By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
At once mercurial and awash in some oceanic Portuguese melancholy, Ms. Heinz Kerry was by far the segment’s most compelling and authentic presence — she was the only one in the room who didn’t seem delighted to be there. She exuded an air of weariness with both the situation and the eager-beaver Edwardses, especially the ebullient John, who jaws away with all the self-effacing calm of a Roman candle. At one point, Stahl showed a photo of Teresa correcting the Edwardses’ young son, who was busy sucking his thumb. If her husband’s running mate had been doing the same, I suspect she might have been relieved.
You have to say this for the Bush years: They’ve made galloping paranoia seem perfectly reasonable. First came al Qaeda and the daily terror that some shadowy cell down the block was planning an Islamic production of “Helter Skelter.” This was accompanied by a second, more disconcerting fear — that the Bush administration is capable of anything. For the first time I can remember, virtually everyone I know believes in at least one conspiracy worthy of a Richard Condon novel, be it that Paul Wellstone was murdered, that the U.S. government is already holding Osama bin Laden and will spring him on the public right before November 2, or that Tom Ridge’s talk of delaying the election in case of a terror attack is actually laying the groundwork for a totalitarian takeover.
As one who thinks that conspiracy theories make for lousy politics — what’s being done in plain sight is plenty reprehensible — I’ve spent most of the last three years pooh-poohing claims that an oil pipeline was behind the invasion of Afghanistan or that Bush let 9/11 happen. After all, if Dubya were really as cunning as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, he wouldn’t have let anyone tape those embarrassing seven minutes as he sat on his rump in that Florida classroom.
Still, it speaks volumes about the tone of his presidency that I have no trouble believing “July Surprise,” a revelatory article in the current issue of The New Republic. John B. Judis, Spencer Ackerman and Massoud Ansari offer well-sourced evidence that the Bush administration has been pushing the Pakistani government to capture or kill high-value targets, such as terrorist masterminds, so that this could be announced — surprise! — during the Democratic Convention later this month. Put bluntly, the Bush team is playing politics with the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
Although such behavior is neither illegal nor unprecedented — on the contrary, one perk of incumbency is its array of carrots and sticks — “July Surprise” rightly asks why an administration so obsessed with catching high-value targets this summer felt nowhere near such urgency, say, a year ago. The answer is, of course, twofold: the impending election and the distractions of the struggle in Iraq. Bush aggressively defended that war on Monday, pretending that the absence of WMD was somehow beside the point (oh, that bungling CIA), and claiming that his actions have made the world safer. The war in Afghanistan, maybe. But as Peter Bergen argues in the latest Mother Jones, international experts suspect that the Iraq war probably increased the number of terrorists worldwide.
I was e-mailed links to The New Republic piece by maybe 10 people, and what stood out was that, unlike a year or two ago, nobody seemed shocked (or even shocked, shocked) by the idea that the administration would do such a thing. It was simply taken for granted that Bush and his War on Terror would be nasty and self-serving. Indeed, the only thing less surprising than this attempt at a “July Surprise” was that the mass media found this less important than whether the two Johns almost kissed.