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Eric Alterman Headshot

Believe it This Time, Buster

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UPDATE, 4/14: Read my reply to Klein here.

My friend Fred Kaplan can't bring himself
to believe that the Cheney administration is, pick your adjective
(sufficiently crazy, irresponsible, evil, uncaring about human life,
happy to encourage terrorism against the United States, whatever) to
launch a pre-emptive nuclear war against Iran.  He writes:

Or maybe there's no gamesmanship going on here, maybe Hersh [which is here by the way] is simply reporting on a nuclear war plan that President Bush is really, seriously considering, a "juggernaut" that might not be stopped.  If it's as straightforward as that, we're in deeper trouble than most of us have imagined.

I recall that Fred has publicly acknowledged his inability to judge the awfulness of this administration in deciding whether to support war in Iraq.  Isn't it about time we all stopped underestimating these people?  Bush called it "wild speculation."  What was it called when anyone speculated that Cheney, much less Bush might be behind the anti-Plame leak, here?

And I was talking to a former Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East (under a Republican administration) last night at a cocktail party and his position on Hersh was, "Who the hell knows with these people?"  It could be a bluff, as it would be with any sensible, remotely responsible administration, but then again, if they want to inspire countless terrorist attacks against the United States and kill all these people, a little thing like reality is not going to stop them.  (I paraphrase.)

This just in: 
I went to a breakfast this morning sponsored by HBO and the Council on
Foreign Relations where Tina Brown interviewed Julia Sweig, author of
Friendly Fire: Losing Friends and Making Enemies in the Anti-American
Century, here,
before a small gathering of media and foreign policy bigwigs. 
Sweig, a Latin America specialist, has written a subtle,
historically-informed study about the phenomenon in which she sought to
distinguish between those aspects that are structural and destined to
plague our relations with the rest of the world as long as we are the
world's only superpower--which actually, is not as long as it sounds--and
those aspects which are purely the fault of the incompetence,
malevolence, dishonesty, etc. of the Bush administration.  It was
a useful discussion with many useful tributaries and give and take with
the audience and we all felt better for it.

That is right up until the very last moment when, after someone brought up the question of the whether the Democrats will be able to present an effective alternative to Bush in the next election, Joe Klein shouted out, "Well they won't if their message is that they hate America--which is what has been the message of the liberal wing of the party for the past twenty years."

Excuse me, but I think this is worth some attention.  It's not about Klein per se, who after all, is best known to most Americans as the guy who lost his job at both Newsweek and CBS News for purposely misleading editors, readers and viewers in order to increase his own personal profit as the allegedly "anonymous" author of "Primary Colors." 

(He also [classily] attacked the reputation of the linguist who figured
out his identity in New York Magazine.)  What is important,
however, is the fact that Time is America's highest circulation
newsweekly.  And since it fired Margaret Carlson, Joe Klein,
believe it or not, is its most liberal columnist.  That's
right.  The most liberal columnist at the America's largest weekly
newsmagazine pretends that the message of liberals for the past twenty
years has been that they "hate America," just as if he were reading
from talking points issued by Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh or Ann
Coulter.  (Don't get me started.)

Once again I am forced to say, "What the hell is going on here?"  How about a little noise in the blogosophere politely asking Time to hire a genuinely liberal columnist?  (Newsweek has three Jon Alter, Eleanor Clift and Anna Quindlen.)  My nomination would be Josh Marshall, but that's not important.  What matters is that the magazine has four million readers and sets the agenda for much of the media, globally.  And it not only won't allow any liberals in the door, it continuously slanders them, both in its cover stories and in its columns.  Forty-seven percentof Americans strongly oppose George Bush.  Twenty nine percent say he deserves to be impeached.  And yet these many tens of millions of people are treated with complete contempt by the pundits who are invited to determine the course of the political discourse.  Why do we have to take this lying down?  The address for letters to the editor is  [permalink]

On a related point, Boehlert asks us to Note to Dems: Pundits are not your friends.

I also caught the rest of what's below on the HuffPost this morning.  Happy Holidays everyone.

Stephen Elliott smartly writes:

...Two years into the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity, with millions of dollars spent on investigating this serious breach of public trust, after reporter Judy Miller spends 80 days in jail, after George W. Bush promises to reckon with anyone in his administration responsible for the leak, we're told George Bush is actually responsible for the leak after all.

So why have the investigation? Why this egregious irresponsible use of tax money from an administration so adamant about tax cuts? If the information was declassified and the president authorized it, what were we investigating? This administration is so used to not being held accountable that it means nothing to them to waste millions of tax payer dollars investigating a leak that they knew all along was their own.
To hold an investigation into a coverup knowing all along where it was coming from and who was responsible. One can only shake one's head at the boldness, the gall, the absence of principles or conscience. To stall the truth at the taxpayers expense. To finally not care about the truth at all as if truth was not an ideal, not a value, but a nuisance, something that gets in the way of the greater good.

We're told

in today's New York Times that "still unclear is the nature of the
communication between Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney" over the
declassification of pre-war intel.  Unclear?  Please. 
Does anyone really believe that the president, a man who wouldn't
testify in front of the 9/11 Commission without Cheney by his side,
suddenly woke up one morning and thought: "I need to selectively
declassify the paragraphs at the bottom of page 24 of the 2002 NIE so
we can perpetuate the myth that Iraq was 'vigorously trying to procure'
uranium from Africa. Let me get Cheney on the phone and give him his
marching orders."?

Dayenu, dammit.