Howard Dean finally did something I agree with. Having lured her to Iowa with the promise of a five-minute interview (on the phone) Howlin’ Howie left the NYT’s Maureen Dowd at the altar. As she put it in her sour grapes Sunday column, “At first, five minutes sounded pretty cursory. But I decided to be philosophical. Out of his 15 minutes of angry fame, Howard Dean was willing to devote a third of it to me.” Well, it didn’t work out that way, and Ol’ Mo — significant only for her anti-military, anti-testosterone outlook on life — is now cheering for anyone but Dean.
Much more amusing — tho’ Mo don’t think so — are the other Demscapades in Iowa. She reminds us that both Senator Tom Harkin and Martin (I really am president) Sheen have both referred to Howlin’ Howie as “John Dean,” subliminally wishing for the glory days of Watergate to return. They must know that their only hope this year is to catch Dubya or Karl Rove breaking into Dem HQ here in Washington. Even better, Mo reminds us, is Harkin’s calling Dick Gephardt a “fire hydrant,” which explains why he is endorsing Dean and not his old pal Gephardt, whose parade he’s, ah, raining on.
And while the Dems are schlepping through hundreds of miles of corn to scour for outraged liberal votes, they are damaging themselves more every day. I wanted to like Wesley Clark. I hoped against hope that somehow he’d turn out to be a closet Sam Nunn, a serious Dem who could speak credibly on matters of national security and moderate some of the more extremist Dem domestic policies. (I remember Nunn in many an Armed Services Committee hearing, bearing himself as much more the conservative than Virginia’s most senior Republican, John Warner.). I always give military people the benefit of the doubt, but Clark’s earlier campaign gaffes have given way to a complete meltdown of character and identity.
Only last week, he called on Congress to launch a criminal investigation of Dubya’s decision to go to war in Iraq. Clark — who my pals Lee Rogers and Melanie Morgan on KSFO (San Francisco) call “Wesley Kook” — is trying to out-Dean Dean, and he’s almost doing it. But while Dean sinks and Clark stinks, the fortunes of Vichy John Kerry and Little Dick Gephardt continue to rise. They, at least, can count on Mo Dowd for support. Which is more than Paul Bremer can.
THE WHEELS HAVE ONCE MORE fallen off Mr. Bremer’s wagon, so on Monday he’s going back — again, hat in hand — to beg Kofi Annan to bring the U.N. to help build democracy in Iraq. There are two very big flaws in this act. First, Annan as Secretary General, is supposed to be the chief administrative officer of the U.N. There is nothing in the job description that makes him the chief policy officer, and every time we treat him as such, his influence grows, and so does the U.N.’s. Second, there is no possibility of getting U.N. Security Council approval of anything good unless and until we let the U.N. take over the job, which it will inevitably mess up so badly, we’ll think Saddam isn’t entirely gone.
Rebuilding Iraq and giving democracy a chance there is our job, and we need to spend however much time and money it takes to do it. It’s not a two- or three-year job, it’s a ten-year job and we may as well admit it. The U.N. cannot help because the members don’t want democracy in Iraq. And they — whatever Annan says — will not allow it to happen. We can’t make a deal with Annan, who is the most anti-American Secretary General the U.N. has ever had. We — which means Powell and the Prez — should be dealing directly with France and Germany and Russia, putting enormous pressure on them to help on our terms. If we need their help, let Mr. Powell call their foreign ministers together for a meeting here. As they must know by now: the ties that bind them to us are frayed, and won’t hold much longer.
Bremer’s latest begging session violates the most basic principle of politics: you only make deals with the decision-maker, not his staff. Every time we take the Iraq issue to the U.N., we fail. Why does Bremer — and, apparently, the President — think this time will be different? It won’t. This hat-in-hand approach only erodes American influence in the world. Even in nations such as Brazil. Brazil?
BRAZIL IS A PROBLEM, AND shouldn’t be. Our relations with it — and our trade is extensive — have been pretty amiable for as long as I can remember. But Brazil deals with immigration in a very loose, almost French way. Several intelligence community sources have told me that many of the would-be immigrants to the U.S. from Brazil aren’t native Brazilians. They are Middle Easterners from nations that harbor terrorists. And the Brazilians allow them to gain Brazilian status and passports in quick time. Now, “Brazilians” — new or otherwise — are being finger-printed on entering the U.S. Which is the same protective measure we have imposed on many other nations. In response, a Brazilian judge — not his country’s parliament — issued an edict that Americans entering Brazil would be fingerprinted. (The ruling, roughly translated from Portuguese, says “Nanny nanny boo boo to you.”)
Responding to that scholarly analysis, the Brazilian government quickly made that the law of the land. Which was no big bother until an American Airlines pilot made a gesture to a Brazilian customs officer which amounts to Howlin’ Howie’s gesture to Mo Dowd. For which he was promptly slapped in the cooler, and later released after paying a $13,000 fine. Perhaps we should make some gesture of friendship to Brazil. On the other hand, maybe we should repeat the fly-guy’s gesture until Brazil cleans up its immigration policy. And we must maintain the freedom of that gesture, among others. Like crossing one’s fingers.
A faithful reader sent me a photo of a picture of Miz Hillary taken on her jaunt to Iraq which followed in Dubya’s wake. As I’m hearing, none — as in zero, zip, zilch — of the warriors volunteered to appear in publicity photos with her. So a few were dragooned. The picture I received shows a beaming Hillary shaking hands with a young officer in desert camo whose forced smile is what you’d expect from someone who had just swallowed a mouthful of spoiled milk.
But with the courage we expect of our fighting men, his protest is plain to see. His left hand, elevated to waist-level, has his index finger and middle finger crossed. In the neighborhood I grew up in, the crossed finger meant “This doesn’t count, ‘cause I don’t mean it.” Good on ‘ya, soldier.