The Latest Debacle
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
  "He Retorts, You Decide"

"..(Y)ou've got that little smirk on your face and you think you're so clever. But I had responsibility for trying to protect this country. I tried and I failed to get bin Laden. I regret it. But I did try. And I did everything I thought I responsibly could." --Former President Bill Clinton, to Chris Wallace

Don't you think Bill Clinton knew, when he agreed to appear on Fox News Sunday, that he was likely to be asked, how should I say it - difficult questions?

I submit Clinton knew exactly that, and that he planned his over-the-top rant, right down to mentioning the smirk on Chris Wallace's face, knowing there would probably be one. In fact, Clinton's spokesman Jay Carson said, "We knew exactly what we were going to do" if the questioning went that way.

Clinton probably thought he'd be doing the right thing, defending his anti-terror record - and by extension the honor of the Democratic party.

How wrong he was.

By going ballistic Clinton gave his own anti-terror record an extra 72 hours worth of news cycle. Since the rant originally aired Fox News has replayed it every five minutes or so. The video has drawn 800,000 hits on YouTube. White House press secretary and former Fox News Sunday host Tony Snow came up with the line, "He retorts - you decide".

It's now devolved into a cheap little squabble over who did or didn't do enough to get Bin Laden. Clinton started it during the interview, when he said "I've never criticized President Bush, and I don't think this is useful." Of course, then he proceeds to criticize President Bush and his administration for not going after Bin Laden in the eight months leading up to 9/11, and claiming he - Clinton - had handed the Bush administration a "comprehensive anti-terror strategy".

The fact is, neither Bill Clinton nor George W. Bush gets a good report card from the 9/11 commission. Neither is entitled to point fingers.

Clinton's cheap shot brought return fire from Condolezza Rice. Then Hillary Clinton fired back at Condi.

Condi got it right when she said this is "not a very fruitful discussion." It's especially unfruitful for the Democrats, who - you'd think - would be focusing every ounce of energy on what's happened since 9/11.

Bill Clinton's historical finger-pointing rant has stolen thunder particularly from the story about the National Intelligence Estimate - which addresses the fundamental 2006 election season argument - are you safer now, than you were before the war on terror started? President Bush has wisely declassified that bad news and confronted it head on. It's not a "winning" strategy. But the goal for the Republicans right now isn't to "win" - it's to hang on.
 
Friday, September 22, 2006
  I Need Another Word For Torture - How About "Conference Committee"?

The grand compromise between Senators McCain, Warner, Graham and the White House over interrogating detainees leaves Democrats right where we thought they'd be - stuck with it.

Since the majority of Democrats decided to hide behind McCain & Co. instead of raising their own objections to the White House's legislation, they lose the right to complain about the McCain compromise by default. Even the New York Times was upset with the Democrats. Gosh.

When it comes down to it, the Democrats should let it go. The compromise will be about the best they can get. And they should be happy to sign off.

The last thing the Democrats want to do right now is waste time defending the rights of terror suspects. (Why the Republicans wanted to argue about it is another matter.) Attacking the President's handling of the terror war, his not putting enough effort into getting Bin Laden, getting sidetracked in Iraq - those are the more logical Democrat talking points, heading for those November elections.

The fight over terror suspects' rights will be heading back to the Supreme Court eventually anyway. That's probably the reason why Senators McCain and Co. were willing to leave open the question of just what interrogation techniques President Bush is going to authorize.

(Waterboarding? McCain and Co. believe it's done and over with. But it doesn't show up on any laundry list of forbidden tactics within the legislation.)

Just don't mess with our Geneva Convention - McCain and Co. wanted that from the President, and got it. Everything else is detail to be worked out later, hashed out or submerged by conference committee - then eventually to be raised in court and ultimately decided by the same Supreme Court that ordered Congress to get involved in the first place. Other sticky problems, like how to keep "secret evidence" secret, are also left a bit fuzzy.

While Democrats like Senator Levin on the Armed Services Committee say the compromise has "problems", that's a far cry from promising a filibuster. And over at the Senate Judiciary Committee, chairman Arlen Specter is all ready to make a big stink about taking away detainees' habeas corpus rights. So the Republicans aren't quite through beating each other up over this.

Did this flap ruin John McCain's chances to win the Republican presidential nomination in '08? Maybe I'm the only one who doesn't think so. Conservatives are already mad at McCain for not taking the "defend the border first" position on immigration. George W. and McCain agree on that issue. Face it, McCain already had an uphill fight to win those conservatives over.

What those conservatives need is a powerful alternative candidate to McCain. Right at this moment, I'm not quite sure who that might be. Two years from now, it may be their turn to suck it up and accept a grand compromise, named McCain.
 
Saturday, September 16, 2006
  Graham In The Middle
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more or less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - that's all."

-- Lewis Carroll

We can dispense with President Bush's first Secretary of State Colin Powell's rift with the President over the interpretation of Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions. Oh, it was painful enough - like a sucker punch to the gut of the White House when Powell's letter to Sen. McCain was revealed. But the White House couldn't have been surprised about Powell's feelings on the subject. The only surprise was that Powell decided to go public with them.

For the same reason, we can dispense with Senator McCain's feelings own on the subject. Prompting a slew of "Republicans Revolting" headlines, McCain led the Senate Armed Services committee charge (supported mainly by Democrats but also by Republicans Warner and Graham) for legislation that President Bush says would shut down vital terror interrogation operations. McCain put it this way in a statement:

"Weakening the Geneva protections is not only unnecessary, but would set an example to other countries with less respect for basic human rights... that put our military personnel and others directly at risk in this and future wars."

Again, not surprising; this is right in character for McCain. Whether he's risking his shot at the presidency by disagreeing with President Bush at this moment, well, McCain has taken plenty of positions on one thing or another to make Republicans angry. Start with immigration - where McCain and the President actually agree on a "comprehensive" approach that drives most rank and file Republicans crazy.

My question is: What's up with Lindsey Graham? The senior senator from South Carolina, a once-reliably conservative Presidental ally from a reliably conservative state is driving a lot of his constituents crazy. Is he angling to be McCain's running mate in '08?

His statement on the Senate bill put me in the 'Alice in Wonderland' mode, because he's making the same claim for the Senate committee approach that the President is making for his approach - both insist they are doing the best job of clarifying the Geneva Conventions.

Says Graham, defending the Senate legislation: "The Senate legislation, for the first time, clearly defines what would be criminal conduct by the CIA in the War on Terror. "It gives the CIA guidance that is long overdue. It also prevents CIA agents and their families from being sued for performing their duties on behalf of the nation."

Says President Bush, defending his preferred legislation: “Were it not for this program, our intelligence community believes that Al Qaeda and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland. But the practical matter is if our professionals don’t have clear standards in the law, the program is not going to go forward.”

What's going on here? If I didn't know better (and I probably don't), Graham is doing what he's done before - he's putting himself in a position to broker some kind of compromise. This would be a compromise that (I predict) will blur the differences in the two sides' positions. Which is pretty ironic, since everyone is raving about how important clarity is supposed to be, when deciding what violates the Geneva Conventions.

Democrats opposing the President who would lend credibility to Graham by invoking his name, better watch out.
 
Monday, September 04, 2006
  The '06 Summer Of Debacles

When it comes to things going wrong, it's been an embarassment of riches this summer. Here's an informal top ten list of the misadventures and quagmires we've suffered through.

10. Israel vs. Hezbollah. Israel learned a painful lesson this summer: it can't count on being able to beat the crap out of anyone that dares to pick a fight. Israel almost certainly believed it could win a fight with Hezbollah within a few days. Instead, Hezbollah won a huge moral victory (if not a military one) in the fighting, and it's winning the cease-fire by taking large sums of money from Iran and handing it out in the form of relief to bombed-out southern Lebanese civilians. That Iranian connection may come back to bite Hezbollah in the future.

9. The Lieberman factor. While the Move On dot org leftist Democrats took the Connecticut primary, Senator Joe Lieberman may be heading for the last laugh in the general election. Lieberman personifies the Democrats' inability to reach a consensus on Iraq. The only thing Democrats can agree on is that the President is doing a bad job with the war. Jeez, even a lot of Republicans are figuring that out. Tell me something I don't know, huh Democrats?

8. Immigration. If the Democrats can't agree on Iraq, Republicans are tied in knots over immigration. As of now chances for any immigration bill before the election are about the same as Dan Rather co-anchoring the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.

7. Stem Cell Veto. It was bad enough that the President came up with his morally ambiguous, allow-stem-cell-research-but-don't-federally-fund-it policy that puts him on the opposite side of conservatives like Bill Frist and Orrin Hatch. The debacle was magnified by the fact that this President hasn't had the nerve (or the good sense) to veto anything else Congress had given him before.

6. Kim Jong-Il. The discomfort caused by North Korea's missile tests this summer has pretty much worn off in the United States. But it's very uncomfortable for China, North Korea's closest ally. China wants North Korea's leader to visit Beijing. Well, the Chinese want him to come visit so they can whack him upside the head and try to get him to cool it. Seems he doesn't want to. Surprise, surprise.

5. The Valerie Plame Affair. Way-far-left Democrats had egg on their face when their predictions of Karl Rove's indictment in the affair came a cropper. The whole thing looked even more ridiculous when it was revealed that the source of the leak of Valerie Plame's identity to columnist Bob Novak was Richard Armitage. Armitage never really supported the Iraq war to begin with, so the whole charge about the White House orchestrating the discredit-Plame campaign falls apart. We've had a reporter locked up for 85 days, a perjury indictment, a multi-million dollar special prosecutor team prosecuting a crime all based on Armitage's little slip of the tongue. Sheesh.

4. Supreme Court's Gitmo Ruling. The White House handed the Democrats a talking point unnecessarily because the powers that be decided way back when not to get Congress' seal of approval on the plan for military tribunals for prisoners at Guantanamo.

3. New York Times' Banking Surveillance Story. The New York Times hogs most of the credit (or blame) although the L.A. Times and Wall Street Journal also reported the story. The Times handed the Republicans a talking point. Reinforces everything that blue-staters believe about the news media.

2. Money In The Freezer. Congressman William Jefferson's situation is a debacle on top of a scandal in addition to corruption. Here's a Congressman who's been caught with $90,000 in cash in his home freezer. The FBI decides it needs to search Congressman Jefferson's office on Capitol Hill to get to the bottom of an apparent bribery scheme. And instead of saying good idea, Republicans attack the FBI and Attorney General Gonzales for doing their jobs. Separation of powers? More like someone separated James Sensenbrenner at the House Judiciary Committee from his brain.

1. Say Goodnight, George. Senator George Allen of Virginia has committed the gaffe that keeps on giving - giving aid and comfort to his opponent, Jim Webb. Allen's offhanded, thoughtless remarks about S.R. Sidarth, a student of Indian descent (but born in Virginia) with a video camera working for Webb's campaign, has nearly erased Allen's double digit lead in public opinion polls. Allen has just had to decline a leadership award he was supposed to have received from a minority scholarship fund. Democrats who'd written off the Virginia senate race are now circling like vultures. Allen's dreams of running for President are about as likely as the aforementioned Dan Rather - Katie Couric anchor team.

It's not fair. My top ten is filled up and I never got around to the really big debacles, like the Television Academy not giving its Best Supporting Actress Emmy Award to Jean Smart of '24'. And I didn't mention the oil companies. So many debacles, so little bandwidth.
 
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
  NY Post: All The News That's Fit To Steal

Please refer to the Shrinking Couric item below, in which I give sarcastic "credit" to the New York Post.

I should have known. The New York Post has been "borrowing" news, without saying "thank you".

And the Post should be ashamed, because it borrowed it from Brian Stelter. Brian is the young, truly intrepid blogger who created TVNewser which regularly breaks stories and constantly keeps up with the drumbeat of the broadcast news business. And I visit his site regularly.

Just not regularly enough to catch Stelter's item about The Incredible Shrinking Couric. The story was his, not the Post's.

(The New York Daily News was no better. Stole the story, gave Stelter no credit.)

Newspapers constantly rant and rave about doing all the hard work of gathering news - and then having it appropriated by radio, TV, and, of course, bloggers.

But when papers like the Post steal from a blogger - the blogger gets no credit.

I know, we can't expect ethical niceties like attribution from the New York Post. What should we expect from a paper that doesn't even put its Page Six gossip column on page 6?
 
  Honey, I Shrunk The Anchorwoman

"The picture was retouched without the knowledge of Ms. Couric or CBS News management." - Spokesperson for CBS public relations

The New York Post definitely has a "thing" for getting Katie Couric. First it was the story the Post broke about Couric holding up the takeoff of an airliner so that her producer would make the flight.

Now, the intrepid Post has discovered that an in-house CBS magazine called "Upfront" used Photoshop to take a picture of Couric and make her look 20 pounds thinner, and give her complexion a milky-white glow.

The ever-helpful Post even consulted a clinical nutritionist at NYU who suggested that if Katie wants to lose 20 pounds for real, she ought to either cut off an arm or a leg, or eat more veggies.

I have to admit that I thought Katie looked pretty bad after the hold-up-the-airliner story. But the over-the-top way the Post is playing this, along with Katie's reaction quote, is wonderful, fun publicity for her debut as the new CBS News anchorwoman next week. It makes Katie look good.

Almost as good as Photoshop does.
 
Friday, August 25, 2006
  The Mayor Of 'Chocolate City' Strikes Again

"You guys in New York can’t get a hole in the ground fixed and it’s five years later. So let’s be fair." -- Ray Nagin, Mayor of New Orleans

One year after Katrina, it would be easy to trash FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bush Administration in general for all the lunkheaded missteps and debacles that have happened since. And feel a little sorry for the city of New Orleans.

But then, the mayor of New Orleans opens his mouth, sticks his foot way in, and you might end up thinking he asked for it.

On next Sunday's episode of 60 Minutes Mayor Ray Nagin, confronted with scenes of abandoned flood-damaged cars in the streets and houses washed off of their foundations onto boulevards, responded by taking a cheap shot at New York City's inability to rebuild at Ground Zero five years after 9/11.

Give Ray Nagin credit, for drawing attention to himself with seemingly senseless gaffes. Following his proclamation that God meant New Orleans to be a "chocolate city" in January, he quickly apologized. (He said he was referring to "milk" chocolate.) But it was the kind of calculated apology that made you wonder why he even bothered.

It's pretty clear that Nagin really means what he says. And his constituents seem to like it. This year New Orleans re-elected Nagin 52% to 48% over Mitch Landrieu, in spite of everything.

Nagin will undoubtedly be accused of playing the race card with this jab at New York. And guess what? He won't mind. He likes the attention. It seems to work for him.

For the mayor of New Orleans, CBS' 60 Minutes is about to provide another 15 minutes of fame, minus commercials.
 
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
  Stars Are No Longer Paramount

"As much as we like him personally, we thought it was wrong to renew his deal. His recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount." -- Sumner Redstone, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal

What was Sumner Redstone thinking?

I'm not taking sides on whether Redstone, the head of Viacom (which owns Paramount Pictures) is making a good move by dumping Tom Cruise.

My question is - why did Redstone feel he had to trash Cruise's behavior in public?

Trashing the behavior of celebrities is handled very nicely by David Letterman's monologue writers, the tabloids, and.. bloggers.

The decision to let Tom Cruise go is a business decision and Redstone doesn't have to explain it to anyone. And Redstone is better off if he doesn't. Hollywood is the worldwide capital of bad behavior. Proclaiming Tom Cruise's bad behavior in an interview in the Wall Street Journal is bad business, bad karma, bad public relations. Baaad.

Redstone certainly didn't have to explain to stockholders why Cruise was being dumped. There is only one reason. It's not bad behavior. It's money.

If Cruise's bad behavior hadn't hurt his box office receipts, Redstone wouldn't be dumping Cruise. Paramount clearly believes Cruise's behavior threw a wet blanket on the buzz (and the profits) for Mission Impossible 3.

And look at the really weaselly disclaimer in Redstone's statement: "As much as we like him personally.."

Way to go, Sumner. That's the way to inflate your own ego - and build sympathy for Tom Cruise.

Next time, stick with the form letter the lawyers gave you. Just say we're not renewing our agreement, thank you very much, we wish you well... bla bla bla. And leave the character assassination to the aforementioned experts.
 
de·ba·cle (d-bäkl, -bkl, db-kl)n. 1. A sudden, disastrous collapse, downfall, or defeat; a rout. 2. A total, often ludicrous failure.

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RECENT POSTS
"He Retorts, You Decide"
I Need Another Word For Torture - How About "Conference Committee"?
Graham In The Middle
The '06 Summer Of Debacles
NY Post: All The News That's Fit To Steal
Honey, I Shrunk The Anchorwoman
The Mayor Of 'Chocolate City' Strikes Again
Stars Are No Longer Paramount

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