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Aiming to Appease

Grading the Iraq Study Group. Also: No more Foner tenure. Bloomberg-Lieberman '08. Cacheing it in. Private S.S. thoughts. Plus more.

12.7.06

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PASS FAIL
Re: Philip Klein's Realist Fantasies:

Thanks for the excellent analysis of the Iraq Study Group's report by Philip Klein. I have little to add except to remind readers that this is the same James Baker who left Saddam Hussein in power after the first Gulf war, then refused to help the Kurds and Shia when Hussein began to slaughter them by the hundreds of thousands. He's the same Baker who tried to prop up Gorbachev in order to keep the USSR from falling apart. He's a loser in international relations and recruited like-minded losers for his study group. It's no wonder he recommends the same losing strategy that he used to worsen the Israeli/Palestinian situation.
-- Roger D. McKinney
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

The American Spectator is looking more curmudgeon-like than ever in its hopeless defense of Bush 43. Mr. Klein's dismissal of James Baker willfully ignores the fact that Baker would not be involved today if we weren't facing a military and political disaster in Iraq that would not exist if the current Bush administration possessed one iota of diplomatic sense. Sure, Baker has an ego, but you have no business heaping him with derision when he is using his experience in a noble attempt to clean up someone else's conspicuous mess.

Mr. Tyrrell's reference to "Bush's vibrant economy with historically low unemployment, steady growth, and a stock market at historic highs" is a direct quote from Chairman Karl's little red book. No mention is made that most economists see a slowdown, and possibly a recession, looming on the horizon, and that there has been no economic advance for the middle class in years. This is the one Ben Stein position that merits attention.

If you want to develop a reputation as serious journalists, take note that truth is more honorable than muckraking.
-- Abe Grossman
Pleasantville, New York

How fitting that American Spectator reporter Philip Klein should address "Realist Fantasies" (aka betrayal) on the 65th anniversary of a day of infamy that propelled us into WWII.

Until I saw him and heard him live on CSPAN shilling for the Iraq Study Group report, I had forgotten how much I dislike former Secretary of State James A. Baker III. He of the useless, cosmetic shuttlecock diplomacy game -- going back and forth and back and forth and back and forth from one locale to another without ever having achieved anything of substance, but trying feverishly to spin something solid out of the ILLUSION of "progress." He attempted to do this with various and sundry off the record/deep background releases attributing this or that quote to an "un named source." Kissinger had the stones, timing and wit to pull this off and use it to move toward a measurable, substantive policy objective (e.g., getting Le Duc Tho back to the bargaining table or elements of a strategic arms limiting agreement), but this purveyor of cheap talk does NOT. I cheered when a reporter asked him how it was the ISG could come up with ANY report since none of its members ventured beyond the green zone to talk with members of our armed forces on the ground who have some actual knowledge of what the hell is going on.

Given that we are at war with troops engaged in combat, I find it REMARKABLE that nowhere in this breathlessly awaited ISG "report" will a reader find any MENTION of the word VICTORY.

Clearly this dross is what Nixon would describe as a recipe for an "elegant bug out," lurching toward defeat but trying to put the best face on things -- attempting to save face while losing ass -- as though the bloodthirsty terrorists give the snap of a finger about appearances. Clearly THEY understand the nature of this war they started and are determined to WIN.

Baker and those of his ilk, by contrast, are desperately scratching about like so many busy, clucking, self-important little hens, looking in vain this way and that for a way not to LOSE. That puts Baker on a par with a fellow Texan -- the helpless, hapless LBJ who did not have the first clue how to wage (much less win) a war and temporized by feeding more and more American troops into the widening maw of the meat grinder of foreign policy neglect...and hoping for the best.

In war, one either choses VICTORY or accepts the inevitability of DEFEAT. As Douglas MacArthur famously observed, there is NO substitute for Victory.

Baker and the rest of the useless ISG are part of the problem, not the solution. One can only hope President Bush ignores their flim flam recommendations, chosing instead to remain focused on the only REAL objective, WINNING this war by DEFEATING terrorists and the nations that support terrorists.

In matters of foreign policy, he has little to fear from the Democrat Party even if the Dems do control the 110th Congress: when it comes to matters of foreign policy, they have offered ample evidence they don't know their butts from a bass fiddle. They clearly have no agenda of their own in pursuit of our legitimate national security interests, which is why they have earned the reputation of being soft on defense over the last half century.

In my considered opinion former Secretary of State James A. Baker III is a modest man with much to be modest about. My fond hope is that he will take himself a little less seriously and do the honorable thing: shut up and let those who are doing the fighting WIN this war WITHOUT any further jiggling of elbows on his part.

Thank God he was neither Secretary of State nor Secretary of War on December 7, 1941. Otherwise the public school students I teach would begin each day, not with the Pledge of Allegiance facing Old Glory, but bowing toward the classroom flag of the Rising Sun and issuing the required salute to the victorious forces of Emperor Hirohito at the top of their lungs: BONZAI!
-- Thomas E. Stuart
Public School Teacher
(and Vietnam veteran)
Kapa'au, Hawaii

I can't see much difference between the recommendations and utter defeat.

I suppose we can implement these recommendations, and then sit back and watch American forces in Iraq reenact the Fall of Saigon. Aren't there enough reruns this time of year already?
--- Robert Nowall
Cape Coral, Florida

Why would anyone in Congress believe that James Baker, whose law firm represents the Saudi government, is an honest broker?
-- Dan Mittelman
Cherry Hill, New Jersey

APPEASEMENT REPORT
How much did they fleece us for that pathetic report?
I think my toddler grandson could help them sort
Through the mists that enshroud them,
The fluffy thoughts that cloud them,
As they fumble and bumble. Why must we resort

To advice from those whose arrogance precedes them?
I say their words are useless. Why do we need them?
I'll bet you and I
Could figure out why
Bush should commune with Iraq's leaders, maybe even heed them.

It's nice that James Baker can point it all out.
Mickey Mouse could do the same, I have no doubt!
-- Mimi Evans Winship

WHY NOT THE WORST?
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.'s Foner Baloney:

I'm one American history teacher and enthusiast who has a special reason for despising Eric Foner. This is the person who was singlehandedly responsible for desecrating the "Hall Of Presidents" attraction at Disney World that from 1971-1993 was an inspiring, Walt Disney designed program that celebrated the themes of American greatness and was capped off by a moving speech from the audio-animatronic Abe Lincoln. Enter Eric Foner and his complaint to Michael Eisner that the program did not sufficiently address slavery (a lie) and that the Lincoln speech, was a "fascistic" relic of the Cold War era (Foner, being from a long family of American communists would know).

So Michael Eisner actually allowed Foner to write the new script for the Hall of Presidents that has been boring audiences to death since 1993 with its overly PC platitudes that harp on the failures of America at every juncture (accomplishments of great inventors that were part of the original program were zapped in the Foner script), while a new Lincoln speech is devoid of all eloquence the old one had.

For more on what we once had and which is now lost to us thanks to Eric Foner, my essay at a Disney World history site on the attraction provides further elaboration.
-- Eric Paddon

R. Emmett Tyrrell's ad hominem attack on Professor Eric Foner is at least as moronic as anything the professor has to say about the current President. Tyrrell's defense of the President's greatness?

1. The economy:

Like citizens on a spending spree with the credit cards, things can look rosy until the bill comes due. What about the budget deficits and the national debt?

2. The war on terror:

Even the neo-cons are abandoning ship.

3. Reform of the military:

Our forces are depleted, their equipment is spent and we have a de facto draft. This is reform?

4. Healthcare and social security:

Bush inchoate reform is admirable? More so than Clinton's?

This article is the most pathetic I've ever seen on The American Spectator website.
-- Mike Roush
Riverside, Connecticut

Good article, Mr. Tyrrell. You make a lot of good points. Wouldn't it be nice if all history were written objectively? As you implied, being a partisan and a valid historian are mutually exclusive. Of course, conservatives need to be objective with their historical findings, too. Writing (and rewriting) history to create propaganda uses history as a weapon and ultimately is a disservice to the planet. Where's the truth these days? Who's version can one believe? It's all spin, misinformaton and disinformation.

I personally agree that Clinton and Carter are easily two of the very worst presidents for the same reasons you state. Unfortunately, regardless of how the economy looks right now, George W. Bush will always be judged by the outcome of the Iraq mission (which may take decades not years, folks...) . Let's hope everything turns out well there so he will be vindicated from the moronic jeers of the decadent, leftist surrenderists who flock to the Democratic pied pipers. They are ruining our country. We cannot let them.
-- J.D.
Las Vegas

George W. Bush the worst president ever? Nope. Not even close. That title belongs to Jimmy Carter, who is also the worst ex-president ever. Carter should be investigated for his traitorous meddling in foreign affairs since he left office.

But, Bush had done more damage to conservatives and Republicans than any 10 Nixons. He had the House and the Senate and he could have furthered conservative principles for generations. Instead, he continued his Rodney "Can't we all just get along" King philosophy of governance and blew the whole thing.

By walking away from The Reagan Revolution and playing footsies with the Democrats, George H. W. Bush gave us Bill Clinton. It might well be that George W. Bush's legacy will be that he gave us Hillary Clinton -- or is it Rodham? Republican bumper stickers should read NO MORE BUSHES!

I can't wait to read the autobiographies of Donald Rumsfield and Dick Cheney. How disheartening it must be for them to be a part of this puny performance.
-- Jack Hughes
Chicago, Illinois

It would appear that the professor stepped outside of his role as and/or bounds of historian. After all, George W. Bush is still writing history as a sitting president. So how can he possibly be ranked?

And though I think that hands down, Mr. Bush's predecessor occupies the lower rungs of such ranked ladder -- and will, once history truly judges him; that is, if we can find more objective historians than the professor and his stripe -- we really are too close to his co-presidency to even rank him and his co-president. Maybe we're even too close to the presidencies of Bush 41 and Ronald Reagan to objectively rank them.

So, my vote's with you, Mr. Tyrrell: Foner is baloney. Perhaps he should stick with exploring 19th century America? And immediately take some remedial course(s) in whatever subject(s) at Columbia University needed to instruct him in the difference between what constitutes current events and what's genuine history?
-- C. Kenna Amos
Princeton, West Virginia

I expect that historical vision should sharpen with age. Historical revisionism respects no such time limitation but, it can cause cognitive dissidence. So, thank you Mr. Tyrrell, for not elaborating on Professor Foner's assessment of Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter.
-- Danny L. Newton
Cookeville, Tennessee

I suppose only a Professor of history from Columbia University can assign an historical rank to a President without the perspective of history. Oh, how it must feel to be so brilliant!
-- M. Shevach

HECKLE AND HIDE
Re: Fred Lucas's Mike Bloomberg's Middle March:

It should be pointed out that the "hecklers" referred to in the article were LaRouche supporters, not Lamont supporters or staff. Also, Lieberman lied when he stated to Lamont in the last debate that rude hecklers in the audience were "your supporters." The hecklers were Larouchees, not Lamont supporters. Lieberman also lied when he accused Lamont supporters of hacking his website on Primary Day. Lieberman does not deserve a chapter in Profiles in Courage. He avoided military service during the Vietnam era. What's courageous about that? He lied repeatedly during the campaign, employed thuggish tactics to disrupt Lamont events, and otherwise acted like an imperial Roman Senator. I think it's a disgrace that he was reelected. He did not deserve it. I never met a Lieberman partisan who wasn't paid, including many out-of-state mercenaries paid with the ample petty cash Lieberman doled around Nixon-style during the last few days of the campaign. It is to our eternal shame that we reelected this man.
-- Mike Stamper
Windsor, Connecticut

I see Joe Leiberman as the Scoop Jackson of our time. Senator Jackson was the last Democrat worthy of the Party of Roosevelt and Truman. He was a social moderate; politically adept without hourly references to polls; and understood the rudiments of geopolitics. He knew that bad guys would always negotiate and he knew just as well they were liars and murderers, so negotiations were merely a part of process, not intended to resolve anything. When I read this article for the first time I considered a Bloomberg Lieberman ticket -- the names could be in any order -- and thought they just might cause a tectonic shift in America's political landscape. Just think of it. Two nice Jewish men, both unquestionably pro America, principled (absolutely unheard of in Democrat circles for at least 40 years), and pleasant to boot.

Don't know if they'd win, but they'd sure make the hackneyed, arrogant princes of the Democrat party like Gore, Clinton, Biden and Kerry look just like what they are: political hacks.
-- Jay W. Molyneaux
Wellington, Florida

CACHE NICHE
Re: George H. Wittman's Time for Pundit School:

Pundit School? How about pundit screening? Some of these illiterates will read anythng that rolls onto the prompter without batting an eye. Mr. Wittman barely scratched the surface of the dismal state of English usage and pure ignorance of the subject of discussion by most anyone who manages to sit on a panel or grab a correspondent job in the field. Recently I heard one person pronounce Hezbollah three different ways in one short segment. Hez BOLL ah, HEZbulla and Hez bool AH. Accent on every conceivable Syl-LOB-el!

If you listen closely, you will notice that "an," preceding a vowel sound has virtually disappeared. You hear instead, "A important side-bar to this story. . ." "A upturn in the economy," "A energy-saving measure..."

I used to predict that in twenty years we would be speaking pure gibberish. That was "A" optimistic estimate. The rule of thumb seems to be "Thumb your nose at grammar -- who's gonna notice?"

Which brings to mind my letter to TAS on the subject of Jim Webb's manners. I said to me he is "that little pissant". Somehow it was printed "puissant" which means having great power or strength, potent. A pissant (slang) is an insignificant or contemptible person. It was a word we got our mouths washed out with soap for when I was a child. For all I know, I added the definition-altering letter, rendering my intended insult impotent! I'd like to correct it now.

Thanks,
-- Diane Smith
South San Francisco, California

While we're on the topic of Pundit School, journalists who covered the Space Program during its early days always used the correct NASA-approved terms for when a rocket leaves the ground: either "launch" or "lift-off." The only people who said "blast-off" were, well, most other people, who had apparently picked up the term from Buck Rogers or somewhere. As a space nut (who covered a few Shuttle launches on the radio in the 1980s) I got a little tired of correcting ignorant civilians who insisted on calling it a blast-off. But now that journalists who cover the program are no longer as well versed in extraterrestrial nomenclature as their predecessors, I'm hearing "blast-off" even from those who should know better. To them I have this message: Stop it right this minute. It's "launch" or "lift-off."

Thank you. I feel so much better now.
-- Steve Biddle
State College, Pennsylvania

Before Saddam Hussein rolled into Kuwait, I took a knitting class where two Arab women were also in attendance. One was Iraqi. I have always remembered that she pronounced it as "ee-rock" and not as "ear-rock."

As for properly using "cache" and "cachet," one does not have to had studied French for as long as I did to know the meanings and pronunciation. The misuse points to illiteracy. The one person I might defer to (after my Paris-born teacher) in the matter of proper pronunciation would be John Francois Kerry.
-- Evelyn Leinbach
Colorado

Also, niche is pronounced nich, not neesh. Picture is not prounced pitcher. I even heard mischievous pronounced mischeevious by a talking head. Shouldn't they know better?
-- Louise in Maryland

An excellent and enjoyable essay. One mildly ironic omission involves its title. I threaten violence to the television every time I hear a TV pundit say "pundint"!
-- Glen Leinbach
Ft. Collins, Colorado

RIDING THE THIRD RAIL
Re: Jagadeesh Gokhale's Progress or Surrender?:

It is beginning to appear to this observer that the most important government job being outsourced by America's first MBA President is his own.

First we see President Bush abdicate his foreign policy responsibilities to a commission unaccountable to anyone except perhaps its own PR apparatchiks in the national media. Now we see him abandon Social Security reform, which had been one of the central themes of his Presidency pre-Iraq. What core principle should we expect Bush to sacrifice next?

It appears the only matter about which the President remains animated and engaged is his wrong-headed quest to reward with full citizenship every person who flouts our laws and disrespects this nation and its people by sneaking across our borders and working or living here illegally.

This conservative Republican is appalled and disgusted by what I have seen and heard from the White House since the November election. Having the Republican Party do nothing and stand for nothing cost it first its governing momentum and then its legislative majorities. If Bush chooses to apply these same principles to what remains of his Presidency, it will also cost him his Presidential legacy.

While the Democrats may not seek to harm this nation, our foreign enemies do. At this critical time in our history, our nation can't afford a President who has lost his will to govern.

President Bush, if you are no longer willing to bear the responsibilities of the Presidency and the leadership of this great nation, do the honorable thing and abdicate like Edward VIII. Leave public life forever and give your office to someone who isn't going to spend the next two years cowering with his tail between his legs.

Let us all pray for the health and well-being of Vice President Cheney. May God bless America.
-- Steve Fernandez
Missouri

I see you have an article about Social Security going private. Do you not realize that talking about doing that [angered] so many Voters and helped leverage the GOP out the door on Nov. 7th? If you don't think so, please, by all means keep on that issue: 2008 will be here soon. Another reason the GOP lost was angry Veterans with an underfunded VA by the Bush Regime. Well, see how things go for you in 2008. Keep on the wrong issues, and we will vote the GOP out again.
-- Ben Matheny

SORRY, DOROTHY
Re: The Washington Prowler's Earmarking Kansas:

"[Pat] Roberts is expected to face a stiff re-election battle in Kansas ... "

What a laugh. Stiff opposition from whom? Democrats won the governor's office and two congressional seats. That does not in any way presage a successful Senate campaign. Some observers who have too much time on their hand are speculating that Gov. Kathleen Sebelius might take him on. That would require a bold step on her part, something she hasn't taken in her four years in the governor's office.

Besides, Roberts worked for Rep. Keith Sebelius prior to his own run for Sebelius's seat. Even though the governor is in the opposite party of both her late father-in-law and Roberts, folks tell me there is some loyalty between Roberts and her.

The writer's attempt to sound knowledgeable fails miserably.
-- Bruce Buchanan
Hutchinson, Kansas

THANKS FOR NOTHING
Re: Andrew J. Coulson's Centralized Cappuccino:

Andrew J. Coulson wrote:

"Not everybody likes the same brand of coffee, and the decision to let Starbucks give its product away for free would drive most other suppliers out of business." (Emphasis added.)

If Mr. Coulson does not know it, your editors should. Use of the phrase "for free" in that context is grammatically incorrect. "Free" is an adjective, and "for" is a preposition. Yet, what does "free" modify in that sentence? Nothing. It is improperly used. Further, "for" is a preposition, and should be part of a prepositional phrase; a preposition followed by an adjective is NOT a proper prepositional phrase. The only time it would be proper to use the phrase would be if there were a word properly modified by "free," such as "write now for free information."

The sentence could properly read "...give away its product free," or "...give away its products for nothing."
-- Mike John

FREE INQUIRY
Re: Paul Chesser's No Spark for a Higher Power:

Paul Chesser bemoans the fact that good journalists "consistently hold scientific theory in higher regard than belief in a real God" (11-28-06). The problem is that there is no evidence that a "real God" exists. For that reason, good journalists are supposed to hold well-confirmed scientific theory in higher regard than a mere belief in something for which there is no strong evidence. To do otherwise would be uncivilized.

Chesser writes of spiritual discernment, but do theists really have access to the Divine? Should we simply dismiss the old journalistic maxim that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" out of hand? After thousands of years of theism, there is still not one iota of strong evidence for the existence of God. Indeed, as Betrand Russell observed, "We may define faith as a firm belief in something for which there is no evidence....We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute evidence with emotion." Thus, you will never hear a good scientist say that she has faith in the theory of gravity, flight, reproduction, etc.

Chesser loves to quote the Bible when discussing supposed "evidence of things not seen." However, as the atheist Dan Barker has pointed out, in the spiritual sense, "Evidence of things unseen is simply evidence that you have no evidence." In other words, this nothing more than a theistic word game.

Finally, though no doubt some atheists have a bleak view of the future, harboring a fantasy is hardly an acceptable alternative. Fortunately, there is the positive life stance of secular humanism which offers non-believers a life-affirming alternative. This is what the Center for Inquiry/Transnational is all about.
-- Norm R. Allen Jr.
Associate Editor
FREE INQUIRY Magazine
(Published by the Council for Secular Humanism)
Amherst, New York

AYN'T THAT A SHAME
Re: Ed's letter (under "Rand Piano") in Reader Mail's Fears and Loathings:

If I may respond to Ed:

Not only have I read Rand and understood her I am also quite familiar with her biography. She was a selfish Libertine and that is often reflected in her writings and is an explicit part of her personal philosophy.

My juxtaposition of Rand and Leary was a metaphor that obviously escaped you.
-- Jerrold Goldblatt

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