Wednesday, September 27, 2006

DEER IN THE MAILBOX Here's Ryan Lizza:
"I'm not out to get George Allen," says George Beam, a 53 year-old technical manager in the nuclear industry, who lives in Forest, Virginia and who spoke to The New Republic this morning. "I just think Kenny Shelton is a fine, upstanding person, and I know he is telling the truth."

Beam was roommates with Billy Lanahan, now deceased, who along with Allen and Shelton, was the third member of the now infamous hunting party. According to Beam, Lanahan later told him the bizarre story of the three men stuffing the deer head into a mailbox.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

HABEAS I'd like to associate myself with the statement made yesterday by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) before the Judiciary Committee.

POLL WATCH Democratic candidate 17 points ahead in the (supposedly) neck and neck US House race for Colorado's 7th district?

THE ALLEN CIRCUS Am I the only one who thinks the most explosive new charge swirling around Sen. George Allen (R-VA) isn't about an epithet he may have used in the 1970s--but rather that he stuffed a deer's head into a black family's mailbox?

Over the last 24 hours, Allen's camp has issued at least one blanket denial to the new charges. But I've yet to see any language about the mailbox allegation in particular.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

CRYPTO-JEWS? Good thing Etty Allen is as comfortable with her Jewish heritage as her son professes to be:
Etty Allen said she swore the senator to secrecy, asking him not to tell his wife, his two brothers or his sister. "The fact this is such an issue justifies my actions, and my behavior," she told the newspaper.
And to think, some of us are proud to have been born onto the same team as Spinoza, Kafka and Koufax.

UPDATE: Above, I took Etty Allen's comments at face value. But of course, there is a darker--and maybe more plausible--interpretation: That the Allen camp came up with the "secrecy" spin and made Mrs. Allen available to a reporter so that she could float it.

I'm not sure what's worse: Getting your mother to spout a cover story to bail you out of political trouble, or thinking that this particular cover story makes the Senator's silence about his background seem less icky.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

DEPT. OF EXEGESIS Yet again, I'm floored by a New York Times account of a Sen. George Allen (R-VA) gaffe.

Nowhere does Carl Hulse's article mention that Allen characterized the debate question about his Jewish ancestry as an example of a questioner "making aspersions about people"--easily the most salient chunk of his retort.

The article also repeats, unqualified, Allen's misleading assertion that he's never known why his grandfather was imprisoned by Nazis.

In short, the piece does little more than summarize the Allen campaign's press release.

Why is The Times papering over the truth rather than reporting it?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

IN OTHER NEWS Donna Edwards is still in the game in Maryland. (Via Daily Kos.)

MORE ALLEN The first time through, I missed this part of the press release from Sen. George Allen (R-VA):
I have never known whether he [my Jewish grandfather] was persecuted by the Nazis because of his nationality, his religious faith, his role as a community leader, or his part in the anti-Nazi resistance.
Compare that to this:
Senator Allen told the Richmond Times Dispatch in 2000 that his grandfather was imprisoned [by the Nazis] because "he sympathized with the Free French and the Allies and coveted the concepts of freedom of thought, expression, religious belief and enterprise."
In light of what we know now to be true--and in light of the fact that Allen now (falsely) claims to have always been agnostic about the reason for his grandfather's imprisonment--it's harder than ever to read the 2000 statement to the Richmond Times Dispatch without thinking that Allen was actively working to hide his Jewish roots.

In short, Allen's new agnosticism seems like a play to create wiggle room--to insulate himself from an explosive but, now, reasonable charge: That it was critically important to him to keep his Jewish ancestry quiet--to the point that he was willing to massage the facts about why Nazis imprisoned his grandfather.

THE JEWISH QUESTION It's been a busy few days at CONTRAPOSITIVE world headquarters, so I missed this development in the George Allen ancestry story:
At a debate in Tysons Corner yesterday between Republican Allen and Democrat Webb, WUSA-TV's Peggy Fox asked Allen, the tobacco-chewing, cowboy-boot-wearing son of a pro football coach, if his Tunisian-born mother has Jewish blood.

"It has been reported," said Fox, that "your grandfather Felix, whom you were given your middle name for, was Jewish. Could you please tell us whether your forebears include Jews and, if so, at which point Jewish identity might have ended?"

Allen recoiled as if he had been struck. His supporters in the audience booed and hissed. "To be getting into what religion my mother is, I don't think is relevant," Allen said, furiously. "Why is that relevant--my religion, Jim's religion or the religious beliefs of anyone out there?"

"Honesty, that's all," questioner Fox answered, looking a bit frightened.

"Oh, that's just all? That's just all," the senator mocked, pressing his attack. He directed Fox to "ask questions about issues that really matter to people here in Virginia" and refrain from "making aspersions."

"Let's move on," proposed the moderator, George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.


But Allen turned on the questioner with ferocity. He may have been irked that the question was a follow-up to one noting that "macaca" was a racial slur that his mother may have learned in Tunisia. He may have been concerned that Jewish roots wouldn't play well in parts of Virginia.


"I'm glad you all have that reaction," Allen said to the audience as people jeered the questioner. Allen lectured Fox about the importance of "freedom of religion and not making aspersions about people because of their religious beliefs."

In between his heckling of Fox, Allen reported that "my mother is French-Italian with a little bit of Spanish blood in her, and I've been raised, and she was, as far as I know, raised as a Christian."


"I was shocked," she said after the event. Disclosing that her great-grandfather was a Mormon polygamist, she added: "Why would he get so angry at the suggestion there might be something in your background that's Jewish? I don't think that's a bad thing at all."


Allen, surrounded by cameras and microphones after the event, hadn't cooled down. "What do you mean, 'make me so angry'?" he demanded angrily when asked why Fox's query had made him so angry.

"To make whatever sort of comment that was, you just don't judge people by their ethnicity or their religion," Allen said, fuming that Fox would "drag my mother into this." The senator said his mother was the one who taught him about tolerance. "Because," he repeated, "my mother's father was incarcerated by the Nazis in World War II."
To condense and recap: Allen is queried about his Jewish heritage and reacts as if the moderator, by posing the question, has dragged his family's name through the mud.

Naturally, Allen's handlers couldn't let that awkward impression stand. So this afternoon, there was this:

Republican Virginia Sen. George Allen said for the first time today that he is part Jewish, a day after responding angrily during a campaign debate to a question about whether his family has Jewish roots.

In a statement released by his campaign, Allen denounced the TV reporter who asked the question but said he is proud to have recently discovered that his grandfather, a Nazi resistance fighter in North Africa, was part of a well-known Jewish family.

"I was raised as a Christian and my mother was raised as a Christian," Allen said. "And I embrace and take great pride in every aspect of my diverse heritage, including my Lumbroso family line's Jewish heritage, which I learned about from a recent magazine article and my mother confirmed."


In the statement issued today, Allen called Fox's questions "especially reprehensible" and "deeply offensive."

But he said a recent magazine article, which raised the question of his Jewish heritage, had prompted him to ask his mother.

"Some may find it odd that I have not probed deeply into the details of my family history, but it's a fact," he said. "Whenever we would ask my mother through the years about our family background on her side, the answer always was, 'Who cares about that?' "
Left unanswered is why a man so proud of his Jewish ancestry finds a question that drew attention to that heritage so offensive.

Given Allen's newfound ethnic pride, it's also not clear why Allen's campaign manager dodged a reporter's question about the subject as recently as last month.

Bottom line: Whatever is at work in Allen's mind can't rightly be described as anti-semitism. But that doesn't make it any less ugly.

Video here.

UPDATE: Senator Allen wants you to know--just to be clear--that he isn't that Jewish:

Speaking with The Times-Dispatch, Allen said the disclosure is "just an interesting nuance to my background." He added, "I still had a ham sandwich for lunch. And my mother made great pork chops."
Glad we've got that sorted out.

What a schmuck.

Friday, September 15, 2006

SENATE WATCH Democrats have to be encouraged by the latest round of polls. But one result sticks out: Sen. Bob Menendez appears to be slightly down against Tom Kean.

P.S. How's this--just out from The Times--for nauseating:

"When my dad ran for Congress--and he had been the Assembly speaker--the headline said, 'Kean's son to run for Congress,' " said Mr. Kean, now a state senator. "When my grandfather ran for Congress in 1938, there was a headline that said, 'Kean’s son to run for Congress.' When my great-grandfather ran for Senate, I think there was a headline that said, 'Kean’'s brother to run for Senate,' because his older brother had served in the United States Senate.

"So I personally set very high standards for my own experience in public office, and I think the public has set very high standards for me."
For some reason, that's not the lesson I draw.

WHO WE ARE We'll soon find out.

Here's Billmon's take:

The question [is] whether a nation as powerful and potentially dangerous as America (the proverbial bull in the china shop) can survive on brute force alone--without moral legitimacy or political prestige, without true allies (save for the world's other leper regimes) and without "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind."

We're not there yet, but that's the direction we're heading in, and a unilateral decision to redefine the Geneva Conventions (without actually admitting that we're doing it) would take us another few hundred miles down the road.

What this amounts to (and what Powell was really complaining about) is the final decommissioning of the myth of American exceptionalism--one of the most powerful weapons in the U.S. arsenal. Without it, we're just another paranoid empire obsessed with our own security and willing to tell any lie or repudiate any self-proclaimed principle if we think it will make us even slightly safer.

To put it mildly, this is not the kind of flag the rest of the world is likely to rally around, no matter how frantically we wave it.

LAUGH LINES Number of US military fatalities in Iraq since the war began: 2681

Number of "laughter episodes" noted today in the official White House transcript of the President's morning press conference: 16

There was also this:

THE PRESIDENT: Let's see, New York Times, Sheryl.

Q Hi, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Fine. How are you doing?

Q I'm well today, thank you. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Did you start with, hi, Mr. President?

Q Hello, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay, that's fine. Either way, that's always a friendly greeting, thank you.

Q We're a friendly newspaper.
For the record, I'm pretty sure that was Sheryl Gay Stolberg embarrassing herself, her employer and her profession.

UPDATE: A couple more choice snippets:

Q Recently you've also described bin Laden as a sort of modern day Hitler or Mussolini. And I'm wondering why, if you can explain why you think it's a bad idea to send more resources to hunt down bin Laden, wherever he is?

THE PRESIDENT: We are, Richard...Pakistan is a sovereign nation. In order for us to send thousands of troops into a sovereign nation, we've got to be invited by the government of Pakistan.
And this:
THE PRESIDENT: When I work the ropelines, a lot of people come and say, Mr. President, I'm praying for you--a lot. As a matter of fact, it seems like a lot more now than when I was working ropelines in 1994.
No kidding.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

WAS THAT SO HARD? Via Atrios, here's Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) on the Senate floor:
In light of the rantings that went on for 30 minutes by two colleagues from the other side, I'd like to state for the record that America is not tired of fighting terrorism; America is tired of the wrongheaded and boneheaded leadership of the Republican party that has sent six and a half billion a month to Iraq while the front line was Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. That led this country to attack Saddam Hussein, when we were attacked by Osama bin Laden. Who captured a man who did not attack the country and let loose a man that did.

Americans are tired of boneheaded Republican leadership that alienates our allies when we need them the most. Americans are most certainly tired of leadership that despite documenting mistake after mistake after mistake, even of their own party admitting mistakes, never admit they do anything wrong. That's the kind of leadership Americans are tired of."
Elected Democrats--and I'm looking at you, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): Don't whine about the Republicans. Don't complain about how mean the President is.

Hit back.

The facts are on your side, for crying out loud!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

SOUNDBITE OF THE DAY Democrats need to come up with more quick, sharp retorts like this one:
A mandate, for example, that every cargo container headed into the United States be X-rayed and subject to a radiation scan before it leaves a foreign port to search for a possible nuclear bomb is not now feasible, [Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff] said.

Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, was trying on Tuesday to persuade him to consider such an effort.

“I put my daughter in my car,” Mr. Chertoff told Mr. Lautenberg. “If I wanted my daughter to be 100 percent safe, I’d put a five-mile-an-hour speed limit cap on the car.” But that is not an option, he added, “because that’s more safety than we can afford.”

Mr. Lautenberg seemed unimpressed. “If we inspected one out of 20 people going into the White House for tours, or coming into this place, would we feel secure?” he said. “I don’t think so.”

SPOKE TOO SOON Early Wednesday morning, insurgent lefty Donna Edwards pulled ahead of fair-weather Democrat Rep. Al Wynn in Maryland's 4th District primary.

Looks like this one may take a while to sort itself out.

UPDATE: As of 11pm Wednesday, this race remains too close to call. Results may not be certified till next week.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

THE VOLUNTEER STATE Democrat Harold Ford up three points on Republican nominee Bob Corker in the Tennessee senate race?

PRIMARY DAY There are a number of important contests today. But the day's most interesting races are in Rhode Island and Maryland.

UPDATE: Mark Blumenthal finds no evidenve of any exit polling. So we'll have to wait a few more hours for results.

UPDATE UPDATE: Looks like a good night for incumbents: It's Sen. Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island. And Rep. Albert Wynn leads in Maryland.

Monday, September 11, 2006

2+2=5 Billmon looks back.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

KYRGYZSTAN AGAIN C. J. Chivers at The Times has done a good job covering the peculiar story of the disappearing-reappearing Air Force Major.

It's still not clear what happened to Major Jill M. Metzger, but when I read about her disappearance, it was hard to avoid thinking about this.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

CHENEY ON RUSSERT The Vice President will appear on Meet The Press tomorrow morning. It won't be the first time.

September 16, 2001:

MR. RUSSERT: Do we have any evidence linking Saddam Hussein or Iraqis to [September 11, 2001]?

December 9, 2001:
MR. RUSSERT: Do you still believe there is no evidence that Iraq was involved in September 11?

CHENEY: Well, what we now have that's developed since you and I last talked, Tim, of course, was that report that's been pretty well confirmed, that [Mohammed Atta] did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April, several months before the attack.

Now, what the purpose of that was, what transpired between them, we simply don't know at this point. But that's clearly an avenue that we want to pursue.
March 16, 2003:
MR.RUSSERT: What do you think is the most important rationale for going to war with Iraq?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I think I've just given it, Tim, in terms of the combination of his development and use of chemical weapons, his development of biological weapons, his pursuit of nuclear weapons.

MR. RUSSERT: And even though the International Atomic Energy Agency said he does not have a nuclear program, we disagree.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I disagree, yes. And you'll find the CIA, for example, and other key parts of our intelligence community, disagree.

And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons. I think Mr. ElBaradei, frankly, is wrong. And I think if you look at the track record of the International Atomic Energy Agency and this kind of issue, especially where Iraq is concerned, they have consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing. I don't have any reason to believe they’re any more valid this time than they've been in the past.


MR. RUSSERT: And you are convinced the Kurds, the Sunnis, the Shiites will come together in a democracy?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: They have so far...And if you look at the opposition, they've come together, I think, very effectively, with representatives from Shia, Sunni and Kurdish elements in the population. They understand the importance of preserving and building on an Iraqi national identity...I think the prospects of being able to achieve this kind of success, if you will, from a political standpoint, are probably better than they would be for virtually any other country and under similar circumstances in that part of the world.


MR. RUSSERT: The army's top general said that we would have to have several hundred thousand troops there for several years in order to maintain stability.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I disagree. To suggest that we need several hundred thousand troops there after military operations cease, after the conflict ends, I don’t think is accurate. I think that's an overstatement.


VICE PRES. CHENEY: I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.

MR. RUSSERT: If your analysis is not correct and we're not treated as liberators but as conquerors and the Iraqis begin to resist particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly and bloody battle with significant American casualties?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I don't think it's unlikely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe we will be greeted as liberators. I've talked with a lot of Iraqis in the last several months myself, had them to the White House. The president and I have met with various groups and individuals, people who've devoted their lives from the outside to try and change things inside of Iraq.

The read we get on the people of Iraq is there's no question but what they want to get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.
September 14, 2003:
MR. RUSSERT: The Washington Post asked the American people about Saddam Hussein, and this is what they said: 69 percent said he was involved in the September 11 attacks. Are you surprised by that?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: No. I think it's not surprising that people make that connection.

MR. RUSSERT: But is there a connection?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: We don’t know...We've had the story that's been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack, but we've never been able to develop anymore of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don't know.


MR. RUSSERT: We have not been greeted as liberated.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I think we have by most Iraqis.

Friday, September 08, 2006

ELECTION SEASON As we move into the heart of the fall campaign, CONTRAPOSITIVE will be supplementing our output of outrage-inflected snark with analysis of key (and obscure) races, nuggets of polling data and maybe even a dose or two of actual reporting.

Come back often.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Afghanistan and Iraq have been transformed from terrorist states into allies in the war on terror.
--President Bush, September 5, 2006
"Our government is weak," said Fowzea Olomi, a local women's rights advocate whose driver was shot dead in May and who fears she is next. "Anarchy has come."

When the Taliban fell nearly five years ago, Lashkar Gah seemed like fertile ground for the United States-led effort to stabilize the country...

Today, [Lashkar Gah] is the epicenter of a Taliban resurgence and an explosion in drug cultivation that has claimed the lives of 106 American and NATO soldiers this year and doubled American casualty rates countrywide. Across Afghanistan, roadside bomb attacks are up by 30 percent; suicide bombings have doubled. Statistically it is now nearly as dangerous to serve as an American soldier in Afghanistan as it is in Iraq.
--New York Times, September 5, 2006
Following are security and other developments in Iraq reported on Monday, as of 2000 GMT:

MUQDADIYA - U.S. troops killed five men in a ground assault and air strike on what they called a "safe house", targeting a person involved in moving money and foreign fighters into Iraq. A child was also killed in the fighting in Muqdadiya, northeast of Baghdad, the U.S. military said in a statement. It said the operation freed two men who had been held hostage.

TAJI - Two bodyguards of a Sunni Arab member of Iraq's parliament, Falah Zaidan, were shot dead in Taji, just north of Baghdad, an Interior Ministry source said. Zaidan and his party were not immediately available for comment.

TIKRIT - A U.S. soldier was killed after his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in the northern city of Mosul, the U.S. military said on Monday.

BAGHDAD - A U.S. soldier was killed by a roadside bomb north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said on Monday.

BASRA - Two British soldiers were killed and one seriously wounded when their patrol was hit by a roadside bomb north of the southern city of Basra, British military spokesman Major Charlie Burbridge said.

BAGHDAD - The bodies of 33 men, some with their hands bound and bearing signs of torture, were found across the capital, an Interior Ministry source said. All had been shot.

ANBAR PROVINCE - Two U.S. Marines were killed in action on Sunday in Iraq's Anbar province, the U.S. military said in a statement.

NEAR RAMADI - Major General Mohammed al-Fahdawi, a former commander of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard, was killed in a drive-by shooting on Sunday in an area just east of Ramadi, 110 km (68 miles) west of Baghdad, a relative and a hospital source said. He was the third high-ranking officer from Saddam's military to be killed in a week.

NEAR KUT - The bodies of two men with multiple gunshot wounds to the head were found on a road between Amara and Kut, south of Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - Ghanim Khudheyir, 22, striker at the Iraqi Air Force soccer club, was snatched from his home on Thursday by plainclothes gunmen who claimed to be from the Interior Ministry intelligence service, team manager Mohammed Rasoul said. Police offered a different account, saying the kidnapping occurred on Sunday and was carried out by men in camouflage uniforms.

ABU GHRAIB - Two car bombs exploded in quick succession on Sunday at an Iraqi army checkpoint on a road that links Abu Ghraib and Baghdad, killing or wounding seven Iraqi soldiers and destroying one military vehicle, Falluja policeman Ammar Abd said.

BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol exploded near al-Wathiq intersection in Karrada district, central Baghdad, wounding two people, including one policeman, an Interior Ministry source said.
--Reuters, September 4, 2006

Monday, September 04, 2006

ONE YEAR LATER Don't think I saw this footage at the time.

It really takes you back, though--the Shepard Smith material in particular.

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.