Political Fortunes: Some Commentary in No <strike>Political</strike> Particular Order


I helped organize a forum this morning for the distribution of a report Terrorism: A Brief for Americans by businessman Richard Vague at an early morning meeting in the Senate. Despite the ridiculousness of sending out the invite the evening before, we got a respectable audience there by 9 am.
brzezinski scowcroft.jpg
(Photo Credit: The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer)
What is odd is that I then dropped in on the “Strategic Context of Iraq” hearings of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee featuring Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski and there was not a packed house.
If I organized a meeting with a few senators and Brzezinski and Scowcroft, I could probably draw over 1000 attendees on a day’s notice. But at this meeting, the chairs for observers were only about half full, maybe less. Washingtonians can learn and see a lot by attending hearings of this type. And today was a useful and important meeting — though I was able to get out the Brzezinski testimony yesterday.
I got there just as Scowcroft was finishing and after what I heard was a rather testy, hard-hitting exchange between Senator Chuck Hagel and Scowcroft.
My understanding is that Scowcroft was trying to resist calling the President’s “surge” of forces deployed in Iraq a complete loser. Scowcroft finally yielded, I am told (as I was not yet there), and said:

I do not believe we need more American troops because I want to get out of this sectarian mess.

Folks should know that while they certainly pushed and shoved each other a bit in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing room, Scowcroft and Hagel are basically on the same page and both are deeply alarmed about the precipitous decline in American influence globally and severely mismanaged foreign policy and national security portfolios.
In the hearing, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden acquitted himself well — as did Richard Lugar — who both emphasized that many are just focusing on troops “staying or leaving;” “all in or all out” as Lugar said — when Brzezinski emphasized that it is the deal-making with regional stakeholders that is important and which specifying a date for troop withdrawal would help precipitate.
Joe Biden will be speaking to the country and his supporters on a webcast tonight at 8 p.m. if you would like to check in with the latest.
dodd twn.jpg
On other resolute front, Senators Christopher Dodd and Russell Feingold have sent out word that they plan to oppose the newly crafted bipartisan Iraq War Resolution. They argue that though the resolution opposes a surge in troops, it doesn’t go far enough to curtail the President’s actions and to bring the war to a close.
Both Chuck Hagel and Joe Biden are supporting the resolution whose primary sponsors are Carl Levin and John Warner. Warner dropped language that would have made the resolution easier for the White House to ignore.
Hagel and Biden both think that they were able to navigate Warner over with a healthy compromise that has now resulted in the first bipartisan resolution from the Senate against the President’s further escalation of the Iraq War. So, this is a win for Biden and Hagel — but one sees why Chris Dodd and Russ Feingold are holding out for more.
Just fyi, this is Chris Dodd’s presidential campaign website.
I may see Dodd tomorrow at the DNC retreat and am going to ask him to repeat (for audio recording) an anecdote that he once shared with me about when he first met Katherine Hepburn. It’s better “heard” than read as his imitation of Hepburn’s “Why??!!” is hilarious. But here’s the quip from Chris Dodd:

There are a lot of people who are renowned who live in this state and not very far from here is Katherine Hepburn, who lives in Old Saybrook.
I’d never met Katherine Hepburn although I’d seen her on numerous occasions. I live in a town a couple of villages away from her, but never intruded upon her privacy. Her former brother-in-law is a wonderful. friend of mine, Ellsworth Graham.
He used to be the mayor of West Hartford, Connecticut. I’ve known Ellsworth for years, a delightful person, a great person, a great individual. He’s probably Katherine’s age.
“About two or three months ago,” Dodd continues, “I stopped to see Ellsworth in Old Saybrook. As I was walking up the back steps of his home, the door opened and there’s Ellsworth standing with Katherine Hepburn. We’re standing about three feet away from each other.
And Ellsworth, in a very loud voice (he didn’t have his listening device in) said ‘Chris, would you like to meet Katherine Hepburn?” Well, what am I going to say. . .she’s standing right here, so I say, ‘Of course I’d be delighted to meet Miss Hepburn.’ He turned to Katherine in an equally loud voice end said “Would you like to meet Senator Dodd?” And Katherine, without looking at me at all, her little heed shaking said ‘Why?’
“It’ll show you how life in public office is these days. . .”

This was hilarious when I heard him recite the memory in person — at a screening for his favorite film, A Man for All Seasons.
In the business policy world, Martin Walker who was once the Bureau Chief for The Guardian newspaper in Washington and was editor of UPI as well as a Senior Fellow at both the World Policy Institute and the Wilson Center, has become the Senior Director of AT Kearney’s “Global Business Dialogue.” Walker is one of Washington’s best wordsmiths and essayists and has been unforgiving in his critique of the Bush foreign policy team on shows such as the McLaughlin Group.
More later.

— Steve Clemons


14 comments on “Political Fortunes: Some Commentary in No <strike>Political</strike> Particular Order

  1. Gloria says:

    At least PBS’ New Hour showed a good clip of Brezinski. But I don’t know if he got any time on the 3 “majors.” What a shame. People need to hear what he has to say about the “set up” for another war….


  2. PrahaPartizan says:

    Funny that you should have referenced A Man for All Seasons. I recall another line from that movie which all Democrats should recall when being dunned by some right-wing scumbag about some absurd point the winger is trying to push. In the movie, More makes the statment that silence is assent under the common law when being questioned by the Kings’s lawyers. Every Deomocrat should remember that. They should just acknowledge the question, smile, nod and anser with something totally different than the question – every time the interrogator fires the question at them. Just remind the fool at the end that silence is assent. It would eliminate lots of taped sound bites which can only be used against you later on.


  3. DonS says:

    Last night after work (and after Congressional offices had closed), I sent off messages to my senators (VA – Warner, Webb) and rep (Boucher) — raging, just raging about this fool Bush being out of his mind. What triggered my loss of dignity and respect (some might say its about time) are the recent, increasing,stories related to the drumbeat to atack Iran.
    Now I do not expect my outrage to do any good. We seem to be too far down the road in a virtual government (with politicians just playing prescribed roles with predigested rheotiric), to expect actual people to have actual thoughts about the horrific state of affairs.
    Its all pretty much ok to most of them, after all, they can’t smell the actual gunpowder and burning flesh.
    And to round out my thought, though I favor engaging in actual discussions with Iran rather that dropping actual bombs on them, I wonder, what could one possibly expect the conditions for such talks to be with a president who has a chip in his shoulder and a messianic vision the like of which are staggering?


  4. AquaTeenHungerForce says:

    I suspect the reason why Congressional hearings are poorly attended, even when they feature strong witnesses and important issues, is that only the Senators get to ask questions. In other words, members of the audience do not have a chance to engage in the conversation.
    After all, this is Washington, where people love to hear the sound of their own voices ….


  5. tucker's bow tie says:

    A propos wordsmithing, Steve — I like your vignette style! Suits your blog extremely well 🙂 More, more..


  6. bob h says:

    That Iraqi Shiites are under sectarian attack is our fault for not providing security. That Iran would want to help its fellow Shiites defend themselves is hardly surprising. Yet our fundamental failure is used as a pretext for attacking Iran.


  7. Zathras says:

    The McLaughlin Group is still on?
    Scowcroft today sounded, frankly, like a man who has lately had a number of fraught conversations with anxious Saudis and Jordanians, to the former of which the first Bush administration was famously hyper-responsive. He’s anxious to get us out of the way of Shiites and Sunni Arabs killing one another in Baghdad, but he still sees maintaining a vast force in Iraq and environs into the indefinite future as essential. He was insistent on not wanting to see the situation get any worse, and equally insistent on keeping the amount of money and resources being thrown down the Iraqi rathole from ever getting any smaller.


  8. Ajaz Haque says:

    Thursday, February 1, 2007
    Middle East Peace
    In the last six years Middle East peace has been a low priority for this Administration. Infact even Bill Clinton did not pay serious attention to it until the last few weeks of his Presidency and he ran out of time. Had he started six months earlier, he may well have been successful.
    The question now is what is President Bush going to do in his last two years of Presidency? The Iraq war is likely to be over before the end of 2008 and from where things stand today, historians will not paint a pretty picture of this adventure. President Bush can leave a legacy that will be remembered for years to come. He can do that by making a major push for Middle East peace.
    The peace plan presented by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is a reasonable one. Israelis scoffed at it initially but after the Lebanon debacle they are showing willingness to consider it. In the words of an Israeli Minister “it is a starting point”. If this plan can be implemented, doors of all Muslim countries will open up to Israel for trade and diplomacy. Also the forever vilification of U.S. will come to an end.
    The plan calls for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jeruselam and two states of equal status side by side living in peace with no further claims on each other’s territory. Those Palestinians who have claims to return to Israel can be be housed in the settlements Israel vacates in the West Bank.
    This requires a bigger sacrifice from Israel as they took over these territories in the 1967 Six Day War started rather stupidly by President Nasser of Egypt and other Arab states with an intent to push Israel into the sea, but resulted in them losing this territory. What Israel would get in the bargain is a chance for peaceful co-existence with neighbouring states and an end to this non-ending war.
    President Bush should seek the help of his father as this is way beyond Condi Rice and other Administration ofiicials. Bush Sr. is well respected in the Middle East and has close personal realtions with the Saudi King. A peace dialogue can be hosted in Saudi Arabia or Jordan and must also include Hamas which is a legimately elected Palestinian Government. If the U.S. is not comfortable talking to Hamas let Saudis do that. History shows us that peace is never achieved by excluding extremists as moderates alone cannot not sell a plan to the majority. Remember Menachem Begun, he was declared a terrorist once and went on to become Prime Minister of Israel and made peace with Egypt & Jordan and U.S. had no qualms about talking to him!
    Enough human blood has been shed over the last 60 years. Too much despair is in the air and the world owes this region peace so that States and people opt for human and economic development rather than latest methods of killing.
    President Bush has the time, the opportunity and a chance to leave an ever lasting legacy. If he can accomplish this, Iraq war will not even show up on history’s radar screen.


  9. Pissed Off American says:

    Burns has turned to bald faced lying, such as his “there is no doubt” that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. It amazes me that the indisputable lies we were fed in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq did not teach this Congress a lesson. Here we see the exact same pattern of lies being applied to Iran, by the same liars, and people are actually questioning whether or not these fucking monsters intend to attack Iran. Whats worse is these cowards that are supposed to enforce the checks and balances STILL refuse to call lies “lies”. They call it “incompetence”, they call it “bad intelligence”, they call it “mismanagement”, and they call it a myriad of other sugar coated terms and descriptions. But the indisputable FACT is that these bastards in the White House LIED this nation into a war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.
    Yet here we are, discussing these cowards like Hillary or Biden, or Hagel or McCain, or Obama or Edwards as if they are somehow different, as if they represent a hope for more honest leadership, WHEN THEY CAN’T EVEN CALL A LIAR A LIAR.
    I am sick of seeing these bastards posture and mewl while our nation’s security is compromised, and while our world standing is thrown in same crapper Bush has thrown our constitution.
    There are very real FACTS that could be offered to the American public that PROVE IRREFUTABLY that we were lied to. Bush cited an IAEA report that DIDN’T EVEN EXIST. The list of lies is LONG. Why are our representatives not holding the LIARS accountable? Can’t these slimey posturing bastards at least call a spade a spade?


  10. bryanwilkins says:

    I basically think the hearing showed that Hagel and Scowcroft are on the same page. Withdraw troops to the perimeter of the country (Iraq) and wait to see if the sectarian fighting will either force the political parties to make the necessary deal’s or Bush’s force “surge” will be shown to be totally inadequate and lead to the Hagel-Scowcroft-Brezinski endgame. Bush is losing the argument by having the Petraeus/Casey differences reveal the basic flaws in the White House’s military strategy, which does not exist. American troops are going to be on the way out within 6-8 months. It will happen because this is 2007 and there is an election in 2008. And Repupublicans know they have losing hand with Bush’s policies. There will be managed withdrawal and transfer to the “Iraqi” government while we still have two, three, four carrier battle groups bumping into each other in the Straits of Hormuz. And we will be talking to the Iranian government of Ayaltollah of Ali Kamenei (SP). Also, Joe Biden will still be talking, talking talking, talking….zzzzzzzz….


  11. selise says:

    gloria – i also was disappointed this hearing wasn’t shown by c-span… i listened to the audio stream at http://www.capitolhearings.org/, but apparently the corporate media doesn’t use that (or bother sending a reporter to the hearing). sad. brzezinski was very good, made a lot of sense… can’t say i was impressed by snowcroft though.


  12. erichwwk says:

    Time to recognize your leadership role, Steve. Your forums are the best thing happening in D.C. Hope you do more. Perhaps what’s needed is a parallel government.
    While the foreign affairs committee meeting was interesting because of Brzezinski (While Scowcroft is great for a former Bush Official, and better than many, he can’t seem to shed the Cold war mentality, and still seems to see people as mostly bad, requiring cops to keep them good), the Terrorism report is great!!
    Read the WHOLE report, folks. No, for some of us there is nothing new,but it is COMPLETE, ACCURATE, AND SUCCINCT. BY FAR the best report under one cover i have read to date. Kudos!!!
    Hope some of the fossils on the armed services and intelligence committee read this report. I know, its a long shot. But in listening to these folks, one is reminded of Mark twains observation :
    “It is not the things we don’t know that get us into trouble, but the things we know for sure that ain’t so.”
    Many of the Congressmen are clueless, the way i imagined the Politburo to be in the late 1980’s.
    This report goes back to to 1919, is comprehensive and includes all the findings laying to rest the nonsense of “they hate our freedoms”. It includes a lot of Hernando de Soto’s work. Its just REALLY good!!! Read the WHOLE thing please.
    I do have reservations re the idea (steve’s own, expressed earlier as well as in the report) of privatizing individual oil rights along the lines of the Alaska Fund. To me this is a permutation of Milton Friedman’s concept that a negative income tax (or an EIC) is preferred to a smorgasboard of service delivery to low income folk.
    Problem of monetizing help is that it requires a mechanism for delivering that fund(ie a paper trail banking system). As I recall, the funds transferred to the CPA from the UN “Oil for food program” ~$US Billion went down some black hole. A GREAT final solution, but premature, IMHO.
    Also for the billmon fans:
    Billmon has said his goodbye, stating he has decided to concentrate on family and a large mortgage.
    The Investment group with which he has contracted to pay those bills is unfortunately not as enlightened as Richard Vague. Perhaps what the AR and the NAF has done with its Terrorism Report will change that and bring him back?
    In any case Miguel de Icaza http://tirania.org/blog/ has archived the blog at
    PS sorry for the weirdness in interpreting the quote character from previous cut and paste
    post, making the Gorbachev quotes unclear. If I may repeat Gorbachev’s quotes, they were:
    “force and the threat of force cannot and should not be an instrument of foreign policy” At the UN, Dec, 1988
    and (referring to the GWBush Admin)
    “These people were brought up in the years of the Cold War and still do not have any foreign policy alternatives. I think that they are still concerned that they might be on the losing side. Big breakthroughs can hardly be expected”


  13. Gloria says:

    Alas, CSpan hasn’t been showing the hearing. They showed Gen. Casey, though.
    It’s sad that Brzezinski’s testimony will probably get zip coverage in the media.


  14. selise says:

    “Scowcroft and Hagel are basically on the same page”
    wow, it didn’t sound like that to me. maybe it was a bit of theater?
    (not being in DC, i had to listen to the live audio stream)


Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *