More al Qaqaa ka-ka:
The Kerry campaign has decided to risk everything on the assertion that the president negligently failed to protect 377 tons of explosive powder kept at the al Qaqaa depot in Iraq. The story seems to be disintegrating everywhere but CBS, the New York Times and the NYT wannabes in the newspaper industry. Here's why:
First, the original figure — 377 lost tons — appears to have been overstated by at least 138 tons, as reported by Martha Raddatz of ABC news, and that U.N. weapons inspectors couldn't even vouch for the kinds of explosives held at the site before the war by Saddam Hussein. The Raddatz report also notes that U.N. inspectors said that seals used to cordon off the powder "may be potentially ineffective because they had ventilation slats on the sides. These slats could be easily removed to remove the materials inside the bunkers without breaking the seals." Meanwhile, Bill Gertz of the Washington Times suggests that Russian special-operations forces may have removed the stuff before the war in order to cover up Russia's role in supplying the bad stuff in the first place. (White House National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice dismissed such speculation in her interview with me). The Pentagon has chimed in, saying it is highly unlikely that the explosive power was at al Qaqaa when U.S. forces reached the site in April of 2003 — the implication being that Sen. Kerry is making the stuff up.
Ralph Peters is more brutal in this dissection of the Kerry critique. Dick Morris agrees, sort of, predicting that Sen. Kerry's last-minute assault on the president's Iraq record constitutes political suicide. I agree.
Meanwhile, back in the workaday world...
The Federal Reserve Board has released its most recent beige book, a compendium of economic data, drawn from all 12 federal reserve districts. The good news: The economy is continuing to expand. The better news: The expansion is picking up momentum. The best news: It seems to have done so without generating a lot of inflationary pressure. Read the whole thing if you're a nerd like me. Otherwise, take my word for it. The report explains why John Kerry has dropped the economy as an issue, except in basket-case states like Michigan and Ohio, both of which have governors whose economic policies have assisted in their states' recent declines.
The world's most important neglected (for now) story.
Yasser Arafat apparently is on his deathbed. His demise will make the next president's life much easier, for several reasons.
1) Israelis and Palestinians will be able to negotiate a peace deal that guarantees both sides security and safety. Arafat killed a good deal in February 2001, even though his own negotiators had put it together with Israeli counterparts. Why? Because the pact would have committed him to renouncing violence -- and violence always was the tool of choice when Arafat needed to buck up his sagging political fortunes. No man ever got so far by feeding his own people into the meat grinder. When he leaves this mortal coil, an entirely different set of calculations will govern talks. No longer will Palestinians have to kowtow to their murderous "leader;" they will be able to think instead about themselves, their families, their children, their country -- and about how to get their hands on more than a billion dollars worth of boodle stolen over the years by Arafat and his family.
2) The Arab world will lose its chief excuse for (a) anti-Semitism and (b) antidemocratic despotism. When Israel and Palestine sign a deal and start living together not just as neighbors but business partners, Islamofascists will have no excuse for their behavior. Nor will the regions monarchs, crowned princes, emirs, sultans, "presidents" and rulers-for-life. The region will have no choice but to engage in some much-needed introspection -- and eventually, to bend to pro-democratic pressure.
3) The Europeans will surrender a pillar of contemporary anti-Americanism: anti-Semitism. Consider the chief sources of friction between the U.S. and, say, France. It's not Iraq, but Israel. Our European allies secretly lust after ways to nuzzle closer to us and edge away from the increasingly radical Muslim populations in their midst. Arafat's journey to his reward will provide that opportunity.
Why I miss Bill Clinton.
Name one other politician who, during a pitched political battle that requires his presence in such places as Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico and Colorado, could get away with this?
And finally, some much-needed words of wisdom.
I read yesterday from this 1968 speech by Robert Kennedy. Pay special heed to the passages that bemoan the dangers of regarding fellow citizens as enemies just because of their political views. Kennedy feared the incendiary political passions of 1968, and with horrifying accuracy, identified the root causes. The speech is poignant for two reasons: He delivered it one day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. He also delivered it two months before his own shooting. Read it.
Share your thoughts with Tony. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.