Sunday, April 15, 2007

Pelosi's Visit to Syria -- Cheney Carps

"Bad behavior" says Dick Cheney

"Impudent" is too good a word to describe Cheney's "bad behavior" accusation. In German one would call it a "Frechheit." A Frechheit is several levels of opprobrium above "impudence." "Frechheit" combines "impudence" with "shameless." Cheney's remark is an example of shameless impudence.

Cheney, on the other hand, certainly kno
ws something about bad behavior. In his long and regrettable career he has shown himself a master of it. But expertise in the practice of bad behavior does not imply expertise in the theory of bad behavior. As a Harvard faculty member opposed to the appointment of Vladimir Nabokov to the faculty once sniffed, "One does not invite an elephant to teach zoology." Similarly, one does not look to Dick Cheney for informed criticism of the conduct of others.

Let us consider a short list of some examples of Vice's bad behavior:

  • He is an architect of the war in Iraq, a war in which the United States, contrary to all of its best principles and traditions, invaded and ultimately devasted a country with which it was at peace.
  • He and the President, George W. Bush, conspired to lie to the American people about the reasons for invading Iraq, namely, that Iraq was building weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam Hussein was implicated with Al Qaeda in 9/11.
  • Together with the president he participated in the decision to withdraw from the Geneva Conventions to the extent necessary to clear the way for the torture of prisoners taken in Iraq and elsewhere in the prosecution of the War on Terror.
  • He and the president, though warned in advance of the oncoming Hurricane Katrina, failed to heed the warnings and thereby paved the way for the unspeakable disaster that followed and continues to follow.
My law school classmate, Elizabeth Holtzman, in her book, The Impeachment of George W. Bush, and in her address of March 8, 2007, at the Woodrow Wilson Institute of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, has laid out the legal case for impeaching the President on the basis of this course of conduct, and, by implication, the Vice-President as well. If the case laid out by Holtzman is well-taken, and if the House of Representatives were to act upon it and carry out the impeachments, we would have the elegant result that Nancy Pelosi would be President.

The bad behavior examples listed above occurred at the level of public policy. Cheney's behavior at the personal level is similarly wretched. Take the case of Scooter Libby.

The Vice-President, whose right-hand man Libby was, undertook to gain revenge against Joseph C. Wilson for writing a report that concluded that the claim that Iraq was obtaining uranium in Niger for use in building nuclear weapons was totally bogus by "outing" Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, a CIA officer. (That Plame's CIA job status was not in any way relevant to the issue -- whether Iraq was or was not building nuclear weapons -- only illustrates how mean and small-minded was the "outing" project.) In due course, Scooter Libby, was indicted, tried and convicted of perjury committed in the course of the investigation of the outing of Valerie Plame. No one doubts that Libby took the fall for Cheney. (See the comment of one of the Libby jurors, for example.)

Libby now knows his former boss is no stand up guy: in a brilliant interview of Cheney conducted by Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation on April 15, 2007, Schieffer asked Cheney whether he had spoken to Scooter Libby since the trial. Upon receiving Cheney's negative answer on the basis that he did not want to interfere in a pending legal action, Schieffer asked:

"Have you not even called him as an old friend to express your regrets?"

To which Cheney replied:

"There has been no occasion to do that."

So much for the behavior of Richard B. Cheney, 46th Vice-President of the United States of America.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Serious about Syria

Nancy Pelosi's Visit to Syria

I am filled with admiration for Nancy Pelosi for having the courage and audacity to visit Syria this week. In one brilliant step she has moved from the speakership to the world stage. It was a stunning move that showed the world a better side of America than the one they have been seeing in recent years. Nancy's visit demonstrated to the world that America is not all about Bush and Cheney. After the dark, dreary, disastrous night of George Bush's ruinous presidency it is refreshing to watch the woman who is second in line to the presidency make such a bold, independent and unexpected move -- a move that is, moreover, right in the face of Bush and Cheney. Bush is, predictably, apoplectic. Mentally muddled as ever, he charges that Nancy's visit sends mixed signals to Syria and the world, not getting it that that is exactly what we want and need.

Following the report of the Baker-Hamilton Commission we have watched the government dither over the desirability or lack of it of talking to Iran and Syria. Nancy says, "no this!" She steps on the plane and goes to Damascus. There she sits down and talks to Assad. Mission accomplished! (Thanks for that, George.) As Dylan says on his last album, "things have changed."

What does this tell us about Nancy Pelosi? Did anyone think she would take this kind of electrifying action so early in her term? Not I. Barely three months have elapsed since she took office and she has made herself a global political player. What nerve! What next? Taking stock, the Speaker is mature, beautiful, articulate, intelligent, imaginative and bold. Do Hillary and Barack have cause for concern?

Postscript: As we watch Nancy Pelosi's ascending star, we should also take note of Germany's prime minister, Angela Merkel, who is surprising people who had sold her short with her astute and successful diplomacy. Angela has a Ph.D. in quantum chemistry and is not to be sold short.

Martin Luther King Remembered

I cannot let this day pass without remembering that today is the 39th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King at age 39 by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee. King's assassination was the second in the series of three assassinations in the '60's that deprived America of its best and brightest leadership -- John F. Kennedy in 1963, Martin Luther King in 1967 and Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. It is hard to imagine today the murderous history of America in that decade. And it is all the more painful to reflect upon it at a time like the present when the country suffers under the degraded and failed leadership of George Bush and Dick Cheney.

It is an odd coincidence that all of the three great and stirring speeches I have heard in my lifetime also occurred in the 1960's: John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address (text) (video) of January 20, 1961; Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963; and Abba Eban's speech to the U.N. Security Council of June 6, 1967, defending Israel's Six Day War.

The full video of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech of August 28, 1963, appears at the head of this post. It is well worth every one of the 17 minutes it takes to view it. It is as moving today as it was on that hot, humid day in Washington 44 years ago.

Postscript: I cannot let a tribute to Martin Luther King on the anniversary of his assassination end without mentioning Robert F. Kennedy's moving extemporaneous statement on the night of the assassination. The link will take you to an audio recording of Bobby's remarks accompanied by a photo montage of the times.