Sunday :: Jul 30, 2006

From The Mouth Of A Bu$hCo Mental Midget

by pessimist

All of the following quotes are from the transcript of Meet The Press for 7/30/06. The excerpts used here were slightly edited for readability purposes. All original ideas should still be intact, but any errors are mine alone.

"[O]ur president and our secretary of state, although they speak with great moral clarity, have no moral authority. That's been shattered by their performance in Iraq. The world hates George Bush more than any U.S. president in my lifetime. He is radioactive - and so caught up in his own ideological bubble that he is incapable of imagining or forging alternative strategies."

These words, written by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman on 7/28/06, were called 'strong' by Tim Russert this morning on Mete The Cess, which I have to say is getting slightly - that's S-L-I-G-H-T-L-Y - better (now that it's clear that the Bush regime is losing support beyond that level which lower Nielsen ratings will be profitable), were the start of comments which indicate that - while he's got a long way to go to shake off the neo-confidence smell he's drenched with - he's beginning to use that brain of his.

Of course, now that eRiposte has exposed that Friedman is shacked up with a billionairess, the de-odorizing could take a whole lot longer than I originally thought - but I digress.

Case in point: today, he came up with a realistic - if simplistic - strategy for bringing about a cease-fire that the participants could consider honorable:

"To go on now is just going to be more killing for no purpose whatsoever. ...let Hezbollah be able to say, 'OK, we held the Israelis back'; let Israel be able to say, 'We inflicted a terrible, punishing blow for this reckless action.' Precisely when you have people in that mode, that's the best time for diplomacy."

As I said, simplistic - but workable as a realistic start to the negotiation process.

Concerning his opening observations of world hatred for King George, tabbed 'strong' by Russert, Friedman had this to say:

It was strong. It's meant to be strong. Look at the situation we're now in. You can't go anywhere in the world right now ... without getting that feeling from people thrown in your face.

Foreigners love to make fun of Americans. Our naivete, our crazy thought that every problem has a solution, that silly American notion, that silly American optimism.

But you know what, Tim? Deep down, the world really envies that American optimism and naivete. [T]he world needs that American optimism and naivete. Whether it's an African or a European or an Arab or Israeli, it's that idea of an optimistic America out there. People really need that idea...

[S]o when we go from a country that, historically, has always exported hope to a country that always exports fear, what we do, and what this administration has done, is [we are seen as] actually [having] stolen something from people.
[T]he sort of dark nature of the Cheneys and the Bushes and the Rices - this sort of relentless pessimism about the world, this exporting of fear, not hope - has really left people feeling that the idea of America has been stolen from them. I would argue that that is the animating force behind so much of the animus directed at George Bush.

It's an interesting thought, one which I wouldn't have come up with, but I think it merits discussion.

In addition, Friedman isn't taking the 'Israel - Right Or Right' approach (access to a billionairess' bank account maketh for a loose and irreverent tongue!). Instead, he's suggesting that past tactics are inappropriate:

[T]he role of America is to be the guiding light there, not to fly air cover so more of this violence can continue indefinitely. If I thought it was going to work, I, I'd feel different. It's not going to work. It's not going to work for them, and it's not going to work for us, and it's not going to work for Lebanon or the Palestinians. We've got to find another way.

This isn't to say that he's blaiming Israel for starting this fracas:

Israel didn't court this war.
It was brought on by Hezbollah...
trying to elevate its importance,
a little power play within Lebanese politics.

He also points out that the traditional allies of anti-Israeli factions didn't start out expressing support this time. In fact, they started out with the criticism shoe on the opposite hoof:

When I went out there, you had Saudi Arabia issuing a remarkable statement, first time ever, blaming Hezbollah for a reckless action in initiating this war, without even the ritual condemnation of Israel.

What was that about? That was the Sunni-Arab countries - Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt - looking at this war in pure historical Shiite/Sunni terms. They see this war as the Shiite-Iranians, through Hezbollah, making a power play not only to dominate Lebanon, but to take the Palestinian issue away from the Sunni-Arab world. So that was how they reacted.

I'm going to take a brief detour here. At the end of the program, NBC had Brian Williams preview the major topic for the Monday's NBC Nightly News:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Tim, it's an emotional topic right now, politically dicey, but increasing talk in this country and elsewhere that Israel just might have made a big mistake.

Friedman points out why Israel is seen as making a mistake - and what that mistake has caused:

[W]hat we're doing right now, what Israel's doing right now - smashing things in Gaza again, smashing things in Lebanon - I understand it. I understand the anger and the rage. You're minding your own business, and one day these guys come across the border. But it's not working. It's just not working.
Israel destroyed the PLO, and it got Hamas.
Now it's destroying Hamas, and it's going to get chaos.
And you can't repeat the same thing in Lebanon.

Friedman explains why the effects of the Bu$hCo kool-aid seems to have no effect on him right now:

[A]s I went around from Jordan to Damascus, one of the things you really feel when you're in that part of the world, Tim, are all the Arab satellite TV stations - Al Arabiya, Al Jazeera - they're on everywhere. They're the Muzak of the Arab world. And everywhere you turn, you see images of Israeli planes and bombs destroying Arab and Lebanese homes in Lebanon.

The impact of that has 'inflamed', as always, the Arab street, and it's made these regimes - our closest friends Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt - enormously uncomfortable. And you're now seeing the blowback from that.

[T]he Syrians are feeling very confident right now because they know the street is with them... and they're looking at the Saudis and the Egyptians and the Jordanians and saying, "You guys ... look awful uncomfortable over there. The street's with us."

I haven't been to Syria in a long time. If I found one thing ... [working] in the Arab world for 25 years as a Jewish-American reporter - here's what I found. I found that listening is a sign of respect.

You know, if you just go over and listen to people, and what they have to say, it's amazing what they'll allow you to say back. But when you just say, "We're not going to go to Damascus, we're not going to listen to the Syrians", you're never going to get anywhere that way. I'm not guaranteeing you're going to get somewhere the other way, but all I know, you sure increase the odds if you sit down and just listen.

Friedman is showing with this next comment that what remains of his brain after becoming the Boy Toy of the Rich and Even More Rich is still capable of thoughtful criticism:

I think that there is a possibility if we sat down with the Syrians and said, "What do you need? Here's what we need. Let's have a rational, long-term dialogue," not one of these Condi Rice specials of 20 minutes in the Middle East - "I touched the base and went back" - but a serious, rational dialogue.

Detour again! Russert discussed Condi's diplomatic ineptitude with Mrs. Greenspan after playing this following videotape excerpt from the Lebanese Prime Minister's reaction speech:

(Videotape, This Morning):

MR. FUAD SINIORA: We scream out to our fellow Lebanese and to other Arab brothers and to the whole world to stand united in the face of the Israeli war criminals. The persistence of Israel in its heinous crimes against our civilians will not break the will of the Lebanese people. There is no place on this sad morning for any discussion other than an immediate and unconditional cease-fire, as well as the international investigation into the Israeli massacres in Lebanon now.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Let's go live to Jerusalem where NBC's Andrea Mitchell (Mrs. Greenspan) is traveling with Secretary of State Rice.

Andrea, you just heard the Lebanese prime minister say there's no need to talk. He wants an immediate and unconditional cease-fire. What does this do to the negotiations, to the shuttle diplomacy of Secretary Rice?

MS. ANDREA MITCHELL: Well, potentially it scuttles her shuttle diplomacy. It means now she will meet again with Prime Minister Olmert here in Israel and clearly express her distress.

I'm told that they are very angry with the Israelis for having launched this rocket attack after last night. Secretary Rice told the prime minister that she wanted him to show maximum restraint. They thought that they were closing on a deal. She was scheduled to go to Beirut today. Now, Tim, it may be impossible for her to return to Beirut. She may have to come home empty-handed.

Timmy actually remembered how to be a journalist today, and asked a credible follow-up:

MR. RUSSERT: Andrea, let me show you the scene in downtown Beirut today when thousands of Lebanese citizens took to the street and forcefully entered the United Nations headquarters, kicking and smashing and, and inflicting damage on that building. Is there any sense with the U.S. delegation that perhaps it may have been a mistake to give the green light to Israel to continue their incursion into Lebanon for days and weeks? And how concerned are American officials about public opinion in Lebanon, particularly with Sunni Muslims and Christian Lebanese, who are not disposed to support Hezbollah?

MS. MITCHELL: Well, they are very concerned. In fact, this really does weaken Prime Minister Siniora, and they were trying to strengthen him. This strengthens Hezbollah, and indirectly its sponsor, Iran. It undercuts the Lebanese prime minister's ability to cut a deal.

They would argue that they didn't give a total green light to Israel, that they were urging restraint, and they now believe that they have to impress Israel with the fact that Israel has to give something up. So she's going to try to win some concessions - some further political concessions from Israel, before returning home.

But this really does weaken the U.S. hand and make it likely that now everything will move to the United Nations, where the U.S. is not playing from strength. There will be increasing pressure for an immediate cease-fire, Tim.

They could threaten to replace Condi with Bolton... NAH! That would mean war for sure.

Speaking of that, Timmy decided to update that little problem as well, and the reporter did not sugar-coat the scene:

MR. RUSSERT: Let's go to NBC's Richard Engel, who's in the town of Tyre in southern Lebanon. He has just returned from Qana, the site of the missile attack.

Richard, what did you see, what did you witness?

MR. RICHARD ENGEL: When we arrived, we saw this destroyed building, it was a three-story home under construction. There'd been dozens of people in the basement of this house, mostly women and children it, appears. I counted 11 bodies of small boys, perhaps aged eight to 10. They were being carried out, some on stretchers, some were being carried out just in blankets, one body on top of the other. It - the most of the, the children looked like they died from blast injuries. The bodies were intact, but they were bleeding from their ears and from their noses. Then we went to the morgue and saw about 22 bodies lined up on the floor. They were wrapped in plastic, tied shut in packaging tape.

Remarkably, several people did survive, and we went to the hospital, and we spoke with one woman who was in this shelter at the time. She dug herself out of it. She was buried up to the waist in rubble. She also dug one of her children out who was below her, totally covered in rubble, but her daughter she was not able to find, and she was among the victims today.

Timmy went to get a reaction to the Israeli excuse that they should be held blameless - and again Engel didn't hold back:

MR. RUSSERT: Richard, the Israelis have made a point that they leafletted that area, they have asked people to leave there, that in fact it was a target zone. Why didn't the people in that particular area leave?

MR. ENGEL: Many towns like Qana, there are still people living there who can't go. They are very poor, they have no way out, they don't have cars, there's no taxi service. Some people have just walked.

But even if these poor people left towns like Qana,
where are they going to go?
If they came to this city, for example, there might not be any place for them to stay. So these are really the poorest of the poor. They have fled their homes.

This woman I spoke to who lived through the attack had fled her home about 11 days ago because all of the surrounding homes had been destroyed, and they felt they were safe in this shelter. It was on the outskirts of town, an area that, as they said, had not been hit before.

Timmy brought up yet another excuse, and while Engel wasn't so emotional about the answer this time, at least he ointed out that there was no sign of Hezbollah combatants:

MR. RUSSERT: Richard, did you see any indication, any evidence of the Hezbollah militia? In fact, is that area of Qana a Hezbollah stronghold?

MR. ENGEL: It certainly is. There were no Hezbollah militiamen or gunmen on the scene, but people I spoke to clearly were sympathetic to Hezbollah. I spoke with one man who was there helping to evacuate some of the people from the area, to make room for heavy bulldozers that were still looking for bodies. He had Hezbollah tattoos on his arms. So there is - there were Hezbollah flags all around the, the town. So it clearly is an area with tremendous Hezbollah support.

I'm not sure that alone justifies it being bombed, but that discussion is already underway all over the word. We'll see what comes of it.

Back to Tommy. He - unlike the Bu$hco masters he serves - remembers his history, and uses it to justify his slap of Condi quoted earlier:

MR. FRIEDMAN: Do you know how many times I went with Jim Baker to Syria when he was preparing the Gulf War coalition and the Madrid Peace Conference? I believe it was 15 times. And you know what I remember most about those trips, Tim? That I think on 14 of them, the lead of my story was "Secretary of State James A. Baker III Failed Today." Failed in his effort to, to draw Syria in.

But guess what? On trip 15, he brought the Syrians into the Madrid Peace Conference. Those are the same Syrians, by the way, who were behind the attacks on the Americans in Beirut in 1982. They haven't changed. This is a tough, brutal and mean regime, but [do business with them] with the right approach [by the administration]. Hezbollah can't do what it does if that Syrian bridge is broken.

Syrian officials stressed to me over and over again, "Our marriage with Iran is a marriage of convenience." This is a secular Sunni country. It's got an Alawite regime, but it's a secular Sunni country, Syria. And being in a car driven by two Shiite radicals - Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, and Nasrallah from, from Lebanon - that's not so comfortable for the Syrians. Particularly because in this car, Tim, they're in the back seat and the guys in the front got no brakes.

[There] was a dinner with a group of Syrian writers arranged by some friends of mine. ... one woman was saying how she's believes Israel should be eliminated, and another Arab journalist was saying how much pride he gets by seeing Hezbollah fight the Israelis to a standstill and inflict these casualties.

And a third, very interesting, was saying,
"This Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, he's a disaster for us."
But there are too many people, Tim, outside of Lebanon, in the Arab world, getting their buzz off seeing Hezbollah stand up to Israel while Lebanon gets decimated. Lebanon - the first Arab democracy. [T]hese are people who hate others more than they love their own kids, more than they love their own future. And that's crazy, and that's part of the pathology of that part of the world.

[I]t's time for the Arab world to stop getting their buzz off fighting Israel and to overcome their humiliation that way. It's time to start building something.

Sixteen years ago, Friedman wrote:

"There will be no new Middle East - not as long as the New Middle Easterners, like Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, get gunned down; not as long as Old Middle Easterners, like Nasrallah, use all their wits and resources to start a new Arab-Israeli war rather than build a new Arab university; and not as long as Arab media and intellectuals refuse to speak out clearly against those who encourage their youth to embrace martyrdom with religious zeal rather than meld modernity with Arab culture."
- From Beirut to Jerusalem

Friedman closed with some interesting thoughts:

You ever ask yourself, Tim, what's the second largest Muslim country in the world? It's India. It's not Pakistan or Iran.

What do we see in India? Just a couple of weeks ago, 350 Indians killed in what is widely suspected an attack by Muslim extremists in Mumbai in a train station. But the Indian reaction was incredibly restrained. Why is that? [W]hy don't Indian Muslims get their buzz this [Israeli v. Hezbollah] way?

Could it be because the richest man in India is a Muslim software entrepreneur?
Could it be because the president of India is a Muslim?
Could it be because there's an Indian Muslim woman on the Indian Supreme Court?
Could it be because the leading female movie star in India is a Muslim woman?

You know, when people get their dignity from building things rather than confronting other people, it's amazing what politics flows from that. And I think that's something the Arab world also needs to be reflecting on now.

It wouldn't hurt if there was some thought on this topic in Jerusalem - and in Washington as well!

* ~ * * ~ * * ~ *

I got to listen to this interview with Friedman, and I came away with the idea that he was being sincere with his comments - provided he wasn't merely spouting PNAC / AIPAC talking points (mostly left behind for this post on the edit room floor). I think he honestly cares about what is happening to Lebanon and what it means for Israel.

I just wish he cared as much about what is happening to the United States of America. Maybe then he wouldn't come off as a Bu$hco hack so often.

He might actually be a real journalist someday - not that he needs the money anymore.

It makes one wonder what Timmy would be like if his significant other was rolling in the dough like Tommy's is!

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