Comments on this Blog

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I am going to enable the comment function on this blog again. But I need to say that the quality of discussion and exchange on line when I started this blog was better for the first couple of years than it is now. I want to return to the quality of that exchange.
Thus, while I will not monitor every post — ANY post about which I receive a justifiable complaint will be removed. Any ad hominem attacks on any person for any reason whatsoever will be removed if I see them.
Comments that do not remain essentially on policy debates and instead rush to the “personal motivations” of someone else’s comments may be removed as well. That goes for all posters. Those who challenge my decisions about blog posts in an offensive way — or who continue to engage in patterned, abusive behavior will be permanently blocked from the site.
Regarding my own posts and commentary, I am not the type of blogger who likes to spend a lot of time in the comments section. I don’t have time. I’m a public policy focused person in Washington — and I write about whatever I want to write about. I write about the parties I attend, the experiences I have, the afterthoughts that occur to me. Sometimes I try humor, usually not successfully. Sometimes, I post pictures of my dogs or of other things that catch my fancy.
Sometimes I have conversations with Senators or the administration via the blog because I’m trying to influence them. I have my own calculus — it’s what I do and I don’t really care how other bloggers pursue their avocation. I don’t want to be like others — and I’m tired of hearing how others manage their content and course.


I’m always open to suggestions on what I might write about. But if you don’t like my general commentary, LEAVE. It’s easy….just find another blog to spend time on. Blogs move in waves and currents.
I write about a great number of issues — but am extremely busy. The blog is a hobby — not my work. If I write posts about events, or invitations, or something short — it’s usually an indication that I’m focused on a more complex piece, or personal/family matters that are preventing me from writing something more complex or exhaustive. I also have a full time job.
I don’t like accusations that my decisions to write about a topic or person are somehow motivated by pressures I’m under from other organizations. It’s a ridiculous charge — and I may remove those kinds of posts. They do nothing to move forward credible debate and serious discussion.
And most importantly, I see my job as keeping on the case of foreign policy/national security issues. If the comment section can be a constructive part in that process, I will spend more time engaged with those who comment.
If it becomes a distraction or dominated by immature discourse, then I won’t engage it — and I may pull the plug on a good number of commenters.
I don’t need coaching from those who want to tell me that the character and content of my blog has changed. This blog is what I want it to be. When I launched my efforts against John Bolton, I was challenged by many readers and other bloggers for sacrificing a good general blog for a single issue-obsessed forum. They were wrong. I did what I needed to do — and will do so again.
So, be constructive, play nice, be part of what I’m trying to do — and this will go well.
But this note is also indication that I have had it with the ridiculous backseat driving and the screaming rants. I will not tolerate it any longer. I don’t care how angry people are. Stop the character assassination and get mature discussion back in gear.
Otherwise, you are not welcome — not at all. Those who help set a decent climate will have my enthusiastic support and respect.
Hope you can be a stakeholder in this process.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

47 comments on “Comments on this Blog

  1. Kathleen says:

    It is only the quality of Steve’s interactions with those inside the Beltway, in various settings, that motivates them to read this blog and thus, come across our thoughts expressed in the comments, not the other way around.
    We are uninvited guests in his space, dropping in, at will, and he has always been most gracious, despite our sometimes being rude.
    There is some value though in insiders experiencing the vast frustration and loss of respect voters have for gov’t these days.
    Perhaps we need an occasional open thread for a group Gvethcing Klatsch, a virtual “Living Room in the Round, political street theater improv, graffiti style.

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  2. Carroll says:

    Posted by susan at December 6, 2007 03:26 PM
    “There is a large disconnect between the Washington power brokers and the lives of most Americans. To me this disconnect is the single greatest deficiency.”
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Well I absolutely agree with that!!!!!
    But consider….if SC really was on an elite hobby horse would he even bother to allow a comment section that he admits he doesn’t read much, and so wouldn’t even benefit ego wise from any outpouring of impressed elite groupies.
    Nope, I think it is mostly scene setting from whence some of his tidbits come. Once in a while I read the WP social columns and the Washington Whisper …just for personal info on the doings of some political personalities…but don’t tell anyone…they will think I am shallow.

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  3. susan says:

    The comments on this blog are one of the reasons that I read it. I think that most of the people who contribute are sharp, articulate and well informed. I learn a lot from them, and I often wonder if some of Steve’s thinking is influenced by what he reads here; I certainly hope so.
    I appreciate the insight Steve gives us into the policy issues that he works on. He is a great writer and has a gift for making complex issues accessible to those of us who know little or nothing about his area of expertise. However, having been around for a long time, I think the blog was better at its beginning. At that time, Steve seemed to offer more substance and less fluff. By fluff, I mean the details of his personal life. Why is it important for us to know that he lives in Dupont Circle? Is he trying to impress us?
    I think what concerns me about the personal anecdotes is that they don’t contribute to my understanding of the interesting policy issues Steve is involved with. (I think that most of us know that lots of business takes place in social settings.) More than anything they strike me as being included for reasons of vanity.
    And this vanity (if it is that, and it may not be) is what I find so frustrating and frightening about the entire Beltway culture. There is a large disconnect between the Washington power brokers and the lives of most Americans. To me this disconnect is the single greatest deficiency in our political culture. The message the members of the Beltway elite consistently send to average Americans is that our views are of no import.
    Thus, when Steve writes about these people and seems impressed to be included in their insulated and privileged world of cocktail parties (and wants us to be impressed as well), he strikes me as a bit shallow.
    However, as he said, this is his blog and he can write about what he likes. I am in full agreement with that statement. Blog on, Steve.

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  4. Carroll says:

    Dan Kervick sums it all up very well.
    Looking back at all the comments now it’s seems a kaleidoscope of the public itself. From the more detached to the mad,madder, maddest.
    I don’t think Steve is saying we can’t express strong opinions or challenge ideas..it would be pretty boring and less thought provoking without them.
    Since I have never seen any censorship of “political opinions” here I am pretty sure I am right about that…and that is what is important.
    If you think about how you sometimes treat family members or people closest to you in a harsher way than you would treat or criticize a stranger I think we see why Steve has gotten caught in the cross fire. Which is a compliment in a way, that so many different types of people identify so closely with him because of this blog that they presume to criticize his social or private life.
    But quit it.

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  5. karenk says:

    Wow, I missed that too. I usually hesitate to comment cause I feel a bit intimidated by the very intelligent, well informed Steve as well as the many commentors on this blog. But those like myself, on the outside of Washington, in different professions outside of the Poli Sci field see things from a different perspective, so these contributions may be valuable to those inside who are used to a certain way of thinking. Ultimately I read this blog not to comment but because I like hearing about issues from the inside perspective. Thanks to you Steve. Do your own thing. Hey it’s YOUR blog!

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  6. Sandy says:

    Gee, I’ve had to be away so obviously something happened while I was gone. I must say I have found Steve to be amazingly fair and tolerant. I’ve appreciated that. Hope everything smooths out! Thanks, Steve.

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  7. arthurdecco says:

    After the avalanche of insipid and kiss-ass commentary here it was revelatory and refreshing to read Dan Kervick’s post.
    And if my ad hominum attack on the usual brain dead groupies leads to my banishment, so be it.
    But thank gawd for the sentient amongst you. (Including you, Mr. Clemons.)

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  8. Dan Kervick says:

    This really is a most unusual blog. I don’t think there is another one like it. In many ways, I think Steve is a bit of a throwback; a modern American counterpart to the kind of courtly European denizen of an imperial capital familiar from history books, but that most of us haven’t personally encountered in our lives. For those of us who live distant from the national capital, our experience with American democracy comes from town meetings, school boards and other aspects of local or state politics. These have a rather pedestrian, democratic-spirited and not-very-ceremonial quality. The world of viziers and wise men, regal pomp, ceremonial protocol, fixed and respected hierarchies and elaborate politesse that seems to characterize the foreign affairs culture of Washington is quite alien to us. Maybe that accounts in part for some of the frustration and sheer puzzlement that comes out on occasion in the comments here.
    But I do think it should be pointed out that Steve’s blogging style seems to invite comments of a personal nature. Steve does not produce mainly analytic policy wonkery written from a detached and impersonal standpoint. Nor is he a blogger like Billmon or Digby, raging against their political opponents with highly polemical essays while carefully shielding their personal lives from view. Steve posts many personal narratives about his social interactions, his interests, his travel itinerary, his activities and his motives. His life is often a large part of his subject. But if one makes one’s own life the subject of one’s posts, naturally some comments on the posts are going to include observations about that life. If the blog constitutes a modern Pepys Diary or Boswellian Life of Johnson (or Life of Hagel?) where the narrator is the central character in the narrative, and where these personal accounts are woven together with gossipy revelations and discussions of events of the highest import, then I think it is only natural that comments will follow that lead and become more personal than comments on a more detached blog. You can’t read Boswell without thinking an awful lot about just what to make of Boswell. And if the man were sitting just a web server away, it would be hard to resist giving him a piece of your mind regarding not just his views, but his behavior and motives.
    I have sometimes in the past been frustrated by Steve’s failure to take stronger positions against various Washington figures and policy developments. But I think I understand his position. His is a more delicate, diplomatic, insider approach. From what I can tell he makes himself available to serve as a kind of go-between among Washington’s powerful, and uses the blog to relate messages from one faction to another, and conduct a kind of intra-beltway diplomacy. Some of his posts have had a cryptic, almost coded quality. For example, there was a post Steve wrote a couple of months ago about the prospects of war with Iran that I found almost impenetrable. I honestly couldn’t figure out what he was saying or arguing. But it seemed important somehow. I felt like I was supposed to be reading something between the lines that I was just too dense to get. Some of his other posts have been full of the sort of ritualized flattery we find in the literature surrounding the old European courts. I’ve tried to get used to that too, and accept that this is just the coin of the realm when dealing in Washington with powerful or would-be powerful people with massive egos. Then there are the posts which seem designed to promote the careers of some individuals. I understand the value of that as well. No doubt Steve honestly feels these are people who deserve to have their careers promoted. It’s perhaps also one of the things that gets Steve access and makes him an important person to know in Washington.
    Steve controls the comments section so can control the discourse in whatever way he chooses. But I think some of the negativity and hostility toward his accounts of the Washington social whirl, and the role Steve plays in it, are fairer game than he wants to accept. That’s because one of the issues that has created the most interest and passion over the past six years is the degree to which the country’s foreign policy is worked out by negotiation among a rather small, select, seemingly elf-governing group of experts, with little significant impact from any sort of broader democratic process. We know that the executive branch runs the nation’s foreign policy almost entirely, and that the executive branch hires in the next administration will come from this select group. The only opportunity for democratic input is the ability to cast a measly vote for a candidate who stands for a near infinity of positions and interests that must be accepted or turned down as a package. We know that the Congress has little influence on foreign policy, beyond some ceremonial rubber-stamping by committees, and that when they do attempt to exert an influence, it is mainly just to pass some asinine resolution aimed at pleasing some powerful lobbyist or other. We know we can’t compete with the massive economic interests with a stake in the defense establishment. We can’t seem to get any messages from the outside world to penetrate into the Washington echo chamber, not until it is too late. They always seem to get the news after the fact. We also can’t crack into the lineages of gurus, descending seemingly from colonial times, that vet membership in the foreign policy elite, making sure they admit only the right sort of people from the right schools.
    I know we should try to be more appreciative of the view Steve provides of Washington power in action. But it’s galling to be faced with these daily reminders of our powerlessness. We might hope against hope that maybe one of these folks will read something we write, and we may in that way have some tiny influence on the course of events. We certainly can’t effect change through the ordinary political process, from which foreign policy and security policy seem rather effectively shielded.
    The cultural gap between Washington and much of the rest of the country seems to have grown especially wide during the Bush administration. Given the nature of the capital’s social networks and collegial working relationships, the participants in DC culture just seem constitutionally incapable of sharing, or fully appreciating the view many of us have of the Bush administration. Probably 95% of the time, these collegial relationships are a good thing. The collegiality keeps our politics from going off the rails and generating the violence we sometimes see in other countries. But in extraordinary times, this close working relationship between the various factions of the professional class is detrimental to an effective national response to the crisis. This was really brought home to me by the flap over Stephen Colbert’s roasting of Bush at the correspondents’ dinner. I was really astonished by how many people in Washington, from both parties, were put off by Colbert’s incisive unleashing of reality. It tells me that what people in Washington respect most is power, established hierarchies and privileges of office. To some of us, you see, George Bush is not just a bad or failed president. He is a murdering war criminal and subverter of the constitution, a man who frankly ought to be in jail. The people who work for him, whatever their pedigrees and the nobility of their intentions, are accomplices in his crimes. I don’t mean this in a hyperbolic, figurative way. I mean they are literally accomplices in actual, homicidal crime, and in subversion of the constitution.
    By the way, while I do place a high value on the preservation of international peace as the chief aim of foreign policy, I am not from the “pacifist wing” that sees no justified role for state violence. But I do distinguish between those uses of violence justified by established law and moral tradition; and mere criminal violence and political murder.

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  9. Chris Brown says:

    I caught the error in what I just posted after I hit the “post” button.
    It should read: As if “inside the beltway” is some homogeneous…”

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  10. Chris Brown says:

    I think a number of those who have commented here have really overdone the “inside the beltway” cliche.
    As if “inside the beltway” is not some homogeneous conglomeration of humanity, ideology, means of recreation, vocation, or whatever.

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  11. Keith M Ellis says:

    You’re making the right decisions, here, Steve. It’s encouraging that you are getting as much positive feedback from it as is in evidence here. Perhaps it’s the case that what DB1 wrote:
    “Truth be told, it was the abusive domination of virtually every comment thread by a very small group of regulars that turned me off to visiting more often.”
    …is true for more people than I thought. Certainly it’s been my experience. The quality of the reader commentary on this blog in ratio to the quality of the blog itself has been the lowest of anywhere I’ve seen on the web.
    This has been a great pity because I intuit that the kinds of readers who find your wonkish policy blog interesting are the kinds of readers who might have the most to contribute to a truly productive and interesting discussion. The small group of people who had captured the comments section here have been preventing this.
    So…here’s to looking forward to comments that are worth reading and will add value to the blog posts to which they respond!

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  12. kgb says:

    Thank you, Steve. Write about whatever you want. I was getting tired of the peevish people too!

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  13. pauline says:

    stickler wrote:
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    “mendacious political operatives” is the perfect term. Thanks for your comments.
    Steve, I like and regularly read TWN. As most TWN readers already know, there is so much deceit, corruption and fraud inside the Beltway that even my very non-political medical professional friends sense the Beltway wrongdoings. (Just like medical specialists, yes, there are many, many people in the Beltway that are hard-working honest folks trying to serve their country proudly. One big problem I see is that not enough of them are in the important decision-making areas for “policy” or “law”.) As I think about it, I’m not certain I could even stand next to people at a Beltway party whose “mendacious” actions are so well-documented. Praise God for the internet!
    I read TWN regularly and post when I feel like adding something useful that I’ve read, or at certain times I am just venting my frustrations like many other TWN posters. Thank you, Steve, for giving us a format to air our views, even with words that don’t always stick to the topic.
    My personal ties to the 9/11 events in Manhattan turned my life around and upside down. I heard various official explanations for that terrible day and then “other” explanations for 9/11 started appearing. My personal search for the truth started and hasn’t stopped. My search accelerated when a loved one became debilitated from the long hours of working as an EMT just a few hours after 9/11. In all honesty, that’s a faraway reality from policy talk and cocktail weenies in DC. (And I’m not slamming Steve Clemons here nor do I ever mean to!)
    It’s obvious from just reading the daily rant on the TWN (yes, a tiny, tiny amount is mine) that in order for any “putting the house back in order” efforts by “policy changes”, political or public actions, the caring for our freedom documents like the constitution and bill of rights MUST BE back on top of that list.
    To me, personally, that includes a constant and thorough examination of 9/11 itself. Without that — any answers, theories, conspiracy theories, motives, connections, perpetrators– or for that matter “foreign policy changes” — imo don’t mean a hill of beans. Every time I hear Bush mention “terrorists”, my thoughts are racing with “let’s find the 9/11 truth”. In all due respect to the many who can’t for some reason examine or believe the physics and physical evidence of 9/11, 19 Arabs with box-cutters and knives, on their own, simply could not have pulled off the most terrible day in American history.
    Getting to rock bottom answers on 9/11, imo, puts the average American citizen and our freedom documents back to where they belong.
    Bush and his neo-con co-conspirators are such a fraud. “Lie”, “steal” and “kill” come to mind. And the fiat currency they perpetuate is even a bigger fraud and about to collapse onto innocent millions, maybe billions here and around the world. It seems these days many in congress would probably dive into a vat of blood and guts just to become a high-priced lobbyist. That’s their dream and goal I guess. Reform by law or policy? Truly, the chance to “put our house in order” may now just be wishful thinking.
    God help us and have mercy on us as a nation. Too many of our so-called leaders are full of “mendacious” actions.

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  14. flummox says:

    There’s no question, at least in my mind, that Mr. Clemons and perhaps the provider of internet hosting services are and should be responsible and in control of the content he provides and desires. I offer my thoughts on this matter as one component of understanding from someone very far removed from the federal seats of power; I’m not merely fringe or marginal, for all practical purposes I do not exist. My observations and interpretations may be completely incorrect in corresponding to reality on the ground both in and out of D.C., so I’m always willing to entertain a flawed personal interpretation on matters.
    Most comment threads I’ve seen on political blogs resemble mental mosh-pits. I’ve never been into the mosh-pit thing, but I understand some human beings really need this release. It’s too bad there can’t be a mosh-pit thread for throwing dukes or sharp elbows, crushing feet, kicking groins, etc. for the range and type of material posted on political blogs, including here.
    The reason I suggest this is because some of the commentary tenor found in comment sections is a genuine reflection of how people feel (very important), as well as, a mirror to the tenor and behavior observed in D.C. The language and vocabulary coming out of the seat of world power, D.C., is exclusive, but if we peel away a layer you find underneath some fairly belligerent ideas, tendencies, intentions, and active behavior (Has any geographical area been responsible for as much global havoc and human misery as this tiny place in such a small time span of the last 60 – 100 years?). Regarding the stridency and partisanship and its belligerent tone, this is not merely my judgment, it’s been an idea many political professionals have been talking about for at least the last ten to fifteen years that I’m aware. Senator Alan Simpson is the first politician who really made me aware of the situation. That is not to excuse inconsiderate, insensitive, or abusive behavior. But, I do feel much of the enraged feelings floating around the web reflect a style of leadership and tone coming out of D.C.
    Furthermore, the zero sum nature of our electoral process and lobbying pressures along with the attendant media process would seem to encourage a sort of sports type of emotional response to much of these issues. And, again this is simply my opinion, the media amplifies the issues in such a way as to gin up the emotional responses and marginalize long term contemplation for its customers. I suppose I’m suggesting that the way the policies are often presented in the public forum are going to naturally lead to some enraged or belligerent behavior. It’s not just non-guested, confrontational radio programming. And it’s not just blogs. These things need to be seen in relationship to all the components where dialog and monologue, and let’s face it, public opinion manipulation/persuasion occur.
    Thus I do not see The Washington Note as an island, but as a component of a much larger discourse and rhetorical picture. Turning off the comment sections, such as TPM, won’t ameliorate or improve the situation, for these feelings must manifest in some way, some place. Which is not to suggest some sort of obligation for the blog owner. It is simply my attempt to grasp what is likely to be fairly incomprehensible. I could keep typing for quite a bit more, but I think in the interest of avoiding any more boorish behavior on my part, I’ll stop there. My fingers are getting tired.
    Best to all…

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  15. MarkL says:

    Well, I have hardly read the comments or posted in them, for the last several months. This was not a conscious decision, but I think it does reflect the decline in quality, perhaps ameliorated by my absence though!
    There seemed to be a lot more comments by people with substantial government experience in the past, which made the comments worth poring over.
    I think deleting comments which attack the motivation of another commenter will eliminate 90% of the problem. It’s an excellent rule.

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  16. DB1 says:

    Steve –
    I’ve been lurking here (on and off) ever since Josh Marshall first encouraged you to start it. I fully support your position on comments. Truth be told, it was the abusive domination of virtually every comment thread by a very small group of regulars that turned me off to visiting more often.
    There was zero point in commenting since the tactics and tone of those regulars often prevented any intelligent discussion of relevant issues. More often than not, the comments generated tremendous heat, a lot of personal abuse… and very little light.
    If your newly revealed comments policy results in a section that adds to – instead of subtracting from – the quality of your blog, I’m all for it. Focusing on eliminating off-topic, hobby-horse issues and ad-hominem attacks is a great place to start.
    Don’t be afraid to be a little less patient and a little more tyranical with those guests that abuse your hospitality. I think you’ll find the silent majority (of lurkers) to be most appreciative… not to mention how much easier it will make your blogging life.
    Best of luck!

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  17. rvanv says:

    Bravo, Steve! Your blog is the first thing I check before I read anything about politics for the day. Whether I personally agree with your remarks or those of others that you choose to quote is not the point. It’s just that I like the fact that whatever is included here is well-considered from a policy standpoint. It’s refreshing… and I love your pups too!

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  18. JohnH says:

    Well, folks, I helped start this hullabaloo, and I owe you an explanation. Though obviously a slap in the face, my comments were, in a backhanded sort of way, motivated by all the good content I have seen in the past and a desire for more. So I agree with other posters who have said, “keep up the great work.”
    Now let me justify my comments a bit. To validate my impressions, I compared a period in November, 2006 to a comparable period in November 2007. Last year Steve alone wrote 82 posts, which generated 1845 comments, for an average of almost 23 comments per post. This year Steve, Scott and Sameer together generated 57 posts, which generated 710 comments, for an average of only 12 comments per post. The data is clear. This year both the number of posts and the discussion they stimulated were down.
    I value this blog and would like to see it become the best it can be. So I have a couple suggestions which I offer as constructive and have no expectation that they will be implemented, given Steve’s busy schedule.
    1) A number of posts announce conferences and forums, featuring knowledgeable insiders. But frequently little information seems to return from these events to this blog. The speakers must be sharing some valuable, new insights, either before, during, or after the events. Otherwise, why were they invited? Could we regularly read a short blurb on the 2-3 most outstanding news from each event? Those of us who live outside the Beltway cannot attend the events, and C-SPAN does not carry many of them, so we get nothing from them. I know it’s extra effort, but it would be greatly appreciated.
    2) I would like to see more posts sharing information and featuring people who question the very premises of the administration’s explicit agenda. The administration purposely frames events and countries in certain ways to predetermine public perceptions and policy outcomes. Iran and Iraq were both framed as irrational, intransigent, dire threats to lay the groundwork for regime change via military action. In both cases administration claims have proven false, once after a disastrous invasion and once before. Yet I have noted a general willingness here to keep quiet about the administration’s framing, while attempting to influence their tactics to diplomacy and negotiations. I view this as an exercise in futility, since the frame was set precisely to rule out diplomacy. The solution, I believe, is to directly challenge the frame and ultimately provide an alternative. As regards Iran, I would have liked to have seen more comments that focused on people asking a series of questions: is Iran really developing a nuke? What about credible experts who say they are not? Why would they want or need a nuke? Are they rational players? Would they really use a nuke? What is the real threat? What are we really trying to accomplish?
    Much of my commentary has attempted to challenge the administration’s false pretenses and speculate on its real, largely unspoken agenda, and to link to credible sources who can shed light on this. This blog would be a really lively place if challenging the frame and revealing true motivations became a core part of its mission. And it would contribute greatly to fostering an open and honest, public discussion of American foreign policy, which is ultimately what is needed to check the militaristic and secretive, unitary presidency. It’s a tall order, but Steve is ideally positioned to do it.
    Again, thanks for all the great information. And thanks to those who comment, especially those who share sources and information.

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  19. stickler says:

    Rats. The sentence “I’m a public policy person…” should be italicized above. It’s a quote from Mr. Clemons’s statement.

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  20. stickler says:

    Well, honestly, the problem is this:
    I’m a public policy focused person in Washington — and I write about whatever I want to write about.
    The fact of the matter is, right now there’s a huge disconnect between the country at large and the culture of the nation’s capital. And a lot of people get pretty upset when that disconnect is put on display. Inside the Beltway, things must be all sorts of shades of gray; out here, for a lot of people, things are stark black and white. The fact that our host here occasionally shares cocktail weenies with mendacious political operatives really strikes a nerve with some folks.
    But of course that’s the way business gets done in Washington, or any other national capital, for that matter. It’s just as inevitable as resentment against the culture of the national capital out in the heartland. There’s a reason why almost every politician runs against “the culture of Washington, DC.”

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  21. PUBLIUS says:

    In recent months, other commitments have deprived me of the unique insights that come from reading The Washington Note more regularly. Some time ago, I chose to draw attention to this forum for others interested in creating a more “perfect Union” because The Washington Note is a forum for thoughtful and serious reflection on matters of cardinal importance – particularly in the critical arena of national security and world affairs, which is so poorly managed and so poorly understood by so many in Washington charged in both political parties with managing these affairs. This forum offers rare insight into the dance of power in Washington, as well as Washington’s functioning and dysfunction in meeting the needs of the public which sends its servants here to do the work of this republic.
    I have not seen the particular postings which provoked this expression of aggravation by Mr. Clemons, but I have noticed some comments in the past which displayed ferocious gnashing of teeth at Mr. Clemons’ necessary involvement with the key actors in this capital. Some of these emotional rantings have come from members of what I now identify as the pacifist faction of the larger progressive community who are ethically incapable of recognizing any relevance for the justifiable use of state violence by the United States or other nations which are committed to liberal democracy and the protection of human rights. It gives me no pleasure to concede that George W. Bush has made some recent observations publicly concerning the post-Bush resolution of the catastrophe he and his political allies created in Iraq which serve notice of stark realities which must be dealt with seriously by his successor and the next United States Congress.
    Let us all remember that Washington has been for the past 7 years a place of acute fear among very powerful people. Powerful journalists have been afraid to report that the earth is round when confronted by influential personages in Washington who insist the world is flat. Princes of the markets and of the blood have been temporarily cowed into silence or inaction. Despite this climate of fear and noxious and often indispensable sycophancy, Mr. Clemons has been generous enough to show his readers how he has challenged some of these delusions judiciously and – where possible – vigorously. In Washington, in Texas, nationally, and internationally, Mr. Clemons is known for astonishing stamina in meeting the obviously heavy demands of his primary occupation while finding time also to share his insights on national and world affairs through this window. Many wonder where he finds time for rest.
    In dealing with his colleagues, political opponents and those with whom he disagrees entirely or in part – including the undersigned – Mr. Clemons is known for courtesy. Let us not blame the messenger who delivers us insights into how badly Washington is in need of changed personnel in the corridors of power and of a new consensus on the foremost issues facing the United States. Instead, review your options for participating in the democratic process as robustly as Mr. Clemons has done through his civil and at times courageous exercise of his powers of expression under the first and greatest amendment to the United States Constitution which heralds all the other important natural rights defined in the Bill of Rights and those referenced in the Ninth.
    PUBLIUS

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  22. Nigel says:

    It’s tough, personally I have not read comments on this blog for over a year, it’s a hard balance, if you are going to do comments, my suggestion would be a comment cutoff, say 24/48 hours.
    It’s a particularly interesting time in Beltway politics with the NIE release re: Iran and the value of Steve’s comments over the next few months will be immense as the NIE ramifications filter out.

    Reply

  23. A reader says:

    I remember grousing with discontent a couple years ago about some post Steve rubbed me the wrong way. My response wasn’t too troll-ish, but definitely aggravated and embittered about what I perceived was some Beltway disconnect. “Venting” I believe is the word. Another commenter scolded me to get lost, as I recall.
    Steve, by contrast, made a sincere effort to acknowledge my comment and its POV, and generally showed me he knows more than a little about the Aikido-like power of respect and acknowledgment in fostering trust. It made an impression I have reflected on several times since.
    “Be the change you want to see”, indeed…Steve IS being the change I want to see in DC–intelligent, respectful policy advocacy and conflict resolution–with plenty of room for relevent public discussion.
    Do I still vent? Well, of course…it has its place and value. Other blogs are great for that kind of Bush-era therapy. But maybe not here so much. Which, ultimately, is a good thing.

    Reply

  24. DonS says:

    Steve, you’ve had some of my thoughts by email.
    To me, there is a qualitative difference between a blog with comments, interaction, and one without. For both readers and blogger. I believe you recognize that to some extent a vibrant process feeds you as well. The level manifested here is mostly of good quality. But, you’re right, there have to be more “stakeholders” (including self-monitoring) to support that level, so it doesn’t take you getting pushed to your limit (or triggered, anyway) to redirect the process.
    Understandably, the forces at work in our nation ,at this time, are potent. It is unrealistic to expect absence of strong emotion. I know you’re not trying to stifle that, though it may run counter to the externalities of the other world you inhabit, “diplomacy”.
    I hope there can be a way to keep it going so you don’t get burned out to the extent of shutting down the comments.

    Reply

  25. ... says:

    were their some alternations made to the thread Hanging with Haim Ramon and Ephraim Sneh? it appears their was.. i can’t ask on that thread as the comments page is closed.

    Reply

  26. ... says:

    steve, i like your blog and enjoy reading it a few times a week anyway.. i think you are taking some of the posters too seriously.. i would ignore them, but i can see why you would consider dropping the comments section.. too much reading and a lot of it is not connected to the thread.

    Reply

  27. Ray, Mechanicsville, VA says:

    Hey…ya gotta do what ya gotta do.
    Steve, there is no reason why intelligent conversation and opinion cannot be respectful. Everyone has a right to his or her opinion, but when things get out of hand that’s where you have to draw the line. I enjoy this site very much and appreciate your candor and attentiveness to it’s continued success and especially the ability to keep us, the clamoring electorate, informed with a lot of stuff we’d never hear about if not for you. Keep up the great work! Peace!

    Reply

  28. PissedOffAmerican says:

    It has been delightful these last seven years, being called “anti-american”, “pro-terrorist”, “anti-semitic”, and a “Bush-hater”. One would hate to think we would resort to “ad hominem” to counter such accute appraisals, wouldn’t one?
    I like this blog. I like Steve, and I like most of the commentary here, as well as the reader’s responses. But the offending comments on the prior thread did not seem to me to be an attack on Steve as much as they were a misdirected frustration at our own powerlessness to effect change. The vast majority of us are caught in a downward spiral of our quality of life, while we watch the Washington elite grow obscenely rich and powerful, unaffected by the very policies and decisions that are contributing to the hardships in the average American’s daily lives. The comments seemed, to me, to be addressing that Washington arrogance that only underscores how little representation “we the people” truly have. The disdain that came off as directly insulting to Steve was certainly not my intention when I made the “tinkling of ice cubes” remark. I was attacking the indifference Washington in general has to the continued diminishment of the “american dream”, that is becoming more and more unattainable to our nation’s middle class and its youth.
    I think Steve, in his criticisms of this Administration, has given voice to a sentiment and resentment that many of us feel, yet are unable to make heard in the corriders that might make a difference. As corny as it may sound, sometimes Steve’s divergence from the issues seems a betrayal, and his personal anecdotes of cocktail parties and world travel only underscore the seemingly unbridgable chasm between the average American and the Washington elite.
    I don’t know what the answer is, but if we can’t find a way to bridge that chasm, we are lost. There will be two distinct classes, and we will no longer hold any hope of being what we claim to be as a nation.
    Keep up the good fight Steve. But remember, we’re only human out here in Middle America, and like you, we just want security, health, and a voice. If we get a bit testy in our comments, perhaps its not really about you, but about our frustration and powerlessness. You don’t go out for martinis when your kids are out of milk.

    Reply

  29. Chris Brown says:

    Sounds right to me. I like your perspectives and your style Mr. Clemons.

    Reply

  30. Beth says:

    This is a great blog and as publisher/proprietor of the blog you have every right (and responsibility) to maintain quality posts and comments per your own good judgement.
    Funny story and confession–one of my first posts a few years ago (before security codes were added) was deleted by Steve. I’m a biologist/ecologist by training, and at the time I was reading a lot about evolutionary processes in bacteria–namely, about the evolution of germ cells, gametes, the advantages of combining and sharing genetic information and such. I was also reading political blogs, impressed by the exchange of information here. Anyway, I wrote a comment that included what I thought was a very intelligent analogy about the exchange of information on the web with the exchange of genes in the great soup of life. In fact, it must of sounded very weird and untoward, because Steve deleted it. Rather embarrassing, but I’ve learned the importance of clear writing and knowing your audience!

    Reply

  31. Punchy says:

    Appreciate the honesty, Mr. Clemons.

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  32. Carroll says:

    The comments were off? I missed that.
    Anyway..10-4, Roger. Copy that.
    We all need to stick to the topics. This is a blog for Steve to share his reflections and experiences, not a psychiatrist couch for us to vent our anger.
    And no insulting our generous host, he has been a very tolerant gentleman, far more tolerant than anyone in his position could be expected to be.
    I’am taking the oath.

    Reply

  33. A reader says:

    I wonder if you could add a header to your Comments section:
    “Welcome to the Washington Note comments section! I strive to make this a comfortable place for thoughtful, productive and civil discussion. While honest disagreement and constructive criticism are fully welcome, abusive or disruptive comments are not acceptable here. Please use your judgment and be a part of the effort to keep things respectful and on-topic. Thanks, Steve.”
    Something like that. I imagine that most folks would cooperate if just you put a reminder in their face at the top of every comment thread–they just need to know you don’t want things to be like Atrios or LGF. For serial offenders, just ban them. Thanks for your work Steve.

    Reply

  34. rich says:

    Steve,
    1. You should never have to defend your editorial decisions about content or tone. It’s your blog.
    2. I’ve been impressed with your willingness to engage all comers, to reach out & just say hello, that openness, etc. Not everyone does that.
    3. And simply doing this blog-as-window while you wind your way through all these professional and personal interactions–it is invaluable, useful, interesting…. It has reminded me to recalculate a few things here and there.
    My misgivings about a particular figure, even if well-founded, may be tempered by what I don’t know.
    So: Thank you.
    There’s a context to your posts that we (many of us, that is) just aren’t privy to. Readers for whom that’s true have to remember that; you can’t fix it when they forget. Or let it get to you.
    That said, I can’t for the life of me understand how there’s any basis for second-guessing your motivations, etc. Any one should be aware of the fundamental difference in mode between this blog and TPM or other muckraking blogs.
    The whole point of a blog is to serve your own purpose; you don’t need me to tell you that.
    Commenters’d get more out of it by engaging the point of your posts. It’s clear, though, that people are scared, and have reason to be.

    Reply

  35. Paul Norheim says:

    Reading the regular commentators on The Washington Note, it often strikes me that this blog has become some sort of spiritual and political refuge for people who feel that they have been living in an inner exile under the regime of George W. Actually, I sympathize with their position, but it`s impossible to ignore the irony in the fact that they have chosen a “Beltway” blog for this purpose.
    Although Steve Clemons recognizes that the US policy under W. has been a mess, he obviously does not share their feeling of living in a diaspora: he is a Washington insider and seems to be a happy camper.
    I`ve never been in Washington: I am a Scandinavian, living in a town called Bergen in the Western part of Norway. But what happens “inside the Beltway” is occasionally important for people living in places the average American doesn`t even know about – not even the Washington elite. I don`t know how many readers Steve Clemons has outside America. Perhaps he doesn`t care: “I write this blog for myself — and for key readers in the political and journalist community”, he declared yesterday in the same comment where he said that he would shut off the comments in his blog. For obvious reasons, I do not consider myself as one of his “key readers”.
    However, his blog has been, and still is, a valuable supplementary source of information and reflections that you can`t find in The Washington Post, The New York Times, not to mention CNN, Fox News etc. — or BBC, The Guardian, Le Monde and Die Zeit in Europe. Occasionally he talks to, or even goes to parties with people I don`t admire, based on what i`ve read about them. And he doesn`t even try to hide the fact that he enjoys these parties, lunches, conferences with “key”players in the power game, who sometimes, I would guess, also happen to be among his “key” readers.
    Frankly: I don`t care more about his motivations than he, according to his above quoted statement about his target readers, cares about me, as a reader. Why? Because often he provides information and analysis that is intelligent, well informed and accurate. And often his readers provide that too: reflections, knowledge, links to valuable information. But some of his regular, and not so regular commentators seem to have become more and more suspicious about the owner of the blog: why isn`t he writing more about this and that? Why doesn`t he openly criticize this and that now, at this critical moment? And why does he seem to enjoy the company of people they despise?
    There is a certain mixture of despair, anger and fatalism among many of the regular commentators – and for good reasons: the political situation in the US, and as a consequence, in certain other parts of the world, isn`exactly healthy under the rule of Bush & Cheney. But this (highly understandable) despair and anger has also had some side effects, as I see it: a certain lack of tolerance, a certain “us-and-them” attitude that seems more and more like an echo of the attitude of their enemy hard liners.
    Steve Clemons` temporary decision to close access to commentators came as a direct response to someone who declared that she was not interested in “whom you travel, dine, talk, or organize panels with”, in addition to someone claiming that nothing important had been said in TWN during the last month. This again as a direct response to a sentence from Mr. Clemons in a post about the NIE report concerning Iran and the nuclear issue – quote:
    “I am sure that this will come up at the Israel Policy Forum dinner I am attending tonight in New York.
    “I am also pretty sure that Vice President Cheney won’t be affected at all about this report and will obstinately ignore its findings when offering Christmas cheer to all, while under his breath muttering “bomb Iran. . .bomb Iran.”
    So, Mr. Clemons is having dinner with some “key” people tonight? And so what?
    But after the meal, he reports:
    “Last evening, I attended a forum with former General, Labor Party Knesset Member, and former Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh. In response to a question from the floor about the Iran NIE, Sneh said that the “report was a lie.” He asked “why would someone leak this now?”
    “When later I privately told General Sneh that the report was not leaked and that it was on the home page of the Director of National Intelligence, he emphasized that “it had to be a lie, a deception.” He said that “Israeli and Americans know the same thing and have the same views on Iran.”
    “Sneh said that for him the release of this report “means that the United States is signaling that it will do nothing on Iran and will abandon its responsibilities.” He continued by saying, “I told them so. I always said that in the end, Israel would have to do this alone.”
    “Sneh concluded by saying, “When i get back, i will call together our intelligence establishment, and I will do all i can to begin seriously preparing the ‘Israel option’.”
    “Ehud Barak, now Defense Minister, said largely the same thing today that Sneh said last night — and I know that they did not coordinate as Ephraim Sneh was clearly shocked by the revelation.
    “What this means is that Israel and the U.S. are about to have a serious battle over the quality of intelligence — and this will put a big wedge between the nations. It will also put aggravate the demarcation that already exists between the Cheney wing of the national security establishment and the Gates/Rice wing.
    “But America will not be bombing Iran any time soon. “
    ——————-
    Perhaps no big revelation or surprise here, but still interesting stuff. Dinner talk, but relevant dinner talk. I appreciate that.
    As far as I know, Steve Clemons until recently has thought that Bush had not yet decided to attack Iran. But he obviously thinks that Cheney wants to do it, and sees the issue partly as an internal struggle between the Rice/Gates camp and the Cheney camp (including his neocon supporters outside the White House).
    The big paradox after the disclosure of the NIE report (and I have no idea wether Clemons agrees with me here or not, or even cares about whatever I might say) is that this doesn`t only undermine the Cheney position, but also the Rice/Gates position: carrots and sticks diplomacy coordinated with the Europeans. (I believe that the only – hypothetical – chance Condolezza Rice would have from now on to convince the European allies, the Russians etc – and in the end the Iranians – that war indeed still is a serious option, is by repeating Kissingers strategy when he talked to the Russians in the 1970`s, trying to convince them that the President of the United States was a paranoid lunatic, who was crazy enough to drop the bomb if they didn`t come to an agreement. Some of the regular commentators here may say that this is the case today too. But it`s rather unlikely that Rice will try to adopt the Kissinger strategy while dealing with Tehran.)
    Nobody can tell how this ends, but as I see it, both the hawks, the (semi) doves and the not-yet-decided Decider in the White House has lost considerable credibility and legitimacy for their case. This may, as some commentators in the media hope for, open up space for a different kind of diplomacy, but it may also prelude a more unpredictable scenario: a possible Israeli attack on Iran.
    And what will happen then? Will this result in a situation where the Americans “are forced to” attack Iran, to defend Israel, or one of the oil rich Gulf states, or others? No experts can predict the outcome of such a scenario.
    In any case, I believe that Steve Clemons`political instincts immediately told him that after the US intelligence report, the most important issue may be how Israel will react. In the end, the Cheney camp and the Israeli hawks may win the game, ironically assisted by this report; and Bush may attack Iran, helped (or “forced”) by either calculated or unpredicted “circumstances” that may become a more credible legitimization for a war than the former claims about a nuclear program.
    In this context, I think Steve Clemons` dinner talks are a bit interesting. I look forward to his analysis of the new situation regarding the Iran issue, and – occasionally – reports from a lunch, dinner, or party with people I personally don`t admire.
    Cheers!
    And I should wish that some of his regular commentators could develop a more tolerant attitude: pick up the stuff you like, and ignore the rest. Perhaps it´s as simple as that.

    Reply

  36. jon says:

    Thank you, Steve.
    Your blog, content and style are unique and valuable. It lends texture and depth to policy and events that would otherwise be absent. It’s as close as many of us will ever get to the corridors of power.
    I’m glad your life doesn’t revolve around monitoring your comments. However, I think that the comments improve and strengthen your blog and your outlook. None of us can ever be completely right about everything. The discussion and debate in the comments permits you to see your positions from other perspectives, testing and strengthening them. The root of diplomacy is in trying to understand another person’s point of view and in communicating your point of view to others clearly and advantageously. And that can’t happen in a vacuum.
    I admire you for putting so much skin in the game. Robust and convincing foreign policy needs to be rooted in the national ethos, morality and conviction. The country is suffering now because we have been shown to be rudderless and without moral compass; renouncing what distinguished us, made us admirable, and made us worthy of leadership. But foreign policy is also about maintaining and improving state power and national advantage, where the moral calculus has only a minor brief. Humans, their morals and emotions can be ground awfully fine. It would be a shame for you to suffer for being so exposed.
    Thank you again for providing this window. Best of luck and great success in your work, providing room and opportunity for better things to emerge and take hold.
    jon

    Reply

  37. liberal says:

    …ad hominem – is that like hominy grits? just curious.

    Reply

  38. Alex says:

    Hi Steve,
    How ’bout them Mets, eh? 🙂
    Seriously, I like your blog very much; I read it about five times a week. I don’t always agree with you, but I like your perspective. You were dead to rights on Bolton, just as I was right when I told you that Bushie Boy is one stubborn, power-hungry son of a b*tch and would recess appoint him in a New York minute. Too bad I didn’t bet you, cuz you’d owe me, buddy, BIG TIME! (That ‘big time’ was just to include Cheney, Bolton’s sponsor, in the deal.) You can buy me a cuppa the next time you’re in Santa Barbara and I’ll buy you one the next time I am in DC.
    I rarely comment here anymore, except about the hounds, because I have abandoned the useless, hopeless exercise of arguing with people with planted feet. It is one of the things that I admire most about you — you never give up no matter how bleak the political atmosphere is. Sometimes when I am ready to throw in the towel, I read something here that gives me hope and I hang in there for one more day; I thank you for that inspiration.
    Alex

    Reply

  39. susan says:

    “…this blog was better for the first couple of years than it is now. I want to return to the quality of that exchange.”
    Well, now you’ve done it; Bertignac will be back within a day or two.

    Reply

  40. Steve Clemons says:

    Thanks mooste — I appreciate your comment but also don’t mind the ambition of others to post first. What I do mind is whether it’s relevant to policy debates or not that we are talking about. I want a better climate here for wide-ranging discussion. These are serious times and there are divergent, heterodox views. I hope that we can engage in serious debate here rather than insinuating motives to the commenter/poster. Sometimes it is tough because folks come to a blog on occasion with agendas — but it’s better to give the benefit of the doubt on the front end…
    but thanks for your comment,
    steve clemons

    Reply

  41. mooste says:

    One request (and feel free to remove this post; it doesn’t really contribute to the discussion): please feel free to remove inanities such as people posting “first” in an attempt to be the first poster on a topic.

    Reply

  42. Steve Clemons says:

    Laughable — not going to take your comment down. It’s interesting. But really. . .”my tyranny”?? Sounds like you might be on my invite list — and yes, my invites do differ from others. And yes, my blog, my writing, my advocacy, my analysis are frequently, though not always, combined. You are for the most part correct — and that is part of what I consider my multi-dimensional approach to Washington to be. But if you are on one of my lists and don’t like it, remove yourself — or ask to be. If you are a lurker and want to remain on my lists, then I hope you will take advantage of the interesting gatherings we are organizing to change the course of public policy in Washington.
    best regards,
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  43. Laughable says:

    not that I think this post will last seeing how you are taking your tyranny to another level, but for me, knowing your reputation in Washington makes this even more of a joke. receiving email blasts from campaigns doesn’t equal receiving an email from Senator X. Receiving the general invites to think tanks around town doesn’t equal Exclusive Invite for Steve! What I am trying to say is, you have completely involved your personality on this blog and use it as leverage or for use as a credible source for all your assertions. questioning the quality of a source has never been inappropriate in true political discussion. if you wanted to keep that question off limits for your blog, you should have never put yourself out as you did.

    Reply

  44. whskyjack says:

    Steve
    Do what you want with the comments. To me it seems as if a lot of comments are made without any thought or understanding. I wish they were up to your level of quality but they aren’t. Once in a while there is a gem but I have to dig through a lot of manure to find them. Lately it has been too much trouble.
    Keep up the blogging as you can, it is important to folks like me. I try to keep informed but this old graybearded carpenter only has limited resources. You are one I check daily, I thank you.
    Jackson Ballard
    PS. I like the dog pictures and the travel stuff too.

    Reply

  45. Art Rantarian says:

    Bravo!

    Reply

  46. Kathleen says:

    Fantastic… this is my favorite blog, precisely because of how you do your thing. I sometimes wish you would say something about a particluar issue but recognize that this is your blog and you are entitled to your own preferences and priorities. I like the change of pace from serious to light and prefer it when people don’t attack other commenters and question their motives. We should be able to disagree, heartilly, without disparaging anyone else.
    On the new NIE report and the about-face on Iran’s alleged nukes, my gut feeling is that Senator Biden saying he would call for impeachment if they bombed Iran, caused Busolini to have an attack of Restless Legacy Syndrome.

    Reply

  47. David says:

    “I have my own calculus — it’s what I do and I don’t really care how other bloggers pursue their avocation. I don’t want to be like others — and I’m tired of hearing how others manage their content and course.”
    It’s a damned good calculus, Steve. For me The Washington Note is one of the most valuable blogs on the internet. Just keep on keeping on.

    Reply

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