Josh Marshall

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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 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 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 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, 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 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, 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.

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.

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 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?