Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Wanted: Intelligent Life for Green, Verdant Planet; No Experience Necessary
In the 1968 movie Planet of the Apes, as Charlton Heston's character is being hosed off by his ape jailers, he screams, "It's a madhouse! A madhouse!" Looking over the headlines this afternoon, we all clearly need to be on the lookout for apes with hoses. "Report: Michael Jackson to Be Father of Quadruplets." Just when you think that freak show couldn't get any freakier, it does. Rather like this one: "Bush: I Want to Be the Peace President." (Insert disdainful snort here.)

Despite what he said today, the putative peace president's noise of yesterday about a possible link between Iran and 9/11--however dubious that link might be--means that the odds of the October Surprise involving Iran just improved quite a bit. (As for a preeemptive war on Iran during a second Bush term--that's got to be a mortal lock now.) If we strike in the near future, is not likely that we'll see American B-52s roaring in over Tehran--rather, we will likely hit Iran's nuclear capability. Provided, of course, that Israel doesn't get there first. Israel is reportedly ready to strike Iranian nuclear facilities at will. As recently as a year ago, American officials feared such a strike, and even now, it's likely that we wouldn't be overtly helping, tied down as we are in Iraq. But given that Bush is essentially Ariel Sharon's lapdog, you can bet that we'll be leading the cheers when it happens. Even though John Kerry would likely applaud it, too, given the turf he's staked out, such a strike can't help but play to Bush's advantage in the fall campaign, especially given the sloppy habits of thought rampant in our media, and in our own heads.

You don't get much about Israel on this blog. From where I sit, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict looks utterly intractable, each side having demonized the other to a point at which rational discussion is hopeless. Under those circumstances, the cycle of violent action followed by more violent reaction will go on until the end of time, so what's there to talk about? American presidents of both parties have tried to mediate the conflict--but given our role as the original guarantor of Israel's sovereignty, we aren't always perceived as an honest broker. Changing regimes here doesn't historically make much difference: There's more agreement on Israel policy across the Republican/Democrat divide than on any other major issue (as Kerry's recently-released position papers on Israel make clear.) Complicating matters is the fact that as soon as you start wondering if the Israelis might somehow be at fault in no matter how tiny a way, you're instantly branded an anti-Semite, and if you happen to be Jewish, a self-hating Jew. (And never mind the effect of the whole Book of Revelation on the way many Americans view Israel and the Middle East.) If ever there was a prescription likely to keep the status quo status-quoing until the cows come home, this is it. This week, Salon confronted the intractable problem with an author interview and a review of a new book by Richard Ben Cramer called How Israel Lost: The Four Questions.

Recommended Reading: Whether John McCain's future job prospects are the key to the 2004 election is a matter of debate. What's not debatable is that a lot of people who would have voted for him in 2000 are still out there, as are the millions who pulled the lever for Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996. These people are not members of the hardcore Republican base, and as such, they could conceivably be peeled off by the Kerry campaign. Writing in The Nation, Kevin Phillips suggests how Kerry could do it--and how he could fail.

New on The Hits Just Keep On Comin': Fickle Finger of Fate.

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