It’s been quite a few days for the tattered Iraq policy of President George W. Bush. Last week, Iraq and Iran’s energy ministers met in Tehran to discuss Iran’s role in helping revive Iraq’s electric power grid, still disrupted after the 2003 US invasion. Then, Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani, was delayed in flying to Tehran for a summit meeting with America’s Middle Eastern bete noire, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, by the closure of Baghdad international airport due to sectarian fighting in Iraq’s capital city. Finally, the Iraqi president made it to Tehran, where he and Ahmadinejad appeared to get along famously. It began with the Iraqi president announcing that Iraq needs Iran to rescue it and ended with Talabani announcing that the two countries have agreed to a “security accord,” details yet to be disclosed.
Meanwhile, President Bush, having flown to Jordan for his own summit with the Iraqi prime minister, was left cooling his heels. A variety of explanations were offered for why Maliki was not engaged in the scheduled summit. The two ultimately had breakfast the next day. Now this latest pronouncement from “our man in Iraq.” Not to mention the only consistent major ally on Iraq, Britain, making known its intention to substantially withdraw its forces next year.
As I wrote the other day, it is fascinating to watch a policy unravel in real time.
** EARLIEST EVER PRESIDENTIAL ANNOUNCEMENT? Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack this morning announced his candidacy for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, in a folksy Iowa event. I think this is the earliest ever formal announcement of candidacy. He will need an early start. Though a successful two-term governor, polling in his home state — which happens to be the first-in-the-nation contest for the presidential nomination — shows him in a real dogfight for contention.
Vilsack is a moderate Democrat who backs alternative fuels, such as ethanol (think Iowa corn), diodiesel, and wind power, and has chaired the centrist Democratic Leadership Council and the Democratic Governors Association. He becomes a dark horse contender in the field, which is led by New York Senator and former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, with former North Carolina Senator and 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards, Illinois Senator and 2004 Democratic national convention keynoter Barack Obama, and possible contender Al Gore bunched in a tie for second. Vilsack is off on tour to early contest states New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada.
It’s a transitional period in California politics. New legislators are moving in, getting oriented, gathering staff, waiting to be sworn in for a very brief period of activity before the holidays. New state constitutional officers won’t be inaugurated till January, but they are putting plans together as well.
One new statewide official, who is not so much new as he is renewed, is former Governor Jerry Brown. After winning a landslide victory earlier this month, he’s wrapping up his eight years as mayor of Oakland and getting ready to take over as attorney general, California’s second most powerful statewide office, behind that of the governorship.
A number of people were interested in being on Jerry Brown’s transition team as he prepares to become attorney general. Only thing is, he doesn’t have a transition team.
That doesn’t mean he’s not transitioning. Nor that he doesn’t consult with a range of people. But as the last Democrat to complete eight years as governor, he has something of a sense of how state government works and does not work. He’s not into unnecessary structures and is inclined to keep his own counsel. And he is quite respectful of the advice of his campaign manager.
Who happens to be his wife.
Though she has a dog named Dharma, Anne Gust Brown is not especially moonbeamish. She is a very smart, witty graduate of a top law school, the University of Michigan, and former senior corporate executive. First as its general counsel, then as executive vice president and chief administrative officer of The Gap, she was deeply involved in the management of a major corporation. Then she became deeply involved in the management of a major politician.
One can only venture to guess as to which is the more complex undertaking.
It was much rumored in state political circles that she would be the new attorney general’s chief of staff. She says, however, that she will not be, though of course she will be a powerful presence in her husband’s life.
And, amusing as it is to discuss the enigmatic nature of Jerry Brown, the reality of his taking over the running of the state attorney general’s office and the Department of Justice is not quite so mysterious.
The operation is widely judged to be a generally well-functioning enterprise. Outgoing Attorney General Bill Lockyer, the state’s new treasurer, surprised many by not simply using the post to run for governor. He added to its already existing great clout with new operations on the environment and consumer affairs. Most of the somewhat far flung inhabitants — while he is the state’s “Top Cop” with investigators and all that, the attorney general runs what is in essence a very large public law firm, with a very wide-ranging portfolio of interests — in the operation are civil servants. The attorney general can and will, as attorneys general always have, move the players around on the game board he assembles. But the number of staffers that he has to appoint who are not covered employees is seven.
So Brown’s moves will not be divined by the composition of or leaks from a transition team. Which has the effect of only adding to the intrigue around what he will do with the office.
** WHILE BUSH COOLS HIS HEELS, NEW SENATE LEADERS MOVE. SORT OF. While President George W. Bush waits around for a day, he hopes, in Jordan, for his postponed summit with our man in Iraq, incoming leaders of the U.S. Senate are pushing for a new move in the strife-torn country. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, incoming Senate Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller, and incoming Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin want Bush to appoint a special envoy to Iraq. His or her charge? To work with the various factions in the country to gain a ceasefire and a broad-based political settlement.
** President George W. Bush’s scheduled summit today in Jordan with the Iraqi prime minister has just been delayed until tomorrow. Pro-Shiite militia forces have threatened to pull their members out of the country’s parliament, possibly bringing the government down, if the Bush summit went forward.
** OBAMA GETS RELIGION. Rising Democratic superstar and presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) is courting evangelicals. He is slated to appear Friday at one of the biggest evangelical churches in the country, Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, a community in Califonria’s Orange County. Pastor Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life,” is said to draw 20,000 people to weekly sermons there.
** A PREVIEW OF THE POST-IRAQ TERROR WAR. Next week’s Senate hearings on the confirmation of Defense Secretary-designate Robert Gates are likely to provide an early preview of what America’s post-Iraq moves will be in the War on Terror. Gates, a former CIA director under Bush I, will, sources say, be questioned extensively about his ideas on prosecuting the Terror War aside from Iraq, where the US position has dramatically deteriorated.
** FRIST OUT OF PRESIDENTIAL RACE.Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is also out of the race for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. The good doctor is expected to make an announcement later today.
** SUPREMES HEAT UP. Oral arguments take place today before the U.S. Supreme Court in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency. The state argues that the EPA should be regulating greenhouse gases. The Bush Administration EPA argues it does not have the authority. A read of the Clean Air Act indicates that the Bush EPA are wrong. California and other states have joined in the suit, which will not be decided until next spring at the earliest.
Depending on how it goes, and how it is cut, the decision could strengthen or impede California’s leading edge movest to cut greenhouse gas emissions. There is a separate but related case going currently. Automakers have filed suit against California’s 2002 law to cut tailpipe emissions. The case will be heard next January in Fresno.
** CALIFORNIA VOTER TURNOUT HIGHER THAN SUPPOSED. On election day and night — only three weeks ago, although it seems much longer — several people asked me if the turnout would be over 50%. The answer, of course, was of course. But for some time it looked lower, and quite a few people, many of them on a losing campaign or two, went on about this as though it somehow justified their losing. “Schwarzenegger may have won big,” this sentiment went, “but only 35% turned out in Orange County in the lowest statewide turnout ever.” Many thought statewide turnout would be under 50%. But they, perhaps, forgot that nearly half the voters vote by mail now.
** BUSH STIRS IT UP BEFORE FIRST EVER NATO SUMMIT ON EX-SOVIET SOIL. President George W. Bush, arriving in Eastern Europe prior to this week’s first ever NATO summit on former Soviet soil, is offering US help in settling disputes between former Soviet states and Russia. No word on how that is playing in Moscow.
** HASTINGS OUT OF HOUSE INTEL CHAIR MIX. Fox News just reported that Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings will get the word in a meeting this afternoon with incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that he will not be the new chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Hastings, a favorite of the Congressional Black Caucus, thought he had the nod from Pelosi. But his status as one of only a few federal judges tossed out of office made his appointment a PR disaster.
While the usual sort of turnover is taking place at the end of a governor’s first term, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s team is noteworthy for the continuity within its core group. Of course, it’s a relatively new core group, having come together only early this year.
First Lady Maria Shriver, seen in this NWN video, keyed a new core group for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and watched over his return to centrism.
Quite a few people are leaving the hectic if not leafy confines of Schwarzworld, at least in its official state version, including longtime senior advisor Bonnie Reiss (who told me on Schwarzenegger’s 2003 election night she had no intention of joining the government, but was dragooned into state service), his gubernatorial press secretary Margita Thompson, chief energy advisor Joe Desmond, his legislative secretary Richard Costigan, Cabinet members Sunne McPeak and Alan Bersin, and so on. But his core political group of this year is remaining relatively and remarkably intact.
That prospect seemed somewhat doubtful when the group formed early this year. With a freshly assertive and recruitment-minded First Lady Maria Shriver at its center with her husband, it was a group that on paper could have spelled trouble. Could people who had worked closely with recalled Governor Gray Davis, not to mention Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda, easily coexist and work with up-and-coming Republicans including key acolytes of Karl Rove, President George W. Bush, and Vice President Dick Cheney?
And was it a good thing that the only person in the strategy group who knew the governor at all well was his wife? Spouses are frequently very valuable commodities in political operations, but they bring unique and sometimes problematic perspectives on their mates and their positions in the world. And their presence at the center of things can very distracting for others, if not inhibiting. Shriver played the role of chief recruiter of the new group. While Schwarzenegger already knew chief of staff Susan Kennedy, from her days on the state’s Public Utilities Commission, it was Shriver who sought out her own chief of staff, Dan Zingale, and Republicans Steve Schmidt, Adam Mendelsohn, and Matthew Dowd.
Many, including me, had serious doubts about the set-up. But Schwarzenegger’s group of Shriver, gubernatorial chief of staff Susan Kennedy, Shriver chief of staff Dan Zingale, moderate Republican communications director Adam Mendelsohn, political strategist Matthew Dowd, and campaign manager Steve Schmidt worked very well together.
They were all on the same page with Shriver and Schwarzenegger, moving back to the center that the former action superstar had effectively claimed when he ran in this tumultuous recall campaign of 2003 and during his first year as governor, but seemingly eschewed during last year’s disastrous “Year of Reform” when, rhetorically at least and to a large extent substantively, he lurched to the right.
Some had thought the Bushies, Schmidt and Dowd, friends and close colleagues of Karl Rove, would clash with Democrats Kennedy and Zingale, whose roots are in the left. But they actually all got along and worked well together.
In fact, the very first item on the then brand new New West Notes web site, way back in early January, revealed that Schwarzenegger was hiring Schmidt as his campaign manager, but then went on to quite inaccurately describe his bringing on this Bush war room honcho and counselor to Dick Cheney as Schwarzenegger hiring a “hatchet man.”
The group will continue working together in the future. Susan Kennedy, Adam Mendelsohn, and Dan Zingale are all staying in the Governor’s Office. Steve Schmidt has moved permanently to California, just outside Sacramento, and will continue to counsel Schwarzenegger. Matthew Dowd, a longtime Texan, is staying put in Texas and will have a less formal role but will continue to advise his friends Schwarzenegger and Shriver.
This core group, Schwarzenegger’s third to date, has had a great run. They say they have every intention of continuing that run. Events have a way of conspiring against second terms. But this group has just won the largest re-election victory since Jerry Brown’s 20-point triumph in 1978. Schwarzenegger has racked up the biggest back-to-back wins — a pair of 17-point landslides — in the modern era. So you’d have to give them at least a fighting chance of success.
“The issue of establishing security in Iraq is the most important part of our talks,” said Iraqi President Jalal Talabani after summit talks in Tehran with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “We are in dire need of Iran’s help in establishing security and stability in Iraq.”
It’s fascinating to watch policy unravel in real time. When President George W. Bush has his own summit with the prime minister of Iraq later this week in Jordan, he will be dealing with a fait accompli.
Some, such as incoming Virginia Senator James Webb, want the nomination held over for the new Senate to consider. Webb crossed swords in the late ’80s with Gates as secretary of the Navy. But this appointment is on a fast track, with the White House determined to move Iraq War architect Rumsfeld out the door before the Democrats take over the Senate. What we should get from Gates is an early public preview of the forthcoming views of the Iraq Study Group. A favorite of Bush I, he was an ally of ISG co-chairman James Baker, the cowboy booted, Savile Row-suited former U.S. secretary of state, secretary of the treasury, and George Herbert Walker Bush campaign manager. It was Baker who pulled the plug on his boss’s 1980 presidential campaign, thus preserving him as a live option to become Ronald Reagan’s vice president. Bush defeated Reagan in Iowa, then foundered in subsequent primaries, leading Baker to essentially end his campaign for him.
Since there are only about 7,000 British troops presently in Iraq, this amounts to a substantial withdrawal. At the height of the full-scale fighting, Britain had 46,000 troops in the Iraq War, as the only other major participant in the “coalition of the willing.”
** Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made a relaxed appearance yesterday on NBC’s Meet the Press. On state issues, he said he wanted to find ways to lower health care costs and extend health care to all the uninsured. And to get rid of California’s structural budget deficit during his second term, without raising taxes. Those are expansive goals, not unfamiliar with the former Mr. Universe, with no details attached.
On larger issues, he denounced the most prominent Republican denier of global warming, outgoing U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chairman JamesInhofe of Oklahoma, lauded the bipartisan Iraq Study Group headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and former House Intelligence Chairman Lee Hamilton, and said that U.S. troops should be withdrawn from Iraq, on a “timeline.”
Here’s what Schwarzenegger had to say about Inhofe and other global warming deniers: “There’s always in history been people that are back with their thinking in the Stone Age. And I think that the key thing for us is, is to not pay any attention to those things, because as I said, the science is in, we know the facts, there’s not any more debate as to global warming or not. We have global warming and the fact also is that we can do something about it. We can slow it down or we can stop it, but only if everyone is working together.”
** BAGHDAD AIRPORT REOPENS, IRAQ PRESIDENT TO IRAN. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is off to the Iranian capital of Tehran today for a summit with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on gaining Iranian help in settling the spreading chaos in Iraq. Talabani had been scheduled to fly to Tehran on Saturday, but Baghdad international airport was shut down due to widespread sectarian violence in the Iraqi capital. The airport has reopened and a three-day curfew in Baghdad has been lifted. But there has been renewed violence in the strife-torn city.
The reality is that while some in the US debate whether or not there should be engagement with Iran on the Iraq crisis — and clearly Iran is fomenting discord in Iraq, for its own obvious purposes — Iraq itself is already engaging with Iran. This is already happening. First with their energy ministers meeting to discuss reviving the electric power grid disrupted during the US invasion of 2003, as reported here last week. Now with summit discussions on how to settle the violence.
** Aside from the usual holiday children’s animation, two films meant for grown-ups are holding sway at the box office. Both are products of British culture, one even more quintessential than the other. I’m speaking, of course, of the the brilliantly transgressive comedy Borat, created by and starring Oxbridge comedian Sascha Baron Cohen. And another movie, with that James Stock fellow.
I was still very tired when I saw Borat a couple of weeks ago, so didn’t enjoy it perhaps as much as I might now. After watching Borat video clips (and Ali G and Bruno, Cohen’s other comic creations) for months as a break from the not infrequent tedium of the elections, the thing in feature length was a bit anti-climactic.
Borat is a brilliant conceit, the quintessence of British put-on humor. A suspiciously faux Russianesque (Russians are all over London, as we see in the latest news) TV reporter supposedly from the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan (the Kazakh scenes are actually shot in Eastern Europe), Borat Spetsnaz or whatever his last name is pushes the contradictions of life in hilariously anti-PC ways. Cohen, who has great timing, is especially hysterical when speaking in media officialese, denouncing other former Eastern Bloc lands and extolling the extraordinarily dubious merits of a Kazakhstan which exists only in his mind. And, as you may have heard, in bringing out the frequently horrible prejudices not far beneath the surface in many Americans, all of whom seem to live in red states. Nevertheless, he is a great favorite of most of my Republican friends.
The other fellow, the one named by the eminent post-war cynical romantic Ian Fleming after an ornithologist, really is the other fellow this time. He is the fifth other fellow, actually, following in the very large footsteps of Sir Sean Connery.
The very first movie I can remember watching, out of all movies, not just Bond films, starred Connery. A little film called Goldfinger. Connery, of course, is the definitive non-ornithologist, by long held popular acclaim. Large though his footsteps are, and having met him, he does have large feet, he may finally be meeting his match in the new fellow.
A new era deserves a new Bond, and Daniel Craig is certainly that. Not that there was anything wrong with the latest old Bond, Pierce Brosnan, who himself rebooted the franchise in 1995 with the very enjoyable GoldenEye. Before Brosnon, Bond had languished for some time. Timothy Dalton was good, but his movies were not. And Dalton, who I liked a lot, seemed for audiences to lack the dash and/or danger that they require in Bond. Before him, spanning most of the time of my growing up, there was Roger Moore. Like Brosnan, who is now quite an environmentalist, Moore is a very gracious man to meet. But his movies were, looking back, generally pretty awful. I’m sure they say a lot about the 1970s, but we’re not there now.
Craig seems a man for the new century. He is probably the best actor to assay the role. (Brilliant as a coke dealer in the little-known British crime drama LayerCake and as a poet opposite Gwyneth Paltrow’s Sylvia Plath in Sylvia, and as a Mossad hit man in Steven Spielberg’s Munich). And perhaps the least handsome. His selection caused a firestorm of pissy criticism on the Internet, which is especially good for that sort of thing. His ears were ridiculed, his hair color ( a sort of sandy blonde, as though that matters) dismissed, he took a lot of flack for saying he didn’t personally like guns and for wearing a life jacket riding up the Thames in a Royal Navy assault boat for his introductory press conference as the new Bond.
Seeing the film now, it’s called Casino Royale, and if you care at all about Bond, you should, makes it clear what a nastily irrelevant thing much of the blogosphere can be.
Casino Royale is an essential reboot of Bond, even more so than GoldenEye, which merely explained that the Cold War was finally over, although it featured two fabulous, and brainy, Russian women. (Who, naturally, were not really Russian.)
This Bond resonates with the post-9/11 world. Style and looks-wise, Daniel Craig’s Bond is a cross between Connery and Steve McQueen. He wears the Italian suits well, but he is not the male model Brosnan is. He’s Jack Bauer in a dinner jacket.
Entertainment Weekly put it very well: “He speaks to an age of desperation, when the cosmetic barely holds sway over the cutthroat.”
This is a much more raw Bond. He doesn’t quip as he kills — well, he does at the beginning, but it’s more pointed and less tossed off — he rips as he kills. Played in the past as a former Royal Navy officer-turned-gentleman spy and assassin, Craig’s Bond seems to be a former SAS (Special Air Service) commando.
Casino Royale, the first of the Fleming novels, finds him at the beginning, so presumably Craig’s next efforts will see him adding to his existing polish. Like all the Bonds, he is a patriot of sorts. But it’s not entirely clear what sort. Craig in real life counts himself a regular reader of the left-wing British newspaper The Guardian, and perhaps as a result his Bond is more than a little sardonic in his view. Yet he is not only a tough and ruthless figure, he is a frequently brutal figure. He does what he thinks it takes. But he’s not sure where it’s all going.
The Bond character has often been called a relic of the Cold War, but that’s not really true at all. For one thing, Russia was hardly ever the enemy, giving way instead to some of fiction’s most fabulously flamboyant and apocalyptic villains. Bond was really a relic of the fall of the British Empire, of which Ian Fleming was in real life an exceptionally well connected and traveled elite member, both as a former intelligence officer and as a journalist. Fleming’s novels are fascinating artifacts of the 1950 and 1960s, which coincided with Britain’s decline from one of the great victors of World War II into a decidedly middleweight world power, at best, before making something of a recent comeback.
The very notion of James Bond, that of the endlessly assured, omnicompetent gentleman professional (not gentleman amateur, another British tradition), saving the world once again was crucial to the maintenance of Anglo power in the Anglo-American power equation. The “pros from Dover” really were the pros from Dover, after all. It also fed into the cultural overhang of Imperial Britain, resonating with people around the world as a result.
Bond is a very important fantasy figure in many respects. And essays can be written on all of them. For the current moment, he is just as important as ever, as we move forward into the blurry world of the 21st century, beset by challenges, real and imagined, which seemingly can’t be solved either by force of arms or by appeasement. Perhaps one man, in the right place at the right time, can save our empire. Or so we would like to think.
** HOUSE INTEL SITUATION STILL UNRESOLVED. Still in the wake of mostly scathing reviews for her attempt to install her ethics reform-eschewing ally, Congressman John Murtha, as the new House majority leader, House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi has yet to resolve a growing crisis around the crucial chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee. The San Francisco Democrat disdains naming the ranking Democrat on the committee, judged by most to be the best-qualified, LA Congresswoman Jane Harman, a more moderate Democrat and intelligence expert. This seems odd, because the other committee chairmanships are falling along seniority lines. Harman is the best qualified candidate, but she and Pelosi don’t get along well personally and Harman was an early supporter of the Iraq War. But Pelosi’s other options on the committee seem rather underwhelming.
Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings has reportedly been promised the chairmanship by Pelosi. He’s the pick of the Congressional Black Caucus. But prior to his election to the House, he was kicked out of a federal judgeship for malfeasance in office. He would be a PR disaster. The sometimes touted compromise pick, Texas Congressman Silvestre Reyes, is dismissed by experts as a career Border Patrol “timeserver.”
Pelosi is getting advice to not be stubborn after the Murtha debacle and go with Harman as the intel chair. Or to be “creative,” and pick someone other than the three names most in play. Given the world situation, it is not a good sign that the incoming House Democratic leadership is so unsettled on this key post.
** IRAQ/IRAN/SYRIA SUMMIT POSTPONED DUE TO BAGHDAD AIRPORT CLOSURE. The Iraqi president’s trip to Tehran today for a scheduled summit with Iran and Syria has just been postponed due to the closure of Baghdad airport. Sectarian violence taking place throughout the Iraqi capital city forced the airport’s closure. Iraq, Syria, and Iran have agreed to hold a summit in the Iranian capital to discuss measures to contain the spreading upheaval in Iraq.
None of which is to say that the regime of former KGB colonel and St. Petersburg deputy mayor-turned-Russian President Vladimir Putin is not problematic. More than a dozen journalistic critics of the unique way of doing things in Russia have been murdered in the last few years. This includes Politkovskaya, a staunch critic of the war in Chechnya and of Putin, as well as the editor of Forbes Russia, an American citizen, no less, gunned down on the streets of Moscow. All of the Russian journalist murders remain unsolved.
Were New West Notes operating in Russia, I wouldn’t simply be kidding around about packing heat, as I do with Jerry and Anne Brown before coming to Oakland.
Notwithstanding the current veneer of designer clothes and luxury brands, not to mention the world’s largest urban agglomeration of billionaires, Moscow is something of a Wild West city, and has been for years, ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall gave rise to Chanel envy. In the ’90s, I advised one of the Russian reform political parties. One of the party’s prominent members was placed with me, among others, by the U.S. State Department to learn about American politics. He spent what seemed like an inordinate amount of time on the phone to Moscow. Not infrequently, he would tell me about prominent party members who had been shot or mugged. While he ended up in the Duma, the Russian parliament, it would be hard to say that my advisor role was highly successful. The last time I checked, the party’s web site was a porn site.
The advent of Putin has brought a new measure of pride to a Russia reeling from the loss of the prideful Soviet empire and the rise of buccaneeer capitalism. A friend of mine, a Russian emigre, used to fantasize about being Putin’s daughter. The fact that she, a model, is nearly a half-foot taller than the diminutive power broker did not diminish her regard. The return of some power and a measure of prestige to what was, until 15 years ago, one of the world’s two superpowers, can’t be underestimated.
But this pride seems problematical. Litvinenko, who wrote of what he described as the extreme corruption and ruthlessness of Putin’s Russia, claimed before he died that he was murdered on order of the president. As the Russian saying goes, who can really say?
Nevertheless, the fact that clearly political murders routinely go unsolved in one of the world’s major cities is more than a bit suspicious.
That said, no one should become too excited about a possible return of a US/Russia cold war. Russia, according to sources, has been a regular source of intelligence about the Islamic Jihadist threat, from providing the best mapping of Afghanistan onward. Putin, following two private meetings with President George W. Bush over the past week, has agreed to back America’s play in pressuring Iran to forestall its nuclear weapons program. And Russia is playing a backchannel role with regard to the emerging US priority for Iran to help settle the Iraq crisis. Even as it delivers rockets to protect Iranian nuclear facilities from possible air strikes.
So those looking to the Bush Administration to raise a hue and cry about the Litvinenko and Politkovskaya murders may be disappointed. Even British Prime Minister Tony Blair may hold his tongue, despite the sensational murder of Litvinenko in his own capital city. Though I rather doubt that. Someone went too far. London is capital of the English-speaking rodina.
** “He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”
Whoops! That’s over a month away, several lifetimes in a campaign.
“May Premier George Walter Bush drink the blood of every man, woman, and child in Iraq!”