Tidbits on a DC Snow Day: Storms, Realists, Feinstein’s Chairs, Churchill, LBJ & Nigel Sheinwald


dc winter storm mess 2010.jpg
Snow Storms & Roads
In snow-challenged Washington, DC, Nebraska Avenue and the roads around Vice President’s Naval Observatory home are immaculate, completely cleared of snow and ice — but the major artery of Massachusetts Avenue is a horizontal snow slush, barely plowed. DC Mayor Adrian Fenty would probably be in bigger trouble with citizens if there were not another ten or so inches of white stuff on the way giving him ‘another chance’ to get the city’s infrastructure back in operation after a storm.
The Washington Post Reaches Out to A Realist
Well, jiminy cricket, I just learned that Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel has started a weekly “online” column for The Washington Post. Appearing in the actual paper still has its benefits — particularly when so much of the in-paper editorial offerings and the opeds assembled by Fred Hiatt and Jackson Diehl are of a neoconservative or liberal interventionist (neocon of the left) tilt. But something is better than nothing — and Vanden Heuvel, who too many confuse as a hard core lefty, is actually one of the smartest “progressive realist” commentators in the country. Katrina once told me at a swank Hamptons party that “realism had become the new ideology of the left.” And she is and was right. (Here is her first installment.)
Dianne Feinstein’s Famous Chairs
I had occasion to chat with Senator Dianne Feinstein last night — a hero in my book in the aftermath of the Harvey Milk assassination — and learned that her home in the Spring Valley district of Washington should probably become a historic site at some point. I don’t think she would mind my sharing this — but said that when folks come over to her place, she is nearly always asked right away to show where Barack and Hillary sat in her home to work out their post-primary postures. At the dinner we were at last evening, she pointed to two modest but still regal high-back stuffed chairs that looked like the ones in her place. Senator Feinstein said that she was thinking of putting plaques on the chairs that said who sat in what chair and where. Two thoughts: Someone should convince the President and Secretary of State to go resume their positions in those chairs and get a great Annie Leibovitz photo. Second, perhaps Senator Feinstein should donate the chairs to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History?
churchill statue dc.jpgBritish Ambassador to US Nigel Sheinwald Tires of Snow Shoveling and Gives Major Speech Tonight in Austin
I was up near the British Embassy both yesterday and today — ghost town there in an embassy sense. The stalwart bronzed Winston Churchill still has about 18 inches of white stuff on his head and arms — sort of a warrior snow man.
But just got word that UK Ambassador to the US Nigel Sheinwald is speaking in Austin tonight at the LBJ Presidential Library outlining support for General Stanley McChrystal’s action plan in Afghanistan.
According to Sheinwald’s office:

Ambassador Sheinwald will lay out the case for a successful political strategy to support the military strategy being carried out by ISAF under General McChrystal. He will say that political success in Afghanistan depends on three factors: reassuring the Afghan people about our commitment, splitting the coalition that makes up the insurgency we face, and promoting security in the wider region around Afghanistan. He will reiterate that a political solution is as important as a military one, and make the case that the Taliban need to be outgoverned as well as outgunned.

Sheinwald will say:

“The war in Afghanistan and the related challenges we face across the border in Pakistan constitute the top foreign policy and security priority for the British Government. The reason is simple: like the US Administration, we believe that we must prevent Afghanistan from becoming once again a safe haven for Al Qaeda and international terrorists who plan to do us harm.

“And what are we doing to ensure that this risk is lowered? After several reviews, both the Obama Administration and the British Government have come to the same conclusion: to ensure that this area does not become a safe haven, we must help and support the government of Afghanistan to secure its own territory against militancy and terrorism. We have adopted, with the Afghan government, a comprehensive, politically-led counter-insurgency campaign. Simultaneously, in Pakistan, we need to support the government’s efforts – certainly through security and intelligence help, but also through economic and social development, and long term nurturing of Pakistan’s political and institutional structure.
“When the Taliban were in power, they broke Afghan society so badly that it was easy for Al Qaeda to take root. Our task, therefore, is to help the Afghan people strengthen themselves and their society to the extent that they are robust enough to repel Al Qaeda without the need for several tens of thousand international troops on their soil.
“We are not just focused on making Afghans feel safer in their beds at night. We need the people of Afghanistan to want to take ownership of the future of their country. The polls consistently tell us that only around 6% of the Afghan people want the Taliban back in power. But the evidence is clear that many more than that are unwilling to turn their back on the insurgency in case the Taliban do return.
“So we need to build up their trust in a government which is seen to be acting against corruption and aiming to govern competently. In the words of our Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, “the Taliban need to be outgoverned, not just outgunned”. This part of the political strategy is designed to build up the capacity and effectiveness of Afghanistan’s government, both in Kabul and out in the provinces and districts; training and equipping provincial and district governors; distributing aid money more effectively; and addressing the deficit in justice by providing both financial and practical support.

Here is the rest of the speech.
Ambassador Sheinwald makes much sense here — but one wonders how the US, even with allies, can even pretend to achieve such a holistic, ambitious agenda in Afghanistan when the President of the United States can’t get a health care bill through Congress.
I want President Obama, General McChrystal, our British allies, and others to succeed — but not to doubt somewhat this ambitious agenda given current performance trends would be irresponsible in my view.
— Steve Clemons


32 comments on “Tidbits on a DC Snow Day: Storms, Realists, Feinstein’s Chairs, Churchill, LBJ & Nigel Sheinwald

  1. Mr.Murder says:

    Churchill cut his teeth on war in iraq, and was convinced it would never be what the Western establishment wanted.
    He did, however, profit from a working relation with British Petroleum.


  2. John Waring says:

    Where did you pick up all this bio information? Impressive.
    Vandan Heuval, Dutch New Amsterdam?


  3. samuelburke says:

    “I am convinced in my heart and in my mind that if the United
    States fails to stand with Israel, that is the end of the United
    States . . . [W]e have to show that we are inextricably entwined,
    that as a nation we have been blessed because of our
    relationship with Israel, and if we reject Israel, then there is a
    curse that comes into play. And my husband and I are both
    Christians, and we believe very strongly the verse from Genesis
    [Genesis 12:3], we believe very strongly that nations also
    receive blessings as they bless Israel. It is a strong and beautiful
    the two types of terrorism being promoted to americans in
    order for them to support israels zionism.
    1. false flag terrorism
    2. religious terrorism


  4. Mr.Murder says:

    Barack should use a fallback phrase on Health Care now, when asked about reform plans and expanded coverage, why they are needed.
    “It’s the economy, stupid.”
    Simplify the message, consolidate policy themes.


  5. WigWag says:

    Speaking of bitchiness, has anyone seen the New Republic article by Leon Wieseltier accussing Andrew Sullivan of being a nasty anti-semite?
    or the rather tepid reply by Sullivan?
    I can’t wait to see what Marty Peretz has to say about all of this.
    Maybe Steve Clemons would like to comment.


  6. Dan Kervick says:

    Well, it’s reassuring to see that WigWag’s bitchiness was based on sheer tribal and class resentment.


  7. WigWag says:

    Wig — Even you know that is an overstatement. 🙂 Ann Coulter? (Steve Clemons)
    Of course there are differences between Katrina Vanden Heuvel and Ann Coulter. Katrina appears most frequently in the magazine that she owns and edits, “The Nation.” Coulter likes to appear on Fox News. While those two media outlets are on the opposite ends of the political spectrum, they both have the same dedication to honesty, integrity and getting the story right. It is true that “The Nation” has a far more illustrious and honorable pedigree than Fox News, but under Vanden Heuvel’s leadership that once proud publication has now sunk to new depths which makes the comparison with Fox News appropriate.
    The similarities between Vanden Heuval and Coulter are almost too numerous to mention. Vandan Heuval was born in 1959; Coulter was born two years later in 1961. Coulter graduated cum laude from Cornell in 1984 (where Vandan Heuval’s father was once editor in chief of the law review), Vandan Heuval graduated summa cum laude from Princeton in 1981.
    Both Coulter and Vandan Heuval own apartments on the upper west side of Manhattan and both have interesting connections to New York City politics. For years, Coulter dated Andrew Stein, the former President of the New York City Council. Vandan Heuval’s father was heavily involved in New York politics especially in the area of corrections; he once considered running for Mayor of New York. Interestingly the senior Vandan Heuval was Rita Hauser’s partner at Strook and Strook and Lavan.
    One difference is that Katrina Vandan Heuval was born with a silver spoon in her mouth while Coulter was born to an upper middle class family.
    Katrina Vandan Heuval got the money to purchase “The Nation” from mommy and daddy. Her maternal grandfather was Jules Stein, an ophthalmologist by training who ended up founding one the largest movie studios in the United States; MCA. Her father, William Vandan Heuval is a blue blood, who served in the Kennedy and Carter Administrations. The Vandan Heuval family is one of the oldest families in New York City.
    Katrina attended the Trinity School in Manhattan which is well known as the school of choice for the wealthiest and most elite New Yorkers.
    Why anyone should take umbrage at the comparison between Vandan Heuval and Coulter is beyond me. They are both polemicists; they both have fringe views that are wildly popular with a small subset of the population but seem bizarre to the majority of Americans; they both take delight in skewing the facts towards their point of view and to stirring the pot; they are both more interested in entertaining their partisan supporters than in informing them. Despite their pretensions, neither Coulter nor Vandan Heuval are journalists, they are both mostly charlatans.
    I would never speculate what kind of people Ann Coulter or Katrina Vandan Heuval are; I am sure they are both decent and honest. But as for their public views; those are on display for all to see. In both cases there’s a reason that most Americans find their views ridiculous; it’s because they are ridiculous.
    So spare me the mock horror at the comparison between Vandan Heuval and Coulter. Vandan Heuval is a spoiled rich girl whose parents and grandparents come from the wealthiest families in America. She inherited the money she used to buy “The Nation.”
    Her leftist views are little more than noblesse oblige.
    I don’t take Ann Coulter seriously and I don’t take Katrina Vandan Heuval seriously.
    I realize that others may disagree. Some people who read the Washington Note may be fans of one or the other.
    To me, they’re two sides of the same dull and faded coin.
    But there is one thing I can say for both Ann Coulter and Katrina Vandan Heuval.
    They are both more tolerable than Maureen Dowd.


  8. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Gads, Paul, I see what ya mean. A wrong move here could completely alter man’s destiny. By all means, use as many words as you needed in your effort to say nothing.
    It could well be that we need to compose an entire bible that says nothing in our quest to save mankind.


  9. Paul Norheim says:

    “So if a Norwegian studied extensively overseas, could they then lose the accent?”
    “Also, is Norway Canukistan to Sweden in the same way that Canukistan is to UsRael?”
    Nope, Norway is to Sweden what Alaska is to Canukistan – sans Palin.


  10. Paul Norheim says:

    Well, POA, once again you simplified my attempt to say nothing!
    It’s actually much more complicated than you think, and you seem to entirely ignore the
    structural aspects and the psycho-political processes behind the ambivalences we Norwegians
    are confronted with on a daily basis.
    Lucky you, POA, with your common sense approach to everything, thinking that every issue is
    so damned simple! But what about us? What about the pointlessness of my post? Do you
    sincerely believe that my pointlessness can be reduced to a couple of sentences?
    On one hand Bergen is a one hour’s flight from London. On the other hand, we are committed
    to NATO. But Washington is at least an eight hours’ flight from Norway! And those basic
    facts require an immensely delicate and ambiguous balancing act towards Washington and
    London, not to speak of Brussels and Berlin. In addition, although we geographically are a
    part of Europe, we are not members of the European Union. But despite that, we have some
    very complex and specific agreements with the EU. The process! The complexities! The fog!
    The incremental steps!
    I doubt that you can imagine how ambivalent and confused we all become as a result of these
    complexities. And then there is our neighbors – Russia!
    Of course this also has a huge impact on how we speak and write English. How do we
    Norwegians maintain the wonderful and amazingly complex, but oh so fragile status quo in
    our foreign policy? Can you provide a simple answer to that question? Do we for example
    write color or colour? What would the unintended consequences be for our respective
    relationships with London and Washington – if we made a definitive choice in this respect?
    Personally, I always write a couple of comments in some British blog spelling it as
    “colour”, if I’ve written “color” at TWN, and vice versa – just for the sake of
    geopolitical balance. And then I go to a French blog just to write “couleur” somewhere, to
    be on the safe side. But how do the Russians react to me spelling it as color – or colour,
    or even couleur? What are the unintended consequences?
    This is a huge dilemma, and it gets bigger every day – and frankly, I don’t know how to
    solve it. If someone could come up with a solution that I could implement in incremental
    steps, I`d be very happy. In the meanwhile, I try to read up on Saussure and Morgenthau.


  11. ... says:

    ann coulter and wigwag have more then a few things in common, that much appears obvious…


  12. Outraged American says:

    Trust me Norheim, this accent thing is important.
    So if a Norwegian studied extensively overseas, could they then
    lose the accent, because the Swedes sure can. I met two Swedish
    guys in Thailand who literally looked and sounded like they came
    out of a Beach Boys’ song.
    Also, is Norway Canukistan to Sweden in the same way that
    Canukistan is to UsRael?


  13. Dan Kervick says:

    “Katrina vanden Heuvel, the leftist version of Ann Coulter.”
    This is a surprisingly bizarre characterization WigWag. vanden Heuvel is a committed but courteous woman who seems to get along rather well with Republicans she disagrees with, and debates them affably and respectfully. I just heard her on the radio this week delivering a joint opinion piece with Grover Nordquist in favor of a US version of “question time”. When have you ever heard Anne Coulter defending constructive, civil debate, or engaging in it herself?


  14. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Bachmann: America ‘cursed’ by God ‘if we reject Israel’”
    Get used to it, Doc. If Obama doesn’t get his shit together, he is going to put these wackjobs back in power.


  15. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “So the answer is: no, we don’t favor a British OR an American accent, generally
    speaking. It depends”
    Congratulations Paul. You have managed to compose a post as vague and non-commital as questions’ best efforts at saying nothing in as many words as possible. And yet you said nothing in far fewer words. No small accomplishment, that.
    Now, if we can just get questions to take a lesson or two from you, he may become proficient at saying nothing in even less words than it takes you to say nothing. Its actually quite heartening, because if he perfects this technique, he may actually reach the desired point of not using ANY words to say nothing. And then, at last, I would be able to agree with something he didn’t say, because he didn’t say it.


  16. Doctor Know says:

    Bachmann: America ‘cursed’ by God ‘if we reject Israel’
    By Andy Birkey 2/8/10 8:34 AM Digg Tweet
    At a Republican Jewish Coalition event in Los Angeles last week, Rep. Michele Bachmann offered a candid view of her positions on Israel: Support for Israel is handed down by God and if the United States pulls back its support, America will cease to exist.
    The Republican Jewish Coalition is the same organization that recently hired former Sen. Norm Coleman. Bachmann’s appearance on Feb.1 is part of a whirlwind of national events for Bachmann in February. Next up: she’s keynoting the Take Back Washington North Dakota event in Bismarck this Friday night.
    Here’s a transcript of some of her remarks at the RJC event:
    I am convinced in my heart and in my mind that if the United States fails to stand with Israel, that is the end of the United States . . . [W]e have to show that we are inextricably entwined, that as a nation we have been blessed because of our relationship with Israel, and if we reject Israel, then there is a curse that comes into play. And my husband and I are both Christians, and we believe very strongly the verse from Genesis [Genesis 12:3], we believe very strongly that nations also receive blessings as they bless Israel. It is a strong and beautiful principle.
    Right now in my own private Bible time, I am working through Isaiah . . . and there is continually a coming back to what God gave to Israel initially, which was the Torah and the Ten Commandments, and I have a wonderful quote from John Adams that if you will indulge me [while I find it] . . . [from his February 16, 1809 letter to François Adriaan van der Kemp]:
    I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation. If I were an atheist, and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations. If I were an atheist of the other sect, who believe or pretend to believe that all is ordered by chance, I should believe that chance had ordered the Jews to preserve and propagate to all mankind the doctrine of a supreme, intelligent, wise, almighty sovereign of the universe, which I believe to be the great essential principle of all morality, and consequently of all civilization.
    . . . So that is a very long way to answer your question, but I believe that an explicit statement from us about our support for Israel as tied to American security, we would do well to do that.


  17. Paul Norheim says:

    Outraged: what do you think? We all have a more or less horrible NORWEGIAN accent. Check out
    Torbjørn Jagland (the one who gave Obama the Nobel) on YouTube, to get an idea. The
    variations depend on which district of Norway the speaker comes from. Jagland is from Oslo
    (or Lier, nearby the capital), and I’m from Mo i Rana – 1000 kilometers north of Oslo. Even
    the INDIANS would laugh if they’d heard my English!
    Well, that was perhaps an exaggeration… I think my English is a hybrid between British and
    American, mixed up with some undeterminable stuff from Africa, Bergen, Northern Norway and
    Oslo, because I’ve moved a lot during my life.
    Seriously… In addition to TV, music, films, books at University etc. many young people
    here study for a while in England or USA, and their accent is colored by that. But in
    general – seriously – I think it’s more colored by the accent of your particular Norwegian
    dialect, than by anything else. But the general level is not bad, compared to, say the
    French, or the Italians – it’s more like the Dutch, who also have an accent, but not very
    strong. So the answer is: no, we don’t favor a British OR an American accent, generally
    speaking. It depends.


  18. Kathleen Grasso Andersen says:

    Hmmm, looks like hell froze over…I’ve been AWOL because I’m sick of complaining about Team Obama and the DNC/DLC…I was glad to see Steve yesterday morning on MSNBC Live, saying that Team Obama had no strategy…last time I commented here, I called it the “Look Ma,No Hands” strategy or the “How to fail without really trying” strategy…but then again, except for Howard Dean and his 50 State strategy, the DNC/DLC have no strategy either,,,unless you call it the “Tuck Tail, hat in hand” strategy…I guess Dean was too effective…that’s why he wasn’t appointed Secretary of Health…
    Obama needs to put a sign on his fridge door that says Repugs are a shrivelling minority headed down the road to exticntion…save them from themselves at your own peril…but not ours. Forget “Bi-partisan” that’s a myth…no one gives a flying fuck about it but you.
    Repugs want BO to ditch the health care legislation…do it and replace it with single payer..vote on it… up or down…let them filibuster their ossiffied fossilized noggins to oblivion….
    Repugs have Joe the Plumber…Progressives should adopt Larry the Cable Guy and tell the DNC to “Get ‘er done”!


  19. DonS says:

    “I beg your pardon?!”
    True, Paul, you have been less vocal.
    Hope your arm is healing well.


  20. Outraged American says:

    What does that mean? The Swedes I met in Thailand had perfect
    Americans accents whereas other nationalities had Brit accents.
    You yourself said that Norwegian TV was 75 % (?) American. So
    when Norwegians speak English, do they favor a Brit accent or an
    American accent?


  21. DonS says:

    uh, OA, Norwegian accent.


  22. samuelburke says:

    Douglas Valentine has this piece over at lewrockwell dot com
    “Last week the U.S. Government began floating the idea of
    welcoming low and mid-level Taliban defectors into its war on
    terror against Al Qaeda. After waging an eight-year “dirty war”
    against the Taliban, U.S. military commanders and politicians
    are publicly acknowledging their “insurgent” enemy is actually
    part of the “fabric” of Afghan society.
    U.S. and NATO officials are also offering bribes from a billion-
    dollar “Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund” to Taliban fighters
    to defect.
    Taliban leaders have condemned the buyout strategy as a “trick”
    to divide and conquer its forces, and said that offers of
    reconciliation were futile without a withdrawal of foreign troops.
    This billion dollar buyout may, indeed, seem a bizarre reversal
    of fortunes, but only if one believes the U.S. genuinely wants
    reconciliation with the Taliban. In reality, defectors programs
    like the one proposed for Afghanistan are an essential part of
    the traditional U.S. pacification policy. For example, the so-
    called Chieu Hoi “Open Arms” program is touted by military
    historians as having produced positive results throughout the
    Vietnam War by offering “clemency to insurgents.”
    Make no mistake about it: this too is propaganda. Defector
    “amnesty” or “clemency” or “open arms” programs are
    aggressive CIA intelligence operations and have nothing to do
    with reconciliation.”


  23. Outraged American says:

    Norheim, since it appears that you’re online, what accent do
    Norwegians have when they speak English, US or Brit.
    Don’t worry I’ll use whatever you tell me wisely.


  24. Paul Norheim says:

    “and here I was about to nominate Wigwag for the ‘restraint and discretion’ award
    of the week. Oh well.”
    I beg your pardon?!


  25. DonS says:

    and here I was about to nominate Wigwag for the ‘restraint and discretion’ award of the week. Oh well.


  26. Paul Norheim says:

    I know you have a camera (or mobile phone), and it would be nice to see a photo of
    Churchill as a snowman! We have one in Oslo as well, not far from the US Embassy and
    the Nobel Institute. If he’s not covered in snow, he’s covered in pigeon shit (I
    think he deserves that for Dresden).
    Reading your quotes of UK Ambassador Sheinwald’s speech reminds me of all the
    optimistic talk of new strategies during the Vietnam war. That war lasted for almost
    16 years. After 8 years in Afghanistan, and Nato/US forces preparing an
    offensive(equivalent of the Tet offensive, and the subsequent withdrawal of troops on
    the ground in 1968?), I wonder how long this one will last.


  27. John Waring says:

    I read these words form the British ambassador and just shudder.
    If the men we send were from the planet Krypton, if they spoke the several languages of the region, if they had the wisdom of Solomon, and if Karzai and his circle were the American founding fathers, we might succeed.
    Nowhere in this speech do I get a sense of the harsh, harsh reality of Afghanistan. Nowhere in this speech do I get a sense of how little the interests of Pakistan coincide with ours.
    My heart goes out to our soldiers. God speed and safe return.


  28. Steven Clemons says:

    Wig — Even you know that is an overstatement. 🙂 Ann Coulter?
    best, steve


  29. WigWag says:

    “Well, jiminy cricket, I just learned that Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel has started a weekly “online” column for The Washington Post.”
    (Steve Clemons)
    Katrina vanden Heuvel, the leftist version of Ann Coulter.
    Isn’t the Washington Post lucky to have her!


  30. Outraged American says:

    Dianne Feinstein made a fortune off of the 2nd Iraq invasion.
    Churchill, according to the New Yorker, during WW I, knew the
    German’s codes had been broken and knew that they would attack
    a ship, which ended up being the Lusitania.
    Voila, America is brought into yet another war we should have had
    nothing to do with by the cry “Remember 9/11” Whoops, I meant
    “Remember the Lusitania.”
    I have incredible admirance for Steve’s restraint because I
    personally can’t exchange bon mots with mass murderers,
    especially if, like Feinstein, they’re still alive.
    Call out to Cali voters — get Feinstein voted out.


  31. Don Bacon says:

    Who is better qualified than a Brit to advise us on how to achieve success in Afghanistan? So, according to Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald we must become more efficient in creating safe havens for the Afghans so that there will be no safe havens for Afghans . . . it gets so confusing. It would be sooo much easier if the country only had a functioning non-corrupt government.
    Well, it there is no government then we will build one, won’t we. Will we? In one of the poorest, most illiterate and corrupt countries on earth?


  32. samuelburke says:

    Steve, as a regular reader of your blog i want to say how glad i
    was to see you do a hard hitting piece of critical reporting on the
    obama admins four horsemen of the apocalypse.
    It would be nice to see more of this less nuanced approach by
    you in your blogging that overlooks the overlords feelings in the
    royal city and feels more citizen friendly.
    As a lifelong republican voter i am glad to see a democrat in the
    white house and look forward to seeing a more citizen friendly
    obama administration during the next three years of his
    I would like to see obama do more to change the foreign policy
    mindset ruling washington that seems to be leading us into a
    very serious confrontation with china and or russia.
    good luck to you in your endeavors.
    now go out and build a snoman and throw a snowball or two,
    that snowstorm looks wonderful.


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