We're so sorry, Uncle Vladimir ...

Does anyone doubt that if the President of the United States were a Democrat who tied us down in a costly, counterproductive war based on lies and forged documents and destroyed the respect and sympathy enjoyed by this country in every civilized nation in the world -- or even if he did none of those things, but was merely a Democrat -- that this column by proud New York Times pundit William Kristol and this editorial by the editors of The Wall Street Journal would have included vicious attacks on that same Democratic president for weakness and incompetence bordering on the criminal -- and thereby blame him for inviting Russia to invade its democratic neighbor without having to worry about the opinion of the no-longer-respected-nor-feared United States of America? Now, imagine that said Democratic president had informed the press that he had looked into the invader's soul and decided he was a good guy because the old KGB hand said he believed in God. (If God really existed, and took an interest in the day-to-day doings of those of us on Earth, he'd let me play poker with a chump like that.) OMG, even the Georgian troops were in Iraq. Putin to Bush: "Go away, silly little boy." (Bush to Putin: "Thank you, sir, may I have another?)

Anyway, here is the excerpt from Ron Suskind's book in which he explains a small portion of the deliberate campaign to lie the United States of America into a needless war:

The Iraq Intelligence Chief, Tahir Jalil Habbush -- a man still carrying a $1 million reward for capture, the Jack of Diamonds in Bush's famous deck of wanted men -- has been America's secret source on Iraq. Starting in January of 2003, with Blair and Bush watching, his secret reports began to flow to officials on both sides of the Atlantic, saying that there were no WMD and that Hussein was acting so odd because of fear that the Iranians would find out he was a toothless tiger. The U.S. deep-sixed the intelligence report in February, “resettled” Habbush to a safe house in Jordan during the invasion and then paid him $5 million in what could only be considered hush money.

In the fall of 2003, after the world learned there were no WMD -- as Habbush had foretold -- the White House ordered the CIA to carry out a deception. The mission: create a handwritten letter, dated July, 2001, from Habbush to Saddam saying that Atta trained in Iraq before the attacks and the Saddam was buying yellow cake for Niger with help from a “small team from the al Qaeda organization.”

The mission was carried out, the letter was created, popped up in Baghdad, and roiled the global newcycles in December, 2003 (conning even venerable journalists like Tom Brokaw). The mission is a statutory violation of the charter of the CIA, and amendments added in 1991, prohibiting the CIA from conducting disinformation campaigns on U.S. soil.

His evidence is posted here.

My friend Norman Birnbaum alerts me to the fact that Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum attacks those allied governments of the United States who express caution in the current Georgian crisis for exhibiting “cowardice.” Poland is one of those governments. He asks: “Do you think it of any relevance or interest to your readers that Ms. Applebaum is married to the Polish Foreign Minister? Foreign officials do occasionally state their views in the Post, by interview, letter, or opinion article -- but these last are invariably signed." I happen to agree with Applebaum, but ...

Just curious: How stupid do you have to be to be both a Jewish neocon and not quoted respectfully by Commentary booster Rick Klein in The Note?

The New York Sun editorial board goes a big step further: “Could Senator Clinton win the Democratic presidential nomination at the last minute by taking advantage of buyer's remorse among Democratic super-delegates who are dismayed by the performance of Senator Obama's campaign so far? . . . What if, by the time the convention rolls around, Mr. Obama isn't just running neck and neck with Mr. McCain but is lagging by, say, five percentage points, or if Mr. Obama makes a big blunder with his choice of a running mate, or some other campaign stumble?”

Yes, and what if Barack Obama reveals on the podium at his acceptance speech that he is a space alien from the planet Osamabinladenton here to colonize Earth for his evil spawn? What then? Remember, it was the geniuses at the can't-give-it-away Sun who tried to start a “Cheney for President” boomlet. Boy wouldn't that have been fun? (Do Rick Klein's parents share a timeshare at the beach club in Boca with the owners of the Sun, too? )

George Zornick writes:

I think we all breathed a sigh of relief when Karl Rove exited stage right at about this time last year, but sadly, he immediately dove into the world of political punditry. Most of the time he was happily confined to Fox News, but recently he's been making the rounds on more mainstream outlets -- yesterday he appeared on Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer.

The entire segment was, frankly, insulting to CBS viewers. (Full transcript here, PDF.) Rove was introduced by Schieffer as being “for the McCain campaign, but he is not of the campaign.” This ignores all of the connections that Rove in fact does have with McCain's campaign, detailed expertly by Amanda Terkel and Matt Corley at Salon.com. This may be a distinction without much of a difference, but it's absolutely good journalistic form to disclose that Rove is part of the McCain campaign, and decidedly bad form to not only fail to disclose it, but directly mislead viewers about the connection.

Rove was then free to spin just ridiculous yarns about the election. His very first assertion about the level of voter enthusiasm was immediately corrected by Schieffer, who to his credit, busted Rove for conflating the results from two entirely different polls to paint a more favorable picture for McCain.

But Rove then went on to talk about how Obama should be doing better, because of the “restive” electorate, which is almost too rich for words. Yes, the electorate is “restive.” Why might that be? Does it have anything to with what you spent the last seven years of your career doing, Mr. Rove? Bush's brain stepped around that fairly major point, and Schieffer let him.

Rove was featured as a credible commentator and allowed to do same job he'd done for President Bush, as if it had all worked out well -- Rove even at one point referred to the merits of “Governor McCain,” in what I assume was a flashback to his promotion of the Texas governor in 2000. His points were predictable: “celebrity” this, “President of the United States of Europe” that. The man who for seven years operated the federal government as subsidiary of the RNC had the gall to darkly predict -- without any evidence -- that in choosing a vice president, Obama will “make an intensely political choice, not a governing choice.”

Not mentioned during the segment: congressional subpoenas, contempt of Congress, possible jail time, etc.

Did you hear the joke about the shortest magazine in the world?

Sal and Tony weigh in on the great “Why does McCartney suck so much since Eric was in junior high?” controversy:

Around 1972, people began to realize that the Beatles, who made some of the greatest music of all time when together, also had the ability to make some of the worst records since the invention of the cylinder as solo artists. So for every Band On The Run or All Things Must Pass, we got stuck with a Wild Life or Dark Horse. We dealt with it -- tried to ignore the lesser records, loved the good ones, and hoped against hope that they'd come to their senses and get back together.

Beginning in the early '80s, when we all found out the hard way that Beatles can get older and even die, and that a reunion was no longer possible, there arose a curious breed of music fan called Beatle Apologists. Their job was to find the minutes of brilliance or even competence amidst the 40 minutes of dreck that made up most Beatle solo albums, and use them to justify the whole sorry mess.

It seems like a large percentage of Beatle apologists have become record reviewers over the years. That's why records like Off The Ground, Gone Troppo, and Stop And Smell The Roses (by Paul, George, and Ringo, respectively) received respectful, even mildly encouraging reviews upon their release. The bar was set so low that all a Beatle had to do was put any sort of garbage on a piece of plastic to prove he hadn't joined John Lennon in the great beyond, and by golly, that was good enough for the apologists.

Along with Beatle apologists emerged a somewhat more cynical group, the Beatle realists. They loved the Beatles too, and dutifully bought all the solo records out of some strange sense of loyalty. The difference between the realists and the apologists was that the realists were able to hear just how bad most of these records were. Conversations between realists and apologists usually go something like this:

APOLOGIST: You know, there are a couple of really good songs on this new Ringo Starr CD.

REALIST: No. There aren't.

As for Sir Paul, Eric seems to have nailed it with the statement “He doesn't try very hard.” It was one thing to write “Ob-La-Di-Ob-La-Da” in 1968 when he was 25 years old. But to foist such crud as “Nod Your Head,” “Dance Tonight,” and “Biker Like An Icon” on us at this point in his career is just insulting.

Sal & Tony
Formerly of NYCD

Eric adds: What is clearer in retrospect than it was at the time is how amazingly great were those early post-Beatle albums. All Things Must Pass is terrific. So is Ringo. Plastic Ono Band is brilliant, and Imagine certainly has its moments. BOTR and Venus and Mars are great and quite good, respectively, as I worte the other day, I really like McCartney, kinda like Ram and can find a few songs on At the Speed of Sound. Wings Over America rocks, as did the band, as I recall with the hindsight of 33 years.

And then, pretty much nada, though John and George wrote a few good songs. Dark Horse is a really good album -- they are wrong about that above -- and some people like “Starting Over,” but I find it whiney. The point is that these boys needed the competition of one another and the incentive to prove themselves as solo artists. After that was over, so were they, by and large.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Lee Kellogg
Hometown: BDO

A message to all you elite unpatriotic centrists:

I went over to the McCain web site to check if McCain had ever held a job. You know, a job he had to apply for, from an employer who might reject him. Never happened. His appointment to the Naval Academy was a legacy deal, just like that Bush/Harvard crap. The bio is vague about events following his discharge, but the divorce and one month later merger/acquisition with the Hensley Cheap Beer Corporation helped McCain avoid applying for work for the rest of his life.

I well realize that it is not to the conservative self image to do actual work (or thinking, or writing your own books, or studying for that matter). The real problem is that it is also not in the grand ole Conservative self image for a man to be out-earned by his (1st, 2nd, 3rd ... etc.) wife.

If I were an enterprising journalist, I'd wait until McCain brought up the elite, snobby, uppity black thing again, then ask him how many job applications he has filled out in his life. Then maybe a follow-up about how to drive a car, how to seem busy on public transportation, how to put gas in a car, or how to change the blade on an electric lawn mower. I'd also ask why he thinks spent nuclear fuel is safer this election cycle than the last, but that would necessitate that he read something about the subject.

Name: DrSteveB
Hometown: NY, NY

Okay. Edwards' political career is over. Of course he was not actually in office and was no longer actually running for anything already.

But John McCain's political career started with his adultery!

He was still married to Carol, the wife who stuck with him when he was a POW, who was raising his children. She was in a car accident and partially disabled and had gained weight.

So he had an affair. With Cindy. While still married to Carol. Eventually he married into Cindy's money, into her connections, and into the state of Arizona ... and the rest is history.

Of course McCain is actually in office and running for higher office.

I wonder if John McCain's adultery will be mentioned in the news today or over the next few days...?

See here.

Name: Paul
Hometown: Vancouver, BC

It would be nice for Edwards if, as a result of his extramarital affair with a woman, he could at least salvage something by finally laying to rest the subtext of the right-wing propaganda machine that he's an effete homosexual. You would think that the American populace would be able to detect completely contradictory wild character assassination attempts and realize that at least one, if not both, of those stories has to be a complete fabrication.

Unfortunately, since that same propaganda machine somehow managed to successfully imply that Obama was at the same time both a devoted follower of Reverend Wright's liberation Christian ideology and a secret Muslim, Edwards' admission of infidelity is unlikely to silence the gay rumor mongers. Apparently only right-wing evangelist ministers get forgiveness for infidelity.

How did the USA get so messed up in the last 40 years? I'm afraid I'm starting to believe that the fall is, at this point, pretty well inevitable. The big question is how far can the USA fall (that hole dug by Bush, Cheney, and their priors is pretty deep) and can it even bounce back with so much of its population, like obese lemmings with little apparent resistance to poor guidance, easily manipulated into rushing headlong into the precipice?

Name: Ben Miller
Hometown: Washington, DC

Mr. Alterman,

Why are the two anti-Obama books getting so much press attention -- just because a book is written, does not mean it is worthy of discussion. If that is the case, then why doesn't the press talk equally about a flattering book on Obama, “The Faith of Obama.” Or better still, why don't they talk as much about books on Senator McCain, such as “Myth of a Maverick.”

Name: Derrick Gibson
Hometown: Miami, FL

Just some thoughts, not posts really -- just things to make you go, hmmm . . .

-- Does Ron Suskind's allegation in his new book about CIA production of documents linking Saddam and al Qaeda provide a new understanding of that medal Tenet was given by the President? A little hush money?

-- Why does the Jerusalem Post have a more balanced assessment of the foreign policy credentials of the two presidential candidates than the American press? The key US-press take-away from the recent overseas trip of Senator Barack Obama is that it merely confirmed his status as a “celebrity.” This is stunningly close to the assessment by the McCain camp, surprisingly enough. Meanwhile, the editor of the Jerusalem Post has this to say. Short summary: he was impressed by Obama's knowledge of the ongoing issues between Israelis and Palestinians; not so much by McCain's.

NB: With McCain under the belief that Czechslovakia is still on the map as a country, why should anyone credit him for his assessment of Russia? To my humble eyes, the fact that Russia has chosen to be aggressive (b-e aggressive) is a direct result of the U.S. being overextended in Iraq and Afghanistan. Seems like if we were not in the midst of a pointless war in Iraq, this might not have happened.

One last point: all of these wars -- and all of the lovely battle descriptions that we have received from the Colonel -- since WWII have all been about resources in general and oil in particular. Our need for oil from the other side of the planet -- our description of oil as a “national security” item -- does nothing but draw us into whatever concerns there might be between the Russians and the Georgians; the Sunni and the Shia -- and lets not forget the Turks and the Kurds.

The first candidate who produces an energy plan that frees us from this addiction to oil wins.

Name: Chuck
Hometown: Durham, NC

Charlie, you know I love you. Whenever I hear you introduced on “Wait Wait...” I know it's going to be a good show, and I really enjoy your rambling commentaries on Altercation. But come on. While “Badlands” is one of the best songs Bruce ever wrote and is always welcome during a concert, the absolute best is “She's the One.” It's got a Bo Diddley beat and is recorded in mono. Plus it takes the baseline theme of all Rock 'n Roll -- aching for a girl -- and turns it into poetry. It is the most perfect track on his most perfect album.

Eric replies: “Jungleland,” but in concert my favorite is “Sherry Darling,” or “Fever,” depending on if I wanna be happy or sad.

Name: Ryan McElroy
Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pa

Greetings from the “youthful” contingent of Altercators.

So, I haven't heard anyone mention Sir Paul's album Ram, either in the “for” or “against” arguments.

I was as much a critic of his solo work as anyone, but when I heard the opening few bars of “Too Many People,” I got goosebumps.

Some facts:

“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” gave McCartney his first #1 single after The Beatles.

The album reached #1 in the UK and #2 in the U.S., where it spent more than five months in the Top 10 and went platinum.

Name: Matthew G. Saroff
Hometown: 40 Years in the Desert

I think that I disagree on McCartney being lazy. I think that a better description would be unchallenged.

Lennon and McCartney when they were together still wrote largely alone, and then polished together, and argued, and so tended to point out each other's weaknesses.

As to lazy, that would apply more to Lennon, who wrote very little after the Beatles broke up.

As to Harrison, my favorite Beatle, he was probably the most technically accomplished, I find his music the most intricate, and he was clearly the best guitarist, but after the Beatles broke up, I think that he lacked a path.

John and George always had the vision, and after the break up, he seemed to be rudderless.

Name: Judson
Hometown: Douglaston, NY

We got no bin Laden and it's breaking our hearts.

But we found his driver and that's a start.