Friday, February 17, 2006

Somebody Woke Up with a Horse's Head Underneath His Covers

Shooting Victim Apologizes to Shooter

Harry Whittington said Friday he was sorry for what Dick Cheney and his family have "had to go through" after the vice president shot him in a weekend hunting accident.

Man Shot by Shooter Says He's Sorry for Shooter

"My family and I are deeply sorry for everything Vice President Cheney and his family have had to deal with," he said.

Friday Natalie Portman Blogging

Because it's the law.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Op-Ed Round Up

First, George Will lambastes the administration's NSA spying policy, making the same connection Senator Bulworth made at this very web blog last month:

Anyway, the argument that the AUMF contained a completely unexpressed congressional intent to empower the president to disregard the FISA regime is risible coming from this administration. It famously opposes those who discover unstated meanings in the Constitution's text and do not strictly construe the language of statutes.

The administration's argument about the legality of the NSA program also has been discordant with its argument about the urgency of extending the USA Patriot Act. Many provisions of that act are superfluous if a president's wartime powers are as far-reaching as today's president says they are.

So the Senator isn't alone in wondering how one's "strict constructivism" and judicial "originalism" beliefs are supposed to mesh with the highly ambiguous, extra-constitutional, loosey-goosey, "unitary-executive" theory and the presidential activism inherent in "presidential signing statements".

Meanwhile, on the Shooter front, David Brooks has been reading our blogs, and isn't pleased with our conspiracy-mongering:

So in the days following the Cheney-Whittington accident, liberal pundits had to live up to their responsibility to manufacture a series of unsubstantiated allegations while turning the episode into a Clifford Odets-style tale of plutocrats gone wild. "Was he drunk? I mean, these are ultrarich Republicans, at a weekend, fun-time hunting," the pundit Lawrence O'Donnell wondered on MSNBC.

Meanwhile over at the blogosphere, the keyboard jockeys had a responsibility to sniff up vast conspiracies and get lost in creepy minutiae. "The 50,000 acre Armstrong Ranch is in Kenedy County. So I figure the Armstrongs probably have a lot of pull in county government. So, just a question: how thorough was the investigation of what happened?" the influential blogger Josh Marshall queried darkly. Earlier, he veered off, as he must, into picayune and skin-crawling theorizing about the path the pellets took through Whittington's body:

"Would the weapon and ammunition Dick Cheney shot have the force to imbed pellets near Whittington's heart at 30 yards? ... These pellets would have to have pierced his clothing, his skin and then lodged inside the body cavity, somewhere near or around his heart. The shot came from the right and the heart is on the left so that might add to the amount of tissue needing to be traversed."

Hear that, you liberal web-bloggerers? So the VP shot some guy, didn't allow himself to be interviewed by authorities until some 14-18 hours after the incident. Big deal. Doesn't mean he was too drunk to do so. It just means that the VP, even though he did have something to smooth over the edges before going hunting, didn't want to concern the authorities with the fact that he accidently shot some bb's into his friend, who was really at fault anyway, for getting hisself shot. Probably Shooter didn't want to risk his friend being arrested for not announcing himself properly.

Beyond that, Josh M and Jack Cafferty, Howie sez that Cheney's choice of Hume to "interview" him was a fair and balanced one, since the F network is the number one cable "news" station and of all the networks out there, only the F one gives the Repubs a fair shake. So double double there, you far left bloggerers.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Can Someone Please Page the "Liberal" Media?

The NYT this morning has a piece in the Arts section (reminding us, however unintentionally, that the media is an art, as opposed to a factual or reality based production) on CNN's Lou Dobbs, emphasizing the host's immigration obsession seen through his nightly "broken borders" segment, which usually comes complete with some hysterical reference to the impact of "illegals" coming over the border from Mexico, the threat from terrorism, regular crime, and jobs that said brown people speaking a funny language have on good old Americans.

Anyway, the piece says

Night after night, Lou Dobbs slides into his anchor chair, turns to the camera and becomes the sober and steady face of CNN. At 60, he has more than three decades of experience, silvering hair and a voice that rumbles with authority. And for most of his program, he looks and feels like a traditional, nothing-but-the-news television host.

Then the topic turns to illegal immigration, and the sober newsman starts breathing fire.

Mr. Dobbs batters the Bush administration for doing too little to stop millions of migrants from slipping across the border with Mexico. He slams businesses and advocacy groups for helping illegal aliens thrive here. He hails the beleaguered officials who struggle to enforce immigration laws. As his scorching commentaries spill across the nation's television screens, first-time viewers might be forgiven for rubbing their eyes in wonder.

Here is Mr. Dobbs, discussing the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to legislation that would make it a federal crime to assist illegal immigrants: "Tonight, the effort to secure this nation's borders has a new opponent. It is the Catholic Church."

Here he is on the Minutemen, the civilians labeled "vigilantes" by their critics for patrolling the border — sometimes armed — in search of illegal immigrants: "I support the Minuteman Project and the fine Americans who make it up in all they've accomplished, fully, relentlessly and proudly."

And here he is criticizing the White House: "How about a congressional investigation of this administration that refuses to enforce either immigration laws or border security, period?"


Many conservatives praise him for giving a rare national platform to people who fear that illegal immigrants are taking jobs from Americans, fueling violent crime and threatening national security. Critics deride him as anti-immigrant, racist and biased, charges he fiercely denies. One Democratic congressman was so incensed that he stood up on the House floor last year to denounce Mr. Dobbs's continuing series "Broken Borders" as a "broken record."

But Mr. Dobbs remains unapologetic. He says he has no interest in assuming the conventional role of the anchor who reports the news dispassionately. His mission, he says, is to tell American viewers the truth, no matter how uncomfortable or controversial.

"There's nothing fair and balanced about me," said Mr. Dobbs, tweaking his Fox News rivals' slogan, as he settled into his office overlooking Central Park one recent afternoon. "Because there's nothing fair and balanced about the truth. 'He says, she says' journalism is a monstrous cop-out."

"I happen to believe strongly and passionately that we are a nation of immigrants," he added. "But only fools with an agenda can defend illegal immigration."


But by repeatedly presenting his forceful opinions on illegal immigration and other subjects — on "Moneyline" he criticized the Justice Department for indicting the accounting firm Arthur Andersen in the Enron scandal — Mr. Dobbs has stepped squarely into the debate over whether cable news anchors are breaching the bright line that has traditionally separated commentary from news.


But for the fans of Mr. Dobbs's segments on illegal immigration, it is precisely his melding of reporting and forthright opinion that is such a powerful draw. "People across the country tune in to Lou Dobbs because they know their views on immigration will be presented," said Rosemary Jenks, director of governmental relations at NumbersUSA, a policy group that favors reducing immigration. "He is a hero to a lot of people."

Mr. Dobbs's critics, who sometimes appear on his program, acknowledge that he explores the issue of immigration more deeply than any other anchor on television. But, they complain, he fails to point out that the overwhelming majority of illegal immigrants are hard-working people who take jobs that Americans don't want.

Representative Luis V. Gutierrez, Democrat of Illinois, became so frustrated with the program that he invited Mr. Dobbs to Washington in 2004 to hear the concerns of about 12 members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He said Mr. Dobbs listened politely, but his program remained the same.

It was Mr. Gutierrez who denounced the program on the House floor last year. "He says, 'I'm fair,' but then he portrays immigrants as purely law breakers and as a threat to our national security," Mr. Gutierrez said. "Meanwhile, he praises other lawbreakers — such as the vigilantes in the Minutemen. And I watch this, and I can't comprehend it."

Mr. Dobbs, who was born in Texas and grew up in Idaho, says he has worked on farms alongside migrant workers, picking beans, hauling potatoes and bailing hay. He says he appreciates the contributions that immigrants have made to this country, though he refuses to discuss his own immigrant heritage.

"One of the things I hate is hyphenated Americans," Mr. Dobbs said testily when a reporter tried to draw him out about his family's history. "I don't give a damn about all of that. We're just Americans."

Mr. Dobbs said he tried to include the voices of "people who would be ignored" because, in his view, too many reporters are too politically correct to give critics of illegal immigration a fair hearing. "Their voices have been denied," he said of many of his guests and viewers.

Mr. Dobbs, who owns a horse farm in New Jersey, says he has never hired an illegal alien. And as for offering a more nuanced portrayal of illegal immigrants on his program, he says he has no interest in treading that territory.

Instead, he plans to continue exposing what he describes as the collusion between the Bush administration, business executives and the Mexican government to disregard immigration laws so as to ensure that America's businesses have a steady stream of cheap labor and Mexico has an outlet for its poor.

"I know firsthand from my own experience that migrant workers are good people," Mr. Dobbs said. "That isn't the issue. We are a nation of immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws. If we fail as a nation of laws, the rest doesn't make one bit of difference."

So, after being exposed to snippets of Dobb's vitriol about immigrants through most of the piece we get to the end where the pugnacious cable tv "news" hosts says that his real concern is that we are a "nation of laws". He doesn't hate immigrants, mind you, he just cares about the law.

But strangely, we read earlier in the piece that Dobbs didn't like it that the Justice Department went after the accounting firm Arthur Anderson, as a part of the Enron investigation. I mean, after all, if Arthur Anderson was complicit or negligent regarding its Enron audits, they should be held accountable under the law, right? Apparently not, for lifelong Republican and big business schooze Lou Dobbs.

And maybe this has you wondering what Dobbs thought of the Plame scandal and the Fitzpatrick investigation into the violation of a CIA agent's cover. That's the law, right? Nation of laws, nobody's above the law? Dobbs was on the side of "the law" in that case, right? Dobbs was concerned that the sanctity of the law be enforced in this case, right? Um, no.

Maybe you wonder what Dobbs thinks of the law and Tom DeLay? He's on the side of the prosecutor, right? He cares about finding out whether Tom DeLay broke any campaign financing laws, right? Um, no.

So the law is important when it concerns Mexicans immigrants, but not anybody else, at least not his white skin, white collar buddies.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Plea for Civility

Events of the past several weeks have compelled me to issue a plea to my fellow lefty blogospherites to please be nice to the right-wing bloggers and media personnel behind the protective bubble. They're not used to being challenged, and quite frankly, don't deserve it.

I'm glad that Michael Berube has stepped forward to accept responsibility for his snarking of David Horowitz. That's a start. Michael should know that just because David made a harmless, unconfirmed report about some professor showing the movie Fahrenheit 911, which apparently never happened, to one of his classes, that that's no reason to suspect that David does not have the best interests of America's college students and America's universities at heart. Sure, sure, he gets a little carried away sometimes on his website and in his books, mocking free thought and calling for a McCarthite purge of the academic ranks, but really, let's cut the guy some slack. It's not like he's calling for affirmative action for conservative would-be professors who are too greedy to accept the profession's long hours and modest pay, and too anti-intellectual to put up with the profession's rigor and insufferable working conditions just to go through the exercise of getting advanced degrees.

But just as Michael was apologizing, Glenn Greenwald goes and makes things worse. Mr. Greenwald should know that the perfessor, Glenn Reynolds, also known as Instapundit, is a very busy man, so busy in fact that he can't put the time in to allowing comments on his blog*. So Greenwald shouldn't have troubled Perfessor Reynolds by asking readers to email the perfessor asking him to comment on or refute the "raghead" comments of fellow CPAC speaker Ann Coulter.

Mr. Reynolds, who shouldn't have to put up with this stuff, because really, he's just too busy, didn't care for the slew of emails that came his way. Why did Greenwald feel it necessary to rouse Perfessor Reynolds? Glenn Reynolds has long said that he just "ignores" Ann, why shouldn't we? It is true, as Greenwald says, that Reynolds has reached out to Democrats and lefty bloggers hoping to get them to repudiate the comments of someone like Ward Churchill, who just happens to be the chairperson of the Colorado Democratic Party, and speaks on behalf of all Democrats, when he says something outlandish. And it is true that Coulter is routinely on TV parrotting the Republican Party line, has called for Democratic party officials and liberal leaning justices to be assassinated, has several best sellers, is rabidly promoted by right wing blogs and news sites, and is the headline act at conservative conferences, but she really doesn't have anything to do with the Republican Party, so Greenwald should just butt out. Besides, Glenn had to contend with all these emails from "lefties" filling his mail box, and as has hopefully been made abundantly clear, he's just too busy for this kind of stuff.

Finally, I have to object to the way that poor wallflower of an editor, Jim Brady, has been treated by my brother and sister bloggers. I know, I know. Wasn't this matter over and done with, after the online "conference" (also attended by perfessor Reynolds despite his many time demands) where Jane sat before the inquisitors and faced their accusations of uncivility on the Internets? So, yes, I was surprised that Mr. Brady felt compelled to write yet again about the matter this past week, but that just shows how upset we've made him.

So, please, everybody, don't upset The Man. Moreover, let's take the Republicans' advice and cut our ties with any and all Democratic elected officials so that our bad odor won't rub off on them, causing them, the Democrats, to lose control of Congress and the presidency.

We can do it, if everyone will do their part.

*Washington, D.C.: Hi, my question is for Glenn and then maybe Jane would like to comment.

Why is it that most of the high traffic right-wing blogs don't take comments, while most of the left-wing blogs do?

From my perspective, it looks like the conservatives can dish it out, but can't take it, that they are uncomfortable subjecting their ideas to scrutiny on their own Web sites.

Jeff Jarvis: Heh.

Glenn Reynolds: I think that one reason has to do with media treatment. Charles Johnson, for example -- who does have comments -- has repeatedly faced media stories about his site in which comments made by his readers are directly attributed to him, as if he had written them. I certainly worry about that sort of thing, too. I think that lefty sites expect, and get, less of that kind of mistreatment.

I've never had comments. I get about 1000 emails a day, and I don't have time to look at those, post on my blog, AND moderate comments. And unmoderated comments raise a risk of the kind of thing I mention above, as well as possible libel and copyright issues. I've actually considered bringing someone in to do that, but that seems too impersonal.

Jeff Jarvis: But, Glenn, isn't it also true that your audience misses out on the wisdom your audience brings to you? Just as I'd tell the Post, the Times, the Guardian, et al, that they should take advantage of -- that is, enable and share -- the wisdom of their crowds, I think your public would be as interesting to read as you are. Of course, I grant that there is a cost that comes with this if you do moderate at your level of traffic v. mine. But I would love to see you find some way to be more interactive. Nick Denton and Gawker Media made that -- appropriate for them -- into a velvet-rope club where you have to be invited in. I wouldn't say that would work for you -- accusations of an echo chamber would follow. But I wonder whether isn't some way to increase your interactivity. But then the question is: Do you want to?

Glenn Reynolds: I don't know. My blog is a spare-time activity for me, and the sort of thing you describe would be another commitment of time. The Washington Post can have editors for their comments; I'd have to do it myself, or hire someone.

I am annoyed, though, by the sense of entitlement that some people bring to this discussion. The barriers to entry in blogging are very low. You want to get your ideas out? You can start a blog in 15 minutes. So why do you feel entitled -- and that's not too strong a word for what I hear sometimes -- to put your comments on someone else's site?

The Cheney Shooting

I've delayed by approximately 48 hours commenting on this story that the VP's office initially delayed by 18 hours, largely because of the potential for something like this to happen.

Being shot in the face is
no minor incident for a 78-year old man.

Update: What I meant was, I won't comment on this story except to say that this is disgusting. What are these people thinking? At long last, sir, have you no shame? Former U.S. Senator from Wyoming:

"When it's all through after a few days, people are going to laugh at the media for their overreaction," Mr. Simpson said in an interview from his home in Wyoming. "This is a hunting accident, created by the victim. Dick Cheney didn't do anything. He's a master hunter. And they're portraying him as some sort of assassin. I mean the headline I saw today was 'Cheney Bags Lawyer.'"

Amateur Hour on the Campaign Trail

Although the president's low approval ratings, combined with 12 years of Republican rule of Congress, might otherwise be occasion for a Democratic tide in 2006, there are disturbing omens emenating from the campaign trail.

Paul Hackett is not only dropping out of the Ohio Senate race, machinations by Congressional Democratic campaign chairs behind the scenes for him to so has soured him on the party and any campaigns at least this year. Kos seems to think Hackett over-reached by going for the Senate instead of a House rematch with Jean Schmidt, and consequently, is eager to pass this off as much ado about nothing. I don't buy it. Neither do Steve Gilliard, the Alt Hippo, or Atrios, among others.

From everything I've seen of Hackett, he's the kind of bold candidate Democrats have been sorely lacking for the last several decades. Maybe Sherrod Brown, a traditionally liberal Democrat from the House, will be enough to beat DeWine.
Perhaps. But the damage done by alienating Hackett and other potential candidates of his nature and background, could be substantial and long-lasting regardless of the short term outcome in this race.

But I'm afraid it gets worse.

Consider the role, surprisingly, of race. Republicans have essentially nominated one black gubernatorial candidate (and a well-known one) already in PA, and are apparently
poised to add another in Ohio. What's more, the Republicans have at least one Senatorial candidate in Maryland, and maybe another in Michigan. Steve Gilliard, whose opinion on these matters I trust a great deal, is pretty dismissive of how these black GOP candidates will play, not only with black voters but with white, conservative ones as well. While I hope he's right, the fact that the Republicans are prepared to lead with black candidates in four different states at two important levels of government should give Democrats pause for concern.

How are the Democrats responding? The only black Democrat running for high office that I can think of is Kwasi Mfume for the U.S. Maryland seat, and by most indications, he's lagging behind the presumed front runner, congressman Ben Cardin, who's about as bland as the man he's vying to replace, and that's saying something. If Cardin outduels Mfume in the primary, than so be it.

But what efforts are Democrats making to cross their own cultural and demographic divide in reaching out to new voters, like military vets? Torpedoing Hackett's candidacy was not a step in the right direction.

Chuck Schumer
has done well making money for the Senate Campaign Committee. And if former Secretary of the Navy James Webb ultimately runs against George Allen for the U.S. Senate seat from Virginia, it could be a major coup for the party. But Webb's potential candidacy aside, Democrats face tough campaigns just to HOLD Senate seats in 2006 in places like Maryland and New Jersey.

Meanwhile, Democratic gains in PA and Montana appear promising, while states like Missouri and Rhode Island (the latter of which should ordinarily be a lock) are in play for now.

Other states, unfortunately, like Nevada and Indiana, might not have a competitive Democrat running.

So while nothing ever goes as planned, the party goofed bit time in Ohio. Given the disasterous position of the Republican Party in that state, it would be the height of misfortune not to capitalize on it this year, and with their actions in the case of Paul Hackett, Senate Democrats have given Republicans a life line.

Update: a Hackett partisan, Lindsay Beyerstein, points out that Hackett was trailing Brown in the polls and falling behind in fundraising, so maybe this was inevitable in the primary context. In addition, Hackett's "I'll take my football and go home" bit was probably not the wisest course of action. Still Lindsay is optimistic Hackett we'll be back (and hopefully still on our side). As she says, "we need him".

The West Wing Comes to Town

I went to hear Bradley Whitford speak at American University last night. His appearance was sponsored by the school of public affairs. He was introduced by someone from the school who bore an uncanny resemblance to Donna Moss (Janel Moloney), who played his assistant on the show, but who in the past season went to work for Vice President Bob Russell's (Gary Cole) campaign, while Whitford's character (Josh Lyman) lined up with future nominee and dark horse candidate, Texas Congressman Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits).

In any event, Whitford gave what I would label as a free wheeling speech, interweaving anecdotes and observations from his West Wing experience (and a delicious, self-deprecating reference to the Adam Sandler vehicle, Billy Madison, in which Whitford played the scheming brother--Whitford claims to not ever having actually watched the movie) with his political opinions and endeavors.

He joked that on behalf of the acting president, he thanked them for welcoming him.

On the substance, Whitford criticized the descent of political discourse, particularly on cable television (which reminded me of Jon Stewart's rap on his renowned Cross Fire visit), which he argued amounts to not much more than each side trading programmed talking points and insults, after which no one learns anything and no minds are changed, or at least even affected.

Whitford also deadpanned the acting business and the habit of celebrities to venture political opinions. He referred to these types of people, in typical self mocking style, as Meat Puppets. He admonished the audience that when people like him speak out to consider the speaker's motivation and their actual knowledge of the issues.

Still, he defended his and other's responsibility to speak out, and to not be intimidated into silence by some other self-appointed celebrity spokesman like Bill O'Reilly. Whitford says that while he and his Quaker family were politically in tune throughout his life, he was led to take a more active, public role in the past six years with the advent of the Bush administration's policies in Iraq and towards the environment and his own emerging role as a father (his wife is actress Jane Kacsmarek of Malcolm in the Middle).

Of his West Wing experience Whitford is proud the series has emphasized the sad reality of how much time politicians spend worrying about how a particular issue will "play" rather than on what a particular policy's effects might be and what the right thing is to do. He also noted that the show transcends the limits of conventional political debate by casting its characters as neither totally villanous or virtuous, but as combinations of both.

Of the present, Whitford lamented the influence the media, in particular television, has on the selection of the country's political leaders. Saying its unfortunately more important for a candidate to "seem presidential" and to come across appealing on television than be a person of character and smarts, Whitford lamented the fact that schmoozers like Clinton and Bush get elected rather than more untelegenic candidates like Al Gore. Of Clinton, Whitford observed the former president is someone who, because of his troubled family background, has a very visible need to be loved, which affected his actions as president, while someone like Gore, who had a much stronger family background, was more content and not as inclined to try to make people like him, but that this paradoxically, made it harder for someone like Gore to relate well to the public.

Whitford also related his experience at the All Souls Church he attends in California, which because its pastor spoke out before the election became the object of an IRS investigation. Whitford says the pastor did not make an explicit candidate preference public and in fact, held up both Bush and Kerry to the scrutiny of Christian morals and found both lacking. Whitford went futher and called out the president and his evangelical backers on the matter of not practicing the faith they claim to uphold. Whitford noted that while the president has said that Christ has "changed his heart", Whitford hoped that knowing Christ would soon cause Bush to "change his policies".

What does Whitford plan to do after the West Wing ends this season? "Pursue opportunities in the private sector", he joked.

Whitford encouraged the audience to speak out, to be active, to engage in the right they hold as participants in a democracy, echoing the words of Nelson Mandella whom he quoted as saying that what people fear is not their inadequacies, but their power. People are more afraid of the light than the darkness in themselves, Whitford said.

Afterwards, Whitford didn't follow the practice of other celebrities, but went out of his "bubble" to take questions, the first of which was from a young woman who, in addition to asking a policy question, asked if she could get a lock of his hair. Surprisingly, the actor obliged the latter request.

Update: Sorry about all the updated posts today but I just remembered the most important comment of the night from Whitford. That comment was about how conservatives have succeeded, unfortunately, at making the word "liberal" a curseword. Whitford identified himself as a liberal, lamenting the treatment this term and the good works that have been carried out under its name has received from the media and political establishment.

Whitford didn't pick this ball up and run with it, but as readers of this blog will recognize, I think this is THE issue Democrats have to face in today's political debate and in future elections. If Democrats don't succeed in reversing the way labels like "conservative" and "liberal" are conceived and spoken of in public forums and cable tv news shout fests, they will have a much harder road to climb in winning back power. If the Democrats choose to run as conservatives (i.e. stressing "competence" or "corruption" over ideology), any electoral victories will ultimately prove to be temporal, resulting in all of us having these "what's wrong with the Democrats" conservations ten and twenty years from now.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Laura Bush is Angry

My usual policy is to keep the wives and families out of it, which is why you won't read any Jenna and NotJenna comments here.

But Laura Bush is one angry first lady.
She ripped Hillary Clinton's comments about her hubby president.

So our topic for today is, Is Laura Bush Too Angry To Be First Lady? And Is George W. Bush A Panty-Waste For Letting His Wife Do His Fighting For Him? Can George W Bush Be President With Such An Angry First Lady?

Our Fair and Balanced debate on this topic will include Brit Hume, William Bennett, William Kristol, Ann Coulter, and Fred Barnes.

Cowboy Presidents

After digging my car out of the 21 inches of snow dumped on Columbia, MD yesterday and last night, and after an around the corner trip to Dunkin' Donuts, I settled in to watch the tube. I usually skip the sunday talking heads shows, but I happened upon the beard's Late Edition where the guests were the media's favorite Democrat, Joe Lieberman, and the media's second favorite Republican, Chuck Hagel (maybe John McCain was on one of the other shows) and the discussion I dropped in on was about Iran.

Hagel talked for about five minutes without saying very much--"the administration seems to be going about it (dealing with Iran) the right way", "we need to work with Iran, provide the right kind of incentives, carrots, to dissuade them from going nuke, blah blah blah". I hear a lot about this notion of offering the right kind of inducements to get Iran to back off, but I can't imagine what sort of inducements we could offer, and the Senators, as well as their media hosts, don't usually specify.

Enter Joe Lieberman to say that while inducements are great and we've been trying them, it may come time to use the stick, which in this case Lieberman suggested would take the shape of diplomatic and economic sanctions, but I'm not sure what sort of economic sanctions Lieberman thinks would be meaningful or could be enforced. Diplomatically, I don't think we've had much of a relationship with Iran since 1979 and again, I'm not sure what countries the U.S. government would be in the position of getting to go heavy on Iran.

Which brings us to Iran's neighbor, Iraq. Iraq was a counterbalance to Iran, or at least that's what our government believed for several years until it felt incumbent to flex its muscles after 911 and topple one of the only secular Islamic regimes in the region.

But now, with Saddam Hussein's Baathist Sunni Muslims on the outside looking in as the new Shiite majority prepares to take over, we might wonder what the impact of our Iraq invasion has on our international efforts regarding Iran.

The Beard, in a moment of clarity, asked how the fact that the U.S. government was wrong about Iraq's nuclear and WMD capability affected the Bush regime's efforts to mobilize opposition to Iran's WMD?

Hagel, in an additional moment of insightfulness, responded that the U.S. status in Iraq is about the worst its been (presumably since the invasion) and that this obviously doesn't help the U.S. cause at all. Furthermore, Hagel quipped that from Iran's standpoint, there's a nuclear armed Israel in its locale and substantial U.S. military presence in its neighbor Iraq, so from Iran's point of view, it is undoubtedly acting in its own national security interests in its pursuit of nukes.

Lieberman followed up by complaining about the new (elected) Iranian president and how he had made comments in the line of wondering what the world would be like without the U.S. and of course the fact that he wished Israel to be wiped off the map.

The new Iranian president is a kind of cowboy when you think about it. Shoots from the hip, has this sort of reckless, one of the homeboys image, the kind of guy I bet a lot of Iranians would like to have a drink with. He says a lot of nationalistic, politically incorrect things, campaigned as a kind of reformer, restoring the religious revolution of the old days, would buck international efforts to tell his country what to do.

If we had an independent media in this country, we might hear some of them making comparisons between Iran's cowboy president and our own cowboy president.

And maybe if Iran's president had David Frum working for him, he might have already labeled the U.S., Israel, and Great Britain as the Axis of Evil.