And So It Seems To Go
Calton Bolick, American Ex-Pat in Japan, Rants and Raves About the Political Scene Back Home
Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Ms. Rice's Testimony II
I confess that I don't read newspaper editorials (as opposed to signed columns and opeds) that closely or frequently. But if this and other recent examples I've seen are any indictation, the disconnect between the Post's editorials and the factual information being generated on their own news pages seems to be approaching Wall Street Journal-like proportions.
   - from Joshua Micah Marshall's Talking Points Memo, concerning the Washington Post editorial "Ms. Rice's Testimony

Speak of the devil: looks like Joshua Micah Marshall read the same editorial I did, but does a more thorough job in demolishing the peculiar logic underlying the Post's half-hearted conclusions.

Check it out for yourself at talkingpointsmemo.com.

Ms. Rice's Testimony (washingtonpost.com)
PRESIDENT BUSH is within his legal rights in preventing national security adviser Condoleezza Rice from testifying publicly before the Sept. 11 commission. Precedent is on his side. And we see no reason to credit Democratic insinuations that Ms. Rice has something to hide, given that she spent four hours answering the commission's questions in closed session and has offered to answer more.
   - from "Ms. Rice's Testimony", an editorial from the March 30 Washington Post.

I came across this astonishing bit from the editorial pages of the allegedlly liberal Washington Post. While they come to, in my mind, the correct conclusion (Condeleeza Rice should testify publicly before the 9/11 Commission), they indulge in some incredibly tortured--and factually incorrect--logic on the way there. For example, the above excerpt says they can't credit that Rice could be hiding something, since she did already speak to the Commission.

And she did--behind closed doors, secretly, and with no legal ramifications if she lied since she didn't speak under oath. Not publicly. Not for the open record. And most assuredly not under threat from the possible sanctions from being under oath. Is the Post editorialist really as naive as he or she seems to be coming across?

And the Post seems to have bought her paper-thin excuse about not setting a precedent National Security Advisors testifying before Congress--except its already been done (does the name "Sandy Berger" ring any bells down there at the WashPost editorial desk?).

The Washington Post has come a long way from being the paper of Woodward and Bernstein.

Monday, March 29, 2004

I Can't Hear You, I've Got My Fingers in My Ears
I have a confession to make: I am the foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times and I didn't listen to one second of the 9/11 hearings and I didn't read one story in the paper about them. Not one second. Not one story.

Lord knows, it's not out of indifference to 9/11. It's because I made up my mind about that event a long time ago: It was not a failure of intelligence, it was a failure of imagination.

   - Thomas Friedman, in Awaking to a Dream, in the March 28thNew York Times.

So we have here a globetrotting foreign-affairs reporter (one who apparently doesn't understand the compound modifier, but never mind), who admits he can't be bothered by new information.

Of course not. That might involve admitting that his cheerleading of Bush's Iraqi misadventure was, you know, wrong.

Over the last year, he keeps reporting fact after fact about why this was a bad idea, about the toxic effects that this bit of strategic dick-waving as had on world opinion, on Arabic opinion, and on the Real War on Terror--and keeps concluding that invading Iraq was a good idea.

So now the facts have apparently overwhelmed him, and he resorts to seemingly drug-addled fantasies like in his latest column.

The New York Times pays this guy? Why?

Straight from the Horse's Mouth.
At this point, I've heard at least two interviews with Clarke, most of his direct public testimony before the 9/11 Commission (I'll listen to the rest later this week), and have read approximately five zillion rehashing, rephrasings, and distortions of both the testimony and his new book. So time to bite the bullet and go direct to the source: I've ordered it through Amazon Japan, and will tear into it when it arrives. (I suppose I could have picked up a copy at Kinokuniya Books on Saturday, but I didn't feel like paying their inflated price for it.

I suspect, based on Clarke's interviews and testimony, for the book to be far more nuanced than either mouth-breathing right-wing foamers OR the feeling-vindicated left-wingers have been putting out as their messages. Of course, I'm mostly on the side of the left-wingers, given the outright lies and paper-thin distorions I've been hearing from the Bush apologists. But I'll see for myself soon enough.

A Political Fantasy
I have this neat, but wholly unrealistic, idea.

Imagine Kerry standing up and giving the following speech:

"If elected, I will concentrate on domestic issues, on jobs, on the economy. I will concentrate on getting America working again. I will concentrate on money in your pockets and government services to your schools, communities and cities.

I will pay little attention to terrorism, I will pay little attention to getting us out of the illegitimate war in Iraq, I will pay little attention to the global fight against Al Qaeda.

I will leave that to my vice-president, Richard Clarke."

   -- Comment posted by
a Phoenician in a time of Romans on Kevin Drum's Political Animal blog.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Another Useful Technology
For those who'd like to hear Richard Clarke's actual testimony, instead of the media distorted stories (with quotes from Bush Administration spinmeisters thrown in by lazy reporters for "balance"), might want to check out Audible.com. They're offering free audio downloads of witness testimony from the public hearings of the 9/11 Commission. Richard Clarke, Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright--they're all there. The sound quality is not so hot (AM radio level, really), but the files are surprisingly small. This is the kind of technology I wish had been available during the Iran-Contra Hearings umpty-ump years ago.

I began listening to Richard Clarke's testimony on my iPod this morning while riding the train to work. Powerful stuff--especially his apology

Which is, of course, highlights something that has never even occurred to the Bush Administration to do. Not a single apology, not a single sense of contrition, not a single shred of personal responsibility.--just excuses, finger-pointing, denials, and stonewalling.

"Bringing integrity to the White House," my ass.

How Not to Lie
I have to admit, I find the whole brouhaha over Richard Clarke's new book, Against All Enemies, invigorating. Not so much for his revelations--or, really, confirmations of what everybody paying any attention had already suspected or known--but for the panicky, riding-off-in-all-directions response of the Bush Administration.

The hallmark of any good liar is remembering the lies you've told, so they don't trip you up later. This is a cardinal rule that, in their haste, the Bush spinners have forgotten, since they've wound up contradicting facts and (I love this) each other in their attempts to smear Clarke. This stuff is raw meat for the political bloggers, who've been gleefully piling on. A blogger named Atrios has compiled a handy list of the more recent fact-challenged sputterings of the Bush spinmeisters.

For more up-to-the-minute looks at the contradictions and prevarications of the Bushies--and, in their comments boxes, the impotent sputterings of the rightwing trolls grasping for any thin reed to justify the Bush Misadminstration actions--check out:

Kevin Drum's Political Animal

Joshua Micah Marshall's Talking Point Memos

J. Bradford DeLong's site

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Joe Lieberman Shoves His Foot into His Mouth
The accusations by Richard A. Clarke, the former White House counter terrorism specialist, that the Bush administration failed to take the threat of Al Qaeda seriously prior to Sept. 11 overtook other campaign developments Sunday and promised to reverberate this week as the Sept. 11 commission conducts a public hearing. ... But his Democratic colleague, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, said on Fox that he saw "no basis" for the allegation that the administration was too focused on Iraq in the wake of Sept. 11. "I think we've got to be careful to speak facts and not rhetoric and not to go about what happened in the past so totally that we divide ourselves," he said.
   -from "Debate Grows Over Bush's Handling of Terror Threat" by Carl Hulse, in the March 22 New York Times

Was Joe Lieberman completely asleep for the last, oh, TWO YEARS? Is he so keen to justify his
eagerness to go to war with Iraq that he swallows everything said to him by the Bush Administration? This makes him either an intellectually dishonest sleazbag or dumber than a bag of hammers.

How the hell can this guy call himself a Democrat? Why doesn't he just come out of the closet and declare himself a Republican, which is what he really is?

Friday, March 19, 2004

Still Timely
A couple of days ago, I was taking a break at work and mousing around at Snopes.com, hitting the randomizer button to see what came up.

One of the things that popped up was the following, a letter from a high-level career US State Department Foreign Service Officer--Mary A. Wright, Deputy Chief of Mission in Ulaan Bator, Mongolia--to her boss, Secretary of State Colin Powell, written exactly one year ago on the eve of last year's invasion of Iraq. The sad thing is that just about everything in it came true or is still true: it must have been maddening for a career diplomat to see US foreign relations driven straight into a ditch by the Bush Administration, with the help--or at least complicity--of a boss you admire.

The thing is, there was a good chance that I could have been working as a Foreign Service Officer myself: the State Department has been running an aggressive recruiting drive, and last year, I took--and passed--the Foreign Service Written Examination, entitling me to take the next step offered to only a few, the all-day Oral Assessment. I, in fact, traveled to San Francisco from Tokyo last November to take the Oral Assessment.

Owing to a personal screw-up (my fault, entirely), I missed my appointment. But I didn't feel bad about it: partly because I'd been offered a very good job just before I'd left for San Francisco, and but also because I'd had very big doubts about working for this Administration, however nonpolitical and indirect my role would be. Sure, the job sounded exciting, stimulating, and fulfilling--but I wouldn't be just representing my country, I'd also be representing the incompetent, greedy, delusional thugs running it.

I went on my trip to San Francisco and my appointment, still unsure even the day before whther I would show up. I thought that if I did pass the Oral Assessment (and the third and last step, the Final Review and Security Background Check), with any luck these assclowns would be out of office by the time the State Department actually offered me a position. As it was, my recordkeeping incompetence made that decision for me, but I don't really regret it. The only thing I regret is that I wore a pair of brand-new shoes that day when I went into San Francisco--a pair so ill-fitting that they were actively painful to walk in after a few hours.

In any case, here's FSO Mary Wright's letter:

U.S. Embassy
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
March 19, 2003

Secretary of State Colin Powell
US Department of State
Washington, DC 20521

Dear Secretary Powell:

When I last saw you in Kabul in January, 2002 you arrived to officially open the US Embassy that I had helped reestablish in December, 2001 as the first political officer. At that time I could not have imagined that I would be writing a year later to resign from the Foreign Service because of US policies. All my adult life I have been in service to the United States. I have been a diplomat for fifteen years and the Deputy Chief of Mission in our Embassies in Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan (briefly) and Mongolia. I have also had assignments in Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Grenada and Nicaragua. I received the State Department's Award for Heroism as Charge d'Affaires during the evacuation of Sierra Leone in 1997. I was 26 years in the US Army/Army Reserves and participated in civil reconstruction projects after military operations in Grenada, Panama and Somalia. I attained the rank of Colonel during my military service.

This is the only time in my many years serving America that I have felt I cannot represent the policies of an Administration of the United States. I disagree with the Administration's policies on Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, North Korea and curtailment of civil liberties in the U.S. itself. I believe the Administration's policies are making the world a more dangerous, not a safer, place. I feel obligated morally and professionally to set out my very deep and firm concerns on these policies and to resign from government service as I cannot defend or implement them.

I hope you will bear with my explanation of why I must resign. After thirty years of service to my country, my decision to resign is a huge step and I want to be clear in my reasons why I must do so.

I disagree with the Administration's policies on Iraq.

I wrote this letter five weeks ago and held it hoping that the Administration would not go to war against Iraq at this time without United Nations Security Council agreement. I strongly believe that going to war now will make the world more dangerous, not safer.

There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein is a despicable dictator and has done incredible damage to the Iraqi people and others of the region. I totally support the international community's demand that Saddam's regime destroy weapons of mass destruction.

However, I believe we should not use US military force without UNSC agreement to ensure compliance. In our press for military action now, we have created deep chasms in the international community and in important international organizations. Our policies have alienated many of our allies and created ill will in much of the world.

Countries of the world supported America’s action in Afghanistan as a response to the September 11 Al Qaida attacks on America. Since then, America has lost the incredible sympathy of most of the world because of our policy toward Iraq. Much of the world considers our statements about Iraq as arrogant, untruthful and masking a hidden agenda. Leaders of moderate Moslem/Arab countries warn us about predicable outrage and anger of the youth of their countries if America enters an Arab country with the purpose of attacking Moslems/Arabs, not defending them. Attacking the Saddam regime in Iraq now is very different than expelling the same regime from Kuwait, as we did ten years ago.

I strongly believe the probable response of many Arabs of the region and Moslems of the world if the US enters Iraq without UNSC agreement will result in actions extraordinarily dangerous to America and Americans. Military action now without UNSC agreement is much more dangerous for America and the world than allowing the UN weapons inspections to proceed and subsequently taking UNSC authorized action if warranted.

I firmly believe the probability of Saddam using weapons of mass destruction is low, as he knows that using those weapons will trigger an immediate, strong and justified international response. There will be no question of action against Saddam in that case. I strongly disagree with the use of a "preemptive attack" against Iraq and believe that this preemptive attack policy will be used against us and provide justification for individuals and groups to "preemptively attack" America and American citizens.

The international military build-up is providing pressure on the regime that is resulting in a slow, but steady disclosure of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). We should give the weapons inspectors time to do their job. We should not give extremist Moslems/Arabs a further cause to hate America, or give moderate Moslems a reason to join the extremists. Additionally, we must reevaluate keeping our military forces in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia. Their presence on the Islamic "holy soil" of Saudi Arabia will be an anti-American rally cry for Moslems as long as the US military remains and a strong reason, in their opinion, for actions against the US government and American citizens.

Although I strongly believe the time in not yet right for military action in Iraq, as a soldier who has been in several military operations, I hope General Franks, US and coalition forces can accomplish the missions they will be ordered do without loss of civilian or military life and without destruction of the Iraqi peoples' homes and livelihood.

I strongly urge the Department of State to attempt again to stop the policy that is leading us to military action in Iraq without UNSC agreement. Timing is everything and this is not yet the time for military action.

I disagree with the Administration's lack of effort in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Likewise, I cannot support the lack of effort by the Administration to use its influence to resurrect the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. As Palestinian suicide bombers kill Israelis and Israeli military operations kill Palestinians and destroy Palestinian towns and cities, the Administration has done little to end the violence. We must exert our considerable financial influence on the Israelis to stop destroying cities and on the Palestinians to curb its youth suicide bombers. I hope the Administration's long-needed "Roadmap for Peace" will have the human resources and political capital needed to finally make some progress toward peace.

I disagree with the Administration's lack of policy on North Korea.

Additionally, I cannot support the Administration's position on North Korea. With weapons, bombs and missiles, the risks that North Korea poses are too great to ignore. I strongly believe the Administration's lack of substantive discussion, dialogue and engagement over the last two years has jeopardized security on the peninsula and the region. The situation with North Korea is dangerous for us to continue to neglect.

I disagree with the Administration's policies on Unnecessary Curtailment of Rights in America.

Further, I cannot support the Administration's unnecessary curtailment of civil rights following September 11. The investigation of those suspected of ties with terrorist organizations is critical but the legal system of America for 200 years has been based on standards that provide protections for persons during the investigation period. Solitary confinement without access to legal counsel cuts the heart out of the legal foundation on which our country stands. Additionally, I believe the Administration's secrecy in the judicial process has created an atmosphere of fear to speak out against the gutting of the protections on which America was built and the protections we encourage other countries to provide to their citizens.


I have served my country for almost thirty years in the some of the most isolated and dangerous parts of the world. I want to continue to serve America. However, I do not believe in the policies of this Administration and cannot defend or implement them. It is with heavy heart that I must end my service to America and therefore resign due to the Administration;s policies.

Mr. Secretary, to end on a personal note, under your leadership, we have made great progress in improving the organization and administration of the Foreign Service and the Department of State. I want to thank you for your extraordinary efforts to that end. I hate to leave the Foreign Service, and I wish you and our colleagues well.

Very Respectfully,
Mary A. Wright, FO-01
Deputy Chief of Mission
US Embassy
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Department of Irony
In a morning meeting on Wednesday, [L. Paul Bremer III, the chief American administrator in Iraq] warned the Iraqi leaders that they risked isolating themselves and their country if they continued to snub the United Nations. According to Iraqi and American officials, Mr. Bremer pointedly warned them of a "confrontation" with the United States if the Iraqis failed to invite the organization back
   - from Dexter Filkins' March 17th New York Times story ("Iraq Council, Shifting Stance, Invites the U.N. to Aid Transfer"

Courtesy of Kevin Drum (Formerly Calpundit, now The Washington Monthly's Political Animal):

Sunday, March 14, 2004

One Republican's Opinion
The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.

   - Theodore Roosevelt, “Lincoln and Free Speech,” The Great Adventure (vol. 19 of The Works of Theodore Roosevelt, national ed.), chapter 7, p. 289 (1926).

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Responding to Bluenoses, Redux
Found on a mailing list:

I recently became aware of a woman, Victoria Woodhull, who was an early advocate of, among other things, women's suffrage and Free Love. She was most active in the 1870s. She was also the first woman to be nominated for President of the US (by the Equal Rights Party). Read more about this amazing woman at http://www.victoria-woodhull.com/index.htm

Anyway, at one time she published a newspaper [
Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly] advocating her liberal views. The following is an excerpt of a letter to the newspaper in 1871 by Stephen Pearl Andrews, who was trying to set the record straight on what he believed Free Love was all about. It's amazing how much his words fit today's debate on gay marriage, and I think he stated the basic issue better than any current arguments I've read (which, to be honest, has not been extensive). Some things never change...

The first popular objection to Free Love, to be anticipated as existing in the public mind, is the prevalent belief that the Bible has prescribed an indissoluble monogamy, or the life-marriage of one man and one woman, as the only form of the union of the sexes which God approves. This belief results from the interpretation which some of the words of Christ in relation to marriage have almost uniformly received. . . . The Scriptures have been held, at various periods with equal unanimity, to teach that the sun revolves around the earth; that kings reign of divine right, and must not, for any cause, be resisted; and that the world was created in six literal days. With the progress of astronomy, politics and geology, each of these convictions has given way before the scientific discovery of adverse facts and principles. . . .

In this country; and in this age, we have, in one sphere of social affairs, a successful and triumphant practical illustration of the theory that the recognition of the rights of the individual is the talisman of order and harmony in society. . . . Not only is he permitted "to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience," but, equally, to neglect or refuse to worship Him altogether; and the result is peace and fraternity; in the place of the inquisition, the burning fagot and war.

For one, I reject and repudiate the interference of the State in my morals, precisely as I do the interference of the church to prescribe my religious deportment or believe. The outrage on human rights is in my view no less in kind to assume to determine whom men and women may love, and what manifestation they may make of that sentiment, than it is to burn them at Geneva or Smithfield for heretical practice or faith.

Such, then, is Free Love—neither more nor less. It is simply a branch or single application of the larger doctrine of the Sovereignty of the Individual. It decides absolutely nothing with regard to the form or continuity of the love relation. Whosoever believes that the parties immediately concerned are the proper parties to determine the form and duration of that relation; whosoever wishes to discard legislative enactments, and adopt a "higher law" as the appropriate regulator of affairs of the heart, is, a Free Lovite, no matter what he expects will be the result as the operation of that law.

The attempt to degrade Free Love into the partisanship of an unbridled licentiousness is partly the result of an honest confusion of ideas, and partly the effect of natures conscious as yet of no greater elevation of sentiment in themselves than the promptings of unregulated desire. This fog will rapidly disappear . . .

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