Thursday, May 29, 2008
Monica Crowley's jet black pot
[F]or someone who was once the president's confidante, someone he knew and trusted, someone who gave him the opportunity of a lifetime, to write a tell-all while that history is still being made, is not cool. There will be plenty of memoirs coming out of the Bush administration. Most will be cover-your-tushy affairs, as memoirs often are. Some will paint a glossy picture. Some will be critical. But their timing is crucial.Crowley, of course, made her name by
All this makes for some fascinating, if gossipy, reading. It also makes the reader question Ms. Crowley's assertion that ''through our conversations, Nixon was insuring that his message and his vision would live on after he was gone.''As near as I can figure, Crowley thinks it's OK to publish tell-alls once the person you have served has left the scene, or if you say only laudatory things about this person (since can't find Crowley berating Ari Fleischer for publishing his memoirs before Bush left office).
I'm just going to file thus under the "distinction without a difference" category and move on.
UPDATE: Can't resist one historical correction to Crowley's post. She writes, "George Stephanopoulos was the first high-ranking White House official to publish a tell-all while his president was still in office."
Actually, no. David Stockman's The Triumph of Politics beat Stephanopolous' All Too Human to it by more than a decade.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Al Qaeda is losing
This week, there's some qualitative evidence that Al Qaeda is losing, and losing badly, among its core constituency -- Muslims sympathetic to the cause of jihad.
After September 11, there was considerable fear in the West that we were headed for a clash of civilizations with the Muslim world led by bin Laden, who would entice masses of young Muslims into his jihadist movement. But the religious leaders and former militants who are now critiquing Al Qaeda's terrorist campaign--both in the Middle East and in Muslim enclaves in the West-- make that less likely. The potential repercussions for Al Qaeda cannot be underestimated because, unlike most mainstream Muslim leaders, Al Qaeda's new critics have the jihadist credentials to make their criticisms bite. "The starting point has to be that jihad is legitimate, otherwise no one will listen, " says Benotman, who sees the Iraqi insurgency as a legitimate jihad. "The reaction [to my criticism of Al Qaeda] has been beyond imagination. It has made the radicals very angry. They are very shaky about it."Lawrence Wright makes a similar argument in The New Yorker:
Zawahiri has watched Al Qaeda’s popularity decline in places where it formerly enjoyed great support. In Pakistan, where hundreds have been killed recently by Al Qaeda suicide bombers—including, perhaps, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto—public opinion has turned against bin Laden and his companions. An Algerian terror organization, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, formally affiliated itself with Al Qaeda in September, 2006, and began a series of suicide bombings that have alienated the Algerian people, long weary of the horrors that Islamist radicals have inflicted on their country. Even members of Al Qaeda admit that their cause has been harmed by indiscriminate violence. In February of this year, Abu Turab al-Jazairi, an Al Qaeda commander in northern Iraq, whose nom de guerre suggests that he is Algerian, gave an interview to Al Arab, a Qatari daily. “The attacks in Algeria sparked animated debate here in Iraq,” he said. “By God, had they told me they were planning to harm the Algerian President and his family, I would say, ‘Blessings be upon them!’ But explosions in the street, blood knee-deep, the killing of soldiers whose wages are not even enough for them to eat at third-rate restaurants . . . and calling this jihad? By God, it’s sheer idiocy!” Abu Turab admitted that he and his colleagues were suffering a similar public-relations problem in Iraq, because “Al Qaeda has been infiltrated by people who have harmed its reputation.” He said that only about a third of the nine thousand fighters who call themselves members of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia can be relied upon. “The rest are unreliable, since they keep harming the good name of Al Qaeda.” He concludes, “Our position is very difficult.”Finally, the Strategy Page reports on the abject collapse of Al Qaeda in Iraq:
Today, al Qaeda [in Iraq] has been shattered, with most of its leadership and foot soldiers dead, captured or moved from Iraq. As a result, al Qaeda attacks have declined more than 90 percent. Worse, most of their Iraqi Sunni Arab allies have turned on them, or simply quit. This "betrayal" is handled carefully on the terrorist web sites, for it is seen as both shameful, and perhaps recoverable.Speculating about all of this, Andrew Sullivan makes an interesting point:
Maybe this will be history's judgment of the last few years: both the US and al Qaeda over-reached. But al Qaeda's over-reach was greater. And in this we see why democracies do actually do better in warfare in the long run: because our leaders have to be responsive to the people; because legitimate internal criticism and debate forces course correction and exposes self-defeating hubris. With the Bush administration, this process took much longer than it should have, and the Bushies did all they could to stamp out, rather than hear, criticism. But in the end, democracy adjusts to reality; religious extremism cannot.
Speaking of karma....
Appropos of my last post, it's worth remembering that five years ago western investors were fretting about the implosion of China's financial sector.
In the here and now, you have this sort of gleeful comeuppance as reported by the FT's Jamil Anderlini:
Western governments must strengthen their oversight of financial markets and improve cross-border regulatory co-operation if they are to avoid future global financial crises, a senior Chinese banking regulator told the Financial Times on Tuesday.
The blog post that writes itself
Sharon Stone, who last year was a guest of the Shanghai International Film Festival, now faces a boycott of her films in China after she suggested the devastating May 12 earthquake there could have been the result of bad "karma."You can click on the story to read more, but here are two ways in which it might have ended:
1) "Ng See-Yuen, founder of the UME Cineplex chain and the chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Filmmakers, denied that his decision to ban Ms. Stone's film had anything to do with Basic Instinct 2: "I said her comments were 'inappropriate,' not 'God-awful dreck from the dredges of hell.'"
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
What made me laugh today
If you read much about baseball on the web, you soon discover that Kansas City Star beat writer Joe Posnanski is someone who's worth reading.
Posnanski proves this today in a hysterically funny tirade against those who worship at the feet of Derek Jeter -- not Jeter himself, but rather those who deify him. In fact, he invents a word for it:
Jeterate (verb) meaning “to praise someone for something of which he or she is entirely unworthy of praise.”This is not the part that made me laugh (well, OK, I'm enough of a Sox fan to admit to a cackle or two here). No, you'll have to click on the post and read Posnanski's imagined dialogue between the minds of Derek Jeter, Bobby Abreu, and A-Rod to understand why I was laughing out loud.
Hat tip: David Pinto.
Where should Hillary go?
The New York Times' Carl Hulse and the Washington Post's Shailagh Murray and Paul Kane file similar reports: the notion that Hillary Clinton will downshift from presidential candidate to Senate Majority Leader or a similarly high-ranking position is complete fiction.
To sum up: Clinton does not have a ton of seniority. All the high-ranking Dems show no signs of budging. Based on endorsements, it's not clear how many members of her caucus really like Clinton all that much. If the best post she can get is the chairmanship of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, we're not talking about a lot of plum advancement possibilities for Hillary Clinton.
Whither Hillary? There's been a lot of careless chatter about other career possibilities for Hillary Clinton -- vice president, governor of New York, Supreme Court Justice, etc. -- so as part of this blog's continuing dedication to careless chatter, the following are the top five jobs she should consider after losing the nomination:
1) Secretary of Defense. Following up on my bloggingheads debate with Megan McArdle, if Hillary Clinton truly wants to continue her trailblazing path, Obama shouldn't make her VP, he should give her this job. Given the current military state of play, it's not going to be a fun assignment. This has the added benefit of (relatively) sidelining Bill Clinton -- a cabinet spouse has a lower profile.
Monday, May 26, 2008
There are crazy people everywhere
Lots of people are fretting about the persistent and mistaken belief of some Americans that Barack Obama is a Muslim. [Not that there's anything wrong with that!--ed.]
Over at his Politico blog, Ben Smith puts this 10% of mistaken Americans in perspective:
[L]arge minorities of Americans consistently say they hold wildly out-of-the-mainstream views, often specifically discredited beliefs. In some cases, those views should make them pretty profoundly alienated from one party or the other.Smith makes an excellent point here -- but I think he's actually being too modest. It's not just minorities of Americans who hold out-of-mainsteam views -- minorities (or majorities) of every nationality hold strange beliefs. In Africa, the Congo has been gripped by outsized fears of penis theft; a few years ago, there was the great vampire frenzy in Malawi. Lots of Brazilians believe the United States is hell-bent on taking over the Amazon. And let's not get into Arab public opinion on who was behind 9/11.