynolds on whether John Ashcroft’s hands were really tied, when he decided that the FBI couldn’t look at Brady Bill instant background check records to investigate folks who’d been pulled in during the anti-terrorism dragnet.

Reynolds has now posted the relevant law on his site. And let me first say that this seems like weblogging, or mezining, at its best, given the civility of the debate and the production of relevant information it’s given rise to. Having said that, the information put forward seems less than convincing to me.

Here’s why.

First, Reynolds quotes 18 U.S.C. 922(t) which says that these records are supposed to be destroyed. He concludes that these records wouldn’t even exist if the Justice Department had been following the law.

But if the Justice Department were really breaking the law, wouldn’t someone have sued? Well, they did. Or more precisely, the NRA did. And they lost.

Last year the DC Circuit Court upheld the Justice Department’s right to retain those records for six months, finding “nothing in the Brady Act that unambiguously prohibits temporary retention of information about lawful transactions, and finding that the Attorney General has reasonably interpreted the Act to permit retention of such information for audit purposes…”

The next statute Reynolds cites is 18 USC 926 … (the italics and editing are Reynolds’)

(a) The Secretary may prescribe only such rules and regulations as are necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter. . . .

No such rule or regulation prescribed after the date of the enactment of the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act may require that records required to be maintained under this chapter or any portion of the contents of such records, be recorded at or transferred to a facility owned, managed, or controlled by the United States or any State or any political subdivision thereof, nor that any system of registration of firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions or dispositions be established. Nothing in this section expands or restricts the Secretary’s authority to inquire into the disposition of any firearm in the course of a criminal investigation.

But when I read this, the key phrase is “may require.” That’s the phrase governing the maintenance of the records in the first clause and “any system of registration” in the second. This sounds like the law says that the executive branch can’t issue a regulation requiring that these records be used as a national database or firearm registry.

That sounds different from saying that law enforcement can’t look at records that are legally (by the DC Circuit’s ruling) still hanging around.

In any case, as TPM readers know, I’m not a lawyer and Reynolds is a big time law professor. (No, that’s meant seriously, not facetiously. If these were 17th or 18th legal records, I’d be the expert, but they’re not — long story, which I’ll explain another time.) So these are just my unlearned takes on these statutes. But having looked at them, they still look way shy of black letter law to me. To put it mildly.

As one of my readers – who is a lawyer – put it “Ashcroft is pushing the envelope to expand the terror investigation in some areas, but is using one arguable (cramped) reading of a statute to limit law enforcement in the gun area.”

Given all this, any potential correction on my part, for the moment, is still on ice.

Lets run down several

Let’s run down several issues in order, shall we? In this post, Andrew Sullivan and Paul Krugman.

Sullivan takes a whack at Krugman for today’s column on Bush’s disastrous fiscal policy. Sic Sullivan …

“Money to rebuild New York? Sorry, no.” – from the column cited above. Now, everyone knows that a large sum of federal money has already been apportioned to New York City for recovery and rebuilding. So what can Krugman mean? Read the column again and you’ll see there’s no qualification here. He doesn’t say “More money to rebuild New York?” Or: “Enough money to rebuild New York?” Is Krugman unaware of the funding? Or is this simply a smear?

Now, strictly speaking, this may be hyperbole, since some money is being appropriated for New York City. But perhaps Sullivan hasn’t been paying very close attention to what’s taking shape on Capitol Hill.

After September 11th, President Bush pledged $20 billion in aid relief to New York. That’s the “money apportioned”. But over the last two months that money has been steadily whittled away. The New York delegation is now trying to secure roughly half that amount — and even that 50% of what they were promised counts various non-applicable expenditures. (Bush says they’ll get the rest — next year.)

(It’s actually an astonishing story – one that’s gotten relatively little attention outside New York – and a stunning broken promise. But, hey, the Sunbelt is in the saddle. So what can you do?)

Anyway, $20 billion was what Bush himself thought was necessary to rebuild New York. He and Hill Republicans are now unwilling to spend that money. Why? Because of the budget squeeze created by the tax cut. Simple as that.

Maybe Im in the

Maybe I’m in the clear on this Justice Department “gun-rights” brouhaha. I’ve heard from a number of lawyers who think Ashcroft et. al. are all wet on their interpretation of the law. But what caught my attention more is this piece in today’s the Washington Post.

In most respects, the Post piece tells the same story as yesterday’s Times piece. The author does seem to find more people to support the anti-Ashcroft line. But what’s telling is that the administration itself seems to be hanging its hat on a regulatory order signed by Janet Reno — an order which could obviously be overruled by an order by Ashcroft.

If there’s really black letter law on this, why bother making the case with a regulation signed by Janet Reno?

Also, Ashcroft’s Senate testimony on this particular point seemed a touch vague to me.

In any case, it’s important to keep our eye on the ball. For this to be a ‘story,’ Ashcroft’s call doesn’t have to be baseless or even necessarily wrong. The point is that it was discretionary. And he’s made every other discretionary call (beside the ‘gun-rights’ one) in the other direction – more often than not correctly, I think.

For the moment at least, I’m holding off on any correction. As the last few posts should show, I’m not above a retraction if one’s in order. But if there’s black letter law on this, I wanna see it.

Step right up Get

Step right up! Get your John “Abdul Hamid” Walker scoop here! TPM world exclusive!

As you may have heard, the law firm of Morrison & Foerster LLP (the guys who beat out Snoop Doggy Dog and the owners of the ‘Shaft’ movie franchise for the domain mofo.com) has agreed to represent Walker, on behalf of his parents. And the decision is apparently ginning up no end of controversy within the firm, particularly, as you might expect, in the firm’s New York Office.

The real issue for MoFo, though, is this: Who exactly is their new client going to turn out to be? For all the hoopla that’s been kicked up over the case, even his lawyers (and I take it his family too) have no idea whether Walker is going to show up in the states with a ‘where’s my mommy, you don’t know how bad it was‘ kind of attitude or whether it’s going to be ‘Viva Osama! Gimme a ticket on the next plane to Somalia!

At a meeting of MoFo partners and associates on Wednesday, James J. Brosnahan, the firm’s lead lawyer on the case, left the distinct impression that if it’s the latter, John Walker could end up being the firm’s ex-client really quick.

This late report from Newsweek will probably up the ante on Walker quite a bit. Newsweek has apparently obtained a videotape of CIA agent Johnny “Mike” Spann trying to interrogate Walker shortly before the prison uprising in which Spann was killed. Walker refused Spann’s entreaties and would not speak.

Do I need to

Do I need to issue a correction for the last post? That’s what a number of readers seem to think. And I’ve gotten a slew of sputtering emails demanding one.

The question boils down to this. Today’s story in the Times says the law is ambiguous on whether Brady background check materials can be used to investigate whether illegal aliens picked up in the anti-terrorism dragnet had bought guns. Fox Butterfield, the author of the piece, argues that the Justice Department’s decision to bar such use is, at the least, an instance of Ashcroft’s pro-gun-rights bias, at the expense of the war on terrorism.

Glenn Reynolds (a right-leaning weblogger who, as a general matter, I strongly commend to TPM readers) disagrees and says it’s basically black letter law. So the Justice Department’s decision simply enforces existing law. And who can question that?

So who’s right?

I’m not sure. The law I’ve been able to get my hands on seems ambiguous to me. (I’d actually welcome lawyers who’ve got an opinion on the legal question here to weigh in.) And the Times article says that (admittedly unnamed) FBI officials say that the Justice decision represents a change in existing policy – something which on the face of it would seem to make it a little less than a case of black letter law.

So it’s possible I may have been wrong when I took the Ashcroft Justice Department to task for protecting “some fictive right claimed by paranoid gun freaks” since maybe it’s written into the law.

Maybe the real scandal is that “paranoid gun freaks” have sufficient political muscle to get their “fictive rights” written into law?

Heres a piece you

Here’s a piece you just can’t miss. It’s equal parts hilarious and damning. The Ashcroft Justice Department has pushed the envelope just as far as it will stretch to hunt down terrorists in the United States. It’s even taken several steps – like authorizing eavesdropping on attorney-client phone calls – which under normal circumstances no one would countenance.

But why be squeamish about fine points and legal niceties when we’re at war? Unless of course it’s some fictive right claimed by paranoid gun freaks. Then, in that case, let’s not get carried away.

According to this article by Fox Butterfield in today’s Times, the Justice Department “has refused to let the F.B.I. check its [Brady background check] records to determine whether any of the 1,200 people detained after the Sept. 11 attacks had bought guns.”

I’m almost looking forward to knocking this one around for a few days. But this decision is so stupid and embarrassing that I find it hard to believe that they’re not going to drop this idea like a hot potato by the end of the next news cycle.

Where’s Richard Hofstadter when you need him?

In the fifth installment

In the fifth installment of his O’Neill Death Watch series, Tim Noah points out some information I hadn’t heard yet, which really does seem to point toward the hapless O’Neill’s possible departure. He flags a New York Post report that Cheney is already interviewing possible replacements.

Anyway, at Talking Points we try to take the longer view, look beyond the ephemera of the moment to the deep structure of rumor, and of course add a healthy dose of wishful thinking.

So maybe Mitch Daniels is having some rough sailing too!

This article from National Journal says Daniels’ relationship with Republican appropriators on Capitol Hill has hit a low point. Senator Stevens (R-Alaska) told David Baumann that Daniels should “go back home to Indiana. I can’t do anything about that relationship.”

Of course, OMB Directors never make a lot of friends on the Hill, I’ll grant you. But the subtext of the article seems to be that people on the Hill are coming to appreciate one of the points TPM frequently notes. That is, that Daniels is … well, just a bit of an &#$@(*&.

Then there’s this comment from Daniels’ recent speech to the National Press Club:

MODERATOR: Do you have, sort of, a target figure on how large a deficit that would be acceptable to the administration?

DANIELS: Have not set a target figure. The president had said, throughout his campaign and long before these events were visible to us, that he hoped to always operate in the black and, in fact, at levels beyond the Social Security surplus, but that there were three conditions under which a deficit would be acceptable. Those being war, recession or emergency. And as he said to me, shortly after the 11th, “Lucky me, I hit the trifecta.”

Is that funny? And did the president really say that?

As I first mentioned on September 13th, in cases like these I like to recur to the Clinton Rule (CR) (“If Bill Clinton were being attacked in such and such a way would I think it was fair?“). Needless to say, if Bill Clinton were ever caught uttering such words in this context, he’d be crucified for the basest cynicism. But applying the CR tells me in this case that all sorts of verbally and morally off-color things get said in private, in jest, and in the heat of the moment.

So you have to give folks the benefit of the doubt. But this stretches things a bit. And in any case, presumably that was the sort of ‘shooting the *&$%’ comment that was meant to stay private.

Daniels’ repeating it, or perhaps originating it, tells you something about him. For Mitch Daniels it really does seem to be a matter of, ‘Phew! Lucky this world crisis came along. Otherwise, I’d have a lot of spinning to do about these budget numbers…’

Eventually, this sort of attitude and those kind of comments will catch up with him. Can you say Su-nu-nu?

Dont miss this solid

Don’t miss this solid and much-needed piece by Jake Weisberg about the utter absence of an anti-war (in Afghanistan) movement in the United States, and the often pitiful efforts of various right-wingers and rage-oholics to construct one.

Oh, wait! You mean Noam Chomsky’s not on board? Sorry, my bad. I take it all back.

Mickey Kaus raises exactly

Mickey Kaus raises exactly the right point (actually I was thinking just the same thing yesterday — really! I promise! — but he posted first and I tarried. So according to mezine Sharia, or at least according to several key hadiths, he gets the props, the shout-out, etc.) about yesterday’s Washington Post article about a dirty bomb. “If,” writes Mickey, “at a meeting with Bin Laden, one of Bin Laden’s associates ‘produced a canister that allegedly contained radioactive material’ and ‘waved it in the air,’ just how radioactive could the material have been?’ Good point!

Two quick points. First

Two quick points. First, a quick thanks to (apparent Talking Points reader) Jerry Balsam for getting this site mentioned in this week’s New Yorker, in the Talk of the Town section (“An E-Mail Bombardier“).

Second, a reader writes in a with a good point. Maybe I sold myself short in this earlier post. Why can’t I have an institute too? We could call it the Talking Points Institute and it could have like a Middle East Division. Or maybe a special Middle East chair. Like I said, everyone seems to have one now. You can even hire lackeys for peanuts. It’s great.

Heres a New York

Here’s a New York Post column by yours truly on why we need to support/ stand by/ give a general shout-out to Pakistan’s Pervez Musharaff. Sure, he’s a military ruler. But, hey, no one’s perfect, right?

Wanna read a nice

Wanna read a nice selection of bluster, tautology, nonsense?

Then by all means read this column by Daniel Pipes and his researcher Jonathan Schanzer about why toppling Saddam Hussein would be a walk in the park. (You or I could probably do it ourselves out in the garage with a few common implements and supplies purchasable at the local Home Depot!) The column is an apt primer on this new breed of yahoo-cons for whom Iraq has become a totem, a dogma, a logical banana peel waiting for the slow-witted to stumble on.

(Yup! Ouch, indeed.)

Don’t get me wrong: most Iraq-hawks have an easier time piecing together a logical argument. Some are even friends of mine. But this sort of talk raises a more general question. Who will mark out the terrain that will allow one to be a hawk, but not a dork, on Iraq and the war on terrorism?

The point of opposing Iraq yahoo-cons is not that Saddam deserves a break. Nor is that we shouldn’t be pushing to get inspectors back in or finding ways to get Saddam Hussein out of power. It’s simply based on the recognition that we’re almost certainly facing bigger dangers right now from those terrorist cells in Yemen, Somalia, Hamburg and (most of all maybe) Saudi Arabia. And we probably can’t root them out and go back to Baghdad for old time’s sake at the same time.

Hell, even I can tell you that. And I don’t even have my own institute with the words ‘Middle East’ in it.

The CIA has been

The CIA has been getting a lot of grief lately over our lack of quality human assets in the Al Qaeda and Taliban ranks. But what are our spooks supposed to do? Send some fresh-faced American kid over to Afghanistan, have him knock on the cave door and say, ‘hey, I wanna join!’?

I mean, c’mon! Let’s be realistic.

Does the Post have

Does the Post have a conflict here? This article gives some more details on the future New York Sun – the new daily being financed by Conrad Black et. al. and edited by Seth Lipsky and Ira Stoll.

The headline of the article should probably read:

Pitifully Small ‘Daily’ to Be Read By Almost No One; History of Failures Precedes Attempt

Actually, come to think of it, the actual headline ain’t too different:

I feel a touch vindicated in my earlier comments about the pittance being put forward to finance the Sun – a paltry $15 million, the rough equivalent for Black of the cash you or I might toss down for a bunch of CDs or maybe a low-end laptop. The Post says the paper will be a broadsheet of “only four to six pages with a daily press run of only 6,000 to 10,000.”

That makes Drudge’s earlier comment that the Sun would be set to compete with the New York Times sound more than a touch laughable.

On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with a tiny daily, I suppose. And it may be a wise place to start, giving the advertising recession. They can always grow from there.

I hope they make it.

As regular readers know

As regular readers know, TPM never goes in for self-congratulation. But let’s make an exception.

We’ve been making the case about Richard Perle’s cheesy inside-the-administration, outside-the-administration double game since early October.

Now the bigs are getting into the action. Bob Novak asked Secretary Rumsfeld about it over the weekend on Novak, Hunt & Shields. And no sooner does that happen than Maureen Dowd’s gotta get into the act.

All I can say, welcome aboard! And Maureen, whatever I said about you in the past, that’s all behind us. Let’s do lunch. It’ll be fab!

P.S. Actually more I-told-you-so to come when Vanity Fair releases its January issue with David Rose’s article on mid-1990s Sudan policy.

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