It's like deja vu all over again ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

You know, that John Fogerty lyric is supposed to be about Iraq/Vietnam. Instead we're on our way to deja vu all over again, all over again, in Iran, but worse than either Iraq or Vietnam, since this time -- for the first time -- we are going to get hit back, here, there and everywhere -- to coin a phrase. This would be comical -- you know, the fact that the most powerful nation in all human history is being led by madmen -- were it not for the fact that it's logic like this that has already killed hundreds of thousands of people, cost trillions of dollars, created thousands of potential terrorists, and made the United States the most hated nation on Earth. Anyway, in a piece that poses the question, "Is a damaged Administration less likely to attack Iran, or more?" Sy Hersh reports the following Feels-exactly-like-the-crazy-pre-Iraq-war-lies-and- hysteria-that-got-us-into-this- mess-by-these-same-dangerous-lunatics story. Here is just one worrisome lowlight, but to me the most telling:

The Administration's planning for a military attack on Iran was made far more complicated earlier this fall by a highly classified draft assessment by the C.I.A. challenging the White House's assumptions about how close Iran might be to building a nuclear bomb. The C.I.A. found no conclusive evidence, as yet, of a secret Iranian nuclear-weapons program running parallel to the civilian operations that Iran has declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency. (The C.I.A. declined to comment on this story.)

The C.I.A.'s analysis, which has been circulated to other agencies for comment, was based on technical intelligence collected by overhead satellites, and on other empirical evidence, such as measurements of the radioactivity of water samples and smoke plumes from factories and power plants. Additional data have been gathered, intelligence sources told me, by high-tech (and highly classified) radioactivity-detection devices that clandestine American and Israeli agents placed near suspected nuclear-weapons facilities inside Iran in the past year or so. No significant amounts of radioactivity were found.

A current senior intelligence official confirmed the existence of the C.I.A. analysis, and told me that the White House had been hostile to it. The White House's dismissal of the C.I.A. findings on Iran is widely known in the intelligence community. Cheney and his aides discounted the assessment, the former senior intelligence official said. "They're not looking for a smoking gun," the official added, referring to specific intelligence about Iranian nuclear planning. "They're looking for the degree of comfort level they think they need to accomplish the mission." The Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency also challenged the C.I.A.'s analysis. "The D.I.A. is fighting the agency's conclusions, and disputing its approach," the former senior intelligence official said. Bush and Cheney, he added, can try to prevent the C.I.A. assessment from being incorporated into a forthcoming National Intelligence Estimate on Iranian nuclear capabilities, "but they can't stop the agency from putting it out for comment inside the intelligence community." The C.I.A. assessment warned the White House that it would be a mistake to conclude that the failure to find a secret nuclear-weapons program in Iran merely meant that the Iranians had done a good job of hiding it. The former senior intelligence official noted that at the height of the Cold War the Soviets were equally skilled at deception and misdirection, yet the American intelligence community was readily able to unravel the details of their long-range-missile and nuclear-weapons programs. But some in the White House, including in Cheney's office, had made just such an assumption -- that "the lack of evidence means they must have it," the former official said."

Sound familiar? It's all here. Of course, the difference this time is that Iran can really hit back, here, in Europe, in Israel and in Iraq. Their response will make the Iraqi insurgency look like a Dick Cheney hunting party ...

And for what passes for the "thought" behind this catastrophe-in-the-making, here, is Joshua Muravhik.

My non-elitist acquaintances -- I have no such friends, thank God -- inform me that the NASCAR season ended this Sunday -- just two weeks after the Democrats were crowned electoral champions in the congressional vote -- with the Ford 400 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida and the crowning of a new Nextel Cup champion. The two, argues former New York Times sports columnist Robert Lipsyte in "Driving Values," are connected.

He begins his piece, "The Democrats won the Senate and the House because the Republicans lost the garage." And it was the war in Iraq that did it -- or as he puts it in his own idiosyncratic fashion: "I remember thinking -- in the years I actively covered Nascar -- that one of the most telling differences between my subjects and me was that they knew more people on active military duty than people in same-sex relationships. That was still true this month, and that's why the Democrats won."

"The movement remains a fine place to make a career, but for wisdom one must look elsewhere." What was conservatism?

Differences between Marty Peretz and his old friend Barney Frank:

1) Barney has had a life filled with public accomplishments other than marrying two unbelievably wealthy heiresses and using the proceeds to destroy America's most important liberal magazine ...

Others?

Excuse me, but did Andrew Sullivan just call the president of the United States a "war criminal?" Hell, I've never done that. I think the guy is, at minimum, entitled to a trial, first, to say nothing of all the people who would also be implicated. Since I disagree with Sullivan, how about we send him to Gitmo? Anyone with whom I disagree and who is to my left is obviously a traitor -- or shall I say a "decadent coastal elite" -- either way, I say "jail him." Oh, and Time, even whether you fire Andy for this or not, you still won't have a single liberal columnist ...

My God. I think all students should boycott classes until the UCLA addresses this horrific abuse of police power.

The McCain Suck-Up Watch begins:

From Media Matters:

Blitzer ignored McCain's inconsistencies on issues, gave short shrift to other '08 hopefuls

Summary: While discussing Sen. John McCain's potential presidential candidacy, CNN's Wolf Blitzer ignored McCain's inconsistencies on taxes and abortion and essentially contradicted himself about McCain's position on Iraq. Blitzer also noted the names and experience of other political figures with presidential exploratory or campaign committees but did not describe their positions on any issues.

NPR's Liasson touted McCain's "maverick conservatism," bipartisanship as "what voters are looking for now," ignoring voters' rejection of his view on Iraq

On the November 17 broadcast of National Public Radio's Morning Edition, national political correspondent Mara Liasson reported that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), in two speeches a day earlier, had made "the implicit argument that his brand of maverick conservatism and his history of working across party lines is just what voters are looking for now." Liasson went on to assert that the outcome of the midterm elections -- particularly "the role of independent and moderate voters" -- "reinforces McCain's appeal as a general election candidate." But Liasson's report ignored one of the key differences between McCain and most voters -- his continued support for the Iraq war -- a difference that undermines her assertion that the election "reinforces McCain's appeal." Independent voters cited their opposition to the war as one of their top reasons for voting Democratic this year.

Alter-reviews:

I went to the J@LC gala last week, which had a Gershwin program similar to the one reviewed above. Differences include performances by the 96-year-old Kitty Carlisle Hart, who was taught her part by Gershwin himself 73 years ago, she says, and was really quite good and some really swell singing and story-telling by Michael Feinstein, Angela Lansbury, Marcus Roberts, and Brian Stokes Mitchell.

Even so, for me the highlight was the Marcus Roberts-led version of "Rhapsody in Blue," based on the original 1924 scoring for Paul Whiteman's jazz band with supplemental strings but as loosely as possible. I was in the very back row of the orchestra and in a pretty bad mood, but I closed my eyes for 20 minutes and it was -- let's say it -- "rhapsodic." Great live jazz is just about the best thing there is, and it breaks my heart that it has to be so expensive. Anyway, this Saturday, the kid and I will learn the answer to the question "What Is an Arranger?" care of our buddy Wynton. I assume you and your kid can too, if you live near here and you check out the ticket situation here. If not, look into J@LC's education program here.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Eric --

I agree with Stupid on the prospect for middle ground, but faith-based initiatives is not where I'd look. Instead, I'd reach out to someone on the other side of the aisle, like Sam Brownback and support his position on fast-tracking drug trials for cancer treatments that warrant it based on promising preliminary results, much as AIDS treatments were moved more quickly through the FDA in the late 1980s (whether that was a sufficient response is debatable, but it was at least a move in the right direction). But I wouldn't, for example, bow to Brownback's rejection of stem-cell research or abortion, which are his faith-based issues.

Pursuing this kind of cooperation is what has made Ted Kennedy arguably the most important senator in the history of the body. Despite the right-wing's efforts to make him the bete-noire of the left, he knows how to work with members on the other side without out selling out. He's been burned a few times, like on No Child Left Behind, but he learns from those experiences. If we had more sincere legislative efforts, aimed at addressing problems and needs, instead of the bloody shirt grandstanding on things like flag-burning or a certain prepositional phrase in the "Pledge of Allegiance," maybe people would feel like the Congress was doing something. That would give voters a reason to vote not just a campaign strategy to lure them to one side or discourage them from the other.

Name: J. R. Taylor
Hometown: Washington, D.C.

I don't know their marital statuses, but if it's appropriate, could Stupid perhaps marry Amy Sullivan? So they could pursue together their glorious dream of getting votes for Democrats from people who only vote at all because they're down on abortion and gay folks? Church wedding, of course. Just a suggestion.

Name: Christopher Barnes
Hometown: Studio City, CA

As horrid as the idea might seem (it's so "GOP"), I wish the Dems would remember that the campaign does not end with the election. While NPR, CNN, the NY Times and the rest of the "liberal media" is making news of the "infighting" amongst the newly majoritized Dems, the righties get to again use those headlines to frame and constrain the Dems well before the next Congress is in session. As a result, before the first day of the new majority, many Americans may have the impression that a Democratic congress looks more like the Italian parliament of the 1960s than like a group of sober leaders who can undo the damage of 6 years of Bush. Dems cannot afford to seize an inch of ground either inside or outside the Congress -- every day from now on has to be spent saving the election just won.

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