No, our Little Buddy is, at last reports, still in good health. But the other Gilligan -- Andrew, formerly of the BBC, the taxpayer-funded Brit network -- is being honored in practice if not in name. His bias and fabulism have been the foundation upon which the lads and ladies of the Beeb have built their newest and most direct participation in politics.
You remember Andrew. It was he who broadcast Baghdad Bob's line that American troops hadn't been able to capture "Saddam International" whilst the airport bar was being inventoried enthusiastically by our guys. Gilligan later made up the charge that Tony Blair "sexed up" the intel on Iraq, and was eventually allowed to resign. Now, campaigning against Tory Leader Michael Howard, the Gilligan-minded Beeb has managed to outdo CBS.
Gunga Dan and his crew of miscreants used forged documents to campaign against Dubya, but didn't go so far as to plant hecklers at campaign stops. That they left to Michael Moore. About a week ago, concerned that the campaign wasn't going badly enough for the Conservatives, the BBC crew covering a Tory event gave wireless microphones to hecklers in the audience who obliged by shouting, "Michael Howard is a liar," "You can't trust the Tories," and such while the Beeb crew recorded it all for later broadcast. Everyone in the UK who owns a television pays the BBC tax. CBS and the New York Times are horrifically biased, but at least we aren't forced to pay for their upkeep.
Freedom cannot be said to exist where people are forced to pay to support media that are engaged in partisan politics. (You can make the same case against NPR, but not to the degree of clarity that now pertains to the BBC.) If the BBC isn't forced to fire the reporters and producers involved in this episode, their conduct will encourage more political activism at the Beeb, and widen the cracks in British democracy. Why the Tories don't put an end to the BBC tax on their agenda is quite a mystery. Our democracy is in better shape, but not by much. Just ask John Bolton.
I RETRACT THE APOLOGY I made to Sen. Chuck Hagel last week. Hagel turned coat so fast last week it left Dick Lugar's head spinning. Hagel's cover was blown when Sen. George Voinovich (RINO-Ohio) blindsided Foreign Relations Committee chairman Lugar and the White House by saying during last Tuesday's committee meeting on the nomination that he couldn't vote for Bolton. As soon as Voinovich headed to the tall grass, Hagel quickly joined him, as did hopelessly liberal Lincoln Chafee, and later the previously invisible Lisa Murkowski (Daddy's daughter -- Alaska). Neither Hagel nor Chafee had the cojones to be the lone -- or first -- Repub to go south on Bolton, but once Voinovich broke the ice, both were eager to jump in the hole. May it politically re-freeze over both their heads.
Bolton's nomination is in real trouble, enough that it may die in committee or be withdrawn. In this crisis, former Secretary of State Colin Powell is joining in the whispering campaign to sink him. Powell is reportedly "responding" to questions from the Republican defectors, fueling the fires of Bolton's unreasonableness and harsh treatment of staffers. You have to wonder: if Bolton was such a problem when he worked for Powell, why didn't Powell fire him? Maybe because those who were more on board with their president's agenda -- such as former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, who spent ten years working with Bolton -- have a much less skewed view of the man.
Eagleburger made two important points in the Sunday Washington Post. First, that in many years working with Bolton he'd never seen or heard of Bolton abusing staff, and second that Bolton's blunt manner of speaking is just what we need now at the UN. Powell's involvement in the whispering campaign against Bolton is beneath him, or was. I'd thought better of him. I was wrong. But the Prez is right about a couple of other appointments he made last week.
It was more than just a little smart to appoint the first Marine Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In the Friday ceremony announcing the appointment of Gen. Peter Pace, the Prez said that all we needed to know about Pace is that he's a Marine. Yes, but we should take the trouble to know more. Like the fact that Pace is a combat vet, a real tough guy with a very large brain, and well respected in all the services. After announcing the Pace appointment, Dubya tried and failed twice to say the name of the man who is to be Pace's deputy. The prez (intentionally?) misunderestimated the difficulty he'd have in pronouncing Adm. Edmund Giambastiani's name, but he had no problem telling the world that the new team wouldn't stray from the path he and Donald Rumsfeld have set for fighting the war and transforming the sometimes-recalcitrant Pentagon. (That, by the way, is an unnoticed but huge vote of confidence in Rumsfeld.) Henceforth, by presidential order, the newly nominated deputy chairman of the Joint Chiefs will be known as "Admiral G."
BUT BACK TO EUROPE FOR more bad news. The EU-3 -- Germany, France, and Britain -- are readying themselves for another session of negotiations with Iran, slated for later this week. They continue to delude themselves, and anyone else who will listen, that Iran can be talked out of its desire to build nuclear weapons. The EUnuchs want Iran to give up its uranium enrichment program (which the Iranians supposedly put on hold while the talks go on -- yeah, sure). Iran, in a message designed to turn the heat up on the EU-3, said that if there wasn't progress on the last "compromise" Iran offered -- which, natch, lets them continue enriching some uranium for "peaceful" purposes -- they'd call the talks off. France wants to accept the Iranian promise, while the Brits are holding out for a tougher stance. Not that it means anything other than delaying the covert and overt actions we are going to have to take to force cessation of the Iranian program. It's either act or accept the fact of a nuclear-armed Iran. France, meanwhile, is more concerned with the EU constitution than the prospect of being incinerated by a terrorist nuke.
The week ended, as it had to, with yet another example of French churlishness. It was left to Nicholas Sarkozy, Mr. Bean look-alike and contender for the French presidency, to give the best reason to vote for the EU constitution. He said, "I am 50 years old, and it is the first time in French history that a person my age has not been asked to go to war for his country. That is for one simple reason: Europe." It had nothing to do with six decades of American defense of France. Nope, nothing at all.
TAS contributing editor Jed Babbin is the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think (Regnery, 2004).
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