Thursday, April 08, 2004

Idiot Wind
Condoleezza Rice is all over the TV this morning, with the major broadcast networks having dumped their talk shows and soaps to carry her testimony before the 9/11 commission. But James Ridgeway warns that people hoping her appearance will cause the entire Iraq/war on terror fuckup to implode may be disappointed. First, she's smart enough to wiggle off nearly any hook the commission might try to set. (Starting with a mea culpa, although not an apology a la Richard Clarke, was a good idea.) And Ridgeway notes the possibility that some members might be squeamish about taking out after a woman, and an African-American woman at that. When I read that, I had a flashback to the Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991, in which damn few people were thinking about the racial aspect of the inquiry until Thomas himself brought it up, with his famous phrase about a "high-tech lynching". While Rice almost certainly won't bring up her race or gender, might some of the Bush-friendly commission members try to make subtle hay out of it? Or some media observers?

Rice can say whatever she likes about the administration's priorities. She can even try to overtly discredit Clarke. But whatever tale she spins won't change the fact that Clarke isn't the only ex-administration official who believes Bush has failed the country by diddling with Iraq. Reuters reports this morning on the exodus of anti-terrorism officials from the administration, people who left because of the misplaced focus on Iraq. These are not political partisans--they are professional civil servants who, in many cases (like Clarke himself) have worked for several presidents, Republican and Democrat. Their opinions carry a lot more weight than those of political appointees, who serve at the pleasure of the president, and therefore have as their ultimate task to pull their chief's chestnuts out of the fire when necessary.

Ridgeway also reported this week on yet another hopeful glimpse into the future by a neoconservative prophet, Pentagon analyst Thomas P.M. Barnett. Hopeful, but also mighty odd. Barnett believes that by 2050, we will have added up to a dozen more states to the Union--all from the Western Hemisphere at first, but later, perhaps, from other parts of the world. He speculates that Mexico will be one of them (maybe more than one), and says that the United States should simply pick off the strongest economies in the West as a way of harmonizing economic policies. How we'll do this isn't clear from Ridgeway's brief piece, but if the neocon playbook continues to hold, these countries will wake up one morning to see the self-evident wonderfulness of the United States and be eager to give up their own nationalistic impulses and rush to our lovin' arms. And if they don't, we can always just invade.

Ridgeway often publishes quotes from administration officials under the heading "Say What?" Which he should have done with this, although it does underscore the reality that Iraq is, essentially, the 51st state already.

Recommended reading: Just in case there was any doubt remaining, the Sixties are officially over now. Bob Dylan, who licensed "The Times They Are A-Changing" for a bank commercial a few years ago, is now actually appearing in an ad for Victoria's Secret. My initial reaction was that nothing is sacred anymore--but as Mike Marquesee writes in The Guardian, Dylan's career has been filled with unusual twists--and big blunders--so at this point, such a move is probably trivial. But if by taking on the Victoria's Secret gig, the voice of the '60s generation has become the voice of the current generation--the one not necessarily defined by age, the one more preoccupied with half-naked supermodels and reality TV than with things that really matter--that really hurts. And Marquesee knows it. He says, "Now, if Dylan spoke out against Bush and the occupation of Iraq, that would be a shock."

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