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Impromptus
Oh, Teresa! Hating Chalabi. For Ft. Worth mayor — and more


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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Teresa Heinz Kerry is a piece of work. She’s going to be a big story in the ‘04 campaign. She is a Martha Mitchell for our time. The press will have a field day with her, if they have the gumption to report what she says. Will they protect her? Or show her colors to the world? She may be hard to suppress.

Recently, some Bush administration official said that her husband, Sen. John Kerry, “looks French.” The senator himself, of course, responded, “[This] means the White House has started the politics of personal destruction.”

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Oy (this will be relevant later). There is a perfectly good phrase — “the politics of personal destruction” — that has worn out its welcome. Because of inflation (or something). Now all the phrase means is, “Some Republican said something mean about me.”

Anyway, the really beautiful stuff comes from Teresa. She said, “They [the Republicans] will probably say he’s French, he’s Jewish . . . he’s a monkey. I just find it sad.”

Whoa, whoa: Jewish? monkey? You mean, the GOP — my GOP — will attack Kerry for having a smidgeon of Jewish ancestry, somewhere (so he says — but wasn’t he supposed to be Irish?)? The Democrats had an actual Jew on the ticket in 2000. I don’t recall my party going all brownshirt on him.

And where did “monkey” come from? (I know: Darwin.)

But here’s the kicker: Mrs. Heinz Kerry sniffed about the White House, “They probably don’t even speak French.”

Aside from the delicious hauteur of that comment: How much you wanna bet the lady’s French stinks? I’ve heard it before: rich (American) lady’s French. It’s not pretty.

I almost pity the Kerry campaign. They’re going to have to do something about this live wire.

Let me recollect for you an Impromptu published last August:

“Folks, this story is so weird — on so many levels — I think I’ll just reprint it, without commentary. I find myself almost mute, stupefied, at the sheer incredibleness of it. [How's that for an intro?]

“‘Sen. John Kerry’s wife Teresa Heinz is getting a top media handler to help with her image, sources confirmed. [She has recently gone Heinz Kerry, I believe.] [Recall, too, that, at a certain point, Hillary Rodham went Hillary Rodham Clinton — and then just Clinton. I think she's back to the three now.] The Heinz Foundation has hired ex-CNN White House correspondent Chris Black. According to a source, Black had been wooed for months to help “rein in Teresa” in anticipation of Kerry’s expected 2004 presidential run. Heinz caused Kerry to fidget and sigh during a June Washington Post interview in which she raged against Sen. Rick Santorum and mimicked Kerry having a Vietnam nightmare. Another source, however, said Black’s job is simply to bolster communications for all Heinz philanthropies.’

“Okay.”

Keep an eye out, folks. And the Kerry damage-controllers ought to don their battle gear.

The resentment at the Allied victory has taken many forms: the Enronization of Halliburton and Bechtel; an inordinate attention to the Baghdad museum (over, for example, the liberation of an entire people from one of the most vicious tyrannies in modern times) — and breathtaking invective against Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress. That Chalabi, Iraq’s Great Democratic Hope, should be a hate figure for liberals is extraordinarily revealing. It is also, as Teresa Heinz Kerry might say, “sad.”

Maureen Dowd seems to be nearing institutionalizability:

The Pentagon could easily have saved the national museum and library if they had redeployed the U.S. troops assigned to guard Ahmad Chalabi, the Richard Perle pal, Pentagon candidate and convicted embezzler who is back in Iraq trying to ingratiate himself with the country he left 40 years ago.

That, my friends, is an amazing stretch of words. Notice, first, the segue from the museum into reviling Chalabi. Then “Richard Perle pal” — that’ll hang you: to be a friend of a man who has been as concerned about Middle East democracy, freedom, and peace as any American. “Pentagon candidate”? That just means the Defense Department recognizes Chalabi as a key ally in building a decent post-Saddam Iraq.

Then “convicted embezzler.” Well, put it this way: Maureen Dowd’s faith in Jordanian justice is greater than mine. I quote from a USA Today story on Chalabi: “In 1989, he was accused of embezzling millions of dollars from a Jordanian bank. Chalabi says that the charges were politically motivated because of Jordan’s ties with Iraq and that the matter can be easily resolved. ‘It’s going to be more awkward for them than for me,’ he said in January.”

But how about “trying to ingratiate himself with the country he left 40 years ago”? There is a great amount of malice — unreasoning, weird malice — packed into that statement. Chalabi is a democratic politician, trying to practice democracy in most unusual and chaotic circumstances — circumstances that most of us, including Maureen Dowd, will never have to contend with. This isn’t “ingratiating”: This is doing one’s noblest, at the most critical hour of one’s country. And “the country he left 40 years ago” — that sounds almost like a charge of treason, of abandonment. Does Dowd know what Baath party rule has been in Iraq? What was Ahmad Chalabi supposed to do? Stay in the country, to be arrested, tortured, and killed? What good could he do his country then? Does Dowd condemn De Gaulle for leaving France?

But she isn’t done: She accuses “conservatives” of “protecting their interests by backing a shady expat puppet.” Shady expat puppet: That’s the sort of vitriol Saddam’s “information minister” would have used against opponents of the regime. It is astonishing to read it on the op-ed page of the New York Times. Really, this is a new low.

A rival politician of Chalabi’s — they have those now, thanks to George W. Bush and Tony Blair — Mohammed Mohsen Zubaidi, “has criticized some of Chalabi’s actions, including his decision to deploy teams of armed fighters throughout Iraq.” This, according to a reporting piece in the Times. I believe that Chalabi’s decision to raise a small army, to aid the Allied liberators, was vitally important. It is important to Iraqi pride and dignity: to a sense of involvement in their own liberation. You might call that the opposite of puppetry.

Bernard Lewis, the great and humane Middle East scholar, says that Chalabi is the best hope in this historic, perilous, and pivotal period for Iraq. I believe him. But people like Maureen Dowd evidently hate George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld so much, they’re willing to tear down Chalabi — a man infinitely better than his worst critics will ever be.

ATTENTION FT. WORTH VOTERS: It’s not every day that a friend of mine is running for mayor — but Elliot Goldman is running for mayor of Ft. Worth. He would be a splendid one. He is bright, energetic, knowledgeable, industrious, public-spirited, kind. I wish I were there to vote for him. I urge anyone who can, to do so. His website is here.

Dan Jenkins, chicken-fried steak, and Elliot Goldman: I like it. A lot.

Sorry, but I’m going to go back to New York Times columnists for just a sec. Thomas L. Friedman had a column headed “Stop overreacting to Sept. 11.” (How about that? We either overreact or underreact — e.g., on homeland security. We just can’t win.) Friedman wrote, “One hopes Americans will now stop overreacting to Sept. 11. Al Qaeda is not the Soviet Union. Saddam was not Stalin. And terrorism is not communism.”

Yeah, but the thing is, in the eyes of Friedman’s paper, Stalin wasn’t Stalin either — and neither was communism communism!

One word about Cuba: Matthew Hoy has performed a service by listing all those recently rounded up by the Castro regime. (Please go here.) He believes that they should not be nameless, indistinct — and he’s right, of course. Let these names, in their specificity, have resonance.

No, two words, about Cuba, please: I trust you saw that Castro has rejected the presence of a U.N. human-rights minion. The United Nations cares about nothing so much as its own greatness — and primacy — so will that be enough to cause it to view Castro skeptically? (The dictator, incidentally, holds a seat on the holy U.N. human-rights commission.)

Don’t wait up nights.

A little language: The other day, I was reading the Italian papers — and I noticed the use of some English words and phrases. You had “balance of power” (interesting, that). You had “visiting professor” (no translation — just the straight English term). And you had “last minute” — as in, “last-minute deal.”

Just reporting.

Oh, yeah: Nina Simone, the expatriate jazz singer, had just died, and the Corriere called her “a great interpreter of Gershwin and black music.” Black music: just as bald as that.

Also, Italy is not lost, because that same edition of the Corriere carried an interview with Daniel Pipes. Respectful, too! Che miracolo!

Turn to some mail. I have received several letters about whiny antiwar celebrities: those people who complain that their rights are violated because they have spoken out and met with some criticism. The letters have a common theme. I’ll let one correspondent tell it, succinctly: “To those Sarandonites who gripe about backlash, I have only two words: John Rocker. Until you start crying over him, leave me alone.”

“Dear Jay: A few weeks ago, my brother in the Air Force deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Apropos of your comments regarding former Soviet bloc countries’ support of U.S. military action, I recently received the following in an e-mail from him:

“‘We’ve got Romanian MPs guarding the base. A great bunch of guys. Deadly serious and trigger-happy. I sleep better knowing they’re taking care of us.’

“Interesting, huh?”

Yeah.

“Dear Jay: From April 11 to 13, as Iraqis were kissing Marines a few thousand miles away (and a few of our soldiers were still dying), I attended a ‘seminar’ along with 350 locally elected officials, bureaucrats, and business and community leaders from San Mateo County (a rich land of 650,000 souls nestled between Palo Alto and San Francisco). This is an annual, much-anticipated gathering on the Del Monte golf course in Monterey.

“Amazingly, not a word was said about the war (except sotto voce by the few of us wearing flag lapel pins during the schmooze hours). California attorney general and gubernatorial wannabe Bill Lockyer spoke at the Saturday lunch. His ‘heart-tug’ anecdote (just before the close) was about 9/11 firefighters in N.Y. Although a good story, it was sooo out-of-sync as to be utterly remarkable. Yet no one remarked.

“The next morning, about 30 minutes before we gathered for breakfast, the 7 POWs were rescued. Yet not one politician said a word about it. It was Palm Sunday and there was no moment of silence for our war dead or any acknowledgement of the war at all. The only mention was a nasty aside by a Dem campaign consultant (and wife of a state legislator from Palo Alto) at the Sunday breakfast panel who accused Bush of ‘a bait and switch’ — between not finding Osama and now not finding Saddam. This prompted the Republican party chairman to challenge her cynicism, while a few JFK-type Dem politicians, also on the dais, got heartburn.

“Amazing.”

Not really, sadly.

“Dear Jay: About the ‘living Constitution’: I heard Justice Thomas speak several years ago at the Economics Club of Indianapolis. During the Q&A, the justice was asked to respond to Al Gore’s assertion that the Constitution is a living, breathing document. Thomas then retrieved from his breast pocket a copy of the Constitution to which he had referred during his prepared remarks, looked it over, leaned forward to the microphone, and said, ‘My copy is inanimate.’ After a short pause, he leaned forward again and said, ‘Next question, please.’”

“Dear Mr. Nordlinger: You mentioned the many-Pulitzered Thomas Friedman. For my money, Michael Ledeen is a more able practitioner in the same field. Friedman has, I think, his own version of the CNN problem. He has pulled his punches in order to get his nose into the tents of Middle Eastern potentates, with what I see as middling results. Ledeen has consistently been a better source of news and intelligent commentary.”

Finally, folks, let me present to you the most conservative — I mean, really conservative — letter I have seen in a long time. I was sort of taken with it.

I’d noted that Sen. Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, was trying to decide how to vote on the tax bill: what it would mean for him politically. I also had a squib about the “living Constitution.”

This correspondent said, “As you know, had the Constitution been left alone — and not allowed to ‘breathe, live, and evolve’ — our senators would not be popularly elected. And a man such as Ben Nelson would be more free to vote the interest of the nation, and not his own wallet or job security. Pity, really.”

Chew on that, sports fans!

(P.S. to itchy fingers: Yes, yes, we all know that the Constitution is supposed to take on amendments — beginning with the Bill of Rights. Catch you tomorrow.)



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