Wednesday, July 29, 2009

July 29, 2009

        The American-led force in Iraq is formally named the "Multi-National Force--Iraq."  But that will change, because it isn't anymore.  Multi-national, that is.  The Iraqi Parliament left on summer vacation without extending  an agreement to let the British keep a training force of 100 in the country, so they'll be leaving this week.  The Australians, it's reported, will also be out by the end end of the month;  the Romanians, the New York Times reports, left last Thursday.  NATO will still have some people there, but they never were part of the Force.      So who's left?  You guessed it--just us lucky Yanks.      I never understood why we invaded Iraq in the first place.  Did we have an aim?  Weapons of mass destruction?  They didn't have any.  Big buddies with al-Qaeda?  Nah.  Was it to show we were tougher than out father, who threw Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait after he invaded it but then stopped?  Maybe. But in any case, we get to stay.  We're supposed to leave too, of course, by the end of 2011, but only time, as they say, will tell.  If we do leave, Iraq won't have any jet fighters.  It's asked us for some, of course, but our commander there says we couldn't deliver any by then.  That's a disappointment I can live with--more money not spent on this dumb war.      My own answer to what to do comes from an old country music lyric: "You got to know when to hold 'em, and know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away..."  The war has killed over 4,000 Americans so far.  Let's fold 'em, let's walk away and let's bring the rest home.   
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Sunday, July 26, 2009

July 26, 2009

     Sarah Palin is an "ex" now, a "former."  Former governor of Alaska, that is.  This is the first day of the rest of her life.  What will she do with it?  A lot of people think she'll run for president.      She has some obvious advantages.  People know her, she's pretty and attractive, and we've never had a woman president before.  She'd have no trouble getting coverage; TV and radio shows would want her, and she's signed up to write (or have someone write, I suppose) a book. Another advantage:  the other Republican most often mentioned is Mitt Romney, who was a terrible candidate last time out and seems unlikely to have improved  (It's heredity.  His father, who ran in, I think 1968, was a terrible candidate too.)  And of course she'd make a lot more money on the circuit than she did as governor.      She'd need to do a little homework, of course.  Remember that embarrassing silence when a reporter asked her what newspapers she read?  The correct answer, easily memorized, is "The Anchorage Daily News, the New York Times, and sometimes the Washington Post."  Is it true? Doesn't matter, who's to know?      So welcome to the battle, Ms. Palin.  It's exhausting, but it can be good fun too.  If I were a reporter I'd plead with my editor to cover you and not poor Mitt.  Hot copy is what we newsies like and, it seems to me, you're it.                 

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Monday, July 20, 2009

July 20, 2009

      Forty years ago, man landed on the moon.  It was an extraordinary technological achievement and yet, we've forgotten all about it.      Back then, it seemed like the very exciting first chapter of a book.  There'd be a chapter called "On to Mars," followed by "On to Venus" and so on.  The Space Age had arrived.  Space travel had arrived.  Maybe they had, but we were not waiting there to meet them.      Instead, we got bored with space.  When will men walk on Mars?  Beats me. Venus?  Same answer.  It would cost billions of dollars and there are no signs the American government, or for that matter any government, wants to spend it.  And you know what? They're probably right.      I mean, if you had to choose between spending tax dollars on better educating our kids or on getting to Mars, how would you vote? Or between reducing hunger and Mars?  Or between decent housing for our people and Mars.  Or between...well, it's a long list.      For once, I think government got it right.  Mars would be a grand adventure, but this other stuff matters a whole lot more.  Of course, if we spend the money on wars instead...well, that's another question.
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Saturday, July 18, 2009

July 18, 2009

       Goodbye, Walter.  I'll miss you, even though it's been a while since we last spoke.   I'll miss what you stood for even more.       Walter Cronkite anchored the CBS Evening News for nineteen years, from 1962 until 1981.  I joined CBS News in 1964, so I was there for most of it.  It was a special time.  We thought we had the best team.  We in Washington thought we had the best bureau.  We probably did.  One review of network news back then said, I still remember,  "People at other networks talk a lot about CBS people.  So do CBS people."  Right.  And we knew, of course, that we had the best anchor.      Chet Huntley and David Brinkley of NBC led the ratings when Walter's tour began.  He overtook them and was number one for years until he retired.  CBS stayed first for a time after that but then lost it, and never, if I remember properly, got it back.     What was it about him?  He wasn't TV slick or TV handsome, that's for sure.  What he was, I think, was reassuring.  However bad the news was, and it was often pretty bad back then--Vietnam, Watergate--you remember--this earnest, believable man seemed to be saying, in addition to his spoken words, "It's okay, folks, we'll get through this."  He didn't openly show emotion - the Kennedy assassination, of course, and once  I remember a "Go, baby, go!" when a spacecraft lifted off the launch pad.  That feeling of solidity, of "this is a guy I can believe," was always there.      When Lyndon Johnson famously said of the Vietnam War, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America," he was probably right.     I've missed you on screen too, Walter.  TV news just ain't what it used to be.  But I'm happy to have been one of your "so-and-sos", as in, "so-and-so has more on that."  Good memories of the way it was, back then.             
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Thursday, July 16, 2009

July 15, 2009

        Governor Sarah Palin will, I read, campaign as an independent ex-gov not only for Republicans but also for Democrats who agree with her philosophy. The story didn't say whether the Republican Party would issue certificates exempting Democrats who didn't want Palin's backing from getting it, but I think they should, don't you?      In a way, you have to love Palin.  She's a fresh if sometimes uninformed voice in a politics too often dominated by caution and fear--don't say anything to lose votes, don't scare 'em away.  Palin goes back to a more carefree school - more colorful times:    Edwin Edwards, then governor of Louisiana leaving the hotel elevator to start a day's campaigning accompanied by a very pretty woman none of us had seen before, saying something like, "Hey guys, it's just me bein' me;"  or Spiro Agnew, Richard Nixon's running mate, saying that no, he didn't think Strom Thurmond, who'd run for president on a segregationist ticket, was racist;  or Joe Biden himself, in the midst of a Senate harangue, pausing and then saying thoughtfully, "Of course, I have no idea what I'm talking about."  It's the funny moments you remember.      Palin already has a few memorable, head-scratching moments, of course, as when CBS' Katie Couric asked her what newspapers, or was it news magazines, she read.  Her long, long pause was followed by no names.      Well, no matter.  It's only '09 and we don't vote 'till '12, but it's never to early to play.  Let the game begin!  But it has, of course.  It has.          
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July 14, 2009

      Well, they did it.  I mean, you knew they were going to do it.  It was only a matter of when.   Now they've done it and we can move on.  What have they done?  Sorry, I thought you knew. The Washington Nationals have fired manager Manny Acta.  It's kind of a baseball tradition.      Acta, in fact, is the third major league manager to be fired so far this season and he probably won't be the last.  Should they have fired him?  Sure. The club has the worst won-lost record in the major leagues, so how can you argue against it?  On the other hand, will firing Acta change the character of the team, propel the hapless, hopeless Nats into the playoffs?   Almost surely not.      The new manager has been a coach on the team, so it's not likely the team chemistry will suddenly change.  And with one or two exceptions, there's an explanation for the Nats' terrible season that doesn't involve anything as complicated as chemistry:  there just don't play very well.      The legendary Casey Stengel, watching tryouts for the original expansion New York Mets, is supposed to have asked, after a dreary hour or so, "Can't anybody here play this game?"  He'd have been perfect for the Nats.      Well, lots of things in baseball don't change.  My home town team, the Chicago Cubs, is tied for third in its six-team division, unlikely to make it to the World Series, which they last won in 1908. The Washington team, known as the Senators during its years in the American League, was the subject of a slogan, or maybe a taunt:  Washington--first in war, first in peace and last in the American League.      They've changed leagues, but not much else.      
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Friday, July 10, 2009

July 10, 2009

Yes, I'm resignng, and don't you clowns tell me I can't. I not only can, I have. Sure, the governorship isn't the presidency, but we hockeynmoms are tough, and we can quit any job we want to.

Yes, there are things I'll miss. It's a nice house, a really nice house, and if I'd stayed longer I'd have put some of our good Alaska lobster in the swimming pool, and that would have made it just about perfect. And never having ridden Air Force One? How do you think I'm getting babk to Wasilla,dummies? Greyhound Express?

Did I underestimate the job? Maybe. I knew you had to deal with a lot of countries, but I didn't realize I was supposed to know which continent Waziristan is on, and who's in charge there and what its special problems might be. I knew there were bill, and I knew I could veto them, but nobody told my about overriding my vetoes. Boy, those Constitution writers sure blew that one, don't you think? Can't shoot the overriders either, it turn out. Not as if they were moose.

So it's back to Alaska, and snow and rain, where a hockey mom can be free. I'll be having a ball with my skis and all, no presidential bullbleep for me.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

July 7, 2009

          I remember then Defense Secretary Robert McNamara telling reporters about a message they'd had from Moscow a couple of years earlier.  "If you want war," the Soviets said, "you can have it."  McNamara survived that one--the U.S. didn't want that war.  What did him in later, and grievously wounded America, was the war in Vietnam.      In the beginning, when a senator first called it "McNamara's War" he answered,  "I am pleased to be identified with it."  Not for long. "He drives too hard," President Lyndon Johnson said of McNamara, who worked for both Johnson and John Kennedy, "He is too perfect."  Except, of course, in Vietnam     U.S. General Curtis Le May killed 100,000 people bombing Tokyo during World War II.  "What makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?" he asked.  No answer then;  no answer for McNamara in Vietnam.      In a 1996 memoir, McNamara admitted that the war had been "wrong, terribly wrong."  But that was twenty years later.   Critics were not satisfied.      Perhaps the most influential of those critics, David Halberstam, wrote, he "did not serve himself or his country well.  He was, there is no kinder or or gentler word for it, a fool."   Now he's dead and we are supposed to say kind things.  But I think that stands.  
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Saturday, July 4, 2009

July 4, 2009

             "We hold these truths to be self-evident," the Second Continental Congress voted a couple of centuries ago, "that all Men are create equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness...."      Did we get there?  Well, kind of, sort of, partly.  We would mostly agree now that it should have read "people" not "men."  We would argue about how far equality for women has actually come.     

Liberty?  We've done pretty well here at home, though no one would argue that poor people have as easy a path to it as rich ones.  Abroad?  Well, you had to beat Hitler, and we did.  But why did we decide to replace France as a colonial power in Vietnam?  Damned if I know.  Why did we invade Iraq?  Same answer. Vietnam turned out pretty well;  we speak to one another now.  Iraq remains a killing ground and there is no evidence we can stop that.     

And just this week there have been stories about a bigger US involvement on the ground in Afghanistan. Hunh?  What on earth for?  Why not let the Afghans mess up their own lives.     

So, with mixed results, the search for those unalienable rights goes on.  To paraphrase some old comedian - or was it George Herbert Walker Bush:  "Nobody said it was going to be easy. Nobody was right."    
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