Isaac Chotiner

The Los Angeles Times has a big story today on Iranian defectors. Here's the lede: The CIA launched a secret program in 2005 designed to degrade Iran's nuclear weapons program by persuading key officials to defect, an effort that has prompted a "handful" of significant departures, current and former U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the operation say. The previously undisclosed program, which CIA officials dubbed "the Brain Drain," is part of a major intelligence push against Iran ordered by the White House two years ago. This would certainly explain the NIE's turnabout.

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Mike Allen has a big scoop at The Politico today which is now the lead story on Drudge. As the AP puts it in their write-up: Mike Huckabee once advocated isolating AIDS patients from the general public, opposed increased federal funding in the search for a cure and said homosexuality could "pose a dangerous public health risk." As a candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in 1992, Huckabee answered 229 questions submitted to him by The Associated Press.

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Ross' interesting post on the paradox of the GOP nomination fight--every candidate has a seemingly fatal flaw, but one of them has to win--brought to mind what I think has always been the most fascinating What If of the campaign. What if in, say, August, Jeb Bush had entered the race. Yes, his name is poison, but given the field I find it hard to imagine a scenario where he doesn't have a major impact--and maybe win. I'd be curious to know what people more informed about internal Republican dynamics think. --Isaac Chotiner 

Romney Hates Atheists!

It pains me to say this, but the best thing I have read on Romney, Mormonism, and faith in the presidential campaign comes courtesy of Charles Krauthammer (David Brooks gets second prize).

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Mitt Speaks!

Romney just quoted John Adams saying, "Freedom requires religion." This is a pretty radical statement, and something the candidate should be asked about later. Correction: Apparently that was not a John Adams quote; Romney said it on his own.   --Isaac Chotiner 

I don't quite understand Hendrik Hertzberg's argument is this week's New Yorker Comment. Hertzberg wants to tally up all the costs of the Iraq war, which he thinks include a lost chance for peace in the Middle East and lost respect for America around the world.

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Q Thank you. Another issue--on another issue of credibility in the Mideast, at the Annapolis summit, you used your influence to get Saudi Arabia to the table. But I wonder whether now you will use your influence to do something about the Saudi rape case that's gotten so much international attention. What goes through your mind when you hear about a 19-year-old Saudi women getting gang-raped by seven men and basically a Saudi court blames the victim and sentenced her to 200 lashes? You spoke to King Abdullah by telephone in the last couple of weeks. Did you press him on this case?

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The recent news about Iran's nuclear program has elicited amusing responses from our friends over at The Corner. Cliff May predictably smashes the NIE for being politically slanted against Bush. Even better, Victor Davis Hanson says that the disclosures present political trouble for liberal Democrats! Are they now to suggest that Republicans have been warmongering over a nonexistent threat for partisan purposes?

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Fund Fun

Bloomberg has a good story on Robert Rubin's speech at a Washington conference, where he called on Congress to "double tax rates for many hedge fund managers and private equity partners who classify their pay as capital gains." As TNR noted in a recent editorial, fund managers are now frequently able to classify earnings as capital gains because of a tax loophole. In addition to Rubin, Larry Summers also spoke out on the subject recently. Let's see if this becomes an issue in the presidential campaign as we move towards the first primaries. --Isaac Chotiner

Snub-Continent

MUMBAI, INDIA LAST YEAR, a 25-year-old Mumbai native named Savita went out with her boyfriend to celebrate Valentine’s Day. (The names of characters in this piece have been changed to protect their identities.) The couple chose an expensive Middle Eastern restaurant in Mumbai where, a few minutes into the meal, a group of men burst in and began to verbally harass them. “Why are you celebrating this American holiday?” they demanded before leaving. After Savita and her date finished their meal, they found the same group waiting for them outside. The men beat Savita’s companion badly.

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