Wednesday, April 07, 2004

MONITORING IRAQ. CNN's Aaron Brown told us all last night to read the Christian Science Monitor's coverage of the uprisings in Iraq. So I did. Very sharp, very calm analysis, quite different from the frightening reports on television and in most newspapers. Not that those are wrong, but the violence overwhelms the context.

Dan Murphy reports from Baghdad that support for the upstart Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr is wide but shallow. This is a point I've seen made elsewhere, but Murphy does an exceptionally good job of explaining it. Murphy writes:

Iraq's major Shiite political parties, like the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, are reluctant to stand up to Sadr's militants, afraid they could lose standing for siding too closely with the US.

They're hoping that the US will deal with Sadr's people for them, leaving them free to criticize the operation if public anger grows at the civilian, predominantly Shiite casualties in Baghdad's Sadr City, the holy city of Najaf, and the southern town of Nasariyah.

Murphy also offers a key observation that any influential Shiite leader who succeeded in surviving Saddam Hussein's depredations is almost by definition weak and compromised, writing:

The moderate Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, who stayed alive by avoiding controversy while many ayatollahs were killed by the Hussein regime, also has avoided any major statements.

No wonder Sistani has proved so frustrating for US and UN negotiators.

In addition to Murphy's piece, the Monitor's Ann Scott Tyson analyzes the difficulty of the mission now facing US troops.

Thank you, Aaron.


There must be a temptation, when confronted with the Dantesque scenes from Fallujah, to surrender to something like existential despair. The mob could have cooked and eaten its victims without making things very much worse.

- Christopher Hitchens, writing in the Wall Street Journal, April 2

We are united. Saddam Hussein committed injustices against us for 35 years. It is impossible that we let America do the same. We will kill them with knives. We will eat them.

- Mohammed Ali Hussein, quoted in today's Boston Globe

HORSING AROUND. Back in 1994, when Mitt Romney was running against Senator Ted Kennedy, then-governor Bill Weld called Romney something like a very impressive piece of political horse flesh (sorry, can't find the exact quote).

Boston Herald business columnist Cosmo Macero Jr. today demonstrates (sub. req.) that Romney is more of a show horse than a work horse. He reports that Romney has been blowing off "Jobs for Massachusetts," an economic roundtable of high-powered business executives and community leaders, which was the incubator for such job-growth initiatives as the mid-'90s tax breaks for Raytheon and Fidelity. (Note: Media Log is not endorsing those gifts, especially the one for Raytheon.)

Macero writes:

Five fiscal quarters into Republican Romney's jobless administration, the only people more frustrated than his political rivals are the business-community supporters who hailed his 2002 victory over Democrat Shannon O'Brien.

"The idea of running around the country chasing jobs ... I'm not sure that's the right strategy," says John Regan, a Republican, who is vice president of legislative policy for the Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

The Bay State has shed 60,000 jobs on Romney's watch.

Nor does Macero let Romney off the hook for posturing on such issues as gay marriage and auto-insurance rates rather than rolling up his sleeves and doing the hard work of economic development.

Romney's not just losing people. He's losing those who should be his strongest supporters.

BUSH FIGHTS OFF THE LYING LIARS. Democratic political consultant Michael Goldman, in his Lowell Sun column, offers a long and impressive list of Bush critics who've been denounced by the White House as liars.

They range from former Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill and former counter-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke to Gwen Rigell, the principal of the Florida school where Bush was reading to children when the 9/11 planes hit, who says the president couldn't have seen the attacks, as he has claimed, because there was no television set in the classroom.

Goldman writes:

Is there a point at which President Bush has to look in a mirror and admit to himself that a list of people this diverse, whose previous accomplishments were so exceptional that each and every one had individually earned the right and the honor of serving a United States president, may, in fact, not all be liars or malcontents, or disloyal?

I think the answer is yes.

Ooh! Goldman must be French.

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