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Posts Tagged ‘BOB WOODWARD’

“BOXING IN” HITLER AND TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 12, 2018 at 12:10 am

After Donald Trump won the 2016 election, many people feared he would embark on a radical Right-wing agenda. But others hoped that the Washington bureaucracy would “box him in.”

The same sentiments echoed throughout Germany after Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933.

The 1983 TV  mini-series, The Winds of War, offered a dramatic example of how honorable men can be overwhelmed by a ruthless dictator. 

Based on the bestselling 1971 historical novel by Herman Wouk, the mini-series factually re-created the major historical events of World War II.

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One of those events took place on November 5, 1939.

General Walther von Brauchitsch is summoned to the Chancellery in Berlin to meet with Adolf Hitler. He carries a memorandum signed by all the leaders of the German Wehrmacht asserting that Case Yellow—Hitler’s planned attack against France—is impossible.

Meanwhile, at the German army headquarters at Zossen, in Berlin, the Wehrmacht’s top command wait for word from von Brauchitsch. 

ZOSSEN: 

Brigadier General Armin von Roon: I must confide in you on a very serious matter. I have been approached by certain army personages of the loftiest rank and prestige with a frightening proposal.

Chief of the General Staff Franz Halder:  What did you reply?

Von Roon: That they were talking high treason. 

Image result for Gunter Meisner as Adolf Hitler in The Winds of War

Gunter Meisner as Adolf Hitler in “The Winds of War”

THE WHITE HOUSE:

Fast forward 79 years from Adolf Hitler’s stormy confrontation with Walter von Brauchitsch to September 5, 2018.

On September 5, 2018, The New York Times publishes an anonymous Op-Ed essay by “a senior official in the Trump administration.”  This spotlights massiver dysfunction within the White House—and put the blame squarely on the President. 

Among the revelations:

  • “Many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”
  • “We believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic. That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”
  • “On Russia…the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain….But his national security team knew better—such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.”
  • “From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.” 

ZOSSEN: 

Von Roon: The conspiracy has been going on that long—since Czechoslovakia [1938)?

Halder: If the British had not caved in at Munich [where France and Britain sold out their ally, Czechoslovakia]—perhaps. But they did. And ever then, ever since his big triumph, it has been hopeless. Hopeless.

Von Roon: Empty talk, talk, talk. I am staggered.

Halder: A hundred times I myself could have shot the man. I can still at any time. But what would be the result? Chaos. The people are for him. He has unified the country. We must stick to our posts and save him from making military mistakes. 

THE WHITE HOUSE:

On September 11, 2018, legendary investigative reporter Bob Woodward publishes a devastating take on the Trump administration: Fear: Trump in the White House. The text features explosive revelations about the President’s ignorance and mistreatment of staffers:

  • Trump was about to sign a letter canceling a free-trade agreement with South Korea. To prevent this, Eric Cohn, his national economic council director, swiped it from Trump’s desk. Trump didn’t notice it missing.
  • Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, failed to convince the President that he shouldn’t testify to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The reason: He would commit perjury—and end up in “an orange jumpsuit.” 
  • Trump referred to Alabaman Jeff Sessions, his attorney general, as “a dumb southerner” and “mentally retarded.”

General Walther von Brauchitsch fails to convince Hitler to postpone “Case Yellow”—the invasion of France. Hitler insists that it commence in seven days—on November 12.

And he issues a warning to the entire German General staff: “I will ruthlessly crush everybody up to the rank of a Field Marshal who dares to oppose me. You don’t have to understand. You only have to obey. The German people understand me. I am Germany.”

Due to foul weather, Hitler is forced to postpone the invasion of France until June, 1940. But the German General staff can’t ultimately put off the war that will destroy them—and Germany.

President Donald Trump has:

  • Fired FBI Director James Comey.
  • Tried to fire Independent Counsel Robert Mueller.
  • Attacked the integrity of the American Intelligence community.
  • Attacked the free press as “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Branded America’s longtime ally, Canada, as “a national security threat.” 
  • Praised brutal Communist dictators Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un.

Like Hitler, he can equally say: I am the destiny of America.  

History has yet to record if Trump’s subordinates will prove more successful than Hitler’s at preserving “our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”

LOVE CAN BUILD A BOND; FEAR CREATES ENEMIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 6, 2018 at 12:25 am

President John F. Kennedy was securely fastened in his grave before he became the subject of a flood of bestselling biographies.

Among these:

  • With Kennedy, by Pierre Salinger;
  • A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House, by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.;
  • Kennedy, by Theodore C. Sorensen;
  • The Pleasure of His Company, by Paul B. Fay;
  • My Twelve Years With John F. Kennedy, by Elvelyn Lincoln;
  • Conversations With Kennedy, by Benjamin C. Bradlee.

Many of these appeared shortly after his death. Some—such as A Thousand Days and Kennedy—were massive—totaling 1,087 pages for the first and 758 pages for the second.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy.png

John F. Kennedy

Most were embarrassingly admiring, almost worshipful. Many of these books were written by those who had worked closely with Kennedy and knew his most intimate secrets. Yet the worst of those secrets did not emerge until the early 1970s.

Among those:

  • Kennedy’s compulsive womanizing.
  • His poor health and reckless use of drugs (licit and illicit) to control it.
  • His waging a no-quarter war on Fidel Castro (including using the Mafia to try to assassinate the Cuban dictator).

Kennedy inspired loyalty by somehow making those around him feel they were valued—and partners in a great historical moment.

Donald Trump, by contrast, has held office less than two years—and two books highly critical of him have already emerged, with a third to appear on September 11th.

The first, Fire and Fury, by Michael Wolff, appeared in January. The second, Unhinged, by Omarosa Manigault-Newman, came out in August.

Among the reviews of Fire and Fury

“What makes the book significant is its sly, hilarious portrait of a hollow man, into the black hole of whose needy, greedy ego the whole world has virtually vanished.”―The Guardian

“An undeniably juicy chronicle of a presidential administration that in just one year has been beset by numerous scandals and crises….” ―The San Francisco Chronicle

Wollf is an author, essayist, journalist, and columnist. He was never a member of Trump’s inner circle—yet he was given extraordinary access to those who worked in the West Wing of the White House.

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Donald Trump

Manigault-Newman, on the other hand, had known Trump intimately since 2003, when she first appeared on his NBC “reality” series, The Apprentice. She campaigned for him in 2016 and followed him into the White House as director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison—until she was fired in December, 2017. 

After her firing, she abruptly underwent a conversion from worshiper to heretic. As a reviewer on Amazon.com put it:

“It’s a story that starts with a starry eyed younger Omarosa, and ends with her freedom from the ‘TrumpWorld cult’. Along the way she becomes increasingly aware that her former mentor, friend, and idol, has no empathy for others, is narcissistic to an extreme, does not read or intake new information unless it’s on a favored cable TV channel, and she also sees signs of dementia-like behavior leaving her wondering what, if anything, she can do as an insider.” 

And on September 11th, the most devastating book yet to appear on Trump will make its debut: Fear: Trump in the White House.

Its author is Bob Woodward, legendary investigative reporter and Washington Post associate editor.

Woodward “made his bones” as a journalist with Carl Bernstein from 1972 to 1974. Their reporting made “Watergate” a household word—and helped bring down President Richard M. Nixon.

Perhaps the most startling secret to be found within Woodward’s book: Nearly every member of Trump’s handpicked staff considers him an idiot. 

  • His former Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson: “He’s a fucking idiot.” 
  • John Kelly, his chief of staff: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in crazytown,” 
  • Secretary of Defense James Mattis: Trump acted like—and had the understanding of—“a fifth- or sixth-grader. ”
  • Trump’s former lawyer John Dowd warned the President not to testify before Special Counsel Robert Mueller: “It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit” for perjury. 

Niccolo Machiavelli raised the question of “whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved.”

And he answered it: “The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved.”  

But Machiavelli warned about relying primarily on fear: “Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred, for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together.

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

By repeatedly showing himself ignorant of—and even indifferent to—the realities of Presidential statecraft, Trump quickly forfeited the respect of his top staffers and Cabinet officials. 

As a result, Trump has produced a dysfunctional administration constantly teetering on the edge of meltdown.

And by regularly humiliating those staffers and Cabinet officials, he destroyed their ties of loyalty to him as a man and President.

This has produced legions of angry, disillusioned members seeking revenge—and they will eagerly leak Trump’s latest embarrassing secrets to the first reporter who comes asking.

LET THE SUNSHINE IN

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 24, 2014 at 12:06 am

President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney raised and spent millions of dollars for campaign ads. They logged thousands of miles, crisscrossing the nation, speaking to millions of Americans.

And yet, when the 2012 Presidential race finally ended on November 6, 2012, history recorded the contest was settled with a single video.

It was the infamous “47%” video of Romney speaking–for once, truthfully–at a private fundraiser:

“Well, there are 47% of the people who will vote for the President no matter what. All right? There are 47% who are with him.

“Who are dependent upon government. Who believe that–that they are victims. Who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them.

“Who believe that they’re entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it. But that’s–it’s an entitlement.

“…These are people who pay no income tax. 47% of Americans pay no income taxes. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. And he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich.”

A great deal of speculation has centered on: Who filmed it?

And in April, 2013, history repeated itself–with another Republican caught telling the ugly truth behind closed doors.

In this case, it was Kentucky United States Senator Mitch McConnell.  A microphone (probably stationed outside his Senate office) caught him discussing how to attack Ashley Judd’s mental health if the actress decided to challenge him in 2014.

“She’s clearly, this sounds extreme, but she is emotionally unbalanced,” a McConnell aide said. “I mean, it’s been documented….She’s suffered some suicidal tendencies.  She was hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the 90s.”

“I assume most of you have played the game Whac-A-Mole,” said McConnell.  “This is the Whac-A-Mole period of the campaign…when anybody sticks their head up, do them out.”

McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, refused to answer reporters’ questions about whether an opponent’s mental health or religious beliefs are fair game in a political campaign.

Instead, he accused “the political left” of mounting “quite a Nixonian move.”  An ironic charge, considering that Nixon and McConnell rose to power within the same political party.

As in the case of the Mitt Romney videotape, the focus of the press quickly turned to: Who recorded it?

But this totally missed the point.

It doesn’t matter who provides vital information. What does matter is: Is that information accurate?

In Romney’s case, it opened a window into a world seldom-seen by voters: The world of big-league donors and their money-grubbing political solicitors.

In McConnell’s case, it cast light on the how entrenched politicians ruthlessly defend their turf.

It should be clear that money-grubbing politicians have two versions of campaign speaking: One for donors whose money they seek, and another for the public whose votes they seek.

Rich and greed-obsessed donors (unlike poor and ignorant voters) are too smart to be fobbed off with appeals to their fears and prejudices. They expect a tangible return for their support–namely:

  • Lower (preferably no) taxes
  • Freedom to pollute
  • Freedom to pay their employees the lowest possible wages
  • Freedom to treat their employees like serfs
  • Freedom to churn out shoddy or even dangerous goods

So what a candidate says in private, to his wealthy donors–or his campaign strategists–reflects what he really means and intends to do.

A similar frenzy of speculation centered on the identity of “Deep Throat”–the legendary source for Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward during the Watergate scandal. For decades, this proved a favorite guessing game for Washington reporters, politicians and government officials.

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein working on Watergate

In the end, “Deep Throat” turned out to be W. Mark Felt, assistant director of the FBI.

Commentators have endlessly debated his motives for leaking crucial Watergate evidence that ultimately ended the corrupt Presidency of Richard Nixon.

And, in the end, despite all the theories, it didn’t matter.

Felt provided Washington Woodward with the evidence necessary to keep the Watergate investigations going–by both the Post and the FBI.

W. Mark Felt

Thus, the question making the rounds about the McConnell discussion shouldn’t have been: Who taped it?

It should have been: How can more private fundraisers and political strategy sessions be penetrated and recorded–so voters can learn the truth about those who would become our elected rulers?

Definitely, those who specialize in “opposition research” should be thinking hard about this.

Private investigators–who regularly unearth secrets others want to keep secret–might also take an interest in this line of work.

And news organizations should offer financial rewards to those who provide such secret information.

With the advent of billionaires trying to buy the Presidency, and the unwillingness of Congress and the Supreme Court to stop the flow of unsavory money into politics, this may be our only chance to preserve what is left of the Republic.

Anyone who’s ever turned on a light to find roaches scurrying quickly over a kitchen floor knows the truth of this.

Turn on the lights–and watch the roaches scurry away.

A NEW WAY TO COMBAT TERRORISM: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on May 20, 2013 at 12:00 am

Within investigative agencies such as the FBI and CIA, there are divisions specializing in two types of Intelligence:

Tactical Intelligence: This concerns matters that are of immediate importance. Examples: Al Qaeda is planning to set off a bomb at a particular place, or a top Islamic terrorist is due to arrive at a particular plce on such-and-such date.

Strategic Intelligence: This concerns matters that are of long-term importance. Examples: How does Al Qaeda recruit new members?  How does it launder its money?

For too long, Intelligence agencies have followed the “buy and bust” example of local and Federal narcotics enforcement agencies. That is: They have gone for the quick arrest of smalltime criminals while ignoring the operating processes of criminal organizations.

To actively combat Islamic terrorism, the American Intelligence community must thoroughly understand the enemy it is facing. Thus, that community should create a corps of experts specializing in:

(1) Islamic religion (2) Islamic history (3) Islamic culture.

Granted, only timely tactical intelligence will reveal Al Qaeda’s latest plans for destruction.

But no matter how adept Islamic terrorists prove at concealing their momentary aims, they cannot conceal the insights and long-term objectives of the religion, history and culture which have scarred and molded them.

While accumulating such intelligence, one question above all others should be kept constantly in mind: “How can we turn this religion / history / culture into a weapon against the terrorists we face?”

To demonstrate how the American Intelligence community could effectively apply such intelligence:

Cultural Intelligence: A U.S. News & World Report story has noted that Palestinian suicide-bombers have been deterred by the Israelis’ use of police dogs.

For religious and cultural reasons, Muslims consider dogs defiled—and defiling—creatures. Islamic terrorists fear that blowing up themselves near a dog risks mingling their blood with that of the dead or wounded animal—thus forfeiting their opportunity to enter Paradise and claim those 72 willing virgins.

Historical Intelligence: The age-old ethnic conflicts between majority Sunni and minority Shiite Muslims are now on lethal display in Iraq. The FBI and CIA can successfully exploit these when recruiting informants or fomenting rivalries among terrorist groups.

These are similar to the animosities once existing between American Indian tribes, such as the Pawnee and Cheyenne. Veteran Army officers used these hatreds to recruit warriors of opposing Indian tribes to scout against warriors of their longtime enemies.

Religious Intelligence: Contrary to politically-correct pundits, it is not only social or economic inequalities which inspire Islamic terrorists, but the Koran itself. Within its pages are numerous exhortations to wage war on “kaffirs” or “unbelievers.”

Dying for Allah is not seen as a waste of life. In fact, the Koran encourages it. Muhammad commands in Surah [chapter] 4:74: “To him who fighteth in the cause of Allah—whether he is slain or gets victory—soon shall we give him a reward of great (value).”

The American Intelligence community must become as intimately familiar with the mindset of its Islamic enemies as the best frontier Army officers became with the mindset of the Indians they fought.

General George A. Custer once freed several white female captives by threatening to hang the chiefs of the tribes responsible. The Indians scorned death by knife or gunshot.

But they feared that the spirit of a hanged man remained forever trapped within his body, thus preventing him from reaching the Happy Hunting Ground. And Custer, knowing this, put this intelligence to effective, life-saving use.

American Intelligence agencies must learn what our Islamic enemies most seek, most prize, and—above all—most hate and fear. Then these agencies must ruthlessly apply that knowledge in defense of America’s survival.

Ali Soufan was one of the few FBI agents intimately familiar with Arabic culture and language at the time of 9/11.  In his 2011 book, The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda, he sums up the importance of “knowing your enemy.”

People ask what is the most important weapon we have against al-Qaeda, and I reply, “Knowledge.”

….As Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War, when we know our enemy’s strengths and weaknesses, and at the same time we know our capabilities–that’s when we are best-placed to achieve victory.

…Our greatest successes against al-Qaeda have come when we understood how they recruited, brainwashed and operated, and used our knowledge to outwit and defeat them. 

Our failures have come when we instead let ourselves be guided by ignorance, fear and brutality.

A NEW WAY TO COMBAT TERRORISM: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on May 17, 2013 at 1:25 am

It’s long past time to re-think the role that inflexible bureaucracies have played–and continue to play–in the so-called “war on terror.”

In fact, a good place to start would be scrapping that phrase.

“Terrorism” is not and never has been an end in itself. It is, instead, a means to an end, nearly always used by organizations unable to field conventional armies.

“Terror,” as such, can never be eliminated. But those who practice it can be targeted for destruction.

Thus, a more accurate–if politically incorrect–title for the conflict now raging between the United States and its Islamic enemies would be: “The War on Islamic Aggression.”

It’s true that not all Islamics are terrorists. But it’s equally true that most of the terrorists now threatening America are Islamics.

Bureaucracies are, by their very nature, conservative institutions. They may start out as innovators, but, over time, techniques that were new and fresh become old and brittle.

What worked in the past against one problem fails to work when pitted against an entirely new challenge.

Since 1981, the United States has been on the defensive against Islamic terrorism. As noted investigative journalist Bob Woodward warned in a 2001 Frontline documentary:

“These terrorist incidents–they [American Intelligence agencies] used the tools that were available, but it was never in a coherent way.

“I know from talking to those people at the time, it was always, ‘Oh, we’ve got this crisis. We’re dealing with the Achille Lauro now,’ or ‘We’re dealing with Quaddafi,’ or ‘We’re dealing with Libyan hit squads,’ or ‘We’re dealing with Beirut.’

“And it never- they never got in a position where they said, ‘You know, this is a real serious threat,’ not just episodically, but it’s going to be a threat to this country throughout the administration, future administrations.

“We need to organize to fight it. It can’t be a back-bench operation for the FBI and the CIA. It’s got to be somebody’s issue, so it’s on their desk every day. What do we know? What’s being planned? What are the threats out there?”

It’s time for the United States to cast aside its hidebound, case-by-case approach to fighting Islamic aggression. It’s time for American Intelligence to recognize that the secrets to defeating Islamic terrorism lie within the history, culture and religion of the enemies we face.

In Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart, Saladin and the Third Crusade [Doubleday, 2001] James Reston, Jr. demonstrates that the past is truly prologue for the soldiers of Islam.

Suicide Warriors: Rashid al-Din Sinan, known as “The Old Man of the Mountain,” was the head of the Assassins. He was imam to a cadre of young men, known as fidai, who swore personal allegiance to him.

Once, to prove the devotion of his followers to a Crusader leader, Sinan gave a quick hand signal to two fidai high in a tower. At once, both leaped to their death in the ravine below. Sinan then asked the Crusader if he would like to see another such example of loyalty; the Frank said this wasn’t necessary, that he was convinced.

Promises of Paradise: “Assassins” is derived from “hashish.” During the fidai indoctrination ceremony, a devotee was given a potion laced with cannabis, put to sleep, and then transported to a beautiful garden.

When he awoke, he believed he was being given a glimpse of the Paradise to come. He would extend his hand and receive a dagger–and instructions for murder: “Go and slay so-and-so, and when you return, my angels will bear you into Paradise.”

Sunnis vs. Shiites: Sinan–from Basra–belonged to the Shi’ite (minority) branch of Islam. Even in the twelfth century, the rivalry between Shi’ism and Sunnism was intense. Sinan blamed Saladin for defeating and erasing the Shi’ite Fatamid Caliphate of Cairo and imposing Sunnism in its place. Sinan ordered two attempts on the life of Saladin himself.

The first failed when the assassins were intercepted and killed only a few feet from Saladin. The second almost succeeded: Posing as one of the Sultan’s bodyguards, the assailant slashed at Saladin’s head.

Bleeding and terrified, Saladin fought off his attacker until his guards intervened. Saladin survived only because he wore a mailed headdress beneath his turban.

Saladin quickly negotiated a non-aggression pact with Sinan

“The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend”: The Latin Christians were not Sinan’s greatest enemy. This honor was reserved for the Muslim viziers in Aleppo and Mosul. As a result, Sinan reached an accommodation with the Templers.

The Assassins and the military monks understood each other well, for they had much in common: Both groups were luxury-spurning religious fanatics.

On occasion, the two went to war: After a boundary dispute in 1154, the Assassins murdered Raymond II of Tripoli; in return, the Templers butchered a number of Muslims.

After that, an accommodation was reached. For a time, the Assassins paid the Templers a hefty tribute to be left alone.

LET THE SUNSHINE IN

In History, Politics on April 17, 2013 at 12:02 am

President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney raised and spent millions of dollars for campaign ads.

And yet, when the 2012 Presidential race finally ended on November 6, its single most important video hadn’t been produced by an advertising agency.

It’s the infamous “47%” video of Romney speaking–for once, truthfully–at a private fundraiser:

“Well, there are 47% of the people who will vote for the President no matter what. All right? There are 47% who are with him. Who are dependent upon government. Who believe that–that they are victims. Who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them.

“Who believe that they’re entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it. But that’s–it’s an entitlement.”

“…These are people who pay no income tax. 47% of Americans pay no income taxes. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. And he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich.”

A great deal of speculation has centered on: Who filmed it?

And in April, 2013, history repeated itself–with another Republican caught telling the ugly truth behind closed doors.

In this case, it was Kentucky United States Senator Mitch McConnell.  A microphone (probably stationed outside his Senate office) caught him discussing how to attack Ashley Judd’s mental health if the actress decided to challenge him in 2014.

“She’s clearly, this sounds extreme, but she is emotionally unbalanced,” a McConnell aide said. “I mean, it’s been documented.

“Jesse can go in chapter and verse from her autobiography about…she’s suffered some suicidal tendencies.  She was hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the 90s.”

“I assume most of you have played the game Whac-A-Mole,” said McConnell.  “This is the Whac-A-Mole period of the campaign…when anybody sticks their head up, do them out.”

McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, refused to answer reporters’ questions about whether an opponent’s mental health or religious beliefs are fair game in a political campaign.

Instead, he accused “the political left” of mounting “quite a Nixonian move.”  An ironic charge, considering that Nixon and McConnell rose to power within the same political party.

As in the case of the Mitt Romney videotape, the focus of the press has been on: Who recorded it?  But this totally misses the point.

It doesn’t matter who provides vital information.

What does matter is: Is that information accurate?

In Romney’s case, it opened a window into a world seldom-seen by voters: The world of big-league donors and their money-grubbing political solicitors.

In McConnell’s case, it cast light on the how entrenched politicians ruthlessly defend their turf.

It should be clear that money-grubbing politicians have two versions of campaign speaking: One for donors whose money they seek, and another for the public whose votes they seek.

Rich and greed-obsessed donors are too smart to be fobbed off with appeals to their fears and prejudices. They expect a tangible return for their support–namely:

  • Lower (preferably no) taxes
  • Freedom to pollute
  • Freedom to pay their employees the lowest possible wages
  • Freedom to treat their employees like serfs
  • Freedom to churn out shoddy or even dangerous goods

So what a candidate says in private, to his wealthy donors–or his campaign strategists–reflects what he really means and intends to do.

A similar frenzy of speculation centered on the identity of “Deep Throat”–the legendary source for Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward during the Watergate scandal. For decades, this proved a favorite guessing game for Washington reporters, politicians and government officials.

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein working on Watergate

In the end, “Deep Throat” turned out to be W. Mark Felt, assistant director of the FBI.

Commentators have endlessly debated his motives for leaking crucial Watergate evidence that ultimately ended  the corrupt Presidency of Richard Nixon.

And, in the end, despite all the theories, it didn’t matter.

Felt provided Washington Woodward with the evidence necessary to keep the Watergate investigations going–by both the Post and the FBI.

W. Mark Felt

Thus, the question making the rounds about the McConnell discussion shouldn’t be: Who taped it?

It should be: How can more private fundraisers and political strategy sessions be penetrated and recorded–so voters can learn the truth about those who would become our elected rulers?

Definitely, those who specialize in “opposition research” should be thinking hard about this.

Private investigators–who regularly unearth secrets others want to keep secret–might also take an interest in this line of work.

And news organizations should offer financial rewards to those who provide such secret information.

With the advent of billionaires trying to buy the Presidency, and the unwillingness of Congress and the Supreme Court to stop the flow of unsavory money into politics, this may be our only chance to preserve what is left of the Republic.

Anyone who’s ever turned on a light to find roaches scurrying quickly over a kitchen floor knows the truth of this.

Turn on the lights–and watch the roaches scurry away.

LET THE SUNSHINE IN

In History, Politics, Social commentary on October 16, 2012 at 12:00 am

President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney have raised and spent millions of dollars for campaign ads.  They have logged thousands of miles, crisscrossing the nation, speaking to millions of Americans.

And yet, when the 2012 Presidential race finally ends on November 6, history may well record the contest was settled with a single video.

It’s the infamous “47%” video of Romney speaking–for once, truthfully–at a private fundraiser:

“Well, there are 47% of the people who will vote for the President no matter what. All right? There are 47% who are with him. Who are dependent upon government.  Who believe that–that they are victims.  Who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them. 

“Who believe that they’re entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it. But that’s–it’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them.  And they will vote for this President no matter what.

“And–and–I mean the President starts off with 48%, 49%, 40–or he….starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. 47% of Americans pay no income taxes. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. And he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that’s what they sell every….four years.”

Click here: Mitt Romney’s “47 Percent” Comments – YouTube

A great deal of speculation has centered on: Who filmed it?

One guess: The bartender, with an iPhone, at the wet bar.

Before Mitt Romney spoke at the May 17 fundraiser, guests were reminded that Mitt Romney’s comments were off the record. Those present were asked not to repeat his remarks to the press.

Marc Leder, the wealthy hedgefund manager at whose house the fundraiser occurred, apologized to Romney.  Reportedly he believes that the video was made by someone who was hired to work the party.

Such speculation on the identity of the video-leaker totally misses the point.

It doesn’t matter who provides vital information.  What does matter is: Is that information accurate?

In this case, it most definitely was.

More importantly, it opened a window into a world seldom-seen by voters: The world of big-league donors and their money-grubbing political solicitors.

“A man usually has two reasons for doing something,” said J.P. Morgan, the American banker and financier.  “One that sounds good, and a real one.”

It should be clear that money-grubbing politicians have two versions of campaign speaking: One for donors whose money they seek, and another for the public whose votes they seek.

Rich and greed-obsessed donors are too smart to be fobbed off with appeals to their fears and prejudices.  They expect a tangible return for their support–namely:

  • Lower (preferably no) taxes
  • Freedom to pollute
  • Freedom to pay their employees the lowest possible wages
  • Freedom to treat their employees like serfs
  • Freedom to churn out shoddy or even dangerous goods

So when you hear what a candidate says in private, to his wealthy donors, you’re hearing what he really means and what he really intends to do.

A similar frenzy of speculation centered on the identity of “Deep Throat”–the legendary source for Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward during the Watergate scandal.  For decades, this proved a favorite guessing game for Washington reporters, politicians and government officials.

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein working on Watergate

In the end, “Deep Throat” turned out to be W. Mark Felt, assistant director of the FBI.

Commentators have endlessly debated his motives for leaking crucial Watergate evidence that ultimately destroyed the corrupt Presidency of Richard Nixon.

  • A patriot who wanted to serve the cause of justice.
  • A loyal FBI man who sought to protect the Bureau from “outside interference.”
  • A disgruntled executive who sought revenge on those who had passed him over for FBI director.

And, in the end, despite all the theories, it didn’t matter.

Felt provided Washington Woodward with the evidence necessary to keep the Watergate investigations going–by both the Post and the FBI.

W. Mark Felt

Thus, the question making the rounds about the “47%” video shouldn’t be: Who filmed it?

It should be: How can more of these private fundraisers be penetrated and recorded–so voters can learn the truth about those who would become our elected rulers?

Definitely, those who specialize in “opposition research” should be thinking hard about this.

Private investigators–who regularly unearth secrets others want to keep secret–might also take an interest in this line of work.

And news organizations should offer financial rewards to those who provide such secret information.

With the advent of billionaires trying to buy the Presidency, and the unwillingness of Congress and the Supreme Court to stop the flow of unsavory money into politics, this may be our only chance to preserve what is left of the Republic.

Anyone who’s ever turned on a light to find roaches scurrying quickly over a kitchen floor knows the truth of this.

Turn on the lights–and watch the roaches scurry away.

A NEW WAY TO COMBAT TERRORISM – PART ONE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics on May 7, 2010 at 10:42 am

It’s long past time to re-think the role that inflexible bureaucracies have played–and continue to play–in the so-called “war on terror.”

In fact, a good place to start would be scrapping that phrase. “Terrorism” is not and never has been an end in itself. It is, instead, a means to an end, nearly always used by organizations unable to field conventional armies.

“Terror,” as such, can never be eliminated. But those who practice it can be targeted for destruction.

Thus, a more accurate–if politically incorrect–title for the conflict now raging between the United States and its Islamic enemies would be: “The War on Islamic Aggression.”

It’s true that not all Islamics are terrorists. But it’s equally true that most of the terrorists now threatening America are Islamics.

Bureaucracies are, by their very nature, conservative institutions. They may start out as innovaters, but, over time, techniques that were new and fresh become old and brittle. What worked in the past against one problem fails to work when pitted against an entirely new challenge.

Since 1981, the United States has been on the defensive against Islamic terrorism. As noted investigative journalist Bob Woodward warned in a 2001 Frontline documentary:

“These terrorist incidents- they [American Intelligence agencies] used the tools that were available, but it was never in a coherent way. I know from talking to those people at the time, it was always, ‘Oh, we’ve got this crisis. We’re dealing with the Achille Lauro now,’ or ‘We’re dealing with Quaddafi,’ or ‘We’re dealing with Libyan hit squads,’ or ‘We’re dealing with Beirut.’ And it never- they never got in a position where they said, ‘You know, this is a real serious threat,’ not just episodically, but it’s going to be a threat to this country throughout the administration, future administrations.

“We need to organize to fight it. It can’t be a back-bench operation for the FBI and the CIA. It’s got to be somebody’s issue, so it’s on their desk every day. What do we know? What’s being planned? What are the threats out there?”

It’s time for the United States to cast aside its hidebound, case-by-case approach to fighting Islamic aggression. It’s time for American Intelligence to recognize that the secrets to defeating Islamic terrorism lie within the history, culture and religion of the enemies we face.

In Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart, Saladin and the Third Crusade [Doubleday, 2001] James Reston, Jr. demonstrates that the past is truly prologue for the soldiers of Islam.

Suicide Warriors: Rashid al-Din Sinan, known as “The Old Man of the Mountain,” was the head of the Assassins. He was imam to a cadre of young men, known as fidai, who swore personal allegiance to him. Once, to prove the devotion of his followers to a Crusader leader, Sinan gave a quick hand signal to two fidai high in a tower. At once, both leaped to their death in the ravine below. Sinan then asked the Crusader if he would like to see another such example of loyalty; the Frank said this wasn’t necessary, that he was convinced.

Promises of Paradise: “Assassins” is derived from “hashish.” During the fidai indoctrination ceremony, a devotee was given a potion laced with cannabis, put to sleep, and then transported to a beautiful garden. When he awoke, he believed he was being given a glimpse of the Paradise to come. He would extend his hand and receive a dagger–and instructions for murder: “Go and slay so-and-so, and when you return, my angels will bear you into Paradise.”

Sunnis vs. Shiites: Sinan–from Basra–belonged to the Shi’ite branch of Islam. Even in the twelfth century, the rivalry between Shi’ism and Sunnism was intense. Sinan blamed Saladin for defeating and erasing the Shi’ite Fatamid Caliphate of Cairo and imposing Sunnism in its place. Sinan ordered two attempts on the life of Saladin himself. The first failed when the assassins were intercepted and killed only a few feet from Saladin. The second almost succeeded: Posing as one of the Sultan’s bodyguards, the assailant slashed at Saladin’s head. Bleeding and terrified, Saladin fought off his attacker until his guards intervened. Saladin survived only because he wore a mailed headdress beneath his turban.

“The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend”: The Latin Christians were not Sinan’s greatest enemy. This honor was reserved for the Muslim viziers in Aleppo and Mosul. As a result, Sinan reached an accommodation with the Templers. The Assassins and the military monks understood each other well, for they had much in common: Both groups were luxury-spurning religious fanatics. On occasion, the two went to war: After a boundary dispute in 1154, the Assassins murdered Raymond 11 of Tripoli; in return, the Templers butchered a number of Muslims. After that, an accommodation was reached. For a time, the Assassins paid the Templers a hefty tribute to be left alone.

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