Jesse Jackson wants to negotiate for the release of our military people being held in China and that is the subject of this evening's Talking Points memo.

At first glance, I thought this was another Jane Fonda situation, as Jackson said this about the 10-day China stand-off. "I think our government should say if we have violated you in any way, it was not intentional and we apologize. Getting Americans home is worth expressing an apology."

But if you look at Jackson's statement carefully, the word if is used very cleverly. Jackson is not saying America did anything wrong, but is issuing an apology if the Chinese think we did. Parsing words aside, America should not say what Jackson has proposed, even though the statement is shrewd.

Yes, we all want our service people back, but we cannot be perceived as being weak and any kind of an apology would fuel that perception. What we can do is say we are sorry for the loss of the pilot, as we are sorry for any loss of life, and we can express regret that our aircraft had to inconvenience the Chinese by landing there. That's as far as America should go.

As for Jesse Jackson, he should not go anywhere near China. His presence will undermine our strength. Jackson is good at dealing with dictators because they see him as non-threatening, but China needs to know that the United States is not afraid and will stand up for international law. There's a huge difference between Milosevic and Saddam Hussein and the Chinese government. We're going to have to deal with them in the future and a capitulation now will hurt us down the road.

It is impossible to know what is in someone's mind, but Jesse Jackson needs a big win right now so he's injecting himself in the China situation because he thinks he can't lose, in my opinion. He knew President Bush would reject his offer and if he goes over to Beijing on his own, the Chinese might parade him around just to embarrass Mr. Bush. Jackson would certainly be used as a propaganda tool and that would hurt this country.

So, he should stay put in Chicago and let U.S. diplomacy handle things. He has volunteered his services. That's fine. But that's as far as it should go. If he does go to China, it will only add another black mark to a Jackson resume that is growing increasingly questionable.

And that's the memo.

Most Ridiculous Item of the Day

Time now for the Most Ridiculous Item of the Day.

Singer Britney Spears has written a novel with her mother. What must Ernest Hemingway be thinking?

That's it, that's the item.

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