A sorry-sounding smorgasbord

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

I did yet another pessimistic pre-midterm post for Comment is Free, here.

Taking Responsibility, Neocon Style:

Richard Perle: "Huge mistakes were made, and I want to be very clear on this: They were not made by neoconservatives, who had almost no voice in what happened, and certainly almost no voice in what happened after the downfall of the regime in Baghdad. I'm getting damn tired of being described as an architect of the war. I was in favor of bringing down Saddam. Nobody said, 'Go design the campaign to do that.' I had no responsibility for that." Here and here.

Um, excuse me, Senior Perle. What about:

"Saddam is much weaker than we think he is. He's weaker militarily. We know he's got about a third of what he had in 1991."

"But it's a house of cards. He rules by fear because he knows there is no underlying support. Support for Saddam, including within his military organization, will collapse at the first whiff of gunpowder. "

From Salon, here.

And from The Book on Bush:

1) In 1996 Richard Perle and Douglas Feith authored a strategic study at the behest of Benjamin Netanyahu, the hard-line Likud ex-prime minister of Israel, in which they argued for an effort to "focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq -- an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right -- as a means of foiling Syria" and remaking Syria. The report, entitled "A Clean Break," suggested that a new Iraqi regime, together with renewed pressure on Syria, could inspire Lebanese Shiite Muslims to reconnect with Iraqi Shiite religious leaders "to wean the south Lebanese [Shiites] away from Hezbollah, Iran and Syria."

2) According to Richard Perle, the U.S. invasion had "the potential to transform the thinking of people around the world about the potential for democracy, even in Arab countries where people have been disparaging of their potential."

3) In 1998, under the rubric of PNAC, ten members of the future Bush administration, including Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Perle, and Feith, signed a letter arguing for a unilateral U.S. invasion of Iraq. According to the letter, dated January 26, 1998, "the U.S. has the authority under existing UN resolutions to take the necessary steps, including military steps, to protect our vital interests in the Gulf. In any case, American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the Security Council."

4) According to Richard Perle, "Chalabi and his people have confirmed ... that they would recognize the state of Israel."

Speaking of neocons, it turns out that that, hey, stop the presses ...

Marty Peretz is a racist.

I know that's not news, but it's rarely demonstrated in an unarguable fashion. But look. Peretz begins a post in The Spine, here, which has become my favorite blog (just as the phony book at the top of it is my favorite of Peretz's "books"), thusly: "The French may be soft on the Arabs in their diplomacy."

Get it? Not "soft" on Saudi Arabia or Egypt or Jordan or Hamas, but soft on a particular ethnic group that encompasses hundreds of millions of people, all across the globe. That's racism, pure and simple. Peretz is saying, for instance that the French are "soft" on Rashid Khalidi, professor at Columbia University, and soft on the Arab auto mechanic in Detroit, and the Arab doctor in Ann Arbor, and the Arab taxi driver in New York City, and on the Arab children and grandchildren of these people, all over the world. How in the world is this any different than say, an Austrian or Iranian anti-Semite complaining that an American president is "soft on the Jews?" or James Dobson complaining that Democrats are "soft on homosexuals?" Discuss.

Of course, one could argue that I am taking a single sentence out of context, and that Marty Peretz really has nothing against Arabs per se. But does anyone really want to go there? Take a look at the rest of the blog. My God, the bile, the hatred, the obsession. Marty, we hardly knew ye ...

On the other hand, David Frum as much as admits that the neocon strategy was always to use W as an empty vessel in which to pour old whines. Thing is, the president turned out to be just enough of a moron to listen to the part about how to start a war, but not enough to listen to, um ... well, Frum doesn't explain that part. (Which, to be fair, was lifted from an article which we have not read yet. Ditto Perle. It does appear that Vanity Fair broke a promise to these guys.)

"I always believed as a speechwriter that if you could persuade the president to commit himself to certain words, he would feel himself committed to the ideas that underlay those words. And the big shock to me has been that although the president said the words, he just did not absorb the ideas. And that is the root of, maybe, everything."

Conservatives concur: GOP Must Go, here and here too.

Meanwhile, Michael Schwartz, sociologist and former pollster, offers a superb one-stop couch potato's guide to Election Day, night, and the next morning. Suggesting tell-tale signs to look for as the day progresses, as well as key contested areas and races, he also considers the fraud factor and finally explores what we should make of the Democrats, should they win. Does that party seek victory only as the "not-GOP party"? Is it a party that does not actually want a mandate to lead Americans in new directions? He concludes:

As in 2004, there is no mystery about what the voters think when it comes to this election: It is a referendum on Bush administration policies in which unhappiness over the war comes first, second, and third. And this is why, no matter what the Democrats do afterwards, the 2006 midterm elections whose results we will all be anxiously watching on Tuesday are so important. If the Democrats prevail, however narrowly, against a world of massively gerrymandered seats, Republican finances, blitzes of dirty ads, the presidential "bully pulpit," and well-planned campaigns of voter suppression, American -- as well as world public opinion -- will interpret it as a repudiation of Bush administration war policy. And this will become a mandate for those who oppose these policies to speak and act ever more forcefully. With or without Democratic Party leadership, this added momentum might even make a difference.

At least we still have Cokie to kick around.

Tin Soldiers and Nixon Coming ...

Speaking of which, maybe this is a sampling issue, or perhaps we are just smarter than everyone else (Marty Peretz excluded ...).

(Thanks, Petey.)

Desperate Network:

MSNBC.com reports on an ABC soap-opera show as if it's "news," here. No wonder people in this country are so ignorant.

Journalism $101

In retrospect, the GOP takeover of Congress in 1994 was berry, berry good for some journalists. The rise of Newt Gingrich, the government shutdowns, the Whitewater investigations, the Monica investigations, the overwhelmingly party-line vote to impeach Bill Clinton, all fueled thousands of stories about scandal and showdowns that boosted ratings and book sales, here.

Alter-reviews: Box sets by Weather Report, Buddy Guy and Waylon Jennings.

For Weather Report and Waylon, these box sets fulfill the primary box-set mandate for existence. They give me, the casual fan, everything I will ever likely want from these guys in one place, and offer up the means, through excellent liner note essays and attention to discographical detail, a context through which I can better appreciate the music. None are the kind that are put out for fanatics and filled with never-before heard stuff.

For Weather Report, Forecast: Tomorrow offers three CDs and a live DVD of a complete 1978 concert performance. While always anchored by Joe Zawinul and the amazingly adept and creative Wayne Shorter, the band changed personnel almost as frequently as that of Santana, with whose music and creative direction it often coincided. I am not a big fusion guy save some Chick Corea, and I really wouldn't have minded if Miles had stopped recording forever right after Bitches Brew, but I came away enjoying this far more than I expected because of the close attention that the musicians pay to melody as well as virtuosity. They existed from 1971 to 1985 with all periods represented here. Read all about it here.

The Waylon box, called Nashville Rebel, takes you through a number of periods on four CDs. They guy does write really well and sing just fine, leaving aside some of his shtick which does not grow on me. Some of the highlights include really interesting readings of Gordon Lightfoot "(That's What You Get) For Lovin' Me," Neil Young ("Are You Ready for the Country"), Jimmy Webb ("MacArthur Park"), and Los Lobos ("Will the Wolf Survive?"). His own compositions are the real gems, though as are his many duets and group efforts, all of which are represented here, with the Highwaymen being the obvious high point. It's got a 140-page booklet, which makes it worthwhile over just collecting a few of the records and is really nicely put together. More here.

The Buddy Guy box, called Can't Quit the Blues, attempts to summarize a half-century career of an incredibly prolific musician, so it really works only if you've not been paying attention. Guy was discovered in Louisiana, and then moved to Chicago where he recorded for the Chess brothers and then moved around quite a bit. It must have been a lot of work to pull all this together, since we can be sure Guy does not own the copyrights, and the latter part of the set includes -- as almost all old blues albums do these days -- appearances by Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Keb' Mo', Jonny Lang, Bonnie Raitt, Keith Richards, and John Mayer. Anyway, I find Guy's shtick almost as annoying live as I do B.B. King's, but unlike King, he still has terrific chops when he decides to take them out and play a little. I'm not sure where you can find better blues guitar than this, though there's plenty more from whence it comes. Decent liner notes, nice packaging. Three CDs and a DVD of live performances; coulda used a fourth. Read all about it here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Roger H. Werner
Hometown: Stockton, California

Last December I purchased a satellite radio and have been a subscriber to Sirius since January. I have always listened to Sirius music, but last week I got around to the news broadcasts and happened upon the BBC's version of breaking news.

The differences between a BBC interview with an American or British politician and how a pol is treated by the American mainstream media were starkly evident. Whenever an American politician made an incredulous statement, the BBC interviewer practically pounced, calling on the individual to clarify or explain absurdities, and when two and two failed to equal four, politicians were called on the carpet and not very gently.

I listen to NPR every day and the differences between the BBC and NPR are enormous. Clearly, by tossing softballs at politicians and by ignoring often ridiculous responses, American media allow themselves to be used, which is not going to surprise to you as you have written about this matter for some time. Listening to the BBC and NPR sequentially, however, presented me contrasts that are unarguable (not that I ever doubted your claims). Of course, the BBC may have its own set of issues but I cannot speak to those at this time.

Name: Isaac Luria
Hometown: University of Florida

I would just like to agree with and add to Rick Gerwin's comments from Friday. This administration's failures are definitely not due in any large part to their disjunction with "real" conservative ideas. It's been said on Altercation before but it deserves repeating, if small government ideas mean you cut funding to FEMA by 10% and get a Katrina response like what we got, then counter to what conservatives like to claim, we aren't saving 10% of that money, just wasting the other 90%. I'm all for eliminating waste ($20 million success in Iraq party, anyone?) but trimming down useful programs such that they are no longer useful wastes money instead of saving it. Thus our current government problems are born. Or am I missing what "real" conservatives stand for, like maybe eliminating FEMA entirely?

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