When I grow up, I wanna be a politician

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

Michael Bloomberg is almost undeniably a good mayor, but there are a few reasons I would never vote for him. One was how crazily he pursued his terrible idea of a West Side stadium, which was based on Rumsfeld-like accounting. Another was his unconscionable financial support of the national Republican Party that is doing its utmost to destroy this great city. (Not surprising he loves Joe Lieberman so much, then, huh?) And a third one was the police-state tactics he used against protesters at the 2004 Republican National Convention. No wonder he is fighting efforts to release the convention arrest records, here.

My buddy John Heilemann skillfully spun 6,617 words, here, out of a story that has no significant possibility of happening, as Bloomberg himself asks: "What chance does a five-foot-seven billionaire Jew who's divorced really have of becoming president?"

The answer is zero. So save your half a billion dollars, sir, or better yet, give it to someone who can use it.

Quote of the day, back in around 2000-01, to a friend of mine at lunch, see if you can guess who it is.

"I have enough money to cure vitamin A deficiency in Africa, but I'd rather be mayor of New York ..."

Donald Rumsfeld, Jacob Weisberg, Howard Zinn and Jonah Goldberg, together again in this brilliantly argued essay by Kevin Mattson on a topic extremely dear to my heart: historians and the public square. Also, look through the entire issue of Democracy. It's particularly rich.

"His stridency at Turtle Bay stood in stark contrast to his smug and crude and obtuse interactions with reporters and academics and opinion-makers, notably at a controversial meeting with members of the Council on Foreign Relations." John Bolton? Guess again ($).

By now, we're all familiar with the way the Bush administration "fixed" intelligence around the war they wanted (in the words of the Downing Street Memo), but we're less aware of how much else involving the war and occupation of Iraq was "fixed" in the same way, including the invasion itself, or of the fact that the "fixing" has never ended. Tom Engelhardt revisits a forgotten story from the pre-invasion moment -- the way in a massive Pentagon war game in 2002 a retired general, using the kind of tactics the Iraqi insurgency would pick up the next year, defeated a Rumsfeld-style simulated war against Iraq -- and the way the Pentagon created a success story out of this disaster by "fixing" the war they were about to fight. It ends on the way the Iraq Study Group "fixed" its own conclusions from the very start by severely limiting the range of opinions among its participants and experts. He concludes his little "political bedtime tale" this way: "Unfortunately for the Bush administration, it turned out that, while you could fix the war games and the intelligence, you couldn't be assured of fixing reality itself, which has a tendency to remain obdurately, passionately, irascibly unconquerable."

Other great lines I heard more recently:

"Everybody wants to be your friend once you're dead." -- Vanessa Redgrave about her deceased ex-husband, Peter O'Toole, in the amazing new film, Venus.

"I liked to get kissed before I get fu**ed." -- Leo to Jennifer in Blood Diamond.

From the National Security Archive:

As Chile prepared to bury General Augusto Pinochet, the National Security Archive today posted a selection of declassified U.S. documents that illuminate the former dictator's record of repression. The documents include CIA records on Pinochet's role in the Washington D.C. car bombing that killed former Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier and his American colleague Ronni Moffitt, Defense Intelligence Agency biographic reports on Pinochet, and transcripts of meetings in which Secretary of State Henry Kissinger resisted bringing pressure on the Chilean military for its human rights atrocities.

"Pinochet's death has denied his victims a final judicial reckoning," said Peter Kornbluh, who directs the Archive's Chile Documentation Project. "But the declassified documents do contribute to the ultimate verdict of history on his atrocities."

Most of the documents posted today are drawn from a collection of 24,000 declassified records that were released by the Clinton administration after Pinochet's October, 1998, arrest in London. Many of them are reproduced in Kornbluh's book, "The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability."

Pinochet died of complications from a heart attack on December 10, which was, by coincidence, International Human Rights Day.

Alter-reviews:

Presents to give from cool people to cool people, continued:

Tom Waits, Orphans -- A limited edition 3 CD box set with a book, featuring non-album tracks, songs he gave to other artists, cover versions of the Ramones, Kurt Weill and Leadbelly, to name a few, and more. Each CD has its own subtitle: "Brawlers," "Bawlers," and "Bastards." This collection has been a long time coming for Waits' many fans.

Free Press: Underground and Alternative Publications, 1965-1975 by Jean-Francois Bizot.

Tonight, I'm looking forward to seeing the second generation of the Wainwrights with, believe it or not, Lou Reed performing "Silent Night," at Carnegie. I'm bringing the kid so I hope it's real sappy.

Are the authors of The Washington Post's editiorials idiots? I think not. The only alternative I can think of, therefore, is dishonesty. After all, is it really possible to "forget" the East European revolutions of 1989 and the ensuing end of the Soviet Union?

Get better, Molly!

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Brian P. Evans
Hometown: San Diego, CA

Thank you to Jerry Hill for making a clarification of the timeline of Gates' comments. But, I'd like to look in even further, if I may be indulged. Here is the entirety of the exchange that happened before lunch:

INHOFE: You were asked the question: Are we winning in Iraq? General Pace was asked that question yesterday. He said, "No, we're not winning, but we're not losing."

Do you agree with General Pace?

GATES: Yes, sir, at this point.

That's it. That's all he said. It is only after lunch that he decides to expound as quoted. I'd like to note that Gates prefaced the quote with this: "While I was having lunch and eating my sandwich, I was watching the news." Hmmm ... what news would have made him start thinking about his comments? Say, the Tony Snow press conference? Now, while Gates is to be commended for not wanting to have the troops maligned, let us not pretend that there was nothing political going on during lunch that had Gates decide to expound on his comments. The Right blasted Kerry for supposedly insulting the troops on a statement that clearly wasn't, so one can understand why Gates might consider making sure that he wasn't misinterpreted.

It would seem that even Gates was more focused on the "aren't winning" portion of his own statement. It is only after lunch that he decides to make a point of the "aren't losing" part. All because he was "watching the news."

But that still leaves the question: If we aren't winning and we aren't losing, what are we doing?

Still and all, thank you for the clarification. My comments made it seem as if Gates only said, "We're not winning," before lunch and that is incorrect.

Name: Randy
Hometown: Austin, TX

Eric,

I just finished reading What Liberal Media, and this article in today's NYT reminded me of one of your book's sections.

Do you think that the market will react negatively to Goldman Sachs' monstrous payout to all of their uber-yuppies? I bet if Ford announced a 10% increase in salaries the market would pummel the stock, regardless of how much worker productivity or companywide profitability increased. (which, speaking of productivity - American workers are among world leaders - just not corresponding salary and benefits increases!)

How correct you were in describing the incredibly misleading, typical newscast from the LIBERAL MSM which states "Good news for the economy today - the Dept of Labor reports that wages were kept in check for the last quarter" ... yeah, right -- good news for everyone except those who have jobs!

Name: Willam Bilbro
Hometown: El Paso, TX

Doctor:

Thanks for the link. The neocons' plaintive cries of "We wuz robbed!" sound a little hollow, however. After all, they trusted George W. Bush with their plan. What in the world did they expect?

Name: Jeff
Hometown: Baltimore

Hey Doc,

I was absolutely horrified by David Rose's Vanity Fair piece about all the neocons jumping ship. I tried to think of a polite way of saying it but Feith, Perle, Adelman, et al, they're frickin idiots. They are so totally disconnected from the reality you and I live in that they don't sound like they've been viewing the world from the ivory towers of think tanks, they sound like they've been living in the Unabomber shack, sitting around agreeing with each other all day for the past 20 years. They still think Iraq was a good idea. It was just executed poorly. Funny, these guys were so proud of their worldview that before the war they were pounding their chests like King Kong but now ... hmm, whaddayaknow, it was all Bush's fault. Even though he's dumb as a box of hammers, Bush was running the show all along. I guess we really did misunderestimate his strategery.

Check out this passage:

For Kenneth Adelman, "the most dispiriting and awful moment of the whole administration was the day that Bush gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to [former C.I.A. director] George Tenet, General Tommy Franks, and Jerry [Paul] Bremer--three of the most incompetent people who've ever served in such key spots. And they get the highest civilian honor a president can bestow on anyone! That was the day I checked out of this administration.

This begs disbelief. Does he really not know why this happened? Pay attention, Ken: Tenet, Bremer and Franks all fell on their swords to deflect the blame from Bush. The medals were W's way of thanking for thanking his centurions for their loyalty to the emperor. How they did their jobs had nothing to do with it.

But while I'm glad we're talking about Iraq, it means we're not talking about Iran. Those who are say something along the lines of what Frank Gaffney, of the Center for Security Policy, is quoted as saying in Rose's article: "I would say that the likelihood of military action against Iran is 100 percent," he concludes. "I just don't know when or under what circumstances. My guess is that it will be in circumstances of their choosing and not ours."

So, although the current administration's foreign policy has failed catastrophically in every conceivable (and inconceivable) way we're accepting in advance that Bush will drag us into war with Iran. Shouldn't we, um, not let it happen? How bad have things gotten when predictions of nuclear war slip under the covers unnoticed? Wait, don't answer that.

Name: Ray Lodato
Hometown: Chicago

Hi Eric,

I agree wholeheartedly with you and Richard Sattler about not lamenting Kirkpatrick's passing. No matter how much one might not want to speak ill of the dead, perhaps in Kirkpatrick's case, silence will have to do.

Above all else, though, did anyone notice that Kirkpatrick's theory was, over and above everything else, wrong? In a nutshell, Kirkpatrick's infamous Commentary article theorized that there were good (anti-Communist) dictatorships -- and, as an aside, do you think she and Pinochet walked into Hades hand-in-hand -- with whom we would be able to negotiate to bring about change, and bad (Soviet bloc) dictatorships against whom we would have to stand firm and could not negotiate with.

Well, gee, didn't the Berlin Wall eventually fall while some of those "good" dictators were still in power? All of our passivity in the face of right-wing dictatorships did nothing--repeat, nothing--to bring more freedom to the people of these "good" dictatorships.

I've never been clear if Kirkpatrick's theory was sincerely ideologically driven, or was just a ruse to give cover to American businesses that wanted to make money working with repressive regimes. In the final analysis, though -- same difference.

Name: Paul Corrigan
Hometown: Lexington, MA

Eric --

The Freepers are after you.

Cheers!

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