Happy New Year from The New Republic Online! Over the holiday week, Jonathan Chait pointed out how Bush fooled neoconservatives into supporting the Iraq war; Catherine O'Neill reminisced about Christmas as a foreign service brat in India; Roger Rosenblatt explained why the ghost of Christmas past was more influential than the ghost of Christmas future; S.Adele Shaw rued the Americanization of Christmas; Emma Chastain revealed the erotic side of The Nutcracker; the Editors bristled at Calvin Coolidge's admonition--delivered via New Year's card--not to disagree publicly with U.S.
by Richard Stern Scene 1. The Puce Room of the White House. Light coming through rose-colored window glass beautifies the reflections bouncing off the handsome silver tea service. The First Lady, simply and expensively dressed in tweed skirt and green silk blouse, pours tea for her visitor, Colleen Dowdy, the columnist. Collen Dowdy: It's always reassuring to see you, Mrs. B.
I've so far resisted weighing in on the Chait-Lindsey "liberaltarian" smack-down, mostly because Jon has done such a nice job rebutting the case for a liberal-libertarian alliance. But there's one claim that might be worth examining more rigorously given that Brink (whom I think is an exceptionally smart and thoughtful guy) keeps invoking it.
The Associated Press reported today that, in a statement by its spokesman Sean McCormack, the U.S. State Department has urged Syria to open up an embassy on Lebanon. As close readers of The Spine may know, I have pointed out time and time again that there are no official bi-lateral relations between the two countries. In fact, there have never been such. This is because whoever has ruled in Damascus has never recognized the independent sovereignty of those who govern in Beirut. This has been the case ever since Lebanon declared its independence from the Free French in 1943.
You do remember when Robert Mugabe was a hero to liberal leaning people, don't you? Well, he's not quite been that for a long time. Although he is still backed by South Africa and other powers on the continent who refuse to say an unkind word about black dictators. Mugabe is worse than a dictator. He is a monster. Now, my research assistant, Jamie Kirchick, is something of an expert on Zimbabwe and had recently published two pieces about that sad country in the Weekly Standard and the Baltimore Sun.
Matt Yglesias has a post flagging a new report from Chatham House, a British think tank. The study rips Blair and his cabinet for their "inability to influence the Bush administration in any significant way despite the sacrifice--military, political and financial--that the United Kingdom has made." Surely this is true, as Matt says. Then he writes this: It's particularly sad because, as I've said before, Blair was really near the top of the pyramid in terms of people whose combination of objective authority and apparent credibility were key to persuading people to back the war.
Isaac's post about Powell reminded me that I'd never linked to this Michael Lewis review of Karen DeYoung's new Powell biography. The review is devastating--not so much to the book but to its subject--and may be the best summation of Powell's m.o. that I've ever read. A sample: [DeYoung] leaves the reader with the sense that Colin Powell was a good man in a bad administration, and that he deserves mostly sympathy for his predicament. He argued against war right up until war became inevitable, then, like a good soldier, followed his orders. Only he wasn't a soldier.
There's a new Republican name circulating in the White House 2008 conversation: former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating. I see National Review's hotwired Jonathan Martin is taking it seriously. And Keating, a devout anti-abortion Catholic, does offer some attractive post-9/11 credentials: He's a former F.B.I. agent, for instance, and, in a sort of mini-Giuliani fashion, presided during the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Keating is so impressive to fellow Republicans, in fact, that he was almost George W. Bush's running mate and, later, Bush's first attorney general. Almost. --Michael Crowley
After Edward Zwick returned from Mozambique and Sierra Leone this June, he received a letter from Nelson Mandela. Zwick, the director of Glory, had traveled to Africa to film Blood Diamond, the story of the civil war that ravaged Sierra Leone during the 1990s.
President Bush and his advisers were not the only ones who were anxious about what the Iraq Study Group would recommend. So were the Saudis, which explains why they sought an urgent meeting between King Abdullah and Vice President Cheney in late November. The source of Saudi anxiety was almost certainly the widely held assumption that, to help fix Iraq, the Baker-Hamilton Commission would counsel reaching out to Iran and Syria, both of which Riyadh regards as regional rivals.