o, all the worlds in love with Colin Powell now, and he is thought to have won within the administration defeated the hawks. First, well see. We will see which course proves the wiser (or maybe these arent two different courses at all a hawkish, unilateral one and a dovish, multilateral one but one course: a Bushian one). Second, its the president who calls the shots. In the last few days, pundits have delighted in saying that Powell now calls the shots.
It was this way in the Reagan administration, too. When the media liked something, they said, Shultz! When they didnt, they said, Weinberger! (Of course though the media didnt want to see this Weinberger often took the less confrontational position.) In the eyes of many, it was always someone other than the president who was calling the shots. But, no, it was always Reagan: right or wrong. The president has this responsibility. He may listen to all opinions, and varying opinions; but, as the first Bush used to say, it all comes down to the man at the desk. And that is no cabinet member or adviser.
Remember, too, that the only reason the U.N. and the doves have come this far is that Bush has forced it: with his hard line. Liberals always forget this, or choose not to learn. The Soviets made certain concessions before doing us the courtesy of imploding altogether because of Reagans hard line.
Listen to Rachel Bronson, director of Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, op-eding in the New York Times: Because it took the administration so long to realize the importance of the United Nations in disarming Iraq . . . Actually, it took the U.N. so long to realize its own importance in disarming Iraq. It had essentially stopped, remember?
Bronson again: Until recently, the Bush administration did not take seriously the role of the United Nations in its Iraq planning. The organization had been considered a sideshow. No, until recently, the U.N. did not take seriously its role in the Iraq matter. It had considered itself a sideshow or rather, had relegated itself to the sidelines.
Donald Rumsfeld had it right. He said, Until President Bush spoke out on this subject, the world was drifting along, and Iraq was hard at work on developing weapons of mass destruction, having thrown out the U.N. inspectors.
Finally, I know I swore off mentioning Tom Friedman or Maureen Dowd ever again (or at least for a decent interval). But its so hard. Friedman says that the view of the Bush hard-liners is, Forget about streets, treaties, and institutions foreign policy is about asserting U.S. power.
No, sir: Foreign policy, certainly in this case, is about self-defense. This administration the hard-liners are about the business of protecting this country from terrorists and terrorizing states. Someones got to do it. And fortunately, we have a president whos willing. Airy columnists now count for about nothing, thank goodness.
More déjà vu: The Timess Bob Herbert wrote a column dedicated to the notion that the Bush-led Republican party is slick, whose synonyms, he notes, include sly, shrewd, slippery, wily. Well, well: I thought Bush was a dumb stumblebum! A klutz and an accident!
Herbert says, Driven by its right wing and aided immeasurably by George W. Bushs genial smile, the GOP is putting in place profoundly conservative policies . . . Yup: Heard it all before. Thats exactly verbatim what they said about Reagan: genial smile, hiding a draconian, if not fascist, agenda.
The columnist goes on to say that it is the Republican partys purpose to destroy Social Security. The GOP, it is true, is the only party with a plan to reform Social Security, which almost everyone agrees is headed toward doom. But that is not destroying, of course: It is saving, the opposite of destroying.
George W. Bush is, indeed, like Reagan. At first, he had to be brainless. But then he had to be wily, deceptive, and slick, masking dark purposes. Sam Donaldson used to say over and over Reagan, personally, would give you the shirt off his back, but then hed throw your grandmother out in the snow, through some budget cut, and never make the connection between the two. (This is not really related to what Im talking about, but I just remembered it, and wanted to throw it in there.)
It could be that one simply has to stop reading the papers: One feels that one reads the same news, and same columns, over and over (including of course mine!).
Speaking of Reagan: Netanyahu, that yahoo, is running in Israel with the slogan A New Beginning. That was, of course, Reagans campaign slogan in 1980 (remember that magnificent Detroit convention? A New Beginning was emblazoned across the front of the podium). Reagan liked to quote Tom Paine: We have it within our power to begin the world anew. George Will used to grouse, Thats the single most unconservative thing ever said.
It was. But then, Reagan was no conservative. (Spare the mail, please: Ive written a million words on this subject, and will not write, or read, any more!)
In a recent think piece, Adam Clymer of major league and big-time fame wrote, Two years into a presidential term is too early to judge its success: Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan would have been judged failures at that stage.
So Clymer considers Reagan a success. Thats news! A-1! Fit to print!
I loved this bit from a New York Times piece on the Assads, father and son, in Syria: President Assad, whose youthful yet stern gaze proliferates in posters and photographs across the city, is said to have departed from the austere style of his father, Hafez al-Assad, a tough ruler for 30 years until his death in 2000.
Do you love it? Assad as an austere and tough man. Well, he murdered 20,000 human beings in one fell swoop in the city of Hama alone. I guess tough is one way of putting it. But when I think tough, its more like Lance Armstrong.
The Bali terrorists have now said theyre awfully sorry to have killed so many Australians. You see, theyd meant to kill Americans, by and large. Nice to be thought of.
According to reports, the terrorists sought revenge for what Americans have done to Muslims. Hmm, what would that be? Save their bacon (so to speak) in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bosnia, Kosovo? Try to relieve them of the tyrants who suffocate them?
Its almost not worth it, you know? But then, it is.
Im a little confused by something I read: Irans hard-line judiciary today sentenced an outspoken reform activist to death, 8 years in jail, 74 lashes, and a 10-year ban from teaching. So, whats the deal here? The execution comes after the eight years in jail?
The mullahs justice has always confused me.
More Canada stuff? American liberals and some Canadians are upset because a man from Pohenegamook, Quebec, was arrested while he was filling up on gas in the Maine town just beyond the border. His offense? He had a rifle in his trunk. According to the New York Times, Customs agents said the man was arrested because he had not first registered with their agents and had a criminal record.
So, whats the Left going to do? Stick to anti-Americanism and anti-anti-criminality? Or go pro-gun?
As usual, David Frum said something delicious, and irresistibly quotable. You recall that our forces zapped those guys in Yemen, and one of them turned out to be an American citizen. A lot of hand-wringers (as Bob Novak would say) said, This raises some serious questions. Said David, Yeah, like: Who let this guy be a citizen?
I give you an arresting comment from a Times story on Iraq inspections and the Arab world. It concerns the elites of that region. All the Arab states that I know would prefer Iraq without weapons of mass destruction, said Abdelmonem Said [uh-oh], the director of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, speaking by telephone from Cairo. Its journalists and the intelligentsia who want Iraq to have weapons of mass destruction because Israel has them.
I have always always wanted elites in other parts of the world to be like our own elites: very, very tough on their rulers, governors, authorities, etc. But no. It doesnt work that way at all. Oh, that a Greek (say) would be as self-critical and self-examining as an American! But never. Ethnocentricity is a sin only in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Only American patriotism is malign.
And thats the subject of about 500 essays.
I feel a bit sorry for Jean Carnahan. I think she just parroted something that some staffer or some sympathizer said to her. You recall that when the administration indicated it was serious about confronting Saddam Hussein, all the liberals (Al Gore, John Kerry, et al.) said, Theyre just doing that to deflect attention from the fact that they havent caught Osama bin Laden! That was the line, for a few weeks. (Is it still? I have the impression not.)
At the same time, the White House was eager to help Jim Talent defeat Mrs. Carnahan in Missouri. And someone must have said to The Widow, You know, Mrs. C., theyre just trying to get you probably because they cant get bin Laden! And that tickled her. And she had to go out and say, Im the No. 1 target of the White House. They cant get Osama bin Laden. Theyre going to get me. And that wound up hurting her.
I believe she was the victim of her own tickledness. You have to watch simply repeating what someone has told you. Remember when President Bush the First said simply repeated Message: I care?
There was a very telling headline in the New York Times fascinating on many levels: Patakis Success Among Latinos Worries Some Democrats. Yes, how dare a Republican steal some of our people! Perhaps theyre not thinking of themselves as victims? Dont they know theyre supposed to stay down on the plantation, taken care of by the Big Democratic Daddy?
Republicans need to compete for every American I mean, you may not want to waste many campaign dollars on the staff of the Boston Globe, but you get my drift.
Where are the Japanese Helen Caldicotts! The Japanese New York Times! The Japanese Democratic party!
The Japanese are thinking seriously about joining the U.S. in the development of an anti-missile defense, on account theyre worried about North Korean nukes. Ya think? The president of the (Japanese) National Defense Academy said, North Korea has reversed its positions. That justifies us to move forward to develop missile defense, and to eventually deploy it.
Youre damn right. Reagans thinking on this matter is simply unanswerably right. He was even willing to share the technology so much for the hegemonistic motivation of SDI.
A charming and at the same time serious story about Albania and the prevalence and exaltation of Mercedes there. Only about ten years ago, no one had cars or rather, only officialdom had cars; everyone else had to make do with a bike. But since the fall of Communism, cars have come in, and the mightiest of them all is the Mercedes.
During my visit to Tirana in September, I remarked to one of my guides that the women seemed especially beautiful. He said, Yes, the two best things about Tirana: women and Mercedes! He might have put Mercedes first. I cant remember.
Came across an incisive statement about our stock-market woes. It appeared in a piece by Charlotte Metcalf several weeks ago in The (London) Spectator. She quoted Jim Chanos, a shortseller who became a Wall Street celebrity for predicting Enrons crash: One of the things until very recently that was great about the American capitalist system was that people understood that by risking their money they could either make a lot of money or lose a lot of money. Americans understood that; theyre risk-takers. But what they always thought until recently was that the game was fair.
An important statement.
The mayor of New York, Mike Bloomberg, is interesting and engaging in many ways. For one thing, hes a billionaire, a very strange thing to be. And he doesnt really talk like a politician, which makes him so refreshing.
The other day, he fretted that the people around him were too responsive to his directives! He said, In some sense, government is much too responsive to the head person. If I, tomorrow morning, said, I want Fifth Avenue to run north, the scary thing is, tomorrow morning it probably would. People need to be willing to stand up and say, That aint a good idea. You better go and rethink that. We need more questioning in government, not automatic, knee-jerk reactions.
Laudable, maybe . . . but should we hail the State Department for blowing off Bush?
I must say one thing about the eternally lissome Winona Ryder (née Horowitz, god-daughter of drug guru Timothy Leary): Can we simply accept that shes sick in the head? Trials, schmials: What about getting this chick some help?
Lets do a little language. In a Times article this morning (Monday), I spotted a common mistake, but one that sounds so natural. What to do?
A veteran journalist wrote, Singapore is probably as safe, if not safer, than Hamburg, or most cities in the world.
Of course, that should be, Singapore is probably as safe as, if not safer than, Hamburg . . . but his way sounded natural.
Okay, heres my ruling, if youre interested (and if youre not, why are you reading way down here at the bottom of the column?): Id never write what he wrote myself; nor would I leave it in editing. But I certainly dont mind if someone else does it, in some other publication.
Last, it looks like O. J. Simpson will be busted for driving his boat in disturbance of manatees. I was complaining about the mullahs justice in Iran. But aint American justice, er, interesting, too?